Of Grief and Grace


Grief accompanies all kinds of losses. Some grief is short-lived. Other times, it lasts a lifetime. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Other times, it seems to be fading.

Maybe it’s grief from divorce. Or sickness. Or death. Or, maybe like us, you are overwhelmed by grief from all of these losses.

Last week was the six month anniversary of the death of the kids’ dad. It was an emotional week, filled with tears and memories. We went out to eat at one of his favorite restaurants. It was a rare splurge, but I wanted to give my kids an opportunity to remember him.

I’ve spent the last six months begging God to show me how to help my kids navigate their grief. I’ve seen three kids experience grief in three very different ways. I’ve seen tears and depression. I’ve seen hope and anticipation. I’ve seen anger and frustration.

I’ve encouraged them all to share their hearts, their feelings with me. I’ve offered counseling. We’ve pulled out pictures, remembered the good times. We’ve been to the cemetery to visit his grave.

And we’ve prayed. Day after day. Pouring out our hearts to God. Begging Him to use this pain for good, somehow, someway.

Because of the way God has used the pain of my divorce, I cling to hope! I know the good things God has brought into my life because of the pain. I know how He has used my loss to create a ministry. And I know the depths of his love and healing only because I’ve experienced pain and grief. I desperately want my children to experience the same type of redemption of their pain.

As I’ve looked for ways to understand my kids and their grief, I have looked to scripture. I’ve found some interesting stories that help explain exactly how grief affects people.

In the days when the judges ruled in Israel… a man from Bethlehem in Judah left his home and went to live in the country of Moab, taking his wife and two sons with him. Then Elimelech died, and Naomi was left with her two sons.… about ten years later,both Mahlon and Kilion died. This left Naomi alone, without her two sons or her husband. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she responded. “Instead, call me Mara, for the Almighty has made life very bitter for me. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me home empty. Why call me Naomi when the Lord has caused me to suffer and the Almighty has sent such tragedy upon me?” Ruth 1:1-21 (selected)

Naomi faithfully went with her husband to a foreign land. While there, God blessed her with two sons. But her beloved husband passed away. Her sons also died before they could even have children.

Naomi returned to her home country, but she was lost in the throes of depression. She begged the people not to call her Naomi any longer, a name that means pleasant. She preferred the name Mara, meaning bitter. Her life had lost its joy, and she had become bitter because of the loss.

How many of us spiral into depression and negativity, forgetting all of the Lord’s blessings, when our lives suddenly fall apart? How many times do we become bitter and angry, allowing the pain and disappointments of this life to overwhelm and destroy us?

I’ve watched my own kids fight depression, lose their joy in life. I’ve been there myself. Depression is a very real consequence of grief.

When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. John 11:33-35

There He was, standing outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus. He had already visited with Lazarus’s grieving sisters, Mary and Martha, reassuring them Lazarus would live again. But, as He looked at the scene, Jesus could no longer contain His emotions.

And that’s when Jesus wept. He broke down. Let the tears flow. Allowed his emotions to show.

We don’t really know why Jesus wept. Maybe it was his sadness for his friend, lying in the tomb. Maybe it was the lack of faith He saw in those mourning Lazarus’ death. Or maybe it was His own empathy for His friends, overcome by their sadness. Whatever the reason, He cried.

The last six months have been filled with tears around our house. Tears over their dad’s death. Tears of fear of the unknown. Tears of lost hopes, lost dreams. Tears of empathy, compassion. Tears of anger and frustration. And, I’ve also watched as my kids have fought their tears, held them back, avoided letting their emotions show. It’s been an emotional six months.

Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” In all of this, Job did not sin by blaming God. Job 1:20-22

Job lost everything. He lost his material possessions. He lost his servants. He lost his flocks. He lost his children. Eventually he lost his health.

And his response was to fall on his knees in praise.

I was amazed at my kids in those early days. The day after their dad died, we had a special service at our church. We had planned to go for weeks, but under the circumstances I was more than willing to miss it. But my kids begged me to go. They wanted to be in church. They needed to be in church. And so we went, tear-streaked faces, broken hearts.

And we praised God, even as our hearts broke.

After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. David begged God to spare the child. He went without food and lay all night on the bare ground. The elders of his household pleaded with him to get up and eat with them, but he refused. Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,” they said. “What drastic thing will he do when we tell him the child is dead?” When David saw them whispering, he realized what had happened. “Is the child dead?” he asked. “Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.” Then David got up from the ground, washed himself, put on lotions and changed his clothes. He went to the Tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. After that, he returned to the palace and was served food and ate. 2 Samuel 12:15-20

David had messed up his life…royally. He had taken advantage of a woman, gotten her pregnant, had her husband killed. In the aftermath, he married the woman who was pregnant with his child.

But God couldn’t overlook his sins. Despite his repentance, God sent an illness on the child. David begged and pleaded hoping to spare the life of his child.

But God didn’t relent, and the child died.

How did David respond? He put away his mourning, and he went to worship. He pulled himself together and went back to business. He recognized that life continues even in the midst of death and loss, and he chose not to let his pain hold him back.

And that’s my prayer for my kids. I don’t want this pain to hold them back. I want them to move forward, to be propelled into their futures. I want them to find peace, power, and beauty despite their pain. I want them to learn that we can thrive and not just survive…even when life is filled with pain and disappointments.

Do you know what I love most about all of these experiences of grief? The grace. Every story is bathed in grace.

Naomi found grace in her daughter-in-law, Ruth, who refused to leave her side. She found grace when God brought a kinsman-redeemer along for Ruth, allowing Naomi to become a grandmother. She found grace by suddenly being thrust into the lineage of Christ.

Lazarus, Mary, and Martha found grace. They found grace in Christ’s resurrection power. They found grace when they came to understand that Lazarus’ death was used for God’s glory. They found grace in their Savior who had such great love and empathy for them.

Job found grace. After he walked through the pain of losing everything, he met God in a deeply personal and intimate way. He saw everything he had restored. He saw the second half of his life more blessed than the first.

And David found grace. He was blessed with another son, Solomon, who was the wisest man ever to live. He was blessed to be promised to always have a descendant on the throne. He was blessed with everything this life has to offer.

And I know my kids will also find grace. We pray every day that God will use this season of pain to help us find a deeply intimate relationship with the Father. We pray that we will find the good that He always promised would come to those who love Him. We pray that God will do an amazing work in us so He can do an amazing work through us.

That’s the beauty of walking with our Father. Where there is grief, there is also an abundance of grace. I pray that if you are lost in grief, God will reveal the touches of His grace that are flowing all around.




Portrait of a Spiritual Leader

Life is funny sometimes.

I’ve been waiting for years for God to give me permission to enter the dating scene, and—at what seems the most inopportune and unlikely time of my life—I have found myself tip-toeing into a relationship.

As I enter this new season of life, I am asking many questions: What am I looking for in a man? What are the non-negotiables? How do I incorporate a relationship into my already full life? How do I balance work, ministry, and family?

But perhaps the most important question I am asking is: What does it mean for a man to be the spiritual leader of the home?

I actually brought up this question with a male friend of mine several months ago. He is a committed Christian, has served in ministry all of his adult life. And as we talked, I began to realize that men and women may have very different ideas of what it means to be a spiritual leader. Men seem to think they must be theological giants, exegeting scripture perfectly, presenting deep spiritual truths.

Women, on the other hand, don’t necessarily care about great theological truths. We are looking for more simplistic steps of leadership, basic daily steps to help us grow in Christ.

As I pondered these differences, I decided to dive in a little deeper. I surveyed a group of my female friends, and from their responses I have compiled a list of the most important characteristics of a spiritual leader…to a woman.

A spiritual leader has a growing relationship with Christ. Before a man can lead his wife or family, he must have a solid foundation. He should know for certain that he has given his heart and life to God. He should be fully devoted, seeking to grow daily in his walk with Christ.

What does this look like? A commitment to the word and to prayer. A commitment to church. A commitment to obedience. A man with a growing relationship with Christ will exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), will not merely listen to the Word but will do what it says (James 1:22). A growing relationship with Christ will be evident in the way he lives every day.

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

A spiritual leader models the Christian life for his wife and children. Not only does a true spiritual leader grow in his walk with Christ, he lives out God’s commands in front of his wife and children. He lives the Christian life in the privacy of his own home, behind closed doors where no one except his family sees him. He is the same in his private life as he is in his public life.

Modeling the Christian life for your family means you take the initiative to bring God into your everyday life. You make it a point to talk about God in the details of life (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). You pray together, pray for them. You make your life revolve around God and His purposes.

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. Ephesians 5:25-26

A spiritual leader takes initiative to serve his family. Why did Christ come to earth? To serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

True leadership is servant leadership, and a true spiritual leader models Christ’s life by serving his family. I’ve known men who acted as if leadership was about his family serving him, as if he were the king of the house. Everyone walked on eggshells hoping they didn’t offend him…all while he sat in his favorite chair ordering his wife and kids around. I know men who hold the “submit” command over their wives, expecting them to meet their every want and whim.

That is not the portrait of a true leader. A spiritual leader looks for ways to serve his spouse and children. He seeks ways to help his family, to make their lives easier. He leads by becoming a servant of others.

Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:43-45

A spiritual leader is a protector of those he loves. There are areas where we women simply were not created in the same way as men. As a general rule, we are physically smaller and weaker. And sometimes we need men to protect us.

It’s not just physical protection we long for, though. What about that person who spoke an unkind word? Or the family member who took advantage of us? Or the child who disrespected us? Sometimes we need our men to step in, to stand up for us. I, personally, am a very non-confrontational person. I would almost never speak my mind in one of those situations. But to have my husband step in and defend me (kindly and tactfully)? To have my husband help me fight those battles I wasn’t created to fight? Nothing would make me feel more loved than to know my husband has my back.

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7

A spiritual leader is a man of integrity. Integrity is huge to us! My life has been rocked by infidelity, and I could never trust someone who doesn’t live with integrity. I’ve learned that a man who would bend the truth in small areas also has the ability to bend the truth in larger areas.

Integrity is about complete honesty in all areas of life. A spiritual leader shows integrity at home and at work, in his finances and in his relationships. He lives at a level few people will understand. If he says yes, you can rest assured it will be done when he says it will be done. He doesn’t bend the rules to benefit himself. He is honest to a fault.

I will be careful to live a blameless life… I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. Psalm 101:2-5

A spiritual leader exhibits true humility. Have you known a man who thought he was above accountability? He wanted to be a lone ranger, living his life on his terms without input from anyone else.

A spiritual leader recognizes his own weaknesses and invites others to hold him accountable. He seeks out godly counselors who have the freedom to ask him the tough questions…and he respects them enough to tell the truth. He realizes he is weak and prone to sin, and has systems in place to keep him on track.

And a humble man admits his mistakes, asks forgiveness, and changes his ways so he doesn’t make the same mistakes repeatedly.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

A spiritual leader is a loving, involved father. Scripture is clear about a man’s responsibility to his children. He is to lovingly bring them up, disciplining them properly. He is to lead them to know God, to walk by faith. He is to provide for his family, seeing to it their needs are met.

Show me a man who has a good relationship with his children, and we will see a man who is mostly content with life. A man who loves his children well will live a full life. But show me a man who neglects his children, who is harsh and angry with his children, and we will see a man who lacks peace in his life. His prayers will be hindered, and his relationship with God will be stagnant at best.

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

Perhaps the most important characteristic of a spiritual leader is that he recognizes that Jesus is the true head of the home. He knows his authority flows from God and he should not move unless God gives permission. He should willingly submit to the Father in every area of life. A true spiritual leader knows if he is following Christ, it will be easy for his wife to follow him.

But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:3

As I venture into the often overwhelming world of giving my heart to a man, I am looking for one who gives his heart fully to God. I am looking for a man who will be the spiritual leader my children and I crave.

Be On Guard!

In Oklahoma, few things are more certain than the uncertainty of the weather.

Thunderstorms are simply a way of life for us. Many of us love the sound of the thunder and the flash of lightning. There’s no better sleeping weather than right in the heart of storm season.

We are even growing accustomed to earthquakes. Did you know that Oklahoma now ranks as the number one state for frequency of earthquakes? A few weeks ago, we had a 4.8 magnitude quake that scared the living daylights out of me! I really thought we were having a sudden and quite unexpected thunderstorm that was bringing my entire house down! Our kitchen light swayed for over 15 minutes.

But we are best known for our tornadoes. I shudder to think how many people have lost everything. I live just southwest of Oklahoma City, and frequently we are the starting point for the monsters that track across our state.

Right now, it’s October. I guess you can consider October our “second” storm season, and tonight is no exception. I literally just came home from work to find the storm chasers parked along the highway next to our house. I turned on the television—quite unaware of what is building. To the north is a large storm with a tornado sweeping across the state. To our southwest is another storm system, building, growing, rotating…and headed my direction.

I just issued the directive to my kids to prepare for the safe room, the steel and concrete reinforced corner of my closet designed to withstand even the strongest EF-5 tornado. It’s our safe place.

This year, storm preparation has been different, however.

Back in May when we were preparing for a tornado, I gave my normal instructions to gather up the important stuff. We usually take the things that can’t be replaced: important papers, sentimental jewelry, computer, irreplaceable pictures. And, of course our pets. Most everything else can be replaced. It’s just stuff.

But when I gave the command this year, Cole and Cassie began to haul load after load of things into the safe room—a space that only comfortably fits about four people. There’s not room for tubs of pictures and big items. And my kids know that.

I watched, wondering what they were thinking, wondering where they thought we would fit, how we would get the dogs in there with us.

And then my daughter came around the corner with a stuffed bear in her arms. The bear is as big as she is! You could see the concern on her face.

“Mom,” she began, “I know it’s big, but I’ll hold it in my lap. I promise.”

My heart melted as I saw the tears welling up in her eyes, as she clutched the bear to her body. You see, the bear was the last Valentine’s Day gift her dad ever gave her, the last gift before he passed away unexpectedly in April.

Everything they carried to the safe room was something that reminded them of their dad, something they will never be able to replace. Pictures. Gifts. Reminders of the short years they had with him.

Items they want to guard at all costs.

As I watched my kids begin to gather up their important items once again and begin moving everything to the safe room for a rough evening of weather, I began to wonder what things I need to guard at all costs.

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

Guard your mind. Battles are won and lost in the mind. What do you think David said as he approached Goliath with nothing but a sling and a few smooth stones? Was he telling himself how big and strong Goliath was, how scared he was? No! He was telling himself how big his God is! And that’s exactly what he told Goliath!

Scripture is full of exhortations to think on things that are lovely and noble and true and right (Philippians 4:8). It tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).

And how do we guard our minds? By flooding them with the Word of God. Consume a steady diet of scripture. Take negative thoughts captive and replace them with words of hope from the Bible. Change the way you think to change your life.

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23

Guard your heart. Our hearts are the center of our lives, of our emotions. According to Joseph Stowell in his book Fan the Flame, the heart is the authentic person, the part where we desire, deliberate, decide. It is, as scripture says, the deciding factor for the course of our lives.

Guarding our hearts involves living authentic lives of honesty and integrity. It means we choose to act in accordance with God’s word, even when no one is watching. It’s about following your thoughts (which you are guarding) with actions that also match the commands God has given us.

How do you want your life to turn out? Do you want to enjoy God’s best? Guard your heart. Live your life in such a way that one day you will hear your Savior say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Well done.”

The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking; the mouth of the wicked overflows with evil words. Proverbs 15:28

Guard your tongue. How many times have you opened your mouth without thinking? How many times have you wished you could take back the words you just spoke? How many times have you spoken words, only to rehash those words repeatedly, regretting every syllable?

We must guard our tongues. We must think carefully, weighing the words and their effects long before they leave our mouths. Our words must be words of grace and truth, words that build others up. Our words must be words of kindness and love, words of honesty and integrity. Our words must be words that point the world back to our Savior.

And the good news is that if you are guarding your mind and your heart, scripture tells us our words will be the proper words. “What you say flows from what is in your heart” (Luke 6:45).

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27

Guard your religion. Religion has become a dirty word in our culture. But what does scripture say about religion? True religion? It’s caring for the needs of those who are most needy, those who are the downcast of society. It’s about keeping ourselves pure, holy, before God. It’s about doing the right things.

We must learn to guard our religion. How often do we pass by the down and out, despising them, wondering why they can’t get it together? How often do we choose to judge the single mama because of her divorce or her child born out of wedlock? How often do we ignore the needs of those all around us?

It’s not enough to guard our tongues. Scripture teaches us that we must do more than just offer words of encouragement. “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?” (James 2:15-16).

Tonight, the storms passed us by. We had a short scare as the tornado siren sounded, but we escaped unharmed. Even if the storm had hit our home, we were safe in our safe room…along with everything important to us. We took the steps to guard those irreplaceable treasures.

I hope you are taking those same steps to guard your lives, to place your life in the safety of the Father.

Lord Jesus, I pray you would help us as we seek to guard our minds, our hearts, our tongues, our religion. I pray we would keep your word at the center of our lives so it can penetrate our hearts, our minds, and help us walk in step with you. I pray we would recognize the importance of protecting those things you hold most dear, those things that determine the course of our lives. Be our shield, our strength, our protector as we run to you, our safe place.


When the Walls Won’t Fall

Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. Joshua 6:1

The Israelites had spent 40 years wandering in the desert. Now, it was time to possess the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. God had parted the Jordan River so they could cross into the land.

And now they were face to face with the walls of Jericho, walls that were tall, shut tight, impenetrable. Walls that stood between them and the future, the beautiful place God had promised them.

How would the walls come down? What would it take to break through? How would they ever possess Jericho with the walls shut tightly to keep out the Israelites?

We all know the answer: God commanded the Israelites to march around Jericho for seven days. Then, as they marched in obedience, God fulfilled His promise and brought the walls down.

God brought the walls down.

They crashed. Crumbled. The impenetrable fortress was no more. No explanation for why the walls crumbled. But the inhabitants were now vulnerable to the invasion. Jericho now belonged to the Israelites.

I am beginning to realize I know something about walls.

The only problem is that I am inside the walls. I’m not standing outside, marching around the Promised Land in obedience.

I am safely tucked inside my walls. Impenetrable walls. Walls that protect me from outsiders, from anyone seeking to invade my territory. Walls that are thick, like those of Jericho. Reinforced. Multiple-layers of walls. A fortress, carefully constructed to protect my heart.

I didn’t even realize I had built these walls around my heart.

Until someone started trying to break them down. Until someone started marching around the walls. Until someone began the arduous process of penetrating those walls.

But walls don’t crumble easily. It doesn’t matter how many roses he sends. It doesn’t matter how many times he mows my yard. It doesn’t matter how many honey-dos he completes around my house. It doesn’t matter how many words of affirmation he showers on me.

I find myself locked inside the walls. Hiding. Fearful of what lurks outside.

Can I just say that dating after divorce is…challenging?

I find myself every single day examining my heart, my life. How do I move forward? What do I need to do to bring the walls down? How do I trust someone after my trust has been shattered by the one who claimed to love me?

As I recognize the walls surrounding my heart and my life, I cry out to God. More than anything, I am asking for His direction, for His will to be done. I am surrendering, daily, to His desires more than mine.

And as I examined the story of Jericho, I found some interesting tidbits on bringing down walls.

When Joshua was first appointed to lead the Israelites, God gave him some instructions that I think will be helpful to all of us.

Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9

Be strong and very courageous. The first command God gave Joshua was to be strong and courageous. It’s hard. Our lives have shattered, been in shambles. Moving forward into the future is a frightening thought. But if we are going to possess the Promised Land God is preparing for us, we must be bold and courageous.

Where do we get our strength? From God. He has promised us a future filled with hope and prosperity. He has promised to make beauty from our ashes. He has promised us redemption and resurrection. We must cling to God, to His faithfulness, to His promises, and believe He will make a way. That’s where our strength comes from.

Be careful to obey all the instructions. God has given us an instruction manual, one that is readily available in the United States. Grab your Bible daily. Make God’s Word part of your daily life. Seek His face, His will, in the pages of Scripture. Find out what He is instructing you to do.

You will find so much wisdom, so much knowledge in the pages of the Bible. Instructions like, “Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow I will do great and mighty things among you” (Joshua 3:5). Commands to love and forgive. Reminders to fear not. And the beautiful promises of God’s provisions.

We are blessed in 2016 to have the Bible at our fingertips. There are some great Bible apps for our smart phones. If you have tried one, look at YouVersion or BibleGateway.

Make it a point to read and obey God’s Word. Study it. Meditate on it. And then you will be successful.

Remember the Lord Your God is with you wherever you go. It doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, you cannot escape God’s presence. Even if you are holed up inside your walls, God is there, walking with you, strengthening you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.

You can allow the walls to crumble because God will be by your side. You can crack the door and peek outside at the beauty of God’s creation and trust that He will walk with you. No matter where you go, He will be your constant companion, preparing your way. You can trust Him.

And maybe you aren’t the one locked inside the walls. Maybe you are the one marching around Jericho, wondering if you are wasting your time, wondering if you will ever get inside those walls to possess the Promised Land.

Maybe you’ve marched silently around the walls one day. Two days. Three days. There’s no indication anything has changed. Four days. Five days. Six days. The walls are still standing, solid, secure. Day seven dawns bright and clear, and you begin marching yet again. Around you go once, twice, three times. Exhaustion has set in. Frustration. The belief that the walls will never come down. Four times. Five times. Six times. You are on the verge of giving up, throwing in the towel. This whole attempt at bringing down the walls is futile. You will never see them fall.

On the seventh time around, you are instructed to yell. You give a half-hearted cry, wondering what good it will actually do. These walls are impenetrable. But, with your cry, you hear something. You see a brick fall and some cracks developing in the walls. You yell with a little more gusto, wondering if somehow these walls really could come down. More bricks fall. More cracks develop. Now your hope is building. You give it all you have! You yell with all of your heart, all of your strength. The walls crumble. Not one brick left on top of another.

You now know God has seen your heart, your desire for obedience. You know He—and He alone—has given you the Promised Land. Walk in and possess it. It is yours!

I don’t know if you are locked inside the walls, or walking around someone else’s walls. But I do know that if we are following God, He will make those walls crumble. Don’t lose heart. Be strong and courageous, my friends! Your God is with you, wherever you go!

I’m Desperate

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1

I received a message from a friend recently.

“What do you do when the bad stuff just keeps coming? Not little things like the unexpected bill or problems at school but the big stuff. Things like death and serious illness and major loss. How do you keep going? How do you reconcile the loving God of scriptures with the God who allows loss after loss to just keep coming?”

Yes, I understand her question. I understand the pain behind her words. The confusion. The fear. The frustration. The anger.

She and I have both been hit hard over the last few years. And it seems the hits just keep coming. We both find ourselves treading water, barely able to keep our heads above water.

And the never-ending trials have driven me to my knees with one simple prayer:

God, I’m desperate for you.

I’m desperate for the God of Adam and Eve, the God who fellowshipped with them in the cool of the morning, the God who walked in the garden with them each day.

I’m desperate for the God of Abraham, the God who faithfully fulfilled His promises long after it was physically possible.

I’m desperate for the God of Hagar, the God who sees our pain and anguish, the God who comforts us in our distress.

I’m desperate for the God of Jacob, the God who reveals Himself to us, who wrestles with us until we are forever changed.

I’m desperate for the God of Joseph, the God who redeems our every pain, lifts us from the pit, and sets us in a position of power when He sees fit.

I’m desperate for the God of Moses, the God who calls us from obscurity to lead His people to the freedom He called them to.

I’m desperate for the God of the Israelites, the God who parts the Red Sea to make a way where there is no way, the God who provides for our every need at just the right time.

I’m desperate for the God of Rahab, the God who saves us from our sinful past and places us in a position of honor.

I’m desperate for the God of Joshua, the God who breaks down the walls and leads us into the Promised Land, the land filled with the good things He came to give us.

I’m desperate for the God of Naomi, the God who turns our bitterness into joy.

I’m desperate for the God of Ruth, the God who takes our grief and brings a kinsman-redeemer to restore all that has been taken from us.

I’m desperate for the God of David, the God who anoints us, positions us, and forgives us when we genuinely repent.

I’m desperate for the God of Elijah, the God who takes us to a place of total isolation so we learn complete dependence, the God who honors the fervent prayer of an ordinary man, the God who pours out His power in front of His enemies.

I’m desperate for the God of Elisha, the God who gives a double dose of His power.

I’m desperate for the God of John, the God who loves me deeply and intimately, the God who calls me His beloved.

I’m desperate for the God of Mary, the God who invites us to sit as His feet and soak in His goodness and His grace.

I’m desperate for the God of Lazarus, the God who resurrects us from the dead, gives me new life.

I’m desperate for the God of Peter, the God who sees strength and courage in spite of my failures.

I’m desperate for the God of Paul, the God who changes me in an instant, wipes out my past and gives me a beautiful new future with a purpose only He could create.

I’m desperate for the God who calls me a masterpiece, the God who promises He has a purpose for which He created me before time began.

I’m desperate for the God of Revelation, the God who is preparing an eternal future for me where I will rejoice in His presence for all of eternity, where He will wipe every tear and I will never again experience pain.

I’m desperate for my God, the God of the Bible, the God who has been forever faithful to me.

This world is a difficult place. It’s filled with hurts and pains, grief and loss. The last ten years have been filled with more pain and anguish than I ever imagined I could survive.

And yet God has proven Himself faithful. He has walked with me every step of the journey, carried me through in ways I never could have dreamed. He has taken my pain and replaced it with blessings abundant.

I don’t know what’s next in this crazy journey called life. But with every twist and turn, I find myself longing for my Father, longing to have all He has to offer.

I know my Savior. And I am desperate for everything He has for me, regardless of the trials I must walk through to get to Him.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Psalm 42:1



To Trust…or Not to Trust


It is definitely a year I won’t forget. Death. Illness. Surgery. Financial struggles. New relationship.

And kittens.

Yes, kittens.

Several months ago, I told you about our cat, Tigresse. She was one of a kind. She was our gopher hunting, mouse killing, door opening four-year-old cat.

But, I use the term “was.”

Back in March, she mysteriously vanished, and we were heart-broken. As much as she drove us crazy, she also stole our hearts. We know she will never be replaced.

But, living in a rural area, a cat is an absolute necessity. And thus began our hunt for a new cat. In May, my sister gave my daughter a new kitten, hoping it would give her some healing.

Less than two months later, Smokey disappeared. Vanished one evening while my kids were at church camp.

So I found Ace. Ace was a beautiful, sleek and shiny solid black kitten. He was a little high-strung and anxious. But, he grew on us…for the month we had him. Yes, he, too, mysteriously vanished.

By this time, we began to wonder what was happening to our kittens. Our best guess is that there may be a coyote stalking kittens in our neighborhood (I’ve seen neighbors post “Missing Kitten” posters so I know we aren’t the only ones with mysteriously vanishing kittens.)

You would think I would know when to stop. But I am determined to have a cat to kill the critters around our house.

This time, I decided to find two kittens. I was hoping they would keep each other company, keep them close to the house until they could turn into the great hunters I am hoping for.

When a friend posted on Facebook about two stray kittens, I jumped at them! Rushed right over and picked them up. I thought it would be an easy transition.

Boy, was I wrong!

These two kittens are terrified of humans! They run from us, hide from us. We are constantly searching for them, trying to make sure they haven’t crawled up into our cars before we leave in the mornings. They have been a true challenge.

A couple times each day, we open some cat food and set it out for them. We make sure they have water and cat litter (although they don’t use it). When we can catch them, we pick them up and hold them, showing them we are safe. We are doing everything we can to show these kittens we are trustworthy, that we want nothing but the best for them. But it has been a hard sell.

This weekend, one of the kittens had a breakthrough. After wandering away from the safety of our home, a kind neighbor brought him back to us. My son held him close, stroking his head gently. He began to purr loudly, to settle into the safety of Blake’s arms.

The next time we saw him, he actually walked toward us instead of running and hiding! It was a huge break-through! Maybe, just maybe, this kitten will learn to trust us, to allow us to love him.

As I was thinking about these sweet kittens, I began to think about my own life. It has taken years for me to let the walls down, to trust God with all the broken pieces of my heart. He has carefully fed me, pursued me, fought for my affections.

And yet, so often I find myself running in fear, not wanting to trust Him. I would rather cower in the corner, protecting my broken heart, allowing the walls to safely surround my heart and keep me safe—and keep others out.

But slowly over time, His tender mercies and unending faithfulness have broken the walls down. I’ve let Him in to heal my heart, to show me He is indeed completely trustworthy. And I’ve learned to run to Him, to let Him scoop me up and hold me close.

The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. Psalm 28:7

Yes, I have learned that God is completely trustworthy. I trust Him with all my heart. He has helped me every step of the way, filled my heart with joy.

But now, I am trying to learn to trust a man with my heart.

Yes, I’m learning this dating stuff is not for the faint of heart, especially not after your heart has been ripped to shreds. I find myself acting just like this little kitten. Some days I run out in excitement, ready to be loved. I’m excited to move forward, to forget all of those days of wandering around like a stray kitten with no one to love me.

Other days, I find myself running and hiding. Finding any corner where I can cower in fear, uncertain of what the future holds. Can I really trust this man with my heart? Can I let my walls down? Will he protect me, protect my heart, like my Heavenly Father does? Or should I leave my walls up, stay inside the safety of the fortress I’ve built around my heart?

So far, my friend has been nothing but amazing! Roses just because. Rushing to my side in crisis. Loving my kids as his own. Fixing things around my house. Mowing my yard when the boys are gone. Being a listening ear when life is crashing around me.

He has stood by me in so many ways, honored me, treasured me. He has been my strength when I was absolutely weak, pointing me back to the Father when I felt as if my faith would crumble.

And yet, I still have my moments of fear. Moments when I feel as if I must run and hide. Moments when I am terrified to trust him with my heart. Moments when I think God must be crazy to ask me to break the walls down.

But that’s where my trust in my Savior comes into play. You see, while men have yet to prove they are trustworthy, God has proven Himself completely trustworthy. As I look back at the many ways He has cared for me, I know I can trust Him. I know He loves me completely, wants only the best for me.

This man has chosen to make God the center of his life. He is a fallible human, one who can—and will—disappoint me (as I will him). But, because he has chosen to make God the center of his life, I can trust God in him.

I may not trust him, but I do trust God in him.

That’s why I could never date anyone who hasn’t chosen to fully surrender to the Savior. I could never trust anyone who hasn’t chosen to be the one.

And I pray you also understand why it is absolutely essential that when you decide to let your walls down, you also choose to wait until you find one who has chosen to give his/her heart fully to the Savior so you can give your heart to him/her.


You Have Permission

Being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is extremely hard.

Single Mom or single Dad. Never married. Divorced. Widowed. One child. Two children. Eight children. No matter the reason you are a single parent, the struggles are real. The struggles are often overwhelming. The struggles are often similar.

When you are divorced and have custody of the kids, you are mom and dad. You carry the entire burden of the household, the finances, the chauffeuring. You must be the fun parent and the disciplinarian. You are responsible for every doctor and dentist and orthodontist appointment. You are the cheerleader, faithfully supporting your children in all of their activities.

And, you have the added stress of attempting to co-parent with the other parent, the one who potentially broke your heart. The one who knows exactly how to push your buttons, to get you on the defensive. The one who possibly continues the verbal and emotional abuse of you and your kids. The one who continues to try to hurt you while failing to realize it hurts the kids. You must navigate your own grief over the loss of your dreams while helping your children navigate their own messy grief.

When you are widowed, you carry the entire burden, just like a divorced parent. However, you don’t get even the occasional weekend away from the kids while they are with the other parent. You don’t get the short break can become your sanity check, the time you can use for yourself. You are the only parent on this earth, no one else to even occasionally share the burden, no one else with the same level of concern for your kids. And you must navigate your own grief as you help your children navigate their grief.

In both situations, you face your own struggles, your own loneliness, your own longing to be loved again. You miss your friend, the one who knew all of your secrets and loved you anyway. You miss the companionship and the stability, the security. You long for what you once had…or at least thought you had.

I’ve walked the single parent path because of divorce. Now I walk the single parent path through death. It’s hard. It’s lonely. It’s overwhelming. It’s exhausting.

There are days like today where I just want to hide, not talk to anyone at work or home. I just want to curl up in my closet and pretend the world doesn’t exist. I want to send everyone away and listen to the peace and quiet, do what I want without having to take anyone anywhere, without having to cook for anyone or answer questions or help with homework or remind anyone to clean their rooms. I just want to run away!

Days like today, I remember every difficult moment of this journey. I’m also leaning I have permission.

I have permission to fall apart. Why is it we moms (especially single moms) think we have to be strong for everyone? Why is it we don’t want anyone to see our weakness? Why is it we choose to hide our pain and our tears instead of being real and vulnerable?

I am the world’s worst. I like to be the rock, the one everyone else looks to for support when their world falls apart. It is the most uncomfortable position to be the one in need. And yet, we are all human.

Right now, I’m ready to fall apart. I can no longer hide the pain from my kids, from those closest to me. The tears have been flowing without reserve, not by choice but because I can no longer hold them inside. And, honestly, it feels good to let them out.

When this moment of fear and grief passes, we will wipe away the tears and continue pushing forward. And my kids will know that being strong does not mean we never fall apart.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be less than perfect. I value quality. I value responsibility. I value giving your best effort. And, if I’m honest, I often value perfection.

I am learning that sometimes less than perfect is good enough. The house isn’t up to my standards? That’s ok because at least we have clean clothes. The yard isn’t mowed again? It’s not exactly at the top of my list of priorities in my life that is jam-packed with activities from morning to night. My kids’ school projects aren’t Pinterest perfect? At least they are learning and doing on their own rather than having parents who step in and do it for them.

As much as I always wanted to be the perfect mom, I have learned to let perfection go. And I think my kids think I am the perfect mom…for them.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to not have it all together. Sometimes we are an absolute mess. In less than a month, I left two phones in the bathroom at work. My work phone was stolen; my personal phone was returned. It’s amazing that’s all I’ve lost with the chaos in my life!

How many times have I forgotten an activity? A parent teacher conference? How many times have I missed a doctor’s appointment or an awards assembly? How many times have I had a rough day at work and my kids were the recipients of my bad mood?

Sometimes—many times—I simply don’t have it all together. As a matter of fact, sometimes I can’t seem to get anything right! I burn the dinner. I forget a child. My calendar is deleted. I forget to pray with my kids before school or before bed. But I am learning that we get a fresh start each and every day, a new opportunity to see His mercies fresh as the sun rises above the horizon and we start over.

God knows I don’t have it all together, and yet He still loves me. He sweetly reminds me that in my humanity, He gets to show off His power.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

You have permission to be nice to yourself. How many times have you bought new shoes for your kids and neglected to replace your own shoes that are falling apart? How many times have you purchased new clothes for the kids while you continue to wear your college wardrobe?

When’s the last time you did something nice for yourself? Treated yourself to a manicure or a pedicure? Saved up money and went for a massage? Had a girls’ night out without kids? When’s the last time you asked someone for help so you could have a quiet evening alone?

Scripture teaches us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves…meaning we must learn to love ourselves before we can love others. Perhaps it’s time you learn to love yourself, to do something nice for yourself. You will find that you become a much better parent when you take care of yourself.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

I don’t know where you are in this journey, but I know our Savior thrives in our weakness. When we can admit we don’t have it all together, He can and will gladly step in and show His strength in us and through us. We can boast in our weakness because we get an opportunity to see His power.

Maybe, like me, you feel as if you are about to fall apart. Maybe, like me, you are at your breaking point, overwhelmed with the exhaustion and stress of trying to juggle everything. Maybe, like me, you can’t hold back the tears any longer.

Let’s give ourselves permission. Cry if you need to cry. Scream if you need to scream. Go for a run. Eat that last piece of cheesecake. Take a hot bubble bath. Ask someone to watch your kids. Admit you can’t do it all alone.

Go ahead. It’s ok. You have permission. And tomorrow, we will wake up, reminded that His mercies are new every morning, that His grace is sufficient, that He is strong when we are weak. Great is His faithfulness!



Shhh! I Have a Secret

I have been keeping a secret from you all.

Please forgive me for not being completely open. It’s a tough secret to keep, but it’s one I needed to savor myself for a while.

It’s funny. I am a very quiet and private person. I’m not one to put my personal life on display for the world to see. I like to keep my private life my own.

It seems like a complete oxymoron for me to be writing a blog at all.

But when God calls, I must follow. Never in my wildest dreams did I know what He planned for this journey. Never did I imagine that strangers around the world would know my story, would know my name. Never did I dream that people would be waiting to know my heart, my struggles, my victories my defeats.

And yet, here I am. And you are among my greatest blessings, my closest friends.

Friends share with friends, right? So I have decided to open up my private life and tell you all one of my closest secrets.

Are you ready?

Please don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret, just between friends.

Here it goes…

I am dating someone.

Yep. You read that correctly. After seven years as a single mom, struggling to overcome adultery and divorce and financial struggles and so much more, I am dating someone.

There’s no ring on my finger. There’s no wedding date set. But, there is someone special in my life. For the first time in seven years, I have the companionship that I have longed for. And, we are slowly moving forward to see where God might take us.

It has been a very rough year as I explained recently, and he is the bright spot in 2016. A very bright spot. An answer to prayer. It has been such a blessing to have him walk beside me through some of the most painful circumstances I have ever faced, to hear his words of encouragement and hope when I feel like I won’t make it another day.

And he came as a complete surprise.

At the beginning of the year, a friend and I covenanted to pray that 2016 would be the year of complete restoration, that God would finally fulfill our greatest desire, the desire for love and companionship. And we both fully believed this was our year.

Then my kids’ dad died.

One of my first thoughts was that there was no way I could start dating. I had to put my hopes and dreams on the backburner to focus on my kids, to help them navigate their own grief.

I let my hope die.

But, within a few weeks of his death, two of my kids came to me (separately) and said, “Mom, it’s time.”

They were giving me their blessing, restoring the hope and belief that God was about to do something amazing and crazy. In their grief, they were giving me the freedom to move forward with my life.

I want to qualify all of this: I am only three months into this relationship. We definitely see God’s hand, but we also understand there’s a long, long way to go. We are determined to do this whole dating thing God’s way, to keep Him at the center of our lives and our relationship. We don’t want to jump ahead of God. I don’t want to tell you that finally God has restored my life fully and completely…because we are choosing to take it one day at a time, seeking His face, walking in obedience.

But I am letting you in on my secret now because we find ourselves in uncharted territory, tip-toeing into the waters of dating, learning day-by-day how to move forward into the future God has for us. We are striving to put aside the baggage we each carry from our pasts, from the pain and devastation we have experienced in our own lives. And I hope that as we learn, I can help you as you venture into this strange territory of dating post-divorce (or whatever trauma you have faced).

Because I have chosen not to focus on dating during the last seven years, it’s a topic I haven’t spent much time talking about in my blog. However, it is a topic I am frequently asked about. So I’ve decided that we will take this journey together, learning how to date God’s way.

Today I give you three nuggets of truth I have learned in the last three months:

God’s timing is definitely not our timing. As I said earlier, when the kids’ lost their dad, I knew the timing was wrong. But God was sitting in heaven laughing at me.

Seriously. This year has been crazy. Not only do I have three teens (or near teens) who are all going different directions at the same time. I also have a full-time job that keeps me super busy. I am trying to keep up with my blog and the various writing opportunities that are coming at me. I am in a mentoring program with Shannon Ethridge designed to help grow my ministry and my personal life. We have been overwhelmed with sickness and surgeries. My to-do list is beyond human capabilities…and growing every single day.

And now God sees fit to bring someone to me…at the busiest season of my life when I don’t even know how to get from one day to the next. His timing is definitely not what I would choose.

When God seems silent, He is working somewhere. Do you remember in the movie You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan suggests a meeting with her online suitor? Tom Hanks’ response is, “First, I have a project that needs some tweaking.”

That’s what God has been doing in the last few years. He’s had a project to tweak before He could bring us together, before He could reveal His will to us.

You see, two years ago I felt like God went silent in my life. I felt abandoned, as if God had simply left me and quit moving me forward. I have struggled to see the future, to see how God is going to answer my prayers and fulfill my dreams.

Now I see more clearly. Two years ago, this man made a decision to pursue the heart of God in hopes that one day God would give him permission to pursue me. He decided to go all in with God, to put aside his own worldly pursuits so that he could become the man God created him to be. And it has been so much fun to watch as he has grown spiritually and surrendered fully to his Savior.

While I thought God was silent, He was simply tweaking the project He had started years before.

Never say never. I have known this man for most of my life because we went to high school together. I have also stated unequivocally that I would never date anyone from high school. I didn’t date the guys from our school when I was in high school, and I wasn’t going to start now. I might have even specifically stated that I would never date him.

Boy, does God have a sense of humor! Exactly where I say never is where He chooses to work and move. You would think after all these years of seeking God I would learn not to limit Him, to never say never because sure enough I will eat my words.

Had I chosen not to walk in obedience, I would have missed out on this amazing man who has changed my life in great ways. I would have missed an opportunity to be treated like an absolute princess, to have someone by my side who honors me and respects me in ways I have never experienced before. I would have missed this man who puts himself aside and serves others sacrificially all the time.

So, I’ve had a pleasant surprise in 2016, one that I have to take day-by-day to see where God leads. And, I ask that you all pray for us as we attempt to walk in obedience to what He has for us in the days ahead.

In return, I will take you on this journey with us, as we stumble and pick ourselves up again to learn about dating after divorce.

Thanks for keeping my little secret!

Desires and Delight

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4

“God,” I cried out as the tears streamed down my face and my feet pounded the pavement, “I want to desire you. I want to delight in you. But, honestly, I really just want a husband.”

I had escaped the house and my three young children to run. Something about running helped me refocus, clear my mind. It was an opportunity to be alone with God, to pour out my heart to Him.

I was in the midst of an unbelievably difficult divorce, reeling from the trauma of my husband’s affair. My heart was shattered into a million tiny pieces. My life was in shambles. I was terrified of the journey ahead, one filled with hardships of every kind.

All I wanted was to have my life back, to have the security of a husband and a normal family. All I wanted was companionship, someone to hold me close on those lonely nights. All I wanted was someone telling me I was loved.

And as I poured out my heart, expressing my pain and my desires, I heard the still small voice.

“It’s ok,” He said. “I know your heart longs for a husband, for companionship. I also know you are surrendered to me, desiring to know me more than anything else. I have it all under control.”

His sweet whisper calmed my heart, relieved my fears. In that moment, with those precious words, I knew that God knew my heart’s greatest desire. And I was completely convinced He was planning something amazing.

It’s been seven long years since that conversation with God. I’ve reminded Him over and over of His promise, of His faithfulness. I’ve reminded Him of my heart, of how I have repeatedly chosen Him over the momentary pleasures of this life. I’ve reminded Him that He has promised to give me the desires of my heart.

As I’ve walked this journey, I’ve struggled to understand God’s ways. Does He always give us what our hearts desire? What if our desires are in conflict with His will? How do we reconcile this principle from the Psalms with reality?

Yes, there was a day when my greatest desire—perhaps my only desire—was to have a husband, someone to love me and walk through this life with me. But somewhere along the way, somewhere as I sought my Savior, He changed me. He changed my desires.

I still want a husband. I still want companionship. I still want someone to hold me at night. But, instead of longing for a husband, I find myself wanting God more than I want anything else.

God changed my desires to make them His desires.

And that’s the way God works. When we submit ourselves to Him, offer ourselves as living sacrifices, He changes us from the inside out. He takes our hearts, our desires, and changes them to reflect His heart, His desires.

But how do we delight ourselves in Him? How do we allow Him to take over our lives, to change our desires to His desires? Perhaps we can find some hints in the surrounding verses.

Commit everything you do to the Lord. Psalm 37:5a

God doesn’t want part of our lives. He doesn’t want specific areas. He doesn’t want us to commit portions of our lives to Him. He wants us to commit everything we do to Him.

Every day when I wake up, I ask God to take my day, to live my life through me. Whether it’s what I say or write or my work or my play, I don’t want it to be done in my power. I want it to be God living and working through me. In every single area of life, it is Him through me.

Trust him, and he will help you. Psalm 37:5b

So often, I find myself wavering in fear. How will I pay these medical bills? How do I help my children heal from the pain they are facing? What if my daughter continues to have medical problems? The questions never end.

But there’s only one answer: God. He is my helper. He is my provider. He is my healer. He is my protector. He is my everything.

When I learn to release fear and trust Him, He is always there, always willing to help.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. Psalm 37:7a

How often I get caught up in the craziness of this life! Life tends to go non-stop, barely a chance to breathe. As I chase my kids from one activity to the next, trying to keep up with the demands on my life, I find myself run-down, exhausted, barely surviving from day to day.

I must learn to slow down, be still in His presence. I must learn to wait patiently for Him, to let things happen in His time. I must learn to cast my cares on Him, to rest in Him.

And then, as I intentionally search for calm in the midst of the chaos, I find the peace and joy of my Savior.

Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Psalm 37:8

Are you harboring anger and bitterness in your heart? Are you angry with someone, something? It’s time to let it go. Let forgiveness flow through your heart and wash over others. Rid yourself of every root of bitterness.

As you let go of any rage or bitterness keeping you stuck in this life, He will change your heart, change your mind. He will purify your desires, making them like His. He will set you free from the heavy burden of anger and rage.

And as we seek to delight in Him, we experience the goodness of the Father. We get to experience His love and grace poured out on us.

He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn, and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun. Psalm 37:6

When enemies come against us, God steps in. He makes our innocence shine. He brings truth to light. He defends us in the presence of our accusers. He makes our reputation spotless.

We can trust God to shine His light on the justice of our cause. His light shines brightly.

but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land. Psalm 37:9

As we trust in Him, we possess the Promised Land, a Land flowing with joy and peace, love and goodness. We find His perfect peace guarding our hearts and minds, even in the midst of the chaos. We enjoy the abundance of living in His presence every single day.

And you know what else?

Even as we enjoy the abundance of a life lived in His presence, even as we see our desires shifting to His desires, we also find our earthly desires becoming reality.

Do I still believe God has a special man for me? Absolutely! And now that my heart is fully His, He has free reign to do as He sees fit. And I am now in a position to accept the gift of seeing my heart’s second greatest desire fulfilled.



Be the One…

My friend told me of a conversation he had recently.

Recently, a small group from high had an impromptu gathering, men and women. It seems, however, that most of the participants had recently walked through divorces.

As they talked, the conversation came around to what men are looking for in women.

“We want Dena Johnson,” one of the men stated.

He turned to my friend seeking his approval, and my friend nodded his head in agreement.

Please understand: I am not telling this story to glorify myself in any way. In reality, hearing this conversation completely shocked me…and even embarrassed me.

There’s so much you need to know.

You see, in high school, I was friends with everyone but I was by no means the one the guys wanted. I was the smart girl, class valedictorian. I was the goody-goody who was at church every time the doors were opened.

I was the girl who sat home alone every weekend, asking God when it would be my turn to have a boyfriend.

In many ways, nothing has changed since high school. I’ve been single for nearly seven years now, and until recently hadn’t been on a real date in at least five years. I’ve watched as friends lost spouses to death and divorce and quickly remarried…all while I sat here asking God when it would be my turn, when He would fulfill the desires of my heart.

And yet, as I sat here wondering why I am so unlovable, so unwanted, I suddenly hear that I am exactly what the men want. Makes no sense to me.

As I talked with my friend, he further explained the conversation. Back in high school, the guys were looking for a good time. But, as the years have passed, many of us have walked through the pain and devastation of adultery, betrayal, and painful divorces…and none of us ever wants to face the devastation again.

After suffering through the pain, men are looking for a woman who will be faithful, loyal, kind, and loving. They are looking for a woman who will love unconditionally, who will grow old by their sides. They are looking for a woman whose priorities are in line, with God first and family second. They are looking for a woman whose heart is big enough to love them and their kids.

They are looking for a woman who looks like Christ.

As my friend related this story to me, I was humbled. What an honor that others see Christ in me! There is absolutely no greater compliment for me.

But it’s not something that happened overnight. I’ve spent many long hours seeking the face of God, bowing in prayer, pouring over scripture. I’ve begged God to open my heart and mind to healing and wholeness. I’ve asked to be molded, whatever the cost. I’ve spent my time, seeking God’s purpose for my life, asking Him to open doors so I could become all He created me to be.

And it has cost me plenty. I chose to sit home on weekends rather than going out for drinks with friends. I poured my heart and soul into words on a computer screen, opening my life to complete strangers in hopes they can find encouragement in my struggles. I face critics—painful, ugly words thrown at me by complete strangers who think they know me and have a right to judge me.

Sometimes it hurts.

Despite the pain, the joy and peace my Heavenly Father pours out over me makes every sacrifice worthwhile. And while I wait, I know God is doing a work in me.

And my prayer has been that He was doing a similar work in a man, somewhere, a man who would willingly do the hard work to become the man God created him to be.

These men say they want someone like me. But my question becomes what are they doing to become the man someone like me would want?

I’ve made my choice: I will follow my Savior all the days of my life. I will do my best to point the world back to Him, to let the world see His goodness and grace in me and through me. And I will not settle for anyone who doesn’t have the same commitment, anyone who is not willing to surrender his all to the Savior.

I’ve never been willing to date just to date, to compromise for the sake of ending the loneliness. I’ve never been willing to straddle the fence, keeping one hand on God and another on the pleasures of this world. I’ve never been willing to give my heart to anyone who doesn’t flee sexual immorality and the easily accessible compromises the world offers.

I decided to wait until God brought someone who is willing to be the one someone like me would want, someone I can give my heart and life to for a future of knowing Him and serving Him together.

So while men may sit around and talk about wanting a woman like me, I have to ask which one will be willing to do the hard work to become the man a woman like me would want?

And I ask you the same question: Will you be willing to do the hard work to become the woman or man a man or woman who truly loves God wants?

If you are wondering where to start, here’s a few thoughts on becoming the one…

Pursuing God above all else.

If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 29:13-14

To become the one, we must pursue God passionately, with our whole hearts. It can’t be an after-thought, one of many priorities. We must make Him our passion, our main desire.

It’s not something that happens overnight. We must surrender our own will, asking God to take our hearts and do a mighty work in us. We must ask Him to take our desires and mold them to His desires. We must make Him, His word, the priority in our lives.

As we let go of this world, of our desire to control our lives, as we learn to trust Him with our lives, we find His perfect peace consuming our every moment…a peace that emanates from our being, drawing others to us. .

Be the one who pursues God wholeheartedly.

Trusting God’s perfect plan.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Sometimes, many times, we can’t see how things can possibly work out. Our lives spiral out of control, and it seems we will drown.

But, the one who trusts God has an inner peace, a confidence, even in the midst of the greatest storm. The waves may be churning, threatening to overturn the ship, but the one who trusts completely in God has a quiet confidence, allowing him or her to keep moving forward. It doesn’t mean there’s no fear. It doesn’t mean he/she never breaks down. But there’s something… Something others see, a strength that helps him/her remain focused.

Be the one who trusts in God’s perfect plan, his perfect time. Be the one who exudes a supernatural confidence that there’s more to the story. Be the one who is kept in perfect peace because you trust in Him.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3

Eyes steadfastly focused.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14

Many people are caught up in the past. Maybe they struggle with their past sins, past choices. Maybe they struggle with past failures. Maybe they struggle with the baggage of failed relationships.

Be the one who allows the past to help mold you into a better person without allowing it to weigh you down.

Our past should never define who we are today. We should allow our past to help us transform our future by learning from our mistakes, but we must also learn to let go. If we keep our eyes focused on the past, we will miss the future God has for us.

As Christians, we should have our eyes firmly planted on the One who holds the future. We should focus on the purpose for which He created us. We should constantly be striving for the rewards He has planned for us.

With our eyes focused firmly on the prize for which He has called us, we cannot lose ourselves in past regrets.

Be the one who keeps your eyes focused firmly ahead.

Committed to purity.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18

When we were younger, many were just looking for a good time. After you have endured the pain of betrayal, you find yourself wanting more. You want someone you can trust with your heart, someone who holds sex in a place of value. You want someone who is looking for life-long commitment, not just a good time.

I’ve lived through the hurt and betrayal of the deepest, most intimate kind. When I again give my heart away, I want to know that whoever I trust with my heart has a passion for purity, a desire to experience the God-given beauty of two becoming one flesh and the true intimacy that comes from the spiritual and the physical dancing together as God designed.

Purity is not just about abstaining from sex; it’s about keeping our hearts and minds pure as well. It’s about fleeing anything inappropriate for God’s people. It’s about keeping our minds on the things of God and our eyes away from images that would lead to lust. Purity is about seeking to do relationships the way God designed.

Be the one who flees sexual immorality.

Are you looking for the one, the one who will love you as God loves the church? Before you find the one, you must be the one.