Blessed Are Those

Blog photo - Blessed are those who mourn

I had the privilege of attending college with one of my best friends. During that first year of nursing school we roomed together in the dorms. Some of my best memories of those days were the moments that we labeled as “Candle Talks”.

When one of us needed a “candle talk”, we would take it seriously and be fully present for the other. We thoughtfully put all of our other distractions away. Then, we would sit on our dorm room floor, dim the lights, light a candle or two, and just talk – typically for hours. Those moments were essential, meaningful, and needed.

We would lay it all out – sharing what was bringing us joy or sadness, knowing we could ask and give each other advice if needed or wanted, feeling free to tell each other our secrets, and also our sins. It seemed as if there was plenty of those to discuss.

The most special thing about it was that as friends, we were there for each other to listen and provide an environment that was safe. We could say anything without fear of judgment from the other. Looking back, those times were the best and I always felt blessed.

While this is not going to be a confession of all my sins post, I do want you to know that I hold my fair share of them. I suspect the same is for you.

A lot has happened in life since those college days and talks. Experience can be the best teacher and life has taught me many things. I’m older, wiser, and as a result, I try to do a better job at the choices I make in life.

However, what about the times when we mess up? What about those times when we say things, do things, think things, or react in such a way that is wrong? What about those times when we start to follow more of our own desires and push that voice of godly conscious away?

Those times happen friends. Daily. If you are Pharisee enough to think that you are better than this, I pray you take a sharper look at your inner self and re-examine.

Recently, a girlfriend and I were sitting inside of my van on her driveway. We had just attended something tough together and when I went to drop her off, instead of jumping right out and on to her next event, we sat and talked. We got deep into a conversation about life – that night mainly how hard it can be and despite how “good” we think we are, how easy it can be to stray from the path that we know we should stay on.

In the midst of that conversation, she shared with me a story that made me smile. She said that recently she went to get groceries. While in the bakery isle she picked up a container of 3 frosted brownies. Thinking she would just take a small bite of one while doing the rest of her shopping, before she knew it, all three brownies were gone. When she arrived at the checkout lane, she looked at the cashier and said, “Please don’t judge me”, handed the cashier an empty container of brownies and admitted that she ate all three while shopping. Graciously, the cashier smiled, laughed, and told her that she would probably have done the exact same thing.

Isn’t that what life can be like for all of us from time to time? What starts off as good intentions might easily turn into something that we never meant for the outcome to be?

Sometimes, that outcome might be small and just affect us – as in eating too many brownies. 🙂 Other times, it can be more serious. It extends beyond us and those we love feel the affects too.

The thing I have to remind myself, and what I want to remind you as well, is that God can use anything in our lives, even our biggest mistakes and failures, to carry out His plan and purpose. If we take them to the Lord in godly conviction, we can be rest assured that we are forgiven and that He can use it. Nothing is wasted when it is brought before our Lord and in fact, we will be blessed by it.

Matthew 5 shares with us Jesus’ longest recorded sermon. In verse 4, it says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

I think many people who read this verse think only of those who are grieving a loved one who has passed away and receive hope of given comfort. What about looking at it in a slightly different way? I believe it is also referring to someone who is mourning the sins they have committed. The moment that godly conviction causes us to bow our heads and bring our struggles and sins before the Lord, it is then that comfort will be provided. We can rise up, having confidence that we are forgiven by the power in the blood of Jesus.

The truth is, we are all going to stray from the right path in life. We will do things, think things, say things that we didn’t mean to do. We don’t need to experience the pressure to measure up in life or feel as if we have to do everything perfect because we never will. What we need to do however is to acknowledge our sins and bring them before our God.

It is written in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” God loves you no matter what! Abide, remain and dwell in it for that is what He desires.

If you are feeling down today over choices that you have made, words that you have said, or are having undesirable thoughts, please know that you are loved and that there is comfort waiting for you.

While this is easier to write, for me, I sometimes find it harder to take to heart, remember, and live out. That is where I feel God brings in friends. 🙂

Friends photo for blog

I am thrilled that God created us for a desire to have relationships with friends in this world. Each one brings their own special purpose and a way to bless. As I have found time and time again, when you have a trust and honesty that goes beyond the surface, one of those special purposes and blessings is to have someone to get profound and hash life over with, to speak without fear of judgment, to get advice from, to grow with, to comfort, to encourage, and to remind us of His love.

Whether you sit in a room with a candle flickering in the background, in a van on the driveway, at a coffee shop, or wherever it might be…may you feel and experience the love and comfort from Christ in this way as well.

Be blessed sweet friend.

God loves you.

So do I.

The Struggle

Free to Struggle Recently, I joined two of my girlfriends, sweet sisters of the faith, around a table one evening at a nice restaurant. We sat there drinking our decaf coffee and eating delicious dessert. As the conversation was going along, I confided with them about an internal struggle that I have been having for a while now. I told them I was finding it difficult trying to navigate through figuring out how to do the right thing even when every thing inside of me was screaming differently.

Do you know what I am talking about? You know, those moments you face when you want to do the right thing – when the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Maybe you can relate to one of the following:

-You desire to make the healthy food choices or to stay away from the foods that you know just make you feel ill, yet the instant desire for gratification seems more important at the moment…

-You know that your health is only going to decline if you don’t stop, but that cigarette you want to smoke is calling your name…

-You know that if you take that alcoholic drink it will only lead down a path of further destruction, yet you desire to calm your mood on this very stressful day…

-You know that your children are begging for your attention and you have given very little time to them lately, yet it just feels so much easier to let the electronics do its thing…

-You want to genuinely love this person and to take an action that you feel is pleasing to God, yet your disappointment in his or her actions are so heavy that your internal feelings are anything but loving…

-You know that gossiping is wrong and what Suzie says about Sally actually says more about Suzie than it does about Sally, yet you want to try to boost your own insecurity and jealousy so you want to speak anyways…

-You know that looking at those pictures or watching that movie puts images in your mind that are going to be hard to erase, yet the desire is so strong it seems to pull at you like a magnet…

-You know you need to step up and apologize, but your pride is so strong that it keeps you from taking that necessary step to heal the relationship…

-You know that telling the little white lie is wrong, but you feel that it would be so much easier than to just tell the truth…

-You know that you should stop working and go home to your spouse and children to spend some quality time, yet working those extra hours seems easier and less exhausting than going home…

-You know that getting outside to exercise will do the body good, yet being lazy and lying on the couch is so much more inviting…

-You know that He is waiting for you and taking even just 5 minutes to stop and pray can help mold the rest of your entire day, yet the business seems to overtake every single second…

-You know that you should spend more time reading your Bible, yet the pull of social media feels so much more interesting…

-You know that going to church on this Sunday morning would be the right thing to do, yet sleeping in, going to the sporting event, or getting caught up on work feels much more important…

The list could go on and on.

Life is hard, isn’t it? Doing the right thing can be so difficult sometimes. Yet the alternative only leads down a path of guilt and shame.

On a warm Sunday evening back in June 2005, my husband and I went to an evening church service. That night, the Pastor started his sermon with an opening line that went like this, “This summer, we will all find ourselves going on a trip. It is called a guilt trip.” Ten years later, I still remember that sermon and I knew that God was speaking directly to me through every single word. It profoundly impacted a decision I made later on that very night. While it wasn’t without pain, I realized that being stuck on the guilt trip of life is not somewhere that I had to keep going. Guilt wasn’t the lifelong companion that I thought was a consequence I had to take to my grave.

That same Pastor, during another sermon on a Sunday morning, made this comment, “If anyone of you knew the thoughts that would go through my mind, you would fire me on the spot.” Not a single person in the sanctuary moved and his honesty floored me. Yet, it was a statement that spoke such hope to my soul. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are in life.   We are ALL sinful. We ALL struggle.

However, I believe it isn’t the struggle that makes us sinful people, but how we react to those struggles is what matters. Put guilt where guilt belongs, but don’t pack your bags and haul it with you because you find yourself struggling to seek to do the right thing.

As I told my girlfriends the other night, the only thing I have found that it really boils down to is seeking Christian council, praying to God for wisdom, and asking Him for the courage to respond when I feel the Spirit leading me to do the right thing. Left with my own strength, I am almost guaranteed to fulfill the desires of my flesh.

You know what? We are all going to fail and make mistakes, but in Christ, we are free to do that! There are days when we are going to make the wrong choices, we’ll feel the consequences, but we can stand back up and try again. We don’t have to rely on our performance in this life to earn us favor with God, for in Jesus, we already have it. That is what grace is all about.

The best part is, the Spirit that lives in us, the very same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, we don’t have to struggle to be free from the guilt and shame that those mistakes can cause us. We are forgiven through what He has done for us.

I want to end with a song by Tenth Avenue North, “The Struggle”, and if you have a moment please listen to it. It nicely sums up what I am trying to say.

Friends, at the moment I find myself in a place of great struggle! But Hallelujah – I am free to struggle, but not struggling to be free.

Linked with #TellHisStory

Following His Will


For anyone who knows me, they know that I do not believe in coincidences. I believe that there is a reason and a plan behind the events in our lives. I love nothing more than when you get small moments of affirmation from God that you are on the path of His will.

Three years ago when my husband and I decided that we were going to send our son Noah to a private school, we knew that meant I would be attending full time as well to help care for his needs and to be present in case any medical emergencies for him arose. While we considered sending him to public schooling where school nurses are part of the staff, he really wanted to go to the same school as his older brother. Up until that time in his life, Noah had zero control over the things that had happened to him. While it meant that it would be a big commitment on my part to start attending school full time with him, I also realized that this was a big desire of his heart and I just couldn’t say “No”. As his mother, I thought “Who am I to not grant him this request just so I could have some time to myself each day?” After getting approval from the school in accepting Noah to attend, the choice in sending him there was no longer difficult for us.

I will never forget the first day of Kindergarten. After the morning bell rang, I sat down in the chair in the teachers’ workroom that would become “my spot”, and I said a prayer that went like this, “Well Lord, here I am. This is not where I imagined I would ever be, but since you have placed me here, please open doors in which I can use the gifts that I have been given and let me be a blessing here.”

It didn’t take long for God to start answering that prayer. What started out as volunteering my time in helping the second grade teachers that first year, has transformed over the past three years into a regular schedule helping to meet and care for the special needs of several Elementary students. I have been able to use some of the gifts that I already had as well as learning some new skills along the way. This year I have truly felt like a part of the staff and it really makes me feel good.

Yesterday, God graced me with another affirmation that I am right where He wants me and I know this moment will stick with me for a very long time.

Soon after the morning bell rang, I was sitting next to one of the boys that I assist each week. The teacher informed me that she was going to step outside for a moment to speak with another mother. About a minute later, she called for me to come out into the hallway as well.

There stood a crying mother with her 1st grade son by her side. The teacher shared with me that the day before, the son got diagnosed with a life-altering condition and the mother’s heart was breaking. You see this same condition had just been diagnosed on her 4th grade daughter a month prior, so this was just hitting them very hard and leaving her overwhelmed. The mother was rightly concerned for her child and more so – how was she going to leave him at school without a trained person to care for him.

The teacher, knowing I had a nursing background, wondered if I could help in anyway. Knowing much about this condition – having grown up with a father with it and becoming knowledgeable in that way but also studying and caring for multiple individuals throughout my nursing career – I said “Of course” and I took the mother and her son to my desk in another room.

We sat down, facing each other, and through her tears the mother shared with me her concerns about leaving her son, being his age, and needing help caring for himself and this condition. She went on to say that just that morning her son woke up and the first thing he told them was, “I have just been praying that there would be someone to help take care of me at school.”

Now, with tears in my eyes, I looked at her and I responded, “Just this morning, I spent time praying that God would use me in a special way.”

It was in that exact moment that I knew once again that God has me here for a reason more so than just caring for my own son.

With tears now flooding both of our eyes, the mother and I held hands and she prayed a prayer of thanksgiving and I was echoing the words from inside my own heart.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

From my experience of being a mother of children with medical and special needs, my heart and mind knew exactly what this mother was thinking and feeling. In response, I was able to have true compassion and empathy for her. I reassured her that I would care for her son as if he was my own at school.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

Sometimes, we are the ones who need to be comforted, and other times, we are the ones who are able to comfort others.

I just want to take a moment to encourage you today if you are wondering what you need to do to follow God’s will. I can confidently share that all you need to do is surrender yourself to Him, be obedient to his Word, and then just go on and live your everyday life. It doesn’t matter what job you have – being in a workplace outside the home or spending your days at home caring for the children God entrusted to you – just go about it in obedience and you will be fulfilling His will for your life.

I think that often times, God will reveal His will in small pieces at a time – with each loving step of faith that we take – and by continuing to love and trust Him all the while. When those moments of affirmation come you will be filled with the greatest amount of joy and peace that only comes from Him. And between each small revelation, all we need to do is to continue to do the best that we can each and every day with the tasks laid out before us.

“May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21

Friend, go forth today in carrying out your regular tasks, being confident that you are equipped with everything you need to do good in accordance with His will!

Linked up at: #TellHisStory

Building Each Other Up

The morning was going pretty well until about 10 minutes before we had to leave for school.

You see, my 6th grader was taking his time with his shower and getting ready for the morning. Ten minutes before we had to leave, he still had not come down to eat his breakfast, so when I yelled up the steps to tell him he had to hurry it up, I realized he was in his room playing. Ugh…that started to make me upset. When he came down, he walked into the kitchen, suddenly stopped in his tracks, put his finger over his lips and said, “Ummm, I will be right back.” He ran upstairs and a minute later came back down. He went and grabbed the Bible, sat down, and started to frantically go through it. It took me like 3 seconds to realize that he obviously forgot to do something.

I was right.

He was supposed to give a devotional presentation during his 1st period Bible class and forgot to prepare anything. We had 8 minutes left now before we had to leave for school and I still was not completely ready nor had he eaten his breakfast. When I asked him what he was going to do, he tells me that his idea was to take some Legos and use them as a demonstration on how to build each other up. Good idea, but he had NOTHING prepared and was aimlessly searching through the Bible.

Instantly, I got really upset. I said some things that were not good, angrily grabbed a piece of paper and pen, told him to start eating, and whipped out a few Bible verses on building each other up and ways that we can do that. I stuck those notes in the front of his Bible, closed the cover way to hard, and ran upstairs to finish getting ready. He inhaled about half of his breakfast and then ran to brush his teeth. By this time, we were running late and as we left home, the tone of my voice was still harsh and my blood was boiling.

As we started driving, I told him he better take a look at my notes and get a plan in place. In a bitter tone, I gave him an idea of how he can pull this off and unlike me; he stays very quiet and calm through it all. I got mad at the lady driving in front of us for going too slow and not taking off the second the left arrow on the traffic light turns green. When Noah asked me to turn the radio up, I snapped and told him “No.” He didn’t say another word the rest of the way. We pull up to school at the last second and Ethan jumped out.

Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” (NLT)

Needless to say, as I sat and reflected on the morning, guilt filled me up. For one, I should have just stayed calm and had reality be the discipline and let Ethan go into the class completely unprepared. I am a firm believer that there are great lessons to be learned with reality discipline, but sometimes I step in and help when I shouldn’t.

However, it didn’t take me long to realize that in trying to help my son develop a devotional on building each other up, I was doing the complete opposite to him at that moment. I was verbally tearing him down. As he jumped out of the van needing to speak a few minutes later about how to encourage and uplift one another, I had just crushed and deflated his spirit.

Not a good mother moment. It’s regretfully embarrassing. This week holds some things that have been making me feel a bit stressed and on the edge and I guess his irresponsibility pushed me over. Honestly, I am a very patient and loving person and actually feel that those are some of my gifts. Maybe this is just a pitiful attempt to try to convince you that I am a good mom, but truthfully, my behavior yesterday morning was out of character for me. Clearly however, I am far from perfect.

In wishing I would of just let Ethan suffer the natural consequences of not being prepared, I quickly realized that the Lord was having me search the Bible in those frantic minutes not for him – but for a reminder of myself. As a result, it is what I spent the rest of the day thinking about.

Later in the afternoon, after we were all home from school, I took a moment to sit Ethan down and talk about the morning. In a loving and calm voice this time, I asked him how the presentation went, and he said, “Actually, very well.” I told him I was happy it went well and we proceeded to talk about the lessons we both learned. He admitted his fault and I admitted mine. Apologies were exchanged and at the end of the conversation, we both walked away with raised spirits.

Before we ended our conversation he shared with me what he said and did during the presentation and I want to share that with you. While he used some of the Bible verses I found for him, the demonstration part was completely his idea.

He explained to me that he took a bigger Lego piece and used that as the foundation, representing love. While speaking of ways that we can build each other up – showing respect, kindness, praising others while staying humble, refraining from speaking gossip or spreading rumors, being sensitive to other people’s needs, praying for each other, being understanding and quick to forgive – he used a Lego piece for each example and built a cross with them. He explained that using words in love is how the Bible teaches to encourage each other and when we do that; we represent Jesus. Then, in a quick instant, he took that cross of Lego’s, threw it to the ground and it smashed all over the floor. He said that is what it is like when we use our words to tear people down; no longer representing Jesus.

I think Ethan’s demonstration pretty much sums it up.

Just like I needed to do with my son, if you need to take a moment to apologize for the misuse of your words, the tone of your voice, or in giving the silent treatment to another individual (that speaks just as loud and is just as damaging) – then go and do that. Relationships can be mended instead of ripped apart.

Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)

It doesn’t matter who you are – Christian or non-Christian, the color of your skin, or what age you are – we ALL need and desire for someone to take a moment and speak love and life to us.

Friends, let’s go and look for someone to build up in loving encouragement. People are hungry for it and we do not do it enough.

1 Corinthians 14:26, “Well, my brothers, let’s add up what I am saying. When you meet together some will sing, another will teach, or tell some special information God has given him, or speak in an unknown language, or tell what someone else is saying who is speaking in the unknown language, but everything that is done must be useful to all, and build them up in the Lord.” (TLB)


Linked at: Missional Women

Were You There?


Were you there?

Were you there when they yelled, “Crucify him”?

Were you there when they beat him with whips, tearing flesh away from his body with each striking blow?

Were you there when they stripped him, put a scarlet robe on his body and a staff in his hand?

Were you there when they pushed down a crown of thorns on his head?

Were you there the day they spit on him, mocked with their mouths and hatred in their hearts?

Were you there when they took that staff out of his hand and beat him over and over again on the head; pushing that crown of thorns even deeper into his skull?

Were you there when they took that robe off of him and put his own clothes back on?

Were you there when they led him to “The Place of the Skull”?

Were you there when they nailed his hands and feet to the cross?

Were you there when they stripped him naked, and then sat at the foot of the cross casting lots for those bloody strips of linen?

I was.

I was there. So were you.

While hanging on the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” You see, the FIRST words out of Jesus mouth after he got nailed to the cross was “Father, forgive them…” He had just been beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross, and he prayed to His Father, not for himself, but for the ones who were killing him and for us as well.

I was there because He was thinking about me while He was praying that prayer. I was there because every sinful moment of my life was present that day. While He was hanging by his own body weight with nails through his flesh, He took the weight of all of my sins upon him as well. Yours too.

Every hateful, deceiving, or envious thought; every lustful eye; every unkind and angry words to murder a spirit, or because of pride – words held silent when they should have been spoken; every misuse of the Lords name; every false testimony against our neighbor; every disrespectful and rebellious act; every blow with the fists and strikes with the heels; every gluttonous indulgence; every workaholic or slothful beings; every lack of faith, hope, love, trust, belief; every idol served – especially the idol of self – EVERY SINGLE act of SIN…He died for. He took the weight of all if it while hanging on the cross.

He experienced hell.

I’ve watched on the National Geographic Channel regarding certain tribes and cultures with whom men volunteer themselves to experience crucifixion, not to the death, but in the act of being nailed to a cross. They hang there for mere minutes, until they cannot handle it anymore, to which they are then brought down. They do this in an attempt to draw themselves closer to Jesus and are left with nail holes in their hands.

Many times, movies and shows have tried to recreate that day at the Place of the Skull where Jesus hung. Honestly, I can barely watch some of them due to the graphic nature, yet I know that these re-creations don’t even come close to what the reality was. I believe the real act is more than what we would be able to bear to see.

He came to earth so that He could be a human sacrifice for us. In a recent sermon, my Pastor quoted a person who stated something like this: “He was murdered a perfect man, yet while hanging on the cross became the worst of sinners…taking all our sins upon himself.” It was this act of love, a sacrifice of himself that our sins can be forgiven.

I feel so undeserving.

If we are honest, how many times have we been to a Good Friday service and went through the motions without truly being present in our thoughts and hearts of what Jesus did? How many times did you partake of a Communion and your mind was thinking about something else? Could it be that this story is just so familiar, too comfortable within us, that we find ourselves going through the motions with no feelings attached? What a tragedy! I can’t help but wonder if this could be one of the greatest tragedies of all. Lord, forgive us!

Here is the good news. Friday afternoon’s darkness leads to Sunday morning’s light. Even non-church going humans come to church on Easter to celebrate what comes next. Sin and death is not the end of the story.

Sunday, there will be a gathering together to celebrate the promise and fulfillment of His Resurrection – so that all those who believe and place their trust in Him – the one who died and rose again – may experience ETERNAL life.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55 -57)

Hope is not dead. “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Hebrews 7:19 Hope goes way beyond the dirt we are buried in and the stone that marks our earthly existence.

No matter your past or the storm of life that you are currently experiencing, you have an anchor to hang on to that is firm and secure. There is no wave of sin, guilt, or grief strong enough to displace that.

I am sure there will be lots of bloggers writing about these events in their own creative way over the next few days. This post will be just one of them. There will be many podcasts telling stories relating to this Holy Week. There will be many Pastors preaching the Good News this weekend. While all this is good, it doesn’t matter how many blogs you read, podcasts or preachers you hear if there is no internal response.

As we go into this weekend – remembering the sacrifice of the Lamb and then rejoicing in His resurrected life – let us not just go through the motions! Let’s be fully present in mind, heart, and spirit and humble ourselves before the Lord. We don’t even need to nail our hands to a cross in order to do so.

What we need to do is to find a quiet spot to be alone, and have a moment before the Lord repenting, believing and having true faith in what He has done.

We, our sins, were present the day He died and we need to respond by surrendering our all today. We are forgiven! Let’s praise Him for what He accomplished!

There is no greater story of a beautiful love and grace than this:


Picture drawn by Noah, March 2015

Picture drawn by Noah, March 2015

Linked at: #TellHisStory