Tuesday, August 8, 2017

What Faith Can Do


Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash



Most  of the time it's just me and the piano, singing praise to my Creator in the middle of my living room. I like it that way.

Today, however I had a flashback that I had to share with someone else!

I flipped through my collection of songs that I keep in a large black binder. I was drawn to sing the beautiful lyrics by Scott Davis and Scott Krippayne in the song "What Faith Can Do."  As I began the familiar melody and the lyrics filled the air, I was immediately encouraged.

"Everybody falls sometimes | Gotta find the strength to rise | From the ashes and make a new beginning | Anyone can feel the ache | You think it's more than you can take | But you're stronger - stronger than you know | Don't you give up now | The sun will soon be shining | You gotta face the clouds to find the silver lining. || I've seen dreams that move the mountains | Hope that doesn't ever end | Even when the sky is falling | I've seen miracles just happen | Silent prayer get answered | Broken hearts become brand new | That's what faith can do."

As I headed into the second verse, I almost stopped singing, due to a lump that was forming in my throat. I was taken back to about seven years ago.   I was playing and singing this song for the special music at church, the same church that I led worship for this past Sunday.  It had taken everything within me to get up on that stage that day seven years ago and sing the following verse:

"It doesn't matter what you've heard | Impossible is not a word | It's just a reason for someone not to try | Everybody's scared to death | When they decide to take that step out on the water | but it'll be all right | Life is so much more | Than what your eyes are seeing | You will find your way if you keep believing."

At that time, I was in the middle of one of the biggest fights of my life, and hardly anyone knew it. The demons of anxiety and depression had such a choke-hold on me that I felt like I could hardly breathe.  I don't know why I even said yes to getting up on that stage, except for the fact that I had parents who instilled a beautiful sense of service within me.

At that moment, in that sanctuary those years ago, I sang that verse with wish full thinking. I wanted to believe that I could take that step out on the water and know that everything would be all right.  But you see, my reality told me that I would hardly make it through a grocery store line without a panic attack.  That driving down the road without the pangs of fear in the pit of my stomach was a rarity. That peaceful sleep was elusive.  That my life was meant to be one anxious moment followed by another by another by another.

Panic, agoraphobia and the depression that followed were the norm...so how could God allow the lyrics of this song to ever become my reality?

I sang it anyway.  With a trembling voice, and hands that shook...I sang with passion. Because I wanted to do what the Bridge said:

"Overcome the odds | When you don't have a chance | (That's what faith can do) | When the world says you can't | It'll tell you that you can!"

Today when I belted out that bridge with no one listening except God (and my four kids), I had such joy well up within me!  Because I have overcome!

Do I have rough days? Yes! Do I have moments of anxiety? Yes! But does it rule my life anymore? NO!

Just like it says in Psalm 18:6 "In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears."

That's what happened! I cried out to God, and He heard me.  My journey to freedom has taken a total of eleven years, but that fact doesn't negate the fact that I am a flat. out. miracle.

Every time I lead worship at my church, I am reminded of this miracle.  Few know about the times I felt like I would die on that stage. In the past, when I played the piano or sang a song I was filled with the most excruciating anxiety you could ever imagine. Some days I saw stars because I was so close to blacking out. Most of the time my body wouldn't stop trembling. My breath came in gasps.

I know what you might be thinking... "What changed?"

I did.

I allowed God to change me.

A little over a year ago I walked into my first counseling appointment and let all the words fall out. And I kept going back for a whole year.  I suffered the pain that comes from tackling the monster of anxiety. It took a complete re-framing of my mind!

I let go of my need for perfection. I trusted Jesus as my Savior in the way I was meant to all my life.  I leaned into His grace and just fell back in His arms.

I didn't need to perform anymore.  I didn't need to feel responsible when things didn't go as planned.

It was me and my Savior. It was Jesus. It was all Jesus.

That's what faith can do.

Faith in a Savior who is holding this whole world in His hands.

Faith in the God, most High who is above every single idol/god/imagination in this world.

Faith in the Holy Spirit, who is still working today...comforting hears, convicting souls and pouring Himself out on those who ask.

This faith helps me on the days that I feel that familiar ache of anxiety try to creep in. It gives me the strength to look that problem square in the eye and say, "Not today."  It leads me to the living Word of God in which I find all the answers I could ever need.

I'm not perfect, because I'm not home yet. But the perfect Christ is covering me -- sustaining me -- renewing me day by day.

If you find yourself in a stronghold of fear, anxiety or depression today, I want you to know I'm praying for you.  Right now. As I type these words, I am asking the God of all hope to fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him. I'm praying that you will overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)

Overcome the odds
When you don't have a chance
(That's what faith can do)

When the world says you can't 
It'll tell you that you can




Friday, May 26, 2017

What I wish I would have known




1. Fostering is going to hurt. A lot. You will think about the heartaches your foster kids have endured and it will break your heart. You will never see suffering in the same way again.  Their stories will stay with you in your head, and their faces will forever be imprinted on your heart.

2. People won't understand why you choose to foster, sometimes even your closest friends and family. Most will be supportive, but there will be those who discuss your choice behind your back and say things to your face that will feel like a punch in the stomach. It's okay. It's part of the process.

3. You will realize just how selfish of a person you are. Flexibility is your best friend when you foster, and you will absolutely hate how annoyed you get at interruptions. It will make you or break you, so my advice is to let it make you.

4. It can cause remarkable tension within your original family unit. Relationships will have to grow to accept a new person, and it will most likely be a difficult transition.  You will have to be intentional to spend extra time with your bio kids, and give them a listening ear.

5. You will get angry at alcohol and drugs for how they come between the kids you care for and their families.  You will want to scream with anger at how the parents will allow harmful behaviors to have priority over their own child.

6. You will become very frustrated by the hoops that have to be jumped through, and the system that you have to work with. It will get so frustrating that you will want to quit...often.


I also wish I would have known...


1. It will change you... forever. Your eyes will be opened to a different world that you didn't know existed. You may have known that children were mistreated, but when you live with the face of one who is neglected or hurt, you suddenly can't help but enter into their pain.

2. You will grow to love these kids with a fierce, protective love.  You will do whatever it takes to help them understand how much you want them to succeed.  You might even rub your foster child's back every night and sing the same song over and over, just hoping that someday when they are older, they will hear that song and have a comforting memory associated with it.

3. You will wake up each day with a purpose greater than yourself.  You won't be able to walk away from this other world that you have entered into. Your life will become less about having a bigger TV, and more about making sure your foster child has a bike.

4. Your family will be forced out of their comfort zone, and it will be good for them.  Their eyes will see suffering in a new way, and it will have a face attached to it forever.  They will have the opportunity to learn empathy, a skill that involves entering into someone's pain.

5. Your life will stop being so much about you, and more about how you can leave a mark on a child's life that you may only have for a few weeks or months. You will come up with clever ways to help that child feel love, regulate their emotions, and you will pray that they form a bond with you. Because bonding is one of the most important "skills" for them to acquire.

6. You will come to appreciate the system that surrounds these children and tries it's best to help the child achieve long term success.  You will realize that the Case Workers, Guardians, Parent Coaches etc, are all over worked, under-payed, and doing the best with what they have. You will not always see eye to eye with them, but you will need to learn how to work together in order to make successful transitions a possibility.



Foster parenting can be a wild ride, but it's one I'm thankful I've had the privilege of being on. I am a different person today because of it.  I pray often that the little lives we've loved in our home will never be the same. That they will grow and flourish into incredible human beings because someone was willing to help them during a time of transition.

If you are thinking about fostering, but worried about what it means, I get it.

Just know...It won't be an easy task, but it will be rewarding. You may wonder if you can continue, and you may even take breaks from it along the way.  You will learn that you need boundaries and self care.  You may find that your involvement in the system looks different from time to time.

The point is, these kids are worthy of your time and attention. They are worth getting up in the middle of the night for. They are worthy of a caring home with a comfortable bed.  They are worth it.

What I wish I would have known, is that your life may change forever, but you won't want to go back to the way it was before.


Friday, May 19, 2017

I want.



Image via Unsplash


I have been experiencing an unusual case of the "I wants" recently.  It's most likely due to the promise of Spring peeking right around the corner, that brings with it the desire to renew the old stuff in my life.

I look around my home and see all the projects that would seemingly make my life more meaningful when completed.

I walk into my closet and am faced with the disorganization I have allowed to invade my everyday existence, and find myself scheming how I can acquire the latest and greatest tools to make that space work.

My kitchen suddenly seems outdated and frustrating with it's creamy laminate floors and stock kitchen cabinets. I'm unsettled and ungrateful.

I often feel guilty when those thoughts creep in.  After all, I've lived major portions of my life without perfection in home essentials, so why do I care so much?

I suppose there is something to be said for the way I am wired.  I am a Creative by nature, so I love the renewing and restoring part of any project. I am inspired by color charts and the way textures can beautifully compliment each other.

There's nothing inherently wrong with finding pleasure in creative endeavors, but there is something off when we strive for perfectionism at every turn.

When our wants become an unending distraction to what our soul needs, we are the losers.

I'm challenged by the idea that our focus should be centered on the important work of renewing our minds. Of allowing the Spirit of God to remake our inner beings. We must cast off the distractions that take away from the ultimate goal of seeing. The goal of seeing our lives through the lens that our Sovereign God desires us to.

We must allow our sight to be restored.

In Mark's Gospel we read a telling of the interaction between Christ and a blind man named Bartimaeus.

 And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10: 46-52

We have to be willing to throw off the cloak...the things holding us back from our healing. Matthew Henry writes the following, "The gracious call Christ gives us to come to him, encourage our hope, that if we come to him we shall have what we come for. Those who would come to Jesus, must cast away the garment of their own sufficiency, must free themselves from every weight, and the sin that, like long garments, most easily besets them..."

In my life the weight that often besets me aren't the big things.  More often it is the little annoyances, frustrations, and feelings of discontent that hold me back.  They fill my mental real estate and create a web of clutter that I often allow to mess up my day.

I know the key to real joy. I am aware that to the degree I pursue Christ, I will experience a feeling, or awareness that can't be taken away by simple circumstances.

When I am tempted by feelings of discontent, I have the power within me to focus on all the beautiful ways God shows up in my life.

First, He saved me.  For real.  I was a mess before He changed my life.  Before surrender I lived an existence of striving.

Secondly, He changed me. He made me into a new creation. And He's not done yet!  Every day I wake up is a day where God chooses to mold me into the person He thought of when He created me.  I only have to keep letting Him have first place in my life.

Lastly, He loved me.  Correction.  He loves me.  If all he did was die for me, it's enough.  But, that's not all He's done. He walked before us. He came to earth as a real person with real hurts and human perceptions. And in His walking on this earth, He gave us a road map to a life of joy.

Psalm 16:11 says that "in His presence is fullness of joy." Jesus knew the secret to joy was perfecting His focus on His Father.

Similarly, when we feel our gaze shifting to things that can't bring us lasting fulfillment, all we have to do is spend time with the One who gave us time. Prioritize Him!

In John 15:5, His words give life and hope. "...I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing."  To have true joy, we must abide (remain fixed in a state) in Him. We don't ever stop abiding. We don't ever stop living in His presence. And when we abide, we will produce much fruit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Those don't come by accident. You don't just sort of acquire those traits. We remain in Him, and He lives through us.

So practically speaking, when I find myself zeroing in on the things I believe to be imperfect in my surroundings, it's time to check my motives. I have to ask myself why I am hyper-focused on it? I need to consider the possibility that I'm looking to perfection in my home, in my life, my family to be the source of my joy.

If i'm obsessing about the state of my surroundings, instead of the state of my soul, then something is off.  I'm very aware that the correcting of that skewed thinking can take time and purposeful redirection towards what really matters.

When the lack of perfection in my house and life is stealing my joy, I need to look deeper and make sure I'm not looking to the wrong things for my fulfillment.

I LOVE this passage of wisdom found in II Corinthians 4:16-18.

"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."

My house, my things, my worldly possessions will decay.  Our bodies will decay.  And while we don't need to neglect the improvement of those things, the better fixation would be on our inner self. What we think about. What we choose to dwell on in those quiet moments.  Who we allow to control our inner dialogue. All of the outward striving to achieve perfection only serves to create a feeling of discontent and emotional instability.

I think we intuitively know that our bodies, our things are decaying. We know that there is more out there, which would explain why we feel like we need to change something again and again. It's why there are trends in the world. It's why there are "hot items," which will be old news before the year is over.  We are working to impress people (sometimes ourselves) and all along our Creator is saying, Come to me. I'm literally all you need. He says in Matthew's Gospel,

 "So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  (Matthew 6:31-34).


He cares about our needs. He will supply our needs. But, I think He desires to be our greatest "want."  He tells us to seek first His Kingdom...His Righteousness.

So the next time I feel that sick feeling of discontent in my gut, I'm going to remember that He invites me to worry less about tomorrow, and more about His plans for my life, and for the lives of those around me. I'm going to continue to enjoy creative projects, and re-do things in my home.  I'm going to continue to go work out and eat healthy food.  But, I refuse to obsess about things that God clearly tells me to stop obsessing about.

I want. It's how God made me.

I just want to seek and pursue His kingdom and righteousness first...before I seek that perfect wall color.



Friday, May 5, 2017

Strength through Weakness




I am not enough.

Selfishly, I want to be. I don't want to have to bow before Anyone and admit that I can't make it without help.  A lump forms in my throat, and tears well in my eyes as I contemplate the fact that my work isn't enough.

I never really understood until recently how much of a perfectionist I am. There is nothing worse in my human estimation than looking back at a situation and realizing that there were a hundred things that could have been done differently.

We all may know intellectually that failure is good, because it helps us grow. But that doesn't help in the moments when we look that failure square in the face and listen to what we think it says about us.

Some of us deal with speaking failure over a scenario before it's even happened. Certain personality types lean towards negative predictions, and I confess that at times I fall into that category.  If the plans that were laid out so neatly don't stay that way, then we think we are doomed to fail.  This kind of thinking needs to go.

I keep thinking about the people that followed Jesus while He lived out His earthly ministry.

They dealt with weaknesses. (Luke 22) With failure to understand what Jesus was doing. (Mark 9,10) One of them even went so far as to deny that he knew the Christ when it came down to it. (Mark 14) There was bickering and misunderstanding. There were moments when things didn't go as well as that band of believers thought it should. (Mark 4).

It gives me hope, in my weaknesses. Reading their stories, and how they came through it gives me courage to keep going.

Ministry doesn't have to be perfect.  It will be messy and unpredictable and wild.

A life of surrender won't be an easy one. There will be confusion and redirection...time after time.

However, through it all, there is one thing that remains...


The Word tells us -  “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." II Cor 12:9 ESV

We do our best. We allow God to work through us, no matter how weak we feel. And we rest in His provision of strength.  Sometimes we get to see the fruit. And, sometimes we don't. Faithfulness is what matters in each case.

Be encouraged that in the knowledge that the most unqualified and imperfect people have been and will continue to be used in the upside down Kingdom of God.


Father, it's yours. It's all yours. Every talent, every gift, every provision you've supplied to us.  We give it back to You, so that glory may be given to You, and You alone. Thank you for allowing your imperfect people to partner with You. To You be the glory, forever.

Friday, February 17, 2017

In The Saving & The Calling



image via Unsplash

"For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
II Timothy 1:7

"...who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began,"
II Timothy 1:9  ESV

These two verses.

They embody everything that has been worked in and through me by the power of the Holy Spirit in the past four years.

While purpose has been of great importance to me for some time, it has been in the more recent past that God has been showing me how I can partner with Him in the purpose He has willed from the beginning.
His plan not only encompasses my beginning, when He knew me in my mother's womb, but from the moment He spoke and Creation became a reality.  (Ephesians 1:4)

In His Sovereignty, He determined that I would be born with a vicious desire to change the world.  He also gifted me with what I'm going to refer to as the "mothering instinct."  From my earliest remembrance, I was taking care of others with a vengeance (some called me bossy, and they might not be wrong).

My surrendering to this gifting and stepping into my calling is becoming one of my favorite seasons of life.

What a beautiful realization that He gives us everything we need to fulfill His desires for us in this life and in the life to come. (II Peter 1:3)

First, He saves us.

Secondly, He calls us.

And in the saving and the calling, He asks not that we come in perfection or with performance, but armed with His purpose.

All He asks is that we join Him in the works that He is already performing for His glory.  He works, we partner with Him.  He gives power, we perform in that strength.  He showers grace on our parched souls, and we allow the overflow to splash on those around us who need Him just as much as we do.

There are moments when fear creeps in. Days when we know our getting up is only possible through His powerful connection to the weakest parts of our humanity.  I have lived this scenario more times than I care to admit. I used to hate it.  I would cry out in anger, frustration and fear.

My struggle with anxiety is one of the best things to happen to me.

Yes, it's true.  I never would have thought I could say that.  But, I mean it with every fiber in my being.  It's been painful.  I have scars and wounds that won't soon be forgotten.  But, I now know that He alone can do the saving.  He alone can do the calling, and He alone can do the providing for every strength we need.

Recently I went to a training in Texas, where I was taught some important lessons in regards to ministry as a woman.  I'm thankful for all I learned, but the thing I came away from there with was a braver sense of freedom than I have had in a long long time.

I am His. He is mine. And, there is nothing we can't do together.

God has not given me a spirit of fear.  Instead, He has lifted me out of the pit I had been crouching in, and given me His Spirit, which results in power, love and a sound mind.

I have taken medication for several years now, but it couldn't fight the demons lurking in my surroundings.  It couldn't numb the constant fear that pulsed in time with the beating of my heart. It couldn't set me free to live without continually looking over my shoulder for seemingly insignificant triggers which threatened my existence.

Anxiety robs you of your joy.  Jesus Christ is the giver of joy. (John 15:11)

And it takes a surrender to the idea that His ways are higher than ours to break free of that "looking over your shoulder" kind of fear.

It takes a special kind of giving up to walk in the calling you previously had an aversion to because you thought it meant organizing "Mommy play dates."  Women's Ministry was the thing I said "no way" to because my perspective of it was shallow and incomplete.

And now, it's completing my joy in such a beautiful way. I find myself smiling even when I'm alone thinking about the miracles God is working in and around me.

The most amazing part of this turn of events... I didn't do it.  Sure, I worked on my part of things.  I surrendered my will to God, and continue to pray that prayer daily.  I walked into the counselor's office and laid my soul bare in order to root up the unhealthy thinking that had long been part of my mind.  And, I gave up the part of me that cared what everyone thought about me, and looked to my grace-giving Father above.

Looking back at the past four years, it's apparent that the part I had to play wasn't as difficult as I had previously anticipated.

Purpose in my case looks like one small step at a time, and standing brave in the power of His might. It involves putting on that belt of truth every single day (Ephesians 6:14). 

But, mostly a life of power, love and a sound mind comes from selflessly surrendering our every thing - every day of our lives.



***Do you struggle with surrendering your fear and anxiety to God? Send me a note and let me know how I can be praying with you about it.***