The Storm

I had just laid my son down for bed when the storm started.

This was no ordinary storm. This was a good, old-fashioned, Arkansas spring storm. A wild beast of a thing that could turn into a tornado at any moment. Thunder, lightning, window-rattling wind, hail and flickering lights. The kind of storm where meteorologists encourage the television viewers to tie down their trampolines. And maybe their cars too.

farm house lightning

I passed by Nate’s bedroom door and could tell he was sleeping peacefully thus far, judging by his gentle snores, despite the chaos outside. Lightning flashed beyond his window, illuminating the chubby curve of his cheeks. Still, I hesitated to leave him alone. This storm wasn’t like any other. This was a wild thing of violence. One big boom of thunder, and I knew my little guy could be awake, crying in fear.

Nate has a trundle bed, so after a moment of indecision, I pulled out the lower mattress and made myself comfortable on the tiny rectangle of space. Well, as comfortable as I could be, anyway. After a few moments, my back and knees began to ache. Was it silly of me to be hanging out in his room? The kid was oblivious the thunderclaps shaking the house. I should just go to my own bed, enjoy my own blessedly soft pillow and adequately long mattress. I was worrying over nothing. tornado lightning

A gust of wind shrieked overhead. Silver flashed and a crack of thunder split the sky. Nate jerked in his sleep and rolled over. His eyes never opened, but his little mouth murmured, “Mama?”.

And then it happened.

He reached over the edge of the mattress and searched for my hand, his little eyes still buttoned up tight in sleep. Groping, seeking. The moment his chubby fingers brushed mine, he gripped my hand and released a tight sigh.

“Mama,” he breathed before succumbing back into Never Never land.nate reaching for my hand

He had no idea I was sleeping below him. I’ve never done so before, except on the rare occasions he was deeply ill. He never once opened his eyes nor saw my face. But boy, was I glad I chose to stay close that night.

I could have gone to my own bed. I still would have been in the house. Still close by, ready to come if he called, but there was something special in that moment, being there and anticipating his need before he even realized he had one, that was worth the momentary discomfort of achy knees and a stiff back. In the moment between wakefulness and sleep, when scary noises startled him, he sought me. And I was waiting for him. I was there.

How much greater is the love of our Father.

After all, I’m just a messed up mom. I’m a mom who, even on my best days, still tends to yell when I want to play it cool, let my emotions spiral after telling my kids how to trust God, eats Nutella out of the jar when I intend to munch on carrot sticks, and act more like Frankie Heck than June Cleaver.

My point is, if a goof-up like me can accidentally manage to love, albeit imperfectly, how much greater is God’s love for His kids? He is always with His children, always near, always close and listening, but during those storms that are extra violent…the bone-rattling, knee-knocking, foundation-shaking tempests, He doesn’t just ‘stay in the house’ with us. He watches over us as we sleep. He anticipates the need before we know we have one. He’s the hand waiting to grasp our fingers as we reach out, searching for any sign of the familiar in a sea of terrifying darkness.

1 John 3 1

And He’s the one Who whispers in our ear as we drift back off into the peaceful arms of sleep. “Fear not, for I AM with you…”

Storms come and go but the love of the Father remains.

Sleep on. He’s waiting and watching. All is well.

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The Seeing Blind

In this present darkness, most of us feel oppressed at every turn. We sense spiritual forces battling it out. Good versus evil. Angels versus demons. Light against shadows. We’ve been taught to be good soldiers for Christ. Take up our cross and fight. Fight for truth. Fight for our children. Fight, well, for everything.

boxing ali

Speaking the truth is always the right thing to do. We must speak what God has declared to be true, omitting nothing. But one thing most of us forget is this: truth never needs a defender. It stands on its own. That’s what makes it truth.

And as far as the cosmic battle goes? The war has already been won. Yet some of us speak and argue and live our lives like the outcome of the spiritual war depends solely on our own effort.

fight from victory

In the past few years, I’ve traveled to many churches, speaking and singing, sharing the transformative power Jesus has displayed in my life. One thing I’ve noticed is that far too many churches are pounding the horribleness of sin, which is true, but no mention is made of forgiveness for the sinner. We talk of the heartbreaking slaughter of millions of innocent babies through abortion, shake our heads and take up arms, yet how many women sit in the congregation silently bowing their head in shame because they were one of the scared souls who made a choice that has now haunted and scarred them forever?

We talk about staying away from vices like pornography and the foul decay it brings to our minds, while a teenage boy on the back row struggles with the images his brain refuses to erase…images he was forced to see by an abusive father who thought showing such things to his young son would ‘make a man out of him’.

peter-sjo-190966

Alcoholics and adulterers, drug users and ex-cons, the hot-tempered and misfits. They are desperately trying to hide their past. To fit in. To pretend it never happened. That the scars they wear are not visible still.

And while we’re busy shaking our fists at sin, and the world’s system, boycotting and ranting on social media about the very things Jesus told us the world would never understand, the hurting Jesus entrusted to our care are bleeding at our feet. And we don’t even notice. We’re so consumed with our righteous indignation, we’re blinded to the broken.

My personal opinion is this: generally speaking, the world should know us by what we’re for…not by what we’re against.

Please don’t misunderstand. This is not a call to stop fighting the good fight. Far from it. But in our zeal, may we be careful to keep compassion before campaigns. Truth should never trample love.

The gospel was never meant to shame the sinner. The gospel of Jesus is Good News. The God of the universe not only sees you, but outrageously, desperately loves you so much He died to make you His. This is a scandalous love. This is what we should be shouting through the streets. This is what we should be flooding through social media. This is the One Who can transform your life from broken to beautiful. Jesus.

In our lists of all the things that God is and what God does and doesn’t do, what He embraces and what He cannot, let us never forget this most beautiful, fundamental, and scandalous truth…the truth that all else rests upon: God is love.

ephesians 3

Rods and Staffs

God’s presence. How I long for it. There are days when I feel nearly desperate for it. For Him. In some ways, it’s an odd longing. Didn’t Jesus already promise He’s with me until the end of the age? (Matt. 28:20) Absolutely. He said His Spirit is living inside me as a deposit of the promises yet to come. (2 Cor. 1:22) Yet, there are days when I don’t always feel Him with me.

I’m not alone. When I googled “God’s presence” I racked up a whopping 37 million plus hits. If Jesus is with me and living inside me, why do I still struggle to find that heightened state of an awareness of His presence?

thaddaeus-lim-40018The chaos of living in a media-crazed culture certainly plays a part. The rush of schedules crammed too full of go-go-go make it worse. But digging deeper, I think these things are band-aids slapped on to hide a deeper problem. We keep ourselves drowning in noise because silence is too condemning. We let our busyness anesthetize us from the wounds and pain we have no desire to confront. We long for quiet. Every fiber of our soul screams for it, but we are, in equal parts, terrified of it. Why?

 Because sitting at the feet of Jesus requires change.

Since “presence” is my word for 2017, I’ve been giving it some study. In the Scriptures, God’s presence is mentioned as He led Israel from Egypt into the promised land.

13 Now therefore, I [Moses] pray you, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways so that I may know You [becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with You, recognizing and understanding Your ways more clearly] and that I may find grace and favor in Your sight. And consider also, that this nation is Your people.” 14 And the Lord said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest [by bringing you and the people into the promised land].” 15 And Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go [with me], do not lead us up from here.” ~Exodus 33 (AMP)

 God’s presence is also mentioned numerous other places, like Psalm 139:7-10.

rod and staffWhere can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol (the nether world, the place of the dead), behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will take hold of me. 


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful words of Psalm 23:4.

“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Here’s what I’ve noticed about these verses in regard to God’s presence. The majority of them revolve around adversity. Pain. Lengthening shadows and the mysterious unknown. Rejection. Abuse. Wounds. Betrayal. Grief and loss. But where pain abounds, His love abounds in greater measure. his love abounds

We tend to think of God’s presence as our quiet time when everything is picture perfect and quiet. The kids are behaving, things are going right for a change and we can have a little jam session with God. But it rarely works out that way. (At least, in my house.) broken piecesSitting, loving and living in the presence of God is much deeper. It’s coming to Him with all your messiness and broken pieces and laying them bare before Him. It’s giving Him full access to the shadowed places of your heart you’re ashamed for anyone else to see, and then gratefully basking in the knowledge that He loves you wildly, despite the mess.

Suffering requires us to relinquish something. A dream. A plan. A person. A place. Whatever it is, grief is involved. But there is beauty in our suffering when we learn to worship at the feet of Jesus, and say, “Not my will but Yours.”

Then His love moves in to fill the cracks where our hearts bleed.

Seeking a deeper walk with God is kind of like seeking humility. All of us want to be humble, but most of us don’t want to endure what it takes to get there.

Walking close to God may require a walk through the valley. “I will not fear. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me…” 3 nails

Keep your eyes fixed on the Shepherd. Trust Him with your messy, broken places. In His presence is healing. In His hands are love.

An Open Letter from a Recovering People-Pleaser

I’ve had to learn some things the hard way. After years of exhaustion, of disappointment, of hiding behind my masks, of dark depression, I’ve learned that people pleasing may always be a battle for me. A daily battle. It’s a lie that I believed for far too long—mainly, that approval and love are the same thing. However, as God has peeled back layer after layer of my masks and choices, He has helped me understand that approval and love are not the same thing at all. They are, in fact, polar opposites.

approval vs love

I‘m finally starting to realize my worth in His eyes. I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

Jesus created me unique for a special, defined purpose, yet for years I gave away that gift and tried to morph and remake myself in a poorly constructed mold, praying I would be accepted. Loved. Esteemed.

It failed. Over and over again. lecrae

Today, I stand here knowing I am loved by the Creator of the Universe. He sees me. He calls me His daughter. He knows my broken, messy self yet still delights in me. And although He has healed and transformed me in immeasurable ways, there is still a broken place inside me that fights the desire for human approval.

With all that being said, I confess that being a recovering people-pleaser is hard work. It’s a choice I make each day. I have to be proactive—not just for my sake, not just for my family’s sake, but as a child of the King.

Here is my prayerful plea to you…

  1. Respect my boundaries.

Boundaries, saying no, and everything that entails is extremely hard for me. So when I give you a no, even if it sounds timid or unsure, don’t press. Saying no is quite literally the most difficult thing for me to do. It takes an incredible amount of courage and the only reason I would say no is because I’ve learned how much pressure I can take before I crack. I have no desire to collapse in on myself like a dying star. Not again.

I want to be able to help you in the future, but if I don’t find a proper balance of my energy, time and resources, I won’t be able to help anyone. My no, although difficult for me to say, and possibly just as hard for you to hear, benefits us all in the long run.

  1. Manipulation and spiritual abuse are no longer welcome.

Saying you’re disappointed in me for refusing to help you is manipulation. I may have collapsed under these tactics in the past, but no longer. Telling me God told you that I would be great for a certain job is well and good, but unless God has told me the same thing, my answer will be no. I have a living, breathing relationship with Him, just as you do. When this life is over, I will answer to Him and Him alone…not a jury of my peers.

pleasing god vs jury of peers

Please don’t shame me, tear me down or hurt me if my need to say no muddles your well-laid plans. Trust me, I have already tortured myself enough with the reality that I can’t undertake the task, despite my desire to have your approval. Lashing out only makes me resentful about the request, angry at you and angry at myself for being manipulated. I cannot be your rescuer.

  1. Whenever I say ‘yes’ to something, I will have to say ‘no’ to something else.

I have learned that I can’t be everything to everybody. My family is a ministry too—the most important one God has given me. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, a limited amount of resources and a limited amount of energy. My relationship with God is my priority, then my family. Other things, special projects or passions find their place as God moves and directs through different seasons. Sometimes saying ‘yes’ to something that might be good leaves little room to embrace God’s best just around the corner.

  1. Be patient with me when I have to buckle down on boundaries.

Sometimes I turn off the phone because the requests never stop. My battery is empty. My nerves are frayed. My family is demanding my attention. I may have to say ‘no’ or request extended time to pray over a matter. I may even have to turn down several major things that I would like to do because God is telling me they aren’t in His plans…at least, not now.

If I have to squeak out a string of no’s, I’m not trying to sound like a two-year old. I’ve merely learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to fall back into the same old cycles that nearly became my undoing. I must choose wisely. To be healthy physically, emotionally and spiritually, I may need to take a step back from time to time. Be patient. It’s only for a season.

  1. Love me, whether I perform well, poorly or not at all.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, thinking we are unlovable without it.

For too long I sought my worth based on what people told me about myself. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. jeremiah

It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

I will fail you. I’m human. I stumble and fall. Despite my failures, my heart has found peace and contentment in my Savior, and I love the friends He has given to make the journey even more joyful. All I ask is that you love me despite my messy attempts to fly.

With God’s grace, I’ll love you the same.

In true people-pleasing fashion, I ask—is that okay?