What’s Her Story?

We all have them in our churches. Women whose lives are full of hurt and pain, who struggle with job loss, economic woes, health issues, parenting issues, and more. They sit in the pews Sunday after Sunday, trying to trust God with their struggles and frequently wearing a mask to cover their pain. We will never know their stories unless we make the effort to invite them into our lives and discover who they are.

A friend and I listened as a woman shared her story of a son who is struggling with paranoid schizophrenia. She lived in fear as she watched his hallucinations and bizarre behaviors become increasingly more frequent. The hours leading to his involuntary hospitalization were something I would never wish for anyone. My heart ached for her and her pain. We held hands as we prayed for her family. My friend and I both prayed that God’s healing hand would be on this family, but it was her prayer that made me cry as I truly saw the heart of a mother who loved God.

I watched as another woman lost her son to an illness that had robbed him of his job, his marriage, his self-confidence, and eventually, his very life. Losing a child is one of the most devastating things that can ever happen to a mother, and seeing her pain and knowing there was nothing I could do to alleviate it, was extremely difficult.  I saw her grow stronger in the Lord, serve with a humble heart, and lift up others during their times of pain. God has been a constant companion to her and her husband, and her painful loss has not been in vain. Her witness to others is not unnoticed.

woman comfortingUnfortunately, not everyone who sits in our church pews has a strong faith and a story of triumph through tragedy. Some of them are discouraged, some of them are questioning their faith, some of them believe that no one cares about their struggles.  How do we minister to them? How do we find out their stories?

First, we need to pray that God will open our eyes to see and ears to hear the needs around us. Listen for concerns that are expressed by them or others. Do they have a friend they sit with at church? Do they participate in a small group outside of Sunday morning?  Does anyone else at church socialize with them? Are we aware of their family needs? We have many lonely women sitting in our church pews. Do you see them? Do you hear them?

Second, we need to let them know we care. Sometimes women just need to know someone out there cares about what is going on in their lives. A gentle word, a loving touch, a little kindness, a card, a meal–anything that says “I care about you”–goes a long way. When a woman knows that we care, she is much more likely to share her life and her needs.

Third, we need to give them a safe haven. We don’t always know what is happening in a woman’s life and what her story is. Sometimes a woman is reluctant to share her story because she has been hurt in telling others. We need to listen to her without judging, we need to keep her story in confidence and ask permission to share if there is a need, and we need to provide her with a safe place to share her life.

Last but most importantly, we need to show them a God who loves them. God created us for relationship and the most important relationship in anyone’s life is their relationship with God. When that is right, all the other things, discouraging as they may be, are put in a different perspective. When we ask a woman to share her story with us, we want to be sure that our response is a reflection of our Father’s love. We need to be sure to focus on Him.

All of us have a story. Some of them are more dramatic than others, but they are all important in God’s eyes. Get to know the women around you. Find out their stories.  Some of them will shock you. Some of them will surprise you. Some of them will inspire you. Some of them will make your heart ache.

The amazing thing is God uses our stories. He is constantly rewriting and updating them. What’s your story? If a friend asks you why having God in your life matters, what will you tell them? Be real. Be transparent. Let them know you do not have all the answers and sometimes you struggle. Ordinary people serving an extraordinary God – that is the crux of the story. We all need to be ready to share our story so that others can see how God has worked in our lives.

“But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15 ESV




Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

d4d99c902daa5cbcb06a9bf93963714f-big-mirrors-round-mirrors-hallwayFor our recent annual writer’s retreat we rented a lovely, large home that had enough space for us to spread out and write. One of the first things I noticed when I arrived was a large mirror hanging on the wall at the foot of the staircase.

Now there are things in my life I seriously have love/hate relationships with–my computer, my car, and food, for example. But my relationship with mirrors? There is no doubt; I absolutely have a hate relationship with them! Can you imagine that?

Mirrors simply reflect the image in front of them (unless they are magic like in Snow White). When I look in the mirror, I see an aging overweight body, a graying head of hair and a double chin. The mirror reflects the reality of my aging self. And mirrors with a magnifying glass? Who needs that?

The tricky thing about mirrors is what you see is based on your perspective. 

When I look at others I do not see the wrinkles, the age spots and the graying hair I see when I look at myself. My perspective of them is different. I am way more forgiving of the flaws I see in others than the ones I see in myself. And while I am critical of what I see in a mirror, it is very handy to have one. It can prevent me from leaving the house with my blouse inside out or show me that stain I didn’t initially see on my jacket. It can even remind me that I forgot to brush my hair when getting ready.

I often wonder if I had a mirror that reflected what is inside of my soul, what would I see? Would I see the insecurities, the doubts, the longings, and the fears that reside within? Would I see the pride, the arrogance, the envy, the deceit, and the lies that I bury inside? Or would I see the grace, the joy, and the beauty of a redeemed life? It all comes down to my perspective and how deeply I am willing to peer into that mirror.

1 Corinthians 13 is well known as a love chapter of the New Testament. However, Paul also reminds us in the end of the chapter that sometimes we just do not see the full picture of our life with Christ. In verses 12 and 13, he states, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” God sees us as we truly are without having to resort to a reflection in the mirror. He knows us. He looks at us not in a reflection, but with eyes that can pierce to our very souls.

For now, what I see in the mirror is just a poor reflection of what will be someday when I sit at the foot of the Savior. Right now I can only envision my future with Christ from my perspective. I cannot wait until I see him in a way that is not a reflection but reality.

I cannot help but think if the God held a magic mirror in front of us and we asked, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” the answer would come back “You my child, are fair indeed, but the fairest of them all is our Fairest Lord Jesus.”.

Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
O Thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul’s glory, joy and crown.

Fair are the meadows, fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring;
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonlight,
And all the twinkling starry host;
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav’n can boast.

All fairest beauty, heavenly and earthly,
Wondrously, Jesus, is found in Thee;
None can be nearer, fairer or dearer,
Than Thou, my Savior, art to me.

Beautiful Savior! Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be Thine.


The Cost of Compromising Our Dreams

Recently I was having a discussion with a friend regarding the current #metoo movement. From my perspective, I think it is healthy to be having a discussion regarding the rampant culture that allows sexual harassment to remain unchecked for generations. It is easy for us to point the finger at Hollywood and the rampant immorality that has existed. It is easy for us to condemn the abusers, and yes, even those who are abused. The fact that people seeking to become actors and writers and directors allowed the abuse to happen, and even participate in it, does not mitigate the responsibility all around. While there are many complex issues involved in the why and how of the abuse, the fact remains that finally we are having a discussion and people are being held accountable for the abuses.

The issue is far more pervasive than just in Hollywood. Continue reading “The Cost of Compromising Our Dreams”

The Fear Factor

indexI was 10 years old when we moved to “the farm.” All eight of us (Dad and Mom and 6 kids) lived in a two bedroom home with two additional bedrooms in the upstairs attic space. We had no running water, a coal stove to heat the entire house, and no running water for the indoor toilet, necessitating–the outhouse! And it is there that my very real fear of spiders began after listening to one of my male cousins tell me that when I used the outhouse a spider was going to come and bite me on the butt. I know that my fear of spiders is hugely unrealistic, but in my mind a totally improbable fear became rooted. Even today I hate spiders!

The fact of the matter is, most of us have fears in our lives. They come from various arenas and are frequently unrealistic, but they are indeed present. Continue reading “The Fear Factor”

Lessons from a Hummingbird

imagesI remember it like it was yesterday. My husband came in from the garage and told me that a hummingbird had flown into the garage and he was trying to get it out. The problem was that every time he tried to catch the hummingbird to help it out of the garage, it would flee from him.  Deciding that he would just leave the garage with the doors wide open, he came in the house so the hummingbird would not feel threatened.

As we periodically checked on the hummingbird, we found that he was flying up high and would not fly lower to where the open door was.  We watched as he flew into the walls over and over again in trying to fly away. Continue reading “Lessons from a Hummingbird”

Does Praise and Worship Really Matter?

This morning I was very tempted just to stay home in anticipation of bad weather. Instead, I braved the gloomy skies and headed out to church. I was so blessed to participate in praise and worship and be reminded of how great and good our God really is! There is something refreshing about praising God and taking the focus off of myself and putting it on my Creator instead.

I want to start off this year by talking about why praise and worship is so important to me. Continue reading “Does Praise and Worship Really Matter?”

Me Too – Why we are silent

In the past year we have seen the Bill Cosby scandal, the Fox CEO Roger Aile scandal, and now, the more recent Harvey Weinstein scandal. The hashtag #metoo has been garnering loads of attention since the Weinstein scandal hit the news. The dam has broken and the rolling tide of Me Too has become a force of its own.

Social media has been inundated with the two simple words, “Me Too” to emphasize how many women have had issues. I am seeing men respond, “Well, men get harassed and abused, too.” They do but not even close to the magnitude that women are. Since I am not a man, I can only speak to the women’s issue. This issue has been pervasive in society and swept under the rug for generation upon generation.

I had to sit back and ask myself, why now? Why is all of this coming to the forefront now? It has been happening for generations. Why have we not spoken before? Continue reading “Me Too – Why we are silent”

Four Things I Learned from Failure*

youre-fired-300x241When my husband and I were dating  and just getting to know one another, we shared about the various jobs we had in our past.  My husband told me that he was fired from his very first job.  He thought everyone should be fired at least once in their life because you learn many lessons from it.

This past week I had a conversation with someone who is graduating from college soon.  She is anxious about stepping out into a new world and having to make it on her own.  Her biggest question to me was, “What if I fail?”  My reply was, “What if you do? Most people fail at something.  It’s how you handle failure that’s important.”  Failure happens to most of us at one time or another and in our culture we consider failure as something to be avoided at all cost.

My contention is that we need failure in our lives occasionally.  It is through failure that we learn. When a baby is learning to walk she doesn’t automatically take off.  She fails a few times first.  She takes a step and falls down, but as she learns to take the next steps she figures out what works and what doesn’t.  She may learn so well that she may eventually even learn to run.

There are many things we can learn from our failures, but here are four key things I have learned from mine.

  1. Humility

Sometimes we fail because we are unwilling to listen and learn from others.  I have seen this play out on multiple occasions.  It is pretty humbling when we fail, especially if we have neglected to let the wisdom of others guide us.  I have to tell you, I have “eaten crow” on more than one occasion.  But if we learn humility we are far more likely to succeed in our endeavors.

  1. Perseverance

When I was learning to drive, I was ready to quit after my first time behind the wheel.  It was a disaster.  But with encouragement from my instructor, I persevered and eventually was able to drive on my own.

Henry Ford said, “Perseverance is a positive attribute we need to learn as we mature. Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Sometimes we initially fail in our attempts, but with practice can succeed. The saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” is apt for most of us.

  1. Adaptation

Sometimes we experience a huge failure, such as a failed marriage, a failed career, or any other of a myriad of things.  But we learn that even though we fail, our life goes forward.  We may experience the pain of failure for a while, but to survive we must make adjustments and adapt to our new environment.  Individuals who have learned to adapt to new circumstances thrive more quickly than those who can’t get past their moment of failure.

  1. Courage

Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  It takes courage to get back on our feet after a failure.  When we can get up and try again, we grow stronger.

Peter had a colossal failure when he denied Christ three times prior to Christ’s crucifixion (John 18:15-27).  Yet he grew to be a key figure in helping spread the gospel in the world around him.  While the source of his courage was the Lord, the fact is that his failure taught him a valuable lesson about faithfulness.

There is no doubt that I have failed many times in my life.  And, to be perfectly honest, there will probably be times in the future that I also fail.  But I can’t let my failures define who I am and what I do.  When I fail, I try to put everything in the proper perspective, learn from my failure, and find the courage to move on.

How do you handle failure in your life?  Do you let it define who you are?  Do you become so bogged down by failure that you can’t move forward in your life?  When we put our failures in God’s hands, it’s amazing what He can do with us.  I want to be like Peter, who after a huge failure, regrouped and let God use Him in mighty ways.  What about you?

*This article was originally published on August 30, 2011 on my cwrn blog.


Busted–and rightly so

“I read your blog of Jan 21st. I wanted to reply out of the public eye. I, as a rule, truly feel your posts are inspiring. However, you started this one on a negative note. What you posted in the first paragraph, for me, negated what you posted in the rest. Reread it. It is a negative post about Trump and politics and shows your views and feelings about politics and the Trump administration. .You are asking others to stop that behavior. Yet you are doing so by starting what is meant to be a positive message with a negative intonation. Reread it and see what you would think had I written it. I agree Trump bashing has been the norm and needs to stop. The Christian reaction to all this should be to turn off the TV channel when negative politics are on. Not buy that article with the hateful headlines. Not get into those hateful discussions, instead to discuss positive action that would help fix things. To survive humans have been taught to put others in a negative light so the world see the person setting up the “negativity” in a “better light”. They need to relearn a different way. Be an activist for change by not scolding the world for what has become the norm but teaching them the true Christian way.

This was sent to me privately by someone I love. My first reaction on reading this was, of course, “No, I did not bash Trump.” Then I went back and reread what I wrote and she was right and I was wrong. Continue reading “Busted–and rightly so”