Wednesday, December 31, 2014

God with us

I have drafted a post similar to the one you see many other bloggers publishing this time of year. It’s the post where I take a look back at 2014. The post does not share my top viewed posts because I have no desire to look at numbers. If I were to look at numbers, I think it might be more fun to share the least viewed posts. Maybe those posts were simply over looked.

Instead of the top viewed posts of the year, or least viewed posts, my intention was to highlight the most profound moments from 2014. Calling them moments doesn't sound accurate as they are not singular moments. Maybe they are more like themes?

The year came with many challenges. It was a different kind of year. Yet, still a good year.

As I look over the various themes I have captured from the year I see one primary theme which encompasses all the themes.

God is with me.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:7-10

That’s a pretty wonderful theme. Do I need bother sharing the others? This one . . . it’s what matters most.

It was a year of trials but God is faithful.
There was still much joy because of God. 
He is the source of our JOY.

His Spirit dwells within me.
He’s always present.
Immanuel, God with us.

My cup runneth over.
It is well with my soul.

At the same time, I find myself somewhat melancholy as the New Year approaches.

I find myself stuck between two new normals: the new normal I found without my husband and the new normal I teeter-totter on with him now home.

The season of waiting continues on. I am waiting for God to reveal His plans. He might be waiting for me to move.

My mind is a jumbled mess. It feels a bit like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle scattered about and I have never been good with puzzles. I cannot stay focused long enough to make the first move.

I need to give God more credit for the way He moves.
He's revealing where change is needed.
Some things will stay the same.
But mostly God’s in the business of transformation. 

And He does not work on my time schedule.
He has His own and it’s far better than mine.

My previous new normal included lots of time and space for writing and connecting. I grew as a writer. I believe our friendship grew too. I hope you see me as someone who sees you and someone who shows up. I hope you know you can count on me.

I desire less and less time on social media these days though.

I want God.
I want time with my husband.
I want time with my family.
I want time with friends . . . more tangible connections.
I want time just to be.

But I miss connecting with you too.
I am trying to find a balance.

And I still want to create. Oh, how I want to create.

The waiting happens here because I sense the creating will be different.

Donald Miller tells us in his new series, Start Life Over, that we are designed to change. He writes, “Every healthy thing God created changes.”

I realize I’m not so much between two new normal; I am still navigating to a new normal. I am changing.

This is okay.

God is changing me.
And I’m glad.

Not really the post I intended to write to wrap up 2014 but God’s ways are always greater. How great is our God!

Happy New Year, friends.

“Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 MSG)

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Christmas Wish

The Advent season is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of His son; the birth of His son Jesus Christ. We celebrate the promise of the Savior, both His birth and His return. 

What does His coming promise?

The Gospel of Luke tells us in 19:10: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” And in John 3:16, “God expressed His love for the world in this way: He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not face everlasting destruction, but will have everlasting life.

This Advent season I also reflect on the greatest picture we have of what Jesus did for us.  The ultimate sacrifice He made for us. 

He came to earth as man knowing He would go to the cross for our sins.
He knew His destiny.

For the past four years, on the second Saturday of December, I have joined an organization called Wreaths Across America to remember our fallen heroes and honor those who have served and continue to serve.

Throughout the country, this organization works toward placing a wreath on the grave sites of all the men and women who stood ready to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.

They raised their hand.
They stepped forward.
They came before us and said, “I am willing to die, for you.”

And many did die for us. They made the ultimate sacrifice.

They died for the hatred in this world because we choose not to love. Yet they choose a sacrificial love. They choose God’s kind of love.

Last weekend my husband and I placed wreaths together. We placed two wreaths. Before we placed the wreath we stood before the grave marker and said a prayer. We prayed for the family of the fallen hero. We prayed for them to know the sacrifices their loved one made have not been forgotten. They will always be remembered.

And we wept as we prayed.

My husband went first. With tears rolling down his cheeks he asked, “Why am I crying? I do not even know this man.” He continued to weep as he knelt down to place the wreath. He wept for the sacrifice this man was willing to make . . . for him.

This particular man – this hero – lived a life beyond his service but again, he stepped forward willingly. He was willing to die . . . for us.

Then it was my turn. I prayed. I wept. I knelt down and placed the wreath. We will never forget.

My wish for us all is, to remember. As you reflect on His coming, reflect also on the picture these heroes give of what Jesus ultimately did for us.

Yes, Christmas is a time to celebrate His birth. But He came for one reason. He came for a purpose. You were His purpose. We were His purpose.

Allow this truth to change you in a new way as you approach the New Year. Let it change how you love others. Strive for an agape love. Strive for His kind of love.

Many of us choose One Word for the year to focus on. I think my word for 2015 will be SELFLESS. Please, Lord, help me to place the needs of others above my own. Help me to love with Your kind of love. 

There are so many good words to choose.
Ultimately, He wants us to love one another.

Above whatever word you choose, may the real word on your heart be LOVE.

The Bible is all about love. It’s God’s love letter to us.

His greatest wish for us is this:

“So I give you a new command: Love each other deeply and fully. Remember the ways that I have loved you, and demonstrate your love for others in those same ways. Everyone will know you as My followers if you demonstrate your love to others.” John 13:34-35 (Voice)

Choose love. Choose love over and over again.

To those brave men and women, you will never be forgotten.
To their families, they will never be forgotten.

To my husband and son, who stand willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, my pride and love for you overflows.

To you, I wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. May His love for you change you from the inside and out. Only He can perform the heart transformation we really need.

Let Him in.
Let Hope in. Let that Hope in. 
Let it change you.

God bless.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Peace in Waiting

I've come to this space multiple times the past week to share my heart with you but I do not know exactly what I want to say or how to say it. There has been contemplating and even drafting of a post to tell you of a decision to step away from blogging for a while.

Is stepping away really what I want? Is it what God wants? I know you would tell me it's okay not to know and to wait on Him.

I have told you of my desire to connect at a deeper level. How do we actually connect deeper though?

We could connect beyond our blogs through emails, phone calls, Skype or even Voxer. Are you on Voxer? It’s rather cool. Admittedly, I'm not great with responding to emails in a timely manner and it can take me a few days to Vox you back.

I know what my heart wants. I know what my heart needs. The how remains unclear. It could have something to do with how my heart dances with delight when you join me at a table, any table, and we connect face to face.

Oh, if only we could all gather around a table together. How can we create a deeper sense of community right here without a physical table to gather at? I would love your thoughts because I long for this deeper connection.

I recently spent three hours at a Starbucks with another Army wife whose husband deployed with mine. We decided to share a cup of coffee while we waited for our husbands to complete required training before the unit gathered together to celebrate Christmas. We did not lack reasons to celebrate with our loved ones now home.

For three hours we sit across a table from one another. We talked mostly about God, His grace, how He has changed us and how He continues to work in our lives. It was such a rich conversation. I walked away blessed. I need more of this.


There are moments when it feels like God has me doing a lot of waiting.

Waiting ten months for my husband to return home
Waiting for our son to return home
Waiting for the right words to come
Waiting for Him to reveal His plans for me
Waiting for Him to reveal His plans for us

In this season of Advent we all wait for the coming of His son.

The waiting though, it's okay. Even in the waiting God moves. What he is doing in and through me -- through us -- right now matters.

I feel His presence.

If all I know right now is His presence, without any answers for what comes next, that is enough. What’s better than knowing His presence dwells within me?

He reveals more than His presence to me.

He speaks to my heart. His biggest work is done in our hearts. A slower-paced life these days (the usual frenzy of the season has not caught up to me) allows for me to hear Him better. I am growing more accustomed to seeking Him first and seeking Him often. There are times when I question if it’s Him I hear. But I know. I really do.

I have an inner peace mixed with all kinds of emotions. His Holy Spirit moves within me in new, albeit exciting and also confusing at times, ways.

It can only be Him for I find myself coming undone over and over again. It can only be Him.

In the quiet moments when I stop to be still an unspeakable joy fills my heart. I find an undeniable trust for the One who holds all the details of what's to come in His hands.

I've grown fonder of waiting.

There are no regrets for the ten months I spent waiting for my husband to return home. If God required that period of waiting for Him to do what He now does between us I would do it all over again, if He asked us to do again.

He does not waste a thing.
He does not waste a moment.

This waiting . . . waiting for the coming of His son . . . waiting for what comes next . . . I can trust His purposefulness in this waiting.

I can have peace in waiting.

“I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.” Jeremiah 29:11 (MSG)

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P.s. I want to take a moment to recommend a blogging coach to you, friends. Today I spent thirty minutes on the phone with Linda and was thoroughly blessed by our time together. She is good, really good. She encourages. She has a gift for making sense out of ones ramblings. She got to the heart of my ramblings. She simply rocks. Check her out here. She's worth the investment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

His love and grace compels me

Every time my eldest son sends me an email he ends with three words: LOVE YOU MOM. He types them in capital letters while everything else remains as you would expect. He makes it stand out. Oh, how they do stand out. I love those three words. With him on the other end of the world in enemy territory they are even more meaningful to me.

On Sunday morning I woke to an email from him. He stated they went a few days without Internet due their ship’s support of a particular mission.

Words I am not fond of are “in support of a mission.”

My son remains on his ship when these “missions” take place but his use of the word serves as a reality check of where he is and what and who he stands ready to protect and defend: America. You. Me.

The knowledge leaves me speechless. If I pause too long in these thoughts it brings me to tears. It’s different to experience a deployment as a mother verses as a wife. But the same promises God spoke to me during my husband’s deployment are the same ones God speaks to me now.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;
    do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
Isaiah 41:10

Fear diminishes with the knowledge that the same God here with me also watches over my son.

My son does not know Jesus. At least not the way Jesus wants him to know Him. The more I pursue Christ and allow Him to transform me, the more Christ will be seen in me. If I continue to seek Him and live a life which reflects Him, I believe my son will come to know Him through me.

This compels me.
No, wait. God’s love and grace compels me.

It compels me to seek Him first and to seek Him often.
It compels me to pray for both of our children without ceasing.
It compels me to never let go of hope.

If not through me, God will use another. God knows the desire of my heart (Psalm 37:4).

How can I be sure our children will come to know Him?

He wants us all to know Him.

So I can approach Him confidently knowing what I ask for pleases Him. And I know He hears my prayers. (1 John 5:14).

I believe.
I trust.
I hold on to hope.

I seek Him with all my heart. Before God can use me, He must first have my heart, my whole heart.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

As I grow in knowledge and wisdom of who He is and reflect on all He has done for me, it compels me to obey his commands. Not because I am under the law but because His grace compels me.

When His word tells me I am to have no other god’s before Him and I realize I still have this one god, this love idol, I am compelled to let go. I have held on to this love idol for far too long. My worth is not found in the number on a scale. God, the one and only God, wants so much more for me and for you too.

 “But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” Exodus 20:6

I choose Him and His unfailing love.

I will throw off anything that hinders my relationship with Him (Hebrews 12:1) and I will give Him my whole heart. I pray for Him to continue to change me so I may reflect His glory, just as He intends, to lead others – especially my children – to Him.

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Scattering of Love :: Batch 4

Photo by Judd Johnson
What happened to my Scattering of Love series? Friday Randomness became Scattering of Love for a very short period of time and then . . .

Oh yea, hubs came home!

Speaking of hubs being home. I couldn't help myself. Mid-morning I went on YouTube and watched his homecoming video again. It makes me cry happy tears Every. Single. Time. A writing friend told me the video gave her a picture of what our greeting will be like when we enter heaven. Watch the video with that in mind. Goosebumps!

For the month of December I am attempting to spend less time on social media. Last year I celebrated the Christmas season without hubs. This year I am treating his presence for the gift that it is.

And I am high bent on doing a better job of loving others. I need to step away from my computer and be the hands and feet of Jesus more. So many people were that for us during the ten months hubs and I spent apart. Doing the same for others just seems like the right response.

I read two posts today which speak to where my heart's at currently. If I were hanging out on Facebook I would have shared them there. It's always luring me back. Then I remembered my lost upon hubs return Scattering of Love series . . .

Where have I been on the web today:

Choosing Connection Over Competition by Emily P. Freeman of Chatting at the Sky

"When I walk into a room filled with women, I recognize in myself a tendency to ignore what God thinks of them and obsess over what they are thinking of me. Oh, dear."

Oh, my. Me too. But I want to choose connection!

8 Ways to Find the Merry in your Christmas by Lori Harris

"The only way to get the merry back into your Christmas is to give it away."

I totally want to give Christmas away. Like I think I may be driving hubs a little batty with all my ideas to give it away. {smiling}

What I am reading:

If you are looking for an Advent devotional to read pick one of these:

The Greatest Gift by (like I need to tell you) Ann Voskamp
Comfort Ye My People by Kay Bruner

I am reading both (hubs and I are reading Ann's together) and love them so so much. They are doing all sorts of wonderful things to my heart during this time of waiting for His coming.

What am I doing:

God has been calling me outside of my comfort zone and I am doing the very thing He asks us to do. I am obeying. He keeps calling me to the very thing that scares me -- community. Each time I say yes it becomes a little less scary.

Yesterday (Thursday) I hosted a table for a Ladies Tea at my church. I wrote a bit about it here. Isn't our table pretty? I co-hosted the table with a small group friend and we had a delightful time preparing for the evening. The evening with 150+ lovely ladies was fabulous too.

I am also wearing a dress Every. Single. Day. of December. There are only about five for me to choose from throughout the month and most (if not all) of them are summer dresses. This is bigger than the dress though.

The Dressember Mission: A collaborative movement leveraging fashion and creativity to restore dignity to all women.

Dressember is a month of wearing dresses, but it is so much more. At its core, Dressember is an embracing of the inherent freedom and feminity of all women.

So yes, I am bringing awareness to human trafficking by wearing a dress every day in December and I am doing lots of praying for those held in captivity.

I have a fundraising page if you feel led to support. Mostly, I'd love for you to join me by praying too.

And I am linking arms with Outside the City Gate on an exciting dream of theirs that is coming to fruition. Guess what? We want to collaborate with you. Click on link to find out more.

Gotta run, friends. I have a date with hubs tonight! Be on the watch for a sexy picture of him to be posted (somewhere) tomorrow in his dress blue uniform. Be still my beating heart.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

There is always more

What if God has a different plan for me? What if writing is a stepping stone to something else? These are questions I cannot help but to ponder. Are the doubts from the enemy or is God leading me somewhere new?

When we say yes to Christ, He takes us on a journey. I love how our yes is only the beginning. No matter where we are in our walk with Christ there’s always more ahead of us.

He always has more to reveal; more about Him and more to the story He is weaving in our life.

On my desk at work sits a perpetual calendar.  It features inspiring quotes from the writers of the website (in)courage. Today is December 3rd and Bonnie Gray is featured with the words: “We may be uncertain about our next steps, but we can be certain of God.”

I don’t know what the next step is as the year draws to an end and a new one begins. But I know I can be certain of God.

A quote from the Storyline Conference I attended has stayed with me. I am not sure who said it or of the exact words but it went something along the lines of, “The thing you fear most is usually what God calls you to.”

God often calls us out of our comfort zone, doesn't He? Let's not forget we have a responsibility to obey the One we are submitting our life to.

I think God has a way of letting us know when we have done the very thing He wants us to do. It’s seen in our response because a deep longing he placed in our heart finally came to fruition.

Tomorrow night (Thursday) I will host a table for a Ladies Tea at my church. The past three years I have attended this same event and have always sat where it felt most comfortable . . . with one of my closest friends.

“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.” ― Benjamin Mee, We Bought a Zoo

It’s true. All it took was twenty seconds of courage to walk up to the display board for the Ladies Tea to write my name on one of the tables as a host. I am pretty sure after writing my name down on that board I walked away with embarrassing happy dance moves and lots of giggles.

If He places the desire in your heart, He will bring it to pass. 

God does something to my heart every time I am more others-focused. He does something to my heart when I make the choice to embrace community . . . the very thing I fear most.

After googling words of encouragement for when you feel low, because I am feeling somewhat melancholy, I came upon a quote by Max Lucado. I shared the quote on my blog Facebook page shortly after almost making the decision to abandon the page. Facebook does not make it easy to manage a page unless you pay to promote what you share. If nobody sees me, what’s the point?  

"You are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are." ~ Max Lucado

Did you need to read those words too?

Maybe I am bouncing around a bit here. As I type I am writing to encourage my own heart just as much as I write for yours.

Over the course of the morning I returned to the familiar place of not-enoughville. But I am high-tailing myself out of that place and running back to God.

A smile is returning to my face. I have a Ladies Tea to prepare for. I will have the privilege of celebrating the coming of Christ with a group of ladies tomorrow. And some of the ladies invited to join me at my table do not know Christ in the way He wants them to know Him. Will you pray for them, and for me?

I think God intends for writing to remain a part of my journey; at least for now. But I have this pleasant tingling sensation that He has much more in store for me in 2015. I think it may have a little something to do with that word which scares me ― Community. Present over perfect.

There is always more.

“God responds and reveals Himself to those who seek Him and there is always more for Him to reveal.” – Bible Study Fellowship


I have wanted to do something to wrap up the 30 Days of Storyline Conference Inspirational Quotes that I shared with you on Facebook. If you missed the series, you can view the photo album here.

Donald Miller's book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a fabulous book and will give you a flavor of what he shares at his Storyline Conference.

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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Present over Perfect

The morning begins with three missed calls and an email from our son. He calls from the other side of the world while he floats out at sea. Opportunities for him to call home are few and far between. I could tell from his email that he misses home. We are missing him too.

I respond with what may be my longest email to him so far.

Because my heart longs for him to know God, I end the email with the verse from Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."

After pressing send I crawl back into bed next to my husband with tears in my eyes. He wraps his arms around me and we lie there for the next thirty minutes holding each other. There are still tears as we lie there for how much I miss our son and for how happy I am to have my husband home.

We let go of one another but we are not quite ready to leave the bed. Instead, we scan the TV stations for something to watch. Taking the day slow sounds like a wonderful idea. We land on “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Tears find their way to my eyes again. This missing stuff doesn't get easier.

The feeling of sadness will not lift. Plans for the day include putting up our Christmas tree. I tell my husband, “We need a new tree. Our tree is small and lopsided.”

I open up my computer and log on to Pinterest and start searching Christmas decorating ideas. Of course the pictures are all shiny and perfect. Nothing I could do would ever compare.

With “Cheaper by the Dozen” finally over and tears semi dried up, yet I know full well it wouldn't take much for them to fall again, I decide to join hubs for a morning workout confident it will lift my spirits.

As I ride a stationary bike, I finish reading the book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. In the book Donald Miller talks about a bike ride he took across country. Friends of ours have a son who recently did the same so I sent them a text to suggest their son read the book. I add to the end of the text message, “Let’s do dinner soon.”

I open up the audio version of Bob Goff’s book Love Does next. I’m now on a treadmill as I listen along. I hit the pause button after Chapter 3 because this time around I want my husband to follow along too.

I scan through my library of eBook’s. A while back I started Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist so I decided to carry on where I left off.

“I sometimes hate this house for not being what I want it to be, and I sometimes hate myself for not being that either. But little by little, my funny old broken down house is teaching me that good enough is good enough.” – Shauna Niequist

Shauna’s words remind me of our Christmas tree; the one I told my husband was small and lopsided.

I did not get far in the book before my phone rang.

“Hello Mom.”

My cup runneth over. God is good, ALWAYS.

He tells me that he started reading Love Does again. I sent the book to him in a care package early on in his deployment. “The Jesus stuff is hard to read but it’s funny,” he says. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I imagine Bob Goff’s words leading my son closer to Jesus. Always have hope, I say to myself.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Hubs and I return home. I look up at those gorgeous eyes of his to inform him how wrong I am about our tree. Our tree is enough because it’s ours. Present over perfect . . . that is my wish for this Christmas season.

What is your wish for this Christmas season?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Way that Never Fails

Image by Cindee Snider Re

It has been two years since we gathered around a table together for Thanksgiving. It has been two years since the Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C. when we gathered around our son’s table with his wife and a handful of sailors. It was as close to perfect as you can get this side of heaven.

We are missing family members at our table again this year.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Gathering around the table with loved ones giving thanks for His many blessings, makes my heart sing and dance. 

But I thank God for another day of being able to say, "It is well with my soul." Even though we are not together, God keeps watch over my family both near and far. It is well.

After spending almost a year without my husband, too many holidays without him by my side, my gratitude runs deeper. The song, 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), by Matt Maher, rings truer: "For all his goodness I will keep on singing."

The past twelve months were challenging ones. There were moments when I wanted to call it quits. There were moments when I pleaded to God, "Enough already. I'm not capable. Give the job to someone else."

Sounds a bit like Moses, does it not?

We have the privilege of knowing how the story goes. He was born in a manger, ministered to the lost, persecuted for His faith, died on the cross for our sins and then rose again. No longer must we sacrifice animals as burnt offerings for forgiveness of our sins. We are forgiven. It is finished (John 19:30).

The story He writes for us ends well. It ends with eternal life with Him. So really, it never ends.

Join me over at Outside the City Gate for the rest of the story.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Just do something

Often I choose not to do something because many others are. I want to make decisions based on God’s leading. However, I have come to realize I can use that as an excuse for not taking action.

One of the “things” I have not done simply because many others are . . . sponsor a child through Compassion International.

In July I attended the Declare Conference in Dallas, Texas. On the last evening of the conference, Shaun Groves told us about his first trip to El Salvador. He went with Compassion International and the trip changed his life. Shaun had me, and many others, in tears. He impressed me most because he did not just ask us to consider sponsoring a child. He said, “Do something.” 

Several amazing organizations were present at Declare. Each organization does something to have an impact on the poverty of our world. Shaun not only mentioned the organization he represented. He highlighted each one. “Do something.” 

As the evening drew to an end I looked at a friend and said, “I am tired of doing nothing.” I say I need to pray and wait on God to lead. Maybe God is waiting for me to just do something.

So I did something. I sponsored my first child through Compassion. Her name is Jacqueline. She lives in Mexico and will be nine years old in October. The moment I held a picture of her in my hands I felt God smiling over me. This was my something I needed to do.


I shared the first part of this post on my blog after returning home from Declare. When Jennifer asked me to share my story of sponsoring a child through Compassion I knew I needed to share the same story. But I also felt compelled to share where my heart resides currently.

Jacqueline received her first letter from us and we received one from her. Her October birthday came and went. I failed to send her anything.

When I make a decision to do anything, especially if the decision is God led, I believe on being ALL IN. So where does my heart reside with Jacqueline?

The money sent every month to Jacqueline makes an impact on her life. At the same time, my lack of being ALL IN has me conversing with God on whether or not this was my something. And if this is not my something, I am asking Him to help me be ALL IN anyways. It’s not about me; it’s about Jacqueline and bringing glory to God by serving His children.

Can I share a missed dream with you?

I am sharing with the lovely Jennifer Jackson Linck today. You can read the rest of my story here.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Messy and Beautiful Love

I planned a getaway for us while my husband’s boots still stood on foreign soil; on enemy soil. After some research, I discovered the American Club in Kohler, Wisconsin offered fifty percent off their room rates for Veterans over the Veterans Day holiday. The American Club happens to be where we spent our honeymoon twenty-four years ago.

Something seemed so right about going back to where our journey began.

On the way to our destination, we stopped for lunch at this cute fish restaurant which sat along Lake Michigan in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Our conversation over lunch consisted of reminiscing and also sharing our hopes and dreams for the future.

We talked about simple things too, like the list of 31 FREE Things To Do With Your Spouse For Fun found on Tricia Goyer’s blog.  We have plans to conquer all 31 things.

I lost track early on of how many times I told him, I love you, Dear.

We laughed over how little we remembered of our time in Kohler twenty-four years ago. We were twenty-one years old at the time. For the most part, all we remember is how anxious we were to return home to our four-month old son.

Neither of us felt anxious to return home this time around. With our four days away now behind us, I can also say I don’t expect either of us to have difficulty remembering this trip.

Does the name Kohler ring any bells? Think lovely kitchens and bathrooms. The loveliest ones you can imagine most likely include Kohler products. All sleeping rooms at the American Club, a five-star resort, include fancy sinks, showers and tubs. It’s glorious! Kohler, Wisconsin is a quaint and lovely town in and of itself.

When the bathtub in your room includes a blissful water experience via KOHLER Hydrotherapy (i.e. glorious whirlpool) it must be utilized. Yes, I am going there with this post. Our first night ended with the two of us naked in that tub.

But with all seriousness, it has nothing to do with the point of this post.

I had a rather messy moment in that bathtub but it ended with sheer beauty. God has this way of taking our messes and making them beautiful.

I could claim I panicked due to an unusual fear of water. More than likely it had much more to do with intense body image issues which have contributed to years of struggling with intimacy. It did not take long for me to want out of our glorious tub.

Instead, my husband turned me around so my back would face him. He took a sponge and began to gently scrub my back to calm my nerves and elevate those all too familiar insecurities.

I thanked him for how he loves me. I thanked him for his kindness and patience. His response, “I wasn’t always this way, Beth. I was not kind. I was not patient.” With my back toward my husband, tears rolled down my cheeks.  At the same time though, the nerves and insecurities were no longer present. They vanished as quickly as they started.

Remember how I said God takes the messy and makes something beautiful? The messy stuff is part of the story He writes. If we took away all the messy parts of our journey, would we see the depth of beauty God has created in our marriage? Without the messy parts would we have learned what it means to love one another? If we took away all the messy parts would we have realized our need for God?

Marriage is hard. It's messy. It never stops being hard and messy. Give me both though. I would not change one single scene of the story God has written for us and I trust Him with the story He continues to write.

Maybe you are still wondering what message I am trying to leave with you. Maybe it’s a message for those couples who are knee deep in mess. And my message for you is . . . Do not lose hope. Do not give up. Trust in God. Let Him help you write a better story. He will take all the messy stuff and create something more beautiful than you could ever imagine.

I believe the more deep the mess the more beautiful He’s able to create.

Trust in Him.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Three Word Wednesday: A New Home {Giveaway}

Can you believe it has been almost two years since Three Word Wednesday came to be? Do you remember how it started?

I set out to create a theme for connecting each day of the week on my blog Facebook page. When I could not come up with a theme for Wednesday’s a navy mom friend suggested Three Word Wednesday. I decided to take her suggestion. Every Wednesday I would share a status update with three words on my heart. Then you would join in by sharing three words on your heart. That was all. Easy-peasy.

Sometime after, a few writing friends suggested I start a Three Word Wednesday link-up on my blog. The first link-up went live in August 2013. Oh, what joy the community has brought to my life.

God used the link-up as one way to encourage my heart during my husband’s deployment. Gratitude fills my heart when I think of those of you who have been a part of the community – a part of THIS community.

It's time for Three Word Wednesday to have a new home though, and a fabulous new button.

Don't fret. Three Word Wednesday has a lovely new home. Kristin, a dear friend and one of the writing friends who suggested I start the link-up, is excited to welcome you. Kristin introduced herself here last week and she will kick things off at her newly designed home next week.

Why the change? Day 9 of my #write31days series actually touched on this some. I'm also going to share a few words from others as they too explain my why.

“Forced art isn't art at all.” ~ You Don’t Need My Obligation, The Nester

 “I want to make certain I’m not producing heaps of disposable content. I want to leave space for the real stuff, the type of writing which takes longer to cook. I don’t want to push myself before it’s ready, and I certainly don’t want a crispy outside and a soggy middle.” ~ Don’t Microwave Egg Rolls: Good Things Take Time, Amy Sullivan

In a world of social media and faux connections, we must be intentional about building authentic relationships. This means making time – quality time – for our family and friends.” ~ The Four Disciplines of the Heart, Michael Hyatt

“We won't be remembered for how fast we ran, but for how deep we went.” ~ Bob Goff

“Live vibrant, rich and connected lives.” ~ Shauna Niequist

I do not want my writing to ever feel forced and I want need deeper connections.

Newsflash . . . I have a fear of connecting with others. It stems from two words I am parting ways with: unworthy and not-enough. But many times the thing we fear most is where God calls us to. (Thank you, Storyline Conference for the words of wisdom.)

So I am letting go of any preconceived notion that I need to be perfect first for you to like me. Instead, I am taking steps outside of my comfort zone to make time for deeper connections. This includes friends from this crazy, yet beautiful, social media world. My heart’s desire is to connect with you beyond our blogs. I want to chat on the phone with you. I want to see your lovely faces (we can give Google Hangout or Skype a try). I really want you to come to Chicago but I might have more luck tempting you after the winter months.

At the same time, I am making more time for in real life connections. Hubs and I have plans. We have plans to show up more, to speak words of encouragement more and to create beautiful things together. In the words of Glennon Melton, “we are invited to show up, speak out and create because we are children of God.”

If you followed along for my #write31days series you will understand when I say this decision all relates to God becoming greater in my life and in the life of my marriage. And God has been pretty clear lately on where my priorities need to be.

I’m not going away. God still calls me to create and connect here too. It will just need to wait for when He is ready for me to create and share something.

You will find me hanging out every day here, here and here. If you do not use social media, email me at simplybeth3(at)gmail(dot)com. I considered the Bob Goff approach of giving you my cell phone number at the end of this post but . . . yeah not quite ready for that.

I know you are going to love Kristin. Please, don’t miss out on the chance to get to know her. Join her next Wednesday as she hosts her first link-up. First, I am hoping you will gather one last time with me here.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Because that is what love does {Day 30: #write31days}

I had the opportunity to attend the Compel Conference in South Sioux City, Nebraska in January. It was a God thing. Seriously, it had God written all over it. From the moment I said yes to attending, to the moment I walked back into my home.

God set things in motion by providing the funds for me to attend.

Then He sent to two lovely ladies my way, sisters to be exact, via the crazy and beautiful online world. We were strangers, except for a few exchanges online, yet they offered to pick me up from Omaha airport so I could join them for the hour and a half drive to the event location and hotel. They also asked me to be roomies with them.

Who does that? Well, Lelia and her sister Michelle do.

Kind, amusing, energetic and encouraging are a few words I use to describe them. I loved them and still love them.

God provided time of worship, fellowship and inspiring messages throughout the weekend.

Deidra Riggs dared us to dream. Deidra rocks, friends. She delivered one powerful message. If you have not had the opportunity to hear her speak you must add her to your bucket list of things to do.

For one who fears large gatherings of people, thanks to a lifelong struggle of believing I do not belong, I was blessed in mighty ways by community while at Compel. Writing friends, again who I had not previously met, saw me. They called me out. They welcomed me in. They were blessings sent from above.

A Friday evening in a room with eight beautiful ladies all “doing their best to follow God in their every day lives” continued on until the early hours of Saturday morning as we gathered to share our stories. God showed up in a hotel room. Deidra Riggs tells of the night so much better than I ever could in her post God Speaks Through The Real People in Your Life.

When I went to add much needed caffeine to my body Saturday morning, a darling woman approached me. We had such a rich and honest conversation for two people connecting for the first time. Kim has become a friend who drops by my Facebook page every now and then to leave sweet words of encouragement. She’s a gem of a friend.

Before leaving for Compel, I reached out to my writing friend, Lauren. Somehow or another I learned she lived near the conference location. I commented on her recent blog post by asking, “Any chance we can meet?”

Lauren did not attend the conference but she picked me up Saturday afternoon when the conference ended, with three little ones in toe, to drive me back to Omaha. She drove from the “real” Sioux City to South Sioux City and then to Omaha so she could meet me in real life. Lets not forget she had to drive back to Sioux City after dropping me off in Omaha. This equated too many hours of driving.

Who does that? Well, my friend Lauren does.

During our drive to Omaha she told me she had recently read the book Love Does by Bob Goff. Lauren decided love does wonderful things like picking up an online friend you have not previously met and spending several hours in a car just to be with her. Wow! Do I love like that?

I am attending another conference today and tomorrow in the Chicagoland area (I live in a suburb of Chicago). When a writing friend reached out to say she too was attending the Storyline Conference, I jumped for joy. I love meeting writing friends in real life. It also means there will be at least one person I know at the conference. A big weight off the shoulders of this introvert.

One of the speakers at the conference happens to be Bob Goff. The author of the book my friend Lauren read.

So guess what?

Last night I picked up my now in real life friend, Julie, to take her from the airport to her hotel because that is what love does.

And when navigating to a new normal teaches you the new normal you and your husband seek is God becoming greater in your life, you know picking up a friend to get her where she needs to be is the right thing to do. Spending time in the car with her and sharing a meal together is an added bonus. It’s what others did for me. It’s what Jesus would do. It’s what Jesus did. He came not to be served but to serve others (Mark 10:45) .

We serve others because that is what love (Jesus is love) does.

“He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

An Introduction :: Kristin Hill Taylor

I am excited to share my friend Kristin with you today. Please give her a warm welcome. When Three Word Wednesday returns NEXT WEEK (11/5) you will find out why I have made this introduction. It's an introduction which leads to an exciting announcement.

Here's Kristin . . .


If we were meeting in person, we’d probably exchange names and then dive into details that identify our roles in life.

So, hi. I’m Kristin Taylor.

I’m married to the guy who came along when I was uninterested in dating anyone in the second semester of my freshman year of college. We've been married for a dozen years and have two kids – Cate is 7 and Ben is 4. Yes, the look like us and act like us, but we adopted them both as newborns after a hard season of infertility. We’re a family of four extroverts, although I’m most likely to show signs of introverted tendencies.

My husband, Greg, is an attorney here in Murray, Kentucky – it’s a small town I never wanted to call home but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I used to be a newspaper reporter. But now I stay home with our kids. And manage a lake house. And blog. And do other various projects involving writing, promoting, organizing, and volunteering.

Oh, and I recently self-published an ebook that tells my favorite story. It’s called “Peace in the Process: How Adoption Built My Faith and My Family.” The whole process has been therapeutic. Writing this part of our story from beginning to end reminded me of God’s faithfulness. Editing, formatting, and promoting it has shined a lovely bright light on the community God has given me – both in my everyday life and around this big ‘ole internet.

One of my favorite parts of the internet is connecting with people. And one of my favorite people I met online is Beth. Y’all hang out here already, so you know she’s welcoming and encouraging. She hosts this weekly link up and has poured her heart into building an authentic community. Turns out, she’s like that in real life too.

I know because we hung out when my family took a train trip to Chicago in May. We walked and talked around Navy Pier – and atop the ferris wheel there. We gathered around a restaurant table and shared more stories.

She’s the kind of friend I wished lived closer because I’d like to gather around another table with her. Until that happens, I’m thankful for Facebook and text messaging and email – and the way those technologies that can distract us can also connect us in real, meaningful ways.

I’m glad to be here today, meeting you. So, your turn. Tell me whatever it is you’d tell me if we were sitting down for lunch together for the first time.

Kristin Hill Taylor believes in seeking God as the author of every story. God continues to surprise her – in the best kind of way – with how her life is nothing like she expected. She never leaves home without her iPhone, which reminds her where she’s supposed to be going, holds many notes to herself, and helps her document life. She’s passionate about word games, spelling people’s names correctly, Murray State basketball, and road trips.

Connect with Kristin on her blogTwitterFacebook or Instagram.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It started with a DARE {Day 25: #write31days}

I shared a link to a post written by Lisa Whittle yesterday and I can’t seem to get the story she shared out of my mind. She shared a personal story from her marriage. A story she said in many ways is the story of her life. It’s a story of wanting more and of things missed because of her want for more.

“I need something. I want something. But I choose something I want in the moment, and it gets in the way of what I really want more.” ~ Lisa Whittle

Lisa released a new book this month titled, I Want God

Her story has rung true in my own life.

For most of my life there resided a desire for more. I wanted more of something; usually more stuff. I would get more and then want more again. It became an endless cycle of a want for more. And more was never enough. 

My husband wanted me to be happy. Most of my requests for more he would fulfill. “Maybe then she will love me,” may have been his thoughts. Instead of my love he received accumulated debt.

I loved him. I really, really did. On the other hand, I relied on feeling love to show him love. He did not receive an unconditional love from me.

There's a secret about love you may not know. I once did not know either. The secret is this: an unconditional love is not possible on your own. But with God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).

An online friend I had yet to meet took a dare. She dared to point me toward the more I had been longing for all along but missed because my wants in the moment got in the way. She pointed me toward the One who is love.

I then took my first dare. I dared to BELIEVE.

And then I dared to accept His LOVE.
And then I dared to EMBRACE who I am in Him.
And then I dared to find JOY no matter the circumstances. He is the source of my joy.

And then – the dare that continues to transform my marriage – I dared to love my husband with God’s kind of love.

A love dare journey began. {read my Love Dare Journey here}

It started as my own love dare journey during my husband’s deployment to Afghanistan. By God’s grace, my husband has returned home safely.

What started as my journey is now our love dare journey.

God's love, the One who can only change our want for more to enough, changes lives. It changed ours.

And now I keep on daring to share His love with you.

It started with a dare.

Will you take a dare? Maybe your dare is pointing another to Him. If so, please don’t miss out on that dare.

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I am joining in for the Five Minute Friday fun (on a Saturday) because the prompt word is DARE. The prompt word was chosen by The Love Dare so how could I not? The post took me more than five minutes; it was more like twenty minutes. But twenty is the new five, in my opinion, when it comes to writing.

P.s. The words BELIEVE, LOVE, EMBRACE and JOY have been my One Word for the year (respectively) since joining in on this popular blogger thing to do in 2011. As my friend Kristin put it, it's "like a trendy resolution."

Thursday, October 23, 2014

God will accomplish His purpose {Day 23: #write31days}

The more I read and study the life of Moses for my Bible Study Fellowship class, the more I see myself in him. Maybe it’s not more of me I see; instead a similar walk of faith. From doubts in why God would call him, to expectations placed on God’s timing, to a stronger faith in Him as a result of the many trials endured.

During my study time I switched from reading the Book of Exodus using Bible Gateway to utilizing my NIV Life Application Study Bible. This Bible has proven to be a wise purchase because like it says, it helps me apply God’s word to present day life.

“In Moses we see an outstanding personality shaped by God. But we must not misunderstand what God did. He did not change who or what Moses was; he did not give Moses new abilities and strengths. Instead, he took Moses’ characteristics and molded them until they were suited to his purposes. Does knowing this make a difference in your understanding of God’s purpose in your life? He is trying to take what he created in the first place and use it for its intended purposes.”

I find myself turning the pages of my Bible to verse 13 from Psalm 169: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” It makes sense, doesn't it? That He would take what He created and use it for His intended purpose.

Suddenly, I think of the new normal we seek being us aligning more and more with what God intended for us from the very beginning. From that day He began knitting us together in our mother’s wombs.

I see how it really is God’s will being accomplished. Because of our testimony, through us, others will know Him. Because in all cases, God accomplishes His purpose so “they might know that I am God.”

And this new knowledge does make a difference in my understanding of God and His purpose in my life and my marriage.

As I studied the Ten Plagues of Egypt sent upon Egypt by God to show His power over the gods they worshiped, my mind wandered off to the many trials our marriage endured.

  1. A child before we were married
  2. Alcohol addiction
  3. Extramarital affair by one
  4. Extramarital affair by the other
  5. Emotional abuse
  6. Depression
  7. Eating disorder
  8. Walking out
  9. Walking out again
  10. Financial distress
  11. Emotional impact on our children

Could each one of them been a trial, a lesson to be learned, sent upon us by God to reveal His power over that which had become our love idols? Were they not each a result of a hardened heart toward God?

God does only good things. Although this is true, He will use our hardened hearts as an opportunity to demonstrate His power and to bring glory to His name. He will use everything to bring glory to His name.

God had the ability to soften Pharaoh’s heart from the very beginning. He could have brought the Israelites out of Egypt much sooner. He's God so He could do anything. And yet He has given us this thing called free will.

God had a plan for the Israelites’ exit from Egypt. Typical for His character, His plan was far greater than Moses, Aaron, the Israelites and even the Egyptians could see or understand.

God could have softened our hearts (my husband and me) much sooner. I cried out to Him many times to come to our rescue. But with each trial the end result remained the same; our hearts did not believe.

God had a plan for my husband and me. He had a plan far greater than we could see or understand. In God’s own proper time, we would be free from our sin and have a new life in Christ.

I go back to Moses. The NIV Life Application Study Bible said God “took Moses’ characteristics and molded them until they were suited to his purposes.” Had God been molding and shaping us through our trials? His word does say that all our days were ordained and written in His book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16).

My perspective of past hurts has changed. More so than previously I see their purpose. Each trial had a purpose. It had nothing to do with us. It had nothing to do with God loving us less. It had everything to do with God revealing His glory to us so that we could share with others the hope we have in Him.

Once again, I come to the new normal we seek . . . He must become greater.

We are far from an outstanding personality like Moses. But we've have been touched and changed by God. An outstanding personality isn't required to be used by Him. He takes the weak and uses us so He alone can be glorified.

How great is our God.

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.

Image source: Unsplash

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Navigating to a New Normal {Day 16-19: #write31days}

"You need to know there may be things I do not share with you while I am in Afghanistan."

That is what my husband said to me shortly before he left on his deployment. I expressed my dislike for his statement. I am your wife. We do not keep secrets from one another. How do I pray for you if you do not share both the ups and downs of your deployment?

His reason for not wanting to tell me the not so good happenings that came with having his feet on foreign soil in a war zone was to prevent unnecessary worry on my part. He would ask, “What purpose would it serve to tell you?” I realized it was time for me to trust my husband in the decisions he made to lead us through our time apart. God would let me know how to pray for him.

With my husband now home he's willing to share his experiences. He has pictures and videos to help him tell stories of what became his normal for nine months.

Some of his stories make me even prouder of him, some make me laugh, some he shared while away and some make me glad he waited until he was home to share.

His normal during that time included things like:

  • Sleeping in thirteen different beds (not much of a normal)

  • A weapon by his side 24/7

  • Instead of commercial planes flying over his head he had A-10 Warthogs, F-16’s and Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters.

  • Working with interpreters, bomb sniffing dogs and their handlers, and Afghan drivers

  • Announcements over a loud speaker that said, "Incoming, Incoming" which were followed by sprints to the nearest bunker because incoming meant there was a rocket attack

His normal included showing respect to those we could consider to be our enemy. When greeted by an Afghan they would say to him, "As-salamu alaykum." This translates to “peace be upon you.” My husband respectfully followed with the standard response to such greeting by saying, “Wa alaykumu s-alam.”

He also had a brotherhood with his fellow soldier most of us will never fully understand. Even he would have a hard time describing it other than to say you just know they've got your back.

There are moments when my husband misses Afghanistan. Of course he is happy to be home but his home for nine months was also there.

In this changing world we live in, finding a normal does not come with ease. What is normal anyways? We find gratitude in knowing our God is unchanging. He is our constant. As my husband's wife, he should also be able to rely on me being a constant source of comfort. My love for him should be unchanging; not wavering with the change of seasons.

I reflect back to Day 11 of The Love Dare book: Love cherishes [see my Love Dare journey]

"Marriage is a beautiful mystery created by God, joining two lives together as one" (The Love Dare, pg. 51). What one of us experiences also affects the other because our lives are now interwoven together. I am challenged by this after spending ten months apart from my husband. It can be difficult for me to understand how he could miss the life he lived in Afghanistan. It seems reasonable to want him to leave that season behind.

Reading Day 11 again reminds me of the need to bring warmth to my husband’s days. This comes with a willingness to embrace all the parts of his story as part of our story. I treasure every part of Him as a priceless gift. And I treat him with respect and tenderness as he navigates from one season to the next.

Which means when he returned home with a new normal behavior of going to bed with a hat on, I embrace it as part of our normal. For love does not allow the other to feel foolish or embarrassed. Love should always nourish and cherish.

That is why we do this navigating together. But the more I talk about navigating to a new normal I come to the realization again and again that the normal we seek is God being greater in our lives. Because what else in this life besides God can we count on to remain the same? If we allow God to take first place in our lives and hearts we can learn to love each other with an unchanging, unconditional, love. With His help we can have a love for one another that never changes.

So we turn our eyes and hearts to God. We ask Him to show us the way. As my friend Lori writes in her latest post, He will show us the most excellent way.

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This post is part of a 31 day series on navigating to a new normal. I am spending time away with my husband which is why Day 16-19 are included in one post. To read all of the posts in this series, click here.