Just Breathe

Today is my birthday and I expect to be spoiled profusely. Why? Well, because that’s what I’ve grown accustomed to. I have a husband who dotes on me and a family who makes me feel like a queen for the day and friends who lavish sweet sentiments upon my FB page. Social media is certainly at its best on your birthday. #birthdaygirl

I will be receiving some gifts today. Some are special simply because they will be given to me by one of my children. Some are special because of the obvious thought that went into choosing it. Some are special because, they were needed and will be well used (like my new mini-van, I really needed that). Then there are those gifts that are special today and will likely be special for years to come. I’d like to tell you about one of those. 


The photo truly doesn’t do it justice, you’ll have to take my word for it that it is even prettier in person. My friend is the artisan and you should check out her page. @palletcreationsbydarlene

My husband gifted this to me from him and ALL my kids. Let me tell you, that’s a whole lot of kids. #momofmany  So, it is special because my Henry bought it, my friend made it and my children are a part of it. But that isn’t the reason it brings tears to my eyes when I think of it. 

Two years ago today, on my birthday, I had an encounter with the Lord that changed my life. Now, if you’ve never had such an encounter, I hope you will one day. You will never forget it, just as I’ll never forget this one. 

It’s rather personal, so I won’t go into great detail. However, I have been eagerly anticipating writing today’s blog so that I can share a portion of it with you. 

Here’s what I need to tell you. In Ezekiel 37, there is a conversation between God and a prophet, Ezekiel. It’s a remarkable account of a valley of dry bones. 

Please, pause for a moment and HEAR me. No matter how disjointed, disconnected, hopeless, dried up, brittle or sun-bleached your hopes, dreams, health, relationships, finances and even spiritual condition is – there is HOPE! And here is why. 

“Then he said to me, “Speak a prophetic message to the winds, son of man. Speak a prophetic message and say, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, O breath, from the four winds! Breathe into these dead bodies so they may live again.’””

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭37:9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

That’s it. That’s the answer. That’s the source of our hope, our strength, our healing, our redemption. The breath of the Sovereign Lord! And when He breathes life into a situation, a heart, a relationship, a ministry – It WILL LIVE AGAIN!

Today, when your heart is gripped with fear or worry, when you feel overwhelmed and distressed, when you’re feeling out of options and depleted of hope – JUST BREATHE and then allow God to do what only He can! 

Now, that’s a great way to celebrate a birthday and every day for that matter. 

So Loved 

Yesterday my five youngest children and I made a one-day, out-of-town road trip and I was the driver. It was a very beautiful and happy day spent with lots of folks we love. 


Naturally, on the drive home I was doing a lot of thinking and pondering. Things like, never ever give up on the possibilities of what God’s love can accomplish. His love is the most powerful force on earth and can change situations, people’s hearts and the direction of a person’s life. I needed that reminder. Maybe you did too. 

Another truth that is stamped on my heart was verified yesterday. There’s an old adage that says you can’t pick your family. I’d like to firmly disagree. Yes you can. Marriage is a perfect example. A choice to be family is made. Adoption is another example. A choice to become family is made. But there are other examples as well when no judge declares anything at all. Instead hearts declare belonging to one another because we so love them. 

You may not can choose who you are related to by blood, but you do get to choose your family. I’ve chosen well. Not only by marriage and adoption, but also by relationship. By caring and loving and praying and connecting and communicating and hoping and helping and sometimes the biding of time, by so loving them. 


During the next few weeks I will be in four different states visiting family. I will see two dozen family members. I am blood related to less than half of those, only nine to be exact. And yet, they are all my family. 

How can that be? I’ll tell you clearly how. Because love trumps blood, love trumps hate, love trumps differences,  love trumps distances, love trumps circumstances and love even trumps the law of the land sometimes. Relationships are formed when commitment is made, time is invested and choices are lived out. I so love them. 

Today I am loving the beauty of love. The choices we make, the lives we live, the paths we walk and yes, oh yes, the families we have!

Below is a photo of a few of my most beloved family members. I don’t share a single drop of blood with any of them. What we do share is love and let me assure you I so love them!


Below is another photo. This one is a photo of my mother and sister with whom I share blood. Guess what? We are family, not because of blood but because of relationship, precious memories, laughter and the bonds of love! I so love them. 


I can’t conclude my thoughts without adding this. The MOST important family decision you can ever make will be to become a part of the family of God. Choosing to be adopted into His family, as His child, joint-heirs with Jesus Christ will be the most life-altering decision you ever make. You know why? Because of love, once again, because of love. He so loves us. 

Permanent Residence in a Life of Love 

“God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house,”1 John 4:17-18 MSG

I like the thought of a ‘permanent residence in a life of love.’

“Permanent residence” is different than staying in a motel for a while or even renting a home temporarily. Which describes your relationship with God? Are you committed to this life of love? Does love have run of the house of your soul? Has your heart been overtaken with the love of God?


How can we know? 

  • Well, if you are doing what you should do but resent it, that isn’t love, that is obligation. 
  • If you are doing what you do to achieve status or influence or reward, that likely isn’t love, that is manipulation. 
  • If you expect to always be appreciated, noticed or paid back, that isn’t love either.

I think a house where love runs things will be furnished with forgiveness, the benefit of the doubt and second chances. I think a house where love is in charge will have strong walls of firm boundaries that keeps those who reside there safe. I think that a house where love rules is a house where growth is encouraged and people are respected. 


Today’s challenge is to make a permanent commitment to this life of love and let love reign.

Lodes and Nodes

Some times I really do think that we mommas think we are impenetrable, unstoppable, and without limits. Okay, well maybe that’s not what we think, but it is how we tend to live. We function on too little sleep. We operate under too much stress. We press on when we feel we must even when we are feeling exhausted. 

We are, after all, the ‘mother lode’. We are indeed the source of so much that our children, our husbands, our friends, our churches need. That’s what a mother lode is. It is defined as the abundant and rich source of something valuable. This is an apt description of most mommas that I know. 


Of course being a mother lode can be quite the load. It can be draining. It can wear you out and run you dry. And yet, still we are tempted to continue on, to hide our weariness, to pretend all is well when our well has run dry. 
As a Christian I fully understand that I am not the true source for anyone. I know exactly who my source is and when I’m thinking straight, I run straight to Jesus for strength beyond my own, wisdom beyond my years and courage beyond what is humanly possible. 


Yes, mommas are human too even when we don our capes and place the coordinating masks upon our face. We do have our limits even when we are desperately trying to ignore them. And guess what, they aren’t ignoring you. 

I am not a medical doctor nor a psychologist. I have however lived long enough to be convinced of a few things about physical health and emotional wellbeing. Here is one of them.

When we consistently ignore warnings and continually over stress our bodies and minds, there will be repercussions. It may be simple things like being short tempered and snappy at our family, poor performance at our job, or even lack of energy. It may also lead to serious health crises. 

I recently read a number of reports claiming that stress and anxiety can cause a number of issues, one of which I’m experiencing right now, swollen lymph nodes. Our bodies respond to our stresses. What stresses us out, stresses our body out. 


Tomorrow, January 26,  I will be having surgery and having a biopsy on a lymphnode. All the initial tests have good results and I’m so thankful. I am not expecting a bad report. But something is causing my axillary nodes to be distressed and I’m blaming stress itself. I believe the constant strain and drain I’ve put on the ‘mother-load’ has lead to consequences. 

Now, what to do about it? Be brutal. Slash that calendar load. Say no more often. Find time to rest and to spend time in the presence of God. Make sure you eat right, rest well and exercise often. Refuse to live in a manner that tears you down bit by bit. 

You might as well know that I’m talking to myself and letting you listen in on the conversation. I hope I’m listening well and I hope you are too.  

When Christians Disagree

As Christians we expect and can understand that we won’t see eye to eye on many issues with those who don’t believe. After all, a non-believer doesn’t recognize the Bible as having any authority to tell them how to live their lives. Naturally their viewpoint will be different. 

But for those of us who do recognize Jesus as the Lord of our lives, it would seem that we’d agree on most things and certainly the most important matters. And yet, that simply isn’t the case. So, how do we respond when Christians disagree? What if that person is someone you care about deeply? How do you react when they’re as convinced that they are right as you are convinced that you are right? 

I can’t recall a time when the differences of beliefs, convictions and opinions have been more starkly apparent than they have been the last few months. I honestly was never so eager for an election process to be over. I truly thought things would settle down, that people would settle down, that we would move on.  I was very disappointed when that wasn’t the case. 

It has puzzled me as I have observed the reactions of people, some of whom I admire and hold in high esteem. These are people who obviously love the Lord, openly profess Christianity and yet fall into polar opposition to me when it comes to extremely important issues. How can this be? We serve the same Lord, profess the same faith, read the same Bible. 


I’ve prayed about it, I’ve pondered it and I’ve yet to discover the answer to how one follower of Christ can so vehemently disagree with another. I only know that it does happen; it is happening now. This is why there are different denominations and ways of worship. Sometimes, perhaps ofttimes, we disagree.  

What does the Bible says about how to handle other believers that don’t agree with each other?

“Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Look carefully. It does NOT say to accept their beliefs, agree with their convictions or compromise your own. It says to accept the believer. One might wonder, who is the one ‘weak in faith’? Well we probably can all agree on that answer. It’s whoever isn’t seeing things the same way we are of course. (A little light sarcasm). 

Bottom line, we can reject ideas, opinions, viewpoints, policies and lifestyles. We should not, however,  reject each other. There is a great difference. 

“Who are you to condemn someone else’s servants? Their own master will judge whether they stand or fall. And with the Lord’s help, they will stand and receive his approval.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

As Christians, we belong to Jesus. He is our master. He is the one who will judge us, our actions, the way we live our life. Let me assure you of this, He is more than able to judge, approve, intervene, persuade, convict, and help those who claim Him as Lord. 

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I’m not accountable for the way you live your life. I’m accountable for the way I live mine. You are accountable for the way you live yours. Decide today that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall if there is a better way. Then find that better way.

“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over ____________________________ if it makes another person stumble.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:19-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬ (blank inserted)

I purposefully inserted a blank there. You can fill it in as you choose. Whatever the disagreement is, I know this, it never ends well for a house divided. 

“Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:25‬ ‭NLT‬


That applies to kingdoms (such as Christianity). That applies to churches. That applies to nations. That applies to families. That applies to friends. 

Please DO NOT misunderstand. I am in no way saying you should condone wrong behavior or compromise your own convictions. Be true to your faith, your beliefs and your God. But what I am saying is learn to stand firm without causing a fellow Christian to stumble. 

How do you do that? It is one of the most challenging things you’ll ever do. It requires you to say, 

  • I do not agree with you but I still love you. 
  • I don’t think you are right but I will leave the correcting to God. 
  • I am sure I am right but I will listen carefully to the Holy Spirit. 
  • I am worried about you, concerned that you have been blinded or deceived, and I’m confused as to how you can come to this conclusion and still be a Christian! But I will leave the judging to God and I will walk, speak and act in love towards you even if we can never agree.

Finally, there is the thing we should do firstly and continually. We should pray. We should pray for those we disagree with. We should pray for those we are concerned for. We should pray for clarity and understanding. We should pray that blinded eyes are open. We should pray that those who are deceived will see the error of their ways. We should pray for wisdom as to how to treat others in a manner that builds up instead of tearing down. We should pray and believe that God is still God and we can still trust Him. 

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In closing, if you are afraid, if you are worried, if your heart is anxious…


“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.


And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6, 8‬ ‭NLT‬‬



The Come Back Year

I was inspired by the sermon one of our pastors delivered yesterday morning at church. He referred to our new year, 2017, as the year of the come back. His message really got me to thinking. And I’m thinking he’s absolutely right. 

No matter how far off track your life may seem, no matter how hard it may be to regain your footing, no matter how impossible it may seem or undoable or unlikely. The truth is you can see a magnificent come back in your life this year of 2017. 


Being a Christian doesn’t guarantee that we won’t stumble. We will, I’m sorry to say, we most certainly will. And sometimes that stumble results in an extraordinary mess that can be quite daunting when we contemplate trying to recover. That’s what a come back is, after all, a recovery. 

If 2016 found you struggling, stumbling, drowning, sinking, or in a pit so deep you aren’t sure you can see even a glimmer of light (hope), take courage!

Yes, take courage because you can recover and 2017 can be the greatest Come Back Year of your life. Then, after you take courage, take steps back in the right direction. 

If last year left you practically bankrupt financially, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you feeling rejected and betrayed, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you in a state of failing health, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you with a broken heart, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you on a dead end street, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you with tattered hopes and dreams, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you feeling beaten and bullied, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you in a place of doubt, you CAN recover. 

If last year left you wondering if your efforts really mattered, you CAN recover. 

If last year kicked you to the curb, like unwanted trash, you CAN recover. 

No matter how bleak the situation is. No matter how ashamed you are for what you  have done. No matter how angry you have been because of what was done to you. You CAN recover. 


This is EXACTLY what I plan to do in many areas of my life. I am planning for a great Come Back Year! 

We can recover many things. 

  • Health
  • Peace
  • Purpose
  • Joy
  • Trust
  • Patience
  • Order
  • Hope
  • Respect
  • Strength

What about you? If this year could be (and it can be) your Come Back Year, what would you hope to recover? What would you long for the second chance to begin again in? What area do you you pray for a fresh start? 

I Didn’t Sign Up For This – Did You?

Life has a way of throwing us curve balls and catching us unaware. When that happens we sometimes  think ‘Whoa! I didn’t sign up for this!’  What we mean of course, is things aren’t turning out like we hoped. The wonderful expectations we had suddenly crash with reality and the result isn’t something we recognize much less something we hoped for. 


Sometimes the crash with reality is so jarring that we lose our balance and become confused as to what exactly went wrong and what exactly it was we were trying to do anyway. ‘How’d I get myself in this mess?’ You may be thinking. 

This disappointment could be a dead-end job, a poor business venture, the purchase of a money-pit house, a bad investment and other wrong choices. Financial hardship is tough, but it can be overcome with better choices. 

I think what really throws us into a dizzying downward spiral is when relationships disappoint us. People that we care about, people we trust, people that matter to us can betray, deceive and generally let us down. When this happens emotions swell and our opinion of self shrinks. After all, ‘What WAS I thinking?’

Self-doubt can be a result of broken relationships, dreams turned into nightmares and disappointment. Before long we may be asking ourselves, ‘What’s the point?’


A struggling or failed marriage is one sure example. No one marries with the intent to divorce. Yet, divorces happen every day. One or both spouses break covenant and the relationship dissolves. 

A distressed parent wonders what they did wrong. Guilt weighs them down as they decide they have somehow failed. Shame attempts to bind them until they feel powerless. 

An abandoned friend can’t comprehend that the person they trusted wasn’t the person they thought they were after all. They feel foolish for not seeing the truth. 

To these examples I want to speak a few words of encouragement. Your situation of disappointment may be slightly or vastly different, but I believe you too can take courage from what I am going to say. 


1- We can not control other people and in the end, we are not responsible for the decisions they make. We can love them, pray for them, forgive them, encourage them, attempt to teach them, guide them and advise them. But we can not make their choices for them. 

2- People make mistakes and we are people too. We need to forgive others and we need to forgive ourselves. Human beings are notorious for being hasty  and not thinking things through. They are sometimes reckless, impulsive, thoughtless and down-right mean. But that’s not all they are; it’s not all we are. A mistake is something we have done. It is not who we are. It is not who they are either. 

3- Make every effort to learn to trust again. Forgive, let it go, shake the dust off your sandals, see a counselor, take it to the altar, whatever it takes, find your courage to trust again. If you don’t, life will be lonely, your heart will be bitter, your future will be dismal. You can do it, it won’t be easy and yes, if you trust again, you can be hurt again. There is risk involved in every worthy venture. 

4- Find your courage to dream again, new dreams. Believe things can be better and different the next time you try, the next time you give your heart away. Make plans and develop goals and anticipate a better tomorrow. Remind yourself that no matter what is happening right now, it is only one chapter in a book of a lifetime. This isn’t the end of the story. 

5- Finally, sometimes you just have to accept things as they are even if you hope this isn’t how it will always be. I have a personal little beatitude that I often say to myself as a reminder when things aren’t going as planned. ‘Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.’


Look, I don’t know if your marriage has suddenly ended or if your beloved child has landed themself in jail. I don’t know if your friend threw you under the train or your parent has rejected you. I don’t know if a church leader betrayed your trust or if a family member deceived you. I don’t know if your plans and dreams are piled in a heap of brokenness at your feet. 

What I do know is there is hope for today and yes, even tomorrow. What I do know is you can try again. What I do know is circumstances can change. What I do know is that different can sometimes be better. Don’t be afraid. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take one tiny but brave step forward and then one more and then another.