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Face in Soil

This is the Year of Conquest, except it is nearly noon with the sun almost directly overhead on 2011, and I wonder exactly what “conquesting” has been going on.

I think of women I admire who live from the outflow of their promised lands. Oh, it’s good! It’s rich and I thirst for more and these women have found their inheritance and settled down in it, their lives both testimonies and invitations for each of us: Conquest!

It’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

I’m moved to ask Him about my promised land. I can taste it. I can see it. But there remains so much land to be conquered.

He reminds me of Joshua. Before Jericho, before that first conquest, before God’s people inched their way into their land of promise bit by bit, before all of that, Joshua found his proper posture.

Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

His words to me, “I’ve had to reinforce that I’m the One who leads you in victory, my child. Because unbelief in Me is as damning as rebellion.”

Could it be that there is Someone looking out for my best interests even more than I look out for them?

Could it be, in fact, that I don’t have to look out for my best interests anymore at all because Someone else is and that Someone is named Faithful and True and He never, ever changes and He is perfect in wisdom and absolutely sovereign and will never leave me or forsake me and all He asks is that I trust Him?

Could it all be gloriously true?

Could it be that accepting each moment of each day as it comes with a “Yes, Lord” is in fact holy ground? This submission of Joshua becomes ours through our “Yes, Lord”…and submission is intermingled with the giving up of looking out for one’s self. This is what He has been teaching me the morning of 2011?

Awe rises even as knees bend…Face in soil is about recognizing all the goodness and glory that avails Himself to us. It is nothing but a lie that says we have to make our own way, rush ahead and hope God will back us.

All I’ve ever really wanted, well, the Commander withholds no good thing. For some wild, passionate reason, He is here to grant me every truly good thing, to tell me how to enter in, to lead me step by step in the conquest.To be Shepherd and Guide and Victor who shares the spoils with me.

Will I but trust Him? Will I but trust He is that good? To the point of lowering head?

Will I have the eyes of faith when I look at a disruptive child or an empty bank account, or an unpleasant confrontation?

It is the posture to adopt, when you follow the Commander.

Face in soil.

Only with face in soil was Joshua prepared for conquest.

Face in soil reminds us that He is here to do for us and with us what we want so desperately bad but cannot do for ourselves, and since that is the case, we can embrace whatever moments He dishes out.

Joshua faced some grueling days, some sleepless nights, some hunger and thirst, some tricky enemies, some physical and mental stress beyond human capacity.

But he could do it because he’d put face to soil and in that holy place knew Captain was for him, with him, and completely and utterly trustworthy.

What a God who goes before us!

100 Things About Arabah

Tap, tap, tap. Is the mic on? This is nerve wracking. I’ve never been a good public speaker.

Even though this is only post #98, and even though it is old fashioned and out dated, you guys deserve it. You are the greatest and in an attempt to open up just a bit on the personal side, here are 100 Things (if you’re not interested, just scroll to the bottom to enter the giveaway to celebrate post #100 98 with us):


1. My “real” middle name is Charissa and it means “grace.”

2. I have blue eyes and blonde-turned-brown-with-age hair. Ack!

3. I used to work at a CPA firm (that was long ago, before kids!)

4. Then we planted a church

5. Then God sent us overseas as missionaries

6. Which we have been for the last 9 years

7. We live a nomadic life

8. Which wasn’t so bad with 1 child, but when you have 3 lap babies on 36 hour flights….YIKES!

9. {We once had two throwing up at the same time in-flight…covered in vomit, exhausted, and weary to the bone when we finally reached arrivals}

10. Now I remember…There are certain things you don’t care to remember

11. Been married 17 years

12. Have 2 girls and 2 boys

13. 3 of them came within a span of 23 months- life turned upside down!

14. All the children were born in different countries, none of them in the US

15. Now there’s a post or two!

16. The noise level in our home drives me just a little bit crazy

17. But at least in the states we have a backyard!

18. I love hiking

19. and reading (but don’t get to do a whole lot during this season)

20. and Jesus

21. and good coffee when I can get it

22. Which reminds me of things we couldn’t get overseas

23. things like cheese

24. and floor cleaner

25. and toothpaste that didn’t taste like strawberry and eucalyptus mixed (what exactly were those folks thinking?)

26. The “Exotic” flavors made brushing teeth while pregnant very, very tough.

27. Another of those experiences you don’t care to think upon long

28. Favorite color is blue

29. Other favorites? Don’t really have many now that I think about it

30. Does that make me bland?

31. Arabah began in October 2010

32. As a personal journal

33. never intended for others to read it

34. I guess the Lord had/has other plans

35. but I feel very silly a lot of times when I think someone else is reading my posts

36. I’m a terrible commenter

37. (I apologize! It is not personal, I promise!)

38. And while we’re at it, I humbly thank you for your readership which God uses to tell me I’m not actually nuts (thank you, thank You!)

39. In writing these posts, I hope to leave a legacy of God’s nature and character for my children and for anyone God brings along these paths

40. The word “Arabah” means “desert”

41. It’s what I am: dry, cracked, barren. Without hope on my own

42. But there’s good news

43. “The wilderness and the desert will be glad, and the Arabah will rejoice and blossom.” Isaiah 35:1

44. “It will blossom profusely and rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy.”

45. “They will see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.” Isaiah 35:2

46. That makes being Arabah not a bad thing, not bad at all.

47. Cause it’s not actually up to me to be something after all

48. Isn’t He good?!

49. so…almost halfway…

50. I’m a “sweater” by nature; no, not the kind you wear! Better said, a “perspirer”

51. Don’t know why (but I definitely need anti-perspirant :) )

52. Okay, that was gross, sorry.

53. FOr some odd reason, it reminds me of one more thing we couldn’t get overseas: dental floss

54. Fortunately it is small enough to fit lots off in the cracks of suitcases!

55. (We do floss our teeth)

56. We don’t own a car overseas.

57. It’s kind of nice.

58. I am totally rambling and can’t think of much else to say.

59. But can I suggest Revka for WordPress blog designs? She’s great!

60. I’m a southern gal.

61. But don’t really fit in to the southern culture anymore after living overseas

62. Actually, I feel out of place everywhere.

63. Always just a little out of sync, it seems.

64. Is that normal?

65. I only wear make up to church (before kids, that would never fly!)

66. But I do paint my nails :)

67. Quirky.

68. I haven’t worn my watch since the 3 little ones came along… it was always scratching one of them

69. Ditto for other jewelry.

70. One other thing on “Arabah…”

71. The Lord first gave it to me during our “paper pregnancy” with the adoption of our daughter

72. (which lasted 3 years)

73. While reading through Isaiah, He spoke to me about our to-be adopted daughter

74….That she would represent the transforming power of God,

75. the transformation of a desert place into a garden of God

76. He says, “Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it?”

77. “I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert (Arabah).” Isaiah 43:19-20

78. “Do not fear, O Jacob My servant, and you whom I have chosen.”

79. “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground;”

80. “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring and My blessing on your descendents.” (Isaiah 44:2-3)

81. “So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:4)

82. When we got our daughter, I thought “wow, this is going to be great!”

83. Except it wasn’t.

84. She rejected us, withdrew, isolated herself.

85. Refused to get out of bed.

86. Refused to “lay hold” of what we offered her.

87. Resisted every little thing, rebelled against even the simplist instruction.

88. Pulled her own hair out, bit herself, scratched herself to the point of bleeding.

89. Where exactly was the transformation and the glory He had promised?

90. On top of that, all the nasty inner things were exposed in my own life…stinginess, anger, conditional love based on another’s lovability, self righteousness, pride, all that stuff

91. Thank God for sending us a Savior!

92. His name is Jesus, the ONLY name by which we are saved.

93. He broke me down, showed me the Arabah is me.

94. I am the one He was talking about those three years of paper pregnancy.

95. And He is committed to my transformation.

96. Hallelujah, what a Savior!

97. So now Little Bit and I are on a journey to healing and hope and transformation, together.

98. daily relying on our Glorious and Awesome God

99. To do what He promised…

100. making the Arabah into a showcase for His glory.  {And bit by bit, He is.}


Whew! I did it. That was tough! Now it is your turn to tell me something about you (Please?) To celebrate post 100 (minus 2) and the new look of this place, I’m offering 2 surprise giveaways.

One is for email subscribers (as a thanks for re-subscribing to the new feed. Click here if you haven’t switched over yet.)

Then I thought that isn’t really “fair” for those subscribed through RSS, so I’ll do a second one for RSS subscribers…but to know who you are, you have to leave me a comment. Please tell me something about yourself, that will truly make my week.

The giveaways will be a handmade item from the country where we serve as missionaries (it’s a surprise because I love surprises and surprising others! :) ) So to enter, subscribe either via email or RSS ~ but leave a comment so I can find you. (Winners will be randomly drawn June 1.)

Thanks for reading this very long and very wordy post. You are a blessing…

~Happy Long Weekend~

How to Know God

heart of the night

I take 3 littlest ones outside to jump in the rain.

Big drops splatter our faces and feet as we laugh and hold hands. As always, I look for the rainbow. It isn’t there, but I see a hole in the clouds, a hand-span of blue amidst the gray.

“Wouldn’t it be odd…” I murmur as I watch the clouds move. Sure enough, they position themselves just so: a perfect heart.

“Look!” I tell the kids. “See the love God sent us?”

Even the three year old sees the obvious and I wonder why God is so good, so lavish, so recklessly ridiculous in His love?


Maybe it’s that we get what we look for.

And maybe we must learn how to see.

Surely there comes a time when we realize we are the ones to lead little ones in to possess the promises and we start seeking Him like never before and He can’t resist an invitation like that and He shows up. Even in clouds. Even in rain. Even in dirty mess our muddy feet will make going back inside.

Later, I drive in the rain, down country roads and onto city streets, merge onto the interstate and travel down Sam Cooper Highway. I take the long drive with Little Bit to see a speech therapist and we drive through housing projects and pass by 5 city police cars parked out front with their lights on and guns out.

We drive down the street that used to be famous but now is just lined with leaning telephone poles and an occasional user sticking his head out for fresh air.

That’s when I see it.

It’s the sign at Zion Temple. It reads not about free Zumba classes on Tuesdays…not about upcoming women’s bible study with so and so… not about VBS adventures starting soon… It simply reads, “Be still and know that I am God.”

And the inside of me stirs, that quiet place I’m learning to live from, the Spirit place. Maybe, just maybe, He still self-discloses, oh yes!

Like He revealed Himself to Abram as El Shaddai and to Hagar as El Roi and to Moses as Yahweh and to the disciples as Jesus, dare I be still enough, this moment, to know His self-disclosure for myself?

The life in me breathes deep and I feel the Spirit’s “Yes!” and I know He is so for me.

And I wonder at how I ever got to this place, this good, good land. Isn’t it by practicing just that? The Zion Temple’s declaration? The being still?

Being still is contrary to human nature, this I know. We’d just about do anything else, spiritual or carnal. We are trained to do other things, things that keep us spiritually busy…we are applauded for doing spiritual activity and having spiritual appearances. But things that keep us spiritually still? No, we don’t learn this from human teachers, this stillness of heart and quietness of soul, this gentleness not tied to our external surroundings or our efforts.

“Quit trying to make your own way.” The words come as I sit in the waiting room with Little Bit. Yes, that’s the essence of being still.

Like a bushman with a machete making his way through the jungle, I’ve fought to find the path of faith. I’ve expended myself to find stillness. Because my externals are not still and I can’t have long quiet times and monastery like conditions conducive to peaceful meditation.

I’ve found stillness is not performance. Not good “activity.” Not cultural, consumer Christianity. Rather, I’ve discovered the stillness where one encounters the self-disclosure of God in the recessess of your very own soul.

What I’ve discovered motivates me to pave the path wider and tread it again and again, making the path so familiar and worn it simply becomes the new way of life, the very blood in my veins.

Back at home, I run hand in hand with the girls. Dinner needs to be cooked. House needs picking up. Kids need baths. But I’m thinking of the heart in the sky and the stillness in my soul and the rain in our hair.

So we run to the sound of thunder.


P.S. Welcome to our new home! So glad you are here. May I plump your pillow? I’m a tad fidgety in this new place, it seems a bit fancy. Make yourself at home, have a look around and I’ll feel much better…

Living a “Yes, Lord” Life

A middle of the night phone call wakes me ~wrong number~ and I take it as God calling and get up to hear what He has to say.

“Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in His ways and revering Him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land…” Deut 8:6

It was next in my Bible reading plan, and I know it is Him speaking, so I pick up pen and paper and list three specific paths He is guiding me in right now, 3 ways He wants me to “observe.”

It’s the middle one that strikes me most. He’s been kneading it into my heart over the past several months, ever painting a clearer picture of what it looks like: Live a “Yes, Lord” Life.

And I jot this beside it: Practice replacing fear, stress, anger, feelings of being overwhelmed, irritation with interruptions, etc with “Yes, Lord. And thank You.” Allow all of those little things to be triggers for submission to and reverence for Him.

You see, I can sure be a Naaman. You know the story… Naaman had leprosy and Elisha sent a message to him and told him, “Go wash in the Jordan River seven times” and Naaman said, “That just sounds like foolishness! How in the world can that dirty water make me whole?”  (see II Kings 5)

And I do the same thing, say when I’m preparing dinner and a child interrupts for the 13th time and it is back and forth between the dinner and the children (sound familiar to anyone else???) and I start wondering how in the world this kind of halting life- where I can’t even finish a thought- can add any spiritual character to my roots because it sure isn’t conducive to praise and worship and peace and calm and happy feelings.

But then that is the Naaman in me telling God how to best clean me up. {i.e. The long quiet time with the emphasis on quiet. Ahem.}

But God gives me the day as it comes and yes, it’s the dirty Jordan and not at all like what I think should do the trick, but it is the foolishness of the cross, after all, that is the power of God unto salvation.

So He says, “Live a ‘Yes, Lord’ life.”

Do I really think that submission and obedience to God is primarily in the big things, like teaching a class or going overseas or adopting a child or giving financially…or in the “spiritual” things like reading the Bible and memorizing scripture and praying and fasting?

It is bit by bit that a life is lived, little by little that character is forged.

It is primarily the small things, then,  that make me the most like Christ.

Like when the quiet time gets cut short (as it inevitably does) by a child waking up before sunrise and I respond with a “Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

And when the phone call takes twenty minutes I don’t have to give and I say “Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

When the dinner burns and the children screech and Little Bit rebels and I’m not sure how to parent and the pitcher breaks and the bills pile up…”Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

Bit by bit, piece by piece, forging a life of Christ like character.

It’s what God wants of me. Sure, I’ve done some “big” things…but He’s shown me that genuine maturity isn’t in those, it is in the small, seemingly insignificant ones. He who is faithful in little will be faithful with much.

He is telling me to trust Him. He will orchestrate my day and test me to see if I’ll say “Yes, Lord,” moment by moment, again and again.

He wants me to live a “Yes, Lord” life.

It’s the way a wise woman, a noble woman, a woman of character,  builds her house. Bit by bit.

Disarming Fear

I don’t know about you, but certain things about motherhood terrify me. Fear, panic, worry, and anxiety are common to mankind, and females are particularly prone to give in to it. Perhaps you’ve noticed it in your little one?

Science tells us that when alarm triggers the human adrenal glands, we respond either by 1) fighting or 2) “flighting.” As Christians, there is a third option we have at our disposal, one clearly taught and modeled all over scripture. I consider this to be one of the most important things I can train my daughters in.

Let me illustrate….

When a trainer encounters a horse that demonstrates anxiety, the first thing she does is train him how to put his head down in order to relax. Doing this releases endorphins and helps combat the anxious behaviors. {Besides, the horse cannot “run wild” with its head down.}

{Click here to read the rest….}

Rich or Impoverished? I wonder.

Dear Journal,

The kids had ice cream cones for the first time today.

That’s the thing about living overseas and coming back home: there is so much to discover and learn. When we first arrived back, Husband went to Walmart to purchase an atlas.

“Why are you buying this; you don’t have a TomTom?” the cashier asked.

Husband didn’t have the heart to ask what on earth a TomTom was. We had to learn about GPS’s and RedBox movies and what in the world American Idol was and about credit cards accepted at drive through’s.

A lot changes in a few years and today the kids learned about ice cream cones.

It was fun to see them discover something yummy and happy. And yet…

A piece of me wondered if we trade real riches for little yummy happies, impoverishing ourselves in the name of “treats” and “affluence.”

We do it with trips to the nail salon and trips through Starbucks drive through and shopping sprees and little meaningless purchases and pill popping and seeing what others are doing and following suit. Ever mimicking those around us.

We even specialize in being consumers of all things “christian.” It is just the way we do life in the west.

And in so doing, are we fancy looking “empty calorie” Christians, instead of being nourished and rich rooted ones?

I wonder.

I wonder at Grace that allowed me to live in a place where these things are not possible. Where all we had was each other. Where toys and treats and gadgets were replaced with people and serving others and pouring yourself out.

Where there were blistered feet after walking miles in sandals, humping a back pack with precious truth inside….not a trip to the pedicure place.

Where I got the haircut of my life for 55 cents …lordamercy…but got to share the Precious Name with a woman with scissors, someone who had never ever heard it before.

Where workbooks and second hand bible studies were unheard of but the pure milk of the Word was in abundant supply. At least in our home and on our walls and written in our hearts.

Where every morning I was wakened by street vendors and hawkers and school children running from mice and I thought I’d go crazy with the smells and the noise and the fact that floor cleaner was simply not available….but where I looked out and saw through God eyes and heard with God ears and touched with God hands.

Where we were targeted and pickpocketed and cheated and taken advantage of and spit on….and considered worthy by God for such an assignment??!

Where instead of internet and ipod was the Breath and Whisper of God.


So as I watch children eat ice cream cone and ask for seconds with a bit of a pout when I say “no”…. I crack a little on the inside. I want to go back.

I want the shirt on my back to soak through again with sweat from the effort.

I want the chance to have blistered feet again.

I want my children to pray for others when they look in a shop and see idols.

If it comes down to it, I want them to know about the man without legs who sits begging in front of the noodle shop, not about ice cream cones.

Truth be known, journal, I’m scared. Because I’m not sure I know how to live in this affluence. I’m not sure how to raise my children here. I’m not sure I’m strong enough to stand the tsunami of consumerism and me-ism and have-it-all-now-you-deserve-it-ism.

God. How do I do this? Help me!

“I am your portion,” He reminds me. “And your very great reward. Keep your eyes on Me.”

There will surely be chances to try to make a name for one’s self. There will be opportunities to better one’s financial standing. There will be pursuits and little compromises that come knocking and the gang will all say “join in the ride!”

It’s just the way we do life in the West.

But El Elyon says, “Make yourself empty so that I can make you rich.”   “I am giving you a good land.”   “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance.” (Numbers 18:20)

Have we given up our rich, goldy inheritance for worldly possessions and lifestyles of ease? Oh Lord, have I?

Let us not, O Sovereign Lord, let us not!

As I ponder the riches of Him, my appetite for the treats and treasures of the world turns to repulsion. Lord, my sweet Jesus, who have I in heaven but You? You are my Lord; I have no good besides You. (Ps. 16:2)

May it ever be, Lord, till my dying day, may it ever be.

Send me and spend me, Lord. Send and spend.

Leaving a Legacy Worth Imitating

Field Day 2011. Groups of moms stand around and chit chat. I chase two pre-schoolers.

Mrs. Morgan asks if I can help with the name tags and I say “Sure” and thankfully the two preschoolers don’t do a dive off the bleachers while I’m helping, although trying to keep an eye on them effectively prevented any chit chat on my end.

{And I wonder why I always seem just a bit out of sync with everyone else around me.}

While the other moms stand around and talk or sit in the bleachers to watch the races, I take the preschoolers for a ride down the hill in the stroller.

When I get back to Mrs. Morgan, she says, “How does my hair look? I don’t do sweat,”   and I wonder if she is trying to say something.

I watch oldest ditch it several times doing the three legged race…they didn’t even finish! They had to have their legs untied in the middle of the field, the poor things… and then we go for stroller fun again. I walk them up the hill under the trees and marvel at the way the wind plays those leaves. It’s music to my soul.

We find a bench in the sun and I dole out trail mix, one little grubby handful at a time.

That’s when I see it, a stone under the tree. From where I sit, I read the words, “Leaving a Legacy Worthy of  Imitation.”

The graduating class of 2002 gifted it, their imprint on their alma mater.

And I know it: we are all leaving imprints.

For a moment a deep sadness washes over my heart, a grief over pieces of legacy I’m leaving that aren’t worthy. Pieces like bad choices, quick choices, thoughtless choices, selfish choices.

I could stay in this grief, remain immobilized by introspection. It’s one of my signature sins and I’ve spent years of my life doing it.

But Loving Father’s shown me a better way. “Lord,” I prayed one day, “there is so much wrong with me, I don’t even know where to start.”

“You start by getting your eyes off of what’s wrong with you and onto what’s right about Me,” came the reply.

Yes Sir.

It’s a huge jump, going from a self condemning, sin groveling person like me, who frets about all she’s messing up… to one who fixes her eyes on Jesus and basks in His utter, complete  SUFFICIENCY.

“He is able to save to the uttermost…”

Yes, it is a re-training process and a discipline to be sure, but it is gloriously possible!

After the little ones have made lunch off of trail mix, while moms still sit in bleachers, I walk over to the stone.

The smaller print on the stone reads “Do everything without grumbling and arguing, so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life. This will allow me to say on the day of Christ that I haven’t run for nothing or worked for nothing.” Phil 2:14-16

Holding onto the word of life, the sufficiency of Christ, our completeness in Him, this is the key to shining like stars. This is the key to leaving a legacy worth imitating.

I pack up makeshift lunch and with it, pack away the groveling introspection that has become less and less appealing in my life. We walk back through the rustling trees and I run the kids down the hill in the stroller.

“Go faster, mommy!” one of them shouts and I give it my all. We pass a parent who looks at us like I’m a bit off my rocker, a little out of sync. I just smile and nod.

We make it back to the chit chatty moms and the teacher who never sweats and the scores of other parents who know nothing of a stone that reads of legacy worth leaving.

I can’t get the silly grin off my face.

Thank You, Jesus. I’m shining like a star.

He Is

Tears drip down my chin and into our lunch. Oh well, they’ll never know…

A child enters the kitchen, sees me,  and runs out. I hear her telling sister, “Momma’s crying again,” and they all come running.

“What’s wrong, momma?”

I draw them close and tell them, “It’s okay, sillies. Mom is just praying and a lot of times when she prays, she cries.”

It’s true. I’m not sure when it started, but somewhere along a few weeks back, something inside broke, a leaky water pump. Becoming aware of His presence and His nature in a deeper way, I am so easily undone when I tap into it throughout the day.

Mostly, I ponder the awesome character of our God. And I am grieved that I reflect so little of it. I am grieved that I know so little of it. I am grieved of all the time and resources I have wasted pursuing other “good” and “spiritual” things.

I weep broken-hearted tears.

And I pray His names, as I have been studying, digging ever deeper into His nature. Because I know the God who created trillions of stars expended no more energy doing it than it would have taken to make one.

And to this God, forgiving a rapist takes no more love and mercy than forgiving a child for slipping a quarter from her mother’s purse.

His attributes are 100% infinite and self existent. Therefore it doesn’t “cost” Him anymore to create trillions than one, to forgive heinous than “little, white” sins.

He is altogether unique, unlike any other.

So I know no matter how deep and tainted I am, He is bigger.

his grace is greater than my sin

his love is wider than my need

his faithfulness is higher than my shortcomings

his mercies are sufficient for each day

his cords of compassion can’t be broken

his spoken words never expire

This is the One who broke Himself open and poured Himself out and says to me, “Come, eat you all of it.”

So I go.

If Life Gives You a Root Canal…Yes, Lord. And Thank You.

3:15am and I’m woken by pounding in mouth.

It’s the abcess tooth I thought was simply leaky filling. “Root Canal,” the dentist told me 3 days ago.

At 3:21, I try to ignore it, attempt to cave to the groggy in my head, but the pain won’t let me.

The darkness seems a welcome retreat and I take up its mantra: “I‘m going to be so tired in the morning.” “I just wish I could get a good night’s rest.”

Immediately I feel the energy sap out of me, like wringing a sponge, and I confess to God, “Forgive me, Lord! I seem to want to live in darkness, but really I don’t. God, help me!”

And I see clearly. The thoughts are a blanket tossed my way, sourced by Darkness itself…and I can refuse the cloak they offer.

There is another way.

So I take up gentleness instead. “Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

The “Yes, Lord” part and I have quite a history. Sometime I’ll scratch it out here… But the “Thank You part?” Well that is fairly new. Because I always wondered what exactly I’m thanking Him for?

When I’m in a fender bender, or a child wakes up sick, or Loving Husband is unavailable to meet my needs, or when I’m in the wrong check out line, {which seems to be a pattern for me, and a 10 minute grocery run turns into a 25 minute one}… I’m supposed to give thanks in all things. But sometimes I’m not sure exactly where to start.

One day I was reading ~repenting my way through would be more accurate~ in Romans 1 and there it was: ” For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, nor give thanks…” Romans 1:21

I realized then that thanksgiving is linked to knowing God, to understanding His heart and intentions.

But understanding God’s heart and glory requires a response: Honor and Thanksgiving. Furthermore, if the response isn’t the correct one, it leads to “futile speculations and a darkened heart.”

My difficulty in giving thanks was, at the core, an issue of understanding God and honoring Him as God, in truth for who He really is.

Honor means to celebrate, to magnify, to esteem and lend lustre to. Honoring God is a deliberate choice to recall to mind what He is and celebrate His attributes.

Giving thanks then, is settling down on the character of God.

This has revolutionized my giving thanks. Instead of trying to muster up gratitude for a blade of grass, I can easily thank Him for His goodness that provides the green beneath my feet, for His faithfulness that sends water for it to grow, for His Spirit that sustains every form of life.

So much easier for me! I get it!

So when the abcess tooth woke me up this morning, my “Yes, Lord. And Thank You” went like this:

“Thank You Lord, for Your faithfulness to me. Thank You that You meet my every single need according to Your riches and grace.

Thank You that Your signature gifts are grace and peace and they are always mine for the taking.

Thank You Lord, for Your unfailing Love and the impossibility of it ever being insufficient.

Thank You that You’ve given me all I need to live godly ~right now~ in Christ Jesus.

Thank You that You’re delighted and thrilled to give me the kingdom…I’ll take that, Lord, I’ll take that….

Thank You for love that stretches to the heavens and a faith that overcomes the world and Spirit-breath that imparts and sustains life; thank You for Humility that washed feet, that rubbed finger in spittle, that spoke, “DO not fear, little flock.”

Thank You for eyes that see ~finally~ and for the chance to be more like all that.”

So Yes Lord. And Thank You.

When You Feel Like Quitting…

“Steve’s wife’s run off again.”

I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, its just that the old men were talking so loudly over their McDonald’s breakfast that I couldn’t help but hear.

And I thought of another conversation I overhead a few months back. “Did you hear they are divorced now? No wonder, with her being stuck at home with those five kids and all…”

I think of the array of pressures that makes us feel we’re going to implode if we don’t get. out. now.

So we quit our husbands, we quit our kids, we quit relationships, we quit God. Oh, we don’t have to leave to quit either, do we? We can be right there in the middle of it and still be quitters.

There’s another conversation I’ve been privy to. It has changed everything for me. It’s the conversation between a quitter and God. And this woman really did have it bad.

She was a slave and when her owners decided that she was useful for getting what they wanted the most… a child…they used her to get it. Then, after she got pregnant, there was a lot of jealousy and strife so as low hen in the pecking order she was mistreated and abused.

She felt so helpless and alone that she up and left. Ran off. Like Steve’s wife.

She found herself in the middle of a desert. Destitute and pregnant. But she wasn’t alone and she wasn’t without hope.

God met her at her lowest moment and revealed Himself to her so powerfully….so powerfullythat she returned to the couple who had abused her and submitted herself to them.

That’s some kind of God, is all I’ve gotta say.

And in preparing for the upcoming journey I’m taking the kids through this summer on the character of God (join us?), I’ve come across this same El Roi, the One who meets quitters and gives them what it takes to keep going.

All weekend I’ve been asking, “El Roi, reveal to me the secrets of Your name. Open my eyes to understand what about You brings such transformation.”

Has He ever answered… and my world forever tilted and the quitter in me drawn up on strengthened legs and the eyes opened to see the glory and purpose in it all.

I’m convinced that understanding El Roi, the God who sees, gives us the capacity to joyfully and willingly endure the hardships in our lives.

And as El Roi granted deep awe in understanding, as He led me to study this concept of submission, this command given specifically by the God who sees what we are going through and how it is going to turn out, He divinely sent something across my path.

“Teaching a horse to give to pressure is day 1 in colt breaking.”  A horse trainer was demonstrating a skill all horses must learn in order to truly become great.

“But not all horses are trained properly in this and they get to be five, ten year old horses and they still will not bend, will not flex. They argue, they won’t give their face; they’re like a belligerent child who hasn’t learned day 1 lessons. It is very hard to build on a horse who hasn’t learned step 1.”

And God is telling me why I can’t quit, why I can’t run. He’s letting me understand why He applies pressure. It is to lay a foundation on which He can build.

“Step 1 is to give, bend, flex, and turn a little bit when directed with the reigns. If he resists, you don’t let up. You must soften him up by keeping the pressure on him.”

And I understand why the pressure’s been kept on me, going on four years now of constant, unrelenting pressure. This mare’s got a rebellious streak. Yet her Trainer is unwilling to give up on her, and His name is also Faithful.

“When a horse has a problem and wants to argue and resist, you don’t go get a bigger bit. You don’t go pull harder. You don’t get mad and fight. You don’t go get the club. You say, “Day 1, bud. Learn to bend. I’m going to pull on your little mouth until you learn to bend and give, and when you do that, I will turn you loose.”"

“This looks boring, but you will find trainers who train colts will do this by the hours. Skilled, winning trainers will do this first thing every day…they will test that horse to see if he remembers lesson 1.”

And I understand the humble, patient, nurturing nature of our great God.

“You can do this a long time with a horse. He’s not getting tired, mad, or hurt. We are not terrorizing him in any way. We are working on his mind more than his body.”

And I understand why El Roi told Hagar, a woman who up and quit her circumstances, “Go back and submit.”

Pressure retrains our mind to keep in step with our Almighty, Loving God, who bends and writes in the dust and takes all the time in the world with us because there is not limit to His commitment to us and He knows the power of His unfailing love towards us.

He is committed to making us more than conquerors.

Abuse and abandonment teach us to run and buck and self preserve. But He takes us in hand and commits to building trust. He doesn’t give up or let go. And slowly, He retrains us, guiding us away from those self-destructive patterns.

Pressure teaches submission and submission prepares us for true greatness.

We come to Him wild, an un-cultivated olive, a bucking and kicking mare that wants to run solo. We want to do life unhindered and unattached. But God takes us on and He’s the Master Trainer and He’s a good plan. Oh it’s good! He knows that true greatness is power under control.

Gentleness is the fruit of affliction.

So He applies the pressure and He tells us to trust Him. Submit. Lower your head, bend, flex. Give to the pressure. Again. And again.

And again.

Until it is our new nature, us working in sync with our Gentle Savior, trusting Him without even thinking anymore.

Because we have learned that He lays foundation for a winner, not a quitter, and we’re the winner and this is lesson 1.

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.” Psalm 145:17

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