The Love Of God

19 Feb

I’ve been spending a few days away at the ocean and as I sit here looking out at this breathtaking creation, I am reminded of a beautiful old hymn that remains in my mind from somewhere in the recesses of my childhood memory.  You know there is usually a story behind every good lyric and I love the story behind this timeless hymn.

It was 1917 and the author of this song was down on his luck having lost everything in a business venture gone wrong.  His current means of making income was working as a manual laborer in a California packing plant loading lemons and oranges in to crates day in and day out.  While packing the citrus fruit the words of this ageless love song began to drop into his heart and mind and when he got home he hurried to get them down on paper.  He sat at his piano and arranged the words with a melody that fit them just so.  However, he had only two verses and for a great hymn, you need at least three.  Who knew?! 

He struggled to complete the song, but nothing came to him…UNTIL…he remembered an old poem that someone had given him, which he hunted around for and found on a card that he had been using as a bookmark.  He was thrilled as he read and knew he had the completion of this God song in his hand. 

At the bottom of the card was a note that explained where the words were found.  They had been found written on a prisoner’s wall in a mental ward over 200 years before.  It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated or if the words were original or he had heard them somewhere and decided to put them in a place where he could easily be reminded of the greatness of God’s love.  Whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell, where they were found by the men who had the job of cleaning and repainting his cell after he had died.  These precious words were captured by those men before their paint brushes erased them.

Frederick M. Lehman went to his piano and put the words he had just found to the melody he had already written and they were a perfect fit!  That verse found on the wall of an insane asylum is now the third verse in the timeless hymn titled, “The Love of God” and it reads like this:

Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Tho stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints and angel’s song.

Looking at the ocean today reminds me of this beautiful song and the story behind it encourages me with these truths.

  • God shows up in our less than ideal situations, He speaks to us in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the less than ideal things we go through in life. 
  • God always has a plan, he writes our stories and connects them with others, in ways we can’t imagine and often times don’t even realize. 
  • God’s love is so powerful that it can reach a soul that is imprisoned, near death and battling for their sanity.  God’s love can break through the deepest, darkest pit! 

I am thankful for the awe-inspiring ocean that reminds me of the greatness and vastness of God’s amazing, mind-blowing love for you and I!


First Responder OR Nuclear Reactor?

11 Feb

Several weeks ago now, I was running late getting out the door for work. It was extra cold that morning and the zipper on my coat was stuck, so I had been wrestling with it for about 10 minutes with my frustration level growing as the clock ticked. I finally gave up and decided, I’d have to just slip the coat over my head and try to wrestle with it some more later. I then went to finish getting ready and my 350 degree flat iron started to fall off the counter. I reacted quickly and grabbed for it! Only problem is, I missed the handle and grabbed the actual iron! Owww!!  The pain caused me to drop it and it fell to the floor where I was then able to pick it up by the handle.

In the following moments while digging through the closet to find some burn cream, God dropped a pretty clear thought into my heart and mind. I don’t know that I appreciated it all that much in the moment, but it would be futile to argue with the truth or God for that matter!

The internal dialogue went something like this…”you seem to be reacting instead of responding to circumstances and situations in your life. It is so much better to respond than to react. You can cause damage and hurt when you react but response can bring correction, growth, healing and even reconciliation.”

Like I said, it wasn’t fun hearing it, the truth stung like the burn I was dealing with, but I knew in that moment, God was asking me to work on being more responsive and less reactive.

It hasn’t taken me too much effort in the days following to see how right God was in His summation of my reactive reflex. It may look something like this in my life or your life:

I’m at work being pulled in what feels like a hundred different directions, there’s more to get done than can ever be done and a staff person walks in my office and says, “do you have a minute?” My reaction may include a rolling of my eyes, a heavy sigh or maybe I don’t even look up and talk while I’m staring at the computer trying to finish the thought I was in the middle of.

I reacted.

Have you read any social media posts lately that have annoyed you? Dare I say, even angered you? If I was going to react, I might make a whole judgmental story in my head about the person who made the post, or I might immediately begin to type back a missive in order to set them straight!! Perhaps engage in some written warfare, whatever it takes to show them the error of their ways.

That would be a reaction.

Parents and others who play a role in shaping the lives of little ones have lots of opportunity to either react or respond. Your child spills their drink at the dinner table and before you realize it, your tone is stern, your voice is raised, “You spilled your juice again! You need to start paying attention to what you are doing! I’m tired of cleaning up after you all the time!” A simple “oops, let’s get a rag and get this cleaned up” would’ve sufficed and left you and them feeling a whole lot better about life.

Sometimes we react.

You see even if it’s as little a thing as a stuck coat zipper and a falling flat iron. My reactions are revealing the condition of my heart. It’s a character issue.

If I am reacting based on my emotion, it’s all about me. When I respond I’m taking long enough to consider another’s perspective and choosing actions and words that address the person or situation in a way that builds up. Reaction is instant but responding takes effort.

I am certain that becoming more of a responder and less of a reactor will be a life long journey. It has to be if I want to be a person who leaves people, places and situations better. If I desire to be a life giver.

I want to be a first responder not a nuclear reactor. If you feel the same, below is a prayer from my heart to His, feel free to pray it along with me.

“Lord, people and situations can be so frustrating and so daily! I find myself reacting in ways that are less than ideal, less than what I know you desire. Less than how I see you model and demonstrate in Your Word. Please forgive me for the many times I have reacted in ways that make others feel less than, for the times I have made a situation worse because of my unwillingness to seek you before reacting. I need your help, I need your wisdom so that I can be someone who interacts with people and situations in a way that brings life and ultimately gives You glory. Thank you for caring enough to correct me, thank you for being gracious and loving to me even when the discipline stings. I want to reflect Your heart to others and respond to tough circumstances with the same love and grace you consistently show me. Change my heart and help me to be a responder not a reactor. In Jesus Name, Amen!”

Turtle Like Tendencies

7 Jan

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I get the heart of this message and agree with it, truly this world does not need another voice joining the chorus of negativity, whining, complaining or insult throwing.  Beyond that, I try to be a person that if I am speaking I am hoping it is to add to the equation and not subtract. 

A couple of months of dealing with serious family health struggles left me physically and emotionally tired, dealing with my own feelings of shame for failing at making desired progress in my life, for not being able to do everything well, add in my own physical crisis and all the issues that can make one consider left me in a place that I’d been before, back in my shell.  It’s dark and lonely there and deceptively “safe”.

What happens when life overwhelms and you’re trying to survive and feel a bit like an empty shell hoping that if you keep hanging on, the winds will shift and you’ll be able to sail again?  I can tell you what happens to me.  I don’t want to but I will.  I follow my inclination to become turtle like, I tuck inside my shell.  Radio silence. 

I mean, what is there to say?  What do I have to offer at this juncture?  Nothing you probably want.  So I go with my propensity for solitary confinement.  There’s nothing cute to talk about and I’m out of wise tips and quips so I’m quiet.  No need to meet up for coffee, I’m not good company these days.  I even stop writing so I don’t have to deal with my own internal conversations.  It’s rough when you annoy yourself!

Maybe, I’m the only one that follows this custom, but I kinda doubt it.  It seems there is likely to be a few who will read this and admit at least to themselves that they go with the train of thought that “I’ll get through this on my own”, “No one’s knocking down my door anyway”, “If they really knew what was going on with me, I’d be even more alone”, “I don’t want to be a pain or a drain”….on and on, it’s easy to believe lies when you’ve pushed anyone away who could speak truth.

My shell-like tendencies that I have often struggled with have not served me or others well.  They ensure that I stay in the pain and shame.  They cut me off from life and whisper the same old sad song. 

I want to be the kind of person who can listen to others when it’s not convenient or fun.  I want to be a person who talks with Jesus even when I don’t feel like He is answering because I hold tightly to the truth that He is for me even when my faith is faltering.  I want to be vulnerable enough to say something when it’s not cute or clever.  I want to be humble enough to admit my need and accept help.  I want to be brave enough to speak, even if it makes me feel weak and needy, because truth be told I am.  Truth is we all are. 

I’m peeking out from the shell and don’t want to retreat any longer.  If I cling to my turtle like tendencies I am fighting against the very way God intended me to operate.  He created you and I to share life, to do life together.  Sorry, but I need you and you need me!  I have recently placed some on purpose accountability in my life in different areas.  I have asked people to check in with me and check up on me.  To knock on the shell and drag me out if necessary. 

I pray that anyone reading this who may also struggle with turtle like tendencies will also choose to stick their neck out and invite others to walk this journey with them.  I’ll admit it, it’s a little scary coming out from under that shell but what is scarier is not living the lives we were meant to live because we are too busy hunkered down trying to survive. 

Be encouraged my friend!

Bonus Time

12 Aug

June 27th I was sitting in the hospital with my dad who had been admitted days before, while my sister was taking my mom to the emergency room as she was not feeling right.  What we assumed would be a quick trip turned into a wild & scary ride! Hold onto your seats.

I will never forget entering her room in the critical care unit for the first time and seeing her hooked up to all these wires and monitors with a tube down her throat.  I don’t do hospital’s well to begin with so seeing my mom like this was rough.  I observed from a few feet away at first, I had been told she could likely hear us and know we were there and I wanted to get myself together so I didn’t reveal to her how I was feeling inside at that moment.  It took me a bit to compose myself, I approached the bed, rubbed her hand and said, “Hi Mama”.  That was all I could do before my throat started to constrict and tears came.  In another 10 minutes, I tried again, “Hey Mama, it’s me Denise, I’m here” and I was done again.  A few more deep breaths and I made another approach, “Hey Mama, it’s Denise, you’re in the hospital and they’re taking really good care of you, all of your family has been here, Dad’s feeling better and we all sure love you.”  That was all I could do before my voice starting to give me away again.  I worked my way up to scooting a chair by her bedside, holding her hand and singing some of her favorites to her.  Cherished time with my mom.

The roller coaster ride continued day-to-day, hopes were dashed as the Doctor talked with my sis-n-love and I about the seriousness of mom’s condition and prognosis.  We cried, we prayed, others prayed and we continued to take turns sitting by mom’s side telling her how loved she was.  Mom would start to get a little restless as sedation would wear off and I was so concerned that she would become uncomfortable or frightened.  So, I was getting the nurse when mom opened her pretty blues and made direct eye contact with me.  I gave myself a split second pep talk so I’d appear calm, looked her in the eyes and said “I love you mama” and she mouthed back “I love you”.  It was the best I love you ever!

Getting my mom off the ventilator was not a smooth process, paddles were used on her chest 3x the day her tube was taken out to get her heart beating in rhythm.  How thrilling it was to walk into her hospital room after she was taken off the vent and see her alert and able to talk with us, even if her voice did have a new gravelly sound to it thanks to the whole ordeal.  Sadly, our celebration quickly turned to concern as she was not sustaining acceptable oxygen levels on her own.  Emotional rollercoaster.

The ride takes another twist later that day when the doctor talks with mom about the seriousness of her condition and that if she is not able to sustain proper oxygen levels on her own very soon, they may have to put her back on the ventilator.  If she goes back on the ventilator, there is less than 10% chance she’ll ever come off of it.  Tough news to process.

Doc came back on evening rounds and all 3 of us kiddos were there with mom so we could ask questions and have  a beyond difficult conversation.  The doctor was wonderful, informative, compassionate but it was hard, it stunk and none of us liked what we were being forced to deal with.  After the doc left the 3 of us stood around mom’s hospital bed and we asked mom about her life, if she was content and happy, if she had any questions for us, we reminded her how much we loved her and want her to stay with us and we made some tough decisions together, we tried to be strong and supportive but a few tears escaped anyway.  After all the talk, mom asks the 3 of us, “are you guys ok?”  There was a brief pause and then my brother took the lead with the honest answer and said, “No we’re not ok, this stinks, but we are ok with having you as our mom.”  Sweetness in the midst of pain.

The crazy ride continued, she was eventually released from critical care to another floor and just when we thought she was about to move into a nursing facility to gain some more strength, she was back in critical care with pneumonia.  Mom has been home now for almost three weeks and I’d say we’re still in the midst of a new adventure.  Thankful though for the opportunity.

My brother said in the hospital when things started looking up, “I think we got some bonus time with mom”.  I know many people wish they could have some bonus time with their loved one, so this blessing of more time together is something we want to cherish deeply, even when it’s hard and the ride feels a bit bumpy.

I reflect on the wild ride we’ve been on the past several weeks because today is my beautiful mom’s 65th birthday!  Only a month ago, as I was driving home from the hospital, I was literally crying out to God and begging Him to make a way that she could stay here with us longer.  Thankful that God answered that prayer and the prayers of family near and far, the prayers of church family and friends from all over.  So today, we’ve taken the day off work to celebrate a wonderful woman, whom we are blessed to call “mom” and soak up some of our “bonus time” with her.

Mom, on your birthday and every day, I want you to know and be confident in this, you are deeply LOVED and love NEVER fails!!!





Girls, It May Sound Nice, But It’s Hogwash!

5 Mar

I think my southern roots may be coming out in this blog post title 🙂  This post has probably been inside me for quite some time, but to be honest, I didn’t want to write it.  I guess I didn’t want to write it for a few reasons…1.)  I really don’t want to be the poster girl for Christian Single Women in America  2.)  I think most people that read my blog are NOT Christian singles.  3.)  It is such a personal area for me to write about that it takes a certain amount of courage to hit “publish” on this one.

If you are a Christian single woman, this blog post is definitely for you, but if you are a parent, a pastor, a ministry leader, a friend or a family member that has influence in the life of the next generation of females, then I would appreciate a couple minutes of your time as well.

I think I spent most of my life believing the cute cliché’s that are told to many young women who have grown up in church culture.  They sound nice…but, boy are they a set up for major disappointment and disillusionment.  I have heard hundreds, if not more over the years whether it be someone forwarding me an email, sharing their well intended feelings on my singleness, posting on Facebook, almost every single Christian young lady has a Pinterest board dedicated to this stuff!

Some examples, if you’re not quite sure, what I’m talking about…

“Dance with God and He will let the perfect man cut in.”  I say HOGWASH!!  It sounds nice and you could put it on a wall hanging in your college dorm room easy enough, but its wrong, wrong, wrong!  My wall plaque, is not nearly as catchy and would take a much larger piece of wood to fit it all on, but it would read something like this…”Dance with God and He may have an imperfect man (because that is the only type of human that exists) sent your way.  This imperfect, but godly man will have his own vibrant relationship with Jesus and therefore, loves and supports your dance time with your first love and doesn’t try to cut in on it.”  Get my point?

Oh, how about this one?  The things we say to make ourselves feel better.  I’ve had a couple friends that love me greatly send me this one…Don’t worry if you’re still single.  God is looking at you right now saying, I’m saving this girl for someone special.” 

To be honest, this next one, kinda ticks me off a little…”When God knows you’re ready for the responsibility of commitment, He’ll reveal the right person, under the right circumstances.”  Certainly relationships are a responsibility, especially if you intend to see them through, however, my lack of a relationship is not an indicator of my responsibility level. In addition, this message again affirms the dangerous mentality that if I behave in such a way, then God will do this or that.  Not how it works!  If you think it is, you are headed for disappointment big time!

I feel I would’ve been better served and many young women today would be better served by hearing these messages:

  • You are worth more than this world comprehends.
  • You are complete in Christ.  He makes you enough!  There is no waiting on a man, a certain a moment, a particular achievement.  He’s called you, He’s equipped you, so Fly!
  • Sometimes you don’t get what you want and it hurts!  God knows hurt, God knows loss, God knows sacrifice, run to Him with the pain not away from Him. This journey we are on with Him is one of faith of trust and ultimately that means, I say, “God I don’t understand why not me, but I know you love me and I trust you to do what’s best for me” and surrender and I pray that prayer as frequently as I need to.
  • I am loved!  Maybe not in the ways I imagined for my life with a husband and family, but I am loved and complete in Him.

Singleness is not what I would’ve picked for my life, it’s not what I wanted, but even the unwanted circumstances of life can be a gift when we surrender them to God.  I have a God who loves me beyond my ability to comprehend and friends and family that love and support me in countless ways.

The truth is this…there is no human on earth who can or will complete me (and all married people said “Amen”).  God has a plan for my life and it is GOOD.  He has equipped me and I am made complete in Him!  I am determined to pursue God wholeheartedly and if by chance a man who loves Jesus shows up on the scene, BONUS!  All that other stuff, shake it off, cause it’s just plain ole HOGWASH!!



Christmas Letter

22 Dec

Family & Friends,

It boggles my mind to think that God looked into the future, saw you and me and out of His great love for us, developed this mind bending plan to save us from ourselves. He has a big picture in mind and the way He goes about accomplishing His plans leaves me dumbfounded. His ways and thoughts are truly higher than mine!

2015 has been a perspective bringer for me! Starting a new job last December gave me a whole new vantage point to take a look at myself and this life God has given me. The transition in job has been difficult for me in several ways, difficult because it forced me (the positive spin would be enabled me) to take a look from a different vantage point at what kind of person, friend, sister, daughter, aunt, servant, leader that I am. God has also used people as He often does and new challenges to reveal Himself to me this past year. Much of what I’ve seen and realized has been a reminder that I desperately need a Savior and that is a good thing to remember.

I have spent most of my life in love with the Lord, desiring to serve Him, but I did have ideas of what that would look like. Guess what? It doesn’t look like what I thought and to be honest, I have wrestled with God about that.

I have struggled with what to do when life isn’t going how I want, when you keep waiting and hoping and there just doesn’t seem to be any give. What do you do with unanswered prayers, unfulfilled dreams or an ache in your heart that is always beneath the surface?

I am seeing a shift in my perspective with the Lord, it is changing the way I pray and the way I view my part of God’s big picture here on earth. With God’s help, I am learning to see beyond me. Don’t get me wrong, I struggle with getting over myself daily, but I want my life here on this planet, however, long that may be, to matter beyond my designated time slot. That means, I must defer to the one with the big picture, that means that my life is God’s story to write, even when it has unforeseen plot twists. It means that when God appears, unfair, unjust or unloving, I am using my limited perspective and not His eternal one.

It is my prayer for both myself and you that we will have the strength it takes to surrender those things we don’t understand to the One who does, that we will have a vision of life that goes far beyond ourselves, that what matters to the heart of God would be foremost in ours.

I am thankful for a God who has gone to such great lengths to show His love for you and I, who consistently demonstrates kindness and patience with my many failings and He doesn’t ask that I do it alone, He continually comes close. He is Immanuel, God with us! He is with me and you too, right in the middle of life. Life…beautiful and messy, sweet yet difficult, wonderful and hard.

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to You and Yours!



“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 

2 Corinthians 4:17&18



The Way He Came

12 Dec

Growing up, we always had beautiful packages under the tree.  My dad would spend hours, usually on Christmas Eve into the wee hours of Christmas morning, wrapping every gift, making the bows look just so.  I don’t think the man believes in gift bags!

While I enjoyed the beautiful wrapping and the effort my dad put into the pretty packages, the greatest gift I’ve ever received did not come in ornate wrapping.  The hands down, greatest gift I’ve ever received, was delivered in a dirty manger wrapped in rags.  The greatest gift of all time, in the plainest of wrapping.

The fact that He came is mind boggling to me.  The forethought and love demonstrated by God, that He saw you and me and knew we would need a Savior and went to such great lengths to make it happen.  It’s amazing!  He came which is such a gift, but the real kicker for me is the way He came!

The royalty of Heaven left His home to fulfill His Father’s plan.  Born in the middle of the night, in a little town, in a cave and placed in a bed of straw, wrapped up in rags.

I don’t know about you, but it’s probably not how I would’ve thought to make my entrance on the scene.  I probably would’ve picked something with a little more pomp and circumstance, ok a lot more 🙂  I’m here to save the world, let’s party kinda thing.

The way Jesus came speaks VOLUMES to me.  The way He came, shows me that He came to serve, He came in humility, He came motivated by love.  The way Jesus came reminds me that I should do the same.  Show up ready to serve, in humility and motivated by love.

It may not be flashy or feel glamorous but it will make an impact that lasts far beyond some fancy wrapping or a grand party.  So thankful for the Gift of Jesus and the way He came!  Merry Christmas!