Tuesday, December 31, 2013



"Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Do without."

The point is: don't be wasteful. Be resource conscious. Get maximum use out of a product or item before discarding or replacing it.

Generally speaking, this is pretty good advice.

But have you ever known someone who approached relationships with this mentality? I have. Trying to engage with someone who operates with a "reduce-reuse-recycle" mentality is exhausting, frustrating, even heart-breaking.

These relationships absolutely suck the life out of you. It's like going from being someone's favorite snuggle blanket, to the rag they use to dust furniture or wash their dirty car, to the forgotten bit of trash crammed in the dark, cobweb-filled corner of the closet in the garage. Before long, you feel completely worn out, used up, and taken for granted.

Of course, the obvious way to not have your soul sucked out by these exhausting relationships is to avoid them. If you discover that someone is a "joy sucker," that they drain you emotionally and bring nothing to the table but drama, strife and negativity, scratch them off your friend list. Life's too short and too precious to waste it on people who take-take-take and who are so small-minded that they can't see past their own noses. People who have no thought for the needs or feelings of others - who needs them?

Except that sometimes, these very people are the people closest to us. They are people we love. A relative. A co-worker. A neighbor. Yes, relating to them is exhausting, but no, we don't want to be rid of them. We are committed to loving them in spite of the fact that they drain us of energy and enthusiasm.

What do we do then?

One approach to dealing with such people is to refuse to play the complaining game. You know the scenario: Lena always has some little negative comment to make about what you're wearing, the way you've decorated your house, how dry the chicken was at dinner, that she'd rather have chocolate cake than the apple pie you're serving, etc. Or she feels compelled to recount to you all the offenses she's suffered that day - the driver that cut her off on the interstate, the server who got her order wrong at McDonald's, how long she had to stand in line at Wal-Mart, the co-worker who talks too loudly and gets on her nerves, etc. Or she creates stressful situations for herself, then expects you to help shoulder her self-induced anxiety. When Lena begins the all-too-familiar litany of what's-not-right with the world, nothing you can say or do will fix her problems or make her feel better. She doesn't want to feel better. No, she wants to revel in her afflictions.

When someone like Lena begins a swamp fest around me, I try to change the subject completely; or, if that doesn't work, I just put my brain in neutral and let Lena vomit while I contemplate the scenery outside the window or doodle around in my head with ideas for tonight's dinner. I do NOT encourage or acknowledge her complaints. No sympathetic looks or sighs. No commiseration. Nope, I'm just not going to join in the drama if I can help it. I don't know if these strategies help Lena any, but it makes it possible for me to be around her without being drug into her muck pit myself. I just don't want to be part of her festival of negativity.

So, what advice can you give, Dear Reader, for dealing with folks who are emotionally draining? How do you cope with the "reduce-reuse-recycle" types in your life? How do you engage without letting yourself feel used up or burned out?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who could use some help in this area, so don't be shy about sharing helpful advice!

Monday, December 30, 2013


This Christmas, my sister gave me a copy of  Michael Hyatt's book Platform:  Get Noticed in a Noisy World. I'm reading with notebook and pencil in hand - lots of great tools and information to process as I face the challenge of marketing my first book (Yay!). Platform would be a great book for anyone who has a small business, or for someone who wants to connect with others to promote a cause, or for someone like me who has a little, long-deferred dream that is just beginning to unfold.

In Chapter 5, Hyatt lists several obstacles that we often face when pursuing our goals and dreams. We run out of time. We don't have enough resources. We don't have the experience we need. We give in to the dream-squishing negativity of others who don't share our vision. But, Hyatt writes, the biggest obstacle that we face is fear.

I really identified with that. In throwing this first book out into the world - for other eyes to see and other voices to comment on - I have to admit there has been a good deal of trepidation. What might others think and say about it? What if it doesn't "fly"? What if I mess up this first flight into the world of fiction writing so badly that it handicaps any future opportunities or projects?

But I think one of the greatest fears I've identified in my own experience is - What if I succeed? How would it change my life if Book #1 led to Book #2 and then Book #3, and what if one or more of them actually did very well out there in the big wide world?

Sure, positive consequences of success as a writer are easy to identify: meeting new people and having opportunities to engage with others outside my present circle. Being able to pay off a few debts or to give financially to ministries I'm excited about. Fixing things around the house. Maybe even a vacation!

But surely there would be a down side to success, such as greater demands on my time and schedule, deadline pressures, sales pressures. Travel - which sounds exciting, but also a bit intimidating for a house mouse like me. PR - which I think I would enjoy, but which, again, opens a person up to negative or hurtful comments. What if people read my book and perceive me one way, when I am actually very different from what they imagine? Worse yet, what if, through my writing, I dishonored God? What if I wrote and promoted things that weren't true?

I spent my wee-morning-hour wakefulness pondering the question, "What am I afraid of?"

Then I remembered a conversation between a couple of friends a few years ago. Debbie was explaining how she was afraid to talk about her faith with her family, who are not Christians. Her biggest fear was that she might say something wrong that would hinder her family's ability to understand the Gospel, something that would turn them against the God she had grown to love. What if she didn't get the message exactly right? What if she got upset, and her emotions hindered the conversation? Debbie longed to share her faith with the people she loved, but she was crippled by fear.

Mark, a dear brother in Christ who had been listening to Debbie's concerns, simply replied:  "You're a Calvinist, damn it! What are you afraid of?! Stop cowering in the corner and get out there!"

Yes, his reply was like a slap in the face - but he was spot on. Mark went on to explain that, if God is indeed sovereign (which He is) and if salvation is entirely by His grace (which it is), then we don't have to be afraid of "getting it wrong" when we share our faith with others. Yes, we should be gracious and thoughtful in our conversations with unbelievers, but the pressure is NOT on us to save lost souls - that is God's work. Our work is to faithfully proclaim the good news that Christ saves sinners. And if we don't get it exactly right? God can handle our mess ups and our failures. He can redeem our weak efforts and fumbling words.

I've recalled that conversation so many times over the years, when faced with some soul-sapping fear that left me hesitant, timid, incapacitated.

I recalled that conversation again last night (very early this morning, actually). What am I afraid of? Yes, I am a Calvinist - I truly believe that God is Sovereign, that He is good, that He loves me very much, and that He redeems sinful, fearful, clumsy me and everything about me.

What are the secret dreams of your heart, Dear Reader? Have you, like me, been held back from pursuing those dreams because of fear - fear of failure, or fear of success? I pray that we - you and I - will fix our eyes so firmly on the loveliness and sufficiency of our great God and Savior that we will be strengthened to step out of fear, into courageous living.

Let's stop cowering in the corner and get out there!

Friday, December 27, 2013


Every year for Christmas, my husband gets me a calendar for the upcoming year. For 2014, Steve picked out a John Sloane "Country Seasons" calendar, featuring beautiful paintings of country life. For my birth month - July - there is a girl in an apron, feeding a mixed flock of fluffy multicolored chickens. Appropriate!

I love new calendars, and I love beginning a new year. For starters, we are on our way back to summer - the days are already getting longer. The chickens are up earlier and out later than they were a week ago. I love summer and sunshine and long, warm days - they'll be here before we know it!

Also, I love the sense of new beginning. Was last year a rough year? Finally, we can say, "I'm glad that's over!" Was last year a great year? Makes you wonder what new adventures and delights await in the year to come! (With all the sighing and pining going on around my house these days, I'm thinking there may well be some pretty significant events and changes for my family in 2014.)

My weight goes up and down and up and down...but always more up than down. The beginning of a new year gives me fresh incentive to try to move the pointer on the bathroom scale to the left instead of the right.

Best of all, the beginning of a new year means:  Genesis! It's time to begin again, reading through Scripture. There is something so very exciting about turning the last page of the book of Revelation, then opening the next morning to Genesis 1. This story never gets old. Every January 1, it's like opening a brand new present.

Right now over at Ligonier Ministries, they have links for several Bible reading plans for 2014. You can check them out HERE. Read through the Bible in a year, or in two years, or at your own pace, or chronologically, or read through it multiple times in a year. In 2014, I'll be using the Tabletalk Bible reading plan, with two readings each day: Old Testament in the morning and New Testament in the evening. I can't wait to get started!

With only four days left in 2013, why not make plans now to join me in this adventure? Grab your Bible, get a plan, get excited, and let's start reading - 2014 is going to be an amazing year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Only God can save sinners.

Sinners can't save themselves, by praying a prayer.

Christians can't save sinners, by hammering them for their wickedness and reminding them of God's holiness.

Only God can save sinners.

There are people in my life whom I love dearly, who today live in bondage to self, sin and satan. Yes, I labor to show them their need for a Savior and to communicate to them the Gospel. Yes, I invite them to church. Yes, I ask them all kinds of questions - where is their security? what do they envision for the future? what motivates them?

I fear that I miss many opportunities to share the Gospel with these people, and grieve that I completely mishandle other opportunities. I desire so earnestly for them to know the loveliness of Christ - for His sake and for their own - and yet they remain cold and unresponsive to the Gospel. Ho-hum, they just don't care. My heart is so heavily burdened for these people.

But I cannot save them, no matter how much my heart breaks for them.

And they cannot save themselves.

Which almost sounds like cause for despair - except that it brings me back to the truth that only God can save sinners. And God - He is able, willing, and sufficient to do just exactly that.

So, under the weight of a heart heavy with love and concern for the unsaved and wayward in my family, and jealous for the glory of God, I am bowed down, prostrate before the throne of grace, professing my utter dependence upon God to do that which neither I nor anyone else can do - save sinners.

And here, prostrate in prayer, I find joy to meet my grief, peace to calm my distress, assurance to quiet my doubts, courage to persevere, and very great hope.

God saves sinners!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


"Father, protect our servicemen and women standing post around the world, some in very dangerous places..."

This is a regular part of our corporate prayer Sunday mornings at Grace. The phrase "dangerous places" struck me anew this past week. Dangerous places...

My husband has served in combat. When his Marine unit shipped out to Saudi Arabia in fall of 1990, we were told to expect 80% casualties. We updated wills and powers-of-attorney and made plans for our men to not come home. Live fire, mine fields, air strikes...dangerous places.

When #3 son joined the Marine Corps Reserve last spring, he asked me if I had any concerns about his enlisting. I did. "Thomas," I answered, "I guess most moms would be worried that, as soon as you finish Basic Training, they'll send you to Afghanistan or some other hot zone, and you'll stand in very real danger of being killed. But I'm not so much worried about your dying - dying well is important, but it's really not too complicated...and then, we have eternity together on the other side. No, my biggest concern is: are you capable of living well?"

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson once said:  "Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me...That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave." (Spoken like a true Calvinist!)

...to be always ready...that is the way all men should live...

To live well - that is a day in, day out, sometimes tedious, rarely heart-pounding endeavor.

We've all heard the expression: "There are no atheists in foxholes." When life and death are on the line, when faced with our own mortality, we are often gifted with extreme clarity of vision. A close call on the interstate, lying hooked up to monitors in a hospital bed...most of us have known terrifying moments when we stood on the brink of eternity, acutely conscious of the significance of the faith we have professed.

But today, warm and well-fed, going through my normal routine - work, school, laundry, Facebook, aerobics class, carpool, loading the dishwasher, bathing the kids, grocery shopping, etc. - today, my vision is not so clear. The demarcation between the holiness of the sovereign God of the universe and the wickedness of my sin is not so distinct. The necessity of relying completely on Christ for my righteousness, of being vigilant in guarding against temptation, of resisting complacency and apathy - today, in my "safe" little world, those things do not seem so pressing.

Crossing Jordan into eternity - that is but a small step. But walking this vale, sometimes for many years, before reaching the threshold of Glory - that is a great distance to cover. It is a difficult thing to live consistently in this world in a manner becoming the children of God. Too easy to think the real battle is far away, somewhere else. Easy to think a bullet or mortar round is more dangerous than the sin in my own heart.

Brothers and sisters, let us never forget: we all live in dangerous places, susceptible to sin and to attacks from our enemy. Let us be always mindful: our only security is Christ.

God, protect us in these dangerous places!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I had the misfortune of being involved in a couple of long-term dating relationships as a young adult. Both of these relationships were incredibly selfish, on my part as well as on the parts of the young men involved:  I dated Mr. X because he made me feel special, because I liked going out on the weekends and having fun, because it was nice to feel like I "belonged" to someone.

In each of these relationships, we ended up taking one another for granted, using each other for our own gratification, and, eventually becoming tired, bored, disillusioned and terminating the relationship. It wasn't fun any more. I didn't feel special. That "loving feeling" was gone and it was time to look somewhere else in order to get it back.

Sadly, this is exactly how most of us relate to the church. I attend a particular church because it meets my needs, makes me feel special, gives me a sense of belonging. Then, when we lose "that loving feeling," we sigh and take our weary, disappointed hearts somewhere else. We have lost the consciousness of something bigger - both in our relationships/marriages, and in our church life.

God created and ordained marriage, and He designed it to be a billboard proclaiming the amazing love that Christ has for His bride, the church. Dating - or courting - has one end in view: marriage. But today, we play at dating like it's a video game, with no thought of marriage at all. We just run through a string of relationships, using people and allowing ourselves to be used by others, with no intention of committing to a permanent, exclusive, God-honoring, covenantal relationship.

We do the same thing with the church. If I was as committed to my marriage as most folks are to their local fellowship of believers, I'd probably be on my sixth or twelfth or twenty-second husband by now. But this is so contrary to Scripture, so against what we are called to as Christians, so outrageously ridiculous!

Steve and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary this next year. We are not still together because we have always loved one another well. We are not still married because we have each consistently respected and made the other feel special and appreciated. We are not still married because this has all been such unbelievable fun and so full of thrills that we were never tempted to go elsewhere.

Steve and I are celebrating 30 years because we are committed to something bigger than personal happiness or fun or fulfillment (although we have been blessed to enjoy seasons of those, too). We are committed to something as HUGE as God's love for His people. Marriage is God's institution and - in good times and in bad - He uses marriage to teach us about His redeeming love and to glorify Himself. We know things now, 30 years after the honeymoon, that we would never have understood if we had bailed out during times of trial or severe testing. Yes, there was much that was very sweet about those first idyllic years, but I wouldn't go back there for anything in the world, not if I had to give up what we've learned in the years since the I-Do's.

Christ doesn't love me because I'm beautiful - He loves me because I'm His. And, because He loves me, He is making me beautiful. That is the gospel, the gospel we are called to proclaim and model in our churches. We don't love the church because it's always pretty and well-behaved and makes us feel good - we love the church because it is Christ's. He loves the church - enough to die for it - and He is making it beautiful.

All of this to say - I LOVE my church, Grace Presbyterian Church in Troy. I am so thankful that God has brought us together, to serve one another and to labor together in kingdom work. To persevere through frustrations, trials and offenses. To encourage and pray for one another. To study together and learn what it means to be gospel people, to be Christ's bride. I thought I liked these people when we first began to meet together just over five years ago, but I had no idea back then just how truly beautiful each one of them would become to me.

If you say that you love Christ but testify by your words or actions that you have no love for the church, then you are deceiving yourself. One cannot long know and love the Bridegroom without also falling in love with His Bride. Christ has chosen a Bride - the church - and, as He does in all things, He has chosen very well.

If you are someone who has played at dating the church - you've been using the church for your own gratification, with no intention of committing to an active, intimate, long-term relationship (think, "marriage") - then I want to challenge you today to take the next step. The church is not your live-in girlfriend/boyfriend. She is not your Friday night date to the movies or your dance for the prom. She is the Beloved of Christ.

Stop messing around and marry the girl already.

Monday, December 16, 2013


"The power of a secret sin lies in the secret." The counseling professional teaching the workshop for a group of women's ministry leaders went on to explain that once the secret was "out," the sin would immediately begin to lose power. It's stronghold would crumble.

I knew she spoke the truth, because Scripture teaches us that "if we confess our sins, he [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Sin tucked away in darkness, hidden deep in our fearful hearts, begins to fester, to rot us from the inside out. But when our sin is brought into the light, laid out before the piercing gaze of our Father, true healing can begin. The Great Surgeon cuts away what is dead and infected, bathes our wounds with the life-giving blood of Jesus, and nurses us to health and vigor.

I knew she spoke the truth, because I have known the crippling power of secret sins myself. I have known the grief and despair of battling some hidden nastiness all on my own, determined to "beat this" before anyone found out, vainly struggling to maintain some outward appearance of godliness while drowning in absolute blackness on the inside.

I knew she spoke the truth, because I have been to that place of complete brokenness where all the pretty facades came crashing down. Where I could no longer maintain the appearance of being clean, of being good.

I can remember one such instance: a tearful confession to a dear college room-mate, a friend who met my horrible confession with grace and mercy. She did not respond to my nastiness by pouring on more guilt or by telling me to get my act together. Instead, she led me back to the Savior, to the Healer of broken hearts. My secret was out - and suddenly, it felt like the prison doors had been thrown open, like a beam of sunlight had pierced the abysmal darkness of a bottomless pit. Was I instantly free from ever having to struggle with this particular sin again? No, I battled it again repeatedly - but I battled it. It was no longer my master. It was no longer a secret, and it no longer had power to hold me captive.

My youngest asked me recently, "Where do your ideas for books come from?" Well, the ideas come from a crazy variety of sources. A conversation. A place. A personal conflict. A question I'm tumbling around in my head. A song on the radio.

Shortly after Steve and I moved back to Obion County, we were out walking on the winding narrow road that T's into the highway, just across from the Kendall driveway. We discovered a tiny family cemetery, a cluster of four or five gravestones tucked into a thicket of weeds and walled up by cedar trees. We wondered to whom these graves belonged, and how they had been "lost". Shortly after this discovery, we found gravestones in another nearby cemetery, some dating back to the 1700's. Wow! We tried to imagine what life here in the Tennessee hills must have been like for those earliest settlers. I wondered, "What if the ghosts of these people could be resurrected? Could walk among us and tell us their stories? Could connect us in some tangible way to a lost past?"

About the same time, I was adjusting to life back on the Kendall farm, right smack next door to my in-laws. I feared all the rumors I'd heard:  that multiple generations could not live together harmoniously, that mothers-in-law were destined to be grief to daughters-in-law, that conflict was inevitable. Thankfully, I can testify that those rumors were LIES. I simply cannot express in words how very grateful I am that I live just across the hayfield from Margie Kendall. She truly is one of the most beautiful, loving, generous women I have ever known. And, although I am sure I've probably vexed her occasionally over the years, she has never once spoken an unkind word to me.

And then, there was this business of secret sins. I knew from personal experience that my own secret sins could cripple me, causing me to implode under the weight of despair and grief. But there are other secret sins - sins that are not our own, but that are the sins of others - and those secret sins have the power to cripple us, too. These sins are even trickier to deal with, because, although we suffer the sometimes debilitating consequences of these sins, we do not feel free to confess them, to bring them into the light. These sins are someone else's to confess. Yet, the weight of these sins falls like a dark shadow across our shoulders, and it is easy to find ourselves in bondage to these "second hand" sins, as much as if they were our own.

Weave these ideas together, and you have the seeds for a story, Slow Sun Rising (see sidebar). What if the names on crumbling tombstones - what if these long-dead and forgotten people found fresh expression in the bright eyes and pink cheeks of a new generation of children? What if a young woman, desperate for family and for security, found a mother to love her...in the person of her mother-in-law? What if a person wounded by the sins of another, struggling against the hurt and bitterness in her own heart, dropped the facade? And what if she refused to define herself - or the other person - on the basis of the sins committed against her?

This life is messy and often painful, and it rarely comes with tidy answers to help make sense of our struggles. Thankfully, we serve a sovereign God who orchestrates every single detail for our good and for His glory! Nothing is wasted - not one hurt, not one tear, not one doubt, not one stumble. Nothing. It is all redeemed.

Every true story - whether lived out in your life or mine, or told through the life of a fictional character - is a story of redemption, of resurrection, and of hope. Are you, like me, excited about turning the next page?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


For I do not do the good I want... Romans 7:19a

Seems that lately at our house, we've been having a lot of conversations about intentions, and about the disconnect between thoughts and actions.

"I was going to..."

"Well, what I meant to do was..."

And, jumbled up among these conversations, I've been mentally wrestling with the idea of integrity. Wholeness. Or, as Dr. Pennington called it at the 2012 Reformation Conference, shalom-ness. Consistency of person - this is what I think, this is what I believe, and this is what I do, and each is consistent with the other. Being the same person - in thought and in deed, inside and out - regardless of circumstances, peers,  etc.

Sadly, I find that I lack this kind of personal integrity. I'm like someone who talks fiscal conservatism at the office, but who operates in the day-to-day without a budget. The ideal sounds good, but, practically speaking, it's not really who I am.

Yes, I say I believe that I should "hold every thought captive" to the Word of God, and that I should think on and practice whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent - but often, I find myself boobed out in front of the most offensive trash on the television. Or, I pray that God will grow me in holiness and conform me more and more to Christ - but then I resist Him at every juncture, stubbornly pursuing my own selfish purposes.

This great personal inconsistency between what I think I value and what my actions reveal about my true desires - this grieves me terribly. My actions betray me! They testify against me! Can I not bring my actions in line with my professed beliefs? If not, can't I at least be honest with myself and with others about what is truly important to me?

My memory is not what it used to be. It's not uncommon for me to fail to shut up the hen house at night - not because I've forgotten, but because I remember having done it last night. "Did I shut up the chickens already?" I ask myself. "Yes," I tell myself, "you were just out there with the flashlight, remember?" Because the thought of shutting up the chicken house is floating around in my head, I think that's as good as having done it.

Same thing for these greater issues. Because I think holiness is a good thing, that's as good as actually actively pursuing holiness, right? I mean, at least my intentions were good. It's not like I was desiring evil, after all. Surely it is better to mentally or verbally affirm what is good and right and lovely, even if I don't do those things, than to not even acknowledge them, right?

Except that, thinking I've closed the hen house - but not actually closing the hen house - leads to dead chickens. And thinking that I love God and desire holiness - but not actually acting on those thoughts - is simply me pronouncing judgment on myself.

A friend once explained it this way: "My want-er is broken." I want to honor God, really and truly I do - but right now, at this moment, I want even more to watch this movie, eat this cake, not eat this cake,spread this gossip, fill-in-the-blank. Who can deliver me from this battle between what I say I believe and my contrary actions?

I am so thankful for a Savior who has promised that He will finish the good work that He has begun in me. Thankful that He is faithfully breaking down the aberrant "wants," and replacing them more and more with a genuine desire to know and please Him.

Thankful that even while I stand here deceiving myself - telling myself that yes, I truly do believe and love God's Word, while acting in blatant contradiction to His precepts - that He is gently and persistently exposing the lies, opening my eyes to the deceptions I've embraced. Thankful that He is giving me eyes to see the truth and grace to repent, all in the context of a relationship that is so secure and loving that I need never feel afraid.

Thankful that in Christ, God is bringing all of my person into conformity with His perfect holiness and integrity. That in Glory, my want-er will be fixed, my practice will be fully consistent with my faith, my good intentions will have given way to actual goodness, and I will experience true, unpolluted, and lasting shalom at last!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


I was talking a couple of weeks ago with a sweet friend and sister writer who has been mentoring me through the book editing/rewriting/publishing process. Crazy hormones and menopausal mood swings aside, we both agreed that we are at a sweet season in life with so very much for which to be thankful.

Is my life today what I dreamed of as a bright-eyed child? Way back in the long-ago, I dreamed of being a veterinarian. I loved horses and thought maybe one day I'd own a ranch, perhaps one that served as a ministry to troubled youth. Hopefully I'd get married, and maybe even have a few kids of my own.

I am not a veterinarian. I do not own a ranch or even a single horse. (I do, however, have a flock of extremely silly chickens, if that counts for anything!) I am not directly involved in ministry to troubled youth.

But I am married to a man who works hard to provide for me and for our family. I have seven wonderful children. I live right next door to the most amazing in-laws in the world, on a beautiful farm in the hills of West Tennessee. I attend a church where Scripture is faithfully preached, where my faith is challenged and strengthened, and where I am able to serve my sisters and brothers in Christ.

So, what does all of this have to do with writing and publishing a book?

I love to write, and I am super excited to finally have my first fiction published and out in the big, wide world where others can purchase and read it. This is a BIG deal for me! But, it's not my whole world. My security is not based on the number of books sold, and my personal happiness is not a by-product of glowing reviews.

Yes, I would really like for this book - and the next, and the next - to do well. But, as Lisa put it, that would be "gravy on the biscuits...and I've already been served a plate of pretty darned good biscuits!"

Is my life exactly what I dreamed it would be as a girl? No, it's quite different than I could have imagined - and, I think, it's even better.

Makes me think of the passage in Proverbs 16:9 that talks about how we make our plans, but God orders our steps.

I am so thankful that God is sovereign and that I am not. I am thankful that, while I make my own plans for my life, it is God's plan that will be accomplished.

And I'm thankful for friends who remind me to stop and savor the biscuits. Mmmmm!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I am super excited to announce that my first novel - Slow Sun Rising - is now available for Kindle!!! You can purchase and download a copy at Amazon by clicking HERE.

Slow Sun Rising tells the story of Jenna Taylor, a young woman who lives a postcard perfect life in the suburbs with her husband Mark and their two little girls, Maggie and Dora. But when Mark is shot one evening outside a Memphis strip club, Jenna's world is blown to pieces.

Forced by a shrinking bank account to accept her mother-in-law's offer of a free place to live, Jenna packs up and moves her young family to rural Tatum County. Here, Jenna must rely on Mark's less-than-welcoming family as she struggles to make sense of life in the midst of tragedy. Will Jenna be able to put her life back together and start over?

Bidi Marshall, a crusty, in-your-face neighbor, pushes Jenna to move ahead with life while challenging Jenna's understanding of what it means to truly love another. As Jenna adjusts to the slower pace and peculiar personalities of life in the country, she learns to live with her eyes and heart focused more on the people around her and less on her own grief. Yet Jenna wonders, will anyone ever truly love her in return?

Slow Sun Rising is a story of resurrection, of letting go of the deadness of a self-centered heart to make room for loving others, of grieving the dead while learning to embrace the living.

(Print edition now available - see sidebar!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


- Originally posted February 19, 2010

You already know I'm prone to overspiritualizing things. Today's confession: I also have an out-of-whack guilt mechanism. (Could it be those two are related? Hmmmmm.....)

When I was in the hospital after delivering Baby #3, the young nurse on duty instructed me to watch a series of short programs about infant care on the in-house TV. I was about half-way through the "How to Change a Diaper" film when my OB stopped in. He sat on the foot of the bed, looked up at the TV, and asked, "Do you really need to watch this?"

"The nurse told me I had to. She said they would mark my chart 'noncompliant' if I didn't."

Dr. Pierce rolled his eyes. He stood up and turned off the TV, then checked the box on my paperwork that indicated I had conformed to hospital requirements. Fortunately, the nurse never came back and questioned me on the matter - I know I would've cracked and given a full confession. Yes, I admit it - I'm noncompliant! Slap the handcuffs on me! Never mind that I had been changing diapers and nursing babies for years. I'm guilty!

One day last week was one of those especially guilt-laden days. I forgot to bring the piano teacher's check to lessons on the day it was due. I'm late again...Guilty! I passed up an opportunity to give a ride to someone who needed it on the principle that, to avoid "even the appearance of evil," I try never to ride in cars alone with a man who is not my husband or a member of my immediate family. When I told Steve about this later, he said, "Of course you should've given him a ride!" Aaaaah! I neglected to serve a brother in Christ, out of regard for some inviolable 'principle'. Guilty! School, piano lessons, errands in town - I never got around to exercising that day, PLUS I ate a whole bag of Riesen candies. What, are you just throwing your weight loss goals out the window? Guilty! I could go on, but you get the picture. It was not a very good day.

Sometimes my guilt is very real and undeniable. I DID eat all those chocolates. I really did, and I should not have. Sometimes my guilt is totally irrational. Like the time I felt so bad about the mothers in an Afghanistan refugee camp whose babies were wasting away, displayed on the TV screen during the evening news. I had a surplus of milk...just no way to ship my boobs overseas. I probably washed a pint of milk down the drain every morning when I took my daily shower, while their babies were literally starving to death. Wasting milk...Guilty! But real or not, what's to be done with all this guilt?

According to Scripture, guilt can only be washed away with blood. Hymn-writer William Cowper, like me, struggled with a sometimes overwhelming sense of his own guilt. He also penned the words to the familiar song "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood". I looked up the word fountain in the dictionary - it means a spring, a reservoir that can be drawn upon as needed. It connotes a supply that is constantly being replenished, that is gushing over in abundance.

Christ's blood has washed me clean, but some days guilt overshadows my consciousness of this truth. And so, I run back to the Fountain. Not to re-do what has already been done, but to bathe again in the truth of the sufficiency of Christ's work on my behalf. And I find there is always more blood, an abundance, enough to cover all my guilt.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
drawn from Immanuel's veins,
and sinners, plunged beneath that flood,
lose ALL their guilty stains.
- William Cowper

Monday, December 2, 2013


Do you occasionally, like me, look back over your life with heavy regret? I suppose my biggest regret is that I didn't pray for and with my children more. I did not often model joy in the midst of brokenness for them. I did not communicate well to them the freedom - the incredible sense of weightlessness - that comes with acknowledging undeniable and plainly evident inadequacy.

We had a rough start this morning here at Kendallville. Miscommunication, wrong assumptions, harsh words, hurt feelings, tears. Everyone was right and everyone was wrong - and no one was handling the situation very well. When the storm blew out the front door, I sat at the kitchen counter with my Bible, reading and praying and weeping. Several thoughts ran through my mind...

First, I grieved my failure to teach my children - to model for them - the ability to quickly admit, "Man, I really made a mess of that. Even if I was in the right, I did not honor God or my brother/sister in the way I handled the situation." Insisting on being right, it's like being the last man standing in a field of carnage where the slain bodies around you are not those of your enemies, but your family. There is no glory in that.

Second, I recalled a recent visit with dear friends who live lives of transparent brokenness. They do not pretend to be "good" people, in control and living fully-sanctified lives. They readily admit their past struggles with addictions and godless living, and their present struggles with anxiousness, depression, and fear. Yet, they are two of the most gracious, joyful people I know. One of them will say, "Man, I made a mess of that!" - and the other will say gently, "Yes, you sure did, baby. Let's stop right now and pray together about it." By freely acknowledging the brokenness and sin that clings to them, they also freely embrace the grace, mercy, hope, and strength that are theirs in Christ. They don't have to be right. They're not afraid of being wrong. They know that being wrong takes them back to the Jesus that they love.

That's the Jesus that I need today. That's the Jesus my kids need today, too. It breaks my heart when I think that maybe, after all these years, they still don't understand just how big and sufficient and good He is. That they think they have to be right, or defend themselves, or have the last word - like they can't trust Jesus to break through the frustration and anger and deal with their hearts, empowering them to lay down their swords instead of swinging them blindly.

I want to end with an excerpt from C.S. Lewis's book, The Great Divorce. This passage encourages me greatly, because it reminds me that God is sovereign over my past, not just my present and my future. In Christ, God also redeems my past, including all the missed opportunities, regrets, and failures. He is making it ALL beautiful - I don't understand how, and I may not see the beauty yet, but I have the assurance of Glory, when all things will be made plain.

C.S. Lewis writes, in a scene where the Teacher explains Time:

"Son," he said, "ye cannot in your present state understand eternity:  when Anodos looked through the door of the Timeless he brought no message back. But ye can get some likeness of it if ye say that both good and evil, when they are full grown, become retrospective. Not only this valley but all their earthly past will have been Heaven to those who are saved. Not only the twilight in that town, but all their life on Earth too, will then be seen by the damned to have been Hell. That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, 'No future bliss can make up for it,' not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say 'Let me have but this and I'll take the consequences': little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of the sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man's past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man's past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say 'We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven,' and the Lost, 'We were always in Hell.' And both will speak truly."