Thursday, February 12, 2015

Where Do You Find God?

I pet the dog this morning and let him lick my chin. I did this as I sat on the deck, drinking coffee, listening to quiet strains of music, and contemplating the glory of God revealed in a cardinal. It is Monday.

My facade is falling. The masks are fading. I am learning to live from the core of who I am and have longed to be since I was a little girl.

I remember when Joe and Sam were born. Four-and-a-half years apart. Both preemies. The weeks and months surrounding their births were full of crises on a level I'd never experienced and had fearfully prayed I never would. There were hospitalizations, neonatal intensive care units, needles, lines, words I'd never heard before…and a peace and intimacy that took me totally by surprise. During that time I walked nearer to God, or He walked nearer to me, than I ever thought was possible. . . . . . .

I'm sharing over at Circles of Faith today. Join me? #FaithStories

photo credit: Kimberly Coyle Instagram

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Family Devotions . . or a Devoted Family

He tells me in a text that the day's scripture is from his favorite chapter, Isaiah 58.

I gave the yellow devotional, the same one that has sat on our dining table for twenty-four years this March according to the dedication in the front, to the three married couples for Christmas.

Mom and Dad gave us ours when Josh was barely one year old. The daily dose of scripture, a poem, and a short paragraph or two has fed our family's souls for many meals. I usually read it at breakfast and, like that first simple meal, it supplies just enough inspiration to fuel my day's beginning.

There have been seasons where I've read it religiously every day. And seasons where it's gathered dust. But over the cycle of seasons and year, it has faithfully fed and instructed my heart and mind. It's dog-eared pages (almost every one), the cover that has faded in the sun, and its broken binding all testify to its faithful service.

We aren't a family that "does" devotions. We've tried, and it didn't work well. Maybe we didn't try hard enough. I still believe the practice is powerful in the life of a family! We just aren't very good at it.

I like to assuage my conscience with the thought that we are a family of doers. I'm the only one around here that enjoys sitting still and being instructed. On the other hand . . . and the debate continues in my head. Guilty or just not designed for that kind of structure? The verdict is still out.

But whether we are guilty of "family devo" neglect or not, here's the thing . . . my oldest son has a favorite chapter in the Bible!

We did read faithfully before bed from the kids' children's Bible for years. When Josh was about eight, Jeff and I were out of town for a few days. On a call home, I asked Josh what he'd been up to. I'll never forget his answer. 

"I read Amos," he replied nonchalantly. He read the book of Amos!

More recently, our eighteen year old son Ben has been digging deeper into scripture. He was sharing his excitement with me as God's word is "coming alive." He's discovering a fresh connection and relevance. Through the Bible, God is engaging Ben in a new way in a new season of life.

Then he said this: "I'm so grateful for how you and Dad have taught us and read scripture to us for our whole lives."

I stammered, "Thank you," feeling a bit like someone taking credit where it was not due.

There are precious few things that make this momma's heart as happy as children who love and seek God. Somehow along the way of our "devotion-less" family days, we managed to instill a love and respect for God's word. Like the meals we set before them, day after day, they were nourished on truth. Not every meal was formal. In fact, most weren't. But they were mostly healthy, prepared with love, and faithful.

Our Bible instruction has rarely been formal (hardly anything around here is). But it has been served through thousands of conversations, consistent fellowship with other believers, the example of our own imperfect pursuit of truth, a few formal times of family devotions (think holidays), and faithful lives.

Family devotions are awesome! If they're a part of your family's life, that is wonderful. But if they're not, don't be discouraged. All is not lost! Your life is the loudest message to your children.  Devotions, like any other tool, are a means to an end. In this instance, the end is a family that is devoted to God. 

In Deuteronomy 6, God told His people to teach their children His ways throughout the day.

The apostle Paul reminds us to bring our children up in the training and admonition of the Lord. That's the goal. How we achieve it will look as unique as our family.

The same little yellow devotional is now in the homes of our oldest three. I secretly hope it's sitting on their dining table. And in a decade or so, I pray it's dog-eared, grease stained, and falling apart.

And their family's appetites are fed on truth, sated with His Word, and hungry again every day.

Are you tempted to focus more on family devotions than a devoted family? Does your family do family devotions? If so, how have you made it work? What are some other intentional ways you teach your children God's ways and truth?

I'd love to hear your thoughts! You can leave a comment here or on my Facebook page Winsome Woman.

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth and friends at . . .

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Enough Light

My iPhone says sunrise is at 7:10. It's 7:03, and I look out toward the mountains. There's no sign of the sun.

It's dawn, and the light is rising. But thick, grey clouds cover the sky and the usual bright orange glow to the east.

I don't always wake up before the sun. But when I do, I anticipate it's rising. Something in my type A self derives an inordinate degree of satisfaction from saying I saw the sunrise. It's kinda like getting the cool 10k t-shirt before the race. I already have bragging rights to this day.

So sitting here in the grey dawn sans sun . . well it's like getting to check in at the race and finding out they ran out of t-shirts. Major bummer.

I want to see the glow that rises up before the orb. The hot orange promise of a fresh, new day warms me to all the inevitable challenges that will rise with the sun.

Yeah, I know it's there either way. The light testifies to that. And I ask myself if I can be content with light.

My Bible sits open on my lap beside my current study and pencil. Each time I open it I have hopes of seeing the sunrise here too. And many days I do.

It crests between the words and begins to glow. My heart feels the warmth and my mind wakes up with the illumination. By the time I'm done here, it's a bright new day and I'm feeling pretty awesome about me and Jesus.

But some mornings, it's just light. Enough to chase away the dark, but the sky is still grey. And I ask myself . . can I be content with light?

No warm fuzzy feelings. The chill of life's trials right there beside me on the couch. But the light undeniably right there in my lap. Truth illuminating the grey just enough to take the next step.

It's 7:20 now. I take one more hopeful look out my window to the east. And my day begins.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


I came face to face with sin today, and it almost stared me down.  

Destruction, devastation, confusion, anger, fear . . just a few of sin's ugly fruits filled and spilled out her eyes.

And left me empty. Hollow gut, knot in the stomach, kind of empty.

I'm no match for the evil in this world.

For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe; 
his craft and power are great, 
and, armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

I want to turn away from the brokenness. The hopelessness. The ugliness. It's too much, too big, too overwhelming. My sweet, safe life beckons me come back to comfort.

And though this world, with devils filled, 
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, 
for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
the Prince of Darkness grim, 
we tremble not for him; 
his rage we can endure, 
for lo, his doom is sure, 
one little word shall fell him.

And then I remember. I'm not alone. He who "led captivity captive" is still loosening the chains of bondage and healing hearts.

For God hath willed His truth to triumph through us!

Saturday, January 31, 2015


a ton of water

I type the words into a note on my iPhone. A reminder to drink a ton of water. My body has had enough . . of something. What, I’m not sure. But two weeks ago a small itchy spot turned into a full blown body rash. It’s still me against the rash. Armed with prescriptions, supplements, and the cleanest diet I’ve consumed in months, I’m fighting back against insomnia, crazy itching, and a lot of frustration.

Whatever is going on, my body needs more water. A ton. Especially in a battle.

Health experts say many of us are perpetually dehydrated. In addition to contributing to a slew of problems (headaches, fatigue, dry skin), a lack of water is often misinterpreted as hunger. How often do we reach for food when what we really need is hydration?

“Can I have some ice?” 

As soon as the words begin to form on her lips, I jump to the labor room bedside table. In one smooth action, I grab the styrofoam cup with ice chips and fill the plastic spoon. "No, don’t fill it,” I hear the nurses words in my head. "Just a few chips.” I reluctantly drop a couple back into the cup and bring the spoon to Emily’s parted lips. 

I want to pour her a gallon of water. Everything in me wants to give her relief. In between her labor pains, she utters the same request again and again. “Can I have some ice?”

But in her labor, it comes out more like one word . . . “canihavsumice?”

In the most desperate, trying moments of her young life, her need and desire is water.

It’s hard to go through labor, to bring life into the world. I did it six times and will never forget a single one. But for this momma, it was ten times harder to watch my only girl go through labor. Everything in me wanted to jump up on that table, take all her pain, and say “Here, let me do that for you.” 

Really. If only. But not.

So I content myself with encouraging words, back rubs, and ice duty. And wait for life.

In the waiting, we are quiet. Her gentle, strong husband whispers into her hair, as she weeps and sighs on his shoulder. I feel a bit like an intruder, and my thoughts wander back to a month before. One month to the day.

“Can I have some ice?”

The words are just an exhale. Merged into one . . . “canihavsumice?" There’s barely enough breath for even one. I jump from my chair to Mom's hospice bed and gently spoon a piece of ice into her cracked lips. She receives the meager gift, the only relief I can offer. Her lips barely close, as I watch the labored effort of her tongue roll the ice around in weak effort to quench her parched mouth.

These are her last words. She repeats them over and over over her last few days. And we sit dutifully . . my dad, Mom's sister, my sister . . everything in us futilely willing to take her pain, relieve her suffering, and ready to give her ice.

Aunt Mary & Mom

In the most desperate, trying moments of her too-young-to-die life, her need and desire is water.

I have no idea what it is like to die, to leave this world and all you know and love. I wonder if she felt alone and trapped. We were by her side 24/7, but how much did she know? My solace is the knowledge of One who is always with us. Emmanuel. His presence and comfort transcend consciousness and words. I know He was with her, quenching her thirst and fears.

So we sang hymns, looked at picture albums, told stories, and fed her ice. And waited for life.

There’s another story of two people looking for water. One came to a well to draw. A woman. The other a man. God. He came to the well to ask for a drink. 

And to quench the woman’s thirst forever. 

Too often I reach for things that fill but don't quench. I misinterpret my soul's thirst and end up parched.  My body, soul, and spirit all need a ton of water.

Are you thirsty? I am. 

Em & Mom

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why You Need a Retreat

So I'll just begin by saying . . yes, I host a retreat. And yes, I would love for you to attend. But honestly, that's not really what this post is about.

No, this is about you and why you need a retreat.

For the sake of clarity, let me define what I mean by a retreat. This definition will do . . . "a quiet and secluded place in which one can rest and relax."

Your soul needs this place. And probably more than once a year. If you haven't taken this kind of focused time for yourself (or if it's been more than a year since you did), let me give you a few reasons why you should.

1. A retreat recalibrates your soul. The busyness and harshness of life have a way of knocking our souls off kilter and robbing our everyday of meaning and purpose. A retreat can bring us back on course.

2. A retreat reminds those you love that you are a woman worth caring for. It's easy to be taken for granted as a woman. Not because your loved ones are spoiled and selfish, but because you are so generous. You give and give, and those around you can easily forget (or never even know) you have needs too. It's good for them to see you take time to care for yourself!

3. A retreat lets you feel. It can be scary. But whether the deep "feels" of your soul are positive or negative or more likely a messy mix of both, you need time to sit and sort and feel.

4. A retreat reconnects you to the best of you. If you're gracious with yourself on your time of retreat, you have the wonderful potential to get to know parts of you that you may have forgotten or have just never taken the time to know. 

For a while there was a push to call retreats “advances.” No, thank you. Every day and every one will invite me to advance, push harder and faster, and excel. A retreat is a unique invitation to step away and even back a few steps to a quiet and secluded place in which one can rest and relax.

Whether it's a day, a weekend, or week. Whether you go a quiet place all alone, with a few friends, or a large group of likeminded women. Whether you take just a Bible, journal, and pen or sit and listen to stories and lessons from women like you . . . I hope you'll consider taking a retreat in the near future. 

Winsome is just one opportunity. There are some other amazing women around the country that want to see you refreshed and encouraged and have planned retreats for that very purpose!

I encourage you to check out these regional retreats coming up in the near future:

(hurry . . registration closes Sunday, 2/1)

Jumping Tandem: The Retreat

In case you aren't convinced yet, here's one more reason (the best reason) for you to take a retreat . . your Father wants to spend time with you. He wants to go with you to a still place and remind you that He loves you like crazy. And if there's no other reason at all, that's why you need a retreat.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Worth the Risk

Dreams. They inspire and challenge. But dreams can also have a negative connotation. Consider statements like…
“Quit dreaming.”
“She’s just a dreamer.”
Dreams are often met with cynicism, because they’re risky. They upset the “status quo.” They’re not safe.
Join me over at God-Sized Dreams for the rest of this post and some more of my thoughts on dreams and risk!