Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Stop the beeping!" and other unmentionables.

Two nights ago I stayed up late wrapping presents, criss-cross applesauce on my closet floor for literally hours, surrounded by turquoise bows and rolls of tape and four different designs of pink wrapping paper. Was still sitting there frantically working at midnight-fifteen, and still didn't finish.

Needless to say that last night, after a full day of work, a hectic late-afternoon of driving back and forth into town finishing last minute holiday preparations, and a busy evening at my grandparents' house exchanging gifts with that sweet side of the family, I was ready to crash. Halfway did in the chair anyway with my Little Miss before we officially went to sleep, to the tune of Max & Ruby's Christmas Tree on Nick Jr., after 11 p.m.

I fell into bed, with zero recollection of washing my face but my make up was gone the next morning, so it must have happened.

And was woken up a little over an hour later, around 1 a.m., to a single, piercing BEEP.

Through the haze of sleep and the fog of Christmas cheer and the cloud that can only be described as late night "Huh?", I realized one very unfortunate thing.

Smoke detector.

Not unfortunate in the sense of smelling smoke, but unfortunate all the same in the very real sense of "low battery alert."

I waited. Twenty seconds-ish later. BEEP.

This wasn't going to stop.

I stumbled around the house making sure it was just the one in my room. It was. Stumbled back.
Stood on my vanity stool, gripping the closet door frame with one hand, and tapped the detector with the other. (I'm a handyman by night, can you tell?)


I jerked, shrieked, waited. Twenty seconds-ish later. BEEP.

Now I'm sleepy and mad.

I start pushing on it, twisting, turning, tugging, pulling.


Nothing changes. I finally locate the battery door hinge, and push the plastic lever to swing it open.

The lever breaks off in my hand.



The little compartment is open, though, so one problem at a time. I see the dead battery peering down at me, so I grab it. Tug. Pull. HEAVE. Nothing. It's wedged in there.


The noise is all the more shrill directly above my head, and all the more shrill in accompaniment to the adrenaline rushing in my ears. This is now a direct challenge, this is now a war. My own version of Hunger Games. I yank. Nothing. Nothing except the muscles in my shoulder starting to burn from having my arm over my head for so long.


Little pieces of white plaster and sheet rock and ceiling dust rain.


I  yank the battery again.

It comes out.


Still on the stool, I sag against the door-frame in relief. I did it. Cursed battery out, in my hand, which is coated in a thick layer of white chalky dust, and start to climb down.


I stare in shock at the naked, empty machine and did what any single mom would do.

I Googled.

And promptly discovered it wanted a new battery.

Now it's personal. Who on the green earth actually has a battery at 1 a.m. (now almost 1:30 a.m.) that's not a simple Double A or Triple A? I knew I had both of those, and knew the weird contraption in my hand was neither.


Just to rule out logic, I check the junk drawer in the kitchen where the batteries are, and who knew - a matching weird battery, only one left, right there in the opened package, left over from last time they needed changing years ago.

Hope rose as my unlikely companion as I climbed back on the vanity stool. Grasped the door frame. Attempted to, blindly, (as I'm not 8 feet tall even on a stool) shove the fresh battery back into place.

Won't go. Won't fit. Won't slide. I ask Jesus to help. To guide it, guide me, guide my hand. To make it work. 

But it just won't. 


I turn it over, try again. Now I'm praying for angels to intervene. Attempt again. Shoulder burning, muscles aching, tears building. The sleep-deprived-ness is kicking in, and I'm saying words I shouldn't. Anger and frustration launch a full attack. I fumble with the battery as more white dusty chalk showers down like mock snow.

Now matter what I tried, it just wouldn't go.


Still on the stool, I bend over double and burst into hysterical tears. Sobbing, snotty, wailing, hopeless tears, the kind that can only come at 1:30 a.m. and can only spring from a woman that's not crying about batteries or missed sleep anymore. It was deeper, it was wider, it was much more now. It wasn't the battery, it was my spirit. It wasn't the incessant beep, it was the cry of my soul. It wasn't the ache in my shoulder, it was the sting in my heart.

This wasn't supposed to happen. I wasn't supposed to be a single mom on a stool four nights before Christmas, incapable, helpless, desperate. This changing of the battery was "the husband's job" and I didn't have one anymore, I only had a dead battery and a foul taste in my mouth and a constant monologue of regrets.

The worst part was, it felt like Jesus didn't want to help either.

I had asked Him last year, too. To guide my marriage, guide me, guide my heart. To make us work. 

But no matter what I tried, it just wouldn't. 


I straighten up and try again. Now the battery is wedged half in the broken compartment door, and won't come out or go in correctly.

So I leave it. I step off the stool, calloused. Bruised. Worn. Brush of the dust. Rinse my hands off. Put the stool away. Stoic. Mechanical. Hard.


Get back in bed. Not super-politely remind Jesus He's bigger than a smoke detector and He can make that thing shut up for me to go to sleep, if He really cared enough to. Put the pillow over my head. Defeat. Failure. Again.

And hear Him gently remind me to give thanks anyway.

At this point, there is absolutely zero to lose. So I try. I thank Him that there wasn't actually a fire. Thank Him for my pillow that fit nicely over my head. Thank Him that the chirping detector was in my room and not Little Miss's room, and that she was still able to sleep. Thank Him for His grace and forgiveness for women who have emotional breakdowns on stools and say ungodly things. And thank Him for loving all of the hot mess that equaled me.

Peace be still. 


And I slept.

Slept even though. Slept even so. Slept through the constant beeping that didn't let up all night. Slept through the storm because He was with me, despite not giving me what I wanted, He was with me, despite not solving the problem directly, He was with me, and wasn't that the solution anyway?

He cared. He cared enough to remind me of the bigger picture and the soul-healthy part of pain and frustration and injustice, and cared enough to do a middle of the night work that was even a bigger miracle than Him stopping the beep - He stilled my spirit and let me sleep through the noise.

Mark 4 - And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. 

Peace be still. 

I don't know what's beeping incessantly in your soul this Christmas season. I don't know what layers of stress and frustration and defeat are coating your heart like white chalky dust in the middle of the night, but Jesus is there to peel them back. Brush you off. And give you peace.

Even though it's Christmas, start with some Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

As heard from the backseat...

Light filtered through the sunroof of the car, smattering beams of sun between falling leaf dances and country gusts of wind.

"Mama, God died on the cross for our sins. So He can be God...I think."

The kindergartner, wrapped in a coat with a blanket tucked around her legs, tilted her head thoughtfully from her booster seat.

"You're right, baby. And...because He loves us so much." The mama gripped the steering wheel tighter, trying to absorb the truth. Trying to soak it in. It was all that mattered. Love. His love. The only unfailing kind.

"I know. I've learned that a hundred thousand times!" The child's voice squeaked and pitched, part indignant, part proud, part frustrated. Even at 5, she grasped the pain of the mundane. The danger of reciting something until it grows monotonous, until what was meant to bring life seems to suck all the hope out of it completely.

John 3:16.
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

We all know it. We all say it. We've seen it crossstiched on our grandma's throw pillows and framed on bronze plaques and monogrammed on T-shirts and aprons and kitchen towels.

It's so etched in glass and carved in stone it doesn't even dent our hearts anymore.

The mama swallows hard. "I know you have. But that's because we don't ever want to forget. Right?"

The kindergartner stares out her window, leaves tossing and swirling. A cacophony of burnt color and dried texture. "What would happen if we did ever forget?"

If we forgot love? If we forgot sacrifice? If we forgot hope?

If we forget the cross, we forget all those things.

"I don't want to live in a world that forgets, baby. Let's not forget. Okay?"

So they remember. And they drive. And the verse rings in their hearts. For God so loved the world...He we could remember. So we could embrace life. So we could have hope.

So we could hold onto love when everything else dances and twirls just out of reach. When everything else is as fragile and intangible as sunbeams through glass. When everything else is burned and dried. We remember.

We are loved.

Monday, December 16, 2013

For the broken this Christmas...

"I'm broken."

His voice cracks along with the words, like the holes in his heart are too wide to be contained vocally. Too shattered with the devastation of what he expected life should be or could have been and will never be. He confesses this bravely out loud, like a soldier weary of war, and her heart cracks too as she hears the break in his voice. And she desperately speaks truth, longing to make him whole, but fears the words just curl up in the fetal position at his feet and refuse to budge. Refuse to help. Refuse to sink in to the deep voids and fill.

"I'm broken."

And her heart breaks too, because she knows she can't fix it. Can't fix him. Can't fix the past or alter the present or bring life into the future. She's powerless to save although the depths of her soul longs to do just that.


The child's panicked voice pierces even over the steady hum of the hairdryer, and the warm contraption is dropped on the counter. "What? What's wrong?"

And tears are streaming down the cherub's face and her nose is red and her eyes are puffy and she can't speak, just grabs for mama's hand. "Come see. Come see."

And she follows, heart in throat. "What is it? You have to tell me." Then a brief silence as resignation and mama-instincts merge into one. "Did something break?" She doesn't have to ask, she already knows, and the obvious is confirmed by the nodding mass of dirty blonde curls.

"Look." The child's finger, shaky and tipped with chipped berry nail polish, points to the Peanuts nativity scene on the nook. And the tears drip fresh and Linus, the Shepherd boy, blanket in tow, has been decapitated. His head lies at the feet of baby Jesus wrapped in the swaddling clothes, still smiling, even though he's completely upside down and out of place.

And like the head, the child's heart breaks too, because she knows she can't fix it. Can't fix him. Can't fix the past or alter the present or bring life into the future. She's powerless to save although the depths of  her soul longs to do just that. 

She didn't remember the head had broken off years ago, and every season since, her mom had just propped the head atop the body, half resting against the side of the stable.

"It's okay, baby. It was already broken."

And the tears dry and the sobs slow to a whimper of relief.

And the mama's heart goes back to her friend. "I'm broken." And she weeps because she knows and she feels it and sees the answer in an equally broken Nativity. If he, too, could just rest his head at Jesus's feet, he'd be made whole. If he could lean the weight of his weary body against the side of the manger this season, he'd find life. Find purpose. Find intent.

Find Christmas.

This season is hard. It's dark and cold and it's waiting for joy and waiting for peace. There's more tear-stained pillows than yuletide bliss. There's more spiritual warfare than Christmas magic. There's more blood-streaked armor than crystal-white snow.

But this Christmas is perhaps the one that most relates back to the first. For the holding breath of the Chosen ones awaiting their Saviour. For the brutal murder of innocence and expectations. For the heart plucking hope from a hay-strewn manger.

For the broken longing to be made whole.

Because we're all, down deep, already broken.

So let the tears dry and the sobs slow to a whimper of relief as you come and rest at His feet.

Emmanuel. God IS with us.

Friday, December 6, 2013

When the season of "God with us" feels more like "God, where did You go?"

For me this season, Emmanuel "God with us", feels a whole lot more like "God, where did You go?"

It seems like everywhere I look right now there is heartache, tragedy, death, destruction, loss, and brokenness. Shattered pieces with sharp edges. Tear-streaked faces. Trembling hearts and shaky hands.

There's a lot of pain, and not a lot of Presence.

Broken hearts are crying out in a deafening roar, only to be met with holy silence.

I wanted to have the answers. Struggled to. Thought I did. Maybe.

Yet I feel it fading.

Suffocating darkness taking over, clouding out the light. Facts become doubts. Truth becomes suspicion. Motivation seeping into worthlessness. Hope crowded by dullness. Joy shoved aside by depression. Peace morphed into constant chaos of the soul.

I know there's a battle. Warfare waged. Especially here at Christmas, where the light of Christ should shine the brightest, should offer the MOST hope, the MOST joy, the MOST peace...

Yet suddenly, it's least.

Where did it go?

Can it even come back?

Maybe these questions are circling in your heart like vultures, too, pecking, diving, swooping, taunting, ready to go in for the kill. You've fought. You've tried. You've done all you can. You've prayed and read your Bible and sought God. Wrestled. Demanded answers. Begged for rescue. You were brave. You did "everything right" and yet nothing changed. The waves kept right on pounding, and now you can't breathe, and you know Jesus told you to keep your eyes above the waves but the saltwater is stinging them and you don't want to swim anymore. You're sinking, and you can't do anything about it, and you cry out, but it feels like He doesn't hear you.

You know there's a war, but the battlefield is so messy and there is so much blood and the causalities are piling up and your arm is sore from holding your sword. Your back hurts from all you carry and your armor is chinked and cracked and feels like more of a burden than protection. You're tired. So very tired.

It'd be easier to give up. So much easier. To put it all down and roll over and play dead. What's the fight worth, anyway, if everything just gets harder? If you're going down anyway? If you're drowning anyway?

My wise brother in Christ said something recently that resonated, and I think it all boils down to this one thing.

"When I feel like I can't fight anymore, when I can't go another step, I go back to this simple question - could I stop believing in Jesus? The answer is no, I can't."

Can you stop believing in Jesus?

I can't.

Even when it seems like NOTHING is fair and there is ONLY heartache and pain and despair. When it feels like the future ahead is bleak and hopeless, when it feels like everything you've ever known is crumbling or maybe never even existed in the first place...I can't stop. I won't stop.

My friend said to me "We can't stop believing, because we know the truth, and its because of that truth that you'll come  through this, and this will pass."

Do you believe that? Do you feel that glimmer of hope in your soul? It's tiny, so tiny -- I know. But it's there. Let it grow. Let it shimmer. Don't douse it.

My friend said "Jesus is strong when you're weak, and even when you can't see Him or feel him or hear Him, He is still fighting for you."

He's still fighting. Even when you can't.

Surrender your battle. Not to the enemy, but to our fierce, loving Warrior. He won't be silent forever. He won't let you drown. It might feel like you're coughing up water and choking on the tears, but He's got you.

Let Him carry you a while. Then get back in it. Because the battle is REAL. And all of this DOES matter. You matter. Your reactions and responses matter. Your influence matters - probably a lot more than you will ever realize.

Emmanuel. God with us.

He first came thousands of years ago on a cold, dark night - and He'll come on this, your cold, dark night of the soul, too.

Don't stop asking for Him to come. Don't stop looking, even when you're sure He's given up on you. He hasn't. Don't stop seeking, even when you're certain He's gone. He's not. Just wait.

Don't stop believing.

Don't stop.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The clowns can't touch you...

A week before Halloween, I somehow ended up at a haunted corn maze. (maize? haha. Sorry. Couldn't resist)

Let me preface with, I don't do scary. Halloween time or not, I just don't do scary. Hate scary movies. Hate fear. Hate that feeling that lingers after a scary movie and taps you on the shoulder hours later when you're climbing your porch stairs in the dark. I hate horror and weird and foreign and other-worldly. Not my thing. And it's not even so much a spiritual conviction, though there is that a little, as much as it is a personal preference/personality thing. Not who I am.

So for me to end up at this haunted corn maze was quite the ordeal and a step out of the box for me. I went with a bunch of friends from my ministry group (we were chaperoning a youth group of teenagers from a local church - and if you disagree with a church taking teens to something "scary", that's totally fine, but that's not the point of this post ::wink::)

This is a pretty awesome place in a nearby town here in Louisiana, featuring two haunted "mazes" in corn fields (they're not really mazes because you can't get lost, they're more like cut paths through a huge corn field) and a real, legit, non-haunted corn maze that you really can wander around in for hours, along with a bunch of concessions, games for kids, bounce houses, duck races, paintball shooting, etc. Good times!

So there we were. We all formed a line to go into the first scary "maze", which is really just a bunch of people in costume jumping out of the corn at you in the dark. It's more hilarious than scary, but the adrenaline and anticipation is pretty legit. There's signs everywhere reminding you that the actors can't touch you, so please don't touch them (they have these signs for people like my friend who throat-punched a monster once at one of these things and almost got arrested. bahahah) It's all fun and games and lighthearted. A safe thrill, if you will. (sorry for the rhyme).

The first maze was hysterical, because I was already worked up and was double fisting the back of our leader's hoodie. I had one guy friend in my ear making spooky giggles, another teasing me "hey watch out. hey WATCH OUT" every two feet and getting in my head.

Someone stepped out of the corn in a Scream mask, and I nearly knocked over our 6 foot tall leader trying to get to his other side. I could feel the presence of the actor behind me, but I figured it had moved on to leer at people behind me. I tried to shake it off.

Then I heard someone say "Hey Betsy, look behind you."

Uh, no thanks. I kept my eyes straight ahead, my fists bunched up in my friend's hoodie, and kept walking. Despite my spine tingling and my hair standing on end and that eerie sensation that told me YES something terrible is right behind you - I didn't look. I kept walking. Congratulating myself on my bravery and focus and self discipline on not totally losing it.

Then a stalk of corn brushed against my ankle and I lost it.

Like, charged-ahead-full-steam-and-climbed-up-the-back-of-the-near-stranger-in-front-of-me-for-dear-life lost it.  I made grown adults run screaming away from ME because I was the one scaring the mess out of THEM, because they didn't know what had freaked me out so badly. They just assumed they needed to get away too.

Absolutely hysterical.

Once in line for the second maze, I was more prepared, and less on edge. I had experience now, I was an expert. I got this. Monsters coming out of corn? Psshh. No biggie. Bring it on. I had conquered. I was DA WOMAN.

Until I realized this maze had clowns.

Sorry, I just fainted a little at the memory.

Yes. Clowns.

Did I mention I don't do clowns?

I mean, like, I have run red lights in my car to get away from clowns. I have screamed in a clown's face (as an adult!) and taken off running down a strip mall plaza IN PUBLIC to get away from a clown.

I don't do clowns.

So when I'm standing in line to go in this next maze, and see a clown with the horror mask from the movie "It" (yeah - don't watch it!) draped over the fence, staring at the crowd in line, I almost lost it again, and wasn't even in the maze yet. Talk about my worst nightmare. I almost sat it out. But everyone teased and encouraged me to go for it. (and I didn't want to stay outside by myself with clowns nearby!) So I gather my wits just in time to see two of the guys from our group coming back from TALKING TO THE CLOWN and laughing.

Oh. NO.

Of course they wouldn't tell me what was said. So for the next twenty minutes, I had one mission in life.


As in, stay away from clowns.

Pretty basic.

And a little more difficult than it sounds.

This maze wasn't just a corn maze but consisted of crudely constructed rooms/shacks, in which you have to duck under and between fabric and strips of materials, with strobe lights going off in your face, crazy scenes set up on all sides, climbing over bridges and uphill terrain. In the DARK. With clowns randomly approaching you along with other various horror creatures.

Sorry, I just fainted again.

I made it through, though I probably owed my leader a new hoodie now, and emerged on a dirt path that led up hill to The End. Redemption was in sight. The finish line. We had almost made it.

There was a clown on the side of the path between me and the finish line.

I mustered everything I had, placed myself on the far side of my group leader, get a new grip on the hoodie, and make like the Little Engine That Could. I think I can, I think I can...

Until the clown on the path ahead lifted up his mask and called up the trail, "HEY!! BETSY'S COMING."

Sorry, I just fainted again.

That's right. The clown knew my name.

In the back of my mind, before I abandoned the hoodie of protection and took off sprinting, I realized that probably, my two silly friends had told the clown my name at the beginning of the maze when they had been teasing me. None of this really took root, however, as I flew up the path, past the clown, and deep into the night. Screaming.

I survived, clearly, but was told later that night that my friends had not approached the clown on their own to trick me. The clown had actually WAVED THEM OVER and asked who I was.

He sought me out.

If that doesn't just make you wanna curl up in the fetal position.....

Sorry, just fainted again.

All in all, it was a fun night, with a great story to tell and fellowship and a ton of laughter afterward, but as always, God doesn't let me experience much without revealing some sort of lesson in it. And this metaphor for me was so obvious, I had to share it with all of you.

So many times in life, we end up on a scary trail. Sometimes it's one we choose , however unintentionally or intentionally by consequences or results of sin or choices, and other times the path chooses us and we don't have a choice but to walk and see it through. Sometimes on that trail, fear taps us on the shoulder, doubts lurk right behind us, and courage fails. Sometimes on that trail, the fear is so thick and suffocating it's a tangible presence looming, threatening, consuming...

And when those moments come, there is only one thing to do.

We keep our eyes straight ahead, our fists bunched up in our security blanket (Jesus), and we keep walking. Just us and Jesus. Despite our spine tingling and our hair standing on end and that eerie sensation that tells us YES something terrible is right behind you - we don't look. We keep walking. Not in denial of the evil, not in denial of the fear, but rather in resistance to it, resistance to giving the enemy what he wants.

And sometimes, those fears know our name. They see us coming a mile away and are ready for us. The enemy of our souls has that target in his sights and he knows exactly where to aim. So in those cases, we flee. Just like I hauled butt up that path, we are to flee temptation, not cave to it or cower under it. We get the heck out of there and come out the other side, cramping and gasping for air but unscathed. Victorious.

And on those occasions that we can't manage to run, when we are too weak to flee, and we do give in, we remember the sign. The clowns can't touch you. Oh they can scare you. They can get in your face, and hover, and linger, and torment, but they can't touch you. They can't take you away. Because even in your sin, if you're a believer, you belong to Jesus. His hoodie of protection drapes you and covers you and protects you from being consumed. And when you cry out and repent and call His name, He is waiting there to carry you out to safety.

The clowns can't touch you.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ode to a Miracle Snail

The last week has been rough.

It seems every evening Little Miss (my kindergartner) and I butt heads. I know part of this is because she's 5, and it's that age and stage, and she's so advanced that the sass starts sooner...some days she's like a mini-teenager. But I also know that part of it is her dealing with the situation we are in within our family and processing her own pent up anger and frustration and confusion.

It's such a layered, complicated situation, and the unfairness of it all drives me to my knees and to tears almost every night. At times, it seems too big, too overwhelming - and when I think about the reasons it has come to this, I struggle with anger and bitterness. Which I don't want to do. So it's easier to let it all go, to push the deeper layers aside, and just deal with the surface level tantrums one at a time than dwell on the real issues.

But you can only do that for so long, and tonight, this all came to a head in the form of a green snail.

Little Miss loves her stuff. Gifts are her love language by far, and she collects miscellaneous items like a rocker collects guitars. And they're just as valuable to her. The "junk" you get at the dollar store or from school fundraisers will light up her life like the 4th of July. It's unbelievable. So when she was cleaning out her toys the other night and found her long lost little green snail squishy light up toy, well, it was better than Christmas morning. She was ecstatic.

Until she lost it again.

So we spent a good long while searching. Gave up. She searched more later. Gave up. We forgot about it. Then she remembered it. And cried for literally hours off and on. We searched again. I mean, everywhere. In all her buckets of toys. All her drawers in her room. Under the couches. We talked through when she had seen it last and what she thought might have happened to it. No avail. We searched everywhere obvious and then in desperation, I checked the not so obvious places like the pantry and refrigerator.

All the while, I was growing more and more frustrated, because A. I didn't understand why the snail was so important in the first place, B. her tears were stressing me out and causing my own emotional over-reaction, C. the fact that something wasn't where it should be just made me mad and D. This was taking up so much time I didn't have that I needed to be doing a hundred other things.

Along with  the truth that with everything else going on this week, it felt like just one more battle lost. I needed a victory, and I needed it bad.

I started unloading the dishwasher and sinking into a depression while she sniffled on the couch. I prayed, and ranted, and vented to God silently while banging dishes around. Nothing was fair. Nothing was right. This wasn't about a green snail anymore. It was about so, so much more. And it was ugly.

Finally, I finished the dishes, dried my eyes, and went and held her. She was trying to put on a brave face. Said it didn't matter. Said I didn't have to look anymore. Lower lip quivering, holding her stuffed animals, she looked exactly like I felt. Forgotten, lost, defeated.

I held her and with tears dripping into her hair, we watched a cartoon and pretended together it didn't matter. Brave warrior princess faces on, but armor tattered and torn. I closed my eyes and silently asked God with the little bit of mama strength I had left to show me where the snail was. I asked for His glory, and for her happiness, that He just right then, right there, supernaturally TELL ME where the snail was.

Immediately, and I do mean immediately, an image of our computer desk in my office popped in my head. I didn't even argue. I threw back the blanket, walked away, didn't say a word of explanation, just walked to the computer desk. Opened the top drawer.

And stared directly into the googly eyes of a little green squishy light up snail.

I started giggling and couldn't stop for thirty minutes. That kind of giddy, in awe, disbelief sort of laugh that comes from your toes, that comes from realizing the God of the universe really does see, and really does care. And was a dead-center-target-hit for me that if God cares about the location of a little green squishy light up snail, He cares about the big things in my heart. And He's in charge of those too.

I presented the snail to Little Miss, who lit up like a Christmas tree. It was a happy moment. And with my teary eyes looking into her own hopeful watery gaze, I told her exactly what had happened. And got to teach her a lesson she'll never forget about the goodness of our Heavenly Daddy and His love for us that is comparable to none.

He is good. He is enough. And He still gives gifts to His kids.

Big ones. Little ones.

And green ones.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Peace for Single Moms

I'm so honored to host Jennifer Maggio today on my blog and feature her new book.

And guess what? She's doing a GIVEAWAY! :)  Yay for freebies.

Jennifer's ministry is amazing - she is ALL ABOUT single moms, and has such a passionate, Spirit-filled heart for that demographic. Because she sees them all individually for who they are, not as a niche or a market or a generalization - she sees hearts. Not labels.

And she can do this because for a season in her life, she was one.

We all know the most effective ministry and outreach comes through pain, and identifying with your audience. Jennifer has that down, and God has done amazing works in her life. Please check out her guest post below and leave a comment to win a free copy of her book! You won't be disappointed.

Thanks! :)

Finding Calm in the Chaos by Jennifer Maggio

            Eighteen years ago, I gazed into the eyes of my unbelievably beautiful first-born. I sat in the hospital room alone. It was the first of many nights, many years, that I would spend parenting my son alone. It wasn’t long before I found myself curled in a ball in the middle of my cold, bathroom floor, crying hysterically. I was convinced that no one could possibly understand the depths of my pain. When would this misery end? I was broken. I was exhausted. I had no money, few friends, and no hope. How was I going to raise a child alone for 18 years? How could I make it financially? Would my circumstances every change?

            That is my story – the story of a lonely single mom, living on government assistance, running from God, and feeling I couldn’t push through. The next several years brought a winding road of highs and lows, victories and defeats. But I did push through. I made it through those early years of parenting alone. Although I hadn’t been in years, I became involved in my local church, rededicated my life to the Lord, and slowly began the journey of digging myself out of a financial and emotional hole. My heart found rest. I leaned on the Lord, when everyone else had failed me. And I never forgot what it was like to be that lonely, overwhelmed single mom. That little baby I held oh so long ago is now eighteen, thriving, and the joy of my life.

            My new book, Peace and the Single Mom: 50 Moments of Calm in the Chaos, exists to walk another single mother through the certain loneliness she has felt, but also to guide her to God’s faithfulness, to wholeness, to humor, and ultimately, to peace. It was written as my “thank you” for all God has done in my own life. It was written as my encouragement to that mom who feels no one understands.

Single moms don’t need just another sermon preached at them. They don’t need another book that makes them feel they are light years away from being a good Proverbs 31 woman! They want to hear about God’s grace, His faithfulness, His unconditional love. They want to learn to laugh again. My hope is that Peace and the Single Mom does just that!

  Picture Peace and the Single Mom as your girl-time with me, as we sit in your living room, sipping coffee, with our feet on the furniture.

Jennifer Maggio is an award-winning author and speaker whose personal journey through homelessness, severe abuse, and single parenting leaves audiences riveted. She is founder of The Life of a Single Mom Ministries and Overwhelmed: The Single Moms Magazine. For more info, visit

Monday, November 11, 2013

Controversy, stilettos, & seeing the future

I've discovered something lately....

You get a lot of feedback when you're going through a divorce.

Shocker, huh? Yeah. Lots of advice - some of which you need, some of which you want, and some of which you neither need nor want. I've learned by now to filter the advice and opinions, and have created a system of sorts for who I listen to and how serious to take the advice I do get.

Because in these sticky, complicated, messy, gray situations of life, there really aren't a lot of clear cut right and wrong answers. And if you've never been in this particular pair of shoes of mine (which I am rockin' now, by the way, and have decided are silver, open-toed and boast a stiletto heel ::wink::), well, be careful. Be cautious. Be AWARE of what you say to someone if you can't truly understand. And by all means, don't SAY you understand when you simply don't. If you actually DO understand, then that means you've been here, so at that point, by all means, bring on the advice :)

I have been SO blessed that God brought me several friends at this time in my life, some of who literally do understand, and some of who don't, but who all encourage me, love me, and give me sound advice regularly. Wow, that's priceless!! I have the people in my life I vent to and expect nothing back but sad smiley's and murmurs of compassion - perfect. I have the people in my life I vent to and receive Godly wisdom and the hard stuff advice from - perfect. I have the people in my life I vent to and receive pep talks and encouragement and "you da man" from - perfect. I have the people in my life I vent to who have been there and give me the "I remember that feeling, you're normal, don't worry, it will pass" from - perfect.

It takes a village.

But not all advice from those in your shoes is automatically good for you (or me) either. That goes back to that filter I mentioned. You need to first filter everything through God's word, and after that, through your own common sense God gave you and through your conviction experience with the Holy Spirit. Something might or might not be addressed specifically in God's word, and that's when you go to someone godlier and wiser than you, and get alone with God long enough to run it by Him.

He'll meet you, every time.

And that's where my post gets controversial.

When this divorce journey first began in February, I Googled a lot. I mean, a LOT. I drank in articles, blogs, chat forums, and online support groups like a dehydrated woman. And in some ways, I WAS very dehydrated. I was dehydrated for hope. But I was searching for it in the wrong places. Instead of bringing it all to God, I was bringing to other people, desperate for "proof" or "omens" in the success stories of other marriages being restored. I was looking for signs under every rock that this wasn't actually going to happen and that my husband would return and things would go back to normal and this would all just be a very very bad dream.

Literally under every rock.

And it almost killed me.

It actually DID kill a portion of my heart for a long time that God has recently breathed back to life. Because while I was scrambling to fix things myself and make things happen that I couldn't possibly and begging Him for a miracle, I forgot to actually seek Jesus. I didn't want Him so much as I wanted what He could perhaps do for me and change in my circumstances.

::Insert loud buzzer here::

That never works.

And one of the ways I got myself hurt was by investing time and energy into a group that were "standing for their marriages".

Don't throw rocks yet. Hear me out.

I wasn't in the right place to be in that group. Because of where my heart was, where my anxiety level had peaked, where depression knocked on my back was dangerous. Not helpful. I was still depending far too much on man at that point in my journey.

**Disclaimer - Now, in that search, I did come across a small group of ladies online who actively prayed together once a week via conference call for their marriages, and oh my goodness, that was very much a God-ordained thing and led me to a close friendship with a woman who is now divorced, and texts with me every day. God put us in each other's life for encouragement and fellowship and support, and that was NOT a mistake or accident. I am blessed that He led me to her. **

That said, however, there are many groups and blogs and support communities online that in my honest opinion, go overboard in their faith.

Don't throw rocks!! Hear me out.

That sounds harsh and bold, but think about it. Some of these groups preach a theology that basically says "if you hang on long enough and pray hard enough, God WILL restore your marriage - no matter what". They twist Scriptures to back this up and bring hope to desperate, hurting, aching souls that, like me at the time, were so eager to hear anything to support that dream that they wallowed in their pain a whole lot longer than they had to.

How damaging is that?

Because you know what? That's not always true. That's not always the case. Yes, there are a million testimonies of restored marriages and the impossible being  made possible and that is AWESOME. I am all for that. Yay God!!!

But there's also a lot that don't get restored despite the prayers and dedication and 'standing' of a wife or husband. There's just as many or more stories where the other person in the marriage DIDN'T change or didn't repent or didn't come around. Despite prayer. Despite fasting. Despite pleading and tithing and begging and bribing and waiting for years. There were women in that group who had literally been waiting decades for their "prodigal husband" to come back and he had already been remarried for years.

That's fine for them if that's their decision. I applaud that and support them. It's admirable in many circumstances and in many ways.

I didn't feel led to commit to that type of stand, and had to leave that environment because it was hurting me more than helping me.

And when I started asking questions and backing off a little and doubting my "stand", I got talked down to. Accused, basically. Dissed, essentially. Because I was "giving up". I was failing, not strong enough to stand for my marriage no matter what.

Talk about salt in a wound.

It got me thinking. Was I wrong for not dedicating myself to that same kind of "stand"? WAS I failing somehow in my faith by not staying in it all hardcore when I had been abandoned? What was black and white here? Where was the line between doormat and stander? Where was the line between living your faith and denying reality/losing your mind?

So gray.

But here's my final revelation on the point, and I will "stand" by it all day long:

I believe, firmly, with my whole heart now, that God calls some women (and men) to stand for their marriages. And others He does not.

Because here's the key factor - HE SEES THE FUTURE.

He knows in advance which spouse will return and which ones won't. He knows what deserted/abandoned heart needs to take that position and which ones don't. He knows which wounds will heal in that circumstance and environment and which ones will get infected.

In other words, it's a case by case basis. If God knows so-and-so's husband is never going to return, never going to repent, never going to make that heart change and get his life right, and is going to remarry and start a family elsewhere, then why on earth would God call her to stand for that marriage and hope and pray and wait by the window for the rest of her life?

That's not how God operates.

Proverbs 13:12 " A hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."

Bottom line - if He puts that commitment to stand in your heart, it's for a specific reason. And if you are walking with God and thriving in Him and bringing Jesus into every area of your life, daily - and it's still not there - then that's also for a specific reason.

No judgment. No condemnation. No "this is the only way to do this" type statements.

Because there shouldn't be, and there's not.

And don't get me started on those who have strong opinions one way or another on whether or not it's okay to date or see other people while you are separated, or after you are recently divorced, or whatever. Again - let them make those decisions with God, because His opinion is the only one they need to be worried about anyway. Trust me, they have enough on their plate without having to think in advance about all those prickly possibilities and make commitments they won't know yet if they can carry out.

The worst thing you can do to a broken heart or a wounded soul is give it a brochure of rules.

If you want to help someone going through a divorce, please - put the rocks down. And then hand them a Kleenex and a piece of chocolate.

I like Dove & Twix :)

So, what do you think about all of this? I want an honest discussion, with no rock throwing, on my revelation/theory about standing for marriage. Whether you are in this situation or not, please chime in and let's get some debate going potentially. I'm very open to all opinions because ignoring these topics only make them worse.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A dash of controversy...

Just a heads up..

I'm working through some thoughts regarding a revelation I had a few days ago, and will be posting about  it all soon. It could be a potentially explosive/controversial subject for anyone who has ever gone through a struggling marriage or been through a divorce or been left, etc.- BUT - I'm hoping and praying for positive feedback and a good discussion that uplifts and draws us closer to Jesus and away from condemnation.

Pray with me on that in advance, will you? :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I'm not supposed to tell you...

There's something I probably shouldn't talk about. Or at least, it seems forbidden to do so...

But right now, in this season, if I don't talk about it, then I don't talk at all. And if I don't talk, then you'll never know how much Jesus has done for me and is doing in me and has promised to do for me in the future. And if I don't share THAT, and if I don't shout His goodness, then the Bible says the rocks will, and well - that could make for all kinds of car wrecks and strained necks and heart attacks, so...

I'm going to talk.

But our culture sort of dictates otherwise, doesn't it? Don't air your dirty laundry. Don't reveal your weakness. Don't let the cracks of brokenness show.

Yet if Jesus is washing that laundry and providing that strength training and filling those empty can I keep silent?

I can't.

I'm not supposed to tell you I'm going through a divorce. I'm not supposed to tell you that I didn't want it. I'm not supposed to tell you that my world got ripped out from under me on February 11 of this year and hasn't completely found it's balance yet. I'm not supposed to tell you that almost 9 months later there are STILL full days of complete Alice and Wonderland foreign nonsense, a land that makes zero sense and has tiny doors and giant hats and cats with creepy smiles.

I'm not supposed to tell you about the times that simply taking out the trash rendered me to tears because it used to be a chore I didn't ever do. I'm not supposed to tell you about the times folding socks made my chest literally ache because the absence of male socks in the pile broke my heart all over again. I'm not supposed to tell you of the times over the past 9 months that I left tear stains in the carpet and lost my voice yelling at no one at all and didn't cook for 4 months straight because I couldn't handle the pain of cooking for one.

I'm not supposed to tell you of the times I left a fellowship or get-together with friends and drove home, alone, bawling my eyes out the entire way, blinded by loneliness and the dread of the empty house awaiting me. I'm not supposed to tell you about the nights I had to borrow a friend's noise machine just to sleep at a few fitful hours. I'm not supposed to tell you about the days I had to leave work because I couldn't fake a smile a single second longer or the days I drove to a lake and parked and stared because I couldn't even pray. I'm not supposed to tell you about the time I started crying in a department store because I walked past the men's section and didn't have a reason to buy a new T-shirt or ball cap just-because anymore.

I'm not supposed to talk about the pain, the confusion, the hurt, the betrayal, the loss, the chaos that comes from a dark night of the soul, a night where the clock hands stick on midnight and tick endlessly toward a dawn that never quite seems to arrive.

But I AM going to tell you about the time Jesus cried on the floor beside me, the time He held me and rocked me and understood because His heart hurt too. I WILL tell you about the time He wiped my tears and lifted my head and whispered promises that somehow were just louder than the lies bombarding me. I AM going to tell you about the time He gave me a heart shaped rock just when I asked for one, about the time He blessed my heart with a sunrise that took my breath away, about the time He parted the clouds and graced my face with a sunbeam and whispered that I was His sunshine. I WILL tell you about the time He held my hand when I couldn't stop stumbling and tripping and reminded me I wasn't alone. I will preach forever about the grace He gave me that I didn't deserve, about the unconditional love that is the only substance capable of reaching the bottomless depths of my heart.

I AM going to tell you about the times He ministered to me through godly men and women in Authentic Ministries, who took me in like family and loved me with zero questions asked and zero judgment passed, who prayed with me and over me and for me. Of the times He sent me friends at just the right moment to offer escapes and laughter and chocolate and coffee and reminded me there was still goodness all around me.  I WILL talk about the time He reminded me of His plans for my future and shared specifics with me that were so big, they made me laugh but also made me believe. I WILL tell you of the time He walked beside me down a cracked sidewalk when I felt utterly alone surrounded by people, and told me He was my date. I WILL tell you of the time He heard my heart's cry for a particular praise and worship song I hadn't heard in months, and gave it to me live and in person through extremely talented people twice in less than a week.

I am definitely going to talk about how He carefully collected the shattered, broken pieces of my heart and painstakingly began a masterpiece mosaic that is still a work in process, but will one day be museum-gallery-worthy. I will never shut up about His goodness, His faithfulness, His love, His mercy and His heart for me, that I do not deserve in any way yet can't get enough of...

Because isn't that what grace is, anyway? Undeserved favor. The Lord is near to the broken-hearted, and you'll never convince me otherwise because I've lived it. I'm still living it.

And I'm still talking about it.

And don't plan to stop.

Because the rocks just won't do it justice.

A new favorite...

This is SO pretty. I love this song. And her voice is stunning. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

A piece of my heart...

So I want to introduce you to a ministry I'm involved with here in Shreveport, called Authentic!! :) Listen to this 3 minute video for me (I'm in it! I'm a movie star ::wink::) and hear a piece of my heart.

God has used this ministry in ways to truly rescue me, and if you feel led to be a part or donate, I would be eternally (literally) grateful. You have NO IDEA the impact your financial donation and simply your prayers can have on this ministry and the people involved. Trust me. NO IDEA.

God is up to big things here. As a personal favor to me, please consider being a part, whether in support financially or prayerfully. :)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

This song has been everywhere...

Have you heard it? :)

Such a blessing.

Posts coming, I promise. So much going on lately. I need to catch up!!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

No comparisons here...

They played this song over and over at the retreat I did in Colorado last weekend (John and Stasi Eldredge "Captivating Advanced" event) and wow, did God use it to touch my heart. Maybe it will touch you today.

Give it a listen :)

(Will be sharing some of what I learned at the retreat here soon!)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


HA! The post before this one got hung up in my blog queue and was supposed to go out a week ago.

Oh dear.

Let's just say it's been Monday all week ;)

Strep throat and tow trucks and breaks up, OH MY

What a week!

I just realized I hadn't blogged in like seven days...probably because in the past 3, my car died, got stranded at O'Reilly's Auto Parts, and towed to a mechanic the next day (the SAME day my kindergartener got strep throat and missed two days of school) and then I bought a car.

Yep. Was officially OVER breaking down all the time, never knowing which sensor and warning lights on my dash were legit or just a malfunction, not being able to see my odometer at night to see how fast I was going because that bulb was burned out, having to buy new tires almost every year...over the cracked windshield and faded fire dept. window decals that no longer apply to me. Over the stained seats and floor mats. Over the blind spots and the way it never seemed to match what speed I was apparently actually going (said a cop).

Over it.

So, Tuesday this week, my Sebring and I broke up. DONE. Finished. OVER. And there was no "it's not you, it's me." No, it was ALL the Sebring! haha.

Don't worry. My new Camaro and I are very VERY happy together :)

FYI - I'm heading out of town in the morning for Captivating Advanced in Colorado, a women's retreat taught by Stasi Eldredge, and I am SO excited. Please pray for safe travels and for God to do a work in my heart in any way I need. And that I can be a blessing to someone there!

Thank you! How is YOUR week going so far?

PS - the story about my car and how it broke down will be coming next week ;)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

More quality fiction...

Quality fiction from author TESSA EMILY HALL...
Selena's life isn't turning out to be the fairy tale she imagined as a kid. That hope seemed to vanish long ago when her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. This summer might finally hold the chance of a new beginning for Selena ... but having to live with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab wasn't how Selena was planning on spending her summer. She soon begins to wonder why she committed to give up her "bad habits" for this.

Things don't seem too bad, though. Especially when Selena gains the attention of the cute neighbor next door. But when her best friend back home in Brooklyn desperately needs her, a secret that's been hidden from Selena for years is revealed, and when she becomes a target for one of her cousin's nasty pranks, she finds herself having to face the scars from her past and the memories that come along with them. Will she follow her mom's example in running away, or trust that God still has a fairy tale life written just for her?

Tessa Emily Hall is a 19-year-old author of Purple Moon, her YA Christian fiction novel to be published September 2013 by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. She is also the editor over the faith department for Temperance Magazine, a column writer for Whole Magazine, a contributing writer for More To Be, as well as the PR for God of Moses Entertainment. Other than writing, Tessa enjoys acting, music, Starbucks, and her Teacup Shih Tzu—who is named Brewer after a character in her book, as well as her love for coffee.
And now a Q&A with the author!!  :)
What inspired you to write “Purple Moon”?

I wanted to write a character-driven story about a teenager who has fallen way from the relationship she once had with God after her dad kicked her and her mom out of the house. In the story, Selena is forced to leave her apartment in NY and stay with her snobby cousin in Lake Lure, NC while waiting for her mom to get out of rehab. It was initially inspired by the song “By Your Side” by Tenth Avenue North, as well as the skit that many churches have performed to the song “Everything” by Lifehouse.

In what ways can you relate to your protagonist, Selena?

Even though Selena has a completely different past and family situation, I did incorporate a little bit of “me” in her.  For example: she’s passionate, a dreamer, an artist, somewhat of an introvert, has the same style as I do, a romantic, and loves coffee a little too much. I've also given her some of my flaws. However, when I wrote “Purple Moon”, I mainly tried crafting Selena in a way that I hoped many teenagers would be able to relate with—whether they share the same backstory as she does, possess many of the same qualities, or are experiencing some of the same struggles that Selena deals with in “Purple Moon”.

When did you start writing Purple Moon, and how long did it take?

I started writing the first version of “Purple Moon” when I was fifteen. When I was sixteen, I completed the first draft and landed a publishing contract with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. It’s difficult to pinpoint how long it took to complete “Purple Moon”—the more I learned about the writing craft, the more I continued wanting to go back and rewrite the story or add a few changes. However, I have finally reached a point where I am happy with the story and can’t wait to get it in the hands of my readers.

What are you working on now?

I just completed my second book, “Unwritten Melody”, which is going to be a stand-alone novel. As of now, I am brainstorming and beginning to write the first draft of “Fallen Leaves”, which will be the second book of the Purple Moon Series and a continuation of Selena’s journey throughout the next season of her life. I am also going on a blog tour this fall and will continue to write the teen column for Whole Magazine.

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing career?

I hope to never stop writing, whether or not that includes having my work published or seeing my name on the best seller list. I hope to never stop encouraging people—especially teenagers—to follow their dreams. But more than anything, I hope that my stories will represent the power of God’s unending love and His transforming grace. That’s my number one goal, my number one reason for wanting to pursue writing for the rest of my life.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sneak peek...

A sneak peek...

of my upcoming August 2014 release with Zondervan!!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fiction draws us near...

There's been a longstanding debate in the church on whether or not fiction is worth reading. Some hold fast to the viewpoint that fiction is a waste of time, that one should only read their Bible and nonfiction works that draw us nearer to a knowledge of God.

Well I'm here to tell you that since I was about 11 years old, God has used FICTION to draw me nearer to His heart. :)  And it's because of authors who have hearts for Him and desire to use their lives and talent to bring Him glory through relatable characters, entertaining plots, and an inspiring message of hope and grace.

Check out this work of quality fiction by my friend LIZ JOHNSON...

SEAL Under Siege (September 3, 2013)
by Liz Johnson

When Staci Hayes is rescued from a Mideast prison by navy SEAL Tristan Sawyer, she thinks the ordeal is over. But back in San Diego, a new threat arises. Staci has information that could prevent a hit on U.S. soil, and the terrorist will stop at nothing to silence her. Tristan insists on being her bodyguard, but his constant presence makes her long for things beyond her reach. Protecting Staci is the second chance Tristan needs to put the past behind him. Yet with a spy on the naval base, anyone could be a threat. Can he offer her safety…and love? 

About the Author:

By day Liz Johnson is a marketing manager for a Christian publisher. She finds time to write late at night and is a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. Liz makes her home in Nashville, TN, where she enjoys theater, exploring local music, and making frequent trips to Arizona to dote on her nieces and nephews. She loves stories of true love with happy endings and blogs about her adventures in writing at Follow her online at or

Links to retailers carrying the book:

            “You said I was safe. You said you’d protect me.”
            “I did. You made it safely home, didn’t you?” His words were short but not unkind.
            “I made it home, anyway.”
            Those blue eyes sliced into hers.
            “What does that mean?”
            “Someone has been following me, and I think it’s the same man from Lybania.”
            His arms crossed over his broad chest, the sleeves of his t-shirt pulling snug around his biceps. He looked so intimidating.
            “Did you call the police? Tell them you’re being stalked, and they can look into it for you. They can handle things like that.”
            “They wouldn’t help me.” If she had any idea how to face down the man following her on her own, she would. But since she didn’t, she had to convince the lieutenant to help.
            Taking a first step toward him, she pointed her finger at his chest. “Listen to me. I’m in trouble, but it’s not just me. I don’t know the name of the man who’s after me, but I know what I heard. He’s plotting to blow something up . . . here in San Diego.”