You’re Not Entitled


thCCETYUECToday there seems to be an overbearing sense of entitlement in our country. Many people believe they are entitled to various things such as being treated a certain way, certain benefits and earnings or certain material items. Some even believe they are entitled to happiness. Many of those who have these expectations have put forth very little effort to earn the very things they believe they are entitled to.

Even those who don’t think they have this attitude can quickly find themselves harboring feelings of entitlement that they may be completely unaware of. Take my husband for example. There is a gentleman he works with that brings my husband a Dr. Pepper to work every day. Not some days, not occasionally, but every day. My husband never asked for him to bring the Dr. Pepper. He just did so because he noticed Dave would sometimes buy one from the vending machine and he began bringing one in for Dave because he’s a kind and thoughtful person. Dave looked forward to the drink every day and knew he could rely on his friend to bring him one.

Then one day his friend failed to bring him a Dr. Pepper. He had run out and hadn’t had a chance to go to the store. Dave confessed to me when he got home from work that he actually felt deprived that he didn’t get his daily dose of Dr. Pepper. Although his friend didn’t owe him the drink, had never asked if Dave  wanted the drink or forced it upon him but simply offered him the drink each day out of the goodness of his heart – Dave felt he was entitled to it. And when he didn’t get what he felt was owed to him, he felt disappointed.

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It happens sometimes without our even realizing it. We begin to believe we deserve more than we do. We take on the attitude that we are owed something. And most of the time it’s something we know we haven’t earned. We just want it and we want it now.

There is one thing and one thing only that we are entitled to. And ironically, it’s the one thing we deserve the least. We are entitled to the free gift of salvation. What we really deserve is the punishment Jesus Christ endured on the cross for us. But His love for us is incomparable. Instead of allowing us to receive what we deserve, He gave His life so that we can be forgiven and set free from the power that sin holds over our lives. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died. And by doing so He ensured our entitlement to an eternity with Him in heaven if only we’ll  believe (Romans 10:9).

On this Memorial Day I want to share with you a wonderful saying I saw posted online. It said “Today I give thanks for the two defining forces who have offered to die for me and you – Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for our souls and the other died for our freedom.”

Please join me in giving thanks not only to those serving our country who sacrificed all but to the One who sacrificed to give you what He thinks you deserve.

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You and What Army?


When I was in middle school a common response when someone threatened to “beat another person up” was – “oh yea? you and what army?” In other words – “if you think you’re gonna take me down you better bring an army along with you because you’re gonna need it.”

Last night our cat, Dakota, was sitting on our porch minding his own business when the neighborhood bully cat started to head in his direction.  From the window I saw Dakota crouching lower and lower hoping to be invisible to his approaching nemesis. As the bully cat quickened his pace, I dropped what I was doing and ran straight to the door. As soon as I opened the front door the bully cat stopped in his tracks. I told Dakota to come inside but he didn’t budge. I yelled at the cat thug to go back where he came from. He didn’t budge. I turned to my husband sitting on the couch and said “I think we’re fixin’ to have a problem.”

Suddenly Dakota realized he was not alone. He had an “army” of me, Dave and my son, Scott all standing behind him and looking on. He leaped from the porch and headed straight toward the bully cat. His new-found boldness came from knowing that we were there and that we would protect him. So he decided to take the offensive and run the cat thug out of his yard and away from his home. Even though Dakota was pretty much powerless on his own because he was smaller and doesn’t have his front claws to fight with, in the moment he knew he had the strength t0 battle, not because of his own power but because of the power of those who stood with him.

thFNW1G6IRAs Christians we don’t have to battle our enemy, the devil, alone. Against such a formidable foe, we are virtually powerless in our own strength. But when we have God and His army of angels to wage war on our behalf, we can battle with confidence knowing the victory has already been won. But too many times we cower in fear when we face the enemy because we think we have to fight on our own. If we’d only respond by trusting that God is in the battle with us then we would confidently go after the enemy and chase him out of our lives whenever he comes near.

If the enemy is coming at you and threatening to attack remember that there is army in heaven ready to wage war. All you need to do is use the power you have available to you through prayer and call upon the promises of God’s word. Have faith in knowing that if we will submit ourselves to God and resist the devil then he will flee (James 4:7) and the victory will be ours.

When the Puzzle Pieces Come Together


thIRE44WN6I’m not much of a puzzle person. They seem like they would be fun to put together. But when I open the box and see all the pieces, I can’t envision the completed picture when all those pieces fit together. So I tend to give up before I even get started.

 

For the past 6 years God was putting together pieces of a puzzle in my life and I wasn’t even aware of it until it was completed. It all started when my family and I moved to Tennessee in 2007. We knew God was calling us there and we thought the reason was to take care of my grandmother. But six years later and with the puzzle complete I can see that there was so many more pieces that I didn’t recognize until the puzzle was completed.

 

Many times in our lives we can’t see how the challenges in our lives will fit together as part of God’s plan for us. We only see the individual pieces of our circumstances and fail to miss the big picture that He is creating. When we allow ourselves to focus on the chaos of all the pieces of the unformed puzzle, we miss the opportunity to trust God that He is putting all the pieces together according to His will for our lives. I spent most of the last 6 years focused on the individual pieces. I didn’t realize how God was putting it all together to form a beautiful picture of one of the most special seasons of my life.

 

Our move to Tennessee wasn’t an easy one. Florida was home. We had friends, church family, jobs and a wonderful home. We were excited to live near our family again but that’s where the excitement ended. But nevertheless, in December of 2007 we headed north – the first challenging piece of the puzzle.

 

We moved my 95 year old grandmother in with us almost immediately. It didn’t take long before all my preconceived expectations of having her live with us were shattered. Being a caretaker turned out to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done – the 2nd piece of the puzzle. And I spent much of my time fixated on this piece of the puzzle and wondering why God would place me in such an arduous position for so long.

 

And then there were the other responsibilities. I was also a wife, a mom, a church administrator, a small group leader, a children’s ministry teacher, the chief housekeeper and yard person, a friend, and a daughter to parents who no longer lived hours away but mere minutes. Balancing it all had become the 3rd piece of the puzzle and it was demanding much of my attention.

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And then it happened. After almost 6 years there, I experienced a moment I can’t really explain, but I know was from God. One morning while getting ready for church, God revealed to me a beautiful completed puzzle. And in an instance He showed me all the precious puzzle pieces that I had missed along the way because I was too focused on the bigger, more difficult pieces that didn’t seem to fit into my plan. He showed me how the difficult pieces had to be part of the puzzle in order for all the others to fit into their place during this time in my life.

 

There were the people – I met some of the most incredible and courageous women I’ve ever had the privilege to know. The military wives I came to know during that time blessed me in ways they will never know. The fact that our paths crossed was no accident. It was a purposeful plan from God to reveal Himself to me through them. To be able to witness God work in and through them is a gift I will forever cherish.

 

There was our church – I’ve never served with people like the Godly men and women I served with at our church in Tennessee. I will be eternally grateful for the impact they had on me. I learned how to live out the command of loving God and loving others by their example. There truly isn’t a more dedicated and loving group of servant leaders on this planet. I am blessed for having had the opportunity to serve alongside them for that season.

 

There was my family – it  was a blessing to be able to live near my parents again. I was able to build on my relationship with them after many years of living several states away and to see my children develop a lifelong bond with them that had not previously existed. It was a precious experience that included creating memories we will never forget. I was also able to reconnect with family that I had not seen in years and introduce my children to family members they probably never would have had the chance to meet had we not moved there.

 

There were my friends – I have a new best friend that I wouldn’t have in my life had it not been for our time there. She is the best friend I’ve waited a lifetime for and was there to encourage me for 6 years while I was focused on my problem puzzle pieces instead of the big picture. And I was also able to reconnect with a childhood friend whose friendship proved to be one of the more precious puzzle pieces of them all. The two of them kept me encouraged and made me laugh during a time that could have easily consumed me.

 

There was my grandmother – what I thought was a struggle was simply a small piece of a much bigger puzzle. In seeing the worst of myself revealed through the frustrations of being a caretaker, I realized just how desperate I am for more of Jesus in my life. He showed His incredible love for me by moving me out of the comfort of my life in Florida to a place where He could show me the areas where I needed to be transformed more into His likeness. And it was through my grandmother that God showed me His compassion and His incredible love for those we may find to be not so loveable. To have her in our home and for my family to have that experience was invaluable.

 

thJXHSSNIWSo when the storms and challenges of life hit you, remember that they are only a small piece of an incredible puzzle that God is putting together in your life. Keep your focus on trusting Him and His ability in all things to work for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). The pieces may seem like a chaotic mess but God will place them in the exact order to reveal a picture He created especially for you. And when that finished puzzle is revealed you will see God’s amazing love for you and know every piece was worth it no matter how difficult it was.

Behind the Scenes


thQZS2XXA1I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve told others “don’t focus on your situation. Keep your focus on God and trust Him to take care of everything even when you can’t see any changes occurring. He’s working behind the scenes in ways we can’t imagine. Just trust Him.”

Simple, right? Well, as they say, it’s easier said than done.

Recently we had our home for sale. We felt certain it would sell quickly  and the activity when we first listed the home confirmed to us that we’d have it sold in no time. The initial excitement quickly faded. People quit coming to look and no one was taking flyers from the “for sale” sign. And so it began. I started to doubt that it would ever sale even though I knew that we had prayed about it and we were certain that God had put in our hearts the desire to move. When there was activity I trusted God to work it all out. But as soon as the activity ceased, I began to doubt. I began to focus on what I could see (which wasn’t much at that point) and took my focus off of God.

thXZQCDBURHave you ever worked the curtains for a theater production? My son is an actor so as a stage mom, I’ve done my share of opening and closing the stage curtain. The job itself gives you an interesting vantage point. As you stand just offstage you have a unique view of what’s happening on both sides of the curtain. On one side you can see all the stagehands running around quickly and quietly backstage setting up the next scene and the actors hurriedly taking their places before the curtain begins to open. It’s ordered chaos as everyone works as fast as possible to make sure that everything is perfect when you begin to pull the rope.

th6UXI3G2COn the other side you can see the audience. They sit patiently and quietly waiting for the next scene to begin. They can’t see anything happening and they really have no idea everything that’s going on just beyond the curtain. But they trust that when that curtain opens, everything will happen just as the program they hold in their hand has promised it will. They can’t see what’s going on behind the scenes but they don’t sit in their seats thinking “we might as well go home because the play isn’t going to happen.” They know that even though they can’t see it, it will happen but only when everything that is going on behind the scenes has been perfectly set into its place.

Oh how I could have used that reminder when we were selling our house. When I couldn’t see anything happening I failed to remember that God had everything under control. That He was working behind the scenes, setting everything into place so that when the right moment came, the curtain would open and His perfect plan would be revealed.

thSOZHDE4YOne Sunday after church we were fixing lunch when someone rang the doorbell. I went to the door and there was a couple there. They asked if we would be willing to show them the house. The lady began to tell me that she had been looking at our house online for weeks. She had seen it as soon as it was listed and it was exactly what they’d been looking for. They hadn’t had a chance yet to come by in person because they lived out of town. She said she had looked at it online every day until that day and couldn’t wait to see it in person. Within three days of the showing, we had come to an agreement and they bought our house.

God was working behind the scenes. Even when I couldn’t see anything, He was at work orchestrating the sell of our home. I couldn’t see what was happening so I wrongly assumed that meant nothing was happening. I was focused on the lack of activity and my very limited ideas for a solution. I should have been focused on trusting God and believing that He can work things out in ways I could never imagine. It was a reminder (one of many in my life) that God is in control. Our job is not to figure out how things should happen or when. Our job is to trust Him and believe Him when He reveals a promise to us.

What has God promised you that, from your vantage point, doesn’t look like it’s going to happen? What is it that you have lost hope in? The problem may simply be that you lost focus – you’re eyes are focused on the situation and not on the One who is in control of it. Refocus and trust that there are things going on behind the scenes and when everything is in place, the curtain will open to reveal God’s perfect plan for you. 

 

My Soul Felt Its Worth


January 2014 514It’s been a weird couple of months. Really, it’s been a weird year. I’m not sure weird is the right word but it’s the only way I can think of to describe a year that didn’t go like I expected it to. I began the year planning a family vacation to Florida. Who knew 6 months later I’d be packing our household and planning our family’s move to Florida? More than ever before, 2013 was a year of realizing that God’s ways are definitely not our ways. (Isaiah 55:8). I would never had thought we’d end the year the way we did.

The year began good. My grandmother was still living with us and although taking care of her was not easy, it was something we had resolved to do as long as we were able to provide the care she needed. It became evident early in the year that she was at the point of needing around the clock care and our family made the difficult decision to move her to an assisted living home. With our newfound freedom and time we did a lot of remodeling and repairs to our home and were able to take some weekend trips which were both long overdue.

prayer 5As the fall approached our attention turned to our plan (God’s plan really – we were just following His lead) to move back to Florida. We packed, put the house on the market and took a house hunting to trip to find a new home in Florida. Our need for God’s direction and guidance was undeniable as we put our trust in Him alone to work out the details of uprooting our family and moving to a new state. We prayed a lot. We prayed for His favor in selling our home, His will for my husband’s job situation and for His wisdom as we made decisions involving the move. It’s funny how much we seek God when we need something and it’s not hard to keep our focus on Him when our need for Him is so great.

And then our prayers were answered and it all began to fall into place. The house sold, my husband got a job transfer and we settled on a place to live in Florida. My dependence on God diminished. The stress of moving and packing took my time and focus. The move approached way too quickly. I felt the desire to spend time with all the friends and family who meant so much to us and I wanted to personally say goodbye to each person who had impacted my life while living in Tennessee. But too many obligations and responsibilities tugged at my time and I left without being able to do so which added to the pressure I was feeling. I was consumed with the move and began to feel overwhelmed.

Samsung November 2013 983Moving day arrived and my youngest son and I watched the movers load our belongings onto the truck while my husband was at work. We had a good visit with my grandmother the day before moving day. She was in good spirits and felt well that day. The movers left and we loaded up the stuff we were moving ourselves including the dog and the cat and headed off to Florida. My husband still had another week to work before transferring and stayed behind to wrap up the loose ends.

While passing through Atlanta, my phone rang. It was the assisted living home. My grandmother wasn’t doing well and the Hospice nurse said they didn’t think she was going to make it. I couldn’t understand how one day she was fine and the next they were telling me that she had just days to live. Another reminder that God’s ways are not our ways.

We spent the weekend in our new home sleeping on an air mattress while we waited for the movers to arrive on Monday with our household goods. My mother and the nurse kept me updated on my grandmother’s condition, which was not good. Very early Monday morning my phone rang. I knew they were calling to tell me that she had passed away. Just 4 hours later the movers arrived with a semi-truck full of boxes. It was not an easy day and by the end of it I was an emotional mess.

I had just moved to a new state without my husband alongside. I had a new place filled with boxes that needed to be unpacked and organized. My grandmother, who had lived with us for the past 5 years, had passed away. I was feeling the guilt of not being there with my grandmother when she passed away and not saying all the things I should have said to her before I moved. I had not been to church in a couple of weeks and God was far down on my list of things to do. I felt distanced from Him and wanted to close that gap but couldn’t seem to slow down long enough to spend time with Him and in His presence.

My son and I traveled back to Tennessee for the funeral, to reunite with my husband and oldest son and then to travel again to spend Thanksgiving with family. It was a whirlwind. I needed God but just couldn’t seem to make it happen. I knew in my mind that He hadn’t gone anywhere. It was me. But for some reason I just couldn’t get it together. I was feeling pretty worthless.

Christmas approached and I lacked motivation to decorate or shop. We didn’t have a dining room table yet so we planned to eat Christmas dinner out at a restaurant which added to my lackluster holiday spirit. Unseasonably warm weather didn’t help the mood.

candlelight serviceThen came Christmas Eve. Our tradition has always been to attend a church service on Christmas Eve. Reluctantly I found a church to go to. I just wasn’t “into” Christmas and my struggle with getting back into God’s presence only added to my gloomy mood. I sat through the service and listened to the pastor read the Christmas story from the bible. I barely noticed that we took Communion because I was so distracted with my thoughts. The service was coming to an end and we stood to sing “O Holy Night”. I’ve sang that Christmas song so many times I can’t even remember. I know the words by heart. It’s one of my favorites.

But in a moment of time my world stopped when I sang these words – “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, til He appeared and the soul felt it’s worth.” I was overcome with emotions. God, in all His majesty, stopped time for me. He showed me His incredible love for me in a quiet Christmas Eve service in a small, nondescript church in Florida. My eyes were opened to the words I had just sang. I lay in sin and error but because of that baby born in the manager, the One who died for the sins I lay in, the One who loves me unconditionally, the One who loves me whether I pray every day and read my bible or whether I put Him at the bottom of my “to do” list, the One who loves me in spite of myself – He showed me my worth to Him through the words of a song on Christmas Eve. The next lines spoke to exactly how I felt in that moment. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees!” I wanted to do just that. I wanted to fall on my knees and rejoice.

God's loveI realized in that moment that I had allowed my feelings to take over my reality. My reality is that I am a child of God. I’m a born again believer that the Creator of the Universe finds invaluable even when I don’t “feel” like I have any value whatsoever. In an instance my eyes were once again opened to the love that He has for me and that whether I “feel” like it not, nothing will ever change that. Now that is reason enough for any of us who call Jesus Lord and Savior to fall on our knees (even if we don’t feel like it)!

Assessing the Danger


August 2013 1394On our recent vacation to Florida I was particularly aware of the warning flags that are posted on the beach. My children are older now and do not need me to be with them in the water or even at the beach with them at this point. Most days we all went together but sometimes they headed out earlier than their dad and myself. On those days I reminded them to pay attention to the warning flags so that they would know if the currents were strong that day or not. Having lived in Florida at one time, we are all too familiar with the dangers of rip tides so I wanted to ensure they were paying attention to the conditions and were well prepared.

My children are not trained to spot the dangers of the ocean. Neither are my husband and I as their parents. But what we learned on this vacation is that there are trained “spotters” who fly over the ocean each morning to assess the current and the threat level. They then pass on their assessment to the lifeguards and other personnel onshore who raise a particular color flag that represents the threat level as determined by the spotter.

August 2013 1384As untrained beachgoers, everything may look fine to us. The waves are crashing against the shore, the sun is shining, our sunscreen has been applied and we are ready to hit the water and have some fun in the surf and sand. We can be laughing and frolicking in the water completely unaware of the conditions that we are in. Our untrained eyes cannot spot the imminent danger of the currents. And without the warning from a trained and experienced individual, we could quickly find ourselves in danger.

As Christians we too need the training and experience of mature Christians to warn us when we may be facing imminent danger – danger that we may be completely unaware of. As a new believer I had much to learn about the dangers we face from our enemy, the devil. I was oblivious to the fact that he sets traps for us to draw us into temptation and away from the protection of our loving Father in heaven. I needed those who had been following Christ for much longer than me to disciple me and teach me how to spot the danger that was many times unseen by my untrained eyes. I needed trusted women in my life to show me when I was entering into relationships, behaviors or actions that might seem harmless on the surface but underneath could open the door to traps placed by a cunning and deceptive enemy who wanted nothing more than bring destruction upon my life whether through my marriage, my children, my finances or by any other means he could find.

August 2013 1424I needed those women in my life to assess my current situation by asking me tough questions like – Are you spending time in prayer and reading the bible? How is your marriage, your children, other relationships? Is there any sin in your life that you have not turned away from? Are there any unresolved hurts or unforgiveness in your heart?

I needed those women to challenge me so that I could grow in my faith and so that my life could be transformed and I would desire more of God and His ways and less of what I thought I wanted. I needed those women to encourage me when fear and doubt crept into my thoughts. I need those women to hold me accountable when I began to veer away from God’s plan for my life and headed back toward trying to do things my way. I needed them to pull me from my comfort zone as they stood by me in faith trusting God to lead me as I learned to surrender control of my life over to Him. I needed those women just like my family needed the spotters on vacation who kept us from danger.

August 2013 1389We were never created to live our Christian lives on our own. We need the guidance of the Holy Spirit along with the wisdom of trusted, fellow believers to help disciple us as they teach us how to walk out our faith for life. We need spiritual family to encourage us and hold us accountable so that we may live a peace and joy filled life that God intends for us to. Do you have someone in your life who will warn you when you’re approaching dangerous waters? Do you have experienced, mature Christians who can spot the traps that have been laid for you and will teach you how to spot them for yourself? Do you have spiritual family that will walk alongside you as you seek God’s will for your life? If not I encourage you to get involved in serving at your local church or sign up for a small group bible study where you can meet those who can be your “spotter” because some day there will be someone who needs you to be a “spotter” for them.

Does Anyone Really Live Happily Ever After?


marriage5Recently my husband and I have had several people comment on what a great marriage we have and how we seem so happy with each other. This has prompted me to share a few things that we’ve learned along the way and to dispel some myths regarding our marriage.

The truth is, sixteen years ago (after being married only 5 years) we were not happily married. We were on the verge of divorce and were miserable and without hope in our relationship. We were headed straight toward the 50% of couples whose marriage ends in divorce. But at our lowest point we made a decision to do 3 things that changed our marriage, our lives and our situation.

First, we eliminated the option for divorce. We decided to work on our marriage and do so with the intention that we would never, ever divorce. We decided that we would not threaten divorce in the heat of arguments, we would not include it as an option for our future, we would no longer assume that if things weren’t working out that we would end our marriage and we would not think about it in our mind. It was simply removed from our lives and our vocabulary, period. And we didn’t do so just so we could be two people who didn’t divorce but were still miserable together. We did it with the intention that we were going to be happy in our marriage, no matter what it took.

marriage6Secondly, we knew it was going to be work and we committed to be lifelong students of marriage. We were at our rock bottom and it was not going to magically change overnight with the wave of a wand. We were going to have to work and work hard for a very long time to repair the damage that had been done and to build the marriage that we both wanted and needed. It’s been 16 years now and we are still working toward that goal. We read books, we get emails in our inboxes about marriage, we go to conferences, we pray together and for each other, we watch DVD’s, we go on date nights, we lead marriage small groups so we’re forced to study the topic of marriage, we put into practice the tools and information we have learned and are still learning. And guess what, it’s not easy and it’s still work but we know now that it has been worth every bit of effort we’ve put into it. We had to decide what our priority was going to be – our own selfish desires and our own unrealistic expectations or putting in the hard work it would require to make our marriage strong and healthy. We made our marriage the priority and it’s paying off.

Finally, and most importantly, we made God the Lord of our lives and the center of our marriage. We realized that everything we were doing was failing and that we couldn’t fix the relationship on our own. We surrendered our marriage to God and asked Him to do what we had been unable to do our own – restore our marriage and renew our love for each other. And as God always does and with the grace and mercy that only He can give, He came through and answered our prayers in a big way. We promised God that if He would restore our marriage then we would spend the rest of our married lives telling others what He had done in our marriage and encourage them to trust Him to do the same in theirs.

marriage7God transformed our lives and changed our marriage. And He placed in us a desire and determination to do everything within our abilities to continue to work on becoming the husband and wife He created us to be for each other. Our marriage isn’t perfect and we never want people to look at us and think so. Our marriage has the same struggles, the same disagreements, the same challenges as every other marriage. The thing that is different in our marriage that is lacking in the marriages of many young couples today is that we removed divorce as an option, we committed to work on it for the rest of our lives and we surrendered it over to God.

We have people tell us “you don’t understand how bad things are, we don’t love each other anymore and we don’t want to be married.” Trust me, you might be surprised just how much we can relate and how much we do understand. The point is, we do not have the perfect marriage. And we don’t for two reasons, #1 – it doesn’t exist so quit thinking it does and #2 – just because we’re in a good place now doesn’t mean we have never been in a bad place and we still don’t have bad moments. We do not have it all together, never have and probably never will. We simply chose a long time ago to not stay there and decided to do something about it.

marriage4So the question is “does anyone really live happily ever after?” The answer is yes but…..it won’t be easy and it’s going to take hard work and commitment on your part. Just like in the fairytales you have a very real enemy that you will have to battle for your marriage and that enemy IS NOT your spouse. And it will take time, commitment and a willingness to trust God to change you (not change your spouse, to change YOU) into the best husband or wife you can be and to study what His word says marriage is supposed to look like and be like. Then you will have to practice – you will fail many times but with practice you will find that over time you fail a whole lot less often. And you must remove divorce from your thoughts, your vocabulary and your options.

If you do these things I promise your marriage will succeed. It’s God’s will for you to live happily ever after (Jer. 29:11). Start doing your part and start trusting God to do His – you deserve the fairytale He has planned for you.

The Cost of Forgiveness


Have you ever done something and people just look at you like you’re crazy as they shake their head in disbelief? They just cannot seem to comprehend your action or response to a situation because it’s so backwards from what most people would do. This happened to a friend of mine and I wanted to share her inspirational story. My friend, Andrea, experienced just how offensive the gospel can be to an unbeliever when her family went through a terrible tragedy.

Her family lived in Guam where her husband, John, was stationed. By her accounts the military families stationed on the small, Pacific island are a closeknit community. Everybody knows everybody. Early in 2011 John took their two children, along with their daughter’s best friend and next door neighbor Erynn, on a hike to nearby beautiful, rocky cliffs. Andrea was in the United States for some medical tests and to visit family and friends.

It was an early Sunday morning at 1:15 am, while still in the US, that Andrea received the call no one is ever prepared for. While her family and their neighbor were hiking, there was a rockslide. Heroically, her husband attempted to save his daughter’s best friend. But tragically the majority of the rocks fell onto Erynn. Her injuries were too severe. She did not survive. The unbelievable grief of the family and friends of this remarkable young girl was overwhelming. The small, closeknit community had lost one of their own – one who died much too young. One who had so many unfulfilled dreams and ambitions ahead of her. One who was a precious child of God. One whose parents had lost their daughter and were experiencing unspeakable grief. One whose family turned to their Heavenly Father for comfort and peace during this tragic time.

Although it was a horrible accident, Andrea’s husband was questioning if he could have done something differently that could have saved her life, something that would have prevented this whole nightmare. He fully expected Erynn’s parents, Gary and Kathy, to be angry, hurt, and to question him as to how he could have let this happen. He prepared to apologize and take full responsibility as he and his children sat in their home, right next door to the home of their dear friends who had just experienced the unthinkable.

While John tried to make sense of what had just happened, Erynn’s parents had gone to hospital where their precious child had been taken and where they were met with the confirming news that their daughter had died. Their next step was to go home to tell their other children. Friends and neighbors had begun to gather at their home. Two families. Two homes side by side. Both families trying to make sense of what had just happened.

After awhile Gary, Erynn’s father, got up and walked out of his home without saying a word to anyone gathered there. He headed next door to John and Andrea’s home. As neighbors and friends watched, they assumed Gary was going to confront John. After all, one father sat in his home with his daughter alive and safe while he had just lost his daughter.

John didn’t know what to expect when Gary approached him in his home. But to his disbelief, Gary hugged him and told him it was ok. He offered John forgiveness. Erynn’s father offered him an apology for the pain he was going through. There stood John still wearing the bloodstained shirt he had on as he carried Erynn from the accident scene. And her father hugged him and offered gratitude for John’s efforts to save Erynn’s life. Gary prayed for him to find peace in God’s comforting presence. The family who had just found out their daughter had died was offering comfort and forgiveness to the one who felt responsible for her death. John was awed by the love of Christ Gary modeled that night in response to a tragic event that will forever mark all their lives.

But what ensued in the days and weeks following the accident was far more shocking than the selfless actions of this Godly family during their darkest hours. As Andrea’s family continued to grieve with their neighbors, the rest of the community began to murmur. “How can the Haywards continue to spend time with the Mayers after what the Mayers have done to their family?” “Why did John save his own daughter and not theirs?” Why are the Mayers grieving? They didn’t lose a child.” John was hurting because he had been entrusted with something very precious that he was unable to protect when tragedy struck. John and Andrea needed the support and comfort of their community. But what they received was negative comments, rumors, people avoiding them in stores or staring. Both families were hurting but only one received acknowledgement of their pain.

Through the whole situation they learned that people want to be front and center when the drama first happens but once the dust settles and it’s time to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding, they disappear. The relationships John and Andrea had been most intentional about building during their time in Guam were the first ones to let them down. There were families who selflessly stood by them the entire time. They were there to give to the Mayer family, not receive for themselves. But unfortunately, many turned their backs on them.

The second thing John and Andrea learned was that God must be first in your lives both individually and as a family. When your priority is to pour yourself into other people, serving, or involvment in the community, you’re priorities are out of order. With so many opportunities and so many needs, it is easy for God to come behind things we deem more important in the moment, even good things. God must be first, period.

And finally they learned how Sovereign our God is. God knew long before the accident that it would occur. And He set Christian leadership in place at the highest positions on the base who would have the wisdom and discernment to handle the aftermath and assist John in getting orders back to the United States to be near family and close friends. They learned that God’s grace is sufficient and His consuming love for us is abounding. They learned His love alone can comfort and heal our deepest hurts if we will allow it. They learned that a family who models the love of their Lord and Savior will offend those in darkness but will bring hope to those who believe all hope is gone. They learned what true forgiveness is and how to freely give and receive it. They learned that there is no one like our God and even in the midst of tragedy, He is good.

Forgiveness is rarely easy to give and many times there is a cost attached to it. Jesus was willing to pay the ultimate price to give forgiveness to us for our sins. What price are you willing to pay to give forgiveness to others – humility, embarrassment, loss of relationships of those who think you’re wrong for doing so?

The more important question you need to consider is this – what price are you willing to pay to hold on to unforgiveness? It will cost you more than you think.

Lessons From Remodeling: Lesson 3 – You’ve Got To Start Somewhere


scarlettMy final lesson learned through our recent remodeling project is one that I have struggled with the most. I find myself easily overwhelmed and add to that fact that I’m a self-professed procrastinator and my attitude can quickly become “eh, it’s just too much, I’ll do it later” and many times later never arrives. And it is that very mindset that caused me to take FOREVER to get started putting our new bed frame together.

My husband and I were in need of a new mattress and we made the decision to go for a king-size after sleeping on one during our vacation. The problem was that this meant we would also have to buy a king-size bed and we didn’t want to spend a lot of money. So we opted for purchasing a bed frame online knowing we would have to pick it up at the store and then put the bed together ourselves. Even though that isn’t my number one idea of a fun, I knew it would be worth the cost savings. Besides, the reviews were great and all the comments described how easy it was to put together so I surmised “seriously, how hard can it be?” We picked the bed up at the store and a guy helped my husband load it into our van. When we got home and had to unload 5 long, heavy boxes I felt that first twinge of “what have I gotten myself into?”

Several weeks passed before we made time to dig into the project of putting the bed together. We were going to lug the boxes upstairs before we realized we’d probably kill ourselves in the process so we decided to open them downstairs and bring the contents up through multiple trips. When we opened the first box I had that second wave of “what have I gotten myself into?” There were A LOT of parts in the first box but I thought to myself “surely the rest of the boxes don’t contain this many parts.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! I’ve never seen so many parts in my life! At that point I was headed toward full-blown overwhelmed mode.

June 24 2013 007After about an hour we had all the parts laid out on our bedroom floor. As I looked around at the seemingly endless piles of pieces and parts, I thought “no way, I’m done. This is too much!” I so wish I had taken a picture so everyone could see the chaos I saw in that moment. It was more than I could handle and I was ready to give up before I even got started. But thank goodness for my husband. He is so calm and so encouraging in those moments. He makes it possible to get things done when I’m feeling less than motivated. He got out the directions, looked them over and announced that we were ready to begin with step 1. Thankfully and with great wisdom he didn’t tell me at the time that is was an 84 step process and that was just for the items in box 1, not to mention boxes 2-5!

We began following the directions step by step. Slowly we saw some progress – it was a small amount of progress but progress nonetheless. In the moment I had my first twinge of “well, this isn’t so bad.” With some focus and determination we kept plugging away at the directions manual. Before I knew what had happened we were done with not only the first set of directions but the second one as well. The pile of parts was diminishing and the progress was becoming more evident. I began to feel that second wave of “hmmm, I think we can do this.”

Step by step we stayed the course and before long the parts were all gone (well, not all because we seemed to have what we hoped were extras!) and there was a new, king-size bed sitting in our bedroom where there had previously been a monstrous pile of pieces and parts. I felt like doing the Dora dance while singing “We did it, hooray!”

So, what did I learn from this “fun” project?

scarlett21. Don’t give up before you even get started – this is one of the enemy’s oldest tricks in the book. He wants us to believe that “it’s just too much, I can’t”. The truth is, you can’t. But God can. Quit focusing on what you can’t do and start trusting in what God’s word promises that He can do. Remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. (Phil. 4:13).

2. You’ve got to start somewhere – your problems aren’t just going to disappear and things won’t magically get better. A wise friend once told me “work like it depends on you and have faith like it depends on God.” You do your part and trust God to do what only He can do. Your part may be seeking forgiveness from God for sinful actions or behaviors, taking your problem to God in prayer and trusting His will to be done, seeking Godly wisdom from a “seasoned” Christian, searching God’s word to seek answers to your particular situation, reconnecting with church and spiritual family if you’ve drifted away or making necessary changes in your life to remove unhealthy relationships and behaviors that are negative and harmful. The bottom line is if you don’t do anything, you’ll never see progress so get started on step one.

scarlett43. Don’t get overwhelmed with the big picture – start with baby steps. If you take small steps and stay focused, before you know it you’ll look up and see progress. And it’s that progress that will motivate you to keep taking those baby steps toward the ultimate goal. (see #2 for what some baby steps may be for you) God typically doesn’t show us the whole picture when He reveals something to us because He knows we probably couldn’t handle it. And if you’re like me, that defeatist attitude will paralyze you if you try to see the whole picture at once. Break it down into small steps of faith as you trust God to lead you each step of the way. Think Abraham – God didn’t reveal everything to him from the start. If He did, Abraham probably would have thought “not happening, that’s just too much!” The first command to him from God was simply “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” (Gen. 12:1-20) He didn’t tell Abraham where he was going, how long it would take, what problems he would encounter along the way. He gave Abraham step 1 and we know he must’ve thought “ok, I can do that” because he obeyed God and left behind his country, his people and his father’s household – one step at a time.

scarlett34. Surround yourself with encouragers – if it wasn’t for my husband and my friends I might never get anything done much less get started. We need people in our lives that will speak positive words over us and will stand by us, hold us accountable and cheer us on each step of the way.

The answer to the age old question of “how do you eat an elephant?” is one bite at a time. So go ahead, take a baby step of faith, keep your focus and watch that elephant slowly but surely begin to disappear.

My prayer for you today is that no matter what your situation may be or no matter how bad things may seem, that God will bring peace to any overwhelming feelings you may have, your faith will empower you to trust God as you take the first baby step in a new direction and that you will be surrounded by others who will encourage you along the way toward your goal.

Lessons from Remodeling: Lesson 1 – The Longer You Wait the More It’s Going to Cost You


May 2013 023Recently our home was the site of a bathroom remodeling project that, not suprisingly, taught me some valuable life lessons. In this process I discovered that I do not do well with remodeling jobs as it most certainly was not fun but more a necessary evil to endure until it was completed.

The problems started not long after we moved into the home. We started to notice mold on the ceiling in the master bathroom. We didn’t think too much about it at first but after it spread we called a contractor to come take a look at it. He explained that the vent in the bathroom was not vented to the outside of the house and all the steam from the showers was going into the crawl space above the ceiling and the moisture settling on the ceiling was causing harmless yet unsitely surface mold.

duct tape5We now knew the source of the problem but it just wasn’t convenient and not within the budget to have it fully repaired at that time. So we tried cleaning the mold off, especially after it began to spread to the walls. That would work temporarily but the problem always came back. Then we tried to paint over it. Again, that was only a temporary cover up and the mold underneath soon began to reappear. It finally got to a point that it was so bad we just ignored it and decided we’d get it completely restored to a brand-new condition “some day”. Five years later our “some day” came along but not after there was several secondary problems that resulted from our decision to put off the repair of the initial problem in it’s early stages. We learned the hard way that the longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.

The same is true in our own lives.  Many times we recognize a problem in its initial stage and we choose to blow it off as no big deal. Perhaps it’s the flirtation with a co-worker we deem “innocent fun” and that we think nothing of, even though we’re married and so are they. Maybe it’s “borrowing” a few office supplies from the supply room at work that we justify because after all, we did work on that project last month from home a few times off the clock so the company “owes us”.  Or it could be the unforgiveness we have toward a parent or sibling that we no longer have relationship with because they did something to us that we consider very hurtful and they don’t deserve to be in our lives – especially since they never even apologized and still try to stir up drama through other family members.  Maybe it’s the “gut feeling” we get when we compromise our morals to fit in or because we give into temptation and cross a line we said we’d never cross. Our reasoning becomes “everyone else is doing it so it’s not a big deal, right?”

The problem is that those little problems, the small indiscretions, the momentary lapses in judgement, the choice to compromise just a little, becomes the very thing that leads you down the road to bigger problems with bigger consequences. The longer you put off addressing a problem, the more it’s going to cost you.  The more you allow yourself to justify the little things that you know in your heart are wrong btemporary fixut you do it anyway because it’s “no big deal” – the easier it becomes to justify bigger compromises. And the more you justify the bigger compromises the more numb you become to the feeling you have in the moment when you have to choose between right and wrong. And the bigger the compromise the bigger the consequences. You keep chipping away at your conscience until the line between right and wrong becomes so blurred that you wake up one day with a huge problem on your hands that will cost you more than you ever imagined possible.

You may think that little “problem” you have today is nothing, but that little problem, if ignored, can grow to a point that it consumes your thoughts and your focus as you attempt to keep it hidden. You may think it’s harmless but there is no such thing as harmless sin. The devil will most assuredly help you to justify that little sin because he knows where it will lead you. And he’s in no hurry to drag you into sin. He will sit back and patiently wait while you take baby steps away from God and toward your own selfish desires. He knows the longer you wait to address the problem, the bigger the consequences will be. And he knows that if the consequences get really big you may get to the point where you believe his lie that says “there’s no turning back now, you’ve gone too far.” The enemy of your soul wants you to believe that you are beyond repair.

new creationBut the truth is that no matter how bad your situation may look, no matter how deep into this thing you are, no matter how far you’ve gone – like our home repairs – it’s never to late to make everything just like new again. The first step is to make the decision that it’s time to do something about it and stop putting off addressing the very problem that got you into the situation you’re in. The next step is to go to the One who can can make all things new – Jesus. The bible promises in 2Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You don’t have to stay in the darkness of sin. You can turn away from that sin and turn back toward God and seek His forgiveness which He promises to give if you’ll simply ask.

If you’re at the point where there’s that little something that you keep telling yourself is nothing, but deep down you know it is wrong – the time is now to repair it before it becomes a bigger problem and costs you more than it already has. There is no sin that will ever be worth it no matter how tempting it is. It’s never to late to turn to God and let Him fix everything but remember, the longer you wait the more it’s going to cost you.