Looking a New Year Square in the Jaw

There are 4 hours left in 2011.  4 hours and the New Year turns over.

I can’t say I’m sad to see 2011 go.  It hasn’t been exactly the kindest year to me.  I’ve shed more tears this year than I think I’ve ever cried.  And I’ve experienced things that I’ve only ever read about or seen on television.  And I’ve had minutes and hours that I didn’t think I would survive.  And I sadly say that in the most literal way possible.

But 2011 has taught me a lot, too.  I’ve learned more about myself and God than I ever knew possible.  I’ve come to grips with ideals and circumstances that have been important for me to understand.  I’ve changed.  For the better. 

This has definitely been a year of firsts….and, prayerfully, lasts.  The past few weeks have seemed to inundate me with firsts…

  • I spent my first holiday alone. My children and husband were in another state.  I thanked God this past  Thanksgiving for just allowing me to wake up that morning….it was all I could really think of. 
  • We decorated our Christmas tree…and I had to put the angel on the top…because I’m not strong enough to lift up the littlest one that always does it.  I hope I never have to put another angel on the top of a tree again. 
  • I shopped for Christmas presents…alone.
  • I had to be Santa…alone.
  • I spent Christmas Day without my partner.  I kept looking for him in the room to tell him something or show him something or laugh together about something the kids did.  And he wasn’t there.  It was Christmas….alone.
  • I spent our 15 year anniversary alone.  A symbolic day of 15 years of weathering storms together…and we weren’t together.
  • And now, I’m ringing in a New Year without the one person that I’ve seen every New Year in with for the past 16 years…

I’m a lot of things this evening.  A strange melting pot of emotion.  I’m wistful.  And slightly weepy.  I’m sad.  Yet hopeful.  I’m happy because I love the company of the 3 little men I’m with.  And I’m grieving.  I feel surrounded by God’s peace and presence.  Yet I’m unsettled for the heart and mind of the man I love so very much.

I am hopeful that God will make all things new in 2012. 

Because I know He can.  But I also know that it might not yet be time.  I understand that I might see another 12 months pass without answers or promises fulfilled. 

And that will be okay.  It will be okay.

Happy New Year….and may 2012 bring with it a sheer abundance of peace, HOPE, and unspeakable joy.


Not Just Your Mama’s Hope Anymore…


I like that word. I always have. But it’s interesting how a little 4-letter word can change in meaning over a period of time.

I hear my kids say, “I hope Santa will bring me ______ for Christmas.”

I hear families interviewed on the news hoping that their soldiers will come home for the holidays or at least sooner than later.

We hope it will rain. Or not rain.

We hope there is a sale at the mall.

I’ve hoped my mama will make mashed potatoes for every dinner that I eat with her for the rest of my life.


But I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word quite so much as I have these past few months. I’m standing in HOPE that my family will be restored. HOPE that miracles will happen. HOPE that our story is different. HOPE that my kids will be okay.

Yah, some of that hoping has been wishful thinking, but a lot of the hope has been believing God and expecting His Will to conquer all.

Yesterday, I was reading through some Scripture and stumbled across Romans 5:3-5. I wasn’t studying hope or even really studying Romans…it was one of those flipping through the pages and it caught my eye things.

….we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us….

Now read it again.

I don’t know why I’d never noticed the ordering before, and I’ve probably read or heard these verses a half a million times.

Suffering produces perseverance.
Perseverance produces character.
Character produces hope.

Now, I don’t know about you, but in my head, it seems like suffering would produce hope. And then out of hope we muster up the strength to persevere. And then if we can manage the perseverance, we end up with great character. Which seems like a neat and tidy end-result. Because ultimately I want to be a woman of noble character…who doesn’t?

But, nope.

It clearly says the order of operations is that the suffering is what brings the perseverance or, as The Message calls it, the “passionate patience.” The gumption to wait on the Lord. Then it says that the passionate patience is what leads to character. The Message says that the “patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue.” Wow. How’s that for a word picture.

But what about hope? Wouldn’t you need hope to even sustain you through the passionate patience-ing? Wouldn’t you need hope to help build up or forge the virtue or character?

Guess not.

Because according to Scripture, hope is a product of character.

The Message (one of my favorite versions, can you tell?) says, “the tempered steel of virtue keeps us alert for whatever God will do next.” Hope. That version goes on to describe hope as “alert expectancy.”

It still bumfuzzles me that hope is the end result. But I kind of like it.

In order to even get past wishful thinking and chasing dreams of our human hearts, we must learn to wait patiently on the Lord and allow Him to change our hearts and lives into those of virtue. Only then, can we lay aside the, for lack of a better word, hopes and dreams of our very limited selves and take on the true alert expectancy that God’s Will is sovereign and worth waiting for.

I’m far from there.

I think I’m still just trying to figure out the waiting part. Trying to muddle through persevering from one second into the next. But my prayer is that as I stumble and hobble through my sufferings, that God will begin to forge something valuable in me. Allowing me one day to be able to lay down all of my personal dreams and wishes and longings and to be able to say,

“I absolutely place my HOPE in the Lord.”


Unrelated, but always related, I wanted to share an answer to prayer with you. I share it out of complete humility and from a place of standing truly in awe of the provision of God.

Without any details, there have been some financial burdens and strains and questions that have come up very recently. The husband and I are on different pages, and it’s just been rather difficult. I weep the ear of the Lord out on the matter, I’m sure of it, but just continue to trust that God will provide in a mighty way. One small prayer, but no less important to me (or to God!), was just how in the world I was going to be able to finish up the Christmas shopping. I knew there had to be a way, and had prayed that God would provide an answer.

Yesterday, my youngest son checked the mail and brought in a stack of envelopes and circulars. I set to opening them and made it through Christmas cards, a couple of bills, and some junk mail. Last one on the stack was a red envelope with only my name and information. No return address. Weird.

I opened it, and there was a Christmas card with Baby Jesus on the front, and inside set $100. And a note saying that we were loved. No name. Just a gift.

I don’t know who God used to give us His gift. But I fell in a heap of tears and that crazy weird crying-laughter. So humbled.

Because I’d figured it up a few days before…and what it would take to finish up Christmas?


My God is mighty to save.
And the God that can work $100 miracles is the same God that can work the really big ones.


Oh, Ezekiel….

I love the picture at the end of Ezekiel 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 when the Lord instructs the prophet to eat the scrolls. Now, I get that it was a vision and all, but I can’t help but grin all over myself a bit at the sight of sweet ole’ Ezekiel billygoating those old dusty scrolls down. Can’t you see him munching on those suckers? Um, Yahweh, can I get a glass of goat milk to wash these down with?

Point is, I love the command that God just says “eat it” about His Word. And I’m fully confident He is instructing us to grab a spoon and dig right in, too. Digest that stuff. Enjoy it. Savor it.

I’m trying.
I’m not super great at it, because I’m a slow-learner. Plus, I sometimes have Scripture A.D.D. I like to hop on the bandwagon of jumping around and applying every verse that I “like” to me and my situation, and kind of skirting around context and all that other stuff. And I don’t do much just plain reading.

Not to say that verses here and there don’t or can’t offer tremendous nuggets of power and insight into the Hope we have, but I do know that God longs for us to get in there and stuff ourselves on His Word.

So I decided to sit down with my good buddy and namesake of ye’ole’blogge and just read.

Not skip to the parts I like. But read and try to chew on it awhile…

This is what came of my chewing:

First, God wants folks to know Him.
Second, God can get pretty doomsday, but like the Hero I know Him to be, He has a serious love affair with happily-ever-afters.
Third, God hates adultery and idolatry.
Fourth, God is a heart surgeon.
And, fifth, God likes fancy architecture.

Now, I’m sure there are other things of great importance that the Lord has all tucked up in Ezekiel, but He knows I am a requirer of babysteps and babyspoon sized portions.

Let’s start with #5 first….architecture. I imagine the Good Lord has a pretty fancy drafting table set up in the Throneroom what with all His cubits and porticos and support ledges and such. (ch. 40-48) I dig it. Because it shows He cares about details. And that He’s a control-freak and borderline OCD. And I, for one, am so glad that the God I’m entrusting my all to is that kind of personality. Because I don’t need another me trying to run the show.

Now, #3. God hates idolatry and adultery. No big shock there. But, He uses a big chunk of space equating the detestable Jerusalem to promiscuous women and the evilness of adultery. He didn’t just lay it out straight, He even used allegories and parables to drive that truth home. (ch. 8, 9, 14, 16, 23) I do know, too, that most of the references to idolatry are of physical idols. But, I’m convinced that idolatry is a true root of adultery…it’s placing someone or the idea of someone/something above Truth and the Way. And this may be that whole spin-the-Scriptures thing, but at this point in my life, I need to constantly be reminded that adultery is wrong under absolutely every circumstance. I can spend an awful amount of time wrestling with the Devil’s lies….and the more ammunition to say, No. It’s wrong. 100% of the time, the easier it is for me to ward him off.

Now, back to #1. The Lord is set on folks knowing Him. Again, not new news, but in chapters 5-7 alone, I counted 8 times that the Lord says a version of they will know that I am the Lord.. And that’s just where I stopped counting. It’s pretty rough stuff that God is revealing Himself through, but the point is: He was going to be known. No questions. And because I know He never ever changes and is the Same yesterday, today, and forever…..I know that still rings solid. They will know that I am the Lord. Amen. And may the Lord reveal Himself in my story.

Let’s skip to #4. Dizzy yet? No? Good. So, God is a heart surgeon? Yes. Yes, He is. Transplants are actually His specialty. One of my favorite verses of all is 36:26. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. He mentions it again in 11:18-19 and in 18:31. I have been praying that God would take the husband back to surgery for many days, weeks, and months now. I pray often that his heart would become void of walls and hardness, and become fleshy and liquid. Capable of being stirred and softened and molded and penetrated. I love that God uses the word “will.” He will do it. Yes, that promise was made to crazy Israel…BUT. I believe God’s all about some heart transplanting for all of us, too. Look at Luke 1:17. I found this the other day when reading the Christmas story. An angel is telling skeptical Zechariah about his coming son, John. The angel says the stuff about him preparing the way of the Lord, but look what else: And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous. God is using John as His surgical vessel. Heart changes. It’s God’s business.

And last, #2. My favorite. Because anytime I get to view my God as a fairytale Prince and Rescuer, I’m a comforted happy girl. Like I mentioned before, Ezekiel can get pretty sad and pitiful to read. I can almost imagine God handing him a placard to wear on the street corners announcing the end of the world. (He’s also wearing tie-dye and Birkenstocks in my imagination. *wink*) Really, the placard probably would have been welcomed, what with God making Ezekiel lie on his side for 390 days and at first asking him to cook his food only over his own waste. Um.gag. (ch. 4) But, despite all the horrid prophecy against Israel for her blatant and outright disobedience and wickedness, my Hero steps in and saves the day. Yes, Israel, life sucks for you. You sinned ridiculously, and you have terrible neighbors that will take advantage of you. And then…nestled warmly in the skirts of Ezekiel’s tie-dyed tunic hem lies Hope. And Promise. And Beauty. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. (36:25) I will save you from all your uncleanness. (36:29) I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it. (36:36) And so many more chunks of Mercy. I love that the God I know and love so much is a fellow romantic. Yah, bad stuff abounds. There are villains and bad guys and traps and snares and lots and lots of cases of the-best-thing-is-right-under-your-nose-the-whole-time. But God, who calls Himself our Lover, always always always swoops in and saves His beloved. Always. He’s been doing it since the beginning of man. And He’s doing it now. And He’s so awesome, He skipped to the end of the story and defeated the bad guy once and for all. He doesn’t save us from the bad stuff all the time, but He will never fail to see us through it. He’s swoon-worthy.

Well, Ezekiel, you have a lot going on within your pages. But, good buddy, you have given me HOPE today.

Now…for that glass of milk.

Damsel In Distress

And Mary said:       My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of His servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — Holy is His Name.  His mercy extends to those who fear Him, from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.  He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendents forever, even as He said to our fathers.   —  Luke 1: 46-55

This week has been a doozy.

Sick kiddos.  Bills that were not welcomed here in the middle of the time that Mrs. Clause is trying to get her work done.  Attitudes from the husband that are really hard to process.  And just stuff.  There seems to always just be stuff to deal with; stuff to worry about; stuff to think about; just stuff.

But it’s also been a week of remarkable peace.

And my instinct right now is to tell you that I have no idea why.

But I really actually do know why.

It’s Jesus.  Plain and simple.  I will never understand the beauty of His ability to swoop in and rescue a poor distressed damsel’s soul, but somehow…..He just does.

It happened again this morning. 

My alarm went off at 7:30.  It was so dark and rainy outside; perfect sleeping weather.  I had a big sleeping baby cuddled up next to me (for once, his feet weren’t in my face), and all I wanted to do was stay in my bed.  I thought about skipping church and using the excuse that the kids were still sick.  I even had hatched a plan to “have church” of our own in our jammies.  Surely what I needed was just a lazy day with my babies. 

God yanked me out of bed and put me in the shower. 

Guess He had other plans for me.

I flipped the tv on, and Charles Stanley, in his beautiful suit and tie, popped up.  I’m not a big preachin’-on-tv kind of girl, but God left the tv on that channel.

Stanley’s sermon:  How to handle Discouragement and Disappointment. 

I’m not even kidding.

My socks were blessed off while I was straightening my hair as I listened to the message that resounded so clearly with me. Discouragement and disappointment have tended to be where my tent has been camped for quite a while now.   And to top it off, all three boys got up, showered, dressed, and didn’t complain one time about brushing teeth and combing hair.  It was an alternate universe, I was sure.

And then I got to church.

I knew that I’d be blessed beyond measure at church today, just because it’s a one in a million chance that I’m not.  But, today, it was truly something planned for me. 

I believe with all my heart that other people there were equally touched and moved and spoken to right where they needed to be, but I know God yanked my tail to church for a reason this morning.

OUr teaching pastor this morning led us through Mary’s Song in Luke 1. 


Sweet Mary.  Who God has been bringing to my heart and mind all week and will not let her go.

Mary’s Song is typically one that is discussed as a beautiful utterance of praise and gratitude.  She’s thanking God for the favor finding.  She’s going to be the vessel that the Lord uses to bring salvation to the earth.  The initial shock has worn off, she’s excited about her news, and she busts out in song about how amazing God is. 



If you look deep into the song, you see all kinds of references that refer to a theme that is strange to find in the depths of a praise and worship song. 


Say what? 

Yep, war.  I didn’t see it either, until our pastor pointed them out.  There are words and phrases used that mirror Old Testament situations and references to war and battle.  Mighty One.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm.  He has scattered those….  Brought down rulers.

And, interestingly enough, if you look at Zechariah’s Song a few verses over, he uses the very same inferences in his song of praise and thanksgiving.



When we’re thanking God for babies? 

Yes.  Because what Mary and Zechariah both knew was that they (and we) are in the middle of a war.  A huge war.  A war against an enemy, that though defeated, has not yet been destroyed.  An enemy who is fighting mad and is out for blood.  And Mary and Zechariah knew it.

And they knew that as amazing as the gifts of the Savior and His cousin that would prepare His way were, the war was about to get really ugly. 

And they were going to need a Champion Warrior to do battle for them.

I love Mary’s Song.  It’s full of comfort and really lush nuggets of hope.  He has lifted up.  He has helped.  He has filled the hungry.  His mercy.  He has been mindful.

Yes.  Amen and amen.

But what I find so beautifully comforting and that lays a blanket of peace upon my very weary heart is that here, in one passage, is the promise of help and comfort and mercy coupled with claims of provision during battle.   (I’ve seen the same themes in the Psalms countless times, but most of those were written by David or other men.  And as much as I love David and the other guys, it’s something about Mary that draws me.  To see this song written and cried out by a woman.) 

He’s my Friend.  My Comforter.  My Provider.

But He’s also my Warrior.

Gives me goosebumps. 

I’ve been relying a lot on the Comforter and the Friend and the Lover.  And I’m so blessed that God has stooped down to be that for me.  But that He has been doing, is doing, and is ready to do battle for me…..well, that just makes my girly heart swoon.  I love a fairy tale where the knight rescues the princess.   And here it is.  Once again. 

I’m looking at another week that is probably going to have sick kids, because when one’s sick, they’re all sick.  I have no idea how a couple of bills will be paid, and I have Christmas presents to buy that I’m not sure I can find for free.  I have some hard questions to answer and conversations to have with my kids about some decisions their dad is making.  And, in all honesty, I’m getting really tired of being alone.

But, where as last week, God comforted and carried me and made Himself so very real to me that way, I’m anticipating a week of incredibles.

Because I know, without a doubt, that this week God is going to make Himself very real to me as my Warrior.  My GI Joe.  My Soldier.

My Knight In Shining Armor.


Happy, contented sigh.

Favor Finding

Yesterday, I was skipping through some different blogs and websites, some new to me, some not, and I came across a certain reference to the passages in the Scriptures that discuss finding favor with the Lord. (Or favour if you are good buddies with King James — looks fancy.)

I can’t get it off my mind.

And the more I think about it, I realized that I’m not even really sure I know what it means. It’s one of those churchy phrases that I’ve heard since the beginning of my darkening-church-doorways time, but I don’t know that I’ve ever really looked into what it actually calls for.

Finding favor.

Hmmmm…… God’s going to do me a favor? I’m God’s favorite? God likes me? God is pleased with me? I’ve done a good job? Because I’ve been uber-obedient, I get rewarded?

Really, I wasn’t sure…so I went digging. I busted out every ink and paper translation of the Bible that we personally own and then found the rest of the translations online. I lined them all up and tried to make sense of what finding favor really meant and why God kept impressing it on my mind and was guiding me to figure it out.

Here’s what I found out:

Basically, lots of folks in the Word found favor with the Lord. (I find it interesting that the Scriptures use the equation of So-and-so found favor with God over and over. May just be me and my highly unsuperior knowledge of the semantics of the Word, but just off the cuff, I would think it would be God finding favor with the people…not the other way around. It puts all the work on the person…not God. Interesting.) Abel, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Samuel, David, the Israelites, Mary, Jesus as a boy….all these people are listed out as favor-finders, favor-growers, and favor-enjoyers. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t get them all. Queen Esther is said to have found favor with the king. Zechariah names a staff “Favor” in a parable about God’s covenants with His people. The angels sing about peace being given to the people with whom God’s favor rests when they announced Baby Jesus’ birth. And there are numerous references to the “time of God’s favor” or the “year of God’s favor.”

That’s a lot of favor.

In cross-referencing and translation-comparing, I discovered that finding favor with the Lord is used different ways. In Psalm 90:17, favor is refered to as having the Lord’s beauty or loveliness rest on us (I especially like that one). When discussing Abel, Genesis 4:4 uses “favor”, and Hebrews 11:4 says he was “commended with righteousness.” Exodus 33:12 says that Moses found favor with the Lord and that He knew Moses by name and was pleased with him. In Numbers 11:15, Moses pleads with God to release him from the burden of the whiny Israelites and even spouts back to God something like “just do me a favor and kill me.” 2 Corinthians 6:2 and Isaiah 49:8 speak of the time of God’s favor or the time of God’s choosing or the time being right.

And I could keep going and going. But at risk of sounding sermonesque….I’ll stop.

Perhaps, though, my favorite reference of all the references to finding favor is Mary.

Sweet, innocent, village-girl, barely-a-teenager Mary.

Luke 1:30 tells us that the angel, in his announcement, seems to comfort Mary and her fear by letting her know that it would all be okay because “you have found favor with God.” (NIV)

Ummmm….I’m all about finding favor with God. Really, I am. But, without in any way trying to be sacrilegious or disrespectful, I’m not sure that would calm my fears. Just sayin’. I think I’d still be scared out of my mind.

Finding favor has really good connotations. From what I can gather, in a nutshell, it means that God is pleased with us, that we’ve proved faithful, and so, God is going to give us a great blessing. The Message translation uses the phrase “God has a surprise for you” (Boy, did He ever!) when the angel talked to Mary. The Good News Translation says “God has been gracious to you.” The Amplified Bible says Mary “found grace with God.” And “God is pleased with you” is how the New International Readers Version describes what the angel spoke to the frightened girl.


So what is God trying to teach me about finding favor with the story of the young mother of our Savior?

I think God wants to tell me that faithfulness matters. All the folks who are favor-finders were just that. Faithful. They often stepped out on faith and did crazy stuff for our Sovereign God. And when they did the crazy….God was pleased. And gracious. And He knew them by name. And commended them as righteous. And justified them through faith. And, He tended to give them lots of surprises.

So…God has asked me to be faithful. And just trust Him. And believe. And hope. And do the crazy.

Now for my reward? It’ll come in my perfect timing and in perfect ways and all wrapped up in Christmas bows and ribbons, right? Because that’s the warm-fuzzy feeling I get about this whole finding favor thing.

Not so, says God.

Abel was murdered by his own brother. Noah had to spend over a year on a smelly, stinky boat with only his ornery family to look at and talk to, and that was after he was the laughing-stock of the entire land. Moses had to lead a mass of ungrateful whiny people through the desert for an unsightely amount of time, only to gaze at the Promised Land from afar. Gideon started out a coward, and though he ended up being a significant ruler and leader for God’s people, after he died, his family was treated horribly by the people that he had worked to save. Samuel, though a phenomenal leader, had to deal with corrupt and disobedient sons. David succumbed to the temptation of adultery and murder. And then…


Sweet Mary.

I will, in no way, negate the beauty of the virgin birth. Of the portrayal of absolute love that God the Father lavished on us by using this young sweet girl as a vessel to bring life to our Immanuel here on earth.

But…just thinking about Mary and her favor finding….it wasn’t so glamorous. Not by a long stretch.

She was a child loaded up with heavy responsibility. She had to leave her family. Her friends ridiculed her. She lost her reputation. Her fiance almost abandoned her. She couldn’t even stay with her feet propped up at 9 months pregnant. Nope, instead she had to make a torturous trip by donkey. She had to not only deliver her baby in a strange land, but also surrounded by manure and livestock. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she had to go through labor and delivery alone with an inexperienced and frightened Joseph as her only help. No mom or sister or friend or even a stranger woman to tell her what to expect or do during the birthing process. She had to raise a son that was always bullied and ridiculed and misunderstood (not an easy job for any mother). And then she sat and watched with her own eyes as her precious son was murdered and subjected to cruelty in the most obscene manner.

So this is how God shows He’s pleased with someone?

Wow. If I didn’t know better, I’d tuck my skirt-tail, turn, and say, “no-thank-ya.”

But, praise Jesus, I do know better.

Because though on the surface it would seem that many of these people of faith really get the raw-end of the deal for their faith, down-deep, where it really counts, their reward is ridiculously abundant. They were blessed beyond measure and reason. And all because they said “okay” to the crazy. They did the hard stuff. They decided to trust God instead of trust their own feelings and what the world was telling them.

I may not have started out the day praying to find favor with God, because, quite frankly, it didn’t look like it fit my prayers. It might mean that I don’t get my miracle in my marriage that I’ve been praying for in my way and in my timing. And, honestly, it’s easier for me to pray my way. It’s not easy to pray “Let Thy will be done.” And when I do try to pray that way, I usually feel like a fraud.


I know that, now, I want to find favor with God. If it follows the pattern, it will probably mean things not going to my plan or schedule. It will probably mean earthly heartache. And a whole lot more pain. But, I do know that my reward down-deep will be so great.

That to have God “pleased” with me; or to be “gracious” with me; or to “find grace” with me; or to “have a surprise” for me…..well, I’m thinking that sounds rather beautiful.

You know, like having the “beauty of the Lord rest upon us.” Psalm 90:17


Most of my study was done from the New International Version. As I said, I used lots of other translations for comparisons. My favorite parallel online source is www.biblegateway.com