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If You Knew You Didn’t Have Long . . .

October 28, 2014

The Sea of Galilee

I finished writing Hidden Blessings a year ago. Yet, maybe more than any other book I’ve written, themes from this one have stayed with me. This may be the biggest—that time is short.

“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” –James 4:14

In various ways, this truth has motivated me these past months. It has burdened me. And this past week, it grabbed me even tighter.

I received a text message about a friend named Carissa. I met Carissa and her husband on our trip to Israel in February. In fact, we were on the same plane out of Newark, though we didn’t meet until we landed in Tel Aviv. We hit it off right there in the airport, found out we were both married twenty years, both homeschoolers. Over the course of the trip, Carissa’s smile was ever present, her laughter infectious. And I loved that she took my finicky-eating son under her wing. When lunch one day consisted of pizza, and she learned he hadn’t eaten because he doesn’t like cheese, she dug into her bag, produced a chocolate Kind bar, and made him eat it. With a smile, of course.

We saw Carissa three weeks ago in Houston, when a few of us from the Israel trip attended a wedding. Afterward, our “Israel family” gathered at a Cracker Barrel, ate, and lingered in rocking chairs on the porch. Carissa was her usual bubbly self, full of smiles and laughter.

Then I got this text last week. It said Carissa had been diagnosed with cancer in her lungs, rib, and hip bones, and that it was inoperable—Stage IV. I stared at my phone. Surely it didn’t say what it said. I contacted Carissa directly, and tears welled when she confirmed. In her early forties with seven children (college-age down to preschool), she’d only gone to the doctor for chest pains. She was given a devastating diagnosis. (By the way, she has never smoked.)

Carissa and her husband love the Lord, and their faith is strong. Her husband posted this on Facebook when they got the news:  “Our hope has always been in the Lord and remains securely there. He has always been faithful and will continue to be – it is His very nature – as is His mercy. His Name is worthy to be praised as the sun rises this morning.”

Carissa’s family and friends (including her Israel family) are praying, believing, asking God for mercy, healing, strength, grace, peace, and beyond.  We know that no one has the final say but God, who numbers our days.

And in the midst of this, I am burdened all the more with that same thought . . .

Time is short. For us all.

If God Himself told me I only had a few months to live, what would I do with that time? How many conversations would I have with people about the Lord? How many would I tell that God so loved the world, He sent His only Son, so that we would not perish but have everlasting life? Would I fear rejection or persecution over sharing the truth of God’s Word, if I knew I didn’t have long? Would I people-please? Tarry in sin? Would I be more diligent about obeying the promptings of the Spirit?

How much small stuff would I sweat?  How much would I worry?  Would I be slow to forgive an offense?  How many more “little” moments would I pause to enjoy?  Or sunsets.  Or gentle breezes.  What kindnesses might I show a stranger?

Would I spend more time with the Lord, if I knew I would soon be in His very presence? Would His Word mean more? Would I feel an urgent sense of purpose?

However my focus would change if I knew my time on earth was short . . . that’s the focus I pray to have now. Because my time is short. Soon I will be in the presence of my Savior and Lord, in a glorious place that does not compare with this world. And I want to live accordingly, making the most of the days I’m given here.

How about you? How would your focus change if you knew you didn’t have long on this earth? Does James 4:14 motivate you to make any of those changes now?

Carissa WeddingP.S.  Here is a picture of Carissa and her sixteen-year-old daughter from earlier this month at the wedding, before her diagnosis. I asked Carissa if I could post her story. She said, “Absolutely! Give God all the glory!” Would you please say a prayer for my dear friend and her family?

 

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Open House

September 18, 2014

Open-House-Sign-28be2cIt’s shaping up to be a fairly eventful week! On Tuesday, I was celebrating the release of Hidden Blessings. Now I’m inviting you to an open house—for my new blog. I’d had the old design for four-and-a-half years, and was ready for a change, like, two years ago.

Hold it, though!

Have I really been blogging that long? Actually, I was blogging even before that, at my old blogspot address. Seems forever ago.

If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have been blogging this long. I’m just not into blogging for blogging’s sake. And I never bought into the whole, “you need to blog in order to build a ‘platform’ to gain ‘followers’” thing. Um . . . yuck.

I’m here for the sisterhood. I’m here because I’ve seen the Lord’s hand upon this little community, moving us to share struggles, encourage and pray for one another, confess the difficulties of this Christian walk while praising God for His faithfulness—all with women we’ve never met “in real life”. That’s why despite the busy seasons that rendered me unable to post for weeks and even to wonder if I should continue—I keep coming back. I have to. It’s a total God thing.

So hey, if you’re getting this in your inbox, drop by! If you’re already here, make yourself at home! I’d love to hear what you think.

I feel like this is a new season, and not just because it’s September and the weather’s turning. :-)  Anybody else feel like a new season is upon you?

 

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HIDDEN BLESSINGS Available Now!

September 15, 2014
Hidden Blessings high res cover

Hidden Blessings high res coverThe build-up to a book release is an interesting thing. You spend hundreds of hours writing the book, dozens more hours editing, months waiting as it cycles through various stages and finally heads to the printer, and then more waiting until the release date. Then it comes out, people read it in a couple of days, and it’s on to the next thing.

Which is why I intend to savor this day to the utmost!

I’m savoring because I know how many times I contemplated throwing in the towel, and God said, in a myriad of ways—No. I’m savoring because I felt the hand of God upon me as I wrote. I’m savoring because I believe God will use this book to minister to people in ways I can’t even imagine—and I’m praying He will do just that, with every single reader.

I’m savoring because life is hard, trials are hard, sorrow is hard—and yet, I know that I know that there is a true and living God whose love and strength and joy and faithfulness overpower any and everything that comes at us. I believe that. And I pray that the Lord uses this book to convey that.

So I’m celebrating today!

And to celebrate, I’d love for us to share a hidden blessing we’ve seen lately. Here’s mine… Last Saturday evening, I had several situations coming at me at once. I woke up vexed and frustrated, going over everything in my head as I moved about the kitchen. In the midst of my frustration, the Lord stopped me, and I heard this question in my heart:  Did you notice how you struck up a conversation with Me about all of this, as if talking to a friend?

Suddenly, I did notice. I realized. I turn to Jesus, no matter the situation. I’d been praying to see hidden blessings, and here was a big one—Jesus was my Friend. In that moment, the situations didn’t matter. I was basking in the intimacy that our Savior allows us to have with Him.

What about you? I know there have been many hidden blessings in your life of late. What have you seen?

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Missing the Glory

September 3, 2014

iStock_000005465343XSmallLately, I’ve been loving my time with John on the treadmill—the Gospel of John, that is. I started memorizing this book way back in 2003, fell off for a good while, and picked it back up again last year. I probably won’t be done before I die or Jesus returns, but meanwhile, I’m having a great time slow-walking with Him through these verses.

I’ve realized at least one reason why I’m having a great time—memorizing narratives brings the words to life in a whole new way. Without thinking about it, my tone changes as I find myself inhabiting the people, and I gain more insight in the process. The realization came in chapter five.

Remember the man who had been lying by the pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years? When Jesus asked him if he wanted to get well, the man replied that he had no one to put him into the pool when the water was stirred up. “Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.’” (John 5:8) And of course, because this is Jesus, “Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.” (John 5:9)

But it’s the Sabbath. And this is what unfolds:

“So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, ‘It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.’” John 5:10

Try it. Pretend you’re one of the Jews and say this part aloud:

“It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.”

Doesn’t your voice drip with indignation? It’s the Sabbath! Who do you think you are? This is not permissible! It puts you in the scene, helps you inhabit the dynamics at play.

Now the cured man’s response. Say this aloud too:

“He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’”

My voice turns apologetic, even pitiful, when I say it.  Did yours?

Now switch roles again, back to the Jews:

“Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk?’”

Okay, pause. I think I was right here, in the middle of the interrogation, when it hit me on the treadmill—Is this really the conversation that’s happening right now? People have seen this same man lying around for thirty-eight years. Now the man is walking. Yet, no one is saying, “Wow! What happened? How were you cured?” No one praises God that he’s been delivered from decades of infirmity. How about someone help him carry his pallet, since his legs might be a little wobbly?

Instead, the cured man is chastised for carrying his pallet on the Sabbath, and they want to know—not who cured him, but who had the audacity to tell him to pick up his pallet and walk with it.

Jesus, the Son of God, in their midst. A miracle done in their midst. Yet, focusing on the rules of the Sabbath, they missed the Lord of the Sabbath. They missed the Glory.

I pondered that today. How often do I miss the glory? How often am I too focused on one side of a circumstance, and miss the God-side of the circumstance? Even more convicting, how often do I interrogate one of my teens based on a “rule” when God is doing a greater work in them, right in my midst?

Can you use this prayer too? Lord, help us not to focus on lesser things, or things that might not matter at all—and miss Your glory.

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To Be Loved

August 26, 2014

Hidden Blessings-to be loved (2)It’s one of my most vivid memories as a girl, sitting on the edge of the twin bed, eyes peeled to the window, waiting for my daddy to come. I’d be excited about the planned outing, but mostly I just wanted to see him. I loved being around my daddy. We had fun, laughed a lot. And when he said he was coming, I couldn’t keep away from that window . . . even as daylight turned to dusk. And dusk turned to night. But then, after several attempts by my mother to steer me toward something else, I’d finally relent.

He wasn’t coming. Again.

I don’t hold it against my dad. To this day, we have a great relationship, and we still laugh a lot. But for a season after my parents’ divorce (I was four), he’d make promises he couldn’t keep. And I doubt I understand fully how the disappointments impacted me. My little girl mind thought more than once: I must not really matter. He must not love me.

So as I got older, the questions loomed—never consciously, but they were there. What did love look like? If a guy made me feel that I mattered, was that love? If he fit me in his schedule and made time to come see me, was that love? If I was his one and only, was that love? And how long would that last? Because no man could be faithful always . . . of that I was sure.

I met Bill Tate at age 23, got engaged at 24, and for the first time, experienced love in a way I never had. I mattered to someone, in a way I never had. This man wanted to spend his life with me. But a well-laid foundation of disappointment had made me a skeptic. Would it last? Would he really be faithful? For how long? Was this a forever love?

Twenty-one years later, I’m thankful for our love. Still, though, it’s not a perfect love. It’s a human love, and human love is fraught with . . . non-perfection. But a year into our marriage, I came to know the one Love that first loved me. God’s love is the love that sustains and upholds me. Fills me. Strengthens me. It’s the love that has healed me.  It lets me know I matter, no matter what. It’s the love that is faithful, always. And true. And forever.

To be loved was my heart’s cry from as far back as I can remember. And I was loved, more fully than I could have imagined.

Have you longed to be loved? Do you live with an awareness of God’s deep love for you?

Oh, and almost forgot…here’s the video on this topic. :-)

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When Trials Come…

August 12, 2014

Hidden Blessings (youtube)I struggled with whether to post this video this week.  I recorded it prior to the heartbreaking news about the young man who was shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, MO . . . about 25 minutes from my home.  That news, coupled with the riots and looting, has dominated national news this week.  And then there was the next bit of heartbreaking news—the death of Robin Williams, who committed suicide after battling depression for years.

The heart behind the video was to do a mini-devotional, to look at trials and how God uses them in our lives.  It’s such a central theme of the book, and it’s something that we all deal with, to one degree or another.  But I prayed whether to post it because I didn’t want to appear to make light of very serious, heartbreaking situations.  If I say God may use trials simply to move us to know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings (which I do), would it appear too flippant?

But I heard this question in my heart:  Do you believe Jesus is the answer in times like these?

And I do.  Always.  I didn’t know what the week would hold when I recorded the video, but God did.  I’m trusting that He’ll somehow use it for His glory.

You can find the video here.  After you watch, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this… Do you sometimes look at other people’s lives (whether in your day-to-day “real” life or on social media), and think that you’re the only one “going through” while others seem to be cruising along?  Does social media give us a false view of life (thus making us discontent)?

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The Countdown Begins

August 5, 2014

Hidden Blessings square promoIt’s almost here—the release of Hidden Blessings! I shared last fall how hard it was to write. For weeks the words simply wouldn’t come, not in the way I needed them to. Then, in one month, the Lord gave grace to write over 50,000 of them. I’m still so grateful. And I’m grateful to be able to soon share the book with you.

But meanwhile, as I count down to the release, I’d love to share snippets. The main character is Kendra Woods, who seems to have it all. Partner at a prestigious law firm, engaged to the man of her dreams . . . But less than a month before the wedding, Kendra is diagnosed with terminal breast cancer—and her world collapses.

 “We had so many plans for the future, our careers, kids. That’s all . . . lost.”

 Those aren’t Kendra’s words. They’re her fiancé’s, shortly before he dumps her. All her plans—their plans—gone.

I bet many of us can identify, at least a little. We make our plans for the future, map out where we’ll be, what we’ll do, and with whom we’ll do it—only to see some or all of it crumble. And it can be devastating.

But.

But.

What if the loss drives us to a deeper place with God? What if He shows up in ways we never thought possible—in the pain?

This is Kendra’s journey. This is the journey many of us are on right now.

So, I have a question. It’s not a real question because life doesn’t give us options like this. But I thought it would be interesting to ponder, and might even tell us something about our own hearts. Here’s the question:

If you could, would you choose your life your way, with your own plans intact and your own goals achieved—with no presence or power of God?

OR, would you take the life that’s been overturned and broken, where all seems lost—yet where God shows you a deeper love and greater power than you could have ever imagined?

P.S.  It’s good to be back, and I’m looking forward to catching up with my blog sisters!  What have y’all been up to??

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Praying for Danielle

April 24, 2014

Susan Keller Photography

If you’ve spent any time at my blog in the past couple of years, you’ve probably run into Danielle.  She’s the blog sister who’s given us a window into her home life and marriage—the pain and difficulties, as well as the amazing glimpses of God’s grace.  What’s always struck me about Danielle is her relentless faith and strength in the Lord.  It’s evident when she describes a hard day, yet tells us that she encouraged herself with her “battle verses”.  It’s evident in the way she’s faithfully encouraged so many of us, even while she’s “going through” herself.

There’s something else that has struck me about Danielle—her love for her little ones . . . her three-year-old daughter and her son, born last year.  No matter what else is happening in her life, she has found joy in cuddling them, reading to them, loving them.  And I’ve found joy in the pictures she’s sent to me of those little ones.  In fact, two weeks ago, Danielle emailed a video of the kids playing happily outdoors.

But this week, I was shocked to receive the news that her three-year-old girl, little Adanya, had passed away suddenly.  Oh, how my heart breaks for Danielle.  I went back and viewed the pictures and video she sent.  I perused some of Danielle’s blog comments, remembering ones that touched my heart—like this one posted on November 25, 2013:

“Oh, and a side note to make you smile…Adanya was watching the video with me, and she waved and said, ‘Hi, Ms. Kim, hi!’ Then she turns to me and says, ‘Mom, why isn’t she saying hi back?’ :)”

As I prayed for our sister, I was moved to link arms with the rest of you, so we can encircle Danielle as one with our love and prayers.

Danielle, please know that we love you, and we are lifting you and your family up to the Father.  I know Isaiah 43 is one of your go-to passages, and I pray you cling to this precious truth:

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name; you are Mine!

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.

When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,

Nor will the flame burn you.

For I am the LORD your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

*photo by Susan Keller Photography

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The Armor of God (Ephesians – Week 11)

April 6, 2014

Can you believe it?  We’ve reached the end of Ephesians.  At the beginning of the study, I shared that this book has held a special place in my heart for years.  That has only deepened over the last several weeks as I’ve not only meditated anew on this book, but also discussed so many passages with you all.  What a blessing it’s been!  This blog community especially caused me to appreciate more deeply the “body life” that’s such a focus of Ephesians.

In this last week, the focus is spiritual warfare.  It’s no surprise that with all that we have in Christ—and all that we are in Christ—we have an enemy who is scheming against us.  We need to know how to stand firm in the Lord’s strength.  The video is here.

If you didn’t have a chance to walk through Ephesians with us, the videos can be accessed on YouTube any time.  If you did, I pray the study blessed you in a very real way—and that the Holy Spirit will continue to impress upon your heart and mind the precious truths found in this book.

But we’re not done just yet!  I’m looking forward to more discussion, whether about this week or the study as a whole.

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Submission (Ephesians – Week 10)

March 30, 2014

I couldn’t wait to get to this week, to talk about this word.  And it’s quite a word, isn’t it?  By itself, it can trigger such emotion.  Minds make the immediate assumption that it’s all about women—in particular, wives.  But it’s about so much more.  And as the redeemed who’ve been charged to walk worthy with renewed minds (see how these lessons tie together??), we should see it as so much more.

The video link is here.  Once you’ve watched, let’s talk.  How do you feel about that word?

Here’s what I find incredible.  There’s only one earthly relationship ordained by God as a symbol of the eternal union of Jesus and His church.  And this mystery is given to us in Ephesians.  In the context of that word . . . submission.