Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Have you ever heard a song that so captured the cry of your heart, you wondered whether the songwriter had had access to the very depths of you--every thought and desire?

Last week my friend Briahnna sent me these lyrics:

She rises up as morning breaks,

she moves among these rooms alone, before we wake

And her heart is so full, it overflows

She waters us with love, and the children grow.

So many years from now, long after we are gone,

These trees will spread their branches out and bless someone.

So sink in to all that matters, step out into the light

Let go of all that's passing, lift up the least of these

lean into something lasting...

Planting trees.

I am overcome when I think of the message behind these words, because this is our blessed calling! For every wife and mother out there (or mother in waiting), this is a gift from God to get to be up before our families, sneaking into their rooms to lay a hand on them to pray for things that will happen to them not just 20 minutes from now but also 20 years from now, storing up the Word of God in our own hearts so we have truth and wisdom to impart to them, declaring over them "You are more than a conqueror because Jesus loves you!" so they know who they are in Him, insisting on our children's pleases and thank yous and reminding them to pray for friends, supporting a husband's call to serve others...we are so blessed to get to do every last one of these things and more!

Because it doesn't just stop with your family or with mine. It's about who we'll reach through them, both outside our homes and into the nations, and the generations to come. We are building into little ones we'll never meet, providing a heritage for those to come. God allows us to be in on these very things--how awesome and good of Him to use us to accomplish His purposes.

I am overwhelmed when I think of the women I know who are all about "planting trees." So many women come to mind. I am challenged and encouraged by you in many different ways. I love you and pray today that the LORD strengthens your hands to just keep on planting trees, that they may grow up and their branches will reach someone.

*Thanks to Briahnna, a fellow tree-planter, for sending me these lyrics that captured my heart this week ("Planting Trees" by Andrew Peterson).

One generation will tell the next generation of Your works, they will declare Your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of Your majesty and will meditate on Your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of Your awesome works and will proclaim Your great deeds. They will celebrate Your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of Your righteousness.

Psalm 145:4-7 * A prayer to be prayed over our children


A family needs our prayers. The wife is due with their 4th child in about 2 weeks.

A family needs our prayers. The husband just accepted a job in Florida, and they will be heading there soon to begin their new life.

A family needs our prayers. Their 4-year old son Finn was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia last Thursday. Very thankfully, this is a type of Leukemia that has a high survival rate, but there's a long road ahead.

All three of these requests are for the same family--the Wheeler family--Chris, Shawn, Arden, Finn, Benaiah, and Baby Wheeler #4. And I think even ONE of these scenarios would warrant a covering of our prayers, but they are facing all three.

Even though you may not know this family, please pray for them. They welcome our prayers, and as Shawn Wheeler said, "Our expectation is in God!"


Sunday, June 26, 2011


The Israelites. God's chosen people, freed from their captivity in Egypt.

They were told there was a land flowing with milk and honey that awaited them. It was
available to every last one of them.

But some of them never saw the fulfillment of that promise.

Hebrews 3:17 states that many of them never made it all the way; Instead, "their carcasses fell in the desert."

They fell in the desert. As in, the desert in which they wandered, the desert that was just short of the promised land. They died without experiencing the place of blessing--They perished before they tasted of the milk and honey.

This has been on my mind the last few days, and I think I'm realizing that


What got in the way? Disbelief. Ingratitude. Persistent rebellion. Pervasive disobedience. Forgetting the One who made a way for their deliverance.

Even Moses never saw the Promised Land. Obviously he was loved by the LORD and was used by God to lead the deliverance of His people (Can you imagine being chosen to be in on that?!?) But later in the desert when the Israelites needed water to drink, God instructed Moses to speak to a rock and was told the water would gush out of it. Instead, Moses struck the rock with his staff rather than merely speaking to it. And that one act of disbelief cost Moses dearly.

"Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron: 'Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them'" (Numbers 20:12).

It got me wondering--What promises has God placed before us--promises that are absolutely AVAILABLE to us but not certainly ours
if our hearts remain bent on disbelief, rebellion, ingratitude, and forgetting the One who insured our deliverance? Is there milk and honey that you and I are meant to taste, blessings that He most certainly has in store for us, if we will only trust and obey? Absolutely. But what if our hearts are set on not trusting, nor obeying--will we still taste of what He holds in store?

I'm not saying that we can somehow disqualify ourselves from every earthly blessing from God if we stumble and fall, if our hearts grow weary or if we find ourselves questioning at times. But I think we can all agree that our sin holds consequences. I'll be the first in line to thank God for giving me what I IN NO WAY deserved, and for not doling out the punishment I most certainly DID deserve. God is gracious beyond our understanding, and His heart is tendered and moved to mercy by penitent hearts. But there are lasting ramifications when we do not believe the One who has said, "BELIEVE ME."

This is a bit of a tough pill to swallow, but the past few days I feel like the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart, "Believe Me that there were ones who fell in the desert. They didn't all see the Promised Land." And honestly, doesn't it kind of make sense? I mean, if we believe that there are blessings in store when we hold unswervingly to our faith and believe God...

...then doesn't it stand to reason that we risk missing out on certain blessings if we do not believe Him?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Recently I saw a video online of a man who decided he probably had too many pairs of pants, but had no idea exactly how many he had--and so one day he decided to count them all.

There were seventy-five. The man had 75 pairs of pants!

It got me thinking. Pants aren't as much my thing, so I decided to go through my closet and count my shirts instead. So here's my big number:

Forty-six! Long sleeve, short sleeve, fancy, casual. Shirts, shirts, shirts.

How on earth did I end up with 46 shirts?

That means that I could wear a different shirt every day for a month and a half with no repeats. That is absolutely ridiculous!

The man on the video said something that has stayed with me ever since. He basically said, "How did I have 70 pairs of pants and feel the need to buy a 71st? Or a 72nd? And what compelled me to buy a 73rd pair of pants with 72 other pairs hanging in the closet at home? And then how did I think I needed a 74th, and a 75th?"

And frankly, I feel the same way about my 46 shirts. Especially in light of the trip my husband just took to the Dominican Republic where many children run around in the same shirt--the one and only shirt they own--every single day. And just when you'd think their closets must be pretty empty, you realize that they'd say "Closet? What's a closet?" -- because the idea of having a separate room for their clothes would be unthinkable to them. They often cram families of six into a few hundred square feet while we have designated rooms for our clothes and cars.

When did I decide that I needed 40+ shirts? I never set out to own that many, but how do I even have more than I can count on two hands? And really, to be honest, I have always been fairly content with simple things and a simple life. So I think I look at what I have and don't bat an eyelash because comparitively speaking, we keep it pretty simple around here. As a rule, we really don't pursue status and stuff.

But there's something that hasn't been sitting well with me about owning 46 shirts.

As I went through this, I was reminded of a statement I read in Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline -- "Most of us could get rid of half of what we have and not really feel it." And so I started really thinking about it. Half of 46 is 23. If I gave away half my shirts, I would still have 23 shirts left. I didn't really want to face it but I knew there is no reason I can't be more than content with 23 shirts. I realized that was exactly what needed to happen. I went into my closet and took 23 shirts off their hangers and set them aside to donate. I thought it would be really difficult, but it was done within 5 minutes. And what I thought would be so tough to do was actually pretty freeing!

Let me throw out a challenge. I'm not saying you should necessarily pare down your own wardrobe, but I do encourage you to do one thing: Go into your closet. Start counting. Shoes, pants, shirts, whatever. Just start counting.

But let me warn you--It'll probably be eye-opening. Maybe even uncomfortable.

Jesus, You are our example. You went to the cross with only the clothes for which the soldiers cast lots. Your goal was not the acquisition of stuff, but to simply do the will of the Father. Please show us Your ways and show how we can follow You. Give us hearts that are content with less. Open our hearts to share what we have more than we're doing now.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


A few nights ago our power went out for several hours. I lit several candles around the room, and picked up a good book to read--something you can still do when the power goes out!

But the candle right next to me was flickering wildly. I could hardly read my book because it was so distracting.

And then I noticed another candle lit across the room. It too gave off light, but the flame was still. Eventually I put the flickering candle across the room and put the steady light beside me to read.

As believers, we are the light of the world, and we are called to let our light shine. There are some, though, who believe that if their light isn't flickering wildly, they aren't doing it right. I'm talking about believers who feel it's appropriate to be terribly "in your face," often being known for declaring all we're against rather than sharing the One we're for. There's a place for standing up against injustice, absolutely--and a time to protest; Christ Himself spoke out against injustice. I just have trouble with people trying to shame or scare people into the Kingdom of God. And frankly, it's annoying to a watching world. I think that often these "flickering" types of believers are more concerned with drawing attention to what they're doing for God than actually pointing others toward Him.

Others, though, shine their light in a way that is steady and constant--being the same person no matter the circumstance, proving over time their consistency in faith and integrity. They know that the Holy Spirit can draw hearts to Himself without a bunch of obnoxious and often repellent antics on our part. They simply shine the light of Jesus in their coming and going, in loving actions and gentle words of truth.

Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.

Matthew 5:16

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I've been challenged this week to do two things that I've found to be powerful in the past:

Read Scripture outloud. And recite Scripture outloud.

I know it may not feel like the most comfortable or even convenient thing to do. I spend time reading Scripture downstairs in the morning while everyone else is asleep upstairs, so I have to read aloud quietly. But there is something so powerful about actually saying the words outloud and hearing them ring in my own ears. It somehow makes the promises more "mine."

I have been chewing on Psalm 40 for the last week or two, and have committed those words to memory, so any time I've been driving in the car or lying awake in bed in the middle of the night, I have begun speaking the words outloud and have found them burning into my heart in a fresh new way. The other passage that I love to speak aloud is Psalm 103...

So go ahead--take a moment to read the next words outloud. Allow them to become your promises. Declare them as your own--because they actually are!

Praise the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, praise His holy name.

Praise the LORD, O my soul,

and do not forget all His benefits:

He forgives all my sins

and heals all my diseases,

He redeems my life from the pit

and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies my desires with good things
so that my youth is renewed.

I do have a passion to speak His truth. But one of my favorite things is to simply speak His truth outloud, that my own ears may hear and receive. It's amazing how my heart changes when I hear the echoes of His Word in my head.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


When I post to this blog, I'm hoping you can relate to what you read here. I'm hoping you find a connection between daily life and God's Word. I'm hoping you're encouraged and challenged.

But I don't know who "you" are. I don't even know for sure that there's even a "you" reading this at all! I don't know who ends up at this blog from time to time, or if these words are really even seen.

But that's okay. Yes, I hope there are some "you"s who find yourself here and find yourself blessed for stopping by. I pray for that often. But really, even if they aren't a lot of "you" reading this, I keep on posting for an eventual "you":

My children.

No, they probably won't be heading to this blog to read anytime soon. But I have begun looking into sites that turn blogs into books. Yes, they actually do this! I just heard about this in the past year. And since I have been thinking a lot about how to impart my passion for our God to my children and grandchildren and so on, I think a great way to do so would be to share these stories, these struggles, and these victories I've written over the past 2 years.

My friend Denise shared with me a few months back something that resonated with me. She said that when she writes, she writes out of obedience to the Holy Spirit as He leads her to do so. Maybe that word is for someone reading that day or that week, but it just might be that that word is for her children or her children's children to read one day. I wanted to yell, "YES!" when she said these words. I understood her heart in this. I really share her heart in this.

And so I've been thinking that a blog-book would be a way to pass down all these truths that the LORD had pressed into my heart during the time I've had this blog. Ideally I want one for each of my kids to be able to keep, and eventually pass on. It's not that I think that what I have to say is so riveting, but I believe God's Word and faithfulness ARE riveting. And I want them to have a testament to God's faithfulness in the life of our family.

I wanted to pass along this info in case this interests anyone else. Maybe you have a family blog or something of which you'd really like to have a hard copy to keep. I have heard that makes a great blog-book. I can't personally attest to the quality of their work but I have a friend who loves the one her mom made for her last Christmas. When I do get around to making one eventually, I'll let you know what I think!

Hope "you" have a blessed week!


Friday, June 10, 2011


"Oh, no!" I said aloud. "I cannot believe I did that!" I was sitting at a graduation when I learned that "commencement" means the beginning of something--not the end.

Unfortunately, just a week or two before that, I had written an AP essay using the word "commence" to speak of the end of something. And I used it that way at least a few times. Go ahead and laugh--I'm not always the sharpest tool in the shed. And now I was pretty sure I'd failed the essay portion of the AP test. How on earth did I end up in AP English anyway?!?

Maybe I can crank out a good essay in spite of my limited understanding of vocabulary, or maybe the AP reader didn't know what commencement means either, because (somehow) I still passed the test.

I awoke very early this morning with that memory in mind, and these words running through my head: Commencement is anything but the end of something. It's the beginning.

And I can't help thinking that

the end of living in a pit isn't just the end of an existence in the mud and the mire. It's the beginning of a life of liberty.

The end of holding onto a hurt isn't just the end of bitterness and resentment. It's the start of healing and freedom.

The end of living deceptively isn't just the end of duplicity. It's the beginning of simplicity and single-minded devotion.

Even the end of things that were precious to me--seasons of life, places I've lived, opportunities I've had--were not merely endings. They were the beginnings of the next season, the next place, the next opportunity...the next blessing.

And the end of living a broken life according to my flesh isn't just the end of "me." It's the commencement of growing in Christ-likeness--and therefore the beginning of all kinds of mighty, glory-drenched, eternal things--finally living as the "me" I was created to be.

And there will be a day when I'll arrive for my own commencement ceremony. Oh, people may gather in a church and say words of remembrance, but I won't be here for it--I'll be there for it. Because when my days on earth are through, what might appear to be the end will be anything but. I'll be beginning my dwelling with the One who made me. It'll be the start of knowing as I've been known all along. It'll be the first of the rest of my days of standing beside my Savior. My Savior! How beautiful.

You are a God of beginnings veiled in things that appear to be coming to an end. You are Eternal God, and when it seems that things are tying up, You are ready to tie us in to our next beginning--whether here, or there. I love You.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


"I don't care what kind of places you've been--

Head-hanging is not necessary

unless Christ has crowned you with so much love and compassion that the weight of it sometimes bows your head in joyful and worship and gratitude."

-Beth Moore

No more hanging my head in shame. Loving Him as the lifter of my head today!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


I am earning my Mama Badge these days.

My young daughter has entered a phase of defiance. I mean DEFIANCE, y'all. At some point every day for the last week or two, she has "pushed it," so to speak.

And it's not just, "Liley, come here" and she won't come. It's "Liley, come here" and she'll head in the opposite direction.

Forget "head" in the opposite direction. More like RUN in the opposite direction with all her strength.

There's a difference between not coming when you'll called and turning tail and heading in the opposite direction when you're called.

Consider Jonah's defiance. He clearly heard God's command: "Go to Nineveh, Jonah."

And he could have gone.

Or he could have stayed put.

But instead he ran elsewhere. He turned and headed toward Tarshish, in deliberate avoidance of Nineveh. Not to mention in deliberate avoidance of the very command of Almighty God.

I think he'd tell you it wasn't worth it: Caught in a violent storm, tossed overboard like a ragdoll, swallowed whole by a fish and forced to live in its bowels for three days. And then for the grand finale, he was spat out onto dry land.

And then came the command again: "Jonah, go to Nineveh."

This time, he RAN in the way of obedience until his feet stepped on the soil of Nineveh.

I don't want my sweet girl to learn the hard way that defiance is just plain not worth it. I don't want her to be gulped up by some proverbial fish. Oh, but it's sure to happen--Just like her own Mama, she will defy, and she will regret defying. But in time she'll grow in understanding of the worth of obedience, and will grow a great distaste for defiance. I cry out for her heart to be bent toward obedience throughout her life. But I want the same for myself, too. I want a heart that responds by heading toward my own Ninevehs, not turning tail and running in the opposite direction.

Father, turn our hearts toward You. Pluck out these roots of defiance in our hearts. If they're allowed to grow, I do not even want to know what kinds of consequences will result from our rebellion. Just please give us a passion for obedience and a willingness to walk in Your way.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


"Hey, Thea--you need to slow down. If you don't, you're going to be out a lot of money in a few moments."

I wish someone had been there to warn me. If someone had, I guarantee I would not have gotten that speeding ticket last week.

Usually if someone sees a police officer, they'll flash their lights at oncoming cars to give a heads-up to slow down. And at that point, if you still don't slow down and end up getting a ticket, you kind of asked for it! But people usually do slow down when they get a warning.

Why then does this logic not translate to other areas of life? Perhaps because we don't consider the cost on the front end.

This week in our small group we watched Andy Stanley's teaching on managing our appetites, and how our inability to manage our appetites can cost us dearly. He taught the story of when Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew. Really?!? Yes, a bowl of stew. There's no way he really thought that one through, or considered the cost of that decision on the front end. What he gave up was much further reaching than his own lifetime--certainly longer lasting than that bowl of stew. But before we go thinking Esau a fool, let's at least acknowledge the ways in which we've done the same.

While I was on my way to work in such a hurry the other day, I know what I would have chosen if things had really been spelled out for me: "You can try to shave about a minute off your commute to work, but it will cost you about $100." I would have slowed down. No brainer. But I am sorry to say that I have been less able--willing, perhaps?--to count the cost on the front end of some other decisions I've made, and have had to pay the price.

And I'm not alone.

There are people all over who don't get to tuck their own kids in at night because they didn't realize on the front end that that would be one of the costs of their poor choices and selfish pursuits.

There are teenagers having sex with their boyfriends/girlfriends, never anticipating the conversations they're going to have with their future spouse about where they've been and what they've done.

There are families that deal with incredible stress because of excessive debt. They don't completely consider the loss of their financial freedom with every single swipe of the credit card, but it's coming. Perhaps it's even prevented the realization of a mom's longing to be home with her children.

What if, by any chance, we would truly weigh the cost of our decisions on the front end? I think every teen or single adult should literally sit down and write down a list of what it would cost them to have sex prior to marriage. I think every married person should literally sit down and write down a list of everything they stand to lose if they pursue a relationship with anyone other than their spouse. In these cases and in many others, I bet such an exercise would be eye-opening, to say the least.

And the Word of God gives us the warnings! About acquiring debt, about laziness, about sex outside the boundary of marriage, about gossip, about giving way to anger...the list goes on and on. Just spend a little time reading His Word, and you'll soon notice the flashing lights warning you to slow down.

And at that point, you can either heed the warnings and slow down, or keep on keeping on at the pace at which you're going.

But there's a cost to the whole "keep-on-keeping-on" thing.

Merciful God, we need You. Please give us the wisdom to carefully consider our steps, and to count the cost on the front end.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Today I found myself thinking about those peripheral vision tests the eye doctor always gives. You stared straight ahead, and then there were these tiny flashes of light all around, some right in front of your eyes, and some further out. Some of the flashes were even too far out for your peripheral vision to detect.

But they were there nonetheless.

There are things I see God doing. I recognize answers to prayer. I see His hand moving in circumstances, and I perceive His provision.

But I believe there are things He is up to that are outside my range of sight.

I know there is healing that I can't see.
I know there are reasons to hope that are outside my view.
I know there is future joy that is now hidden.
I know there are glimmers of redemption, but I can't see them.
I know there are flashes of purpose that are now invisible to my eyes.
I know He is drawing beauty out of the ashes, even though it's all happening outside the realm of what I can see.

I really needed this reminder today that there are things happening outside of what I am able to see. Because not seeing them is tough! They aren't in plain sight, and are even beyond my peripheral vision. But it doesn't mean they aren't happening. And you and I are called to a certainty of what is unseen.

Father, I am so grateful You're up to our good and Your glory--even when we can't see.