Living Hope

I recently had the privilege of bringing an advent message on living hope to our church family. The need for hope extends beyond the walls of my church, so I am sharing bits and pieces of it here on my blog as well. I pray that this Christmas you find a living hope that changes the way you live your life. It is found in Jesus. I know because I have it, through him.


What is hope? As I went to different definitions of the word, I came away with three components that I think are vital for real living hope: expectation, trust, and confidence.


As I was preparing this message, I contemplated those three-ingredient recipes that are so popular right now. For instance, sugar, peanut butter, and eggs. Combine those together and you’ve got a tasty peanut butter cookie. But if you minus one of the ingredients, then you won’t have the right product. I think our recipe for hope is similar. To live with hope that is real, deep, meaningful, impactful, you need all three – expectation, trust, and confidence.


I like this three-ingredient definition of hope because it conveys something deeper than, “I hope it doesn’t rain today,” or, “I hope we aren’t getting sick.” These are like statements of wish, chance, or luck. Real hope is not built on wish, chance, or luck. Real hope is built on confident expectation, rooted in trust. Living hope changes our mindset and changes the way we live. Real hope makes an old man and an old woman in Luke 2 keep showing up day after day at the temple: because they actually EXPECT that day to be THE DAY. They are confident in the ability of God to fulfill the promise he made to them, and they trust his character to fulfill it, too. It has been 400 years since the promise of a Messiah was last offered, and yet here they are living like the promise is coming true each and every day.


Simeon, verse 25 says, was “waiting for the consolation of Israel,” which is the Messiah. And verse 26 continues, “It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.” You don’t wait on something unless you believe it’s coming. I’m not going to stand in my driveway day after day and wait for a brand new camper to be delivered — because I haven’t purchased one or been promised one. I don’t believe one is going to show up. We have to expect that something is coming to spend our precious lives waiting on it! And this is one Simeon does.


He is living each day as if this promise is 100% true. This is hope. Living with expectation, trust and confidence that the promises God has made to us are 100% true. For Simeon it has to go beyond wishful thinking, because it’s affecting the way he lives his life. When we have living hope, it changes the way we live. We show up, every day, expecting good things, full of confidence and trust in what God is doing.


When Simeon and Anna saw Jesus, they knew he was their living hope – their promise fulfilled. Jesus is still our living hope today.  Are you living like it?


Are you showing up each day like Simeon and Anna expecting the promises of God to be true in your life?

Are you living like you’ve been set free, like there’s no condemnation?

Are you living like every chain has been broken?

Are you living like you are loved?


Every circumstance you experience can be lived with living hope. When your eyes have seen your Messiah, you can EXPECT good.


Simeon and Anna lived each day in full hope, confident, expectant trust, on God’s promise to them that a Messiah was coming. What promise of God do you need to bring into view today? His Word is full of TRUE promises for you and for me. But do we live like it? I’ll share a personal example of how hope has changed my outlook on my circumstances.


Most of you know that my family has been going through a difficult time as my mom battles breast cancer for the second time in her life. This summer as her diagnosis came, and the news kept coming up worse and then worse still, despair would often creep in on me. I lost my dad in 2020, so my mom is all I have left, and on top of that, she is notably my best friend. My prayers were often filled with desperation: “Lord, I can’t lose my mom!” Whether you can identify with my situation personally or not, I am sure that there has been a time in your life when you’ve prayed a prayer of desperation. Your soul feels despair, not hope.


What God helped me to see was that when we are in the middle of these storms and we need to regain our hope, we can look up, we can look beyond our circumstances. Psalm 121 says, “I lift my eyes up to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Also consider: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor 4:18)


Look beyond your circumstances.

Look beyond your feelings.

Look to what is true.


What living hope looked like for me was God changing my desperate prayer of “I can’t lose my mom,” to a prayer of confident expectation: “I can’t lose my mom… she’s mine for eternity.” God’s word tells me this is true. There are countless scriptures that I can place my hope in.


John 10:28-29 “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”


if I believe these verses to be true, then I have HOPE no matter what the outcome is for my mom’s illness.


There is confidence for me in these verses, there is expectation, and there is trust. I am confident that God is ABLE. He is able to heal her here on earth, or in heaven. I trust that his character is good, and he will only do what is best for my family. I fully expect him to fulfill his promise that my mom is redeemed, chosen, loved, protected, etc etc. Do you see how this changes my outlook? Hope moved me from desperation to confidence, expectation, and trust.


How do you get there though? Maybe you have a desperate situation running through your head right now, and you’d really love to move from despair to living hope. How? I really want this message to be actionable for you.


I encourage you to recognize that hope is rooted in what is true. If your thoughts are dwelling in worry, fear, doubts, and lies, then you are not setting your mind on things above, as Colossians 3:2 instructs. Hope is a mindset that is built on things that are true about God. And just like with Simeon and Anna, when we have living hope, it changes the way we live, even if our circumstances haven’t changed. So whatever situation you find yourself needing hope, I encourage you to choose a truth about God that you feel speaks to your situation. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to the right verse. Set your mind on that truth, rather than on the lies and worries crowding your mind. Memorize it, post it where you can see it, say it over and over again.


Allow the Holy Spirit to give you eyes see that God’s promise is true for you. He can turn your prayer of desperation to a prayer of confidence. From, “I can’t mess this up again” (desperate) to “I can’t mess this up because my God is in control.” From, “I can’t fix this person” (desperate) to “I can’t fix this person, and it’s not my job to fix them.” From “I’m never going to overcome this sin” to “there is no condemnation and I am more than a conqueror.” We serve a limitless God! A limitless God! There’s no need for desperate “I can’ts” in your life. Hope is available to you today.


Hope is available to you today because 2000 years ago this promise was fulfilled when a little baby was born. Our Messiah. This Christmas the words of his angels to the shepherds are his words to you: “Fear not! For behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)


Because your Messiah has come:

Your broken heart can be mended.

You are given freedom from captivity.

Your prison doors have been opened. Are you going to walk through?

And to those who are mourning this Christmas, your Messiah promises comfort.


You are not defeated.

You don’t have to live in fear and anxiety.

You are set free and not condemned.

Your chains are broken forever, sin has no hold on you.

You are adopted and chosen as part of God’s family. No one can snatch you from his hand.



Comments Off on Living Hope

Filed under Devotionals

Memories of Daddy: Life’s Inconveniences

Life can come with a lot of little inconveniences. Especially for a person such as myself who loves routine, order, and expected outcomes. Inconveniences are not welcome here. It’s painful to admit.


One of these inconveniences that seems to bother some folks (although shockingly, not me!) is the turn-around issue. Your home or business is located in just the right spot that a lot of people like to use your drive to turn around. And you don’t like it. For whatever reason. You know who you are. While it’s not something that particularly bothers me, I understand the feeling behind it: This is my drive, don’t use it for your purposes. (For me that reads: This is my schedule, don’t interfere with it for your purposes. So I get it.) I pass by a local business frequently on my mom taxi routes that has a bright yellow sign that reads: “NO turn arounds, PLEASE.” Well, at least they said please, right? But something about this sign, to me, reads, “you’ve made a mistake or had an emergency, but please don’t help yourself, in your time of need, to our driveway.”

This brought to mind a different approach to life that my dear daddy held. We lived in exactly one of these locations where I grew up. Ours was the first driveway on the first road for several miles on a stretch of local highway. We got a lot of turn arounds, among other weird stops (potty breaks, for real though! and people hiding from police, even! These folks did more than just pull in and turn around… They drove all the way down the drive to the outbuildings sometimes!) My dad never seemed too bothered by the turn-arounds (though I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled with the law violators trying to hide out). Oh, he wanted to have a sign made alright. But not a sign that said no turn arounds. No, he wanted a sign that read, “Jesus is Lord.” He figured if he had a chance to catch their attention even for a moment as they pulled in to turn around, he wanted to let them know something important and true.


What a great perspective! How often do I use life’s interruptions and inconveniences as an opportunity to help others find the truth of Jesus? More often I’m embodying the “no turn arounds” attitude, with my feathers all in a dither over the interruption. Your mistake, your emergency, your needs, they’re not welcome in my busy schedule. What if, instead, my response reflected Jesus’ lordship and love? What if interruptions and inconveniences were welcomed as opportunities to love others with the love of Jesus?


As I remember my dad this year, I want to remember that life’s inconveniences can be seen as opportunities to bless others and serve the Lord. I’m sure he didn’t always do this perfectly (I got my type A personality from him), but he was a lover of Jesus and people above all else.  One dear friend said of him at his funeral that, as he aged, he mellowed, and instead of becoming more entrenched in his Tom-isms, (as we all can do as we age, entrenching in our stuck ways) he grew to look more and more like Jesus instead. I pray this is true of me as well. As I meet interruptions and inconveniences, I pray that people see Jesus in my responses. If I have to choose between the two signs, I hope my life reflects a sign that says “Jesus is Lord” rather than the ”no turn-arounds” sign. Life is a gift. Which sign will you embody with yours?


Filed under Memories of Daddy

The Blinding Rain

Early this year I was caught driving in a rainstorm. I had a premonition, if such things exist, that it would be a doozy as the clouds rolled in. I’ve only seen clouds like that a few times in my nearly 40 years. (YIKES!)  Why, you ask, did I go out if I knew a bad storm was on the way? It was time to pick my children up from school. And I thought I could beat it. Foolishness. I’ve driven for over 20 years, in a lot of bad weather. I mean, I live in Ohio! I got my learner’s permit (as it was called back in the day) in the middle of January and drove in snow in my first few weeks behind the wheel. Whatever was coming in that storm, I knew I could handle it. HA!

Never before have I experienced a torrential rain so heavy that it was literally blinding. As it first started to pour, I thought I should decrease my vehicle speed so as to see better and increase my wiper speed to move the water faster. Well, I did that, and it didn’t help much. So I slowed down even more. Now, keep in mind, this is a road I drive multiple times a day every day on the Mom Taxi service route. I know it WELL. You know the kind that you can drive in your sleep because it’s so familiar. But this day, the blinding rain was just that, blinding. I had literally no idea where I was on the road. I was waiting for a funnel cloud to descend at any moment and suck my van to the sky. I was shaking and terrified.


While I couldn’t see the road in front of me, I knew that to stop in the road would be equally dangerous, because anyone coming down the road behind me would not be able to see my white van. So I crept forward what felt like an inch at a time, looking for a place to pull off. Ahead loomed a shadow. Was it a barn or a tornado? I wasn’t sure, but I took a chance and pulled off, feeling certain I was driving straight into the ditch. Thank the Lord it was a driveway. I pulled closer to the shadow, a barn (not tornado!), and found the cover of some trees.

And I waited.


As the storm subsided and my shaking began to settle, I called my husband to let him know I was alright and to get back on the road. (And he told me about the baseball sized hail that had been falling at our house!) What an experience!


When I drive the road to school now, months after this experience, I can still remember it so clearly, and I still notice the barn that led me to the safety of a driveway in the blinding rain. But what struck me about this whole experience was the lesson on waiting. Sometimes, try as we may, we cannot see the way forward in life. We have the premonition that a bad storm of life is rolling our way, and before long, we can’t see straight through all the turmoil of that storm. Perhaps our circumstances are confusing, our emotions are blinding us, the choices are immobilizing.


As we considered cancer treatment options with my mom this summer, many of those factors – circumstances, emotions, choices – left us struggling to see the way forward. I loved my mom’s posture of faith: “I will wait until God shows me what to do. He has always been faithful. I know he will show me. Until then, I will wait.” Her faith has been an example to me, and because of her example I feel more confident when I choose to wait on the Lord instead of rushing ahead because I like action and forward movement.


Sometimes waiting out the storm of life – circumstances and emotions – is truly our best option. We can trust that God is still leading us even when we feel like we are blinded to the way forward. If we can’t see the next move (or the next inch of the road!) then perhaps the best choice is to simply wait, wait until he illuminates our next steps. Find a place of refuge, and simply wait on him.


For those of us who like action and forward motion, this can be difficult. But Scripture has many references to waiting on the Lord.


Psalm 27:14 says: “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”


Lamentations 3:25 says: “The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.”


Psalm 130: 5-6 says: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.”


Exodus 14:14 says: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”


Isaiah 64:4 says: “From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.”


If you find yourself blinded to the way forward right now, take some time to wait on the Lord and trust that he will show you the way forward. He always has before. And when you feel his direction, step out in confidence and faith, knowing that you’re not leading from your own will, but you’re following the One on whom you waited patiently. And all these things said about Him in these verses above will be true in your circumstances: The Lord will be good to you. The Lord will fight for you. The Lord will act on your behalf. His Word will bring you hope. Your heart will find courage. It’s ok to wait until you hear from him.

Comments Off on The Blinding Rain

Filed under Devotionals

But I Can’t

Two of my least favorite words in the English language are “I can’t.”


Of course it is disappointing to hear these words when you’re asking someone if they can get together with you or help you with something. But what I’m talking more about is when they are spoken in a self-limiting way. My kids say this all the time when they are facing something difficult. “I can’t understand this math homework.” Or “I can’t fix this toy” or “I can’t complete this chore.” As we grow older, the challenges become more difficult: “I can’t work out the solution to this parenting problem.” “I can’t improve my health.” “I can’t make this marriage work.” “I can’t find a job.” “I can’t lose this weight.” This list goes on and on. But I wish we would strike those words from our vocabulary.


As believers in Jesus, we serve a limitless God. With him, there literally is not “can’t.” So why do we limit ourselves or focus on our deficiencies or our lack when we are invited to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us? Yes, some things are really difficult. But when we confess “I can’t” in a self-limiting way we are usually selling ourselves short.

Years ago I volunteered at a wonderful Christian camp called Cross Training Camp. Some of my favorite relationships were born there, and certainly my love of children’s ministry. On this campground, there was an obstacle course. It was somewhat infamous I think among the younger campers who were new to the program. The Obstacle Course. Dun-dun-dun! It had some challenges for sure, like a giant cargo net some 15 feet tall that had to be climbed, a zip line which crossed a creek from one steep bank to another, and of course, the WALL. The whole course concluded with a 10 foot wall that had to be climbed, but there were no handholds.

The cargo net

Often my role at camp was not as a squad leader but as a leader who supported the squad leaders and their squads. So when my squad leaders were first running the course with their groups, I’d head down with them to help support them through the obstacles. I’ll never forget one camper, 8 years old, Ashley. First year camper. She was totally overwhelmed by the obstacles. And so I took her for a walk. I really had no idea how to talk her through her fears. But I believe God spoke up when I asked her to not focus on “I can’t.” Rather, to spend the week seeing what might be possible for her, to focus instead on what “I can” do. It was like her brain flipped a switch mentally when she started to wonder what she was capable of instead of limiting herself. And of course by the end of the week, so was conquering those obstacles with the best of them. I’m quite sure I had tears in my eyes when Ashley popped over the wall. It was a beautiful moment.

I saw a lot of campers over the years do things that they never thought were possible when they started their week at CTC. Those years formed a valuable mindset for me to never limit myself as I met challenges, to persevere and to never give up. This mindset has been so important as I’ve faced the difficulties of special needs parenting, among the other challenges that adult life has brought my way. Let’s not focus on what we can’t do. Let’s just explore what we can do and see what happens.

Look how cute she is in her kayak! Little Ashley!

Our mindset is vitally important in the way we tackle life’s obstacles. Are we focused on what we lack? On our limitations? Or are we focused on what we may be able to do if we try? When I get tempted to fall into “I can’t” thinking, I remind myself of the words in Romans 8:11 “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you.” Yes, we are still limited by time, space, and our human bodies, but we don’t need to place limitations on ourselves when we’re up against an obstacle in life, because the Spirit of God, who raised Jesus to life, lives. in. us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul asks later in the same chapter of Romans (v 31). When we are walking in the good works he prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10), then we don’t need to think, I can’t make time for that, I can’t do that, I can’t start that, I can’t lead that, I can’t parent through that, I can’t overcome that. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Everything we need. It’s right there.

[Caveat: This is not a post against boundaries. I have firm boundaries in my life to protect my rest, my peace, and my sanity. This is not a “say yes to everything” post. Our human limitations are real, and we need to obey God’s mandate that we take time for rest in our lives. We say yes only to what He is asking us to do, the best yes. It’s ok to say no to things that are outside the scope of what he has called us to. It’s ok to say no when our lives and bodies need a break. I am all about boundaries and rest.]  

What I am encouraging you to do is to avoid limiting yourself when you face a challenge. Maybe on your own you can’t, but you never know what you might be able to accomplish if you try with God’s help and his limitless power behind you. The next time you find yourself up against a wall in life, remember that God’s limitless Spirit lives in you, and you are equipped to accomplish all that he has called you to in Christ Jesus.

Comments Off on But I Can’t

Filed under Devotionals


Last week we joined the droves of people heading out for our annual candy collection on Halloween. The kids counted down for days until Trick or Treat finally arrived. This year we had a pilgrim, a hunter, and a ballerina.

We actually had good weather this year, which really brought out the crowds. We started out on the city block where we used to live, and at first there weren’t that many people walking the sidewalks with us. But as we headed for our second block, the crowds really ticked up. Our youngest can be a bit clingy in a crowd, so I was pleasantly surprised that she was running up ahead of us with her brother and sister. After retrieving her candy from each porch, she would turn around and make eye contact with me, making sure she knew exactly where I was. After we entered one particularly crowded area, I could see her scanning the crowd, searching faces for mine. There was just enough time looking that I thought she might start to cry. But I had my eye on her the whole time. I waved and called her name. When she spotted me, relief visibly washed over her face, and she said, “There you are!”  

I responded, “You may have lost sight of me, but I never lost sight of you.”  

Something resonated in my spirit when I said that…. How many times have we lost sight of the Lord and where he’s working, or what he’s doing. And yet, he has never lost sight of us. Or maybe we have strayed away from him, we have wandered so far that he’s no longer even in our vision. But he’s never lost sight of us.  He is the God who sees you.  

This name for the Lord comes from an unlikely female character in the Bible. Hagar, the female servant to Sarai, wife of Abram, became pregnant by Abram at Sarai’s request, but then an embittered Sarai drove Hagar away, to the point where she is running literally out into the desert. Who knows where she thought she was going – perhaps it was an “anywhere but here” type of scenario for Hagar. She’s hiding out by a spring when the angel of the Lord finds her, and he makes her a promise that everything is going to be alright with her son who will be called Ishmael. Hagar responds, “You are the God who sees me.” (Gen 16) I love this! In the middle of her running, her hiding, in the middle of her desert place, Hagar knows she is seen by God. No matter where we’re running or hiding or how far we’ve gone, God still sees us.  The words of Psalm 139 remind us of this truth as well:  

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

There is no place you can be that is so far away that God loses sight of you. No matter if your life feels like a wasteland, or a chaotic crowd, God has his eye on you. Just like I had my loving, protective eye on my daughter at trick or treat, God has his loving eye on each of his children. He knows your name, and he’s calling out to you. When you turn around, he will be faithful to be there. Today if you feel like you’re lost in a crowd or hidden in a desert, I encourage you to pray a prayer that I have prayed many times: “God, I need to know that you see me today.” God has never failed to answer this prayer for me when I pray it. I believe he loves showing us not only that he sees us, but how he sees us. You are not lost or hidden from the eyes of your loving Father. I pray that you feel seen today by the God of Hagar, the God who sees.

Comments Off on Seen

Filed under Devotionals

What’s Your Soil Like?

I love a good visual aide for learning. Take a look at these root clumps that I recently lifted from my dahlias. I’ve placed them on a paper dinner plate for size reference.

Purple Dahlia Tuber #1
Purple Dahlia Tuber #2
Red Dahlia Tuber #1
Red Dahlia Tuber #2

These two sets of clumps are the exact same variety of flower and each originated from a single tuber that I planted. They were packaged together and likely came from the same original clump of tubers that was split. But look at the size difference after one growing season. I was astonished by the amount of growth in the bigger sets.  What is the singular difference between the tuber that grew into a large clump and the tuber whose growth was small and stunted?

The soil.  

The larger clumps developed from a single tuber planted in a newly turned garden area of rich soil. The smaller clumps came out of my infamous hillside garden full of dry sandy soil. It’s easy to tell which soil was a better growing environment for the tubers.  

This got me thinking about my own growth as a wife, mother, and follower of Jesus. If I took a look, would I be astonished by the amount of growth that’s happened in the past seven months? Or would I find only meager progress and limited life developing? What is the quality of my growing environment, or my soil, if you will?  

If I am assessing my actual garden soil, I am going to consider its contents and whether it has the right nutrients for good plant growth, things like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. If my soil is deficient in these things, then despite my watering of the plants, and the hours of sunlight the plants receive, the growth will not happen. Both of my tubers pictured received the same amount of sunlight and water, but the growth outcome was very different. The soil is the key.  

What is the soil of my life like? What are the key ingredients that make up my growing environment? Does it have key nutrients like prayer, rest, solitude, time in the Word of God, service, healthy boundaries? If these ingredients are lacking, then for me, growth will also be lacking.  

Or is my soil comprised of anxious thoughts, busyness and weariness (they go hand in hand!), selfishness, toxic relationships, constant noise, fear, anger, comparison? The list goes on an on, and for you maybe the toxic soil composition is different – substance abuse, obsession with something, addiction, perfectionism, critical thoughts, stress. There are many killing ingredients we can allow to be in our soil that will inhibit our growth. 

If today you’re assessing your own growth and your own soil and you find it lacking healthy nutrients, then start making small changes. (Too many abrupt changes for a plant can also lead to its demise!) One step is a good step. It doesn’t need to be many steps or big steps to make a big difference. Look at the good list above – what can you add to your environment? Worship music playing quietly in your home in the morning as everyone is starting their day? A faith-based podcast on your commute? A weekend free of event after event so that you can rest? A 15-minute devotion to end your day? Setting aside your phone for an afternoon regardless of who is texting you for emotional support? (You don’t have to be at everyone’s beck and call 24 hours a day!)

Boundaries are healthy. Rest is healthy. Solitude is healthy. Time in God’s presence (prayer, worship, Word) is healthy.

If you want to see more growth, try adding some of these things to your soil. When you reassess in a few months, I pray you are surprised to find bountiful growth, producing beautiful fruit in your own life!  

“But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” (Luke 8:15) 

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) 

“Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” (I Timothy 4:15) 

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

1 Comment

Filed under Devotionals

The Backpack

It’s been a few months since I’ve made time for blogging. Life got real lifey this summer when we had some major changes taking place with close family members. On top of that, the littlest Burleigh started preschool this fall, so I’ve added an additional drop off and pick up location and time to the Mom Taxi service schedule. How can one little change like that make us moms feel like we’re running around with our hair on fire!? Writing took a backseat while I processed a lot of these late summer changes. Some of the things we were going through weren’t really mine to share first, and I owed it to my family members to let them share on their own timeline.


To be honest, I didn’t also know what to write about or how to begin processing the weight that I was feeling, in particular from my mom’s cancer diagnosis, among the other shifts happening in our life. I just felt heavy.


I didn’t stop pressing in to my faith through all of this, even though I paused writing about it. So now I want to share part of what I learned in hopes that it will help someone else who’s lugging around some heaviness in their life.


I love a good object lesson, and the one that God impressed on me in this season was a backpack. I was carrying around many heavy things in my metaphorical backpack. In particular, I felt very burdened about my mom’s health. We had a lot of big decisions to make regarding her treatment plan.  It’s also not easy to consider and to face the mortality of our parents. This among other things was the heaviness I was feeling, just like an overloaded, weighty backpack.


The Scripture that I have clung to in this intense season we have been going through is Matthew 11:28-30. It has come up continually and everywhere in my life. The verses say, “Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”


Through this Scripture, I felt God asking me to take off my backpack. Big problems and small problems alike, He showed me that none of these were my burdens to carry. Jesus offers me his yoke, his way to bear the weight of my problems – it’s through entrusting them to him.


The problems of life will never go away – we live in a broken world. But if we continue to carry the weight of our problems, have we truly entrusted them to him? Is there really such a thing as “trying” to trust God? As my five-year-old pointed out at random one day in the car, we either do trust, or we don’t! There’s no in between. You’re either bearing the weight of the backpack, or you’re not.


Jesus offers us a better way to live in the midst of our trials, that’s his yoke, and according to his words, it’s easy. When we trust him with the weight of our burdens, things that truly are not ours to carry in the first place, we can experience the rest he described in Matthew.


As I chose trust, I began to experience God’s peace. As I began to focus on all that is true about God and all that he is able to do, the weight that I was carrying lifted. I decided that no matter what I did, or what we decided, God was able to handle the outcome. There wasn’t any wrong decision we could make that would be impossible for him to correct. I’m not responsible for my mom’s life – that’s a God-sized job! Phew – talk about lifting the pressure! Some of us need to realize that we weren’t created for that kind of pressure. We aren’t God! We’re not powerful enough to derail his plans!


This summer I saw my mom through two surgeries and the decision to begin chemotherapy this fall. Those are big, weighty decisions. But God led every step of the way, and I can honestly say that I have walked and am continuing to walk with peace through those things. It’s all because I made the decision to trust him. I took off the backpack, left it at the cross. I’m embracing his yoke, the Jesus way, walking in peace, rest, and freedom from heavy burdens I was never made to carry. He’s been right there with me, bearing the weight of it all.


Are you ready to walk that way? Today can be your day – Take off your backpack, leave it at the cross, walk in Jesus’ yoke, experience his rest and peace. Your problems with be there either way, but you have the privilege of being invited to trust Jesus. He’ll carry the weight for you if you allow him. Choose trust. You will not regret it.


Filed under Devotionals

Weeds (part 2): What are You Cultivating?

I shared much earlier this spring about the plant babies I started inside in my bay window – bachelor’s buttons, zinnias, and lavender. I’m always so eager to get my hands in the dirt and see something growing as soon as any hint of spring wafts through the air. My zinnias and bachelor’s buttons took right off, but my lavender just sat there. So, I did some research on growing lavender, and I found out – it’s not all that easy to start from seed. The seeds do best when they’re planted in the fall and can feel the chill of winter before the warmth of spring. I also learned that they can take an incredibly long time to germinate. And when they do germinate, they don’t look like lavender right away (this, as you will see, was a crucial piece of misinformation for me…) So, I didn’t throw out the pot I had started in my bay window. I waited. At long last a tiny sprout emerged. I was so excited. At least one seed had germinated. It didn’t look like lavender, but I was trusting the information I had gleaned online, that it might take time for it to look like lavender.


Here I sit in mid-June, with a plant that is most certainly NOT lavender. The bigger it got, the more my doubts grew. Finally last week I had my plant ID app take a look at it. The confirmation was clear: This is a WEED. I had a good laugh at myself and threw it away.

Look at my lovely weed!

Of course in light of the post I just wrote about the weeds in my hillside garden and the weeds of fear and anxiety in my heart, this new discovery got me thinking along a new line about weeds: What am I cultivating in my life? Am I cultivating things that are healthy and beneficial and desirable, or am I cultivating weedy practices that choke out life giving ones?


I spent some time in the weedy hillside garden this morning. There’s this one really pretty weed – crown vetch. Its leaves are fernlike and dark green. It has lovely light purple flowers all over it. Many have admired this pretty weed, and I did too last spring. That is, until I saw what it is capable of. What looked like a harmless pretty weed that would help stop erosion in the sandy, hillside garden, turned out to be as invasive as all the websites warned me it was. Before too long, I found myself needing to literally rip it limb from limb because it was completely overtaking the other desirable plants in the garden. You can see from these before and after pictures what a giant monster it can quickly become. If I allow it to grow unchecked, it totally takes over the garden. It chokes out the plants that I actually want to be growing.

Before weeding the crown vetch. Can you find the lilies and susans?
After weeding the crown vetch. Hello, plants!

I’ve learned from the weeds that I’ve accidentally and intentionally cultivated in my pots and gardens that I need to consider: What am I cultivating in my life, in my heart and mind? Am I feeding anxious thoughts with more anxious thoughts? Or am I ripping those suckers out as fast as I see them emerge? Am I cultivating a lifestyle of being overly busy and over-committed so that I’m too drained and living in survival mode? Or am I cultivating space, rest, and peace for myself and my family? Am I feeding the cravings of materialism and greed? Or am I exercising self-control and cultivating contentment? If I cultivate unhealthy practices, just like weeds they will quickly grow into monsters and choke out the good things in life.


Because the Bible was written during a time period when the world was largely agrarian, there are many references to sowing, cultivating, soil, reaping, and harvesting. Here are two that speak to the point of this blog.


First, Jesus’ famous parable of the sower with four types of soils encourages us to have hearts that are ready to receive his word, free of hard rocky spots where truth cannot dwell, and free of weeds that will choke out the truth, and protected from “birds” which may be lies of the enemy, distractions, or other pursuits that come and steal the truth (Matthew 13). This passage certainly encourages us to consider what we are cultivating in our hearts. Do our daily practices cultivate truth and give it a place to grow? Or are our hearts to full of bitterness, sin, lies, etc? What are you cultivating?


Second, in Galatians, we find the famous adage, “you reap what you sow.”  Galatians 6:7-8 says,


Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” After this comes the encouragement to continue sowing good: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”


So whatever it is that we are sowing with our lives, that is what we will reap. If we are sowing seeds of busyness, we will find ourselves with an overcrowded schedule. If we are sowing seeds of rest and peace, we will likely find space for those things in our hearts and homes. If we are sowing seeds of fear or anxiety, our hearts and minds will feel troubled. But if we are instead meditating on the truth, then we will experience the freedom that God intends for us to walk in. I don’t know what other kinds of seeds you may be struggling with sowing in your heart and mind, but these are the issues that are foremost in my mind right now.


When I start to sow the wrong kinds of seeds in my heart and mind, I’m going to picture that ridiculous weed that I accidentally grew in my bay window for three months! I’d never intentionally cultivate a weed in my flower garden or bay window! Why would I cultivate one in my heart?! Why would I give anxiety one moment to dwell there, knowing the giant monster it can become? Why would I entertain my fears and what ifs? – cultivating them only makes them more overwhelming. Instead I want to cultivate God’s truth in my heart and mind. I encourage you today to take a moment and assess what you are cultivating in your heart and life. What are you allowing to grow by the seeds that you are sowing? If you don’t like what you find, what changes can you make so that you are sowing seeds that are pleasing to the Lord and building the kind of life you want to live in? Maybe we need to start sowing some new seeds and hacking out the weeds we’ve let grow for far too long.


Comments Off on Weeds (part 2): What are You Cultivating?

Filed under Uncategorized

Weeds (Part 1): No Vacancy


Last winter we moved into a new home that had been vacant for some time. When we purchased the house in February, the property was completely covered in snow. We had no idea what surprises the grounds might hold for us. As spring emerged and the snow melted, I could see where old flower beds had been. And where plants had accidentally been moved when the yard was bulldozed! And as you can imagine, I could see how overgrown the beds and yard were with weeds because no one had lived there to tend them in some time. We began working on our flowerbeds last spring, and they have come a long, long way. It has been rewarding to see the transformation this spring as all my new plants have sprouted stronger and larger than last spring.

Unfortunately, along with them, the weeds have also sprouted. There is one particular flower bed that has been my nemesis. It rests mostly on a steep sandstone hill. Did you know there aren’t a lot of plants that like to grow on a sandstone hill, or in soil comprised heavily of sand? It’s been a battle finding things to grow in this large hillside flowerbed. An expensive battle. I’ve spent hours clearing weeds out of this bed, only to have them come right back because this is a huge flowerbed, and it would take me hundreds of dollars to fill it up with desirable plants that enjoy growing in desert like soil. So we’re in the long game with the weeds. I can’t put plants into all the places where the weeds were removed, so the weeds find their old home vacant, and they return.

When I was weeding this past week, God reminded me of the story that Jesus told to the religious leaders in Matthew 12 about the vacancies that impure spirits leave when they are cast out of a person.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”  (43-45)

What in the world does this have to do with me and my weeds? Or my life?

Lately I’ve been battling some anxiety and fear. I’m not a person given to anxious thoughts, but there have been seasons where I have felt intense anxiety, especially when it comes to my kids. Maybe you don’t think of anxiety or fear as “impure spirits,” but if you think about it … Where do they come from? Certainly not God’s kingdom or his heart! Fear and anxiety were crafted in the pits of hell to keep believers immobilized and ineffective. So I think that classifies them as impure spirits. I firmly believe that the enemy uses these forces to wage war on my mind and to keep me from being effective as a wife, mom, friend, and kingdom worker. Anxiety can be immobilizing. You’re just frozen in life because you’re so afraid that the wrong thing is coming down the pike. When anxious thoughts send me spiraling, I know I need to cast them out, just like the impure spirits Jesus is describing in Matthew 12. But how do I ensure that I don’t encounter the problem Jesus describes in this passage? How do I avoid having the house of my mind “unoccupied?”

When I am battling the forces of evil in my life (not just the weeds, friends), I cannot simply cast those things out and leave the mental space empty. Because the evil will try to come right back. Just like my weeds come right back to the empty spaces in my garden, the fears and anxieties that I struggle with return to the empty spaces in my heart and mind.

If I want to effectively battle fear and anxiety, I need to not leave the empty space available in my mind for those things to return. How do I do that? My weapon of choice is the Word of God. On my own, I cannot stand up to and defeat the forces of evil in my life, but with God’s Word in hand, I can. During a particularly intense spiral last week, I simply repeated over and over in my mind verses and words from the Psalms about trusting in God and about God’s protection. What I’m choosing to think about matters greatly, and I don’t want the forces of darkness that are searching for a place to land to check out my mind and find a vacancy where they can reside. I want my mind so full of God’s truth that there is no room for the lies of the enemy to dwell. 

(As a side note, please understand, I know that there are many people who struggle with crippling anxiety at all times. My heart goes out to you, because my MOMENTS of anxiety can overwhelm me. I can’t imagine living with it all the time. And I understand that this is a clinical, medical, brain balance issue that sometimes needs much more than what I’m describing in this blog. What I’m describing here is my own battle, which I believe has spiritual origins.)

The other thing about weeds is that they have roots. Sometimes the roots are deep, and sometimes the roots are strong. When I think about the anxieties that seem to plague me – they’re always the same ones, and I’m willing to bet you have your same set that plagues you too – I know that they have roots in my past. I’ve experienced things and the enemy has lied to me in those situations about who I am and who God is. It’s the lie I’ve bought into that has rooted itself into the current weeds of my life. Weeds can’t be destroyed in the flowerbed or in my life unless I get to the root. I need to be honest with God about the lies I have believed and ask his Holy Spirit to show me those lies and help me choose to believe the truth instead. When I can discern the root and deal with the lie, then I am on my way to healing. And when the flowerbed, or my mind, has been cleaned out, I need to fill it up with God’s truth to ensure there is no vacancy for new “weeds.”

We need to realize that we are not victims or captives to our own thoughts and minds. We do have control over what we think about and what we choose to believe. When I feel fear rising up, I can replace those thoughts with the truth about God’s goodness and trustworthiness. Choosing to trust God instead of giving way to anxiety brings peace, freedom, and lightness to my life.

Maybe someday I’ll have my hillside garden completely free of weeds and full of only great big, beautiful plants. But every time I weed, you can be sure it will be a reminder to think about what I’m thinking about and what I’m making space for in my mind!


Love my patio flowerbed!
Andrew rebuilt this retaining wall area and flowerbed this spring!
I spy a few weeds in this bed!

Comments Off on Weeds (Part 1): No Vacancy

Filed under Devotionals

The Easy Way Out

Have you ever tried to take the easy way out? I have a doozy for you! About a year ago we moved to a new house, and with the house came a dishwasher! All the angels sang and heaven rejoiced with me! For 12 years I went without a dishwasher while I was at home with my three young babies. To say I was delighted about my new dishwasher would be the understatement of my life. I was thrilled. It made kitchen clean up so much easier and so much faster! Just pop those dishes in, press a button, and voila! – clean dishes! Unspeakable JOY!

Until one day I tried to take the easy way out, and I made a horrible error.

Since we have 5 acres now, I was able to plant a much bigger garden last summer, and I branched out in my canning selections. I made tomato sauce for the first time this summer. (And boy wasn’t THAT a learning experience!) It sure does make a mess! I have this nifty little machine called a Victorio Strainer – just put the tomatoes in the top, turn the crank, and sauce comes down the shoot, while seeds and skins funnel out the end into a waste bowl. It makes sauce as easy as sauce can be (which, to be honest, is not terribly easy, but it sure helps!). As you can imagine, the strainer is a mess when I get finished putting the tomatoes through. There’s tomato puree stuck in every crevice. The BEST remedy is to use a stiff bristle bottle brush to push the remainder of the puree, seeds, and skins out of the places that it shouldn’t be into the trash, then to do that again under running water. But this process is still messy, and can make a bigger mess of the sink and counter, and my HANDS. It’s not my favorite part of the job.

So, after a particularly grueling and difficult sauce making session, I decided to take the easy way out. I shook the strainer pieces out into the trashcan, and then I threw them all into the dishwasher. To my delight, it came out pretty clean. I cleaned up the areas that needed a little attention and put the pieces way, not giving another thought to what I had done, and secretly delighted at how much easier the clean up process had been.

But, OH, what a horrible error. 

Soon after, I began noticing some residue on my clean dishes coming out of the dishwasher. I noticed little pink or red flecks on glasses, sometimes in bowls, and then in the kids cups and plastic dishes. I thought to myself, “What is going on? This dishwasher is not very old… Is it just less efficient than I thought it was? Is this really what having a dishwasher is?” My hopes were dashed and my spirits sank. It’s not the miracle machine I thought it was going to be. I tried various soaps and things, asked friends about their dishwashers, meanwhile I did not make any connection between the red residue and the horrible tomato mess that I had placed into the dishwasher when I tried to take the easy way out.

This went on for months.  Finally, my husband Andrew asked me if I had put something into the dishwasher that could perhaps have made a mess, which was now being sprayed all over our dishes every day. And that’s when the light went on. My tomato-covered Victorio Strainer. I knew then what the answer was: I had to clean the dishwasher. My fifteen-minute quick fix cost me (and my amazingly gracious husband) over four hours of cleaning. We had to disassemble everything inside the dishwasher that we could. We had to clean inside inaccessible pieces and parts that were now coated with a thick rubbery pink substance. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to clean the inside of a dishwasher sprayer, but wow. It is long, relatively flat, and hollow on the inside, with one hole for the water to be pumped in, and a dozen or so tiny holes on the other side for the water to be sprayed out onto the dishes. It’s all one piece, and the inside was entirely coated with the goo. Oh, and there are two of these, one for each rack of the dishwasher. We swished water around. We blew in the holes. We covered certain holes to create pressure in the other holes to blow the gunk out. We took tweezers to the tiny holes to pull out strings of pink goo. And then we used them on the tiny in-between spaces that were filled with dried red gunk too. We cleaned the drain. We scrubbed the walls. We took the racks outside to spray them off (in the winter!). Oh, the horror.

It is safe to say that I will never do that again. I mean, I may need to clean out my dishwasher in the future, but I will never again put that kind of mess into the machine. I took the easy way out, and it ended up costing me months of dirty dishes, not to mention frustration, plus hours of cleaning the machine.

Why do I tell this harrowing tale today? Because I think we often try to take the easy way out with our faith. We maybe don’t want to put the work in initially that we ought to, and we pay for it with nasty residue on every surface of our life afterwards. When I’m tempted to take the easy road, I often tell myself, “Tomorrow’s Catherine will thank you for doing this today.” It helps me with tasks that are less than desirable, but truly need to be accomplished for the best outcome.

In learning to yield to the Holy Spirit, I’m finding there are many times he asks me to do things that seem hard. Maybe it’s exercising self-control when I’m ready to blow. Maybe it’s choosing faith when I’m being swallowed by fear, standing up to the devil when he wants to keep me immobilized through fear. Maybe it’s stepping out of my comfort zone into new ministry or a moment of ministry I wasn’t expecting. Maybe it’s true repentance and freedom from a sin I’ve been entangled in for too long. Sometimes these things feel too hard. And it feels easier to continue in my sin or spiral. It feels easier not to leave my comfort zone. But the easy way, the path of least resistance, isn’t always the best path. When we take the easy road, there’s always a cost.

A friend of mine recently shared this on social media: “Strangely, life gets harder when you try to make it easy. Exercising might be hard, but never moving makes life harder. Uncomfortable conversations are hard, but avoiding every conflict is harder. Mastering your craft is hard, but having no skills is harder. Easy has a cost.”

Whatever hard thing you are facing today, please know that you can do hard things. One of my favorite verses to dwell on when I’m feeling powerless for a situation or task comes from Romans 8:11. It reminds me that the same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is now living in me. There is nothing too difficult for my God (Jeremiah 32:27), and he has placed his Spirit inside of me. With the help of his Spirit, we can do all things (Philippians 4:13).

I’m exceedingly thankful today that Jesus did not take the easy way out. In the garden when he prayed before his arrest, he asked his Father if there was any other way. God’s love for humankind was so incredible that he did not spare his own Son. There was not an easy way out. And so Jesus walked every excruciating step of his hard path. He did it for me and for you. The next time I want to resist his Spirit’s nudge in me to do something out of my comfort zone, I will remember that my Jesus did the hardest thing for me, and so I can do hard things too when I walk with him.


1 Comment

Filed under Devotionals