Good Doesn’t Mean Easy

When I got home from the hospital with my husband at the end of February, I thought all the hard stuff was behind us – at least for a while. I was ready to kick up my feet and bask in the fact that the long slog was over.

It wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

In my last blog post, I shared how 2019 was a tough year for me. At the time I wrote that I could look back and see all the ways God had shown up and provided and taken care of me and my family.

At the time, I wrote that post, I thought I had learned what God wanted to show me.

I was wrong again – sort of.

See, there were things God needed me to learn in that hard season so I could get through this season right now. When I was walking through last year, I had no idea that 2020 would see a global pandemic wash over the world like a tidal wave.

That’s the kind of thing that only happened in movies or those dystopian novels I sometimes enjoy reading.

But God knew. 

And He works all things for our good.

The mistake I often make though is equating good with easy.

I’m not sure why I do this since most things that are good aren’t usually easy. I mean, most of the important things in my life weren’t a piece of cake.

Parenting? Good but hard.

Marriage? Good but hard.

Ministry? Good but hard.

Writing? Good but hard.

I’m not sure why I thought what God was doing for my good would be easy either.

Thankfully, God knew what I needed before I ever heard of COVID-19. Last year, He taught me three important things that are helping me walk through this season.

The first thing God taught me was that He provides and He doesn’t need my help to do it. This is a lesson He’s been trying to teach me for many years, but last year I finally got it.

Not only did my son get to go to the Christian college of his choice, but I still don’t really know where all the scholarships came from. None of the ways I thought God would provide ended up being how He did it.

Not only were we sending a kid to college, but we had a mountain of medical bills. God miraculously provided the funds for the bills we already had, and the ones I didn’t even know were coming. Again, He did it in a way I didn’t see coming. AT ALL!

The second thing God taught me was that He is at work behind the scenes before I even know there IS a need. This has a lot to do with thinking I am in control when I never really am. When I was really little, my grandpa used to let me sit on his lap and “steer” the car. (No hate mail – this was in the 70s and people didn’t even wear seat belts, nevermind kids in car seats after babyhood). I thought I was in control, but of course, I wasn’t. Thinking I’m in control now is kind of like that. I might have my hands on the wheel, but His hands are really steering the car.

Third, God taught me that death isn’t something to be feared. When I found out about my heart condition last summer, there was a very real possibility that I had a very limited life span (as in a 5-year plan would be a waste of time for me, kind of life span).

This made me take a hard look at what I truly believed about heaven and where I would spend eternity. Did I really believe that I was going to a better place or were those just words?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m hoping to die anytime soon, and I am thankful for a good prognosis and a more normal lifespan. There are still plenty of things I’d like to do in this life, but my perspective has changed. My grip on this earthly life has loosened.

I’d love to say I haven’t had a moment of worry or anxiety during this whole thing, but I would be lying. Sometimes, having a vivid imagination is not a blessing.

But what I can tell you is that if I hadn’t gone through the hard stuff last year, my fear and anxiety and general freak out would have been a daily, even hourly thing for me.

I certainly don’t want to act like any of this is easy, especially if you or a loved one has contracted the virus or works on the front lines in all this. But I do want to encourage you that God is working even a pandemic for your good – even if it doesn’t feel like it. Maybe especially if it doesn’t feel like it.







Reflections on 2019 and My Word for 2020

2019 Wasn’t What I Was Expecting

As I look back on 2019, I’m reminded of the first line from A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”

This year has been one of the hardest years of my life, but it’s also been one in which I’ve seen God move in amazing ways.

Break a Leg Has New Meaning

I started 2019 by breaking my leg. I went up to Michigan with my mom for a funeral of a dear family friend, While I was there, I slipped and fell in a restaurant because one of the staff had mopped but neglected to put up a sign.

Unexpected Diagnosis

In addition to breaking my leg, in June I found out I had a fairly serious heart condition, called dilated cardiomyopathy. While the condition has improved and my doctor is very positive, I spent about a month pondering my mortality. You can read about that HERE.

Budget Woes

This summer, we also had more expenses and medical bills than we’ve ever faced before all at one time. Between cars going, water heaters breaking, a computer that crashed, and household repairs, our credit cards got a real workout and still haven’t recovered!

A New Season

In August, we dropped our youngest son off to college. While this is a good thing and he is thriving there, it’s also a good-bye of sorts and definitely the ending of one season and moving into a new one.

Saying Good-bye Too Soon

In September, one of my very best friends passed away. She had been experiencing chronic rejection of her lung transplant for the past two-plus years, but nobody expected her to die quite so suddenly. You can read about her passing HERE, HERE, and HERE. To be honest, I still sometimes have trouble believing she is really gone.

Another Unexpected Diagnosis

Then in October, we found out my husband’s heart condition (he has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – sorry, kids, for the sucky heart genes!), was much worse than the testing had shown up until that point. He had been diagnosed about 8 years previously. He is facing major surgery and had to give up coaching until the problem is fixed. In addition, we are facing a lot of red tape as Cleveland Clinic is not in our network, and, as those of you who have the marketplace health insurance probably know, this causes all kinds of issues.

This is a page from my prayer journal.

Another Good-bye

Finally, as 2019 drew to an end, I knew with certainty that the time had come to put my beloved dog, Kipper, to sleep. So, on the last day of 2019, I made that appointment. You can read about that HERE.

To say this has been a hard year is putting it mildly.

Then There Were the Good Things

On the other hand, I had one of my own personal high moments this year as I published the last book in my middle-grade fantasy trilogy, The Pirate Princess Chronicles. I still can’t get over the thrill of knowing people around the world are reading my stories. It still amazes me that I created people and places that didn’t exist before and are now out in the world. There is a kind of magic in that.

I also saw God work in extraordinary ways this year, and every time He did, it was in ways that I didn’t even see coming.

If You Break a Bone

First, if you are going to break your leg, the way I did it was the best-case scenario. It was really more of an inconvenience than anything else. I honestly had more trouble with the sprained ankle that came along with the break than the break itself.

Miraculous Provision

Second, while we traveled around on various school visits for Brody, I have to admit I worried about whether we could afford to send him to school, particularly a private, Christian school.

But somehow God made a way, and to be honest, I’m still scratching my head at how scholarship after scholarship kept materializing. All the ways I thought God might provide never happened. Instead, He did it in a way that we could only say, “That’s totally God.”

Not As Bad As I Though (or maybe I can make a 5-year plan)

Third, after a heart cath, I found out my heart condition wasn’t as terminal as I originally feared. And during that time of unknown, God changed my perspective on so many things. I realized I didn’t have to fear death, even if I did wish it came a bit later. I was given an assurance of God’s presence in my life that gives me a firm foundation to stand on even when everything else seemed to be shaking.

Blessing in Disguise

Fourth, the doctor wasn’t even looking at my husband’s heart condition when they did further testing. He was just looking to see if there were any blockages. The truth is, if the doctor hadn’t found out that my husband’s heart disease was much more advanced than he thought, my husband could have very well just dropped over dead during a game or any time he exerted himself. It was truly a miracle that we found out and I am so thankful.

In addition to that, I am so very thankful there IS a surgery to fix the problem. It is truly a one and done type of surgery, and 20 years ago, it didn’t exist. They would have just told my husband to get his affairs in order, but now, there is a cure. And one of the best facilities in the country is less than 3 hours from our house. At our initial appointment with the doctor, we were sitting in the waiting room with people from Texas, Georgia, and Honolulu!

God Provides in So Many Ways

Fifth, God has provided financially for our bills in such amazing ways – from a settlement for my leg that I never expected to other believers’ generosity and kindness.

Finally, God was so real and present with me as I took my dog in to be put to sleep. He confirmed in several ways that this was both the right decision and the right time. As someone who struggles with decision making in general, this was a huge blessing. Putting your dog to sleep is truly one of the hardest things about having a pet, but Kipper slipped away so very peacefully and quietly while we petted him and loved him. He was such a gift, and I am glad I could ease him out of this world with the least amount of pain and suffering possible.

Only barely into 2020, we still face a lot of obstacles before my husband can have his surgery. Even though we face a mountain of red tape, I have faith that God can part that red tape just as easily as He parted the Red Sea.

My Word for 2020

There were so many times this year that I was on the verge of freaking out (or let’s face it, actually freaking out), but I could feel God’s gentle touch and His quiet voice saying, “Wait and watch.”

That’s why my word for this year is Watch, and my verse, at least for this first quarter, is Micah 7:7.

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.

Despite the hard things this year, I have evidence that the God of my salvation both hears me and answers me.

So, even when my feelings are veering wildly all over the place, I will choose to watch expectantly because I know God always sees, He always hears, and He always answers.

Saying Good-bye to My Four-Legged Friend

This morning, when I woke up, there was a pit in my stomach. The day had come, the one I had been agonizing over since this fall. Today, I said good-bye to a true and faithful friend of 12 years – my dog Kipper.

As I moved through this morning, scenes flashed through my brain. I remembered the morning, a little over 12 years ago when my friend Mary drove me to pick up Kipper. He was my first dog ever and a fulfillment of a lot of childhood dreams. It was a lot of pressure for a little puppy.

But Kipper lived up to it in more ways than I could have ever imagined on that morning 12 years ago.

From day one, Kipper was an easy dog. Sure, he went through that annoying stage where he wanted to nip at everyone’s heels – especially Brock when he wore these super fuzzy slippers and ran through the house.

Together, Kipper and I did puppy kindergarten class, canine good citizenship class, and finally therapy dog certification. He breezed through all of it.

Together, we probably walked over 3500 miles. I don’t know the exact distance, but we walked a mile almost every day of his life until the last year when he started to fail.

Kipper was there during some of my darkest days. I happened to be grooming him when my mom called to tell me my dad had cancer. I remember burying my face in his comforting fur and crying.

He was there during the difficult days after my brother died. I’d sit on my back porch spending time with God. The tears would fall and suddenly, Kipper would be there, putting his long, pointy head in my lap, licking my tears.

Kipper was unfailingly kind, even to small children he didn’t know who would run up and throw their arms around him. He was hard to resist in all his fluffiness, and he became somewhat of a neighborhood fixture, with some kids watching for him to pass by on our daily walks. He’d sit patiently when they wanted to awkwardly pat him a little too hard or would look in his mouth fascinated by his long, pointy muzzle. If they got too annoying, he’d just stand up and wander away if he could, or he’d send me the look. The look that said, “A little help here, if you don’t mind.”

Kipper was good company. I called him my satellite dog. He was usually circling in the vicinity and tuned in.

Despite his good nature and easygoing ways, no dog is perfect, and Kipper’s big weakness was food. He would do anything for food, and it was probably only his training that kept him from snitching more than he did.

One time, my husband had some of his assistant coaches over and we served pizza. One coach had his slice sitting on his plate which was on a tv tray. Kipper walked by and the next thing we knew, that slice of pizza was dangling from his mouth. The assistant coach snagged it back and ate it anyway.

When I brought Kipper home, my kids were 6 and 9. I remember thinking that he’d probably live at least until my youngest graduated from high school.

This morning was about more than saying good-bye to Kipper. It rings with the finality of a door closing on my children’s childhood. Kipper, even though he was probably my dog more than anyone’s, was a constant in my boys’ lives.

I’d often find Kipper sleeping between my boys’ beds. He felt it was his job to protect them, and I had to intervene with the meter reader on more than one occasion when the man tried to come in the yard when Brock and Brody were back there and I was in the house.

I often joked that Kipper and I were so alike. Both of us loved food and a good nap. Neither of us was big fans of hot weather, and the crispness of fall put a spring in both of our steps. We both had somewhat crazy hair that tended to shed – although he definitely won that contest, hands down!

I know, for a lot of people who have never had a dog or who aren’t animal lovers, it’s hard to understand how difficult losing a pet can be, but they truly become members of the family. And the responsibility of holding that life in your hands can be heavy. I really wrestled with when it was the right time. I didn’t want to do it too soon or wait too long.

But even during all of this, Kipper made things easier. Yesterday, I started second-guessing my decision. I came home, and there he was. He came over and leaned against my leg. It was like he sensed I needed a bit of comfort, even if that comfort was over him.

Even this morning, with my heart heavy, he made me smile at his eagerness for part of my danish.

Kipper grounded me in ways it’s hard to explain. He made me smile almost every day he was part of my life, and he definitely increased my joy in the present. He was a living, breathing reminder of what love and devotion look like in its simplest form.

As I sit here, grieving this loss, I was thinking about dogs in general. Out of all the animals in the world, I don’t know that there is one animal that comes in so many variations, from little to small, from mellow to hyper, from uber-friendly to fiercely protective. Almost like there is one to fit all the different kinds of people there are.

I can’t help but believe that when God created dogs, He meant them to be a gift for us. Even today, when my heart feels broken, I’m tremendously thankful for that gift.





Walking a Mile In My Friend’s Shoes

Most people mean that metaphorically. I mean it literally.

One of my very best friends died in early September. I wrote a tribute to her HERE. While she’d been not doing well, it was still sudden. For about a month, as strange as it sounds, I’d forget she was gone. Her death just didn’t seem real.

Even now, almost three months later, I find myself mindlessly reaching to text her or message her when something happens—both good and bad.

I always knew that her time on this earth was most likely limited. But I didn’t dwell on it. It was something I pushed to the back of my mind to deal with later. In fact, she and I made jokes about it on a regular basis—jokes that others probably thought were horribly insensitive or wildly inappropriate but made us cackling like hyenas.

You can’t be afraid of something you laugh at, right?

About a month ago, her husband asked me if I’d like her any of her shoes. I’ll be honest, it was weird going through them and stacking the boxes up like I was at some big sale, and it felt somehow wrong.

When the boxes were stacked up by the door, her 3-year-old son asked if we needed to go to Fed Ex.

When I got home, I piled the boxes up in a spare room and then studiously ignored them for a couple of weeks.

Inside, I knew not looking at them wouldn’t change the fact she was gone. In my head, I could hear her voice telling me not to be stupid and to wear the shoes already.

So, one by one, I opened the boxes. Many of the shoes were hardly worn. A few hadn’t been worn at all.

Looking at those new-ish or never worn shoes made me sad because they were a testament to how sick she had been for the past several years. Getting dressed up and going out often took more energy than she had available. I put the lids back on and the pile sat there for another week.

Then I went out with a new-ish friend last weekend. The camel-colored ankle boots that were in one of those boxes were the perfect complement to my outfit.

I pulled them out and had to fish out the packaging in the toes of each boot. I expected wearing her shoes would feel odd or uncomfortable in some way. But it didn’t. Instead, it kind of felt like my friend was with me, and I knew that she would approve of dinner at La Charradea (her favorite restaurant).

I also knew she’d approve of the time spent building a friendship because relationships were priorities for her. She encouraged and championed forming and nurturing connections.

This morning, I slipped my feet into a pair of brown loafers.

As I walked into Panera to meet my mom and her friend, I looked down at my feet, encased in those loafers, and I realized something.

While at first, I worried that wearing my dead friend’s shoes would be weird, it’s actually a comfort.

Each time I get out a pair, I remember her.

Each time I slip them on, her memory is with me.

Each time I walk somewhere new in them, I am reminded that our lives—even those of us who live to 90—are startlingly short. I am reminded to make the most of the time I have, to savor the present and the people in it.

The Bible tells us to number our days so we will act in wisdom. 

When I slip my feet into one of my friend’s shoes or slide on a pair of her boots, that truth echoes in my heart.

I won’t lie. I wish she was still was here, but I know someday we’ll see each other again. Until then, I’ll keep walking in her shoes.

The Amber Payne Challenge

The Phone Call

When the phone rang at almost 11 p.m., I knew it wasn’t good news. My dear friend’s husband was on the phone, and I could hear the upset in his voice.

“Amber stopped breathing on me,” he said.

He went on to explain that there was a team of doctors in the ICU room where she had been moved the previous day, and they were intubating her as he was talking to me.

Even then, even when I knew things didn’t look good for one of my very best friends, I kind of thought she’d pull through. Because she always defied the odds.

A Walking Miracle

See, Amber was born with cystic fibrosis, and at 19 she received a double lung transplant. Before I met Amber I knew little about transplants. I just kind of thought the person got a new whatever and moved on with life. But it’s a whole lot more complicated than that. (Below is a picture of her the summer before her transplant).

Most transplant recipients struggle. They face the daily possibility of rejection and the myriad health issues that accompany that.

Amber was different. For 11 years, she did extremely well. Yes, she had to take a pharmacy full of pills. Yes, her cystic fibrosis attacked other parts of her body since it could no longer get at her lungs. Yes, she had to be careful of infections and other things that don’t even cross most people’s minds.

But overall, for 11 years she was a walking miracle.

Not Giving Up

And then came the day, just after her son’s first birthday, that she got the news that all transplant patients dread to hear – she was in rejection. Nobody knew why, but for several scary months, her lung function which had been at an astonishing 95% for these past 11 years, fell to 50% and then 45%  and then 35% and then 29%. Finally, they were able to stabilize her at 30%.

Instead of the weekly treatments over 90 minutes away, she was able to go down to monthly treatments.

But she still only had 30% lung function, and her small airways continued to deteriorate. I could see her struggling on a daily basis. She had a hard time keeping weight on and the circles under her eyes got darker. And she was always tired, but still, she pressed on. She had a little boy to take care of (he’s 3 1/2), and a husband she loved. And, of course, there was the tribe of people she called friends.

This summer, it became obvious that something was changing – and not for the better. Although she had been stable for about 2 years, something wasn’t right.

Because she had always fought back and overcome the odds, it seemed normal for everyone to expect her to do it again.

But this time was different.

The Last Stand

When she finally told her husband a week ago that she just couldn’t breathe, he drove her to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus where she had had the transplant almost 14 years before. The doctor saw something in her lung scan and went in for a closer look.

It was an infection – something all lung transplant patients dread hearing.

Still, this was Amber. She beat the odds. She was still living when she should have been dead 10 times over. But this was one time too many. The infection was too strong, her body too worn out.

This morning, she drew her last labored breath and went to meet Jesus.

Fierce – Determined – Fighter

I wish I could tell you why something like this happens to a young mom and wife, but I can’t. What I can tell you is that for as long as I’ve known Amber, her life message has been “God’s goodness and sovereignty in the midst of suffering.”

And she didn’t just say that; she lived it. She fought every day to live out her life and to love her people well. So, as I did several years ago when my friend Carla Dysert passed away, I’d like to offer you a challenge because I believe every hard thing, every loss can be redeemed if we allow God to do that – if we work to find the meaning in the sorrow.

I want to challenge you to fight like Amber Payne fought. To not give up on that dream, on that relationship, on that difficult diagnosis.

Because she didn’t.

There were so many times I saw her tired and worn out, but still, she got up the next day and put one foot in front of the other and kept fighting for her health and for the people she loved.

Take the Amber Payne Challenge

What is it in your life that feels overwhelming right now? What relationship seems too far gone to save? What dream feels too far out of reach? What diagnosis seems too big to bear?

Can I challenge you to do what Amber Payne did all of her life? Can I challenge you to push just a little harder, to fight just a little longer, to hang in there one more day?

Will you take the Amber Payne Challenge today?




Every Beginning Comes With an Ending

Everything Can Change In an Instant

I was on my way out the door yesterday to my last day of teaching for the year (and don’t let anyone tell you that the teachers aren’t as excited about this as their students!) when I looked down at my phone and saw a message from my husband.

When I read it, I stopped in my tracks, stunned.

A dear friend had died suddenly in her sleep. Sandy Rufener started out as my high school English teacher, but over the years had grown into a mentor and a friend.

And she was gone – just like that. 

Yesterday, was also the day my youngest son graduated from high school.

Life Is a Neverending Cycle

Two such different events, but both endings that signal a beginning. As I moved through my day yesterday, trying to process two such big things, I was reminded that life is a continual cycle of endings and beginnings.  Before one thing begins, something else has to end, no matter how small or big. 

Mrs. Rufener (no matter how many times she told me to call her Sandy and no matter how many times I managed to do it, she will always be Mrs. Rufener in my head), ended her life here on earth but started a whole new one in heaven.

In recent years, funerals have started to be called celebrations or homegoings, and I really love that concept – especially for believers. Yes, losing someone you love is hard and sad and difficult. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s grief, having walked the path of loss twice myself in recent years, but if that person is a believer, there is also so much hope. This world is not all there is. Death is not the end of a stand-alone story. It is just the ending of the first book in the series.

For Brody, even though graduating high school is truly a celebration, it also signals an ending, a change. He has to leave behind what he knows, the friends he has spent his days with for the past 14 years, the security of family, and move into the unknown. In order to move on to the next chapter in his life, he has to close this one. You can’t find out what happens in the next chapter if you linger in the previous one. You have to turn the page.

The Future – Whatever It Is – Takes Courage

So, yesterday wasn’t exactly the day I thought it would be. Instead of simply walking through this milestone with my youngest child, I found myself slapped in the face with the reality that we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring – or even that it will come. But I was also comforted that every ending – no matter how final it might seem – also signals a beginning, too.

Yesterday highlighted a strange but beautiful paradox. As Mrs. Rufener’s life came to an end, my son’s life is just beginning. But at the same time, my son was also experiencing an ending, while Mrs. Rufener was entering into a glorious new beginning in heaven.

Both of them, Brody and Mrs. Rufener, are stepping into the unknown, but that’s okay because God’s promise is that He will never leave us or forsake us no matter if that next step is onto a college campus for the first time or onto heaven’s shores where God waits with outstretched arms.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite songs, a hymn redone by Chris Tomlin.

All The Way My Savior Leads Me

All the way my Savior leads me
Who have I to ask beside
How could I doubt His tender mercy
Who through life has been my guide

All the way my Savior leads me
Cheers each winding path I tread
Gives me grace for every trial
Feeds me with the living Bread

[Chorus:] You lead me and keep me from falling
You carry me close to Your heart
And surely Your goodness and mercy will follow me

All the way my Savior leads me
O, the fullness of His love
O, the sureness of His promise
In the triumph of His blood
And when my spirit clothed immortal
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages
Jesus led me all the way
Jesus led me all the way

All the way my Savior leads me
All the way my Savior leads me
© 2008 Sixstepsrecords



Don’t Let Regret Slow You Down

It’s Been An Eventful Year or So

In the past 18 months, I’ve written two novels, published one (soon to be two in about a week), and have started plotting the third. This may seem like a big achievement, but I turned 46 this year.

I’ve been wanting to write books since I was about 11 years old.

That means it took me 35 years to realize my dream.


3 1/2 DECADES!

3/4ths OF MY LIFE!

I have to be honest. There are days when this really bothers me.

When I am in writing groups and the 20-somethings are talking about the series of five books they’ve just finished, and the new series they have planned, I feel like a failure.

Regret has a taste, and it’s bitter.

I ask myself why in the world I waited so long to start doing what I love.

I’m tempted to wallow in regret, and as strange as it sounds, to quit. I’m tempted to believe that I started too late, and I’ve missed my chance.

But here’s the thing, if I spend my time looking behind me, I’ll never see all the opportunity in front of me.

One of my favorite verses is in Isaiah 43:17, 18 “Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.”

Regret is one of those things that can keep you mired in the past, stuck gazing at the path behind you and all the things you’ve missed. The problem with that is that you’ll end up missing all the new things that God is doing up ahead.

I could spend a lot of time beating myself up for all the “wasted time.” I could bemoan the fact that if I had gotten started 10 years ago, I’d be way further down the author path by now.

But I didn’t, and I can’t go back and change that.

The truth is, even if I had written books, they wouldn’t be the books I’m writing now because I’m different at 46 than I was at 36.

The very last book of the Bible I taught to my Sunday school class was Philippians. This book contains a lot of very well-known verses and one of them is found in chapter 3.

“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

And if anyone had a reason for regret, it was Paul. It’s easy to forget that before Paul had his encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road, he was Saul. And Saul’s main goal in life was to go after Christians. He didn’t just go after believers in Jerusalem. No, he asked for permission to pursue them into other neighboring cities, too. If Saul and Paul shared one trait, it was zealousness.

Paul was responsible for men and women being dragged out of their beds, put in prison, and even losing their lives. He could have spent his life sunk deeply in the mire of regret.

But instead, he made the conscious decision to let that go and press forward. He turned his mental energy toward the task before him, not the regrets behind him.

Obviously, I realize that writing fiction books isn’t quite on par with Paul spreading the Gospel to the known Gentile world. At the same time, it’s what God has created and called me to do. And not doing it would still be disobedience.

So, on those days when I feel like I am way behind everyone else, when it feels like I will never catch up, I take a page from Paul’s book (literally!).

Instead of letting regret get the better of me, I purposefully pull my thoughts from what might have been, and instead, turn my attention and focus to the path before me.

And then, I take the next step.

What’s holding you back from moving forward?





Jesus Chose Women to Witness His Resurrection First

Women in the Bible have so many things to teach us.

In recent weeks, I’ve been doing a deep dive into women’s roles in the Bible. This isn’t the first time that I’ve studied women in the Bible.

I’ve taught on various women, and there is a whole series on this blog about 25 women in the Bible. You can check that out HERE.

We Live At the Best Time To Be a Woman

The truth is, women are currently living in a time where they have more freedom, autonomy, and power than probably at any time in history.

I remember being flabbergasted when my grandmother told me she couldn’t get a credit card in her own name. It had to be in her husband’s – and that was in the 60s which really isn’t that long ago.

Women in the Gospels

This week I just happened to be focusing on women in the Gospels. Of course, that is never really a coincidence. God always has this very cool way of leading me to Scriptures at just the right time. I love that!

And even though I’ve heard the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection many times  —after all, I started attending church when I was about a month old, went to a Christian school AND a Christian college—with my lens fixed on women, I saw these events in a whole new way.

That’s another thing I LOVE about the Bible and why I believe it’s called the LIVING Word. No matter how many times I read a story or familiar passage, the Holy Spirit shows me something new almost every time.

Jesus Was a Rebel WITH a Cause

The thing is, Jesus was a revolutionary. Now, we might not see that as much now. We’ve heard the story about Him, and familiarity softens the edges of just how much Jesus turned everything the Jewish people knew (or thought they knew) on its head.

One of the big areas that Jesus did this was in HIs interactions with women. As a rabbi and teacher, nobody expected Jesus to even take notice of women, never mind talk to them or allow them to be His disciples.

A Different Look at Mary and Martha

The fact that Mary was not only allowed but commended for sitting at Jesus’ feet (a typical posture of a disciple, btw) would have been mindblowing to those around Him. It was why Martha was so shocked when Jesus didn’t take her side.

You see, rabbis believed that women couldn’t study and understand the Scriptures. In fact, they were told they couldn’t learn the Scriptures – listen yes, but not actually learn.

But Jesus was different.

He had the 12, but He also had a larger group of people who followed Him as disciples.  And women were included in that number.

It’s no wonder the Jewish leaders of the time were perplexed. This man who claimed to be the Messiah was NOT acting the way He was supposed to.

He actually TALKED to a Samaritan woman who would have been considered unclean from the moment of her birth, nevermind her 5 ex-husbands plus the guy she was living with.

But women had a special place in the ministry of Jesus. In all of His interactions, He not only showed incredible compassion and love, but He raised them up. This stood in stark contrast to the society around them which definitely did not!

Women at the Cross

That day, when Jesus was led to Golgotha – His body bruised and battered and broken – it was the women who were there. The only disciple present was John. All the rest had fled, afraid of being identified with a man marked for death.

It was the women who kept watch as He suffered and died.

And it was the women that He talked to first after His resurrection.

Women at the Resurrection

It’s interesting to note that the women who went to His grave that first Easter morning were going to do a very basic task. They were going to bind spices in the linen in which His body was wrapped.

It was considered women’s work.

But it was in the midst of going to do this mundane task that Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James had an encounter with the risen Savior.

I love that Jesus chose to first appear to women while they were engaged in doing “women’s work” which would have been considered lowly and unimportant.

I love that Jesus chose to first appear to women even though, at that time, in a court of law they would not have even been considered qualified witnesses.

I certainly do not mean for this post to in any way denigrate men. I do have two sons, after all, and my husband is one of the good guys.

But, in a society where one rabbi’s opinion (Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus) about women and spirituality was, “The words of the Torah should be burned rather than entrusted to a woman,” Jesus was different.

The religious elite at the time were expecting a Messiah that was wholly different than the One that actually came. And so they missed Him.

But those whom society dismissed as lowly or unimportant or insignificant—they were the ones that truly saw Jesus as who He really was—the Savior who came to seek and save those who are lost.

As a woman, it touches a deep place in my heart that Jesus chose women as the first witnesses to His resurrection.

When God invites you to be His daughter with all the privileges that entails, it isn’t an empty promise. Jesus’s life and death and resurrection prove that. If you are interested in taking Him up on that promise, visit HERE.

Happy Easter!

The Bend in the Road

I’ve been choosing a word for the year for a while now.

It’s something I start thinking about around Thanksgiving, and I often “try on” a few different words before I know I’ve found the right one.

And I always know I’ve hit upon the right word because I cry. Every time God whispers in my heart, everytime He makes clear He is speaking to me (not literally), I cry – even though I’m not much of a crier in everyday life (well, except for those Disney movies. Dumbo gets me every time!).

This year, the end of December was here and I hadn’t even though about my word!

Last year’s word was TRUST (you can read about that here). In 2017, my word was CONTEND, and in 2016, my word was ENOUGH.

It’s always amazing to me how God uses this word throughout the year and how it is so meaningful.

I mean, it’s just a word really and seemingly random. But yet, it’s not.

Things are changing in a lot of ways.

Anyway, 2019 promises to be a year of great change in my life. My youngest son is graduating from high school, and my oldest son might also be going away to college in the fall. My nest promises to look very different at this time next year.

A new chapter, a new season is upon me, and I feel I am reaching a “bend in the road,” as Anne Shirley would say.

Not only that, but last Sunday was my last day with the Sunday school class I’ve been teaching for about 9 years. Weirdly, I can never remember exactly when I started, but life was very different back then. I had an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. We were smack in the middle of the growing years. Neither Kipper nor I had any grey hair.

The way I see myself is also changing.

And then there’s that book I published. (Hook’s Daughter). I’m not sure why but I’ve found publishing a book has changed how I view myself in ways I never imagined. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but now I see myself AS a writer. Turns out, that mindset switch makes a big difference.

I had a hard time coming up with the right word this year.

There is excitement in starting a new season, but there is also a bittersweetness that comes at the end of one, too. I wanted a word that captured both of those things: looking forward and also letting go.

I threw around quite a few words: adventure, leap, expectant, brave. I posted about it in the PowerSheets group (great bunch even if I didn’t buy the book this year), and someone suggested Embrace.

And that was almost it, but it wasn’t quite right. (after all, it didn’t make me cry!).

Then, this morning, I was listening to Priscilla Shirer during my quiet time. She started teaching on the passage in Luke 9 where Jesus calls, equips and then sends out His disciples. When they return they are triumphant but exhausted. And then they all run into the multitude whom Jesus feeds with the five loaves and two fishes.

And suddenly I knew what my word for 2019 was: EQUIPPED.

Immediately, (well after the little crying spurt), I felt like I was being presumptuous. It was almost like I could hear the enemy hissing in my ear, “Who do you think you are to say you are equipped? What makes you think you’re ready for anything at all?”

For a moment, I was cowed by that voice. For a moment, doubt crept in, but then truth pushed it out. I sat up straighter and squared my shoulders because I knew who I was. I had faith that I was equipped for all the changes (and the inevitable discomfort that follows a lot of changes) that 2019 will surely bring.

I’m the daughter of the King of kings.

He has equipped me for every good work that He prepared for me to do before the foundations of the world.

What’s your word for 2019? I’d love to hear about it!



Fear Really IS a Liar

Have you ever noticed that anxiety can creep into your life and you almost don’t notice it?

Until that is, something happens that makes you aware of just how tight a stranglehold it has on you.

This summer, I got back to gardening this summer after a few years’ hiatus. I get ridiculously excited when I see little sprouts pushing through the earth. I find it miraculous every single time.

I planted tomatoes, beans, onions, radishes, strawberries, and a few herbs to round things out. Some of the plants, like the tomatoes, I bought as seedlings, but others, like the beans, I planted as seeds.

There is something very optimistic about a freshly planted garden. After I got done, I stood back and looked at my work and smiled. I do a raised square-foot garden, so instead of rows, my garden was done in neat squares.


Backyard vegetable garden.

Every morning I came out to inspect my plants and see if anything had pushed through the soil. Soon, the beans started making themselves known, pushing various shades of green shoots through the black soil.

And right on their heels, the Japanese beetles made their presence known.

About a quarter of an inch long, a Japanese beetle is actually kind of pretty with its iridescent shell. What they do to a garden is NOT pretty, however.

After frantically googling garden pests and talking to other gardeners in the areas, I found out everyone seemed to be having issues with the little things and I wasn’t alone. That didn’t really make me feel much better though when I looked at my bean plants whose leaves quickly started to resemble lace.

It turns out Japanese beetles burrow down in the soil. They come flooding out during a specific period of time and are drawn to certain kinds of plants. What’s interesting is, despite the many, many, many beetles I saw, the only plants they really attacked were my bean plants.

They had lain in wait in the soil until something new started to grow.

And isn’t that the way anxiety can be? It burrows into the soil of your life and you don’t even know it’s there – until you start trying to grow something new. Suddenly, all that anxiety pushes its way to the surface, leaving our minds and hearts shredded, just like the leaves on my bean plants.

For me, the thing that brought all that anxiety to the surface was writing my book.

I know – that’s supposed to be something good, right? And it was, is. But it was also new territory. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was about 11 years old. While I’ve written a few shorter, chapter books (not published), I’d never attempted anything like a full-length novel.

I’ve also self-published three kids’ quiz books and five devotional journals. While I knew those were different, I felt like I wasn’t a complete newbie to self-publishing either.

But I was wrong.

Self-publishing a novel is a completely different beast than self-publishing something like a devotional journal. There was a learning curve on a lot of things, and the truth is, I’m still learning. It was a bit stressful, and that’s not a bad thing. There IS stress involved when we are learning something new and it’s important to us.

The reality is publishing a book is kind of like going to a big city and not knowing anyone. Traditional publishing is like going to that big city but using all the public transportation systems. Yes, you have to learn how to utilize the subway, and yes, you have to figure out the bus schedule, but someone else is actually navigating the traffic and getting you to your destination. Self-publishing is like going to that big city and doing all the driving by yourself without a GPS.

Depending on how you react to the above scenario, that trip to the city could be a fun adventure or a complete nightmare.

Can I confess to you that I almost quit numerous times AFTER I WROTE THE BOOK? Yep, you read that right. While navigating the busy streets of self-publishing, there were many, many times I just wanted to quit, to throw in the towel. And I had a completed manuscript.

Part of this was because of all the decisions I had to make. I kind of hate making decisions, and in self-publishing, that’s basically what you do – one decision after another. Some of them are really important too, so there is also the pressure of making the RIGHT decision. From picking an editor to deciding on a cover, there are a lot of things you have to decide that will have a big impact on the sales of your book.

The great thing about self-publishing is that a lot of decisions that you make can be changed down the road.

Find out your cover doesn’t quite work for your genre? That’s okay because you can swap it out for a new one.

Discover you need a more compelling book description to get more sales? You can change it up as many times as you want to.

The problem was, while I loved the idea of having control of all these aspects, all the weight of that control started to press down on me. I had so many options and possibilities that, instead of feeling empowered by them, I felt encumbered by them. I felt enormous pressure to not just make the decisions but to get them right on the first try.

Ironically, my life verses are found in Philippians 4:6-8.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

The truth was anxiety was stealing all my joy in the process. Here I was getting ready to present my book to the world, to see a dream come true, and all I felt was an oppressive dread.

I realized that anxiety had stolen the joy, not only in publishing my book but in a lot of other areas in my life, as well.

I had allowed my world to become small because of anxiety. This was driven home to me when I went to a one-day writer’s conference in a small town near Cincinnati. I realized that instead of looking forward to the event, a vague sense of dread had settled into the pit of my stomach for no apparent reason. I also realized this was the first time I had been outside my little town in over a year.

Anxiety had become my default for anything that was outside my normal routine.

Anxiety, like its big sister fear, IS a liar. It steals from you and takes what should be something joy-filled and turns it into something that feels like the emotional equivalent of a lead balloon. It makes your world small and your focus narrow.

The answer to this problem is found in the next verse in Philippians, verse 9.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

Satan likes to use our minds to keep us stuck where we are at. He doesn’t want us to grow new things. He wants to keep our lives barren of the fruit of living in the Spirit. He wants us to dwell on all the what-ifs and feel like every outcome is up to us, that we are in control.

But we both know we’re not the ones in control, and isn’t that a blessed relief?

I don’t know about you, but I’m done doing that. I’m done with allowing the enemy to steal my joy and derail me from having adventures.

It’s time to remember that I don’t have to ever navigate anything alone. Jesus promised me that He will never leave me or forsake me. All I have to do is ask.


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