Category Archives: Bravery

Suffering and Victory: Your Epic Story.

Sometimes, I don’t have anything nice to say.

Like, nothing. Can’t think of one nice thing.

So I don’t say anything at all.

Yes, Grandma, I was listening.

A month ago, I wrote a blog post. I’ve been quiet since then for various reasons. I’ll write more about it when I can laugh about it. One thing I know about myself, is that when I’m down, I’m DOWN. No need to take you all down with me.

Seems like one thing after another some days, doesn’t it?

 

I have an un-prayer I pray when I don’t know what the heck is going on. I say, “Ummmm, ok God, I know I’m not supposed to ask ‘why. . . .'”

And then I kind of wait a minute and see if anything comes through. “I’ll try not to ask ‘why,’ but if You want to tell me anything, Jesus, I’m all ears.”

I don’t usually get a straight answer to that question.

What I do get is more of an impression, an invitation to trust. To wait and see. To watch it play out. To believe that there is more going on than meets the eye.

It’s nice and all but easier said than done.

And I don’t fully see it yet, although I do see my heart growing stronger in the meantime.

But here’s what I do know.

People connect with your suffering before they connect with your victory.

 

Epic stories are epic, not because of the finish line or the end of the journey, but because of what the hero had to go through to get there.

What the hero had to go through to get there.

That is what makes the story epic.

You are a part of an epic tale. Your suffering speaks. Your life tells a story.

Wait and see. It’s not over yet.

And people are watching. Like a movie, you have an audience, and they are waiting to see what you do next.

And just like a movie, there will always be some who don’t support you, no matter what. But most of them are rooting for you. Because your suffering makes them know that they are not alone in theirs. And when you have victory, they know they can have it too.

Your suffering is not wasted. Victory is around the corner. Hold on. Wait and see.

***

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28

Note:  My email subscription service has not been working correctly since sometime in the spring. I’ve done a couple of things to try to fix it, but nothing has worked so far. I think I know what the problem is now, and will hopefully have it fixed in the next couple of weeks. Thanks so much for subscribing, and thank you for your patience! <3

It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

Your Where Before Your What. And You Need a Who.

Your where comes before your what.

In other words, moving forward with an idea will help you know what to do next. Sometimes we try to wait until we know every detail until we move forward on a dream. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s often impossible to know everything that we will encounter along the way.

Like generals looking down from mountains, we have to sometimes change our position to gain insight on our strategy.

When we get an idea or a vision, it’s all fun and games until we try to see it through. I can get caught up in things that either don’t matter at all or don’t matter yet. Getting the vision in order makes a huge difference. And teamwork helps.

Your where comes before your what.

 

The other day I went shopping with my friend.

We used to have a great thrift shop in our town, but when I went to the old location, it was gone. There were no signs directing customers to a new location, so I assumed they had gone out of business.

When we pulled out of the parking lot, my friend pointed and said, “There it is!”

“Where?” I said, looking everywhere.

“Right there! Across the street! Don’t you see the sign?”

I looked across the street. I could only see the old sign directing traffic to the old location.

I said, “Oh yes, I see it. But that’s the old sign. I think they must have closed.”

“No,” she said, “across the street! With a huge red and white banner that says, ‘Now Open!'”

“Um, I see the sign? But I don’t see a red and white banner?”

I looked sideways at her. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “is she having some kind of vision? What are you trying to say?”

“Are you messing with me?” I laughed. I could only see the old sign from before.

“No!!” She laughed and looked at me like I was crazy. “A huge red and white sign? You seriously don’t see that?!?”

The light turned green, and I pulled out in traffic and looked all around. As I moved forward, I was able to take in more of my surroundings, and, finally, I saw it. Across the street. A huge new sign declaring the name of the store and the fact that it was NOW OPEN!

open sign

A car lot had used that building before. It never occurred to me to look there, even when my friend was pointing right at it. I thought I knew what was going to be there. I expected to see a car lot. So much so, that I could not see the new thing that had come in, even though I was looking.

What made the difference?

Moving forward. And moving forward with someone who saw it with fresh eyes and brought a different perspective.

Sitting where I was, I could not see the sign. But the light in front of me turned green, and I had to do something.

It was when I moved forward that I was able to take in a more accurate view of my surroundings. And because of my friend, I knew where to look.

What made the difference?

Moving forward.

 

Lately God has been sending me this message in a lot of ways.

Since I moved into my house, I have wanted to plant a secret garden to the side of my porch, but I have been a little overwhelmed by landscaping. It’s all so big, and the sky is literally the limit.

I start obsessing about plants.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my sister to come over and look at the space with me again. It occurred to me that, if I knew where I wanted to put the garden, it would help me choose the plants. My sister and I walked out to a spot in the yard and turned around and looked. In my mind I was envisioning all kinds of plants, rose arbors, pencil hollies, big grasses.

I started getting overwhelmed. Started thinking about calling landscapers.

“I can’t tell what I need to do,” I thought, “because I’m not standing in the right place.” I felt too close to the patio. I needed to be farther into the yard and more at an angle.

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Trying again.

We went back to the porch and dragged some chairs out in the yard. That was better.

We moved the chairs again. And one more time.

Aha! There. That’s where it needs to be.

First things first.

When I tried to plan it before, I had it backwards. I sat on the patio obsessing about plants, when what I needed to do was step out into the yard and plan the foundation. I needed to stop thinking about it and mulling it over and over. I needed to stand up and move forward.

I needed to do something.

Imagining possibilities energizes us.  Dreams and visions delight our minds.

But there are a few things that can derail these dreams before they ever get going.

Three Things that Can Derail Your Dreams and What to Do Instead

 

1.  “Mulling” ideas over and over. It’s good to give our plans some thought, but, that word. Mulling. It comes from the process of mulling cider, to heat and sweeten a drink. But we are not a cider. Too much mulling makes us weak, stagnant and depressed. Like a flabby orange peel boiled too long. Stop mulling already, and do something.

2.   Too many details. Instead of focusing on all the details at once, which can be overwhelming and discouraging, just start with your where. When I needed to do my garden, I had to know where to put it before any other planning would make sense. Whether you are planning a garden, or building a house, or a website, or a business out of your home, you have to have a location before anything else can fall into place. Even if you just start with putting all your plans in a notebook. Your dream needs a where. It needs a physical place to live and grow. You know the saying, “You have to start somewhere”? It doesn’t say “You have to start somewhat or someone.” It says somewhere.

3.  Doing everything alone. It helps to have a who. But it can’t just be any who. I had a book when I was very young called “Whobody There?” It described the contrast between the safe people who get you and the cold and indifferent people who don’t. Your who needs to be a whobody. Don’t share your dreams, and especially your insecurities or questions about your dreams, with anybody but a whobody. But find a whobody, an encouraging friend who believes in you and will help you see your where when you get bogged down in details. And, your best whobody is the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him along the way, “What’s next? Where do I need to look? Where do I need to move?” He will show you.

Dreaming brings vision, but it is action that brings vision into reality.

walk into the light

What dreams are you holding onto in your heart? What visions do you have for your life? Where are you stuck?

Write down the dream. Write down the vision. Write down the top three places where you are stuck and want to move forward. Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

You may hear something very clear. You may see exactly what you need to do next. Or it may be fuzzy. Like my friend pointing to a sign right in front of me–I had to move forward to see it.

You may have to start on the project, just start. Move forward in some small way to better see your surroundings. You can’t know what you’re dealing with until you deal with it.

Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

 

Like my garden, I had to step out. I had to actually get out there and start moving chairs. It was very unclear when I started, but the more I walked into it, the more I could see what needed to happen next. Now that I know the location, I know that I need to go pick out paving stones to create the space. I was obsessing about how hard it would be to choose plants, when I hadn’t even laid the foundation yet. And I can already tell that choosing the plants is going to be much more obvious once I get the stones in place.

One thing at a time. First things first. Move forward.

Now.

Now, you can see it.

***

Father, thank you for the dreams and visions that make life exciting every day. Thank you for the direction and the confidence and peace we find in You that help us move forward. pray for the where that births the what. I pray for the whobodies to come alongside and offer perspective and encouragement. I pray for Your people to step out toward their goals, one little step today toward the calling and the blessings You have for them. I pray for the willingness to take a little risk, to shoot for the moon, to try, try again. For resilience and for steadfastness. For forward movement in all things that You have planned. Starting now. In Jesus.

Heavenly Utilities: Power and Light. Shine, You City, Shine. Shine Bright.

Self-pity and power.

They can not coexist.

One naturally devours the other. Self-pity devours power. Power devours self-pity.

And it seems like a daily choice that adds up over time, more than one big ceremonial decision that changes everything all at once.

Some days I feel the power of God on my life, increasing, swelling, calling, inviting. And on those days, it is the obvious choice. On those days, I choose power.

Power devours self-pity.

 

And it feels big. It usually feels really good for a minute. And then, sometimes, scary. Like a heavy weapon, it would be easy to lay it down.

And some days, I do lay it down. Some days, I choose pitiful.

I don’t mean to do it. I don’t usually even realize I’m doing it.

Well, maybe I realize it a little bit.

Self-pity and power can not coexist.

 

I remember one day crying in the bathroom in college, undoubtedly over some terrible hardship, aka, some drama that I had singlehandedly created.  I was good at that.

I remember watching my mascara run, watercolor black tracks dripping down my cheeks.

It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer talk about doing the same thing many years later that I realized how much self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself. How I wasn’t the only one that took some sick enjoyment from digging eye drops out of my purse and patting my puffy face, gently, with concealer, but in a hurry, like actresses huffing through soap operas, as if I had somewhere I needed to go.

At the time of her story, Joyce’s ministry was just taking off, and she was crying her way through some struggle.

In front of a mirror.

Because, as she says, women (and men) in a certain mood love to watch themselves cry to see just how pitiful they really can be.

Self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself.

 

Ouch. Déja vu.

And at that moment, she heard in her spirit, “You can’t be pitiful and powerful.”

You have to choose.

I was taken advantage of very young. I was forced to do things that I went along with because the culture seemed to reward it. I was bullied at school, by teachers and students. I grew up in American poverty. I remember running out of food. I remember no heat in the winter. I didn’t have the advantages that many around me had. I was embarrassed a lot. I was ashamed a lot. I felt self-hatred a lot. I was attacked in college, but I would have gladly pretended it didn’t happen. I was so embarrassed by it that I was already dismissing it until I realized my hair was coming out in clumps, and I was bleeding.

And as an adult, I have felt that, many times, as soon as I won one battle, another came in to take its place. My marriage was a disaster until we got it figured out, and about the time we did, I got desperately sick.

One battle after another.

And through it all, my emotions were a pendulum, swinging back and forth. Pitiful. Powerful. Pitiful. Powerful.

You have to choose.

 

I had days when I felt like fighting.

But for a while, I had more days when I thought about things from the past. Why did they happen the way that they did? What was wrong with me? Why did God bless everyone but me? On and on.

And the more I wallowed, the old pitiful feelings came on stronger and stronger. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I knew that there were people around me who did life better than I did. I went to them for their thoughts about my situation. I paid for counseling when I didn’t have the money because I didn’t know what else to do. Talking to wise people was my way of not giving up at the time. It was the way that I knew how to fight.

I’m thankful to those who listened for hours, who shared their stories, who encouraged me, and held me accountable.

Fighting for life doesn’t always look like choosing ultimate victory, whatever that is.

Fighting to choose life when you are in a pit is in the little things. Choosing to open your eyes in the morning. Choosing to get out of bed. Choosing to force a smile for your children. Choosing to call someone who can help. That’s what I did.

I was seeking.

And in the seeking, I got some of the best advice from a counselor that I’ve ever gotten:

Press into scripture. Find the scriptures that speak to your worst problem, and write them down. Say them out loud every day, three times a day. Focus on God’s peace, when it comes, when it goes. And then follow that peace wherever it leads.

So, I did it. I read the Bible. I copied scriptures. I read them out loud. It took time, but my life changed.

Fighting to choose life is in the little things.

 

I still have to choose life daily. It looks different now. It was not easy in the beginning, but it has gotten easier over time.

I don’t cry in the bathroom mirror anymore. I don’t miss it. I’m thankful for the life that God provided for me. I’m thankful that He helped me choose it.

I’m thankful for the people He put around me that challenged me with their beautiful lives. I’m thankful that they invited me to join them.

***

You never know who is watching you live well. You have the power to help another person choose life for themselves. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Keep choosing power.

You are showing others how it is done.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Deut 30:19b

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-15

The Secret Weapon Against Stage Fright for Any Platform

Performance pressure. It can shut us down in a hot minute.

I have always loved people, but I used to get very nervous at parties or gatherings where I didn’t know all the guests.

I asked God to help me with this. “Lord, help me not feel crazy. Help me not feel terrified. How do I talk to people and really communicate? Help me connect in a healthy way that is not show-offy or guarded. What’s the healthy, Godly place in the middle?”

And He said, “Go in to serve.”

And I saw myself at a wedding I would soon be attending, straightening napkins and dishes at a serving table. I said, “But Lord, they have hired people to do that. Won’t that be weird?”

He said, “There is never enough help at an event like that. Go in to serve, and you will be appreciated by everyone who sees you, from the mother of the bride to the caterer they hired.”

It was an “aha” moment for me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing. It is your secret weapon against stage fright or performance pressure of any kind.

I did go to that wedding, and I did serve a little bit, but not much because I got too busy having fun. We talked and danced and laughed all night.

But going in with the *attitude of a servant* relieved me of wondering what was going to be expected of me.

Serving to please God takes the pressure off of performing.

 

There is never enough help. There is never too much love or consideration being shown. Serving means we don’t have to engage in arguments. We don’t have to win. We don’t have to be top dog. We don’t have to strive to be noticed, or perfect, or worry if we hit the mark, or say the wrong thing.

If He says ‘say it,” then say it. If He says “do it”,  then do it. Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

No matter what your platform is, from the big screen or the stage, to taking care of toddlers or just living in your community, showing up to serve relieves expectation and pressure.

Servants don’t worry about what others think, they just do what they were called to the platform to do.

Showing up to serve means we don’t have to fear criticism, or judgement, or competition.

 

I knew what God expected of me at that wedding, and that was enough. It freed me. I wasn’t going to have to be brilliant in conversation or an expert on wedding etiquette, I just had to watch for trash on the ground or someone needing help with their plate or napkins that needed straightening.

I could do that.

Since then, any time I feel nervous or inadequate, or even bored or uninspired, I say to myself, “Go in to serve.” Could be parties or events, but also when I’m asked to speak to a group or when I’m writing.

When I approach writing with the pressure of creating a masterpiece, I want to quit before I ever get started.

Other times–I feel completely out of ideas, like I have nothing to say at all.

But when I ask God to show me how to write as a servant, how to let the words reach out in love and minister to the hearts of those who need His touch, the message becomes simplified and so much more clear.

All the questions of performance boil down to one in the heart of a servant: Am I loving well for His sake?

Am I loving well for His sake?

 

It’s a brilliant tactic that Jesus teaches us as our Servant King.

Service done well, with excellence and awareness and humility and care, is so rare in this world, that when someone serves, truly lowers themselves to serve another person and do it with grace, it gets noticed. It gets favor. It gets promoted.

Servants.

Going in to serve.

So much simpler this way.

***

I pray God guides your head, heart, and hands as you serve. I pray He reminds you of the beautiful freedom of being a servant.

Serve one another humbly in love. Gal5:13b 

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters. Cor3:13

 

Too Whatever: Overcoming the Sticky Green Lies

Last year,  I did a post called “Too Whatever.” Upon a reader’s request, I’m writing it again, with a little spin, a little more backstory, a little more dimension. I pray it blesses you. God loves your “Too Whatevers.”

When I turned forty, I had a strong and wonderful moment of empowerment.

Finally.

Old enough to command respect. Old enough not to care what people think. Old enough to bust out and do whatever I want.

It was a fleeting moment.

A sudden fear of being obsolete and out of touch came over me as I studied my hair in the mirror, and the half-inch of showing roots looked whiter than ever. And all that empowerment? Fled away, its whimpering and ancient gray tail tucked between its legs.

I shared this aging angst with my friend, the lovely Chana Keefer.

She understood. She laughed. And she told me that she had the same fear about her modeling career–when she was sixteen.

Sixteen.

At the time, fifteen-year-old Brooke Shields had hit it big, and Chana was one year older. She was, she decided, over the hill, past her prime, antiquated, passé. She hadn’t done enough in her field. She was doomed to fail at life.

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At sixteen.

Chana, of course, went on to do all kinds of amazing things, modeling, acting, writing, living.

And this conversation was an eye-opener for me.

Chana heard the same lies, at a young age, at sixteen years old, that were trying to take me out at forty.

Too old.

The same lies.

As I talked to Chana, the Holy Spirit showed me a dark figure holding handfuls of green slime, like really wet neon green bubble gum. He was waiting for someone to walk by so he could throw it at them and cover them with the nasty goo.

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And I heard the Holy Spirit say this: The enemy has nothing new. He has no creativity or orderly strategy, even though it seems like he does at times. He just stands there and throws the same lies at all of you.

It’s up to you what sticks.

It showed me the truth. The same lies come against all of us, no matter who we are or what we are dealing with.

Too old. Too young. Too late. Too shy. Too inexperienced.

Too…whatever.

We all hear the same doubts and battle the same insecurities.

It’s up to us what sticks.

I shared this story with a friend in the music industry. She said, “YES!! When I was in my twenties and thirties and I went to auditions, I was always afraid of being told I was too young for the part. I thought when I turned 40, that feeling would go away! And it did, but it was immediately replaced with a new one. Too seasoned. I started hearing people say the company told them they were ‘too seasoned’ for a part. Overnight, my fear went from being ‘too young,’ to being ‘too seasoned.”

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Whatever we put our faith in that isn’t God will let us down. We will just trade one lie for another, over and over, until we realize we have to stand on the miraculous power of the truth of God for our lives and nothing else.

His word for us??

OVERCOMERS.

We are OVERCOMERS.

You are an overcomer. An Overcomer of the Too Whatevers.

All the enemy has is lies. That’s all he has. He can’t create, he can only pervert what God has made with lies.

When you approach your destiny, he flings those sticky green lies at you, harder than ever.

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Don’t believe the lies that say, “you can’t,” whatever they are.

In that moment of 40-year-old empowerment, I started my blog. I started appearing on media. I started doing video and ministering online.

Not long after, when the doubts came, I went to the Lord.

“Father. I am too late. I waited too long. I’m too old.”

And I swear to you, He laughed.

I heard Him laugh for what felt like a very long time.

It made me laugh.

And then I heard Him say this: I love too old.

And before my eyes, I saw Abraham and Sarah, Moses, Daniel, Anna, and Caleb.

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They were all “too old” when God did some of the most amazing things in their lives.

“I love too old.”

“Ok then,” I said. “You love too old. Well. Let’s see what you can do with this.”

Truth is, you might be older or younger than the average success story. You might have held on to a vision for years. You might have too much on your plate to see your way to living your dreams or reaching your goals.

But God loves our “Too Whatevers.” He loves showing up in the gap, like He did for Gideon and his tiny army and bringing them to victory.

When I said, “Too old,” God did not try to talk me out of it. He said, “Oh, that? No problem. I love it.”

I felt that He was laughing because He much prefers to show His strength in us than let us lean on our own. When we feel weak, He is strong in us.

I could tell you that you haven’t missed the boat. And ultimately, I believe it is true. God wants to use you. He wants to help you. There is plenty of time. There’s always a place for the thing you carry because it’s never been done by you, in your own unique way.

But even if you did miss the boat, get this–

IT. DOES. NOT. MATTER.

I’m laughing typing this.

Even if you did miss it, your Daddy in Heaven loves a missed boat. He loves too old! He loves when we are late to the party! He loves TOO…WHATEVER!!!

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I love thinking of Caleb, armored up and raring to go. I imagine that he must have felt it too, at least one or two times, that he had missed the boat. It makes me wonder if he was determined not to miss it again, if God used some of that pent up energy from the past to give Caleb a greater measure of courage, if Caleb felt closer to death than the others because of his age, and rather than letting it weaken him, he wanted to go out with a bang in the promised land. It seems that God used the very thing that could hold Caleb back to make him the fiercest warrior of the day.

Never give up. Never, never, never, never, never give up. You have destiny inside you. You carry purpose and a plan. You carry the future. Don’t quit. If you have a commission on your life, He will help you achieve it. Don’t leave a vision because it sat too long, unless He tells you to leave it. He loves missed boats, late-to-the-party guests. He loves your “Too Whatevers.”

***

Father, I thank You that You are the God of Second Chances! And Third! And Fourth! And A Million!!! Thank You that nothing is impossible for You! Even our weaknesses and stumblings–especially our weaknesses and stumblings. You show Yourself strong in our weaknesses. You love our TOO WHATEVERS!

Thank You that we can’t miss the boat in You if we really want to catch it. God, we lay it all at Your feet. Our doubts. Our insecurities. Our struggles. Time. Energy. Inspiration. Skill level. Experience. Team. Whatever we feel is lacking, we give it to You.

We give you permission. Take what we have to give, however we feel about it, and DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH IT!

We rebuke the lies of the enemy that would come in and shut us down and shut us up! We rebuke the sticky green goo that tries to attach itself to us! It cannot touch us, it cannot stick–because we stand on the word of TRUTH! We are OVERCOMERS IN CHRIST! We stand in expectation, that You will take our “Too Whatevers” and turn them in to SOLID GOLD. In Jesus’ name, amen!

Just Do Today

The last few weeks have been complicated.

On Easter Sunday, I had a freak accident on my bike that seriously damaged the tendons in my knee. The pain has been intense, but more than just the body, injury messes with your mind. Serious pain is a head game.

And even though I’m improving, last week hit me hard.

I sat in my bed and cried.

I know that “why” is not always the most productive question, but I couldn’t help but wonder, “Why did this happen?”

“God. Why did this happen?”

 

I’ve had accidents and injuries before, but in almost all those other incidents, I could see something I did that caused them. Not that I “deserved” what happened, but I could see a line of logic, things I could have done in advance to prevent the mistake.

This time, I couldn’t see what I could have done differently with the information I had that day. I might go back now and make a different choice here or there. Hindsight may be 20/20, but foresight is not.

So I prayed and said, “I know that why is not the best question, Lord, but I can’t help but wonder.”

I waited and listened, wondering if He would throw me a bone, some little word that would help me make sense of all the time and energy I spend lugging this leg around every day, a leg that worked perfectly fine just a few weeks ago.

I heard nothing. So, like all men and women of faith and wisdom, I prayed the same prayer, but louder. In case God needed me to speak up.

“I said, I know that WHY isn’t the best question…”

And I waited.

And I heard this.

“Just do today.”

That was all.

Just do today.

I sighed and sat a minute.

And then I said to myself, “Just do today.”

“Just do today.”

 

It did nothing to help me make sense of the accident, but in reality, it did do something to help me make sense of the present and how to go forward in the future.

I had let myself be overwhelmed by questions. Why did this happen? Where is my miracle? What could I have done differently? Was I out of order or out of God’s will in some way? What should I do now? Do I need a second opinion? Why won’t the physical therapist call me back? What’s going to happen next?

And on and on.

I was asking so many questions, I was not making any room in my mind for peace.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even  if they are the right ones.

We hear in part, we see in part, through a glass darkly.

He didn’t tell me why.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many questions we ask, even if they are the right ones. 

 

He didn’t tell me the answers about physical therapy or what is going to happen next.

He told me what.

He told me what to do, right now.

Just do today.

Just do what you can in this moment. Just do what will make the most difference, right this second.

And it helped me.

It gave me a clean slate. It erased all the questions and replaced them with a simple mission.

It made me realize, there was one thing  I could do. I have a great doctor at home I could email. Then he would have a heads up for when I get there, and he could tell me what I can do in the meantime.

Right then, I emailed him.

I immediately felt better, lighter.

Action gets us out of our heads. One sure way to make progress is movement. If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

If you take a few steps, you might even realize you walked the wrong direction, but then you know which way to go next.

If you only ask questions but never move, you never know what is possible.

 

It’s simple inertia. Questions that serve no purpose weigh down our minds and leave no room for peace. Overthinking and underacting make a recipe for depression. Movement creates energy.

I pray for clarity for you, for movement, and a freedom from the pointless “whys.” For forward inertia toward the new thing God has for you in this season.

Just do today.

***

What questions are you asking that are pointless and weighing you down? What  “why” question do you need to let go so you can just do today? 

What does “just do today” look like for you right now? What can you do about your circumstance, right now, to move in any direction toward a solution? 

Isaiah 43:18-19 Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up, do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

The Day I Wrecked My Bike, or, Paul Revere’s Ride.

I love the US.

I love American history. I love our flag. The Fourth of July, Mom, and apple pie. Love it all.

On Easter Sunday, we celebrated the weekend with a bike ride from Lexington, Massachusetts, where the first shots of the American Revolutionary war were fired, to Boston, Massachusetts, and then back again to Lexington.

Yes.

On Easter.

We are rebels.

Appropriate, I think.

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The Battle Green in front of the Old Meeting House in Lexington, where the first shots of the Revolutionary war were fired on April 19, 1775.

 

When we parked our cars in Lexington, I picked up a few leaflets announcing Patriot’s Day activities. I was thrilled to find that a reenactment of Paul Revere’s ride into Lexington would be held in town that very night.

I get more excited about a Paul Revere reenactment than any band live in concert that I can think of.

I am a patriot and a rebel.

And a nerd.

I announced to my family that we would be staying in Lexington after our bike ride until 11:30 pm to witness this exciting event. Much moaning and groaning commenced, but I was not deterred.

“Hush,” I said. “We are staying, Paul Revere is going to be here, and you are going to love it.”

More groans.

The bike path in Lexington is an award winning Rail- to-Trails path. If you are a biker and ever visit there, it’s a great ride. Only about 12 miles to Boston through beautiful communities.

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Along the way, it occurred to me that our return would mirror Paul Revere’s famous ride from Boston to Lexington.

I prayed for our country as I rode. That the original godly plan for our nation would be realized. The Land of the Free. Home of the Brave. Justice. Liberty. The pursuit of happiness.

It was our first real ride of the year. A high sun and a cool breeze. People everywhere with spring fever smiles, and a city planning to celebrate its patriots.

We rode through Arlington and on to the Charles River across from the Harvard campus in Cambridge. We stopped to rest by the water. Boston was just a few stoplights around the corner.

When we jumped back on our bikes, I started praying again. Angels for our country. Freedom and peace.

My kids swerved left in front of me, and as the last one cleared my view, I saw the cause of their changing course. A man was running toward us with no sign of turning. And I was riding straight for him, a pedestrian game of chicken.

I made a decision in a split second. I pulled my bike on to the pavement from the soft shoulder to avoid hitting the runner. When I did, the front tire caught on the edge and then went full-on serpentine. The path was full of people, and I didn’t want to hit them either. I thought I could brake the bike, and it seemed to be working, so I put my foot down.

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Never do that.

When I planted my foot, the bike was going too fast for me to stop. I saw the bike swing forward and then swerve left in front of me–with my right leg still on it. It twisted my whole body forward around my left leg, and I felt more deep pops in my knee than I could count. The bike threw me back, and I landed on my hip and then bounced over onto my shoulder. I was in so much pain, I think I left my body for one flashing second.

If the runner stopped to see if I was ok, it was in that second. As far as I know, he ran on.

But Good Samaritans are alive and well. The runner did not stop, but he was only one who passed me by. So many people took time to help me.

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The banks of the Charles River, across the street from Harvard in Cambridge, just a few minutes before the accident.

 

I prayed before I hit the ground that I would not have a serious injury.

But I confess that, as I went down,  actually two thoughts went through my mind: One, an arrow prayer, “Oh! God! No injury!” And, two, this gem, “Dangit!  I’m not going to get to see Paul Revere!”

Priorities, people.

A few minutes later, I tried to stand on that knee, and it buckled under me. The ambulance came soon after, and my rescuers lifted me onto the stretcher.

Delirious with pain and adrenaline, “I like your moons,”  I said, pointing to the lunar phase tattoos on the arms of the shaved bald beautiful girl that buckled me into the stretcher straps.

“Why would I want to spend the day with Paul Revere when I can spend the day with you guys? First responders, my heroes!” I said to the guy that rode with me as I patted his knee and prayed for his safety. He smiled at me, only slightly patronizing, looking as young as my daughter.

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Six hours and nine X-rays later, I left the ER with an extension knee cast and a pair of crutches.

My kids pushed my wheelchair out the front door as my husband pulled the van around to pick me up. All day, I had been watching the clock creep toward evening. Eight o’clock, nine o’clock, now almost ten. I was holding out hope that we would be in Lexington  for Paul Revere’s ride and that, since I was injured, my family would do whatever I wanted.

I was not wasting this incident, I can promise you that.

When we got in the van, I said, “I really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh.

Silence.

I said again, “I just so really wanted to see Paul Revere.” Sigh. Sigh.

Silence.

I waited a minute.

Then, “Well, so sad. I guess I won’t get to see Paul Revere.”

 

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Paul Revere’s house. Boston, Massachusetts.

 

My husband’s turn to sigh. He said, “I think it’s crazy, but you are the one who got hurt. You can decide if you feel like waiting until ELEVEN THIRTY at night and then driving home.”

Yes.

I felt like it.

I felt like I had been run over, but I felt good enough to wait for Paul Revere.

We got to Lexington to pick up our cars. My husband stopped by the pharmacy, and I waited and watched the clock. I became aware of fatigue, along with a little nagging sense that this might not be my best idea ever. But I wanted to see Paul Revere. So, so bad.

 

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I wanted to live in a moment of pure passion. To put myself in the place of flawed men of the past and catch the vision they had for our future.

Yes.

It is worth it to me to stay up late and hobble to a restored historical site. To stand on the same ground where blood was shed for my freedom, for our country’s freedom. To catch a little glimpse of what it really meant and what it really means now to be a Patriot, someone who believes in freedom enough to be willing to die for it.

I wanted to stand there for one moment among the minutemen and peer through the shadows at history. I wanted the strength and the courage and the fierce honor to fly through the air and hit me with the force of centuries.

 

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One if by land, two if by sea. The belfry tower of the Old North Church where the lanterns hung to tell Paul Revere of the British approach.

 

Paul Revere was also interrupted on his ride to Lexington, a part of his story that we rarely hear. He was captured by the British in between Concord and Lexington, and I’m sure, for a moment, that he wondered if he would be able to complete his mission. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were waiting for information in Lexington so that they could determine their next move.

The British soldiers weren’t sure what to do with Paul Revere. Apparently they decided he was harmless and took him back with them to Lexington. After a short detainment they let him go, presumably with orders to stop being so rebellious.

Unbeknownst to them, they delivered him to his exact destination.

 

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The house where Revere met Hancock and Adams in Lexington.

 

After his release, he rode straight to the Hancock house to warn John and Sam that the British were in town with warrants for their arrests. He helped them escape just a few hours before the troops marched into Lexington and the first shots of the war were fired.

My family thought we could drive in closer to the house, so I would only have to hobble a few feet. But the streets were blocked, and the guardians of the event were not impressed with my injury. We would have to “pahk in the pahking lot” and walk the quarter mile with everyone else.

We tried to access the house from every possible angle. My family looked earnest in their desire to humor me, and also earnestly exhausted. And the more we drove, the more fatigued I felt. My head hurt. My leg hurt.

“Ok,” I said, “You’re right. I know. We tried. We should go home.”

Back to the parking lot we went for our other car and left the city, my husband in his truck and me driving my van like a tin man, stiff legged and far away from the wheel.

As we drove away, I thought I might cry. I had missed my chance. I might not ever come this way on Patriot’s Day again. I had ridden from Boston to Lexington, raising up a prayer of freedom for our country, a prayer of all that was intended for this nation from the beginning.  And I wanted to end it with the breathless sight of Paul Revere leaping off of his horse, interrupted but unstoppable.

We pulled to the last stoplight on our way out of town, minutes before the great event. I was fighting back tears, and then, out of nowhere in the dark, there he was.

Striding down the street in his long blue coat and tricorn hat, manly ponytail bouncing and dramatic.

I’m sure he saw me. And I’m pretty sure we nodded to each other, a dignified patriotic salute.

***

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jn15:13

Through all our history, to the last,

in the hour of darkness and peril and need,

the people will waken and listen to hear

the hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,

and the midnight message of Paul Revere.  

~ Longfellow

Written on Patriot’s Day, 2017.

A Willing Vessel: 9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

I love movies.

Not all movies.  But the well done and uplifting ones, I love those.  The wisdom of a lifetime compressed into two short hours:  Seabiscuit, Queen Elizabeth, and William Wilberforce, and now, Bernie Webber, from start to finish, in the time it takes to paint my nails.

I’m grateful.  I need all the life-school I can get.

The Finest Hours is based on the true story of the most daring small boat rescue in Coast Guard history (Spoiler Alert).  It’s a simple film, easy to watch unless you are upset by rollicking ocean scenes.  It is not complex in the sense of subplot or psycho-drama, but it is a great tribute to a group of heroes who faced their fears, not to promote themselves, but to save the lives of 33 men stranded on one half of a ship destroyed by a raging storm.

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If you’ve seen it, you’ll remember that Chris Pine, also cast in recent years as the new Captain Kirk, is almost unrecognizable as the windchapped and head ducking rule-follower, Bernie Webber.

I love seeing actors lay down their vanity.  It’s a different kind of bravery.

The movie takes place on a night rocked by terrible winter storms and is based mostly around a Coast Guard station in Chatham, Massachusetts.  Not only one, but two tankers were torn in half by the storm that night.  Most thought that Bernie and his crew were being sent out on a suicide mission when they went out to help the S.S. Pendletion.

Throughout the movie, I was struck with Bernie’s absolute unwavering determination.  He and his crew were in a tiny open boat, sometimes completely submerged in water, four men on a huge and angry ocean.  I watched it twice.  And some things stood out to me about courage in the face of a challenge.

9 Lessons in Courage from The Finest Hours

 

1. Face your fears, and then do it afraid.

Bernie’s fiancée, Miriam, is afraid of boats and water.  When he finds out, he immediately wants her to get on a boat.  Bernie tells her, “We all get scared out there.” Don’t stuff feelings, admit them.  Bernie does not cover up his fear.  He does what he has to do in spite of it.

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2. Keep it simple, and shrug it off if you have to.  

Miriam says in reply, “I’m not scared of the water, just what’s underneath.”  Bernie shrugs and smiles and says, “Just more water.”

And later, when everyone around him tells him that he will die if he goes on the mission, he shrugs again, respectfully, and responds, “The Coast Guard says you got to go out.  It doesn’t say you have to come back in.”

Whatever it is, don’t overthink it.

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3. Knowing your why helps with your how.

Bernie joined the Coast Guard to be a protector.

And so had his crew.  They all volunteered.  A Coast Guard officer has the ability to command a crew, but Bernie didn’t have to take unwilling sailors.  One volunteer, Ervin Maske, says, “Well, someone has to go out there and save those guys, right?  That’s why I signed up.”

If you’ve never written a personal mission statement, it’s a helpful exercise.  When life gets distracting, difficult, and confusing, I go back to my mission statement.  It helps me know what decision fits with my ultimate purpose; it helps me remember who I am when I’m being pressured to be something else.

It helps me choose my battles.

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4. So does being prepared.  

Show up, and work hard, even if you don’t know the end game.  Bernie had been on rescue missions;  he had completed his training and knew the local waters well from his patrols.  He could not have anticipated the shipwreck that particular night, but by doing what he was good at every day, getting better, gaining skill and knowledge, he allowed God to prepare him for the biggest rescue of his life.

When the time comes, it goes a long way to know that you have the skill you need to do the job He’s asking you to do.

The years of training and boating allowed God to use these four men.  At the same time, in some ways they weren’t experienced enough.  Just showing up with the knowledge you have is half the battle.  He can use a willing vessel.

As Heidi Baker says, “If you don’t quit, you win.”

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5.  Be singleminded.

Once the leaders in the film make up their minds, they stay with their decisions.  Bernie Webber, Station Sergeant Cluff, and Chief Engineer Sybert on the shipwrecked S.S. Pendleton, all are singleminded men, even in the face of raging criticism and undermining.  And they insist on unity from their teams, that everyone around them be singleminded as well.

Though these men are surrounded by doubt, they do not allow themselves to be distracted and lose focus. In this particular situation, it was key.

If any of them had wavered, many men would have died.

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6. Courage doesn’t come from our peers.

The men at Chatham Station tell Bernie that he should pretend to follow Cluff’s commands, to motor around the harbor, and then come back in and say he couldn’t get out.  Bernie tells them thank you.

And then he goes out anyway.

As Praying Medic said to me recently, “Most friendships are temporary.  I can’t change what I believe just because a friend asks me to.”

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7. At the same time, it helps to have at least one person that believes in you.

Chatham Bar, a shallow sandbar off the coast, was also known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”  It was difficult to cross, especially in a storm.  Bernie pauses when they reach the Bar and looks at the huge waves crashing toward them.  Engineman Andy Fitzgerald calls out, “We got faith in you, Skip!  Anytime you’re ready you just go, ok, Bernie?!”

Bernie wants to go, but he is unsure at times.  He knows what is at stake, and he knows his decisions put his crew at risk.  Fitzgerald’s cheering strengthens Bernies’s resolve.

Courage doesn’t come from friends, but believing in each other goes a long way to bolster courage.

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8.  Don’t give fear center stage.

On the S.S. Pendleton, Chief Engineer Sybert plans to run the ship aground and wait for help.  Another sailor, Brown, berates him and questions his decision, implying that he cares more about the ship than saving the men.  Sybert replies, “I got a life, same as you.  I’m scared, too, Brown.  Just don’t see the point in sitting around and talking about it.”

At the same time, on the Coast Guard boat, Richie Livesey is shouting at Bernie everything that is wrong, that they should go back. But Bernie already knows that they are in danger, that they have lost their compass, that the storm is getting worse.  When Fitzgerald hears Livesey, he goes from supporting Bernie to agreeing with Livesey, “Maybe Richie’s right!  Maybe we should just go back!”

Once spoken, Richie’s doubt becomes contagious.

It’s the only time Bernie shouts.  He will not listen to doubt or make a decision based on fear.  “We aren’t giving up on ’em! Not on my watch!”

Don’t give fear all the air time.  Give hope the sound instead.

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9. Faith, not luck, is on your side.

The men on the S.S. Pendletion pray when the ship is torn in two.  Later Brown yells at Sybert, “This ship is just bad luck!”  Sybert replies, “It’s got nothing to do with luck.”

Bernie Webber’s father was a pastor, and Bernie considered the ministry before he joined the Coast Guard.  Bernie always said about that night, “The Lord’s hand was on my shoulder.”  (ChristianNews.net)

In one of the few scenes that is not completely true to the story, Fitzgerald sings an old sailor song, and all the men join in, a sign of solidarity and a way to strengthen themselves.  In reality, they did sing, but not a sea shanty.  They sang the old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Bernie had a strong inner life.  He leaned on faith to do the impossible.

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One last thing that struck me as I researched this rescue was the absolute humility of these men.  Bernie always gave credit to the whole crew, even refusing a gold medal unless the crew received the same honor. One of the men’s wives didn’t know the full story of the rescue until years later. They chose bravery and self sacrifice, it was how they saw themselves.  And then they just lived it, without asking for glory.

It’s a beautiful story.

If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear what you learned from this film in the comments.

If you haven’t, it’s on Netflix right now.

Enjoy.

***

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends.  Jn15:13

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.  Phil2:3

I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle–victorious.  ~Vince Lombardi

Thanksgiving, How Sweet the Sound.

My grandmother’s love language was food.

Biscuits and gravy.  Bacon and eggs.

Pancakes, stacked high with butter and syrup, sausage on the side, mixed and crispy-hot in the pan just before daylight.

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Home fried chicken.  Ham and beans.  Cornbread in an iron skillet.  Mashed potatoes, perfectly white, whipped to an inch of their little lives.  Homemade cinnamon rolls, homemade ice cream.  Chocolate chip cookies.  Banana splits.

My grandma made iced tea so sweet it crunched, and then she sent me out to the garden to pick little sprigs of fresh mint. She laid the green leaves gently on top, and the smell of that sweet mint tea was as fresh as the sun.  We are Southern after all.  There’s really no other way to drink it.

In the winter she made hot chocolate, and cappuccino from a tin.

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She made grilled cheese.  Macaroni and cheese.  Sandwiches with three slices of American cheese.  Cheeseball.  Pimento cheese.  Fruit and cheese.

Oh, and pepper jelly on a Triscuit.  With cream cheese.

Fresh.  Everything so fresh.  And almost all from scratch.  Pie crusts rolled out early in the morning.  Fruit picked from her own trees and sugared by her own hands.

Berry pie.  Cherry pie with whipped cream.  And apple pie with melted cheddar cheese.  The first time she handed me that delicacy, I thought someone had gotten confused.

But it was good.  Like all of it.  So good.

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And Thanksgiving?

Move the chairs out and bring in some tables.  Turn yourself sideways to make your way through the bounty, stack up your plate, and don’t be shy, honey, come back for more.

On Thanksgiving, my grandmother cooked for days around her teaching job.   Deviled eggs could be done early. The pies too, they could be done ahead.  Salads, chopped the day before and tossed in the morning.

She still made jello molds, maybe the only thing she made I didn’t love, but they were pretty and somewhat gravity defying, and what kid isn’t entertained by carrots jiggling in gelatin?

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My grandmother was a schoolteacher and a children’s librarian.   Besides cooking, she dressed in costumes on the holidays.

On Christmas, she was Mrs. Claus, Santa hat, red sweater, matching skirt, and a huge black belt with a shiny gold buckle.

And on Thanksgiving, she alternated years, one year a Cherokee maiden with construction paper feathers in her hair.

And, other years, a pilgrim in black and white, complete with a little collar and funny hat, flaps around her ears.

And she did it all while caring for my grandfather, wheelchair-bound from polio.  My grandmother sold everything she had after he came home from the hospital, and she went to school to become a teacher.

She was loyal to him until he died in his fifties, and she never remarried.  She still wears her wedding band, even though I’m not sure she remembers why.

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She doesn’t know us anymore, and she gets upset if she forgets where she is.

But her love language is still food.  She got afraid at my house the other day, and I said, “Grandma, do you want a cookie?”  She nodded.

I gave her two cookies.  “One for each hand,” I said, like I do for my kids.

She smiled and took a big crumbly bite.

It wasn’t until I had my own kids and tried cooking for a family, day in and day out, that I realized what a gift she gave us.

After I had stayed home for ten years, I realized that I had prepared over 10,000 meals, many of them spit out and proclaimed “disgusting” by children who had just been eating dog food.

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I know they did.  Dirt, too.  I saw it with my own eyes.

Even so, I baked and meal-planned and hunted recipes to delight them.

One time as a young mom, I tried to make beans.

I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to make the whole bag at once.  When the water boiled, I happily watched the beans soften and swell.

Until I realized they were swelling right out of the pot.

I called my grandmother.

“What do I do?”  I asked her.

She laughed so hard.  Couldn’t even talk.

“Grandma, stop laughing,” I said, “they are seriously coming out the top!  What do I do?”

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“Just get another pot, honey,” she gasped.  “Start spooning them in to something else on another burner, add more water.”

“Ok, Grandma,” I said.  Her laughing made me laugh.  I spooned some in another pot.

The beans kept swelling over the top.

I called her back.  “Grandma, I think I should just throw it away.  There’s too much, it’s still overflowing.  I give up.”

She thought this was hysterical.

“No, honey,” she said.  “Don’t you have four burners?   Just keep adding pots, keep spooning it out.  You can fix this.”

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It was a vote of confidence from a woman who knew her food.  I did fix it, on the phone with her, laughing and spooning and babysitting beans.

She kept asking, “What does it look like now?”  and laughing.

I wish I’d had a cell phone back then.  I would have texted her a picture of the four bean volcanos erupting on my stovetop.

I think she got the idea.

It’s a little memory.

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But I’m so thankful for it.

The food is a small thing too in a way, but in another, it’s the soundtrack of my childhood as much as any music.

A soundtrack of flavor and love poured out and laid before me by a servant of God and family who lived to bring us comfort.

My grandmother worked hard in her gardens and at school to provide the food for a big family she fed all the time.

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And then, unless you’ve planned meals like she did, and gotten up at all hours of the day and night to make sure it came out right, and tended to every little bite like it mattered, it’s hard to explain the time and the effort, the cuts and the burns and the sweat and the tired arms over a hot steamy stove.

I remember conversations at these meals.

Conversations that often ended up with someone raising their voice and walking away mad, and the awkward silence that followed.

And I remember my grandmother leaving the angry adults and swooping us all up in her arms.  She had holiday books that she read in the most soothing, sweet voice, a voice and a cadence made to order for children’s stories.

I’m sure the conversations mattered to her, but her babies mattered more.

She had worked hard to make a beautiful meal and space for gathering.  She was not about to let them ruin it for her or for us.

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She was a woman who never stopped smiling.

I’m amazed by her restraint, and inspired by the way she always chose love.

I want to give that same gift to my kids and my family.

I’m planning what I’m cooking this year.

My kids have never seen a jello mold.  This may be the year that changes.  That jiggly delight just might find itself a place on my table.  Some old things are worth resurrecting.

And I’m planning what I’ll say.

“Hey kids, want to read a story?”

And.  My sister has this hilarious game.  Telephone pictionary.  Great for a crowd.  Directions here.  Might play that, too.

There’s a time and a place for everything, it’s true.

But Thanksgiving is about making a joyful noise, not an angry or fearful one.  And about making memories that will still be sweet for a long, long time.

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I’m praying for love, words of love, sweeter than honey, and more savory than turkey, and sweeter than music, to grace your lips, your ears and all your gatherings.

Pleasant words are a honeycomb, Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.  Prov16:24