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2012 was an entire year of trial for me. It was probably one of the toughest years of my life I have ever had to face.

But it was also one of the most beautiful.

It was one of the most beautiful because the I AM was with me-in the very middle of my suffering, sin, and fear.

IV%20BAG%20wgif[1]He was there with me in a dark hospital room when I longed for a daddy’s eyes to acknowledge his daughter again. When the doctors were shaking their heads saying, “I don’t know.” When the nurses were whispering, “His fever’s back up.”

He was awake and He was there when everyone else around me was sleeping. When a father was literally unable to keep his eyes open, when a mother was sleeping from the stress, when a city lay warm and cozy beneath their beds, and when a desperate daughter cried, “God, please. I just want to hear his voice again.”

He was there squeezing my shoulder, smiling, looking me in the eye and saying, “You will.”

He was there giving her a vision of the future-peaceful dreams as nurses went in and out, drawing blood and asking questions. In the dream, her dad was fine and he was packing a suitcase and getting ready to go home. And a week later, it came to pass.

He was there when the girl took her book project to a place called Manitou Springs for the eyes of authors to scrutinize, criticize, and refine. He was there when the girl couldn’t find the words to say, and she felt as though her dreams were slipping and scattering away from her like pearls on a string. He was there when her heart felt torn and tormented, wondering whether she should stay with a family who needed her or give up on her own dream.

He was there on the car ride over when her heart felt sick and her stomach queasy as she thought about giving a speech that night in front of twelve expectant faces. In front of bestselling authors and fabulous speakers and writers who knew what they were doing. What did she have to offer when her chapter had been written in the very middle of hospital visits, beeping machines, IVs, and phone calls at 3:00 in the morning that said, “Dad has the chills and is blacking out”?

She was so unprepared.

He was there and He told her, “Just think of me standing right beside you before you have to speak.”

He was there as her knees knocked together, her heart beat faster, her stomach revolted, and she waited for her turn. He was there as she swallowed, as the eyes turned her way, and the panic set in. But then, the peace. He’s right beside me. He is with me. He will not leave me.

He was there as the girl stood, confidently making eye contact with everyone in the room and holding her head high. He was there as she remembered every word, enunciated each one clearly, and felt no fear or worry. He was there as she said “Thank you,” resumed her place, and everyone in the room clapped. He was there when one of those authors leaned over and said, “Well done!” And the girl just shook her head, trying to understand how she went from almost losing her supper to standing poised and confident, a speaker all her life. It was because He stood beside me.

He was there on a night in December when a girl who longed to remember a time when things went right cried out to God with tears streaming down her face, “I’m done, God. For the first time in my life, I just want to give up. And what if I did? What if I gave up my dream of being an author and stopped trying so hard? What if I walked away right now? It would be a lot easier. What if I stopped trying to meet everyone’s expectations? I don’t want to feel this way, God, but I’m done with prayers for right now. Nothing happens when I do. I’m done with saying, ‘thank you,’ for circumstances I don’t like. I just don’t know, God. I really don’t know anymore. Do dreams come true? Was I just a silly, naive girl to ever think that? Am I to be poor, broken, penniless in pocket and spirit for the rest of my life? I don’t have hope or faith anymore, God, and that’s the honest truth.”

He was there when the girl walked into church that last Sunday of December with arms crossed over her chest, trying to keep the world from seeing her bitter, angry, and hurting heart. What was 2012 but a year of failure and lost dreams? It was one thing after another. Family members who chose to hang out with the wrong crowd of people and go down a path that would ultimately lead to their own destruction. A godly man who spent his entire life doing nothing but be a good man, and here he was, a hard worker struggling to find work and spending half a year in the hospital? First for critically low sodium, then for a gall bladder attack, then for an infection from having his gall bladder removed, then to have brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, then this, then that.

Writer’s block. Not a single thing written for six months-my blog languishing, my schoolwork suffering, my book nonexistent. This was not how it was supposed to be.

My sister breaks off the side mirror of my car after her brush with a semi, and the night before Thanksgiving my niece ends up in the hospital with pneumonia.

Hospitals. Bills. Tears. Will it ever end?

Despite my prayers, despite my belief in miracles, despite my dreams-one thing after another is taken away. Money, health, peace.

Is this all there is to life, then? Constant struggle? Do you even see us anymore, God?

Does anyone? Does anyone see me? Who in the six months this has been going on has called me? Who has asked me how I’m doing and really meant it? Who would listen or care if I told them? And what right do I have to expect that of them? Who sees my pain? Who cares?

In the middle of the girl’s listing of grievances, in the very middle of her complaining, ranting, and railing, the presence of God stops all words.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

(C) Arnold Friberg.

Her breath is stolen from her, tongue turned stone, thoughts evaporated, and she is Moses, staring at the holy, fiery presence of God as the preacher’s words finally filter through as he reads God’s words,

“Then the LORD told him, ‘I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…” (Ex. 3:7-8.)

I have seen you. I see your pain. I have seen your suffering, and I will deliver you.

You ask, is this all there is to life? No. No, for I have many plans for you. No-because I AM the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6.) There is plenty more to life, because there is plenty more of me. An eternal, endless kind of more. I AM and will always be. Unchanging. As I delivered then, I deliver now. As I was always more than enough then, I AM always more than enough now.

Peace, I AM.

Joy, I AM.

Love, I AM.

Your answer, I AM.

Your provider, I AM.

Your salvation, I AM.

Your healer, I AM.

Your deliverer, I AM.

All objections are blown away from my lips. All doubts and fears and anger gone.

I can do nothing but bow my head, the tears streaming down my face. We are in the second row and the pastor startles and looks at me, as if asking, “What did I do?”

I’m embarrassed and wish I could hide, but I can’t help it. What else am I to do?

The taking down of the strong “I’m fine,” mask is like the taking off of Moses’s sandles. It is vulnerable and exposing and uncomfortable, but what else to do in the presence of holy? In the presence of truth? I am in awe.

Because the I AM- Moses’s I AM-is here. And He says He’s seen me and is aware of my suffering.

The only emotion I can name or a put a finger to is that I feel seen. And it is such a wonderful feeling.

Like Moses, the presence of God came so unexpectedly. I was doing everything I could to push God away for the moment. I was done praying and asking for help. I wasn’t seeking Him or His presence. I was too busy blocking Him from my heart and saying I didn’t care about the pain there. I was angry and bitter and ungrateful.

It was into the middle of that that God came. In the very middle of my angry diatribe. In the very middle of my pointing the accusing finger of Martha asking, “Why didn’t you show up? If you had only been here…” (Paraphrased, John 11:21.)

And God replied, “I AM here.” (Paraphrased, John 11:25.)

The presence of God so strong and so sweet, my breath is stolen away, my head drops in bowed reverence, and the tears sting my eyes and run down my chin until I’m a slobbery mess.

I feel His love. His love.

Why would He give me love when all I’ve given Him are accusations?

He should be the one accusing me. “Why have you been so ungrateful? Why have you not had faith? Why do you think so little of me? Why do you daily insult my character by calling me uncaring, incapable? How can you think I’ve not seen you? You’re my child. Do you think so little of your Father as that?”

There’s a twinge of shame-but for right now, in this moment with his arms wrapping ’round me, telling of forgiveness and mercy-I feel only gratitude.

“Thank you,” I whisper, “Oh, God-thank you. Thank you for coming into my mess, time and time again. Thank you for meeting me here. For blessing me with your presence when all I was trying to do was run away from it. For seeing me in a world that does not see. Not like you do. For holding me, for healing me, for being here. For loving me-me, the one who bit into the apple of envy, of selfishness, of anger, of ingratitude, all the while hearing your voice in the back of my head warning me not to. For loving the me who pounds those nails into your hands, crying, ‘I don’t need your saving grace! I don’t believe you love like you say you do! I don’t believe you give like they say you do! Your love is not the kind of love I want. The kind that lets fathers struggle and dreams die and joy get stolen. I don’t need the kind of love that doesn’t see me! And you always, forever replying, ‘Father, forgive her, for she knows not what she does.'” (Paraphrased, Luke 23:34.)

But it’s here, now-in the presence of I AM, and in the presence of the truth-where I do see truth.

His love is the kind of love that looks over to thief hanging on cross beside-in torment Himself-and says, “I see you. Today you will be with me in paradise.”

His love is the kind of love that turns to look in a crowd full of people singing His praises, clamoring for His attention, asking for help, and asks, “Who touched me?”

His is the kind of love whose gentle glance takes in the woman all bent in shame and fear and sin and asks, “Who will cast the first stone?”

His is the kind of love that detours to meet a Samaritan woman at the well.

The kind of love that says, “Let the children come to me.”

The kind that meets a murderer on the road and says, “Why do you persecute me? Instead, come and follow me.”

Time and again. Over and over, and now I see: I was never unseen. I was never alone. He has always loved me. He does not come to lie, and cheat, and steal from me. Where in His word does it say that? When has He ever shown that, in Scripture or in my own personal life?

In fact, who was it the Scriptures said did come to do that? “The thief’s purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10: 10, emphasis added.)

I am a fool to have listened to that wily serpent for so long.

And I bow the head again. “Thank you.”

Was it not just last night I said I was done saying, “Thank you”? And yet, here I am today.

I also told God I was done dreaming. Done trying. Done hoping and having faith. Done praying.

But if I was wrong about saying thank you, maybe I was wrong about some other things, too. Okay, I was. Really wrong. Shamefully wrong.

Father, forgive me.

And His love whispers, I see you. Your sins have been forgiven you.

And it’s here in the presence of the I AM that a new whisper settles into the wind, “Your faith has healed you.”

I am healed, restored, loved, peace-filled. Forgiven.

Was it more I was asking for? A miracle?

I think I might just have been given one.

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My Facebook status the day after my dad woke up and began speaking again in the hospital:

This is going to sound melodramatic, but do me a favor: give your dad a huge, long squeeze. Tell him you love him. Have a long conversation with him, just to hear his voice. Today I’m crying and grateful because my dad couldn’t stay awake even a minute yesterday, and couldn’t say anything more than two words. I went to sleep praying that God would just allow me the opportunity to have a conversation with Him today. He answered that prayer. Things are getting better, so thank you for all the prayers! But if this has taught me anything, it’s that life is fragile. The little things-like hearing your dad speak-are the big things.”

 Life can change in a heartbeat. In a late night call or a down economy. In a ferocious storm or a devastating diagnosis. In a divorce, a death, or even in the very midst of our every-day lives.

So many times in life tragedy hits our blind spot, and we never realize it’s coming until we hear the crunch of metal and recognize we’ve collided with it.

It’s then we learn the fragility of life. But it’s also when we learn to treasure time as well.

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve written and re-written this blog post. I feel as though the message is such an important one, and it’s been burning in my heart to share for quite a while now. I can never say it the right way, so I finally decided to share it anyway. This may be messy and not the most well-written piece, but maybe that’s sort of fortuitous. Because life is sometimes messy, and it doesn’t always look good or make sense on paper either.

Some of it started with the wildfires. As I watched the wildfires in Colorado take in a matter of minutes what others had spent years building, the injustice of it all shot through my heart like an arrow.

Fire doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care how greatly we treasure something, nor how closely we guard it. I heard the phrase over and over again as I watched the news, “You never think it’ll happen to you.”

I really began to learn the lesson when my dad went into the hospital. The day before my dad landed in the back of an ambulance, I could have never imagined him unable to stay awake for even a full minute or say more than two words.

But here’s the thing: none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. We’re only given today.

It’s a terrifying feeling when you realize just how fragile life really is, am I right? Suddenly the whole world feels about as safe as an abandoned alleyway.

It’s one of the most painful lessons to learn. Fire burns mercilessly and leaves scars. But it also teaches us a very important lesson we wouldn’t learn any other way.

Though we may consider something as sacred and untouchable, nothing in this life is truly sacred and untouchable except for the Lord Almighty.

That’s not necessarily a comforting thought. It may not seem like the price we pay to receive that revelation is worth it. But there is deep comfort in knowing the truth: though life can change on a whim, the Bible tells us the unfailing love of God never changes.

Maybe you know what it feels like to have something burn. Or maybe you live in fear of a coming fire. Either way, if we stare into the fire too long, it can begin to look hopeless. It stings the eyes and scorches the soul.

But dear one, listen to me: our hope is not in this world. Our hope is in Him.

He came to deliver and rescue you from the fire. Not only that, loved one-He came to walk with you through the fire: “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:1-2.)

Whoever or wherever you are today, please know I am praying for you. Please know I care for you and whatever fiery trial you may be going through.

But also know this: you can meet with the Savior today. In the very middle of your pain. In the very middle of the fire. And when you do, He will have healing for your hurts. Peace for your pain. And He will have love to wash over your fear.

How do I know? Because like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, He was with me in the fire, too:

So touched by God’s abundant love, mercy, and grace. A week ago today my dad couldn’t even get a straw to his mouth, let alone stay awake for a few seconds. Circumstances said he should have died, gone into a coma, had a seizure, or suffered brain damage. But God said otherwise. Today he defied the odds and walked into church to praise his God, raising the same hands that could barely move last week. The same voice that couldn’t say more than two words, and the mind that kept shutting down. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a miracle to me. He is all deserving of praise!

(My Facebook status a week after the first.)

I Hear Ya: Please share how I can pray for you today, or about a time when God delivered you from a fiery trial, and let’s lift up and encourage one another today!

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Part I: Speechless

There is no fear until you’ve faced the fear of wondering if one of your loved ones will make it through the night.

Last month, I had to face that fear as my dad went in and out of the hospital. I learned a lot through that time, and my perspective changed on many things. The blessings God has given have made me speechless. But I’ll go into more detail on that with Part II of this post. Right now, I just want to tell a story. The story not as it ended, but as it began-before I learned the lessons.

When Dad first went into the hospital, we didn’t think he was suffering from anything more serious than food poisoning. The doctor sent him home with instructions to drink lots of fluids. Mom and Dad were on their way home when they got a call telling them to come back to the hospital immediately. The results from a test were back, and Dad’s sodium levels were so low that he was in critical condition and could have a seizure at any time. Normal sodium levels for most people are between 130-140; Dad was at 113.

That was scary, but they immediately hooked him up to an IV, and his sodium levels began to rise. The doctors didn’t seem concerned and told us he could go home on Sunday, so we counted our blessings for having caught it in time and looked forward to his homecoming.

However, something in my heart told me he wasn’t coming home that particular Sunday. I called Mom that morning to see how he was doing, and knew immediately from her voice it wasn’t good.

“He’s slurring his speech, Lizzie. And he can’t stay awake.”

My heart plummeted with her words.

I packed my bag right then, knowing I needed to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Right now he was still talking and still pretty cognizant. What if he slipped into a coma and this was the last time I got to speak to him? I needed to get there while he was still aware enough to understand what I was saying. I needed to see him awake at least once more. I needed to tell him I loved him and have him understand.

When I arrived, the doctor made my sisters and I leave the room so she could talk to Mom. I knew that wasn’t good, and I was mad. We were his family. Didn’t she know Mom needed us? Who wants to hear bad news alone? We should be there to support her!

Once we were allowed back in, Mom was sobbing and inconsolable. The doctor told us Dad had a tumor on his Pituitary, and we girls were going to have to be strong for Mom. On one hand, I agreed with the doctor. I stepped up to the challenge. The other part of me asked: but who will be strong for me?

The nurse wheeled Dad in from his CAT scan, and the room grew quiet. I could barely recognize the strong, brave man I’d known and loved all my life. He sat in a hospital gown his shoulders seemed too wide for; a wheelchair his legs seemed too long for. Hospitals, wheelchairs-they were for frail, old people. Not this man. Not my dad.

He looked haggard. He covered his face. He tried to speak, and his voice was hoarse. Only two words emerged: “What now?”

The sight broke my heart. I wanted so badly to be brave and strong for this man who had always been brave and strong for me. I recognized in him the person I’d been at different times of my life-maybe not physically, but at least emotionally. Times when I’d been broken, discouraged, wondering, “What now?” And I wondered how he’d always found the right words to say.

Mom replied that we would be taking him in an ambulance to St. Mary’s.

He tried to drink from a straw, and I watched as he missed his mouth twice before taking a drink.

He fell asleep in the middle of the day, and we gathered around him to pray. I wanted so much to pray. To cry out to God, to speak hope into this situation and to be brave for everyone else around me. To remind them-and myself-that God was with us.

But I stayed mute. What could I say? What words could express the anguish of my soul? What plea would be desperate enough to plead for the life of my father? What words to explain the depth of my confusion? Words were empty. So I let my soul cry out instead.

I nearly cried when our dear friends who’d come to the hospital found the words for us. They said the things I wanted to, but couldn’t find. They asked for healing, strength, peace, answers.

We ended the prayer. Mom’s face blanched, and I followed her gaze to find out why. A stretcher was outside waiting.

Suddenly desperate, I asked Mom if I could hug him before they took him. I needed to touch him. To tell him those three words. To wake him up.

I needed to find a way to wake him up. If I didn’t, he might never wake up.

I hugged him tightly, and suddenly I didn’t want to let go. I knew my sisters were waiting for their turn, but I stayed where I was. My face was buried in his chest as it had been so many times before, but I’d never been so eager in my life to stay there. How had I taken this for granted before?

I finally drew back. “I love you, Dad.”

His eyes fluttered, and he focused on me for an instant.

“Bye, Dad. I’ll see you soon, okay?”

He nodded once, his eyelids fluttering back shut. He briefly pressed his lips into a kiss as he always did to say goodbye, and I almost cried. At least he could still understand.

When we arrived at the ER room of St. Mary’s, the doctor told us the Pituitary Tumor was nothing to worry about; it was very large and would need to be removed, but it wasn’t what was causing his problem now. He didn’t know what was causing his problem now.

95% of the time Pituitary Tumors were not cancerous, so he wasn’t concerned about that; what concerned him was the sudden change in my dad. From being healthy and normal the day before, to slurring his speech and having mental fogginess a day later after no significant trauma puzzled him. He’d treat him for an infection and would stop by later to check on him, but that was all he could do for now.

I remember reading the sign above me as we were transferred to a nicer room: “Neuro Trauma.”

Mom and I opted to spend the night in the hospital room with Dad. I slept in a chair, while Mom slept in a chair that rolled out into a bed beside me. She instantly fell asleep from the stress of the day, but I couldn’t even close my eyes.

I stared at Dad in the bed. I just wanted him to be himself again. To have a conversation with him, like we always did. Dad and I loved a good talk. It’s what we did. I wanted him to hear, respond, and understand. I wanted to hear his voice. I wanted my daddy back.

The tears came to my eyes, and in the dark I begged God, “Please, please, please. Let my dad be normal again tomorrow. Please let me talk to him again. Please just let me wake up to him talking and acting like himself.”

I prayed the same thing over and over until finally God answered. With a strong and confident voice that felt like arms wrapping around me, He said, “You will.”

You will… Finally at peace, I fell asleep.

I woke up several times during the night to nurses checking on Dad, poking him for blood draws, and asking him his birth date.

They’d shake his shoulder and say, “Terry? Terry? Terry?” It would always take at least three tries to wake him.

At one point they asked him to cross his arms on his chest. Confused, he rolled to his side. “No, like this,” the nurse said, demonstrating it for him. He finally got it on the third or fourth try.

Once I woke during the night to the whisper, “His fever’s back up.”

I had a dream. A peaceful dream. Dad was fine, and walking and talking normally. He was carrying a suitcase of some kind, and we were going home.

I opened my eyes. My heart sank. It had only been a dream. He was still laying in the bed. We were still in the hospital. And even though it was morning, he was still asleep.

Mom got up, and we talked for a little while. Not long after that, Dad opened his eyes. And he spoke. And he didn’t slur. He’d made it through the night, and he was here. Really here.

I spoke to him, and he responded normally and as himself. No longer slow, no longer with a slur. Completely awake and present. I smiled through the tears as several whispers throughout the night came back to me in a rush…

Terry, Terry, Terry.

His fever’s back up.

I squeezed Dad’s hand and savored the sound of his voice.

You will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hello, readers! I have a special treat for you today. (And no, for once, it has nothing to do with fear.) The blog I normally use for book reviews hasn’t been working of late, so I decided to share one here!

Please read on to see what I thought of Sandra Byrd’s The Secret Keeper.

Title: The Secret Keeper

Author: Sandra Byrd

Publisher: Howard Books

Pages: 352

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First there was To Die For: A novel of Anne Boleyn. Now Sandra Byrd returns to regale us with The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.

As King Henry VIII’s last wife, Kateryn Parr enters a world of opposition and intrigue when she steps into his court. The story is told through the eyes of Juliana St. John-a young maiden who has come along to attend Kateryn.

The court may be full of trickery and deceit, but it is Juliana who may hold the biggest secret.

Not only does Juliana have the gift of prophecy, but in one of her visions she has also seen a prominent family friend shredding the dress of a very high-born woman.

Now Juliana is left to wonder: was she brought to the court for such a time as this? Will she have the courage to intervene when the time comes? And will she ever find true love of her own?

Once again, I couldn’t put this book down. I was transported to the very courts of King Henry himself. There was also a huge twist in the middle that completely surprised me.

Before reading The Secret Keeper I knew little of Kateryn Parr, so it was both fun and enlightening to get to know her through Byrd’s adaptation. She was a fascinating woman, and played a large role in the upbringing of Queen Elizabeth I.

Likewise, Juliana also played a strong female character. I especially loved how Byrd gave her the gift of prophecy. That’s something I’d never seen before in fiction, and I felt she made it both relevant and interesting.

The one and only reason I shaved off a star for The Secret Keeper was because I felt as if it was a little too similar to the first book, To Die For. Each book is set in King Henry VIII’s court, each has a queen with strong protestant leanings, and each has a lady’s maid who cannot have the love of her life because of social reasons. Because of the similarity between plots, it came down to a “Favorites” game: which was my personal favorite? For me, it was To Die For. So I feel as though I may be a little biased.

However, I’m confident those who haven’t read To Die For will find nothing to criticize in The Secret Keeper, and there are several variants to keep it interesting and worth reading for those who have.

There is one scene that depicts a rape, so please be advised.

But overall, I thought The Secret Keeper was fabulous. It’s one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, and I eagerly look forward to Byrd’s future installment: Roses Have Thorns: A novel of Elizabeth I.

Based on these first two books, I have a feeling this will be a strong series that readers won’t soon forget!

(Thanks to the author and Howard Books for giving me this book to review.)

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Recently, I talked about the fear of being still. (If you missed that post, you can read it here:https://thefearlist.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/be-still/ ) If you’re constantly busy, feeling depressed and overwhelmed with the to-do list you can never get to the end of, and wanting to go deeper in your spiritual walk, then I’d highly recommend checking out Grace Fox’s book Peaceful Moments to Begin Your Day: Devotions for Busy Women.

To learn more and to find out why, read my review below.  

Review:

Title: Peaceful Moments to Begin Your Day: Devotions for Busy Women 

Author: Grace Fox

Publisher: Harvest House

Pages: 286

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Have you ever felt overwhelmed with all you have to get done? Felt as if you’d never reach the end of your to-do list? Struggled to catch your breath? Then I can relate.

I received Grace Fox’s book Peaceful Moments to Begin Your Day: Devotions for Busy Women at a time when I felt unbearably busy. There was schoolwork to be done, friends to call and wish a “Happy Birthday” to, blog posts to write, family business to attend to, and oh, yeah, I should probably read my Bible too.

So I drank in the title of her book and eagerly began reading, hoping against all hope that the book itself would deliver on what the title had promised.

To my great delight, it delivered on all that and more!

I literally began each day by reading Peaceful Moments to Begin Your Day and it truly became one of the few restful moments of my day. I felt so refreshed and inspired after reading, it quickly became something I looked forward to every morning.

Each devotion was long enough so as to deliver something of value, but short enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed at the prospect of reading it. Every devotion included an “Upward Gaze” (a prayer to pray), an “Inward Glimpse” (questions to reflect on), an “Outward Glance” (a pre-written prayer to pray for someone else), and “One More Peek” (one final Scripture related to the topic to meditate on).

The devotions were full of personal stories and easy to read. I especially liked the “Outward Glance” sections of the book. At times, it can be difficult to know how or what to pray for our loved ones, and often the “Outward Glance” portion for the day would be exactly what I needed and couldn’t seem to find the words to say.

I’d only recommend this book to two types of people, and they are these: If you are A) busy, or B) a woman.

If either of those things describe you, pick up this book, ladies! You won’t regret it.

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Once upon a time, there was a girl who was afraid to reach out to others. Out of that fear, she wrote a farewell letter in her heart:

Dear Compassion,

I’m afraid it’s time for me to move on. You see, I have too much to do to waste any time with you. I can’t slow down to listen to you if I want to get any work done. Besides, listening to you only brings me more misery. I have enough pain of my own, and you want me to add even more to my burdens by taking on others’ hurt? It’s much more productive to focus on my own worries and troubles.

How do I know these people even want my help? I’d probably only make things worse. What if I say the wrong thing? Reach out to them only to have them reject me in return? Or worse, draw them away from God?

No, no. I think everyone would be far better off if I just said goodbye to you, Compassion. You take me out of my comfort zone, and you make me feel things that I can do nothing about. Not everyone can make a difference. I certainly can’t. The only thing you bring me is more pain-pain that I can’t fix. It’s time for me to protect my heart.

Farewell, Compassion. I hope you understand-it’s easier on everyone this way.

 

But God wasn’t ready to give up on the girl. One day, He spoke to her through a song:

After listening to the song, the tears flowed down her face. With shame, she realized just how hard her heart had become, and she wrote a prayer pleading with God to bring compassion back into her life:

 

Help me see tragedy, and

Break me out of complacency,

So I can help the poor and needy.

 

Take away the umbrella,

So I can feel the rain,

And take away the soul’s ibuprofen,

So I can feel the pain.

 

Give me arms to hug and heal,

Give me knees that bend and kneel.

Give me a heart sensitive to your Word,

Help me set the captives free as a bird.

Give me calloused hands and skinned knees,

Oh, Father, please!

Give me tears that cry for change,

Put room in my heart, rearrange,

Break me, pour me out;

Oh, love’s what life’s about.

 

Put me in the ICU with the mom holding her son’s hand,

And place me in the impoverished land.

Let me feel the burning hunger of another,

And taste the stinging tears of my fellow brother.

Put me in the trench where the fear and blood is thick,

And in the child whose body is so sick.

Give me a heart tender and compassionate,

Oh, Lord, I want to be sent.

 

Jesus placed his feet on sinner’s land,

Accepted our hurt with an open hand.

Got his hands dirty and made a stand,

Touched and healed the leper’s hand.

Took on our sickness and pain,

Washed us anew in Heaven’s rain.

Walked into our darkness and gave us the light,

Took on our blindness and gave us sight.

Took our wounds and healed our souls,

Became broken so we became whole.

 

Became a prisoner so we could be free,

Walked through the fire with me.

Left heaven’s throne,

So I would never be alone.

 

‘Twas love that led him up to Calvary,

And ’tis love that says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”

My eyes, once blind, now see-

With perfect love comes bravery.

 

God honored that girl’s prayer, and for the first time in a long while she noticed the starving children on her television, and felt the tears stream down her cheeks. She noticed the sadness hiding behind her friend’s eyes, and remembered there were many who lived in darkness, just longing for the light. Light she could share with them.

The girl began to pray more, speak out more, and even cry more. But instead of adding to her burdens, it made her feel alive and free-as if a part of her had been re-awakened. And things around her began to change.

She has more purpose in her step now, more joy within her heart. For she realized that when you are loving is when you’re truly living. And she realized what the devil had been lying to her about for years, and it was this: that she could make a difference.

Now she lives in the truth, and the truth has set her free.

Once upon a time there was a girl, and that girl was me.

 

 

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Be still, and know that I am God.        (Psalm 46:10)

I don’t know when it happened. Somehow, I became an adult.

How do I know this, you ask? If you’re wondering, it’s not because of my age. (The whopping, brand-spanking new age of twenty-one!) It’s not because someone told me I was. It’s not because I can drink or drive (not at the same time, of course) or vote or any of those things.

It’s actually much more simple than that: my life is busy.

Busy? I can hear some of you ask. Yes, busy. It’s full of responsibilities, worries, chores, and stress. I go to town to run an errand only to realize I have another errand to run after that, only to realize I have an e-mail to answer when I get home, only to realize I have a lesson for school to get done soon, then a friend to call and wish a happy birthday to, then a post to answer on Facebook, then an article to finish, and somewhere in there I should read my Bible, then a blog post to write, then assure my family that yes, I am still living, and maybe somewhere in all of that I’ll find a chance to eat.

Sound familiar? If so, you’re an adult. If not, you’re either much younger in years, or Lord bless you, you’re lying.

It’s a sad thing, but I think most of us do associate adulthood with worry and stress. I didn’t feel like an adult because I had a birthday or because someone told me I was all grown up. The moment I felt like an adult was when I realized how very busy I was, and realized that all those things that needed to get done rested on my shoulders alone.

It used to be my parents who got things done for me. It used to be that I didn’t have to worry, because they would take care of it. Now I think about things like: how do I get my career going so I can make enough money to support myself, and what day should I go to the bank, and is the gas tank full? None of that is bad. It’s a necessity; a part of growing up.

But I have to admit I miss living in the moment.

I think that’s what we can lose as adults if we’re not careful-just living and being fully present. We can be so focused on to-do lists and schedules, we lose sight of the miracles in every-day. Wasn’t it Jesus who said He came so He could give us life, and life to the full? I don’t think God wants just the mundane for His children. If anything, He came to give us joy through the mundane.

We’re not just supposed to survive. We were not created to worry ourselves to death, but to live in the midst of death.

I teach Sunday School for five-year-olds, and I also have a six-year-old niece. What those amazing kiddos continually teach me is to just slow down. To see beauty in simplicity, and to take joy out of the little things. To see wonder in a dandelion, or giggle until my sides hurt.

Slowing down and living in the moment doesn’t mean we suddenly abandon our responsibilities to the wind, but it does mean not letting our responsibilities run our lives, either. It is neither irresponsible nor reckless to simply rest.

In fact, it is encouraged many times in the Bible. After a long day of ministering, Jesus would often go off by himself to pray.

And who could forget Mary and Martha? But just in case you did between the errand-running, carpooling, and decision-making: “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, ‘Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.’ But the Lord said to her, ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’” (Luke 10:39-42.)

We don’t have to be afraid of the stillness. I think once we become adults we think we’re supposed to be busy to be responsible and productive. The quiet can suddenly become scary and unnerving. But even Jesus allowed Himself some rest.

So today, if you find yourself in a never-ending blur of activity, I ask you to consider: are you afraid of being still? Sometimes busyness can be a camouflage. Doing a lot of things can make us feel productive, but it’s not the amount of things that make that so. It’s the things we’re doing.

Don’t be afraid to slow down today. Take a little break. Smell the proverbial rose. Take something from your schedule that really isn’t necessary, and most importantly, if you haven’t been still in God’s presence for a while, go and sit at His feet. Don’t miss what Martha did.

And if you’ve forgotten how, go and spend some time with your kids. They’ll be more than happy to teach you.

I Hear Ya: When did you realize you’d become an adult? What are some things you do to slow down?

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