“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13
I rolled up to Carin’s house and she jumped in. Adriana’s Cocina beckoned. Chicken fajita omelet with mouthwatering, red chile potatoes. It had been way too long. So much catching up to do.
God drew us together the first year I moved to Castle Rock, Colorado through women’s Bible study. I finally listened to the Spirit and dipped my toe back in the water of fellowship with women. My scarlet “D” of Divorce shattered most bonds I previously had or believed were real. Judgement. Gossip. Abandonment.
Women whom I loved like family and women who were family cut ties and told lies when I split from my ex. It left a bit of bitter on my palette, like spicy chile without the relief of lime.
Carin was my litmus test, my “is the water warm” experiment.
It was a God wink. He had my back, and she met me step by step, week by week, willing and warm.
Not only did she understand the agony of the ripping away, she knew God’s word. We shared the gritty, grimy truths of divorce, and we meditated on the glorious, gracious truths in the Scriptures. I waded in and saw that the Lord was good.
He is good.
Years later now, I’m not in the women’s study she leads. Circumstances and ministry have brought me to another group. But God knit our hearts and experiences together, so here we were “catching up” over breakfast.
Our struggles, our stories, our current Goliaths reminded me how sovereign God is over all. Every word we shared was ordained by God. Good medicine. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11) God winked.
“I’ve got you girl,” he whispered to my soul.
We were made to carry one another’s burdens, to walk with each other in and through the yay and yuck of life. This is a picture of the hope we have in Christ, the One who laid down His life for His friends.
The frantic and the frenzy of life can get in the way of meaningful divine appointments between people. When it feels hopeless that your hectic will let up, look up. God plants moments of refreshing; look up to see them and obey. It’s not a coincidence that you bumped into that old friend. It’s not an accident that you got a flat tire and had to abandon your plans for a quiet weekend at home with your person. It’s a God wink.
Thank you, Lord for knowing what we each need at exactly the right moment. For drawing us close to one another and for shining light in our lives through the love and laughter of friendship.
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15-16
It’s been a week. Seven days since a family was ripped apart. Since a hero met his Maker. A gasp echoed around the world.
The tragic death of Kobe Bryant has taken our collective breath away.
My kids and I grew up in Southern California, so we feel private ownership of the loss, and yet, this loss impacts all. Transcends all, according to elite athletes and reporters.
The news broke mere moments after my son’s middle school team emerged from their first game of the weekend. Tears. Disbelief. And another baller battle waiting. They left it all on the court – for Kobe.
“He is my hero,” Sam sobbed that night.
“Since I was little.” He fell into my arms and I prayed.
“I played for Kobe,” he said. I nodded and I cried.
Ten years he worked to emulate Mamba with his deep three’s and impossible fade-aways. An icon who was untouchable and invincible in our eyes. Blink. Blink. Swallow the frog in my throat. He’s gone.
Heads bowed. 24 seconds of silence in his honor.
How do we dig out hope from beneath the rubble? How can we redeem the time?
This week, Kobe’s death teed up poignant conversations, not only with my kids, but also with family, coworkers, strangers, and now, all of you. We took inventory of what’s important in life. We admired the Mamba Mentality and resolved to make the most of the talents God gave us. We grieved those in our lives who have passed or from whom we are estranged. We loved.
And, amid moving tributes and choked up emotions, let us realize the permanence of death and the hope of eternal redemption found in the saving work of Jesus Christ.
The greatest rip off, the most significant trick in Satan’s arsenal is regret. Make up. Reach out. Be kind. Repent. Grab onto the hope that transcends.
And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me…For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Breathing in the lovely leather of the boot shop in Nashville, I leaned down to try on my very own ornately designed tan and teal cowboy boots, pointed toes and all. My smile wide and my eyes twinkling like the stars in Texas, I shoved my right foot down into the mouth of the boot, but for some reason it wouldn’t go all the way in. What was the matter? Did I pick the wrong size? Boots are sized differently, so maybe I made a mistake. After closer inspection, I confirmed they were the right ones and I tried again to force my way into my destiny.
“Use the bootstraps,” my friend commented with a smirk.
“Oh, right,” I said with a shrug, fumbling helplessly around the sides of the boot to no avail.
“Take your foot out, silly,” my friend chuckled.
“Huh?” I replied, my head in a fog, searching for a remnant of what she might be talking about. My mind betrayed me. I followed her instruction, slipped my foot from the object of my affection and slid my hand along the inside rim. Behold…the bootstrap. I erupted in hysterical laughter as I completed the task at hand – fingers in bootstraps, foot in boot – and boy were they beautiful boots.
“What’s so funny?” my friend broke in.
Wiping happy tears, I pulled on the left boot and stood up to show off the glorious teal beauties and shared the tale of my folly. “My mom used to say, ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps,’ I explained, “but I always pull up from my shoulders in a tugging motion as if bootstraps are bra straps when I say it.”
We laughed so loud that the store owner came downstairs to check on us.
“Bootstraps” I said to him, motioning at my shoulders and tugging upward in the air. More raucous laughter. Blank stare. New boots.
Mom taught me the practical lessons of life and bootstraps was one that got me through the turns and tides; good ol’ fashioned hard work was the answer, I understood that part of it. I could improve my situation by my own efforts.
And yet, there’s some folly in it, like my story, because there’s only so much we can do in our own strength. Human striving apart from the power of Christ fails.
My body is weary, Lord. My heart is overwhelmed. My path is foggy.
When I put my hope in Him, the source of my help, I am strong, I am confident, I am able.
My soul still remembers and sinks within me. This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”
– Lamentations 3:20-24 New King James Version (NKJV)
I watched the crowd of faces intently, searching eyes and noting body language. Shoulders fell along with countenance as we shared the sad news of a colleague’s significant life event with the rest of the team this morning. Permanent end of life event. Her heart was the cause, and her family gathered to make sense of it all. We were all gathered to make sense of it all.
Where is the hope in the midst of hard news?
I had prepared the night before to provide guidance and strength, but in my own weakness, I found hope and strength in the simple kindness of others and in the truth.
In a hot meal. A gentle word. A warm hug. In the kind, experienced words of a local police chaplain. Simple things pointed us to hope today when our feelings welled up and our language was tears.
What I learned today about hope reminds me of the saying I’ve seen floating on the internet and social media – be kind because you don’t know what someone might be going through.
“What do we say when they ask us what happened?” one manager said wiping the heartbreak from her eyes.
“The truth,” Pastor explained. “The best thing to do is to simply share the truth.”
His experience walked us through step-by-step and the kindness of his presence spoke the loudest of all. We were not alone in it. We are not alone in it.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12 (New International Version)
May of 1995 marked a turning point in my life. Literally. I
learned to do a perfect pageant turn and wave – step, pivot, step, pivot, Vaseline
smile…wave, my arm floating softly through the air from side to side like the
leaves of a Del Mar palm. And…it was the beginning of some of the most treasured
friendships I have had in my lifetime.
We met at the 50th anniversary Fairest of the
Fair pageant as Miss Chula Vista, Miss Escondido, Miss El Cajon, and Miss La
Mesa. Though none of us was crowned that night as Miss San Diego County, we won
something more valuable than the glamour of that moment – true connection. A longing
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 talks about the value of a friend. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
In our case, it’s a fourfold cord ornately woven together through triumph and tragedy, paradise and pain. We have watched each other’s babies come into the world and stood beside one another as marriages crumbled. We have held each other through countless challenging moments, listened and laughed, loved each other’s families as though they were our own, tattooed our bodies together, driven and flown miles to get a little face time, and offered words of affirmation and encouragement as life’s moments warranted.
This past weekend was just such an occasion of togetherness – a friendship tree of life. Golden, Colorado Girls Weekend 2019. My heart is full.
We were created for relationship, for friendship. Friendship with God and others. It is a heavenly whisper that we are not alone. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NKJV). My hope is full.
“if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20 (NKJV)
Today I found a set of tattered sermon notes in my
purse and I was reminded that “He is the God over all I know.” The statement I
had scrawled on my bulletin came from the popular song by Vertical Worship, and
I remember texting it as an encouragement to a friend that same day. I really
needed to hear it again today. Thanks, Lord!
You see…there is this thing that has been a thing for
way longer than I care to admit. It causes me so much stress that I have simply
chosen to avoid it completely…for years.
At work, my staff development team was working on an
idea to help employees tackle the stress and we planned to hand out stress
balls as a swag item. Squeeeeeze. And the stress melts away. Ha! The funniest
part of the plan was that after I ordered them, in the shape of the Rocky
Mountains since we are in Colorado, my colleague pointed out that they might imply
to staff that their stress is a mountain. Uh oh! Unintended consequence of
I faced down my very own stress mountain starting today,
and it showed me that mustard-seed faith is legit. The THING I tackled is not
handled. I took a step, a deep breath. I redeemed a moment. It’s like when you shrug
your shoulders, squeezing them up to your ears and then drop them down in a
single motion to get a momentary release of strain in your muscles. That was
Regardless of how many more steps I have to take or how
insurmountable they may seem; I can rest knowing that my God knows. That is the
hope we have in Him. He makes it possible for us to overcome.
“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to
stand on mountain heights.” – Psalm 18:33 (New Living Translation)
“(33) Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. (34) So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” – Matthew 6:33-34 (NLT)
There are encouraging words that quickly resonate, warm the heart, and ease the mind. And there are wise words that may not settle as easily like my stomach after a hearty bowl of chili. This is how I took these two verses, in respective order, when they came to mind today following my discovery of something my humanness told me was worthy of worrying about.
I know I am not alone. The temptation to worry about big
things, small things, all things – is common. And yet, how do we move past it
when we are facing challenges that feel overwhelming and seem hopeless? It was
just this type of news I came into today.
The answer to how we keep this worry in check is to act on
the exhortation in Matthew 6:33. Seek God and live according to His principles.
The pay off for this type of living, this recognition of where our hope and
help come from, is that He will make good on His promise to take care of our
Today, I need to be understood in my pain as I wrestle through
Today, I need guidance on how to relate to others involved
in this situation.
Today, I need to be loved even though I have questions and
doubts about why this is happening.
Today, I need to know that even when I cannot be in control
or keep bad things from happening, God is in control and He is faithful in and
through every experience I encounter.
I wrestled through the initial grief of today’s trial with
my husband and he listened, gently coaxing me to focus on truth. Thank you,
Lord for providing the understanding I needed.
I sent out a string of texts to my prayer warriors and they
responded like popcorn with delicious explosions of pure goodness, truth. Thank
you, God for lighting my path.
I hugged my son and helped him prepare for a special
audition he has coming up and he practiced his song for me – The
Bare Necessities from the film, The Jungle Book. Thank you, Heavenly Father
for wrapping your arms around me in the everyday moments, right down to the
lyrics of a Disney song.
I listened for God’s voice in the midst of my grief and I heard
the verses hidden in my heart brought to remembrance. Thank you, Jesus for the surety
Your Word provides.
If you worry [worldwide human phenomenon], know that you are
not alone and know WHO you can turn to “above all else.”
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may
have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I
have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (NKJV)
“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6 “
Yesterday I did the unthinkable, for me. I went to the gym. It’s been a hot minute since I’ve donned a pair of yoga pants and a sports bra and don’t forget my hide-me-I-feel-fat oversized white t-shirt that looked like it was from a men’s big and tall store. I wanted to hide from everyone and everything – not sure that was a well thought out plan since it was like rush hour traffic on the 101 in Los Angeles at our recreation center at 6:30 pm. STRONG/Barre class was my personal torture while others battled with free weights and exercise machines like they were slaying dragons – wielding and grunting, steam seemingly rising from the heat of their labor like the nostrils of a beast.
Not only was I tired and grumpy about the whole thing before I even started, I felt the twinge of a familiar uneasiness rise, a familiar playlist you know all the words to like a worn out 80’s mix tape. You don’t belong here. You won’t stick with this. You’ve let yourself go and you only have yourself to blame.
While I survived the class last night and the Gremlins in my
mind, I am in pain today. Not just physical. I needed a little hope to help me
push past the shame fog this morning. And Tauren Wells did not disappoint with
his song, God’s
Not Done With You. One of the habits I am slowly forming is dedicating my
time in the car to uplifting music. It is one small way I can book end my day,
protecting my mind from the Gremlins of doubt, fear, self-loathing, and shame.
Shame is my jam; it’s everyone’s jam really. We all have
this emotion. I happen to treat it like it’s my BFF, always hanging out
together and sharing wild stories; so, I really needed to hear this song today.
One of the lines says, “Even when you’re lost and it’s hard
and you’re falling apart, God’s not done with you.” It was just the
hope-filled reminder I needed to lift me out of my funk. We don’t have to be
defined by our shame stories. We can take our thoughts hostage, grab them and
hold them up to the light of what God says about us – what He is doing in us. (2
I fired up Audible and listened to Brené Brown on my evening walk tonight, putting the other book end on my day, filling my mind with truth about shame from the shame researcher herself. It helped to know I was not alone. My legs hurt so bad from the sudden workout I did yesterday that a friend had suggested I get out and walk tonight so that I didn’t stiffen up. Partially working. Partially look like Monty Python Silly Walks when I am trying to get up and down the stairs to my room.
I worked out, and, as my friend Robbie says, I did not die. This girl can! And you can too! Whatever it is…God is not done with you yet. He will be faithful to complete the good work he started in you.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I have hope in Him! The Lord is good to those that wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord. – Lamentations 3:24-26
I’m feelin’ it. The weight of the world’s groans. Our souls
yearn for true, lovely, holy and we are swallowed up in busy, ugly, fake. Being
the parent of a middle schooler, the curtain has been drawn back on just how
yucky humans can be to each other. There’s a tug-o-war not for win or lose but
for right and wrong. A game used to be something you played together at the dinner
table every Tuesday with family faces. Now the players are virtual, often
strangers, and instead of innocent, competitive banter and laughter echoing through
our homes, there’s amped up shouting and name calling, and the counting of
kills. I’m sick.
Kids I know hustle for their worth on social media, as if
Instagram and SnapChat are a mirror reflection of who they really are…and,
filters. They beg the magic mirror to tell them they are the fairest of them
all; it’s as wicked as Snow White’s queen. Deep breath, refresh, how many likes
do I have….how many hearts…oh, a snarky vomit of comments about how I look, what
I should do for them or to them, whether I even have the right to post my face
on the space at all. Gross!
When the darkness reigns and my best efforts to parent fail
miserably, I shrink into sadness like a spring flower curling inward when the
sun retreats and showers fall. Any yet, I know that the Lord desires us to have
joy, peace, and hope in Him, even when it’s dark all around us. Even when we
can’t keep bad things from happening.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
He has overcome the darkness of this world, so I CAN lift up my countenance, unfurling my petals and turning my face toward the Son once again. I CAN fix my mind on my Eternal Hope. I CAN wait quietly for Him. The Lord is my portion. Clinging to this reminder today.