Turkey, small-talk, and the single girl

My partly decorated Thanksgiving table awaiting good conversation.

When I was young and single, those Thanksgiving dinner conversations could really stress me out. Now, I’m not a shy person, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than catching up with family; I love them, really I do!

But sometimes, back in the day, a few sweet, well-meaning relatives would begin an innocent line of questioning that would send me into an internal  tailspin. You may know what I’m talking about: various inquiries about my choices, my goals, my life. Honestly, I was barely hanging on in all these areas, so when an elderly great aunt, for example, asked about my ex-boyfriend, the “Happy Thanksgiving Jig” was up. Behind that pleasant (fake) reply and cheery (also fake) disposition, my twenty-year old brain was suddenly panicked: “Where am I going with my life? I used to have a plan; the plan didn’t work. I NEED A NEW PLAN!”

So in case you’re an experienced (old—there, I said it) woman like me and find yourself seated beside a young lady with anxious-looking eyes, maybe we could agree to avoid the following questions. 🙂 And if you happen to be the anxious-looking young lady at the table, then I feel you, girl. Just know that you’re not only loved and treasured by the family sitting near you but also by a Heavenly Father with a perfectly orchestrated, fail-proof future.

Now for the questions that used to cause me heartburn:

1) Are you seeing anybody? Also the close cousins to this question: Why doesn’t a pretty thing like you have a boyfriend? Did you know that when I was your age, I was changing two sets of diapers? (My twenty-year old truth: I’d love to have a boyfriend, but I’m not gonna settle. Yes, I know the clock is ticking, but God numbers my days. And yes, I do feel pretty cute even as a single girl. 😊)

2) Are you sure about the career you’ve chosen? Also the close cousins to this question: Do you realize that you’ll always be poor as a teacher? Why would anyone want to spend all day with teenagers? (My twenty-year old truth: God clearly led me to teaching. He will provide all my needs. And sometimes teenagers are much easier than adults. 😬)

3) So you haven’t moved out yet? Also the close cousins to this question: Does living with your parents affect your social life? Aren’t you ready for new adventures? (My twenty-year old truth: Saving money at my age is smart. Living with people who love and care for me is even smarter. And new adventures can happen in very familiar places.)

Happy Thanksgiving chit-chat to the young single girlies! Here’s to uplifting, meaningful, sincere conversation. And if you’re a bit anxious about those long term plans, take it from someone who’s been there: follow Him daily and savor every single step; it’ll all work out just fine.


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The “along” way home

I just heard something completely wrong, and God used it to set me straight. As a podcast played during my run, a Christian speaker stated, “I had to get alone with God.” Now keep in mind that she clearly said it; I know this because I went back later to listen.

But as I huffed and puffed on mile two, here’s what my brain registered instead: “I had to get along with God.” That one little word swap stopped me in my tracks, literally and figuratively. For the rest of my run—iPod turned off and soul searching turned on—I pondered the unlikely, two-way relationship between a forgiven but needy human (me) and a merciful but Sovereign Savior (King Jesus, praise His name).

You see, I talk with God every day. He speaks through His Word just as often. And for reasons I’ll never comprehend, He allows me to do His good work.

But—and here’s the part that brought me to tears—do we actually get along?

Please don’t think I’m being glib about my walk with Christ. And please don’t think I’m suggesting that a Holy God and I are “besties” on the same buddy-buddy level. Even typing this clarification feels uncomfortable.

What I am saying, though, is that when I think on my Savior’s attributes—holy, merciful, loving, and sovereign—am I okay with how He employs them? Or do I find, buried deeply, the human-but-ugly “relationship killers” of resentment, fear, and betrayal? Simply put, do I trust Him? Because that’s what real friends do.

Here’s what I realized this morning (it’s not pretty): Sometimes I pretend, even to myself, that God and I are getting along. But we’re not—not really—because on my end of things, I’m doubting, conniving, striving, pouting. It’s the very definition of relationship sabotage. It’s ugly. Mostly, though, it’s a slap in the face to the truest Friend I’ll ever know.

So as of today—thanks to a divinely appointed word swap— I’m done with my one-sided, fair-weather commitments. Jesus, I’m all in. Help me mirror the attributes of Your character. Help me mean them. May Your purpose for my life be welcomed. May Your name in my struggles be glorified. And may I become the faithful friend who’s trusted you all along.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

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When God dabbled in real estate

Our new house not long after we moved in, complete with a rainbow blessing.

I learned a big faith lesson nine years ago. The story I’m about to tell is unflattering (to me) but encouraging (for me). It’s the tale of me being a big baby and doubting God’s goodness when things went south. It’s also a story of Him not giving up on my big baby ways. Thank you, Lord, for your care of this blubbering child.

My husband Bill and I had saved and planned for years with a dream: building a new home after the boys got through college. When the time finally came, though, I got nervous about selling our old one. You see, the market was tanking, and our house was smaller and dated, a sweet but unassuming option for buyers. But maybe, just maybe, with a little razzle-dazzle staging (I’d been watching lots of HGTV), this place could sell! And let me just say that when all was fixer-uppered, our house was pretty dang cute.

So cute, in fact, that despite the scary housing crisis of 2008, our little house sold in less than ONE WEEK! Can you say “Miracle of a Mighty God”? He did it! And He did it with lightning-fast timing! Isn’t that just like Him? That’s our God right there!

Then, just two days before closing on the sale, those buyers backed out. All our furniture was already in storage. All our walls were bare. All our energy was sapped. Mostly, though, I was spiritually depleted, stunned in disappointment and overcome with confusion. I’d been bragging like crazy about God’s quick provision. Couldn’t He see that yanking away this blessing was embarrassing to me? To Him? And why would He seemingly give us the desires of our hearts—almost teasing us, in my fragile estimation—and then leave us high-and-dry with new construction we couldn’t pay for and an old house we couldn’t sell?

I’m not proud of those untrue, narrow-minded, childish thoughts. They stunted me spiritually for awhile.

But then God . . . .

As Bill and I sat silently on the floor of our empty breakfast nook, the phone rang. Our realtor wanted to show the house—our unstaged, unattractive, unsellable house. Hours later, we suddenly had a solid offer that went through without a hitch. And the back-out buyers? Their non-refundable deposit paid the exact amount of our storage fees. (I’m smiling now to think of that little detail, a God wink for sure.)

Maybe I’m spiritually smarter now; I’d like to think so. Not long after settling into our dream home, I did make a list of lessons learned. Here are a few:

  1. God doesn’t need my house staging or my stress-filled attempts at perfection in order to do His thing. It’s not up to me; I find this truth reassuring.
  2. God doesn’t get black eyes when our prayers seem unanswered. He is always good. A seemingly unanswered prayer is simply because the story is not yet over.
  3. God does indeed lavish His love even when we’re unlovable. He sees our weaknesses. He grows us up tenderly. Even when we’re big babies.

Bill and I touring our new house under construction. I was about to learn a big lesson of God’s sweet care.

When it’s time for “when”

My sweet grandma spent a lifetime alone with scripture. Look at that worn Bible!

Check out this opening line: “When you get alone with your Bible….” Does anything here stand out? Because I was listening to a pastor on YouTube, and his statement sent me reeling. That one tiny adverb—the harmless word “when”—struck a little nerve. Because you see, Francis Chan didn’t say “if” you’re alone with your Bible. He said, matter of factly, “when.” (As in, “Of course you get alone with the Word. You’re a Jesus follower; you’re a ‘when’ person.”)

So Chan assumes we Christians are all reading scripture in solitude. (As in, “I’m heading to the beach with my blanket and my Bible. No interruptions, please.”)

It does make logical sense. After all, we hold the Bible as a sacred book. We proclaim its power to comfort, transform, convict, reveal. So we fight for time alone to ponder it, memorize it, study it. Right? I sure hope so.

Maybe, though, some of us aren’t quite “when” people. I can relate; I’ve been there. But what might happen if we all decided to get alone with our Bibles? To shut out the world and discover the words for ourselves? In my experience, we’d find that faith comes alive. (As in, “My eyes are suddenly opening; I sense purpose, passion!  I see joy in the simple. And I’m dazzled by His glory!”)

If you’re in for the “when,” may I offer a suggestion? Alone time with the Bible is free of outside influences. It’s just you and scripture. Sure, sermons, studies, and devotionals have their places–don’t give these up—but also make time for an intimate, faith-growing party of two. So get a Bible and head outside. Or stay inside. But allow God to speak to you, reading straight from the source. You’ll be amazed at the intimacy awaiting.

Where to start? Perhaps the Psalms or Philippians or John or Acts. How to spend your time? Feel free to go slowly; maybe “chew” on just a handful of verses.  Or journal a summary or a question. I sometimes read verses aloud or pray them back to God. Other times I just sit and meditate on the Creator behind the words. The point is, God’s Word is speaking. I’m listening. And the right time is “when.”


“The unfolding of Your Word gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).

“Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:2).


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The amazing, unglamorous race

Some of “my” kids. Love them (most days). 🙂

I haven’t always joyfully pounced on the purpose God laid out for me. One example: teaching. Even though all signs pointed to “teacher” from an early age—oh, the times I made my siblings play school with me—there was initial resistance as shinier options offered more status, money, or comfort. Oh, and I cannot forget the dozens who warned me against majoring in education (many of them, sadly, educators themselves).

But somehow in my spirit, I knew God made me to teach. The job was (still is) challenging, to be sure, and most days it’s definitely not shiny. It’s in that classroom, though, where every bit of me realizes why I’m still breathing. I understand why God placed within me a love for language, a soft spot for the underdog, and an optimism that borders on annoying. God created me to spend my days, knowledge, and gifts—especially the annoying optimism, ha—with a bunch of typical teenagers.

A couple of times I left the classroom. Burnout ensued (it’s a real thing, y’all), opportunities arose, and rest called. And during those years of hiatus, some pretty cool things happened, circumstances that God directed. I was grateful.

In the end, however, those other pursuits just weren’t me. I’m not built to supervise, travel, or network. I’m not an extrovert, a competitor or a visionary. Someone else is, and that’s where they need to be. But that’s not the race God’s asked me to run.

He has, though, set up a lane for me in an amazing but low-key race. I mean, really, who notices a tired teacher rushing down the hallway with a stack of essays? Maybe nobody except Him, the One I want to please. The One who gave a wide-eyed girl big dreams of a little classroom. The One who’ll help her next autumn, God willing, take one more lap around the track.


“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith . . . .”   Hebrews 12:1-2


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I’m not afraid of the dark.

The view from my computer as I wrote this blog. Darkness may imprison, but Light overcomes.

After a week of battling demons—when I say this, I’m literally not even kidding—God took me to the soothing words of 1 John. Today a verse leapt off the page: “The darkness is passing away, and the true Light is already shining (2:8, emphasis mine). Right away in my journal I wrote in big letters: WHAT AM I WAITING FOR? LIGHT IT UP, GIRL! I’VE ALREADY WON, PRAISE JESUS!

Yet some questions remained: what was I waiting for, hunkered down for days in darkness? Why do Light-exposed Christians falter, even temporarily, under the attacks of evil? Because when Jesus walked out of that tomb alive, darkness became obsolete. No more waiting for Satan to lose ground. No more hoping for the Son.

So here’s a new say-out-loud anthem based on scriptures bubbling up in my heart. Here’s today’s bright, shiny weapon for victorious warfare.  I hope it’s yours, too:

I hereby declare that I have no fear, for Thou art with me. I go boldly as a light shining brightly, unashamedly on a hill; there’s no waiting for a turnaround of sunny circumstance,  no wringing of the hands on a weary battlefield. Just one torch held high will do the trick. Just one unshakeable Jesus Light.

And the darkness threatening my joy? Nice try, enemy of mine. With the promise of my Savior, what can man do to me? Nothing permanent, that’s for sure. I’m unaffected by your arrows and strengthened by God’s armor, so let’s face the facts: you lose, and we both know it.

My radiant Jesus, the Light of the world! He lives actively, boldly, and assuredly in me. Today that’s my warrior’s truth. I turn my face toward the Shining Son, and nothing will douse His flame.


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When small talk smothers

My journal musing this morning, a musing which became a blog. 🙂

Confession: I’ve grown weary of small talk among us believers. The obligation to keep a superficial conversation going, an unsaid expectation to keep things light . . . . Lately, the very thought exhausts me. Please don’t misunderstand—I’m not anti-small talk; it truly helps to know about someone’s career or where they’re from. But at a Sunday School class/church retreat/Christian softball game/youth bonfire filled with believers meeting for one reason—to gather with likeminded Christians—shouldn’t those initial niceties eventually lead to something else? To Someone else? I mean, are we ever going to stand around those dozens of doughnuts/bunkbeds/dugouts/s’mores and talk one-on-one about Jesus?

Awhile back, a guest Bible teacher visited our class at church. I’d never met him. After ten minutes of us chatting about hometowns and Florida weather, something came over me; I suddenly craved more than surface chat. So to the surprise of my husband and maybe even myself, I blurted out, “How did you come to know Jesus?” And just like that, something inside me came home. I’m telling you, those next few minutes did more to lift my spirits than a thousand little conversations from years prior: his childhood with alcoholic parents, the local church who literally and spiritually rescued him, a lifelong walk with his best friend Jesus even through grief. . . .THIS fed my starving soul! THIS was hearty fellowship! THIS was why we had gathered! (Right?)

In that moment,  I realized where I’d gone wrong. There’d be no more chatting about everything but the Topic of topics, the LORD of all topics. Thankfully and joyfully, Jesus has since breathed new life into my faith-based relationships. He has sweetly but clearly shown me that if we are growing in Christ; if we are seeking His presence in the day-to-day; if we are transparent about ourselves and understanding of others, then the gathering of authentic saints will be undeniably marked by the outpouring of transformative Jesus. I’m talking real, meaty, energizing fellowship. The kind that buoys, not burdens. The only kind that matters.


“What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us.”  ~1 John 1:3


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