Today and every day

This September I returned to teaching (because college and braces for four sons is expensive!) After eight years in high school, I decided to change things up and try out elementary school. Each day I spend time with 4th and 5th graders working on language arts, science, and math. Yesterday was an early release day, so as you might imagine, the kids were very excited. I did my best to make the day fun by doing some different types of activities.

In our language arts class, I asked my 5th graders to write a letter to one person who they were thankful for. Many chose their parents, a friend, or relative. I could tell that they were proud of their work and excited to give it to the recipient.  One student asked me who I would write my letter to and I smiled. Here is my Thanksgiving letter:



Dear God,

Thank you for the many blessings that you have given me in my life. Thank you for having your hand on me when I was a young girl; scared, confused and unsure of my future. Thank you for putting people in my life to look to when my situation at home was so hard. I am thankful that you never gave up on me and pursued me until I finally realized that it was you that I was searching for. Thank you for blessing me with my husband and our four amazing sons. Finally, thank you for sacrificing your only son for our sins so that I (and many others) are reminded of what it means to be given grace. I can’t imagine my life without you, on Thanksgiving and every day.





Let yourself rest!

I’ve daydreamed about a day off from work for the last several weeks. I even asked my husband if he could take a day off to go to the beach a few weeks ago. I imagined my perfect day off…a morning workout, coffee with a friend, wandering in and out of some shops, preparing a nice meal for my family and a nap (not necessarily in that order). But something stops me from taking this time for myself. Maybe it’s guilt or the need to be in control (and not trusting someone else to do my job).

Today I am home on a workday. It is a beautiful day and I am struggling to get out of bed. I hardly have a voice and my son said my cough sounds like I have been smoking for “100 years.” My dog’s whine reminds me that it is a perfect fall day for a walk. My throbbing head and body say no way. I’m feeling sorry that I didn’t take the time for myself when I was healthy.

This got me thinking….

Why is it so hard for us to allow ourselves to rest?

The Bible is very clear about the importance of rest. In order to rest, we must trust that God will take care of things for us. We need to have confidence that if we take a day off, the world will not stop spinning! If rest is defined as “a peace of mind or spirit,” then relaxing our control of our own lives, families, careers, etc., and trusting them to God in faith is the best way to relax.

We must remember that good health and the ability to enjoy life are gifts from God. We need to be good stewards of God’s gifts.

  • Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work–this is a gift of God. (Ecc 5:19)
  • Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2 NASB)

If we want to be able to serve others and God in the long term, we need to practice self-care. Our mind, body and soul is the center from which all good work can flow. Life brings many challenges, and these challenges will be easier to overcome if we face them with a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to bed!

A reason to celebrate!

Today is my birthday! When we are young, we look forward to celebrating our special day with cupcakes, balloons, and friends. We make a wish for things that we hope will “come true” in the near future.

I’ve noticed that some people feel less like celebrating as they get older. In fact, our culture reinforces this by using phrases such as “over the hill.” We see ads for anti-aging creams and potions and are encouraged to reverse any sign of having lived. As I reflect on my past years of life, a happy marriage, raising four wonderful sons, establishing a career, saving money to explore new places, and writing a book, I feel fulfilled and certainly don’t want to erase any of that!

I like to think of every birthday as a new beginning; my own personal “New Year.” Yes, I’m a year older, but I’m also a year closer to many of my personal goals, some of which were met this past year. I’ve also grown in my faith this past year and look forward to learning more about Jesus in the next 365 days. I’m older, but also wiser and more content.

The truth is that God wants us to face everyday with joy! When we become followers, we are given a clean slate and the opportunity to face each day with gratitude for our life. Not every day will be easy, but knowing that we have a God who loves us gives us a confidence and strength unlike any other. We will be faced with temptations, but God has given us the power to change. We have tools to navigate uncertainty and be filled with a sense of peace.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23 NLT).


So this year I invite you to join me and face every day as if it was your birthday. Smile, celebrate, be filled with joy. And eat a cupcake once in a while!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13 NIV).



A new perspective

I will be starting a new full time job at the end of August, so I purposely ended my current job a few weeks early so that I could relax, get organized and have some fun. My last day was this past Thursday. On Sunday evening I was getting into my running clothes when I got a call from the assisted living facility where my mom lives. My mom had fallen and was being taken to the hospital via ambulance. I had a flashback to last December when she fell and broke her back. That resulted in a week at the hospital and three weeks at a rehabilitation center. As I put my regular clothes back on and headed to the hospital with my husband, I was anxious. We found my mom in the ER and learned that she had broken her hip and would require surgery. She was admitted to the hospital and the surgery was going to be the next day.  I’m a little ashamed to admit this, but as we headed home from the hospital after midnight, I was focused on myself.

There goes the rest of my summer. 

I returned the next day to see my mom in pre-op and pray that everything would be fine. After they took her into surgery I made my way to the waiting room. Adjacent to the waiting room was a kid’s play area, so I sat as far away as possible to avoid any noise. I wanted to be alone. A few hours later the surgeon came to me to tell me that everything went well and that she was in recovery and I would be able to see her soon. As he walked away my phone rang and it was my mother in law asking how everything was going. I gave her the report and she then told me that my father in law had fallen and hit his head and was on his way to the ER in an ambulance. My heart sank and my selfish thoughts returned.

There goes the rest of our summer.

After I visited with my mom and they took her to her room, I made my way to the ER to find my in-laws. As I walked through the surgical waiting area, something caught my eye. I saw that the area that was set up as a play area had become quite full and many adults were standing, hugging. I noticed that the sign on the wall said Pediatric Surgical Waiting Area. I stopped and stared at the people for a few minutes, trying to imagine their fear. It was like a slap in the face. My mom was going to be fine, but what about their child?

What about the rest of their summer?

I found my in-laws in the ER and my father in law had received many stitches and staples in his head. The CAT scan showed some bleeding and he was going to be admitted.  As I drove home from the hospital on that second day, I prayed out loud. I asked for forgiveness for being so selfish. I thanked God for keeping both our parents alive and asked for blessings for the parents in the pediatric surgical waiting room.

Today is the fourth day that I’m getting ready to return to the hospital. I will see my mom and father in law and remember to be thankful. This may not be the way that I thought the end of our summer would look like, but I remind myself that it could’ve been a lot worse.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What I Learned from Working at A Church

I took this past school year off from teaching to finish writing and publish my book. During 705121_300x300this time I was lucky enough to have worked part time at my church as the assistant to the pastor. Yesterday was my last day and as I packed up my desk, I found myself reflecting on the experience. We see a lot of bad publicity about churches in the news and I thought I’d share a few things that I observed while working in one.

While these may not be true for all churches, here are a few things I learned during the last eleven months at the church I call home:

  1. The people who work at a church do it because they truly want to. They don’t get paid a lot and work many, many hours. They are filled with a passion for making the church a welcoming place for others.
  2. A lot of thought and preparation goes into each weekend. Don’t think that it’s just another Sunday- each song has been chosen and rehearsed by many, the message is carefully crafted, the lighting and videos are planned far in advance. Coffee, tea, soda, pens- all the things we take for granted don’t just magically appear, they require manpower. Churches NEED volunteers to help in many different ways.
  3. It takes a lot of work to do the fun events! Breakfasts, dinners, retreats, youth events, coat and food drives all require labor. Do not take these events for granted; several staff members worked overtime to make the event memorable.
  4. Just like any workplace, there can be drama when working at a church. But I found that at a church it’s a little different. People talk about the problem, possibly cry, figure it out, and then come back together because they realize that it’s not just about them. They are there to do God’s work.
  5. Employees at a church volunteer at the church outside of their work hours. This shows the level of commitment and dedication for the work that they are called to do. I can’t think of many other organizations where this happens in America.
  6. Pastors wear many hats. They are counselor, boss, friend, business partner and biblical expert. From my short time as an assistant, I am amazed that he can juggle so many things at once (and am a little worried because they didn’t hire a replacement for me yet).
  7. Prayer works. As part of an organization and community, I was able to take part and witness many answered prayer requests.
  8. The church community really cares for others. Whether it’s a move, new baby, hardship or death in the family, they rally around each other to provide comfort and support.

I am thankful that I had the opportunity to be a part of my church staff even if just for a short time. I encourage you to look around at all the things that make your church feel like home and thank those who make it happen!

“The eyes of the Lord search the whole earth in order to strengthen those who hearts are fully committed to him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NLT)

What really matters?

I’ve had the opportunity to go to Guatemala on a mission trip as a chaperone for my church’s youth group two different times and both trips impacted me in different ways. The first trip we spent our time in Guatemala City, where there is a clear division between the “haves and have nots.” As we drove from the airport to where we were staying, we passed McDonald’s, Starbucks and a shopping mall. But as we continued driving, I was shocked to see the condition of how some people lived.

552On the side of a mountain there were corregated metal lean-tos and tents. No plumbing, no electricity. It was on this side of the mountain where we learned that people cooked over open fires and breathed in the dangerous fumes. Our group had raised money for months prior to pay for and build stoves for these people during our trip.

We spent a lot of our time at a church in a poor part of town where gangs are prevalent. At this church we hosted a Vacation Bible School for families to bring their children to. The children ranged in age from toddlers to teens and we were treated like royalty. We played games, ate a hot meal together and prayed with the families. It was at this church where many of the families saw a free doctor and received clothing and supplies.

O427n the days we built the stoves, we loaded our truck with the supplies and headed to the side of the mountain that I had seen on our drive from the airport. My heart sunk as I recognized some of the kids from the church and realized that this was where they lived. Each time we built a stove, we asked if we could pray with the family and asked God to bless them. We prayed for the kids and hoped that they would be able to avoid getting involved in the gang life. That first trip was a very humbling experience and as I returned home I had a big culture shock as I stood in my own closet and wept.


Why do I have so much and they have so little?

Slowly the shock wore off and I returned to my normal life. I tried to remind myself of what I had experienced and how I had felt, but it wasn’t until we went for our second trip that I really remembered.

608The second time we went to an rural area outside of the city at the base of a volcano called Pacaya. Our bunkhouse was separated from the locals by a chain link fence. As we emerged each morning, the children were waiting for us on the other side of the fence. They welcomed us with hugs and a game of soccer. As we got acclimated, it was apparent that the people who lived here were a lot worse off than those in the city.  Each morning we made trips to see locals and deliver food baskets. The locals made money by going to town and selling eggs, coffee beans, or doing manual labor. No one had a car, so each morning a bus came and the men piled on and were gone for the day. Each afternoon we hosted a program for the children. We helped build a cinderblock building that is now used as a school and painted a building that is now a medical building. As we visited with the locals, we saw that many were cooking over open flames. We made note of the situations that were the worst and returned to build a stove.419

One day as we were delivering food baskets, I took in the despair in front of us. A women with three young kids in a one room “house” made of corrugated metal siding and a tarp for the roof. As the translator explained that we were there to give her food and some dry goods, she began to weep. The translator explained that the gift was not from us, but from God. The kids came forward and started digging into see what we had brought and my heart broke. The translator asked if we could pray with her and the woman agreed. We asked if there was anything specific that we could pray for. I was prepared for her to ask that we pray that she and her family would be able to leave and find a better life, but what she said took me aback.

In sob-filled Spanish, she asked the translator to thank us. She said that she knew we were angels from God because just that morning she had run out of food and didn’t know how she was going to feed her family. She had prayed and then we came. She was crying tears of joy!

I will never forget those trips and the lasting impact the children and families had on me. The size of your house, the amount of things we have, none of them matter.

What really matters is our faith.

The Ultimate Goal

What’s your goal? Do you have more than one? If so, are they short term or long term goals? As a writer and a fitness junkie, I like goals. I find that it helps me move forward and stay motivated.

I think we can all agree that it’s a great feeling when we reach a goal. Whether it’s running a race, writing a book or doing 20 push-ups, it’s exciting to meet a goal when you have worked hard for it!

But sometimes we can get in the way of reaching our goals. For me, I find myself comparing my achievements to others. I feel great that I just ran 3 miles on the treadmill and then notice that the guy next to me is barely sweating and has gone 5 miles. I’m happy to have 500 followers and then see that my friend has 5,000. I sell 100 books at an event and then guest speaker sells 1,500.

Do you ever feel this way?

Why can’t we just be happy with what we set out to do? Why do we let comparison bring us down? Why do we let our goals shift to what others have accomplished?


In a society that is focused on social media statistics, it is important that we remember what our ultimate goal is as Christians while we are here on Earth. That goal is the one that truly matters.

“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” {Hebrews 12:1-2}

God wants us to do our best to be spiritually and physically healthy. Keep running and doing push-ups. Read the Bible and share the love of Christ with others. Do your best each day and be happy with the progress that you’ve made! The truth is that there will always be someone faster, stronger, richer and better looking, but I need to remind myself that God formed me to be exactly who I am and I am thankful for that.

My new goal? Continue to make progress in all areas of my life and celebrate meeting goals. Stay focused on the ultimate goal and stop comparing myself to others.

Sharing at #HisStory

Imagine Mary’s pain

My family attended a Good Friday service last night and before it started my youngest son asked me, “Why is it called Good Friday when it was such a sad day?”

It was a sad day and as we listened to the accounts of Jesus’ last day, I found myself thinking of Mary. Trying to empathize with her as a mother is heartbreaking. She had given birth to Jesus, nursed him, taken care of him as a child and watched him grow into the man that she had been told by angels that he would become.

Imagine the fear and helplessness that Mary felt as she watched the horror of her son’s death unfold. The overwhelming desire to want to protect him from the emotional and physical pain that he endured.

The disciple John was at the cross and recorded the scene as Jesus commits Mary into the disciple’s care: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27).

This tender moment between mother and son is painful and beautiful at the same time. I had the opportunity to see Michaelangelos Pieta in Rome and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the sculpture.


In the statue, Mary is holding Jesus in her lap as she had done so many times when he was younger. She was no longer able to protect him, but must have been full of pride.

I imagine the darkness that consumed Mary for the next two days as she tried to make sense of what had happened….guilt, sadness, anger, loss. I imagine the conversations that she had with God.

And then there was joy on that third day. As Mary realized that Jesus’ sacrifice, her sacrifice, was for all of us. The day when everything made sense- the reason we call it Good Friday.