VBS Day 4: God’s Big Love in Itty Packages

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My big girl is three. All of a sudden she is an independent being, that thinks thoughts and says things that don’t always come from me. Her words are more than just the sing song echo of a toddler learning her first words.

My heart glowed when she came home from VBS yesterday and said, “You and I are small mommy, cause we can’t touch the sky, but God is so big He made the sky!”

Amen little lady! Don’t we all need that reminder? As heavy and ginormous the weight of parenthood feels sometimes its feels good to remember you and I are small, and God is the creator, that’s so big He reaches up and paints the sky!

Its awesome when B expresses herself to reveal her own thoughts, and preferences, and observations. I’m sure you can relate; kids have a way of sifting through all the niceties and fluff to get to the heart of the matter with hilarious bluntness, but also refreshing honesty.

vbsevanLast year at VBS, when I was pregnant with Baby E, one of the children said to me, “You are making a human being!!”

Wow! So obvious, but I admit I’d never thought of it that way. But whether we’re a grandparent, a foster parent, an aunt or uncle, or a VBS volunteer, it doesn’t take a uterus to make a human being folks!! (Please don’t get me in trouble for saying uterus on here! :0)

The responsibility can feel so, so big. Like God is entrusting us to paint a piece of the sky too.

When you zoom in on a photvbs hugograph, you see thousands of tiny dots. From that vantage point you can see every shade of a color. You can see every minute detail. But when I’m editing that closely, its easy to get caught up on the tiny imperfections instead of seeing  the overall composition.

When we’re raising children, its easy to zoom in on this exact moment in time. When we get too caught up in this moment in time we can get caught up in worrying ourselves over our kids hang-ups and misbehaviors. We can put a microscope on our own parenting skills, picking ourselves apart and trying to decipher how each of our words will impact and form our children. And every day, every moment matters, but at the same time, when life feels pixelated, sometimes we need to zoom out and realize that God is the one that creates the big picture.

And the moments that seem dark and fuzzy, when our kids are going through a tough phase, or we feel ill equipped to be parents, well maybe God is creating a shadow to enhance the bright places. Because God has a way of using even the dark spots to create beauty.

I love seeing B becoming her own little person, and soaking up knowledge from her friends, and VBS teachers, but I also love being her mom- the one that has the last word (until she’s a teenager right?). So when she told me that little nugget of truth, reminding me how small I am and how big God is- I added another piece that is so important for her to remember.

“Yes my child, God is so big that He paints the sky, but He loves you so much that He made himself small to come into the world and die on the cross for you. He loves you so much that he rose again, and when He ascended into Heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to live inside you.”

“But Mommy, I’m so small.”

“Baby, God isn’t limited by size, His love comes in giant banners and little love notes. God can be so small too.”

Yes friend, relish the giggles, the tickles, the hundreds of questions, the shouts and loud whispers, and mischievious grins. Relish the play dough messes, the crumbs and dirty egg pans, the wet footprints and sandy bottoms. God can be present in every minute detail of life. But when life feels too heavy, or when we feel small and powerless, we can remember that we’re His child, and as we sleep at night, He cradles us, He puts the nightlight of stars in the sky when life is dark, and paints a bright blue sky for a brand new day. Yes God’s big love can overcome even the hardest things in life, in the most small and tender ways.

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Day 3 St John’s VBS: Walk Beside Me

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The three year olds stood and shouted the song, twirling and swaying to the happy beat, but the smiling boy I saw in the nursery every week sat crumpled in the teacher’s lap, his eyes swollen from tears. Not even goldfish could persuade him to perk up. Its the first year at VBS for the three year olds. The kids that were babies just a blink ago, are now students, learning how to be without mom and dad in a classroom. They’re hearing about Jesus with their own ears instead of just from their parents’ arms, or maybe for the first time.

I peeked in on his class throughout the day to see if he would find confidence in his new surroundings, but the first day for him was a tearful one.

When I saw him on day two, he was tentative, clutching mom’s hand like a loveworn blankie, his face set in the stubborn lines of a pout. When I asked if he was ready for VBS, his mom gave a subtle shake of the head, “we’re not up for VBS today. But we’re really excited about coming to school.” My heart pinched a little. The very word that had become such a source of joy in my home had become a word they needed to avoid.  As I walked away I prayed to myself, “Lord, help him to have a good day. Help his mom to be strong.”

Sometimes the very things that should bring us joy become triggers of anxiety in our lives.

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As we skip along the cobble path of milestones, we eagerly anticipate the next big thing. For three year olds, its big kid panties, mornings away from parents, and eventually preschool. But we feel transitions as adults too, where our realities collide with our expectations. That gorgeous new house we just bought means we have to part with the pile of money we’ve been saving, and say goodbye to the old porch swing. The promotion we’ve worked so hard for marks a shift in the dynamics with relationships at work, as we step out of the shoes of co-worker and into the uncomfortable new ones as boss. The vacation we’ve awaited all year, comes and goes with a flourish, leaving us with unpacked bags and melancholy.

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Sometimes its the little things vbs converse provilethat cause us stress, like bringing our kids to VBS when they make it crystal clear that they do not want to be there. Maybe its as simple as feeling self conscious in the back of church, when everyone else seems to have found their way there.

We look at the disciple Peter who also struggles with fear and doubt in the midst of a storm. But God meets him in his doubting, saying, “Come.” When Peter sinks, Jesus helps him up and asks, “Why did you doubt?”

Jesus meets Peter with patience, reassurance, and strength in his moment of weakness. Peter not only walks again, but Jesus empowers him to become a great leader.

 

At the close of VBS on the second day, I went to the boy’s classroom to see how he was doing. His face was bright again. He told me about how he loved to go to worship, and he showed me a tower he built for his mom that reached a foot above his head. I’m so glad his mom found the strength to bring him back. That he was able to get through the struggle to find the joy on the other side.

We all have rough days, rough weeks, maybe even a rough year that we’d like to put behind us. But God strengthens us and walks us through it. He brings us  hope in our struggles. And as we show up, and worship him, he brings us joy again. Joy, strength, and hope to help us build towers that point to him.

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St. John’s VBS Day 2: Praying in Life’s Noise

 

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The small girl’s eyes fixed in her lap, her fingers twisted and untwisted together in an uncertain dance. Some of the children murmured Amen as the leader closed the prayer. She cupped her hand to her friend’s ear and whispered, “I don’t know how to pray. Do you?”

Its a good thing that the kids get to learn about prayer today at VBS as we dive into a lesson about how God hears Jonah’s prayers from the belly of the whale. This sweet girl probably isn’t the only one who’s struggled with uncertainty when it comes to her own ability to pray. No matter where we are in our faith walk, sometimes it feels like it takes work to have a rich prayer life.

Sometimes prayer can feel like trying to walk with your shoes tied together. You know that you’re just suppose to put one word in front of another, joined together in a conversation thats “trumped up” with Christian buzz words like holy, sinner, and blessed. But, when you try, you feel self conscious and tongue tied- tripping and stumbling over an incoherent string of confused speech.

Maybe we can relate to Jonah more than we might think. Instead of taking his fear and uncertainty to God in prayer, he tries to escape Him by jumping on a ship going the opposite direction of where God commanded.

Too often I know the places God is calling me, to slow down, to quiet my anxious mind, to spend time with him instead of flipping through my phone, but I drown His voice out with a world that demands my attention with Facebook status updates, news streaming on my web browser, and endless onslaught of texts, emails, messages, phone calls…etc. etc.

Today I’ve gotten to hear teachers affirming to kids that when they pray, God is listening! Wow! I wish I had had those truths affirmed to me as a fearful and uncertain child. But another truth that resonates with me today, from the story of Jonah, is something I struggle with more as an adult than when I was a kid.

Jonah knew God was there, waiting, but he busied himself and avoided hearing God. He allowed fear, stubbornness, and anger to stand between his relationship with God. Finally, as he sat in a belly of a fish, Jonah took the time to stop, to pray, and to listen.vbspray

Its easy to build prayer into a holy experience that can seem untouchable. If we can’t find that perfect moment or the exact words, its easy to put off praying, or like the child in worship this morning, think we “don’t know how.” But we don’t need to be in the belly of a fish to be with God, or even in a quiet room. If you’re a parent of young children, quiet doesn’t mean peace, but that your kid is getting into trouble.

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Take those imperfect moments, and your “unholy” words and talk to God. When your driving in the car, when your vacuuming, when you’re finding the self control not to scream at your three year old (umm…this girl). Cause God hears us, and He has a lot to say to us too- we just need to slow down, put our phones down, and have a conversation with Him.

And ask your kids how to pray, after today I have a feeling they might be able to teach you a thing or two.

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God Bless Our VBS Mess

 

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Many of us have VBS memories, from past years at St. John’s, or maybe from our own childhood church. Or maybe its your family’s first experience with VBS and you’re excited to see what its about! Today is the day we’ve been gearing the kids up for for weeks, and expectations are high. They are going to have THE BEST TIME, and you are going to get the house clean, or get a relaxing pedicure (guys get pedis too!) , or something awesome to celebrate your morning sans kids.

Maybe you motivated them to brush their teeth last night with the reminder of the special day ahead. You laid out their clothes and packed their bag. You set your alarm extra early so no one would be rushed. You went to bed with glowing anticipation of the morning.

But what happens when your kid is too excited to sleep, and ends up in a pile on the couch with dad? Or when your well intentioned alarm goes off and you hit snooze (three times)? Or when your sleep deprived child gets banana all over her crisp yellow shirt before you even leave the house (and puts the banana peel between the cushions in the couch).

Next thing you know, you’re hollering like a mad woman at the whole family, “YOU GUYS OVERSLEPT! We’re going to be late!!!” Shoes are flying, your head is pounding, kids are whining,  and your sweet VBS family has fallen into a sweaty bunch of  half dressed, hungry and tired grumps.

Or maybe your morning went exactly as planned like mine did (wink).

When our expectations don’t align with our realities, its easy to fall into the blame game. We blame others: my kids don’t listen, my spouse doesn’t help out enough, Grandma kept them up too late. Or, we blame our circumstances: VBS is too early, my kid has a touch of a cold, we’re overscheduled. Or we question our own worth and credibility: my kids would behave if I was a better parent, I’m not organized enough, they’re going to remember me as the mom that nags and hollers.

Stop. I’m going to share with you the VBS message your children are hearing today, and just maybe YOU could soak it in too? Its okay, I promise I won’t make you memorize verses or give up your snooze button. (Although both are worthy pursuits.)

God sent rain for 40 days to flood the earth, but He protected Noah because God saw that his heart was good.

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God knows you. He knows your heart. He know when you’re jealous, angry, and resentful. He knows how intensely you love your kids, He knows how desperately you want to succeed at this parent thing. He knows sometimes we just feel like scared children ourselves.

God knows us- He forgives us and He loves us. Instead of the blame game, instead of covering ourselves in the dirt of shame, when our plans don’t go as we expect, we can look to a God that sends olive branches and rainbows to our uncertain hearts. We can look to a God who sent His son so that we can be His children. We can rest in the knowledge that our kids are making their own VBS memories that will shape and mold them into the people God wants them to be- banana covered shirts, mismatched shoes, bags under their eyes and all.

Because God uses flawed folks like you and me, he shines us up with his grace, and he calls us to live this life of sticky hands and tired bodies; a life built of hope and fears and whispers and hollers. He looks at us, with our frazzled emotions, messy houses, and grumpy moods,  and He says “I love you kiddo- take all the time you need.”

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St. John’s VBS 2016 Deep Sea Discovery

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I’ve always lived in places where water was scarce. As a kid, I was taught to turn off the faucet as I brushed my teeth, to take showers instead of baths if I could, to fill a basin of hot water for the dishes, and to pretty much skip washing my car. Okay, so I totally added the last one to scrape for an excuse as to why my van is always filthy.

When we lived in the desert, one thing you always packed for any extended road trip was bottles of water, in case you found yourself with a flat tire, covered in dog vomit on the side of an abandoned dirt road (a story for another time).

Now in Southern California, we’re quickly learning that we actually still live in a desert climate with watering restrictions transforming the lush landscape into patches of brown, dry grass.

Yes water is essential to life. Life looks different when water is scarce.

This week at VBS, the kids may have to forego their water day, but they are going to be submerged in water inspired stories that teach them about the life-giving importance of Jesus.

Because water brings life.

More important, Jesus brings life.

There may be a drought in Orange County, but friends it is going to rain giant droplets of grace and love at St Johns Orange over the next five days.

Follow the blog this week for daily updates as I join our St John’s volunteers and over 730 kiddos on an underwater adventure that teaches us about a God that gives rainbows for promises, answers prayers from the belly of whales, and calls us to be his miracle workers, with a basin of water and His life changing word.

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A New Approach

Hi Readers,

I’m going to try something a little different. Normally one of my blog posts takes about 3 hours. I pray, I deliberate, I edit, and I take the things I publish very seriously. I know most blogs go for volume and posts that get a lot of buzz- but to be honest, popularity isn’t my goal. I recently took on a beauty writing position,  I have a crawling, breastfeeding, mama loving baby, and I’m leading my church’s mom’s ministry next year…in other words…3 hours can’t be  found!  So instead I’m going to write more frequent, short bursts on whatever song God is playing on my heart. Let me know what you think. I love comments, questions, honest feedback, or anything where I get to listen instead of just throw words out into this big dark blogosphere!

Much Love & Scoops of Ice Cream

Lindsay

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To Say “I Do”…

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“I Do.”

Two syllables form a sentence that makes a promise we remember day after day in a lifetime together.

When we vow, “I do,” before all to hear, we’re saying we promise to love, respect, and honor our spouse. Its a big moment. A moment we can draw a big red dot on and say, after this point, my life was never the same; I was never the same.

But whether we celebrate those vows with expensive champagne and two hundred of our closest friends and family, or in a quieter fashion, with just a chosen few, the words are the same, and the promise doesn’t change, we look at our spouse, and we say, “I do.” “I do promise to stay by your side for life.”

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Its not a phrase you say often, “I do.” For such a big promise,they aren’t two words we say again and again. Maybe its because it sticks the first time, but I think its really because the words “I do,” are woven in the fabric of our lives together as a married couple.

Maybe the vows we say aloud to each other are few, to remind us that the promise is fulfilled in how we live it.

coy bride“I do,” is wrapped in flannel pajamas cuddled in the corner of the couch.
“I do,” pours like fresh hot coffee into my mug when I’m too exhausted to make it myself.

“I do,” fortifies me to insist I don’t want the last bowl of ice cream in the carton (when I do!)

“I do,” leaves my lips in the words “I’m sorry,” and “You were right,” or (the hardest) “I was wrong.”

“I do,” wets my cheek with his tears as he bows over me on the operating table as we wait to hear our babies first gasping cries.

“I do,” lies curled between us, as I crawl into bed beside him, when my anger prods me to sleep on the couch.

“I do,” is tucked  in wrinkles, winking in silver hairs, and glowing in angry red scars and white stretch marks as we look at each other and see someone beautiful.

“I do,” twinkles in the knowing look he gives me as we exchange a shared unspoken secret.

“I do,” wells with pride in my eyes as I look at my I dodaughter and see all the things I love about my husband in her.

“I do,” is folded in warm laundry, melted like the peanut butter he puts on his pancakes, sprayed in the scrubbing bubbles I foam the sink with after he’s shaved.But for us, “I do,” is also an admission that, “I don’t.” No. I don’t measure up. Neither does he.

But in the moments when we have nothing left to say, we look to a God Who says, “I do,” not just with words, but with His hands spread wide, His head bowed, and His final breath.

And we look to a God who breathes again, and says “I will.” God that gives us the grace, to forgive, to love, to trust… to say “I do” again.welovelogo

 

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What I Learned from My Traitor Baby

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She was curled inside me for 9 months. Each night at midnight she squawks and cries from her bed so she can come curl against me until the wee hours of the morning when she clucks and coos in my ear until I crack open my eyes. She’s a mama’s girl in every sense of the word, and I love it. I relish every suckle, every cuddle, every smile, every wet kiss, and hair tug, and sweet baby noise that leaves her lips.

Then, at eight months old, she spoke her first word, “DaDa.” And then, her second word, “Hi DaDa!”

Yes my mama’s girl has dad on her lips.

I shouldn’t care…I (do)n’t care.

Every day I watch her pink bubble gum lips and wait for her to form those two syllables, like she’s smacking her lips, “MaMa.” Or even one syllable, “Ma.” We can go Southern style.

I know it will happen in God’s timing, “blah blah blah…” but, as my three year old would put it, “I really, really, really (repeat 6 more times), really want” her to say it already.

I want it so much that my subconscious mind stepped in.  For nights in a row, I started dreaming that she was saying “MaMa.” I would wake with a happy glow, until I remembered that my sweet mama’s girl is a turncoat. I look at her smiling face as she sticks her fingers in my eyes, mouth, and ears, as she gurgles and coos and I realize its only five in the morning. And as I look at her sweet little mouth, like in slow motion replay mode, she again forms the words, “Daaah. Daaaah.”

Then, one morning, after only 4 hours of sleep (because of said turncoat baby), I picked her up, walked around to her daddy’s side of  the bed, shook “DaDa” awake. Handing her over I went straight to the bathroom for a shower so hot that it reddened my pale skin, and I cried. Sobbed actually; big ugly sobs that you do when no one is looking.

I know what you’re thinking here. Melodramatic right? Agreed. But now I want you to look back on the last thing in your life you were waiting to happen. That thing that if it fell into place, it would change everything else. That thing you asked your friends to pray for you about, that thing that for some reason, God has been silent about. Maybe your waiting for it now. Now listen.

A few days ago our family was on vacation. The four of us were crammed in one hotel room. When Nathan and I finally got the kids to sleep, we propped open the door and sat in pool chairs on the pavement outside the door, passing a gallon of coffee ice cream back and forth. Yes- we waited till the three year old was in bed so we didn’t have to share- don’t judge. In our blissful moment, I heard the baby whining. I ran in to check on her, and in her sleep she murmured two sweet syllables, “MaMa.” I guess I hadn’t been dreaming it after all.

I wish she’d say my name in the day, but I know who she’s dreaming about at night.

This makes me think about all the things that are happening that we don’t know about. After all, as people, we’d like to think we know it all, we have control over it all, and our world rests on our own shoulders like the heavy Jansport backpack we trudged around with in high school. But so much is happening we don’t know about- in this world- and the spiritual world. Just think what God is doing in your world while you’re sleeping. Maybe our dreams are a way that God is preparing us for a future reality. Maybe those sweet dreams and whispers are the best part of this life.

“The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Stop scraping and scrambling and fighting for what God has already done, for what God is already doing. God’s timing is infuriating, and confusing, and perfect and beautiful; but we can rest in him, and know that we are His child- because the best two syllable name my girl can learn is “Father,” and its not the guy sleeping next to me.

 

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Being a Living Sacrifice

They’ve seen Christianity in our fish symbols on our cars and in our Good News handouts. We hear it in crooning song lyrics.

They’ve met Christians that go to church, and bible study, and every other program.

Jesus came to Earth, not because Israel didn’t know of God, but because they needed Him to reconcile them to God. In infant hands and nail pierced feet our God lived the Gospel among His people.

Americans have heard of Jesus, some of them are knee deep in Jesus pop culture.

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The question I’m wrestling with, is how is God calling me to show them Who Jesus is? Its a question I ask every day, because the answer is a calling that grows and changes.

Yesterday I walked past a man on the corner with wrinkled face and dirty clothes. He held a sign in his shaking fingers that read, “Hungry Veteran: Help.”

I wanted to avert my eyes; to walk in a wider circle around him. Instead I sucked in a breath and looked him in his tired, amber eyes. I nodded and whispered, “God bless you.”

Tomorrow I wonder what it would looked like if I was a blessing? What does it look like for you?

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“Brothers and sisters, in view of all we have just shared about God’s compassion, I encourage you to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated to God and pleasing to him. This kind of worship is appropriate for you.” Romans 12:1
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John The Baptist in Prison Asks a Question

womanShe asks, “God what is your purpose?”

Her head pounds, making such a racket she can’t form a coherent thought sometimes. In her room with shades drawn, against her cool sheets she tosses and turns to get comfortable and asks, “God what are you doing with this?”

Her once strong and energetic legs that limbered on for miles in the morning sunshine feel wobbly as they carry her through tiresome days. She celebrates the things her agile body once did easily, like folding and putting away laundry and lifting the awkward mattress to fit and tuck the sheets.

And as she feels weak under the weight of the chores of a day, she asks, “God, how do you expect me to carry the weight of Cancer?”

Blinding shots of pain fire in her gut and pulse steadily through her body like the drip, drip, drip of a coffee pot, as she wonders if the fire burning a hole in her chest is fear, or anxiety, or something else malignant.

She can’t trust herself. Her own body has betrayed her. And though her mind remains intact, she feels her head and body are in a race together and her body is puttering out and gasping for breath while her head remains tireless as it hurdles on with thoughts spinning so fast they run her in circles. But more than the thoughts are the questions. Like a burr in her mind they attach and fester, “Are you there God?” “Do you really love me?”

Another man watches his life waste away behind the iron bars of a putrid prison cell. No longer nourished by locusts and honey, his body vanishes as his skin stretches over the contours of his bony frame.

The wild and confident man who once cried, “make straight the way of the Lord!” now bows in uncertainty, with a question instead of a declaration.  As John the Baptist sits in prison, he begins to question if Jesus is really the one.  He sends two of his disciples to ask, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Alone, hurting, confused by the unexpected path God has taken him; confused because Jesus doesn’t look like the Messiah he was expecting, John the Baptist doubts. He questions.

Jesus doesn’t respond in anger, but in encouragement. He points to what’s happening on the outside- the blind see, the deaf hear, the dead are raised- as prophesied in Isaiah. But more than that, he points to John himself for an answer-who I AM is revealed in you- “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist” (Matt.11:11)

Because the prophets’ riddles are made truth in him. Men are made well in him, but John, don’t you see, you are living proof of him. Living proof when you were conceived, your mother ripe and fertile at a barren age, dad stunned silent. Living proof when you made a way in the wilderness, proof in the Jordan when you dipped the head of the son of Most High and were kissed by the breath of the Holy Spirit. Living proof even now as you wait in despair, because though your body “is wasting away, inwardly you are being renewed day by day.” (2 Cor.4:16 emphasis added)

Yes John knows the answer to his question. He knows it in his weary bones. He feels the burn of it in his concave belly. But in his dark prison John needs a reminder. And Jesus meets him with love, and with evidence that goes deeper than physical proof, As Emily Freeman sums up in her book Simply Tuesday, Jesus points to ” the heart of John himself,” saying, “In other words, my works are evident in the world, but my life is evident in you.”

Like John, she turns to God for for answers. The rocks of fear and doubt form a lump in her throat as she stares into darkness, her alarm clock glowing red numbers, 3:38 am. She lays and stares at the shapes and shadows of her once familiar bedroom until an acceptable hour when she can creep out onto her cobblestone patio. And in the sunrise of the morning, when the sky is a soft pink, life seems more bearable, and God feels closer. He whispers to her, as the hummingbirds kiss and flutter, and the fingers of gold beams caress her wet cheeks, He fills her up for just another day.

God numbered her days, she doesn’t know the count, but she has a groaning hope that seeps out of her like water from the cracks of a pot. It spills streams that escape and gather in corners and gaps between stepping stones, watering the clover and dandelion that sprout up wild and unbidden.

She feels small. She feels human.

But God came to earth in infant smallness. Jesus groaned in human pain. Cried human tears.

God comes to her with answers that seep deeper than the evidence she sees in the orange blossoms and the monarchs, the soft breeze that make her wind chimes tinkle and the leaves rustle. The living God that spoke to John, fills her body with His warm presence and whispers, “my life is evident in you.

Its easy to take for granted the life that we breath in. But when we’re gasping, when we’re sucking in and searching for our next breath, He breathes in us.

She sings songs of praise. Through his tears and pain he shouts in joy to the Lord. And in her story, through his life, God is living His purpose in them. God is living His purpose in us.

“For God Himself fights by our side, with weapons of the Spirit.
Were they to take our house, goods, honor, child or spouse,
Though life be wrenched away, They cannot win the day.
The kingdom’s ours forever!”

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