Friday, December 13, 2013


"Come to me all you who are weary, and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  for my yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30

I don't know about you, but rest is something I am craving right now.  I am trying so hard to find it during these overly busy days of Christmas preparation and celebration, yet at the end of the day, come up shorthanded.  

Today I decided I needed to literally run away for a bit.  Step outside in the freezing cold winter air, soak up the sunshine, listen to my inspirational music and pray.  Be quiet.  Rest.

As I ran along the icy, snow covered path I prayed.  I prayed for God to take my angst, my cluttered mind and exhausted body and just give me rest.  He almost stopped me in my tracks as I looked out at His beauty.  I felt the silence and serenity wash over me.  His gift to me.  His rest.

I am off to a day of cookie baking with my family and most likely another snowy day tomorrow and I am ready.   I have the Lord's yoke upon me and rest for my soul.

In the craziness of your December days, I would encourage you to step away.  Step away from it all, be alone and find your REST.  I promise you, it will be the best thing you will do for yourself today.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Peace in His Presence

Luke 2:14  “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace 
among men, with whom He is pleased.”

Peace in His presence.  

Just those three words alone wash over me, making me thirst for just that; PEACE.

During this season of ever-growing to-do lists, social calendars so filled they lack room for stillness, a hustle and bustle so intense, there seems no time for peace in it all. 

If you are at all like me, you crave the peace more than ever right now.  You glance over at your glowing Christmas tree and yearn to actually sit by the serene warmth of the lights, inhaling the fresh evergreen scent.  You love this season of festivities and celebration, and want to enjoy it all, but just when does that happen?!  If you dare sit, just when will all that floods your calendar get done this month?! 

So you move forward, willing yourself to just keep on keeping on as you check off tasks on the list that is ever growing.  I keep telling myself that if I get it ALL done then I will sit.  I will relax.  I will find peace. 

But that nagging voice in my head is telling me that I have it all wrong.  

My lists and calendars are being filled in the opposite direction.  I need to first and foremost take the seat on my couch next to the evergreen tree, glowing with the beautiful lights and find my peace, in His presence. 

I need to look up at my evergreen tree that my family and I so carefully picked out and decorated and remind myself just why we even have this tree in our home.  I need to remember just whom I am celebrating, and what all of the extras on my to-do list is really all about.  

2013 years ago a tiny infant was brought into the world in the humblest of settings, birthed to two Earthly parents not much older than my oldest daughter.  The hustle and bustle of life went on around that baby that night, so many, many years ago, but PEACE was found for all who stopped to glorify Him.  

God came to us all in human form that night and in His presence, peace was found. 

We celebrate that gift, the most precious gift of all, in that baby that was born on that Holy night.  The evergreen of the trees we decorate serves as a reminder of His everlasting love for us.  The glow of the lights reminds us of the light that He sheds in the darkness of this fallen world.  The wreaths that adorn our doors are circles that have no end, reminding us that His love is never ending. 

I do not want to miss this season of celebration in all of the hustle and bustle, never ending to-do lists and social obligations.  

I am six days into Advent season, my tree is decorated, my wreaths are hung, and the lights are aglow.  And my Lord is waiting for me, waiting for me to sit in find my peace, in His presence.

Will you join me in vowing to make this a season of glorifying Him?  Taking the time to remind ourselves just why we have all of these “extras” in our life this season?  

It is all a celebration of the most wonderful gift that was ever given, freely given, for us all. 

So go get that cup of cocoa, plate a few cookies and sit by your tree.  Glance up at the magnificence and find your PEACE.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

TO and THROUGH....

**I was asked to share the story of our journey through unemployment in the Thanksgiving service at my church this morning.  As I stood in front of the church I was overwhelmed with gratitude that God provided me with the opportunity to share our story; His story, really.  For HE was the one who provided us with the opportunity to grow, to clear our vision and in the end, find a greater depth to our JOY in the most unexpected of ways.  Thank you, as my readers, for allowing me to share it with you.  Have a blessed day of thanksgiving and may YOUR hearts be filled with gratitude for all of the unexpected blessings in your own lives.

In my kitchen I have a plaque that says, “The will of God will not take you to what the grace of God will not take you through.

I hung that plaque shortly after a really long series of storms that hit hard in my life where God showed me just what that saying really means.

In March 2011 I was a good year into some pretty rocky storms.  My parents were both battling major health issues and my little nephew was left with massive brain damage after contracting a virus as a newborn.  I was emotionally exhausted from riding the roller coaster of these trials with my family.  So when my husband Dante got notice from work that his position was being eliminated, I wondered how (and why) God could put such a massive trial on us just when I felt I was already spent.

I had no idea I was about to learn just what trusting the Lord was all about.

As many of you who have experienced similar financial struggles and employment uncertainties already know, unemployment is downright scary.  All that you know to be stable and predictable in your everyday life is stripped away. 

My husband was the sole provider for our family of five and his pride and self worth were suffering.  We had no idea just how long this would last, where it would lead us, nor how would we even financially make it if his severance ran out.  We were in the pool of the thousands of others who were victim to the declining economy and there was nothing we could really do to control that other than pray. 

Back in those early days our prayers were so self-seeking.  We would pray that Dante would get the interview, then that he would get an offer.  It was always about what we saw as best and what we wanted.  So many times he would come close to getting an offer and something would fall through, deflating our confidence, igniting the anger and doubt.  As months continued, the panic started to set in.  I was unable to find a teaching position and was working any and every odd job I could find to bring in extra cash while Dante made it his full time work to search for a job, all the while sinking further into a pit of depression.  We both felt helpless. 

Yet there were signs of reassurance that the Lord was caring and providing for us, and our real needs, the ones that HE knew were most important, were being met. Our hearts were humbled as we accepted generosity from our friends, our family and our church.   Bills would come that we were terrified of not being able to pay and someone would anonymously gift us a food store card, or I would get a job that would give the exact money needed to pay a bill; little signs of reassurance that we did not need to WORRY.  God had our backs. 

Yet worrying is a really tough emotional act to just give up.

A year into Dante’s unemployment, we decided to take time every day to pray as a couple and we committed ourselves to it as our Lenten commitment, a giving up of our will in a sense. 

Not once did we miss our time to pray with one another during those forty days, not even when I abruptly went to CA for my nephew’s death.

Our prayers took a real shift during Lent.  They started to become less and less about US telling God what we wanted, what we needed, and more and more of us SEEKING God’s guidance and LISTENING to Him tell us what we needed and where He wanted us.  It was a real breaking of our hearts, hearts that were so stubbornly bound by our own desires and our own self-promotion that they never really had ASKED God where He wanted us.  And we certainly had not stopped to LISTEN.

After our nephew unexpectedly passed away that March, we just really knew that this life was not one that we define.  God creates us, He provides for us, He takes away and He gives.  He defines the parameters of our life here on Earth, not us.  The listening had begun…

For the first time we prayed for God to allow us to submit to His will, and we told Him, together, that where He led us we would follow.

In May of that year Dante received his first and only job offer since being laid off.  It was less than ideal, for it would mean moving our family to Toledo, OH for a job that was a cut in pay from his previous position. But it was a good company and an interesting role… and we had, after all submitted to God’s lead.

Therefore after a lot of prayer, we decided to take the leap and accept the position in OH. God was sending us in a new direction, and we trusted HIM. We began to prepare for life in a new state.

Two days before Dante was to leave for OH he got a phone call from a company that he had interviewed with months earlier in NYC.  They were impressed with him at the time, and now they had a new position opening up for which they felt he was a good candidate.  

What?!  He was JUST about to start this new job, our house was on the market and he was LEAVING!  We had submitted to God’s lead!!  My husband explained this all to them, but they were very interested, and asked if it was possible for him to come in for an in-person interview.

Dumbfounded and confused, Dante went in, that same day.  He was half way to NYC to visit friends anyway, so he took a detour.  After countless interviews where he meticulously planned his outfit, prepared and researched, here he was, at a leading fashion company in NYC unshaven, in shorts and a t-shirt.  He had the unemployed bum look DOWN! 

Six weeks later, after countless nighttime interviews with this other company, all the while working his new position in Toledo, Coach offered Dante a job that he could only dream of creating for himself.

To say we were confused and conflicted is an understatement. We were unsure of what we should be doing since we felt we were following God's lead and He was leading us to Toledo.  Would resigning so shortly after beginning employment be displaying integrity?  Was that what God wanted us to do?!

Together we went on our knees and prayed for guidance, submitting once again to our Father who had brought us thus far. 

Dante accepted that position with Coach, the same day we had our first offer on our house.  We rejected the offer, he resigned from the job in OH and we re-embraced our lives here in PA.  All that we thought we were leaving was ours again.  

God gifted us with the vision to actually SEE it this time.

The greatest gift that came out of those 17 months was the making of our hearts for Him.  Our faith grew from the shattering of our own false-notion that this life is ours to control.  In submitting to His will and praying for HIS lead, we experienced joy like we never would have known.   It took stripping away all of the false securities that we placed our faith in and replacing it with HIM. 

Today I stand in front of you filled with a heart of gratitude.  Gratitude that my Heavenly Father loves me so much that He takes me TO and takes me THROUGH.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013



Currently the seas in my life are really calm.  Eerily calm in a way that actually having me questioning it (ridiculous, I know).  Everyone in my family is healthy, happy and loving life.  My husband has never been happier in his career after a long bought with unemployment, my father, having battled cancer,  is rejoicing in the gift of each day and traveling the world with my mother.  Things are easy.

Dare I even say that?!  Dare I even admit that that scares me a little?!  And IN the calm, somehow anxiety creeps in and my tendency is to WORRY that life is too calm?!

Yup.  That is definitely a fault of mine; worrying.  Creating a problem EVEN WHEN THERE IS NOT A PROBLEM!  Such a ridiculous waste because as we have all heard over and over again, this life WILL NOT ALWAYS BE EASY and STORMS WILL COME!  Anyone else have a knee-jerk reaction to panic when they let that knowledge sink in?!  If you do, you are not alone, my friend, for I am right there with you.

Maybe if we worry about those coming trials and allow our mind to cover every possible thing that can possibly go wrong it somehow will have the affect of keeping those things from happening!  But then we are not living.  In the now, in the present, in the joy of the moment.  Man, that is just downright HARD to do sometimes though, isn't it?

I am one who has to work really hard on living in the moment.  And I mean REALLY hard.  Like meditating on the moment, praying about it constantly, forcing myself to STAY IN THE PRESENT hard.  I have gone to therapy, read books, practiced yoga and taken seminars.  Feels like a serious uphill run that I have to talk myself into and through just about EVERY MOMENT!  And it just gets exhausting.

The only time that I freely allow myself to escape the moment is when I need the reminders of how God has gotten me THROUGH trials and how He showed me, firsthand, that He CALMS STORMS!  He brings peace and joy, despite pain and suffering.  I have seen it, lived it, and FELT IT!  I need those reminders, whether in looking at my past or in reading scripture of how God provided to many in the past, to have peace in the now and confidence in the future.

If you know me or have read my blog in the past, you may know my nephew, Carter.  Carter lived a very short life, one that those in passing might even deem insignificant.  He was 20 months old when Jesus called him Home and only 6 days old when he got sick and was left brain damaged.  In no way was his short while on this Earth ever even ordinary, predictable, or even to many, calm.

His abrupt illness hit much like storms hit the small Lake of Galilee in Jordan.  Being so small and vulnerable, as the Lake is to strong winds that blow, Carter's little body was not ready for the swift hit of a virus.  Our initial reaction to this little baby falling ill was to fear and question WHERE WAS GOD?!  Just like the disciples when they shouted, "Lord, save us!  We are going to drown!" we shouted to him.  Just like the disciples, it felt very much like the waters of that harsh and unexpected storm were taking us all under and we were going to drown!  And just like the disciples, we had no idea the power of His presence and authority.

I will forever take my anxiety ridden mind back to that moment in a little PICU in Kansas City where my God CALMED THE STORM.  Just like when Jesus spoke to the wind and waves on the Lake of Galilee so many years ago and created an absolute calming of the sea, He did that for us in the raging storm of Carter's illness.

As we cried out to Him, a peace that surpasses ALL understanding was bestowed upon us all and a renewed strength and calm was found.  Ahhh, even now as I write, that is the reminder, God's gift to me that HE WAS, IS AND WILL BE THERE.

This picture is one that I treasure so dearly because it captures that peace that was present on those days spent with that precious little baby in the PICU.  Oh how my heart weeps as I see the beauty in His presence, all in and through my sweet nephew, God's gift to so many.  That very significant life created by God.
So I will keep up that fight to stay in the present.  Luckily I have the Lord to run to, even with that battle.  He was there in the past, is here in my present and WILL BE THERE IN MY FUTURE.  He is my calm.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink: or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
Matthew 8:25-27

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tripped Up

Exodus 33:14  The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, 
and I will give you rest.”

Why does it seem that as soon as life is going smooth, you hit a bump in the road?!  Sometimes it is just a pebble in the path and you fall dead smack on your face, enough to trip you up, leaving you in tears and afraid.  Other times the bump completely detours the entire direction you thought you were going.

Last summer I was on a beautiful early morning run while vacationing with my family and friends at a camp in New Hampshire.  The air was that perfect blend of invigorating chill that awakens your senses and motivates your body to move just a touch faster to warm itself.  Loving greeting the new day with the birds, watching the steam rise up off of the lake, as the sun slowly coerced all to awaken, I could not have been more at peace.  The sun was rising up above the lake and I could literally SMELL God's beauty in the day ahead.  

My husband and I were running together, a rarity in and of itself, and were deep in conversation.  My feet were moving as if on autopilot and we were almost to the main lodge where we could smell our breakfast cooking.  I was feeling good!   And then, out of nowhere I tripped and fell right onto my bad knee.  

The pain that seared through my hands as they smacked the ground brought tears to my eyes and I just lay there, screaming, in shock that my blissful morning run was so abruptly and painfully interrupted.  All I could think about was how my day was ruined, my knee was going to swell, I was going to be unable to enjoy the rest of my vacation, and on and on the worries came.  

As my mind ran away with every bit of fear and worry it could find to cling to, my body started to absorb the rude smack of the pavement and the sting in my hands started to become bearable enough to move. I inched myself off of the road, testing out my knee to see just how bad it really was.  Ever so slowly I got onto my feet, gained my composure and pushed through the pain, attempting to walk. But I knew that despite how I was feeling I had to get up.  I had to push through and keep moving on.  I was driven to turn this one over to the Lord, for sitting on a remote dirt road, crying and wishing the pain would just disappear was just simply not working.

So with my husband's help I hobbled my way back to the lodge, praying the entire way for God to take over.  What was done was done and all I could do was ice and rest it.  God had this, as He does everything else in my life.  Every fall, every bump, every trip; He has it.

Falling on a run that is going seamless is analogous for how we so often get tripped up on the road of life.  The falls, the bruises, the pain, the anxiety; they all seem to come literally out of nowhere.  There are days when, for the life of me, I cannot even figure out just WHY I am tripped up!

Yet every time I do get tripped up, whether it be in big ways or small, I am driven to my knees.  I am helpless, defenseless and broken.  I am at the mercy of life and all I can do is cry out to God, the one who has it all in His hands.  It is into His arms I run and there that I am whole, healed, unbroken. 

Today I had lunch with some ladies after my weekly Bible Study Fellowship class.  One of the women is living with an incurable form of cancer and has certainly had her share of "trip ups" in the past few years alone.  Yet she said to me that she is now able to see it as a blessing.  If she had not been so broken, so helpless, she would not have even slowed down enough to form the friendships she had, friendships that led her to being open to God's presence in His word, even in doing something like a weekly Bible study with BSF!  She would never have known just who held her life.  I was in awe.  

What if we were to take a whole other perspective on these “trip ups” in life?  What if we were to see them not as falls that set us back, but falls that propel us into the arms of the One who is with us, no matter what? 

When I fall and am driven into His arms, His grace and mercy flood me with the assurance that I am not alone.  His love washes over me and I am reminded that through the pain, bumps, and bruises of this life, He is there.  He is my salve, my ice pack for the pain, my rock.  

Would I know that if I never got tripped up?  Would I even turn to Him?  Something tells me not.  I am a stubborn, pig headed soul who is drawn to control.  But those trip-ups, they are my God’s gift to me. His constant reminders that He is the one to give me rest; He is my peace. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Seeds of Faith

A few years back in my summer vegetable garden I started to grow a mysterious vine.  Out of sheer curiosity as to what it would become, I watered it and allowed it room to thrive. Soon I saw it start to flower, blossom and produce.  By the end of the summer I had the most delicious, juicy cantaloupe, grown from a seed I didn’t realize I had planted. I so easily could have plucked up that seedling as if an unwanted weed, but instead I was nudged to let it grow. What wonder and joy letting it grow brought!

In many ways, my faith has been just like that seed.

Being raised in a Christian home started me off with a great foundation for my faith. It planted seeds that, like that mysterious vine in my garden, I would later work to germinate and grow into a faith of my own, a faith that I am still cultivating and discovering with each passing day.

As a child there were times when I did not question the God that my parents taught, for He was as real in my life as the home that I lived in and the family that raised me.  I trusted with the heart of a child. 

As I began to spread my independent wings, craving to break free from the defining cover of my parents, I experimented with all kinds of ME, striving to find just who "ME" really was.  

It was during this heightened period of growing pains and desire for independence that I distanced myself from the faith that my parents "forced" upon me.  I put God on a very distant shelf and moved on with defining ME, with only ME in control (at least in my mind).

But just like that mysterious vine in my garden the spiritual seeds of my faith were determined, and had burrowed deeply.  Despite my efforts to ignore their existence, slowly, ever so slowly, as my attempts to live a life dependent on ME and ME alone failed, they began to sprout up.  Early in my adulthood I would glance over and see those weak little seedlings, and cling to them with desperate hope that they would bring comfort to my soul, save me from whatever ailed me at the time.  And like that mysterious vine in my garden, I was nudged to let them grow, even while I was unsure as to what those seedlings even really were.  

Memory verses from my childhood would pop up into my head and "Jesus Loves Me" would echo throughout my mind as I tried to imagine just how that could even BE anything more than just a comforting phrase.  

With each passing year, and a little bit of cultivation here and there as I searched for a greater depth in my life, those seedlings continued to grow.  As I sought out a church in which to worship as an adult, visiting every denomination under the sun, I sat through countless sermons and Sunday school classes. I brought children into this world, and discovered a desire to plant seeds in them as had been done with me. I realized again that those seedlings of faith continued to blossom and spread. 

The vines became thirsty for more watering, fertilizer, sunshine.  I had no idea that my God, who created me, loved me enough to place this thirst IN me.  I began to seek out books on Christianity and actually paid attention in church (I grew up only half listening because I thought it was what I was supposed to do!).  I gathered with other thirsty women who sought an understanding of their faith and this life to delve into spiritual topics, books and studies.  Together we debated, shared, cried and prayed as our hearts GREW in the understanding that there is a God who LOVES us.  As I read my children Bible stories of Jesus's love I heard those words myself in a way that I never had before.  

He loved not only the little children, but ME, too!

The storms of life that threatened the core of who I was and who I thought I was drove me into these arms I did not know were so unconditionally present for ME, waiting for me to run into, for comfort, forgiveness, grace and mercy, in a way I had never experienced in the world.  My vines now were rapidly spreading, seeking the light and watering that came from the true Source.  A Source that had been present all along, waiting so patiently for me to come Home.  Lovingly providing and protecting me as I stubbornly tried to cultivate a life with no seeds, no rich soil, no water from my Creator.  

Yet there He was, the whole time.  My God.  My love. The Great I Am.  

Today I am living a life so juicy, so sweet, like that cantaloupe grown from a seed I did not know even existed in my garden.  I thirst for Him, to know my God, my Creator, my all.  I am stilled in a way I did not know was ever possible as I hear Him in His Word, see Him in this world, feel Him in my life.  

More days than not I have to make a concerted effort to seek God's cultivation, to water my soul with His Word, to look for His Light in my life, for that drive to be independent ME is still there.  I am human, in all my brokenness and sin.  

Yet like that determined cantaloupe, the seeds of my faith have taken root so deep within the core of my being that I KNOW where to find my light and where to satisfy my thirst.  Even on the days when I don't, my Savior is waiting, with open arms, calling me Home, knowing just how beautiful I am to grow under his tender loving care.