Power in the Storm

In the past couple years, our part of Virginia has become famous for microbursts…small but damaging storms that whip in with the speed of a tornado and wreak havoc on anything in their path.

During one the other day, we watched our back fence flap like a sheet caught by the wind.  We stood, helpless, praying that it would stay intact.  Blessedly, it is still standing…leaning, but standing.

We did, however, lose power.  That is pretty typical for us when we have a storm of any magnitude hit.  Our neighborhood tends to have it out sooner, longer, and more often than many of the neighborhoods in our county.  This time, it was out for only fifteen hours.

It comes down to a sometimes-unreliable power grid in our part of the county.  New developments like ours were thrown up quickly and added to the power grid piecemeal in a short time, rather than in an organized, ongoing fashion.  Thus, taxing storms find the weak links and prey on them, causing us to be on the losing end…and without power.

I’m so glad God isn’t like that!

I did not walk in an orderly fashion to Him.  I did not grow up in the church.  I came, broken and tired, haphazard in my knowledge and understanding.  But…He was, and is, there.  The ultimate source of power and strength.

Even now, when I have been walking with Him for years in my grid of life, I can get thrown into turmoil by the happenings around me.  But…His power is constant.  His love does not go out.  I can always come home to the Light of my life.

I heard once many years ago that an excellent picture of Jesus can be found by taking I Corinthians 13:4-8a and substituting Jesus for every instance of love.  Here is what we can, then, expect our Savior to be:

Jesus is patient

Jesus is kind

He does not envy,

He does not boast,

He is not proud.

He does not dishonor others,

He is not self-seeking,

He is not easily angered,

He keeps no record of wrongs.

Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

He always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Jesus never fails.

Now that is a Power Source that I can trust, no matter what the storms of life may bring!

Praise God!  Amen and amen!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. – Hebrews 13:8

Just Another One of Those Days

Last week, it was just another one of those days:

3:39 a.m. – Eight-year old says he can’t sleep and climbs in bed with me.  He rolls around for a bit, can’t fall asleep in my bed, and returns to his own.

4:39 a.m. – Awakened by a horrendous musical sound that I thought was the alarm clock.  Tried to turn off alarm clock only to find it would not go off.  Figured out it was a game on the tablet sitting next to me.  Don’t know why it went off them.

4:40 a.m. – Mistaking the clock setting for 5:00, I decide to get up (yes, I do normally get up that early).

4:50 a.m. – The dog throws up.  The big dog.

5:00 a.m. – Still working on preparing the first cup of coffee when 11-year old comes downstairs.  I shoo him back upstairs.

5:04 a.m. – Go on a hunt for wrapping paper, which I find…along with a large mess in a room that I thought was clean for company tomorrow.

5:05 a.m. – I try to wrap the 8-year old’s birthday presents only to find we have no tape.  Tape hunt begins.

5:10 a.m. – Hear noise from upstairs and go up to shush the two children who are now playing in one’s room.

5:30 a.m. – Hear my alarm going off in my room.  I must have turned it on inadvertently while trying to stop the noise at 4:39.  The beeping makes the dog still in my room start to howl.  The other dog, downstairs, starts to join in the howling.  I rush upstairs before all the boys are up, turn it off, and quiet the dogs.

5:35 a.m. – The 8- and 11-year old ask if they can go to the basement and play.  I figure it is the best alternative and may allow me to salvage my quiet time, so I let them.

5:40 a.m. – The 6-year old wakes up.  Send him downstairs.

5:50 a.m. – I am tired and in need of another cup of coffee.  I still have not done my quiet time, which is the reason I get up this early anyway.

5:59 a.m. – Last child gets up.  Hope of quiet time is dashed for good today.  Start breakfast and the day on a prayer.

I am not making this up.  I couldn’t make up this level of crazy detail.

Yet, that is my life.  Fire to fire to fire.  It can be exhausting, especially on your own.  Especially when all this happens before 6:00 a.m!


These are light and momentary troubles.  I know they are.  They are the results of having a big family and lots of blessings.

The night before, my oldest and I watched The Passion of the Christ http:/www.thepassionofchrist.com/.  Keith and I had started the tradition many years ago to watch it at Easter time.  As painful as that movie is to watch, I find it a good reminder of just what is important in life.  It helps put “those days” into perspective.

Even when “those days” start before the first cup of coffee.

Kids up early?  Thanks, God, that, with our busy schedules, I have “morning people” for children.

Dogs barking and throwing up?  Thanks, God, for the blessing of our dogs, who are an almost constant source of affection and fun, never mind the protection factor.

Kindle going off?  Thanks, God, for the technology that you have given our world, and that we in our family can share it.

And thanks, God, for our nice, warm home, our health, and the blessing of living together as a family in this great country of ours.

Sometimes the best reminder on a stress-filled day is the pictures in my head of Jesus hanging on the cross…for me.

Surely he took up our pain
    and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
    stricken by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
    and by his wounds we are healed.

– Isaiah 53:4-5

The End of the Story

My almost-8-year-old is a read-the-last-page-of-the-story guy.  I am not quite sure how it happened.  To my way of thinking, that is just wrong.


Sometimes I peek…not to read the whole page, but just to see if a certain name is mentioned, so I know if that character makes it through whatever their trial is.

Don’t you wish you could do that with the story of your life?  Just take a quick peek to see how things work out?

God has His reasons, I know, for not telling us the end of the story here on earth.  And now I think I know why…or at least have a better understand.

I am a talker.  (You may be surprised at that…not.)  Sometimes, in order to work things out, I like to talk them through out loud.  I used to do it to Keith all the time.

After Keith died, I would still have these out-loud conversations, using the boys as a sounding board in the same way.

But it did not have quite the same results.

I would talk through out loud the planning for a particular day:  Maybe we will get up and run the errands, and then stop for lunch on the way home, and then start school…

The only problem was that the boys would get focused on the wrong part of the story:  Going out to lunch?! We’re going out to lunch?! Yay! Where are we going? Can we go to _____? (Insert boys who are now debating–loudly–the place we are going to for lunch.)

The boys would get totally focused on the wrong part of the story.  They took what was a maybe, a possible plan, and made it into reality–and started putting their own caveats into it.

Maybe that is why God does not give us–does not give me–that peek at the rest of the story.

I would get focused on the things ahead, and not take into consideration the things of now. We are here for a purpose, and if I get caught up in the future too much, then I am not in my present, doing what I need to be doing in my present, putting my own spin on a future that may or may not be in my best interest…instead of trusting a Plan that is perfect.

So…I resolve to work through every page of my life…as it comes…and not worry about the ones that are too far ahead for me to see.  I will get there eventually…in God’s good time, and with His good grace.

And if not…if His plan is not for me to walk the pages here on earth…then I get to the ultimate last page…eternal life with Him in Heaven.

I have already been told how the Big Story ends.

Amen and amen!

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)


The other morning on the way to church, we saw a very common sight for February in Virginia…squashed skunk.

Apparently, these little fellows become amorous this time of year, and during their nocturnal romances, they are so blinded by love that they don’t pay a lick of attention where they are going and wander right out into the road. Poor things! You’re thinking, “Poor us to smell the after effects!”

Um…I have a confession to make. I really enjoy the smell of a dead skunk. My family is scandalized that I would confess such a thing. They think I should be committed. While they are holding their collective breaths until we pass, I am breathing deep, enjoying the odor.

Let me try to explain why I like it. That pungent smell when you stumble upon a skunk is shocking, but to me that is a good thing. I tend to like the shocking, at least when it is shocking me back to my senses…and that one is surely clearing out my sinuses.

Perhaps that is true in my walk with Christ as well.

I am stubborn. (Keith is in Heaven snorting, “Ya think?”) I want to have my own way, and often thwart God’s good gifts and perfect plans by clinging to my own. Oh, I know mine are imperfect. I will be the first to tell you that. But they are familiar, and so at times I stick to them.

I hope I am getting better at this. I really want to be on board with God 100% – 100% of the time.

But I am Balaam in need of a discerning donkey…and an angel in my path. I ignore the planks and the specks, so long as I am going where I think I need to be going.

But, praise Him, God loves me enough to send the holy 2 x 4 to smack me back into place.

The things that cause me to sit up and take notice…are things that I need to take notice of. The pungency seems to be necessary to get it through my thick skull…and maybe my thick nasal passages.

I have learned a lot of lessons in the past 5 1/2 years without Keith. Some of them have been quite painful. Maybe they needed to be that painful…that pungent…for me to get them. Maybe that would be the only way they would make an impression on me.

I don’t feel like this was God picking on me. This was God preparing me…loving me too much to leave me the way I was, following through on His plans for me and my life…and the life of my family.

This is a lesson that I need to remember as each tough situation comes up in the future, be it financial, relational, or spiritual.

How about you?

Praise our God, all peoples,
let the sound of His praise be heard;
He has preserved our lives
and kept our feet from slipping.
For You, God, tested us;
You refined us like silver.
You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.
You let people ride over our heads;
we went through fire and water,
but You brought us to a place of abundance.

Psalm 66:8-12

Watermelons and Old Sayings

I was just cutting a watermelon in my kitchen.  As I cut the first slice, I snitched a piece.  It was…okay.

Hmm…maybe the next watermelon will be sweeter.  It’s early in the season yet.

But…as I learned as a child…waste not, want not.  So, I kept cutting.

Inevitably (for me, at least…perhaps you have more willpower), I snitched another piece farther into the watermelon.

It was…incredibly sweet!

Remember another old saying…don’t judge a book by its cover?

I was introduced to a friend’s husband recently in this way:  This is Liz.  Remember, she is the one I told you about, the widow who homeschools her four sons?

Now, I’m not poking at this dear friend — love her to pieces!  And all she said is true…that is my reality, and consumes a large part of my waking hours.

But it does not define all of me…

Another old saying…peel an onion, there are a lot of layers.

Who am I down in my core, the part that only God sees?

I guess maybe I see a difference between my reality and what defines me…maybe I am only seeing that difference as I write this post.

I am a child of the King.  I struggle, I fail, I fall, I get up.  But I love God and He loves me, and that is enough.

It does not give me permission to quit, but it does give me grace when I fail.

And that grace is…incredibly sweet!

So I will continue to operate in my reality of widowhood — a reality that is not always sweet but can be just okay; a reality that people see and will define me by whether I am only that or not.

And I will pray for the opportunity to show them the inner me…the me forever touched by grace.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Intruder Alert!

This past Wednesday, I let the dogs out for their morning constitutional as usual.  Shortly thereafter I heard Dakota, our Great Pyrenees, barking the “intruder alert” bark.  I hightailed it out to yard for two reasons:  I was concerned about what had alerted her, and it was early in the morning and I did not want her disturbing the neighbors.  She was furiously barking into the window well of one of the basement windows.

I got that prickly feeling, thinking, could somebody possibly be in our basement?  As I walked a bit closer, I realized that instead of looking into the house, she was actually looking at something in the window well.  Fearing that it might be slithery, I slowly walked closer…

It was…a turtle.  How it got there, I’ll never know.

I have to say I was proud of Dakota.  When you have 100 pounds of marshmallow-looking mutt, you wonder if she will come through and do her “real” job of protecting the family.  Granted, it was only a turtle (tortoise, my kids are correcting me), but it was still an intruder, and she was letting me know it was there and that she was ready to take care of it.  She had proved her care for us in the little things.  I have no doubt she would care for us equally well in the big things.

Isn’t God like that?

More times that I can count, God has stepped in, made His presence known, in the little things in my life.  That made it so much easier to trust Him with the big things, and especially with the biggest thing I have had to date…Keith’s death.

It’s a matter of looking, though, to see that He was there.

I pray that I, and you, can always see Him at work in our lives! 

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. — Psalm 34:8

A Good Day to Remember

We are a military family.  We always have been.  We always will be.  No matter what happens.  It is something of which we are very proud.

Keith was buried at Quantico, the Crossroads of the Marine Corps, as per his will.  Each Memorial Day, you can find us there.

It is a good day for remembering.

We remember Keith:  his quirky smile, his annoyed face (the “ferp” face), his infectious laugh.

We also remember bigger things:  that freedom isn’t free, that men and women are in harm’s way even as we barbeque, that others carry burdens as big as ours.

It is a day for the waterproof mascara.

I wish you could see Quantico National Cemetery today.  Four-hundred-plus next-of-kin flags grace the drives, waving proudly, bravely, majestically.  It is a day of pageantry there as we listen to the Marine Corps Band, and Taps and a three-round volley play a tattoo in the hearts of all present.  It is worth every tear.

As we sing God Bless America, I can really see it and know it in my heart.  A little, upstart group of colonists, under-trained and under-prepared, beats the great military power of the day.  It is a story with blessings of Biblical proportions.

God has blessed America.

I pray that we will always remember that and act accordingly.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. — Galatians 5:1

Teetering Through Life

Sometimes I sin against my children.  Big, glaring sins.

I’m not proud of it.  I’m not trying to glorify it.  But it happens.

And it’s not because I’m a single mom.  At least, not directly.

A dear friend had me over to tea this past Saturday to have the “are you taking on too much?” talk.  Praise God for friends who will listen to God and call me on stuff!

I don’t think I am taking on too much.  But I’m teetering on the edge.

Remember those little birds of glass, complete with red hat and red liquid inside?  You watch and watch the swaying and eventually that swaying turns to tipping.

And my children get caught in the fallout.

When taking on a new project, I sometimes use the justification that I have no husband to care for, so I have additional ministry time.  That is a true statement.

What I sometimes fail to remember in my equation of time is that I wear both hats in my family, and when I start swaying close to the tipping point, I have no one to pass off the excess to, no one to step in and even temporarily take something off my plate. The swaying of this constant balancing act of managing my life becomes top-heavy and I tip.

My stress level manifests itself as intolerance with my children.  I am mad at me, but I take it out on them.

More fallout.

And I feel broken and like a horrible mother and a horrible witness.

This happens more than I would care to admit.

When it does, it is time for a deep breath, a cup of coffee, some praise music, and lots of prayer.  It is time to have a day of chucking the schedule and just enjoy being a family, watching funny movies and staying in our pajamas all day.  It is time for thanking God for His grace and the fact that I have truly grace-filled children who cut me slack.

I am sure I will get to the tipping point again.  Life is like that.  I only pray that when I do, I will handle it with more grace myself, and not create so much fallout for my family.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Seasons of Soccer

Single mom raising a passle of boys = a hair-raising (or should I say hair-graying) experience!

Especially in the area of sports.

But God provides, sometimes in ways I don’t expect, but I can certainly glory in.

Alex’s second soccer season, he had a coach named Scott who had a daughter a bit younger than Alex on the team.  He was a great coach–nice, good with the kids, the right amount of praising them and driving them.

We were blessed when two seasons later, Matthew had the same coach.

Right after that season, Keith died.

I called one of the moms on the team to tell her.  Keith had been sick and in the hospital during part of the season, so they were somewhat in touch with what was going on.  This mom took it upon herself to call the whole team.

Imagine my surprise when, right with the family, Scott walked into the funeral home for the viewing.  I was gratified that he chose to come and express his sympathy, but what he did next quite literally floored me.

He sat down, prepared to stay the whole length of the viewing, and talked sports with my big boys.  Just talked.

Since then, this family, mostly Scott, has become a part of our lives, showing up just when my boys need them.

The next spring, Scott showed up between his kids’ games to watch Alex play.  Matthew, wanting to get his attention, went over and started talking to him.  Then another adult came to talk to Scott.  Scott had the conversation with the adult, but kept him arm around Matthew for like twenty minutes.  Matthew gloried in the male attention.  I thanked God for His provision (and asked Him when he was going to fill that dad spot, but that is another story).

Later that same season, Matthew scored his first goal.  I was in the car with the little ones at the time, avoiding a drizzle.  Alex ran back to the car to tell me Matthew had scored, and I was bummed that I had missed it.  Once again, however, God provided.  Scott happened to be again between games and saw it and was able to whoop and holler for him.

Fast forward a few seasons until Jackson starts playing soccer.  We were blessed once again to have Scott be our coach.  More time for him to speak into my kids’ lives.

Jackson did not score his first goal that season, but when he did a season later, it was against the team Scott was coaching, and even though he was the opposing coach, Scott hugged my son and told him what a great job he did.  He also witnessed Jackson’s second goal (again, I missed it, being on the field with another son–story of my life).

(I have told Scott several times that I wish they had four kids so that there could be one Tanner’s age that he could coach as well.)

Do you notice a theme here?  God providing through a precious family, a precious man, who just loves on my kids when he gets a chance.  He takes the opportunity when it is presented to him, and God has used that mightily to comfort my boys, to strengthen them, to fill in part of that missing “dad” piece.

Here is the part that amazes me.  This is not a believing family.  (My boys here want me to say…NOT YET!)  God is using someone who is not even on board with His general plan to speak so mightily into the lives of my boys.

Provision, my friends, provision!

The LORD remembers us and will bless us – Psalm 115:12a

Following the Fire

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, SO THEY COULD TRAVEL DAY OR NIGHT.  – Exodus 13:21 (emphasis mine)

Reading today the second half of this verse struck my eye.  It seems that the Israelites traveled day and night.  Imagine!  A million people! Small children and pregnant women!  Surly teens and overworked parents!  Day and night!  Makes me weary just thinking about it!

But God was there.

He may not have saved them from the work — He could have, but He didn’t.

He had His purposes for them to have to work hard for their freedom.  I imagine it had to do with trust of God.  If things were easy for them, they would not have to trust God so fully.  They could have escaped in their own strength, and not have had to work to become the devoted, obedient believers they were in the process of becoming.

How much like the Israelites I am!  I need constant reminders of God’s love, my own pillar of fire!

And God graciously provides!  He is always, always, always there.  He is always leading me, whether I am traveling light — or with the baggage of a thousand sad days, a thousand bad choices, a thousand moments of uncertainty — or a thousand-pound bad attitude.

He doesn’t promise the journey will be easy, but He promises to be there.

Just as God led the Israelites day and night, He will lead me…if I let Him.

But the people You redeemed, You led in merciful love; You guided them under your protection to Your holy pasture.  –  Exodus 15:13 (The Message)