Valentine’s Day is a little annoying, I admit.

Granted, I love an excuse to buy chocolate of any kind, even in the shape of a rose.

Perhaps Valentine’s Day frustrates people because it attempts to make love a tangible, plastic, shallow thing that can be picked up off the shelf and tossed into a gift bag. Chocolate covered or not, people give a sideways glance to the “love” that is advertised this time of year.

Commercialism capitalizing on love is not beautiful. But, love itself is breathtaking – and it deserves a day to honor it and celebrate it. In fact, it deserves more than a day. It deserves everyday.

Love, by definition, is patient and kind. It is not self-seeking. Imagine that.

It is the mother who cries herself to sleep, praying earnestly for wisdom and help. It is the spouse who cares for the love of his life as she struggles with illness. It is the forgiving heart that never gives up, speaking the truth in love, and holding onto hope with everything. Love never gives up. It has no end.

Love rejoices. It celebrates. It belly-laughs into the wee hours of the night, thankful for every minute of time it has with you.

Love is not packaged in boxes and ribbons. It is passionately poured out from hearts that cannot contain it.

It is not rude or abusive. That is not love.

It is not resentful. Rather, it soothes a bitter heart with gentleness. And protects the innocent with strength and wisd


If I were to place love on a shelf to sell, there would not be a shelf in all the world that could contain it.

There would not be enough money in all the world to purchase it.

Love, although too high a price for us to attain, is lavished upon us freely. Like the sun that faithfully strengthens us and the rain that constantly nourishes us, we are surrounded by His love -unknowingly surrounded. God is love.

He loves intensely and purposefully. Every. Single. Day.

His love cannot fit on a shelf. Nor can it fit in a heart. That is why it pours out like rushing waters from one person to another. We can not contain it. It is too great.

The love God has for you is so much sweeter than what is wrapped on the shelves this Valentine’s Day. With all my heart, I hope that your heart will be overwhelmed by the love God has for you.

Celebrate Love every day. Even on Valentine’s Day.

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Green Squares

They were just little, green squares of paper, but they felt like sacred treasure. The words were misspelled, some letters looked more like abstract art, but they moved my heart to tears.

We were cleaning up Christmas decorations and preparing for the next series. Trees were stored, wrapping paper trashed, and the little manger for the stage was tucked away for next year. But, when I picked up a large stack of little, green squares, I just couldn’t bring myself to drop them into the trash can.

The last lesson on the Sunday before Christmas break was about the wise men. They brought Jesus such strange gifts, the kids thought. We smelled the frankincense and myrrh. We passed around little nuggets of gold. We talked about why those gifts were so meaningful and why the wise men brought the very best things they had to Jesus.

And then, we talked about our best. What could we possibly give Jesus that would be good enough? How could we show Him how thankful we are that He sent His Son to us? How could we possibly offer anything that could show Him how thankful we are for His love?

As the worship band began to play, kids gathered around the altar and picked up little green pieces of paper. They knelt and wrote their prayer to Jesus. They stayed at the altar longer than I expected. It was quieter than I expected.

Finally, the wooden manger on the stage was filled with green pieces of paper. They were beautiful, sweet, gifts presented to Jesus by His precious kids.

With everything put away for Christmas, the only thing left to throw away are those little, green pieces of paper. As I walked to the trash can, I couldn’t help feeling like I was holding something very precious to the Lord. And to me.

I imagined how God must treasure our prayers. I wondered if these little prayers were a fragrance in heaven like Revelation describes the prayers of the saints.

Thankfulness and love is a beautiful gift. What I was holding in my hands, God treasures in His heart. I am in awe of that. And so, very, very thankful.

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Dear Beautiful Brides,

blog-imageDear Beautiful Brides,
I know you are busy and overwhelmed as you  prepare for the rest of your life. I’m a big fan of marriage.  I’ve enjoyed this journey of marriage immensely.  If you have time between dress fittings and honeymoon planning, I’d like to share a few secrets that might help you along the road to happily ever after…

1. Trust God entirely.

You are bubbling over with dreams coming true. This is the beginning of so many great things to come. You are building a family, a legacy, a foundation for generations. You can not see the road ahead and neither can I. But God can. Put your absolute trust in Him. Obey His word when it doesn’t make sense. Follow Him even when it makes you uncomfortable. We can be deceived and disillusioned, but God can’t. Trust Him entirely by doing what He says to do. You won’t regret it.

2. Marriage is like a fairytale

Marriage can seem like a fairytale. You found the one your soul loves. And he loves you back. That’s amazing. It’s euphoria. It’s a time to dream. It’s mysterious, new, and exciting. It should be. It’s a fabulous stage of love!

3. Marriage is not a fairytale

But as real as all those things are, there will be a day when you wake up and realize that popular fairytale stories end right at the altar. Storytellers sum up entire marriages with the phrase “and they lived happily ever after”! And guess what? Those six little words represent a lot of tears, fears, forgiveness, hope, love, crazy, horrifying, sometimes gut-wrenching surprises over years and years of marriage.

It really is “happily ever after,” but it is not “happily every second”.

We know that. But you need to really, really know that.

And don’t forget rule number one on the days when rule number 3 is blazing through your mind. When you look at your spouse with disgust and wonder if you will ever love him again, remember number one. And push through. Pray through. Love through. And on the other side of the battle, you will have more treasure than you can stand. You will love one another more deeply than you thought possible. You will be more “one” than even the fairytales can describe. Don’t quit. Don’t give up. Love God & trust God. And hang on for the happily ever after!

4. Your husband can not make you happy.

He can not make you complete. He can not fill an emptiness within you. Only God can. Your happiness can not be based upon the actions of anyone, including your spouse. Happiness comes from within. And we are empty, dry wells without Jesus. He is the only thing that never changes. He is always with you and never leaves you. He is the only one that can give you purpose and heal your brokenness. Your husband is not God. Don’t ask him to do things only God can.

When we realize that, we are free to love our husbands better, love ourselves better, and love everyone else better.

5. Kids are going change everything for the better – and for the worse.

There is truly no greater gift than children. Love bursts from our hearts before we even hear a single cry spill from their lungs. It’s ridiculous how awesome being a parent is!

Parenthood affects marriages. Your heart will overflow with wonder over and over as you see you spouse love your child, giggle with your child, and snuggle with your child.

But your heart will also feel some less warm and fussy emotions when you add another human to your home. You will feel jealous, sad, angry, lonely…. for reasons that make sense and reasons that don’t make sense.

Let us again remember rule number one. When it doesn’t make sense, honor your spouse.

When you don’t have time, take time for your spouse. Be purposeful. Guard it. Neglect whatever you have to so that you won’t neglect your spouse.

You will be exhausted. Be exhausted together.
You will be frustrated. Be frustrated together.
You will be tempted to focus ALL your attention on your child. Do not neglect your spouse.

Be together. Stay together. Make giant efforts to love one another.

Do more for your spouse during your marriage than you did dating them.

If your wrote letters, don’t stop. If you never wrote a letter, write one. Recreate dates, recall memories, and have inside jokes.

Your kids will thank you for it. And so will your kids’ spouses.

6. Marriage is not a guessing game. Communicate. And listen.

Dating is weird. It’s awkward. It’s often a guessing game. What do they think? How did they interpret what I just said? Will they be offended if I do that?

Marriage is not a guessing game. It’s about honest, sincere communication.

Be willing to talk and listen until both of you understand each other – Or, at least until both of you have honestly communicated thoughts and feelings. Don’t stop talking right before the truth comes out.

Women, let’s face it, we don’t really know what’s bothering us until we talk about it. And although our very patient husbands do not immensely enjoy the journey we have to travel to get to what’s really bothering us, we have to get to it. We have to be truthful. Don’t wish your husband would understand if you aren’t willing to tell him the truth.

And be willing to listen. We can be wrong. We can make mistakes. And often, both of us are wrong.

Communicate honestly.
Forgive quickly.
Get back to focusing on the good in each other

7. Keep dreaming together

Dreams change. You will change. Your spouse will change. But God doesn’t change.

He has dreamed up an amazing life for you and your spouse. Follow him. Trust Him. Obey Him. And He will lead you into abundant life.

What we have dreamed for ourselves and our families can not even compare to what He has planned for us.

So, dream together. Be amazed at how indescribably good God is. Be thankful for your spouse.

And live happily ever after.


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Spring Clean Your Schedule!

spring cleaning copy



I can feel the itch. The urge to purge my house is becoming irresistible. Every closet needs it, every cabinet, and every room – and for fear that I might tear up, let’s just not even mention the garage!


It’s amazing how quickly I can accumulate things that, in just a few months, I will throw out. What I thought I needed to purchase, I didn’t. What I thought I needed to keep, I shouldn’t have kept. But, the question that echoes in my mind this time every year and keeps me buried beneath mounds of stuff is: “What if I need it later?” And so, clothing that hasn’t hung on a body in years remains stored away in closets along with the other “just in case” items that crowd my home.


There is wisdom in being prepared. So, with that anthem as my song, I continue to wade through unnecessary, burdensome piles of stuff – but, very important, (maybe) one-day useful, stuff.


That logic spills over into my life in many areas. I’m up to my ears in tasks that need to be completed. I’m running from one appointment to the next, guilty that I’ve missed important moments with my kids and saddened that I haven’t had time to experience life with my husband. But, there’s this list to get done. You know the ever-important list filled with unending tasks that make an obstacle course out of life.




Is this what life is about? A list of tasks? Is life about a never-ending, chasing my tail kind of existence? Is it about the next appointment, the next activity, the next job?


Perhaps we are running in circles that were never meant to be run by us. We are not rats, after all. Why should we sign up for the rat race?


We were created for a purpose. That purpose involves the Creator. He longs for us to know and love Him. That longing in mirrored in our hearts. Only He can fill that longing.


If our schedules have crowded out our primary purpose of living, no wonder we collapse on our beds at night with hearts that still cry out, “It wasn’t done! I wasn’t successful! I need more!”


We do need more. But, not more tasks on our to-do list, not more clients or fame, not more money or wealth. We need more time with our Creator. We need that close, real relationship with Him if we are going to calm that cry of our hearts. Like the lungs need air, we need Him.


Fleeting thoughts of Him or lofty, creative statements about Him will not satisfy us. We need time alone with Him. We need moments of sincere, soul-searching prayer. We need to feed hungrily on His Word so that we can hear Him speak to us.


But, how can we do that with this never-ending, demanding list of tasks that swallow up the day before it begins? I have no seconds to give, much less minutes and hours in prayer. What am I to do?


It’s time to Spring Clean Our Schedules!


It’s true. If something is stealing our relationship with Christ, it is becoming an idol. It is becoming more important than God. We are trying to fill a spiritual need with physical success and activities.


Let’s evaluate what we can give up. I know, we don’t see anything we can give up.


Our kids are amazing at sports. But, if they become the best athletes in the world at the cost of a relationship with Christ, have they really become successful in life? (“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Matthew 16:26)


We have bills and needs that overwhelm us. We cannot give up any time at work or our needs will not be met. But, if our physical needs are met and not our spiritual needs, have we really lived? God promises to provide for us both spiritually and physically if we will seek Him first. (Matthew 6:33)


I am not suggesting that we quit everything. We may not need to quit anything. I’m suggesting that we evaluate what we can give up in order to gain so much more.


We all know that spending time with the Lord brings peace, joy, and confidence. Time with Him makes us better at all the tasks on our long to-do list. When we spend time with Him, He will give us wisdom and help us choose the right things to put on the list  – and help us see what we should take off.  I, personally, have a tendency to put too much on my list, so He often leads me to take things off.


God has a MUCH better plan than we could dream up for ourselves. But, we need to ask Him about it. We need to ask Him what He wants us to give up. And then – the true test – will we do it?


Struggle with this idea. Wrestle with it. And then ask God to help you clean your schedule so that you will have time with Him.


When you do, the world won’t see you as another rat in the rat race of life. They will notice that you have spent time with God. And that is worth giving up the little things.


Acts 4:13

….they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

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Is your heart “following” or “wandering”? Take the test!

which direction 1.  Am I asking God to lead or am I following after my own heart and desires?

“There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

That is a sobering Proverb.  If our hearts were completely and perfectly good, it would be great advice to “follow your heart”.  An honest assessment of our hearts, however, will provide evidence that  “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”.  But, there is One who is completely and perfectly good. He desires for us to live abundantly (John 10:10).    In fact, he doesn’t plan to harm us, he plans to prosper us, to give us hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)

When we follow our own desires, we end up hurt.  Following God’s plan will bring healing and peace.

So, why do we struggle to trust God and ask for His direction?  Why do we make decisions without asking for His guidance?

Do we really believe that God’s way is better than our way?

Leaning on our own wisdom and knowledge is not only limiting our potential, it is leading us to destruction (remember Proverbs 14:12)  The only way to follow Jesus is to be willing to let HIM lead.  Be willing to choose what He wants over what you want.

A heart that is willing to put his/her own desires aside and obey God will find the “promised land.”

A heart without faith to trust that God’s direction  is a heart that will die in the wilderness.

Lord, may my heart fully trust in You and obey you with every step.  Let me obey you because I love you. “…remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourselves, as you are prone to do”  Numbers 15:39

2.  Would I rather return to slavery (sin) than  face and fight the “giants” that are keeping me from God’s blessings (God’s best for me)?

It is shocking that the Israelites, who experienced amazing demonstrations of God’s power, wanted to go back into slavery.  These people had seen water stand up in glorious demonstration, forming walls around them.  But, when their enemy followed them, the water walls collapsed on the enemy.  After experiencing that, how could they have ANY doubt that God would not fight their next battle as He led them toward the promised land?

Of course, we all know.  It is easy to forget who our God truly is.  When we investigate God’s promises, as the spies investigated the promised land, it is easy to focus on the physical struggle that is required of us rather than the spiritual promises and God’s faithfulness.  When we consider the “giants” in our lives, it is easy to be fearful, discouraged, and overwhelmed.  In our own strength and wisdom, we should feel those things.  But, when we focus on God, obstacles do not make us tremble.  We don’t “fear anything that is frightening.” (1 peter 3:6)  When we determine in our hearts to follow God, we know that He will destroy the obstacles that go before us.  He fights for us. (Exodus 14:14)

But, we are not to sit in the wilderness and pray that God will destroy the giants.  We are to fight WITH God.  We follow Him into battle.  He brings the victory, but we have to engage in the battle, also.  We have to move away from fear and choose to trust and obey God.  Then, we will have victory through Christ and enter into the promises of God.

3.  Am I focused on the future or is my mind dwelling in the past?

What if your vehicle had a windshield as small as a rear view mirror and the rear view mirror was a large as our windshield?  Disaster.  We would never be able to move forward.

Allowing our minds to take up residence in the past will keep us from experiencing the good, new adventure that God has planned for us.

Paul said, “one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

In order to press forward, we can’t live in the past.  We have to forget it.  “Throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” and get moving (Hebrews 12:1)!  Start obeying God.  If your past is keeping you from moving or if failures and regrets are keeping you from experiencing God’s great plan for your life, you need to throw it off.  You need to forget the past.  God makes us new.  He gives us a new day to remind us that He loves a fresh start.

When the children of Israel were at the door of the promised land, they longed to go back to slavery.    Their ambition, their drive, and their ability to press ahead to the promised land was suffocating because they couldn’t let go of the past.

4.  Do I choose faith and trust God even when the odds are against me and everyone says I will fail?

When everyone was shouting that it was impossible to take possession of the promised land, Caleb silenced the crowd and declared that it was possible!  He urged them to trust God and receive what He promised for them!  The people chose fear over faith.

The people who did not trust God never received God’s blessing.  Caleb did.  And Joshua.  They got to experience what the others refused to receive.

Let our hearts not grow weary.  Let us not be fearful.  Let us remember who our God is and rejoice in the face of a challenge because we KNOW that God is with us! Lord, make us like Caleb and Joshua that believed You and trusted You.  They were eager to follow you.  Let our hearts follow you  and not continue to wander around chasing our own whims and desires.  Lead us into the promised land and bring victory to our hearts!

5.  Do I have an attitude of expectancy or do I constantly complain and grumble?  The generation of Israelites that chose to wander in the wilderness rather than dwell in the promised land had a complaining problem.  Their attitude was so negative, that it was like a sickness.  They grumbled and complained constantly.  It would wear us out.  It angered God.

The two men that broke this pattern, Caleb and Joshua, refused to mimic the grumbling crowd.  When their friends saw through a negative lens, they saw through a faith lens.  When their families complained about the present situation, they planned to change the situation through the strength of God.

Whatever is in our hearts will come out of our mouths.(Luke 6:45)  The hearts of those people were unhappy.  Circumstances couldn’t change their hearts.  The promised land was right in front of them, but they couldn’t get excited.  They couldn’t thank God for the opportunity to live abundantly.  They wallowed in their the misery.

When we hear complaints come out of our mouths, let us repent and ask God to help us.  Let us live with an expectancy and an excitement that God has something good in store for us.  Let us fight whatever obstacle is in front of us with great joy, knowing that God is with us and He will bring the victory!

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