Our Stories: Unforgettable Peace


This is another Our Stories post. I pray you look back at your own life and see God.

I was in my early twenties when I went with a group of friends to Panama City Beach for spring break. (That’s the actual photograph from way back when!)  I’d packed a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and a bunch of Pop-Tarts I heated by placing on top of their foil wrappers and leaving them in the sun.

We spent our days lying on beach towels, soaking up the sun, and feeding potato chips to a bunch of ravenous seagulls. And when the sun slipped into the water and evening came, we walked from club to club, enjoying the neon lights and the sounds of the darkened gulf waters rushing to the shore beyond the clubs and hotels.

It was a time in my life when I knew of God, but I didn’t really know Him. (Know what I mean?)

God was Someone far away and if I’m being honest, Someone I rarely thought about. I was in college, and I was too busy drinking coffee with friends while cramming for tests all night and heading out to parties that took place on the weekends.

Yep. I was just too busy for God.

But there was a moment during spring break when I felt so drawn to go to the beach by myself. All of my friends were back at the hotel getting ready to go out, and it seemed everyone else had the same idea because the beach was deserted; no sunbathers or Frisbee throwers anywhere.

I wore a pair of cutoffs, a white t-shirt, and of course, no shoes. The sand was still warm as it squished between my toes and the wind was strong as it swept my hair away from my face. There was no one on either side of me on that long stretch of beach. Hotels, beach houses, and busy streets were at my back.

I moved closer to the water and sat down on the sand, wrapping my arms around my legs. The sun dipped into the water as if it were a paint brush someone wanted to rinse off, and the sky ignited and changed moment by moment into different shades of oranges that stretched into the dark night.

I could breathe here. There was such peace. There were no tests or deadlines, no rushing to keep up with everyone or to go out.

It was just me sitting on the beach with my toes buried in the sand and the fading sun kissing me goodnight.

I would spend the next decade or so trying to find that peace again, searching for that feeling like I belonged, like I fit; a place where I could breathe deeply again. I wanted to “just be me” again and feel good about it.

When I finally found it, I realized it wasn’t the tickle of the wind on my skin or the way the sun dissolved into the water. It wasn’t the warmth of the sand or the idea of being alone on the beach.

That peace I felt was God’s presence. He was drawing me closer to Him. He wanted me to begin knowing Him. He allowed me to escape for a moment and sit down right in the middle of the beautiful painting He’d created just for me. All so I could experience His presence and His unforgettable peace.

Peace that soothes me to this day and makes me smile because now I know God. Now I know that He was sitting with me in the sand, His arm around me as I leaned into Him.

Thank you, Lord.

Your turn for reflection:

Do you remember a time when you were drawn away from the crowd to a quiet place where you experienced peace?

Can you look back and see that God was working in your life before you really knew Him?


Our Stories: A Secret Garden

secret garden

This is the first Our Stories post. I pray you look back at your own life and see God.

When I was four or five years old, I would escape into the woods behind our house to get away from my big brother who liked to pick on me.

I remember looking around to make sure he wasn’t following me before stepping from the grass in our backyard and onto the dirt path I’d worn leading into the woods.

The sunlight was too bright in the yard, but once I stepped under the canopy of trees, the shade was soothing and cooling. The light skipped across the leaves overhead, falling all around my feet and dancing on the ground as ferns and the smell of dirt welcomed me.

There was a branch sticking out from a nearby tree that I’d pull back, move past, and gently return to its place over the path; this was the gate for my secret garden.

The sunlight was in my garden, only it was mellow, not harsh or blinding. It was golden, warming me and washing over the flowers on both sides of the path that disappeared over the hill. There was always a gentle breeze, the leaves applauding a performance only they understood. And the delicate purple flowers that grew sporadically in our backyard were lush and abundant here like someone had planted them just for me.

I’d sit on the dirt path and pick those flowers for my mom while the sunlight kissed me as I sang songs I’d made up, playing with salamanders that wiggled in the dirt.

This place was special to me. I belonged here. I didn’t need to hurry. I wasn’t afraid. It was lovely and calming and perfect.

God knew how to bless that little tomboy with scraped knees and dirt caked under her fingernails with His presence by meeting me right where I sat. I like to think He joined me, right there in the dirt, and taught me how to hear Him, how to recognize something wonderful He brings us:


My secret garden was where I first met God. I didn’t know it then, but I know it now.

Your turn for reflection:

What is the earliest memory you have of God in your life?

 Did you have a special hiding place you’d escape to as a child? If so, can you look back today and recognize you weren’t alone, that God was with you?





God Uses You While You’re Waiting


How many times have you waited in line, annoyed and in a hurry? You know what I’m talking about. Your mind is spinning with all the things you need to do and you get to the only checkout line that is open and there is a lot (a LOT) of stuff on the conveyor belt and the cashier is really in no hurry. No hurry whatsoever.

You get irritated, right? Maybe a little annoyed? I mean, you’ve got things to do. You don’t have all day to stand there waiting.

I’ve definitely been there, unfortunately, and I’m not proud of the times I probably huffed and acted like a spoiled brat. (Forgive me, Lord.)

But this past Saturday was different.

I went to a little store not far from home to buy a card. Yep. That’s it. I went to the only checkout line that was open and saw exactly what I described earlier. The couple in front of me had the conveyor belt loaded with a tower of stuff wobbling when the belt moved forward. But the sun was shining into the store, and I shooed away my to-do list that was buzzing around my mind like an irritating little pest. (Boy did that feel good!)

I was in line for a really long time, but I had such peace. Strange, huh?

Finally I paid for my cards (did I mention I found two?) and stepped out the door, the sunlight warming my skin. I drove home with the windows cracked for a little fresh air while listening to some music that soothed my soul. Everything was just fine.

As I approached my turn, a big ol’ pickup truck coming from the opposite direction made the turn ahead of me. I wondered why the driver took the turn so wide, but when I saw him I knew why: he had his face buried in his phone.

I turned and followed him onto this winding country road, dandelions swaying as we drove by. When he started driving in the middle of the road, I tightened my grip on the steering wheel and began praying, “Lord, please don’t let him hurt anyone.” And when he started to drive uphill on a blind curve, still in the middle of the road, I found myself pleading, “Please, Lord. Please.”

I realized in the very next moment who I was praying for when a man on a motorcycle came down the hill.

The truck swerved, barely missing him, and barreled up the hill. From where I sat, it was as if God slowed the motorcycle down with one hand and scooted the truck over with the other; as if both were chess pieces in His hands.

Two lives would have instantly changed in that moment had God not intervened.

But God did step in. He used a stay-at-home momma in a ball cap, delayed her at the store and gave her peace while waiting and for the drive home so she wouldn’t hurry, and nudged her to pray. And then, He answered that prayer and allowed her to see it with her own eyes. Thank you, Lord.

I realize now the moments we sometimes see as annoying or slow-going can be the very situations God wants to use us in.

I’m sure you’ve been there. You’ve talked to a woman in a checkout line because there was a really, really long line. Perhaps she was lonely and God used you to encourage her. Or maybe you had an extra-long wait in the doctor’s office and talked to a man who was terrified of getting back the results from a test. But God used you to comfort the man, to help him in his waiting.

You may not always see how God is using you. It might not always be so clear or fast as His mighty hand reaching down to stop an accident in front of you. But you can be sure that He will use you if you ask Him, if you surrender your times of waiting to Him.

Who knows? You may even get to see Him perform a miracle before your very eyes.

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (Ephesians 6:18a NLT.)

“I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27 NIV.)



It started snowing on our flowers this morning, so naturally I grabbed my camera and ran out the door. A lone daffodil that had been standing tall in the sunshine yesterday, hung its head in a layer of snow and ice today.

I can completely relate to that flower.

Last week I had an amazing day with God and felt like His hand was in mine, and His face was shining on me all day long. I woke up, slipped on a really comfy and bright T-shirt (not just my socks!) and felt like God instructed me to grab some old CDs for the drive into town to get groceries.

I listened to songs I hadn’t heard in years and found myself laughing at what I used to think was so “cool” and crying when a few love songs made me think of God. (Am I the only one who does this?)

After visiting a few grocery stores and feeling such a peace among the bags of spinach, frantic mommas and their fussy little ones, and a kind woman who explained to me how to make dandelion jam, I was about to go home when I felt God telling me to go to one more store. I shrugged (what a profound response to my Lord!) and obeyed. As soon as I walked in I realized they had shelves full of chocolate on sale. I laughed and thought, Okay, Lord. If you really want me to buy some I will. Sometimes it’s downright fun to obey God. 🙂

I wandered over to the book section with a particular book in mind for a few friends, but instead found a biblically-based book on a subject I’d been praying to understand more: angels. As I went to pay for my items (only one piece of chocolate in my hand!), I heard a song over the speaker that stopped me right in the middle of the store.

I once had a vision of Jesus waiting for me under a tree with tears in His eyes as I ran to Him. I had the vision while listening to this song, so whenever I hear it, it stops me and I lock eyes with my Jesus.

I stood in that store and smiled. The chocolate was great and the book was a blessing, but this was a treasured moment; a private conversation between my Savior and me.

I was completely overwhelmed by His love that day, by the blessings He tucked into songs and brought through friendly faces, the surprise of flowers hidden around a corner when I took a walk later, and the sunlight filtering through the bare branches in our backyard and dancing on the ground at my feet.

But a new week began and life picked up its pace. I hit the ground running with my to-do list crammed in one pocket, writing deadlines in another, friendships to be nurtured in yet another pocket, planning for an event, preparing for two speaking engagements…I found myself running out of pockets. And air. I felt like I couldn’t catch my breath.

Until today. Today I hit my knees and prayed. It wasn’t anything fancy.  No special words or powerful Scripture came from my lips. Just a simple, “Please help me, Lord. I don’t know what to do.”

Not long after my prayer, I noticed the snow and the daffodil. In a strange way, I felt like I was looking at myself.

No, I’m not a bright yellow flower, of course. But I felt God shining His light on me just recently and here I was overwhelmed and loaded down with all this “stuff” I needed to get done.

I realized I can’t control time any more than that flower can control the snow.

But I know Who controls every bit of it.

And now as I look out the window, the snow has already melted and I know the daffodil will soon lift its head to be kissed by the sunlight again. And I will soon find myself standing in the middle of my life, smiling and in awe. Not because things are perfect or have slowed down, but because I’m no longer overwhelmed by anxiety but by peace. Peace that comes when I cry out to God for help and when I admit I can’t do it all.

Peace that overwhelms me like a day spent with God and locking eyes with my Savior in the middle of a store.

“O God, listen to my cry! Hear my prayer! From the ends of the earth, I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed.” (Psalm 61:1-2a NLT.)

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT.)



When the Holy Spirit Goes to Bat for You


I remember my brother teaching me how to catch a football with my head, a sinker (he was teaching me about casting a line) with my belly, and a softball with my legs. What fun!  Those things were pretty tough to learn because I was trying to learn in the middle of doing when I didn’t have a clue from someone who already knew, someone who wasn’t too worried about my bumps and bruises because those things made me “tough.” (His thinking, not mine!)

But there was something else he taught me to do that was a lot less painful: batting. I remember standing at our imaginary home plate while he stood behind me, helping me to choke up on the bat and showing me where my feet needed to go.  He held the bat with me and showed me how to swing level, not choppy, and at a slight upward angle to get the ball to soar.

This “coming up from behind and showing” is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. Only it’s even better because He’s coming up from within and guiding us, not just our hands choked up on a bat, but every step we take in our lives and every decision we make.  That is if we let Him.

Of course, we have a choice in the matter. We can treat Him as if he’s the neighbor’s dog we haven’t seen yet but have heard of, hoping he doesn’t wander over and come up on our porch.  Perhaps we don’t want to be bothered with getting out of our chair to greet him if he shows up because we were comfortable.  We don’t need anyone making us uncomfortable, that’s for sure.

Or we can see Him for Who He really is:  the third Person of the Holy Trinity, our Counselor, Intercessor, and Comforter. He is God here and now.  Any thought of ignoring Him or not wanting Him in our lives is like an unfinished painting telling the painter, “You may stop now.  I don’t need you.”

But we do need the Holy Spirit. We need His guidance and direction every day.  And oh how the Holy Spirit wants to help you and me with all of that.

He wants to come up from within to remind you how lovely and precious you are in His sight. He wants you to have moments of peace, unwinding after a long day and looking back and spotting just where He reached in and said, “I’m here.  You don’t have to do this alone.”  He wants to comfort you when you’re hurt, when you feel like everything has fallen apart around you and you don’t know how to go on.  He wants to put His hand on your shoulder and give you a talking to when you’re going down the wrong path; not shaking his finger at you like you’re an irresponsible child but protecting you because you matter greatly to Him and the Kingdom.

That’s right. You matter to God and His Kingdom.  And God is not going to toss a ball into your life and hope you figure out how to hit it.  He’s given you the gift of His Holy Spirit to live within you, guiding and using you to swing that bat like you never thought possible.

“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?”  (1 Corinthians 3:16 NIV.)

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.” (Ephesians 3:16 NIV.)

What If?


“What if?” is a daydreamer’s go-to question.

What if, while I’m hurrying through the empty parking lot with my bags of chocolate and coffee, I find an old skeleton key with an address carved into it that leads me to a deserted house with a worn lock box on the front?  What if I tiptoe up the splintered steps, careful not to disturb the slanted railing, and slip the key into the lock?  What if I lift the creaking lid to find…

“What if” is a great way to get lost in a daydream or a story.  And it’s a great question to consider, especially at Christmas.

What if I call him to say, “I’m sorry?”

What if I send her a card with the words, “I miss you?”

What if I forgive them?

What if I admit I was wrong?

What if I show up on her doorstep and without a word, hug her?

What if I show the world that Jesus is in me?

What if I refuse to complain about the long lines at the stores?

What if I let the Holy Spirit stir me to help someone in need?

What if I obey God when He asks me to do something uncomfortable?

What if I refuse to get distracted this Christmas season and keep Jesus first in my mind?

The “What if” daydreams can sometimes, if acted upon, heal and mend the brokenness in our lives, even if our attempt is rejected.  We can have peace knowing we tried.

What if you and I prayed and asked God how we can shine like bright stars for Him this season?

Oh what stories we might share.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe…” (Philippians 2:14-15 NIV.)

I Won’t Pretend


I won’t pretend that I know how you’re feeling today. I won’t pretend that I understand what keeps you awake at night or what pulls you from your sleep in the morning.

I won’t assume that I understand your pain. I don’t know what breaks your heart or drops you to your knees in desperation.  I don’t understand what your days look like or even what you’re facing right now, what giant is looming over you while you stand in its shadow.

Are you trying to break free? Does someone or something have a tight grip on you?  Are you lonely, feeling as if no one understands you or what you go through in a single day?

Maybe I don’t know you. Maybe I don’t understand the terror, discouragement, or exhaustion you face, but God does.  He is with you.  And in a small way, I am with you too.  You see, I am your neighbor.  We share the same planet.  And I care about you.

I may not live within driving distance from where you are. Perhaps it would take more than one airplane to bring me to your door to give you a hug, but I can close my eyes and ask God to help you right now.  I can pray and ask Him to bless you right where you are, to help you with what you are going through, and to give you strength and peace during your day.

I won’t pretend to pray for you either. I really will pray.  And I’ll ask God to give you that hug for me.  Right now…

“’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV.)

A Nudge from God


God nudged me this morning when I read this Scripture and even gave me a glimpse in my mind of the photograph He wanted me to use.  And He wanted me to share it that we may all remember:  God is always in control.  No matter who is in the White House, God Almighty is on His throne.

So let us all go to Him today and praise Him.  He is truly the One who rules the world.  And if we remember Him and seek His will, He can make us strong and bring us peace.

Unite us in your name, Lord.  Amen.