Loving God While the Paint Chips Fall



In the midst of rushing to finish summer projects (or finally starting them!), I feel a surge of adrenaline after school starts and I’ve got a little bit of alone time.

My brain begins listing things that need done. It’s a convenient list stashed in the back of my brain where I (hopefully) won’t lose it:

Scrub the siding on the house.

Finish spring cleaning the kitchen. Sheesh. It’s almost fall.

Scrape and paint the trim for multiple outside doors. (Oh yeah, basement windows too.)

Weed, weed, weed. And trim the dead plants and scatter extra seeds for next year.

Organize the basement. Yep. All those Christmas decorations that never went away.

Garage sale? (Yikes!)

And the list goes on and on and on…

But while I’m rushing around like a mad woman, a still, small voice whispers in the back of my brain, pushing past my list:

I’m waiting for you.

 In all my hurrying, in all the madness that is my hamster wheel (if I let it become that), God is waiting to spend time with me. Little ol’ me.

And little ol’ you, too.

But we need to make God not only a priority but the priority. The very top priority in our hearts.

One of the really amazing things I’ve learned about God: He doesn’t mind if we pray and talk to Him while we’re scraping the trim to that kitchen door or laugh with Him while scrubbing the siding on the house and the water runs right down our armpits. And I think He smiles when we stop and notice with little-kid joy all the butterflies, thanking Him for them (and for the cool breeze, the deer in the woods, the much-needed break etc., etc.).

I have to wonder if spending time with God in our hearts and loving Him while our hands are busy scrubbing the house and watching the paint chips fall brings us closer to Him.

I believe it does.

‘“Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?’ Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence. This is the most important, the first on any list.’” (Matthew 22:36-38 MSG.)

(Photo from Pexels)


Slip Off the Flip-Flops

flip flops

My daughter and I were hurrying home from the store after finding the right sunblock and snacks for our upcoming trip to North Carolina when we passed a boy sitting by the side of the road selling lemonade.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal to you. It’s summer. The kids are out there patiently waiting as they try to sell lemonade and cookies wrapped in plastic wrap. But for me, it was a very big deal and a painful reminder.

Twenty years ago, I’d crammed a few songs and some clothes in a suitcase, tossed it in the back of my pickup, and began my journey of becoming a songwriter in Nashville. (Spoiler alert: It never happened!) I was frantic, leaving later than I had planned, and knew if I stayed on track with my timeline I could miss rush hour for a few major cities.

I was focused on the time, remembering the route I was going to take, and hoping I had everything I needed. And that’s when I noticed her: A little girl wearing a floral dress selling lemonade on a quiet street, her eyes wide and hopeful.

But I was in a big hurry. So I didn’t stop. I. Kept. Driving.

Fast forward twenty years to the boy selling lemonade as I’m rushing home with my daughter. I slowed down when I saw him, realized there was a place to pull over, and hesitated to stop. Why? Because we were leaving for North Carolina soon and I had a thousand things to do. So what did I do?  I. Kept. Driving.

When I shook my head and scolded myself for not stopping, my daughter spoke up from the passenger seat. “You can always turn around.”

The longer I kept driving, the harder it was going to be to find a good place to turn around. “No,” I said. “We’ve got to get home.”

But then I remembered the little girl I saw all those years ago. Those eyes, wide and hopeful.

I took the next light, turned, missed the street the boy was on, circled back around, and finally parked the car right in front of him to buy one big glass of lemonade for my daughter. The boy explained what he was raising money for, and a smile stretched across his face when I gave him a little extra. But when I got back into the car, I think my smile was bigger. It felt so good to tell my nagging, hurry-up attitude to take a seat in the back and be quiet.

Days later, my hurry-up attitude was banished from tagging along to North Carolina, but my busy-busy mindset jumped in the front seat with me. There was so much to do, so much fun lingering in the air, and so many memories to make. There were melt-your-heart grandbaby kisses, warm hugs from family we don’t see often enough, cooking hot dogs and hamburgers and potatoes larger than a small dog, and watching my daughter and husband tackle the ocean together.

But where was God in my every day?

Well, I was busy. We had plans and lots to do, and I was enjoying myself. So God sat, like the little girl with those anticipating and hopeful eyes, and waited for me to stop. He waited for me to spend time with Him, if only for a moment, and open His Word. But: I. Kept. Driving.

Of course I thanked Him for time with family, for the massive expanse of the ocean, and the excitement and thrill of touching a stingray; the feel resembling a squishy, wet mushroom. And I thanked Him for keeping us all safe.

I guess you could say I smiled at Him as I drove by. But again, I kept driving.

You and I can keep driving and ignore those hopeful eyes, those invitations to spend time with God. Or we can recognize when we mess up and turn around and do whatever it takes to slow down and spend time with Him. Real time. Not just a “thanks” we toss out the window at Him like a quarter.

We have the opportunity to have a real moment with God, to slip off our flip-flops and sink our toes in the sand and allow the waves to wash over our feet again and again, feeling ourselves shrink, sensing our smallness in the presence of something so grand, so wonderful and so mighty as we stand in awe, as we take it all in, as we realize the magnitude and are moved to tears at the beauty found not in the ocean, but in the presence of the One who created it: Our Holy God.

And He’s just waiting to spend time with us.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 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.)



You Matter Too

you matter too

When I was much (MUCH) younger I used a yellow hair brush as a microphone and sang to my reflection in the mirror hanging on my bedroom wall. I won’t tell you my favorite group at the time only to spare more giggles, but I will admit it was a popular 80’s band.  I would sing those songs to myself and have a great time, glancing every so often at my door to make sure my brother wasn’t trying to take a peek to gather ammunition for a later date.

Ahem. Moving right along past that embarrassing image to a lesson God has been teaching me recently: sometimes we need to look into the mirror.  I’m not talking about serenading ourselves or admiring how cool we look when we lip sync our favorite tunes with all the facial expressions we can muster to give a great performance. And I’m not referring to spending hours working on fussy hair or applying layers of makeup.

Sometimes we need to look in the mirror simply to remind ourselves that we matter too.

This isn’t putting ourselves in the #1 slot of our priority list (not hardly), it’s simply making sure we make it on the list. It’s acknowledging we have physical bodies that need attention. (Note to self: Stop eating all those chocolate eggs and have a decent lunch…no, that cold piece of pizza doesn’t count.) We have emotions that are like fragile bottles full of different colors of sand; delicate and in balance until too much shaking (not enough sleep, not eating right) can mix them all up, even bring them crashing and spilling on the floor. When that happens, we also come crashing down in a heap on the floor in tears, wondering why we feel all out of sorts. And we each have a spirit that needs rejuvenated by sitting at the feet of Christ like Mary (Martha’s sister) did, ignoring a pressing to-do list. Time with our Lord is like fresh air when the world is trying to suffocate us.

I’m sure you’ve heard about the oxygen masks on airplanes, that you’re instructed to slip on your own mask before assisting others.

If you’re running around all stressed out and doing your best to help everyone you know strap on their “oxygen masks” without making sure yours is on, well, how long can you operate on that stale air, those leftover fumes burning in your lungs before you collapse?

So take a moment and look into that mirror. Take a deep breath and a good, hard look at yourself. Perhaps you’ll notice the dark flesh under your eyes and those smile lines just sitting there on your face, unused. Maybe you’ve got a few hives on your cheeks from eating too much dairy-infused chocolate (or maybe that’s just me!). Or perhaps you’ll notice a deep well of sadness in your eyes, one you’ve been pretty good at hiding from nearly everyone around you.

But you’re not hiding any of it from God. You can’t hide it from Him. And He doesn’t like seeing you run-down, worn-out, and exhausted.  He sees how you’re treating yourself, and He never intended for you to be at the bottom of some list.  He knows you have people counting on you, those you care for.  He wants to help you take care of them.

You may feel alone like the weight is all yours to carry and no one understands what you must do on a daily basis just to get by. Perhaps there are some days you feel like you’re sinking in mud up to your eyeballs, totally stuck, helpless. And you can barely breathe.

My friend, God knows, and He will help you in ways you can’t even imagine. Call out to Him and ask. He knows you don’t like to ask for help.  He knows why, too.  But if you will just trust Him, let Him lift some of that weight off of your shoulders, let Him check off some of those tasks on your list, you’ll be able to breathe a lot easier.  (Note to self and YOU: Don’t turn away God’s help because it isn’t what you expected.)

No, things won’t be perfect on this side of eternity. But you will be able to smile again and be a little more tender with those God placed in your life to love. Who knows, you may even be able to breathe so much easier that you’ll have enough oxygen left over to dance in the living room when no one is looking.  No lip syncing, hairbrush, or mirror required. Just your loving Father who knows how badly you need to understand that you, His precious and one-of-a-kind child, matter too.

Especially to Him.

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7 ESV.)

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 1:2 NIV.)

“Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39 NLT.) [Emphasis my own.]

“The apostles then rendezvoused with Jesus and reported on all that they had done and taught. Jesus said, ‘Come off by yourselves; let’s take a break and get a little rest.’ For there was constant coming and going. They didn’t even have time to eat.” (Mark 6:30-45 MSG.)

“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NLT.)






While You’re Waiting


I used to go fishing with my brother and our Grandpa when I was a little girl with scabby knees and a wad of bubbled gum stuffed in my cheek. Grandpa wore his floppy fishing hat, shorts, and socks reaching just under his knees.  I learned patience by watching him fish.

He would sit for hours, pursing his lips as if to whistle a song but not really making a sound, afraid to scare off the fish. He’d shake his head at us when we got impatient, running through the grass around the pond and casting lines; practically chasing the fish we saw swimming in the shallow water. He just sat on the dock with a smile and waited.

I try to smile when I’m waiting, but it’s especially hard when negative thoughts bombard me from every angle.

You’re a failure.

It’s not going to happen.

You will never make a difference.

Just give up.

You’re pathetic.

You’ll never get ahead.

It’s always going to be this bad.

You can’t even do that right.

While I was praying this morning and playing some worship music with my eyes closed, I imagined my Grandpa sitting on the dock fishing. He was patient, watching the bobber riding on those tiny ripples and waiting for the fish to bite while thousands of mosquitoes swarmed around him.  But he didn’t pay any attention to them because they couldn’t touch him.  It was like he had a bubble of protection around him.

That bubble, I realized this morning, is praise.

Satan is going to come at us like a thousand annoying mosquitoes while we wait. He’s going to incessantly buzz in our ears and hide lies in that noise.  He’s going to distract us and torment us and do his very best to get us to not only call it quits on this particular day but toss our pole in the water and walk away for good.

My dear friends, don’t give up. Waiting is definitely hard work.  God knows, and He understands.

Besides the work of waiting, you may not even get what you’ve been waiting for. There were plenty of times we went fishing and never caught a single fish, but Grandpa still smiled on the walk back home.  He had learned to enjoy the wait and the time he spent with his grandkids.

While you and I are waiting, we can learn to enjoy the wait and the time with God. Maybe He’s giving us this “down time” to get ready to reel in that whopper of a fish.  Or maybe He just wants us to learn to praise Him when things aren’t going the way we think they should.

Regardless, you can thank Him while you’re waiting and staring at the bobber when the fish don’t bite but instead when you catch a glimpse of Heaven mirrored in the water like a thousand diamonds, realizing the reflection is not only coming from the sun but from within you.

You see, God never leaves you to wait alone. The Holy Spirit is waiting with you. And He will teach you a new song to sing while you’re waiting, one that won’t scare off what you’re waiting for but will protect you from those irritating mosquitoes.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.” (Psalm 40:1,3a NIV.)

The Empty Chair


I felt led to revisit this blog post.  Perhaps you are needing this today.  If so, I’m praying for you…

A writing teacher once taught that to create a fictional character you have to peel away the layers to get to the heart of the person. Like an onion.  Isn’t that how we are as real human beings?

We have a layer we show to the world. You know, the face you show in a busy grocery store or at a crowded department store.  The one that says, “I may nod at you or smile, but don’t talk to me.  I’m in a hurry.”  We have another layer we show to acquaintances, those we see from time to time and maybe ask, “How are you?” as we rush in the opposite direction hoping they don’t really want to talk.  Another layer we reserve for family and friends.  We let them in but only so far as to share what we’re comfortable sharing, but we hold back the rest because it’s guarded.  It’s too personal, too fragile to let anyone see.   It’s like this tiny room we have inside of us that we keep hidden because rejection of any kind here would be nothing short of annihilation.  So we quietly lock the door and pretend we don’t hear if someone knocks.

But God gave you that tiny room.  He is very aware of its location and everything inside.  Maybe that scares you because you’ve stashed some big-time mistakes under the floorboard or crumbled up a few regrets and tossed them in the corner, and you’re afraid He’s just going to drop by sometime.  Or perhaps you think it’s such a mess in there, you think you’ve really screwed everything up, and God wouldn’t dare step inside because it’s so NOT perfect.

You couldn’t be more wrong. First, He will never come in uninvited.  Never.  He is so polite He always waits for an invitation.  And second, He designed that room.  And maybe you haven’t realized it yet, but it came furnished with two chairs.  One for you.  One for Him.

So when you’re exhausted and you come here to escape the world and all that’s wearing you down, not only do you get to rest, but you can hang out with God here. That’s what He wants; to take a seat on that empty chair and spend time with you.  Don’t worry about the mess.  Just unlock the door and let Him into that room, into that heart of yours.  Listen.  He’s knocking…and waiting for you to answer.

“Look at me. I stand at the door.  I knock.  If you hear me call and open the door, I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you.”  (Revelation 3:20 The Message.)



Leftover Macaroni and Cheese


Do you invite friends or family over for dinner only to offer them the leftover macaroni and cheese you had the day before? Is popping a bowl of dried-up macaroni in the microwave for a few minutes good enough?

Please don’t misunderstand me. There’s nothing wrong with leftovers.  I personally love the challenge of trying to make something new out of all that leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  But is that really the best I can do?  Do I really want to just throw something together and hope for the best when I want to offer my best?

Do we do that to God? Are we just throwing something together, some half-hearted prayer to impress Him by our effort only to hand Him our wish list, our “want” list?  Or maybe we try to sneak in with a “thanks” first, hoping that’s good enough.

Do you offer God the leftovers of your time, waiting until the end of the day to pick up your Bible or to think of Him? Or maybe you know He’s asked you to do something; He’s called you to a specific task.  But you rush off and do all the things you want to do, or the countless things others expect you to do.  So when it comes to God and His task, you’re fresh out of time and energy. Maybe tomorrow, you think.

Maybe tomorrow? What if God said that to you?  What if those desperate pleas, those late-night tears were pushed aside, ignored, because God is simply going to do everything else first?  Let me tell you, His to-do list is probably a lot longer than yours.  And what if He puts you last?  Oh, He would have enough energy and time of course.  He’s God.  But if you’re last, how long would you have to wait?

Are leftovers really good enough for your relationship with God? It all depends:  Do you want your relationship with Him to be dried-up and lukewarm like your macaroni and cheese?  He doesn’t want that.  But the decision is yours.

“So, because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16 NIV.)