Those three little words…

Of all of the words I’ve ever heard, three are most thread throughout the days that my mind can pull from memory’s files. My mother has said them more times than I could possibly begin to count since the Lord saved us from our darker days. She has giggled, tickled, and cried them, whispered and sighed them. They have pierced through slamming doors and crossed over oceans.

The words, “I love you,” are now cherished, exceedingly great and precious. As a kid adjusting to this new Christianity, however, our wounds ran deep and I hadn’t come to know the faith, hope and love she had yet. She meant them in a whole new way, but they still seemed more obnoxious than endearing to me. Even still, she would begin, end, and interrupt dozens of sentences with them daily.

Once, when they were met with my typical sass, she replied, “A day will come when you’re going to need those words, and I won’t be there to say them. I’m not just saying the words, I’m chiseling them into your heart. I want them to be that song that you can’t get out of your head, so that when you need them most you’ll have them, always.”

This little speech didn’t mean much to me at the time. Years passed before that day came. Choice after choice had lead me to an empty apartment one cold December evening, steeped in the sin of a heart of stone. An acknowledgement of the vanity of my days consumed me. Meaning in any genuine and worthy form had been lost. Just as it all became too much to bear, uncontrollable sobs propelled my broken pleas into the darkness toward a God I thought I knew once. With every last ounce of air in my lungs, muscle in my body, and will in my being, I screamed for Him to hear me, to answer the cries of my aching heart somehow. It was in that place at that very moment that my sin met God’s grace. Nothing else was present. I needed them.

Having plummeted to the darkest depths of loneliness, wanting to place the blame on past moments exposed to the darkness of others but fully aware of every vile thread of sin that bound my own heart, I wept. Raw, exposed, terrified. Three little words met me in that place.

Etched into the fiber of my heart, a tireless work of many days and nights, my mother’s “I love you” captured my heart’s attention. In that moment, the God of mercy and grace held me close and made it known that they were still true. His love was in her and “neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A living God. A personal God. A God who saw, who knew, yet loved me just the same drew my heart to know and ears to hear them new.

I. Am. Loved.

I have too many words and not enough to convey to you just how deeply my heart was changed, but suffice it to say God used those words in saving a life that night.

Others must be told. May we say those words often. May we giggle, tickle and cry them, whisper and sigh them. Even if it takes a life time, even if we must cross over oceans and through slamming doors, others who wouldn’t be told they are loved with the love of God apart from outsiders stepping in to their brokenness must be told.


“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13

I have a new home!

Remember that one time I wrote a blog post about answers to prayers that don’t make any sense? About our heart cries beginning with a genuine, fundamental regard for His name as Holy? Well, those words hold true in the midst of this “set-up season.”

He isn’t saying “yes” to just about anything I’ve asked for. He isn’t answering the questions I’m asking, but the questions I should be asking. Because He knows. Because He is Holy.

Ya see, I’m on this journey to love others in a new way. An intimidating way, a way that shines stadium lights on my every vice and weakness. Certain that with the best resources, a sturdy support network and a heart daily strengthened by the hand of God Himself, I could walk a mile with those He’s called me to walk with, I’ve asked for what it appears I’d need to do just that. “How cute,” my heavenly Father must be saying as He chuckles from the throne room. “No. You cannot have those things. Because you’re not walking one mile with them. We’re walking two and this isn’t about you. Pray bigger.”

Well, we’re putting a security deposit down on a new home this week, and it isn’t anything like what I’d expected. I say “we’re” because He provided above and beyond in a most beautiful way. A promise for a key, but it’s not just a key to add to the twenty-seven others I’ve had throughout the years. It’s hope. The intimidating kind of unexpected answer to a prayer that put me back in my place and fortified my heart with a hope set on the big things God is doing here; not because I knew what to ask for, I didn’t. But, because He sees something coming that I can’t. Because that me, up there down the road a bit, will need this. Because those people that we’re going to love and love well will need this.

“Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I’ve said it before and I’ll never stop saying that there’s a good reason Jesus starts there. Pray bigger, friends. Because the Grand Designer and Master Composer of all that we are and have is the only One who knows what’s coming. Because He answers and His answers are perfect. Because our God is a Holy God.

This is my story; this is my song.

Last night, in the midst of an evening of worship lead by incredibly talented musicians, the band unplugged, the lights came down, and Erik asked if anyone had a story of “Ebenezer Stones.”

When it comes to my family, man we’ve got stories. We’ve been abused and abusive to others and have embraced just about every unhealthy coping mechanism there is. We’ve seen and been all that statistics claim would have ended us or rendered us lost causes. We’re surely not the lot you’d have pegged as most likely to follow Jesus.

For a few years I was the only sibling of eleven who had come to truly know His name, desperately crying out to it that they may all come to embrace His saving grace. Now we are four.

There I stood last night, stammering out a poorly constructed snippet of a glorious redemption story next to my sister-turned-sister-in-Christ who had asked if I’d like to join her for an evening of worship for my birthday, the day we celebrate the life a doctor once said I’d probably never have.

So, yeah. These are my stones.

Becca, Kristina, TJ, Ashley, Michael…

A list of names through which the Creator of the Universe is drawing lines, declaring, “This far and no further.”

A growing list of fiercely independent, hyper-cynical gypsies with hearts transformed by the renewing of our minds and our names in the Book of Life.

When facing intimidating needs and desires, a list of reasons to quit is always quick to fight my faith, but I have this list of names to remember what the Lord has done.

Because He who has done can surely do,

Because He who has promised is faithful,

And because our God completes what He started,

WE HAVE THIS HOPE.

“16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” Hebrews 6:16-20

“Pray then like this”

May we be relentless truth seekers holding fast to the confession of our faith, the eternal, unfailing goodness of our God. May we not shy away from asking the difficult questions.

Why sorrow? Why loneliness? Why tragedy? Why silence? When will it end? What’s the point?

15 If I had said, “I will speak thus,” I would have betrayed the generation of your children. 16 But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, 17 until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end.
Psalm 73:15-17

Sometimes God seems silent, apathetic or distant from our deepest heart cries for understanding, justice or mercy. In those moments, doubts and lies are swift to speak into our apprehensions. Is God listening? Are His answers good? Is the cosmic power mocking our pain, our frustrations, our fears?

The mighty God of Heaven and earth hears every prayer, counts every tear, and answers every heart cry of His dear ones with the only perfect answer. Always.

When God seems silent, apathetic, powerless, or anything less than our greatest advocate, when the answers simply don’t make any sense, it’s usually so because our finite minds are limited in understanding to a particular place and time. We cannot understand the course of all of history or all that is yet to come. In the greatest tragedies, the ones that shake us to our core, He is not apathetic or distant. He doesn’t mock our tears, He counts them and offers hope, mercy, justice. He is the Light in our darkness.

How can we possibly have peace amidst such uncertainties? As a relentless truth-seeker and avid tester of truth claims, my heart finds exceedingly great comfort in practicing Matthew 6:9. It’s my only hope.

“Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be thy name…”

Ask the heavy questions, lament, cry out, plead for God’s justice and mercy, but remember this always: His ways are higher than our ways. His deep concern for the intimate, ultimate good of our souls spans more than a moment in time. His name is perfectly pure. His name is set apart from all that is sinful, weak and worldly. His name is Holy.

Only when we acknowledge and embrace the fact that He is Holy, can we find great peace and hope in His every answer, regardless of how they appear through the lens of a tainted human heart.

May we ask the difficult questions in faith, may we find peace in His perfect answers, all the while regarding His name as Holy.

When a Heart Breaks

Another long post for my girls, for all the single ladies, because many have asked about it over coffee and there may be others who would benefit from hearing, but wouldn’t ask. You know, like in math class.

Let me tell you a story from a few years back, because we need to be talking about how wrong the world’s loud and glittering broadcasts are about what a heart’s worth.

Because once upon a time I would have been married today…

I’d rehearsed the words a thousand times
To midnight skies and passing road signs,
Without his arms to still my shaking,
Voice unsteady, my heart aching,
Beginning to grasp the truth through tears,
Piercing Light exposing fears.
Bright eyes arrive. Breathe in, breathe out.
No more fear, no more doubt.
The Truth a sword, separating
Joint, marrow; loving, hating.
He walks away. I step inside.
Our intertwined paths divide.

I couldn’t breathe. Two weeks prior we knew we’d be married some day and now… now he was bringing me a coffee at work and the words weighing heavy on my heart were burning my throat.

Through years of relentless seeking and feeding on His faithfulness, certain desires for life had been etched into my heart by a loving God. This man sitting in front of me, this handsome, kind, funny, hard-working man had no place in those desires. And now… now I had to tell him.

No one saw it coming apart from us. Even we were avoiding the truth with humor and silence, star gazing and ring shopping. We became terrified of questions because the string of answers tied our hearts to the conclusion that we needed to put our dreams down. So we just didn’t ask.

In truth, we had each selfishly pursued our relationship in vain attempts to heal heart wounds that God and only God could heal. We were two hurting people only hurting each other more.

In truth, my love and his were defined in two entirely different and contradictory ways. In truth, being handsome, kind, funny and hard-working is not the same as being equally yoked.

I didn’t have it in me to let go. I didn’t have it in me to see pain in his eyes caused by my words. I didn’t have it in me to face some of the days I’ve faced without his strong arms to hold me. Years have passed, and sometimes I still think I don’t have it in me. Remember this, though, sister: those are lies. Dirty lies. The strength of Heaven is in us to do all that we need to do. God’s love is swift and great. Always.

There’s more to the story, but the moral is this: Never settle. All roads hold heart ache, but the right ones are always worth choosing. Just in case that was too easily missed… All roads hold heart ache. The right ones are always worth choosing.

For your sake and his, for the sake of the one you will love rightly some day and those you will encounter along the way, have some respect. Respect each of them enough to boldly pursue what is right for your heart in the wisdom God will provide. Don’t be afraid to be gracefully honest. The God who loves you loves them too. Let that sink in.

Marriage is for life; don’t let the love you think would be great keep you from the love God knows would be best. Love received as well as love given. Pray, read the word, let the wise counsel in, and your heart will know.

He wanted a farm on a hillside with a white picket fence. I wanted a plane ticket to the furthest, darkest corners of the earth. We both rightly desired good things, irrevocable desires fashioned by God Himself, which we ignored for a season in the name of “happiness.” Wouldn’t you know it, after all this time, we each still want and have those things.

What does the glory of Christ have to do with throw pillows and coffee pots, anyway? Everything…

If we regularly beheld the glory of Christ our Christian walk with God would become more sweet and pleasant, our spiritual light and strength would grow daily stronger and our lives would more gloriously represent the glory of Christ.

Most days I’m a mess. A loved mess, a happy mess, but a mess among the most intricate of messes, none-the-less. Wherever the day may take me, through whatever joys or sorrows, each day begins and ends in this place. It’s where we come in for a crash landing at the end of our days, where we laugh and cry and sleep and pray. It’s home.

So if we desire strong faith and powerful love, which give us rest, peace and satisfaction, we must seek them by diligently beholding the glory of Christ by faith.

Our homes are the hearts of our days. If His glory is not first beheld where we dwell with a spirit of prayer and seeking nurtured as our days begin and end in this place, how can we expect that His glory will shine through us in the other places we are carried to throughout our days? This is where it’s hardest, where the most is asked of us, and yet I dare say, where it’s most important.

While keeping up after some pretty wild kids, my mother used to say a lot of things along the lines of “Museums clean, homes make room for the next messes,” and I love those words. She’d tell you she’d do a million things differently if she had known then what she knows now, but I’ll tell you this. She had her priorities straight.

  1. Jesus
  2. Family
  3. Everything Else

Only a steady view of the glory of Christ by faith will graciously revive from inward spiritual declensions and decays and fill with fresh springs of grace,” May we, then, “flourish and grow strong by feeding on the Word of God and so continue to present a glorious witness to the world.

As this day comes to a close and we each settle in, as the sun sets and stars shine, as sounds of the day’s business fade into a lullaby of the soft sounds of night, I challenge you, dear reader. Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart to behold His glory, to make a haven of rest and peace of your home. May He fill your heart with the joy of an active love in all of its day-to-day, unseen, unsung glory. After all, it’s neither unseen nor unsung by Him.

*All quotes from John Owen’s “The Glory of Christ”