Psalm 18:2

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

Christmas time changes when you are a parent. I have to be honest; I was not prepared for the rush of feelings and emotions that consumed me during my first Christmas as a mom. Our oldest son was just born, two weeks old on Christmas day. Due to his recent delivery, my husband and I were unable to travel and spend the day with relatives. So, it was just my husband, myself, and our newborn baby. And oh my, was I a wave of emotions! My poor husband could hardly keep up! One minute I was laughing from thankfulness for the miracle in my arms – then I was crying because this miracle was screaming and I could not for the life of me figure out what he wanted! – the next minute I was laughing and enjoying my husband’s company – and then the next minute I’m crying again because I’m sad…and I shouldn’t be sad since God just gave me this beautiful gift of my child…and I’m sad because I’m sad when I should be happy! Warning: don’t mess with a postpartum hormonal new mother who is spending her first Christmas away from her big family!

My parents always worked so hard to make Christmas a magical and special time for me and my brother and sister. I remember as a child, waking up on Christmas morning and feeling the magic in the air! My dad would put on our annual Kenny G Christmas music, and my mom would have cinnamon rolls smelling yummy and cooking in the oven. They would wake us up and we would all rush into the living room together, to see the amazing amounts of presents in our chairs and under the tree!


When you are the parent…it…is…very…different.

The magic and wonder that you experience as a child disappears somewhere between spending too much money, wrapping presents just in time, standing in the check-out line at Wal-Mart for thirty minutes, and hoping that your ungrateful little children will appreciate all the time and energy (and money!) you put into making this day special for them!

Needless to say, the Lord is challenging me to look for the magic and wonder in different ways. As the blissful ignorance of childhood fades away, and the harsh reality of adulthood takes its place, we have an opportunity to focus our hearts and minds on the true meaning of this season. And to teach our children that it actually is all about Jesus!

We took our boys to the store and allowed them to pick out a present to give to mommy, daddy, and their brother. They had to pick out the present, wrap the present, and write who the present is for, all by themselves. My boys are four and seven, so we had to help them a little bit. But the most exciting part of this was watching them wrap the presents! My four year old tackled that wrapping paper like he was on a mission! Way too much paper and a half a roll of scotch tape later, and he delivered a beautifully wrapped package under the tree! It was messy! But it was beautiful!

It was messy, but it was beautiful. Isn’t life like that? Life is messy. We are messy people, full of conflicting emotions and bold dreams and dark fears. We are never going to be able to control tomorrow, predict next week, or fully prepare for next year. We are messy. And guess what, we are beautiful! Believe me, God knew how messy we were when He created us. He knew we would sin and fall short – when He sent His son in a lowly stable in Bethlehem – when He died on the cross for our sins, knowing that we would continue to sin and deny Him. We are NOT mistakes. We are NOT messed up. God did NOT miss something when He made us. He designed us in His image! But He also made us human; we are messy. Life is messy. But in the Lord’s eyes, we are the most beautiful of all creation. The glorious mountains in the splendor of the sunset were “good,” but Adam and Eve were “very good.” (Genesis 1:25, 31)

As a professional worrying and control freak myself, I desperately need to hear this as much, if not more, than you do!

Embrace the beauty of the mess of life. Lay down your “should’s” and rules and expectations. Accept what the Lord is giving you. Stop trying to control the uncontrollable.

“This is not the way my life should have gone.”

“I did not expect this to happen.”

“No parent should have to bury their own child.”

“I never thought I would end up here.”

“I wanted so much more for my son.”

“I can’t believe my husband would do this.”

“How could a loving God allow this?”

Replace the “should’s” that you have created, in efforts to give you security and make you feel in control, with the “should’s” of the Word of God. Replace the “rules” that you have allowed into your mind and soul, with the “rules” of the Word of God. Embrace the beautiful, unplanned, broken, unexpected, messy life that God is trying to give you. For it is in the unexpected places – when we come face to face with our own frailty and limits – that we discover the grace and awesomeness of God. Thank God for the beautiful mess, for that is where we are taken off of the throne and God is put in His rightful place in our lives. Choose to see the beauty and gift in every situation, even the hardest of situations, when it doesn’t feel like what He is giving is a gift. Life is not perfect, planned, structured, static, or controlled. And the harder we try to live in a vacuum, the more we will realize how truly limited our control is.

The greatest gift you could give yourself this Christmas may be permission to not be perfect. Give your life permission to not be perfect. Dare to thank God for the painful things. Be brave enough to accept the life that you never wanted. And choose to see the beauty in the beautifully messy, perfectly imperfect life God has given you. And instead of asking WHY, ask “Lord, help me to see what you are doing and help me to get on board.”

And HOW do we do this? How do you thank God for pain, or praise Him in the storm, or find joy in death and tragedy? We can do this because we have the promise that our God is unchangeable, unshakable, constant, conquering, mighty, powerful, and He loves us. When life is shaky, God is our firm foundation. When life is unpredictable, God is our sovereign creator. When life is painful, God is our healing balm. When life leaves us deserted, God is our loving comfort. When life is bitter, God is sweet honey to our lips. How do you face the messy life with bravery? You take God at His Word. And how do you do that? You read His Word, find out what He says about Himself, find out what He says about you, and believe it! And let the living, breathing, Word of God transform your soul, that you may face this messy world with boldness.



Proverbs 22:6
          Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Deuteronomy 6:5-9
          Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take            to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when            you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. Write them down, and tie them around                your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Write them on the door frames of your            houses and on your gates.

“Bedtime” can often be a long process in our house. There are many steps that must be taken to prepare my children for the sweet “goodnight.” After baths, lotion, bedtime snack, bedtime drink, bedtime stories, rubbing backs, family prayer, Bible story, hugs, kisses, and more back rubs…they are finally…finally ready for bed! Some would argue that I need not let them take advantage of their mommy at night (including my husband!), and those people may be right. However, some nights I give in to their pleading and requests. I rub my sons’ backs an extra five minutes, I give three more kisses, and I squeeze them with one extra big hug. For I know that one day they will stop asking for their mommy to tuck them in bed. One day they will not be here in my home. One day they will be putting their own kids to bed. So, I savor the little moments while I can.

One evening in particular, my son was having a hard time falling asleep. He said he was scared of the dark and did not want to be alone. So I snuggled up next to my boy, and took him in my arms. And we prayed together. I prayed for him to not be scared, and for Jesus to lay down next to him in bed through the night. I prayed aloud, and I thanked God for keeping us safe and for always being with us. As I opened my eyes, I looked up at my sleeping baby boy. He had fallen asleep. He had fallen asleep because his mommy was there, reminding him that God was there.

This moment was a sweet reminder of how much we teach our children about the qualities of God. Do our actions teach our children that God is trustworthy and faithful? Do our words and prayers teach our children that God is sovereign and mighty? Do our choices teach our children that God is Lord and worthy of our praise? When I was with my son, I prayed aloud so he could hear me. I prayed for my son to not be afraid, because I knew that he could hear me. If he could hear me speak to God and declare that He is with us and we don’t have to be afraid, then maybe he would believe it for himself. My son found peace to fall asleep because he saw his mommy trust God, and he was therefore taught that we can trust God. We teach our children how to perceive God based on how they hear us pray to God and relate to Him. How we interact with God teaches our children who He is, what He can do, and what a relationship with Him should and could be.

What are we teaching our children about God? We can take our children to Church and read them Bible stories and tell them scriptural truths, but the most influential teaching tool we have for our children is our ACTIONS. Our actions are more powerful teachers than our words. Do you find it hard to respect somebody who says one thing, but does another? Is it not difficult to trust somebody who has a “do what I say, not what I do” attitude?

Our need to model a life that trusts God as Lord and Savior, is more important and vital now that it has ever been. We watch the news, we turn on our phones, we step out the front door, and immediately we are confronted with the sin and brokenness of this world. What are we teaching our children about God in the midst of mass shootings, gender ambiguity, world-wide conflict, and broken families? How do we explain to our children what is going on in the world today? We may not have an answer for our children when they look up at us and ask, “why?”, but, we can teach them that God is trustworthy when we get on our knees and pray to the Lord as a family. We can teach our children that God is our provider, when we turn to God in the midst of losing our job. We can teach our children that God is worthy of our obedience, when we do what God is telling us to do. We can teach our children about the love of God, when we love our spouses and interact with them in a loving and patient manner.

Will we be perfect? Certainly not!

Will life be messy? Absolutely!

Will we have an opportunity every day to blow it? Of course!

But will we have an opportunity every day to show them that God is who He says He is, and that God will do what He says He will do, and that we are who God says we are? Yes! Everyday.

What are we teaching our children about God? What spiritual foundation are we laying down for them? When our children are adults, will they have to tear down the faulty foundations we are laying down for them now? Or will they be able to build upon the firm foundation of faith we are laying down for them now? If we do not teach our children to follow God, the world will teach them not to.


Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

As a little girl, I remember my grandmother telling me, “The devil cannot make you bad, but he can make you busy.” Well, these days I certainly have been busy. I have been busy supporting my husband in ministry. I have been busy homeschooling my children. I have been busy maintaining my house. I absolutely have been busy tackling the never-ending supply of dirty laundry and the never-empty sink of dirty dishes.

But I have also been busy with less honorable things. I have been busy worrying. I have been busy doubting the Lord in Heaven. I have been busy carrying heavy burdens that weigh me down. I have been busy beating myself up for my past. I have been busy fearing the unknown of the future. I have been busying refusing to forgive others. I have been busy trying to make sense of what God, in His infinite wisdom, allows and gives. And I have been very busy in my marriage; busy fighting and arguing and looking at each other as the enemy. Most of our marriage, we have been so busy with strife and conflict, that we have been unavailable to be used by God in His kingdom. I have been busy. So busy.

And I have to wonder what good I have missed out on, as I have been so busy focusing on myself. Is that not what we do when we don’t trust God? When we are busy doubting God, are we not saying, “I don’t understand what is going on or how this will work out.”? When we are busy refusing to forgive others, are we not saying, “God, even though you have forgiven me of my greatest sins, I just cannot forgive what they did to me.”? When we are busy beating ourselves up over our past, are we not saying, “I don’t know who I am without this experience and I don’t know how to see myself without my past defining me.”? When we are busy focusing on ourselves, we make ourselves unavailable to be used by God. And then we wonder why we don’t see God move…Really?

If you have not noticed, we are only three short days from Christmas! And whether we are a man or woman, an adult or a child, a Christian or a non-Christian, we all want the same thing this Christmas. It is the thing that we sing through our holiday hymns. It is the thing that both politicians and celebrities fight for. It is what false prophets promise…and are never able to deliver. It is the thing we long for in our hearts…PEACE. Do you have peace in your soul this Christmas? Do you have a peaceful spirit today? When “peace on earth and goodwill toward men” is shouted through society this time of year, by agnostics and atheists alike – we have to ask ourselves: Do we have peace? What is our peace dependent upon? In what does our peace lie? And then we must ask ourselves: Have I sent time with Jesus today? Have I invited the Prince of Peace into my life? Into my situation? Into my future? Into this relationship?

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, PRINCE OF PEACE.

This is by far, the busiest time of year. We are busy. Busy baking cookies, cleaning our home for the relatives to visit, traveling to see family, attending church services, spending large amounts of money, wrapping present just in time for Christmas morning…busy, busy, busy. But do we have peace? And if our answer is no, then we have to ask, “When was the last time I put into action the words of our Father, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’”

In the midst of the craziness of this season, I urge you to not be so busy that this time flies by and you wake up and it is the middle of January. I urge you to make time for the true Prince of Peace. I urge you to close your bedroom door (or closet door, or bathroom door, or wherever it needs to be), find a quite place, open your Bible, open your heart, open your ears, and spend time with Jesus.

For most of my life, I have been distracted and busy with so many things about “Rachael.” I have had my eyes set on me – my fears, my dreams, my plans, my understandings, my expectations, my happiness, my worry, my control, my doubts. I am tired of missing out on the life God wants for me, because I am so busy with things that honestly do not matter. We wonder why we do not see the evidence of God in our life…but we are so busy with ourselves and our own problems and our own understandings.

What if we busied ourselves with the things of God? What if we set our eyes on the things of God, the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise? Would it make a difference? YES! My friend, we cannot give God half of us and expect Him to give us all of Him. During this season of giving, give God what is rightfully His…our trust, our soul, all of us. And then you will know peace. Peace that surpasses our human understanding.

The Box

Ephesians 2:10
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Policeman. Firefighter. Princess. Teacher. Ninja Turtle. Veterinarian. Ballerina. Doctor. Batman.

One of these might have been your answer as a young child, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” This question rings in our soul, from the moment we become aware of the world around us. The desire is within all children. They dream, fantasize, and wonder – maybe about being a strong and invincible superhero – maybe about being a beautiful princess with a golden dress.

Then children get a little older, entering in adolescence, and they start asking bigger questions. What difference will I make when I grow up? What is the purpose of my life? What impact will I make? What can I do to make my life important? Teenagers think about college and what future career to choose, as we bombard them with life-altering questions when they are just 16 years old. We expect this young adult to look at their strengths and weaknesses, and, as if they are deciphering some code God hid within them, they should be able to decide what career path to take.

And then we become adults. We look around us, at our home and family and occupation. Maybe some us feel like we missed the boat, or took the wrong boat, or paddled around in circles. Maybe we feel that we have arrived, or that we will never arrive. Whatever our answer, the question remains the same:

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Am I where I am supposed to be?”
“Am I doing what God created me to do?”
“I just want to know I’m in the right place.”

We all fear the same thing: being on our deathbed with regrets or unfinished business. Why do you think we all want our life to count? Why do you think we all long to be a part of something great? Because the good Lord and Creator wove this desire into our very being. He put the need to answer this question within each of us…so that He may be the answer to our question!

During our high school years, before we met each other, my husband and I were both called by God into the ministry. And we both had the same conversation with the Lord…
Us —- “Okay God, you are telling me you want me to work in ministry. So what do you want me to do?”
God —- “Serve in My kingdom.”
Us —- “Ya, I got that. What do you want me to do?”
God —- “Lead my people and make disciples.”
Us —- “Ya, I got that. But, again, what should I do?”
God —- “Do whatever I tell you to do.”
Us —- “And what are you telling me to do?”
God —- “Go and make disciple.”
Us —- “Go where?”
God —- “Wherever I tell you.”

Well, this was just too broad for us. Too open to possibilities. Too scary. So, we looked within ourselves and saw what we were good at, what our strengths and weaknesses were, and drew our own conclusions. My husband loves to sing and play the guitar and he has a heart for youth ministry – so his box is worship and youth. I love to write and minister to women and young ladies – so my box is womens ministry. Now, before I continue, let me say this. The strengths and weaknesses and desires and preferences we all have are the parts of us, intentionally designed by God, to make us the unique masterpiece we are. And we have each been designed to play a specific and beautiful role in the kingdom of God. We are not all able to lead a children’s ministry at a church. Only some of us are able to study and learn and become a doctor. Only some of us have the strength and passion to be a firefighter. What I am NOT saying is that we can all be all things and we should not put ourselves in a box. Rather, what I AM saying is that we should not put God in a box.

1 Corinthians 12:1-39
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed…Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits…For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body…Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?…And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

When we are so desperate to name our calling, in order to give us more security and limit the scary, unknown possibilities, we actually end up limiting God. And we limit our vision and our perspective of what God can do in us and through us. We put God in a box. “No, God, I’m not supposed to pray with this woman, because you have called me to children. I’ll do whatever you ask me to do for children. But if you ask me to share your love and gospel with this woman, well that is outside of my calling.” Maybe while we are in children’s ministry, God is equipping us to work in women’s ministry. But we are not willing to submit to His leading, because it doesn’t fit our box. I have heard beautiful stories of people who retire from 30+ years in a career, and find new life and excitement doing something completely different. God is not limited to a boxed idea of possibilities!

My friend, if God is leading you do something, anything, then that is within your calling. He may tell you to do something that you never thought of, or planned for, or dreamed of. Will we say no because we believe, in our limited human view of life – that it is outside of our calling? Because saying “whatever You want, Lord,” is just too scary and too vague and too broad? How do we just go, without a plan? How do we provide for our family? How do we buy a home and create security and safety for our children? My friend, our promise is in the Word of God…

Matthew 19:29
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Matthew 6:25-33
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

That is our promise. If our focus is set on obeying and following God, and not our earthly security, then He will be our security and we will have everything we need. What would our life look like if, instead of trying to label our calling, we said, “God, my calling is to do whatever You tell me to do.”?

Where are you supposed to be? Where God tells you to go.
What are you supposed to do? Whatever God tells you to do.
Where should you serve? Where God tells you to serve.
Who should you serve? Whoever God tells you to serve.

Do you want to know what you were created for? I know…to glorify God, experience His love, and in response, love Him with your heart and soul and mind. Follow His leading, not your understanding. Be open to the scary, beautiful, wonderfully terrifying possibilities of God!

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

We are the workmanship of God. He has already laid out the path He wills for you. Just lock your eyes on Him, study His Word, daily cultivate a relationship with Him, and walk in His ways. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be willing to think outside the box. Be willing to say to God, “I WANT WHAT YOU WANT FOR ME TODAY. NOTHING MORE. NOTHING LESS.”



Luke 22:17-19

And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks He said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”

Eucharisteo. The art of living in thankfulness. Made possible by grace. Paving the way to joy. Thankfulness. The cure for the “common cold” of the mundane life, of bitterness and fear. The remedy for the discontented life, of self-hatred and relentless anxiety. Thankfulness. The result of our intentional effort to take off our blinders and look beyond ourselves. Thankfulness. The consequence of turning our eyes to the Mighty King Jesus, even in the midst of the worst of storms. Thankfulness. The by-product of a willing heart…willing to accept everything God gives us. EVERYTHING. Even the things that contradict our fleshly desires and our “this-is-not-what-I-planned” questions.

When we choose the life of Eucharisteo, we take a step onto the path of righteousness. And freedom. And joy. You know, that kind of joy that is a living testimony to the world. The kind of child-like faithful joy, which makes others stare in wonder at how we can go through such a storm and still proclaim, “I am not afraid! My Jesus has the power to tell this storm to cease! And He has the power to tell the winds to blow and the waters to jump!”

When we choose the life of Eucharisteo, we choose hope over weariness. Peace over doubt. Rest over striving. Life over death! Thankfulness says, “Lord, I don’t like what I see, but I believe Your Word and my life is in Your hands.” Thankfulness allows us to live. Fully live. To no longer be characterized as the “walking dead,” questioning if we will ever be enough, accomplish enough, find enough, gain enough.

When we choose the life of Eucharisteo, we deny our circumstances the right to define our God! We stomp the enemy under our feet! We stand in victory against the lies of the Serpent; the enemy’s lies tempting us to doubt the God who set the stars in the sky. Thankfulness believes that even when bad happens, God is still good. Even when my heart is broken, God still has an amazing plan for me. Even when I am lonely…I AM NEVER ALONE!

Look back at the verses above. Read them aloud. Let your heart and ears hear the living Word of God spoken through your lips (lips this God Himself formed), testified by your breath (breath that God Himself set into your lungs). It was the night of the greatest injustice ever committed in the history of the world. The perfect and sinless Jesus, our Lord and Savior, would be brutally and wrongfully beaten, humiliated, chastised, and murdered. Jesus knew what was to come. He knew that in just a few hours, He would feel the betrayal of those He loved and lived among. He knew that He would be standing naked and mocked in front of the crowd. He could feel the sting of every whip of glass against His back, the unbearable agony of every step He took with the weight of that cross pressing down on His shoulders, the struggle of fighting for every little breath as He hung on that hill. And He knew the worst pain of all was to come…the pain of His Father turning His back upon Him as He bore the sin of the world. And with all this in mind, what did Jesus do? HE GAVE THANKS. He gave thanks.

Jesus chose Eucharisteo. Because this night was also the most glorious night in the history of the world. It was the night the bridge between man and God would be mended. It was the night that would make possible for you and I to walk once again in communion with God, as Adam and Eve had done. This night rang forth a new dawn. Grace would now be the law. Blood would be shed once and for all. The perfect and ultimate sacrifice would finally come. Scripture and prophesies, from the first scratches of ink written by man and inspired by God, were to finally be fulfilled. In light of the impending storm, Heaven could now come down to earth. The love of God could now be poured upon His children as originally intended in the Garden of Eden. The Holy Spirit could be unleashed within us and through us. The power of the Almighty that worked through Jesus could now run through the veins of those who love the Lord and accept His love, His death, His resurrection!

Yes, this night, there was much to be thankful for! And today, wherever you are. At work, at home, at the grocery store, at the park, in your car…Jesus sits next to you. He reaches His hands out. In one hand is His blood. In the other hand is His body. He looks into your eyes and His gaze pierces to the depths of your soul. He sees everything He died for. He sees every sin and mistake you have made, and will ever make. He sees every great and wonderful plan He has in store for you. He sees the eyes He formed with His hands. He sees the heart He commanded to beat. He sees your fears, your worries, your desires, your dreams. And in all this, His heart pounds with a love for you that is greater than anything you will ever be able to fathom. And He says, “Take My blood. Take My body. Give thanks in all things. Open your hands. Receive everything I have for you. Not just the things your flesh wants. Not just the things your limited mind can understand. Receive EVERYTHING I have for you. My Beloved, oh how I love you! And, what life I have for you! Do not be afraid (Isaiah 41:10). What loving father would give his daughter a serpent when she asks for fish? (Luke 11:11). I will withhold no good thing from you, My princess! (Psalm 84:11) You cannot imagine what I have planned for you! (1 Corinthians 2:9). My grace makes it possible for you to trust Me (Colossians 1:27). Trust Me. Take Me at My Word. Open your clenched hands. Receive everything I permit. And give thanks.”

1 Thessalonians 5:16-19

Rejoice always.

Pray without ceasing.

Give thanks in all circumstances.

For this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit.

“Thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.” – Ann Voskamp


John 14:2
In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.

I will never forget how excited I was to find out that we were pregnant with our first son. I started wearing maternity clothes before I needed to…just because I could! Before a baby bump appeared on my tummy, a crib and bouncy seat had appeared in our second bedroom. I was so excited! This was what I had been waiting for! And we bought every toy/rider/glider a baby could possibly need…or not really need! We had the stroller, the bouncy seat, the bassinet, the vibrating bassinet, the bassinet that plays music, the rattler toys, the squeaking toys, the musical toys…so much we didn’t need and few of what we actually needed. Looking back, I should have spent all that money on diapers and formula! By the time I was only five months along, the closet was full of adorable little clothes and Winnie the Pooh had thrown up in the nursery!

They call this “nesting.” We have heard of it, and we are not the only creatures who do this. According to the American Pregnancy Association: “This urge to clean and organize is known as nesting. Nesting during pregnancy is the overwhelming desire to get your home ready for your new baby. The nesting instinct is strongest in the later weeks coming up on delivery. It is found in a variety of animals such as birds, fish, squirrels, mice and pigs as well as humans.”

When God was intricately and intentionally crafting the living creatures on this planet, He incorporated reminders of His own nature, like precious treasures found only by those who look with the eyes of God and not of man. As the bird builds a nest for his family, God whispers, “I prepare a place for you.” The weaver bird of India spends countless hours meticulously building a nest that will be just right for his mate. If the nest is not perfect, he will start all over.

And let’s not forget which living creature was crafted in the image of God! Why is it in our nature to prepare a place for our newborn child? Why do we instinctively look for a “home,” or a place of belonging? Why does the groom desire a safe and beautiful place to which he can take his bride after the wedding ceremony? Why does a woman build a home for her children, unpacking boxes in their new apartment or house? Why does a man long to provide shelter for his family, as if it is second-nature? Because we are created in the image of God!

Our desire within us to prepare a place for our children and families…that is God revealing through us His current work in preparing a place for His children. A place that is beyond this earth. A place so glorious we cannot begin to fathom.

Our longing for home and security…that is God calling out to us, as he allows a need of ours to come to the surface. A need that only He can FULLY fullfill.

We need to stop and realize that right now, in this very moment, our King Jesus is preparing a place for us. And if the Lord is preparing a place for us that is outside of this sinful world, then that must mean that we were created for something greater, and this world is not our home. Therefore, we need to start acting like we were meant for something greater and more than the pleasures of this world. We need to gain some godly perspective on our lives. We can survive the most terrible of pains on this earth, because we have the promise of something greater – a home of glory and peace and beauty we cannot fathom! God is preparing a place for us. He is awaiting the arrival of His children, once and for all!

Revelation 21:3-4
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

So, my friend, does this mean that we are to make it through this life on earth as best we can until we die, and are finally able to see this beautiful place God is so intentionally preparing?

NO. It is true that heaven is the promise we have as born-again children of God. BUT, through Jesus Christ, we don’t have to wait until our earthly bodies wear out to experience the presence of God. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve walked with God. How amazing it is to think about! They talked and walked with the Lord Almighty. Until sin entered the world. And the consequences of sin is death…death of living in the presence of the Lord. No more sharing walks with Him in the sunset. No more resting under a tree and and just “being” with Him. Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden, facing a life of struggle and pain and work. But you see, God created us so that we would know His love for us, and love Him in response. He could not leave the story there.

Enter Jesus! Through the blood shed of the perfect Lamb, Jesus, the door was open once again for us to be in the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit would come upon those washed in the blood of Jesus. The Holy Spirit would be our comforter and our counselor, here on this earth.

So could it be that as God is preparing a place for us in Heaven, He has also prepared a way for us to know His presence on this earth? The great price Jesus paid on the cross was not simply to give us an open door to heaven. No, it was a price paid for something so much greater – for us to KNOW JESUS NOW! We can know the dwelling place of God RIGHT NOW. It may be in your car driving to work, at the coffee shop, at the prayer bench on Sunday morning, in the shower, resting on the couch late at night, or sitting in your chair by the window with your coffee in the morning. Through the great love and grace of our Savior, we don’t have to wait until our physical bodies decay to say…

Psalm 84:1
How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 90:1
LORD, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalm 95:2
Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise!

The question is, my friend, are we preparing a place for our King? Have we prepared a place in our soul for Him? Have we prepared a place in our day for Him today? Do we squeeze Jesus in where we can, as an afterthought? Or do we PREPARE A PLACE for Him? This is an intentional act of preparation. Work done with anticipation of a great arrival. Do we come to God with anticipation and purpose, as He does when He is chasing us in passionate pursuit? This season of thanksgiving, I submit a challenge. Somewhere in the hustle and bustle, as you prepare your home and your dinner table for the Thanksgiving festivities…don’t forget about the One for whom we are to be most thankful. Don’t forget to prepare a place for the Lord this week, today, this hour, right now!

Psalm 100:2
Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!

Magnum Opus

Genesis 1:26-31
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

I love talking to other moms who have “survived” the season of young children. It gives me hope to sit across the table from those who have walked the road before me, and SURVIVED! If you are a mother or parent of young children, can I please encourage you. You will survive! I know sometimes you doubt your survival, while you are consumed with trying to juggle a carrier, a marriage, relationships, and the beautiful task of trying not to terribly mess up your children. But, somewhere in the middle of “don’t lick that,” “please don’t fart on your brother’s face,” and “I’m not going to say it again,”…there is hope. And with that hope, a warning that this season will not last long and will be gone before you realize it!

The words I would use to describe my life right now would be…loud, abundant, and crazy. And beautifully full! My days are full of important tasks, my home is full of running and laughing children, my kitchen table is full of homeschool books, my marriage is full of ministry, and my heart is full of joy. Yet, sometimes, I am also full of exhaustion. And some nights I’m spent. I’m tired. I’m just done and I have nothing else to give. Some nights, I lay in bed and my “I should have’s” and my “why did I’s” outweigh my “I actually did it right’s”. More often than not, I feel like I am surviving this season of young children and homeschooling and full abundance, by the skin of my teeth.

Yet, even in the midst of the crazy, my King Jesus finds a way to romance me. He tends to my tired mother’s heart in a way only He can. A couple weeks ago, I was having one of THOSE days. I crawled into bed, and as the reel of the day began to play back to me and the enemy was right there, ready to release the shame monster…I heard my youngest son’s small voice:

“Daddy, why do you love me?”

How amazing is it when God chooses to display His grand love, in the whisper of a small child!

My ears perked up, as I heard my husband say, “Why do I love you? What do you mean?” Then my son replies: “Daddy, you tell me you love me every day. Why do you love me, even when I am not good?”

My heart melted as I watched (by now I had tip-toed to the door so I could see this precious moment with my own eyes). My husband got down on his knees and looked at our son eye to eye. He took his son’s little hand in his and said, “I love you because you are my son. Nothing you can do will ever change that or make me stop loving you. I will always love you and I will always be your daddy.” My son was satisfied. His tank was filled and his security was confirmed. He hugged his daddy around the neck with his little arms, and curled under his blanket. And he slept in his own bed all night long! Bonus for this momma!

Have you ever experienced a moment when it seemed as if God was slowing down time just for a little bit, to show you He loves you? When life is best described as “controlled chaos,” and God sends a gift specifically designed just for you, to remind you that He is right there? Maybe you are rushing through your lunch break and a stranger pays for your food. Maybe you are juggling a toddler and a shopping list at the grocery store, and the clerk offers help and a sweet smile. Maybe some unexpected financial support shows up in your mailbox, when you didn’t know how to pay your car payment. Maybe your sister finds out she is pregnant on the same week your grandfather has passed away. These moments are whispers of God’s love in the midst of pain. Opportunities for God’s light to shine through the darkness. Rays of beauty gleaming through a difficult situation. Only light can defy darkness! Only God can bring beauty from ashes and purpose from pain! Only God is willing to get down on His knees, get His hands dirty, and look us in the eye and say, “I love you because you are my child. I created you, and I breathed life into your lungs. Let me breath life into your soul!”

As I walked back to my bed, tears were flowing from my eyes. And I heard the words of the Lord, like healing balm to my blistered heart. When I question why God would love me, or wonder how long it will take for me to get the hang of this mother/wife/homeschool mom/woman thing – I receive His words of promise: “I love you because you are my daughter. Nothing you can do will ever change that or make me stop loving you. I will always love you and I will always be your daddy. Absolutely nothing will separate you from My love!”

Romans 8:35-39
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that 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.

As a wise spider once said, our children are our MAGNUM OPUS…

“Are you awake, Charlotte?” he said softly.
“Yes,” came the answer.
“What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it?”
“I did indeed,” replied Charlotte in a weak voice.
“Is it a plaything?”
“Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my magnum opus.”
“I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur.
“That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means ‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work — the finest thing I have ever made.”
“What’s inside it?” asked Wilbur. “Eggs?”
“Five hundred and fourteen of them,” she replied.
from Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White.

We are God’s MAGNUM OPUS. We are His greatest work. We are the crowning, finishing touch on creation. We are created in His image, as His children, crafted by His hands. So that He may pour out His love upon us, and that we may know and love Him. Let yourself believe you are the MAGNUM OPUS of the Creator of the Universe! We need to believe this! In God’s eyes, we are the most beautiful and greatest thing He created. Are you kidding me!?!?!? I have seen pictures of stars and galaxies and oceans and beautiful animals, which take my breath away. I have stood in a valley surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains. I have sat in awe of sunsets and rainbows of multiple colors. I have rested my feet along the rippling tide of the ocean, staring out into water that has no end. And yet, we are the most beautiful thing God created? Yes. Because we are made in His image. We are His MAGNUM OPUS. You are the MAGNUM OPUS of the Great I Am. Absolutely nothing will change that, and no lie of the enemy can take that identity away from you.

DIRTY HANDS by Rachael Smith
I cower in the corner of this room of shame,
Fear, doubt, anxiety, guilt – they all know my name.
I’m sinful, I’m broken, I’m crippled and torn,
Yet You tell me You knew me before I was born?
My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.
Lord, I’m unworthy. I’ve made too many mistakes,
When I should be living for Your name’s sake.
Turn your face from me, Lord, I don’t deserve Your love,
It takes all I am to believe in Your mercy from above.
My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.
This pure white bridal dress You gave me,
I’ve torn and muddied in my failed attempts to be free.
Doing things my way, in my plan, living by my own accord,
Every time falling on my face, loosing more than I can afford.
My hands are dirty, my heart unclean.
I hide in the corner here, I cannot stand,
The demons mock me, accuse me, imprison me in hellish land.
This is my curse, by punishment well deserved,
To live this life dead, defeated, and unnerved.
Bondage is my reality and death is my future,
I am cursed with sin, not to be given a cure.
But wait…Could it be? Is that a light I see?
Shining so intense,
Forgiveness to commence?
A hand reaches out…
Revealing what I’ve been without.
Love dirties His hands,
Victory before me stands,
Then kneels so we are eye to eye,
“My daughter, I made you to fly!
Take my hand and I’ll lead you out,
With Me, you will never be without.”
But, Lord, don’t you see my shame and guilt.
I have destroyed the beautiful creation You have built.
My hands are dirty and my heart is unclean,
I don’t deserve this great love I have seen.
“Exactly, my Dear! My love is not to be earned,
But freely given to you, to be yearned.
I loved you before you knew what was love,
I saw you on that cross from above.
I knew the sin and cost, but My love for you overflowed,
As my death on the cross and resurrection showed.
I have pursued you and dirtied My hands to bring you home.
You are Mine, safe, saved, no longer to roam.”
I take His hand, forgiven and never looking back,
With the power of Jesus Christ to stand against any attack.
He leads me out of the dark pit I once called mine,
Toward true freedom and purpose and joy divine.
My bridal gown made new, washed pure with the Lamb’s blood,
My chains broken and heart made clean with a purifying flood.
My King, My Jesus, how can I express my thanksgiving?
My gaze is locked on You, whose praises I sing!
“Your Response, My Daughter. That is your “thank you.”
Respond with a life honoring Me, living in what is True.
Don’t let go of My hand, don’t take your eyes off of Me,
Invite the power of My salvation and Spirit, and you will see.
Seek Me, believe Me, and find in Me your Rest…
And, oh! I surely will give you My very very best!!!!”