I Walked the Halls Before You (an open letter to my daughter)

As a 17 year old heading into college back in 1991, my focus was laser sharp on what was ahead of me. My mind was consumed from sun up to sundown that I would be leaving my beloved Venezuela and heading north to the United States to begin college at Charleston Southern. Truth is, I was terrified, but excited.  I was hopeful, yet fearful. My constant was only this, “God go before me”. My sweet daughter, the hope that outweighed all of the other stuff was that God had a plan for my life.

IMG_3847You are heading to walk the same halls I’ve walked, to the same classrooms in which I sat, to eat in the same cafeteria in which I ate and to trek over the same ground I’ve trekked. I never even imagined this is where you would be, but yet you are, and laced within the story God is writing on your life, He was beginning it long ago in my own. They say “hindsight is 20/20,” and I can definitely agree to that! While the prayers of my heart all those years ago were for my “hope and my future,” little did I know that you would be part of that one day.  Little did I know that the days I began in my own dorm room in Women’s North dorm with my Bible open, heart seeking and praying that God would use me, that He would indeed use me in the greatest role of my life – as your Mama. The preparation God began in me in the halls of Charleston Southern University held no details of the outcome, no neon signs saying, “Go Here,” or no audible voice telling me the specifics of my future life. The halls of a college only represented the path laid out before me.  The halls of that same college represent the path He’s laid out before you, too. Where He leads…well, only He knows. The hope you will always find is by answering ‘Yes’ to the question, “Will you commit to go?” I do not know the ultimate adventure God is laying out before you, but I do know that if you do not go and follow, you (we) will never know! If had never gone, I would never have discovered the potential that dwelled within me to be more, or never met some of the greatest people I’ve ever known in my life, or felt the deepest love I have ever felt when I met your Daddy on that campus.  The not knowing what “could be” is so much more painful than the process it takes just to BE! So, as you go, I have only a few things to want to encourage you to do:

  1. Do you. You’ve been set apart. Live life out like you believe that. You never have to compare yourself with another, compete to be better than anyone else or pretend to be anybody else than exactly who you are. You will ALWAYS be the best you that you can be. Give the gift of McKenna to everyone you meet.
  2. Trust the process. A professor will give you a syllabus with instruction of what lies before you, but the path God has set out before you may not always make sense, but before you seek to be frustrated or confused, or when you can’t see His hand, simply TRUST HIS HEART.
  3. Be a friend to everyone, but give your heart to only a few. We’ve raised you under the banner of “Be a missionary where you live, work and play”. NEVER stop being that. It will be the greatest investment you can ever make in a life, but seek the true friendship of those whose heart beats to the same mission.  They will be the   1 Thessalonians 5:11 friends in your life, the ones one will be the lifters of your head, the voices to spur you on and the ones who will rally around you no matter the season of life you are in.
  4. Be teachable – There’s something to learn in every situation. I pray you learn much from every interaction you have, every conversation you hold and every class in which you sit. Our greatest failures occur when we think we already know everything.
  5. Live like Jesus, love like Jesus and leave what Jesus left behind. You know the depth of this. With this thought at the forefront of everyday, it will THRUST you out the door with PURPOSE.
  6. Whatever it Takes. – Our family motto never changes even when our babies leave the nest.  What sends you out the door to college to take on the world of unknowns, and sends you back home to safety, remains the same – No matter where the path leads you, the courage to do WHATEVER IT TAKES won’t change. It will be the very thing that can take an ordinary moment and turn it into extraordinary.

My girl, proud of you doesn’t even scratch the surface of how I feel. Even in the hardest of moments, you’ve never disappointed me for one singular reason – you have NEVER given up. What an inspiration you are for me to be just like you “when I grow up”. When words were never your favorite when you were a little girl, the evidence of Jesus in a sweet girl’s little heart was ever present. When you found your voice, and began to use it for Him, the evidence was even more clear. As you find your adult voice, walking on a somewhat shaky ground, with no obvious details of where God will ultimately lead you, Jesus is the clearest I’ve ever seen Him in your life. I see the words come to life now more than ever that I prayed over you from the first day of your life,

13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalms 139:13-16

You are living out the words “in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Embrace them, my girl! Embrace the days that are before you with the confidence that God is writing your story everyday. It’s a beautiful story – ALL of it, the ugly, the easy, the confusing, the mundane, even! It’s YOUR story. Live out its pages to the fullest! He goes before you!

I love you forever,

Mama

My Confession 


I have a confession to make. Sometimes I tell my kids to do things that I, myself, do not do. I’ve told them this more times than I can remember, “Do not get caught up in the ‘likes’.” They post a picture of themselves and rate how well liked they are by how many likes they get. I even tell them,”How dumb,” yet I do it, too.I’ve always preferred to express myself in the written form. Talking in front of people has never been my forte. I choose to write a lot because I’ve found I stick my foot in my mouth less if I can go back and proofread. I place a higher significance on what I write on anything I ever say. Why? I want to inspire, to encourage, to bring hope. If I’m being honest, though, I also place a great emphasis on being liked through what I write. Over the last while, I’ve used a very good thing in my life to do one thing and one thing only – to bring ISOLATION. I write how I feel, I can somehow control my environment. I can “be” with the people without actually “being” with the people. If I create my safe little world through words, then I can better safeguard myself from getting hurt by people. I can allow all of you in my world and still encourage and offer hope without you fully knowing me. Guess what? That hasn’t worked. I fully believe in community, but I’ve longed controlled who gets in because my past of being hurt by people has caused me to be quite cynical. If I let you in, you’re probably in for life, because despite all of my cynicism, I’m fiercely loyal. Here’s the thing…this neat, little world I’ve created for myself has brought me hurt and loneliness lately. I’ve found myself wondering,”Why didn’t ‘that friend’ like what I wrote? They must not be for me.” I would allow moments of this thinking to create a false reality for me. “What did I do? What did I say?” I’ve allowed it to make me feel inadequate as a leader because I assumed I couldn’t inspire. I truly believe that we have to get messy in people’s lives, but I couldn’t allow others to get messy in mine due to constant assumption. Being away often brings fresh perspective. While I don’t see my favorite means of communicating to change, I do see my focus changing. You see, the one constant I do have in my life is I want more than anything to be obedient to God more than I care who likes me or doesn’t like me. I have allowed the opinion of others – real or not – to determine whether or not I write, whether or not I encourage, whether or not I want to be hopeful. This morning in my quiet time I read Romans 1:12,”“that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.”          ‭‭

The cool thing I see is that we both need each other in every area of our lives. I must live out my calling and you must live out yours. In the end, we’ve made each other better. Sure, there will always be people who won’t respond to our calling, but that is no reason to stop. Allow me to encourage you today to BE who God has created you to be, and DO that to which He has called you to do. Know today that you need those around you to become, so who can you encourage in that way today? Let me say, I AM FOR YOU! I BELIEVE IN YOU. I will use my little corner of the world to always be a place you never have to wonder if anyone is for you. You are loved!

The Real Life

A social media persona is really very little persona at all. Sure, we grab our phones, hit our favorite app to link us to the world – friends from long ago, new friends, people who have intrigued us to follow – yet, unless we are in the throes of life with them, let’s face it…we do not really know these people at all. I love connecting with friends who live far away. We have bonds that will unite us forever, but the truth is, they no longer really know me. Sure, they would be there for me in a skinny minute, but they no longer share the day in and day out life with me…they do not know when I’m so sick I cannot leave my house, or when the demands of life have me down, or when there’s a big decision to make, a celebration to attend in life. What we share through a screen barely scratches its surface, forget cracking it wide open with the honest truth. Over the last little while I’ve been away from my daily life, breathing in the salty air, sitting in the quiet, observing life – my own and lives around me. In my reality, “I can touch it, smell it, see it” life, I’ve shared laughter with those around me, sat across the table with friends to share a meal, prayed alongside my husband, watched my kids skip carefree through the day. In the realm of the world through a screen, I’ve observed many lashing out through a status, venting when things don’t go their way, sharing minimal real life moments behind the disguise of a smile, a “happy all the time” picture, shared moments created for the photo op and not the what’s really going on in their life’s moments. 

Here’s the thing…many of you will not read this post even because social media is good at picking and choosing who sees what we post. While we vent it out, hoping to make sure a specific someone “gets our message,” life – REAL LIFE- is happening outside your computer and phone screens. Somebody hurt you? Go talk to them!(Matthew 18). Need someone to walk through hurt with you? Go ask your flesh and blood friends to BE there for you! Feel alone? Shut the screen off and take that person up on their offer for coffee. Best thing I read an author write before is this, “Not every glorious moment must be shared with the masses!” We don’t have to post every opinion, angry moment, happy moment, etc. The beauty of life is capturing it our hearts and loving it. Start today by getting outside and doing life with those around you. Foster friendships. Make memories. LIVE!!

The Hurt and The Hope

My heart hurts on one hand today, and on the other it feels hopeful – I watch a country that, for the most part, I did not grow up in, but loved with all of my heart…one I knew I’d make my home in when I moved back from Venezuela…I watch it represent virtually nothing of those hopes, dreams, peace and love I remembering dreaming of. I am watching it HURT ONE ANOTHER and listening to media heighten that hurt by honing in on the hateful words, the enraged words…the UGLY words. This is NOT the country I longed to build a home or raise a family. This is a country that days ago sang in unison, “God Bless America,” but did it really know that God is love and love heals a multitude of things? So, my heart hurts when I dwell in that place, and if I remain there it seems hopeless. Yet, I’m NOT!
I hope in today because in my reality, in the little part of the world in which I live, I put my arms around my daughter, McKenna, who left on a plane today to share LOVE with the people of Costa Rica. I watch her go and I choose to remember that if LOVE is enough to change the hearts of those people, then it is enough to change my heart and the heart of those around me – the hurting, the hateful, the enraged, the brokenhearted, the black, the white, the police, and the sinner, of which we all are. 
We end every day in need of a Savior. We scream and we post, “God help us,” but gloss over those words when we allow the anger to become greater than the hope we possess. It won’t be the one who walks daily with God, who clings to Him in the ups and downs, that will alone evoke the change. It’s you, too, one who has wandered away from Him, who’s settled for saying you know and love Him, but have been keeping the HOPE of Him to yourself for way too long. It’s time to remember and dig deep to that place that changed you so long ago. It’s time to stop hiding it under a bushel and let the LIGHT you possess – the answer to the hurt – to shine bright once again. 
The choice we have today is the one we have everyday – we can add another opinion to an already stirred up pot, or we can begin today to turn the tide and offer the words someone is waiting to hear. The media isn’t gonna do it, and probably your neighbor won’t either, but maybe it needs to be you to be the fresh voice everyone is longing to hear, and the change in ACTION all are longing to see! Our brokenness has a way of seeing our God in a way we’ve never seen Him before. Use your brokenness today to do the same for those who are watching. #prayfordallas #prayforyou #prayforme

The Fishbowl

fishbowlIt’s often said that pastors and their families live in a “fishbowl”. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I’ve never really known anything different, but just yesterday I guess I didn’t realize how paranoid I can be when I stop and realize people are staring. Sitting in a restaurant with my husband and oldest daughter, I noticed a woman paying very little attention to the husband sitting across the table from her, but literally never removing her stare from my family’s table. It got to a point that I could not even focus on our conversation, then began to anger me and then I began to think the thoughts of the “fishbowl”. I sat there and thought, “She must know who we are”. It happens all the time. People know who we are from visiting our church, but we may not have met them personally, or their visit was brief and we never met them at all, but yet, they know us. My thoughts were so consumed with “Why is she staring” that I never stopped to just rest in the fact that maybe she was just simply seeing a family that loved being together, no TITLE attached to us, but maybe she was seeing what we have been talking about in our family over the last few days…living from a Christ-centered place and LOVING it out, if you know what I mean. Thing is, I can become so inward in my thoughts. I can make assumption the birthplace of my reactions, actions and even lack of action. In living in the fishbowl of ministry are people saying, “They didn’t speak to me when I passed them,” or “They haven’t done enough for me,” or when I pass another and they no longer speak or make eye contact, allowing my thoughts to be, “What did I do to make them turn away from me”? My thoughts can really turn an unreality into a whole ordeal in my head and heart.

Over the last few months, my everyday life has held a heightened time of chronic pain that I’ve lived with for 13 years, an anxious heart as my Mom has undergone tests and questions of possible cancer, walking with friends and people in our congregation who are going through difficult situations and illnesses, preparing for my oldest to leave our nest and fly out on her own, while still parenting her and our other daughters through their own everyday “life stuff”. The truth about the proverbial “fishbowl” is that while we believe everyone sees everything that we go through, no one can truly see the depth of what often goes on within our hearts. The assumptions that what we see in a limited time together, or on social media, will never quite replace the real vulnerability of opening up and sharing what we are going through. Maybe I haven’t known all that’s going on in your life, and you didn’t know until now, all I’ve had in mine, but today we can take time to ask, “How are you really doing” and follow up with caring, loving and praying. Today we can stop living in the “You should read my mind and know what I’m going through” and realize it’s okay to not be okay, and TELL somebody that!

To some degree, we are all living in a fishbowl. When you call yourself Christ-follower, many will look to discredit you – fair or unfair – because that is how the enemy works, but what can “feel” like an inconvenience is truly an opportunity to have a life that may not be all put together and tied up in a neat bow, but TRULY portrays that EVERYDAY we need more and more of Jesus, no matter what title you bear! Can we all just focus outward today to sense the need that someone you cross pass with today has to be LOVED? Change the tide today by stopping the assumptions and live in the reality that we all can offer love, and THAT changes everything!

Seed Thrower

1- minute post: For the majority of my life, I fell for the lie that I had to have some “put you in the spotlight” talent or gift. I was always the kid that didn’t smile enough, couldn’t sing, didn’t make great grades in school, I quit the basketball team, was so painfully shy that I couldn’t form a sentence without breaking out in a sweat. I felt like I never measured up because I just didn’t get the recognition I thought I was “supposed” to get. Just being me didn’t seem to cut it. It wasn’t until I met my husband that I truly began to believe that I didn’t have to be all those things. He actually liked me just like I was – quiet, someone who identified more with growing up in another country than understanding how to live in North America, and pretty much was just an average person that needed to know that loving Jesus was just enough for him to love someone like me. I was just then, and really now, a simple person that believes that loving others like Jesus would is enough. To name how many times I’ve gotten off track from really believing that is too numerous to count.  Yesterday I was reminded of what an exceptional thing it is to be a seed thrower. Why? Because simply ANYONE can be one. Seed throwers can go unnoticed and still be seed throwers. They can be simple, everyday people, doing simple, everyday tasks. That was me yesterday. I was simply someone that got to pray over two ladies in our church that needed prayer and love. I got to be a friendly face that said, “Welcome” to a first time guest. I got to love on my girls by buying them a cup of coffee and laughing about how silly boys are. Hear me, my friend…When you cast the seed wrapped up in love, you ARE casting the good seed. If you follow Jesus, LOVE is the seed. It is the gospel.

Sweet, overtired Mama who feels like she has no ministry, you keep casting the seed of loving your babies well, training them up in Jesus and kissing their feverish foreheads when they are sick or when someone has broken their hearts. To the woman who works day in and day out in the office, you keep casting that seed to every person you speak to on the phone, who treats you less than in your job, to the one who you need to celebrate for their great success on that hard project. To you, dear senior adult, in a season of life that the world seems to treat you as if your “glory days” are over… you keep gathering with your friends for coffee or Bunco, or those you must visit in the hospital, or the funerals you suddenly find yourself attending more and more of, and you keep casting the good seed of showing those of us following in your footsteps how to love well through every, single season of life we’ll face. That is the gospel. 

Let’s not fall for the lie that only some are good seed casters. If Jesus has changed your life, you are a seed caster with the most important message to share – the Gospel. So today, if no one has said THANK YOU for just being you, I’m saying it. Thank you for being faithful. Thank you for changing lives. YOU are enough.

The Quick Fix

If you attended our church on Sunday, you would’ve heard my daughter, McKenna share this story, but I want to share it again because ever since it happened I’ve not stopped thinking about the impact in made in my life….

Back in July, McKenna and I traveled together to Costa Rica on a mission trip.  Going in, we both had different preconceived notions of what to expect.  McKenna had an expectation of going to be a blessing to those we would meet, and to just experience her first international mission trip. I went with excitement to return to a place I lived for two years, to share my daughter’s first overseas experience and to just allow God to speak to me in ways that were new and fresh. Neither of us really knew what to expect, but we were ready.

On our first full day of serving McKenna woke up with an increased pain in her ear from the day before. What we had thought was just pressure from flying the day before, became very apparent that she was probably experiencing an ear infection.  While at the home of a local pastor and his wife, we were rushing around trying to find a doctor that would possibly give her an antibiotic without seeing her, or some other medication that would help her immediately. As we all went into fix it mode, one of our guides on the trip, Sergio, came to where we were sitting and asked McKenna if she was the one with the ear pain.  He asked if he could pray for her, but before he did, he spoke words to us that will forever stick with me, and have changed my perspective on A LOT of things.

He said, ” Why do all of you run first to medicine and a quick fix before running to God? You came from the United States BECAUSE of God, and to share Him with others, but you haven’t even stopped to pray for HIS healing and HIS help first?”

Ouch! Truth is, he was right? He said, “Let’s pray for her healing FIRST!” He laid hands on McKenna’s ears and prayed a simple prayer of healing to an ALL POWERFUL God.  The next morning McKenna woke up with NO pain, and it never returned the rest of the trip.

“…you haven’t even stopped to pray for HIS healing first!” These words have reshaped so much of my thought process that I’ve clearly seen how much I had reprogrammed my mind and heart to look for the quick fix first, and then I would go to God. It seems to pervade our culture – this need for a quick solution, a fix it all pill, a “have you tried this first” mentality BEFORE we go to God.  We’ve even believed for so long that other things will fix it all, that it has blinded us from how God has played little, or no, part at all in OUR solutions, yet we, the Christ-follower, have often convinced ourselves that He did. God has, indeed, brought good things into our lives – medicine, doctors, resources, etc – but Sergio’s words reminded me that we have the ULTIMATE good thing to offer first to whatever situation problem, or illness we face. I realized that my jump to offer an earthly solution when problems arose had become my springboard – the foundation – of my life, instead of the Gospel being the springboard.  What if I woke up everyday and made the quick-fix-red-button-over-white-background-40156981Gospel my springboard for being a successful wife and mom, successful in my job, successful in ministry (yes, ministry), successful in my health, successful in my day to day conversations and relationships? The Bible says “I am the way, the truth and the life.”(John 14:6) We’ve grown up knowing that, but do we really KNOW that? Is the Gospel your launching pad for every area of your life? Is it where you first go and ask God to guide you, or do you try everything else first before you approach Him?  The Bible also says, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above?”(James 1:17) What are the perfect gifts God has armed you with to take God with you everywhere you go? That’s just what Sergio reminded us of on our trip.  “Did you come here to give the people of Costa Rica GOD, or a medicine that saves man,” he asked. A legalistic statement? No, I believe as reminder that we ARE armed with the best medicine of all.  He is the solution.  He is our Healer, Provider, Sustainer, All-Powerful God…and SO much more. Tap into Him as your All in All today, and springboard into THAT abundant life as you head into a world that needs to know HIM!