Our oldest son graduates high school, along with close to 400 classmates. Maybe even in the rain. Outside. Oh, joy! It seems to culminate in this one night, but truthfully, the past few weeks have been nonstop events on our calendar: senior awards, senior scholarships, band banquet, language awards, induction ceremony, baccalaureate, etc. It was so hectic I found myself rescheduling medical appointments multiple times on the day of some of these events. Despite syncing Apple Calendar and setting a timer on my phone, I could not keep it all straight. That panicky feeling kept creeping in insisting that I was going to miss something important.
And then there it was: That maroon and white tassel with 2018 dangling off the end of it. And I completely flashed back to 1990. Rainy day just the same, almost three decades earlier. All the nerves of exiting one chapter and entering another one rattling around like a live wire inside me.
Only this time, in 2018, it was my firstborn.
This day was the end of many things, yes, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of choices, decisions, dreams, achieving, and sometimes falling, sometimes failing.
What? Why so negative? Not the most inspiring graduation message, Bonnie!
Oh, but it is! Because the road ahead Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: class of 2018, crossroads, crown of righeousness, faith, finished the race, following God's lead, God's purposes, good and faithful servant, graduate, graduation, I am with you always, joy of your master, letting God lead, listening to God, mortarboard, personal growth, relationship with God, run the race, tassel, to the end of the age, walking with God, well done
Judges 15:4-5, ESV
So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards.
We have been slowly working through the book of Judges in the Sunday School class my husband and I teach every week. After revisiting the cycle of redemption playing itself out over and over again in the book of Judges, we finally made our way to Samson, the infamous judge whose strength was his unshaven hair and whose heart was easily seduced by enemy women. Not exactly the hero one might picture helping Israel get out from under enemy oppression, Samson was fond of sleeping with the enemy.
For a quick review of biblical history at this time, Israel had wanted to define itself much in the same way as surrounding people groups did at the time. It wanted a national identity, a ruler, a king. But God’s plans were to have Israel follow Him, with allegiance toHim alone. He wanted to set it apart from other cultures and establish it as His own.
When the book of Judges begins, the Israelites had already made their exodus from their oppressor Egypt, wandered the desert, and reached the Promised Land: Canaan. All God had asked them to do was to clear out the land of all other people and to not make a covenant with any of them. They were not to intermarry or follow foreign gods.
Well, they made a sad attempt at clearing the land and then gave up, intermarried, and worshipped in the style of those they were living among. Yeah, not exactly obedience. Hence the first turn along the cycle:
- God’s consequences to bring Israel back to Him
- Israel’s repentance
- God’s blessings on Israel
God, in His provision, provided Israel with judges, leaders who could bring His people back to repentance and help them fight their enemies. The problem was, by the time of Samson’s appointment as a judge, Israel had become complacent. The Philistines were living somewhat peaceably with them—but with Israel clearly the lesser nation.
God told Samson to keep a Nazirite vow and grow hair (as part of that vow). He set him apart, from his birth, to create a conflict with the Philistines so Israel could show itself mighty again. And how did He do this?
He used Samson’s greatest weakness: Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: consequences, cycle of redemption, disobedience, foxes, foxes in wheat fields, Fullness of joy, God uses our weaknesses, God's purposes, Judges 15, path of life, Philistines, promised land, Psalm 16:11, purposes of God, redemption, Samson, set apart, time of the Judges
I could hear the ramping up of emotion in the dining area from my room upstairs. My youngest son, who struggles with anxiety, had just survived his first few days of the new school year and was quickly unraveling from holding it together for six hours a day in front of peers and staff. As ugly as the meltdowns can be, I could see from the short time they lasted and the quicker recovery period that he is developing coping skills. Even so, this particular afternoon, I really didn’t want to be the recipient of his angst. I had been in a lot of traffic and went to my room for a while to get my peace on.
But then, the storm—the one where lightning is starting to flash and a big crash of thunder will soon follow. I’m so used to being hyper-vigilant that I almost ran down the stairs, but then I stopped myself. I heard something. My oldest son responded to the distress signal and calmly entered the room, speaking gently, rationally, briefly, and directly to his little brother. He was following all the instructions I offered him recently on how to bring Little Man down a notch.
And it worked.
I began thanking Jesus out loud in my room because it was amazing to hear someone else step in and do a better job than I often do. It was a relief of dramatic proportions. After about 20 minutes, I came downstairs, asked Little Man how he could have handled his stress better for the next time, and quietly affirmed his older brother.
I was not the one God put on this assignment, and had I barreled ahead, three people would have missed a blessing. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: blessing, crowns, God complex, God's anointing, God's assignments, God's guidance, God's leading, God's purposes, hearing God, Hearing God's voice, Jesse, king david, listening to God, pride, problem solving, Samuel, solving problems, the Lord looks on the heart, the Lord sees not as man sees
It’s Mother’s Day once again, and after going through every card in the store, my son settled on making one for us to send. The occasion can be an amazing day or a painful day for so many for a variety of reasons: recent loss, unfulfilled motherhood, a difficult mother relationship, abandonment, etc.
I’m not the gushy Mother’s Day type. I consider it the highest privilege and best job I’ve ever had, but we avoid the crowds and keep it low-key in our house. It’s sandwiched between my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary every year. There is plenty to celebrate in the month of May. We all simply want to be together. We don’t live near any of our family, so it has become a day to ourselves.
As I was preparing to write on the topic, I wanted to focus on an often overlooked mother in the Old Testament. She has much to teach us, and yet, her name wasn’t even included in the account. She is simply “the wife of one of the sons of the prophets.”
Ever feel like a description like that one? (Well, maybe not the prophet part!)
2 Kings 4:1-7, ESV, Anonymous author, possibly Jeremiah the Prophet
Now the wife of one of the sons of the prophets cried to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD, but the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.”
And Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?” And she said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.”
Then he said, “Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few.
Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside.”
So she went from him and shut the door behind herself and her sons. And as she poured they brought the vessels to her.
When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another.” Then the oil stopped flowing.
She came and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”
First, let’s take a look at her situation. Her husband Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: 2 Kings 4, call to me, Elisha, empty jars, empty vessels, filling jars, God's phone number, God's provision, God's purposes, God's rescue, jar of oil, Jars of oil, Jeremiah 33:3, miracle, mother's day, obedience, prayers
He was sitting in the middle of a winepress, hiding from his enemy, threshing wheat. Defeated and discouraged, Gideon was hardly a man you would describe as part of God’s inheritance of the Promised Land. If he didn’t thresh his wheat in secret, the Midianites, his enemy, would come and plunder the food, leaving him more hopeless and desperate than ever. And yet in the middle of this sad state, an angel of the LORD visits him:
Judges 6:12, ESV
And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.”
Um, what now?
There may be circumstances in your own life where you feel completely done under, barely coming up for air, sitting in the dark threshing your own wheat just to get by, trying to manage making it through one more day. You simply want to go unnoticed and un-harassed. Oh, I know several folks sitting in that place right now. It was me last year this time. And I know that in these moments, we certainly don’t feel like “mighty men of valor,” but when God Himself calls us that, He has a clear vision of what’s ahead and how He is about to use us for good.
For good? In these circumstances of certain defeat? How can He possibly use it for good?
Well, Gideon sure didn’t jump in with both feet initially. He needed a bit of reassurance, some confirmation. Do you know why?
At first he did not Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: blessed assurance, Christian faith, Gideon, God speaks, God with us, God's plans, God's purposes, God's reassurance, God's rescue, hope of Christ, Judges 6, mighty man of valor, presence of God, winepress
My week consisted of my high school sophomore son’s history paper on the negative influences of social Darwinism on society and my third grader’s Wampanoag mishoon (canoe) project. The older one wrote an intense analysis that squeezed every brain cell I had just to follow it (although it was wonderful to be reading a paper like that again—especially one written by my offspring!). His paper flowed so well because of his passion for the subject, unlike last year’s history paper around the Indo-China Wars, for which he had no enthusiasm or interest.
My third grade son’s mishoon project required patience and varied approaches to focusing his ADHD superpowers long enough to remember the information he needed to communicate in a video presentation. I tried note cards with prompts. I tried rehearsing. Then I took a deep breath and left the room. I am pretty good at offering strategies to help his mind slow down a bit and order itself, but I was fresh out of patience and ideas. I wasn’t mean about it, but I took a break.
Enter my extremely calm husband, who decided to write out all the information Little Man (my third grader) spoke to him. Having it completely written out on cue cards, Little Man felt free to look up and let his full personality out during the video. Solving the logistical, executive functioning problem made a way for creativity to flow. It was as if we watched a door unlock and the real person come through. He instantly went into newscaster mode and ended up with such a charismatic presentation, he could run for president—oh wait, let’s not make that connection this year! [Smile.]
So, I’m just curious:
What gets in our way of letting our God-given personality and passions come out? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: desires of our hearts, desires of your heart, draw near to God, dreaming with God, dreams God gives us, ephesians 2:10, giftings, God's plans, God's purposes, good works, Hebrews 11:6, jeremiah 29:11, potential, Psalm 32:8, Psalm 37:4, purposes, talents, way you should go
Once again, it is my great delight to share a piece from Tammie Wommack’s beautiful heart here at Espressos of Faith. Tammie lost her son Joshua in 2008 to suicide. Ever since, she and her husband Rick have been slowly healing and are passionate about sharing their journey, hope, and paths to finding peace and joy again with other grieving families. They are also fiercely committed to suicide prevention. Their story is an amazingly redemptive one. I hope your heart is encouraged and loved on by her sincere words.
Tammie and I first crossed paths in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where we were both living at the time, rocked by different circumstances in each of our lives. God has reconnected us, and I’m so thankful for her courage, vulnerability, and willingness to be used by God to help others. May God continue to bless you, Tammie (and Rick)!
As Rick and I travel around this beautiful country, moving from one destination to the next, we eventually find ourselves heading back to Clarksville, Tennessee, for many reasons: our precious grandchildren who keep us young, our friends who have been a lifeline and anchor for us on this grief journey, business matters that must be taken care of so we can stay on the road, doctor appointments, etc.
Our arrival to Clarksville is always mixed with so many different emotions. My heart, mind, body, and soul begin to prepare days before we get to what I call the “Joshua Zone.” I brace myself for the overwhelming rush of emotions that I know I will experience.
Grief is truly a very rough and long roller coaster ride. For me, the emotions are always followed by the temptation to drink alcohol so that I cannot feel that rush of emotions I know await me as I enter the city limits. I feel like I have to be constantly on guard.
The length of time we stay and the number of our visits has varied over the years, but the feelings are still just as strong now as they were the first time we had to travel back there after Joshua died. It seems I am never really able to let my guard down until we are heading out of the city of Clarksville, Tennessee.
While I write about my grief often, I don’t always talk about my temptation to Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: addiction and grief, after loss, alcohol and grief, child death, child loss, finding joy again after loss, God's plans, God's purposes, Good Samaritan, grieving, grieving parents, healing from loss, hope after loss, mourning, parent grief, purpose in grief, redemptive story, suicide, suicide loss, suicide prevention, surrender to God, temptation, where is God
We drove to the Deep South for post-Christmas fun with my husband’s sisters, their families, and his Dad. As I looked out over the Alabama fields, I told God:
“My heart hurts. What healing do You have for me here?”
I believe He always wants to heal our wounds. It’s part of what He went to the cross for.
You know what? I found His hugs, warmth, and love in watching young cousins have light-saber battles and in playing rowdy games of “Nuts” with my nephew and nieces. I watched each God-given personality interact and shine. I saw their faces as once-babies now in mostly/almost adult form.
And I thought of this verse:
Psalm 27:13, KJV, King David speaking
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
We must see God’s goodness in everything He gives us because death, disease, addictions, injuries, and sin are thieves we can become embittered hating if we don’t focus on the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. At times, it’s a minute-by-minute choice, or else we’d lose our minds and hearts to deep grief, shame, or disillusionment.
Sometimes, seeing His goodness is so hard for us because of our incredible pain. He knows this, so we can ask Him to help us. We absolutely should.
John 15:7, ESV, Jesus speaking
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Our family of five, along with two rather compliant Shih Tzus, began our road trip back from Alabama and traveled as far as Knoxville, Tennessee, when the text came in that my 26 year old cousin Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: abide in me, addiction, Alabama, comfort, compartmentalized, disillusionment, faith walk, God's purposes, goodness of the Lord, grief, heal our wounds, healer, hope, I had fainted, Isaiah 53:5, John 15:7, loss, mourning, pierced for our transgressions, psalm 27:13, shame, with his wounds we are healed
As ridiculous as this may sound, I recently prayed for a free caterpillar for my youngest son, Little Man.
Little Man is an outdoor kind of guy. Anything that grows, crawls, or breathes completely fascinates him. Considering his not insignificant focus and anxiety struggles, nature has become his personal sanctuary. If there’s a snake or chipmunk, a locust exoskeleton, or deer prints (in the snow) to be spotted, he likes to investigate, research, and track results. We’ve grown a sunflower and planted many things in our soil. They’ve all been their own special brand of therapy.
Four days ago, he found a small caterpillar, Smiley. We had no idea where it was in its life cycle, or rather, how close to the chrysalis stage, but we were about to find out.
I did my research and kept it in an appropriate container with leaves and a stick. After getting a little fatter and crawling around as a happy green color, he scrunched up and turned black one day. Little Man assured me this was the chrysalis phase, and sure enough, he was right, only Smiley never made it up the stick to hang in a J shape. Without the proper “hanging position,” all my sources told me he’d have lopsided wing structure/ability. What’s a girl to do?
To no avail, for 15 minutes, I chased a wiggly chrysalis around the table trying to tie a string on a stem at the end, dutifully following Chrysalis Rescue instructions to string it up so it could develop “balanced wings.”
It then occurred to me that this must be what happened to me years ago. I didn’t hang my chrysalis correctly.
Ever know that feeling? Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: assumed defeat, balancings of the clouds, breaking free, bring it to completion, caterpillar, chrysalis, cocoon, day of Jesus Christ, double-minded, false sense of safety, false sense of security, finished work of the cross, freedom in Christ, God's purposes, hanging in the balance, he who began a good work, hiding place, holds you back, Job 37:14, my shield, naysayers, Philippians 1:6, psalm 119, Savior, self-protection, sell yourself short, trusting God, who God created you to be
Today, Espressos of Faith is delighted to have guest blogger, Bonnie Sue Beardsley of More Than Just Coffee. If you pay even a little attention to me, you can see we are not only name but also coffee twins, joined at the hip by our love for God, and secondly, writing.
I drew so much wisdom from this post of hers. It somehow reached into an old, rusty wheel that turns once in a while inside my mind and heart and oiled it with God’s Truth.
Don’t we all resurrect those old negative voices now and then? See how Bonnie encourages you to follow Scripture to shut out the self-talk that holds you back. She shares what lies just ahead of pushing through. Blessings!
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”
I’m sure when Paul wrote Philippians 1:21, he was talking about physical. What I learned is this verse is one of the most powerful truths to ending the negative self-talk. We let it run amuck in our heads everyday.
A couple weeks ago a good friend and I had an argument about me being able to write fiction. I felt like there was no way I could do it. He just told me to get out of my head and do it. Yes, I have a BIG problem with listening to the voice inside saying, “You can’t do this,” or “You wouldn’t be good at that.”
It doesn’t matter if I know Philippians 4:13 says that I can do all things in Jesus. It is when I let the voice get in my way and stop me from even attempting to try to do something, like write a fiction piece.
This week there was a challenge in a post to write a spontaneous piece to a picture in the post. My first thought was there is no way I could do that. Then as I sat looking at the picture thoughts of what was going on in the scene started popping into my mind. I pushed past the negative thoughts and wrote down what was going on in my mind about the picture. When I finished it, I could not believe what I wrote.
Did you notice what happened? I had to die, put to death the negative self-talk to do what I thought I couldn’t do. When I died to my thoughts of not being able to write fiction, then I became alive to new God was working in me.
What are some of your mind games you need to die to, so you can live what God has planned for you?
Here is my spontaneous piece (the picture that inspired it can be found here
The ship is back! She threw open the sash. Leaned out, with hope that she could see the face she long to see once again. She scoured over every face on the deck until finally her eyes met his. Her heart leaped to her throat and tears started flowing down her cheeks. He’s home! She couldn’t wait to hear his stories of the trip. She wanted to run as fast as she could down to the ship but she couldn’t stop looking into his eyes. The fear of if she stopped he would be gone again. How her mind raced; “How was her appearance? Did she have everything needed for his favorite meal? How much longer until she would be in his embrace?”
For years I have been comfortable serving in women’s ministry behind the sound booth. When we move to Texas, I lost that hiding place. Soon after we moved God placed on my heart to write devotions for women. I fought with God over that. I was a busy wife and homeschooling two boys. Didn’t God know I didn’t have time to write. Ten years later several friends asked me to start my own online study. He never gives up on us. Now I write for Him.
*This blog was first featured at More Than Just Coffee. Join Bonnie at her Bonbon ‘n’ Coffee Link-up Party each Thursday!
**It has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Pick Your Pin Tuesday, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Coffee & Conversation, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, and Christian Mommy Blogger.
Tags: fear, God's plans, God's purposes, I can do all things in Jesus, mind games, negative self-talk, negative voices, negativity, philippians 1:21, philippians 4:13, self-confidence, self-esteem, things that hold us back, to die is gain, to live is Christ