Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Change of Scene

I stood in my kitchen, dazed from the energy lost by a vigorous cleaning. My eyes closed briefly. On the screen of my mind I saw a lifetime of chores stretched out before me like an endless string of camels crossing the Sahara. I felt a momentary pang, remembering the Saturdays of my childhood. Every Saturday was a blank page waiting to be filled with my favorite things. Those days are gone. Now, the pages of my days are scribbled on before I ever arrive. With a sigh of resignation, I began to sort through the mail on my counter.

The letter from India came with two pictures of my sponsored child, one happy with the Christmas gift I had sent, and another of the Christmas meal he had enjoyed with the other boys living at the home. It was one line of his letter that burned into my heart. "I regularly read Bible and pray for you and your children." Stunned, I put down the letter. He prays for me? The thought had never before occurred to me. I was the one who was supposed to pray for him. Before I could stop them, the tears came.

I know I am just one of thousands of typical American moms, driving the minivan, over-scheduled, plagued by the guilt of not keeping up, not doing enough. And he is the typical sponsored child, needy, without family, dutifully thanking his sponsor for sharing a little of her American dollars. But in that moment I was given grace to see the truth. In the Spirit, those labels don't exist. He and I are two beautiful souls woven together by prayer. That is the power of prayer. Our two souls kneel, neither one above the other, but both at our Father's feet, brother and sister in Christ. We are forever bound by the love of Jesus.

The picture in my mind changed to a scene in Heaven. I saw myself meeting this dear boy, speaking face to face with laughter. I saw a Saturday there, together with him, fresh as a new sheet of paper... waiting to be filled with all of our favorite things.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Flesh and Blood

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

I blinked in the silence of my children's stares. I had a blazing letter "H" on my chest. I could see it reflected in their eyes. Hypocrite. All of my efforts to teach them self-control seemed wasted now. My youngest son, once again, "forgot" the rules, chose not to obey, chose to do whatever he wanted. And this time, I threw off my own self-control like a pair of flip-flops, and jumped in with him. I lost my temper. I raised my voice, and said whatever I wanted. I got good and mad. We wallowed in the mud of sinful self-indulgence, he and I. And when it was all over, regret made the stains that much more stubborn.

Why is this so hard? Must every day be a bloody battle against one I love so dearly? No other person in my life has tried my patience as relentlessly as this little son of mine.

This would never happen to my friend, "Faith." She has an angelic brood of girls at her house, and I bet she never raises her voice to them. She is a faithful woman of God and an inspiration to all who know her. No, she would never.

She would never. This is the thought I punished myself with as I fell asleep, defeated and discouraged. I dreamt of Faith that night. I waited at her house until she came. She walked in and headed for the shower, looking tired and down after a long, hard day. After a minute, I heard angry shouting. I gasped. That sounded like Faith! One of her daughters must have irritated her after her hard day. She's not perfect after all! I headed toward the sound and put my ear against the bathroom door. "I will not let you get me down!" she yelled. "I will not be discouraged! The Bible says..."

I had heard enough to know Faith wasn't yelling at one of her children. She was yelling at the devil.

The morning sun broke through my dream, and I opened  my eyes to the reality of another day. Fresh. New. Mercy upon mercy. I slipped to my knees and thanked my Father for the reminder. I am in a daily battle, but it isn't against my son, my flesh and blood. It's against the one who currently rules the world. Satan is after the hearts and minds of my children. He's after my heart and mind, too. He wants me to believe that there is a perfect mother out there somewhere to compare myself to, because as long as I am busy doing that, I won't be focused on my perfect Heavenly Father.

Son, whether you know it or not, I am on your side. You and I are on the same team. We are in a battle, Buddy. But we have the Champ on our side! We have the Super Hero of all super heroes with us to save the day. Every day. He has shiny, dart-quenching armour for us to wear and swords for us more powerful than all of your light sabers. So, let's do this thing together. We can do it. I love you, flesh and blood and heart and soul, until it hurts.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near." (2 Timothy 4:6, NLT)
I have a confession to make. By the end of most days, my drama queen comes out and wants to commiserate with Paul here. "Tell me about it, Paul. I've been there, man. Near death due to excessive self-sacrifice? Yes. I think I'm there right now after the day I've had."

You can laugh at me. I'm laughing at me, because I know this is not what Paul meant when he wrote these words. And yes, I do realize that I have never been beaten, imprisoned, starved, or shipwrecked for the sake of Christ. I have no right to lump myself with Paul.

But, the truth is, I have been pulled in ten different directions in any given hour, puked on, pooped on, peed on, spit on, shot with dart guns, laughed at, cried at, yelled at, complained to, tattled to, and countlessly begged and questioned. I feel used. And I think this is a common complaint among women, whether or not we are mothers. Women, in my experience, give and give until we often feel sucked completely dry.
Our third inspirational woman has been on my heart for months. Her act of worshipful giving and what followed has helped me see my life with new eyes:
Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “[It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”(John 12:1-8)
I feel like I've been having a never-ending conversation with God about this passage. He's kept me here, I think, because what I can learn is so life-changing, He doesn't want me to leave until I get it. I'm still here. I might be here for awhile, but these are some things I've learned so far:

The difference between living a "poured-out" life and a "poor me" life is all in my mind.

Loving my family, my job, and my life is not enough. Despite all the love, every now and then I'll catch a naughty thought running around in my mind like a naked toddler:

 "Everyone around here gets the weekend off but me."
"If I weren't here this place would fall apart."
 "Nobody realizes how much I sacrifice."
"Why doesn't anyone else see all these things that need to be done?"
 "I'm tired of volunteering for stuff. Let someone else have a turn."

 If I don't catch these thoughts right away, in a matter of minutes they can put down roots in my mind and start growing. Before I know it, I'm living the "poor me" life playing the part of Bitter Betty, Martyr Mommy and Worn-Out Wife all wrapped up in one frightening package. 

It turns out these roles are completely unfulfilling, because the thoughts they are based on are only half truths at best and really more like outright lies. The Bible tells me lies have a father and his name is Satan. I really don't want Satan's babies running around in my head. Ephesians 4:23 tells me instead to be made new in the attitude of my mind.

No one forced Mary to pour out her expensive perfume on Jesus. She didn't feel obligated or guilty. She wasn't resentful that no one else was doing it. I believe she did it because she wanted to. She was compelled by love for Jesus and Jesus alone. But dare I say even loving Jesus is not enough? Because no matter how I love Him, even still the thoughts will come. So how do I be made new in the attitude of my mind? There is only one way. My mind is renewed by the Word of God. A lying thought comes. I must catch it quickly and bring it to my Lord.

"Lord, Your Word says to come to You and You will give me rest."
"Lord, Your Word says that You are the one who holds all things together--not me."
"Lord, Your Word says that when I humble myself before You, You will lift me up."
"Lord, Your Word says that whatever I do, I should do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father--not complaining."
"Lord, Your Word says to never tire of doing good."

 If I want to live a poured-out life for Jesus, I must renew my mind.

I am the perfume.

 For quite a time after I began meditating on this passage, I tried to re-create the scene between Mary and Jesus. I wanted to do what she did and have that precious moment with him. I would kneel down in my bedroom, close my eyes, and imagine a jar of perfume in my hands. I imagined Jesus before me and myself pouring the perfume. Only I could never decide whether to pour it on his head or his feet. If I poured it on his head it might sting his eyes. If I went for his feet it didn't seem like enough coverage. As silly as this sounds, I actually had some sweet times of worship as a result, just telling Him that I wanted to pour my praise on Him. But then I would leave my room, be instantly confronted with the chaos of life, and it would all evaporate.

One day, I finally heard what he had probably been saying to me the whole time: "You are the perfume. There is nothing more expensive or dear that you could give me but you. Your worship is not just a moment in your quiet room. It is every moment if you choose it. Every breath you take, every word you speak is an act of worship if you make it so." Yes, of course! Didn't I already know this? I thought I did. But I don't really know something until I've lived it. And I haven't lived this way. Not really. But, oh how I want to.

In that moment when I am dog-tired, the last one up, and crying for bed, and realize that I have forgotten something that must be done before morning--it is then that I want to stop myself before I sigh and whine. I want to be perfume poured out then, while I do what needs to be done with a heart that remembers Jesus did everything for me. He died for me. And in living every moment for Him, I am sweet perfume, poured out on my Savior.

There will be naysayers. Go ahead and let them say nay. 

Mary was criticized for what she did. The room did not stand up and applaud her or thank her for her inspirational display of generosity. There will always be someone to criticize my efforts at living a poured-out life. Instead of encouraging a life of self-sacrifice, many will argue that it is more important to fill my days with "me time," pampering, and self-indulgence in order to make me a happier, more fulfilled woman. But, I just can't seem to find that verse in my Bible. What Jesus teaches is quite the opposite. And it is what He thinks that really matters to me. Jesus defended Mary. He acknowledged her sacrifice and called it a beautiful thing in the book of Matthew. What the world calls foolish, Jesus calls beautiful. 

Living a poured-out life smells good. 

I love that what Mary did for Jesus affected everybody. The whole house was filled with the fragrance of her perfume. I will tell you the opposite is also true. When I am in a "poor me" frame of mind, I stink, and everybody around me smells it. My whole family gets cranky when I am cranky. But when I am intentionally worshipful throughout my day, the house is filled with sweetness. Not only is Jesus blessed, but so are the people with me.

Jesus is the best example of a poured-out life.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children  and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.(Ephesians 5:1-2)

Jesus was a fragrant offering on the altar that should have been mine. He poured out His life for me. The greatest thing I can do in response is to imitate Him.

Oh, let me see You, Jesus, ever before me as I go about my work. Let me see your face on every person I encounter in this life. Let my life be an act of worship, fragrant and pleasing to You. I pour out my thanks, my praise, my adoration, and all my love on You.  



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Treasure and Ponder

(This post was specifically written for the women who attended the Heart Retreat at Windermere, but even if you didn’t, you are not excluded! Feel free to read and apply this to your own experiences.)
Since my last post about gleaning, you’ve been frozen in my mind like a graceful statue, a bundle of grain in your arms, a wistful smile on your face, and the corner of your dress lifting gently in the breeze. This makes me laugh, because if you are anything like me, you dropped your grain days ago to make room for turkey and pumpkin pie. But that’s okay. The whole point of this little follow-up study is to remember and apply the good things the Lord did in us at the Heart Retreat. We can continue to do that with just a bit of time and effort, even in the midst of recovering from Thanksgiving and preparing for Christmas. Let’s take a look at Mary, the mother of Jesus, as our next inspirational woman.
When they (the shepherds) had seen him (Jesus), they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:17-19)
I like the way the New Living Translation describes Mary’s treasuring and pondering: “…but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.” Ruth showed us the importance of gleaning the good things the Lord has for us, and I think Mary’s example can teach us how to turn our gleanings into food for our hearts. But how do we treasure and ponder? What does it mean?
treasure:  1: to collect and store up (something of value) for future use: hoard
                 2: to hold or keep as precious: cherish, prize (
ponder:  to weigh carefully in the mind; consider thoughtfully (
The Lord has done many wonderful things in my life, but I have never accidentally kept them in my heart and thought about them often. If I am going to hold on to these precious things and consider them in a thoughtful way, I have to be intentional. Treasuring and pondering is certainly not a strength of mine, but when I do it, I feel like my heart has had a Thanksgiving feast. I really like the first definition of treasure: to store up something of value for future use. I like to think of it as putting my grain into the storehouse of my heart for the lean times that may be ahead of me. Pulling it out and feasting on what the Lord has done in the past will help to see me through those dry seasons. 
So, what did the Lord give to you at the Heart Retreat? Did you make your list of gleanings? If so, let's start storing the grain in our hearts.  
1. Read through your list. If you don't have one, you can still make one! Read this post, called "Glean" for ideas.
2. Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you how to treasure and ponder the things on your list. (Disregard the rest of this list if you feel He is leading you in a different direction. He is the best teacher!)
3. Consider this verse: "Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them." (Psalm 111:2) Take some time to tell the Lord that the things He gave you at the retreat are great and that you delight in the works He has done for you.
4. Ponder! This comes naturally to some, and for others may be like pulling teeth. I think I fall somewhere in between. Choose one thing from your list to ponder for now. For example, one of the things on my list is that the Lord reminded me at the retreat to let go of the things I can't control. To ponder this particular thing, I chose to dig a little deeper by studying. I looked up the word "control" in my concordance, and I'm so glad I did! For one thing, I found a prayer of Jeremiah's that really spoke to my heart. And I was also reminded of the different kinds of control: self-control, God's control, and also Satan's control. (If you don't have a concordance, you can use one online! Bible Gateway is one that you can use to search in different versions of the Bible.)  
5. Write it down. I wrote what I learned about control in my notebook. I also wrote down my own prayer about it, too. I think this helps get it in my heart a little better.
6. Relax. One of my favorite things to do is to take a nugget from my day and ponder it as I'm falling asleep at night. You might like to try this with one of the things on your list. Put it in the front of your mind as you close your eyes to sleep. Ask the Lord to speak to your heart about it during the night. If it is a verse, dwell on it, saying the words to yourself as you drift away. Don't be surprised if you wake up in the morning, or even the middle of the night with fresh insight on that particular subject. My spiritual ears just seem to be more alert when the rest of me is sleeping.  " I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me." (Psalm 16:7)
7. Repeat for the other items on your list.
I would love to hear of other ways you treasure and ponder, if you'd like to share. I hope you will stick with me for our third inspirational woman, coming soon(ish)!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


(This post was specifically written for the women who attended the Heart Retreat at Windermere, but even if you didn’t, you are not excluded! Feel free to read and apply this to your own experiences.)

I love getting away. And I love coming home. But I do not love unpacking or the feeling of being thrown back into the mess of everyday life where any joy or refreshment I received in my time away gets instantly lost under the pile. I know I don’t even have to explain the pile to you. The pile is one of our common bonds as women, right?

I’ve been talking to the Lord about this Heart Retreat we just came home from, not wanting any one of us to lose any good thing under our piles. And you know what? God cares about this, too. After all the inspiring women we were around this weekend, I feel His urging to take a look at three other inspiring women from Scripture and gain some wisdom from them. I thought you might like to come with me and look at one of them now:

As she got up to glean, Boaz gave orders to his men, "Even if she gathers among the sheaves, don't embarrass her. Rather, pull out some stalks for her from the bundles and leave them for her to pick up, and don't rebuke her." So Ruth gleaned in the field until evening. (Ruth 2:15-17)

Ruth gleaned in the barley field because she and her mother-in-law were hungry. She had favor with Boaz, the owner of the field, so that she could follow behind the harvesters and gather stalks of barley that had been dropped. Not only that, Boaz went so far as to ask his men to purposely leave behind some extra stalks for Ruth to gather.

I don’t know about you, but I am hungry for spiritual food, and I believe as a Christian woman, I have favor with my Father. He has stalks of barley for me, but He doesn’t drop them straight into my mouth. It takes some effort on my part. Gleaning is work, but it is worth the bending over.

The Heart Retreat was so packed full of fun, fellowship, tears, laughter, food, activities, music, gifts, testimonies, and teachings! You might have felt energized, overwhelmed, or a little of both. You are not the only one. What can we do to sort through the range of emotions we experienced?  I believe taking the time to glean the stalks that our Heavenly Father left for us is one way. The fun part is that each of us has something different to glean, because our God is a personal God who treats us as unique individuals.

So, how do we glean? I don’t think it needs to be complicated. Here are some simple steps we can take to join our sister Ruth in the field:

1.       Pray. Ask God to show you what specific spiritual food He has for you to glean from your time at the retreat.

2.       Listen. Be quiet for a little while and wait.

3.       When He shows you something, pick it up. Now, don’t start bending over grabbing at imaginary items, or you’re going to get some raised eyebrows. It’s probably better to just make a list. Write down your gleanings.

4.       Now look at your strong arms full of barley. You may have a new friendship lying there, or you might have a Scripture that the Lord used to speak just to you. You may have a new heart(!) or maybe a hope after a time of hopelessness.  Maybe it’s a deeper understanding of God’s love for you, or the healing of a hurt. Perhaps you have fresh vision into a certain situation or a confirming word concerning a God call on your life.  You might have new strength lying there to overcome temptation.  Whatever your gleanings may be, let’s thank the Lord for our harvest! Ruth and Naomi were so grateful for their barley, and we should be, too. Take a few minutes to thank Him for each item on your list.

5.       Share! Ruth shared her gleanings with Naomi. I believe sharing spiritual food with others feeds not only the recipient, but nourishes us as well. There are many ways to share. After you work through this exercise, feel free to come back and share right here in the comments section or on the Inspire Facebook page. Or share with your spouse, friend, co-worker—whoever the Lord puts on your heart. If your gleanings are just too personal, God still did something good for you, and just telling that to someone is enough. We are overcomers by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony! (Revelation 12:11)

And now, a short word about chaff:  Chaff is the debris of harvest. It’s the part we don’t want to eat. Did you just catch some chaff in your stalks like I did? When a group of women get together, you know there is going to be some chaff floating around. That is the work of our enemy, trying to destroy God’s work in us. I’m talking about the chaff of comparisons, inadequacy, self-depreciation, jealousy, pride, unforgiveness, and this list could go on and on. I know I picked up some chaff that God wants to help me throw in the fire. If you picked up some too, pray with me for His help to blow it off and let it burn.

Thanks for gleaning with me! If you like, save your lists and bring them along next week as we take a look at another inspiring woman of Scripture!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hi. My Name is Rachelle, and I am Inadequate.

I had agreed to babysit for a friend again. So today I had two preschoolers and a ten-month-old, in addition to my own three. In the afternoon, chaos erupted between the two preschoolers, and I swept them into the backyard to diffuse the situation. As I knelt down, talking calmly to them at their level, I suddenly realized I had left the ten-month-old unattended. So, like the wise mother that I am, I abandoned the little tots in the backyard and ran screaming into the house for the baby. Panicked, I followed his trail out the front door, where I found him operating the leaf blower in the front yard next to the street. Relieved that he was alright, I scooped him up in my arms and held him close. It was then that I noticed the neighbors had gathered around and were casting looks of cold disapproval in my direction. I was an unfit mother. I could see it in their eyes.
And then I woke up. It was only a dream. But the reality of my inadequacy was hovering over me and my pillow like a grey cloud.
The day before had been Orphan Sunday, and despite my fear of public speaking, I could not ignore the intense urging I felt that our church needed to acknowledge this day. So with dry mouth and sweaty palms, I stood before the congregation and shared God's heart and mine for orphans and foster children. I also chose this time to share with our church the decision Bob and I have made to be foster parents with the hope of adopting. At this point, the congregation applauded, which startled me. I had practiced my speech in the shower and in my van, forgetting that I would actually be talking to people who might respond.
Something about the applause bothered me; it made me feel guilty in some twisted way. Perhaps if someone in the crowd had shouted the things I have said to myself, I would have felt better. "Hey! Aren't you the lady who lets your kids run around like maniacs in the parking lot after church?" or, "You can't even control the ones you have! What makes you think you can take on any more?" Great question, blunt, imaginary congregation person! And the answer is, I don't know! We must be crazy.
Try as I might, I could not go back to sleep after my disturbing dream. I lay awake in the five o'clock quiet and wondered how I was going to have enough time, love, patience, wisdom, and strength for a child I don't even know. I thought of the hours of training we have received, the mounds of paperwork we have completed, and the thorough going-over of our house by outsiders. We have been finger-printed, background checked, and questioned about our personal lives. But the truth is, we fall short.
In my heart, in the dark, I began the conversation. "Lord! I fall short as a wife and mother. I fall short as a teacher and housekeeper. I fall short as a friend and as a Christian. I fall short as a person. I am woefully inadequate."
Like a best friend who lovingly tells me the truth, and not just what I want to hear, I felt Him answer me: "I know, and that is exactly where I want you to be. I use people who know they are inadequate, because they are the ones who know how much they need Me. Don't let your inadequacy discourage you--let it drive you to complete dependency on Me. Cling to Me. Let My strength be made perfect in your weakness."
I thought of Peter, the Lord's disciple who is well-known for his epic failure--denying even knowing his beloved Christ. Poor Peter. His weakness is remembered every Easter and any time we need a good example of someone who fell short miserably. But the conversation Peter and Jesus have after the resurrection is revealing and redeeming. Jesus simply wants to know where Peter's heart is. "Do you love me?" At Peter's affirmative response, Jesus replies, "Feed my sheep."

Jesus doesn't want or need to spend time hashing and rehashing my past mistakes and the many ways I fall short daily. He knows getting to the heart of the matter--loving God and loving others--is the sun around which everything else either revolves or flies out of orbit into the void.

So what now? Shall I embrace my inadequacy? I think I won't. I think I will embrace the Saviour who loves me in spite of it, and who requires loving Him and His sheep as the basis for everything else I do. I will embrace the One whose glory shines through all my weak spots, cracks, and holes. I will not despair. I will depend on the One who gives me everything I need to do what He asks of me.

( And...I will remember to read this if any child in my care ever ends up by the street with the leaf blower.)

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Aspen Inspiration

Last year, when we were in Colorado, I fell in love, just as I always do, with the Aspen trees. The Aspen woods we walked through were so fresh. I noticed that the greenest of greeny ferns seemed to flock around the Aspen trunks like so many children around a mother's legs. These lovely scenes inspired me to write a poem. Today happens to be the first birthday of Aspen Joy, the darling girl of my dear friends, Kris and Brooks. I dug out my notebook from last year and found my poem and am posting it as a happy birthday wish to that sweetie little girl.

A Mother and Her Children Observed in the Mountainy Woods

Straight and still, the trunk of Aspen is mottled black and white.
How unlike her are the children playing around her feet.
How wild are the frilly ferns, and greener than the greenest green.
Joyful in the cool damp, the youngest hug their mother's knee, while the rest embark on a woodsy rite of passage.
Sunlight teases and dances on fronds.
The fern children sparkle.
But do not think Aspen oblivious to her flock.
Only cast your eyes upward and notice her trembling leaves.
Turn your ear toward that tender sound.
She is laughing in her graceful way.

Mmm...after I read this again, I think I would like to be that mother. Graceful, peaceful, serene, yet quietly laughing, as my children frolic around me. Only in a poem, right?

Happy Birthday, Aspen! May God richly bless you as you enter your second year of life!

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