A Valentine For the Lonely

No one will ever love you like Jesus does.

You were made to be cherished, and you are.  From the moment your parent’s cells fused together to become you, it was love at first sight.  God cradled you, hushed in the warmth of your mother’s womb, and crafted you with infinite care.  For months, it was His eyes only that softened at the very sight of you, weaving your DNA into a symmetrical double helix formation and imprinting bold and beautiful dreams into your newly beating heart.

And then the time came for you to be delivered, and whether you were welcomed or unwanted by your parents, all of heaven hushed as God kissed breath into your infant lungs.  Your tiny fists clenched as you wailed dissatisfaction, and you’ve never escaped that lingering taste of discontent.  You want more than this wild, beautiful, messy, dark, sin-splashed planet has to offer, because you were born for another world.

The gaping hole in your heart was made to turn you heavenward, and all the loneliness was meant to remind you that Christ was abandoned by His Father for a dark afternoon so that you need never be forsaken.  Tell me this: has anyone in your whole life completely, totally, and thoroughly known every crevice of you, and then unflinchingly died for you?  How about someone you’ve betrayed, ignored, and disrespected…what about then?  Jesus did.

Now I know, you want arms to hold you close, and someone to whisper sweet nothings in your ear, and there is nothing wrong with wanting any of thatWhen loneliness pushes hard and wounds grow scar tissue, feeling unlovable is easy.  The honest truth is that when we are stripped to our very core, we are unlovable, prickly, nasty, self centered people with a few nice streaks tossed in to pretty things up a little.  The good news of the Gospel is not that God loves the lovely, but that God loves sinners.

You and I may be unlovable, but we are not unloved.

If you trust only in the saving work of Jesus on the cross, then you are His forever.  No prettying up needed.  God loves you at your worst, and He is prepared to help you grow into the breathtaking image of His only Son.

There is good news for anyone feeling just a little bit lonely this Valentine’s Day.  Tender-loving is not some painful memory from the past, or some not-yet-realized dream for the future.  It’s your birth right as God’s beloved child.  The Almighty, brushing close to fill the hollow places, can be your love affair.  Jesus shouted it from a blood soaked hill, whispers it from every tissue-thin page of every Bible across the world, and sings it unblushingly loud from the stars in deepest space to the very molecules that comprise your every cell.  The earth still quivers with the power of that love.

You want an epic romance?

Brace yourself, because your Hero is perfect, strong, loving, understanding, and romantic.  And not only will He love you forever, He died to keep you for all time and eternity.  You are His cherished friend, His delight, His treasure.  You are His bride.  When He looks at you, it’s through the eyes of love, unstained by sin.

Don’t miss the message in all of this mess: Jesus will never, ever, not even for a second stop loving you.  He sees every last sinful, shredded piece of you, and He wants you anyway.

You’re not His last choice – you’re His first.

Real intimacy is about so much more than stripping clothes; it’s about stripping the pretense away and letting yourself touch and be touched in the deep places of your heart.  It’s about baring your soul and your skin and bearing his faults with gentleness.

Seven years married, and I’m still a baby to this true love stuff.

I can tell you that it’s worth it.  Loving him and being loved by him is hard work, but it’s worth it.  Sometimes it looks like fun and flirting, and sometimes it looks a whole lot like raw flesh touching a splintered cross and two sinners kneeling below.  Real love is his hand holding tight while you clench through the contractions, and yours holding him when life kicks him in the gut.  It’s laughing till you cry, and keeping promises because marriage isn’t just about you and him.

Marriage is a picture of the love that Christ has for the church.

This Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that Someone thought you were worth dying for.  Hold out for a man that loves you like Jesus does.

This first appeared on iBelieve.com on February 7, 2017


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When You’re Heavy Laden At Christmas

Hello, friends.

I feel a bit like old Zechariah, tongue loosed after months of silence.

The truth is, I’ve felt hushed these last months.  More aware than ever of the staggering magnitude of God and His abilities, and more deeply aware than ever of my lack.  Lack of faith, lack of sufficiency, lack of time, lack of energy…just not enough in so many areas.  And learning that it’s okay (like really, truly okay) to lean on Jesus in my insufficiency instead of trying to only half lean on Him.  I’m a desperately untrusting, stubborn independent  (?) kind of a gal.

I’ve been focused in on baring my soul to God and hushing my own expectations – and maybe even the expectations of others, too.  And with all that, I’ve been learning so much more about loving my husband and kiddos well.

I just haven’t had words for anything else.

Maybe I should also mention…we’re in the middle of a miracle.  You know how the doctor said we were done having kids?  Well, that’s what we thought, but God has graciously blessed us with another little blessing.  This miracle-child is kicking me as I sit here, a minute-by-minute reminder that God can do anything He pleases.

There are other changes – difficult relationships that keep us up at night, difficult decisions to be made – that are anything but easy.  Maybe you’re feeling some heaviness this Christmas, too? 

I don’t have any great wisdom to offer you.  Just this: take it to Jesus.  Fall on your knees, seek Him with honesty, and I promise you:

Whatever you’re facing, He’ll face it with you.

Grace, peace, and Merry Christmas!

With love,



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I’m Over Christmas

My brain feels like twice baked zucchini.

(Is that even a thing?)  I’m really just so tired.  And the holidays haven’t even started, but the very act of winding up for them is making me feel like curling into a tinsel-coated ball on my un-vacuumed couch.  Anybody else?

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas.  (I’m not REALLY over it.)  I love Advent.  Thanksgiving?  A lovely holiday.  I’ll keep it.  But when did mid-November through the first week of January start to feel like a cross between a marathon and an obstacle course?  I just don’t have it in me.

The cleaning.  The decorating.  The baking.  The gift shopping.  The wrapping.  The numerous meaningful and sweet and enjoyable traditions.  The card printing, bag stuffing, box filling…it feels like emptying to me.  I start a Christmas list and I just want to crumple it up.

It is simply. Too.  Much.  Now in the policy of full disclosure, you have to know that it is all on me.  I do this to myself each year after well-meaning year.  I unpack my expectations long before the Christmas boxes get pulled out of storage, and they get piled on top of the gargantuan stack of everyday expectations.  Somewhere between gingerbread houses and stocking hanging, I lose the joy of it all.  It’s buried somewhere along with the missing pink Advent candle.  (That one went MIA a while ago.  If you see it, send it over, will you?)

Can I have Thanksgiving and Christmas without all the trimmings?

These traditions and rituals and all the cute yarn and jingle bell crafts are wonderful and well-meaning, and they really are special to so many people.  I’m not the Grinch of Pipe Cleaner Angels, believe me.  But I’m already barely keeping up with clean socks and addition facts and not serving chicken nuggets too often.  Pile on activities, lots of gifts (which adds up to serious cha-ching), all the time to make/wrap said gifts, parties, crafts (inevitably involving copious amounts of loose glitter and thus clean up for weeks), and then some “good mom” activities involving elves, trolls, or shepherds on the move…and I just can’t.

How about Jesus?  Can I just have Jesus and my people and a few great traditions that keep us all circling back to Jesus?

I want less stuff.  Less doing. More couch flopping and less sparkly presents.  More simple, less over the top amazing.  I want to see candid selfies on social media (anyone?), and I want to expect less and enjoy more.  I want to find joy in Pinterest, not condemnation that I should be making cowgirl hat cupcakes using gumdrops and Pringles®.  Yeehaw.  I am beginning to wonder why it is that I am so convinced that more is better!  More is greater!

Because more doesn’t feel like better and it doesn’t even feel that great.  It just feels kind of like…more to do.  More on the list.  More ways I’m not doing and being enough.

Are you as tired of not enough as I am?

I want to see my children’s eyes reflecting the sparkle of the Christmas lights, and I want to enjoy that very moment.  I want to not be so worried about all the other stuff.  If we’re going with more, I want more paper plates and more time for sock sliding competitions.  I want more crazy giggling and pillow fort building and less fretting about the mess (even if it involves glitter.  Please, Holy Spirit, work in me.)

How about more time meditating on one simple verse throughout the day?   Some more awe of Jesus and what He did for all of us.  Maybe I’m the only one feeling like I’m going to explode before the holidays even officially begin, but I am fed up to here with swallowing down the overwhelm like it’s my daily medicine and I should just take it.


Just, no.

If a shoddy back street stable and a handful of hay was enough to welcome the King of Kings to this earth two millennia ago, I’m going to guess that He’s okay with something simple from me, too.

Simple is okay, right?  It doesn’t all have to be so over-the-top amazing, friends.

Grace, peace, and more only of Jesus,


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To the Soldier Who Wants To Forget

Days of remembrance are not meant to be torture.

I see you, soldier.

I see your shoulders, squared in military discipline, weighed down with unthinkable memories.  I don’t know what’s behind your eyes, but every once in a while I catch a runaway glimpse in your thousand yard stare.  I see the pain bubble up, aged and potent.  Old, yet raw.

There’s a hunger for absolution or amnesia that bisects your heart, sucks the oxygen out of your lungs.

I’m just a civilian, not a soldier.  I get that I don’t get it.

I don’t know what you’ve seen.  I don’t know what taunts you, what won’t let you sleep.

I don’t know what part of your heart has been ripped out and left to bake on foreign soil, or what scenes play through your mind and weigh you down with unbearable regret.  I don’t know what ghosts accompany you when you’re alone, what phantom slithers through the rolodex of your mind.  Scalding, searing, wounding, and relentless.

I don’t know.

But I do know something.  Jesus knows.

You are defined by His scars, not yours.

He knew a day was coming when you could not stand what this life would throw at you.  He knew.  He knows and He sees.  And He is not repulsed or intimidated by your pain, your memories, your regret.

He is not, like me, unaware of the realities of war.  He has provided a remedy.

Time does not heal all wounds.  Only Jesus does.

And He uses His word and His people to help.

I see you standing in a sea of civilians who don’t know what combat looks like.  You may be surrounded by people who do not understand, but that is not the same as people who do not care.  There is very little in life more painful than watching someone you care about suffer while being unable to help them.  (I bet you get that more than most people.)

That’s exactly where your family is.  Your church.  Your friends.

We feel the edges of your pain, and we grope, blind and clumsy, trying not to dislodge scar tissue.  And honestly, we’re not very good at it.  No one teaches you how to be the wife, the child, the parent, or the friend of a combat veteran.  We are flying blind, scared to death, and doing the best we can.  The learning curve, as you know, is high.  We fall, a lot.  We’re sorry.

But we can’t do nothing and watch you hemorrhage your life away.

Help us.  Your pain is a locked room, and the handle is on the inside.  No one can enter, no one can help, unless you grant us access.  Teach us.  Please.

  • Let us grieve with you.  We don’t need the details if you can’t share.  Tell us, even a little, what you lost, and let us mourn with you.
  • Let us honor you.  You did what we could not, and that is worth recognizing.  To us, you are a hero.
  • Let us speak truth, and you do the same.  There may be pieces of your story that you aren’t proud of.  (Who doesn’t have those pieces?)  If that’s so, please let it out into the light.  If you can’t (or would rather not) share those pieces with your family, talk to a chaplain, a Christian counselor, or a mature Christian friend.  There is nothing that will shock Jesus. (2 Corinthians 5:21)  Nothing.  And if you never tell anyone, it will fester, and grow toxic, and poison you and your relationships.  It needs out.  Let it.
  • Let us know how to help you.  Is there anything that you notice contributes to flashbacks?  Tell us.  We can handle that crowds, loud noises like fireworks or popping balloons, and violent movies may not be helpful right now.  Just tell us.  Is there something we could do that would be encouraging to you?  How can we best communicate our needs?  Silence suffocates.
  • Let the healing happen.  Spending your life looking back is living with less than you deserve.  If you need a counselor, get one.  If they aren’t helping you, don’t give up.  Try another one.  If you need a psychiatrist, see one.  It is not weakness to fix what is broken.  It’s courage.

You are not alone.

There’s a whole lot of us, wanting to do life with you.  We like you.  We want to do Saturday barbecues, and Sunday dinners, and Monday football and Wednesday paintball with you.  And all the regular life stuff in between.  Does that sound too frivolous after what you’ve survived?

Life at home doesn’t look like a war zone, but there’s still a whole lot that you can contribute on so many levels.  We want to know you.  We aren’t perfect (in fact, we’re all in various stages of messed up and work in progress), but we can be fun, and we can be sad, and we can be noisy and obnoxious and loving.  We need your perspective, your experience, your story.

We need each other.  We need you, and you need us.  It’s a mutual need, a mutual gift, a mutual blessing.  We were created to crave community, and that is why isolation is so deadly.  Together, we make it.  Alone, we die.

We are stronger and healthier, together.

You are not unappreciated.

Can I just say thank you?

Thank you that because of you, I don’t get it.  Because of you, I’ve never seen war.  Because of you, I can sleep at night unafraid.  A gift like that…it’s unimaginably huge.  The words thank you will never be enough.  Ever.  But words and presence and prayer is all I have.

I pray a benediction over you, warrior.

May you feel the kiss of heaven settle, feather-light, on your eyes that have seen so much.  May you rest your battle-weary head on Jesus, who took your sin and your pain as His own. (Isaiah 53:4) May you lay your sorrow and doubt and anger at His feet and walk away lighter.  May your heart find healing and peace in the truth that His grace is enough. Always.

You are a soldier.

You are not forgotten.  You are not alone.  You are fully seen, fully known.

And you are beloved.

This article first appeared on iBelieve.com in May 2016!

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When You’re Just Living An Ordinary Life


I spend my life picking up socks.

That’s not strictly true, of course.  There’s dirty silverware and cups, desiccated vegetables and hardened play dough. There’s Duplo blocks and train sets and dinosaurs and dolls.  There’s throw blankets and throw pillows (which get…don’t you know…thrown.)  Did I mention socks?

It’s pretty mundane, this life of ours.  Swim lessons, play dates, and laundry.  Grocery shopping and the play ground and library, and lots of books and puzzles and singing things on television.  And if you know me at all, you might know that I’m kind of a move-on-to-the-next-thing kind of a gal.

I want to know the point of it all, because honestly?  It all starts to feel a bit pointless after a while.

The mess, the toys, the socks just keep coming.  Do you know what I mean?  My people need food, and the dishes need washing, and the toilet needs scrubbing again…and again…and again.

It’s an endless cycle of doing what’s needed, but it’s not exactly earth shaking.  I find my confidence shaken, my certainty that I’m really contributing anything of value in this life…well, shaken.  There are nuclear physicists and trauma surgeons and even my own Superman climbs mountains and carries people off of them.  I can find their place in the strata of usefulness, but when it comes to quantifying the usefulness of a sock-picker-upper?

I’m not so impressed.

It’s only when I look in the Gospels and see Jesus affirming the ordinary that my pulse begins to settle.  He meets people in the sweat and grime of their hustling lives, pinpoints their exact area of need, and then?  Then, when they repent and want to go change the world, He sends them home.  Live the difference.  Tell your people what God did for you.

Yes, occasionally, God takes someone from the dust and orbits them into national ministry.  But for every one of those glittering stars that the whole world knows, there are tens of thousands of faithful, ordinary, sock-picker-uppers.  Simple people who just tell it to their kids, live it out in the PTA meetings, in the break room, in the grocery store checkout line.  (Seriously, is that NOT a test of your Christian character?)

If you and I are loving our people the best that we can, even if it’s by picking up socks, that’s sanctified work.  Really.

Maybe we don’t need more epic and best-ever.

Maybe the truly rare stuff in life is just mundane, everyday faithfulness, made starkly beautiful with great love.

And when you really want to change the world, God is faithful to open up opportunities right in the middle of your ordinary.

I have a friend who’s homeschooling her 3 girls, runs the local 4-H program, mentors single moms, just completed her foster parent certification…and is gathering supplies for relief efforts of refugees in Syria.

Another friend read a good book on parenting and asked some moms at church if they wanted to read it through and send a quick note of encouragement to another mom each week for 4 weeks.  Sounds simple, right?  Friends, by the time she was done, she had 40 people signed up. 

Even simpler, one of the most life-changing people I’ve ever known is my BFF’s mom.  She had plenty on her plate, but she always made the effort to encourage her daughter’s and my friendship.  I loved going over to their house.  She always had a smile, a hug, and time to let 2 girls take over her kitchen to make a tea party.  She let us stay up as late as we wanted, sleep in till noon, and let the chores slide so that we’d have more time together.  It doesn’t really get any simpler than that, does it?  Her example shines bright in my life decades later.  I want that kind of a home.

I want to share that kind of lifegiving love with as many people as I can.  That, to me, is Jesus.

You don’t have to go brave the jungles of South America to shine the light of the Gospel (unless that’s where God calls you!)  Shine bright right here at home.

Love the ones you’re given – your own family, your coworkers, your neighbors, your church, your kid’s friend.  It’s love that makes all the difference, isn’t it, friends?

You really can’t minimize the impact of a faithful woman who loves Jesus and people with all of her heart.

Even if all she ever does is pick up socks.

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