Grace Under Pressure

grace-gateSome things are so beautiful, I can’t help but stop and admire.

The other night it was the huge crescent moon hanging low, glowing harvest orange. Almost home, I drove past my driveway, in a race with time, to reach the clearing and capture it before it was gone.




Usually it’s things of nature that catch the eye and steal the breath with unnatural beauty.

Last fall, this wrought iron gate (shown above) had the same affect – caught the eye, pulled off the road, had to get closer to take it all in. Graceful curves, white aged to yellow, chipped and rusted, but to me it was awesome. What struck me most was the contrast – strong iron shaped into gentle curves. How many years had it stood here? How many storms had it endured? Strong yet so graceful. How hot was the fire that softened hard iron to form swooshes and swirls?

I see the same beauty in someone close who battled the ugliness of cancer with such grace. Keeping her eyes focused on the ultimate Grace-giver was reflected in her response to  what life had handed her. Through the firestorm, her strong faith unwaivering was beautiful. Grace under pressure.

Long seasons of testing and trials are made up of small moments that define us. Like fire, they can refine making us stronger or they can consume weakening our faith.

How do we respond when in the midst of everyday fires?

to the heated moments of a stressful day?

to personal attacks on faith or political  views?

to gossip that surrounds, or pain that hounds?

to words that sting and tempers that flare?

It’s in our nature to react to these pressures of fire with more fire: to be unkind when treated unkindly, to give anger when shown anger, to lash out when lashed at, to break under pressure. But what if we respond with what’s unexpected: kindness. What if we respond with what is undeserved: grace. What if our response is to find one small thing to be grateful for whatever situation we are in.

Each small moment fire is an opportunity to reflect the undeserved love and grace God has shown us. When we react to moments of pressure or a season of trials with a bit of that grace, our unexpected response could stop fire’s fury, catch the eye, and in a small way, be unexpectedly beautiful.

Grace under pressure.

Amazing grace hung on a cross so long ago – arms stretched wide, hands pierced with hateful nail, beaten body weighted with malice of a sin-filled world. Yet Jesus spoke words of love: ‘Father, forgive them.’ Ultimate grace under pressure shown by ultimate Love. That catches the eye, steals the breath, and humbles the heart.

May God use whatever fire is in our moments to make us stronger and be a reflection of his grace.

‘Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus’.  2 Timothy 2:1




‘Mama, I don’t feel good’.

I look at her pale face, thin body lying in bed. It had been four months of this unknown illness wreaking havoc and robbing her of youthful joy. Four months since she had been in school, missing friends and fun of seventh grade.

As her days filled with pain and loneliness, my days filled with frustration and helplessness of a mama who would do anything for her daughter, but powerlessly could do nothing. Endless doctor visits, each adding only more questions to this enigma. What else could I do to make her better?  Myself sick with worry and stress. Daily pleas turned into constant state of prayer: ‘Please, God, heal her.’ ‘Heavenly Father, please lead us to the answer’.


Only silence.

Or so it is seemed at the time.

Standing in the now, I see with faith-filled eyes that God was not silent during those anxious days eleven years ago.

But wrapped up, consumed in those moments when time stood still, it sure seemed like he was.

Silence can be deceptive.

Unanswered prayer baffles – does God really care? Day after day waiting for an answer – is God really listening? Does he hear? Why doesn’t he show some sign that he is there? Why doesn’t he make this better? Why is this happening? Why? Why? Always the why.

Silence can be deafening.

It deafens so all we hear are our own thoughts, drowning in doubt and confusion. It limits his greatness and goodness, and it masks what he’s really trying to tell us:

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

When God seems silent, he’s actually calling us into stillness.

But how to be still when the world spins upside down?

Where is stillness when the heart sobs in brokenness?

How to find stillness in the tumult of mind’s questioning?

Yet with those words, be still, he calls us into a quiet calm.

How did he come to Elijah on the mountain? Not in wind or quake or fire, but in a gentle whisper. And how can we hear the whisper if we are not still?

In the stillness he whispers:

I love you. I will never leave you.  Joshua 1:5

I have plans for you, so trust me. Jeremiah 29:11

I need you to wait, because the time isn’t right yet. I have something better in store. Psalm 37:7, 104:27, Eccl 3:11

In the stillness he calls us to wait and to wait patiently.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. Psalm 37:7

So we wait.

In the waiting, he is at work. Earthly eyes cannot see or understand his mysterious ways. But with eyes of faith, we trust. His ‘no’s’ may be ‘not yets’. His ‘no’s’ may be a lesson in the now here, teaching us to rely only on him, to lean into him and his promises.

For his love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

So with whatever strength the soul can muster in the midst of the storm, be still and cling to him.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5



Wind Chaser


The wind blows strong today.

Leaves rustle and dance.

Wind’s elusiveness stirs my mind.

I see it as it moves through limb and leaf;

feel it as it blows across skin

yet, if I tried, I could not catch it or contain it

no matter how I’d strive, run, and chase

it would escape me.

So I sit and the mind sees how life is wind –

 what we strive for is often just out of grasp:

happiness, success, stability,

the way things were, the way we wish things would be.

Prayers seem to go unanswered and life doesn’t feel good.

We stop chasing because what’s the point?

Even day’s routine: work. eat. sleep. repeat. can begin to look bleak and meaningless.

King Solomon wrote, “I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” – Eccl. 1:14

That pretty much sums it up. No wonder depression is real and prevalent.


What IS the point, then?

What IS the reason for all this chasing after?

Even as believers we grapple with these questions.

Part of the answer is in the eyes.

Do we look only with eyes focused on life under the sun?

Or through the eyes’ lens of faith, can we see that meaning lies beyond the sun?

Are eyes fixed on the mirror? Yes, too often self is pretty important. It’s hard not to drown in a sea of selfisms: selfies, selfishness, self-pity, self-blame.

Or is the gaze on the only One who gives meaning to all things meaningless?

Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus


It’s also the practice of contentment.

If I could stop chasing after the winds of what I want, and just be still long enough to see that this moment holds enough blessings – that’s the first step toward contentment.

Yes,  I have enough.

We ALL have enough.

And deserve none of it.

It’s all a gift. Like leaves dancing in that wind, undeserved gifts swirl and land at our feet. And if we stand still long enough, we’d find ourselves buried in piles of abundance.

Work. eat. sleep. repeat. now becomes an act of gratitude:

I’m thankful for work

I’m thankful for food on the table

I’m thankful for a bed to sleep in

and I’m thankful for a new day to do it all again.

It’s easy to forget that each moment has meaning, each moment has purpose, and each is part of God’s perfect plan. But if we practice being grace seekers instead of wind chasers, life goes from meaningless to meaning-FULL.


And what does that life look like?

It’s striving to please the Life Giver rather than pleasing self.

It’s knowing that my life has a purpose, and your’s has a purpose, and God has a plan for each of us, and He is at work even if we can’t see it right now.

It’s running the race steadily toward the eternal goal that He has put into our hearts. That is what truly gives life meaning. It’s encouraging each other along the way, and bringing as many others along with us.

That’s the whole point.





Beauty Before Me

Tune My Senses

It’s happening again.

I’m doing what I said I wasn’t going to do:

let life get way out of balance –

I mean – WAY out of balance.

I love what I do

I don’t consider it a job because I enjoy it so much,

but usually I let it consume me and my time –

especially at this time of year.

It’s something I’ve struggled with for what seems too long.

 I even started this year with a new resolve:

to balance family, home, work, church

but, sigh . . .


About a month ago, a friend asked me if I had seen my hellebores blooming.

Oh my gosh, had I missed the first blossoms of spring?

As a self-proclaimed beauty-seeker, I was mad at myself.

How had my schedule become so full of to do’s that I had forgotten how to just be?

How had my focus become so narrow that I had forgotten to really see?

I ran out with camera in hand

hunting for beauty

and found it –

there on the hillside covered in lovely blossoms

dangling downward

Lenten roses


Such a good reminder to live life slow

not as if life is an emergency;

to take the time to seek and see the beauty that’s right before me

and to thank God for each gift


Time is one of those gifts

and though it seems there is never enough of it,

every morning I need a reminder

that God has given me enough time

it’s all how I use it,

not how it uses me.

So a new resolve stirs to slow and be in the moment,

to balance, but always seek Him first,

and to be tuned in to the grace-shower that follows.


‘Plant the good seeds of righteousness,
    and you will harvest a crop of love.
Plow up the hard ground of your hearts,
    for now is the time to seek the Lord,
that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.’

– Hosea 10:12




Unwelcome Gifts

snow psalm

Another snowfall.

This one not welcome.

Pretty, but not wanted.

It’s March.

Yesterday the air was warm.

Spring will come early this year, and I am anxious for it.

Instead, this white falling from above.

I know there is a reason for it,

this delay of season’s change,

and I know Spring will come in God’s timing, not mine.

So I sigh, murmur thanks, and get out the shovel.


There’s been a lot of unwanted snowfalls lately,

unwelcome gifts –

a dear friend loses her battle with cancer;

another struggles with depression – wandering in what seems like life’s desert -trying desperately to find direction;

another gives up everything he knows to figure out what went wrong though he followed God’s call.

 Snow may fall quiet but at times it’s a blizzard.


We all have tasted disappointment,

 felt the sadness of heart break

when life doesn’t go the way we wish it would.

We look at what has been placed in our hand and say

‘What is this?’

Like the Israelites in the desert, we look at this manna –

white falling from above

and ask

‘What is this?’

“What is this that God wants me to walk through?

I don’t understand.

This is grace?

This is what God thinks is best for me?”


And though we don’t understand,

He asks us to trust Him.

He asks us to gather up this manna every morning,

this big, heavy thing that doesn’t make sense,

and receive it as a gift –

as grace.


 And instead of asking ‘why’,

He asks us to simply say

‘thank you’.

Wait, what?

Be thankful for this?

Be thankful that my friend is no longer here?

Be thankful that I’m stuck in a place where I don’t want to be?

Be thankful that life is not turning out how I thought it would?

Turn my pleas into praise?


It isn’t easy,

it’s a trust thing –

and we can trust our heavenly Father with everything.

He knows the manna-gift is not welcome –

He hears the heart’s cry,

But He knows what’s best for us and this manna is meant to nourish.


So hang in there, the snow won’t last forever –

it’s already beginning to melt.

There is hope.

There is comfort –

God is in control.

As you hold this manna in your hand,

He holds you in His.


– blessings,



The Love Dare


I’m honored once again to have one of my devotions featured over at A Word For Women. I struggled with this one for days – so many possible angles and ways to write about God’s love. When it finally came, I couldn’t stop writing about the many ways  . . . praying this will touch your heart and move it closer to His.
song of songs
‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.’
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
It’s always made me a little uncomfortable
anytime our relationship with God is set in a romantic context.
Falling in love with God.
Just doesn’t seem right to look it like that.
Maybe it’s my German-Lutheran upbringing.
Yet as I study more about Him
delving deeper in the Word,
I see the Bible as one long love letter to me –
to each of us.
How many times does He say “I love you”?
Over and over again, it’s written with every stroke of pen.
From the very beginning, when I turned my back on Him in the Garden of Eden
lied and hid from Him,
He still sought me,
and gave me a promise that would demonstrate the greatness of His love.
Through the books of the Old Testament,
when the obstinate people of Israel constantly turned from Him
He said, “I have loved you.”
Isn’t that me?
Every thoughtless sin a slap in His face,
every time I insist on doing life my way,
His heart hurts,
yet still He says, “I love you.”
How can I read Song of Songs and not see it?
The vastness and tenderness of a love so deep and personal.
Woven through the life of Jesus
every act was done out of love,
every motive was love
even the cross . . .
the ultimate act of love
each step taken to Calvary
was taken with a heart full of love.
And even though I pounded nails in His hands
He. Still. Loves. Me.
How can I not fall in love with a God who loves me like that?
A God who relentlessly pursues me,
who holds my bare heart, sees me and knows me
yet loves me unconditionally –
no matter what I have done
or how many times I have done it
He forgives
And He. Still. Loves. Me.
He woos me with daily reminders of His love.
Each blessing a gift
for me to unwrap and see
that nothing, absolutely nothing
can separate me from His love.
Who can say that about any relationship?
No matter how many times your heart has been broken, hurt, or disappointed,
I challenge you to take this love dare:
Open yourself up and dare to be loved like this.
Trust your heart to the One who treasures you and will never hurt you.
Open your eyes to see the gifts He lavishes on you.
Open those love letters bound within Scripture,
it’s there that He’s waiting to say to you:
“How do I love Thee? Let me count the ways.”
Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm; 
for love is as strong as death, 
   its jealousy unyielding as the grave. 
It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
–  Song of Songs 8:6

Spa Day

Angel Spa

Doesn’t a day at the spa sound like just what we need right about now?

While winter’s cold winds blow at the windows,

ah, to be in a warm, relaxing environment

candles to calm the frazzled

oil to sooth away worries

fragrance to revive a worn-out body

enveloped in a fluffy white robe

pampered to the fullest –

wish i was there right now

a spa day sounds pretty appealing


it struck me as I heard words from Isaiah on Sunday

that there is something similar that we can indulge in

without even leaving our homes –

a special gift of pampering and deep healing.

In beautiful poetic and prophetic words

Isaiah says in chapter 61:

He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.


instead of ashes – a crown of beauty

instead of mourning – oil of joy

instead of despair – a garment of praise


and if those aren’t gifts enough to make a grateful heart swell

and a tired soul sing hallelujah,

there’s more –

broken hearts are healed

and we are freed from the prisons within


it’s Jesus that Isaiah speaks of –

could there be any doubt?

He pours His love on us like nothing else we will ever experience here.

He calms the frazzled

He soothes away worry

He gives hope and rest to the worn

He comforts the tear-stained soul.

That’s what He does for us right now

when we turn our hearts to Him,

let go of doubt and self-reliance,

and be held in the palm of his Hand.

Just imagine what’s waiting for us  –

it will be like an eternal spa day.

Isn’t that fun to think about?




A big thankyou to my lovely aunt, Kathleen Hendee, for the awesome photo!

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