Welcome to my blog...

Green trees, cool water, a gentle breeze...the perfect place to sit at the feet of the Master and learn. Jesus taught so often on the shoreline, and He's still speaking today.

This is where I share the lessons He teaches me, often during the time I spend on the shores of a local lake. I don't have all the answers...and some days I don't have any. But I go here when I need to draw near to Him in a tangible way. Come with me...

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Where's Your GPS?

Today was a crazy day!

Last night, I ran over a random tire lying in the road. I hit it hard and was concerned there was front end damage underneath, so this morning, I drove out to the repair shop to have it looked at.

Then I headed over to the cell phone store to have my phone checked because after 8 hours of charging, it was dead. There were 2 people ahead of me and it was obvious I'd never get waited on in time to make my doctor's visit.

My doctor's visit! I remembered the form I needed him to complete, the reason for the visit, was still at home.

I dashed out the door of the cell phone store and headed home to grab the paperwork.

I arrived a few minutes early for my appointment and caught my breath. Cleared for surgery, my next stop was the hospital to pick up a letter from the surgeon which would allow me to put my gym membership on hold for a few months.

Problem was, I wasn't exactly sure how to get there from where I was. I reached for my phone and...oh yeah. It was dead. Forget GPS.

I thought I could do it relying on my memory to guide me.

I passed a road I recognized. Was it because it led to the hospital or because I took it to my daughter's house? Without GPS, I couldn't be sure.

I didn't make the left, but kept going straight.

I wound up on the main street of a small town I knew was NEAR my destination, but I wasn't exactly sure where it was in relationship to the hospital. Was it above or below? East or west of the facility?

I asked two women crossing the street. "Sorry, we're from the shore area...we don't really know our way around here."

I pulled over to ask the garbage man. "No idea."

I was sure I was close, but no one seemed to know the exact path to get there.

Then it dawned on me that there should be hospital signs along the road if I was as close as I thought I was. I prayed that God would open my eyes to see one soon to give me confidence that I was headed in the right direction.

Eventually, I ran across a road I knew and made the left I probably should have made miles before.


Up ahead was the familiar white H on the blue background. I was back on track.

My friend, I would submit that our walk with God is often like my day today.

Bumps in the road can cause damage we can't even see.

Then we make things worse when we rush out on our way without GPS - God's Power Source.

Our Bible sits unopened and we are "uncharged" for the day at hand.

When decisions come regarding which road to travel, we rely on our own instincts and abilities...and miss the turn.

We ask others, rely on the world for direction, but they either don't know or get us lost even further. Being "close" isn't good enough. There's only one right path.

Then we realize we just need to pray. Pray for our eyes to be opened. Pray for divine guidance because left to our own devices, we're thoroughly lost.

When we seek God with all our heart, when we sincerely ask for guidance, He is faithful to provide it.

Where's your GPS? Have you opened it lately to charge your soul? Are your maps updated? Do you know which way to go and how to get there?

This year, my verse from God's GPS is Jeremiah 29:13: You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

Seek Him. In His Word, through prayer, through the signs He has posted along life's journey. He's faithful to get you where you need to go!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Are You a Blessing Blocker?

A pastor's wife once told me how after having a baby, a friend of hers offered to help by doing the housework. The wife was used to helping others, but found it difficult to accept help. Her response was "no thank you, we'll be okay."

Her friend responded with "why are you trying to rob me of my blessing?"

She went on to explain "We're called to serve each other. God has promised to bless me as I bless others. If you don't allow me to serve you, you rob me of my blessing!"

I spend my day serving others. It's my profession but it's also my passion. I enjoy making a difference in the lives of others. Giving them hope and encouragement. Doing tangible things with the prayer that those I serve will see the love of Christ through my actions.

But when someone asks if they can help me? I'm more often than not guilty of responding like that pastor's wife.

And that's how you block a blessing for someone else!


Last week I shopped for a few items in preparation for my upcoming surgery. When I reached my car bags in hand, I realized I forgot the main reason I went into the store. I opened the trunk, dropped in my bags and headed back inside.

I'm a stomach sleeper and I've been concerned about turning in my sleep after surgery. I wanted to get a "husband pillow" - a high back pillow with arms like a chair. My hope is the arms will act as a barrier and keep me on my back.

Back in the store, I bumped into a mom of six who, for the past three years, has been a client of the ministry I oversee.

She smiled brightly and asked how I was doing.

"Well, you'll hear soon enough that I'm out of work for a while. I'm having surgery."

A look of concern crossed her face.

"Are you okay? What is it?" She quickly followed with "you don't have to say if you don't want to."

I mouthed "breast cancer" and immediately, her eyes welled up.

All the while, her middle child was chattering on, trying to get into things.

As she expressed her condolences on what I was dealing with, she reached into her pocket, pulled out her wallet and removed a $20 bill.

I assumed she was giving it to her eldest child to take the little ball of energy dancing around our knees elsewhere in the store to shop while we spoke.

"I want to bless you" she said as she slipped the $20 into my coat pocket.

For a split second, I stood in stunned silence, but quickly countered with "you've got to be kidding...I know your situation. I can't take it."

"I'm paying it forward. I've been so blessed. The organization that found me housing just bought me a car last week. No more taking all the kids and a baby carriage on buses. They paid six months of car insurance, the title, registration, everything. I want to pay it forward and you've been so kind to me, helping me all these years."

"That was the church...not me."

"You made it possible. Please take it."

"Don't rob me of my blessing" echoed in my mind.

We chatted a few more minutes but the little guy had stayed in one place for as long as he was able. It was time to part ways.

"Are you sure?" I asked one last time.

"Please. I want to do this for you."

It was enough to pay for the pillow.

I have been concerned about money since I first heard the diagnosis. I knew the co-pays and deductibles and out of pocket expenses would add up fast.

But God has already shown me in big and small ways that He's got this. 

I love that about God. He's always showing me that He's able to do exceedingly, abundantly more than I can ask or imagine. Lord knows I would have never imagined that person being able to bless me in that way!

I would do well to remember Proverbs 11:25 (MSG). "The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped." It's a two-way street.

My friend, if you're in a situation of need today, don't rob someone of their blessing. Accept what they offer you humbly, knowing that God sees your need and their hearts. Their actions will bless you, and He will bless them in return.

Has God used someone unexpected to bless you recently? Please share in the comment section!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Be Still: The Bucket List Bird Lesson

Just one week ago I wrote about my new cancer diagnosis in The Call You Never Want to Get.

New, because this is the second time in a year I've gotten a call that threw me for a loop.

Two different cancers, both out of left field, both "rare." Within the group of people who get these types of cancers, Sloan Kettering told me they only see 2-3 cases a year of the first kind, and the second only presents itself this way 10-15% of the time.

It gives new meaning to being unique and special. 

A meaning I could, frankly, live without - literally and figuratively.

The night the surgeon called with her recommendation, I cried, really cried, for the second time in this whole ordeal.

I kept apologizing for breaking down and all I could say beyond "I'm sorry" was "this sucks." She agreed. Cancer sucks.

The next morning, I headed into work.

I thought I was "hanging in there" and attempted to go about my day as if my world wasn't changing by the second.

It was an ill, self-advised attempt.

My uncontrollable tears led my boss to ask if I needed the week off. I'm not good at healthy boundaries and self-care, but even I knew at that moment I needed time to process.

Still, I'm a workaholic at heart, so when I couldn't guarantee I could stay away from my work email, we agreed she should lock me out of it.

I went directly to the place that serves as God's throne room for me. The lake where this blog was born.

I called a friend who headed out to join me, but for an hour, I reveled in the uncharacteristically warm February weather. A slight breeze, clear skies, and fresh air surrounded me as I talked to Jesus and He walked along with me.

Hearing the raucous cry of a jay, I looked up and spied the fellow in the picture above.

I have long complained that blue jays don't like to pose for me - they flit about and make it nearly impossible to photograph them. This guy was different. He's somewhat hidden in the tree, but he sat for quite some time while I tried this angle and that to get a good shot.

Two days later, I headed out with a friend and our cameras to another favorite place, Grounds for Sculpture. Once again, a blue jay stayed put for an inordinate amount of time, allowing me to capture this image.

"I half wonder if God is allowing me to check little things off my bucket list because I'm not going to be around much longer."

It was the first time I voiced the unthinkable. That whisper of the enemy that tries to diminish our faith by growing our fears.

My friend immediately shot it down. "Maybe He's just showing you how much He loves you."

I recounted the story to my counselor a few days later. Her response was similar. "Perhaps He's encouraging you to be still. He's letting you know you don't need to do anything but observe and He'll show you His presence."

The NIV version of Psalm 46:10 reads "He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."

As I looked up other versions, the beginning of that verse reads "Cease striving", "Be in awe", "Let go [of your concerns]", "Let be."

All of those versions speak volumes to me.

I'm so grateful for the past week. For three days the weather held, but even when it didn't, I was given wonderful gifts. Time to breathe, time to reflect, time to listen to wonderful old hymns and new worship songs, time to drink in the sights and sounds of God's creation, time with a number of friends as we shared a meal and what was on our hearts.

The suggestion was made during the first round of cancer treatments that perhaps I had gotten sick because God was telling me to slow down.

I don't believe for a moment that God would deliberately inflict a deadly disease on me to get my attention. He has far more compassionate ways to chastise and teach than that.

He is the Great Physician, not the Great Afflicter. 

That said, He wastes none of our pain and suffering. He works all things together for those who love Him. He speaks to us in the midst of storms.

And He can use a normally flighty blue jay to say "Take your time and see me. I'm here. I'm staying put."

Be still, cease striving, be in awe, let go, let be...and know that I am God.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Call You Never Want to Get

As soon as she said "I say this to everyone" my radar went up.

No, no, she doesn't.

No one has ever said that to me in the past 32 years.

"If everything is okay, they'll leave a message, otherwise, they'll tell you to call scheduling and set up further testing."

My birthday was Sunday and I had a great time having brunch and painting ceramics with a friend. When I went to bed that night, nothing was amiss.

But the next day, I retrieved a message. "Call scheduling."

I was nervous, but still, I had gone through a scare a number of years before. They thought they saw something on the x-ray that turned out to be a skin tag. Surely, this was just another one of those mistakes.

Except it wasn't.

A few days later, I went for a diagnostic x-ray. They told me to sit tight and wait to see if an ultrasound was needed.

It was.

The ground under my feet didn't feel too steady.

My nervousness was fast becoming annoyance that no one was saying what they saw or what they were looking for.

"Can you please clue me in on what's going on?"

"Sure" the radiologist responded. She flipped the screen around and pointed to something oval-shaped. "I think this is a fibroid tumor. See how it's not deep and the edges are defined? But this..." she moved the ultrasound ball to uncover a shadowy rectangle. "...this is deep and the edges aren't defined. It's very suspicious. You need to see a breast surgeon."

I ceased to hear what she said after that.

"Are you okay? Do you have any questions?"

"Yeah. I'm fine. No questions."

The truth is, I had a million questions. Not for her, but for God. "Why?" was chief among them.

Not so much why me - cancer is no respecter of persons, and loving God is no guarantee of a problem-free life. It was more like why now, why another cancer? I was still dealing with trying to get my brother on disability and still didn't know if my lymphoma from last year was in remission.

I didn't feel like I could handle another battle.

A verse I discovered about eight years ago when I was going through my divorce came to mind.

Exodus 14:14. The Lord Himself will fight for you, just stay calm (NLT). As so often happens when God wants me to hear Him, I began to see the verse in numerous places.

I sponsor a child through Compassion International. I opened a letter from her written just days later. In it, she shared her memory verse. Exodus 14:14.

A friend posted a picture of Jesus, shield up, filled with incoming arrows, protecting a woman lying at His feet - a brunette, like me. The caption? Exodus 14:14.

And then there was that discussion I wrote about in God Told Me You're Wrong. It was about choosing to meditate on the noun Presence instead of the verb Seek. Action wasn't required - only a state of being. Being calm. Being in His presence. Jesus had the verb covered. He will fight for me.

As the days have passed, there have been more tests, more doctors, more less than happy results. There's a battle up ahead, but I'm giving it to God. I'm trying to stay present in His presence.

Satan is unleashing every sneaky trick in his arsenal to upset me. He's not using the illness, but people in my life who trigger stress. I refuse to engage. No weapon formed against me can prosper because the Lord Himself is fighting for me.

It's easier for me to write about this than talk about it. There have been more than a few tears. It's new, raw, and in some ways still, not quite real. I'm not ready to answer a million well-meaning questions about the journey just started, but I felt like this much I could share.

I know I'm not alone in walking this road. Far too many have gotten the dreaded call and found their lives turned upside down with one word - cancer.

But as I read somewhere, cancer's not the Big C, Christ is.

This is my prayer for all of us...just stay calm, breathe in His presence. The Lord Himself - Maker of heaven and earth, King of Kings, Prince of Peace, Jehovah Rapha - is fighting on our behalf.

And if God is for us, who can be against us?

God I Look To You

Sunday, February 25, 2018

My Brother's Keeper

"Matt's back."

I had no way of knowing how those two words would impact me when my sister phoned a year ago.

It all started 53 1/2 years ago, when my parents brought home a several day old baby boy.

I was only 3 1/2 at the time, so I doubt I understood he was adopted, but even today I don't know much more than he was born out of wedlock to teenage parents who couldn't raise him.

My mom told me that like us, he had some Italian in him, and in addition, Greek as well. It was probably that Grecian background that allowed him to bronze like a god in the summer when all I did was burn.

I was always jealous of that.

Matthew was all boy. One day he got a new bike, rode it down the driveway and straight into a telephone pole. He broke his arm.

A few years later, I remember being "in charge" at home after school. Next thing I knew, he was running into the house, blood seeping out between his fingers as his hand tried to hold together the wound he'd given himself falling off his bike. I was freaking out and he just looked at me and said "I'll be fine." I think he was 9 or 10.

Then there was the time he "ran away from home" as a young teen. He rode his bike from our house to our grandparents home 23 miles away.

Matt had a history with bikes for sure.

These are the things I think about when tells me these days that he wishes he had a bike to get around on.

Sadly, I'm not sure he'd be any more safe on one as an adult than he was as a reckless kid.

At 53 1/2, he's a shell of his former self. He's not steady on his feet and his short-term memory is shot. He looks a good 10 years older than he is and he can barely care for himself.

I'm not sure what demons he fought for years, but his current state is the result of doing pretty much every drug known to man for more than 3 decades.

He would disappear for stretches of time, mostly heading down south, resurface "back home" when he lost a job or needed a place to stay, burn familial bridges in the process, then somehow land mostly on his feet and disappear again.

The sad truth was, we figured one day someone would call to say he had overdosed and was gone.

We tried to talk to him about the drugs, his fiscal irresponsibility, and getting treatment, but he was all swagger and big talk, long on promises, short on keeping them.

If you know an addict, you know what I'm talking about.

Then last February, my sister called and my world hasn't been the same since.

"Matt's back. I can't deal with him. He's living in his truck and he's asking for money and a place to stay. You do this for a living, can't you help him?"

I didn't want to deal with this problem. I had literally just been told I had lymphoma and my head was spinning from that unexpected news.

Still, I agreed to meet with my brother for the first time in probably five years.

He was broken. "I know I messed up. I'll do whatever you ask. Please help me." He said he hadn't slept in a week, so I thought putting him up in a motel might help.

They were calling for a major snowstorm within a week. I only had enough on my credit card to put him up for 2-3 nights, but I thought it would buy him a little time to figure things out.

I bought him dinner, gave him the motel information and sent him on his way.

He still couldn't sleep even with a warm, clean bed and I was out of money. He spent another night in his truck.

Once again, I bought him dinner. This time, he barely touched it.

"Don't you like your food, Matt?"

"Yeah, it's good."

"Then why aren't you eating it?"

"I'm afraid I'll have to go to the bathroom, and I've already had to poop outside once today. It's freezing out."

I sat there stunned. My brother had messed up his life so badly. He had nothing. He was reduced to defecating outside in the woods in 10 degree weather.

I was so angry with him for the life he'd wasted, but he was my brother and I couldn't let him live like an animal.

In that moment, I believe God showed me there was more going on with my brother than any of us had ever taken the time to see. It was easy to recognize the drug addiction, but I don't think we ever really addressed the mental issues driving him to it.

I sent him to a crisis center for evaluation. They discharged him without admitting him.

I began calling mental health and drug hotlines. I spent the next 48 hours being sent in a thousand different directions, but finally, one person listened when he said he had thoughts of harming himself and had a plan.

Hours before the snow began to fall from that predicted storm, I sat with him in yet another ER, but this time, they too listened and got him admitted.

It has not been an easy year.

Since that meeting last February, he has gone downhill rapidly. I'm convinced if I had sent him on his way, he'd be dead today.

Two inpatient hospital stays, transitional housing, social services programs, more permanent housing (courtesy of temporary rental assistance), many, many doctor visits to pinpoint the cause of his short-term memory loss and other physical issues, two social security denials, adult day care, home health aides and more. The journey has been frustrating, complicated and long and it's not yet over.

There have been many times in the past 12 months I wish I hadn't responded to the call. I'm angry that his poor life choices have infringed on my time and energy. I'm resentful that even though I have cancer, I often can't tend to my own needs because he's not capable of tending to his.

So after all that, am I my brother's keeper? I Peter 3:8-9 would indicate I need to be.

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.

I don't know what the future holds - for either of us. I don't excuse his poor choices or bad behavior. But he is my brother and I'm called to love him even on those days when, I confess, I don't like him much.

To all of you who find yourselves in similar circumstances, God bless you. It's not an easy life you've been called to. Walking that fine line between caring for and enabling is a tough one. I'm sure it's not the life you would have chosen. I know it's not mine.

But I believe God honors the effort and we will inherit a blessing. I believe my brother matters to God and therefore, he matters to me.

And so, I am my brother's keeper.