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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Jesus, keep me near the cross -
There a precious fountain,
Free to all, a healing stream,
Flows from Calv'ry's mountain.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day
With its shadow o'er me."
- Fanny J. Crosby

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week Musings

 It's the week most commonly referred to as "holy week." For many, this is one of only two times during the year that God has any place in their lives. I find this sad…yet interesting. And it begs a question: why is this week considered to be holier than all the rest? I understand the importance of pausing to remember the sacrifice of Jesus and His subsequent resurrection - this season is probably my favorite - but shouldn't such thoughts of gratitude and reverence permeate every day of my existence? Shouldn't I be continuously thankful for His gracious choosing, for His unconditional love that drove Him to the cross? If so, then every week would be holy! Every day would be sacred! For a Christ-follower like me, it doesn't take a special holiday to remind me of what my God chose to do on my behalf! He didn't have to send His son Jesus to the earth to die. After mankind turned its back on Him, He could've let it all simply end there. But He didn't. Even though my past, present, and future sins lie bare before Him, and He knows the wanderings of my heart and soul far better than I do, that didn't stop Him from willingly going to the cross and giving His life for my eternal destiny. In His death, I find life. Each moment of each day, I have the opportunity to breath a humble thank-you. One week of the year is not what is required for me to appreciate the gift of everlasting hope and life that He offers to me. He deserves my gratitude all year long. When I accept this truth in full and act upon it, every week becomes holy.  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Quote of the Day

"It's a surprising thing that happens when God's grace
and mercy collide with our secrets and shame."
- Kyle Idleman

Friday, March 27, 2015

Favorite Places

 Every person needs a place that they can go to and just get away…get away from the busyness of life, get away from the stress of work, get away from the emotions of uncontrollable circumstances, get away…and just be alone with God. I have three places that are on my short list and, while winter weather often makes it tougher for me to go to these spots, they always offer me a lasting peace when I have taken the time to visit them. I come away recharged and renewed. There is a part of me that feels like I shouldn't reveal these places I go (perhaps then you all might come and discover them also, and my times there wouldn't be so peaceful!), but I also think that it might prompt you to look for your own "get-away" spots and to more fully appreciate those quiet locations where you are able to spend time in thought and be refreshed. With that in mind, here are my top three places…(not in order though):

Resurrection Bay

I love going here to this place because the mountains and the majestic view remind me of the constant protecting presence of God in my life. There have been  many times I've sat here and looked out across the vast water and struggled to come to terms with some painful things in my life. Each time, however, I have sensed the grace of God blowing peace into my heart just like the breeze that often resides at this tranquil bay. I leave there wanting more time to take in the scenery and appreciate the marvelous creation of the God who cares for me.

Fort Richardson National Cemetery

Every Memorial Day, for the past several years, I have spent time at this place - the final resting spot of so many who gave their lives in war and peace to the service of their nation. One reason why I love this beautiful location so much is that it removes me from the hustle and bustle of my daily life and forces me to slow down and contemplate the things in life that really matter: faith, family, friends, freedom. There is something humbling about being among the graves of these veterans and knowing that each one chose to serve their country and that some died giving their lives for what I enjoy. There is no place I'd rather be on Memorial Day each year. 

Wallace Mountain

This place is quite special to me. I can't exactly explain why I enjoy coming here so much. The view is incredible. There is a sense of wonder that accompanies a trek up this mountain and, for me, an almost symbolic feel for the mountains I've had to climb in my own life. There is something fulfilling to me to ascend to the top of this 3,200 foot precipice and look down to the world below that God has made for His (and my) pleasure. 
And, as the old hymn says,

"…When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze…
Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee,
How great Thou art!"

Well…there you have it - some of my favorite places! I'd love to know where your special "get-away" spots are and why you love them, too. God has made this awesome world for our enjoyment and the more we get out and appreciate it, the more thankful we ought to become toward Him. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015


 We all have dreams. I don't think there is a person who has ever lived who didn't have some personal aspiration toward greatness: greatness in a sport, in music, in ministry, in business, in finance. The list goes on and on. As human beings, we can strive toward these things with all our strength, energy, and personal resolve. But there is one thing about dreams that we can't control: the fact that some dreams just aren't meant to be.
 About ten years ago, as a young girl in my teens, I was dreaming of doing one of two things as my life-work: either a historical fiction novelist or a volunteer at a military hospital for wounded veterans. Both of these endeavors utilized parts of my personality and abilities and seemed to be deeply-rooted passions of mine that I wanted to share with the world. And yet…neither of these things ever came to fruition. Just after high school, my life took an unexpected turn and, oddly enough, the story I ended up writing about was not one of fiction but reality. The story that became my message to the world was my own! My involvement with the military, which had long consumed my life, became more about reaching the hurting hearts of those who returned home from war…of assisting those whose wounds were hidden. This was because I had realized that sometimes those who physically have suffered are able to cope with their wounds better than those whose injuries lie under the surface. 
 If you had asked that young girl what she would be doing in ten years, she would have probably said one of those two things mentioned earlier. Ten years later, that girl is working as a Marketing Director for a summer baseball team and getting to impact the lives of young college baseball players from around the country; she is sharing her love of music with a few piano students that she teaches in her spare time. As for her writing, she runs a blog titled: Open To Grace where she shares the hope that got her through the hardest times of her life. She continues to assist the military when and where she can, but it is not her main focus as before. Things have changed…drastically!
 For a long time, I resented God for not allowing me to fulfill the dreams I had set for myself. I felt like I was being cheated out of the life I wanted. But it has gradually dawned on me that, no matter how good the intention, you will never find the happiness you desire in your work if it is not what you were meant to do in the first place. Looking back, I see that the things I so desperately hoped to achieve were not what I was intended to do. By saying no, God was sparing me of the pain I would've incurred had I kept on that track. It may have been temporarily fulfilling but, in the long run, I would have missed out on a lot of blessings that He wanted to bring my way…blessings that have changed my life in so many ways. 
 Our society today encourages our youth to "pursue your dreams," but it's usually not with the intent of finding out God's will along the way. Dreams are good, but discovering what you were really created to do is of far greater importance. My life has become about more than trying to fulfill my own destiny. Fulfilling my dreams has been replaced by serving God and others. I found my purpose and my calling in life when I started to live a life of faith - a life that placed my future in the hands of God and simply began to enjoy the blessings along the way. I started to plan less and thank more. It revolutionized the way I approached each day. Don't get me wrong: was it hard to accept that I might not end up doing some of the things I had originally planned on doing? Of course it was! But I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am now living the life I was meant to live all along. Sometimes, when we watch dreams die, we think that there is no way that anything better could be in store for us. But this is where trusting God comes into play and, in time, we will understand and accept that His will was…and is…the best. 
 I am thankful that He did not give me what I wanted or asked for because, as author Kyle Idleman wrote, "When we die to ourselves and completely submit to Jesus, there is a surprising effect to dying. We discover new life." Letting go of our own plans is never easy but sometimes God asks us to do that so that we can receive a greater gift that He has in mind. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

" If you do not know or recognize your need, then 
you shall know that you are in the worst possible plight."
- Martin Luther

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Lights In The Sky

 One of the unique things about living in the Arctic is the opportunity one gets to see such natural phenomenons as the Northern Lights. The aurora display doesn't happen all the time up here, so it's a big deal when the solar activity causes them, and they are visible. Last week, they were out in force. Although most of the deep colors were seen farther North than where I live, I could still see this amazing wonder from my driveway…faint though it was. I've lived here in Alaska my whole life, but experiences like these never get old for me. My mom and I stood outside in the cold and stared up into the starry night as ribbons of green flashed across the dark sky. 

I thought of a moment similar to this that I experienced a number of years ago: I was a high school senior at the time and was driving North to Fairbanks with my family. It was about 12:30am, and the temperatures dipped well below zero. We stopped to make a quick change in drivers. At that time of night, there were hardly any cars on the road. We seemed to be all alone. At that moment, we looked up, and there were those beautiful flashes of color streaming past us. We stood next to the car and marveled. It still remains one of my most treasured memories of living here. Now, over eight years later, I was once again watching the Northern Lights put on a show. The words came to mind:

" When I consider your heavens, the work of your
fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have
set in place, what is man that you are mindful of
him, the son of man that you visit him?"
-Psalm 8:3-4

I stood and wondered at the fact that the God of the universe - the One who holds all of the galaxies in place, who guides the planets on their way, who is in control of everything and everyone on this earth - that same God cares about me! He knows my thoughts before I think them; He knows my words before I speak them; He even knows my heart and the secrets it often wants to hide. As vast and wide a sovereign reign as He has in the Universe, He still thinks of me! He loves me! I went to bed that night with a full heart. God doesn't have to take notice of me, and yet He does. He is so mighty that He can control the entire solar system, the entire universe - known and unknown - and still reach down to touch the human heart!! Incredible! Truly, "the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Ps. 19:1)." 

Monday, March 23, 2015

When The War Hits Home

 It was a gorgeous day in central Texas. As we climbed Enchanted Rock, I thought about the warrior next to me. Although this was only the third time we'd been together in person, we'd climbed a lot of mountains together…figuratively speaking. For the past six years, we'd shared a journey of transition - I, the civilian, attempting to help him, the wounded warrior, to find peace with his past and learn to move forward into a fuller life. 
There had been some dark days along the way. Some moments of hopelessness had led me to wonder if he would pull through. But I knew God had a plan for his life, and that belief helped me to keep trusting…to keep hanging in there with him and hoping for the best. Now, all these years later, we hiked up the hill and talked about his combat experiences. Four tours of duty had taken their toll. I had heard the stories. I felt as though I knew his fallen buddies personally…I had heard of Grant's humor, of Michael's ability to more than make-up for his lack of physical size by his incredible leadership of the Marines he served with. We talked about defining a "hero." We talked about the effect that war has on those who endure it. As the hours ticked by, the conversation continued. Later on, as I lay in my hotel room, I thought about the unique privilege I've had for the last decade of my life: since my mid-teens, I've had the honor of getting to know these warriors in a special way. Away from the media, the rolling cameras, the political bias, I've been given an opportunity to see these individuals for who they really are: regular people who were inspired by a higher calling to go and fight for their brothers in arms and for their country. They are not superhuman as some might think of them as; they have families, favorite sports teams, beloved pets, and favorite songs just like the rest of us do. The main difference between them and the civilian world is their job…and, to them, that's what it is…a job. All of us are changed and affected by the work we do.
 Our service members come home from deployment(s) to a world that, while once familiar, is now unfamiliar. Their fellow comrades have become their family. Their job has become their life. And then, we fail on our part to comprehend or acknowledge that change, expecting them to simply return and pick up right where they left off. While I do believe that some service members have a greater ability to transition than others, all of them still carry a life-long impact because of what they've been through.
 I thought of the tattoo on my friend's left arm - a quote from Plato: "Only the dead have seen the end of war." As this quote confirms, war does change people. But I wondered if the commonly-held opinion that war has to change you for the worse is really necessary. Perhaps the attitude of the person determines if it becomes a negative or not. I have met and known individuals who experienced the same horrors of war and, rather than taking the negative, their lives became positively different in the years that followed. I continued to reflect on my day spent with my friend and thought, could it be that war can change you for the better if you let it?
 While there are many aspects of combat that are traumatizing to the mind, body, and soul, there are also timeless lessons of courage, faith, hope, and bravery that emerge from the bloody battlefields too. There are friendships between warriors that last a lifetime. There can be more good than outweighs the bad if one chooses to focus on that. So often in life, we are told that all pain is bad. We are trained to think that suffering is bad. Then, when life brings either of those things our way, we crumble under it's weight. We fight it because we think we have to. We think we deserve to be out from under its crushing blow. But would we suffer differently if we had the perspective of knowing that suffering teaches us things we would never learn otherwise? As painful as war may be to the one who experiences it, war doesn't have to forever negatively alter the person's life-story. War doesn't have to have the final say in how the service member decides to live his or her life in the aftermath of it. I've seen warriors who endured horrific combat experiences go hard at life following their adversity, meeting each day with a smile and an infectious attitude of thankfulness and joy that would put most civilians to shame! Their appreciation and love of life inspire others in so many ways. They often say that they are living an even better life after their war-time experiences than they ever did before…or hoped to upon their return home.
 My thoughts drifted back to my friend and all that we had talked about that day. He had given me an even greater insight into the challenges all warriors face as they attempt to integrate back into the stateside life following a combat tour of duty. Several months ago, my friend had to make a choice as to how he was going to live the rest of his life. He felt guilty that he was still alive and his best buddies weren't. The therapists had told him that he'd be "disabled" for the rest of his life because of his injury. The world had come crashing down on this young man, and he felt helpless. But, somewhere along the way, I noticed that a change began to take place: he started to choose a path that would lead to healing. He stopped making excuses for the things that had happened, and he faced the darkness for what it was. On this day, we had stood at the top of the rock formation and reflected on how far he'd come. Life has its share of mountains. Of seemingly insurmountable circumstances that one must face. How they climb those mountains…if they ever choose to climb them at all…proves to be their making or their breaking. All of us must face our own war of sorts, that crucible through which we must pass and only by which we will learn what true victory is.
 Sadly, the civilian population fails to understand the changes that a life of military service brings about. When the warriors come home, civilians must learn to meet them on their turf. There is so much that these individuals have to contribute to society. Their mission isn't over when their boots touch U.S. soil. Through the many friendships I've developed with them over the years, I've come to respect and admire them for so many reasons. I feel privileged to know and support them. They have taught me so much more than I could ever hope to give to them in return. They are my friends and neighbors. By coming alongside them and reaching out to them where they're at, by not expecting them to immediately transition back to the people they were when they left us, by giving them the grace and the time to find their post-war identity - to begin that post-traumatic growth that so many of them seek - perhaps then, we will see an easier transition from the battlefield for those who serve this nation and, like my friend, they will discover an even more fulfilling life than they would've had otherwise.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Benefit of Weakness

 I simply couldn't put the book down. It was 1am, and I was still reading. I finally forced myself to stop and go to bed…but the next morning, I finished the last couple of chapters. It was simply titled A Warrior's Faith. It told the story of Navy SEAL Ryan Job, his injury that led to blindness, and the belief in God that transformed his life. I had picked the book up at my local bookstore a few days earlier but was unprepared for the amazing message of hope it contained. 

 Perhaps the greatest lesson I took away from this book had to do with the idea of weakness. As human beings, we are proud people. We like to act as if we "have it all together," regardless of how opposite that may be from the truth. I find this especially among professions like the military, law enforcement, etc. These individuals are trained to be "the strong ones" who can handle any challenge that comes their way. To them, it is a shame to be weak. It goes against who they are. But then…sometimes a challenge comes along that, humanly speaking, they cannot overcome. They are forced to admit their own sense of vulnerability. They have to face their own weakness. 
 Such was the case for Navy SEAL Ryan Job. He was part of the military's elite - a trained warrior who took personal company with such men as Chris Kyle. They were the toughest, the fighters who took the battle to their enemies and gave every bit of themselves to protecting each other and their nation. Ryan was no softy. He had always possessed this innate ability to out-suffer anybody. And little did he know that, on a hot August day in Ramadi, Iraq, that gift would be put to the test. During an intense firefight that afternoon, Ryan was severely injured and looked to be slipping away for good when he managed to revive and was transported to a local field hospital for surgery and treatment. In the weeks that followed, Ryan would lose his eyesight and his sense of smell as a result of the facial wounds he sustained. Ryan, a tough Navy SEAL, now faced his greatest test of all: how he would meet with the humiliation of blindness. Ryan now had to admit his weaknesses to others in ways that perhaps he'd never had to prior to being injured. His friends and spouse had to drive him everywhere. They had to guide him everywhere. They had to help him do the most basic things because he could not see. As would be the case with all of us, Ryan was initially frustrated that this would be his new life - a career change of sorts. But fairly soon after his blindness became his new reality, Ryan made the personal decision that his faith would turn his personal tragedy into blessing, that his affliction would be the beginning of a new life - a life lived fully in spite of its many challenges. Ryan came to the conclusion that he was okay with being blind. He was okay being weak. And in so doing, he began to find an inner strength that he had never discovered before. Over the next couple of years before his untimely death, Ryan Job would become a public speaker, would climb Mt. Rainer, would marry and have a child, would begin training for an Iron Man Triathlon. Ryan would seemingly do the impossible (as it relates to blindness), but he would do it with a smile on his face, and an unquenchable faith in God's divine plan for him.
  See, we all dislike the humiliation of being weak. We don't enjoy having to admit that we've failed, that we need help, that we've been wrong, that we don't have the strength to continue. We don't want to trouble others with our problems. We somehow think that there is shame in coming to the end of ourselves and having to confess our own inability to overcome the present challenge. But people like Ryan disprove this idea…and they further solidify the reality that God doesn't view weakness this way at all! Rather, He wants us to be weak so that He can give us His strength; He wants us to fail at our own schemes so that we can learn to succeed with His plans for us; He wants us to see our own fallibility so that we learn to accept His constancy and rely more on Him. Living a life of faith like Ryan Job did goes against all human logic or reasoning because it's learning to do the opposite of what our natural instincts are. Contrary to what we think, weakness can be our friend. Arriving at the insurmountable, we have to make choices that determine how we will respond to the circumstances that have brought us to this place of vulnerability. Will we be ashamed? Or will we take the opportunity, as did Ryan, to allow God to take our brokenness and turn us into something greater and more effective than we ever imagined? 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Quote of the Day

" There is a great Physician near,
Look up, O fainting soul, and live;
See, in His heav'nly smiles, appear
Such ease as nature cannot give."
- Anne Steele

Thursday, March 19, 2015

God Is With Me

You Were There

"You were there
In everything I knew
From the moment I began
Always there in every way I go
Saved me falling
Held my hand.

You are shelter from the storm
The shadows fade away
All cares pass away

Hosanna, day by day
Your love lightens up the sky
As it shines across the night
Ave, regina caelorum decora
Virgo gloriosa, ave!
And when the end of day is come
Stay with me through the dark
And bring me home.

You are there
Whichever way I go
Keep me safely night and day
Always there
Whenever I'm alone
Hear me calling
Show the way

You are shelter from the storm
The shadows fade away
All cares pass away

Hosanna, day by day
Your love lightens up the sky
As it shines across the night
Ave, regina caelorum decora
Virgo gloriosa, ave!
And when the end of day is come
Stay with me through the dark
And bring me home."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Quote of the Day

"If we were to lean upon man, we would surely be disappointed;
but in leaning upon the living God alone, we are beyond disappoint-
ment and beyond being forsaken for any reason."
- George Muller

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

St. Patrick's Prayer

For most people, St. Patrick's Day is a time to celebrate everything Irish - from four-leaf clovers, to pots o' gold, to making sure you wear your green and don't get pinched! Sadly, though, many people do not know the story behind the real St. Patrick - a man who gave his life to bringing the hope of Jesus to the mostly pagan country of Ireland. Patrick  was born in A.D. 389 to Christian parents in what is now known as Scotland. He did not, however, embrace his parents' faith and walked a foolish path in his young years. At the age of fifteen, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland where he worked as a slave for the next six years. During that time, God moved on his hard heart, and he surrendered to the Lord. Sometime later, he was able to escape from his slavery and return to his family. Not long after that, however, he felt God's call to go back to Ireland - this time as a missionary to the people who had treated him so harshly. For the next thirty years, Patrick would dedicate himself to teaching people the Gospel of Jesus. He would help to start over two hundred new churches and baptize thousands of new Christians in the faith. In short, St. Patrick is not only one of the most influential people in Irish history but in church history as well! Toward the end of his life, Patrick would write a beautiful prayer that is now known as "St. Patrick's Breastplate." On this day, in remembrance of this remarkable man and his service to God and to the world, I share with you an excerpt from that prayer:

"…I arise today through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me, 
God's way to lie before me,
God's host to save me…"

I pray that this may be true…not just today, but every day of the year! 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Quote of the Day

"My cheerful hope can never die,
If Thou my God art near;
Thy grace can raise my comforts high,
And banish ev'ry fear."
- Anne Steele

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Faith is believing in a predictable God in 
an unpredictable world."

Friday, March 13, 2015


As I sit and pen a few words of encouragement to a friend of mine who is currently going through Marine Corps Boot Camp, I ponder the idea of hope. Hope. That unseen quality that makes one persevere and hold out against all odds. That enables one to believe in a greater purpose for their life, no matter how difficult the current circumstances may be.  Hope. It is a powerful thing. But I also come to another conclusion: what allows those who live in Grace to hope is that God can be sought - in any and all situations - and be found ready to give strength to them that is equal to their circumstances. I can come to Him freely, here in my home in Alaska, and seek the needed grace for today while, at the same exact moment, my friend in Boot Camp can offer the same prayer as he faces the many challenges of military life. This beautiful thought brings about hope…because once you realize that God can be accessed anywhere at anytime, you no longer have to feel alone. You don't have to think that you fight life's battles by yourself. God will go before you and prepare you for all that you must face. Hope is made possible because I believe in God. Sometimes, hope means believing while waiting (Rom. 8:24-25). But I will wait - because the promise of God's gracious blessing rings true, no matter what circumstances I happen to find myself in. Thanks to His endless supply of goodness and strength, I can say with the Psalmist:

" I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait,
and in his word do I hope."
(Psalm 130:5)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Quote of the Day

"Not one or two important epochs of my history only, but everything that concerns me - joys that I had not expected; sorrows that might have crushed me if they could have been anticipated; sufferings that might have terrified me by their grimness had I look upon them; surprises that infinite love had prepared for me; services of which I could not imagine myself capable - all these lay in that mighty hand as the purposes of God's eternal will for me. But, as they have developed gradually and silently, how great has been the love that appeared, enwrapping and enfolding each one! Has not the grief been measured, while the gladness has far more abounded? Have not the comforts and consolations exceeded the crosses and complaints? Have not all things been so arranged, ordered, undertaken, and worked out on our behalf that we can but marvel at the goodness and wisdom of God?"
                     - Susannah Spurgeon 
                         in Seasons of the Heart

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Realistic View

 We sat across the table from one another, tea (and coffee) in hand. Our friendship relatively new, she asked me to share my story. In an instant, I was taken back a few years to a difficult time in my life. Not that long ago, I would've dreaded telling anyone these things, let alone somebody I'd only met recently. As I recounted such dark moments, I remembered a time when all I expected out of life was happiness. It wasn't that I didn't believe in suffering - I just thought it would never happen to me. When the inevitable adversity arrived at my proverbial doorstep, I had no clue how to handle it. Part of me wanted to stand and fight it; part of me wished to run and hide. But no part of me chose to welcome it. It was my enemy. 
 For the next four years of my life, I would taste sorrow time and time again. Loss would become the norm…pain, a constant companion. But it gradually began to dawn on me how unrealistic it truly is to think that we can journey through life untouched by the evidences of a fallen world: pain, suffering, betrayal, hatred, loss, grief…all these things mankind brought on itself when it chose to believe the simple lie that God wasn't enough. And so we live with the results of our own folly. But we somehow keep thinking that we can avoid them!
 Going back to my conversation - I looked across at my friend and candidly told her, "It's still hard for me to talk about it…" because it is. No one enjoys describing dark days in their past. But I did follow up that statement with another…one that best reflects my new-found perspective: "While I do not wish what I went through on anybody, I do not regret it either. I know that, had all of those things not occurred, I would not be where I'm at today. I would not have the message that I have today." 
 Because I have come to view my past through this lens, I have also discovered a view of my future: the question is not will suffering ever come, but when? Life is not about if things that are grievous will occur, but how will we respond when they do? For several months, my life has been a non-stop stream of blessings. To many, including myself, things couldn't be going better. And yet, I realize that it won't always be this way. There will be more dark days that arise down the road. I cannot avoid them when they show up. But I can make the decision to face them - to welcome them even - provided that I am changed for the better as a result. I have even come to wish that I could travel back in time to talk to my younger self…just so I could tell that lost girl what I know now. 
 Don't kid yourself by thinking that an easy road is the way to happiness. It usually isn't, and life will prove this to you. Rather, strive to gain a more realistic view, and realize that the harder road will most likely be the path to character; the desert of life will be the place where you discover who God is. And, one day, like me, you will look back and say, "Those trials did me much good, and I am thankful for them."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Quote of the Day

" Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter
everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of
awe that change forever how we experience life and 
the world."
- Sarah Ban Breathnach

Monday, March 9, 2015

Quote of the Day

" The unthankful heart…discovers no mercies; but let 
the thankful heart sweep the day and, as the magnet
finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some 
heavenly blessings."
- Henry Ward Beecher

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Quote of the Day

" This love song He is singing, it is the antithesis of life's theme song, that refrain of rejection I know so well. That mental soundtrack of condemnation and criticism that I've let run on continuous replay…That heavy beat of failure, a pounding bass of disappointment, it has pulsed through my days and I've mouthed the words, singing it to myself, memorizing the ugly lines by heart. They become the heart. For years, I tried medication, blade, work, escape, all attempts to drown out that incessant, reverberating drum of self-rejection. All futility, acidic emptiness. 
But here, I hear it well: The only thing to rip out the tape echoing self-rejection is the song of His serenade…It really is like C.S. Lewis argued - that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us: "How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important."
…Everywhere, everything, Love! Giving thanks awakens me to a God giving Himself, God giving Himself to me - for me - a surrender of love."
- Ann Voskamp
in One Thousand Gifts Devotional

Friday, March 6, 2015

One Year Later

 One year ago today, I first introduced myself to the online world by joining Google+ and beginning this blog. It's so hard for me to believe that twelve months have gone by so quickly! During that time, I have made some amazing friendships with people I had never met before and who have become quite dear to me as time has gone on. I have shared many of my personal struggles and thoughts as well as the little "grace moments" that bring me pleasure and lead me closer to God. It has been quite a special journey to say the least!
 When I first began to post my writing, I wasn't sure how many people would listen or how God wanted to use my humble thoughts. I offered up my life-story as a gift back to the One who has written it and watched Him work amazing things in the past several months. I am continually held in amazement at the connections He weaves and the things that He does when a person has yielded their life to Him. The message that began this blog one year ago still holds true now: a life that is open to God becomes open to Grace, and a life open to Grace becomes open to all that is beautiful. This, in turn, produces thankfulness, which drives away the darkness from a hurting heart. For me, being open to the little gifts, the little ways in which God demonstrates His love - this has become a daily journey of hope. It is what keeps me in a spirit of gratitude and enables me to see God for who He really is and to appreciate the wonderful world He has created! It has allowed me to be even more thankful for the people He has placed in my life and the many blessings He has so graciously given to me.
 In March of 2014, I took a leap of faith and set out to share these thoughts with others because I wanted them to discover the same hope, the same love, the same God who opened this once-darkened heart to Grace and life! A year later, I believe that, for some of my readers, this has proved to be true.
 As I begin my second year of blogging, it is my prayer and sincere desire that those who read my thoughts here will be led to seek a closer walk with God in their own life. Sharing the hope of Grace is my personal mission. It's what gives me a reason to write. A reason to never keep this inner Light to myself. All of us should pray for the grace to live an open life. This world is starved for the grace and life-giving love of God. I just happen to have been chosen by Him to be a bearer of this message to those who suffer and have lost hope. I am well aware that, apart from Him, I don't have anything worth saying. As He gives me the words to speak, the message will continue to flow and the hope to be shared.
 So…here's to another year of living fully for Him, of being open to Grace. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

How His Love Sees Me

"…Thou didst love me before I loved thee…
Thou didst own me when I disclaimed myself…
My salvation is the point where perfect created love
and the most perfect uncreated love meet together…
Thy infinite love is a mystery of mysteries, and my eternal
rest lies in the enjoyment of it."
-from The Valley of Vision

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Quote of the Day

" This is the great privilege of those whom Christ loves: nothing shall befall them, but what shall prove good for them. They may conclude, in whatever condition they are in, it is best for them, and if it had not been so, they would never have been brought into it; and whenever it shall cease to be so, they shall be removed out of it. This is the sweetest privilege, yet the most difficult to believe at all times, since there is often great opposition to it by our sense and reason, yet it is most true."
- David Clarkson 
in Voices From the Past

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The True Heroes

 I stood at the gravesite and thought deeply. Behind me were the final resting places of hundreds of men who gave their lives in the Civil War. Directly in front of me lay the remains of Chris Kyle, the brave Special Forces warrior whose story has been re-told in the recent movie, "American Sniper." After months of hearing about this remarkable man, I now found myself here - taking pictures at his gravesite. Oddly enough, I never watched the movie for reasons expressed in an earlier blog post titled: "Why I Chose Not To Go See 'American Sniper.'" But I was now standing on this hallowed ground and paying my respects to a brave man. 

 This was not the first time I have ever stood at a place like this. I have visited the graves of many fallen soldiers over the years. In fact, every Memorial Day, I visit the National Cemetery on the military base near where I live. There is a special kind of peace I feel when I come to these cemeteries. It is in these places that the price of freedom is truly felt and understood. Each of these individuals believed in serving a purpose greater than their own and each was willing to give their very life for that cause. Incredible, isn't it? 
 As I pondered these thoughts, I also reflected on something else that had taken place in the days prior to my arriving at Chris Kyle's grave. Just a short time before, I had spent several days with a friend of mine who is a seasoned combat veteran. During his twelve years in the Marine Corps, he served four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and knows the cost of liberty very well. In the time we were together, he shared a lot with me about his service, and I came away realizing an important truth: the true heroes aren't necessarily the ones that you see in uniform every day. The true heroes are the ones you least expect, the ones you, perhaps, think little of. As my friend pointed out, the warriors who really deserve medals for their bravery are usually the ones who will never speak of what they did. Sometimes, their stories die with them. And that's the way they want it.      
 With that perspective, I stood there and stared at the simple grave. If one did not know the whole story, they would never guess that such a courageous individual lies beneath that soil. All the marker says is just, "Christopher Kyle 1974-2013." That's it. Humble yet profound. True heroes never brag, never boast, and usually shy away from the limelight and give the credit to someone else. And, when it comes to the military personnel, they'll usually tell you that the ones who deserve the title of "hero" are the ones who did their mission in the most selfless way possible: the ones who never came home. They sealed their sacrifice and commitment with their own life and blood. While Chris Kyle never gave his life in combat, he did end up giving his life to help another troubled veteran. 
 It takes something special to be a hero, and it's usually not something that you seek. You will probably never know if you have what it takes to be a hero until you find yourself in that crisis moment for which you were destined. Although you may want to be, you will most likely never know if you are a hero or not. Others will attempt to decide that for you. But, whether that title is attached to your name or not, be brave at what you do. Go at life hard for the right reasons. Have faith in God and do your duty well. This is what makes a hero what they are…and just maybe, we will discover each of us has a little part of one inside ourselves that is just waiting for its chance to come forth. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Anywhere At Anytime

 The other night I had the privilege of talking to a friend of mine that I have not spoken to in almost two years. We met in the summer of 2013 while he was visiting Alaska and playing for the summer baseball team in my community. As we talked about the first conversation we had, he shared with me something I did not know at the time: he had really been struggling for months prior to his trip to Alaska and had just begun to step out of a dark period in his life. Questions about his faith and life purpose had raged in his mind, and he found himself on a collision course with truth. He had choices to make. He had to decide if he would dare to believe in a God that had so drastically altered his personal plans. It was during this crucial time of decision that our meeting took place. As I would discover, it was divinely-orchestrated. In my mind, I was merely being friendly and extending Alaskan hospitality. But I learned later that, in sharing my life-story with this young baseball player, my journey to grace would deeply impact his own. I was blown away by what he shared with me a few days ago, and it caused me to reflect on an obvious, yet powerful truth: we can touch the lives of others anywhere at anytime.
 In looking back at that brief conversation a year and a half ago, I realized that it took place at a time when I was not in the best of health or spirits. I was struggling also. But God spoke through my weakness. See, this is the beauty of a life lived in Grace: we don't have to be perfect in order for His perfection to work through us; we don't have to be at our best for Him to be at His best! God can use us in any condition, even our broken one, if we are willing and open to Him. That day in 2013, I didn't expect that my sharing would help this young man to grow closer to God in such profound ways. But I am humbled…because I know this is how God works. And I love it!