Monday, October 26, 2015

After 19 Years

1991-12 MAJSAfter 19 years, you'd think I would have overturned every stone in the grief process. You'd think there's no new territory to cover, right? You'd be wrong.

Over 19 years, I've learned grief has no ending except your own death. I don't advocate that, of course! So in the mean time, I learn to wear my grief like a sweater. Some days it is too hot to wear it, and I try to shrug it off. Other days, I'm freezing without it and it's the only thing that makes me feel comfortable.

The good news is after 19 years, it doesn't scratch and cut me nearly as much as it used to. The itch has worn off, the snags have given my garment personality, and I am comforted by the pilling and nubbies that have developed from wear and tear.

But then I remember his smile, and I lose my breath. And I hear his voice still echoing my nickname in my memories. I think of all the things we missed out on: the births, weddings, and celebrations as well as the deep valleys. Today, the sweater itches a little more. But after 19 years, I've grown to expect that on October 26.

Here's one thing I hope none of you ever say to someone else again: "It's time to just get over it." After all this time, I know there is no such thing as "just getting over" devastating loss. When you love someone deeply, love creates a hole when that person is gone. I've been living with a hole for 19 years, ever since my brother Jackson died.

If you're living with a hole too, I hope you know you aren't alone!1989-10-08 MMS, MAJS, EAS, MAS at West Point

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Stitching My Scarf

IMGP8332I am struggling with a burden I shouldn’t be carrying.

Someone I know hurt me with her words and I felt tossed aside and grace-robbed. I quietly began to tend my gaping wound. I begged God to put stitches in it, and He did.

But before He could finish, I took the needle and thread from His hands. I kept stitching on my own and created a woolly, heavy scarf.

I stopped stitching my wound for healing and started stitching for self-protection and to justify my anger for this woman. She hurt me! She went after me like a predator! So every time I remembered that wound, I slipped on another stitch. Every time I heard her name, another stitch. Every time I heard how she wounded someone else, another stitch.

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been stitching for almost two years now. Two years!

My scarf is unnecessarily immense and I keep gleefully adding stitches, simply for the sake of knitting and not for practicality. Here’s the thing about scarves: they’re good for winter, for protection from cold. But in summer, they are stifling and can put us in danger of strangulation.

God is helping me see the absurdity of wearing a scarf in summer. He’s asking me to allow Him to unravel some stitches by showing me what forgiveness looks like. The theme keeps appearing in conversations, texts from friends, books I’m reading, and songs on the radio. At first, I bristled at the idea of forgiveness. Wouldn’t that make what she did right?

“No,” God says. “Forgiveness doesn't invalidate your hurt or sanction her attack on you! I won't unravel and erase your hurt, and I won't negate what she did to you. But could we make this garment into a shield of protection for you instead of a scarf that strangles you? Can you remember that I alone will cover you and hold you? Take off your scarf and let me heal you.”

Very intentionally, through prayer and submission, I’m asking God to take the needle and thread from my hands. I’m asking Him to transform my scarf into a simple scar. A scar reminds me wounds are real, but a scar won’t choke me like a scarf could.

Stitches are for wounds and garments. The healing my heart needs is the kind that comes from Light shining in my darkness, not the healing that comes from a needle and thread.

Friday, August 28, 2015

What I Learned from Flawed and Imperfect Photos

At the start of June I attended and photographed a Holy Yoga retreat, which I wrote about here. When it was over, I promised the attendees I would soon post photos on Facebook for them to view. I delayed that promise almost three months.

Confession: I dragged my feet about posting the retreat photos because I saw flaws and imperfections. They are blurry. Grainy. Crooked. Disorderly. Misframed. The color balance is off. There are lots of technical issues, and the photographer in me sees them and challenges myself to improve. But I posted them anyway, because I promised! (And I begged for grace, knowing I had lots of moments of low light with two pro cameras and a phone camera that each have different settings and limitations!)

The day I finally posted the photos, I sat on my couch after a particularly grueling morning battle with Jackson before the school bus arrived. My heart was ravaged from his daily war with me, and I was so irritated with him that I couldn’t even unfold my fingers to hand the situation to God.

I ended up on Facebook because I wanted to post the photos from the last day of retreat. I started organizing the photos and looked again at every single one. Click by click and beat by beat, my heart stopped hammering from anger and slipped back into my Daddy's rhythm. My breath slowed and I could tangibly feel the peace and the rest I experienced in the room where we gathered for retreat. My frustrations were crowded out from the front of the line as memories cut into the queue and my eyes were filled with holy images.IMGP5431-2IMGP5434IMGP5455-2IMGP5513IMGP5515-2IMGP5530

Imperfect, yes. Flawed, yes. Technically terrible, yes (some!). But this is where the holy intersects the horrors of daily life: when I see imperfections magnified, I'm humbled at how my best can't even pretend to measure up to True Perfection. When I am confronted with Grace, I know crooked and disorderly are simply toeholds God uses to climb the rock wall around my heart. When I consider the blessing of getting to capture moments of pure surrender, I remember the reason for the blur in the photos is because God's Beloveds were moving their bodies to worship Him.

The air in my house remained lightly scented by the morning shakedown, but thankfully the rot wasn't so pungent anymore. I still don't have an answer to those battles, but I don't expect a quick fix anyway. As much as I would love it, there is no PhotoShop for eight year old boys. I don't have enough editing software in the world to fix the flaws and blurs - the ones from this morning, the ones in the photos, or the ones in my heart.

I'm okay with that now, and I'm resting in Daddy's arms today.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Was the Conference?

SheSpeaksGradButton300“How was your trip?” or “How was the She Speaks conference?” or “How did your book thing go?” is the question of the month for me. And while I want to give a quick answer because I know most people are asking as a nicety, I also want to give an honest answer.

The problem is the honest answer is convoluted and complicated.

I could reply with the shortest answer and say, “It was a great experience. I learned so much, met so many lovely people, and had encouraging meetings with publishers.” The people asking about my trip as a nicety are happy with that answer and reply, “That’s good news!”

Then there’s the medium-length answer: “It was a great experience. Nine of us began a deep friendship in 72 hours, which formed the foundation for a weekend where God blew my mind. I got an inside look at the life of a writer and how it affects so much more than I expected. And my publisher meetings answered a lot of questions and gave me good feedback about where to head next. Then I ended the conference with a clear conviction from God about taking a pause for intention and direction.” The friends who are interested and intrigued are satisfied with that answer and follow it up with a few questions to flesh things out and may even end it with a promised prayer or a request to keep them updated on the way the book and process unfolds.

Then there are lovely souls God has placed in my life who specifically request set-aside time with me so they can say, “Tell me EVERY detail!” and they truly want to hear every. stinkin’. part! The rest of this post is partly for them, and partly for me so I have a record when the day comes and my memory has fuzzed over the details.

It’s been a month since the conference, and I’m just now sitting down to wade through all it entailed. Yes, I’ve thought through it since then and I’ve talked about it too. But writing it through a keyboard is a deeper level of processing for me, and it’s something I didn’t feel ready or free to do quite yet. Until today! So let’s start at the start.

IMG_3799The first best part of the conference is the part about my Group of Nine. The night before the conference officially started, I had dinner with eight women God hand-picked for me. These women immediately plunged in and loved with abandon. They asked about the details of each others’ lives, cried with each other, laughed and encouraged. It was incredibly beautiful and a rare gift. These women stood by me throughout the conference, saved seats for me at meals and breakout sessions, fed me gluten free food when I couldn’t find anything to eat, prayed over me without being asked, invited me into their hotel rooms and their hearts, and stood beside me in worship. They are one of the biggest reasons I had such a moving experience at the conference.

IMG_3833The second best part of the conference is the education I received. From the opening session (where Lysa TerKeurst’s family joined her on stage to talk about how Lysa’s calling has changed the course of the family’s life) to the closing session (where God used Whitney Capps to speak painful – but necessary – truth into my life of MEnistry instead of ministry), every single session I attended gave me an irreplaceable education about not only the publishing industry, but the social media world we live in and the majestic God we serve. I learned from national bestselling authors, an English professor, small business owners and engaging speakers. They pointed me to God’s mission of redemption and reminded me even the slightest, smallest details can point to our Creator. Yes, even the sessions about concise writing and using active versus passive voice. If writing is the megaphone God asks me to use to get His message out, then you’d better BELIEVE concise writing and word power matter when I share His message!IMG_3838

But learning the tools of the trade is only a third of the educational part. You see, I’m such a nerd about learning that I geek out when I meet professors and authors and teachers. One of the coolest parts about She Speaks is attendees have access to authors and speakers, so I made it a point to meet almost every speaker after his or her session to give my thanks in person (and a handwritten thank you note). I saw quite a few women getting selfies with authors, too. While that isn’t my style and I’d rather have a photo of the speaker herself (instead of a photo of ME with the speaker [I mean, who really needs to see more of ME?!]), I did take one with a speaker to send back to my friend in Missouri.IMG_3841

The last third of the educational part of the conference is the two meetings I had with publishing companies. I pitched my book, explained  why it matters in God’s kingdom, and got the best news I could ever hope for (besides a publishing contract right there on the spot, which I’m not convinced would be the “best” news anyway): I. AM. NOT. CRAZY.

Glory, hallelujah! Do y’all need me to repeat that again? Let’s do it anyway: I. AM. NOT. CRAZY. And not only am I Not Crazy, but I also got great feedback on how to make my Not Crazy reach a new level. I left my last appointment floating on air, like driving with the windows down and my favorite song cranked to MAX VOLUME. And then… and then I settled in for last session of the conference, taught by Whitney Capps.

This is where the BEST best part of the conference intersected me. This is where God pulled up a chair, put His hands on my cheeks, and gently drew my gaze away from the lights and dazzle and turned my eyes toward Him. He had been there all along, through the dinner on Conference Eve to the notes we sang in worship to the one-on-one publisher meetings to the “You got this!” signs posted in the ladies’ restrooms. Except… my eyes had been dazzled as I repeated, “Yes, *I* do ‘got this’ and I am gonna rock it!” and quietly bought into the idea of my dream coming true because of me.IMG_3847

Through Whitney’s teaching about ministry (calling focused on God) vs. MEnistry (calling focused on me), I was asked to let God shape my treasure instead of trying to shape it myself. God used Whitney’s words to remind me of the ministry I am already President and Coach and CEO of: the ministry of Dan, Katie and Jackson. During the session, the Holy Spirit plainly whispered something to my heart:

Let it go.

How do I know this was the Holy Spirit and not my own self talking to me? Because my response was to say “No way!” and run away as fast as I could, and keep driving with my windows down and my favorite song cranked high. In a moment of prayer I even said, “But, God! I got great news about my book today and I have a PLAN and isn’t this what you called me to do anyway?”

The words “I” and “MY” echoed in my ears as I realized somewhere along the way, I turned His dream for me into my dream for what I want regardless of the cost. In His loving-kindness, God was faithful to His promises and still blessed me in my self-centeredness. And He whispered a response to my heart that amounted to this message: You have to let it go, so I can make it even better than you ever dreamed, Elizabeth. I responded with, “For how long? Forever?” And I felt Him say, “No, just until we’re both ready. Let it go, be the mom and wife I need you to be through the end of the summer, and we’ll talk more about this when things settle down.” I know from past experience that God blesses my obedience, so I opened my hands and said a small, tiny, “Okay.” And then He said part two:

Give it away.

“WHAT?!” was my response right before I realized exactly what God meant. In the process of writing my photography devotional, I’ve been very protective of my art. I haven’t put it on social media or even let anyone keep a copy of my samples for fear they might take it and repost/steal/abuse it. (Don’t laugh. It happened for real to my friend Danielle!) I had crossed the dividing line of Savvy on Social Media and crawled into Greedy and Possessive Mine-Mine-Mine! God knew this and could see where my heart had been clawing at keeping His truth all for myself. If I believe my purpose in living is to be an Encourager, Name-Caller and Truth-Teller for God, then I need to be willing to actually give the truth to people who need (and want) to hear it. Give is contrary to hold-on-to-it-and-only-let-others-peek-at-it. Give means letting it go and trusting God with the very thing that was HIS TO BEGIN WITH ANYWAY.

Oh, yeah. Can I get an amen and a hallelujer?IMG_3882

I sat at the end of the session at the end of the conference, and knew in my core God was right and He would be with me through the Letting Go and Giving Away. I knew – and still know – that He is worth my trust and He always exceeds my expectations. As a response to His requests, when the session ended I pulled the two copies of my book out of my bag and found two women I met at the conference. I presented a copy to each of them, spent the rest of the evening saying goodbye to friends, stuffed my conference notebook in my bag, and walked away from She Speaks. After that night, I only pulled out my conference stuff once when I was at my sister’s house, to show her the pamphlets and giveaways I had received and to organize my notes so I could keep them boxed up for a while.

Did y’all get that? I walked away.

I spent the remainder of summer being present. No more waking two hours early to write. No more plugging the kids into a screen so I could research books for my proposal. No more emailing friends and acquaintances for networking and endorsements. I closed the laptop for two weeks straight.

I spent a week at my sister’s, saying yes when we decided to drive to the beach…IMG_3931

…and yes when Jackson wanted to play Foosball…IMG_3780

…and yes when Katie wanted to lay in the Eno hammock…IMG_3677

…and yes to tree climbing in Boone when we visited my niece’s house and college.IMG_4114

When we returned from Missouri, I said yes to date night at a Hillsong concert with Dan…IMG_4358

…and yes to more swimming with the kids…IMG_4369

…and yes to exploring a creek with friends.IMG_4273

Saying YES to God looks a lot like saying YES to the people I love.

Now where does this leave me? School is back in session. After quite a few days to sit still in God’s presence and adjust to the new routine, I felt God give me the green light – NOT to race ahead, but the green light to start sniffing around and asking questions. I have lots to learn about blogging and platforms and expanding God’s reach through me. (Not “expanding my reach for Him.” There’s a subtle difference!) But as my friend Jon Cook counseled me last week, “Nothing about this should be rushed. Let God build your platform in His timing.”

Long ago, I read a quote that said God answers prayers in three ways:

    1. Yes.
    2. Not yet.
    3. I have something better in mind.

I can face the future knowing His timing is right for me!

“In all things, God works.” (Romans 8:28)


Thursday, July 9, 2015

It’s Been Quiet for a Reason

If you’ve been hanging out at Six Golden Coins for any length of time, you’ll notice that things have gotten a little quiet around here recently. I promise a good explanation!

Here’s the small answer: I’m finally, really, not-kidding-for-real writing a book! [Dude, it is terrifying to write that sentence and put this part of my heart out there in cyberland!]

The medium answer is: I’m writing a book and attending a conference called She Speaks. It’s a conference for writers, bloggers, speakers and ministry leaders. I will attend sessions focused on topics like giving books their titles, how to combat procrastination, how to write a chapter, and how to move forward in God’s calling.SS15_iamattending_button-01

The large answer is: I’m writing a book, attending a conference, PLUS I will be meeting with two publishing insiders, which means I will be pitching my book to them.

The Extra-Value-Meal answer is: I AM SCARED OUT OF MY MIND AND ALSO EXCITED BEYOND BELIEF. At any given moment of any given day, I have butterflies in my tummy that make me want to puke while feeling so jazzed that I want to giggle like a maniac. I feel so happy and in my groove while fighting my inner dialog and self talk that keeps saying “This is a BAD idea!”

This is not a new step in my life that I have taken lightly. (Surprising, huh? Ha.) I have a sister and husband and friends who have all but hit me over the head and dragged me towards this step. And I’m not gonna lie: there have been many days I have wanted to punch them in return for it! But I am endlessly grateful for them too, because I have learned so much about myself and God’s faithfulness and goodness through this process. I have cried on my driveway after opening letters from people who blessed me with encouragement only God could have sent. I have sat in a restaurant booth and been the recipient of grace in the form of monetary support. I have been texted and hugged and prayed over by friends. I have been encouraged and convicted by sermons from visiting pastors who had no idea the truth they spoke was being sowed deeply in my soul.

Oh, the grace God gives me – us! – is staggering! And it’s the only way I’ve made it this far, because once Dan and I made the decision and I registered for the conference, life got messy.

It started with a flooded basement and a subsequent basement reconstruction project in April. The day that job was finished in May, Dan had back surgery and spent a while at home recuperating. As soon as he returned to work, school ended and the kids have been home enjoying summer. That brought June which included a Holy Yoga retreat in Nashville for me, church camp for me and Katie, and sleep away camp for Jackson. June ended with a broken air conditioner and a big repair bill. Throw in a terrifying leap of faith, late hours writing my book and adding in a book proposal, and you’ll know why the ol’ blog has been kind of quiet.

It’s hard for me to sum up the stress and worries that came along with the events of that last paragraph, so I won’t. You can imagine.

Time is dwindling and there is still so much to do. I have kids to pack. And myself! I have a haircut to schedule and allergy-friendly food to buy. I have an adored sister arriving in a week, and a house that desperately needs cleaning before she pops in. I have two kids who are eager to have summer fun, while the rain has been incessant and the neighborhood pool is a barely-used fantasy. I have insurance deductibles and hospital bills and HVAC bills to pay. I have a dog who needs late-night baths because his paws are muddy (see: incessant rain) and tummy trouble got him.

“So. Much. To. Do.” These four words feel like my mantra lately.

But yesterday, four words started to replace those. These words are: “Be. Still. And. Know.” Psalm 46:10 appeared in random ways yesterday and today, and I think God is using “random” to speak to me. He’s calling my name and I’m trying to be a human BEing instead of my frantic rush to be a human DOing.

It might be a while until I post again. Never fear! I’m still here, plugging away and staying up late to type. Wish me luck and pray hard!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Broken, Blessed and Wet

So far, St. Louis in the summer of 2015 can be marked by one word for me: RAIN. It has rained so much, and I think I’ve mostly rolled with it. But tonight, I hit a wet wall on the way home and realized I am desperately missing sunshine. It made me start thinking of all the times I’ve prayed for relief from heat and sun, and the times I’ve wanted the opposite of what I have.

Sometimes, I treat my blessings like curses and vice versa.

In an effort to see things with a different perspective, I thought through what the rain might mean to different people.

The rain is a curse to farmers whose crops have rotted in the ground before the seeds were able to germinate and send a frail green shoot upward to gather what little sunshine cracks through the clouds.image4

The rain is an annoyance to outdoor businesses like Six Flags, who get very few customers on wet days. Only the crazies show up!image5

The rain is frustrating to kids’ sports programs when game after game gets rained out and the deadline for finishing the season is a week away, with more rain in the forecast. And it’s frustrating to the kids who desperately want to play and keep getting rescheduled!image8

May we all see our curses as blessings and have wisdom knowing what breaks us can serve to bless someone else.image3

The rain is a blessing to construction workers and lifeguards whose skin is usually scorched by the summer sun.image6

The rain is a boon to landscapers who are usually in a client lull by mid-July because the heat has scorched the lawns they are paid to mow.image2

May we all have wisdom to see our blessings can be a curse for someone else, knowing what blesses us can break another’s soul.image7

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Holy Yoga Soul Care Retreat

I attended my second Holy Yoga Soul Care Retreat the first weekend of June. It was in Nashville at the Scarritt Bennett Center. My friend Jill asked me to be the event photographer again, plus I had seven women schedule individual photography sessions with me. Here are my favorite photos from the weekend, after many hours of organizing and editing. I hope you can see God in these images and women’s faces, like I do!










Tuesday, June 16, 2015

To Katie on the Eve of Her 12th Birthday

Tomorrow, Katie turns 12. Two days ago, she wrote me a letter in a special journal we use to write each other back and forth. This blog post is her letter, and my response. [Note: We just spent five days at our church’s youth camp. I wasn’t assigned to Katie’s small group, but I got to spend some time with her and hang out and watch her with her friends.]

Dear Mommy,

I had so much fun at YC Camp spending time with you! I enjoyed the blob and spending time with all my besties! Thank you for caring for me when I hurt my foot, and offering a piggyback ride. I am so lucky to have you! I want to do this again next year, and I hope that it is at Lake Williamson! I am thankful that we can continue to grow in our love of Christ TOGETHER! We are going to keep calm and worship on! I love your love for Christ, like how you raise your hands and sing like nobody is watching. I have a desire to love Christ just like you! I love you so much! We are going to have so much fun telling D & J about our adventures!    ~Katie (Ketchup)


Here’s the letter I wrote in response:

Oh, my Katie girl!

Your letter was better for me than any jewel or gifts or awards or prizes. Having you as my girl is like winning the grand prize championship of life! Nothing compares to the joy you shine into my life. Thank you for telling me how you see me – that you see Jesus in me. That is my life’s mission: to reflect Jesus to others. And I love that you, my daughter, can see Him in me!

Here’s something really great too: I CAN SEE JESUS IN YOU! I see Him in the way you sing about Him when you’re hanging out at home. I see Him in the way you light up around friends you love. I see Him when we have quiet pillow talk moments and you ask some of the hard questions of life. I see Him in you when you help out around the house or at Outreach or with a neighbor. Oh, Katie! The Lord has set you aside for a deep, loving work throughout your life. How exciting is that?!

Tomorrow is your birthday. It makes me think of the first day I met you, when nurses placed you on the hospital bed beside me. I looked in your eyes and saw an entirely new unexplored world opening up for me. You have shown me new paths of life that I never knew existed. This life isn’t always easy, but having Jesus beside me, God above me, the Holy Spirit inside me, and my magnificent family (you included!) with me makes it one fantastic life.

I love and adore you,


Friday, April 10, 2015

Unending Love, Amazing Grace

I want to write. I love to write. I even have an idea for a book (or three). Slowly, I’m getting closer to making that dream less of an idea and more of a reality. And each time I take a step towards it, my fear of reality rachets up a few notches.

What if I make the effort to achieve my dream, and I fail miserably? What if I put all this effort into writing a book and NO ONE wants to read it? What do I do on the other side of failure when I don’t have that dream to fuel me any longer? And then the real terror sets in, because the fears transfer from my dreams and onto my value as a person. Who are YOU to write a book? You don’t know the first thing about that. Are you stupid? You don’t have anything of value to put in a book. Or a blog. Or even a LIFE, for that matter. You aren’t special. You aren’t worth listening to. And you certainly aren’t interesting, not even one little bit!

Dude. Just writing those sentences makes me want to close my laptop and curl into a ball, and never. write. again. – even to finish this blog post! The fear is real, and it’s paralyzing. And I’m so tempted to listen to the voice of the Dream Killer and stay in my comfy little life and simply stop.

But the shouts of fear can’t silence the whisper of God in my heart. So, for some crazy reason, I found myself in the Christian section at Barnes & Noble. I was doing some research to find out what kinds of books already exist that are similar to what I have in mind to write. Before I got to the bookstore, I figured my book idea was not exactly original but also not saturating the market. It turns out I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right, either. I poked around and found books just like what I had in mind, and some that were even better.

I sat on the ground in front of the Christian section, and looked at this massive collection of books. There were books by Mother Teresa and Charles Spurgeon and A.W. Tozer and Lysa TerKeurst and Ann Voskamp and Shauna Niequist and Todd Eldredge and… and… and I felt hope seep out of me. I felt my dream curdling in my stomach, and the heaviness of failure before I had even started to give my dream any true weight.

After a time I got up and left the bookstore, full of negative self talk and words like, “You’ll never be…” and “No one would ever want you to…” and the worst of all: “After seeing all those books in the store, what do YOU have to offer, Elizabeth? There is nothing significant or worthwhile that you can add to the conversation. Those REAL authors in the store have captured the essence of God in theological ways your little, pitiful mind can never fathom. Don’t even THINK you can play in the big leagues with those rock stars! Everything important has already been written. Everything that matters has already been said. You have nothing valuable to add to the conversation, so shut up and sit down.”

Sidebar: as I’m typing this blog post, I just got a text from a friend. This is what she sent. Wow! What perfect timing!image1

Back to the story…

I left the bookstore, got in the car, berated myself, then started driving. That’s when the Holy Spirit convicted me and I realized I needed to change the route my mind was taking. I prayed out loud and said, “Okay, God. Let’s turn on some music so I can sing to You instead.” I turned on the local Christian radio station (JoyFM) and the notes from a song that has special meaning to me filled the car:

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found. Was blind but now I see.”

It’s a song that reminds me of my parents. And it’s a song that reminds me of God’s ability to change me because I no longer cry like a baby whenever I hear the song or sing it at church. And then the chorus of the song started playing:

“My chains are gone, I’ve been set free.

My God – my Savior – has ransomed me.

And like a flood, His mercy reigns.

Unending love, amazing grace.”

For a brief moment, I flashed back to the first time I heard that song and I was at the end of myself. That song was a lifeline for me that first day. Now on THIS day, in the car after leaving the bookstore, it became a lifeline again. As I was thanking God for that song on the radio at that specific moment in time when I needed it, He gently whispered to my heart and I realized this: I am so grateful that Chris Tomlin wrote a new version of the song Amazing Grace.

Do you think he ever thought, “Why keep writing music? Every note has already been played and every word has already been sung. And why should I take a song that’s already been written – Amazing Grace – and add anything to it? That song is a classic and there is nothing little ol’ me can add to it.”

But Chris Tomlin didn’t listen to the Dream Killer, and he wrote lyrics and music that deepened a classic spiritual hymn and made it fresh for a new generation of believers. When Chris Tomlin listened to God, God showed him how to write in a new way. A way that’s authentic to God’s call on Chris Tomlin’s life. And HIS life only, regardless of whether anyone else sang the songs or played the music.

For me, that last part is the key to silencing the Dream Killer. It doesn’t matter if I write a book or a blog or even a letter that no one publishes or compliments or even reads. The point is not doing something because of the way it’s received; the point is doing something because it’s what my Father has asked me to do.

If God has placed words on my heart and dreams in my head, then who am I to say His dreams are less important than mine? And what if, just maybe, God is so good and so loving that He makes sure to intersect His dreams with my own?

God has placed a passion in my heart that needs to be expressed. He has given me spiritual gifts that He intends for me to use, which makes those gifts a Gift I get to extend back to Him. How amazing that The Giver of All Gifts lavishes us with love that becomes an offering back to Him and ultimately glorifies Him? God is the best recycler/upcycler/regifter of all!

“Unending love, amazing grace.” Indeed!


[A few weeks after my bookstore revelation, I got to attend the Chris Tomlin “Love Ran Red” concert tour. As he sang “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” live, I took this photo. Look at the way people worship and sing along. It would have been a shame for Chris Tomlin to say no to writing a new arrangement of the hymn Amazing Grace. Thank You, God, for making all things new!]

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Provision and PayPal

Health insurance. Gah! I know I’m not the only one who is frustrated and annoyed with her insurance and what feels like a lack of benefits.

On Tuesday, Dan stopped off at home in the midst of a rain hail storm as he was on his way to a physical therapy appointment. I asked him about how he planned to pay for the appointment, since our Health Savings Account had been tapped dry the week before. We talked about the lack of funds compared to the abundance of bills, and then I bemoaned a bill that had not even been incurred yet: my annual eye exam and contact lenses.

I’ve already made my lenses stretch for as long as possible (Yes, I’m guilty of – gasp! – wearing my daily lenses for more than a day. The horror!), but I’m down to a short supply and it’s time to bite the bullet and order more. While talking with Dan, I said, “The HSA is empty and contacts will cost $300. Where are we going to find that?”

In the back of my head, I already had an answer.

I met with a friend last week and we discussed a regular photography gig. She offered to hire me to photograph property as a part of her job. It intrigued me, and I told her I would pray about it. I tucked the idea into my heart, asked God to mull it over for me and let me know what He thinks I should do. While I don’t think that gig would be my ultimate employment answer, I do think it would provide income while I’m pursuing other callings from God (creative photography, writing, preparing a book). It looked like a good idea to me, but I wanted to sit on it and wait for God to confirm it.

Then bills started huffing at the corner of my shoulder and my unemployment guilt started elbowing me in the ribs a couple extra times. Add in a $300 need for contacts, and I felt like it was time to get back on the horse and pursue that photography gig. Dan left for his appointment before I voiced any of this, but I figured I could approach it with him later that night.

I went about my morning and tackled my To Do list. One of the tasks involved ordering a copy of a sports identification card so Katie can play on her softball team. Payment was required through PayPal, so I logged into my account to make sure I had the $5 to cover the order. The last time I checked, the account balance was less than $20. I figured I had at least $5 left. I was wrong.

The account balance was $300. Let me repeat that: THE ACCOUNT BALANCE WAS THREE HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Immediately, my mind raced back through past transactions and I couldn’t think of any reason there would be $300 in my account. I opened the screen that lists every transaction for the last 14 months, and got out my calculator and did the math. THREE TIMES. I should only have $16 in that account! So I called PayPal and spoke to a woman named Sandra. I started by saying I don’t understand my account balance. I’m pretty sure she must have flinched, because her response to my next words (“There’s money there that wasn’t there before!”) was: “Oh! Usually people call in here mad, but you’re not mad!” I chuckled and told her I wasn’t mad, but I needed her to help me understand how this money appeared. She went through the transactions too, and said the $300 is legit and I must have forgotten some money from long ago. Regardless of where it came from, the $300 is actually mine and I can spend it. I sputtered, “But there’s no way to explain how it got there!” She again confirmed that it IS there and it’s not a mistake.

Then I told her I was just talking to my husband about medical bills and needing $300, and she said, “Girl, the Lord works in mysterious ways!” To which I replied, “Amen, sister! He really does! I can’t believe He even works through PayPal!” I’m pretty sure our call was the highlight of her day, because it was definitely mine!

And now, there is a $295 balance in my PayPal account. (I used $5 to pay for the ID card, remember?) But even more than the $295, I received something of much greater value: I had a specific need and God gave me a specific answer. “I will provide for you, Elizabeth. Do not go running off, searching out your own solutions to problems. Sit. Wait. Give me time to work and I will bless you in ways that don’t make sense and can’t be proven with math or scientific reasoning or logic. I AM and I am providing for you. Trust me, dear one!”

In my life, I’ve heard people tell stories about being in financial need and God bailing them out in ways that seem “random” (unclaimed money or a neighbor dropping off a “random” gift card or a long-forgotten I.O.U. that gets paid or an anonymous donor paying for Lyme Disease treatment). I love hearing stories like that because it is always obvious to me that God isn’t random and His provision isn’t a coincidence. It’s an easy thing for me to say when a person is telling me a story about their “coincidence.” But when the “coincidence” happens to ME and God gives me a first-person reminder that He is taking care of me in ways I didn’t even bother to ask Him to, my mind is blown and I am left shaking my head in wonder at His might and majesty.

Later that day, I told a friend about finding God’s provision through PayPal and explained to her how I had been on the verge of taking on a new gig as my solution to a problem. She wisely pointed out that God is telling me to sit still and keep waiting through this unemployment, and He will lead me to the place He has prepared for me. It doesn’t mean this gig is a NO, but it does mean I don’t have to keep running around making my own answers to problems without waiting for God to confirm it first.

I can’t explain how thankful I am that God is a persistent God who speaks in ways meant only for me. He is generous, patient, and faithful to keep His promises to provide! (Psalm 54:4, Jer. 29:11)  And while I know $300 is merely a drop in the bucket (some people are in much greater need) and we aren’t in dire straits and we will get by, it’s reassuring and encouraging to know that God cares about even the smallest worries that stick like Velcro to my soul. Thank You, Abba!


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