Anxious? Learn Trust in the Bathtub

When big-girl bathtime was new and DeCelie was fresh into learning how to trust, she would scream. When it was time to rinse out the conditioner and she feared the water would burn her eyes, she’d wiggle so wildly that it would

“Babygirl, you are afraid that mommy will get water in your eyes so you look down...but when you look down the water falls down too - right into your eyes. You gotta keep your head up,” I would say. She’d nod and lift her head high but then right as the warm water would start to fall over her hair - she’d panic and plunge her head down into her chest, forcing water drops down into her eyes. She’d shriek and blindly reach out in the air for a towel before hurling blame. “See! You got water in my eyes!”

“Sweetbaby,” I’d say, exhaling... “Your own fear put water into your eyes, not Mommy. You need to trust me, I’m not trying to hurt you. You need to keep your head up.”

The message would soon drip into her mind and right on into my heart…

There are times when others intentionally aim to cause pain. But how much pain have I caused my own self by holding on to fear and anxiety? How many times have I plunged my head into the shadows of my own desires in search of refuge only to sabotage it? How many times have I shifted blame onto others who were only trying to help? “See! You got water in my eyes!”...have I ever scolded God like that?

When we are fresh into learning how to trust, we do a lot of screaming. We wiggle so wild, we just about blind our souls with fear. In this panicked state, “keep your head up,” sounds unsympathetic and unreasonable. And then even when we choose bravery, we find out - our flesh still has strong reflexes. Trust is a trying process. A long work of trial and error...lots of trials, and lots of our errors. But God knows just what He's doing. He's trustworthy. And I’m so thankful He is also patient.

Charis bath.jpg

DeCelie has since learned to overcome her self-sabotaging-self-protective bathtub reflexes. While she sees trust never equals painless (she still doesn't like the pain of combing out her hair afterwards). She realizes that fighting the process only makes things longer...and harder. She wants a different "longer" - she perseveres through the pain knowing all of this is part of keeping her hair healthy so it can grow longer, (something she is committed to ever since beholding Elsa's long braid - from Frozen. Ha!).

So DeCelie has learned to keep her head up. She’s learned to be still. She’s learned to delight in the trust my heart for her. 

The first day she dared to follow-through with trust, she saw I proved trustworthy. It became easier and easier for her to trust me each instance after that. And now, when it's time to rinse her hair, she has a whole new reflex. A trust reflex.

* * *

Trusting God is not promised to lead to an easy fact it's guaranteed to be painful at times. But resisting is way more painful. We want to experience the baffling peace of God that surpasses even the most painful of circumstances. We want to grow in God. So we persevere past the doubt and self-sabotaging reflex. We learn to keep our head be still... and to delight in the process. We begin to really believe...that He is trustworthy. Then one day we find within us a whole new reflex. A trust-reflex. 

* * *

She leans her head back, closes her eyes, and relaxes as I pour the warm water over her hair. Her eyes whisper tranquility and her mouth gaps as though sleeping. Peace is a beautiful thing to behold. 

“Good job sweetie, you’re trusting me,” I repeat over and over again as I wash and rinse her hair. “Babygirl, you are learning trust...thank you for trusting me.”



P.S. Are you wondering (practically speaking) how?...How do I “keep my head up” when I’m dripping anxious? Check out thisthis, and this...or our whole Baffling Peace series, here.

The Day I Should Have Died

I shuffle in . . . both my hands and feet in shackles. My record is read. The evidence has been weighed. The trials are over. I have no defense. I am the King’s enemy and I am here to be judged.

The man walks in with the final ruling. “Cheree Hayes is found..."

My heart clings to my throat. 

"...Guilty of treason,” he says before announcing my penalty... 


My stomach drops and the room spins around defenseless, helpless...hopeless. I can't breathe or see things clearly but I think I see the King waving his hand. It seems he is summoning a man to his throne. They talk with one another for what seems like hours. By the end of their conversation the man he summoned is sweating and trembling. The man says, “yes” to the King and turns around facing me. 

The King addresses me. Reaching out his hand, he introduces the man and asks, “Do you receive this man to defend you here in my court today?” I nod, still bewildered, I thought my judgement was final? 

The large heavy doors behind me jar open, startling everyone in the room. I see a guillotine at the entrance and a rush of terror races to my gut. I want to run. My defender leaves my side and begins carting the large structure into the center of the court. Right now? I must die today? This moment? My knees weaken and I fall on the floor. The man... my defense, approaches me. I can only see his shoes.

“Stand and come with me,” he says. 

To take me to my death? Some defender! I try to fight him. I writhe in my chains, wrestling to get in a punch. My spit splatters over his face. He barely flinches and without a word, lifts me to my feet. He leads me to the King’s seat and clears his throat...

“Count all of her record, mine. And count all of my record, hers.”

I frown and look at him then turn back to the King, looking for something in his face to help me discern what my defender meant by this strange statement. The King only nods and beats his scepter into the hard marble floor. My shoulders tighten as the thundering echo beats the room. 

Terror igniting, I see two guards in the corner of my eye. Their faces harden as they charge towards me. I clench my eyes shut and bury my head in my chest. I feel their momentum but the wind passes me. I jerk my head up and follow the sound of their boots. They have seized my defender. Dragging him to the guillotine in the center of the court, they yell insults and kick him until he can barely stand. I look around me, blinking wild with astonishment. No one is stopping this. I watch as they lace a rope around his hands and another around his feet. Before they can force him, he kneels willingly at the bed of the blade.

His eyes meet mine, “your punishment is finished,” he says. 

The blade drops. I look away and shriek. 

The guards unlock my shackles with no explanation.

My chains crash to the floor. 

I grip my wrists and stretch my fingers, still not understanding if what happened is real and if I can bear the hope awakening in my heart. The judge approaches me. I can’t look him in the eye.

“Cheree, your record has been put to death with my son. And my son’s record now lives in you,” he says. That man was his son!? He holds my shoulders and lifts my chin, “This means you are now my child and I am now your father. All I own is your inheritance. Keep the chains on the floor. You are free now. We are at peace.”

I cannot believe these words. The King takes my arm and ushers me outside of the courts to the crowds waiting outside. He raises his scepter and I hear him introduce me as his daughter. 

This is too much, I tell myself. I look down at my dirty garments, shaking my head. I am the enemy . . . not the child! I sneak my arm from the hold of the King and draw back in shameI can hear the crowd's thoughts, “She is not worth it,” they jeer. “She does not deserve to be released,” they hiss. I continue to draw back into their mockery and let their judgments push me back to the courtroom. Anxious, I pick up the shackles from the bloody floor. They feel familiar. They keep me safe, I tell myself. I begin to shackle my wrist as I hear someone call from behind me.

“Your punishment is finished,” he says. I turn and look at him, my eyes searching. “Your new identity has been fixed by the King’s scepter. This cannot be undone,” he explained. I start to ask who he is but he interrupts, “I gave you my record so you could leave your chains behind and live free. Do not listen to the crowds. And do not come back here. You are at peace with the King now, receive also the peace of the King.”

* * * 


"For if, while we were God's enemies, 
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, 
how much more, having been reconciled, 
shall we be saved through his life!"
Romans 5:10

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, 
so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Corinthians 5:21

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption
that came by Christ Jesus."
Romans 3:23-25

“There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 8:1

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  
Romans 5:1

"He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?"
Romans 8:32

For explanation see also:

Worried? Find Out Why

After reading “R.S.V.P. - How to Accept the Protection of Peace,”  come take some time of reflection to begin applying what has been introduced so far. 

If you can’t take the 10-15 minutes right now to write out your answers - pin or bookmark this, and come back later. But if you do have time, grab a pen and keep reading...

You might not have all the answers to the following questions. No problem. Just take note of the questions you struggle to answer and aim to discover their answers throughout the week. 

Alright, now ask yourself...

  1. “What is the #1 thing over which I most often worry?” 

    i.e. Finances
  2. “Why do I worry about that...what emotions hide underneath the anxiety?” 

    i.e. I'm not smart enough to earn more. I'm not wise enough to save more. I'm not disciplined enough to spend well. --- I might lose my job. 
  3. Usually the answers to question #2 will land in one or two categories . . . or both: shame (I’m bad) or fear (something bad might happen). Which category do your answers fall under? 

    i.e. Both (the first three answers are under shame. The last one is under fear.)

    Or would you put your answers under different categories? . . . if so name them here:

  4. “What recurring situation usually triggers these underlying feelings of shame and/or fear that lead to anxiety for me?”

    i.e. When rent is due or when so-in-so asks about a purchase.
  5. “How do I usually respond (internally & externally) in those triggering situations?”

    i.e. Defensive anger. Blame.
  6. “What is one thing I need to pray for next time I’m triggered (tempted) to be anxious?”

    i.e. Financial provision. Patience. Humility. Change for the future - self-control in my spending and saving.
  7. “What is one thing I can be grateful for next time I’m triggered (tempted) to be anxious?”

    i.e. All that I do have right now (the list could go on forever)...and even if this was all stolen and lost, no one could take away my eternal future. I have Jesus no matter what.
  8. “What is one foundational truth I need to remember and believe next time I’m triggered (tempted) to be anxious?” 

    i.e. The Lord is faithful to provide for my daily needs, even when I'm unfaithful to see it.
  9. “How can I plan to meditate on that one foundational truth to prepare for the next time I’m triggered?”

    i.e. I will take some time before work in the morning to write down verses about God's provision to post on my dashboard and bathroom mirror. I can pray through the verses while I get ready and on my way to work.

We will add to our answers and refer back to these questions later in our series, so save what you have so far.

So was this for you? Did you discover any new insights about yourself as you worked through this exercise? I'd love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an e-mail here

Talk to you soon.



*Photo Credit Bhernandez. Stressed and Worried" at Flickr: Used with permission. Layer and text mine.

R.S.V.P. - How to Accept the Protection of Peace

“Do not be anxious about anything…” Philippians 4:6a

Now here’s a radical command.
Do not be anxious about anything? (ahem)...Anything?  

To understand this, we gotta define our terms. What is meant here by "anxiety"?

First we can clarify that the Lord is not saying to never be stressed. Jesus Himself experienced tremendous stress on his body and emotions (i.e. John 13:21, John 4:6, John 11:33, Luke 22:44, Matt 26:38).

The Lord is also not saying to never be concerned. Jesus had many heavy concerns - for the poor, the self-righteous, the lost, the weary, etc...(i.e. Matt 9:36, 10:21-22, 11:28-30, 23:37).

And I’m convinced the Lord has a different word altogether for those who suffer from major physiological manifestations due trauma, organic imbalance, and environmental or relational toxicity. While the symptoms of those scenarios may mimic the anxiety that is mentioned here in Philippians 4 - I do not believe this passage is speaking directly to all those scenarios. I believe His word in those situations is the same as His word to all the sick and injured: tender, merciful, healing redemption. If this type of "anxiety" describes you, while this study will still benefit you - I hope you will take courage to seek a doctor, counselor and/or support group to come alongside you in your walk toward healing and recovery. Also, if you would like for me to pray for you, please contact me.

I believe the Lord is not saying many things by this command...but we can’t deny that indeed He is saying “Do not be anxious” what is anxiety? Here's my best attempt at a definition:

When stress consumes us…when stress overrides our better judgement, hides in numbing distractions, controls our reactions, and leads us to fear the future…when stress seems greater than our Great God: stress becomes anxiety.

When concerns consume us…when concerns override our hope, control our reactions, toss and turn us out of the rest of prayer, and rob us of our present-tense…when concerns seem mightier than our All Mighty God: concern becomes anxiety.

When stress and concern stay in our hands, instead of being turned over to the Lord, they have a way of quickly turning into anxiety. We all have experienced this...over and over again...we all know the dizziness anxiety brings. Why do we keep getting so anxious?

You’ve likely been in a situation when you were so tense with anxiety that someone came alongside and patted you with sympathy saying, “Don’t worry.” Sometimes the phrase is a refreshing reality check. At other times, however, I’ve shared in some of the rebuttals that you might resonate with...“You have no idea what I’m going through,” or “C’mon now, worrying shows I really care about this situation. Do you want me just to stop caring?” or “If I don’t worry about it, how is all this going to be taken care of, really?”

Somewhere deep down inside of us we are prone to believe our worry is good for something...that worry accomplishes things and accurately expresses our care. It’s understandable to feel defensive with someone who casually sings “Hakuna Matata” songs to you when they have never entered your pain. So it feels right to keep fighting for your “rights" to worry. 

But here we have the God of the Universe telling us not to worry. And who could be more qualified to offer such words? He is the One who knows us best...the One who cares far more than you and I could ever care about anything...the One whose love took on flesh to plunge into the depth of all human suffering on our behalf...the One who is both powerful and good - who is in control and who is committed to working all things together for good to those who love Him...this is the One who tells us not to be anxious.

All of our rebuttals to this command can be relieved of duty. We don’t need to protect or defend our anxiety anymore...we can allow the peace of God to guard and defend our hearts now instead. See the promise? Look:

“...And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

See how peace seeks to guard over our hearts and minds? This shows us that the peace of God is protective in nature...that His peace seeks to stand guard like a shield for our hearts and minds.

This verse also tells us something about anxiety too...that indeed it is threatening enough to require defensive measures. As we'll see in this series, anxiety is a sneaky weapon...making us vulnerable to the enemy of our souls. So wanting to guard us with His peace, the Lord says, “Do not be anxious” - and then gives us a practical pathway to walk with the accept the protective promise:

We learn that in light of our eternal hope and identity in God, we are to stand firm in the Lord in “this way”(Philippians 3:20,21 and 4:1)...

1. Practice Peace in RELATIONSHIP: “Live in harmony in the Lord...Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.” (Philippians 4:2-5)

Here we unpack the principles given to us in these verses that tell us how to pursue peace when we are at odds with someone...

2. Practice Peace in SUPPLICATION: “...In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6b)

Here we look at the power of God as we seek Him in prayer and learn gratitude in all things...

3. Practice Peace in VIEWPOINT: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

Here we will look at the importance of meditation in shaping our perspective (i.e. viewpoint) on all of life...

4. Practice Peace in PRAISE: “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4)

And here we will look at the joy of God as we learn how to rejoice in Him - always...especially in difficult seasons of life.

These four principles (R.S.V.P.) are followed with another promise:

"...The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)

So with this glorious promise in sight - let’s relearn who enables us to be anxious for nothing, why we are not to be anxious about anything... and how we can live free from anxiety to begin experiencing the baffling peace of God.

Let’s begin to understand the command to “not be anxious” as an invitation to experience the peace we have been given in Jesus.  Let’s hold up the verses surrounding this command - the verses that contain the ink we will need to R. S. V. P. to this gracious invitation of the God of peace...and write an enthusiastic "yes" with our lives.

It’s going to be a great study. I look forward to unpacking each point above with you.
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Baffling Peace Playlist

In some of the most trying moments of my life, God has sent songs to usher my heart to peace. For me, nothing quite like music draws out my tears and wrings out raw prayers. And nothing quite like music stills my mind when it's spinning with anxiety. One of the best things I can do on nights like that is to literally cover my reach for my ear-buds and plug them in, hit play, and just listen to allow each song to flow over my mind with God's renewing truth.

In case you want to do the same this week, I started a playlist for you. I included songs that have met me in times of intense trial. Some songs have stories attached to them that will make me cry as I try to tell you them, like cry so hard I’ll want Tylenol afterwards…so I will tell them later.

In the meantime, I need your help to finish the playlist. Comment below or use #bafflingpeaceplaylist on Facebook or Twitter, to tell me which songs you would add. And if you want, please include your stories. I would love to hear how your song choices have impacted you.

Alright you begin listening to the playlist, read with me. Tomorrow we will begin our study in Philippians, so in preparation, let’s read the passage together. Don't skim. And ah-ah, hm-mm, don't open up a new window and get distracted. C'mon now, read with me. These are God's holy-breathed, living and active words, lean in... then if you will, comment below: what verse or phrase most stands out to you... what would you highlight?

Philippians 3:20-4:9

"But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. 

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

Grace & Peace,



P.S. Remember, comment below or use #bafflingpeaceplaylist on Facebook or Twitter, to tell me which songs you would add to our playlist. Oh, and include your stories too! I want to hear how your choice songs encouraged your heart.

To The Weary Momma:

To the Weary Momma,

I see you there, sister. I see you slouched over nursing that adorable baby of yours trying to connect with adults through this wide web screen. Your hair’s a mess, girlfriend...and those bags under your eyes, I see their weighin’ heavy.

But girl - you’re beautiful.

You know your baby’s tears - the gassy wailing and the midnight flailing. You have soothed him. Fed him. Rocked him. Changed him. You have labored along through those long napless days. You have trudged on tripping through those tripping sleepless nights. You are worn. You’re body aches. You had no idea it would be this tough.

But girl - you’re tougher.

You feel so alone. And in the loneliness, the tempter gossips in your ear speaking lies about who you are and how you are doing. He seeks to spin you into restless worry and spiral you down into frightened furies. He schemes to fret you up in super-mommy-striving and throw you down in martyr-complex-judging. When you fall, he scorns and scoffs. He tempts. Then he accuses. Accuses. And then he tempts.

But girl - you’re an overcomer.

You are learning.
You are growing.
You are re-finding where your help comes from...

Step by step, from strength to strength, and glory to glory...
You are learning to lean on your Helper.

Peace be with all the tired mommas tonight...

When the mirror mocks and you feel like joining, the Helper reflects Jesus: the perfect image-of God-bearer. You see that blinding see Him there deep inside you, working a brilliant masterpiece through all of this. Yes, He is working all these pieces into something beautiful - in you and through you. 

When the crying is too loud and the sleeping is not enough, the Helper whispers, “But Christ is enough”. And His enough is louder. So you call on Him...“Lord, I need You to be all that You are in this, right here where I am...right here in my hurting and tired heart, body and soul. Your mercies are a geyser. Your lavish love never runs out, there is nothing too big...or too small for You. So Helper, help me see Jesus is more than enough for me.”

When the loneliness tempts you to despair, the Helper is right there to usher you to hope. He never left. He never will. He always will be with you. It’s a promise to all who have believed on Christ. So you draw near, “Helper, silence the tempters lips. Mute his accusations. Soothe me as I soothe my baby’s cry. Please feed me as I feed his insatiable appetite. Steady Rock of Ages, rock me as I rock his body tonight. And Lord, change me...change me as I change his diapers.”

Dear Weary Momma, I hear your prayers. And now I join you...

“Thank You Father for sending Your Son - God with us...and that through Your Son, You sent the Helper to live in us. You remain in us. Let us remain here in You. Step by step, from strength to strength, and
from glory to glory...may we strand strong in Your strength. In your grace. In your hope. In your peace. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Sister, I see you there.
You are looking more and more like your Savior through all this....

And girl - in you, He's a sight to behold.

Peace be with you,


The Day My Life Changed Forever (part 2)

The morning began strained. I was feeling a lot better by noon, so I was embarrassed my Dad drove three hours from my hometown just to go to a doctor's appointment with me. We arrived at urgent care together and sat in the waiting room. I read and studied for class...spying on the clock every 15 minutes, anxious to get back to the dorms to start my written homework. Two hours later, when the nurse called my name, I exhaled in relief. 

My feet dangled from the examination table, I swung them back and forth as I dug in my pockets for the list I prepared. I straightened my crumpled paper and tried to explain my symptoms, “When I take a deep breath it hurts right pressure. And um, when I bend to pick something off the ground my head feels like it’s 12 feet underwater, ya know, like when you dive in the deep end? And I’m swollen…as you can see…”

The doctor took down a few notes. He left and we waited some more. I swung my Nikes back and forth again. Waiting was a sport.

When he returned he explained I had something called “angioedema” - swelling of the tissues. I would need to take medication for it for the rest of my life but otherwise it was fairly manageable. I shrugged. That didn’t sound so bad - I was relieved I wasn’t allergic to Portland. I liked it here. The doctor left with his clipboard and as the door shut I looked up at Dad. He smiled back. The answer deflated the apprehension of the unknown.

The doctor returned. We were talking further about my symptoms when all of a sudden his face fell flat. I frowned and paused confused, what did I say? He sought clarification and I confirmed that, “yes the swelling is only from my heart stomach, legs and arms haven’t changed at all. And then, yea there’s this lump on my collar bone...” My Dad gasped, "Lump?" The doctor's cheeks grew pale and he paused. While examining the lump, he frowned with concern. His mouth all pursed with sympathy said so much but I needed words. I waited for him to break the silence…

“This is serious.” he spoke with gentleness, “I won’t need to call an ambulance for you, but you will need to go to the emergency room right now.” Everything he said after that was a blur. I signed paperwork. I walked down the hall. My Dad opened the door for me. The cold damp air slapped my face, reminding me that I was alive...and that life faces death. Walking the parking lot, I started thinking of things I wanted to do before I died. All through high-school I had grown to love the people of Romania. I followed the missionary journeys of some of my closest friends who had gone. I wanted to go too. “Romania,” I wrote on the top of my mental bucket list.

We arrived at the emergency room within 10 minutes. They had called ahead of time, so our wait was short. The nurses prepped me for a chest x-ray. We waited for the results in a small, cold, white room.

To pass the time, we made phone calls. My Dad called my Mom. He explained only that she would need to drive the three hour trip with my siblings...that she would need to be here. And I called my dear friend Alicia who was on her way to Portland to visit me on campus for the weekend. I didn't know how long I’d be at the E.R. but I was pretty sure she’d wouldn't be able to meet me at the dorms.

The doctor came in with a clipboard. She stood with her back against the sliding door, her body about as far away from bed-side as possible and her tone farther - just as chilly as the room.

“You might have something called Lymphoma,” she said.

She kept talking, but I only remember that sentence, “You might have something called Lymphoma.”  I replayed the words over and over in my head til they made some kind of sense. I remembered from my high-school anatomy class that  “-oma” meant we were dealing with cancer. I had heard of lymph nodes but I couldn't remember where they were or what they did. My mind spun with all I could associate with cancer. I thought of my Grandma...

When I’d hug her, I would smoosh my face into her soft tummy. She usually wore yellow and smelled like cherry-almond Jergen’s lotion and dryer sheets. She made the best oatmeal in the world. We’d make it oatmeal islands surrounded by milky shores with the raisin people all laid out on the brown sugar sand. I can’t remember the day she fell into the coma. But I remember passing time in the waiting room, staying up late watching marathons of “I love Lucy” with my uncles and aunts. She was dying. My Dad prayed he could have more time with her that night. But time kept sliding downward. Death rattling. Cataracts. The hospice nurses prepared everyone. Then the prayer team came. My Dad told me the story.

They prayed and asked for God to heal her, that she would stand up and walk out of that hospital. The prayer stung. The family waited for them to leave. But an hour later, my Grandma...well, she started getting better. When my Dad noticed her cataracts were going away he called the nurses but they just patted him with pity. Moments later, when she woke up from the coma and said, “hi” they couldn’t ignore him anymore. She "scolded" everyone for not believing she'd walk out of the hospital, like she had said. Everyone was hysterical with joy. Everyone except the doctors and nurses...they were terrified. They kept their distance and looked at her like she was a ghost. They couldn't explain it. A couple days later she was released from the hospital. They offered her a wheelchair but she turned it down and walked out strong. Alive. It was a miracle.

Her tumors were not gone. But God had given her more time to live with those who loved her. We had the whole summer to watch the nest that rested in the grapevine over her porch. Sometimes we’d catch sight of the momma robin feeding her two little babies in the morning. She’d squeal, and ohhh the sound of her delight could heal a heart. But her healing would not last. Hospice moved in.

I was playing Monopoly with my brother and neighbors when my uncle Brian arrived to pick us up. His eyes were bloodshot and we walked to Grandma’s house in silence, confused. The whole house was tear stained when we walked through the doors. I shoved past their explanations and ran downstairs where her hospice bed was set up but nothing was there. Everything was gone. The bed. The machines. The side table. And my Grandma. Gone. I was I yelled. I was I cried. Then I remember thinking that angels were probably there in the room I danced with them.

She was 54.
I was 9. And I never played Monopoly again.

The doctor left the room and I rested my head back on the examination table staring up at the harsh fluorescent lights. “You might have something called Lymphoma” still echoed in my mind. Silent tears fell from my cheeks.

My Dad reached over for my hand, “let’s thank the Lord,” he said. So together we went to the Lord’s comfort. “Thank You Lord...” I whispered. “Thank You for promising to never leave us or forsake us. Thank you for all that You will do in and through this season ahead...” The peace that came at that moment did not make sense. My breathing steadied and the air I took in smelled Jesus. Like the warmth of hope. Like love. Like life.

The Prince of Peace, He was so near in that broken hearted moment. This must be the “peace that surpasses all understanding” that I read about in Philippians. It did surpass. His peace strong and baffling, surpassed all my understanding - surpassed the doctor’s news, surpassed the threat of surpassed the glaring unknown.

The news was overwhelming.
But God’s presence was more overwhelming.

We waited, overwhelmed by the One who overwhelms even the worst of news with a peace that baffles understanding.

They brought in the x-ray.
They explained it to us...

The lump on my collarbone was a tumor. They would biopsy it the next day to see what kind of cancer I had. There was also another tumor. It was “the size of a small potato” they said. It was wedged up against my heart, blocking my veins and not allowing bodily fluids to drain. With all the pressure it was causing, they feared it might cause a stroke. So they admitted me into the hospital that very night...the fifth floor: 5K oncology. I started my first chemotherapy at 1am...a little less than 12 hours from arriving at urgent care that afternoon. Now, with my biopsy still a day away and results even further, I could only pray and wait for what would come next...

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The Day My Life Changed Forever (part 1)

September 30th, 2004 -

My eyelids weighed heavy, blinks lazed slow. The pressure on my chest was even worse than the morning previous. I struggled out of bed and shuffled to the dorm sink to inspect my reflection. Was my face as swollen as it felt? 

I gasped, barely recognizing myself. My lips were three times their fullness, my cheeks were pillows, and my veins bulged pale blue. The image staring back at me was a creepy caricature.

Concerned, my roommate and long time family friend, Amber, called my dad for help. I was 19 and moved to Portland for college, just one month prior. We were new here and had no idea what to do. Amber handed me the phone. Dad spoke gently, strength trembling in his voice. He told me to write down all my symptoms and he’d call back with a plan. I grabbed a pen and tried to recall them all. There was that strange lump that had just showed up a week or two ago near my shoulder. It bumped up against my backpack. I facetiously nicknamed it “my tumor” when I first noticed it. We laughed. And then there was that penetrating ache right under my throat. I could no longer sing or breathe deep without pain. I hurried to finish the list, startled at how many bullet points were shooting through the page.

I folded the paper and somehow convinced myself it was no big deal. I threw on my Nikes and dropped by the nurses office on my way to class. She gave me a Benadryl and we giggled together about how I must be allergic to the entire city of Portland. I don’t remember a thing about class - but I am surprised I went…I mean, seriously, my head was a balloon. Why in the world did I go to class?

After lunch, my dad called back announcing he was on his way. He wanted to go to urgent care with me. I remember shaking my head, “that’s a three hour drive!...Dad, no. I’m okay, really!” Exasperated, I sat on the edge of my bed and stared into the faded carpet. I set aside my denial for a moment so the realization began to sink in...something could be wrong. Something was wrong. I blinked back tears, remembering Isaac...

Just a couple months before this, we received devastating news. Isaac was walking on the side of the road. There was an accident...the car swerved and ran him over, trapping his whole body under its totaled frame. The doctors were not sure he’d live. And if he did, they were sure his brain would be so severely impaired, he would never be the same. But, oh our joy and relief, he survived. And he was still himself - still smart, loyal, witty...and still confident of his God. I wondered if I could be as confident if it had happened to me.

I had recently returned from our annual college retreat at Wildhorse Canyon - the theme of the weekend? Suffering. How to grieve. How to forebear. How to withstand...and how to stand firm. Would my faith be true under a fiery trial? When the storm hit, would my faith prove sinking sand...or would I stand?

I couldn’t answer these questions, but in the midst of them a strange stillness settled into my soul. And in His stillness, by grace I prayed, “no matter what this day holds, God. Blessed be Your Name. Whatever the news is, God, please, bless Your name.”  Only God’s Spirit inside me would utter such a prayer, “Whatever is ahead, Lord bless Your name.”  I was weak and uncertain. But the solid Rock was with me. And with the assurance of His presence, I said “Amen,” stood and stepped out of my dorm to go to the appointment….the appointment that would change my life forever...

[PART 2]                      


The Last Word

I’ve been aching these past few months....  

My knees trembled when I heard of the SPU shooting. I cried with my friends who knew Paul Lee. And then when the evil reverberations struck again, in my own neighborhood, just down the street at Reynold’s high, I collapsed in prayer. Dear God...oh Jesus save…

My stomach turned as I saw the videos of Michael Brown lying face down in a street. Then I saw his face alive, a picture captured years before - baby fat still on his cheeks, his eyes flickering with hope for the future. I could not bear it. Tears have been my only response so far, Ferguson. My words are tongue tied with grief. Nauseous grief.

My mind spun as I read of the horror’s of ISIS ransacking and murdering the lives of thousands. I tried to imagine what it would be like to run with my babies and my husband for our faith, our families...our very heads. I considered what it would be like to die for my Savior. And that is when the hope of Heaven snapped into focus. After groanings and wordless aching prayers, Christ led me into the hope that overwhelms the sorrow…

The Last Word over Suffering is Coming...

The Last Word over Suffering is Coming...

This isn’t the end. 

The enemy prowls to steal, kill and destroy. But his means is not our end. Christ will overcome. He has the last word. The enemy steals joy. But Jesus redeems - buying it back and holding it high. The enemy kills lives. But Jesus resurrects - made a way and proved it that third risen day. The enemy destroys peace. But Jesus restores - peace by peace He will refinish it back to new at the finish. He has the last word over all this suffering. The last Word is coming...

In the end the Word, faithful and true, will come peeling through the sky to establish and reveal His finished kingdom - full and glorious. “The Resurrection and the Life" will wipe every tear from our eye, swallow all mortal sorrows and put death to death for good. This end, will end sorrow. This end will begin our new beginning. In the end, Christ will have the last word over all this suffering. Our faith will be made sight.

So in the face of all this excruciating news --  there is still a certain hope for all those who believe. 

So in faith, hope and love...let’s groan for the fallen, weep with those who weep, and fervently pray in pursuit of justice for the murdered, equity for the marginalized, and mercy on all:

Father in Heaven, Your name is holy, high and separated from all this sin and death. And holy still, You sent Your Son low. He took on flesh, to make Your name known - to mend the gap. He who knew no sin, became sin for us then nailed it to a cross...took our punishment, our sin, all this death, and shoved it down in a grave to make a new and living way. Oh thank You Lord. Now, we come to You urgent - interceding...we need Your new and living way to pave earth as it is in Heaven...

Paul Lee’s family and friends are grieving. Media no longer airs their story. The masses have forgotten. But those closest are still aching. Comforter, Helper, Redeemer - be all that You are, near and true, to Paul Lee’s family and friends now. Thank You for remembering...for Your promise to be near the brokenhearted. 

And please, God we lift up the city of Ferguson. May justice prevail - let mercy restore.  Draw near to comfort Michael Brown’s family and friends. Hold and heal their trembling souls. And when the witnesses dream again of Michael’s blood flowing down their street, remind them of a greater blood shed on Calvary’s road. Give them Your hope.

And Lord, we intercede for our brothers and sisters in the middle east who are running for their faith...running for their lives. Thank you that even the gates of hell cannot overpower Your church. Even when thousands have been struck down, we are not crushed - thousands more are raised in faith. Thank You for Your promise to bless the persecuted. Thank You for Your present tense presence, real and true, to sustain and strengthen their hearts in the hope of Your coming return. Please provide supernaturally for them. And through them, show the world Your forgiving-steadfast-love is stronger than this murderous evil. 

In all these things, reveal that Your love has the last word over all this suffering. We know it does. And we know You will. Last Word, You are coming. So we wait on You, and offer this prayer. Let it be done - in Your time, in Your way, in Your powerful Name. Amen.

Let's continue to pray,                          

P.S. Holley Gerth and her friends at "Coffee for Your <3" were invited to join us in prayer them by clicking on the heart below...

P.S. Holley Gerth and her friends at "Coffee for Your <3" were invited to join us in prayer them by clicking on the heart below...


Happy Birthday Charis

Charis came into the world breathless...from pink to grey her color faded. They intervened. But she remained without air.

I heard them call for emergency crews. I called aloud to Jesus - and immediately, at His name, she inhaled her first taste of oxygen. We exhaled tearful praise. I held her as close as I could, whispering her name, "Charis," meaning: grace. And she was...she is - such gift of grace. 

She is tenacious - watching her, I learn the relentlessness of God's grace. She teaches me to persist. I see her persevere - and I'm reminded to brace myself upon His strength, to overcome and stand in hope. She lightens me up - leading me low to learn the messy manners of humility

I love this girl. So much.

Today we celebrate three years of her humorous, precocious, and adventurous spirit.
Three years of hope, wonder and curiosity. 
Three years of her grace-filled lungs. 

Happy Birthday Charis!

Photo taken by: Papa (Grandpa DeNard)

Photo taken by: Papa (Grandpa DeNard)

Photo by Auntie Lisa:

Photo by Auntie Lisa:

Photo taken by Auntie Andrea:;

Photo taken by Auntie Andrea: 

When Peace Shatters Into Pieces

The day was shot before I could even change out of my pajamas.

Bad dreams.
A painful phone call.
A negative pregnancy test.

Some mornings you just want to go back to bed. Begin again.

We were on vacation to celebrate Thanksgiving with extended family. We got to stay at one of my favorite places of all – a beach home called “Pax Pater” meaning Place of Peace. But here I was…peace-vacant.

Oh Jesus save.

With glossy eyes, I stepped downstairs still in my pajamas and began preparing breakfast. While I banged around looking for the right pot to cook some oatmeal, I noticed my two year old, Charis, banging around a glass votive from a candle display.

Before I could intervene, the votive shot off the table and shattered all over the ground.

Heavy heaving exhale.

My husband, was quick to respond. He cleaned up the mess while I moved all three of our kiddos to safety.

As soon as he turned off the vacuum, I tried to be positive, “Yea! Daddy saved the day!”

My three year old, DeCelie, looked at me curious…then with eyebrows furrowed, corrected me.

“No Mom, Daddy didn’t save the day…
‘cause Daddy is not the ‘Save the Day’…
Jesus saved the day.”

My husband and I looked up and locked in on each other, eyes wide and hearts leaping together.

“Yes. YES. Jesus saved the day!”

She smiled big and went back to her play.

Slowly I returned to stirring oatmeal with this new, toddler-sized title for God stirring in my heart: “The Save the Day.” Mmm, what a name!

When dreams go bad,
When relationships ring false,
When pregnancy tests dash hope…

These broken pieces scatter everywhere.

Who will save the day?

The doctor? 
The pastor?
A new this or that?
Likes on Facebook or blog statistics?
Or maybe the pantry, full of its numbing delicacies…

There is only One Savior.

Yes, we know…the Lord can and will use people and circumstances to come to our aid. He will send comfort, resources, wisdom and guidance. But when the day is shot down and the pieces scatter, we have to pause and ask ourselves…where do our hearts turn for rescue and assurance? Do we seek Christ first? When our peace shatters into pieces, do our hearts search for any other name? 

There is only One Name above all Names.
There is only One true, “Save the Day”

His name seeped down into my disappointment, fear and worry. His name, “Savior,” breathed over me, bringing life…delivering Peace – the Prince of Peace, strong and mighty to save.

I served the oatmeal and sat down to begin the day again. 
To begin with the prayer I didn’t start with when the day began.

Yes, Jesus…Savior, You’re saving me in this day
Jesus, Savior, You are “the Save the Day”


One truth we all need to know...

One truth we all need to know...

*CREDIT: "Smashed Car Window" Photo by Net_Efekt:, Text added with permission: Cheree Hayes

P.S. This was also shared with Holley and her friend's, join us - click on the cute couch:

Forcing Your Toddler to Share? 5 Alternatives.

"It's mine"
"No, I had it first"
"But I was playing with it"

They pull the coveted toy, back and forth. 
It’s a full out tug-a-war with no foreseeable truce.
Exhale. So now what?

Well, there’s lots of “what’s” that work. Most of what I’ve seen and used in the past eventually leads to some version of forcing a kiddo to share - and while this isn’t bad, I’ve wondered if maybe there was a better…or at least more creative alternative (I get bored of being bossy, I guess).  

You and I both see that forcing behaviors can change some things, but we also realize it cannot change a heart. Worse, eliminating choice and forcing our wills upon our kids, often leads to aggravated little hearts - sabotaging our truest desires.

In this case, at least on our best days - our desire is to nurture our kid’s hearts to understand the value of sharing to encourage them to choose it for themselves. Our hope is to appeal to their hearts, ‘cause we see that the heart of the matter - matters most.   

So with that same hope, here is my amateurish attempt at 5 alternatives that provide our home with creative options to engage our kids...encourage their critical thinking...and empower our truest desires.

These have worked well for our family, so I thought it might be worth “sharing” (ba-dum-ching)...
[Click here to find the list of 5 alternatives at Toni's blog, where this post was guest-featured today]

These actually work! 5 creative ways to encourage your toddlers to share :)

These actually work! 5 creative ways to encourage your toddlers to share :)

Spaghetti Gospel

I set the bowls of spaghetti down and invite them to sit down on their little chairs - the chairs with last month’s glitter glue dried on the backs and this morning’s oatmeal still stuck in the slats.

“Let’s use our manners.” I remind.


“And let’s say thank you to Jesus.”

“Gank you Jesus!


“Amen!” they echo.

I stand towering awkwardly above them with my bowl at my chin, startled at how hungry I feel.

“Mom, sit by us,” DeCelie says.

I kneel down on the linoleum and set my bowl at their table, shoving another bite in my mouth.

“Mmmmmm,” I hum and a chorus of echoing, “Mmmm’s” resound.

Charis studies the way her big sister twirls the fork and tries to do the same but her noodles keep falling short, she can't catch a bite. Amused, I watch in silence as she finally lowers her fork. Her eyes dash about looking for new options before she dives her hand into the bowl, lifts a mass of pasta, and drives her hand into her face. The noodles whiplash and sauce splashes everywhere. 

I giggle trying to say, “Let’s use our manners” but say instead, “Why don’t we all use our hands?”

The girls pause and stare at me, noting the rare spontaneity of their mother. DeCelie erupts with enthusiasm and Charis shouts in agreement, “Yea!!!”

So I put away my fork, and together we all dig in - snorting with mouths stuffed.
We lick the bowls down empty and poke fun at our sauce-stain-goatees.
We clear the table and wash our hands.

Then together we decide: while manners are important...sometimes it’s more important to get our hands messy to learn a different manner altogether...

"The Spaghetti Gospel"&nbsp;  &nbsp;- Photo Credit, Joey Rozier:&nbsp;

"The Spaghetti Gospel" - Photo Credit, Joey Rozier:

I want to choose this every lower myself to more linoleum, experience life at their level, and get messy for them. 

I want to be more like our Savior…

Towering above in the Heavens, He didn’t wait for an invitation to come and meet us low. He put away the old covenant manner - His hands were the only true way. Pierced hands. With them He shoved death into a grave and showed who was Life that third risen day. He lowered Himself to raise us with Him to Heaven’s heights. 

Father, let them see You, inside of me.
I don’t want my manners - I want Yours.  
May I have the same manner, towards my children - the same manner as Christ…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God
something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, 

he humbled himself  by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name
that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,  
in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue
acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,  
to the glory of God the Father.”
- Philippians 2:5-11

In Hope,




This post was also shared with Holley and her friends at:



I'll Look Back and Miss This

She saunters down the hallway in her footie pajamas. She smells like morning breath and her hair zigs wild. I lift her on a stool to hug her tall. I lean my head down to her chest and listen to her heartbeat, the sound of alive. She grows ticklish at the thought I might blow on her tummy and jumps off the stool in my arms before I'm ready. Her eyes laugh and her dimples catch the shadows. DeCelie, little Miracle, I love you.

I cup her face and stare deep until every detail is memorized. How the dip below her nose drips down soft to meet her lip. The way her upper lip weighs heavier than the the one below it, puckered and pink. I notice how her hair turns counterclockwise until half way down the lock where it curls to match the clock’s spin. She cups my face in her hands and squeezes until through fish lips my voice mushes into a lisped gurgle. Chawis, sweet gwace, I wuv oo. 

I scoop him up and bury my lips in his cheek. He pats my face, grunts out laughter, and his smile overtakes his face. I blow on his tummy and he kicks me away, tormented in joy. I chase him down the hallway growling, “I’m gonna get yous” as I mimic his one-year-old, cowboy-ish gait. He slows down and peers back at me, the little flirt, teasing me to come again. I dash and catch him, inhale his squeals, and lift him upside down in the air. Isaiah, son...I love you buddy.

phonto (13).jpg

One day I’ll miss this...all of this.

One day, Lord willing, DeCelie will stand tall and I will hug her shoulder to shoulder without a stool. Charis’ face will blossom from girl to young woman and I’ll need to memorize every detail new. Isaiah will grow into that dashing smile and girls will chase him down school hallways. And then one day, oh Lord prepare us, D'Arcy and I will blink and boom - they’ll be out of the house.

On that “one day”, if I'm blessed to see it...I’ll look back with eyes blurry, tears burning, and miss this.

So while it’s still here - I'll keep my eyes open and squeeze the moment for every drop of joy it offers.

I'll miss this, one day.
So while it’s still here - I won’t miss it. 

Lord, may I live eyes open and heart full. 
I don’t wanna miss a thing.


P.S. This post was also shared with Holley Gerth at "Coffee for you <3".
For more encouragement visit her site by clicking the couch below:

The Question that Took My Breath Away

I turned off the lamp and knelt down by DeCelie’s bed. Lifting the covers up and over her shoulders, I tucked her in and rubbed her back...tracing slow circles over her little four year old frame.

“Can you read me a Bible story?” she asked. 

“I can tell you one,” I offered and she agreed that would do.

I had been reading in John chapter three that week, so I told her about the man named Nicodemus and how he came to Jesus with questions. This led to several questions of her own. So I left the book of John and started from the very beginning of the New Testament.

She got out of the bed and grabbed her nativity scene and pointed to the little baby in the manger, “That’s when He was born.”  

“Yes,” I smiled agreeing and went on to share how He grew up. “He lived a pure life. He always showed love.” I said before adding, “But we don’t always show love. We can be mean and disobey.”

“Not me,” she protested.

I paused, surprised by her quick defense, “Uh...oh yes, too. And Mommy too! We all have not loved as we should.”

“No, not me” she protested.

I lifted an eyebrow and smirked, “DeCelie you lied to me today. You disobeyed and you didn’t share with sister.” 

She smirked back, as though impressed with my rebuttal, “Well...not anymore.”

I exhaled with empathy, “Sometimes we are unloving. But God knows...that is why He sent His Son - so He could cover all those unloving things with His great love…”

We talked about how Jesus died to take the punishment for our sins. I could tell she was tracking with me. She even shifted her position so she could listen with her whole body. She preferred these stories to me rubbing her back?

“Did He hurt?”

“Yes He did.”

“Did He bleed?”

“Yes He did. He did it all for save us.” She shifted her gaze in thought...she seemed sad. I tapped her side - gaining her full attention again, “But ya wanna know the good news?”

She looked up at me, eyes eager.

“He didn't stay dead...Now He’s alive!”

“How?” she asked, more upbeat now.

“The power of God.”

“The power inside Him?”

"Yes...yes!" I nodded.

"Where did He get the power?"

I paused, noting her thoughtful question, before answering, "...From his Father."

"Where did He get it?"

"Well, He always had it."

“No..." she said shaking her head. "Someone had to give it to Him,” she giggled and almost rolled her eyes; so tickled with certainty.

"Well, He is all powerful. No one gave it to Him. But He can give it to us. Now, since Jesus rose again, those who believe in Him can receive His power to live a new life...a life that loves and serves and gives."

She paused thinking. I thought about it too. This truth was one could ever fully comprehend its endless measure. He is all powerful. And He, in all His power would now live in us? powerfully lead us in a new life for His kingdom? This mystery...the hope of glory. I didn't expect her to understand yet.

“Okay, honey, now let me rub your back.”  It was way past her bedtime now.

“Can you sing me a song?” she asked and I nodded. “Then can you bring the real music in and let me listen to it?”

I grinned, half offended and half amused, “the real music” oh brother. Yes, I’d bring the radio in and yes, first I'd sing a song. I closed my eyes to remember the lines...“Jesus reproached for our disgrace/ no sin He choose/ tempted the same...” Before I could reach the chorus, she lifted her head and interrupted with a question that took my breath away…

“Can you pray for Jesus’ power?” 

My eyes popped open. “Yes. Yes, you can...would you like to pray?”

“No, I want you to pray.” 

“Okay.” I nodded. “Heavenly Father...I pray…”  Attempting to take in the full significance of the moment, I knelt there in the quiet re-living her question over and over again, can you pray for Jesus’ power? I thanked Him in the silence.

Noticing, she spoke up, “Why did you stop?”

“I’m...I’m thinking...” I said blinking back tear-filled eyes.

“You need to keep going,” she urged.

“Okay,” I agreed giggling, “Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son....for powerfully raising from the dead.”

“Into your heart,” she inserted. And now it became clear to me that indeed she had a very specific prayer in mind. I struggled to remember when I had introduced her to the idea of Jesus coming into a heart before recalling her question when she was younger. She asked where Jesus lived and I told her that He lives in His new body in heaven and He lives in our hearts, through His Spirit, when we believe.

She remembered.

“Lord, I pray that…” I continued.

“Into your heart!” she inserted again.

"Honey..." I smiled, "Do you want to pray?"

She dug her face down into half her pillow, smiling shy. So I continued.

“....Will You give us the power of Your Spirit? Come and powerfully live in our hearts, God.”

“And in Charis…” she added.

“And in Charis,” I repeated, peeking to see her eyes tightly pursed in prayer.

“And in brother…”

“And in brother,”

“and Daddy.”


“And you.”

“And me, Lord”

“And Uh-Celie.”

“Yes, Lord...and DeCelie” I said with a joy so burning deep I could taste it. Salty tears.

“And Uh-Celie” she repeated with finality.

"Thank You Lord. In Jesus Name, Amen."

I kissed her forehead and struggled off my knees to leave. But how do you leave a sacred place like that? Wiping my tears, I somehow managed and tip-toed out the door to fetch the radio as promised. Just as I stepped into the light of the hallway, I heard her begin another prayer...this time, all by herself. I paused and hid myself beside the door - holy-eavesdropping:

“Dear Jesus...gank you for power in my heart for helping and sharing and loving. We love you...”




P.S. This post was shared on Holley Gerth's "Coffee for you <3" link up.
For more encouragement, follow her by clicking on the picture below,