Today Was A Fairy Tale

IMG_0482Once upon a sea of old men…

All I could see before me was a sea of old men. Standing in the dining room of my grandfather’s nursing home my eyes scanned the crowd for the face of my Pop-Pop.

I heard his voice before I saw his face and I bee-lined for him. My wait had been so long. Two years! Two years had passed since I’d seen him face to face, and suddenly I couldn’t bear to be a part another second.

I followed his voice and found him at a table with four of his friends. I knelt to my knees, wanting to be as close to his crumpled stature as possible. Like a child, I sunk into his chest and clasped his hand in mine.

I could recognize his hands anywhere. I’ve watched these hands tell stories, snap string beans, slice bread and rounds of homemade sausage, since I was a little girl.

My wait was over! Tears slid down my cheeks as his southern words introduce me to his friends. “This is my granddaughter and we’re in love with each other.”

In love with each other.

Yes, Pop-Pop, how better to describe the way I feel for you? You always had a way with words, and these, I’ll keep forever…

My Pop-Pop has been with Jesus for almost two years, and yesterday as I took my little girl on a mommy-daughter date, this sweet memory came to mind.

“Mama,” she said as we pulled out the drive. “We’re in love with each other, aren’t we?”

Thinking of Pop-Pop, I smiled big and said to her, “You bet!”

It may sound strange this idea, of being “in love” with a grandpa or child. But isn’t this just the sort of love that Christ has for us? That Christ implores us to have for others.

Indeed, what greater joy is there than to be in love? What greater way is there to live as Christ?

The washing of the disciples’ feet. The saving of the harlot in the town square. The turning of water to wine, the healing, the rescue, the changing of lives…all born from the love of Christ.

When we open our hearts to love, in the manner that Christ loved us, we open ourselves to the love that fairy tales are made of. Love that changes everything. Love that endures. Love that conquers all.

This love, it’s not just for stories. It’s for you and me and the broken world around us. It’s ours in abundance if we would but wake up to it, embrace it, then give it away in love’s embrace.

Our hearts, they can be Christ’s heart. Our arms they can be Christ’s arms. We can know the love of a fairy tale, and we can embrace the broken.

We can be loved. We can be love.

Sweet friends, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale that is found in the love of Christ.  May you hear his voice. May you fall into his arms and hear him say, “This is my precious (your name here) and we are in love with each other.”

 May you share this love with the world.

Heart on Hold

“I feel like my heart is on hold.” The words tumbled from the mouth of my friend, sad and deflated.

I understand the feeling. It wasn’t so long ago that I felt the same way. For years I tried to fuse my heart for writing with my heart for marriage and family but it never seemed to work. I could never get past my guilt, my doubts, my worries, my fears.

I’ve written about this before. Perhaps I’ll write about it a thousand times more, as I relay time and again how God stepped in and rescued me from my own limitations. How he blew the lid off my glass jar of dreams and showed me that I could be all three. That I needed to be all three. That I had to be all three in order to be healthy and whole.

My friend spoke these words a year ago but her heart has been at war for quite some time.

And this holding pattern, it’s killing her. It’s stealing her heart, her life.

When we deny our hearts the chance to thrive, each day can feel like a starving, like a gasping for breath. I know this feeling, this tiny death, this daily wasting away.

Last Sunday, I received the following text from my friend:

I need to talk to you! I need to talk to you! Everything’s good! You’ll think everything’s really, really good but you need to call me! Soon! Today! This afternoon if that’s ok!

I called my friend and as we started to talk I realized that something was different. Something had changed inside her. In her voice, I could hear it: Life! And I knew that God had blown the lid on her jar of dreams just like he did mine.

As my friend choked on happy tears, I listened, my own heart filling to the brim with my love for her, with excitement for what this means.

Because I know what this means. I know what it’s like to have God call you, and your heart, and your dreams by name, to have him give you hope and a purpose. He did this for me when he affirmed my calling to be a wife, and mom, and a writer. And now He was doing this for my friend, showing her how she could nurture both a passion for her family and a passion for other things, important things that make her heart sing.

“I’m a dreamer,” she said. “And my kids have never seen me as a dreamer. They don’t know this part of me because I’ve buried it for so long. They need to know the real me, and I’m the only one who can show them.”

“You’re right,” I said.  “What God is calling you to won’t be easy. You’ll have moments and days when I feels impossible, when you’ll think you’re crazy, when you’ll want to give up. But God will give you exactly what you need to do this. God will never give you a dream and purpose in your heart without giving you a way to accomplish it.”

As these words left my mouth I knew that this conversation was as much for me, as it was for my friend. I needed to hear these words too. I needed to trust them, believe them, let them settle in my heart as truth.

Because this life, it’s filled with impossible things. Things that make our callings, our dreams seem futile, a joke.

How does a mother write in the midst of a husband, and homeschooling, and house work, and a two-year-old who still can’t sleep through the night?

How does an elderly couple give birth to a nation? A boy kill a giant? A dead man rise from the grave?  

How do you take the unseen dreams of your heart and reconcile them with the all you can see in this world? The barren, the giants, the buried?

“With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

With God the barren are multiplied.

With God the giants are slain.

With God the buried are brought back to life.

With God the mama writes.

Sweet friends, these aren’t just Hallmark words. These words are God’s words. These words are truth.

Whatever seems impossible in your life today, whether it’s a dream that lays uncovered, buried deep in your heart or a vision, a purpose from God that you’ve been called to, don’t keep your heart on hold.  Don’t give in to that which is seen.

Put your heart, your jar of dreams, your calling, in the hands of the King and believe in things unseen.

Today Was A Fairy Tale

100_2033Once upon a patch of light…and a rat named Roscuro…

A few days ago, as I was cleaning my kitchen, I marveled at how a patch of light shone through the window and across the floor. Hitting the window, the table, and the floor at just the right angle, this stream of light illuminated all the dirty spots I managed to miss.

I grinned ruefully to myself. Just when I thought my work was done, it became evident that I still had some scrubbing, sweeping and dusting to do.

As I continued to work, I considered the ways God shines His light into my life, into my heart. Just like the light in my kitchen, God has a way of exposing the spots in my life that need attention. The lie I told my best friend, my reluctance to make prayer a priority, my anger that flares in a hot minute and lambasts the people I love.

I stared at the dirt and dust in my kitchen and realized I had a choice to make. I could get to work and clean the spots or I could pull the curtains and leave the spots in darkness.

When it comes to our hearts, and God’s light in our lives, it’s tempting to draw the curtains of pride and excuses and leave our ‘dirty’ spots in the dark. It’s tempting to cover them; pretend we don’t see them, convince ourselves they’ll go away.

The work of cleaning the spots in our lives is hard and painful. It isn’t convenient, comfortable or fun. But when we let God shine His light, when we live in the light and let Him do His refining work, our lives become luminous. Luminous with His love, with His grace, with His goodness.

DespereauxIn The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo, paints an exquisite picture of the choice between light and darkness:

“As he [Roscuro] stared up at the man, the door to the dungeon was suddenly flung open and a thick and brilliant shaft of afternoon light cut into the dark of the dungeon.

“Ugh,” said Botticelli. He covered his eyes with one paw.

Roscurro, however, stared directly into the light.

Reader, this is important: The rat called Chiaroscuro did not look away. He let the light from the upstairs world enter him and fill him. He gasped aloud with the wonder of it.

“Give him his small comforts,” shouted a voice at the top of the stairs, and a red cloth was thrown into the light. The cloth hung suspended for a moment, bright red and glowing, and then the door was slammed shut again and the light disappeared and the cloth fell to the floor. It was Gregory the jailer who bent to pick it up.

“Go on,” said the old man as he held out the cloth to the prisoner, “take it. You‘ll need every last bit of warmth down here.”

And so the prisoner took the cloth and draped it around his shoulders as if it were a cloak, and the soldier of the king said, “Right then, Gregory, he’s all yours.” And the soldier turned and went back up the steps and opened the door to the outside world and some small light leaked in before he closed the door behind him.

“Did you see that?” Roscuro said to Botticelli.

“Hideously ugly,” said Botticelli. “Ridiculous. What can they possibly mean by letting all that light in at once. Don’t they know that this is a dungeon?”

“It was beautiful,” said Roscuro.

“No,” said Botticelli. “No.” He looked at Roscuro intently. “Not beautiful. No.”

“I must see more light. I must see all of it,” said Roscuro. “I must go upstairs.”

Botticelli sighed. “Who cares about the light? You obsession with it is tiresome. Listen. We are rats. Rats. We do not like light. We are about darkness. We are about suffering.”

“But,” said Roscuro, “upstairs.”

“No ‘buts,’” said Botticelli. “No ‘buts.’ None. Rats do not go upstairs. Upstairs is the domain of mice.” He took the locket from around his neck.

“What,” he said, swinging it back and forth, “is this rope made of?”


“The wiskers of whom?”


“Exactly. And who lives  upstairs?”


“Exactly. Mice.” Botticelli turned his head and spat on the floor. “Mice are nothing but little packages of blood and bones, afraid of everything. They are despicable, laughable, the opposite of everything we strive to be. Do you want to live in their world?”

Roscuro looked up, past Botticelli to the delicious sliver of light that shone out from underneath the door. He said nothing.

“Listen,” said Botticelli, “this is what you should do: Go and torture the prisoner. Go and take the red cloth from him. The cloth will satisfy your cravings for something from that world. But do not go up into the light. You will regret it.” As he spoke, the locket swung back and forth, back and forth. “You do not belong in that world. You are a rat. A rat. Say it with me.”

“A rat,” said Roscuro.

“Ah, but you are cheating. You must say, ‘I am a rat,’” said Botticelli, smiling his slow smile Roscuro.

“I am a rat,” said Roscuro.

“Again,” said Botticelli, swinging his locket.

“I am a rat.”

“Exactly,” said Botticelli, “A rat is a rat is a rat. End of story. World without end. Amen.”

“Yes,” said Roscuro. “Amen, I am a rat.” He closed his eyes. He saw, again, the red cloth spinning against the backdrop of gold.

And he told himself, reader, that it was the cloth that he desired and not the light.”

(From The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo. Pgs: 92-97.)

Sweet friends, may you wake up this day to the fairy tale found in a patch of light and a rat named Roscuro. When God shines His light into your life, into your heart, exposing the places you’re tempted to hide, don’t settle for darkness. Don’t settle for anything less than the life He offers. Let the light of the King enter your world and fill you. Soak it up, gasp aloud at the wonder of it. His light is beautiful. His light is where you belong.

Live in the light.

The Fullest Life

Bible“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

If you were to look into my guest room last weekend you would have found a chair piled high with little-girl clothes.

I’m sad to say that if you had dug beneath this pile of dresses, t-shirts, and shorts left over from summer, you would have unearthed my Bible, my current devotional book, and my journal.

As you can probably guess, this wasn’t just a pile of clothes. This was a picture of my week. Focused on the task of getting my family’s closets ready for fall and winter, I allowed other things, important things, to fall by the wayside, my Bible and devotions included.

I told myself I could handle this, a week away from God. I told myself I’d be okay; I wouldn’t melt down this time, as I have so many times before when I’ve tried the same stunt. Yet come Sunday, I stood before that pile of clothes ragged and frayed, and I knew that, once again, I’d bought into the lie.

The lie that says I can make it on my own. The lie that says my heart can go days and days without connecting with God and get along just fine.

Will I ever learn?

Have you ever noticed that when you buy into a lie it will always lead to another? This is how Satan weaves his web, and on this Sunday morning I was stuck.

I was stuck in defeat and discouragement. I was stuck in the mindset that no matter what I do, I will never succeed at being a devoted follower of Christ, a wife, a mother, a homemaker, and a writer.

My work on our closets was perfect proof. True, my closets were neat and organized and ready for fall. But what of my heart? What good could come when I succeed in one area yet fail in three others?

How do I make time for all the things my heart feels called to? Will I ever manage, juggle, succeed in each facet, each role? How do you take a full life and make it truly full?

Remember the one thing needed…

He’s spoken these words before and it’s a lesson I must learn again. Of Mary and Martha and the choice that is ever before me.

I’m not going to pretend to know the answers. What I do know, what I’m learning, is that trying to do all the right, and worthy, and important things that I feel called to do, without making space and time for God, is madness.

No matter how many times I try. No matter how many different combinations and attempts I make, the equation doesn’t work without Him.

It’s just that simple. Trying to build a marriage, a family, a writing life, without Him as the foundation results in nothing but a house of cards. A pile of rubble. A mountain of clothes atop the one thing that matters.

Sweet friends, perhaps you’re like me. Perhaps you’re striving, day after day, to make it on your own, to wear all the hats, to operate apart from time spent with God. Not because you want to, but because you feel there are so many things screaming for your attention. You struggle to know how and when to make all the pieces of your life fit together. And you’re tired, and weary, and flailing.

Whatever God is doing in your life today, might I urge you to lay your foundation on Him? To remember the one thing needed?

Satan’s web is big and sprawling, but God’s web is bigger still. Woven with strings of grace and love, God’s web will hold all the pieces in peace. It will hold all that is in you, and around you, together.  

No one wants you to succeed more than God. And no one wants to be an intimate part of your life, your challenges, your pursuits, your failures, and your successes more than Him.

Why not make this the day? The day you break free from Satan’s web. The day that you dig beneath the rubble and uncover the life He intends for you. A life spent with Him. A life of purpose and peace. A life lived to the full.

What Can We Do?

Last week I met with a group of friends for coffee. As we gathered around a table full of cookies and lattes it was clear that one member of our group was not herself.

We settled in and listened as our friend shared with us her troubles. I can’t share the details of what my friend is going through, but I can attest to the fact that she is in a very serious situation which has left her feeling powerless. As we listened to her story, our hearts became troubled for her and I know that each of us wanted to do something, anything, to help.

But what could we do? In the face of a situation that is out of our control, that is serious and scary, that has heaped the weight of the world on the heart of our friend, what could we do?

After a moment of quiet reflection, one of the girls in our group simply said, “I think we should pray.” Linking hands around the table, we bowed our heads and went to our heavenly Father on behalf of our friend.

In the days that followed, I found myself thinking about my friend and her situation, about the way we prayed for her that night and how we promised to keep praying.

As the weekend approached my husband and I left for an overnight trip to celebrate our anniversary. Choosing the scenic route, we drove along country roads and enjoyed the beauty of fall. I told him about my friend, and I asked him if there is any way we can help. “Jen,” he said. “All we can do, the best thing we can do is pray.”

I have a confession to make: sometimes, in the midst of so much trouble, in the midst of so much pain, prayer doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel like a real answer. It doesn’t feel like it will help, fix, or change anything.

Everywhere I turn, I see people in need, people who are hurting and sometimes the words, “I’ll pray for you,” seem small and insignificant.

As I looked out my window at the fall landscape passing by, I saw red, yellow, and orange leaves caught in the light of the sun. And suddenly, struck by the awe, by the beauty of God’s creation, my mind and heart grasped the truth about prayer.

Prayer isn’t small; it isn’t insignificant. In our troubles, in our pain, we aren’t powerless.

In truth, prayer is the way we go before God, the God of the universe, the God of power and knowing.

Prayer is the way we go before the God who creates the color in the trees and the light of the sun.

Prayers is the way we share our hearts, our sorrows, our burdens with the Lord of the earth and everything in it. Prayer is the way we partner with him in all things.

In all things. In the serious, in the scary, in the painful and the heartbreaking. In the unsure, in the doubtful, in the things we can’t change, control, or fix.

In the things that leave us powerless, prayer is our power.

If this is the truth of prayer, is it any wonder that Satan would seek to deceive us into thinking that prayer doesn’t work? That he would seek to keep us from that which is truly our most powerful weapon, our most powerful tool?

Friends, we cannot allow ourselves to take this weapon for granted. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived. To think that prayer is small or insignificant, to think that it isn’t enough, to think that it isn’t the answer, to think that it doesn’t change things, to think that we are powerless is to believe a lie.

And this lie, it keeps us from God. It keeps us from seeing his power and truth in our lives. It keeps us from interceding on the behalf of others, and it keeps us from harnessing that which is rightfully ours: a relationship with the King.

Because in the end, when we pray, our prayers don’t put God on our side, they put us on His side. Prayer may or may not change our situations, but prayer will always change us.

It will change us into warriors that fight with angel armies. It will change us into dearly loved children who know a peace that passes understanding. It will change us, piece by piece, into the likeness of God.

When life leaves us feeling powerless, what can we do? We can pray. We can enter the throne room of King of Kings, and find in Him the power to move heaven and earth.