Sunday, July 31, 2011

Don't Hide It

This morning I went to the Mighty Man's church for some good solid preaching from my favorite pastor. :) I just love hearing that man share God's truth. What a blessing to be in a relationship with a man who has such a fire and passion for proclaiming the power of Jesus Christ. I never, in a million years, would have believed I would be so blessed as to fall for a guy this awesome. :)

haha! Told ya' to get used to the sappy love stuff, didn't I? :)

Today, my mighty man of God gave a great lesson about asking God to search us. Like, reeeeeeally search us. It comes from Psalm 139:23-24 in which David (I think it was David) writes, "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

I don't know about you, but inviting God to see into my heart like that is a little unnerving. There's stuff in my heart that, quite honestly, I don't want God to see. I live with my self every day, and I see the wickedness of my heart. I see the sins I commit. I see the selfish actions and prideful attitude. I know when I turn away from something God asks me to do simply because I don't feel like doing it.

AH! Why on earth would I ask God to search that? I know that He'll find things that are not pleasing to Him?

Based on that very mindset, I learned the art of building walls between myself and God. For most of my life, whenever I would sin against Him, I would shut Him out. Remember that old "Talk to the hand" gesture from the 90s? It was like that. When I'd sin, I would put up a hand in God's face and basically say, "I know what You're going to say. I know I screwed up. Just don't even look. I know I'm at fault, and I don't want to hear it. I'm already ashamed enough without having to be condemned by God, too."

Oh, man. Did I miss it, or what?

When we adopt the habit of hiding our sins from God, we miss the whole point of the cross. We forget that Jesus paid the death penalty for us already and that there is no NO condemnation for those who have received Him. Instead of receiving His forgiveness and mercy and grace in times of sin, we unnecessarily distance ourselves from Him thinking that He will point a finger and reject us. Punish us, even.

But that's not God. God is love! If there's anyone we SHOULD go to in our shortcomings, it is the One who loves us more than any human ever could. His love goes so far beyond human capacity, and it reaches the level of unconditional. I can't honestly say I have that for anyone. My love is human love. Yes, through Christ, I have the ability to love like He does, but I don't always choose to.

When we hide our sins from God, we create distance that shouldn't be there. We destroy the intimacy He desires with us. It's just like a human relationship in that aspect in that, if we want to develop intimacy, we have to reeeeeeeeally communicate and be honest. (Side Note: Mighty Man, thank you for being so respectful in sharing that lesson from our convo today.) Intimacy can't be built on anything fake. It has to be built on what is real. That's why it's so important that we get REAL with God.

Today, I want to encourage you to get honest with Him. Whatever is in your heart; whatever sin you may be hiding out of shame; whatever secrets you want to keep...Bring them to the Lord. He is not a God of condemnation (see Romans 8:1). He is a God of love. Yes, our sins may carry consequences, but if we have received Jesus Christ and placed our faith in Him, we are covered by His blood and forgiven of every sin.

Let Him in. Let Him help. Let Him love. It's the only way to intimacy with Him. And, believe me, it's worth it.

Big hugs, everyone!

OH! And P.S. I would LOVE your prayers this week! We're starting media coverage on the book, and I'm doing a few interviews. USA Radio Network on Wednesday morning, a local morning radio program in New York on Thursday, and KCTV5's morning TV show on August 7th. Please pray that God would be glorified and that the message of His love and truth would be clearly communicated! THANKS so much, all! :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Redemption on the Run

Good lands, it was a tough run this morning! Physically it didn't feel that bad or like I was working that hard, but every time I looked down at my Garmin, I'd see that I was keeping a slower-than-normal pace. Maybe that's why it didn't feel like I was working that hard. haha! Obviously I wasn't! But, honestly, it felt like I was pushing as hard as I normally would on a tempo run. (FYI: Tempo run = run at as fast a pace as you can for a long distance. LOVE 'em.)

Now, I don't know about you, but I often battle this little thing called pride. It's a tiny little emotion/mindset/soul killer that creeps into almost every area of my life and tries to create separation between me and God and me and others. It keeps me focused on my self and on my performance rather than on God and His love. It's a tricky thing, this pride. And, more often than not, I don't even notice its presence until it's already taken root and done some damage.

But let's just talk for a minute about how awesome God is. He's the kind of God who can take even our sinful emotions and redeem them for good. Hallelujah! :) :) And this morning, He did that for me on the last few miles of the run.

Because my pride won't let me be at peace with a final average pace that is above 8:00/mile on a tempo run, I was forced to push myself harder on the last 2 miles than I normally would have. I had to do this in order to drop my average pace below 8 minutes. It was tough! The temperature was in the 80s already (at 6:30ish a.m.), I was facing the wind, and I was going uphill most of the way. But what this did was force me to focus, pray and push. I even got a little help from Mandisa telling me that this was only gonna make me stronger. haha! :) Praise God for iPods!

Wanna hear the awesome result? Yes, the time dropped, but that wasn't the best part. As I pushed myself harder, I began to praise God for the gift of running. As He showed me my physical strength, the run became an act of worship to Him. He had given me the gift to push myself to a certain level, and as I worked my legs to go faster, I accepted His strength and used His gift, and I praised Him the whole way home. It was amazing!

Worship certainly comes in many forms. If we look at Scripture we can see that anything we do can and should bring praise to the Lord. Colossians 3:23 is one of our favorites in FCA. "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men..."

Awesome, huh? Anything and everything we do is designed to be an act of worship--a way to bring glory to the Lord who has gifted us to do whatever it is we're doing. That's one reason sin is detrimental. It takes us outside of our God-given purpose of bringing glory to Him, whereas obeying and worshipping the Lord leads us into our purpose and draws us closer to Him.

This morning, I got to watch as the Lord used what could have been a sinful emotion to lead me into a position of worship. Thank You, Jesus! I'm so crazy excited that He did that and rescued me from falling into the trap of pridefully worshipping the stopwatch and pace. (I've been there before...many times. And it is SO unfulfilling.)

Today, I want to encourage you that even if you are struggling with sinful emotions or pride, submit it to God! Be honest with Him! Don't hide it. Show it to Him and let Him transform it into something beautiful. Let Him redeem your thoughts and lead you into a deeper level of intimacy with Him.

Have a MARVELOUS day, friends! Know that our Lord loves you more than you can possibly know!

P.S. Quick book update!! The media requests have begun. Yee haw!!! For those of you in the Kansas City area, tune into KCTV 5 before you go to church on Sunday morning, August 7th at 9:50 a.m. I'm going to be on talking about the release of Sharing the Victory: Being Your Best for God. Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity! Please pray for me to be a vessel of His love and truth! :)

Monday, July 25, 2011

The PPB Factor

I fully admit that I cried like a little girl last night. Like, literally. I felt like a 6-year-old who was homesick at summer camp. I miss my family! But I think that's a good thing. It's far better than the alternative. I could have a horrible home situation and never want to spend any time at all with my parents or siblings. Instead, I've been blessed by the most wonderful, loving relationships with them. Hallelujah!

Of course, it hasn't always been this way. My family has been through the ringer, just like I think every family has. Another great God part of my faith journey has been the restoration He's applied in so many of my familial relationships. (Yes, I totally just used the word "familial." At least, I THINK it's a word.)

One of the most glaringly obvious redemption stories is the one that involves me and my Papa Bear. Wow. You talk about a complete 180!

When I first met PPB (btw, PPB = Papa Bear), I was 10 years old. My folks got divorced when I was 5 or 6 (or 7...I can't rememebr), and my momsy eventually started dating again. One evening, as my sister and I were playing catch with our babysitter out in the backyard, Momsy came home with a new beau in tow.

This is what I like to call "Serial Killer Day." hahahaha! The day I met my PPB. :) We totally laugh about it now, of course, but at the time it wasn't funny at all (to me). Anyway, I call it that because it describes my first impression of PPB. I don't have ANY idea why, but he just looked like the kind of guy who would be on the wanted posters at the post office. He had dark, straight hair, a full beard, and he was wearing some kooky Hawaiian shirt. He just looked like he was trouble! "This guy is totally a serial killer," I thought. "I'm going to die in my bed one night if my mom starts dating him."

My babysitter had been playing catcher as we'd tossed around the softball, and PPB soon took her place and caught a few for me and my sis. I think I was probably trying to bean him in the head, but he seemed pretty good with the mitt. haha! :) Sorry, PPB. Though, I'm sure he never felt the fear seeing as how he was facing down a 10-year-old girl.

Anyway, eventually my momsy tied the knot with PPB. And, boy, did we have it out over the next few years. We were like oil and water! We'd argue and fight over just about everything. He was frustrated by the way I disrespected my mom and tried to manipulate her. And I was, of course, frustrated by his discipline. I'm sure I threw out the classic, "You're not my father!" line to him a few times. Poor guy. PPB, I'm so sorry for the way I treated you back then. Thanks so much for your grace.

But here's where the God of the Universe reveals Himself. What we didn't know was that when I was a senior in high school, PPB would surrender his life to Christ. (He went to a Bible study on Revelation and had the devil scared out of him. haha! Obviously there's more to it than that, but that's pretty much the crux of it.) What we further didn't know was that I would do the same just a few months later after I left for college.

After that, the most wonderful transformation began to take place. I talked with PPB about it this past week, and neither of us had a defining moment of revelation in which we consciously decided to treat the other differently. It was just the gradual work of the Holy Spirit, who totally changed our hearts and knit them together in the most wonderful, special daddy/daughter relationship. Now, 13 years later, we are as close as a dad and daughter can possibly be. We share almost everything with each other, and he's truly one of my best friends. From our passions for coffee, pickles and Dilbert to our love for Christ and our family, we never run out of backyard swing conversation topics. And, if we do, we just start quoting "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and make each other laugh. ("He don't eat no meat???") Though, now that I've got a Mighty Man of God in my life (Hi, Mighty Man!), the conversations have taken an even more special turn. PPB knows that his time as my spiritual leader will eventually come to an end, and he is serious about handing off the reigns in a Godly fashion. And he's also very intent on making sure that his BG (BG = Baby Girl) is prepared well for the transition whenever that comes.

Today, I share all that for several reasons.
1: I just wanted to because I love my PPB.
2: Because I got to quote MBFGW. :) haha! Any excuse to do that, and I'll take it!
But 3: Because it shows the redemptive power of God when you turn over your life to His Son.

Without the changing power of Christ, there is no WAY that PPB and I would be this close. Absolutely not! In fact, I doubt that we'd even be on speaking terms. But through His grace and absolutely amazing love for us, God took what was a huge obstacle and turned it into the most beautiful blessing. It was through no power of our own, that's for sure. It was simply the work of the Lord, who truly desires to give good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:11).

Undoubtedly, He wants to do the same for you. The question just remains whether or not you will let Him.

Love and hugs to you all! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I'm a little crabby today, and I think it's because my time at home is coming to an end. It's been the most wonderful (much-needed) staycation here in Central K-S, and every time I come back home I have to fight really hard to get up the nerve to go back to the city. Maybe not the nerve, but the desire. That's what's lacking. Good thing I have a mighty man to look forward to this time. :) (haha! Sorry if you all get sick of the sappy romance talk. I will make NO apologies for it, though. Just grin and bear it!)

Today, we're going to play Mythbusters. More tidbits from the time here, quirky and serious. . .

Myth #1: Melted candle wax does NOT, I repeat NOT, enhance the flavor of Grandma Yordie's crumb cake recipe. hahaha! :) But what do you expect when you jam 100 of them into the top and try to light them all? A few of them are bound to melt all the way down. At least it made it colorful, and my beautiful Georgia was blessed by the sentiment.

Myth #2: You have to complain when the weatherman tells you there's only more 100-degree days in the future. Not true. You can drown him out by singing showtunes at the top of your lungs with your sister. It makes the prediction of heat and drought way more upbeat. No complaining when you're singing, "Look at me, I'm Sandra Dee..." while dancing around the kitchen.

Myth #3: Rural communities are poorer than big cities. (Is "poorer" a word?) Anyway, it's not true. It might be the case financially, but I can tell you that there is way more wealth in this little farm town than all of Overland Park, Mission Hills and Liberty combined. It just shows up in the intangible things like community, trust and love. As I ran today around my little town, I had no fear of being abducted or mugged; no anxiety about what a passing motorist might do if I didn't get out of his way; no thoughts about who would break into the house if I forgot to lock the door behind me (which I didn't). Instead, I got to enjoy passing familiar faces and homes, saying hello to the people I grew up with who were out for walks or watering their lawns. (Hi, Kathy and Jody!) I even got to holler a hello to Pastor Jack, who was sitting out on his front porch enjoying the south wind blowing away some of the heat. This isn't a poor small town; it's the richest place I know.

Myth #4: That a roll of toilet paper will last forever. Not true, though I sometimes think my family believes this. Does anyone else play this game? See how few squares you can get by with so that you don't use the last one and have to (*gasp*) change the roll. hahaha! I LOVE my family!! :) It's a cute quirk. And, I think they're onto me. My OCD won't let me leave the abandoned roll there, so I will ALWAYS change it (otherwise, I might literally go crazy). :) haha! They are so onto it. But, really? I love it. Gives me a chance to put my quirks to good use to bless them for letting me invade their space.

Myth #5: You're always 17 in your hometown. Again, not true. Sorry, Cross Canadian Ragweed, but I have to disagree. Thank GOD I'm not the same girl I was when I was 17. Thank God none of us are the same as we were back then. Back then I believed so many things that weren't true. That beauty came from the outside. That what people thought about you determined who you were. That life was all about getting famous. That the "shortcomings" of my family and my childhood were things I had to make up for. Ah, thank God for His truth!

Sadly, one of the things I believed when I was 17 was that I was a Christian simply because I was a "good" kid. I didn't drink, smoke, do drugs, sleep around, or steal things, so I MUST be a Christian, right? Isn't that what made someone a Christian? I certainly thought so.

I don't think I've ever shared my conversion story on my blog, but it's a really really cool story about how God used very divine circumstances to bring me to faith in Christ as a freshman in college. (Shocking that a girl would surrender to Jesus at a place like the University of Kansas, but it CAN happen!) :) Anyway, it involved my friend EE (if you haven't noticed, I'm trying to avoid using real names, because you just never know on here), Campus Christians, and the verse Galatians 2:20: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

After a very clear move of God's hand just weeks before, I had started attending a Bible study through CC with EE (ha! That's funny.), and this verse was part of the week's homework. And, when I read that, it was like everything made sense. I stopped the lesson and reread it. Then, I just sat there thinking, "Huh. It's not about me. It's about Jesus. Life is to be lived FOR Him and WITH Him. Life is about Him. I get it!"

Call it an ah-ha moment, I guess. But it was the biggest ah-ha moment of my life. It changed everything, praise God. I finally understood that being a Christian involved so much more than doing the "right" things and being a good girl. It involved a life that was lived in a deep and intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, who had loved me so much He died to save me. Wow. If that isn't the kind of Man (God) worth devoting your life to, then there really is no point in living at all. There's really no other way to put it.

Today, I want to encourage you so much. You're not who you were at 17 (unless you really are 17). You're not even who you were 5 minutes ago! Through Jesus Christ, you are being renewed moment by moment through His love and forgiveness. And, if you are willing to embrace Him, He will keep making you new each and every day. It doesn't matter what you've done, what you've believed, where you've been. It only matters that you accept His gift of grace and begin to walk with Him in the relationship for which you were created. The most wonderful loving relationship with your Heavenly Father.

Love and hugs to you all!


P.S. Just so you can see it for yourself, this is the Hogoboom mug!! Isn't that fun to say? Try it. You'll love it!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Safe Place

Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home. :) Man, y'all. I am in Heaven! Halfway through my vacation to Central Kansas, and I'm reaping the unbelievable blessings of an overflowing love tank. Being surrounded by the comforts of familiar places and the people you love (and who love you despite yourself) is the most powerful sedative I can think of. Especially when it's all in the peace-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. Thank You, Lord, for a godly family.

A few things I've learned over the last few days:
1. That there are few words in the English language as fun to say as "Hogoboom." Special thanks to the Albert Hogoboom Tank Truck Service in El Dorado, KS, for giving my parents a free mug and for making me smile every morning when I drink my coffee. :)

2. That hot summer mornings and evenings on the backyard swing provide the best environment for deep and meaningful conversations.

3. That when it's 90 degrees in the shade when you START your morning run, you might need a little extra Power Ade. :) (I have a new respect for my mighty man who does this regularly!)

4. That small towns in rural Kansas, when going through extreme drought and heat, would make a great film set for a remake of The Grapes of Wrath. Everything has an extra layer of dirt and dust, and the poor grass looks like dried out hay.

5. That if you want to remember what it was like when you were in third grade and your teacher MADE you try the vegetables on your lunch tray, just come over to my house and watch me try to serve my Papa Bear peas. hahaha! Sorry, PPB! I will remember that in the future. (Poor guy made a face that looked like a 10-year-old being forced to eat cooked spinach.)

6. That Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was actually based on a true story that is currently taking place in my parents' backyard. Only, it is a group of squirrels, not rats, who have an underground society in which they plan and scheme ways to crack into even the most protected bird feeders. For now this is a squirrel-free zone, but they are plotting their next move. Soon they will be feasting on bird seed despite my PPB's pipes, wires and domes that protect it. haha! It's war!

7. That not every Walmart is a crime scene waiting to happen. Down here in rural America, it's just the normal grocery store where you run into everyone you knew from back in the day and get to catch up on life in the cereal aisle.

8. That checking email even for a moment while you're on vacation can set your relaxation level back by at least a day.

9. That I miss my Big Fat Fanny when she's banished to the beauty shop for a week. haha! At least she misses me, too. It's nice to know she loves me. She tells me in the most wonderfully loud purrs and meows. :)

10. That while there's certainly emotional peace found in familiar places and walls, the real peace of home comes from the people you're with. And this is where I'll launch the quick message.

Over the past couple of years, my parents have been taking their time and remodeling the home we grew up in. They're doing a great job, and I have to say hat's off to them for the recent update of the office, which is affectionately now known as my mighty man's room. :) It's a lovely guest room/office painted in a combination of light and dark sage greens. Kind of masculine and tranquil at the same time. Anyway...Sorry. Got sidetracked.

In the process of remodeling, they are eventually going to get around to my bedroom, which has stayed pretty much the same as it was when I was in high school. I still have art projects on the walls, Troy Aikman posters on the celing, and my high school letter and track medals on a quark board in the corner. I call this room my "safe place."

Back when I was going through severe panic attacks and anxiety, a counselor told me to think of an environment in which I felt completely safe and at peace. My home bedroom was that place. It was where I could go to actually sleep (a unbelievable gift for an insomniac) and experience a slower pace of thought. Nothing could hurt me there, so I would go home as often as I could and, when I couldn't, I'd do my best to go there in my mind.

This weekend, as my family and mighty man and I were standing around talking about the house plans, they brought up the fact that my room was one of the next projects. Man! You should have seen my eyes! haha! Apparently they got really big and my bottom lip started to stick out a little. :) I know my heart certainly had a reaction to it.

"My safe place! What am I going to do without it?" For a moment, it was a little bit of an anxious reaction. Good thing I was in the arms of my mighty man at the time. Because that was what the Lord used to bring me a great lesson. Both he and PPB were all over it. "I think it might be more about the people here than the room, babe," the mighty man said. Papa Bear smiled and agreed.

And they were so right. When I thought about why the safe place was so safe, I realized that it was because I knew my parents were upstairs and my sister and brother-in-law were just down the hall. I was in the presence of love and family. Nothing could hurt me there.

Now, I'm almost a little embarrassed to admit that I'm just learning this in my 30s. But isn't it so true that people are what make these environments so special? Yes, the walls help, but it's the hearts and souls that provide the true peace. But, it's not just human--it's spiritual.

Yesterday, the mighty man and I did a devotion that led us to Acts 17:24, and it really brought it home. "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands." While the house itself might be a great environment, the more important factor is that my Lord is here. He is alive inside my momsy, PPB, sister and brother-in-law (and mighty man when he's there with us). And that presence of the Holy Spirit is what brings the safe environment.

Because we are the carriers of God's Spirit, who is alive inside each one of us, we have the ability to bear that safe zone wherever we go. The Lord is the One who provides it, and He is always with us. And, when we're in the presence of others who bear that Spirit as well, I fully believe it just gets better. :)

I don't know if any of you can identify with the idea of a safe place, but I totally want to encourage you today that you can have one wherever you go. If you have the Holy Spirit inside you, you can experience that safe feeling and peace no matter where you are because He is inside you. He isn't in walls made by human hands. He's alive inside each of us who have received Him, and He can minister His peace to us regardless of where we hang our hat.

Today, remember that the God who loves and created you is offering you a safe place in His presence. I know I will continue to receive that truth and rest in it this week. And, even when I head back to the city, I will return armed with the reminder that my safe place is in the presence of His love, which He offers to me directly and through those closest to me on earth.

Ciao, friends!
- Jill

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Mishandling of Pride

HALLELUJAH! :) :) It's Friday! And not only is it Friday, it's also the first day of my vacation! :) I cannot WAIT to spend a week soaking up the goodness of my family and the brilliance of rural living. To paraphrase the masterful poet John Denver, "Thank God, I'm a country [girl]!"

Before I head out, though, I had to blog a little follow up lesson from the last post. In it, I mentioned that I was battling pride with the release of the book. Totally normal, and totally real! I'm not going to pretend that it doesn't feel good to be a published author. But where I really found myself wrestling was in how I dealt with that pride.

More than anything, I wanted to remain open with God about it. Anytime I try to hide something from Him and deal with it on my own, it just festers and swells until it is way bigger than He intended. And, most likely, has also created a wall between us. So, that wasn't an option this time. I wanted to allow Him to speak into it.

So, I was having a conversation with my mighty man of God (*smile*) at Starbucks on Wednesday, and he was encouraging me and ministering to me about it. He'd just finished up making a point, and I got up to go use the ladies room. It was the perfect timing for God to follow up on what Matt had said. Here's the realization. See if you can relate...

When I deal with pride in the sense of "Look at what I did! I'm awesome," I usually try to battle it by internally pointing out things I do wrong. Because I know I shouldn't exalt myself--nor do I want to--I fight the pats on the back by telling myself, "Yes, but you know your sins. You do this, and this, and this. You're not all that great."

Does anyone else do that? It's like we think we have to tear ourselves down off the pedestal we're being put on in order to stay humble.

But here's what's wrong with that. We're still focusing on ourselves! When we condemn ourselves in order to battle pride, we're still being prideful. Keeping our eyes on our own hearts and staying in our "me bubble" when all the while, our focus should be on Christ!

Isn't that a marvelously smart tactic of the enemy? He will do anything and everything he can to make sure that our eyes aren't on Jesus. Condemning us for our failures is one of his best tricks. And this one comes with a price tag (as most of them do). We not only lose our godly confidence, we also disregard the grace and truth that we are offered through Christ. We lose sight of the forgiveness He's given and the gift of the cross.

What I felt the Lord telling me that day was that I needed to turn to Him in my pride instead of fighting the battle on my own. The weapons I was using (self-condemnation) were ineffective--counterproductive, actually. The proper response was to thank God! Praise Him for the gifts He's given me! Quote His Word that every good and perfect gift comes from Him and that He'd created me for a purpose. The pride was definitely to be surrendered to Him and laid before Him in authenticity, but then the gaze was to be turned to Jesus, not my shortcomings.

I think Matt quoted to me that humility is confidence properly placed. Instead of shaming myself to squash the pride, I needed to glory in the Lord for what He'd gifted me to do. It was and is, in fact, HIS GIFT! And it's okay to thank Him for it!

If you can in any way identify with this, I totally want to encourage you today. There is NO condemnation in Jesus Christ (Romans 8)! If you are battling pride by tearing yourself down, turn to Christ immediately. Tell Him what you are feeling and battling and ask Him to show you how to handle it. Ask Him to help you bring glory to Him by using those gifts for His Kingdom. It's a tremendous blessing to be created by Him for a purpose and called into His service. Ladies and gentlemen, live it up!!

Hugs to you all! :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hotlanta Report!

Ah...Now THIS is what I imagine Heaven will smell like. I just plugged in a new Wallflower room scenty thing called Caribbean something-or-other. All I know is that it smells like vanilla, pineapple and coconut. I can practically hear the ocean! (Might be my cat, though. She's making all kinds of weird noises this morning.)

I just got back from my first book event. It was a blast! I met up with the wonderful folks from Guideposts/Summerside/Ellie Claire down in Atlanta for the International Christian Retail Show at the World Congress Center. I had NO idea it was such a big deal. But that's like a book publisher's version of the Super Bowl. They put in SO much work putting that together and getting ready for it every year. Hats off to the crew I worked with! Suzi, Lindsay, Carlton, Jason, Joanie and the whole bunch. They really did a great job and had an awesome booth! It was such a good experience. :)

For my part, I just showed up and did the easy stuff. All I did was stand behind a little counter, sign books, and talked to people about the message of it. That was cool! People really are drawn to the faith stories of their favorite athletes and coaches, so this really is shaping up to be an awesome ministry and message-bearing tool. I am SO stinkin' blessed to be the one God asked to write this! Holy cow! What an honor!! Thank You, Lord!!

Seriously. Surreal.

Anyway, because I'm a writer I could blog about all different kinds of things that happened on the trip. From almost missing the flight out (um, Delta...Need I say more? Oh, but I will...), to the emotions that I wrestled with regarding "selling" Chrisitan material, to the hot run downtown around Phillips Arena, to the encounter with the homeless man on Monday night, to the nightmare travel coming back to KC (again, Delta...Makes me SO thankful that KC's main airline is Southwest. Praise God for them!). But I'll just pick one and roll with it.

Alright, I was going to whine about Delta, but I think that would defeat the purpose of encouraging anything or anyone today. I'm just going to let it go and take the opportunity to say thanks to the wonderful folks at Southwest who have blessed me over the years with awesome travel. Yesterday, your excellence was just absolutely magnified in light of the alternatives.

What I will blog about was wrestling with the book promotion. Man, that is hard!! From two points of view. One, of course, is pride. Balancing the fact that this is the Lord's and not allowing myself to bask in the fact that I wrote a book. Um...I didn't do ANYTHING. The Lord filled me with words, and I obeyed Him by writing them down. Whatever good messages come out of this are His. Whatever typos are from the fact that we're imperfect humans. :)

The second thing, though, which I wasn't prepared for, was the idea of selling it so much. Yesterday as I was in the trade show environment, I really really struggled with how much Christian retail we have. Man! That is a hard inner battle! Because, for the most part, I just gravitate to a Bible, a notebook, and maybe a good devotion book. (Oh, and a strong cup of coffee, of course.) The rest is just extra.

At first, I was appalled by the number of products we produce that bear the name of Jesus. And the fact that we sell it and turn a profit. All I could think about was Jesus turning over tables in the temple when He saw people selling things in His house. I spent most of my quiet time yesterday morning talking with Him about that emotion.

But here's the thing. . . These things DO have purpose. God has gifted so many people in so many ways to bring Him glory and to share His message. I'm living proof! As are the hundreds of authors, musicians, artists, etc. who were displaying their work at the show yesterday. Yes, it was a retail environment, but the end result was the bookshelves where people who needed to see these things would have the chance to pick them up.

How did this hit me? Well, when I realized that my favorite running music was my Mandisa CD, I kind of realized that someone had to promote it and I had to purchase it in order to benefit from it. Every time I run to that CD, I am encouraged in the Lord. It really does have purpose! But someone had to sell it and promote it in order for it to get to my iPod. (Oh! That's another story. Busted iPod and lost phone charger. Interesting trip, I tell you.)

So, at this point, I'm at peace with selling the book. It has to be promoted in order for people to get the message that God is sharing through these devotions/faith stories. Maybe, just maybe, that one Josh Hamilton or Colt McCoy fan will see it on a shelf somewhere, pick it up and be totally changed for Christ through it. Now, that would be worth all the promotion in the world!

Thanks to everyone who is reading this or has made positive comments on Facebook! :) You guys are blessing my socks off! And I'm just hoping and praying that I can encourage you through this. Know you are a blessing today! And if you doubt it, read Psalm 139.

Hugs, everyone! Ciao!


P.S. I *think* the books will be available soon! Click the link on the right side of this page to go order it on Amazon. Last time I checked, it was preorders, but it might be available by now. Not sure. But I know it's soon if it's not up yet!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Parable of the Stormy Run

Hey, everyone!! Happy Saturday! I hope you're all having an awesome day, enjoying the presence of God wherever you are and resting in the knowledge that He loves you today. Hallelujah!! :)

Before I dive in, I have to share a huge praise! The books finally arrived stateside from China!! Yay! hahaha! I'm doing a book signing at a retail trade show this week, and we weren't sure if they were going to make it in time. But hallelujah! They are here! We won't be at a book signing without books. haha! :) Thank You, Lord. :) I was all prepared to sign copies of STV magazine, though. Those are equally as fun. :)

Okay, on to the lesson of the day. :) This one comes from the road. (As do many in my life. Thank God for running!)

So, Thursday, my running buddy Michelle and I went out for a quick 7-miler on our normal route. Now, I always check the weather before I go out just to make sure I know what I'm in for (heat, wind, etc.). Well, on this particular morning, I was watching good ol' Brett Anthony offer the details of the radar map on NBC Action News, and he was showing a few green and yellow rain storms in the area. "Green and yellow? We can handle that, no problem. Soak me, Lord! I'm ready for a rain run!" Well, little did I know that those little yellow blotches were blooming into red ones as I headed out the door.

Now, Michelle and I are pretty hard-core. We will run in just about any kind of weather. Extreme cold, heat, wind, rain, snow, whatever. To me, the point of running is not to go out when I "feel" like it or when conditions are ideal. That's not why God has given me this gift. He has allowed me the ability and passion to run so that I will grow closer to Him through whatever circumstances He sees necessary. And He always teaches me new things when He asks me to power through tough weather.

Anyway, I digress.

So, Michelle and I head out and it's sprinkling. No big deal. Actually feels awesome. We get about 2 miles in, and we start to see flashes of lightening. Okay, time-out. Just about the only weather condition we do NOT do is lightening. That's just unsafe. But these are flashes, not strikes, so we assure each other that we're okay.

Then, about a mile later, the rain starts to come down harder. We're still okay, but the clouds are looking ominous, and the thunder is rolling. Our conversation now is totally about assuring each other that we'll be okay--that we'll beat it home.

Well, we were wrong. Soon, we start seeing a few lightening strikes, and we know we're in trouble, so we pick up our pace. About 2.5 miles from home, everything starts to fall apart. The wind kicks up instantly, the rain starts to pound us in sheets, the thunder goes constant, and the lightening strikes are hitting around us. Yikes.

We pick up our pace even more and just focus on getting to safety. Michelle's husband had been aware that she'd gone out, and she tells me that she is pretty sure he will come find us. But no sign of him anywhere.

We continue on, encouraging each other and, all the while, looking for our rescue. The wind is up, the rain is down, and we are scared. What are we going to do? Just pray! "Lord, protect us," I say out loud. (Inside, of course, I'm praying constantly.)

Well, when everything seems to be at its worst and we see no way out other than to keep going, we see a van pull up next to us. PRAISE GOD! It's Michelle's husband! We dive into the van and let him carry us to safety. We're soaked to the bone, cold and tired, but we survived. And we were rescued just in time.

Here's what the Lord put on my heart after that. Now, it may sound cheesy, but isn't that so much like life? It totally is to me! Whenever I go through a reeeeeeally bad storm, it sometimes feels like God will never show up. The storm will rage on, and I will feel totally abandoned and left to my own devices. (Which, I don't know about you, but mine are pretty limited.)

But that's not God! He is the God of perfect love and perfect timing. What He's actually doing is allowing us to go through trials that will strengthen us, and then, when we have reached the point of growing to the extent He wanted to take us, He will swoop in and rescue us.

I don't know about you, but I've been through that. Not too long ago, actually. I went through a season of the worst, most awful storm. It was so bad that it nearly wrecked several areas of my life. I couldn't see God in it. I felt lost, abandoned, confused, discouraged. And I felt like He wasn't paying any attention--that He'd never provide the rescue I needed.

Ah, but He did. :) He knew the whole time that the season of turmoil would produce such new strength in me that He allowed it to go on for a certain amount of time. He asked me to trust Him through it and to watch and wait for His deliverance. My faith did remain--though it was certainly hard. But deep down, even when opposing voices told me otherwise, I did know that He would eventually work it out.

And He did. He rescued me at just the right time and almost instantly calmed a multi-year storm.But, man, it was hard to get there.

That was exactly like that run. It kept getting worse and worse, and just when we thought we were lost to the elements, our rescue arrived. Thank You, Lord, for being the God of perfect timing and deliverance!

I want to really encourage you all today. No matter what you're going through, don't ever think that God doesn't care or has left you. He KNOWS what is going on. He loves you. He hurts with you. BUT, He knows what this season of your life is really about--that it will produce such good things in you that wouldn't be developed any other way than through trials. Trust Him. Cling to Him. Lean on Him. Rest in Him. Know that He will show up at just the right time and save the day. :) Or, in this case, calm the storm.

Love and hugs to you all! :)


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Here we go!

My sister called me and left me a voicemail today that the book is on Ca-ray-zy! To be quite honest with you, I haven't been thinking about the book really at all lately. It's one of those things where you finish it and just kind of let it go. I do that with the magazine, too. Once we send an issue off to the printer, I just kind of lose sight of it until it lands on my desk in printed form. Then, I just kind of shove it in my file and keep working on the next issue. It's almost sad, really. That's when the magazine just begins to work!

Probably the same way with the book, huh? :) It's really just beginning it's journey. What I've been working on for a year is just getting ready to do its damage. Praise God! This is what all the work was for! :) Now the message He laid on our hearts is about to be released into the world, hopefully to share His truth with readers. What does it really mean to be YOUR best for GOD and GOD alone? Two messages in there...

1. That God calls us to be OUR best, not the best in the world. He designed us uniquely and only asks that we do the best we can with what He's given us specifically. (Plus, isn't the "best in the world" completely subjective, anyway? Who determines who is the "best"? Everyone has a different opinion. Why not base YOUR best in His truth? That doesn't change.)

2. It's about being your best for GOD. Not for fickle man. Not for personal glory. It's all about Him. There's no need for earthly approval when you have the love and acceptance of the Heavenly Father! :) Hallelujah! We can be free from that pressure to perform!

You know, just thinking about it does make me a little excited. :) That's kind of cool to be able to share that with the world through the faith stories of athletes and coaches. What a blessing!

So, if you would pray for this as it gets going, that would be awesome! :) Let's see what holes God will punch in the darkness through this. Thank You, Jesus!


P.S. If you wanna check it out on, click the book cover in the right column of this page! :)