The reckless love of God

Grace, grace, grace that is greater than all our sin.

Come thou fount of every blessing.

You are good, good, ohhh…

In “churchspeak,” we talk a lot about God’s goodness. God is good. He is only good, He encompasses good, He always is good and always will be good. We praise God because He is good. We praise Him because He is the father of all good things.

But what are these good things? What are these blessings? How do we define God as good?

I’ve been focusing this month on God’s goodness – what is God’s goodness? Is it the peace that surpasses all understanding? Is it being able to be joyful and prayerful in all circumstances? Yes, yes, of course it is. It is this – but it is so much more.

This is a bit of a revelation to me, very new, very raw, so if I say something that you think is “well, of course that’s true, dummy – how did you not grasp this?” or “Is she for real?” – Just remember – rawness and openness here.

As I mentioned, I’ve been thinking about what God’s goodness is to me in my life. How has God been so good to me?

I’ve been praying it – asking God to help me understand more of Him. Yes, God brings peace to my anxious mind. God is full of love – not hate or division. God gives unlimited grace, despite us being so undeserving. God gives mercy when we have gone astray.

It’s all this – and more.

In worship Sunday, it hit me – hard, really hard, where the tears started coming without being prepared. I wasn’t prepared to meet God in that sermon. My voice is sore, so I can’t sing, I was a few minutes late – I wasn’t really in a worshipful mood.

But it really doesn’t matter when God has something to say, does it? It certainly helps to be in a place to worship, but I believe because of my requests this month on wanting to see God’s goodness – He responded.

God’s goodness in my life –

I see it in my church, where I worship freely, with believers of God, believers who want to know more about Him and want others to know the love God has for them.

I see it in my friends – oh, and I could see so many in that one service – friends who I have depended on, who I have served beside in ministry, who have encouraged me when I was despondent, prayed for me in the darkest times. I could give so many names of sweet loves who have built me up, over and over, because of love.

My relationship with my husband – I take it for granted too often that we do have such a solid, steady relationship. We definitely have our moments – please don’t hear me ever say that we are perfect – but the family and the life we have built together is wonderful, and I am so grateful to have him as my helpmate.

God’s goodness – it’s in all that and more. I can remember conversations I’ve had with individuals, divine interactions with strangers, people who God has put in my life, molded me, influenced me, changed me.

Again – for some of you, this is no big surprise. But for the past decade or so, I have worked hard to pull myself away from material blessings. Yes, I have been blessed materially – but I never want that to be the focus of my love for God. So to remember days and people and situations in my life where I have seen His glory, where He has used others to bless me – it was humbling and eye-opening.

God has been so, so good to me. I see His goodness with new eyes.

Jesus, Parenting

10 seconds to start

“Attention…present Bibles…start.”

From fourth grade throughout high school, I participated in Bible Drill. I learned Scriptures, learned relevant answers to basic theological questions (i.e. “What does the Bible teach us about sin?”) and knew key passages in the Bible, such as Jesus’ birth. I could find Ecclesiastes, the Gospels, Ephesians – any book – in ten seconds or less. From fourth grade to high school, I hid God’s word in my heart.

Bible Drill is so important for these young kids – every year they memorize 25 Scriptures, compete in front of their peers and family members, and every year they do the same – they learn and start to comprehend God’s word. Even now, over two decades since I was in Bible Drill, I remember verses I memorized when I was 10 years old.

My church – the church where my babies were dedicated – also participates in Bible Drill. I have served as a Bible Drill teacher for five years now, going on my sixth. We are led by wise, dedicated Bible Drill leaders who give their hearts to this ministry each spring. And every year, it keeps getting better.

This year, I have my same girls that I’ve had since they were fourth graders. This is their last year of children’s Bible Drill before they become youth. I met them as 10-year-olds, spent four months out of the year with them, teaching them the rules and procedures, praying with them, and teaching them Scripture. It is a weighty, precious blessing that I know I took too lightly when I first started. Now, though, especially as The Artist is only four years away from her own Bible Drill participation, my heart leaps to see my girls returning for their “senior” year.

It’s not just these kids, either – it’s their parents, the ones who bring them every Sunday and who go over verses with them. These are the parents who have prioritized learning God’s word, and I am so grateful for them. I am able to teach them for 90 minutes once a week – but they have to have parental support at home.

The Artist comes with me on occasion to Bible Drill. She sees these big kids and sees how well they know Scripture and how quickly they can find passages in the Bible. She knows her books of the Bible – sort of – and she knows that come every January, Mommy helps with Bible Drill.

One day, she’ll participate in Bible Drill. She’ll be 10 – ten!! I can’t even fathom our life in four years. It changes so much now, from season to season, and I can’t picture The Artist as a 10-year-old. What will she be doing in school? Will she still be interested in art? Will she be in piano lessons then? Will she be playing tennis?

Our options seem almost endless in activities in which for her to participate – and I am so thankful to live in a city that offers her so many possibilities. And while that is such a benefit to our family – I also want to remember what is lasting and eternal. I want her to be smart. I want her to be athletic. I want her to be musical. I want her to be artistic.

But, most importantly, I want her to be kind and to know God.

Jesus, Reading


I have mentioned before how hard it is for me to consistently study the Bible when I am not teaching for Sunday School or in a women’s Bible study. It’s awful, I know, and something I am trying to combat.

This month, I started what will probably be a yearlong study on Ecclesiastes. By myself.

So let me explain.

B. Moore

I have learned from several of Beth Moore’s Bible studies over the years – Esther, Daniel, James, Breaking Free – and there are so many more. I love Beth Moore. I am even writing and researching for a book chapter on her right now. I have a friend who calls her “Mama Beth” because even though we have never met her (though we have attended her conferences), we feel like we know her. We love her.

One of her frequent comments is how she believes all women – and all people for that matter, male or female – have the ability to study God’s word on their own. There’s no magic formula. There’s no special equipment needed – just good, old fashioned research.

And right there, my nerdy, scholarly heart just fluttered.

I do love to research (I should; it’s a chunk of my job!). I love theories and research and seeing how communication connects society. A friend of mine (yep, she’s a photographer) is leading Sunday school this month and has handouts for us to fill out every week. I love that.

So if I can study the Bible on my own…I should.

There’s a Biblical scholar who said that to get a good grasp of Scripture, you need to read it in its entirety 30 times. If it’s a large book, break it up into sections. Ecclesiastes is not necessarily long (12 chapters), but it does take some time to read (like 25-30 minutes). So I’ve been reading it every day this month, sometimes doubling up if I missed a day (like I did earlier this week).

What I’ve found:

  • My comprehension level of the book in its entirety is growing. I have questions I want to delve into further along in this study, but I’m remembering it so much more now.
  • I’m getting a better sense in the book’s entirety. With Ecclesiastes, people normally assume it’s a depressing, “everything is smoke” book. It’s not, though. It’s actually, at least to me, uplifting. It doesn’t try to make you feel better; it tells you how things are, but…while the world is sinful, God is good. And that’s the point.

Next month, I’ll start researching Chapter 1 and looking into commentary. Matthew Henry is my go-to, but I was very fortunate to have a former pastor who loved the Old Testament and loved Ecclesiastes in particular. I’m sure he has written scholarly articles on the book.

So much information is at our fingertips! All we have to do is open our eyes.

Bible study materials to use
Matthew Henry online commentary

Risen Motherhood study tools

Oxford Bible Studies

Jesus, Reading, Writing

A thought about prayer journals

Last week, I posted about my goal to attempt to be wiser on my 36th birthday than I was on my 35th. One of the ways to accomplish this is through prayer.

I’ve prayed in a variety of ways – written them down, spoken them, quietly meditated on the words. Back in April 2016, I started a prayer challenge where I prayed 30 minutes a day. It was refreshment for my soul – and, more importantly, those hours in prayer over those weeks helped carry me through when my dad passed away at the end of that month. I wasn’t able to pray for a while after that, but because I had spent so much time in prayer, I still felt connected with God.

Prayer changes lives. I have experienced this in my own life; I have seen it magnified in others. I do not always lead by the best example, but I do experience joy when I am praying to and praising God.

I also like to write things down (who knew, right?). Over the years, I have used a variety of tools to help organize my prayers, but I have stuck to these two because I love the format, the quality, and the heart behind the creators of these two journals. Jonann Byargeon is a close friend who published her prayer journal last year, and Val Woerner is a Louisiana Tech journalism graduate like me (#hbtd). Both of these women have a passion to help others spend time with God.

Let me stop here and add this: you do not need anything to pray with God. Prayer, to me, is like running – there’s no special equipment you need, no certain time you have to do it. When I decide to run, I lace up my shoes and go run. I have some wick sweat shirts, some fancy running shoes, and even some cold weather head gear, but honestly, running is just running. I don’t need a gym, a treadmill, or the snazzy workout gear. I just need a path.

Same goes with prayer – I don’t need anything to spend time with God. I just need God. But I do like these prayer journals. They help me keep organized. They prompt me when I need prompting. They help me remember specific prayer requests.

Valerie’s prayer journal covers the whole year and offers space for answered prayers, burdens, and other various prayer requests. It’s big enough to write in but small enough to fit inside my purse. I have used variations of her prayer journal for years. In addition, she has other items that you may be interested in, including a family legacy journal, a men’s journal and kid’s journal, and journals for pregnancy and adoption.

Jonann and me with her newly-printed prayer guide

Jonann’s prayer guide is a more cost-effective option and offers the ability to add or remove pages. It’s easy to flip through and offers suggestions for prayer throughout the week. Jonann was our Sunday school teacher in the late 2000s, and she taught our class to pray using her guide’s outline. It was very helpful then when I didn’t pray more than an evening “thank You for this day” shout out.  It was a way to jump start my prayer life.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 states, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. “

Prayer journals are not necessary – but neither are fancy running shoes. But I do like having them on hand, being able to take them to church or to work, and being able to remember specific prayer requests or look through and see the answered prayers in my life.

Prayer really is a lot like running. A little effort makes a big difference.


celebrations, Jesus, Parenting

Preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving

We come to give thanks.

We situate this holiday, Thanksgiving, between gorging ourselves on candy at Halloween and gorging ourselves on spending at Christmas. Perhaps it’s the best place to put it to help us remember to be grateful for what we have. We bless God and thank God for His mercy, His grace, and His steadfast love.

For 22 days, at least this month, we have an opportunity to focus on thankfulness for our blessings.

We started a new tradition – though, with little ones, it’s hard to have traditions – so we started something new this year: thankful leaves. Every day starting Nov. 1, each member of our family has listed something for which to be grateful and thankful on a cut out leaf. It’s sometimes serious, sometimes funny, and sometimes a struggle because, again, we have two children who are silly, young, and, most importantly, impressionable.

Every night, they hear what Mommy and Daddy are grateful for: family, health, friends, reading. We haven’t gotten far yet, but it is only Day 5. We are thankful for each other. We are thankful for the love shared between our two girls. We are thankful for our health, something which has been a struggle for too many years.

Then we ask our 5-year-old what she is thankful for. She’s 5. She knows the Sunday school answers and has already listed them: God, Jesus, my family. But she can’t use the same answer twice, so she has to think a little more. “My sister,” she answers, and we know she means it. Before the crack of dawn, if The Artist is awake, she can’t help herself. She has to go sneak into her baby sister’s room and wake her up to play. She misses her at school – and the feeling is mutual. Before The Artist leaves with her daddy for school, The Engineer yells, “Wait! A hug! A hug!” And they hug and give each other kisses with the promise that, “I’ll see you after school.”

Lastly, it’s The Engineer’s turn. She doesn’t really understand what’s going on. She doesn’t understand the concept of “thankfulness,” so we ask her, “What are you happy for?” And then we giggle, because her answers are so truthful and so simple. The first day, she held up a Paw Patrol chicken nugget and said, “Paw ‘trol!” because she was thankful for those bone-shaped chicken nuggets. The next day, she answered the name of a friend.

We all are thankful for someone or something. We all will get wrapped up in the pretty, glittery Christmastime – as we should. Christmas is its own special, miraculous holiday that deserves splendor and glory to God.

But Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is still warm, still fall, still crunchy leaves and all things pumpkin. Oh, how it blesses us to give thanks to the Lord! It’s a reminder all the time to see the beauty in God’s creation as the leaves fall and swirl around us, revealing bare trees and chilly winds as the colors of red, orange, brown, and purple gently rain down from the sky.

And, as The Artist stated on the first day, she is quite thankful to catch the falling leaves.