Olivia Knows..........

Olivia knows, so now I can share with you.......

In the midst of teacher trainings, the She Speaks conference, Olivia packing and leaving for a mission trip with her youth group, and trying to get my classroom ready, I've also been helping Evan sort through his "life" as we have been packing up his bedroom.  He's planning to move to California to work and go to school, so Maria is going to live with us for the year......

My heart has been so full of emotions as we've placed so much of his life in Rubbermaid containers and then sat them in Nick's room until we put them in storage. I've been vividly reminded that life really is a journey that ends in boxes.  What we collect here truly isn't forever.  It's the memories we make while we are collecting "stuff" that last forever.


But Thursday afternoon, our week came crashing down and all the things we were doing stopped abruptly when Tim arrived with the UHaul containing Maria's furniture.

I returned home after picking up the key to her storage unit to find Tim standing in the driveway holding Kandi......Olivia's precious dog Kandi that had been such an accidental gift in November.......and Kandi was dead.

Snoopy chases the Kentucky Power truck (and most other vehicles when they go by our house), and Kandi had joined her at the last minute.  Tim tried to jump out and stop her but had to jump back so he wouldn't get hit, and Kandi's life was taken.

As I saw Tim standing in our driveway holding her and shaking his head and screaming, "The KY Power truck!" I couldn't even stop. I had a flashback to Tim holding Adrienne in our driveway the morning she died, and I drove to our neighbor's and thankfully she pulled up right behind me and I ran to her car screaming.  I couldn't stop screaming.  I had left Kandi outside, and I should have put her in, but Kandi loves playing in the yard with Snoopy and Peppy and I knew I'd be right back.

Tim's friend Dean was at the house and together they buried her in our memory garden for Nick and Adrienne. 

Olivia is in Indianapolis, and I didn't want her coming home to find Kandi gone.  She wasn't home when Nick died, and I couldn't relive watching her hear the news for the first time.  Kandi was Olivia's best friend.  I rarely saw them apart when Olivia was at home.  They cuddled constantly.

I woke up yesterday morning and the reality of Kandi's absence from our home brought back so many memories of waking to remember that Nick was not here.  I have cried so much in the past 24 hours......over a dog.....but honestly, she was part of our family and most of all, she healed a huge part of Olivia's heart.

Last night, the youth sponsors told Olivia.  They said she was hysterical and thankfully, all the girls were there to comfort her and cry with her.

We had a rough evening of phone calls with her.  She kept crying and asking, "What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?  Kandi always cuddled with me?"  She wanted to know where Kandi was.  She wanted to know what everyone did when they found out Kandi had died.  She wanted to know exactly what happened and why the truck didn't slow down.  I sat on the porch and cried as she sat in the hallway in Indianapolis and cried on the other end of the phone.

I told her that God has brought us through some horrible things, and I knew He would be with her through this pain. I told her Kandi was a gift during a time when she was very sick and needed someone to cuddle with her all the time.

I told her Kandi would always be with us.

I told her Evan wants to go find a puppy that needs a home.

What I haven't told her yet is about what I found as I was in the road telling Evan and Maria that Kandi had been killed.  They had pulled through the campus of KCU just minutes after I found Tim in the driveway, and I ran to the window of the car and told them.  Maria started crying and I looked down on the road and saw this:

073011057 This shiny but very beat up penny was laying right by the door of his car.  It sparkled through its dents and I grabbed it and said, "LOOK!"

I took a picture of it late last night and thought, "This is what Christians are supposed to look like.  We shine through our dents.  We smile through our tears."

I want to make Olivia a necklace with this penny.  I want her to remember that God is with us in our pain.  I felt as if the penny had been placed right there in that exact spot by God and Nick so that we would know that in the midst of the chaos on our street where we were crying, neighbors were crying, friends were crying......we were not alone.  The spiritual world was very aware of the pain on the earthly world, and I was thankful.

dyers 002_resize

I feel almost silly having such heartache over an animal, but our house feels empty again.  I in no way compare this to the loss of a child or spouse or any person we love deeply, but maybe part of it is how this loss has brought back the pain of deeper losses.Kandi's absence from her chair reminds me of Nick's absence from his.  The loss of Kandi's joy reminds me of the loss of Nick's smile from our lives....and the list goes on and on.

I think of the horrible tragedies in the world.  i think of things like tsunamis, tornadoes, and the Norwegian massacre, and I feel ashamed of all of my tears over Kandi, but love is love and loss is loss.  When we risk loving, we risk losing.  The gift must come in the loving part.........and in that part I try to say "thank you," because our house needed Kandi for the past 8 months.

My last words to Olivia last night were these, "As you fall to sleep tonight, try to think of ways to say "thank you" to God.  Thank Him that Kandi didn't suffer.  Thank Him that we got to love Kandi and make so many special memories with her  Thank Him that there are other puppies to love."

Please say a prayer for Olivia as she travels home today.  She is suppose to arrive at 6 this evening.  I am excited to hug her and dreading it at the same time.

I love you all so much and know that you love Olivia, so thank you for lifting her up to the God of compassion.

Dented deeply but trying to keep shining,

Thankful for His Unfailing Compassion..

I've discovered on my journey through grief and been reminded just today that one of the most painful parts of grieving for me is morning time.  I'll share more tomorrow night.

But as the sun peeked through our mini-blinds this morning, I remembered with a heavy sigh that.....

Waking up to the reality of loss of any kind is like being swept back in time......

to the beginning of the pain

to the moment you first heard devastating news

to the moment when you knew that your next step would never match your last step

Today, I am thankful for this promise:

Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23

What verses help you when you are sad or grieving?

How We Can Do All Things...........
As I was reading Philippians 4 this morning, I discovered a verse in a whole new way!

Many of us have memorized Phil. 4:13 and probably quote it often (at least in our heads) when we are facing seemingly impossible events in our lives:

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

This verse has inspired me, motivated me, encouraged me, and reminded me that even when I feel like giving up, I CAN DO ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST.

But look at the next verse!

Phil. 4:14

But it was good that you helped me when I needed it.

Yes, Paul knew he could do all things through Christ, but he was also very aware of the earthly help he needed from his church family.

In other words, part of the way that Jesus strengthens us to do "all things" is through the help of our Christian brothers and sisters.

Do you want to see others live strong Christian lives?

Do you want to live a strong Christian life?

Think of a way God can use you to be the hands of Jesus to someone else who needs strengthened and be willing to accept the hands of others who long to help you.

As we share life's highs and lows, I believe we will all learn the secret to being able to "do all things."

Thankful for each of you,

The Next Thing........

At She Speaks this weekend, I was struck by a quote of Elizabeth Elliott's that was shared in one of the workshops.

Being called by God is all about "doing the next thing" for Him.

As I sat and listened and thought about my life, I knew that "the next thing" for me was cleaning out my closet and getting ready for the upcoming school year!

I haven't tackled my closet yet, but today I spent about 8 hours in my new classroom with 8 amazing high school students who came to help clean, paint, and rearrange furniture with me.

With Christian music playing, we dug in and transformed the room!

I loved walking by different kids as they were singing along with Casting Crowns or whoever was next on the playlist.  Most of the kids that helped me were friends of Nick's, so I felt surrounded by him all day long. The only coin that was found all day while purging bookshelves and cabinets was ONE PENNY on the very top of the tallest bookshelf under a stack of papers!!  Jon found it!! :) It made us all smile!!!!!!!!!!! :)

I thought I'd share a little of our day.

I'll dive back into Philippians later tonight.

        We decided to take a few pictures of practice "students" and in walked my principal! :)  It was so funny, because all of the kids were pretending to be texting in class!    

We had to take a thumbs up picture too!!

When Life is Filled by the Act of Emptying.....

When we reach of place of letting go or emptying our lives of the things weighing us down, there comes a sense of being handed more than we could ever ask or imagine.

Letting go and emptying ourselves of worry gives more time for joy

Letting go and emptying our need for more "earthly stuff" gives more room for contentment

Letting go and emptying ourselves of the pressure of "one more" household chore gives more time for front porch rocking and friendship sharing

Letting go and emptying ourselves of anger gives more time for love

Letting go and emptying ourselves of the need to control everything around us gives others the chance to step in and lead

Letting go and emptying ourselves of "us" gives God a chance to feel us with Him

This weekend as I sat in workshops at She Speaks (a conference for Christian writers and speakers), I found myself being called to let go and empty myself.

As the messages were shared in the main sessions, we were challenged to "let God chisel us even when it hurt, unclench our hands of the things to which we hold on tightly allowing our open hands to be filled by Him, and then in faith simply do the next thing....."

After the official conference ended, I sat in a hotel suite Sunday night with eight other women from all over the United States who have different stories, messages, and journeys.  While there, I found myself being called to a deeper level of letting go and emptying of myself.

We had all been a part of a pre-reading of Renee Swope's new book, A Confident Heart, answering questions and giving feedback over a five-month period.  But we had never met before Sunday afternoon.

I remember walking into the hotel room feeling intimidated, inadequate, and insecure; emotions which seemed so contradictory to the Scriptures we had read and studied as we had read Renee's book.  We introduced ourselves and Renee told a little bit about each of our stories before we went to dinner.  During dinner we made small talk and got to know each other little better, but I never dreamed what would happen as the evening moved on.

When we returned to the room, we sat in a circle  with our notebook copies of Renee's book and begin to talk.  Originally, we were going to make video clips for her Bible study and share a bit of our testimony.

However, one lady began sharing some deeper issues of her heart and before we knew it, we were all crying.

As one after one, we all opened up, let go of any sense of pride, and emptied our "not so confident" hearts, the room was filled with nine hurting women.  Different stories, different pain, but one common thread drew us together....the need for a confidence that comes from Christ alone.

As I emptied my heartache to them - my deep feelings of sadness that still consume me in my grief at times as I miss Nick more than words can say - I found myself being filled with an even deeper peace and joy than I have ever felt since his death. 

I never dreamed when I entered the room earlier in the afternoon that I would later that very night let down my wall, let go of my smile and laughter, and simply be "me" with a group of women I did not know.

I let go of a lot this weekend but the one thing I released to God completely was my deep need for Nick's story to have a bigger impact on the world than simply drawing me closer to Him.

Yes, I believe Nick still changes lives.  I know he still teaches me, my family, and his friends that life is fragile and that what we do for God is all that matters.  I want Nick's life and death to matter.  I want to know he still helps others who are hurting and that in my pain I somehow help them too.

But in the end, the impact of Nick's passing has pressed me into the heart of God deeply, profoundly, and eternally.........

and if this reality were the only good thing resulting from my broken heart than it would be enough..........

I am filled with hope and joy as I let go of that need, trusting God to do the good work He has planned in my pain.  I am filled to overflowing as I empty myself of my plans.

In the prayer room, I found my name in the lower right corner of this name for God, Jehovah-Rohi, The Lord is My Shepherd.  I love the words that follow this truth in Psalm 23...


When we find ourselves in a place of "not wanting," than I believe we are filled.

Only by letting go of the staff, like Moses was called to do, can we truly allow God to lead and be our Shepherd.

Sheep don't need a staff....they need a Shepherd.

What are you holding onto today that you need to let go of?

In what do you need to empty yourself?

When you make the choice to say, "I'm letting go."  I promise that God will become your Shepherd in a whole new way and bring you to the very freeing words of Psalm 23,


I love you all so much.

Thank you for praying for me while I was away.

You will be happy to know that when I arrived home this afternoon, I made a very conscious choice not to stress about "things undone" and instead spent time in a rocking chair talking to my mom on the phone, visiting with Evan and Todd, and taking a three-hour nap! 

Here are some pictures from my weekend.

This precious lady who authored a book she gave me entitled, "Heavenly Minded for an Earthly Good," adopted a sweet boy from India in memory of Nick!! :) Nick is smiling, I just know it!

Ann Voscamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, cried as she heard of the loss of Nick and Adrienne.  She said to me, "You've lived these words."  I whispered, "You helped me."  I adore Ann in every way.  Visit her blog A Holy Experience if you want to be inspired.

Melanie Dorsey and I finally met!  Rooming with someone you have been friends with for almost two years but have never seen in person is very special. Her son Andrew died a year after Nick at about the same age and from the same thing.  Our common blogging friend, Susan, introduced us and we have walked the road of grief together.  We are working on a Bible study together which we hope will help others who live a life where God seems to be sleeping during the storm. I was so happy to see my friend Kelly!  As the mom of a son with autism, she has written a book called "The Hidden Blessings of Autism" which I highly recommend for moms who are living this kind of parenting out daily.  Jessica, do not order this book.  I have an autographed copy for you! :) God brought me and Dawn together in such a special way, and I am saving that story to share on another day.  Until then, please pray for Dawn as she lives in very new grief.


Here are my new precious friends from Sunday night. 

We are all women who walk very different and tough roads and who find our confidence in Christ and Christ alone.

Emptied yet filled and praying you can find yourself saying the same of you,

When you slip....................................
Does anyone else ever feel like you slip back into old ways???? I'm sure glad Paul wrote these words in Romans 7:

We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave. I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate. And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good. But I am not really the one who is doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them. Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them. I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do. So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things.

So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind, I am happy with God's law. But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner. What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death? I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So in my mind I am a slave to God's law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin.

I decided to drive home last night from Frankfort so I could see the kids and Tim and do some last-minute packing changes before heading to Charlotte today. I didn't think driving early this morning straight into the bright sunrise sounded too safe either because I would have had to leave Frankfort at 6:00 a.m.

As I drove home, I made some phone calls to the house and found myself getting all worked up.

Olivia had injured her foot at basketball practice the night before and Tim had chosen to spare me the worry by not telling me...............................not realizing that I would hear the news from a 13-year old friend of Olivia's.

Tim did take her to a friend of ours who is a physical therapist and have it looked at before I got home, and it looks like she has pulled something in the base of her foot which makes it painful to put any weight on it at all. I know in the scheme of everything this is no big deal, but I think that having seen Olivia have such a weak and rough spring, it just hit my heart in a painful way thinking that she is going to reenter her new season injured.

Then, I arrived at the house to discover a mound of dirty laundry that didn't look quite as tall as Mt. Everest, but honestly, I was only gone 48 hours.............WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I MISS HERE.............A FASHION SHOW THAT INVOLVED SEVERAL OUTFITS PER PERSON EACH DAY?

As I moved through the house, I was greeted by counter tops covered with crumbs and on and on.

I knew deep in my heart that Tim had been busy with several church situations.............a death of someone's grandma and an emergency room visit by another church member.

I knew deep in my heart that Tim had taken Olivia and a friend to a movie.

I knew deep in my heart that Tim had been busy helping with a few of my last-minute things for the conference I'm flying to in a few hours...................


The devil knew I was weak, and oh, did he have a victory last night.

I had listened to Joyce Meyer all the way home (in between phone calls trying to check on things at home.) I heard about the abundant life we can claim in Jesus' name. I had been reminded that the devil wants to steal this from us.


Everything I heard somehow managed to stay in the car.

I entered our house tired and OVERWHEMED.....................

Few words were spoken as I moved from room to room picking things up and choosing to feel like a maid who had been off duty long enough to see a house fall apart............................

I'm pretty sure everyone here wishes I would have stayed in Frankfort one more night. I did rub Olivia's foot for awhile before she fell to sleep.....................for that reason alone, I'm thankful I came home. :)

Well, it's morning and I am leaving again.

Please say a prayer for my family while I'm gone. Please pray that Olivia does okay on her youth group trip and that her foot heals quickly. She'll be doing a lot of walking next week.

Please say a prayer that I can return on Monday evening and enter my house without slipping into an ugly mood.

Please pray I can remember these words,

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came

that they may have life and have it abundantly."

John 10:10

Praying you have an abundant and slip-free day,

Philippians Continued.......

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Phil 4:4

"Chairo," the Greek word for "rejoice" means

"to be happy, or calmly cheerful."

Now, I'm going to be the first to say that sometimes it does not seem easy to be happy....

or even calmly cheerful.

Life is not easy.

When I close my eyes for just a minute, I can think of so many different people who are facing painful times as I type these words.  Grief, job loss, illness, friendship problems, marriage problems, and the list goes on and on....

To look them in the eye and say, "Rejoice," would seem heartless.

But I think the KEY to this verse and the KEY to staying in a joyful state is that Paul says,

"Rejoice in the Lord!"

He doesn't say, "Rejoice in your pain.  Rejoice in your sorrow.  Rejoice in your trials."

No, our rejoicing comes from knowing that we are in the Lord!

When I remember that, I feel better.

I am sure that when Paul looked up at the metal bars in front of him, separating him from freedom, and when he thought about his future which was very uncertain as he awaited trial, he didn't say, "I rejoice in this situation."

No.  His rejoicing came from being in the Lord.

Think about this:

If you are "in the Lord," you are safe NO MATTER WHAT!

There is nothing that can separate you from the love of God..Romans promises this!

Smile tonight, even through your tears, knowing that God is with you and He loves you with an everlasting love.

Rejoice in Him!

Resting in His Shadow.....

PSALM 91:1-2

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
   will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
   my God, in whom I trust."

Well, it's finally here.

The week-long series of events that I have tried not to stress about all summer long.

I have to be on the road in the next few minutes, but I wanted to take a minute to simply say this,

"I love you all so very much and I am praying for you today as I travel."

Without the shadow of the Almighty over me, I know I could not keep pressing on with such determination.

But I feel as if I have an army of angels with me at all times, and because of that I feel empowered.

I want you to claim that power too.

Life is tough.

Sometimes I reflect on specific memories that our family has experienced, and I can barely breathe.

I see Nick in the hospital.

I see him at home when he was so sick he could barely lift his head.

I see Tim carrying Adrienne's little coffin from the KCU chapel.

The list goes on and on...

But in the midst of all of these memories, I see God.

Only He could carry us through such dark times, and because of that I know he will carry me through the next week's busy and uncertain schedule.

He promises to cover you with His almighty shadow too.

He longs to carry you through your day.

Lean back in His love and know He is there.

Until tomorrow,


We Don't Have Time to Fight......

Philippians 4:1-3

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Paul is all about "fighting the good fight of faith," but he is definitely not a supporter of disagreements within the church family.

Now, I don't know why I stopped on these verses this morning and just couldn't move on.  I wanted to talk about Phil. 4:4 which has been my favorite verse since I was a little girl.

But I couldn't.

I felt like there was someone who needed to hear something today about the passage above.

Maybe you're reading this and find yourself in a place of disagreement with a Christian brother or sister.

Maybe you're reading this and find yourself stuck between people who are not getting along.

In either case, I think it is comforting to realize that even in the church 2000 years ago there were people who had difficulties with each other.  Maybe the church had been meeting in one person's house and now had moved to the other's. Maybe Paul had visited one of them a little more often than the other.  Maybe they both liked to sing and didn't receive equal opportunities to share their gift.  I don't know.

All I know is Paul loves them both, he "implores" them both to get along, he says they are both going to be in Heaven, but he cares enough about their conflict to address them in a letter that will be read to the entire congregation.

How embarrassing...

How long are we going to wait to make peace with others who love Jesus?

Are we going to wait until God takes extreme measures to call us to unity in a way that may not be quite so private?

I hope not.

Sometimes I like to close my eyes and ask myself, "Who do I have something against right now?  Who has something against me?"

If someone comes to mind, I try my best to address it.

I remember about two years ago as I was doing this that someone came to mind that I hadn't seen in several years. I knew that when we last spent time together things were tense.  As I thought about this person, I knew that both of us had handled things poorly in a stressful situation.  But I also knew that I was older and I was the one being convicted.  I had to do something to make peace with this Christian friend.

I found them on Facebook and wrote them a long letter apologizing for my part in our stressed friendship.

I nervously waited thinking that if I did not hear back from them then surely they hated me, but within just a few hours I received a long and very sweet reply.  We both realized that during that season of life both of us were going through a lot of emotional things that had caused us to handle life in ways that weren't the most kind or forgiving. 


The peace that washed over me was indescribable.

As I write this today, I'm praying that you will choose to take a few minutes to close your eyes and ask, "Who has anything against me?  Who do I have any thing against?"

If someone comes to mind, say a prayer and then take the first step towards reconciliation.

If you know of brothers or sisters who are not getting along, maybe God is calling you to be the peacemaker.  Reach out to these people..maybe not by writing a letter to your church that mentions their names (unless you are in prison and feel that is your only option)...but reach out to them in a way that shows you love them and you care.

When I think of all of the horrific things going on in our world these days, I can totally understand how God has little patience with Christians who simply can't agree. 

When we stand before God and see the glory of His throne, all of our earthly "conflicts" are going to seem so pointless.

Clean your slate today.

You will feel so free!

I love the passage in Hebrews 10 that says we are to be

"encouraging one another-and all the more as you see the Day approaching."

Every day we are one day closer to that great Day, and I believe God is calling us all to be encouragers!

We don't have time to fight!

Thankful for all of you,

Thinking of Drew's family tonight...

Saturday evening, Tim and I rode to Garrison, Ohio, with another couple from KCU to attend the visitation of a16 year-old boy named Drew who was electrocuted during a welding accident this past week.  His grandparents work with my husband, and we wanted to be there to express our love to them in this time of deep sadness.

When we arrived, the visitation line was well outside the door and groups of people stood around the parking lot in small huddles crying and visiting before leaving the funeral home.  As we walked through the funeral home in a winding fashion, we were able to see the story of Drew's life unfold through photographs and other things that showed Drew's personality and passions.  He was a farm boy who loved to ride his horse.  His smile was beautiful and you could tell from the pictures that this family shared many wonderful memories.

Drew's grandpa told us that they had spent the past two days clearing out a section of their 500-acre farm where Drew had always said he was going to build his house when he grew up.  That part of the farm will now be a family cemetery. 

Drew's grandpa said with a tear-filled smile, "It is so beautiful, and it helped us all to have something to do together the past couple of days."

Please whisper a prayer for Drew's family every time you think of them.  His mom is really struggling, and my heart breaks for her tonight.  I remember that early chest-crushing grief so vividly, and I know that only time will lessen that feeling of being unable to breathe deeply.

Tonight, I am wondering how Drew's mom, dad, sister, and other family members are doing. When I hugged his grandma, she asked through tears, "When will it be over?"  I didn't have an answer.

I knew deep inside it never really is, but I also knew it does get easier........

Hearing those words ("It will get easier") seems meaningless when you are in deep agony, though, so I chose to just hug her and tell her I love her.  She said, "I'm going to need to talk to you later." and I replied, "I'll be here."

The truth is, I have no words to fix their pain.

Only His Words can do that........and time.

Lifting up a hurting family to the One who promises to be close to the broken hearted,

What is your goal????

It's Sunday morning and within minutes I'll be getting ready for Sunday school.  I have a new DVD player that I need to hook up in our classroom.  We're doing the Beth Moore series Breaking Free, and the last few weeks have been a little tricky because the DVD player in our room has been acting up..

So my goal this morning is to get our classroom organized and straightened a bit before the ladies arrive, dusting our end tables, straightening book shelves, lighting candles...I love when the women walk in to a clean, cozy room.

Next weekend I'm flying to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a speaker/writer conference.  I have so much to do before I leave.  I am meeting with several publishers while I'm there to present my book proposal.  Please say a little prayer for me.  I still need to get the finishing touches done on a couple of chapters, and the contents of the book have brought many tears as I have written.  I'll share more with all of you when I feel God saying, "It is time."

My goal is to have the proposal finished and printed by Tuesday evening.


Before I fly to North Carolina, I have to go to Frankfort, KY, for a literacy training workshop for a few days this week.  Summer is winding down....which I still believe is very sad for our kids.  School begins August 3rd. :(  When I return from North Carolina, I have two more days of curriculum workshops to go to on the 25th and 26th of July.  Thankfully, they are in town.

My goal is to NOT go crazy in the next two weeks. :)

Olivia needs help getting packed for her last youth group trip of the summer (she will leave while I'm out of town and that's weighing heavily on me).  Please pray for her safety and the safety of the group as they will be in an inner-city area doing mission work several hours from her.

My goal is to have Olivia all packed and organized by Tuesday evening and to not worry about her while she is away. 

I took a new job for this year.  I am moving to the high school in our town to be a reading specialist for ninth grade students.  I prayed so hard all spring, debating about whether or not to simply sub this year.  My passion is writing, and deep inside my goal is to be a fulltime writer someday.  However, the Lord opened every door that I prayed He would close, and I knew that walking through them was something I needed to do this year.  Olivia has one more year until she'll be in the building where I'll be teaching, and truthfully, I want to see it from the inside out.  I want to have a chance to make a difference there.  It is a school that has been in crisis, and so the state has stepped in this year.  I love to read.  I love to see kids who love to read, so I am excited even though I am a little overwhelmed.  God seems to stretch us by placing us in overwhelming situations, doesn't He? 

My goal is to be the best teacher I can be this year while still balancing other parts of my life that I am most passionate about (my time with God, my time with friends and family, my writing time).

But when I lean back on a pillow like I'm doing right this minute and I close my eyes and think about what really matters, I think of Jesus.

I think of Him hanging on a cross for me and suddenly all of this craziness in my life at this minute seems to be just that....


I take a deep breath and remember that my ultimate goal has nothing to do with lighting candles, packing suitcases, writing proposals, or getting my classroom ready.

My ultimate goal has everything to do with seeing Jesus one day and winning the prize of Heaven.

Ahh.....I feel better when I close my eyes and see this goal.  Everything else seems a lot less pressing.

When I press on, the things that are pressing on me seem to lose their power.

I hope that you'll take a few minutes today to close your eyes and see Jesus.

And remember that in spite of all that is going on in your life...

the goal of Heaven matters most.

Don't let anything hold you back from pressing on toward the prize of Heaven.

Phil. 3:12-14

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

What Does Knowing Him Really Mean???

Phil. 3:10

I want to know Christ-yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

I think if you talk to anyone who loves God, you are going to hear them say that they would like to know Jesus, His Son, in a deeper way.

But when I read this verse, I was really struck with Paul's description of "knowing Jesus."

He didn't want to know Jesus' favorite color.

He didn't want to know how Jesus felt when He was weary.

He didn't want to know what it was like to be the Son of God or anything about what it was like to live in Heaven.

These are all things a journalist might ask Jesus in an interview.

But not Paul.

He wanted to go deep, deep, deep and KNOW Jesus all the way to knowing what it felt like to suffer like Jesus suffered, die like Jesus died, and be resurrected like Jesus was resurrected.

Last night, Tim and I took Olivia and a couple friends to the opening night of the final Harry Potter movie.

I wish I could explain all that we saw and heard in the lobby.  People were dressed like every character imaginable.  They knew the trivia question answers to the most detailed and difficult questions during the pre-movie trivia contest.  They KNEW the Harry Potter series.

But it wasn't until during the movie that I really saw an example of what it means to KNOW something.

Harry goes alone into a forest to meet Voldermort.  Tension rises as he stands in the darkness surrounded by spooky trees, holding a ring as eerie music is being played. Out of the center of the ring, he lifts a stone called the "resurrection stone."  When he does, he is suddenly surrounded by his parents and several other characters from the series who have died in past movies.  They have a beautiful conversation with him explaining that they have always been with him and they always will be.  It reminded me so much of the "cloud of witnesses" from Hebrews. 

On a very personal level, I pictured me standing in the woods surrounded by loved ones that I miss so much.





Grandma Julia

And so many friends.

Just as I was soaking in the thought of such a moment in my own life, Harry looked at his dad and asked, "Does it hurt?  Does it hurt to die?"

The next few moments of the movie are so powerful. I won't say more in case you are going to go see it.  But, as the scene ends, Harry finds the strength he needs to fight Voldermort.  He is willing to face whatever comes his way because he knows he is not alone.

He knows deeply the suffering of his family and the power of their resurrection.

Now I know that spiritually Harry Potter is not going to be our daily guide, but I do believe that there are moments in this series of movies where we can see glimpses of truth about God's plan.

It felt right to see Harry surrounded by his loved ones who had gone before him, because Biblically we are told that this is the way it really is for us who walk by faith!

It felt right to hear the phrase "resurrection stone," because we have one in our Christian faith, and His name is JESUS!!!!!!!!!!

I want to know this Resurrection Stone!!

I want us all to KNOW Him deeply, too, even when it means we are called to different levels of suffering, because I believe that in the end we will experience the power of his resurrection!!!

And don't we all want to


Rough Places Made Smooth......

We weren't expecting to find a package on our front porch today, but there it was!  A special box marked "priority mail."  And best of all, it was addressed to Olivia!

Olivia rarely gets mail, but LOVES to see her name on an envelope or package, so I couldn't wait to show her the box.

I recognized the name on the return address label as a very special friend I had met during Nick's fight with cancer.  She even came to visit me and Nick before he passed away even though we had only met through emails before his illness.

I smiled when I saw her name, and I especially smiled when I realized that the gift had arrived on 7-11!  You can go to Nick's site by clicking HERE to see why that number is so special to our family.

In the package was a pillow for Olivia that I am sure Sue made!  She shared in her card very powerful words of encouragement to Olivia and even recalled a blog post where I had told about Olivia guessing that she had been born at 3:23 a.m. even though we have no idea when Olivia was really born.....she even embroidered this special time right on the pillow!!! I can't wait to get to Heaven and find out what time Olivia entered this world!  Why do I think I won't be surprised if it really was 3:23 a.m.????

I found the whole experience today amazing, because I had taken Olivia for her sports physical just 4 hours before finding the package and during the appointment had shared with the new doctor (in front of Olivia) a little bit about Olivia's life story. 

Olivia already knew that she had been dropped from a bridge and abandoned when she was only a few days old.  She already knew that she was found by a policeman and taken to a hospital for six weeks and then placed in an orphanage.  She knew that she had became part of our family at the age of 19 months.  But as the doctor was asking questions today, I could see a little sadness in Olivia's eyes.  Olivia's little life started out in a rough way.  I never want her to forget her story, because I believe her testimony will help others for years to come.

But I was sure to remind Olivia and the doctor that God must have big plans for Olivia's life.......

so reading Sue's unexpected card to Olivia later in the day and seeing the words, "God has special plans for you," just blew me away!  I felt like God  had timed this gift's arrival on a day when Olivia needed an extra reminder of His special plan for her life.july week two memories 095  Tonight, Olivia spent some time planning an upcoming meeting with some of her friends so that they can organize Fellowship of Christian Athletes before school begins.  She wants to see the club grow and become a positive part of lots of other kid's lives! I do believe that God has big plans for Olivia, and today was just another reminder that all of the tough things she has been through are just stepping stones to strengthening her faith.

july week two memories 098

If you feel like the road you are walking on is filled with rough places right now, I hope this post will somehow remind you that God is with you on our journey, and He promises to go ahead of you smoothing the road as He goes. 

This verse gave me hope and strength throughout Nick's fight with cancer and even more now as I walk the road of grief-

Isaiah 42:16

I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
   along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
   and make the rough places smooth.

I love you all!  Thank you for your prayers and kind words last week.

We'll dive  back into Philippians tomorrow but I just had to share this Olivia story tonight!

In Time.......

I was walking through my garden yesterday when I realized that my cucumber plant was actually growing a cucumbers!070911028 I don't know why I was so shocked and happy, but I was!


I looked around and discovered that another plant is showing signs of cucumbers too!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!070911035 Now I'll watch and wait for some tomatoes!070911037 I can't help but think of the verse that says, "He who sows in tears will reap songs of joy."  This verse doesn't give a timeline for our reaping.  No secret amount of days, weeks, months, or even years.  It simply says "sow in tears and you will reap songs of joy."

If you find yourself sowing in tears, take heart!

God promises that you will reap songs of joy!  He doesn't say you "might reap songs of joy" or "hopefully you will reap songs of joy."  He says  you WILL reap songs of joy!

Let your faith keep you smiling as you sow in tears knowing that....

In time, you will find yourself having a happy day-maybe even a day full of laughter-

When you do, consider it a surprise cucumber kind-of day!  The harvest is nearer than you think!

Longing for the harvest,


I decided to spend a little time tonight trying to go through the inbox of my yahoo account and do a little housekeeping.

I never dreamed that I would be taking a walk back in time as I discovered that ever since Nick's death, I have rarely deleted an email.

With nearly 5,000 emails in my inbox, I have spent the past few hours sifting through memories trying to decide what to save and what to delete.  I am down to 3400 emails, but I have to stop for tonight.

My eyes are crossed.  My fingers are weary.  But most of all, my heart is breaking all over again.

I try so hard to stay positive and press on every day in spite of my deep sadness, but tonight after rereading some precious words people wrote to me not long after the loss of Nick, I find myself asking the same question I have asked time and time again,

"Why did he have to die?"

I know there's no answer.

I know I will  probably never understand this side of Heaven.

But it feels good to just type the words, "WHY?"

It feels good to shout my feelings of injustice even though I know there are millions of others who shout the same feelings every day.

It is liberating every once in a while to just say out loud, "I am sad, and I am not okay with Nick's death."

Yes, I know he is in Heaven.

Yes, I know he wouldn't come back even if he had the chance.

Yes, I know that God can bring good out of the worst situations.

Yes, I know that God still loves me.

But, for tonight, I'm taking a little time to just feel the pain of my loss all over again and know that it is okay to grieve. 

Yesterday, our oldest son turned 24.  Happy birthday, Erich!

On the very same day, we received a call from the cemetery that is owned by the college where my husband teaches.  They wanted to know if we wanted to purchase the two grave sites next to Nick and Adrienne so that we could save them for me and Tim.  They were choosing a location for Paul (our friend who died Tuesday) and didn't want to use one of those if we wanted it.

Sometimes, I feel as if I am in a bad dream and I'm just trying to make it seem better than it really is.

And then I feel guilty because I know lots of other people feel like this too.

I just didn't think it was fair to have a moment of such deep sadness and not share it with you when I have shared so many happy moments with you lately.

I guess I need to be sure you know that in spite of my smile, in spite of the joy I feel because of the promise of Heaven, I still experience moments of anguish.

I hope that this post doesn't sound like I am whining or complaining.......especially since I just wrote this morning about how I want to live a life free of grumbling.

Oh, goodness, how quickly I can slip!

I love you all so much!

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

It helps me to reach outside of myself and be there for others.  That's what keeps me going.  By the way, Nick's foundation will be doing a few things in the near future.

This helps me too.

Thank you for loving me on the good days and the bad days,

Do You Want to be Pure??????

There's something about the word "pure" that seems so unattainable.

The dictionary gives these synonyms for the word:

unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed, uncontaminated, untainted, unstained, undefiled, untarnished, immaculate, unpolluted, uncorrupted. modest, virtuous, undefiled

God must have loved the thought of pure things when He commanded over and over again in the Old Testament that every part of the temple be made with pure gold.  Then again in the New Testament, He had Matthew record these words from the very mouth of Jesus,.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God

Matt. 5:8

I want to see God someday, don't you?

I want to stand before Him spotless.

So how do I do this when I know deep inside how tarnished and stained I am from past mistakes?

In Philippians 2:14-16, listen to what Paul says,

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation." Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Wow. Does Paul really say that to become blameless and pure, I need to quit grumbling and arguing?


It sounds simple.

And yet, I think about just yesterday when I found myself so irritated with two of my kids and then grumbled about their behavior to a friend.

I remember a few days ago when I stirred up a silly argument with Tim over frustrations about things that need to be done to the house...things that I know don't matter in the scheme of life.

And I'm humbly reminded that it's not as simple as it sounds to let go of bad habits.

I want to be blameless and pure.

So, today I am claiming this verse in a powerful way.

When my mouth opens, I want the words that come out to be pleasant and kind.  I want to see the best, think the best, and be the best I can be even if the situation I find myself in isn't the one I would have chosen for that moment in my life.

Yes, I'm sure I'll slip along the way.  But I'm going to try.  I'm so thankful that Paul uses the phrase "become blameless and pure," because this reminds me that it is a process not just an overnight reality.

I want to become blameless and pure.

I'm thankful that God has high expectations.

He stretches me every day,


What it means to be a servant.....

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!

Philippians 2:5-8

Paul knew the secret to living a life that pleased God.  As he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi from a cold, prison cell, I'm sure he had moments where he could hear whispers of doubt from the devil like,

"How did you end up in here when God called you in such a personal and mighty way to be an evangelist for him?"

I'm just thinking, though, that as soon as he found himself feeling any sense of uncertainty about his situation, he quickly remembered Jesus.


The very Son of God who had willingly left the majestic glory of Heaven to walk the lonely, dirt roads of this planet for mankind's sake.


The Word who became flesh only to have his flesh torn for you and me.


The Prince of Peace who had allowed his life to be filled with anything but peace as he was beaten, spit upon, and crucified for the world's sins.


Yes, that's Who kept coming to Paul's mind as he sat in his prison cell and that's who strengthened him as he faced an uncertain future.

So, Paul knew that in a very personal way just how the church in Philippi was going to have live in order to survive in a world that was persecuting Christians.

They were going to have be humble, put others' needs ahead of their own, and keep their eyes on Jesus.

Any thoughts of personal gain were going to have to be demolished in order to advance the message of the gospel.

Today, as I write this blog post, my heart is heavy for a family here at Kentucky Christian University.  Yesterday, the sound technician for all of the choirs on campus was killed in a motorcycle accident.  He left a precious wife, two daughters, and a son-in-law.

He exemplified this passage in every way.

His name was even Paul.

He quietly sat behind the sound boards of every concert, smiling and encouraging the singers with funny nicknames and silly jokes.  He did not require the attention or praise of others.  He lived to serve others.  He did not consider equality with anyone something that he needed to gain in order to be happy.

Please whisper a prayer for Kathy, Elizabeth, Brian, Mary, and the whole KCU family as they walk this road of grief together.

To live is Christ. To die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

Paul Rice gained everything yesterday afternoon.  We love you, Paul.  Heaven gets sweeter every day.

paul rice

So thankful today and every day for the promise of eternity with Jesus,

Like a child........

I noticed something this Fourth of July weekend.

fireworks 2011

I'm not sure if what I noticed came more from the fact that my kids are growing up and not as "excited" about fireworks as they once were or more from the fact that I wasn't really around any small children during the fireworks that I watched on Saturday and Monday.

What I noticed was the fact that I wasn't saying "ooohhhh" and "aaaaahhhhhh" like I use to as the fireworks lit up the dark sky about my head.  There was a time when each explosion of color, each unpredictable curly streak of light, and each different kind of sound would leave me and the crowd around me speechless with wonder.

But not this weekend.

It was more of a "here we go again" kind-of experience, and even as it was happening I was thinking "something about this just doesn't feel right."

So, I've reflected a lot on these feelings and questioned my attitude wondering if it was just me.  I talked with others, though, and I found that I wasn't alone in my feelings.  There's just something about the wonder in the eyes of a child that spreads into the hearts of adults, and this year we weren't surrounded by the "eyes of children," and we all missed those kind of eyes greatly.

As I thought about this, I thought about my faith, and I remembered this passage:

Matthew 18:2-6 (NIV)

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.   Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.   And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Jesus loved to have children near Him, and He used them to teach a powerful lesson.  The heart of a child is innocent, forgiving, unconditionally accepting, happy, filled with hope, excitement, and wonder.  Jesus made it very clear that in order for us to get to Heaven we were going to have to possess this same kind of heart.

As I read the first part of Philippians 2 this morning and heard Paul say,

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others,

I realized that Paul is really saying the same thing in a different way.

Loving Jesus is all about loving others unconditionally, and children are a perfect way to learn that kind of love.

I'll never forget the day an elderly lady visited my Sunday school class on the very same day that a mom visited with her young son who had Down's Syndrome.  As we were having the lesson, the little boy walked across the room directly to this elderly lady and started rubbing her wrinkled neck and face and looking into her eyes with such a look of love and wonder.

I believe every woman in that room had tear-filled eyes before the class was over as we watched a child reach out in unconditional love with total abandonment to what others might think of him.

Paul called the church of Philippi to a selfless, tender, compassionate, encouraging, comforting, like-minded, united, humble kind of love.  Jesus is calling us to that same kind of love.

I love children because this kind of love comes naturally to them.  I love children because they get excited when they sing about Jesus' love!

I also love children because they still find a sense of awe in Fourth of July celebrations.  Next year, I'm surrounding myself with children as I watch fireworks, because they bring out the child inside of me.

And today, I am going to do my best to "become like a child" myself as I look at the world around me, because I want to see it as a world full of people needing unconditional, awe-filled, selfless love. 

child praying

More than that, I'm praying that God ignites within me a childlike awe of His power and love.  I want to have the heart of a child until the day I meet Jesus in Heaven.  I want to be free to run to Him without any fear of what others might think of me.

He died for you and me.

He conquered death for you and me.

He's coming again for you and me.

Now that should make us all say more than "ooooohhhhh" and "aaaahhhhh!"

Share His love today,

Paul's Jesus-filled View of Captivity......

prison bars with hands Most of the time when we hear of someone being sentenced to prison because of their faith in Christ, we do not respond with the words, "Praise God!"

There is a natural instinct inside of us that cries out at the injustice.

I am sure the people in Philippi were not happy to hear that Paul was in prison.  I am sure that they were praying for his release.

But listen to what Paul had to say about his situation in Phil 1:12,

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.

Paul looked through his prison bars and saw those on the outside not as enemies but as men needing the Hope of Jesus Christ.

Paul looked at his tiny cell and didn't see confinement and hopelessness.  He saw a new opportunity to evangelize.

So many times, I feel bondage in my life either from my grief or from the stress of teaching full-time.  Thoughts of hopelessness and confinement easily overtake my mind and soul.

I don't always handle my heartache well.

I don't always handle working full-time well.

In my simple human mind, I convince myself that if I had never experienced loss and if I didn't have a full-time career than I could be such a better Christian witness.  I would be happier.  I would be freer. I would have more time to write, to be a better friend, to love more deeply.

But you know what?

I really don't think that's true.

Deep inside I know, even though it hurts to type this truth, that "what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel."

Losing Nick and Adrienne has catapulted me into a deeper faith.  The pain of loss has inspired me to be a more passionate Christian, unafraid to put all my Hope in Heaven and share it with the world!

Being a teacher has provided me with an audience of starving children who want more than a lesson plan filled with the appropriate Kentucky Standards and Core Content.

Today, as I celebrate the freedom of America, I want to look deep inside and proclaim the freedom I have in Christ in spite of the "prison bars" I sometimes feel in this world.

The devil longs to have us focus on the black metal beams that may be looming around us from our past failures, mistakes, or tragedies or from our present life situations.  But Jesus is the light shining in between those beams, and He makes a way for us out of our bondage........

if we will just allow Him to work!

I love the words of II Cor. 10:5.  This is a verse I memorized and say to myself over and over again as I struggle with negative thinking.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ

If you find yourself feeling as if the situation you are in today is one of hopelessness or captivity, I am praying that, like Paul in the book of Philippians, you can look past the metal bars and see the light of Jesus shining through.........in that light you will find peace, Hope, and ways to share Him with others!

prison bars

I love you all deeply,

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