Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Basics

I mentioned in my last post that I had been hesitant to dive into reading the Bible for fear that I just wouldn't get this very sacred book.  My own excuse, yes, but I had to work through it.  The words are holy.  The words are life changing.   The words are the foundation of the Christian faith.  They are "life to those who find them and health to one's whole body (Proverbs 4:22)."  That's a lot of pressure, you know?  What if this book didn't apply to me because I didn't know how to read it the right way?  I had a mindset that if I never REALLY dove in, at least I couldn't REALLY sink or fail.  Have you ever felt that way about something?

So what did I do?  I managed to find some life preservers along the way, some back up flotation devices, for reading, understanding and applying God's word, and I want to share a few of those with you.  The good news, in addition to the most important Good News that Christ died for us so that we might have eternal life, is that there are tons of useful resources out there to help us not only read the Bible, but nurture and grow our faith.  I will never run out of blog posts!

Today, I am going to focus on the Bible basics.  These things may seem obvious to some of you, but they weren't to me.  They give me a much needed foundation for my reading. These are facts I heard over time, in pieces, but had a hard time organizing in my head.

Bible Books
  • 66 books total (Catholic Bibles have a few more)
  • 2 Parts:
    • Old Testament- The story of God's creation and his loving relationship with his people before the birth of his son, Jesus Christ
      • Covers several thousands of years
      • Contains scriptures Jesus learned as a child
      • 39 books (law, history, poetry/wisdom, & prophecy)

    • New Testament- The story of God's love, mercy, and grace following the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.
      • Covers about 100 years
      • 27 books (gospels, history, letters) 

Simple Summaries
Even with the best of graphic organizers, it can still be a difficult task to keep all the facts straight as I read, especially since the good books do not necessarily go in chronological order.  I need a way to associate the book I am reading with an author, a specific period of time, important biblical events, and memorable scripture.  Know Your Bible by Paul Kent helps keep me straight.  It's simple, to the point, and a real bargain at!

Through God's word we come to know and experience what it means to be...

1. {Part of God's Family}
Jesus tells us,
  "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."

2. {Protected by God's Grace}

"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all of this, take up the shield of faith...Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
3. {Transformed By New Life in Christ}
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe."
"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God." 

I sincerely hope these resources will inspire and encourage you wherever you are in reading the word of God, whether you are a seasoned veteran, unsure and new to the water, or somewhere in between. The Bible is where I find the unconditional comfort of God's truth and love, and the words don't just sit idly on the page. They come alive and go to work in me, and they will do the same for you if they haven't already!

My prayer for today-

Dear Heavenly Counselor and Comforter,
Thank you for revealing yourself to me through your word.  Help me "grow in the grace and knowledge" of you for your glory both now and forever (2 Peter 3:18)!  May this blog reach far and wide, blessing those who read it and beyond.
I pray this prayer in the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Much love in Christ,

*Graphics in this post were created by A Mind Maker Upper from reference material on the website, Bible Simply Explained at

Monday, March 25, 2013

Life Changing Words

This collection of literary genius, my latest read, is a true gift to readers of all ages.  Multiple authors come together in 66 books to expose real, vulnerable, multi-faceted people and their timeless stories of God's omnipotent and omnipresent love, mercy, and grace.  The words are holy, sacred, and healing, sure to captivate readers and keep them on the edge of their seats with magnificent drama and redemption.  The poignant life and death of Jesus Christ is pivotal to the plot.  The Holy Spirit will certainly capture and work on the hearts and souls of those who come to know and believe in Him, transforming lives.  All things are possible with God, both in this book and now, especially miracles!

The best selling book I am reviewing for you is the Bible, and I am not making this stuff up.  It's truly a must read for people from all walks of life.  I can say that without hesitation.  I was one of those people who had "Sunday school" kind of Bible knowledge, and I was okay with 
that, or at least I thought I was.  I knew the classic stories because I had heard them so 
many times from so many different people throughout my life.  At some point as I got older and realized how hard it is to be a grown up, I started reading a few favorite daily devotionals (more on that in another post) and looking up the scriptures that went along with them.  Other times when I felt like my circumstances were too much for me to handle, I would search for passages that could speak to my situation and give me comfort.  I was just kind of getting my feet wet, not really diving in.  And, I do think that's a good way to get started.

Something changed, though, along the way.  The more I tested the waters, the more I wanted to read and learn.  The Bible is a real page turner in its own right.  The water felt so good.  I couldn't help but dive in.  The question is, what took me so long?  What had been holding me back?  What is it that kept me from reading one of the best selling books of all time?

Even though I don't like admitting it, I have to call it like it is.  My own excuses were holding me back, but I think that's important to examine in growing in my faith.  I let myself fall victim to false advertising, distorting my perspective on the Bible, and its necessary place in my life.  Part of my problem was poor promotional consideration in evaluating some not so great religious experiences I had growing up.  Awkward and vivid run ins with "Bible pushers" shoving their religion down my throat, claiming the Lord was speaking through them scared me.  I was also troubled by the gap I could see between so many who talk about The Word while their life choices fail to reflect God's love.  At times I even wondered if the book was all it's cracked up to be; and if it was, could I really live up to it?  If I am honest, I worried about falling short of God's expectations.  Another issue was my lack of knowledge.  I grew up in a home that believed in God and loved him but it was a "special occasion" and "sometimes on Sundays" kind of faith we practiced.  God was not a part of everyday life and conversation, so I wasn't sure if or how the Bible applied to me in the here and now.  After all, the words are ancient, funny sounding, often confusing, and some of the customs were so weird back then.  I didn't know how to read it or where to start.  What if I didn't get it?  Where would that leave me, I feared?  My third issue was my insistence on self-righteous independence and honest hard work leading to success, tricking me into believing that I was doing okay.  That misconception made me extremely driven, but left little time for really using and appreciating the literary masterpiece we have in the Bible.  In letting all of these excuses justify not getting "too into" reading the Bible, I was inadvertently suggesting I could be a faithful Christian without it, on my own.  I am so thankful for this "ahh-ha" moment because faith on my own isn't faith at all, is it?

It would be nearly impossible to make it through life without running into some false advertising, some not-so-good religious experiences, and some stubborn self-righteous independence in our faith journeys.  We just have to work through them so they don't become barriers in the road to a stronger everyday faith.  What draws each of us to God is unique to the person God created us to be, and we should celebrate that, not be afraid or embarrassed by it!  

In talking about the Bible, my mom puts it this way, "This book is the best therapy around!"  
This is so true.  I just had to let go of my fears and give God the benefit of the doubt.  He knows what he is talking about, and he will work wonders.   Here's what I did to get started.  Again, I am just sharing.  You have to figure out what works for you...
  1. Make a daily commitment.  Only you know what that means.  That is individual, between you and God.  For me, I told you, I have a cup of coffee with God every morning, FiRST thing.  I read a few favorite devotionals, then I spend the rest of my time reading a few chapters from a book in the Bible.  My goal is to read the Bible in a year cover to cover, but there are lots of other ways to do it.  You could center your scripture reading around a daily devotional or a specific focus.  For more reading plans, you can check out those offered at Bible Gateway. 
  2. Pray first.  I say a prayer before I read and ask God to be with me.  That way, I am inviting God in, giving him room to work from the start.  My prayer changes day to day but it sounds something like this: 
  3. Dear God,
    Please be with me now as I read your holy word in the Bible.  Fill me with your spirit and speak to my soul. Use your words to help me know your will for me.  Bless the meditations of my heart, the words of my mouth, and the works of my hands that they might be acceptable in your sight.  You are my rock and my redeemer. 
    In the name of Christ, I pray,
  4. Take note.  I listen to the words and think about them as I read.  I highlight phrases, or themes that stand out or speak to me.  I also make notes about questions and thoughts that come to mind, and I try to relate characters or events in the stories to things happening in my life and around the world today.  I read and reread key phrases.  Everything doesn't always make sense right away.  Sometimes it takes a few hours or days to process the fullness of what I read.  In the meantime, I do some research to figure out the things I don't understand (more on that in another post).
Do you know what happens for me?  When I started reading the Bible with God this way, I was able to grasp how applicable these ancient words are to helping me make choices and decisions day to day.  And that friends, is the whole point of everyday faith!

The Bible is real people, not perfect people, like you and me, sharing their walks with God, people who were willing to open up about their faith journeys.  Read through Deuteronomy 6: 3-9 today, and see if you can relate to the words of Moses when he speaks to the Israelites.  They had just been through 40 years of some really hard stuff in the wilderness, trials like you wouldn't believe.  God used this season of hardship or unrest to draw them closer to him, prove his abundant love, and show his power and glory.  How many of us have been able to see God at work during some of our hardest times?  Moses is basically reminding his fellow people (and us) not to be fooled into forgetting God when our season of hardship is over, when time goes by and life is good.

Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.  Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.

God is telling us, through Moses, exactly how to live our lives.  This scripture you just read is the biblical basis for everyday faith.  I want to read the Bible so I can pass on an everyday faith to my children and their children, and their children's children.  God's words are "life to those who find them." (Proverbs 4:22).

My prayer for today-

Heavenly Father,
I thank you for your Holy Bible.  Forgive me for all the ways I have avoided your Word in my life.  I pray you will be with me each and every time I read the Bible, filling me with your Holy Spirit.  Work in me so that your words change my life and help me grow closer to you in an everyday faith.
In Jesus' name I pray,

I hope this blog blesses you each time you take the time to read it!   
May the peace and joy of Christ be with you until next time,

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Right In My Own Backyard- Part 3: An Explanation

Ok.  So I have to come back to my backyard pictures just one more time for a little discussion.  I know you are tired of looking at a tree but hear me out.  Originally, I posted those pictures because I just knew God was speaking to me, revealing his presence, providing comfort, clarity, and grace to me in a very obvious, and tangible way.  And I felt certain that by posting those pictures, you would see and feel God at work too.  A few of you understood exactly where I was going in the posts, or you pretended you did out of genuine love (thanks Mom and Sis).  Just be honest, though, many of you wondered what in the world I was rambling about, and some of you probably figured I was off in space somewhere losing my mind.  Maybe you didn't want to say it, but you might have been thinking, "Oh brother!  Here we go, an over-the-top Christian who has become so self involved, she's loosing touch with reality."  I can suggest that possible thought because I have had those kind of awkward encounters myself.  For some of you, the backyard picture posts may have supported your suspicion that I was grasping at straws to paint a picture of faith that isn't really there.  After all we see what we want to see, and we can justify almost any belief if we work hard enough these days, right?  Yikes!

Let me explain.  The third time's a charm, hopefully.  The tree is a metaphor for our lives. We can look at it through our own eyes, and it is just a fragile, weak, bare tree with scraggly, empty branches.  We hope and long for the day it's in full bloom.  There's so much potential there, but it just isn't much to look at for the moment.

Or, we can recognize our own need to look up and see the world with God.  That's where we find the beauty and majesty that tree has had all along.  When we look up, we find the real treasures in this life that are right in front of us.

We can realize our God given potential because we accept the cross and the gift of new life, grace, and peace God offers us and shows us in our true light and savior, Jesus Christ.

Then our lives really start to bloom.  We can't see the big picture in all it's glory, but God can.

So, now that I think about it.  It makes sense that you may not see the cross I see so clearly in my picture.

When we look to God and make room for him, he is ready and willing to meet each of us wherever we are in our faith journeys as long as we let him in.  He knows us better than we know ourselves because he created us (Genesis 1:27-28, Psalm 139).  He loves us unconditionally, strengths and weaknesses, successes and screw ups.  He reveals himself to each of us in real ways at just the right time.  Every part of us can be a part of God's perfect purpose when we are willing to accept the promises of the cross and give in to its transforming power.  The apostle Paul knew all of this when he said,

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work."

How God comes to us, and where we see him at work, what parts of us need transforming and healing, that's personal and unique to our own intimate relationships with God and his plan for us.  Your relationship with God and the promises that come with accepting the reality of the cross (and mine), are right in front of you (and me) everywhere you (and I) go, backyard or not.  Just seek it.  We will find the treasure we have in Christ (Matthew 7:8).
Where are you struggling the most in your life right now?  Look for God, and make room for him there.  You will find the cross and the saving grace we have in Christ.

My prayer for you today-

Lord and Savior,
I thank you for each person that reads this blog.  I pray these words open our hearts and minds to you.  Thank you for knowing each of us better than we know ourselves.  I pray that you will comfort and strengthen us with your presence and saving grace every time we look for you and let you in.  We give you our individual struggles and pray you will transform our lives, nourishing and growing our relationships with you in the ways only you know best.  May we live the pure joy and peace that comes from walking hand in hand with you, without hesitation and fear.
In the name of Jesus Christ I pray,
Many blessings,


Monday, March 18, 2013

Right In My Own Backyard- Part 2

"The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans;  I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me.  Because I live, you also will live."
A prayer for today-
Dear Heavenly Father,
Today I pray you will help me make room for you.  I thank for your presence in this world.  Fill my heart with your Holy Spirit and be with me, making yourself known in all that I do.  Hold me with your loving arms in the areas of my life where I need your healing touch.  Guide my steps and show me your way for this life you have given me.
I pray this prayer in the name of your son, Jesus Christ,


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Right in My Own Backyard

This tree in my backyard caught my attention yesterday.  It was the bright green tips on the ends of the very bare, dull, scraggly looking branches that drew me in at first, I think.   

Then, I started looking up and captured the images with my camera.

No kidding, this is the same tree right in my backyard.

This is what I found right in front of me.  Do you see it?

God has a way of showing up when we make room for him.

Same tree, again.  Really.  What's right in front of you?  Look again.

A prayer for today-

Dear Almighty God,

I thank you for your beautiful and amazing creation, your mercy, and your grace.  I thank you for always showing up with open arms and a strong, very real, and unquestionable presence when I make room for you in my life.  I pray you will continue to work in me, filling my heart with your love and Holy Spirit.  Let me look up to you, my rock, my counselor, my comforter, in all that I do.  Use me to make a difference in the world.

In Jesus' name I pray,


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Can't Make Time But We Can Take It

How many of you have the best of intentions to get things done (and done right) at the start of your day, and then something happens?  Things don't go as planned.  One simple, unexpected thing can send you in a tailspin.  Before you know it, the best of your intentions are thrown right out the window, along with your sanity.  And even though the game changer can be something little, the impact somehow becomes huge for the rest of your day.  Whatever it is, you suddenly feel like your day has gone to a certain bad kind of hand basket, if you know what I mean.  I hate when that happens!!  Does this ever happen to you?

That's exactly what happened to me yesterday.  The plan was toddler takes a nap in his new big boy bed = quiet time for this mom to get a quick shower, fold some laundry, do some blogging, return a few phone calls, and regroup before the big brothers come home from school.  Ambitious for two hours, I know.  Well, my plan was quickly shoved out the window by a toddler who spent nap time wiggling his little diapered caboose out of bed as fast as I could put him in and cover him up.  After what felt like the 100th time of putting him back in the bed, I have to be honest. My precious brown eyed little miracle was testing my patience and messing with my blood pressure.  I followed The Supernanny's bedtime advice with the best of intentions.  You know, I was determined to show him who was boss, my will against his, and I found myself getting more frustrated and agitated by the minute.

The day was downhill from there.  Two hours later I gave up on the toddler sleeping possibility.  If he wasn't going to nap, I'd show him.  So, out of determination to smell better for my husband when he returned home from work and for the safety of my sleep deprived, whiny, door opening toddler, I decided to put up a baby gate at the entrance to his room.  Then I ran to take a shower.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I returned from my shower to find (brace yourself) he had pooped in his diaper, reached in and grabbed a chunk of his own stinky stuff, and smeared it all over the baby gate and adjacent door frame.  As if that wasn't bad enough, he then picked up a bucket full of toys and one by one with his dirty hands, my little stinker (no pun intended), hurled his toys through his open door, over the banister, crashing them into the foyer below.  A second later the big brothers walked through the door ready to do homework and eat a snack.  And did I mention, I needed to start cooking dinner?

So like I was saying, the smallest thing can be a game changer, having huge impact and throwing good intentions out the window.  It might be a broken copy machine or a computer crash, a phone call or irritating conversation, a canceled appointment, a traffic jam, bad weather, one task takes longer than you anticipated.  There's no telling.  Think about it.  On any given day, there are tons of unexpected little somethings hiding and waiting to poo-poo all over your plans, your best intentions, and your clear thinking...leaving you with a messy day.

It's all the possible little somethings and Jesus' words in John 14 that convince me to give the FiRST part of every day to God, and for good reasons.

1.  Giving God the FiRST part of my morning means I am guaranteeing him room in my day. Pastors Greg Surratt and Josh Surratt of Seacoast Church poignantly point out in Make Room: Creating Space for God, "It doesn't matter what we say is important to us if we don't make room for it.  What we make room for is what is really important to us."  God is getting priority when we spend time with him before we do anything else, leaving less room for little somethings to get in the way of our good intentions.  Jesus tells us himself in John 14:6,

"I am the way and the truth and the life."
Who doesn't want "the life" grounded in truth?  Why wouldn't we?  And if I am not spending time with God first, I certainly don't want to take a chance that I am going the wrong way, grounded in lies and death.  Yuck!!


2.  Giving God the FiRST part of the day connects us to the daily resource and companion we have in the Holy Spirit.

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you." (John 14: 16-18)
If we can't see the Holy Spirit, and the world we enter when we leave our homes doesn't always know him, we could possibly go through an entire day, week, month, or year without this perfect, personal GPS system we have in God.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather get my directions FiRST before I get lost, and just maybe I won't make as many wrong turns along the way.

3. Giving God the FiRST part of our day means our hearts are open to hear God's speaking to us, and we can let him work through us.  Then, we are equipped to put our faith into action.  Pastor Greg Surratt puts it this way, "We CAN'T make God move, but we CAN make room for God to move (Make Room: Creating Space for God to Work)." Why is that important, you wonder?

Put yourself in Philip's shoes. Jesus tells him AND you,
“Don’t you know me, Philip [put your name here]  even after I have been among you such a long time?  Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.  How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority.  Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves.  Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:9-12)
Did you hear that?  If we give God room, he is going to show up.  AND Jesus tells us our works will be evidence of God's presence in our lives.  In fact, Jesus says, we can do even greater works through Christ than the ones we know about because he died for us.  I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on that!

Taking time for God FiRST suggests that i am not large and in charge.  For me, that means i start my day by inviting God to have a cup of coffee with me in my pjs before i do anything else.  Apart from my bad morning breath, it also means that even on the messiest of days, i can be thankful that God is working it for good in his purpose perfect plan (
Romans 8:28). What does taking time for God FiRST mean for you?  For sure, we will have better days than we could ever have on our own, better weeks, better months, better years, better lives when we do!
A prayer for today-

Heavenly Father,
i thank you for always showing up when i take time to be with you.  i thank you for your purpose perfect plans for my life and all the ways you reveal yourself to me each day.  i pray you will give me the open heart i need at the start of each day to hear your Holy Spirit and do your work in the world.  May i glorify you and bless others in all that i do, recognizing my constant need for you.
In the name of your son, Jesus Christ, I pray,

Love and blessings,
PS.  I love hearing your thoughts on what you read and how faith and life are going for you!  Please, please, please feel free to share the blog with others.  I share my story so some good might come out of it!  Thanks so much for reading.  You are the reason I write. :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Grab a Bible

So, I invited you to come on this faith journey with me, finding ways to grow closer to God, making more room for him to work in my life, and yours too.  Lets just cut right to the chase today and grab a Bible. After all, that is the source of all we know about God's creation and the history of Christianity.

These are the Bible choices I rounded up in my own house.  We have a few other children's Bible choices too, but we'll save that for another blog.  What do you end up with when you reach for a Bible?

These are the Bibles that were given to my husband and me growing up.  Anytime I wanted to do a little reading, I would just grab the Bible my church gave me on the day I finished confirmation (The Living Bible). My husband's Bible was the black King James Version you see pictured.  He would start with his, try to read it, and then head for my high school youth Bible you see in green.  As silly and simple as it sounds, it never occurred to me that I could and should be more intentional about my Bible choice.   While these Bibles are definitely sentimental to us, they are not necessarily the most readable and workable for us.

If we are going to make room for God, learning and growing together, then we need to really study the Bible we choose to read.  I want to work to make the words come to life.  We have to be able to listen to the stories and words of God before Christ and from centuries ago and apply them to 2013. The Bible's words might be ancient, but they are applicable, real, necessary, and sacred today in our own life stories.

There are lots of different versions of the Bible, coloring the way we read the words.  The core meaning of the words remains constant, but the same verse can speak to us very differently depending on the translation we are reading. It comes down to personal preference, and I encourage you to figure out what version of the Bible speaks to you, all sentimentality aside.

Bible Gateway ( is a great free Bible resource for Bible research AND reading.  I use it all the time and will probably refer to it again and again. They also have an app if you have a tablet or smart phone.  There are over 40 English Bible translations listed on the website.  Pick a favorite chapter or verse like Psalm 139 and try the different translations on for size. Which one speaks to you?  

My favorite for daily reading and study is the New International Version. Once I figured this out, I purchased a copy that I felt I could highlight, make notes in, and take with me wherever I go. Of course there are lots of choices out there, even free ones, but I decided on this electronic version that I could put on my iPad and Kindle. There are hard copies available too. 

I found this one at

Hopefully, this post helps you find a Bible that speaks to you and inspires you.  Time is the next issue.  Look for more details on that soon.  I can't wait to  dive into reading about all God's good works.  Psalm 139: 13-14 reminds us that WE are a part of his good works.  WE are his masterpieces, all the more reason to read.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
Please don't forget to sign up to follow A Mind Maker Upper, and invite friends to join us as we go along. I always love hearing from you if you feel like leaving a comment! 

My prayer for you today-

Mighty God,

Thank you for this blog and all of its readers.  Thank you for for all of your wonderful works and the ways in which you speak to our hearts.  Lord, please guide us as we become intentional about reading and learning about you, your son Jesus, and your stories of saving grace in the Holy Bible.  Help us to discern your will for us, and may your word transform our lives and become an active part of a stronger everyday faith.

In Jesus' name I pray,


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Continuing the Story

When my family was faced with the harsh and very sudden reality that my mom was living with stage IV breast cancer seven months ago, we had no idea what that meant.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that it was like we were blind folded, bound together, and thrown over a deep dark cliff, only to find out jumping didn't mean the end was near.  Instead we landed in a shadowy, uncertain, unknown, steep valley with a sharp, jagged, and impatient learning curve.  Although we were all hoping to be air lifted back to the safety net we knew before Mom got sick, we quickly realized that the only thing we could do was fall to our knees and start rock climbing together to higher ground.  And that's what we did, inch by inch, sometimes just to be run over by an avalanche that made us feel like we were hitting bottom again and again, more wounded than before with each backwards fall.  Little did we know, each fall was making us stronger and stronger even though it didn't appear we were gaining much ground.

Maybe some of you can relate.  Maybe it's some devastating life altering news.  Maybe it's a few bad decisions, and now there are serious consequences to face.  Maybe it's a soul eating secret.  Maybe it's debilitating worry, anxiety, or fear.  Maybe it's a marriage gone bad or a serious illness.  Maybe the odds aren't good. Maybe it's a deep wound or a strong need to be in control.  Whatever the struggle, maybe some of you have been there with us, forcefully pushed over a similar cliff, or maybe you jumped over the cliff yourself.

That's how we felt, and yet today I can stand tall and share The Good News.  Each one of us tells our story a little differently, but we all agree that our story is one of our biggest blessings.  Yes, I said blessings.  Going over that cliff and facing Mom's cancer as a family has been one of our biggest and unexpected blessings.

Please don't get me wrong.  It has been one of the hardest things our family has ever been through.  I would not wish cancer on anyone.  Cancer hurts, and it takes down good people with a lot of heart and life in them.  We hear the word "cancer," and we pray that's not what the biopsy shows.  But, when cancer smacks you in the face, there's a bigger story to tell.  For those of you who have followed our story, you know that ours has been dramatic and full of surprises.  The day we discovered mom had been living with breast cancer for years and did not tell anyone, well, that was the first in a series of many tough, painful days.  (For the full story, please feel free to visit Mom's CaringBridge site under Patty Bridges.)

The bigger picture to our story has been about letting go of the misconception that being strong and successful in life means becoming independent, self-sufficient beings who can control our own outcomes, if only we work hard "enough" at it and do "enough" good deeds in the world.  Our story has also been about digging deep to acknowledge and forgive our mistakes, recognizing that we all make them.  Our story has been about finding joy and love in the things that really matter and freeing ourselves from the things that don't.  Easier said than done for sure.  Without going into the details, watching someone you love suffer so much is the hardest part of cancer.  I have already seen and done things I never wanted to see and do.  Yet, I am thankful for all the blessings that have come from holding mom's hand as she learns to live with this terrible disease.

I didn't know life could hurt this much and still be so healing at the same time.  That sounds like an oxymoron at first, but it's not. It's God's word coming to life, y'all!  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will set your paths straight."  Mom's cancer completely stopped me in my tracks.  I don't know about you, but my natural inclination when problems arise is to pray a few prayers and work as hard as I can to keep going.  I try to organize the issues, call on the right resources, and act on the right series of steps to fix things.  In turn, I can usually get the situation under control.   Mom's cancer blew my usual action plan to smithereens.  It was way too big, completely beyond my understanding, and very unknown.  The only thing I had control over was my relationship with God, so I clung to it everyday, all day.  I've never prayed so much in all my life.  It hasn't been a neat or pretty process, and it sure hasn't been a quick fix either.  But the second I accepted the fact that being strong meant being totally dependent on God, I was able to experience miracles in me and in those around me.  Admitting ALL of my weakness and making room for God to just come in and take over EVERYTHING, gives God bigger space to do HUGE things, showcasing all His power and glory.

The key to my story was not the outcome of the situation but acknowleging that I had no idea what was best for me.  I knew what I thought I wanted, a perfectly healthy mom, but God wanted so much more for me and my family than I could imagine for myself.  Today, my mom is still living with stage IV breast cancer, and there were times my sister and I wondered if she would make it to Christmas.  Sometimes I wondered if we would make it too.  But you know what?  Mom not only celebrated Christmas with us this year, she is working, cooking, enjoying her Duke sports, laughing with friends again, and taking her grandchildren for ice cream.  She's doing the things doctors told us she might not ever do again.  The power of prayer is amazing.   Family, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, co-workers, doctors, nurses, and personal cheerleaders are all evidence of God's grace.  These are miracles for this century, y'all, and I have a front row seat.

My experiences have inspired a lot of thinking.  They definitely changed me.  Instead of destroying me and my family, they make me want to love harder, laugh more, pray without holding back and be a person that does not wait for dire circumstances to seek God in everything I do.   Maybe some of you can relate to what I'm saying.  It wasn't that I didn't have faith before.  It wasn't that I didn't have a relationship with God and accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior.  It wasn't even that I didn't go to church and try some Bible studies and mission opportunities once in a while.  It was that in everyday life, I didn't do a good job integrating my faith into everyday stuff.  And it wasn't because I didn't want to.  My intentions were good.

In our culture, it's way too easy to become lost, distracted and so busy that we either don't take time for God, we don't think we have the time, or we don't think we need Him until we find ourselves in a desperate situation.  For me, as a mom of 3 young boys, even when I make the time, the logistics of physically going somewhere on a weekly basis to spend time in fellowship with God is very difficult.  Babysitters cost money, there's homework to do, someone turns up sick with the latest cold or virus, my husband is out of town, timing conflicts with nap time, we oversleep, and the list goes on.  You might have other things on your own list.  Without realizing it, faith often gets compartmentalized to words without application, our "church friends", Sundays, special occasions, or our crisis moments.  Look again with me though, "Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in ALL your ways submit to him and he will set your paths straight."  What would happen if we did trust God with ALL our ways, giving HIM more room and time to do extraordinary things in every aspect of our daily lives?  If God can work through me in such a life changing situation as Mom's journey with cancer, how much more can he do if I make room for him in the ordinary, nooks and crannies of everyday moments?

I could work on growing with God privately in the safety net of my own quiet time.  That sure sounds better than what I'm about to do, but I feel like God is calling me to keep sharing my story.  I am not going to lie, this is a scary leap of faith for an extremely private person who loves her alone time.  I am a far cry from a Bible expert, and I make tons of mistakes on any given day.  I'm just a normal imperfect person, a daughter, a wife, a mom, a friend, a neighbor, a woman on a mission to figure out ways to make more room for God in my life.

So I want to invite you to come along on your own time and in your own space.  I am talking about sharing a God-centered faith grounded in grace and the life and death of Jesus Christ.  I am talking about living for a God that is strong, purpose-perfect, not picture-perfect, loving, honest, candid, transforming, necessary.  I am talking about a God that meets you wherever you are in your faith journey, accepting, patient, forgiving, unconditional, timeless, all knowing and all powerful. 

Let's start growing in our faith together by going straight to the source.  Grab a Bible (I'll help with that in another post), and let's see what God's word is telling us each day.  Sign-up to follow the blog and invite others to join us.  Let's put our faith to work and see what God has in store for us when we are willing to grow closer to Him.  Stay tuned for more details in blogs to follow very soon.  

God always has a bigger story to tell...

 My prayer for all you-

Heavenly Father,
I thank you for each person that reads this blog.  I thank you for each of our lives and the stories you are telling through us of your transforming love and grace.  As I share my story, I pray it will help others find new and exciting ways to get closer  to you.  We know that with Christ, we are able to do "immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine" for Your glory, Lord.
I pray this prayer in the name of our loving Savior, Jesus Christ.

May the Lord bless you and your families, friends,

To read more posts on Mom's story, use the links below: