Girl Scout Wisdom


If you were a Girl Scout then you might remember the ol’ song we sang around the ol’ campfire called Make New Friends.  Part of it went like this…”Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the others gold.” We sang those words in Brownies and Girl Scouts and yet I had no idea what they meant.  I hadn’t lived long enough to gather that many friends, but over time I’ve learned to appreciate those sage words.

Growing up, I had two childhood friends that came into my life at a very early age. Like as babies. Carol Ann and Denise.  We were thrown together because we were all born the same year, our moms were dear friends, and they were probably in the same church circle. By the word circle, I don’t mean that they hung out in the same groups, but back in the day they actually had bible study groups for women called “circles.”  Sounds a bit like a clique to me, but circles were what small groups are today and were identified by women in the Bible.  Like the Naomi circle…or the Ruth circle.

Here is Carol Ann and I at age 2…

Tina & Carol Ann 2 yrs. (2)

I’m the one on the right with the toy…probably not sharing very well.  Carol Ann is patiently waiting for her turn. She was always so kind.  Look at those toe-head blonde curls, and the cool vintage lamp shade in the background.



As we grew up Denise, Carol Ann and I went to each other’s birthday parties, spent time at each others homes, and were besties.  We played, danced, took imaginary journeys, and laughed together through the years.  Here is a picture of my 5th birthday party with all of us and some others…

Tina Birthday party 5 yrs. old (1)

They were apparently using color film by this time.  I am the 2nd from the left, and my knees hadn’t yet blossomed.  Carol Ann is next to me on the left and has the red balloon up to her face.  Denise is the last one on the right dancing with her hair pulled back.

Denise and I were Girl Scouts together.  As I look back and try to remember those days together the thing that stands out is the time we were about to pull away from the curb on our way to a scouting campout. My mom was driving, I was in the middle next to her, and Denise was sitting next to me by the window.  We must have been about 10 years old.  Denise suddenly says, “hang on”…proceeds to open the passenger door and puke into the gutter, slams the door and says “OK…let’s go!”  She also always seemed to be nervous.

With time, unfortunately, we all grew apart.  Carol Ann moved away, and Denise went to another Jr. high.  In high school Carol Ann moved back, but went to our arch-rival high school so we certainly couldn’t hang out, could we? Denise and I went to the same high school, but because I had made new friends and ran in different circles (this time it was more of a click) I didn’t really know how to juggle old and new friendships.  Or maybe I was just busy.  Or maybe I was just a snob and couldn’t hear those Girl Scout lyrics ring in my ears.  Denise and I connected here and there, and being in the same youth group at church we were able to water our friendship a little bit.  Interesting, isn’t it, that we were learning about faith and how to love, and yet I’m sure I wasn’t all that inclusive towards her.

After a few years, we all went off to different colleges.  I was off to Cal Poly SLO, Carol Ann to Oregon State, and Denise to Cal State Long Beach.  We met men, married, and moved away from our home town.  We had children, raised them, and sent them out into the world.  We buried our parents.  We fought battles and demons of our own that made us stronger women, and now and then wondered how the other two were doing in life.  Now we’re all empty-nesters with sagging skin, a little wider than before, and with a Facebook page.

I reconnected with Denise on Facebook a few years ago, and was able to learn some amazing things about her.  She had become a University Art Professor, and was a very successful artist. Check out her work at  I also learned that she was diagnosed with Type I diabetes as she was giving birth to her son, which was quite a scare.   Now the puking in the gutter and nervousness made sense – she was never sure what would happen when she ate something.

Over the years we searched for Carol Ann, but weren’t able to track her down.  I set off on my journey of discovering grace and wanting to blog about my discoveries.  Then Denise successfully battled Stage 4 Ovarian cancer a year ago – it’s considered a miracle that she is alive.  She gives God the glory and is so grateful that he was gracious enough to gift her with more life.  After going through that, she reached out to me and wanted to see me.  We tried several times, but nothing worked out.  Finally, Denise and her husband planned a trip to Oregon, and would be traveling through Sacramento soon and we would finally see on another for the first time in about 40 years. We also decided that after all these years, all three of us needed to physically get together for a weekend and share what God had been teaching us over the past 40 years. But we couldn’t proceed with our plan until we tracked Carol Ann down.

I decided to put my private investigator hat on, and with some details provided by Denise, and the internet I was able to find out that Carol Ann’s married last name had changed.  She had remarried, and voila!…I found her Facebook page that way.  What joy!  I messaged her, but she didn’t respond after a week so I messaged one of her daughters who passed the message on to her, and she emailed me back.  Woo hoo!  I learned that she had been a teacher all her life, so we had something in common.  We are all so thrilled to connect again.  Both Denise and I have had phone conversations with Carol Ann, and we plan to try to all get together.

Denise n Me 2018
Denise & Kris – Orangevale 2018

A week ago, Denise and her husband stayed with us for a night on their way north. It was SO much fun reconnecting!  I regret the time lost that I might have been a support to her.  I regret my inability to show her Jesus when we were young.  I regret that it took her almost dying to bring us back together.  I regret my selfishness. But I am so grateful, once again, for grace.

The best part is that the three of us Skyp’d while Denise was here, and she and her husband are going to have dinner with Carol Ann soon while up in Northern Oregon.  I, too, may see Carol Ann when she is down this way for a family reunion next month, but we still have not had the opportunity to all sit in the same room together and drink a little wine and just talk about the amazing things that God has done for us.  And to remember that making new friends is wonderful…but never to forget the old childhood friends.  These gals are GOLD in my book!

The grace I find in this story is that the Creator has allowed each of us to learn hard lessons about life and friendship, find great joy, experience great pain, and yet be able to survive and return back together to testify to one another of God’s faithfulness throughout the years.  What a privilege – not everyone has that opportunity.  That is grace served on a silver platter.  Or maybe it should be gold.  BaHaaa.  I’m quite sure that our sweet moms are up in Heaven at a meeting of the Naomi circle, drinking punch and gleefully happy that God brought the three blondies back together.

Stay tuned!   We are hoping that to all get together in the Fall, at which time I will give you part 2 of Girl Scout Wisdom.   Sigh.  Once again…isn’t God gracious?  G-R-A-C-(E)-ious!




Fathers and Forgiveness

I’m thinking about my Dad as Father’s Day approaches.  He was a wonderful man, although I didn’t realize it until I had children of my own. Growing up, my father and I had polar opposite personalities, and I was a bit of an anomaly to my dad.  I was the youngest of three, and the only girl and so he thought I should be a “refined lady.”  Instead I was a Tom-Boy and tagged along with my older brothers and climbed trees, played Cowboys and Indians with the boys, and played Three-Flies-Up on the neighborhood streets.  No dolls for this gal! 

My dad never quite understood my bubbly, outgoing personality or introspective thoughts.  He never came to one of my high school volleyball or softball games, nor did he come to watch me play when my high school softball team won the CIF championships my Junior year of high school. I even hit the winning run, no less! Likewise, I never quite understood him either, and couldn’t relate to his rigid, black and white thinking. 

He was an aeronautical engineer who had a pocket protector that held his mechanical pencils. I eventually learned that encouragement wasn’t in his DNA because his analytical mind and engineering background wired him to look at how something could go wrong or analyze how something would fail.  His lack of relationality was hard for me since I’m wired for relationship and he was practical, analytical, loved routine, was linear, didn’t color outside the lines and ate the exact same thing every day for lunch. So we didn’t speak the same language and as a result we didn’t enjoy a particularly close relationship during my childhood.

After I married and had kids, my parents moved to Northern California to be near us, and to be close to their only grandkids.  My son developed a love for Papa that was endearing.  “Mommy, Papa can fix anything!”  I learned to appreciate his practicality and the fact that although we didn’t speak the same language of love he still loved his family and cared for us by providing for us financially and with a wonderful home.  He wasn’t exactly knowledgeable in the emotional and spiritual aspects of supporting and raising children, but you do the best you can with what you’re equipped with.  As a grandfather, he loved his grandkids and spent a lot of time making up for lost time. I think he had regrets about things towards the end of his life, but being the practical guy that he was he chose not to dwell on it.  He died in 2001.

Could my Dad done better as a father?  Sure he could have. Could I hold onto bitterness and unforgiveness for things he wasn’t programmed to understand? Absolutely…and I dabbled in that for a season.  Could I bash him after he was gone and blame him for being the reason for my own lack-luster ability to be more of a positive encourager with my own kids?  Oh, that would have been the easy thing to do. But what I am learning is that the key to successful relationships (especially parental ones) is forgiveness and grace.  There’s that word grace again.  Ugh.  Grace!  Giving my Dad something that he certainly didn’t deserve!  But what if I want to hold onto the resentment for a little while longer until I’m feeling better and THEN I offer him grace when I’m good and ready?  Nope, that’s not how it’s supposed to work.

The place that I’m at now is this:….I certainly don’t deserve forgiveness from my Heavenly Father, but he outlandishly offers it to me.  And so today I choose to offer grace and forgiveness to the man who cared for me the best he could as my earthly father. It was the only way he knew how and I will continue to allow God to heal any broken places in my heart that need mending.  The happy ending to the story is that we eventually enjoyed a time of comfortable relationship; the outgoing bubbly daughter with the black-n-white unrelational father. Now that is God’s grace in action.

So today I will say “Happy Father’s Day” to my Daddy and rest in the knowledge that my Heavenly Father offers me the best love and support my earthly father couldn’t give me.  So it’s a win-win.  Forgiveness is for me to offer, and when I have trouble walking through that all I have to do is ask God for help.  And forgiveness is also for my sweet Dad.  

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Oh….and by the way….guess who now is just as linear as her dad?  I seriously want to roll down my car window and reprimand people whose bumper stickers aren’t placed evenly in the middle of their bumper. I’m also the one who is adjusting the pictures hanging on your wall when I come to visit. And guess who eats almost the exact same thing for lunch every day?  Uh huh.  However, I DO draw the line at pocket protectors!  Just sayin’. 🙂

Always in the grip of grace.

Vic and Ruth Sorensen
50th Anniversary
* This blog is a reprint of one I wrote in 2014 on Father’s Day.  I thought it appropriate to remember.


Do you remember when you were just barely old enough to see over the edge of the kitchen table?  I remember as a child so wishing that I were tall enough to look eye level over the counters in the kitchen, and when I finally got a little older and a little taller I felt like I had arrived!  I had made it to that place in stature where I could see what was going on above the table tops with the grownups.  That didn’t mean I had graduated away from the kids table at Thanksgiving dinner, but it meant that I had reached a milestone and I could pretend I was one step closer to being a grownup.

As an adult now, I find these situations continue to happen to me still. It’s that way with coffee.  My parents grew up drinking coffee, and when I first tried it (and consequently spewed it out) I wondered how I was ever going to be taken seriously in life if I couldn’t drink coffee like everyone else did.  I tried over and over again to stomach it’s taste, but felt like such a grownup failure.  I threw copious amounts of sugar and cream in with the coffee, and still couldn’t come to a place of relationship with it.  Everyone told me that I would get use to the taste when I went off to college and had to stay up late studying, but since I didn’t do a lot of late night studying, that never happened.  So the draw of Starbucks and Peet’s Coffee isn’t a thing for me.

However, I’m so excited because there now IS a coffee drink that I can order at Starbucks that makes me feel like I can pretend I’m a grownup.  I order it when I’m working off site and need a place to work, or I’m heading out of town with girl friends.  In reality, it’s really a watered down version of a milk shake, but it has the word Frappuccino in it, so I can look like I’m as cool as the other kids on the playground.  Deception is the key.  “I’ll have a Grande double java chip with vanilla…and light whip“.   Don’t I sound so cool?

It’s also that way with wine.  Again, I grew up in a home where my parents had mixed drinks almost every night, and then they learned to appreciate a good wine.  As a child, I would dip my little finger into their drink to see what all the fuss was about with these alcoholic concoctions, and my face would contort and my eyes would squish closed at the horrid reaction to the taste.  That was probably God’s way of protecting me through my high school and college years, because that reaction stuck with me.  Now, as my husband and I have tried new and delicious foods and beverages throughout our marriage, he has come to appreciate a good dark beer, and a good cabernet.  Me…I’m such a wuss and a good wine is completely lost on me.   Again, though, I’ve learned that with a super sweet Moscato I can pretend to be as sophisticated and fool some people into thinking I’m a wine connoisseur.  So our wine rack at home has several bottles of Casteggio Provincia DeiPavia Moscato.  Did you see how I did that?  I threw all those Italian words out there so you’d think I was very grown up.  My friends aren’t so easy to fool.  Cindy No. 3 is a wine enthusiast, and she says that Moscato is like drinking cough syrup.  Sigh.  Again…I’m not fooling anyone.

So how does coffee and wine and trying to pretend like I’m someone I’m not coincide with grace?  Well, I think once again it has to do with our constant desire to want people to think better of us than we really are. I get stuck in that place more often than I want to admit, but I’m learning that the grace of transparency is so freeing. My tendency is towards not letting people see beyond a certain layer, because the truth of who I am and my problems will change your mind about who I am. But when I try to go the other way and I let you see my hardships and trials, doors open up and we all realize that we are more relatable to one another when we let you see the foibles and warts. Rather than worrying about what we might lose by others seeing the truth, we find that we gain way more in the transparency.

This has happened to me several times this past year. I ended up sharing some scary details about my life, and lo and behold, the people I shared with were going through the exact same thing. God’s grace in action.

I’m no Mother Teresa, but I want to be more relatable to those around me. It’s the small things that speak love and encouragement into another’s life. A smile. A touch on the arm. A compliment. A hug. A hand up. We don’t get national recognition for those kinds of small things, but it doesn’t make them any less valuable or important. They add up and matter to the people who receive them, and they make us way more relatable. They break down barriers and let people know that we aren’t any less needy than they are. That we are bumbling through this life just like they are and no one is any better than the other. It allows me to be free to be me….a cracked pot that’s leaking and I’m paddling like crazy under the surface just to make it until dinner time. Me, who spews out coffee and drinks cough syrup. Me, who is flawed and unpolished. And perhaps there’s someone out there that is the same as me and has no idea what a Iced Half-Caff Ristretto Venti 4-pump Sugar-free Cinnamon Dolce Soy Skinny Latte is. I mean really!

It’s in the pouring out of yourself that you find Jesus. It’s in the giving grace to others around you that allows others to find him too. So I guess I’m getting closer to being a grownup and I don’t need to pretend anymore. And I’m OK with drinking sweet wine (hence the picture above that hangs in my kitchen) so I guess you can be a grownup and still like sickeningly sweet beverages. But please don’t get me started on margaritas. Yum!

Do some small things with great love. Help somebody. Maybe just smile….and you will find Him.” ~ Mother Teresa

Grace for Clowns


I really don’t get how a young 18 year old just entering college and heading off to experience the world for the first time can make a decision about what they want to be “when they grow up.” I guess there are some who have known since they were a kid that they wanted to be a doctor, or a pilot, or a businessman, or perhaps a clown.

A clown is what I told my mother I wanted to be when I was six years old. She wasn’t too pleased about my choice and quickly encouraged me to set my sights on more lofty professions…like being a teacher, or perhaps a secretary. I’ve been both in my lifetime but what I find great delight in is when I get to care for and serve others around me.  For me it really has nothing to do with my profession – I can practice my purpose anywhere I am.  I also tried being “the clown” for a period of time in life, but I quickly learned that what people love about clowns are the masks that they wear and not what’s underneath the mask.

When I went off to college I studied physical education and English, with the plan to be a PE teacher. God honored my plan in a different way that I imagined, and I joyfully enjoyed teaching PE in private Christian schools for 15 years. But had I known then what I know now about what my strengths were, plus overcoming my fears sooner, I might have chosen a different profession…such as being an architect, or a nurse, or even a writer.  I have dabbled in some aspects of all those areas throughout my life and I think I could be good at any one of them.  But I now know what God created me to be.

To know why you were put on this earth is an honor.  To know one’s purpose and destiny, however big or small it might be, is freeing and life-changing.  Recognizing mine  didn’t come to me as early as I would have liked, and lining it up next to someone else’s purpose of saving people’s lives, putting out fires, or designing beautiful buildings may not make it look as important. But in my tiny little space in this world I have learned that my purpose is to glorify the One who created me by showing kindness, care and love to those He brings across my path by showing them grace on a daily basis. And maybe as I consistently do that it may play a tiny part in actually saving or improving someone’s life as they are drawn to grace and want to know more about it.  I love spreading the word that grace isn’t as scary as you think.  It’s a pretty simple purpose.

What’s your purpose?  Is it simple like mine?  Could it be that showing grace to others is harder than saving lives?  What if offering grace to those who don’t deserve it plays a part in saving a life?  Although giving grace to others can be pretty hard, I can tell you from experience…the grace shown to me saved my life.  It can save and transform yours too.

Take it from a clown at heart.

Swaddling the Lamb

I love to learn new things. There is so much I don’t know and still have yet to learn, but I’m one of those people who think you’re never too old to learn and grow. Even to make change. Whether its learning about myself and how I might do things differently (ouch), or about the people I love and how I might live differently to be in relationship with them, or walking through messy lives with friends, or even about my faith – I love the learn. I especially love it when I learn the back story of an already Holy story that opens up my imagination and I can get a better visual picture of what might have happened and the meaning behind it.

The visual part is important to me because I’m a visual learner. Oftentimes I have to see something laid out or drawn out for me to understand. That’s why I had to have math tutors in Algebra in High school – well that, and a few other reasons that we won’t go into. But when God surprises me with a visual gift during the Advent season…well, it makes my day and renews my belief that God is very intentional about having relationship with me.

We were all sitting around a Christmas brunch table; a group of ladies, all fairly knowledgeable theologians,*, and suddenly when one of us shared wisdom, we all were amazed at what we had heard. WHAAT? We had never heard this spiritual correlation before. We were chatting about how we had seen God show up this Advent season. That’s what we women do…talk about faith, talk about our kids, talk about hormones, or talk about food. Oh…and Jesus. You know…the important things in life.

Anyway…when I asked our hostess’s adult daughter the High and Low of her Christmas season, and how she had seen God work through both…she shared that her High was learning the back story of the shepherds and the lambs in Bethlehem, and the role they played in Jesus’ birth. Did you know that for centuries the Passover lambs were raised by shepherds just outside of Bethlehem? In those shepherds’ fields outside Bethlehem a very special breed of sacrificial lamb were raised and nurtured to be brought to Jerusalem at Passover to be sacrificed to cover the sins of the people. Now I hate the idea of little lambs being slaughtered – I mean they’re so cute and cuddly. The shepherds who attended to them were designated from the time they were young to be the ones who would have the job of “keeping watch” over the Temple’s flocks. One of their tasks was to make certain that none of these “widdle wams” were blemished while being birthed, and that they were kept clean.

For that reason, these lambs were immediately wrapped in “swaddling clothes” after their births. Sound familiar? For the lambs it was done to protect them from injury, since baby lambs tend to thrash about and harm themselves in their first few hours of their lives. These “special” shepherds keeping watch over the temple sacrifices were the same ones to whom God announced, through His angel, the birth of the ultimate “sacrificial Lamb.” These shepherds knew the swaddling procedure, and when told it would be a “sign”, they knew what Micah 4:8 told them (read it) and realized they needed to quickly go (Luke 2:16) and see the newborn Jesus, the Son of God. The angel really didn’t need to give them directions to the birth place, because they already knew.

Joseph and Mary most likely didn’t understand the full significance of the swaddling clothes in which they wrapped the baby Jesus. The only other time people were wrapped in swaddling clothes was when they were being prepared for burial after their death. How fitting that Mary’s little lamb (no relation to the song), God’s perfect Lamb, the sacrificial Lamb, the Lord Jesus, would be born and lay in a manger in burial clothes. He was born to die. God wanted us to know that this Lamb came to be the FINAL Passover lamb, the one sacrificed for sin forever. Your destiny, my destiny, the destiny of the world was wrapped up in Mary’s little Lamb.

WHAAT? Why had I not heard this before? Of course, we don’t know any of this for certain. That’s the cool thing about faith. But we do know that within a few moments of the Messiah’s birth, God dispatched shepherds to come and pay homage to the one destined to bring “peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

Here’s God’s version of the story:

And in the same region (talking about Bethlehem) there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them (now THAT was probably pretty cool), and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David (again, Bethlehem) a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped n swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts (again…so cool!) praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, (I can’t get enough of this heavenly stuff) the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.” ~ Luke 2:8-16

What a story. But is it just a story? That is for you to decide. But me…I’m loving the back story of the story of the birth of Christ and I choose to believe what I can’t always see in front of me. I choose to believe the story that has been passed down through the ages, and proven true in my heart and life over and over again. How about you?

This is my gift to you this Christmas Day…and God’s gift to you every day. Merry Christmas my friends.

* In my typical attempts to make myself look way smarter than I really am, I must tell you that although I consider myself a theologian, its not a pride thing. You are a theologian too. Anyone who studies the Bible or seeks after God is a theologian. You may not get it all, but you are a theologian. So hence, the use of the word. Celebrate your theologiany. (I made that word up). HA!

Stealing Grace

Evil Stepmother

I was sitting in Bible Study today, listening to various stories of struggle – both in scripture and in the lives of the women around me – and hearing of the great moments where the dawning of grace came upon each character in the stories.  My dear friend who God has weaved in and out of my life, decade by decade for thirty years (and who is just as sinful as I – she made she say that!) shared a story that really stuck with me, so I decided I needed to write it down.  You know me, I always like to write down a good grace story.

We were discussing Psalm 2 and the Psalmist who was describing the chaos in the world at that time.  As our time went on we shared feelings about the injustice in the world today, and how we deal with that emotionally.  We landed on how God isn’t surprised or unsettled by the chaos he saw then, or now.  We may be unsettled by it, and we sometimes feel the need to fix things and change people’s feelings about certain injustices.  That can be a good thing if we are bringing awareness to a situation, but it also can be bad.  When we can change injustice in the world it’s always a win, as long as you don’t steal the lesson learned.

Everyone has a great story.  Some stories are bigger and more dramatic than others, but that doesn’t take away from the importance of each story.  And there is always a back story to the tale that we don’t know in someone’s journey and the lessons they’ve learned from it.  You know, the lesson God teaches us during a time of hardship and which maybe someone hasn’t learned yet.

Dear friend (her name is being withheld to protect her guilt) shared about her mom, who lost her own mother as a baby.  A new stepmother soon came into the picture who raised her from the age of five.  Much like Cinderella, her stepmother mistreated her and as dear friend’s story went on today you could see the tears begin to well up in her eyes, as if no one could really know of the pain her mother had  endured.  As her mother grew up and married, dear friend never knew of the unjustness that had happened in her mother’s life because her mother chose not to highlight the evil to her own children, but rather to promote the redemptive story.  Dear friend’s grandmother was always invited to holiday gatherings and events, and her stepdaughter always treated her with kindness…her children never knowing of the pain she had survived.

As dear friend became an adult and could handle the realities of her mom’s childhood, stories began to come out and one particular time that dear friend will never forget she questioned her mom and said “how COULD you allow her into your home after all she has done to you?”  Her mother wisely turned to her and simply said “don’t you borrow my grace!”  What dear friend took away from that was that God had bestowed on her mom great amounts of mercy and grace towards the woman who had caused her so much pain.  She, in essence, was telling dear friend not to steal from her the gift of a forgiving heart and the grace he had gifted her towards her stepmother, or take on her battle as if it were her own.  She had overcome that story (and yes, it probably took time) by God’s grace, and didn’t want dear friend picking the offense back up because it wasn’t hers to carry.

Can we live in a world where this happens?  Where a God doesn’t follow a black and white policy for injustice?  Can we love a God that loves ugly unkind people?  These are questions that I have to ask myself each and every day.

Nope, God doesn’t have policies.  He’s so personal in how he deals with us one day, and it may be completely different the next day, or it may be different with the next person because he knows the back story.  It’s sort of like child-rearing, where one moment we want to paddle our little hellions behinds because you know that’s what they deserve and need at the moment, and another time knowing that what they need is mercy in the moment.  God knows the back story, and he knows the end of the story, and whatever he’s doing its for the good.

We, however, want a neat black and white policy that applies to every person and situation in life…except maybe us.  Do I need a situation to be changed and fixed right now in order to trust God?  Isn’t that another form of needing control?  Sigh…again these are things I struggle with everyday.

In the most recent Disney version of Cinderella, at the end when she’s walking out the door to a new life with Prince Charming,  Cinderella turns to her stepmother and says to her, “I forgive you.”  Don’t you love that?  What I walked away from Bible Study today with was this:  I need to keep looking for God’s little treasures as part of the chapters he is writing in my story and in yours.  They may not look the same, and the outcome may be different.  We won’t always be saved, or fixed, or changed immediately…but it’s always going to be a great story.

And leggo of my grace!  Git yer own!


You Have to be Lost Before You Can be Found

Took Break

It has been exactly a year ago this month that a life-changing experience rattled my cage and was I thrown for a loop bigger than I’ve ever experienced. I’m not normally needy and I can handle change and losses pretty well.  However, I tend not to recognize when I am hurting enough that I need help, so this was the first time that I finally had to admit that I was dealing with a grief bigger than I could carry.  As a result I chose to take a self-imposed hiatus from blogging a few months later and haven’t shared my heart for nine months now.  I think I’m ready now.

When I finally listened to the Holy Spirit whispering to me that my life needed me – I needed to take care of me – to allow healing and to gain new perspective on all that had taken place around me over the past two years, I hesitated. Taking care of me is not as easy as it sounds, because I’m typically the one taking care of people.  I’m not the one that usually needs taking care of.  But the end of the story is that God, as always, was faithful and walked me down a path of learning and introspection, as well as healing that allows me now to look forward to writing my thoughts down again.  Don’t you love a redemptive story?

What could cause something so crippling to this normally balanced and capable gal?  Did I have a near-death experience?  Was I injured in an accident that required many months of recuperation?  Was I diagnosed with a terminal illness that I would never recover from?  Nope…nothing that dramatic.  And it wasn’t just one thing but a perfect storm of several things that when combined were more than I could carry.  The truth of the matter is that all of the losses I experienced felt like all of those things – the death of something once loved, an injury to my soul, an illness that didn’t seem healable.  This loss was so hurtful that it did require many months of recuperation.  Just one of those losses on it’s own probably wouldn’t have taken a toll on me, but combined with all the others it built up and overflowed into the empty parts of my heart and short-circuited me.

The event that began the crashing down of my safe sanctuary was when my ability to care for others was taken away from me.  Bottom line….I was simply let go from a job in ministry that I loved (the day after my 10 year anniversary) when leadership and I didn’t agree on what grace and ministry should look like.  Yep…I got the ax.  It doesn’t sound that dramatic, does it?  The months leading up to it was very stressful – I felt misunderstood, unheard and uncared for.  My little ol’ head just couldn’t wrap itself around the absurdity of the situation.  It felt like what I imagine a divorce might feel like.

The death of several dear friends before and after the ax added to the loss I felt, but with the job loss there were ripple effects I never saw coming.  I not only lost my job, but I also lost my church.  I lost friends.  I lost relationships.  I lost trust.  I lost truth. And as with any loss, the grief that I had to walk through with those losses was beyond anything I expected.  More, in fact, than the grief I experienced even when my parents died. Throw into the mix my husband losing most of his hearing…the stress of looking for a new job and wondering where I would fit in in such a beautiful way as before…well its enough to send someone to the fridge for a gallon of ice cream in a second.

Looking back at what I wrote right before I was let go, it reflects what I was learning at the time.  Here are some words from one of the last posts I wrote shortly before the big unexpected divorce in August of 2016.  It was about the sanctuary that I found in serving God’s people.  In my job.  In leadership that I had been able to trust in the past.  It was entitled Finding Sanctuary

So I’m learning new and exciting things about grace and maneuvering through the hard.  Here is what I’m learning in this sanctuary in the midst of the flood:

  • God is less interested in sanctuaries than He is in BEING your sanctuary.
  • I am the most important sanctuary I need to be focusing on because He lives within me.
  • God is not absent in our suffering.
  • There is great spiritual growth and maturity that comes from hardship and trials (BGD!).
  • My ability to deal with the hard has more to do with my relationship with God, than it does with the hardship.
  • I need to focus on what my responsibility is to those who live within this sanctuary to help them heal and grow through the hard (thanks CP).
  • If I am going to blog about grace, I had darn well better be willing to give it and be a part of it, and experience it in community here in this ever-changing sanctuary.
  • I am much better at writing about the truths I love so much than I am at living them.

How’s that for honesty?  Yikes.  A precious friend of this sanctuary said to me recently… “God must love [your sanctuary] SO much that He would allow it to go through this refining”.  So I struggle to be brave in the midst of the hard.  It’s uncomfortable.  I don’t like it.  I don’t understand it….but that’s OK.  It’s not my job to understand.  Once again God is teaching me about trusting Him.  Dang I wish I’d get this trust thing right.

So the truth of the matter is that I really haven’t lost this sanctuary – Christ is in me.  He is my sanctuary, and maybe I was making this one somewhat of an idol.  I dunno.  There’s a lot I don’t know.  All I know is that I’m walking through the hard with the help of the One who sees all and knows all and is walking me through the pain step by step.  So I’m finding new possibilities in this sanctuary.  And maybe new sanctuaries.  Once again, the hard is cloaked in love and grace.

Yowza!  Little did I know how prophetic those words would be. But aren’t church people supposed to get along? Isn’t grace supposed to solve all relational issues? Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It has to be a two way street.  If I had known what was ahead of me amid the darkness of the journey, I might have ducked under covers to guard myself from the howling winds in self-protection.  For months I found myself lost and I couldn’t find my way back to what I considered the norm.  I thought I must be crazy – did no one else see what I saw?  

The journey I walked was typical as with any grief.  First I was content…then angry…then I tried to figure out what I could have done differently.  In the end, I realized that I had found all my value in caring for people, and not finding my value in Christ’s love for me just as I was.  I didn’t have to be serving others to be worthy.  I always knew that on paper…but hadn’t learned the lesson personally.  But as always, God is faithful and has redeemed me also in a way that I never could have expected.

In trying to put to words what I’ve walked through and away with…as small as it seems this quote by Brennan Manning best describes what I learned:

“… in the end, my sin will never outweigh God’s love. That the Prodigal can never outrun the Father. That I am not measured by the good I do but by the grace I accept. That being lost is a prerequisite to being found. That living a life of faith is not lived in the light, it is discovered in the dark. That not being a saint here on earth will not necessarily keep you from being in that number when the march begins.”           

The final chapter of the story maybe hasn’t been written yet, but I will tell you God has placed me back in ministsry under a wonderful umbrella of Grace.  In a City of Grace.  I’m doing a combination of all the things God has gifted me with, doing lots of new creative things, and loving where He has me.  There are still losses – I don’t see friends I use to and that makes me sad.  People and places and faces change.  That’s a loss too, but I’m learning that its normal and I’m OK with that.  I think God knew what He was doing when he scattered so many people from the covering of our sanctuary to go out and serve in other places.  That might just have been His plan all along.

So I’m grateful for being lost…and even more grateful for the being found again.   And I’m especially thankful for the lessons in faith that I learned within the dark.  

Rediscovering Joy


This time of year at Christmas we hear the word joy used a lot.  “Joy to the World.”  “Joy to you and me.”  “Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee.” A few years back I lamented to some of my closest friends, my Tahoe Chicks, that I felt like I had lost my joy.  Little did I know that my understanding of joy was a bit off kilter, and that started me on a journey of rediscovering something new and exciting that I never understood about joy.

Here’s what identifies joy as:

1.  The emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

2. A source or cause of keen pleasure or delight; something or someone greatly valued or appreciated.

3. The expression or display of glad feeling; festive gaiety.

4.  A state of happiness or felicity.

What I gleaned from those definitions is that I really want to start using the word “keen” a lot more, and that I need to figure out why folks don’t use the word felicity more when talking about happiness.  But I also think that joy has gotten a bad rap because it is always associated with happiness, and I’m not so sure I agree with that connection anymore.  This was intersection I was at when I began my journey of rediscovering joy.

So often our “happiness” is what we gauge our joy on.   As if when everything externally is going well, then I am happy and thus I can experience joy.  But I know some wonderful folks who struggle in life, have experienced great loss, and whose external circumstances didn’t seem all that merry and bright, and yet they still can say they feel joy.  How is that?

When the realities of a perfect storm came together in my life; the throes of menopause, recognizing my need for ADD medication, becoming an empty-nester, some added grief and loss, and a stressful job thrown on top of that…that is when I began to feel that loss of joy.  Those were external things, and so I think what I was really was experiencing was a lack of happiness.  So many things were changing and learning to deal with loss and grief made my life difficult during that time.  I didn’t feel happy, so I assumed I had lost my joy.

But here’s what I’ve learned about joy…

Joy is not pleasure, a mere sensation, but a pervasive and constant sense of wellbeing.”

~ Dallas Willard ~

If I profess to be a follower to Jesus, then I know I am loved unconditionally, and nothing can take that away from me.  My eternal circumstances are in tact, and since God is less interested in my happiness than He is in helping me become more holy (more Christ-like), then I can be assured that there is joy simply in that.   And whether I have cancer, or friends, or a healthy marriage, it won’t taint the joy that is mine from that basic knowledge.  Isn’t that a gracious revelation?

One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen reiterates this when he wrote, “while happiness is dependent on external conditions, joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war, or even death – can take that love away. Thus joy can be present even in the midst of sadness.”

To my delight I am learning that I’ve never really lost my joy.  I may have experienced a season of unhappiness, and possibly even despair…but I never lost the feeling that all was well because I was loved by my Creator.  The good news is that nothing could or will separate me from God.  Now THAT is the ultimate feeling of wellbeing.  Joy doesn’t mean I will always be happy and smiling.  No, I may struggle now and then, but you can bet your bottom dollar (my mom use to use that phrase all the time) that joy can and will be found still in my heart.  Once again…God shows up, helping me rediscover a gift that was never lost.  That right there is the definition of grace, and a beautiful gift to receive.

So this Christmas may you discover the joy that you have and can’t be robbed of if you trust Christ as your Savior.  And if you don’t have that hope, my prayer is that you will take a moment to be present this Christmas in unwrapping the gift.  Listen to the Christmas songs.  Attend a Christmas Eve service, and hear the story with new ears that talks about a baby being sent into our world to walk this earth, and eventually take the punishment for what we deserve. May the gift of joy be yours this Christmas season, whether or not your circumstances point to happiness.  May you be filled with the knowledge that joy and grace can be found whether or not there’s a smile on your face.

Quiet Time Dropout


Throughout my journey of faith I’ve tried to figure out a way to make my faith more authentic and less stuffy, but that whole concept didn’t always match what old school religion taught me.  That meant that I struggled at first with what it looked like to balance my spiritual side with my fun, distracted side.

Part of that struggle was that I was highly intimidated with the term “quiet time” as it relates to the time I spend in communion with God.  I was led to believe that any credible Christian woman spent at least an hour each morning communing with God.  And I succeeded at it for a time.  It about killed me, but I got up early in the mornings and sat in the den before the rest of the house was awake…and I was miserable.  Somehow I don’t think God wants my time spent with him to be miserable.

My husband will tell you that I’m not a morning person, so my inability to think at that hour or focus inevitably distracted me, and sent my mind to kids and dogs, wash machines buzzing, phones ringing, days to plan, appointments to make, lists to be made and things to mark off those lists.  So I was doomed to the realization that I was a “quiet time” dropout.  Oh the shame!  So how was I to fit this reality and my square peg of a prayer life in to a round Christian hole?

It doesn’t make it any easier when we compare ourselves to other super Christians around us. I hung out for many years with some pretty amazing spiritual women whom I taught school with at a local Christian school.  I spent twelve years working alongside them, and as we journeyed that season together I watched their faith in action, and learned about their prayer habits, and I felt immensely inadequate.  I heard stories of them rising in the wee early hours of the morning to sit by candlelight, with their prayer journal and their Bible open…drinking in the sweet word of the gospel and being quiet and still to listen intently to the dove’s voice.

Me…I could barely get my sorry fanny out of bed in time to throw a little makeup on, grab my kids, hand them a Pop-Tart, and race off to school.  So you see, I carried a bit of shame with me because my faith didn’t look anything like theirs.  Certainly this was unacceptable to God.  And being quiet and still isn’t my forte.

Since fun is my middle name, I presumed God was a lot like my earthly father, and was probably unhappy with the fun I brought to work and life.  I always joked with my dear friend, and at the time, the principal at my school , Shirley that God sent me to that school to shake things up a bit and loosen those Christian women up.  For instance, I would play Patti LaBelle in the car on the way to Fall teachers retreat, which was a far cry from Be Thou My Vision.

I was also often the instigator of pranks, usually directed at  Shirley.  One of my best pranks was hanging an adaptation of a famous picture of two cherub angels gazing heavenward, with arms crossed on a table in front of them on Shirley’s wall right before a new parent interview.  However, this version was highly inappropriate in Christian circles since one of the cherubs held a cigarette between its fingers, and the other clutched a can of beer tightly in it’s grasp.  Luckily for Shirley, she found it just in time before these  new parents who were considering sending their children to the school walked in for their interview.

On another occasion, (and I gleaned this one from my college days) on the last day of school I strategically placed whip cream on Shirley’s office phone earpiece, waited for the right moment when she came back from lunch…and then called her office.  You could hear her yell my name across campus that day when she answered her phone!  I think she actually loved the fun I brought there, but man o’ man, this gal was always a bit of a shock to these gentile Christian women.

So you see, I’ve struggled to fit the Christian mold and the guilt I assumed went along with it.  Am I just a rebel at heart that is refusing to do things God’s way?  Does it mean that I’m doomed to a life of non-communicado with my Heavenly Father?  I’m glad to say, no, that’s hardly the case.

What I’m learning is that God doesn’t care if I talk to him for sixty minutes or sixty seconds…he just wants me to talk with him.  I recognize now that God welcomes me to pray out of who I am…my feelings, my situation, my desires, my personality, my experiences, and my needs.  And if my time reflecting and chatting with him on those topics is in the car, or the shower, or while walking the dog, or jogging on the treadmill, or sitting under a tree being quiet ~ he is just happy that I am making the choice to spend time with him.  And if I’d rather write my prayers to him, or sing my prayers to him then he is happy to sit back and read or listen – although he might have to wear earplugs if I sing.  Just sayin’.

Who we are and how we were created defines what our prayer time looks like.  So my time with the One who created me doesn’t have to be a chore, nor does it have to look like yours.  I can take him with me anywhere, and talk to him anytime.  That’s what prayer is.  Not just asking for things…but talking things over.  I just don’t think God is picky about the when and where you meet with him.  I mean he’s God!  And who cares if people look at me funny when I’m driving in my car and they see  tears streaming down my face as I share my heart with my Creator.  God doesn’t mind it in the least.

I imagine that at the beginning of time, God could see what life was like in the 21st century, and knows us and is delighted to spend time with us whenever and wherever we can.  Now I’m not suggesting that spending time with God shouldn’t be intentional.  Nope…it’s definitely important for spiritual growth and a satisfying prayer life.  And there is no shame in growing in whatever your adaptation of spending time with God looks like.  Discipline is definitely necessary, but it is a positive practice that doesn’t include shame.  God is crazy about us, and our prayer performance doesn’t determine his love for us.  That would be conditional love, and that’s not how God loves.

I think if you manage your distractions ~ like if you are able to sit for a few moments in quiet, keep a pad of paper next to you so you can jot down things that pop into your head that want to distract you and draw you away…like pick up milk at the grocery store, call the hubby, etc.

And in terms of fun, I think God has an amazing sense of humor and laughs right along with me when I practice fun.  And to me, fun is a deeply spiritual thing. It’s a kind of unselfconscious enjoyment of life in the Spirit.  It’s abandonment of all things to God that puts me smack dab in the center of learning about grace from the inside and sending it outward.

So now what I’m learning is that I can adapt my quiet time to the best scenario that promotes conversation with the One who created me and still be in the center of my Savior’s arms.  And all the while living life serving others with laughter and joy.  I think there is fun and grace in everything that is of the Spirit ~ laughter, tears, joy, grief, hard work, mental health days, friendship, rainy days, sick days, golf days, warm summer days, baseball days, learning to change days, football days, or days when you sit in the lap of the Almighty wrapped in his robes of righteousness while peering out to see what he sees.  And it can all be enjoyed.

That’s means there is grace and hope for this quiet time dropout.

Finding Sanctuary



When I first started this blog the title was Losing Sanctuary.  One of the definitions listed in the dictionary under “sanctuary”reads,

A place where wildlife, especially those hunted for sport,
can take refuge and grow in safety from hunters”.

I have several sanctuaries.  One is my home.  I love my home,  simply because it’s so homey.  Another is my shower – that borders on TMI but I have some of my best conversations with God in there.  Another is my car.  My car is like my prayer closet.  Your sanctuary might be a friend, or maybe your marriage.  Your sanctuary might even be your children.  It could be a place – like the ocean or the mountains – wherever you might run for renewal.

One of my favorite sanctuaries is where I first observed grace in real life.  It was offered to me and many others like me. I was given immunity from who I really was; loved and well cared for despite my wobbly faith. I reveled in my first taste of grace and grew in its sweet balm, and I watched others do the same.  We still wobbled now and then, but my sanctuary and its people would come alongside and lift us up, offering us the encouragement we needed to live in the righteousness already in us, based on who we carried with us  – not the punishment we were entitled to.  It was there that I learned to listen for the dove’s voice.

Much like wildlife,  many of us came wounded to this sanctuary.  We were battered and bruised, we were  hunted by the world where some find sport in pointing a condemning finger at you, judging your actions, misunderstanding your motives, and laughing at your expense.  It was there that we found safety.  It was there that we were trusted.  It was there that we were given life-giving safety and we watched grace being lived out.  The caretaker of this sanctuary cared for us in ways we would never find again.  It wasn’t perfection, but there was beauty, and grace, and new life here.

And then it happened.  This strong sanctuary that I thought would withstand any strong wind was hit by a doozy – a storm bigger than I had ever experienced in my safe little world.  Could the foundation of grace within us hold this sanctuary together?  My naivety thought it would because I thought this sanctuary was immune to the divisiveness that can hide a coming storm.

The tricky part was that it was hard to recognize the storm at first.  It came disguised in little droplets of rain that wouldn’t arose anyone’s suspicions.  The caretaker moved on to care for another sanctuary and ours was soon wearing different shoes and caring for the sanctuary in foreign ways.  A change was made here.  A new sign there.  Doors were locked that we were use to walking through.  A nifty new emblem was designed to remind us that we were no longer who we were.  Changes that, in of themselves might not rattle the windows.  Soon an air of secrecy seeped in.

It’s hard to discern the line between different and messy.  I’m really OK with different – I actually do pretty well with change.  It’s good for you to change things up now and then. But before we knew it the winds howled and the shutters slammed against the sanctuary, and soon it seemed way beyond different.  Waters soon began leaking into the safe walls of the sanctuary and began to flood it’s foundation.

What I’ve learned is that the best environment for great accomplishment is an environment of trust, safety, and authenticity.  If you try to accomplish anything outside of that kind of environment, you will fail miserably and miss the authenticity of relationship that is needed to remember why you do what you do in the first place.  Then you go from a sanctuary of grace to a sanctuary of law, rules and regulations.

How the heck did this happen?  How could God allow this? I mean really….if sanctuary is where He is, how could He allow this to happen?  I was certain that God had been the center of this sanctuary, so would He not protect my place of refuge and grace?  Surely He would protect this sanctuary from this calamity, and come to our aid!

But He didn’t.  He sat on His hands and allowed pain and suffering to refine us.  Soon there were reactions, hurt feelings, then a spirit of mistrust fell over the sanctuary.  Hearts were broken, including mine.  Friends left the sanctuary to find a safer place, and I fought against the losses with all I had in me.  Did I play any part in this hard?  I wanted to fix it and seek justice, but a wise man once told me not to fight other people’s battles.  So I withdrew and tried to continue to pursue the grace that I knew had to still be there…somewhere hidden beneath the floorboards.  I became emotionally and spiritually stuck.

I ended up getting lost in what the sanctuary had been, and not what God might be doing to make it better.  I focused on the place and it kept me from remembering who I was in Christ – who was actually in me. And I started to believe that if I were more spiritually diligent and devoted, then I’d feel OK about the sanctuary.  I did and it didn’t help.  I felt the flood waters rising.  But God, as He always does, met me in my pain.  He whispered to me that I would never find sanctuary in anything apart from Him.  Big giant duh!

So I’m learning new and exciting things about grace and maneuvering through the hard.  Here is what I’m learning in this sanctuary in the midst of the flood:

  • God is less interested in sanctuaries than He is in BEING your sanctuary.
  • I am the most important sanctuary I need to be focusing on because He lives within me.
  • God is not absent in our suffering.
  • There is great spiritual growth and maturity that comes from hardship and trials (BGD!).
  • My ability to deal with the hard has more to do with my relationship with God, than it does with the hardship.
  • I need to focus on what my responsibility is to those who live within this sanctuary to help them heal and grow through the hard (thanks CP).
  • If I am going to blog about grace, I had darn well better be willing to give it and be a part of it, and experience it in community here in this ever-changing sanctuary.
  • I am much better at writing about the truths I love so much than I am at living them.

How’s that for honesty?  Yikes.  A precious friend of this sanctuary said to me recently… “God must love [your sanctuary] SO much that He would allow it to go through this refining”.  So I struggle to be brave in the midst of the hard.  It’s uncomfortable.  I don’t like it.  I don’t understand it….but that’s OK.  It’s not my job to understand.  Once again God is teaching me about trusting Him.  Dang I wish I’d get this trust thing right.

So the truth of the matter is that I really haven’t lost this sanctuary – Christ is in me.  He is my sanctuary, and maybe I was making this one somewhat of an idol.  I dunno.  There’s a lot I don’t know.  All I know is that I’m walking through the hard with the help of the One who sees all and knows all and is walking me through the pain step by step.  So I’m finding new possibilities in this sanctuary.  And maybe new sanctuaries.

Once again, the hard is cloaked in love and grace.