Jan 22, 2017

Don't be a hypocrite....

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Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Parenting is hard.

Like, super duper in your face, sweaty armpits hard.

It's not the physical part so much anymore with a tween and a teen. It's the mental. My brain feels like it will fall out of my head sometimes.

I remember older mother friends telling me the teen years would be just as hard if not harder. I would look at them across the table with my baby food splattered shirt, greasy half up and half down ponytail, and force a smile. Secretly rolling my eyes.

But, you know what?

They were right. Oh, so right.

By far,  the hardest part of parenting for me is not being a hypocrite. 

Yep. I said it. Out loud.

When your kids become a certain age, they begin to take notice of your actions. Not just your words.


They begin to wonder if mom and dad really mean all the things they say and teach.

Actions speak louder than words to teens.

It's tried and true.

When my kids were smaller, I would feel really great about my mothering if I taught my kids a verse to memorize or sang Jesus songs with them. I would pat myself on the back and think, "I am doing so well!"

But, as they got older I begin to notice those things were good, but so much more was needed.

Like, do I really live out that verse we just memorized? Or was it just for "show".

Recently, one of my kids caught me in the act of something in particular.  It was something that I was constantly telling them not to do.

This particular child called me to the carpet. Right then. Right there.

I was so mad.

And humiliated.

And humbled. [in the not-so good way]

Head hung low, I apologized and told them that the behavior was wrong.

Then this child said, "Mom, isn't it called a "hypocrite" to do something that you teach us not to do?"

This is when I wanted to slap this precious child across their rosy little cheeks.  [I didn't though]

Collecting every big of grace I could muster up, I replied..."Yes, child. It is. Thanks for pointing that out." [sarcasm intended]

"For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." Luke 6:45

How many times have I said this verse to my children, preaching it, teaching it....yet, so often not living it out.

Children need an example, not another lecture.

Lectures come easy. They roll off our tongues with parental knowledge and authority.

Leading by example is not so easy. It takes discipline. And intention. And lots and lots of humility.

I wish I could say that my children have had the best example lived out before them, but this has not always been the case.

Daily I struggle with my mouth, my actions, my heart.

My intentions are good. But my actions have sometimes been not so good.

I choose not to beat myself up for the mistakes, because I know that God is a God of pure Grace. He knows I will fail at times, yet He always picks me right back up.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

We will mess up.

But, what will we do after the mess up?

Will we give up on this parenting thing and leave our kids to look to the world for an example?

Or will we dig deep in the soil of His Grace.  Falling on our face daily asking God for wisdom and strength to raise these precious treasures He has put in our care.

The thing about kids is that they are full of grace too. They don't dangle it over our heads when we mess up. They forgive easily. They move on easily. And so should we.

But, we should take this endeavor seriously.

Except for our relationship with Jesus Christ and our husbands, our children are the next priority.

If you are wondering where you fit into doing Kingdom Work, and you are a mother, look no further.

One of my very favorite quotes comes from Mother Teresa: "What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family."

If God has called you to motherhood, there is no greater work for God's kingdom that we can do. Although the world will sure try to tell you otherwise.

These little ones are not under our care forever. Our time with them is short. Just ask anyone who has an empty nest.

We must lead by example. Even when it is the hardest thing on Earth to do at times.

Some days it takes every ounce of discipline and straight up taping my mouth shut in order to not be a hypocrite.

But, God honors our efforts. He will help us if we ask Him for help. [even when we ask Him all day!]

Do we want our children to be good husbands and wives to their spouses?

Then, let's model that to them.

Do we want our children to love the Lord and know His Word?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to love their enemies?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to respect authority?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to have a good attitude and good sportsmanship?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to know their identity and worth in Christ instead of seeking the world for affirmation?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to not covet material things?

Then, let's model that for them.

Do we want our children to show kindness, even to those who are unkind?

Then, let's model that for them.

Our children will more than likely do, what they see being done.

Our habits and actions will resonate into our children's hearts and eventually into their habits and actions.

We won't always get it right.

But, gosh. We sure can try.

desperately working on not being a hypocrite,


Jan 9, 2017

Blessed Assurance...

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Dear SHINE friends,

I haven't wanted to post anything unless I had good news to share about Robert. Every time my phone rings, chimes, or buzzes, my heart stops.


I have not heard anything about where Robert may be. I did get some very kind emails about people willing to help, but as of today, no one has seen him.

Of course, my heart is deeply saddened by the fact that the weather in Memphis is absolutely freezing. My weather app now has a "Memphis" setting added and I have to make myself not check the weather every 8 minutes.

It's so blistering cold.

In Georgia, here where I live, the temperature got really cold over the weekend. I decided to bundle up and go for a walk. Hat on my head, scarf on my neck, and two layers of jackets, I was still very cold.

My hands were almost numb. Gloves. I had forgotten gloves.

Robert had not been wearing gloves either.

I looked down at my hands as I was walking, not wanting them to feel the warmth of my pockets.

I wanted to feel the cold icy temperature run through my veins. I wanted to never forget what it was like to feel.

My hands needed the reminder of pain.

Pretty soon, my hands did become numb.

I asked the Lord right then and there, "Father, please let me to never be numb again. Never let me forget the poor. The suffering. The lonely. The destitute. The homeless...."

Tears stung my face as they ran down my frozen cheeks.

I prayed for Robert desperately. Like a mad woman on that walk. Not caring who heard, who saw.

I needed God to tell me that Robert was okay. That our chance meeting was not chance. That Robert was safe. And warm. And loved.

And that he remembered...he had a family now. Looking for him.

As I was spilling my heart out on that sidewalk, a big fat red bird landed on the tree right next to me. The branch bounced up and down from the size of that bird landing not so daintily on that slim branch.

I gasped.

The red bird sat there. Calm. Serene. Peaceful.

The bird was facing me, chest poked out. Looking right through me, it seemed.

I stood there for about a minute gazing at this bird.

Peace suddenly washed over me.

A warm flood of assurance ran through my ice cold body.

I knew.....

Jesus was letting me know that Robert was okay.

What better Hands could Robert be in?

Robert would be okay. Whether I ever saw him again or not.

Blessed assurance.

Those words were on repeat on my lips as I walked back home from my freezing walk and red bird encounter.

December 29th, 2016, our friend Robert committed his life to Jesus Christ.

It was real.

Surreal, really.

Before we left the shelter that night, one more thing was needed. We had prayed for him to receive Christ. But, we had to be sure that Robert was really in our family.

I grabbed Robert by his frail arm and said, "Before we go, there is one more thing. If you believe in your heart that Jesus is the son of God and died for your sins, would you confess with your mouth? Right here. In front of the cloud of witnesses surrounding you."

I could hardly finish my sentence when Robert chimed in excitedly....


And he did confess. Every last word.

....if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9

The same rush of peace I felt when I heart those words come from Robert's mouth, was the same peace that rushed through me looking at that red bird.

Blessed Assurance.

Sitting in church this past Sunday felt different. Something just seemed sweeter.

Maybe it was because my heart had been so moved by Robert...and the depth of Jesus' love for him.

To know without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus never, ever stops looking for us. Jesus was pursuing Robert....and would continue to all of his days.

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. Psalm 139:7-8

I needed to know that, to remember that. To sear the memory to my heart like a hot branding iron.

The band at church began singing, "Blessed Assurance".

I broke down. You know the kind of breaking down when your hubby nudges you worriedly [and probably a little embarrassed] and says, "Uh, are you ok?"

Blessed assurance. Yes. That's what it is.

Surely, it was not by chance that song was playing. Surely, God was reminding me of His love for Robert. Of His love for me. Of His love for you.

At 3:00 pm that same Sunday, I attended our local YogaFaith class. As we were warming up, stretching, and doing our deep breathing...

I hear the familiar tune, again.

"Blessed Assurance."

It was streaming through the phone of my YogaFaith teacher [and friend], Melissa.

Oh, y'all.

Jesus is everywhere,

He is with the poor.

The destitute.

The sick.

The healthy.

The rich.

The well-off.

The broken.

The lonely.

The forgotten.

Jesus is no respecter of persons.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism"
Acts 10:34

He loves us all.

He pursues us all.

Robert has a new story. Robert has a new song.

And so do we.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. 

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blessed,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

looking for more red birds,


Jan 3, 2017

Dear Robert.....

Dear Robert,

You have not left my thoughts since the night we met at the Wendy's drive thru in Memphis, TN.

If it were not for my nephew being hungry at 10:30 pm, we would never have crossed paths.

I guess it really is true when God tells us that "Our times are in His Hands", huh?

When we first saw you, we were a little frightened. I think we may have even locked the van doors. I am so sorry about that. We have so much to learn, don't we?

Before writing this letter to you, I prayed and asked God to lead me to some scripture. The scripture He led me to will make you giggle. It's found in Luke 18:18-25.

Jesus meets a rich young ruler. The ruler asks God, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" The ruler goes on to tell Jesus that he has led a good life-heeding the commandments found in the Old Testament law.

Jesus answers, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will  have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

The ruler became sad. This was not an easy command. He had so much. Why was it necessary to give it all away?

Jesus looked at him and said, "Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

Robert, when we saw you approaching our car, how could we know that you had nothing to your name. Only the clothes on your thin and weary back.

It was so cold outside. So blistering cold.

My Dad offered to buy you some food. You smiled so graciously and said, "thank you, sir."

As God would have it, we had to sit and wait 6 minutes for your food to be prepared in that drive thru. You stood at a distance not wanting to bother us.

We felt awkward. We were okay buying your food, but not speaking to you. I am ashamed.

My mother saw how cold you were. Trembling in your thin coat.

She quickly grabbed her jacket and offered it to you.

Selfishly, I was grateful that the new jacket I had received for Christmas would be too small for you. I was a little relieved.  "Jill, you still lack one thing...."  Conviction filled my heart and I was ashamed and surprised by my selfishness.

As Mom handed you the jacket, we began talking to you. Like humans do. Human to human. Not middle class to poor.

When we strip off our clothes, get pulled from our heated vehicles and cozy surroundings...aren't we just the same as you? Humans have the same insides. A heart. Lungs. Eyes. Ears. Skin. A spirit.

We are no different. You are me, and I am you.

A conversation took place. You and the 9 of us. Asking you questions. Wondering how you got to where you were...at Wendy's begging for money and food at 10:47 pm.

We asked you if you knew Jesus.

You said that you wanted to know this Jesus that we spoke of.

You asked us to pray over you.

One by one.

After each person finished praying, you asked the next person to pray. And again. And again.

How many times have I been so desperate for prayer that I would ask so vulnerably for a person to pray? Like my life depended on each prayer. Not enough times.

Robert, I am learning from you. Still.

When you asked us to drive you to the bridge to stay the night, we hesitated. I looked at my Dad to see what his answer would be. Would we let this stranger get in our car with our kids and our lives?

My Dad did not miss a beat. He told you to take his seat up front and we would gladly drive you.

Fear not, Jill. I am with you. Do not be dismayed.

You then asked us if we would mind driving you to a local shelter.

We were glad to.

It was a long drive. Longer than we anticipated.

But, the drive helped us to get to know you.

Your parents died when you were 6. Your grandmother died soon after and you were put in a children's home. You said it was hard to talk about. You were sitting on the front porch with your grandmother 3 days before she died. Three men in white coats came and took you away.

I cannot quit thinking about your life there....in that children's home. Why didn't someone adopt you or foster you? How you must have prayed every single blessed day for a family to take you in. Your life could have been so.....different.

At 18, you were kicked out of the home. You have been homeless ever since. You told us you would be 51 in February. That is a lot of life on the streets.

Robert, I am so sorry. I am sorry that your life has been so sad. So lonely. So painful.

You have never had a family, you told us.

We told you that you were now our family. You belonged with us.

Perhaps I have never seen anyone smile so big in my entire life.

You looked at us and asked us if we were really your family now....

My eyes could not help but to spill over with tears...

You exposed my heart.

Your life, your story, your words.....shed light on my heart and the work it needs.

Robert, perhaps I need Jesus more than you ever did.

You may be lacking in money, food, and clothing...

But, so often I am lacking in so much more.

I take family for granted.

I take things for granted.

I am selfish, oh so selfish at times.

When we got to the shelter, the people were so gracious and let you stay the night despite it being past the hour of letting guests in. They were so kind. So helpful.

You asked us to pray with you again. In the small, dirty little lobby of that shelter...

We prayed.

One by one. Because that's the way you wanted it. All 9 of us.

You asked me to write all of our names down on a piece of paper so that you could remember your family.

My heart broke wide open right then. Pieces of it left right there on that shelter floor.

My hands shaking, I carefully wrote down our names...all 9 of them.

I am not sure you can read, because you had me read the names out loud to you and point out who we all were. You said the names slow.....like you were savoring each name and searing it to your memory.

That piece of paper was like the finest piece of gold to you. A treasure in your very hands. You had a family. It was written there on that small lined piece of paper.

You accepted Christ right there in that lobby on December 29th, close to midnight.

The angels are still rejoicing over you, Robert.

You have a big family now. Huge. Bigger than you can even imagine.

We called and checked on you the next day. 'Cause that's what families do.

 They had not seen you.

I called and checked again today....you have not returned.

My heart sank. All of our hearts sank.

Where are you , Robert?

We told you to stay there. Mind the rules, and you would be allowed stay as long as you wanted.

The streets must have been calling.

Oh, those streets.

I know what it's like to have something have a choke hold of you....

A hold so strong it just about strangles the living daylights out of you.

Staying where it's safe is not always easy, is it Robert?

I get it, Robert.

Perhaps, all of us do.

The pull of the cruel sin-stained world is strong.

Without family and friends, it is almost impossible to stay away from its lure.

When you decide to come home, Robert...

Just like the father of the prodigal son...

We will run out to meet you. Arms flailing, mouths screaming in joy.

You are wanted, Robert.

You are loved, Robert.

You are family, Robert.

your forever sister in Christ,


**Robert Holden was last seen at Union Mission Shelter on 383 Poplar Ave in Memphis, TN. If you see him, know him, or have any way of contacting him, please get in touch with me. His [new]family is concerned.

Jan 2, 2017

Take up your cross...

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I have this problem.

I tend to take things personally. I tend to only see my view. My hurt. My wound.

Jesus is tackling this problem head on with me.

I am reading a book right now by Ann Voskamp called the Broken Way.

She mentions drawing a small cross on her wrist to remind her of Jesus.

This resonated with me.

Over Christmas, I drew a cross on my wrist every single day.

I needed it to remind me to clothe myself in Christ. In humility. In forgiveness. In grace.

The holidays can put us in stressful situations. Difficult people. Stressful moments.

I knew this going in.

So, I needed a reminder to not be so sensitive. To not take things to heart that were never meant to take to heart.

Over Christmas break, I asked my daughter to draw the small cross on my wrist.

She went and grabbed a HUGE black box marker. [insert eye roll right here]

She drew the biggest cross you have ever seen. It looked like a tattoo. A gaudy one at that. Nothing discreet about this cross.

I giggled because it was very symbolic to where my heart really needed to be. A small cross just would not do. I needed a big fat in-my-face reminder of Jesus and His humility.

Every time I wanted to roll my eyes, or whisper something under my breath, or think not-so-good thoughts, I looked at that cross on my wrist.

It was a reminder of what Jesus did for me. He was beaten, and bloodied, and spat upon, and laughed at and mocked....

He knew pain.

He knew rejection.

He knew hurt.

He knew forgiveness.

He knew grace.

He knew love.

Why is it so hard to put on humility in the face of hurt?

The cross reminds me that it is possible.

In fact it is what will burn the flesh right off. When I show love and humility when I would rather harbor bitterness, or pride...

I am showing Jesus that I belong to Him. My heart is His and not this worlds.

I will not fall into Satan's trap...

I will swim in the blood of His Grace. Redemption. Forgiveness. Love.

Breaking the chains that bind my heart to the world...and setting it free to love without conditions or rules.

I want to love like Jesus. Even those that I do not feel loved by. Or even liked by.

The cross on my wrist screams: LOVE THEM ANYWAY. FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.

Tears filled my eyes when the gaudy cross finally faded from my wrist. Just shadows of black were left in the deep lines of my wrist.

Why does this have to be so hard? Why is loving so hard? Why is humbling myself so difficult?

Why do I have to draw a 6 inch cross on my wrist to remember to love??

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Jesus knew it would be hard.

We have to be intentional about this.

It will not just happen.

Our flesh will not let it.

But, if our spirits are willing, He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ever imagine with this pain.

Today, I choose to love. To forgive. To clothe myself in humility.

Tomorrow, I choose it again .

And again the next day.

What will you choose?

looking for my marker,


Jan 1, 2017

Three things you need to know....

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"My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity." Proverbs 3:1

There are three things I need you to know on this day. The first day of 2017.

These three things have changed the entire course of my life, and continue to mold my heart.

My prayer is that these three things will be a part of my every day life and that they will also be a part of yours.

The first thing is God's Word.

"His word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105

When I wake up each morning, I crave His Word like I crave my cream-heavy coffee. It hasn't always been this way. In fact, only for the past 5 years have I been waking up reading God's word. If you know my age, you know that is a lot of time that I was not reading it.

However, it doesn't matter when we start reading His Word, it matters that we start.

My mornings used to be filled with anxiety and heaviness on my chest. Fear would almost always consume my mind from the moment I opened my eyes. I thought it was just how I was wired. I thought anxiousness was just who I was.

Until I discovered the blanket of peace that covered my anxious heart through the reading of God's Word. I had no idea peace could exist in a heart riddled with fear.

January 1, 2012 my world changed forever. I began reading one chapter a day in God's Word. My heart will never be the same.

He speaks over and over and over again. His voice stills me. Like a mother quiets her babies cries, His Word quiets my soul.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

The second thing is prayer.

Prayer came about a year after I started reading God's Word. Yes, I prayed before that. However, my prayers were very few, and very self-motivated. When I wanted something, I prayed. When I was desperate I prayed.

Now, prayer is a way of life. Prayer is what fills my mind when my thoughts want to go back to fear, worry, and anxiousness. Prayer is now more about listening than speaking to my Father in Heaven.

My prayer journals are filled with praises, requests, longings....

It helps for me to flip back pages...days, months, years...and see the faithfulness of my Father. There are times when doubt suffocates me and can almost swallow me whole. I then pick up my prayer journal and instantly I am reminded of God's hand in the course of my life.

God is constantly telling us to "remember". He told the Israelites over and over, "Do not forget what I have done...remember."

Prayer helps us to remember. It surrenders our will, our hearts, our desires to His. It quiets a heart wreaking in pain, grief, anger, jealousy, loneliness....

Prayer brings us to His feet and gathers us close. Prayer makes it able for His hands to cup our face and wipe our weary tears.

Prayer brings His will into fruition in our lives.

"Thy will be done, on Earth as in Heaven" Matthew 6:10

"pray without ceasing" 1 Thessalonians 5:17

"Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." Corrie ten Boom

 "No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack." E.M. Bounds

"Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work." Oswald Chambers.

The third is surrounding ourselves with wise people.

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Proverbs 3:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 1 Corinthians 15:33

Perhaps this thing can be the hardest for us. We like to be liked. We like to surround ourselves with people to feel loved, wanted, invited. We like to fit in.

However, the people we choose to spend a lot of our time with will shape us. For the better or for the worse.

This has been a hard lesson for me.

I can pinpoint times in my life where the company I kept made an impact. Either for good, or for bad.

We must be very aware of the friends that we allow in our close circle. They will leave a mark on our character. We will also mark theirs.

Loneliness can be a part of this process.

I think about Jesus. He had 12 close friends. Just 12.

And one of those betrayed Him.

Jesus knew the importance of surrounding Himself with the people that would spur Him on....or hold Him back.

He felt lonely at times. Oh so lonely.

Remember the night in the garden before He was crucified?

His friends fell asleep. They were too tired to pray.

Jesus was alone. In the garden. Praying. By Himself.

There will be times when we feel alone. But, don't let that discourage you. It is part of the walk.

He will bring wise people in your life. Pray for them to come. Look for them.

And most of all, be a wise friend.

Pray for your friends. Encourage them. Speak life over them.

"The person you will be in five years is based on the books you read and the people you surround yourself with today."

These three things can change the course of our lives right now. Starting today.

A new year is on the horizon. Full of possibility.

Will we choose to stay the same in our faith? Or will we choose to surrender our hearts to God's plan for us. The plan that He chose for us before we were even conceived. When He knitted us together in our mother's wombs.

And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17

Will you read His Word with us? We have a cool plan. It's a 2 year plan. Easy and doable.

Click here for more details.

reading, praying, surrounding,


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