A Hamster in my Hand

We have a hamster who, to be truthful, I did not want. Despite my objections and resistance to its invasion of our home, over time the little guy turned from rodent to pet in my heart. And because, of course, the agreement that the kids would take care of this hamster (Stan) has long since evaporated, I make sure on a daily basis that the little guy doesn’t starve to death. The result has been that I have earned the exclusive right of having him crawl into my hand and cozy up for a little scratch, tucking his bitty nose underneath my thumb, and sometimes even taking a little snooze. Over time, he learned that my hand is a safe hand; he learned to recognize and trust me.

What strikes me every time little Stan is in my hand, is that he has no possible concept of who and what I am. Even if his eyesight weren’t naturally dreadful, he could not possibly take in my full scale just by shear proportion. It would be like standing on an outcrop during an ascension of Mount Kilimanjaro and trying to take in the whole mountain. Stan can’t see me, he can’t possibly understand me with his definitively small brain, but he trusts me. He knows my smell, he knows my touch, and he knows I will keep him safe, warm, fed, and comfortable through life’s hamster challenges.

But isn’t this just a reflection of us sitting in God’s hand?

Aren’t we in the exact same position in our ability to comprehend who and what God is?

hands holding the sun at dawn

Sing it with me: “He’s got the whole world in His hands…” This isn’t just a childhood song. It’s a fundamental truth. You are sitting in God’s hand, whether you recognize it or not. He is way too big for us to see. Way too complex for us to understand. Way too magnificent for us to behold with our five senses. But unlike the hamster, we use our decisively large brains to conclude, therefore, that he doesn’t exist.

And so we strive in our own effort.

And we falter without seeking His support.

And we toil through the days feeling an emptiness, and a burden for life’s outcome.

What if today, we decided to be more like Stan? What if we chose to believe there is a great Caregiver who loves us and will keep us safe, healthy, strong, comfortable, warm, peaceful, joyful, if only we allow Him? If only we believe? If only we take the time to understand Him outside our five senses; to learn to recognize His presence and how He wants to relate to us?

To acquire the discernment of what is God’s hand, and what is not, is life’s foremost goal. When we do, we develop clarity for separating out those things that do not keep us safe, healthy, strong, comfortable, warm, peaceful, joyful. With awareness of His presence, we learn to know His hand and trust that we are firmly in it. And that He will meet our needs for life’s challenges.

I invite you today, to allow your beautifully large and complex brain to expand beyond the boundaries of its five senses and open up a window of trust to the God you cannot fully see or understand. Remember, if Stan could control me, I would not be his caregiver. And if you could control God, by being able to fully document and describe Him, He would not be your Caregiver. Spend some time today, alone, tucking your nose under His thumb, and allowing Him to help you know and trust Him. He’s got you in His hand.

What Does Answered Prayer Look Like?

My daughter attends a charter school downtown that I drive her to and pick her up from every day. Yesterday, I did some grocery shopping, then headed straight to the school to pick her up even though I was going to be forty minutes early. Since I was so early, I shut the car off after getting into the carpool line and kicked on my Kindle. Forty minutes later, as kids starting pouring out of the school, I cranked the car and… nothing. Not even a flicker of power, other than the orange CHECK ENGINE light glaring at me… the “your car is so dead” light.

As I searched for the roadside assistance card, started making phone calls, and texted my husband who was just about to board a flight to Texas, the chaos of kids running down the sidewalk and cars careening around me died off. My daughter and I were suddenly surrounded by the eeriness of a quiet school ground… in downtown… with boarded up houses across the street. It was going to take an hour and 15 minutes for the tow truck to arrive.

Empty School

“Dear Jesus, please keep up safe…” the prayers went up.

Within 5 minutes a police officer pulled up in the carpool line right behind me, followed by a second and a third patrol car. Within ten minutes, four officers had apprehended and handcuffed a man, put him in the third patrol car and drove him away. The first and second patrol cars however, remained onsite, right behind me, in the carpool line… for the next hour. The first patrol car pulled away from the line directly behind the tow truck as it pulled into the line – quite literally, he followed the tow truck through the line and passed him by as the truck pulled over to help me.

This is amazing grace.

But let’s be real about this. This is clearly amazing grace by the way I told the story. How many of us, when we see a police officer roll up behind us, say to ourselves, “Praise God. Help is here!” Possibly my first reaction to the scene was not to see God’s grace at all? But to say, “Oh crap,”? To start plotting what I would say to the officer when s/he knocked on my window? To start explaining why I was loitering on a school ground? I actually almost completely missed the grace. Once I had the relief that the officer was not there for me, I put the whole thing behind me. But then it struck me; this WAS God’s answer to my prayer.

Are there places in your life where you have missed God’s answer to your prayer?

One more example. Over the last week, I have discovered that my son has been stealing candy, hiding containers with rotten food in them under a pile of clothes stuffed in a cardboard box in his closet, taking money from another child at school, and got kicked off the school bus for persistent disrespectful behavior. Yes, all in a week. Is anyone’s blood pressure rising? Mine did. My frustration level hit an all-time high last night. But in the quiet of the evening, as I reflected in prayer, Jesus whopped me upside the head. “Uh, hello. Weren’t you just praying that all evil in your son’s life be exposed? What did you expect?”

What did I expect? A singing telegram melodically listing my son’s errant ways for my listening pleasure?

I invite you today to take stock of your prayers and the recent events of your life. See if you can map them together; see if you can identify something that felt like a problem, annoyance, frustration, as actually an answer to a prayer. I’m learning more and more how to let go of my vision of what answered prayer looks like and see the ways that Jesus is actually answering them. I hope you will find yourself shocked, as I was, that the answer is right in front of you.

(p.s. – Remember I said I went grocery shopping at the beginning of this post? Was anyone curious if my milk, eggs, cheese and meat spoiled? On a “whim”, on my way out to go shopping, I grabbed a cooler and put some ice packs in it. I’ve never done that before. My stuff was fine. Grace comes even when we don’t ask for it.)

The Right Serving

Over the years, I’ve been on a roller coaster of spending my time in service to others and pulling back to allow myself rest and focus on the family. Up and down, back and forth, in and out of life. But no matter which hill or valley of the roller coaster I’m on at any given point in time, I find that the benefits are fairly short lived. I might feel satisfied with accomplishment for a while after spending my time in service to others and I might feel restful and relieved when I choose to focus on myself for a while. But both are fleeting. Sadly, when I’m serving myself, that sense of obligation creeps back in, pecking at my conscience, but when I’m serving others, it eventually turns to exhaustion from overwhelming myself and kills the joy of what I’m doing. So what’s the deal? Why can’t I find the happy medium?

To be truthful, it doesn’t exist. Not when I’m trying to find this balance out of my own sense of should and shouldn’t do, derived from our cultural norms. Here’s the big shocker – the right amount of serving comes only from God’s plan over your life. So what does that mean exactly?

God has been giving me a growing level of discernment about myself – I’ve started to become aware when I’m doing something that’s motivated by a sense of obligation vs. motivated by God’s request for me to act. Although truthfully, the first does provide a sense of satisfaction in knowing that I’ve helped someone through a life challenge, the reality is, that satisfaction is only a shadow of the experience of walking out something I know God has asked me to do. In the first, I get this filled up feeling, slightly euphoric, a little puffy-chested, that allows me to breathe more deeply in the aftermath.

For the second, I get the experience of being in God’s presence.

This would be a joy that flows through me like an abundant river, with an intensity that brings me to my knees. A shower of blessing drenches me, not for what I have done for someone else, but because I am overcome with the awareness that God saw me, chose me, asked me. My thankfulness comes not from what I accomplished, or even what He asked me to do, but because He turned His gaze to me. I can’t help but to ask Him to bring me more of those opportunities, ask more of me, just to experience more moments of awareness that His eyes are on me.

But He is a good God. And He will not ask too much of me. So when He is not asking, I do not bear the burden of obligation. This is my time to delight in rest.

As it is with everything in life, our first action should always be to seek God. Imagine a world if everyone did this – if everyone sought Him for their daily activities – there would be nothing that was left undone and nobody would be overburdened. What an amazing place this would be!

Leaving my Home

We’re selling our home. In our next (major) step on this adventure faith walk, we are embracing the one income challenge and downsizing. Not just downsizing, but renting even. 100% debt free. Woohoo!

That may sound all fab and fancy and all that, but in reality, it’s been a bear… excusing myself from using the other b word that would have more adequately described my disposition…

This process of letting go of my home has been something akin to wrenching and twisting and scraping the skin off my arms and face and body, if I had to describe the emotional by the physical.

Porch roller skates

What has been so hard about it?

I put everything into that home. My heart and soul when I painted my son’s room in earthy browns and greens and blues to reflect his homeland of Ethiopia, and my daughter’s room in vibrant swirls of primary red, blue, and teal to splash her artist’s heart on the wall, and my other daughter’s room in lime and periwinkle with a bold strip of black cutting them through the center to show both her soft and daring sides. I put my time and energy into that home, preparing it for the teen years with the goal of our house being the hang-out place, by investing in a pool table, an air hockey table, and an entertainment area in the basement all leading out to a swimming pool out back. I put my love of labor and quality into that home by hand-staining the deck and fashioning hand-made curtains and planting an indescribable number of shrubs and flowering plants of all variations of color and size so that something beautiful was blooming all year round.

2015-04-13 15.00.45 2015-04-16 11.58.212015-04-13 15.00.59 2015-04-16 11.58.29

*De-personalizing my daughter’s room for sale was very difficult

But what did I really put into that home that has made it so hard to leave?


I put my faith in that home; faith that if I made a good home, my kids would be ok. Faith that if I made a stable home by hunkering down and staying for the long haul, my kids would be ok. Faith that if the home was good, the kids were good.

The good news is, I made a good home. I made a stable home. It’s just not tied up in the house we live in.

I’m reminded of the time a very good friend of mine told me that Christianity is a crutch. What I’ve discovered is that in reality, my house is a crutch. And Christ has been wrenching and twisting and scraping it out from under my arm for a year and a half now. He has gently but persistently showed me that He is my home, my stability, my rock. Since He goes everywhere I go, that means I’m always home. And since I go everywhere He leads, that means leaving my house behind.

And that means my kids are going to be fine, good even. Because home is where we are, where He is, wherever that is.

And behind all the rubble and tears and the wake of what felt like a disaster in leaving my house, I see the Lord working in His most amazing and mysterious ways. I feel the pinpoint of light of renewal coming upon me – I feel the first beats of my drifter-vagabond’s heart starting to awaken again. He knows who I am. And I can’t wait to see where He takes us and in what house we will settle our home.

2nd Grader’s Letter to his Teacher

Too awesome not to share-

I grabbed a partially used notebook from our scrap paper drawer this morning. Flipping through the pages looking for the clean sheets, I came across this letter my son wrote to his teacher in second grade. Apparently, she never had the privilege of receiving it from him. I’ve transposed it in his “kid” language underneath if you can’t make out the writing, but definitely try to read his version first. Hilarious-

Letter to Teacher 1 Letter to Teacher 2


Dear Mrs. Mackee

I think you should not let us go to go to school.

I think that Because it is a hole waste of time.

I think that Because we could Be out side play all day.

I think that Because we are all stuck in a hot room all day.

I think that Because we should Be geting a lot of fresh air.

I think that Because we are leaning stuf that is so easy.

I now you are going to say no But I think that we should have school 1 a week.

I now you are going to say no but we have lean a lot the last few years so we should get 1 yeare off.

I think that Because we should be play sports.

First of all math is boring second writing is a hole waste of time third reading we can do that at home.

So that is why we should have no school.



A Simple Thought with Profound Impact

Just a simple thought for today – which when put into action, creates a profound impact:

How much better would every marriage be if everyone’s goal was to add value to their spouse?

Man and woman

I recently became involved with the John Maxwell Team. John is an internationally recognized leadership expert, having spoken to governments of nations, leaders of corporations, and trained millions of people. His basic philosophy is that everything rises and falls on leadership.

Leadership is the outcome of providing value to other people.

The concept of leadership is almost exclusively aligned with the professional world in our minds – we focus on how we can excel in our careers. Over my protein shake this morning (wishing it were a dark roasted coffee with Southern Butter Pecan creamer…), it struck me that the bible calls us to be leaders in our homes too. Husbands are called to lead their wives. Parents are called to lead their children.

Ladies – how would your lives be impacted if your husband’s goal was to add value to your life? And how would your husband respond if your goal was to add value to his?

How would our children be impacted if adding value to their lives was our focus of parenting?

The impacts would be profound.

Adding value does not have to be a massive undertaking. Make your spouse’s lunch today. Put a note on the dashboard of their car. Make their coffee. Set the table. Schedule a massage. Put a heart sticker in your child’s lunchbox. Tape a note to their bedroom door. Carry their backpack upstairs. Find them an umbrella on a rainy day. Take them outside in the snow. Enjoy the freedom of giving of yourself for the betterment of another!

Now, I’m off to find some note cards…

A Prayer for my Hair

What is it about my perpetual dissatisfaction with the color of my hair? I mean, the Lord made it a lovely mousy-brown for a reason. The salon-fresh highlights couldn’t possibly add more to its beauty than He already provided… at least not for the 4 weeks while they actually still look fresh… I mean, I’ve had nothing better to do with 3 hours than soaking my scalp in a pool of chemicals anyway.

True confessions of habitual hair hang-up:

I have high maintenance hair.

And sadly, it doesn’t even look that great. No matter what the Hollywood fad is, I do not like skunky roots. Period.

So, once again, I washed that blond right out of my hair. Of course, I had to go way darker than mousy-brown and give it a luxurious, rich red-brown sheen so that over the next two weeks, as the shampoo strips out this month’s supply of chemicals, it might actually look something close to mousy-brown by January.

So, here’s my prayer. Lord, give me the conviction to resist the salon and bottled blond at the store. Open my eyes to the beauty of mousy-brown and help me walk proudly with it through this world of artificially beautiful hair. You’ve accomplished a similar, seemingly impossible, feat with me when you opened my eyes to the beauty of not-exactly-curly (i.e., frizzy) hair and helped me set aside the straightening iron. I know you are all powerful, and all capable. I know this is not too much for you. Thank you Lord.

And don’t even get me started on the grays…

There is only one Judge: Jumping into the Brittany Maynard Conversation

I’ve not spent much energy engaging in the Brittany Maynard conversations, recognizing the cesspool of strife that would be stirred up by opposing positions on her decision. I didn’t find much value in slinging arrows in the crossfire. However, in the last 12 hours, I have been nudged twice to respond to the situation and I find I have a statement to share afterall.

Here is a link for the background on the story: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/terminally-ill-death-with-dignity-advocate-dies/ar-BBcEQgq?ocid=ansnewsap11

Honestly, I’m dumbfounded more by my fellow Christians on this topic than the agnostics or atheists. OK, to be honest, when I first read her story, my snap reaction was to judge her against the topic of suicide and murder in the bible, and write it off. But, it couldn’t stop there. God wanted me to think deeper about this. And here’s the revelation that came to me:

I’m not sure why any of us believes we have a right to condone or condemn her decision. Either position we take assumes the role of Judge, for which none of us has a right to occupy.

For those who do not believe in God, the question is simple, “By what authority do you have a right to judge her (for or against)?” From there, the conversation is not about Brittany or Dying with Dignity but becomes a spirituality and faith discussion.

For the Christians, the answer is clear. You have no authority to judge her. I challenge you to step past my initial snap reaction, to step out of God’s chair as Judge, and recognize that only He can decide whether what she did was righteous or not in His eyes. If she sought His direction and received His blessing, she made the right decision. If she did not, and acted upon her own desires, she made the wrong decision. Only she and He truly know which one it is.

I have observed people using all kinds of stories to support their position: my grandma died that way, the 9-11 jumpers, those who chose to live it out, etc. Using these stories is merely a means to justify your judgment and is not what we are called to do. We are called to share the word and pray that others will receive it.

Here are the things we know from the bible.

The taking of a life is a sin. Suicide is the taking of a life, your own.

We know the story of Job and intense physical pain (endured)

We know the story of Judas and intense emotional pain (suicide)

These stories, and many more, are God’s word. If you want to use a story to glean understanding, then use these (unless you happen to know God’s wisdom from the 9-11 attacks… which presumably none of us do). Their teaching is very clear, avoiding suffering is NOT our primary goal when faced with extreme challenges. However, that does not give us the right to use these stories to judge whether Brittany acted from a place of serving herself or God. They are a means to direct your own life and to teach others.

The answer in every situation is always the same, seek God first then follow His will for your life. Unless somebody knows with certainty whether Brittany did or did not do this through her journey, we cannot claim whether her act was righteous or not. So stop looking for the story that supports the definitive answer; stop taking either position to condone or condemn her. Just pray that from this, the world will turn to the true Judge and relinquish their perceived right to act in His place.

God Does Answer Prayer

I’ve been praying recently asking God to repair the damage that was done to my adopted son’s brain during the first year of his life due to the lack of a nurturing adult to care for his needs. Scientific studies have shown repeatedly that maladapted brain patterns develop in the absence of receiving comfort and human contact during that first year. All the efforts I have put into trying to rewire his brain have been largely useless, bringing me once again to the place that God so often does, to rely solely on Him.

Today, I opened a book I bought a week ago, Dannah Gresh’s “Six Ways to Keep the ‘Good’ in Your Boy”. Here is a quote from that book: “Research has shown that there are two periods in one’s life during which there is explosive proliferation of connection between brain cells – during the last few weeks before birth and just before puberty (8-12yrs old)”. My son is 9. He is in the prime age range to have his brain patterns altered before they are set for life. It then goes on to explain exactly how to accomplish that.

God does answer prayer. He is not going to miraculously heal my son but he did equip me to take advantage of a critical opportunity in my son’s life to repair the damage that was caused early on. He is faithful. He is good.

(ps – I highly recommend this book to any mother of a boy – phenomenal)