All posts by Brenda

I'm an outdoor lovin' girl from the Black Hills of SD and I love spending time with my family on the trails or snuggled in our home. We love hosting college students in our home and often the decor reflects the upcoming holidays. I'm particularly fond of decorating for Christmas, plus I love snow, coffee, all things winter, and most especially, Frozen! (Do you wanna build a snowman?) Since 1999, I have worked in full-time ministry with Campus Ventures, a discipleship based college ministry. I love what I do a lot! I get to hang out with college students and college staff nearly all the time, and have the privilege of speaking into their lives, helping guide the major (and not so major) decisions of their lives.

10 years and counting

Today is our 10th Anniversary! Advice to anyone just getting married: it goes QUICK! When we first got married we had all kinds of plans for how we’d celebrate our 5th and then our 10th. But without intentional planning, the years come fast as life is full, and here we are with no plans aside from spending the day together.

Yesterday I showed our 5 year old our wedding album and read to her our “how we started dating” story. It was fun to reminiscence and hear the questions only a 5 year old could ask. (I also played our wedding music and she asked all kinds of questions about the lyrics, that honestly, I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to. Yikes!)

As I read her our story, I realized there are several more people who have come into our lives over the past 10 years who probably haven’t heard it, and it’s a story worth telling! So, in honor of our 10 year Anniversary, here’s the shortened version of how God brought us together.


Over the years, God has often stretched my faith by putting various things on my heart to pray for. In August 2008, at age 31, He put on my heart to begin praying for a husband.  I was incredibly reluctant at first, but since one can’t argue with God and win, I began to pray that God would prepare my heart to receive a husband. Somewhere in my praying I also got the impression that he was coming in a couple years. I wasn’t sure if I heard that right, so I held that with a very open hand. Thus began a new faith journey of praying for a husband.

August 2008 was also when Micah moved up to Spearfish, SD to finish his 4 year degree  at BHSU. I got to know him a little through our campus ministry, Campus Ventures. In May 2010, the CV students and I started a summer Bible study called Experiencing God and Micah joined. I got to know him more through the study, but all the while, I was only proud “of this student” who was growing so much in hearing God’s voice.


 In the Summer of 2010, I joined the study, “Experiencing God,” and learned how to hear God’s voice. After learning how God speaks to me, I remembered in April when God told me to consider Brenda. I threw it out at the time as just a conscious thought, afterall, she’s not blonde. When I realized it was God speaking to me, I began to consider Brenda in the months of June and July. During that time, there were four things I observed about her that made me biased towards her:

  1. She is smart academically. 
  2. She truly loves college students and will cry over them if she needs to.
  3.  Brenda is a faithful laborer of Christ.  She follows God every day.  She is very valuable and precious to God.  She has a deep calling for college ministry.
  4. The biggest thing that stuck out the most, and I pondered the most, was Brenda’s fear of the Lord.   Brenda trusts God with every situation in her life, especially the hard ones.  Fearing the Lord is a part of who she is. It’s woven into her personality.

However, I have this thing for blondes.  I decided to mentally line up all the prettiest blondes in the world I could think of and then compare Brenda to them. I picked Brenda every time, hands down.  The way Brenda fears the Lord captures my heart over all the blondes.  Wow, that is an epic one liner.  I needed to save that one for a special occasion.

Yet, I am still not sure if God will let me have her.  He did just say consider her for a wife, not “go chase her; she is yours.”  (And if I could eventually chase her, how would I do it?)


On August 11, 2010 after Bible Study ended and everyone headed back home, I sat down to have my quiet time before bed.  I heard ever so quietly, but distinctly, “Micah Lewis is your future husband.” The next morning I woke up with the biggest crush I have experienced in years! That following weekend, several of us were going backpacking in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. I decided to flirt a little with Micah to let him know I see him. He didn’t seem to notice.


Oh! I noticed! I picked up on it right away.  I was watching Brenda all summer to see what would happen in regards to being able to chase her. “Alright God, I see it now.  I am totally going to hook up with Brenda.”  Any girl who flirts like that is just asking to be chased and caught.  I just don’t know when.

After the camping trip, for the next 3 mornings during my Quiet Times, God told me “you have got to tell Brenda the truth” of why you are biased towards her. All of it.


After the weekend, I was talking to God about three issues that weighed heavy on my heart. I asked God “what does Micah mean when he says he is biased towards me?” Another desire was for Micah to ‘see’ me. If he is “the One,” I want him to ‘see’ me, to see something in me that I don’t see. The third issue, was my disappointment that I didn’t have blonde hair (but I really do like my red hair). If anyone knew Micah, they knew he preferred blonds.

On our last Bible Study meeting for Experiencing God, Micah stayed afterward because he felt God asked him to tell me some things. I was shaking with excitement and ready to burst as he pulled out a piece of paper to read from. It was all I could do to stay calm. Micah began to list off reasons why he was biased towards me!  As I processed in my journal later that night the things Micah said, I realized that he “sees” me. He sees in me “a fear of the Lord that draws him in.” I don’t even see that in myself. And then he told me that my fear of the Lord is more valuable than hair color! Oh! My emotions were sky high after that conversation. I couldn’t believe it; he does like me after all! I couldn’t sleep that night!!  As I prayed, I could sense God sharing in my joy. I heard Him speak several things that night.

“Remember it is my love being poured through Micah. What he sees, I see.”

 “I love you both. And I have a mission for you both. Something only the two of you together can do that you couldn’t alone.”

“Wait, Daughter. It won’t be too long.”


When I started to consider Brenda in June, I felt like she was way out of my league, but now I see she is reachable. Nevertheless, Brenda isn’t just any girl.  She is at the top of the ladder.  She is smart.  Cheesy one liners will never work on her.  She is a valuable laborer. Her fear of Lord makes me want to climb right up the ladder and capture her heart. It would be like an epic challenge with many rewards.  As I pondered this, I asked God, “if I could pursue Brenda how would I do that?”  God told me “love Brenda like I love my people.”  I instantly got a peace over me that signaled go chase her and pursue her like God loves his people.

On Monday, August 23rd, we shared our stories and I was completely blown away that I was answering Brenda’s prayers.  All I knew was that I was doing what God told me to do.  Well, since obviously God wants us together, I think we should start dating.

Praise God, she was definitely worth the wait!


A Biblical Approach to Anxiety

Do you want to know a secret? You know which tool is the best one to battle anxiety? The one you use! There are a lot of excellent resources on dealing with anxiety. Not any one is the answer to take it away, as only Jesus himself is the answer. What I want to share with you are some tried and true tools I use and teach to battle anxiety. It’s important to remember that it is a battle, and rarely a “one and done” deal. As you keep using the tools, learning to master them, you’ll continue to find more and more freedom from the onslaught of anxiety.

Anxiety has been part of my story since even before I was born. Most of my family members have struggled with anxiety and depression. It’s in our family with a tight grip, but through using the tools God has given us in Scripture, I’ve been able to find more and more freedom, where it doesn’t define my story. I still struggle, even last summer of 2019 I was battling suicidal thoughts. But when I choose to walk with God, I experience freedom.

The following Scriptures provide a solid baseline about dealing with anxious thoughts. I’ll share with you a tool to help make them practical.

Actions (Commands from Scripture):

Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corin 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Results (Promises from Scripture):

Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isa 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

You may be asking, “how do I get there, to the “peace” promised in Scripture?” I’m glad you asked! It starts with changing the “what if’s” swirling in our thoughts.

As kids, did you ever make mud pies and mud mountains? Imagine when you build a large pile of mud into the biggest mountain you could muster and then poured water over the top and watched it run down. If you keep pouring water on it, it keeps going down those initial pathways, creating deeper and deeper ruts. If you want the water to go in a different direction, it’s not enough to just build a little dam in your dirt to stop it. The water will still go down that same rut and break through the dam you made.  Our “what if” thinking is like water going down a mountain of dirt. The more we think a certain way, the deeper the rut becomes. It’s not enough to just stop the thinking by building a dam. Our thoughts will build up behind it and eventually break through. We also need to redirect our thoughts. Just as we need to create a new path for the water to go down, we need a new path for our thoughts to go.  This is one way to take thoughts captive, make them obedient, and renew them. A tool that helps us do that is changing the “what if’s” to “even if, then God.”

“What if…”

“Even if ______________________, then God _______________________________ .”

To trust God on this level, with the “even ifs” requires us to first know Him.

As we begin to know God, we then love Him, then begin to trust Him, then obey Him (e.g. take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ) and that leads us to know Him more, love Him more, trust Him more, obey Him more, etc…

Who is God? He is Creator, Provider, With me, Steadfast, Faithful, my Rock and Security to name just a handful of characteristics.

Here are a few of the “what if’s” I’ve heard from college students in the past couple weeks.

What if I fail these two classes? Instead, even if I fail 2 of my classes, then God still has a plan for my education. Nothing I can do in success or failure can thwart his plans. He will work something else out and I can keep looking to Him instead of looking at my failures or trying to figure it out on my own. God is good, and can only be good.

What if I can’t see my family over break because of COVID? Even if I can’t see my family, then God will carry me and my family through the heartache of being separated. He is the One who comforts because He is close to the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. I will look to Him to provide another time for us to be together, even if it can’t be over break.

What if I don’t have enough energy to get everything done. Even if I don’t have the energy to get all the things done, then God will provide what I need. Maybe it’s the energy, maybe it’s extra time, maybe it’s perspective that they don’t need to be done anyway. God knows all things and He knows what I need and He will provide it, because He is my provider.

Even if my family member won’t listen to reason, then God can get a hold of her heart and create repentance because God is the Creator, and can create something out of nothing, then I can trust Him to create a repentant heart where there is none.

Even if Republicans, even if Democrats, take control of the Senate, and they pass laws I disagree with, then God will still take care of me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. My security is in Him, not in a political party.

When we think about the “what if’s” we are thinking about things that are not currently true. They are things that “could be” true, but the Bible is clear: Phil 4:8 Think about whatever is true. What would the opposite of true be? False. Or Fantasy.

 I used to frequently have bad dreams, and shortly after Aurora was born the dreams were usually about some kind of harm coming to her. I had a choice in that moment, to entertain that thought, which I had done and then it will lay me flat in my emotions and ruin my morning, even my day. Or I could declare it not true, declare the truth that right now, in that moment she was currently safe in her crib, and always safe in God’s hands and reject the thought. I’ve done enough “capturing these thoughts” that these bad dreams have more or less ceased, and if they do come, I am super quick to capture the untrue thought and choose to believe truth.

One other false or fantasy thought that causes anxiety: speculation. It’s a big trigger! When I speculate what I think a person is thinking of me, or even speculate a general “them” or “they”, I am not walking in truth or thinking truthful thoughts. Speculation gets us in trouble quick and it’s false. I do not know what a person is thinking unless they have told me.

There’s even a “noble” speculation when we worry about someone else’s situation. I’ll worry about my mom, or my friends’ heartaches, and unless I talk to them, I don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on, or what God may already be up to in their lives. Typically, when I can talk to them and find out how they are really doing, the anxiety lessens because I am focusing on what is true and rejecting the speculation. Take captive the thoughts that are untrue, even if they “could be” true, and choose not to speculate.

In Phil 4:6, Paul says to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of the quickest and easiest tools to use to capture thoughts and renew our minds. When I’m thankful, it brings me to the here and now. To what is true, pure, right , lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, etc… When we are thankful, it awakens us to God’s presence and begins to replace the anxiousness.

Right now, before you finish reading, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to practice this. Grab one of the “what if’s” floating in your mind and change it to an “even if_________, then God _______________. Spend some time praying that back to Him. If you get stuck, try thanksgiving

Keep practicing this with one or two of the “what if’s” throughout this week. And you don’t have to do it alone. As useful as this “Even if” tool is, sometimes we need help knowing how to use it. We are currently buying a house, and the situation that caused us to begin this process brought me a LOT of anxiety. I was highly anxious for days, really weeks. It took me hours and days of talking and processing with God, my mentor, and people praying for me and with me until I could finally get to the even if, then God. I’m hoping this tool is simple enough to understand, but I recognize it’s not always easy to use. It takes practice to learn how to use any tool well, and lots of practice to master a tool.

Limited on Purpose

limited on purposeGod has limited us on purpose. Our culture tells us to “push the limits and break through” yet God has limited us on purpose. When we look to Jesus as the only Unlimited One, we can begin to accept our limitations as gifts, see 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

The idea that we are limited on purpose first came to my attention when I was in college. As teenagers and early 20 somethings we can tend to feel like nothing is unlimited so long as we work hard enough, or pursue it hard enough, or whatever. We are full of energy and idealism. And our culture feeds into that. Even a line from the movie, “Frozen”, feeds into it. Elsa sings in “Let it Go”:

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free”

It doesn’t take long until we come up against limits of all sorts. Each time I would get frustrated by them, thinking: “why don’t I have more time, more energy, more _____________.” Someone shared with me when I was in college that I am limited on purpose, because God is the only unlimited one. That’s stuck with me for the past 20 + years. It’s been a freeing, and a good, reminder that I am limited on purpose. It’s not that I’m failing; it’s that God has limited me….on purpose.

The more we look to God and His Limitlessness, the more free we are to accept and embrace our limits as a gift. The reason I usually don’t accept my limits is because I am looking to myself or to the World. When I do, I forget who God is, who I am, where my value lies, and I tend to take on responsibility that is not mine, and push the limits rather than live within them.

Some areas I am limited in

  • Wisdom
    Length of life/age
    Sight (spiritual and physical)
    Safety/protection of self/family
    Relational Capacity
    My ability to accept God’s love
    Holding on to God (which is why He holds on to us; Isa 41:10)

God has limited us on purpose. Why would He do that?

Yet there are limits we purposely set for ourselves.

A few limits I set for myself :

  • Sleep (go to bed, set an alarm)
    Eating (what and how much)
    Money (budgeting)
    Work (so I can see my family)
    Phone (app limits)

I balk against the limits in the first set because I feel like it lessens my value (because I am looking to them for my value).

Sometimes we can and should push past our perceived limits rather than settling or getting lazy. Sometimes I am more capable than I first think in various areas. I can take on more responsibility than I first thought I could, I can push and keep going despite low energy, but eventually all those have a limit too. However, if I’m pushing too hard past my limits, that’s when I get into trouble.

I don’t like the limits I set for myself either. Sometimes I want to sleep all day, or eat the yummy junk food, or buy the enticing thing on Amazon, or just scroll endlessly through Instagram. But the cost of doing any of those is far greater than the cost of the limit.

The good news is we are not the first to struggle with limits. Paul addressed it in a couple of his letters in the New Testament. (The following verses are all in the Message version as that’s the version of the Bible I’ve been reading this past year).

2 Corin 12:7-10 MSG
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.”

What can we notice in this passage?

  1. Why was Paul given the “gift” of a limitation?

God gave Paul a “gift” of a handicap to keep him constant touch with his limitations. He knew otherwise he could get a big head.

  1. How did Satan try to use it? What was the result?

Satan tried to use it to discourage him (how often am I discouraged by my limitations?). Instead, it pushed Paul to humility and to Jesus.

  1. Did Paul accept it right away?

No, at first he asked God to remove it, but God in His Wisdom and Love said “no”. He gave a different (better, albeit not the one desired) answer:

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

  1. Once God answered no, and gave His answer that His grace was enough, what was Paul’s response? What words do you see he used to describe his response:

glad, appreciate, taken in stride, with good cheer.

  1. Where was Paul’s focus?

He stopped focusing on the handicap and was able to appreciate it as a gift. Christ’s strength moved in on his weakness.

He joyfully took limitations in stride and let Christ take over.

  1. What were his other limitations?
    abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks

How could he be JOYFUL? That seems impossible. It is impossible in our own strength. However, God gives us the strength to joyfully endure.

 Col. 1:11-12 MSG
“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.”

2 Corin 13:9 MSG
“We don’t just put up with our limitations; we celebrate them, and then go on to celebrate every strength, every triumph of the truth in you. We pray hard that it will all come together in your lives.”

How can the limitations be a gift? God began helping me really understand this last Spring during a DAWG (Day Away With God). I was feeling overwhelmed and very limited, and God showed me how He is already the answer. It’s all about knowing Him, like Paul did: focusing on Christ instead of our limitation.

Some aspects of Himself that God reminded me of that day to draw my focus to Him:

Jesus is the Answer

Jesus is the entire Story, the Alpha and Omega. I only have a part of the Story. Oftentimes, I feel like I am responsible for the world. If I don’t accept the limit of my part in the Story, then I am striving in vain, and I will miss the significance of the part I get to play in His Story. Revelation 22:13, Hebrews 12:2, Ps 127:1.

Jesus is my Defense. I can work and work to defend myself before others and before God, but I don’t even have to. The pressure is off, because He took all my sin and He is my Defense. Isa 12:2, 1 John 1:9

Jesus is my Rest. The world says “keep working, produce!” Jesus says “come to Me. I am never in a hurry. I hold all things together and make all things come together.” Matt 11:28, Rom 8:28

Jesus is Wisdom. We can easily be overwhelmed by the world’s problems. But He has overcome the world. He is the answer. He’ll share with me the answers as I need them and as I look to him. 1 Corinthians 1:24, John 16:33

Jesus is the Almighty. Rev 1:8, 5:12. He is Unlimited in Power, Unlimited in Importance, He Alone is Worthy.

I have value, I have worth, I have importance, and I have significance. But I am not unlimited in my importance, I am not unlimited in my worth, I am not unlimited in my value. I am not enough, and that is freeing because I don’t have to be! There is one who is already enough, and his name is Jesus.

What about you and your world?

Is there a limitation you are currently frustrated you have? How are you doing at trusting God with it? It’s okay to ask Him to remove it, but if you have and it’s one He’s giving you on purpose, then I encourage you to begin the journey of accepting it and using it to see Him more clearly. Spend some time starting that process by asking yourself the following questions:

– What is/are the limitation(s). Clearly identify them.
– Why do you not want it? What do you want? (This can take time to explore.
I’ve noticed it usually comes down to wanting myself glorified or comfortable.)
– How can your limitation point you to Jesus’ Limitlessness?
– How do you need to trust Him with your limit?

One example I’ll share is being limited in energy. In my 20’s I would push hard to accomplish the tasks I had, but would then crash for the next day or two. I was jealous of the people I compared myself to who could get away with 4-6 hours of sleep and seem like they could get so much done. I functioned best if I got around 9 hours of sleep. I felt like I had to do as much as I thought they were doing. So I would push hard to meet with people in 1×1’s, Bible studies and other meetings, accomplish all the tasks, to-do’s and prep work I had, but then I would crash for a few days as soon as I let myself pause. A few years into this pattern, those crash periods developed into accompanying migraines, and those really took me out. When I became a mom I had to seriously evaluate my tendency to push hard to get through. I no longer had recovery time during a crash, a baby still needs you whether you have a migraine or not.

God has slowly been getting this limit concept through to me over the years. During the moments I started to accept my limits, I saw Jesus show up. The first time in a significant way was in my mid-20’s during nearly an entire school year of deep depression. It was my 4th year of full time ministry, and I was barely functional; only operating in survival mode. God used it heal some brokenness I didn’t even know was there, and I saw His care for me in support raising, as I couldn’t do that either. It was the first time I really began to grasp He really has everything under control and none of it is up to me. I’m invited to be part of the Story.

It’s still a struggle though! Now that I’m a mom, I’m still learning to cut back on so many things. I still struggle with feeling not enough, but that’s usually because I am looking at all the tasks left undone, even untouched, and not looking to Jesus and what He’s done through me. I’m learning to accept my limits; to trust Him with the things that are undone. Trusting He will provide for them to get done, or provide His perspective they are a task that He doesn’t actually have for me to do. I don’t have to be enough because He is enough.

I still get frustrated by my limit of energy

– Because I feel like I should have more (I don’t readily recognize there is a limit to my energy, like I do the limit of time)

– Because sometimes I can push through despite low energy, and I look to myself for that ability rather than to God. Sometimes God will provide extra energy and I want Him to all the time (not just occasionally).

– Because I feel like I am valuable if I can produce and contribute, rather than believing I am already valuable because I am God’s daughter. I am looking to myself for worth rather than to God for my worth. Even if I can push through the low energy and produce a lot, the sense of value and worth is short lived, because new tasks arise and once again I am behind. But in Christ, my worth never changes because it’s based on Him.

As I accept my limit of energy, I can look to Him who is limitless rather than looking at myself. Maybe He will take the low energy away for a moment and supernaturally provide for me to accomplish a task. He’s done that before. That’s not usually the case. He wants me to accept my limit, because it draws my focus to Him. I look to Him for my worth, not my accomplishments. I look to Him for what He wants me to do, rather than myself because the ideas in my head and on my to-do lists are always greater than I can possibly achieve. I need to set aside all my good plans in order to focus on the great plans He has for me to do. And by accepting my limit, I will come to Him for rest, renewal, perspective, vision, relationship. If I had unlimited energy (like I wish I had), I doubt I would stop, or I would very rarely. The low energy causes me to stop regularly.

Looking back to the questions, here’s how I answered them:

–           What is/are the limitation(s): low energy
–           Why do you not want it? What are you wanting? I want unlimited energy so I can accomplish all the things and be valuable
–           How can your limitation point you to Jesus’ Limitlessness? I recognize it’s not up to me but up to Him and my limit can draw me to look to Him instead of myself.
–           How do you need to trust Him with your limit? I will look to Him for my value, and what He wants me to do instead of trusting myself.

I encourage you to give yourself time and space to really reflect on these questions. It took me awhile to summarize the answers to those questions. Please comment below or email me if you have any comments or questions. This is all still in development and I would love help refining it.

One person asked how communication is a God-given limit with all the advances in technology. Here are some thoughts how this applies to communication.

Even with all the advances of technology in communication, there will always be a limit. Even when we speak the same language and see each other daily, there are limits in communication. I think of a marriage relationship, or a discipleship relationship. Sometimes you think something has been communicated well, and the other person just doesn’t get it. I can work and work and work to try to make sure the other person understands what I’m saying, but sometimes they just don’t. In those moments, it’s a God-given limit and I can choose to seek Him and ask Him to remove the communication barrier. Sometimes He will. Sometimes, He wants me to trust Him and to be praying for that person to understand rather than talking at them. As I look to God rather than my communication efforts, I get a chance to see how He can break through any communication barriers that exist. He really is the only Unlimited One.

For another perspective on this topic of limits, I appreciated John Piper’s short article on how he accepted a God-given limit and used it for God’s glory.


Remembering Oliver

Remembering Oliver2

Nine years ago today a litter of Siberian Husky puppies was born. Two were destined to come to Spearfish, and one special boy to grace my household with his joy, beauty, and mischievousness. When I went to see the pups for the first time, I had intended to get a girl and name her Jasmine. And while the girl puppy was so sweet, there was something about the masked boy that drew me to him and he was the one I chose. It took me several days to name him, and after the suggestion of Oliver by a friend, it stuck. I gave him the middle name Podoruk (gift in Russian) because this puppy was a gift from God after months of praying for a Husky. The following week his sister, Whisper, came to live with the Halls and Spearfish now had two beautiful Siberian Huskies to create mischief and give so much love.

I’ve had pets my whole life. I was born into pets already in the house, and we were never without one (usually several). Pet hair and pet care were a way of life. Despite losing many pets over the years, Oliver’s passing has stuck me the deepest. I think it was because he was mine, rather than just a family pet. As an adult woman, I chose him, raised him, trained him, and as huskies are notoriously known for being one owner dogs, he was mine. When Micah came into the picture, he feared Micah as alpha-male, but was still only obedient to me (with limitations, there was no getting him back through the recall command if he got out off leash). And was he ever an escape artist.

Every time he got out my greatest fear is he would get hurt and/or not come home. But he came home unscathed every time, until this last time. Through some miscommunication with our babysitter, Oliver escaped at the end of November (the 26th). He came home several hours later, quite in pain. Over the weekend and following week, I checked on him several times throughout the night, fearing he wouldn’t make it through alive, but he did, and seemed to slowly improve. But really, it was the beginning of the end.

And while his death was a surprise, it wasn’t in some ways. God had already been preparing my heart for a few months. When I was deciding what to dress Aurora up for Halloween, we had several costume options, and at some point in her life, I wanted to dress her up at Red Riding with Oliver as her Wolf. I had this feeling from God, that if I wanted to do it, I needed to do it this year. I never shared that with anyone at the time, because I didn’t want to think through what that meant. But that feeling was the main reason Aurora was Red Riding. And we had a delightful time walking the neighborhood with Oliver.

After his last escape, I did a Christmas photo shoot with Oliver and Aurora (as I enjoy doing with them for nearly every holiday). I had a feeling then too, that this was their last photo shoot. I didn’t want to admit it, but the feeling was there.

I had nearly forgotten about those feelings when we had Christmas and Oliver got to open one of his presents. We were saving the rest of the presents that my parents sent for when they arrived after Christmas. He wasn’t as aggressive in opening his gift this year, he wouldn’t really stand or move, but he got it open and Aurora delighted in watching. And we enjoyed our Christmas together. The next day, my parents flew in. Oliver greeted them, but not like he usually greets people. That night, we were watching a movie downstairs (Sofia the First, the Christmas episode) and Micah was upstairs. I heard Oliver making some noise and thought it was odd he was running around. Micah calmly asked me to come upstairs, and to my shock, Oliver was having a grand mal seizure. I had never seen one before and didn’t know what to do. I know my parents had experience with this with their dogs, so I tearfully (and near panic) asked for their help. He made it through the seizure and I called the Vet. She said I could bring him in at 8am and she’d be in as soon as she finished her morning appointments. His first seizure was at 8:30pm on the 26th. Oliver recovered, but 4 hours later, he had another one, then every hour til 4am, then every half hour til 6:20am, then every 10 min, then 5, until his last one around 7am that he never really came out of.

I was able to talk him through his seizure at 1:30am and was hopeful if I kept doing that they would stop. But they increased in intensity. And he was in pain. I laid on the floor next to him for those 12 hours, calming him, trying to ease his pain, talking him the seizures, and by 5am, started to say my goodbyes and counted down the minutes til the Vet’s office opened.

Since my parents were in town, they stayed home with Aurora (who was still sleeping) and Micah helped me carry Oliver to the Vet. They know us pretty well there (I send them photos), and the Vet’s assistant was so surprised that the dog we brought in was Oliver. We laid him on the table, awaiting the Vet’s arrival. I was fully prepared to euthanize him. I sat next to Micah while we waited, but after some time, I felt the need to go stand next to Oliver. I did, and soon I could hear him breathing his last two breaths. His eyes dilated, and he was gone. Less than 30 seconds later the Vet walked in. It was 8:40am. December 27. Nearly 12 hours since his first seizure. I have never been around anyone who breathed their last breaths before, never been present for the actual death of any person or animal. It was peaceful. But heartwrenching even still.

The Vet noticed that Oliver was quite a bit thinner since the last time he had come in, his spine was noticeable. I had noticed that as well in the past few weeks and had wondered if it was the diet we had needed to put him on. But it was too drastic of a weight loss, he had lost 11 lbs and was down to 69lbs when we weighed him. The seizure he experienced 12 hours previous probably wasn’t his first, just the first we saw. Something else was going on – cancer, kidneys, liver, something. I wonder if when he escaped on the babysitter, perhaps he had his first seizure then and got hurt in the process. If that’s the case, then I am thankful she didn’t experience it, I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Coming home from Life Impact was hard. Harder than I expected. I had a near meltdown walking into the empty house, not being greeted by his excited cries to have us home. I miss Oliver in the little things mostly. I miss when I get done with my shower at night and open the door to let the steam out, that he’s not right there, waiting for me to give him his bedtime treat. I still somewhat expect him to be there. I miss him when I hear a noise outside or see movement, thinking it’s him. I miss him when it’s a warm winter day and when I go outside, I want to invite him to join me. Or when it’s super cold outside, and I think he’s still out in the extreme cold because I haven’t seen him in a while and I should make him come in. I miss him when I walk to my side of the bed where his kennel is and he’s not there. I haven’t decided if moving his kennel would be helpful or painful at this moment. I decided to put a white cloth over it (I also use it as a nightstand) because I kept looking for him in it. I felt bad for Oliver when Aurora arrived, because I paid significantly less attention to him. But now that he’s gone, I realized I still gave him a lot of attention, because I look for him several times in a day. I miss touching his fur, patting his head, giving him belly rubs, taking care of him. I miss his company, his friendship, his presence. He was a large dog with a gentle presence. I enjoyed his constant companionship. I miss when I spill some shredded cheese on the ground and I can’t call him to come clean it up. I miss him when I empty a peanut butter jar and I can’t give it to him. I miss him when I ask Aurora if she’d like to go “bye-bye” and he doesn’t come careening around the corner, barking excitedly to come along. Even though I know he’s gone, the other morning I walked into the living room right after I woke up. I stopped, and asked myself “what am I doing?” I realized I was looking for Oliver.

I am thankful God had been preparing me for the past few months. I am thankful that we got Christmas with him. I am thankful my parents were here – dog lovers to the core and able to offer a lot of emotional support to me (and watch Aurora). I am thankful he passed on his own. I am thankful it was before we left for our weeklong conference at Life Impact. As amazing as Sylvia, our go-to dog sitter is, I wouldn’t have wanted her to have gone through all that with Oliver. I’m so thankful I was able to be there with him for his last 12 hours. I am thankful he came home that day in November and we got one more month with him.

Aurora asked for Oliver for a few days in a row in the mornings when she woke up. We had a routine that when she got up, we would call Oliver in to say hello, sometimes getting him to howl (we loved his howls). The first morning she called for him and I told her Oliver was “bye-bye.” She collapsed on her pillow with her back to me. The next day she was content with my answer and moved on. She’s young enough to not really be affected by his loss. But I think that’s one of the things that breaks my heart, that she won’t know him. Oliver was a huge part of my life. And Aurora is a huge part of my life. And I wanted her to know him. I’m asking God to preserve a memory of him in her little 2 year old brain.

They were the best of buds. He was her protector from day 1 of her coming home. Oliver used to be super friendly to all people and dogs at the parks. But if we had Aurora with, he became a fierce, protecting dog. I didn’t know he could sound so mean! Ha! He knew that she was his to guard.

And he was so gentle with her. He let her crawl on him and snuggle up against him. He wouldn’t let anyone else do that unless we pinned him down to snuggle! Aurora delighted in watching him play, run, howl, open presents. I delighted in her delight of him.

Oliver brought so much joy in his nearly 9 years with me. He was the cutest puppy, with the sweetest howl, protesting being locked in his kennel at night. My cat (who was 9 years old when I brought him home) detested him. It took her many, many months until she forgave me and would purr for me again. He loved chasing her, but she could put him in his place.

Oliver was an excellent hunter of prey! He got countless birds, some of them out of the air if they flew too close to the ground. He also killed the neighbor’s cat when it bit me, snuck into another neighbor’s yard and killed 5 of their 6 chickens. He ate my parents’ coy fish from their pond (well, half of it. He buried the other half, which is how we figured out it was Oliver.). He brought home a baby deer (and I mean baby – size of a kitten). I didn’t realize it was Oliver until much later when I was commentating to our friend Bruce about seeing a baby deer left in our driveway. He suggested some dog probably left it there. And I thought “some dog…” Some dog that probably had escaped from the yard; some dog who ran in the hills where there were deer; some dog who found it and brought it home; some dog named Oliver perhaps?! I didn’t know what one was supposed to do with a dead deer, so I called the police station to ask and they said they’d send someone out. When the officer arrived and got out of his car, he asked where the deer was. I told him it was at his feet (he almost ran it over!) He looked down, contained a laugh, then spoke into his radio that backup was not needed (once again masking a laugh in his speech). He put on a glove and disposed the deer in our dumpster. If I had known that was all I needed to do, I would have done that! But I’m glad he could get a good laugh out of it. He was obviously expecting a full grown deer, not a tiny, baby deer! I guess I could have specified!

Bruce was Oliver’s frenemy. They were friends until Oliver was 8 or 9 months old. They were playing chase around the kitchen, when Bruce went the other direction, snuck up on Oliver and scared him. Oliver never forgave him! Bruce tried for months to refriend him, to no avail. They had a food based relationship (he’d go to Bruce if he had a treat) but no more. Oliver would rarely walk near Bruce, and during parties, would go so far as to walk behind the backs of students along the couch to get to the other side of the room, even though going past Bruce was a straight shot.

When Bruce came to meet Aurora for the first time, Oliver let out a low growl, not wanting Bruce to come near his new baby! I remember another protective moment was taking Oliver and Aurora to the City Park in Powell, WY. I put her in a swing and he would not leave her side. Eventually we had to move him to the shade as he began to overheat in the sand. But he had to be forced to leave her and still kept a watchful eye on her.

Another time, a neighbor’s dog came to visit our driveway when we were all outside. Oliver was so fierce, and the dog (and owner) ran off scared. Oliver came back to us, trotting, so proud of himself of clearing out the intruders.

I was very thankful when U-Dirty-Dog opened in Spearfish. Oliver frequently needed baths after returning home from his escaping escapades, as whatever he found on his adventures made him stinky! Giving him a bath inside was mess with water ending everywhere in the bathroom. Giving him a bath outside probably made the neighbors think I was pouring acid on his body with his loud cries of protest at the water hose. He got many a bath at the dog wash, where they didn’t mind his cries. After a few of his baths, he was quite put out with me; even a peanut butter jar barely made him forgive me. And if that wasn’t enough, a bath usually meant an hour long brush to get his fur out. Which usually amounted to the size of a small dog.

Oliver was my buddy on so many adventures, as well as my constant companion at home. He was my dancing partner until Micah came along (and even then would butt in to take Micah’s spot), my company on several days away with God out in the Hills. Countless hikes – winter, spring, summer and fall. Long road trips from to Alabama or to Washington State. In Washington, we visited Mt. Rainier. As I waited outside with Oliver while my mom and brother browsed the gift shop, several people would ask for me to take their picture in front of the mountain. And several of them asked if Oliver could be in their picture with them too! Ha! My dog was popular that day!

One of my favorite things about Oliver was the amount of compliments I received when taking him on walks. He was a gorgeous dog. And since one of my top love languages is words of affirmation, I relished in the compliments. I also enjoyed driving with him in our Jeep as he looked good in it, plus the Jeep had clear windows that made him quite visible. I also enjoyed “decorating” him for the holidays in various bandanas to reflect the season.

I remember taking Oliver on his first hike with Alicia. He wasn’t thrilled as we hiked up Devil’s Bathtub in the canyon. He hated the water (as huskies tend to do) and was under my legs as we crossed the creek. By the end he got used to it, but was pretty insistent we head back home. Thankfully he outgrew that and loved going on hikes. He was especially spoiled by the number of college students that would take him on hikes and outings.

He loved to sunbathe, even in the hottest of summers. One time I used the radar temp gun on him and his fur was 159 F! Of course he loved snow most of all. As the snow would melt away in the spring, he would lay on whatever snowy patch he could find. Oh, but he did not love the rain. The slightest bit of rain and he’d be barking to come in!

He was also a dog of preferences. Most notably his preference for buttered popcorn and his disdain for unbuttered or even microwave popcorn! One of his party tricks was throwing him the two types of popcorn. He would spit out the unbuttered but catch and eat the buttered. Microwave popcorn he would just turn his head away to not even catch it! One time we set a bowl of microwave popcorn in front of him. He walked around it, pushing his body as far against the wall as he could to give it a wide berth.

Other party tricks included: roll over, high 5, high 10, shake left hand, shake right hand, and crawl. And when you had a treat he really, really wanted, he would go through his entire repertoire instead of waiting to hear a command.

Besides his escape artist antics, Oliver was a notorious thief. Granola bars (I never did learn how he opened them), cookies, muffins, but most notably an entire elk roast, followed by a package of Oreos the next day. He also downed 5 Perkins Mammoth muffins (left the chocolate one alone), ate an entire tin of Christmas cookies someone dropped off for us before we could even see them, finished off a bag of decorated snowflake cutout cookies before I could give them away, ate my gingerbread house along with the rest of my mocha, and more. The scariest was when he also ate the plastic wrap with something (he was usually so good at opening wrappers). He got so bloated and I had to check his poop every day to see if he’d pass it; otherwise I would have had to take him into the vet. He thankfully passed it. I had never been so happy to see poop. Except for one other occasion.

Oliver would NEVER poop on walk. It took him about a year and a half until he would even pee on a walk. And while that made it super convenient for me on short walks, it made it super inconvenient on long road trips and backpacking trips. Coming home from one trip, I knew he needed to poop. He hadn’t in three days. We stopped to visit Alicia in Sheridan, WY and went for a walk to stretch our legs. And he went poop on that long walk! We all cheered! Ha! Eventually he would poop on a few of the backpacking trips. But he never did on a walk.

Oh, besides thieving food, he stole shoes. I replaced several pairs of guests’ shoes, said good bye to plenty of my own, as well as water bottles, volleyballs, journals and other items as a pup. He would also punish himself when he did something wrong. He would go to his kennel and stay there. If I came home and he had a guilty look and wouldn’t come out, I knew he did something he shouldn’t have. And then the hunt began to figure out what, as sometimes he would hide his antics. We eventually figured out a greater punishment was locking him out of the bedroom and making him stay by Micah’s side for a few hours.

Being raised by college students, Oliver assumed he was one. He would sit with his bum on the couch and his front paws on the floor. He would follow them up the stairs, and as they would grab a handful of candy and he would also grab a small mouthful of candy. My favorite moment of acting like a student is when he walked the “red carpet” (with no prompting from anyone) at our Duct Tape fashion show, sporting his duct table collar in the “Accessories” category.

He was my buddy on so many hikes up the local mountains and back packing expeditions. He even had his own pack, which he got super excited anytime we pulled it out. He would be depressed when I would pack my bags, knowing I would leave him. But when I got out his pack, he knew he got to come with and would be beyond excited!

I love throwing birthday parties for people, and Oliver was no exception. He and Whisper got a full on first birthday party, with treat bags for the humans and doggie friends, decorations, cake (for the humans), and frosty paws (for them and their friends). Each year we celebrated his birthday in some form. This year I’m celebrating by remembering all the good times we had over the past 9 years. Boy, do I miss him!

I remember how he didn’t enjoy sharing the backseat of the car. He could easily spawl out and fill the whole back seat. One summer as we hiked up Harney Peak, I picked up several friends along the way. He was eventually relegated to the floor for the last bit and he would let out big sighs to show his displeasure. Another time, coming home from camping in the Big Horns, the college students all rode in the back seat and let Oliver have the front seat (but freshmen crushes probably played more into that decision of letting my dog have shot gun).

Well, the day is about done. If you have any memories of Oliver to share, would you post them in the comments or email them to me? I’m in the process of gathering photos of Oliver to make a photo book of him. I’m currently up to 490 photos and still have yet to finish going through 2017 pics! Ha! But I’d love to include some stories along with the photos.

Thanks for reading my musings (and making it all the way through).

Oliver was a great dog. I am so very thankful for the nearly 9 years I got to have him. I hope to get another dog in the future. But for now, potty training Aurora is on the horizon, and I’d rather not be training a puppy and a toddler. I like the idea of waiting until Aurora is a bit older and can have the experience of helping raise a Husky. My parents got our first Huskies when I was 5 years old and Trouble (she lived up to that name) lived for 14 years, passing away my sophomore year of college.

I also want to say thank you for all the comments on Facebook. They were so helpful to my heart those first few days after losing Oliver. Also, I treasure the cards several of you sent as well. It means a lot to have fellow dog lover friends who understand the heartache of losing a beloved pet.

This summer I plan to make a memorial garden for Oliver in our backyard. Since he spent quite a bit of his time in that little yard, I thought it would be nice to turn it into something beautiful, as beauty always helps ease the pain.

Reflections Halfway through Lent

lent halfwayWe have just passed the halfway point thru Lent. I’ve enjoyed hearing the stories of the college students in their journeys so far. Many have given up social media, and to their surprise get significantly much more homework done. Today’s students have had access to Facebook their entire school careers, so Facebook “breaks” and homework go hand in hand. Of course without discipline, a five minute Facebook break turns into an hour or more. One gal fasting from social media found herself checking her email more, and I thought “welcome to the 90’s” as that’s all we had; Instant Messenger, Facebook, texting, MySpace weren’t invented yet.

A couple gals have given up makeup, and I couldn’t be more delighted for them to start knowing their beauty is already present, they don’t need makeup to be valuable or accepted. But it’s been a hard journey for them this first half of Lent.

I took a break from my Facebook fast around my birthday so I could communicate about my birthday party, and I quickly realized how much I still need to fast from it. It was one of the first things I looked at on my phone in the morning. I thankfully didn’t linger on it, but I would prefer to have the self-discipline to not to go to it except occasionally.

I also discovered I hate fasting from food. I did an 18 hour fast and it was rough. I did pray more as the hunger pains prompted me, but boy was I grumpy. I have one more full 24 hour fast I want to do, and since I’m endeavoring to do it on Good Friday, I’m hoping a better desire will be present. By fasting that day, I hope it will enable me to identify more with Jesus’ sufferings on that fateful Friday.

gfrlI’ve also been reading “Gospel for Real Life”, which surprisingly has coincided well with reading “Church History in Plain Language”. In the first four chapters of GfRL a couple themes have stood out so far: the importance of recognizing my sin, the significance of Jesus living and dying for me, and the thoroughness of God’s plan.

I unfortunately tend to forget that I am a sinner until I fail in a significant way. And since I tend to try to avoid failure at all costs, I don’t experience that very often. But before God I sin daily and I don’t treat my sin as seriously as I ought. Bridges writes “the seriousness of sin is not simply measured by its consequences, but by the authority of the One who gives the command.” As I examine the sinfulness in my heart, I discover self-centeredness, selfish ambition, resentment, bitterness, impatience, a critical or unforgiving spirit, irritability, a love of material things, or an indifference to the eternal or temporal welfare of those around me. And those are just the negative traits. There are also the positive ones that I fail to live up to as God commands, like loving God with my whole mind, heart, and soul and loving my neighbor as myself. Loving God above all other desires, always rejoicing to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps 119:97), always delighting to do His Will (Ps 40:8), doing everything for His glory – eating, drinking, working, playing, driving, reading, speaking (1 Corin 10:31), never worrying but always trusting God’s plan and good heart towards me (Rom 8:28, Phil 4:6), and the list could keep going.

So why spend all that time considering how sinful we are, we’re only human, right?! Yes, we are human, and God is a Holy God. So holy in fact, He can’t be around sin. And until we see our deep need, we can’t even begin to appreciate the good news of the gospel. As Bridges states “Most people, even people who have already become believers, have never given much thought to how desperate our condition is outside of Christ. Few people ever think about the dreadful implications of being under the wrath of God. And most of all, none of us even begins to realize how truly sinful we are…. Only those who understand to some degree the enormity of their spiritual debt can begin to appreciate what Christ did for them at the cross.”

“Only those who understand to some degree the enormity of their spiritual debt can begin to appreciate what Christ did for them at the cross.”

I’ll come back to the Cross in a bit. A lot of attention is given to Christ dying on the Cross for our sins, and while this is incredibly important and I still don’t fully grasp the amazingness of it, there is also the truth that Christ LIVED for me. And it wasn’t until reading Church History that I understood the implications a bit more.

Christ lived a perfect life. He committed no sin. He perfectly loved and obeyed God, He perfectly loved people, He was never impatient, or critical or unforgiving. And this matters so greatly because Christ is our representative before God. As believers, what Christ did, God sees that we did. All that Jesus did, we did, because of our union with Him! Wow! The perfect life I was unable to live, Christ lived for me. I understood this to some degree concerning His death (that He died for me and in my place), but I hadn’t really considered before that it also meant His life.

The significance of this hit home even further for me while reading Church History. In the first half of the 3rd Century, the Christian Church enjoyed a rather peaceful time of no persecution, and the church grew. But then Emperor Decius came into power and he thought Christians were enemies of the empire. He commanded all citizens of the empire to sacrifice to the Roman gods and those who didn’t obey faced death. To save their lives, many Christians complied; others were martyred for their faith. A few more were tortured but didn’t renounce their faith and were called “confessors.”

After Decius’ death in battle only a couple years later, the persecution ended and the Christian Church struggled with readmitting people to the church. In some places as many as ¾’s of the church has deserted during the persecution. Two terrible concepts entered the Church. One was a system of penance for the repenting believers, and the other was elevating the confessors and martyrs to sainthood. They believed that these extraordinary Saints could “cover with their merits the demerits of the lapsed.”

When Jordan and I were discussing Church History this last week, she got an earful of my frustration as I was fired up! Both these concepts deny what Christ offered in His life and death. At the time the Church leaders believed that Christ died for all your sins up to the time you converted and were baptized, but not after. How important it is to realize that Christ died for ALL our sins – past, present and future! We don’t have to pay any penance whatsoever, because Christ paid the full penalty on the Cross. I understand that it’s an offer that sounds too good to be true, and so we have a hard time accepting it. But it is true! Gloriously true!

We don’t have to pay any penance whatsoever, because Christ paid the full penalty on the Cross.

As for the Saints, argh! No! The concept is correct, but with the wrong Person. The merits of the Saints don’t get transferred to the lapsed Christian. CHRIST’s merits get transferred to us. This offer also really seems too good to be true. What Christ did, God sees that I did. Christ lived His perfect life in our place and our behalf. It’s an amazing offer to those who choose to believe and follow Christ. To look to penance or to look to the Saints is to say that what Christ did in His life and death was not enough. But it IS enough!

This brings me to the last point of the thoroughness of God’s plan. We are sinners in desperate need of mercy. God is a God of justice and His justice also needed to be fully satisfied. If God extended mercy at the expense of His justice, it would take away from His holy and perfect justice. “Only God’s infinite wisdom and superabundant love could devise such a plan that both satisfies His justice and meets our desperate need for mercy.” It makes me think of some of shows on Netflix we watch, like White Collar or Leverage. The endings of each episode are so satisfying because they always come up with the perfect plan to catch the bad guy and help the good guy. And if I allow myself to be swept up in the story (and forget there are writers orchestrating the script), I can be amazed at “how did they do that?” There is a true story going on in our lives, so much more satisfying than an episode on Netflix, where God orchestrated the perfect plan to satisfy His holy justice and our need for mercy. It was the Cross!

A lot of people falsely think that God can just forgive our sins because He is a loving God. This is not the case. The Cross is why God can forgive our sins. God hates sin and only His wrath is sufficient enough to deal with sin. He is Holy, he cannot be around any degree of sin. “The Cross, then, is an expression of God’s wrath toward sin as well as His love to us. It expresses His holiness in His determination to punish sin, even at the cost of His Son. And it expresses His love in sending His Son to bear the punishment we so justly deserved. God’s holiness demanded [the Cross] as punishment for our sins, and God’s love provided it to save us from our sins.” The perfect plan! And oh am I grateful!

God’s holiness demanded the Cross as punishment for our sins, and God’s love provided it to save us from our sins.

It’s easy to gloss over the significance of this, and if you find yourself in that place, as I often do, it helps to start by recognizing our sin. “For it is only against the dark backdrop of our sinfulness that we can see the glory of the Cross shining forth in all its brilliance and splendor.” As Bridges also states “Our need is not to be measured by our own sense of need, but by what God had to do to meet that need. Our situation was so desperate that only the death of His own Son on a cruel and shameful cross was sufficient to resolve the problem.”

Thanks for reading through all my thoughts. I hope I conveyed at least a little how truly significant the Cross is. Til next time!

Reflections on Turning 40

40I’ve wanted to write a reflective blog on turning 40 for the past several weeks now. And I REALLY wanted to write it before I turned 40, because I wasn’t ready to own it yet. I wanted 40 to remain in the future. However, time and priorities didn’t allow for it, so now, on the morning of March 17, 2017, I have turned 40. I am 40.

It doesn’t seem like it’s my reality. I’ve been saying the number out loud since 2017 began; the year I anticipated I would turn 40. I remember turning 30 only a few years ago, right? A

my surprise 30th birthday party

whole decade has passed since that wonderful surprise birthday party my girls threw for me?! Now most of those girls are in their 30’s with families, and one month old Brisa at that party just turned 10.


Forty just always seemed so old, especially as a 20 something. I remember my Mom turning 40, and the kind 20 year old daughter that I was making her a cake with black roses and RIP headstones. (I’m so sorry, Mom, never again. I would be sad if anyone did that to me today, or ever.)

I’m remember a few years later my boss, Jack, turning 40. We made a big deal of it in our campus ministry. We gave him a big collage of all his “long years” of ministering to students (anything beyond 5 years seems like a long time to a student).

jacks' b-day
Jack Hall at 40


When I imagined myself at 40, I imagined myself married with kids, but along the way I imaged myself married by at least 25 and having a kid by 30. I’m only about a decade behind those desires.

I don’t feel 40, not that I know what 40 should feel like. I primarily hang around 18-24 year olds and imagine myself about their age, a little older, like a big sister (I certainly don’t have their energy anymore to be their age). But now that I have high school classmates with at least 3 kids in college, I have to accept I am now old enough to be their mother, because I am their mom’s age! Ha!

As much as I desired marriage in my 20’s, I made sure to make the most of my single years. I got to travel the world on several mission trips. Exploring countries such as Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Italy, Austria, Germany, Kenya, Ethiopia, and several states in Mexico. I also needed to allow God to do some major healing in my life. I was pretty high strung in my teens and 20’s. My value was in my performance and failure was not an option – in grades, in work, in life, in anything.

I was known as The Hammer. A truth teller. And boy did I tell it, and not sugar coat it. As I grew in God’s grace and knowing His love for me, I allowed Him to shape me into a woman whose “conversation [was] always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that [I] may know how to answer everyone.” Col 4:6

Now the girls I meet can’t even believe that was ever me. Praise God for that!

God also developed in me an attitude of patience during my single years. It’s a little different being an older mom, as most of the moms with kids my age are 10-15 years younger than me. And while I don’t have their energy to keep up, I am thankful for the wisdom and patience that I have, wisdom and patience I would not have had in my 20’s or early 30’s. I’m pretty confident that I am in a place to be a better mom now than in any earlier season of my life.

The place that I most feel my age, and enjoy it, is in my career (the place I most feel and don’t like it is in my body! One instance: I had to buy a bigger alarm clock the other day because I couldn’t read the numbers on my previous one at night anymore). With being in full time campus ministry for 18 years now, I have given my life to disciplemaking, learning all that I can, doing all that I can (especially during my single years), and passing on all that I can. I love investing in girls’ lives. My life verse is 2 Timothy 2:2 (NIV) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. I want to entrust through discipleship (spiritual mentoring) what I know to girls who will also pass on what they know through discipleship.

I’m not sure how good of a job I did my first half decade (age 20-25) of discipleship, as I figured this whole mentoring thing out. I hopefully helped a few girls, but I did make some wonderful friends (Whitney, Sara, Chrisa, Kelly, and others). But these latter years, especially the last 6, I have really enjoyed mentoring from a place of wisdom that I didn’t fully realize I had until I started teaching it in seminar s.

During the first 20 years of life, each year provided a significant milestone. During the 20’s, the milestones spread out, but are still frequent. I feel like the 30’s just flew by. When you’re young, 10 years is a significantly long time. A 22 year old doesn’t have much in common with a 12 year old. We become different people, physically, spiritually, emotionally, relationally in those 10 years. But I don’t feel too different now from when I was 30. I had milestones of becoming a wife and mother during the decade of my 30s, but I still feel like the same person. If you are 20 and reading this, the next 20 years will blink by. They are significantly different paced then your first 20 years. My advice to you is own your life. Make the most of it. Don’t let it pass you by. Set goals. Create dreams. And go for them. Life can just tick along uneventfully for the next 20 years if you let it. If you have dreams of going to Africa, make plans for it. If you want to write a book, set goals, make a plan and get help for it to happen. Otherwise, life is happy to have you become complacent, see Many Aspire, Few Attain. That article is something I want to read every few years for the rest of my life. I have seen the terrible attrition rate when it comes to living for Jesus for the long haul.

If you are single, make the most of your single years. Most of you will get married at some point (that’s just statistics and observing the 100’s of college girls over the past 20 years that I have known). Make the most of the time you have to be single. Then make the most of the time you have to be married. Then make the most of the time you have to be a parent of children under your roof. Being an older mom has given me a perspective of how quickly time flies and how quickly kids grow. I remember when Karen, my best friend from high school, got pregnant at 20 and had her first kiddo. I remember holding Tori as an infant. And now Tori is a sophomore in college and engaged to be married! I realize quite well that I don’t get to have Aurora for very long. 18 years goes quick from my perspective!!

So here’s to 40. I didn’t want it to come, because it seems so old. But age is what we make of it. My 30’s were pretty awesome, and I want my 40’s to be fabulous!

Making the most of 40, day 1, begins today!

oh! and a benefit to keeping in contact with highschool friends…I’m not the only one turning 40 this year!

Am I Okay?

righteousness2This morning after Church was one of the moments where I’m giving a girl a piece of advice, and the words of wisdom coming out of my mouth I realize are meant for me (and hopefully for her to), and something I need to process more.

So, I’m processing with you on this blog post as more of a journal entry in the hopes that my processing might be helpful for at least another person as well.

My girl was talking about the need to set the pace in confrontation; starting by leading out confessing where she has failed the girls she’s leading. But as I listened to her, it sounded like her failings were more performance issues and not sin issues. So I said something to the effect of “God isn’t concerned about your day-to-day performance and nitpicking that. He is concerned about the sin in our lives and the need to confess that.” As I spoke, it struck a chord with a thought I’ve been processing for a few weeks now.

If you were to ask me if I’m satisfied with my life, in terms of the big picture, then absolutely yes. I’m satisfied with where I’m at in my life, in my career, my marriage, my family, my walk with God, who I am, etc… However, in the small picture, day to day, I feel inadequate most days. That I’m not using my time wisely or well enough. That I fall short of where I should be every day. And as I talked with my girl, I realized that she and I are each asking the wrong question.

It isn’t about the day to day performance, it’s about the motivations behind it. If I fail to complete a task, is that a sin? It depends. I need to ask a deeper question of Why (or if you are a QBQ reader, “what caused me to not complete the task”). Maybe it’s something that didn’t need to be accomplished. But maybe I wasn’t trusting God (the true sin issue).

I get down on myself for not accomplishing my to-do list. Truthfully, I tend to put more on my to-do list than I have time or energy to accomplish. But the bigger issue, the actual sin issue, is that I look to my to-do list not as a guide, but as a measure of my “okayness”. Instead of believing in what Christ has accomplished on the Cross in order for me to be right with Him, I look to my performance, and measuring it in terms of tasks successfully completed.

I look for my value by how much I can get done instead of recognizing I already have my value in Christ. I look for my “okayness” in my use of time rather than believing I’m already accepted in Christ. I look to myself to figure out and direct my days rather than looking to Christ to direct my day. Or I push on, trying to accomplish all the things instead of trusting Christ and His invitation to rest.

I don’t need to confess my failings in my performance. I need to confess the sin behind it. Because in confessing that sin it sets me free the trap it has become, and it opens the door for a better relationship with Jesus.

It’s Spring Break and I have a mighty massive to-do list of all the things I want to do over the next 10 days. But right now, I just want to rest. I want to sit, read, think, pray, nap, play with Aurora, and hang out with Micah. Maybe energy will come later in the week to do some of the things on my list. Here’s where Faith comes in for me. I have seen God come through for me in the past. As I trust Him with my time, schedule and to-do lists, He provides energy and bends time in my favor. So, today and for the next several days, will I trust Him? Will I trust His invitation to rest? Will I trust that knowing & loving Him is the far better option than trying to get all my have-to’s and want-to’s done? I could muster through and try to get things done this week. But past experience tells me I will just exhaust myself. And past experience also tells me that choosing Christ has ALWAYS been the life-giving option.

Christ didn’t die for me so I could continue to be under the law, including the law I put onto myself of expectations. He died for me and clothed me in righteousness. I am already righteous, which is way better than just being “okay”. I am already right with Him whether or not I get my tasks accomplished or use every minute well. He didn’t die for me so I could keep trying to fulfill the law. He died to set me free! So I could live life fully! In Him! (Galatians 3).

So, for the next few days I’m letting go of my to-do list and I’m going to trust Christ and His invitation to rest and to enjoy Him. And I’ll trust Him if He wants me to get anything done on my to-do list later this week.


Lent – what’s the purpose?

lentLent is coming up in a week. Some of you may be very familiar with it, others of you may have only heard of this Church tradition. If you aren’t familiar with it, Lent is the period of time set aside to focus on simplifying your life, prayer, and fasting in order to grow closer to God during the 40 days before Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday and lasting up until Easter. It’s actually 46 days, but the 6 Sundays in Lent are excluded because each are considered a mini-Easter. One article I read pointed out that it’s about 1/10 (tithe) of a year.

Next Tuesday, Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday” is the day before Lent starts. Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. It’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. Traditionally, people didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house during Lent so they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!  Course now Mardi Gras has evolved into a pretty wild party with little to do with actually preparing for the Lenten season.

I grew up Lutheran and thought everybody knew about Lent. In my high school most everyone went to either the Lutheran, Catholic or Methodist church and we all did Lent, or at least talked about it. We would give up chocolate or soda or TV. It didn’t really mean much to me, it was just a tradition. I was really surprised when I got to college and met Christians who had never really heard of Lent nor participated in it.

So why do Lent at all? There is no rule saying you have to, it’s not commanded in the Bible. It’s a church tradition; however, it is a beneficial one when used with the right motives and mindset. It’s a great time to fast, which, when Jesus talks about fasting, it’s always in the context of “when you fast” just like when He says “when you pray.” Plus, it’s a chance to do it in community. It’s easier, and more fun, to fast when you know your friends are doing it too. It’s a good time to prepare our hearts for Easter. Jesus sacrificed His life for us. By sacrificing food, a desire, a need, or our time, we can appreciate a bit more His sacrifice for us. Ultimately, the purpose of participating in Lent is to Glorify God by knowing and loving Him.

fasting-1I recently read a chapter on Fasting in the book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney that I found rather helpful in reflecting on Lent and it’s purpose. A lot of my thoughts (and quotes) are either from or inspired by his chapter.

God created us to hunger for Him, and we will fill that hunger, even as Christians, with so many things to numb that hunger. Fasting awakens that hunger for God as we deny ourselves the numbing agent of food, media, noise, relationships, etc… and we can begin to let God fill that hunger instead.

A word of caution: Fasting needs to have a purpose. Otherwise the hunger pains will only make you calculate the time until you can eat again. We need to have our purpose in mind while fasting, so when I get hungry, I say to myself: I’m hungry because I’m fasting today. And I’m fasting today because _____________________. Without a spiritual purpose, a fast from food only becomes a diet, and a fast from media only becomes a time management saver. It doesn’t Glorify God nor help us know and love Him

For instance, if I know Brandy is going through a rough time and I want to pray for her more throughout the day, I could choose to fast and pray for her. Then every time my stomach growls or my head aches, my hunger reminds me that I’m fasting, which in turn reminds me that I’m fasting for the purpose of praying for Brandy, and then I pray. So all day, whether I’m driving, walking, working, I’m reminded by my hunger to pray, and then I’m praying far more often, which is why I fasted in the first place.

Other purposes of fasting besides praying for someone, are to seek God’s guidance, to put my trust and hope in Him instead of some other thing, to overcome temptation, to minister to the needs of others with the time and money I would normally use to eat, or to express love and worship to God – fasting demonstrates that seeking God is more important than food, or Facebook, or spending time with people, or whatever it is I am fasting from. Jesus is more important and more satisfying than food, media, people, etc…, but we won’t know it until we fast and let Him fill us with Himself instead.fast3

Food is a great choice for fasting because God made us creatures who survive by eating. It’s a basic need. He made the world work in such a way that it provides food for us to eat. Those who eat too much, or even too little are looking for satisfaction in something other than God.

A fast doesn’t have to be just food. Other great things to fast from can be found in the things that clutter your calendar and life.

Two weeks ago I took a couple days to spend (mostly) alone with God. I cancelled all meetings, turned off my phone and computer, and rested. God did a lot in my heart in those two days of fasting from my phone. I realized I was so exhausted because I was spending too much time reading the news or on Facebook. There’s a whole side story related to this, but suffice it to say, I was surprised to learn that reading and processing the news takes energy, a lot of energy, and I need to limit the amount of news I take in because I don’t want my energy going there.

Another non-food fast that I did was my first meaningful Lent fast after I joined Campus Ventures. I fasted from music that year. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but the first few days were torturous. The first day was fine, but the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc… were rough. I was agitated and restless. I didn’t even realize until then that I was looking to music and noise to be my source of peace and security. When it got ripped away, I had to start looking for it in God. During those 40 days I found myself automatically reaching for the radio station in the car, or wanting to turn on the stereo or TV as soon as I walked in the door to my apartment. It was habit. But somewhere in the middle of Lent, I began to appreciate the quietness and then eventually to love it. Before, I always had music playing. Music had a big role in my coming to know Jesus as my Savior as well as growing in my faith. But I was relying on it instead of Him. Once the 40 day Lent fast was over, I was reluctant to turn noise back on. It became by choice to listen to music or watch TV rather than just a habit. And my love for quietness has stuck. I had never loved it before, but I am comfortable with it now as I find it restful and restoring.

Lent is also a time of simplifying your life in terms of what you eat, wear and do. Some people will simplify their diets. It used to be a big thing to not eat meat during Lent, except fish on Fridays. Simplifying a diet can free up time in preparing meals to allow time to spend with Jesus. And by removing sweets, caffeine or other items from your diet and just doing a simple diet to meet your basic nutritional needs, you can learn to crave God instead. For instance, if you decide to simplify your diet to basic needs, then when you crave the extra portion of food or a tastier treat, you can remember that you are fasting, and fasting for a purpose to seek God during Lent. Another option is simplifying your clothing choices for the 40 days. Or your activities. Maybe saying no to one thing every day, or pulling back from hanging out with people if you’re an extrovert. We can look to our clothing choices or people to fill the hunger we have for God just as much as we can food.


Other ideas for Lent:

  • Try an electronic fast. Give up Netflix, Facebook, texting, email, Snapchat, and all things electronic for one day every week. (Or everyday of Lent!). Use that time to spend with God reading the bible, praying, memorizing a verse, or spend quality time with family or roommates, or writing an encouraging note to someone on paper!
  • Try skipping one meal each week and use that time to volunteer for an hour or more each week or look for ways you can serve roommates, friends, or even strangers.


One thing I will be doing, and I invite you to do with me, is to focus on the Cross. A few years ago I read the Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges and it was a powerful book about all that the Cross represents and the incredible riches found in being a Christian. Bridges shared how the Cross represents so many opposing ideas all beautifully tied into one. Take for instance, God’s Holiness and God’s Love. God’s holiness demanded the Cross as punishment for our sins and God’s Love provided the Cross to save us from our sins. I’ve wanted to re-read this book before an Easter for some time now, so Jordan and I are going to read it over Lent if you’d like to join us. You can get the book off of Amazon Prime for only $11 or used from Amazon for $6. If you don’t have time to read one more book, maybe fast from a meal once a week to use that time to read, or if you have a Spring Break coming up, read it over Break to draw your heart back to Him and the season of Lent. I’m also hoping to write a blog entry about each chapter to make myself think through it more, so you could follow my thoughts on future blogs. Maybe Jordan will write a blog entry too. Or if you read a chapter and it speaks to you, I’d love for you to write an entry for my blog!

Whether you read the book or not, I do invite you to mediate on the Cross over Lent.

Before you finish reading this blog and move on to your next thing, would you take a few moments to talk to God and see if He wants you to fast from anything over Lent? Maybe one of the ideas I shared spurred something in your mind. Ask Him if there is something He wants you to fast from for all of Lent, for part of Lent, or for one day each week of Lent. If He brings something to mind, have the courage to follow through! God loves you and if He’s asking you to fast from it, no matter how hard it may seem, trust Him that He really knows what is best for your heart and your relationship with Him. Fasting is hard, especially if it’s for a long haul, like all 40 days of Lent. I encourage you to share with someone to hold you accountable and to encourage you. And keep before you the purpose of why you are fasting. Without the purpose of knowing and loving God, this will just become another empty tradition.

Thankfulness vs Unthankfulness


Have you heard the saying, there is always something to be thankful for? But doesn’t it seem there is always something to complain about? Why is that?

Well, there’s a reason, several reasons actually. For some of the reasons, let’s look into what Psychology has to say. I love Psychology. I didn’t know I loved it until long after I graduated college (I ended up getting my degree in Chemistry, Physics and Math). I find the Psychology behind negativity fascinating. There are two concepts, called the Negativity bias and the Prospect Theory, that say people are more likely to choose things based on their need to avoid negative experiences, rather than their desire to get positive experiences.

Psychologists conclude negative experiences or the fear of them has a greater impact on people than positive experiences. Negative experiences sear to our brain instantly, whereas, positive experiences have to be held in our awareness for more than 12 seconds in order for it to transfer from short-term memory to long-term memory. Psychologists say that unless we are occupied with other thoughts, worry is the brain’s default position.

Complaining is tempting because it feels good, but like many other things that are enjoyable — such as eating a pound of bacon for breakfast — complaining isn’t good for us. Repeated complaining wires our brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, we’ll find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around us. Complaining becomes our default behavior.

Here’s the kicker: complaining damages areas of our brains. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus — an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. It’s not an exaggeration to say that complaining leads to brain damage! A few other health concerns: complaining release the stress hormone cortisol, which impairs our immune systems and makes us more susceptible to high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and obesity. And since we mimic the moods of those around us, particularly people we spend a great deal of time with, complaining is a lot like smoking — we don’t have to do it ourselves to suffer the ill effects.

Taking time to be thankful isn’t merely the right thing to do; it also beneficial for our health. Gratefulness reduces that stress hormone cortisol which improves our moods, gives us energy and substantially lowers our anxiety levels.

Not only is complaining bad for our health, it is bad for our relationships. Complainers repel others with their negativity. Sometimes I don’t even want to be around myself when I’m in a negative and complaining mood. It also influences others to be negative and ungrateful toward God (we can influence our roommates, our families). If that’s not bad enough, it affects our relationship with God.

We hinder our ability to intimately fellowship with God when we complain. Complaining causes us to focus on circumstances and not on God to satisfy us. Ungratefulness hinders our faith, hinders our ability to see God, to see Him at work, and to trust that He cares for us.

Ungratefulness is bad for our health, bad for our relationships with each other and bad for our relationship with God. What does the Bible have to say about it?

Well, the Bible says we will have problems. In John 16:33, Jesus says “In the world you have trouble and suffering, but take courage—I have conquered the world.” We will have problems; don’t ever be surprised by this. But we needn’t lose sight of God when problems come.

Sometimes God will cause problems in our lives because we are losing sight of him. John Eldredge in his book, Journey of Desire, calls God the Divine Thwarter. Sometimes God will thwart our plans on purpose, and this is when it’s easy to complain. (I can’t find a job, I don’t have a relationship, my computer isn’t working, the internet is down, etc…) The first time I really came to understand this concept of God as the Divine Thwarter was back in the early 2000’s. I was first on staff and needed my own computer. My Grandpa, who recently became a Christian and was very excited about me joining the ministry, offered to buy me any laptop I wanted. I got to pick out the specs and nearly everything I wanted (trying to keep it reasonable, of course). I put a lot of time and thought into it, and boy, was I excited to get it. Once it was ordered, I tracked the shipping and counted down the days. And wouldn’t you know the thing was delayed, not once, but twice! And it was June, there wasn’t even a weather issue! Oh, I was frustrated and just wanted to complain. But right around that same time, I first heard the concept of the Divine Thwarter and realized God was thwarting my desire on PURPOSE! I was putting all my hope and joy into receiving this new laptop, and my hope was not in Him. So I confessed where I was at, stopped complaining, and put my hope back in God. Then I patiently waited out the extra days for my computer to come.

We can either focus on God or focus on our problems. Our minds can be filled with only one or the other. It is impossible to thank God and blame God at the same time. There is always something to complain about. There is also always something to be thankful for.

God wants us to give Him our problems, whether caused by Him when He’s divinely thwarting us or caused by the World. We live in a broken world with broken people, and we are hurt & frustrated by it. 1 Peter 5:7 was one of the very first verses I ever memorized. It says, “cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” Cast ALL your cares on him, because he CARES for you!

There’s a quote by Elizabeth Elliot that I enjoy, “If it’s big enough to worry (complain) about it’s big enough to pray about.” God wants us to cast ALL our cares on Him.

Another familiar verse is Phil 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” We could camp out in this verse for several blog posts. But I’ll just hit a few highlights. Did you know, as a Christian, we have the option to not be anxious? God wouldn’t command it if it wasn’t possible through Him. We don’t have to be anxious about anything. Period. Ever. Period. This is good news, especially for those of us who are prone to anxiety. I know what’s it’s like to deal with anxiety and panic attacks. But God gives us another option. Paul says “INSTEAD, in every situation,” we can pray about it, with thanksgiving. All our cares. All of them. Every situation. With thanksgiving. We can always find something to be thankful for, because there is always something about God to be thankful for. We can be thankful that He is Sovereign, in control of the frustrating situation, that He loves you when someone else was rude, that He is your provider when you are out of money, etc…

And then it gets even better, as we tell our requests to God, with thanksgiving, the peace of God that surpasses understanding (and does it surpass my understanding) will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I don’t understand at all how it works, but I know by experience personally and through living life alongside people, that His peace comes and it guards our hearts and minds. What a huge blessing! That His peace will guard our hearts and minds instead of them being attacked by anxiety.

Many times my time alone with God starts out with a list of worries. My concerns and complaints are the loudest things in my head and I can’t concentrate on anything else, and they get louder the less I am trusting God with them. So, in humility and trust, I give each one over to God. Some are easy, some are hard. Especially with the hard ones, I need to remember and believe that He is God, He is Good, His heart towards me is good, and He can and will take care of each one of my concerns in His way and timing. After this time of surrender and being thankful for who God is, my heart can be still and I can actually live out Ps 46:10 to “Be Still and Know that I am God…”

If you continue on after the verses in Phil 4:6-7, into verse 8, Paul says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I thought it was interesting to look at the opposite of each of the things in this verse.

    • True                       False (Fantasy)

Whatever is true. Frequently I will have bad dreams, and now that I have a daughter, they are usually about some kind of harm coming to her. I have a choice in that moment, to entertain that thought, which I have and it will lay me flat in my emotions and ruin my morning, even my day. Or I can declare it not true, declare the truth that she is currently safe in her crib, and always safe in God’s hands and reject the thought. The same with fantasy. As a single gal I used to daydream about whichever boy I had a crush on. I could entertain the fun daydreams, which would get my heart and longings for relationship going, or I could choose to stop the daydream and trust God with my heart and desire. When I entertain a fantasy, I’m not thankful to God for where He has me, and I quickly become ungrateful, wishing for the fantasy to become reality.

The same choice applies to each thought on this list. The enemy will CONSISTENTLY try to throw a negative thought our way. Don’t grow discouraged at what he throws your way. You have an incredible option as a Christian to reject it, to turn to God, and think about the list Paul gives us. Let’s keep going with our list.

    • Nobel                     Ignoble (dishonorable in character or purpose) Such as complaining about a professor, boss, coworker, roommate which is dishonorable to them.
    • Right                     Wrong
    • Pure                       Dirty
    • Lovely                   Ugly
    • Admirable           Unworthy
    • Excellent              Poor
    • Praiseworthy      Blameworthy (we can either blame God or thank God)

phil 4 9 adrienne
Phil 4:8 by Adrienne Holland

When we are thankful, it awakens us to God’s presence and overshadows all our problems. Giving thanks fills our minds with God’s goodness and power rather than our anxieties. When we thank God for what he has done, it reminds us of who God is and what he can do in our lives. The more we thank God, the more confident we become in Him and the less the enemy can discourage us.


The Psalms are filled with shouts and songs of Thanksgiving to God. A common theme with thanksgiving in the Psalms is this is how we enter God’s presence:

Psalm 95:1-2 Come! Let’s sing for joy to the Lord! Let’s shout out praises to our protector who delivers us! Let’s enter his presence with thanksgiving! Let’s shout out to him in celebration!

Ps 100:4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving 
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.

We enter God’s presence through Thanksgiving! How cool is that?!

There’s a thought from Jesus Calling, November 1st that I thought was encouraging. It said along the lines of: Don’t be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on God. It’s a lofty goal to continually be aware of His Presence. He is delighted by your desire to walk closely with Him. He is pleased each time you initiate communication with Him. He notices the progress you make. When you wander into negativity, don’t be surprised or alarmed at how easy it is to be negative. Our world is rigged to distract us and to bring us down. We live in a broken world. But each time you plow your way through the massive distractions to be thankful to God, you achieve a victory. Rejoice in these tiny triumphs!

We are in constant need of help. We hate that, because it’s not the American way. Exactly! It’s God’s way, he designed us with limitations and designed us to need Him. He wants us to come to Him with our neediness! Paul says in Phil 4:11-13 I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. We are familiar with the end of this verse, but did you catch the context? Paul learned to be content/thankful, rather than discontent/complaining. He learned. It’s a journey, even for Paul. And if it was a journey for him, it’s also a journey for us. It’s possible for us to be content and not complainers.

Another verse that shows God will give us the desire and the ability to be thankful is Phil 2:13-15 Paul says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing,  so that you may become blameless and pure…” The ability, as well as the desire, to be thankful comes from God.

We also need each other. Just as a complaining person is contagious, so is a positive person. Be around contagious people! Be that kind of person. Community is necessary to live with thankful hearts.


I have also noticed a trend that thankfulness and song are often woven together.

Ps 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song 
and glorify him with thanksgiving.

Colossians 3:15-17 (NCV) Let the peace that Christ gives control your thinking, because you were all called together in one body to have peace. Always be thankful. Let the teaching of Christ live in you richly. Use all wisdom to teach and instruct each other by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Everything you do or say should be done to obey Jesus your Lord. And in all you do, give thanks to God the Father through Jesus. Did you notice that the command to sing is sandwiched between two verses on thankfulness? Thanksgiving is the fuel for our worship.

I encourage you to spend some time today praising His name in song, and let Him fill your mind so your worries, problems and complaints cannot. Enter His presence through a time of thanksgiving & praise.

Beauty and Danger

beauty danger2Last week I could feel my spirit just dragging. Life had been busy, time with God had been shortened, and I was keenly feeling the effects of not having quality time with my Savior. I knew I needed to get away to the Mountains for at least a couple hours to just sit and be still. My mom was up visiting, so she hung out with Aurora while I took off to the Hills.

I found a spot off a dirt road, parked the jeep, grabbed my blanket, glanced around at the ground and dropped my blanket and settled in. Now, when I picked my spot, I noticed the bigger “beauty” and “danger”. The spot was shaded, full of greenery, with a few flowers. It also had a thorny wild rose bush that I was careful to avoid putting my blanket near. I was sad my spot wasn’t near water, as I really enjoy the sound of waterfalls and creeks. But the waterfall area was crawling with tourists, and not the place to be alone to think.

As I sat in my spot and practiced being still, I started to notice more “beauty” as well as more “danger”. At first I had only noticed a few bugs flying around me. But after 3o-45 minutes, I noticed they were everywhere, and the longer I sat, the more I noticed (and swatted). I also noticed a big ol’ spider web in the thorny rose bush next to my blanket, as well as a watery cocoon. (I’m not a fan of insects, so these are “danger” to me). But I also started to notice more beauty. A few rose buds on the bush I hadn’t noticed. Some white flowers tucked into the greenery below. Sunlight filtering through the trees. And then, after an hour of sitting and being still, I heard the sound of rushing water!

And God had an analogy for me in all of this. In my rushed state when I first picked my spot, I only noticed the immediate and large “beauty” and “danger”. If I’m not still in my spirit, I will only notice the larger beauty and danger to my soul. I will miss the smaller blessings (beauty) from God, and may even come to the point where I doubt His love and goodness towards me because I can’t see the smaller, more intimate ways He’s showing His love towards me. I will also miss the subtle dangers to my spirit, and it seems that’s where the enemy likes to work best. When I first sat down, I only noticed a few bugs, but the longer I sat, I noticed the small ones. Unless I am still before God, I won’t notice the small “gnats” eating away at my spirit.

In the moments of being still, God can reveal to me the dangers to my soul that I’m not noticing. Like when I’m prizing efficiency over loving people. Or trying to pursue rest via my own efforts of control. I find myself thinking “if only I could clean & organize my house, my schedule, my thoughts… then I’ll find rest/peace.” Sure, cleaning and organizing will provide a sense of rest, but it will be temporary, and not the true rest my soul is desperate for. That kind of rest can only come from being still in God’s presence.

It’s takes a peaceful spirit to see God’s intimate and personal ways of loving us. It takes a peaceful spirit to be teachable and humble to God revealing where we are slipping into sin. We might think we’re okay, because we are catching the bigger danger and beauty, but the smaller ones may matter more.

I encourage you to find some time to be still. Regular time. It doesn’t have to be up in the mountains, that’s just where I connect best with God. When we spent some time doing this during our women’s bible study, each girl picked a room in the house, or a spot in the yard, to spend 30 minutes being still with God. One girl received a lot of personal encouragement from God by seeing Moby Dick on my bookshelf and perusing through it. I don’t get it, but God knew she would! Because He is that personal in His love for us!

If you need some help letting God show you the smaller dangers to your spirit, I thought this blog post was pretty right on: 9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus.