Time has caused her steps to slow.  Her grown offspring are strong and independent.     She’s lived through trauma and experienced late-blooming joy.  Spring is in her heart even though it is the December of her life.   She’s outlived all her peers and gained the status of matriarch.  She is still productive, influential and compassionate.

I hope she views her life with a sense of accomplishment.

Her name is Ginger and she is our pet hen, a Buff Orphington of noble distinction.

Nine years ago, we decided to adopt chickens.  Morgan was six and Olivia, three.  The girls and their dad fenced in an area of our backyard and built a hen house.  We painted it egg-yolk yellow, stenciled ivy around the doorway and tacked up a sign that said “Home Sweet Home.”  We eagerly attended a local Chicken Swap and came home with four young hens, one for each family member.

Ginger, Rapunzel, Scarlet and Esme were welcomed into their new home.  They quickly became pets and the source of countless home-school projects.  They modeled for Olivia’s art classes and served as topics for creative writing and storytelling.  Morgan collected and counted eggs every day.  She turned the data into monthly bar graphs so that she could analyze and pinpoint the highest months of egg production.  The girls learned to scramble and fry eggs to perfection.   They gained responsible behaviors by caring for the hens.

After several years of chicken bliss,  tragedy struck one night when an opossum infiltrated the hen enclosure.  Rapunzel valiantly fought off the attacker, saving the flock, but incurred a serious wound which later took her life.  She was given a heroes’ burial and was mourned by all.  Years later, Scarlet succumbed to an illness, and was interred in the chicken burial grounds at the edge of the meadow.

We added four more young hens to our diminishing little flock.  Ginger and Esme outlived them all except one, Celeste, a spunky Rhode Island Red.

Celeste, Ginger’s apprentice

Last year, sweet Esme died of old age, leaving Ginger and Celeste, her young apprentice.

As time went on, it became clear that although the hen yard was nice, Ginger and Celeste yearned for freedom.  Knowing that unfortunate consequences were possible, but understanding the need to roam, we let them out at selected times of the day.  They seemed happier than ever before.

Sky above, grass below. Freedom.

However, in 2016, a week before Christmas, tragedy struck again. A stray dog wandered into the yard and grabbed Ginger.  The attack left her with a gaping hole on her back.  Having witnessed the event, the girls were horrified.  I cradled Ginger in my arms as Brian and I inspected the damage.

The wound was bigger than the size of my hand.  Feathers, skin and muscle had been ripped away. Bone protruded in one place.

“Please mama, let’s try to help her,” the girls begged.

Brian and I looked at each other.  Neither of us wanted her to suffer.

Survival seemed unlikely; yet Ginger remained calm and trusting in my arms.

We finally agreed to give her a chance.  The garden shed became her hospital.  We sprayed the wound with antiseptic and put her in a box full of straw.  Morgan appointed herself head nurse.  She cared for Ginger over the next few days, applying iodine to her wound, syringing water into her beak and trying to feed her cornmeal mash.  The girls took turns sitting with her.

The next few days were not encouraging.  Brian and I thought we would have to make a hard decision.

Christmas morning dawned and  Ginger’s first check-up revealed that she had turned a corner during the night!  Her wound was beginning to heal and showed no sign of infection.  Best of all, she was finally hungry.

The girls had been praying, with beautiful faith, for Ginger’s recovery.  Without a doubt, they will always remember the Christmas God gave them a little miracle!

Ginger has since made a full recovery.  Within 6 months, the protruding bone had settled back in, flesh and skin regrew and her feathers came back completely.  Her life had been reclaimed from the brink of death.  Clearly, her walk had not ended.

There was still more for her to accomplish…

(Watch for Ginger’s continuing saga  in “Not Trampled,  Part II”)

My girls have learned more from Ginger than simple school lessons.  They have witnessed in her a calm and trusting nature that has been able to adapt, endure and overcome.  As the fabric of their childhood weaves together with many threads, I am thankful for this piece, where the colors of joy spring from the colors of tragedy.

God  has woven our lives with opportunities to showcase His glory and goodness.   If we approach life with eyes ready to see and point out His blessings then we will have unlimited chances to help others see Him.  satan* wants to make everything appear dark.  In Jesus, we have new eyes that can see the threads of blessing running parallel to the threads of difficulty.

(Vicky, thank you for sharing with me a beautiful example of how you recently did this very thing for someone in your family!)

Ephesians 2:10  (NAS)

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

In Greek, the word “walk” includes this meaning:  to make one’s way,  to progress, to make due use of opportunities.

Make use of every opportunity God gives you to help others see how He blesses!

Photo credits: M. Dalrymple

* You may notice here and in other posts that the “s” in satan is never capitalized.  It’s not a typo; it is a choice.





Right knee: arthritis, torn ACL (reconstructed 1995)

Left knee: torn ACL, torn medial meniscus

Great right toe: amputated 2007

Not a very good resume for someone who likes to run, is it?

But I do, anyway.

“Are you sure it’s the left knee you are here for?” the orthopedic intern had asked.  He held x-rays of both my knees in his hand.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

“The right knee doesn’t bother you?”

“”Welllll, it does.  I just run through it.”

Long pause.  “Hmmmm,“ he said. “Let’s see what the doctor says.”

My orthopedist came in.  He shook my hand.

“I remember you,” he said.  “You’re the one who came to me with a torn medial meniscus years ago and decided not to do what I recommended.”

“Yep, that’s me.”

“Now what’s going on?”

I told him I thought I had torn my left ACL on a hike.

“X-rays don’t show ligaments,” he said, but his examination revealed what I suspected.

“Why would you come to see me again, since you’re not likely to do what I recommend this time either?” he asked.  His gaze was piercing.

I entertained the fleeting thought that perhaps he and my husband had conversed before my appointment.

”Why are you going in if you’re not going to do what the doctor says you should do?” Brian had asked the night before.

Am I really that transparent?

“Is the recovery for a reconstructed ACL still 18 months?” I asked the doctor.

“Yes,” he said.

“No running, no swimming, nothing for a year and a half?”

“That’s right.”

“Been there.  No desire to repeat.”

He smiled, looked at the notes the intake nurse had written, glanced at the x-rays again.

“The right knee doesn’t bother you?” he asked.

(It seemed like I had heard that somewhere before….)

“You ran after you fell?” he continued.  Eyebrow up.  Way up.

“I gave the knee about two weeks,” I answered sheepishly.  “It loosened up after a couple of miles.”

He looked at me like I was crazy.  Maybe I am.

“Hmmm,” he said.

I felt like I needed to fill the uncomfortable bit of silence that followed his ‘hmmm.’

“It’s a God thing,” I replied.

He smiled. “Well, praises to Him, then.”

I liked his answer.

“Some people do okay without an ACL,” he began.  I felt a tiny seed of hope sprout with a miniature leaf in the fertile soil of my stubborn spirit.

“I wouldn’t suggest you take up soccer, but you may do alright with straight line running, on smooth surfaces.”

“Keep in mind you now have two torn ligaments in the left knee.  If you find that the daily twists and turns of life make your knee weak and unstable, come back to me. I’ll do my best to fix it.”

As he walked out, to go on to his next, less hard-headed patient, he called over his shoulder, “Run your legs off.”

That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.

I started running seriously in 2007. Before that, my thing was strength training.  Running didn’t work for me then.  Imagine a brick with legs.

God showed me through a series of events, though, that working out was an addiction, a chain, an idol. It was what I woke up for, what my day revolved around. I couldn’t go on vacation without seeking a place to work out.  Working in a gym and working out were my life, because for a long time, life wasn’t what I wanted it to be.

Even after a broken road, a rescue, and a time of blessing, my relationship with God was not what it was designed to be.  He was waiting for me.

After a bout with illness, I started to run.  Not to repeat the same mistake I made with working out, but just to overcome, I told myself.

When I started running, in early April, almost 11 years ago, I didn’t know that every mile would hold a lesson from God.  Neither did I know that running would become a special time of prayer, praise and heart to heart conversations with the Lord, my Jesus, who loved me so much He would do whatever it took to draw me close.

Is there something in your life that seems torn beyond repair?  Seek the Master Craftsman; the one who made you for Himself.

Our lives can be “torn” for so many reasons.  Sometimes, things happen just because we live in a fallen world, guaranteed for trouble.  Often, the rips occur as consequence to our choices, or choices others make.  We experience tears in the fabric of life that make us unstable and weak.  The Bible teaches that God allows hardship, because He knows we may not seek Him otherwise. Sometimes, He allows hardship because the faith we exhibit, in the darkness, will shine that much brighter, drawing others to know Him.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but God has them all.   He loves you.  He wants your heart.  He died for your soul.  He wants to reconstruct the pieces.  Give Him the torn bits and trust Him.  Read His word.  Seek out a believer you trust to talk and pray with.  Ask God to guide your foot strikes. He will.

Expect results; but know although He can do instant miracles, He may choose a slower process. Sometimes, the tear remains so that all can see what we do is not because of our strength, but because of His.  It is through THOSE torn pieces that others see His light and all the beautiful colors that make it up.

Consider this: stars are in the sky all the time.  We see them at night because the sky is dark.  When life is torn and dark, will you still shine your light for Him?  It will be most visible then.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

“For you are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on a stand so that it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”


Leave No Trace

Homeschooling is a complex mix of challenge and blessing.  Of all the things I’ve done, it has required the most faith and courage.  I would not, however, choose another course, even though the climb upward often leaves me feeling unbalanced and shaky.

Because of that, I give home-schooling  over to the Lord, again and again.   He blesses me and shows up in ways I never expect.

My teenage daughter struggles deeply with Math.

Many of us do.  She’s persevered  and made good progress, but in April 2016, we reached critical mass.

The unit we were working on was beyond hard for her.  Repeated attempts, discouragement, failure, frustration and  anxiety swirled around her like tatters of dismal fog.  “I’m a failure,” she said.

“No, no, no you are not.  Math doesn’t define who you are.  In the whole scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter!”  My words spilled out, futile attempts to change her mindset.  I prayed.  “Help her, Lord.  Help me to help her, not so much IN math, but in how Math makes her feel.”

“Let’s walk away from it for awhile,”  I said.  One of the beauties of home-schooling is you can do that.

The day was warm and sunny. I suggested something I thought might be a way to switch gears. “Let’s go for a hike.  We’ll have some kind of a  lesson outside.”

My girls both know I love to teach through experiences, on the go and in the moment.  Life IS school, I have been known to say.  That way of teaching is always met with groans and rolled eyes, because it brings school into times of the day or activities which the girls think should be un-touched by lessons.

They both knew it was unlikely I could keep a lesson out of the hike, but  the promise of an afternoon away from the books softened the blow.

Boots on, Morgan, Olivia and I journeyed out.  As we entered the woods across from our house, an idea emerged. I could teach them about the impact of natural and human forces on our world.  Brilliant!

As we entered the woods, I embarked on a lesson about erosion and other forces which naturally change the environment, pointing out examples of that very thing as we traveled along the banks of a stream.  I segued into a  discourse on the Leave No Trace Philosophy, an outdoor code of ethics which began in 1960’s.

We, as responsible people, I elaborated, should live by these rules when  we enter a natural environment, showing care and respect for our surroundings.

I emphasized the core philosophy: Leave no footprints, take only memories, make no changes.  Overall, limit the impact  on the environment.

“Ok, mom.  We got it.  Can we just walk now?”  Morgan asked.

I still had more to add, but, my girls are quick studies on things like that, so, okay.  Lesson done.

We followed the stream through the woods, as best we could.  The area was surprisingly hilly, making the hike more fun than just an easy stroll around the soybean field.

The stream widened into an inviting section where clear water skirted a sandbar and tumbled over pebbles.  The girls clambered down a short embankment and stepped into the clear water.

“Hurry, mom.  Follow us!” they called as they splashed downstream.

The stream bed was not far from the top of the bank where I stood.  Feeling invigorated by our adventure, I jumped down.

Instead of sticking the landing, I lost my balance on the squishy sand bar, twisting my knee in the process.  A sickening pain shot through me and I dropped like a lead weight.  Lying on my back in the shallow water, I felt an intense and familiar pain.  Having torn my right ACL years before, I had a shocking and immediate sense of deja-vu.

I feared my left ACL was now history.

The girls ran back upstream.

“Mom, Mom, are you okay? What happened?”

“I’ve hurt my knee, girls, just give me a minute.”   I sat up.  The pain was so severe, I felt like I might black out.  Not good.  I can’t do that now, I thought.

I bent my  head down between my knees and forced myself to breathe deep.

Morgan was pacing.  “What do we do, what do we do?  Call 911, call Dad, should I go for help?  Mom, we’re a long way from home.  What do we do?”

Deep breath.  “Just be calm. Help me up out of the water and onto the bank.  Then we’ll figure it out. ”

Both girls helped me get back onto the bank.

The pain was almost unbearable.  I stood there, not wanting to believe what just happened, angry at myself for not being more careful, frustrated because this meant no more running, probably for a long time, possible surgery, recovery…and how in the world would I get home? Hundreds of thoughts shot through my brain, each one demanding attention.

Pray first, I thought.

“Let’s pray about this,” I said.  We held hands and prayed that God would help us.

He did.  Short prayer.  Immediate calm.

The plan became clear in my head.

“We are not calling 911.  We aren’t going to call Dad.”  I will get back, you’ll help me.  We’ll take it slow.”

Olivia, my tween, was already looking around.  Always practical.  She drug over a stout branch.  Morgan stomped it with her boot until it snapped.  She handed me the newly made walking stick.  With its help, I was able to walk slowly, though painfully.   One of my girls walked beside me, while the other walked ahead, picking the smoothest path.

They took turns helping me or clearing the way, throwing aside broken limbs and debris, so that I wouldn’t have to step over or move around things.

“So much for your lesson on Leave No Trace, Mom,” Olivia said as she snapped a dangling branch that I would have had to sidestep.

“Yeah, mom, that’s not working out so much, is it?”  Morgan added as she kicked and rolled a fallen limb out of my path.  Both my girls have always  pushed the edges of accepted rules and restrictions. They’re free spirits.

As we continued,  ‘Leave No Trace’ became a joke which the girls made more than once.  Years of backpacking with that philosophy, down the drain in an instant.  I’m sorry, nature lovers.

Despite the pain,  I had to laugh as my girls milked that failed lesson for all it was worth.

Oh,  the indignity of it all.

It was more than okay, though; the humor changed the focus,  making what could have been fearful for them, funny.  No doubt the prayer we started that homeward journey with helped, too.

My free spirits made my path as easy as they could.  Some of the hills we traveled were too steep for an injured knee. I  slid down on my backside or crawled whenever I needed to.  Parts of the journey were pretty intense,  but at least I was moving forward. The distance we traveled to the wading place took 30 minutes.  The return trip lasted an hour and a half.

Finally, we broke through the woods and stepped out into the open field.  Our house was in view.  I hugged them both.

I couldn’t have done that, without you, I told them.

Olivia continued to walk ahead, but I stopped Morgan in her tracks. A light  had just gone off in my brain.

God heard my prayer earlier this morning and had given me a way to help my sweet girl in a powerful way that I would never have chosen.

“You said this morning you felt like a  failure after that math lesson.  In the things that really matter,  Morgan, you’re not a failure.  I needed your help, and you helped me.  That’s real life, that’s what matters.”

A big smile lit her face.” Thanks, Mom,” she said, as she hugged me.

I saw the purpose of the injury.  I’ll take the hit, without question, and with gratitude, because as that little drama played out,  a big picture lesson unfolded.

I could never have  manufactured that life lesson for Morgan, but God, in His wisdom, did.  Words without the  experience would not have had the same impact.

God revealed many lessons that day, to both my girls.

Stay calm. Pray. Stick together. Help each other. Do what it takes.  Don’t stop because it’s hard.  Don’t stop because it hurts.  Find the humor when you can. Life is not just about good grades…

…and Leave No Trace doesn’t apply in every situation.

What traces are you leaving behind?  It is unlikely that you will leave NO trace, because every choice made, no matter how personal it seems, has the potential to impact others for good or harm.

Are you leaving a trail of destruction?  It’s not too late to choose a different path.  Jesus is all about moving forward instead of looking behind.  He’s already paid for the sin-debris that litters your path.  He wants to love you, teach you and walk with you as you learn to walk in His light.

Jesus said, “I am the Light of the World.” That means He is the One who conquered the darkness of sin and death.  Accepting His work on the cross for payment of your sin brings spiritual light and life to your soul and a promise of eternity.

Jesus also said, “Whoever follows me will  not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” That light is found in His Word, the Bible.  That light reveals the wisdom and truth we need to walk a clear path in THIS life and leave behind traces of Jesus so that others can see the right way and want to follow Him, too.

Choose to walk in the light of the Lord, reflecting  His light so that others see the way to Him.

Ask Jesus to come into your life, search your heart and show you how to walk in the light.  LEAVE TRACES for Him!

John 8:12 (NIV)

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said  I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” 

John 12:46 (NIV)

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

Psalm 119:105

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

JS Dalrymple










Winter’s Purpose

There have been times of winter in my soul.  In what is now a distant past,  hopes, dreams and expectations lay jumbled and twisted around my feet.  Hurt woven with  regret cast a suffocating net around my life.

Choices made by others in my life, and choices I made without the light of God’s wisdom and outside His will, brought me to a place of darkness.

In that place of shadows, You, Lord seemed far away and uncaring.   The personal details of my life and the tears I shed seemed unimportant to You. The path ahead was uncertain and fearful.  Little did I know that You  allowed the life I dreamed of and the things I sought after to be stripped away, so that in my failures and in the failures of others, I would have no choice but to search for You.

I did not know then, that only in You, could I find the shelter I desperately needed; and that your love was the only love that could create new life and fill the  bitter emptiness which pierced me.

The journey from winter to spring was slow and painful, yet looking back along the path, I see your hand.

I know that a car accident which should have taken my life did not, because your hand was on me. I know that a friend who said, “Don’t leave God out of the equation,” was sent by You.

Years after that, your work still not done, You allowed my physical strength to fade and fear to rise in the face of cancer. That storm reinforced how I needed to  find my strength in You instead of myself.  Fearful things were the tools You used to hem me in, so that I would retreat into your arms.

satan meant the troubles I faced for destruction but You meant them for good.

In your vocabulary, good was not as I defined it.  Good, from my way of thinking, should never be painful.  But, You, Lord, had higher purposes.  You knew which layers needed to be stripped away to reach my heart, bringing me to a place where I had no one and nothing to rely on but You.

Only then, could Spring begin to form.  Only then would You re-master me and my life.

Now, Lord, looking back, I see You.  I see Your faithful hand orchestrating my life through the brokenness.  I did not see You then because my eyes were fixated on the fragments  and not on You.

I know now that You formed me with intent, and that  the shattered, broken road  I walked served a purpose.  It helped to shape, teach and fill me with a passion to help others who are on their own stretch of broken road.

Thank you, precious Lord; because You did what it took to get my attention.  A smooth road would not have made me who I am in You.  I love You.

My friend, wherever you are, if you are traveling a broken road and the winter in your soul has made you numb, stolen your hope, filled you with doubt, anger and regret; please recognize you cannot manufacture the newness of spring in your life without surrendering to the Lord who is God of all creation. He is the Light who wants to bring life, color and meaning to the winter in your soul.

He loves you beyond what you can understand.  He will never forsake you, but perhaps you have forsaken Him.  Ask Him to come into your life, forgive your sins, and begin transforming you from the inside out.  If you came to Him once before, but have walked your own paths away from Him, as I did, return to Him on the bent knees of your heart.  Ask Him to restore, rebuild and recreate you into who He wants you to be.

Only He can bring the spring out of the depths of winter.

John 8:12 (NIV)

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the Light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” 

John 14:6 (NIV)

“Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

“Search me, O God, and know my heart.  Test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

JS Dalrymple





Order from Chaos

The last rose of the season.

Do your feet hit the floor running in the morning? Are there more tasks on your ‘to do’ list than there are hours in the day?  Does chaos rule at work, home? Is there never enough energy and time to equal what has been put on your plate?

If so, count yourself as normal.  A fallen world falls on us in many different kinds of ways.  We experience that fall from grace through tragedies, disease and  loss of loved ones, but also in the day to day struggles of work and life that bring us stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

Genesis 3:19 says:

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken, for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

That verse carries with an underlying promise of trouble and striving.   Jesus confirms it when He says:

John 16:33 (partial)

“……In this world you will have trouble…….”

It’s a hopeless place to leave things isn’t it?  God, however,  didn’t choose to leave things there.

The fall of man didn’t surprise Him.  He had a plan and a purpose.  He knew we needed a Savior.  He gave us Jesus.  He gave us someone who knew trouble.  He gave us One who knew exhaustion (remember the story of Him sleeping on the floor of a storm tossed boat?).  God sent One who knew what it was like to have people constantly needing Him, seeking Him, confronting Him and draining Him.  He gifted us with One who knew what it was like to have a monumental task to complete in a short period of time (His ministry was accomplished in three years….). God gave us a Savior who was also a man who experienced a fallen world in ways we will never approach.

The last part of John 16:33 gives us hope from the God-man who intimately understands our struggles:

“…But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Belief in Jesus grants us an  eternity in a heaven we cannot fully imagine. But, we can count on the promise that all things there will be pleasant, beautiful, fulfilling and peaceful.  Time will never be an issue, because heaven is forever.

However, the reality of  heaven can seem far away in our day to day struggles.  That’s why God gave us the here and now of the Holy Spirit, which is the presence of Jesus, The Overcomer!   He knew we would need His presence, as that Spirit,  inside us to give us strength for the journey, peace in the moment, grace under pressure and wisdom to apply to the madness.

God is above all.  He is waiting for you to lay your day at His feet.  Early in the morning, give it to Him, even before your feet hit the floor.  Ask Him to order your day, establish your priorities, give you the energy, patience and the strength you need, not just to endure, but to live the moments.  Ask Him  to forge in you the character He desires for you to have.  Keep asking.  Stay focused on Him.  Stay close.  Remember that He is a God of order, not chaos.

Notice the dew drops. Look not just at their presence, but the order with which they have fallen on the petals.

Colossians 1:17  (Italics, mine)

He (Jesus) is image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him, all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.” 

Ask Jesus to hold it all together for you.  Ask Him to order your day. Keep asking.  Keep seeking.  Believe that He can!


The Wonder of the Leaves

Crisp, clean fall air surrounds one of my favorite times of year.  Late season humidity  meets the cool of the night and leaves behind more than a memory.  Dew drops, left from the encounter, elevate the gossamer strands of spider webs in the grass to elaborate jeweled structures, glinting in the morning sun.

Late season roses add a gently sweet fragrance to the morning air and the  leaves of the trees which hem our meadow are beginning to reveal their colors.

Each season offers unique opportunities to see God’s hand in His creation.  If we look with eyes of wonder and curiosity, ready to see His signature on every facet of nature, we can see Him in beautiful ways.

It is so with the  wonder of the fall leaves.

When the hours of daylight are long during the growing season, plants take in energy from the sun.  They combine this energy with water and nutrients absorbed by the roots.  Chlorophyll, which feeds the plant, is produced in the leaves, making them vibrantly green.

As the daylight hours shorten, less chlorophyll is made.  The chlorophyll drains out of the leaf as the plant absorbs it, and since little is made to replace it, the color that is naturally in the leaf all the time is revealed.

The beautiful colors that we enjoy in the fall: scarlet, gold, orange, yellow and purple, are always present in the leaf !

As the plant or tree produces sugars, the colors deepen throughout the growing season.  Trees, for example, which produce more sugar (such as the Sugar Maple) have vividly red leaves.

However, even the most radiant colors are dominated and obscured by the green chlorophyll in the leaves during the spring and summer.

As the chlorophyll production diminishes, due to the shorter daylight hours, the stem end hardens and the leaf begins to die.  When the stem is completely hardened, the leaf falls away. The glorious color in the leaf is evident for only a short period of time, and does not become obvious until the leaf DIES TO ITSELF.

In a way, it’s similar to the fact that stars don’t “come out at night.” They are in the sky, all the time, it’s just that the light of the sun is so bright it obscures the light of the stars.

It’s amazing to me that the vibrant colors are present all the time! We can learn a beautiful spiritual lesson from that natural truth.

Luke 9:23 says “Then He said to them all, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

God’s ‘colors’ aren’t evident  when we are confident in ourselves and do things in our own strength.

However, when we deny ourselves or die to self, His colors shine through vividly!  When we surrender our lives to God, we give Him our hopes, dreams, desires and future.  We put others first.  We serve, we give, we love. We set aside headstrong ways and willful actions and become submissive to the Creator and Redeemer of our souls, out of love for Him.  When we die to self,  people see God in us. His glory becomes evident!

It’s also interesting to note that if conditions are favorable during the growing season and the leaves receive optimal nutrition, their color brightens; waiting to burst forth when the chlorophyll fades away.

If we nourish our souls daily with the sweetness of God’s Word, then our relationship with Him deepens and the colors of His graces are ready to burst forth into a world which desperately needs Him.

This is one of many wonders in our natural wold that God has put His personal signature on! As you enjoy the gorgeous colors of the leaves this fall, reflect with wonder on the Creator,  thank Him for living inside us and ask Him to help you die to self and live for Him, so that all the beautiful colors of His character may be revealed in you.

Leaf photo credit: Morgan





Beauty captured.

God wants us to know Him and listen to His voice; not the voices of the world that seek to mislead us.   Those world ‘voices’ are demanding and incessant.  How is it possible to  tone those out and focus on Him?  This is not something that we are able to do by ourselves! It’s only when we are able to rest in His grace that we can do this!


The Feather Touch of His Grace

Sighted by wondering, expectant eyes

The sign read Harbor Island.  An immediate picture came to mind: a jewel of land carved away from the shore by the sea, white sand beaches fringed with impossibly blue water.

The girls and I were headed back to our hotel after a day of exploring the shores of Lake Michigan.  My husband and his K-9 partner had to be in Grand Rapids, MI, for a yearly certification process. We were able to tag along.  They worked, we played.

We had already toured the oldest working windmill in the United States.  We’d stood, spellbound, as we watched Friesian horses gallop across the pasture behind it, black manes flowing in the wind.  We spent time on a quiet beach with a lovely view of a quaint red light house.  We were mesmerized by the azure waters of Lake Michigan and had felt the soft white sand of its beaches under our feet.  We’d eaten thick, juicy burgers, crispy fries and creamy milkshakes at an adorable beach café.  We’d climbed a sand dune and raced through the tunnel beneath it.  It had been an extraordinary day.

“Let’s take a detour,” I said.  “That island may be something we don’t want to miss.”

“Mommmm, can’t we skip it?” the girls pleaded.  “We’re so tired…all we want to do is get back to the hotel.”

“It won’t take long,”  I replied.  “Besides, it may be worthwhile! Sometimes the best part of a vacation is when you go off the path.”

Both girls moaned.  My tendency to go off the beaten track was well known and sometimes not appreciated.

Still, I couldn’t resist.

We turned onto Harbor Road and followed the signs.  I stopped on a patch of gravel, mostly overtaken by weeds.  In front of us rested a derelict pop up trailer.  An old metal building stood behind us, housing several boats covered in plastic shrink wrap.  Trash littered the ground.

Morgan took one look out the window and said, ”I’m staying in the car.”

“Well, I have to walk Frosty.  Just come out for a minute.”

Olivia came with me.   Morgan remained, determined to sit it out.

We walked Frosty along the edge of land.  Weeds and grass grew down to and into the water.  No white sand to be seen.  Trash and debris bobbed along the shore.  Colonies of algae and scum rocked on the gentle waves.

Olivia spied a paddle, washed up on the shore.  She immediately wanted to enact the law of “finder’s keepers.”  To her, the paddle had great potential, especially since she and her daddy were engaged in a  boat building project back home.

Though I appreciate her resourcefulness, I had to say no.

Her attention was next attracted to something white moving in the distance.  “What’s that?” she asked.

I glanced over quickly.  “Probably just another trash bag.”

“No, no, it’s not,” she said.

“Well, run over and see,” I told her.

A moment later, she came racing back.

“It’s a swan, Mom. A SWAN! Not a trash bag!  A SWAN! I have to get Morgan.!”

After hearing this exciting news, Morgan jumped out of the car with her camera and hurried away with her sister.

It was, indeed, a beautiful swan, gracefully preening itself close to the shore. Debris littered the edge of the water.  The girls watched quietly as it stretched a wing and set sail.  We stood there until it became a dot of brilliant white against the horizon.

The beauty of it stood out in the less than perfect surroundings. Perhaps, for that reason, it was even more beautiful  than if we had seen it along a bank, graced by willows and white sand.  The unexpectedness of it added to our appreciation.

As we turned to leave, we saw one lovely feather marking the swan’s presence on the shore.

Beauty recognized.

The girls talked about the swan for the next fifteen minutes, getting great pleasure out of the fact that I had mistaken it for a trash bag.  That’s o.k., it was a good, unspoken lesson about not taking things at face value.

Initially, I was caught up in disappointment, because the island was not what I expected.  If it had not been for the expectant, wondering eyes of my child, I would have missed the swan; passing it off as just trash blown there by a careless wind.

My youngest one, however, saw possibility.  My oldest girl saw beauty in what was left behind.

How often do we get caught up in the disappointments of life, eyes fixed on the broken things, on the debris, on the damage; mourning because what we are experiencing is not what we expected?  When we are too much in the moment, focused on the here and now; caught up in everything we perceive as wrong, we can easily mistake what God is in the process of doing.  We forget that He holds the ability to create and recreate. We may  miss the beauty of  His hand in the moment, and be in the wrong mind set to see the beautiful things His grace  will yet reveal  in the wake of the storm.

If you are in the midst of brokenness, with the debris of ‘what could have been,’ piled at your feet, be encouraged to look with eyes of possibility and wonder.  If you are a believer, God has placed His Spirit in you.  That Spirit is the Spirit of creation, and God is in the business of using brokenness to create beautiful.  Only He can work during  the storms to make and leave behind things of real beauty.

Character refinement, deeper trust in Him, the ability to empathize with others and bring them comfort, or the grace to find peace that is not dependent on circumstance, are all beautiful “feathers” that show His presence. Usually, these are blessings left behind only because of hardship; and in the contrast to the debris of the world, they shine with more startling beauty.

Brokeness gives us opportunities to draw close to God and rely on His strength and grace because we realize our complete inability to be successful on our own.  Believe that He can work in every situation!  Believe that His Spirit lives within you, enabling you to overcome.  Embrace and apply that concept! It is real.  It is truth. Ask Him to give you wondering, expectant  eyes that see possibility and beauty instead of debris.

Romans 4:25-5:5 NIV      

(Italics, Mine)

 “He (Jesus) was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we[b] boast in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”


An Artist’s Touch: Sifted and Cherished

Scroll down to April 9th to catch the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Scroll down to April 9th: the beginning of the Sifted and Cherished Series.

Although God may sift you in the trials of life, you are cherished beyond measure by Him.  Believing the truth of His love is critically important.  Knowing this truth leads to an understanding of His perfect grace and the salvation which results from it.  The knowledge of grace is intended to make us feel free, loved and saved by Him.

Free, because we see that a relationship with Him and eternity beside Him is guaranteed, based on His promise alone, not on anything we do.  Once saved, there is nothing we can do or undo to change His gift of grace.   Nothing else is needed except faith in Him.  We are not even saved by the strength of our faith, but by the grace of Him in whom we are faithful.

Recognizing that, then, makes it easier to endure the trials of this world.  The fall from perfection created the troubles we live through, but the God who loves us and has redeemed us through His Son can use those trials to draw us closer to His side and deeper into the shelter of His wings, refining us in the process.

It all has to do with perspective.  To an artist, perspective is the concept of making three dimensional objects appear three dimensional on a two-dimensional surface, such as paper or canvas.  Perhaps you can imagine a painting of a trail through the forests that is rendered with such depth that you feel as if you could step into the picture and travel where it takes you.

There are various techniques artists use to add depth and reality to their pictures, making two dimensions seem like three.

I believe we often see spiritual things in just two dimensions: the here and the now.  God, the Master Artist, sees things in multiple dimensions. His perspective is complete, ours is not.

God is a master of technique, with an eye for the perfect perspective.  He sketches with broad strokes, light touches, working with shadow and light, creating, erasing, adding in depth and character as we walk with Him.

He sees our future, individually and how it relates to others whose stories we will enter. He sees into the depths of our spirits and the hidden hurts of our hearts. He perceives the inner workings of our thoughts and knows the words of our lips and movements of our hands before they become reality.  He knows how He wants to render the picture of our lives and how each moment blends with the lives around us.

His perspective is the most excellent.  To maintain a right perspective for our lives,  we must focus on Him, trusting His great vision and the kindness of His love.

Several years ago, my daughter’s cat, Chloe, jumped onto the kitchen windowsill and knocked off a little vase which sat there.  Part of the edge broke away when it hit the sink.  The fragments were too small to glue back in place, so I intended to throw it away.  As I walked to the trash can, I re-read the words on its surface:  Live   Love   Laugh. 

A friend had given the vase to me years ago while I was in the hospital recovering from a serious infection.  At that time, I didn’t feel like living, loving or laughing, but I kept the vase.  I now know that God used that time of sickness in my life to teach me about Himself, to grow my trust in Him and to move me forward along the path He had for me.  I’m so thankful for that trial, although it was very difficult for me and my family.

Slowly, I replaced the vase on my windowsill, turning it so that I could see the brokenness.  It became more beautiful to me as it took on a deeper meaning: Our promise of life eternal with Him cannot be taken away by the brokenness of our world or our lives, because we live  with His Holy Spirit in us.

We have God’s love and presence with us always, through the sifting of trials, and we can laugh (rejoice) through those trials, because in Him and by His grace we are free from sin and cherished by His heart.  Through it all, we can trust that He is in the process of making us like His Son.

My prayer for you: that you will live in Him, love Him because He first loved you and laugh with joy in your spirit because He is with you always, even to the end of the age.

If you are not yet God’s child, have faith that He sent His Son to die for you.  Confess your sin and accept His grace.  Pray in your heart and believe in your mind.

1 John 1:8-9 (NIV)

“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Hidden Within: Sifted and Cherished Part 5

The wheat that grows in the Southeast where I live is different than the type that is planted in America's Breadbasket, but it is still beautiful!

The wheat that grows in the Southeast where I live is different from the type that is planted in America’s Breadbasket, but it is still beautiful!

Scroll down to April 9 to catch the beginning of the series.

Golden wheat stretched into the Kansas horizon.  Wind rippled through the stalks, like waves on the open sea.  The field beckoned to me like a field of poppies.  I wanted to stop my truck and get lost in that sea of gold, but I drove on.  The Rockies called me forward.  There was purpose in my journey.  Although I didn’t acknowledge it at the time, I was trying to run away from a world of hurt, trying to go to a place where I could find myself and forget myself.  Little did I know that the place I sought would hold no answers, but that the One who had allowed brokenness to enter my life did.

The mountains did not give me answers, but I know now that God gives us mountains in life to climb to bring us closer to Him, and to make us more like His Son.  He can use the trials, heartaches and mistakes we make to craft us into vessels He can use.

Difficulties (either ones we can’t control or ones we bring on ourselves), can become tools in God’s hand to refine our spiritual character and develop our trust in Him, to change things about us  that aren’t in alignment with the pattern Jesus has set for us, craft empathy within us so that we can sincerely comfort others, and through it all, give us opportunities to glorify Him.  The latter one is not because He needs the glory, although He deserves it, but so others can see the light of His truth and existence in our changed lives or in our belief, held steadfast despite life trauma and difficulty.

In Matthew, Chapter 13:24-30 Jesus tells the Parable of the Tares (weeds).  He explains in verses 36-43 that the parable speaks about God’s coming judgement.  In that instance, wheat symbolized true believers, and tares were symbolic of those who were counterfeit.

Jesus was a master at using tangible, familiar things to help people relate to the abstract spiritual concepts He taught.

While researching material for the Sifted and Cherished series, I was drawn to study tares and uncovered another spiritual analogy that seems applicable to the life of believers.

In the Holy land, tares refers to a weed that is called wild wheat.  The plant and seed heads look like cultured wheat, but the seeds are black.  They have a bitter taste, and, if eaten can cause dizziness, vomiting and if consumed in quantity, can become a sleep-inducing poison.

Women took the winnowed grain and painstakingly removed the tares by hand.  If the tares were left in the grain and ground into flour, the women knew that the bread they made from it would poison those they loved.

Although farmers of the day tried diligently to remove the tares from their fields, it proved nearly impossible, because the tares were hardy and prolific.

God painstakingly uses trials to remove the tares from within us, where their hardy roots anchor deeply into our sinful nature.  This is something only His knowing hand can do; and He does it because He loves us too much to leave us the way we are.  He knows the tares of our flesh can strip joy from life, cause anxiety over things we can’t control, bring sickness to relationships, cause damage to His character, (because we represent Him on this earth), and ultimately, remove us from the blessings He wants to bestow on us.  Salvation, not earned, but given, can never be taken away, but a life lived in the flesh of human desire, willfullness, self-reliance or weakness of faith, keeps us away from God’s peace, blessing,  and perfect will for our lives.

The miles I climbed in the Colorado Rockies years ago and the beauty I saw impacted me greatly, but nowhere near the way God has impacted me in the life I have traveled since then. I had so much to learn.  In hindsight, I realize my greatest spiritual development came at the expense of hurt, tears and trouble.  I had many tares God needed to remove and I know there are more He will yet search out. He knew exactly which trial or consequence I needed to go through to handpick a specific tare from my character or spirit.  Some tares, I hate to say, He had to pick out more than once.

My prayer is that now I will be more willing and open to His hand, quicker to trust Him, more able to find peace in Him, more likely to be teachable, more likely to ask “what can I learn, Lord or what do I need to change?”

As you approach this new year, I pray that you too will be willing to open your heart to God’s discerning eye and master-hand.  He sees all, anyway; He desires us to be willing. Let’s ask Him to remove the tares that prevent us from knowing Him deeply, steal our joy, retard our spiritual growth or poison us into a spiritual sleep.  All of those move us away from God’s blessing, perfect will and purpose for our lives.

James 1:2-4 (NIV)

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Romans 8:28-29 (NIV)

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.  For those God foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that He might be the firstborn of many brothers.”