Breast cancer: two words that can strike fear in a woman’s heart.

When those words sank into my reality, I knew that fear, not cancer, was my biggest enemy.

Fear waited on the threshold of my life to terrify my sweet girls and scare my husband.  Fear was rising up to steal my joy and overshadow my blessings.  Fear wanted to take a front seat and steer me down a path choked with sleepless nights and days that were drained of strength.  Fear, not cancer, would cause the Lord’s light in my life to grow dim.  Instead of seeing God’s glory along the path that was mine to walk, others would see fear.

Fear is one of satan’s most effective weapons, used to suffocate, stifle and poison.

Through the surrealistic haze that swirled around me, God’s words came to my mind, tumbling in their rush to head off the soldiers of fear marching toward me:

Do not fear, for I am with you… Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for YOU are with me…Be strong, do not fear…Don’t be afraid, just believe…

A collage of verses repeated in my head and I gripped on to them.  The Lord’s hand stretched out to me in the truth of His Word; living and real and present.

The devotion I had read to my girls the morning of my first appointment was about choosing faith over fear in a world that rages against our faith.  I didn’t select the devotion, it was simply the one for that day of the week;  definitely not a coincidence! It was the divine hand of an all-knowing God, prepping me for a decision He knew I would be faced with:  faith or fear. God was setting the stage for me before I knew what the next act was.

I chose faith.

I have chosen poorly in times past.  This time, though, I knew there was  too much at stake to make the wrong choice.

I chose faith, not because my faith is strong, but because God is strong. I knew He could stand against the hurricane force winds which would destroy me if I tried to stand alone.

Through this journey that is just beginning, I have chosen faith more than once. Each appointment, procedure and new level of information has required a choice.  satan dangles lures of fear before me, especially when I am tired, but God is gracious, and His hand remains outstretched and firm, even when my grip on Him begins to slide.

I know God has a purpose for the path I’m on.  It is not a derailment. It’s what God will use to fulfill the purposes He has for me, and perhaps others, as well.  Though it’s not the path of my choosing, it’s the path God has allowed me to travel.

This new territory will give me chances to cross paths with people I would not otherwise have encountered. I pray that others will see God in my life, shining with a light that pierces their storms. In spite of my weaknesses, He will do this!

He who commands the ocean waves and sets the boundaries for the waters of the deep is mighty enough for any fear YOU have to face.

Are ominous clouds of fear brewing on the horizon of your life?  Fear can spawn from many places:  disease, financial problems, divorce, relationship issues, addictions, heartache, depression, anger…the list can go on and on.

The world is a fallen place.  Tragedy, sickness and heartache abound.  But, know this: God loved you so much He sent His Son into this broken world to pay for your sins. If you believe that is true and have taken Jesus as Lord of your life, then He stands with His hand stretched out, waiting to comfort you, give you strength and be your refuge when the gale force winds hit.  He wants you to trust Him.  He wants you to choose faith over fear.

Choose Him. Choose faith. God will supply the strength to hold on.

Isaiah 41:9-10 (NIV)

“I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, ‘You are my servant;’ I have chosen you and not rejected you. So, do not fear, for I am with you.  Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”



Deep shade

My sister often quipped that our family farm was the first no-kill animal shelter in Kentucky.  It’s true my daddy had a heart for helpless creatures.  He kept every stray that crossed his path. Once, on a cold and rainy fall day, a pink piglet ambled up to our porch.  My daddy fed him milk out of a hubcap.  We named him Arnold.  It was a mystery where he came from, but from that day on, he had a home.

Our Rescue Hall of Fame included a beagle-terrier mix with a crooked tail my dad and his nephew found in a junkyard when I was six.  I creatively called him Spot.  He quickly became my best buddy and partner in crime. There was also a dog-coyote mix daddy found in a trap.  He nursed it back to health and told stories about how fast his wild girl learned to run on three legs.

There were many others, but my favorite story is the one of the black dog. When my dad was in his late seventies, he would walk to visit his friends who lived about a mile from our home.  His route took him past a trailer.  In the yard of that trailer was a light pole.  Attached to the pole was a chain.  The end of the chain was wrapped around the neck of a big, furry, black dog.  My daddy saw him first in the middle of summer.  The dog had no shade and had turned over his water dish.  It was clear he was suffering. Dad took the bowl, got water at his friends’ house and brought it back to the dog.  Then, he walked up to the door of the trailer and knocked.

“I’ll take that dog off your hands,” he said to the man.

“No!” the man replied. SLAM.

Every day for several days, my daddy did the same thing.  The man said no each time.

Finally, Daddy knew that asking wasn’t enough.

It was an incredibly hot day.  The dog had dug a hole in the ground to try to get cool.  This time, the water dish wasn’t turned over.  Instead, the dog had kicked dirt in it, making a slurry of mud.

My dad didn’t bother with the water dish.  He knew the dog was about to die in the heat.

He knocked on the door.  The man appeared.

“I’ll give you $20 for that dog,” Daddy said.

In a poor part of Kentucky where dogs are a dime a dozen, the offer was too good to refuse.

My dad pulled that furry, black dog out of the hole and took the chain off his neck.  He brought him home and gave him clean, cool water and deep shade.

A few years later my dad had a bad car accident that kept him in the hospital for a long time.  When he finally came home, my mom said the only thing that got him up and moving was that he thought the dog needed exercise.

At the end of one of my trips home, Dad and I said our good byes outside.  I got in my car and started it up, but couldn’t leave.  My dad and Blackie turned to walk through the orchard.  I watched them as they slowly made their way across the grass, covered by the thick shade of the fruit trees. My dad’s broad shoulders were stooped and his steps were slow. Being off leash, that dog could have run ahead to chase rabbits, but he matched his steps to my dad’s. Every few feet I could tell daddy spoke to the dog, because he turned his head and looked up at his master. The place he took at his redeemer’s side showed devotion, loyalty and obedience.  The two of them made a beautiful picture of merciful love and gratitude, etched forever in my mind.

It’s the way I want to be with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ, who paid a price beyond compare for me.  He pulled me out of the pit where I was choking on a slurry of sin and brought me from death into life. He un-wrapped the chain tangled around me and offered living water and a new beginning.

All too often, though, I run ahead of my Master, chasing after distractions that cross in front of me.

I want to keep that picture of my daddy and his big, black dog in the forefront of my mind, to remind me to match steps with my Savior and to listen for His voice.

Where are you?  Running ahead or zig-zagging around, enticed by life’s distractions?  Come back to your Master’s side. Seek His face and will for your life.  Follow His path.

Or, perhaps, you are in the pit of despair, sweltering under the oppression of sin. There is One, named Jesus Christ, with a heart of mercy, who wants to unwrap the chains and bring you home.  He has already paid the price to set you free.  Drink the water of life He wants to give you!

God’s compassion is beyond measure.  If you know Him, share His compassion with those whose paths you cross.  Share the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ that will set them free.  Tell them there is shelter in the shade of the Almighty’s wings.

Psalm 40:2-3 (NIV)

“He lifted me out of a slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth, a hymm of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.”

John 5:24 (NIV) 

“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.  He has crossed over from death to life.”

John 8:36 (NIV)

“So, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Psalm 91:1-2

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”

Thank you for your encouragement, Vicky. You are right.  The most important thing is to share the Word. A gift left in the box brings Him no glory.   Every word, every thought is from Him and for Him!    


The garden beside my drive started as a way to conceal two posts strategically placed in front of an  electric pole.  Years ago, as a birthday present, my husband and little girls attached a piece of trellis between the posts so I could plant honeysuckle.

The coral honeysuckle now hides the posts and attempts a garden takeover every year. Apple mint runs rampant and the wild roses my daughter and I rescued from a field have shown their gratitude with riotous displays of vines and clusters of flowers.  Ivy weaves a carpet of greenery around the black-eyed susans, lemon balm, daffodils and irises.  Yarrow, wild strawberries  and violets gather around the butterfly bush.  Surprise lilies, herbs and pear tree saplings  from my Kentucky home-place rise among blades of wayward grass, unknown vines and decorative weeds.

For years, I tried to control it all.  Mulch, stepping stones and hours of weeding contained  the vibrant life which thrived in that corner of the world.  Now, especially this year, the garden grows in unrestrained profusion.

“I need to tidy up that garden,” I said to the girls one day as we pulled into our drive.

“Oh, Mom, no,” Morgan said.  “Sometimes when gardens are too neat, they seem fake.  I like it the way it is.”

Olivia quickly concurred.  The garden was appreciated because it looked real.

Early the next morning, I stopped to admire that tangled profusion.  Beautiful, but messy.  Some parts I liked, some, I didn’t.  The weeds didn’t belong.  Dead leaves from the daffodils needed to be cleared away.  The vines with thorns were unwelcome but stubbornly rooted.  Much like life, I decided.  Much like me.

If we try to cover up the realities, we risk losing authenticity.  If we own the parts that are less than perfect, others see us as real, and there is beauty in that.

Life is hard. Life is messy.  Relationships can create a tangle of emotions and reactions. “Weeds” in our character and the character of others can choke out some of the good things.  Life is rampant with tragedy, sadness, challenges and tears.

But there is loveliness, too.  The joys of family, friendship and laughter weave around us.  Moments of overcoming and lessons learned in the face of failure add purpose. There is birth, re-birth, growing up and milestones reached.

There is God.

He is not just the Creator who views the garden of your life from afar.  He sees the detail and knows the  wayward thoughts, the impact of each thorn and every specific need.

He sees the real you.  He created you, loves you, died for you.  No matter how hard you try to control your life and tidy up your world, without Him; it’s empty work.  The satisfaction you try to manufacture won’t last, because only God can meet the real need you have.

That need is for a Savior.

Once you’ve accepted Jesus, Son of God,  as the One who paid for your sin, does life become neatly ordered and weed free?

No, it’s still messy.  But, as you grow in knowledge of your Creator, He helps your perspective to change.  Things that were once important, become less so.  Weeds become things you see for what they are and want Him to remove.  Trials are revealed as  builders of character and opportunities to grow closer to the One who loves you for WHO YOU ARE, immersed in the life of His Son.

God is the only way to find real beauty in the tangled profusion that is life.

The path starts by asking Jesus to forgive you for your sins and by believing that He died for you.

John 3:16-17  (NIV)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. “










Some of the many…

I stood in the pouring rain, umbrella sideways on the ground, clippers in hand.  My rose bush had never before been this beautiful.  Fifty or more roses bloomed on the bush in fragrant abundance.  Each rose was bigger than my hand.  The layers of petals trapped the raindrops, causing the stems to droop under the weight.  Torrential rain had fallen all day.  Heavy rain was promised for the next 24 hours.  I grieved as I stood there.  If only the rain had waited a few days, I could have enjoyed the splendor longer.  If I didn’t clip most of the roses away now, the stems would break under the weight of the petals laden with rain drops.  I carefully snipped the stems of many, laying them at my feet.

“Why?”  I asked as the rain soaked through my clothes and dripped into my boots.  I breathed in the fragrance of the roses, intensified by the rain.

The timing of this storm would not have been the one I chose. But, as I trimmed the roses and watched the branches  straighten as if in relief, I was filled with a sense of God’s timing.

We rarely see the need or the consequences of the rains that come in life, at least when we are in the moment.  We grieve over things we think are lost.  We ache over the  damage we perceive.  We wonder why the timing is as it was; or why something happened at all.  Our vision is focused on the small and present picture that surrounds us.

Having recently experienced a situation that caused discouragement and hurt; I knew that within these layers of waterlogged petals God was whispering  a lesson.

As the pile of roses at my feet grew, I was reminded, with simple clarity, of one truth:  I am not in control.

Because I am not, all that is left is to trust in the One who brings the rains at His own timing and for His purposes.

Trust.  Even.  When.  It.  Rains.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”




Tables and chairs were folded and put away; gear was stowed and supplies were packed in containers dripping with water.  The rainy space we occupied became a parking lot once again.  Believers who came together to serve for Moments of Hope, (a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve the homeless in the name of Christ), had just served food, smiles, and prayers.  Before we went our separate ways, we joined hands to thank God for the blessings we had experienced by serving others in Jesus’s name.

A man and woman walked across the parking lot towards us.  The woman was distraught with tears streaming down her face. Between sobs, she told us she needed prayer. Our circle folded around her.  We didn’t know her or her situation, but it didn’t matter.  God knew and had directed her to us.  We prayed for her. Jesus hugged her through our arms and reached out in compassion to her with our eyes.

“There was a wedding  today, but people are here every Saturday to provide a meal and pray with those who need prayer,” we told her.  “Please come back.”

“I didn’t know there was a wedding,” she said, “I just thought it was a church.”

She and her friend thanked us and walked away.  God created that moment of connection.  We may never see His purpose on this side of heaven, but you can be sure there was one.

The woman was right.  Our gathering was ‘church’ in the truest sense of the word.  Church is not defined by the walls and boundaries that are established by denomination and location.

Peter, one of Jesus’s disciples, teaches us that Jesus  is the cornerstone of our faithGod set that cornerstone  into place when He poured out His wrath onto His Son,   blending the penalty for our sin with the grace of His love.   Justice and mercy came together, forming an unshakable foundation that would rock the world.

1 Peter 2:6 (NIV)   italics – mine

“For in scripture it says, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone (Jesus) and the one who trust in Him will never be put to shame.”

Jesus is the “Living Stone,” rejected by men but precious and chosen by God.  He is  the unwavering truth we build on, the sacrifice we count on, the eternity we hope for and the life that lives in us.

The stone that was rolled in front of the tomb could not contain the victorious life that walked out into the light of a new day.  That  lifeless stone  could not prevent the positioning of THE Living Stone that would change the structure of humanity!

Jesus changed that structure when He conquered sin, defeated satan and rose in victorious life by the power of God’s spirit.  That spirit is the same spirit that re-generates us from death to life when we believe!

Peter also says that believers ARE the “living” stones that make up the church.  once dead to sin, but now alive in Christ, a new creation, forgiven, chosen and redeemed!

1 Peter 2:4-5 (NIV)

“As you come to Him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Church IS the body of believers – the individuals who love and serve Jesus Christ with worshipful obedience, offered with gratitude to Him who brought us life!

It’s vitally important that we understand church isn’t just a location where you go to worship and be fed the word of God, although having a church building as “home base” is critically important.  We all need a close fellowship where we can learn to serve, grow and develop godly friendships.  But, true church extends beyond walls.  Walls create barriers and separate IF we allow them to.  They can divide and diminish.  Walls designate differences. They often keep people out.  They often keep people in. True ‘church’  is about community – believers working together to serve the Lord out of love.

Paul, who encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, explains that the church is like the human body (1 Corinthians 12:12-27 and Ephesians 4:1-16), with Christ as the head.  Each believer is a part of that body, all designed by God to work together.

Both examples (the living stones and the body) are about community: believers working, loving, serving together, with differences of opinion and ways of doing things set aside, in order to reach a common goal: to bring God glory, so that all may see and come to know Jesus as Savior.

How can you go beyond the walls and bring church to those who might not come to you?  Seek to be part of something bigger than yourself.  Find a way to serve within the church building you call home AND a way to serve as THE church, the body of Christ, which extends outside perimeters established by human hands.

A hurting world in need of Christ is waiting.  God’s plan and purpose is for you to go, to love, to serve and to live for Jesus as part of the community of believers, who support, encourage and work together for a common goal that extends beyond walls.

The goal:  Celebrate His life, given for you, by living for Him with worshipful obedience! Live HIS story with your life!

J.S. Dalrymple


If you are new to this blog, scroll down to read “Not Trampled, Part I

Summer breezes brought an urgent message to Ginger. In no uncertain terms, she let us know motherhood was calling.

When hens go “broody” they refuse to leave the nest.  They fluff their feathers and make special clucking sounds that come only from a hen whose maternal instinct has surfaced.

Ginger had been of this disposition before, but we always dissuaded her by patiently removing the eggs and taking her off the nest.  Since we were without a rooster, I knew Ginger’s efforts would have been futile anyway.  It was interesting to see that even though she was 9 years old, (past the point where most chickens lay eggs, let alone want to hatch chicks) she was still interested in raising a family.

As I stood by the nest box, in the warmth of mid-July, watching Ginger guard the eggs she and Celeste had laid earlier that day, my heart softened.

“After all she’s been through, why not?” I thought.

I called a friend who has hens AND roosters and explained the situation.  She graciously offered to give Ginger some fertilized eggs from her own hens.  We decided on the number seven.

We met one evening at church.  Morgan took the carton filled with potential life and held it all the way home as if it contained priceless Faberge eggs.   In the dusky twilight, we slipped the eggs under Ginger. She nestled down on them contentedly.

The next morning, Morgan and Olivia went into overdrive once again on Ginger’s behalf. They carried tasty treats and water to her nest-side daily, limiting the number of times she needed to leave the eggs.  They counted 21 days off on the calendar and circled the hatch day.  Excitement built daily, almost like waiting for Christmas morning.

On August 7, Morgan and Olivia were up unusually early to check Ginger’s progress.  They ran back in with exciting news.  We all hurried outside in the fresh morning air to witness the miracle of hatching: 6 balls of fluff, 3 white and 3 black baby chicks.

A proud mama

Ginger turned out to be an exceptional mama.  She taught her babies everything they needed to know, displaying some surprising characteristics in the process.

Teaching the babies how to find food

As the babies grew, we realized there were three hens and three roosters.  It soon became obvious that the roosters, though siblings, would not be able to co-exist peacefully.  Zeke, the smallest, had the biggest ego.  One afternoon he repeatedly tried to spar with his brothers.

Finally, Ginger had enough.  She backed Zeke into a corner of the pen and stood in front of him, not allowing him to escape.  The girls and I watched, transfixed as Ginger kept him in “timeout.” Finally, she stepped aside and let him scoot past.  The discipline cooled Zeke’s budding spurs for the rest of the afternoon.  Had I not see that with my own eyes, I would have been in disbelief.

Ginger stayed with her off spring long past the time when most mama hens kick their juniors to the curb. She let the smallest, Harley Mae, snuggle with her in the nest box, even after the youngsters were old enough to get up on the roost.

We found good homes for two of the roosters, Zeke and Lewis, leaving Basil to reign as King.

After the two young roos left, Ginger must have decided it was time to let the others roam.  It seemed her dream of mothering had been fulfilled.  She was, however, yet to display another fascinating glimpse of her personality.

One afternoon, Olivia ran into the kitchen with news that Rosemary, one of the young hens, was limping.  I followed her out to the pen and examined Rosemary’s foot and leg.  There were no apparent thorns or obvious problems. We nestled her in a soft pile of pine straw and set food and water nearby.  In order to give her peaceful rest, we opened the pen door so the others could free range.  All of them hurried out, but Ginger remained, taking up a post by her young daughter.  Even after her traumatic incident with the dog, she never before missed a chance to wander.  Today, however, Ginger preened Rosemary’s feathers and stayed by her side.  Once again Ginger opened my eyes in wonder.

As a family, we watched  Ginger  instruct, nurture, discipline and  stand by her offspring, behaviors essential to good parenting.  While I hope my girls will learn a few things about being a mom from me, I’ll celebrate every positive influence  they get, no matter the source.

We have since added five new hens to our flock: Bluebell, Opal, Nutmeg, Stella and Lemon Balm.  Ginger is still the matriarch.  She continues to maintain order and lays three to four big, delicious eggs every week.

I encourage my girls to seek God’s plan for their lives. We talk about living a life that glorifies Him, but my words may take backstage to the lessons they’ve learned from one of God’s little creatures, a fluffy, determined and influential hen named Ginger, who refused to let her purpose  be trampled by adversity.

Matthew 5:13 (NIV)

“You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is not good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

Salvation is forever.  It cannot be destroyed, stolen or lost.  It will not deteriorate or fade or lose its ability to punch sin and death in the face. Belief in Jesus as your Savior guarantees eternal life.  There are no take-backs, returns or exchanges.  satan and the world cannot trample on what Christ did to gain eternal life for you. It’s permanent, because it has nothing to do with anything we do and everything to do with what Jesus did.  (Ephesians 2:8, John 10:27-30)

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus isn’t warning us about losing our salvation. Instead, He vividly tells us to guard against losing our Godly influence.

Jesus says Believers ARE salt  – we ARE a Godly influence.  Not we will be, but we ARE.  We ARE to model the character and attributes of an in-dwelling God for as long as God gives us life to do so.

As soon as we believe, we can begin telling others what God has done for us, even if we still have much to learn! We can begin shaking influence for the Lord into our world.  The flavor of that influence will increase as we learn more about God and begin following Him with worshipful obedience.

We are called to be continually salty people who season our world with the gospel message and the character of Christ.  We are to prevent moral decay by living and speaking the salvation message and God’s truths in a way that makes others thirst for more.  We are to be influential for God with longevity of purpose. Being salty is not something we retire from!

The saltiness Jesus talks of is opposite to the world’s flavor, which can at times, be overpowering.  So, how do we STAY salty?  How do we increase our saltiness instead of losing it and getting trampled?

First, we remember that He who is in us is stronger than he who is in the world.  We own the fact that Jesus lives in us and enables us to walk in victory instead of defeat.  We refuse to let the lies of our culture suck us in and drag us down.  We immerse ourselves in the Word instead of the world.  We pray that God would work in and through us to develop the influence we have on others by capitalizing on the adversity and obstacles in our lives.  We focus on developing the character of Christ, which will irresistibly draw others closer to God because of what they see in us.

We make choices to stay away from things that rob our salt supply and seek instead to keep going back to the source where we can replenish our salt stores daily.

We refuse to let our influence wane, so that we will NOT be trampled. We can do this, because we do it in God’s strength, not our own.

Refuse to be trampled.  Let your Godly influence flavor every relationship you have!

Hey, Alexa, this one’s for you!  Thanks for asking the question that inspired the Biblical moral for Ginger’s story!

Ginger and Basil are highlighted in the Photo Gallery!  Also take a look at the new RECIPES page for Ginger’s Delicious Quiche.

JS Dalrymple

Photo credits: M. Dalrymple


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