Beautiful and Beloved

She was beautiful.

Actually, I’m not sure she was a “she.” She was technically an embryo and it was too early for a gender reveal. But “it” feels dehumanizing for a creature as lovely as she. And she was definitely human.

I met her on an ultrasound screen. In my position as a Client Advocate at our local pregnancy center I’ve been privileged to witness hundreds of ultrasounds. But this one was special.

Her body reminded me of a warm cocoon, cradling her beating heart as it flickered like an emerging butterfly. Her yolk sac floated above her head, a translucent, heart-shaped balloon. The dark gestational sac provided contrast to her bright form.

The nurse and I hushed in her holy presence. We beheld her beauty. Imago Dei.

Sadly, she is no longer with us, her life cut short by a mother who viewed her but did not value her. Blind to her beautiful brilliance, deaf to her unborn child’s voice.

I grieved the loss of this brief life. Her ultrasound image, etched into my memory and her essence, impressed into my heart. She was a living being, skillfully created. And now she’s gone.

In the midst of my sorrow I stumbled upon something which helped me understand my emotional response to her passing. It was a definition of agape, one of the many Greek words for “love:”

Agape occurs when an individual sees, recognizes, understands, or appreciates the value of an object or a person, causing the viewer to behold this object or person in great esteem, awe, admiration, wonder, and sincere appreciation. Such great respect is awakened in the heart of the observer for the person or object he is beholding that he is compelled to love it...Agape is the highest form of love–a self-sacrificial type of love that moves the lover to action for the sake of the beloved.” (Rick Renner)*

I realized I was grieving because I had loved. As I marveled at the Master’s workmanship I had been moved to love, just as He loves. The presence of grief proves there was love.

My coworkers and I loved this little one. We admired her beauty. We mourn her loss.

Even when her own mother could not. The sacrifices love required of her were simply too great for her to bear. So we bear them.

God loves this young woman too. Beautiful, she also reflects Divine Image. He weeps over the choices she has made. He waits patiently for her to turn and receive His merciful touch. He will lovingly embrace her, just as He welcomed her little butterfly when she winged her way heavenward.

For He is the Lover of our Souls. He fastened His gaze upon us, the undeserving objects of His love, and decided we were worth the sacrifice. His love compelled, then propelled Him all the way to the cross, where He laid down His life so we might live–and love.

“Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” (John 11:35-36, NLT)

*From “Sparkling Gems from the Greek,” Volume II by Rick Renner.

An Important Note: If you or someone you love has experienced the pain of abortion, please know there is forgiveness and healing to be found. Most pregnancy centers offer post-abortion support in a caring, confidential and non-judgmental atmosphere. You will be loved.

Share on Facebook

Let There Be Love!

Growing up, all of our girls participated in the “AWANA” program at our church. If you’re not familiar with AWANA, it could be described as a “Christian” version of the Boy and Girl Scouts. “AWANA” is an acronym that stands for “Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed,” from 2 Timothy 2:15. The children are encouraged to memorize Scripture in a fun environment.

I can still picture Laurel as an adorable preschooler in her royal blue “Cubbie Bear” vest. We were proud AWANA parents when she memorized John 3:16, her very first Bible verse. That is until she decided her ONE verse was good enough. She was done! No amount of honey could entice this stubborn bear to memorize another verse.

Most of us, Cubbies or not, can recite John 3:16 from memory, right?

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NASB)

(I guess if you’re only going to learn one verse, John 3:16 is a pretty good choice!)

Last week, as I prepared to teach my weekly Bible study, I came across a lesser known, but equally memory-worthy verse. I dubbed it “John 3:16 on steroids!” Here it is:

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ… (Ephesians 1:4a, NLT)

Let that sink in. Yes, as John 3:16 states, God loved the world. But even before He made the world, He loved us! Before time ticked. Before creation commenced.

Before God said, ‘Let there be light!”, He said “Let there be love!”

Scott Olipint puts it like this: “Most Christians recognize that, apart from Christ, there is no salvation. But far fewer recognize that our salvation had its beginning before time began. It was there that the triune God determined to love you for eternity.”

Wow! I knew from Scripture that God saw us before we were born (Psalm 139:15-16) and that He knew us before we were formed! (Jeremiah 1:5) But to love us before the earth existed? That kind of love is earthshattering!

Let’s look at one more AWANA verse worth memorizing:

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (Romans 5:8, HCSB)

Billy Graham paraphrased Romans 5:8 like this: “God proved His love on the Cross. When Christ hung, and bled, and died, it was God saying to the world, ‘I love you.’”

The God who purposed to love you before creation, proved His love for you on the cross!

If you ever question God’s love, you need look no further than that cross, driven into the ground like a blood-stained stake. There, as His Son endured an agonizing death, the Father declared His undying love…for you!

To fully experience this love, you need only…

  • BELIEVE that you are loved!  (John 3:16, Ephesians 1:4, Romans 5:8)
  • RECEIVE His love for you!  (John 1:12)
  • TRUST that He will never stop loving you!  (1 John 4:16, Jeremiah 31:3)

God determined to love us and then He declared His love for us!

Maybe our little Cubbie Bear was right…

What more do we really need to know?

For God so loved…that He gave…


Spend a few minutes meditating on God’s overwhelming, never-ending love!


Share on Facebook

Love in Any Language

The sun had just poked its head over the horizon and I had just lifted mine off of the pillow. My slippered feet shuffled across the cold kitchen floor, on auto pilot, headed to the counter where the electric tea kettle–and the caffeine–live. On the speckled granite lay an unexpected message from my husband, hastily scribbled on the back of a discarded envelope:


My guy has a true servant’s heart. It’s his spiritual gift, his native tongue. “Acts of Service” are his “Love Language.”

Unfortunately, they’re not mine.

You’re familiar with “The Five Love Languages,” right? Author Gary Chapman writes:

After 30 years as a marriage counselor, I am convinced that there are five basic love languages – five ways to express love emotionally. Each person has a primary love language that we must learn to speak if we want that person to feel loved.”

According to Chapman, the five love languages are:  Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Gifts, and Physical Touch. You can read more about them and even take a handy quiz to help determine your love language at:

I believe my primary love language is “Words of Affirmation.” A sincere compliment can fill me up for a week. I love to send handmade cards and write encouraging notes. Words are my friends. (I also like “Gifts.” Gifts are my friends.)

Chris and I read “The Five Love Languages” shortly after the book came out in the mid-90’s. You’d think we’d be fluent in each other’s love languages by now. But we forget. We get lazy. Learning to speak a second language requires focus and determination. And practice.

My helpful hubby got some credit for the handwritten “note” on the back of the envelope that morning. But my heart sank a little when I realized it was only to tell me that he had filled up my car with gas, and not something more, well…inspiring.


Like I said, while I do appreciate them, “Acts of Service” are just not my love language.

And then the Holy Spirit spoke to the pouting child in me. In one of His love languages. The one called “A Gentle Rebuke.”


I’m not very fond of that love language either.

What He whispered to my critical heart sounded something like this:

You can demand that others love you a certain way. Or you can choose to receive the love they offer you in whatever form it takes. Because love is…love. This act of service sprang from a heart of love. Will you accept it or reject it? The choice is yours.

Standing at the kitchen counter at the start of that new day, I made a choice to accept it.

And to thank the Lord for a husband who finds joy in unselfish service. To receive the gracious gift of a full tank of gas. To let the power of those two little words, “Love you,” linger in my thoughts and penetrate my heart.

He loves me.

It’s all that matters.

Understanding our loved ones’ love languages can help us communicate more effectively. But really, I don’t think there’s anything in the Bible that insists love be spoken in a certain “language.” There’s only this:

…love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22b, NIV)

Love deeply. From the heart.

There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved.” (George Sand)

Just love, and be loved.

So simple, it needs no translation.

Share on Facebook

Bittersweet Blessing

E and M ii

Tomorrow these two will begin a new adventure. They will leave the frozen Wyoming tundra and head to warmer parts. The wooded hills of Virginia beckon. They must answer the call.

We will miss them, accustomed as we have become to the two tall figures who have become a fixture on the worn plaid loveseat in our family room. Countless hours have they spent there, side by side, amusing themselves with videos on their iPhones, completing college assignments on their laptops (that would be Emily) or watching football games on the television screen (that would be Morgan).

“It is bittersweet,” I say to friends who inquire about their imminent departure. We are so excited for them. We are sad for us.

But really, there is no bitter. There is only sweet.

We’ve been so blessed.

If those cushions could communicate, they would tell of the many conversations, laughs, and giggles (that would be Emily) they overheard during the past four and a half years. Indeed, as Chris and I warmed our assigned seats on the adjacent matching plaid couch, we too were privileged to look on with pride and joy as this young couple matured in love, walked uprightly, waited patiently (that would be Morgan), made plans to marry.

There were a few disagreements, occasional misunderstandings, and some tears, to be sure. These are necessary in the forging of a true and lasting union. But even the bitter becomes sweet when Christ is present.* From the beginning they had invited Him into their relationship. And He smiled upon them and blessed them as they occupied their place on that loveseat.

So tomorrow we will send them out with our blessing. We will no doubt shed more tears before the day is done. But we will smile through the tears. We will hold them tight and then force ourselves to let them go. And we will thank the Lord for the time He gave us.

Sweet, sweet time. Sweet, sweet couple.

As our longtime friend John Lamb is fond of saying, Morgan and Emily, “You are good for this world.”

Go now, and be a blessing.

Our couch may be empty.

But our hearts will be full.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

(Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)

*See Exodus 15:22-25.

Share on Facebook

Family Reunions

“What is the purpose of your visit?”

The U.S. customs official questioned each passenger upon their return to Port Angeles, WA. Eight family members had spent the day in Victoria, British Columbia, where we had shopped, eaten, and enjoyed the beauty of this Canadian seaport. After an hour-and-a-half ferry ride back across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we queued up to be cleared to reenter the U.S.

When it was her turn, my sister-in-law, in an unspoken plea for a hassle-free border crossing, made direct eye contact with the official. In answer to his question and as explanation for her “Do-not-mess-with-me” attitude, she offered just two words:

“Family. Reunion.”

Enough. Said.

‘Tis the season for family reunions. Thirty-five or so of us had gathered that week on the coast of Washington for a reunion with my mother’s side of the family. Time with family can be sweet. And it can also be, shall we say…stretching?

I savored the “sweet” moments…introductions (meeting our newest and cutest four-month-old family member, as well as my uncle’s wife for the first time) and reunions (reconnecting with cousins I haven’t seen in years…or decades!).

I encountered those “stretching” moments…traveling in a herd is never easy. Deciding where to eat? Next to impossible. I think most families can relate!

One evening during the reunion, however, I looked around the circle of lawn chairs as we ate dinner outside. I took in the lines of familiar faces, heard the pleasant hum of conversation, and was struck by this thought:

For better or for worse, this is my family. I belong here.

Whether by blood or by marriage, everyone partaking in that meal was related. Our stories intersect. We share common ancestors. I could see my beloved late cousin Laura in the faces of her two beautiful daughters. I could hear my grandfather’s low, baritone voice as I chatted with my uncle, his eldest son. How proud he would be to see the family which carries his name coming together.

A couple of days later, my daughter Laurel and I headed to Colorado Springs for the “Desperation” youth conference, an annual gathering of over 5,000 teens from all over the country. This was my third time attending; Laurel’s second. So it felt like a reunion of sorts.

As if to validate that feeling, one of the speakers greeted us like this:

“What’s up Desperation family? This is our yearly get-together!”

Yes, there were some “sweet” moments…soaking in the sight of my daughters (and my new son-in-law!) worshiping God together…catching up over meals with some of my favorite friends…witnessing the next generation rising up to take their place in God’s grand plan of redemption.

And there were also some “stretching” moments…bickering among the students…differences in doctrine and practice…tension from past unresolved hurts.

Just like a family.

We don’t always get along. We may not see eye to eye on every issue. Sometimes we don’t even like each other.

But we’re related, descendants of a common Ancestor.

We bear His name.

His blood flows through our veins.

If we look past our differences, we can see the family resemblance.

If we listen carefully, we can hear the familiar inflection of His voice.

We will be stretched.

It comes with the family territory.

But oh, the sweetness when we put our differences aside and come together to worship and fellowship in Him!

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1, NIV)

It’s a taste of that ultimate Family Reunion to come.

But until then, Church, a reminder…

For better or for worse, we are a family. We each belong here.

Let’s make our Father proud by the way we love and accept each other.

Fam Reunion

A few of the family members from our 2015 reunion.

Share on Facebook

Just Ask Anne

anne_of_green_gablesI was invited to share a devotional recently at an “Anne of Green Gables” themed baby shower. The guests of honor were a sweet friend and her newly-adopted and long-awaited baby girl. Anne was adopted too, so it was a fitting theme for a very special celebration.

Most of you are probably familiar with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s precocious and charming character, “Anne-with-an-‘e’.” My former roommate Kim was obsessed with her. Years later I, too, became enchanted as my two oldest daughters and I read the books which chronicled her adventures together. And while Anne had a penchant for creating mischief, she also possessed a wisdom beyond her years.

As I reflected on a few of her well-known quotes, they reminded me of some biblical principles for parenting…

1) Relating to God.

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into…that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”

When you become a parent, your time is no longer your own. You can’t even go to the bathroom by yourself! As a new mom I especially missed my long, uninterrupted times with God. Often I’d be too tired to even focus my scattered thoughts into prayers. I used to beat myself up for this.

Here’s what I would tell that mama now:  God knows. Give yourself grace. He does.

I was inspired by Gigi Graham Tchividjian’s habit of leaving her Bible open on the ironing board, so she could read or meditate on a verse or two as she went about her busy day. There are many creative ways to relate to God. And He is always closer than a prayer.

Jesus said, “Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you.” (The Message)

2) Making mistakes.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

I remember cuddling my own perfect newborn baby girl and determining to be the perfect mom for her. And then there was that day I was visiting a friend at the hospital and literally FORGOT that I had a nursing baby at home! Upon my return, I was greeted at the door by a frazzled husband and a famished child! Oops. Major mom fail.

Mistakes will be made. Thankfully kids (and usually husbands) are very forgiving. So is God.

“…His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning…” (Lamentations 3:23b,24a, ESV)

3) Being content.

“It’s been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

I believe the secret to contentment as a parent is to enjoy what is good in each season. If you focus on what is difficult, you’ll miss what is delightful. If you lament the things you’ve lost or fret about the future, you’ll miss the gifts you’ve been given.

I absolutely dreaded the teen years. And while teens can be challenging, they are also a ton of FUN! I have experienced great joy in watching each of our daughters develop into beautiful young women. Look for the good. It’s there.

“… you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on…the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4:8, The Message)

4)  Finding friends.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

Two decades ago we packed up our two-bedroom apartment and a five-month-old baby and moved “across the pond” to jolly old England. Where we didn’t know One. Single. Soul. Suddenly I didn’t feel so jolly.

Wherever we go, we need kindred spirits–those friends of the heart who just “get” us. Soon after settling into our quaint little English village, God graciously answered my prayers for such a friend through Caroline, herself a new British mum. Through the years there have been others who have come along just when I needed the encouragement of a fellow mom. I currently meet once a week with some dear kindred spirits to pray for our children.

Parenthood is best played as a team sport. Don’t go it alone. Your kindred spirits are out there too, just waiting to be found.

(Paul speaking of Timothy) “For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.” (Philippians 2:20, NAS)

 5)  Risking love.

“There is no use in loving things if you have to be torn from them, is there? And it’s so hard to keep from loving things, isn’t it?”

“Enjoy this time. It goes so fast.”

I used to hate it when older moms or random strangers would say that to me when my kids were young. Because I wanted to hold onto my babies forever. And I knew I couldn’t.

Making the decision to have a child…is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” (Elizabeth Stone)

There is an inherent vulnerability that comes with having and loving a child. It can be hard on the heart. But nothing has taught me more about selfless, sacrificial love than being a mom. It has stretched me and called out the best in me. It has taught me to love like God loves.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13, NLT)

Parenting will take all you’ve got. And then some. But love is always worth the cost.

Whether you’re a new parent just embarking on your journey, or one who’s logged some parenting miles, take heart. There is help and wisdom to guide you along the way.

Sometimes it may come from a surprising source, like a former orphan girl named Anne.

But always, always, it is readily available from your ever-present and never-failing Heavenly Father.

Share on Facebook

Excuses, Excuses!


I drifted off to sleep to the sound of pelting rain Friday night and awakened Saturday morning to the same. Perfect weather for staying in jammies all morning. Which was indeed my cozy little plan.

And then I heard this disconcerting distress call from my MOPS group’s Facebook page:

SOS!!! Is there anyone that can go help Kristin with our convention fundraiser?!? Our basement is flooding. She is there now and I know she needs help! Please?!?!”

These two resourceful moms had organized a large tea party to raise funds to help them attend the national MOPS convention. Days earlier I had been more than happy to help, sharing a few recipes and packing up several tea-related items for them to borrow.

But now, on this soggy Saturday morning?

I was suddenly much less than happy to help.

Excuses began pouring out of me like an overflowing bucket of rainwater.

It’s cold and rainy.

I’m not a morning person.

I haven’t had my tea yet.

I already helped.

I don’t have any make-up on.

Service is not my spiritual gift.

That last one is my personal favorite. We Christians are often too quick to let a lack of gifting lead to a lack of responsibility. And while it is true that serving does not come naturally to me, I know that in Christ I am called to live a super-natural life and rise above my natural inclinations.

I also knew deep down that none of my excuses really held any water.

And then I thought about my daughter’s upcoming wedding. What if we had an emergency and needed assistance? What if I sent out a desperate, last-minute SOS? Wouldn’t I want others to respond to my call for help?

Do to others as you would have them do to you. (Luke 6:31, NIV)

God’s clear voice has a way of piercing through the fog. My excuses evaporated like rain puddles in the sun. I knew exactly what I needed to do.

I went.

Disregarding the time, the weather, the lack of caffeine and make-up.

I did for others what I would have wanted them to do for me. Truth is, there really wasn’t that much to do by the time I got there.

But I’m glad I did it anyway.

I may have looked a bit rough on the outside, but I felt good on the inside.

Maybe next time I’ll do it sooner, without complaint or hesitation.

Or maybe next time I’ll be the one sounding the alarm, and you’ll be the one coming in response to my need.

And I’ll be ever so grateful you did.

Because, really, is there ever any good excuse not to?

Share on Facebook

The Perfect Parent


It was one of those calls. You know, the kind every parent dreads. It was a little after midnight, exactly one month ago. I groped in the dark for my cell phone as it rang on my bedside nightstand.

It was Rachel.

She was crying.

Her apartment had just been broken into.

And I mean literally. Her window, smashed into pieces. Glass everywhere, even on top of the fluffy comforter she had been nestled under mere moments before.

She had screamed (I always knew that loud voice of hers would come in handy one day!) and had run out through the living room into her roommate’s room, where they locked the door and dialed 911, not knowing if an intruder was in the apartment. They spent another ten or so terrifying minutes on the phone with the dispatcher while they waited for the police to arrive, guns drawn, to clear the rooms.

Thankfully, Rachel and her two roommates were unharmed, and the perpetrator had fled into the night. But they were all understandably quite shaken. The window wasn’t the only thing broken that night. Their sense of well-being and security were also shattered.

Chris had been awakened by the concern in my voice as I talked to her on the phone. Before long, he was out of bed, dressed and out the door to make the 45-minute drive to Rachel’s college town. It was nearly 1 a.m. But it didn’t matter.

Because that’s just what a dad does.

He comforted the three rattled roomies and got them settled into a nearby hotel for (what was left of) the night. He then made the return trip back home.

The next evening it was my turn. I packed dinner and treats and drove down for an impromptu “sleepover,” despite being exhausted from the lack of sleep the night before.

Because that’s just what a mom does.

The girls dragged two of their mattresses out into the living room, where we watched a light-hearted movie and then (tried to) sleep. Despite receiving word that the police had arrested the guy responsible for the break-in, everyone was still a bit jumpy. But we made it through the night without further incident.

I found the timing of all of this intriguing. Just hours before Rachel’s midnight phone call, my Bible study group had listened to Beth Moore’s teaching, taken from 1 Thessalonians 2, on the parental heart of God. I felt God was now giving me a real-life illustration of the distinct ways He loves and parents His children.

God’s love is “paternal”:

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
(1 Thessalonians 2:10-11, NIV)

The Greek word for “comforting” is parakaleo, meaning “to call to the side of,” to aid, help. Just like Chris rushed to Rachel’s side in the middle of the night to comfort and help, God’s paternal love for us is strong, protective, and present. (In fact, Jesus uses this same Greek root when referring to the Holy Spirit! See John 14:16, 26.)

His love is also “maternal”:

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7b-8, NIV)

“Nursing” in the Greek is nutritura, from which we get our word “nutrition.” (This helps explain why my instinctive response to this–and most any–situation was to bring FOOD!) Mothers are designed to nourish and nurture.

…we were like a mother feeding and caring for her own children.
(1 Thessalonians 2:7b, NLT)

“Caring for” literally means “to keep warm.” Rachel told me she slept like a baby the night I was there, the warmth of my body on the mattress next to hers. God’s maternal love for us is like this–warm, gentle, and nurturing.

Although we try to be good parents, Chris and I are far from perfect. We do love our girls and attempt to show it in the ways that come most naturally to us as a mother and a father. I trust Rachel felt our love in the midst of the trauma.

But how reassuring it is to know that in God we have The Perfect Parent. Maternal and paternal, the perfect blend of everything we need at any given time. He knows just what to do when His children are in distress. Or lonely. Or needy. His presence is constant. His love is perfect.

Perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18, NAS)

I am painfully aware that as a human parent I can only do so much. As I prepared to leave Rachel the morning after our slumber “party,” I prayed that God would cast out the fear that had entered uninvited through that shattered window and replace it with His perfect love. That He would fill that little apartment with the peace of His presence. That He would comfort and soothe every frayed nerve. That He would take this situation and use it for good.

And you know what? He is.

Because that’s just what God, our Perfect Parent, does.


Share on Facebook

We Build

Hands with ring

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established…
(Proverbs 24:3, NIV)

I can still see her, that younger version of me, newly engaged and mesmerized by the brilliance of her diamond ring as it reflected the ballroom lights. It’s a wonder I heard anything at all that first FamilyLife conference, so enamored was I with that ring on my finger, as I held the hand of the handsome guy who had dropped to one knee and placed it there. I was young, in love and starry-eyed.

Six months later and we were happily married, setting out to build a godly marriage based on the principles of His Word. We had been blessed with a good foundation, the best possible start. Six years further down the road we attended another FamilyLife conference, this time as parents of young children. We enjoyed “speaking in complete sentences” and calling each other something besides “Mom” and “Dad,” as we were encouraged to continue building our home on those same, unchanging biblical principles.

The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.
(Proverbs 14:1, NAS)

And then, somewhere in the course of the 18 years that followed, we slowly began to forget, drift. Hurts and disappointments came to visit. Stubbornness, unforgiveness and bitterness took up residence. I did more than my fair share of the tearing down and less than my fair share of the building up. Our marriage was in need of repair.

It’s bigger than we thought. It’s taller than it ought to be, this pile of rubble and ruins.”*

When the opportunity to attend another FamilyLife conference this past weekend presented itself, we both knew we needed to take it. It seemed to me we were each limping a little as we carried our suitcases into the hotel, this older version of ourselves straining under the weight of the rubble we had allowed to accumulate.

As we nervously took our seats in the ballroom, I didn’t even glance at my wedding ring, self-consciously scanning the room instead. The pre-marrieds were easy enough to pick out, all starry-eyed and hand-holding as they were. But to my relief, there were also some couples who looked a lot like us, a bit weary and weighed down. Many were our age or older. There was even one couple sitting near us who had been married for 43 years. All had come seeking encouragement and support.

We clear away what was, and make room for what will be.”*

Throughout the course of the weekend, we were reminded of the keys to a successful marriage. We were confronted with our individual failures to follow God’s plan and welcomed the opportunities we were given to confess and forgive. It wasn’t always easy. But God blessedly came, like a bulldozer, and cleared away the rubble.

“The God of heaven will give us success;
therefore we His servants will arise and build…”
(Nehemiah 2:20a, NAS)

With fresh but tender hope, we began to rebuild. At the end of the conference, we stood in that hotel ballroom filled with hundreds of couples who struggle just like us, held hands as we faced each other, and in unison tearfully renewed our vows. (We’ve got the certificate to prove it!) It was especially moving and meaningful for us since we will celebrate our 25th anniversary next year.

Our oldest daughter recently got engaged and plans to marry this coming year. At the conference I couldn’t help but think of her and her fiancé, as I remembered Chris and myself as a newly engaged couple and reflected on where we are today, almost 25 years later.

Here’s what I would tell them:

Marriage truly is God’s wonderful design and His beautiful gift. It’s okay to have stars in your eyes right now. But know that when the excitement of a wedding and the novelty of being newlyweds subsides, building a godly home will take hard work, humility and dedication. Build each other up, don’t tear each other down. Keep short accounts and don’t let the rubble pile up. But if it does, invite God to come and help you clear it away. Then you can resume building, with His grace and strength, for His glory.

To my fellow married couples (and myself!) I would say:

Every marriage needs some focused TLC from time to time. View your relationship as a sacred priority. Regularly invest in it. A couples small group or a FamilyLife conference are great places to start. Your marriage is worth it. The marriages of future generations are watching.

And to my husband of nearly 25 years, I offer this:

What I’m trying to say, in some clumsy way, is that it’s you and only you, for always.”*

There is no one else I’d rather keep building with. 18 years from now, if the Lord allows, let’s be that couple, sitting side by side at the FamilyLife conference, who’ve been married for 43 years.


*Lyrics are from “We Build” by Nichole Nordeman. A great video meditation with this song, on the work and commitment of marriage can be found at:
For more information on FamilyLife conferences and other marriage and family resources go to:
Share on Facebook

To Love Him

I’ll be honest.  There are some passages in the Bible that I’ve never really liked.  Luke 7:36-50 is one of them.  Guess what last night’s Bible study was on?

You guessed it.

In case you’re not familiar with Luke 7:36-50, it’s the story of a woman-with-a-less-than-stellar-reputation who very passionately anointed Jesus.  She was a “sinner.”  A prostitute.

It’s also the story of a man-with-an-impressive-spiritual-resume who very passively stood by.  He was a “saint.”  A Pharisee.

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. (Luke 7:36-38*)

Luke 7

If I had been one of the dinner guests around the table that evening, I no doubt would have squirmed in my chair and looked away, cringing.  What she does is Awkward.  Embarrassing.  Inappropriate.

Simon, the host of the dinner, was also displeased with this uninvited guest, the party crasher.  Jesus told him a story:

“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”
Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”
“That’s right,” Jesus said. (Luke 7:41b-43)

Here’s the point:

Some sinners are greater debtors; but whether our debt be more or less, it is more than we are able to pay.” (Matthew Henry)

Let that sink in.

Now imagine Simon’s surprise when Jesus goes on to commend her and correct him:

“Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. (Luke 7:44b-46)

This gal “got it.”  She understood that Jesus was a very special Guest of Honor.  Worthy of honor.  The ultimate V.I.P.  Suddenly she had my respect.  Her actions were actually the more “appropriate” response.  Because GOD was in the house!

Who can forgive sins but God only, and in Simon’s house God was present in the person of His Son.” (All the Women of the Bible)

She alone fell at His feet and worshiped.

Jesus continues:

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” (Luke 7:47-48)

This is the place in the passage where I’d always get hung up.  My problem was that I identified more with the “good” Pharisee than with the “bad” woman.  It seemed “unfair” to me that the one who had sinned more got to love more.

But really, aren’t we all “the woman” in the story?  We’ve each been forgiven MUCH.  So much more than we’ll ever know.  The woman shows us the only “proper” response as she gives Jesus the one thing He’s really after:  OUR LOVE.

The woman was, at least in Simon’s mind, a greater sinner. The woman was, as Jesus pointed out, the greater lover as well.” (Bob Deffinbaugh)

Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”
And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:48-50)

Isn’t it interesting, that:

Of all those who went to the dinner, only this woman is said to have left forgiven”? (Bob Deffinbaugh)

And at the end of the day, isn’t that all that matters?  The question is not “What have you done?” but “What has Jesus done for you?”  The issue is not where you’ve been, but where He wants to take you.  I have no doubt that her life radically changed that day, and that many other lives were changed through her testimony.

My grandfather, at nearly 70 years of age, came to know Christ through a former prostitute.  He had been invited to hear her story at a church service one evening.  As she spoke, he realized, “If God can forgive her, then he can forgive me.”  He lived another decade, a forgiven, changed man.  I loved him and his story.

I now love the woman of Luke 7 and her story, too.

But most of all, I love “this man (who) goes around forgiving sins.” (Luke 7:49)

To know Him – to be forgiven by Him – is to love Him.

*All Scriptures are from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

(Quotes from Bob Deffinbaugh are excerpted from an article called “Wordless Worship of an Unnamed Woman” at

Share on Facebook