For months, I’d been encouraging people (especially women) to enlarge their vision of the power of God. Too often, we limit God’s strength based our preconceptions, our disappointment in unanswered prayer or even the shame from our past. God is vast, unlimited, able to do incredible things in our lives. He is wild and untamable. Nothing is as formidable as our God.

Then it came time for me to put my money where my mouth was…

Driving from Illinois to California, our car broke down on I-40 about 50 miles west of Oklahoma City. Read: literally in the middle of nowhere. When the car coasted to a stop, I heard the devil whispering in my ear, jeering at me, “Let’s see how great your God is now.”

image003Both my husband and I were confused, angry and disoriented. We weren’t operating at our best as one decision after another had to be made. We didn’t know anyone in Oklahoma, had never been in this situation and felt this almost heart-shattering longing to be home.

But God was there… At every turn, His blessings abounded.

When we called AAA to be towed, our driver was a friendly Okie, who not only took the car to a repair shop, did his best to find us a rental car and directed us to a local hotel.

That hotel had a huge sign in the lobby, “No pets allowed.” Since we were traveling with an adult German Shepherd and this was the only hotel in walking distance, the rule could have meant sleeping under the stars in a nearby park. When I explained our situation to the hotel clerk, she graciously rented a room to us and Lily.

In the morning, we found the shop didn’t do the type of repairs needed, so we had the car towed to a fantastic repair shop owned by Christians. The type of people who didn’t hide their faith – that was obvious when you walked in. They not only provided guidance about the car repair, but when the time came to pay the bill, sliced the amount owed substantially.

Because the car was moved closer to Oklahoma City, I randomly picked a new hotel off the internet. This one ended up being about a mile away from a wonderful lake and recreation area that even had a doggie park for Lily, our German Shepherd. When I checked in, the hotel clerk upgraded our room – without any knowledge of the stress we were under.

When renting a car, I booked a compact car thinking we’d only be using it to tool around Oklahoma City for a few days. Once at the agency, they asked if it would okay to upgrade us to a Jeep for the same price. This ended up being crucial, because it was the Jeep we eventually drove back to California and the vehicle provided just enough room for our luggage and dog supplies.

The list goes on, but at every juncture, people went out of their way to help us, be kind to us, show us graciousness, even if they didn’t know the burdens we were bearing.

Being stuck is frustrating, confusing and emotionally taxing. Still, God shows up. We were never alone. Despite the devil’s taunts, God’s blessings were too many to count.

If you are stuck, here are some helpful suggestions to get you moving again.

Give yourself freedom to mourn – Too often we gloss over our feelings of loss. But denying feelings is emotionally unhealthy. Trust God as much as you can and allow yourself to feel your grief inside of His tender, loving embrace.

Give thanks for all the good – It would have been very easy to hold a pity party at the side of the interstate. Looking for the good, like a friendly clerk or a safe place to sleep at night, keeps you positive and makes moving forward easier.

Control the things you can – Realize your decisions can make positive changes. But let go of the things over which you have no control. I had no control over how long we were stuck in Oklahoma, but I could control my attitude towards it. Every morning I woke up thinking of new adventures to experience in a city I’d basically only driven through instead of moping in our hotel room.

Give others grace – One thing I am most proud of is despite the stress both Richard and I were under, we never argued, never fought and never blamed the other. We both understood how much grace God gives us and we just followed His lead.

Look forward to God’s surprises – He plants so many of them along our path. Don’t be amazed by them; anticipate them as you move through our day.

Remember where the finish line is – We both understood this was a temporary setback. Granted there were times when we thought we’d never get through it…when it seemed just too daunting. Knowing our ultimate finish line wasn’t California, but is heaven brought a beauty to what could have been a very ugly time. So every day, run well and enjoy the scenery along the way.

I’m not sure what has you stuck, but step out boldly into a freefall towards His grace. He will catch you. He always will.


From the Border…

It was only 335 miles – piece of cake – from the Arizona/New Mexico border to Tucumcari, our stop for the night. Driving it would be fun – something I could do in my sleep. Only I learned a valuable lesson – never, ever use the words I could do it in my sleep in the same sentence as driving.

20160728_182724_resizedIt was late afternoon when I took over the wheel from my husband. Both of us were exhausted from difficult days prior to this trip. I thought I could easily take the strain of this leg away from my husband. After the sun dipped low in the sky and eventually disappeared, I was beyond my comfort zone.

That’s when the name calling started…

Not from my husband, but from that well deep inside of me where my cruel self-talk resides. Idiot! What makes you think you are a good enough driver to drive all this way in the dark? You are so stupid!

Anytime I make mistakes or bad decisions, these thoughts spring forth. Part of it is impatience with myself; part of it is the knowledge I should have known better. No matter what, though, this name calling hurts! Instead of thinking positive and encouraging thoughts, I find the ugly part of me that has wiggled so deep inside it now feels part of me. I wound myself all over again.

That night, when I pulled into our motel’s parking lot, I momentarily placed my head on the steering wheel and lifted up a prayer to God. Thank You for getting us through. Thank You for keeping us safe. Thank You for keeping me on the road!

Even a strong prayer of Thanksgiving doesn’t negate all that brutal self-talk. Does it come as naturally to you as it does to me? We punish ourselves with contempt if we think we haven’t accomplished what we should, didn’t show kindness to others, or my favorite: couldn’t keep up with the dust, disorder and dirt in the house.

How we talk to ourselves matters.

When I approach God, this crouching attitude of derision often follows me. I am constantly apologizing for my stupidity, my pride, my laziness, my mistakes. I get so bogged down in these words of shame and disrespect sometimes I think God believes them, also.

With my head on the steering wheel, He whispered to me, “You are called my delight.” The warmth enveloping me as I slipped out of the car to register was palpable. His delight! No way! The next day, I looked up delight on Biblegateway. What He said in the 8th century BC is still as pertinent today. “No longer will you be called deserted. (or reckless or stupid or dumb) Instead, you will be called My delight is in her.” (Isaiah 62:4)

Before I fell asleep, those same negative thoughts invaded my sleep. It is so easy to punish ourselves when we are disappointed in our own behavior. It becomes so natural, we forget to stop it. Sadly, we begin to think we deserve it.

If God calls us His Delight, what business do we have of correcting him with our negative self-talk? We are loved by a God who called us Delight and never Disappointment. As a child of God, it is my birthright to call myself His Delight.

I slept soundly despite the difficult, tiring day. God brought me from the border of disappointment in myself to delighting in Him. No matter what I say about myself, He has the final word. And his ultimate, everlasting word is: My delight is in her.

A Father to the Fatherless

Every night, he’d quietly creep into my bedroom. As a restless child when I was awake, I was also one when I slept. So before he went to sleep, my father noiselessly checked in on me, once more pulling the covers I kicked off over me and kissing me tenderly on my cheek.  It wasn’t a big thing and quite honestly, I probably wouldn’t have even known this was his habit except my mother told me. This small gesture, though, was just like my dad. He listened when I was angry, kissed my boo-boos when I hurt myself, taught me his love of reading, shared his excitement of travel, complimented me when I needed encouragement – in general, he had mastered the art of making everything better.

family pictures031-1Today, Father’s Day 2016, would have been my Dad’s 93th birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly 44 years ago, when I was just a teenager. Sometimes my grief is so fresh, it feels like he died yesterday and not over 40 years ago. I miss his ability to see the best in me in any situation. I miss the hope he shared about my future. Mostly I miss his talent for always having the right words to heal my broken heart. I remember his encouraging words when self-doubt creeps in the midst of my tragedies, self-doubt and personal failures. His character, love and compassion are imprinted into my DNA.

Perhaps, like me, you have no one to call on Father’s Day. Going through life without a father is a bit like sailing at night without a lighthouse.  Adrift on the black waters, navigating the unknown dangers of the dark with no one to call, no one to ask for advice, no one to lean into for guidance and fatherly advice.

Yet God…He never wanted us to drift through life like a boat without a rudder. The Psalmist wrote that God is a Father to the Fatherless.  In Psalm 68:5, the writer declares God to be, “A Father to the Fatherless, a defender to widows, is God in His holy dwelling.”

I used to wonder what these words meant, A Father to the Fatherless. There were many times when I didn’t want an unseen, vague figure as a father, but a living, breathing man who could wrap his arms around me, stroke my hair and gently whisper in my ear that everything would be okay. I thought that human touch would conquer everything.

But now, when I look back on my life, I see the places along my journey when God was there. Where He intervened to save me from danger and where He had my back. Protecting, guiding, loving just as my daddy would have done. God was always there, before and even after my dad passed away.

When I wanted to call my father to ask his advice, I learned the most natural next best thing to do was pray. I started seeking my heavenly Father whenever I wanted a piece of paternal advice. This turned out to be the very best thing of all.

When I sought God, I found Him. When I asked Him the tender questions a daughter asks her daddy, God answered. His voice was clear. His peace was real.

A Father to the Fatherless, indeed – one who was always guarding, guiding, giving. I know this now to be true.

The shifting shadows of life disappear in the radiant light of His love. Like a lighthouse on a hill, God beckons the fatherless homeward and into the safe harbor of His care. He is the heavenly Father who loves unconditionally, provides unreservedly and protects unceasingly.

If you are like me, fatherless on Father’s Day with no one to call, celebrate that God is calling you.