Monday, March 30, 2015

A Grieving Momma's Heart

Life seemed a mess and the world was a struggle. She felt alone in every way. Then the day came when she woke to feeling queasy. Life was no longer empty. It was about to be full. That first little kick made her stop and place her loving hand on her tummy. No reason for maternity clothes yet. She's still too tiny to show, but she goes out and purchases that first top that catches her eye. She puts it on and even though it swallows her she wears it with such momma love. She's so proud of this little one growing inside of her that she must show him off to everyone. 

Those nine months seemed quite long at first, but then once those contractions began she knew those nine months flew by in a hurry. This little one was ready to make his entrance into the world and she was ready to greet him with a kiss. His finger wrapped around her finger. So tiny and perfect. Eyes looking up at his momma and she looking at him with such pride and joy. Love that began nine months ago and has now increased by leaps and bounds. 

The day of his birth she would celebrate for a lifetime. What joy. Who knew love could be this perfect? She dreamed of being a mommy, but never imagined it to be so beautiful. She would protect this little one, love him all her life, and they would grow together, each day being more blessed than the next. 

Oh, all of those firsts that each mother adds to the baby book. The first time she held him, the first feeding, the first time he would try a vegetable, crawling, standing on his own, that first baby step, each moment an intricate part of this precious baby's growth. 

Her eyes shine  with such pride. She counts all those firsts and continues to add to the list. That first year carries such change in a mother's life. She learns to let go of self and make this little one first in her life. Nothing even comes close to comparison.  

That first little tooth that pops through and that first little bight on the shoulder when she knows she's in store for some antics. She sees his personality developing. She knows without a doubt this one will be a character and will charm the ladies and all the guys will want to be his friend. This momma will guard over him, teach him, mold him, and most of all, love him all her life. He will forever be her first love. 

The first time she hears him say, "Mommy", stirs her heart. "I'm here, little one. I'm here. Mommy loves you." I love you was said with such passion. Never just thrown out there. Each time spoken with the love only a mother knows. 

Every day of her life was brightened and changed by this little man, growing and changing just like his momma. An unbreakable bond. At home with his momma until the first day of kindergarten. With each passing year, more firsts and a friendship that grows that is immeasurable. 

She watches his blond hair bounce in the wind as he plays outside. Muddy feet and skinned knees. Toy cars and army men cover his floor. She watches how he plays. This little one will change the world with his smile and gift of laughter. She already sees it so early. 

She dreams of all he will do in this life. The first prom, getting his license, his first job, his first girlfriend, what classes would he take in college, watching him wait at the end of the aisle on the princess that would make him the wife of his dreams. The grandchild that would make her think of him all over again. A momma dreams of all her baby will accomplish. She's proud of him no matter what, but she knows he has something special.

Every day of her life, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. She cooks his favorites. They share talks over each meal. Some nights it may be a big spread and others it might be shared cereal. Snapped photos and videos to capture all those precious moments she never wants to forget. From waking to giggles to nap-time in the afternoon, to bedtime stories. 

She goes to bed thinking of her little one. Checks on him through the night. She wakes and he is her first thought. There is not a time in her life that her son isn't present in her mind. Their time shared together was something that most parents only dream about sharing with their child. She wanted him to have everything she didn't. She would live her life making sure he knew he was loved. 

She taught him about Jesus. He fell in love with his Savior at an early age and from there he only grew deeper in love with his Lord. There would be church Sundays, Bible school, youth trips, and so much more. He would share every moment with her leaving nothing out. They talked about everything. 

Special moments they would treasure forever. She could never choose a favorite. They all meant something. They would find a love of the night sky together and under the crescent moon they would dream of what was beyond the stars. 

They would laugh together and share simply goofy giggles that no one else would understand. He would be her world. He would hug his momma even if his friends were surrounding them. That's the kind of young man he had grown to be. Love in his heart, mercy and grace in his words, a boy ready and believing in second chances. He would laugh you right out of your bad mood. Never a stranger at his side. You would soon be his friend and he would quickly make you feel welcomed. 

September 12, 2014 everything changed. This momma would hear her own screams as she rushed to her fifteen year old son who had just been hit by a drunk driver. She heard the crash and as she ran out the door she knew. She couldn't see her son standing in the drive way where he had just been waiting on the bus. The mail box was missing. She sees the crash in the trees. She runs with screams escaping her lips. You don't need for me to share the rest of this morning to understand that the life she knew was gone forever. 

They said their goodbyes that morning without thinking it would be the last time. She would never hug her son again. She would never hear him say, "Love you, Mom". There would be no more firsts for this momma. She will now spend her lifetime remembering all the lasts. The last kiss, the last hug, the last time he made chocolate milk. 

Days would come that she didn't think she would live through. This momma would bury her son, pick out a memory stone, and now live an unexpected life that was never imagined. She now awaits for four men to be prosecuted for the death of her son. 

Friends, this momma didn't just lose her child. She saw him broken. She heard the crash. She tried with all her might to breathe life back into her son. How does she live her life and not see this in her mind every day? How does she wake up and get back into a schedule? How does she go to sleep and not think of her precious son?

Holidays have come and gone since September. Donnie's 16th birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve. Easter will soon arrive and then Mother's Day. These days are extremely hard for Bobbie, but not any more difficult than the daily life she lives without Donnie. 

She can't walk out of her door without seeing her baby, broken in the trees. How do you just get over that? How much is enough time to grieve? I really want you to tell me. We don't need to be telling her where she should be. We need to be embracing her right where she is.

How do you now enter your son's room? All of his things are just as they were that morning. Just walking through the living-room brings her mind back to just months ago when all was ordinary. Setting the table is a challenge. Washing dishes and knowing which cup was Donnie's favorite. It's not always those big moments, it's the tiny moments that us back and long for one more time. Just one more hug. One more laugh. One more pizza night. Just one more movie together. 

I have heard people say, "She should be over this by now". That makes me want to scream! How do you have a child for fifteen years and get over it? It has been almost eight months. As I count the months, she counts the days. 

I've heard people say, "Why doesn't she get professional help?" Oh, friends, the stories I could share. No one knows the depths she has gone, nor do they know the lengths she has gone to try to breathe.  To try to live a life she never dreamed possible. She's living every mother's nightmare every single day of her life.

We so need to be careful with our words and our judgments. Sometimes all that needs to be said is, "I'm sorry". "Just remember the good times", and "Just hang on to knowing that he's with Jesus", are not words that needs to be said to a grieving momma. "I love you", and "I'm praying for you", is enough said. 

"Oh, she just needs to focus on her daughter, and love her husband." Really? Is that all she has to do? It's that easy, huh? Would you want to trade places with her? She wouldn't want anyone to go through the terror and horrific days that she has lived for eight months now.

This beautiful momma was present when her son took his first breath and there when he took his last. Children are suppose to outlive their parents. Not this way, friends. Tell me, is that going to be easy to get over? Should she be at a certain point in her grieving? No one grieves the same. There isn't a set of rules to go by in grieving. Oh sure, there's text book grieving, but friends, that's not real.

I have heard people say, "She just needs to get a new routine going", or "She needs to stay busy and find a hobby". Even, "She just needs to get out of the house." Do we seriously hear ourselves when we say these words? I'm her friend, and I even catch myself trying to make things right with my inadequate words. Nothing can make it right. She knows he's with Jesus. She knows scripture. She knows all that stuff, but when you are grieving, friends, we just have to allow people time to grieve. We can't fix what we truly cannot understand. Only Jesus. Jesus is the mighty Healer.

It's easy for us to give advice, isn't it? We want to help in some way so we share words that we think will comfort, but they don't. They are words that simply make no sense to a grieving momma. We just cannot understand the pain she is experiencing unless we too have experienced the death of a child. Nothing compares. All I can do is imagine and just the thought of me losing a child or a grandchild brings a fresh stream of tears. That's why I sometimes just say nothing at all, except, I love you.

She is blessed to have family and friends who lift her in prayer each and every day. I can tell you that the Lord is healing her. He is giving her breath and one minute at a time, He covers her in grace and strength. The Lord is truly her strength. 

I simply text her and say, "How are you doing right now, Bobs?" I tell her, "I'm sorry", and "I'm praying". For her, it's moment by moment. Imagine being able to laugh and then feeling guilty because how could a mother who lost her son be laughing? Imagine being okay and going into a store only to have something remind you of your son and then everything comes crashing down on you again. Imagine every time you hear a siren and it brings you back to that moment so very clearly. Just a wisp of air, a sound, a smell, all bring her memory back to her sweet and precious boy. Imagine all your emotions on a roller-coaster and you're experiencing them all at one time. 

Time is passing, but friends, time isn't what heals all wounds. It's the love of Jesus. It is the precious love, strength, and grace of our sweet Savior. He is the healing. She knows her son is with his Savior and that gives her peace and comfort, but it doesn't make her miss him any less. He's still gone. All the dreams she once held for Donnie are now replaced with dreams of him being gone. 

She has had to learn the legal system and let me tell you our laws are a mess. She isn't seeking vengeance. She wants justice, but let's think about that for a moment. For us it's a moment. For her it's every day. How much time is enough for killing her son? 

She now holds tight to memories of her son. She longs for the day they meet again. But for now she must hold on and learn to live a life without him. She and her family grieve every day. There isn't one day that's easier than another. They may be further away from September 12th, but they will never be so far away that they no longer grieve for Donnie. 

Spring has arrived. Flowers are blooming and trees are budding. God is healing. But her heart is broken. Life has halted from the normal and is circling in the unimaginable. My friend use to love rainy days. Now they make her weep uncontrollably. Everything she once loved was because in some way it expressed the love that this momma and son shared.

Court dates continue to come. One might think that would be the hardest part, but friends, the hardest part of every day is knowing her son is gone from this earth. Please continue to pray for Bobbie and her family as they learn this new life without Donnie present in their lives.

"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love."
Washington Irving

You can read more about my friend, Bobbie and her son, Donnie, by following these links: "Lord, Please Heal My Friend", and "My Letter To My Friend, Bobbie". I too encourage you to {LIKE} Justice for Donnie. It is a page that Bobbie set up to bring awareness and to share from her heart. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Study Bible for Women Sky Blue & Deep Red-Indexed by B&H Publishing Group

Okay, I get to share another AMAZING Study Bible with all of you! It is so wonderful of B&H Publishing Group to allow me to share such a vast array of Bibles with all of you. You are sure to find the perfect Bible just for you by visiting their site at B&H Publishing Group. You can also go to the links I've provided and download a sample. 

Here is another Study Bible for Women. I can tell you right off the bat that this Bible is the BEST Study Bible for women I have yet to read. It is truly the best of the best. 

You can find it in the hardback version (which I love), genuine leather, leathertouch, or and you are sure to find the perfect color combination that you love. Soon they are coming out with this Bible in large print and in the compact version! I believe they come out in August. There too are other new Bibles coming out so make sure you check that out!!

This Study Bible for Women is in HCSB translation, which is my absolute favorite. It is indexed and that's a great tool to have for easy finding. The colors are very pretty. It's a light/sky blue and a bit of dark red on the edging, along with a dark red ribbon to match. The edging on the pages is in silver. 

Now for the inside! This is absolutely gorgeous. The pages are a very light blue and white with some flowering/leafing around the pages. I share this because it's so inviting. It's just lovely in every way possible. 

The concordance is outstanding. There too are bullet notes, which is super helpful in study. One of the best features is the Greek/Hebrew word study. You will find maps and reconstructions, hard questions, doctrine, charts, character profiles, and biblical womanhood. Seriously, this study Bible holds everything for a women's study. Subjects that give us a pondering to go deeper. One of my favorite aspects of this Bible are the character profiles. Oh my, they share so much information on the women of the Bible, which is so helpful for women today. Yes, we have LOTS in common with the women of the Bible. The timelines are another great tool. Again, if you want to dive in and study, this is a tremendous Bible to plunge into for hours at a time. I have a difficult time putting my Bible down. Yes, it's that awesome!!

In the character profiles we learn their background, their story, and life lessons we can learn from their experiences. The Biblical Womanhood sections touch on subjects we rarely even speak about in Sunday school class. There is just so much here that can aid in our learning and growing journey with the Lord.

The word studies are extremely helpful. Once we understand the Greek/Hebrew meaning of words we use today it can help us understand the word context. 

This study Bible comes beautifully wrapped and boxed. It would make a wonderful gift for a special woman in your life. It too is a study Bible for all ages of women. A great study Bible for a Sunday school class or a study group. It truly holds so much. Each time I open it I find something new that grabs my attention. 

I know it's one you will just love. 


This Study Bible was a gift from B&H Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

It's Not Just About My Want

Have you heard that a believer can name it and claim it? We pray, God gives. Right? Isn't that how it's suppose to work if we ask in His name? 

"Now this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for." 1 John 5:14-15

See, it isn't according to our flesh wants. It's in accordance with His will. We are to be so in tune with our Lord that when we pray it's what He wants us to pray for. 

"In the same way the Spirit also joins to help in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with unspoken groanings. And He who searches the hearts knows the Spirit's mind-set, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Romans 8:26-27

Prayer isn't our time to get our flesh list out and start with the top and work our way to the bottom. Prayer is communion between the believer and her Savior. A sweet time of reflection. Sure, it's being honest and sharing all with our Lord, but it's giving Him time to speak to us that truly gives us peace. This is where we can struggle. We pray our flesh, what we think should happen or not happen. We kind of like to tell God what He needs to do, right? I know I'm not alone there. But see, when we are united with Him and allow the Spirit to move through us, we are no longer praying our wants, but His will. 

It's quieting our soul so that we can hear the Spirit speak. Sure, we need to share every aspect of our lives with Jesus. He already knows our need and our want, but what's even more important is that we need to remember that He knows our perfect need. He has perfect timing. 

"Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. and the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

Ever pray and get angry because what we expected or wanted to happen didn't? So we lash out at God. We think He doesn't care or isn't in control. It's just the opposite. He's in total control. He chose us. Do we really think He would want anything less than perfect for His children? He sees far beyond what our vision allows. This is where trust and faith grow. 

"You did not choose Me, but chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is what I command you: Love one another." John 15:16-17

When we are united with Christ this is when we are complete. This is when the Spirit moves through us to accomplish the will of God. Praying God's will isn't always easy. Sure, it's easy when it's what we want, but if He doesn't want that healing here on earth? What if healing is complete on the other side of heaven? What happens when the job we have wanted for years goes to someone else? Could it be that God has another direction for us? Could it be that in our journey of seeking His will we truly find ourselves in Him? 

"Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert in this with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints." 
Ephesians 6:18

This life isn't easy. Being a Christian isn't a cake walk. Just because we believe doesn't mean we get what we want or think we deserve. It's praying for His will, whatever that will is, we learn to quiet ourselves and rest in the fact that He is in control and He wants nothing but the best for His children. 

"Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. Don't stifle the Spirit." 1 Thessalonians 5:17-19

Prayer is having a conversation with our Savior, our Friend, our Father. It can't be one sided. He isn't a genie in a bottle. He doesn't just want us to go to Him on the whim when we decide we want something. He wants communion with us. He wants all of us, not just our wants. 

We gain strength and peace through prayer when we pray for God's will. It's when we leave the Spirit out of conversation and allow the flesh to take over that we are left anxious and angry. Things don't go our way and what happens? We stop talking to God. 

I've been in those one sided conversations when I've wondered when the person speaking was ever going to just shut up and let someone answer. We like to talk about ourselves, don't we? I sometimes I ramble on with the Lord and He listens graciously, but there He speaks straight to my heart, "Oh, daughter, if you could only stop talking long enough to hear Me, you would understand more and grow more and wisdom would abound." Do we ever just stop long enough and ask God what He wants for us? 

"Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Romans 5:1-5

The Lord takes pleasure in us coming to Him with our every need. We too should take pleasure our one on One times with the Lord. These are not just willy nilly times, they are moments when we surrender our flesh and allow the Spirit to move. I'm learning to quiet myself more and more. It's these moments that I let my guard down that I have learned to totally rely on Him and to trust His answers. I can't say that I always understand. Can't say I even always like the answer, but I'm growing to trust Him. This is part of our journey. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Meekness in The Garden

What is your first instinctive reaction when surrounded by trouble? Fight or flight? There are days this girl would stand and fight with everything I have in me. There too are days when all I want to do is run for safety. Run anywhere but to face the trouble surrounding me. How about you? 

There's all kinds of trouble that surrounds us. Take your pick of adversity, danger, or trial. The enemy is real. He's hard at work to keep us surrounded by fear, anger, and deep bitterness. It's hard for me to imagine that some don't believe in Satan, while others think heaven is some fictitious place where everyone goes after our life here has ended. When trouble comes, if we are believers, we call out for Jesus. I'm not so sure the world is much different. I think in our time of fear, whether we are believers or not, we want to believe there is more than just what this world offers up for help. 

Take a stroll with me through the garden. Jesus is there with His disciples. He had just prayed for Himself, for His disciples, and for believers. Picture this scene of brotherhood. Jesus had been teaching. His disciples soaking up every word. Questioning Him and making sense of what was to come. Here they have come together. But danger is approaching. They can hear the soldiers coming before they ever see them approach. Judas is walking up. All eyes are on him as he nears Jesus and kisses His cheek. A warm welcoming for most, but here it was a give a way worth thirty pieces of silver. 

"Then one of the Twelve-the man called Judas Iscariot-went to the chief priest and said, "What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?" So they weighed out 30 pieces of silver for him. and from that time he started looking for a time to betray Him." Matthew 26:14-16

The soldiers continue to come with sword and are ready to attack. Why so many? A legion just for this man who some call Jesus? Was this one man such a threat? What had them so fearful and so ready for war? A legion is an army of six thousand. A legion came this day. They were not alone. Usually with one legion there are roughly the same number of men who are auxiliary troops to support a legion. Now, take in that scene as you have never seen it before. Surrounded by the enemy seems almost mute doesn't it? What did they expect Jesus to do? It was the unexpected that caught them off guard. 

"Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his right ear. (The slaves name was Malchus.) At that, Jesus said to Peter, "Sheathe your sword! Am I not to drink he cup the Father has give Me?" John 18:10-12

"But Jesus responded, "No more of this!" And touching his ear, He healed him." Luke 22:51

Peter takes out his sword and off comes the ear of the servant Malchus. War could have easily erupted. All the other disciples could have jumped forward and caused swords to clank and blood to pour. But Jesus stops them. He speaks to Peter and tells him to put away his sword. Not here. Not this way. But Jesus goes beyond the expected. He doesn't lash out in anger or take a sword Himself. He restores Malchus. Amazing grace! Jesus reaches out and touches this servant. It didn't matter that he was the enemy. That he had sword in hand ready to attack Jesus. He stops and reaches out in love. That is extraordinary grace. That is power under control. Jesus showed the strength that comes from meekness. So many think meekness is a sign of weakness. Not at all. Strength beyond measure, controlled and executed with a grace that changes everything. 

"But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace." Psalm 37:11

These soldiers fall to their knees. Take this in as much as possible. Picture the scene of these thousands of soldiers all falling at the moment Jesus becomes real to them. He isn't fictitious any longer. In this one moment of extended grace and restoration Jesus shows the power through a extraordinary love that abounds far greater than what we are capable of comprehending. 

"When He told them, "I am He," they stepped back and fell to the ground." John 18:6

"He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death-even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow-of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth-and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:8-11

Jesus tells them He could easily call upon His Father and call down a legion of twelve thousand angels. He has nothing to fear of man. This world has nothing on the power of His Father. But wait. Twelve legions of angels? That would be equivalent to 144,000 angels! Power under control! 

"Then Jesus told him, "Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword. Or do you think that I cannot call on My Father, and He will provide Me at once with more than 12 legions of angels? How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?" Matthew 26:52-54

What about Malchus? We hear no more of him. Did he believe? Did he leave here knowing that Jesus did more than restore his ear, but in addition bring change to his heart? This was not just the scene of a protest of chanting, angry men. This was a hillside overrun with metal and warriors ready for battle. I believe these men seen far more than what they expected. Maybe they expected Jesus to run or cause them great harm. The opposite happened right before their eyes. The lies they had been told about this man, this Savior, was not truth at all. He wasn't out to get them. He was out to save them, to restore them, starting with Malchus. 

Live by the sword, die by the sword. What type of sword are you carrying today? We have a whole collection of swords we bring out for different occasions. Swords are heavy. Aren't you ready to lay your's down? I know I am. As a people we are ready to fight and not just fight, but seek revenge for the hurt and anger caused. Retribution is alive in the hearts of man. Jesus calls us to live another way. He calls us to live by faith. To act justly. To love faithfully. To walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)

The unjust behavior of others didn't change who Jesus is. It only made His majesty stand out all the more. Our anger can cause great harm to not just others, but to ourselves. In our anger we lash out and cause more scars. Don't we carry enough? Jesus is saying, enough is enough. Not here. Not now. We are to live by His example. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23 (That part about no law means that there is no need for prohibitive law when people's lives exhibit love and self control).

Scars remind us where we've been. They don't have to dictate where we're going. Swords leave scars. I have quite a few and I know that others too bear the scars of my sword swinging. It's time we put down our swords and extend the beautifully given grace that our Lord so lovingly gives to us.

We too are like Malchus. He received unexpected grace. Jesus restores us! In the midst of us being surrounded by the sword of others, Jesus shows us what to do. Lay down our sword and give grace where it isn't expected. Share love where it never has never blossomed fully. Live a different way, the unexpected and extraordinary, so that the world can see the glory of God shine through man and be magnified as we touch the lives others. 



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Gone To Ground by Brandilyn Collins

This is one of those novels that will keep you up late. Once you begin reading a Brandilyn Collins novel you will not be putting it down until you have turned the last page. Her writing is imaginative and pulsating. 

I enjoyed reading, Gone To Ground. It was a fast read for me. Brandilyn's words flow easily. She takes off quickly and the ride doesn't slow down. It intensifies as the pages turn. 

There have been murders taking place in Amaryllis, Mississippi. Three women, all thinking they know the killer, captivate the reader. A small town has lots of gossip. It's hard to keep things quiet in a town where everyone knows each other. Who do they trust? Can they trust anyone? 

I loved how Brandilyn invited us to know these three characters. They each think they know who the killer is, but the fascinating thing is that while they are all assuming they know, the other thinks she knows the truth of who the killer is. They all try to keep secret what they think they know because they are so fearful of being murdered themselves. Okay, I hope that wasn't confusing for you. Lol 

This novel is full of suspense. It's an unputdownable for sure! I love escaping with Brandilyn. She's a writer that will definitely take you for a midnight ride!

This novel was a gift from B&H Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

Brandilyn Collins is a best-selling novelist known for her trademark Seatbelt Suspense. She is a three-time American Christian Fiction Writers Carol Award winner and has received Inspirational Readers' Choice and Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice honors. Brandilyn and her family have homes in California and Idaho. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

So Much More Than Two Coins

Jesus had just encountered the scribes as He  was teaching in the temple complex. (Mark 12:35-40) These religious leaders were very prideful. These arrogant leaders demanded presence. When they walked into a room the waters were to part and give way for their holiness to shine above everyone else. Yes, these holy heathens thought they were above reproach and were to be regarded with a holy respect. 

They had forgotten they too were servants of God. They were to be humble and not self-seeking. But self-seeking is exactly what they were about. Can you picture them in their fancy garments that made them feel like royalty? These men even shared special seats of honor in the temple. They set themselves apart and above everyone else. 

"As He was going out of the temple complex, one of His disciples said to Him, "Teacher, look! What massive stones! What impressive buildings!" Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here on another that will not be thrown down!" Mark 13:1-2

Jesus is here in the temple complex with the disciples. The disciples are finding themselves in awe of the grandeur of these buildings. The temple treasury had thirteen trumpet-shaped treasure boxes according to the Talmud. They were located in the court of women. Archaeologists have found these massive stones of the temple court. Some are forty-two feet long and weigh over one million pounds. Ponder that for a minute. This was a place that would knock your socks off and make your neck sore from looking up at the beauty in these buildings. 

"He looked up and saw the rich dropping their offerings into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow dropping in two tiny coins. "I tell you the truth," He said. "This poor widow has put in more than all of them. For all these people have put in gifts out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on." Luke 21:1-4

Here in the midst of all the diamonds and pearls is a woman that shines far greater than any in this complex. She's hidden from all those focused on themselves, but there her Savior sees her. The temple treasury is placed in the court for women so she could have easily walked in unnoticed. Did she feel unnoticed or did she feel everyone there was watching her? This woman, a widow, is among the poorest of poor. She isn't even counted worthy to those around her. She isn't walking in and seeing friends reach out and embrace her. She is alone. My heart breaks for her. I wish I were there to walk with her and to be her friend. Don't you? At least that's what I hope I would do. Maybe I would be like the holy heathens and stand in stare mode, wondering what on earth someone like her was doing in the temple. May God forgive us. 

We do that, you know. We have all been at church when a 'sinner' walks in and all eyes turn. Sure, we can pretend that never happens, but in our heart of hearts we know better. We look at those who are different and we wonder about them. We may smile, but once in our cars we are sure to ask our husband, "Did you see that woman who sat in the corner of church today?"

This woman came, entered the temple in all of her humbleness and beauty, and placed her two coins in the treasury box. These coins weren't made of gold. They didn't catch the eye of the one standing next to her. But there was her Jesus who had seen her every move. Can you see Him watching her with much love and gentleness? Two tiny coins. The smallest currency in Palestine. One coin is valued at about 1/8 of a cent. Today we would say that she didn't have much more than two nickles to rub together. In fact, she had much less than even that. 

"If anyone has this world's goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need-how can God's love reside in him? Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action." 1 John 3:17-18

This woman was giving what she didn't have to give. This was all. There was no more in her pantry. This is what she had to live on for the time. What would tomorrow bring for her? Was she worried about tomorrow? Maybe she wasn't like us at all. Maybe her faith was so great, she knew her Savior would provide. He had already been providing for her. Praise Jesus! The pondering that captivates my thoughts is simple beauty. 

"But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." James 4:6

Her trifle gift was more than all others in the temple had given. They didn't give beyond their surplus. They were full and proud. She had nothing to her name. At least that's what the world would say. But I see her as so much more than those two coins. I see her as the woman who trusts and believes beyond her own comprehension. I see her as loving Jesus and giving until it hurts. 

"Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should do as he has decided in his heart-not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver." 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

So often we have misplaced desires and wrong motives. We give when others can see. There are many motives for giving. One of them is that it just makes us feel good. We tend to give what we no longer want or need. Hmm. Does that hit you hard too? We should be giving when no else is watching. We should be giving until it hurts. God knows the heart of the giver. Giving is such a precious gift and so often we make it ugly because we turn it around and make it about us. 

"Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world." James 1:27

When I read about this precious woman I see the love of Jesus flowing through her. She was willing to give beyond herself, reach in and dig deep, when she knew the well was dry. But there is much more to the well that this woman was drinking from. She knew her Savior and His well never went dry. He would always provide for her just as He always had. My friends, that is deep faith. A faith that is lived beyond all measure of this world's comprehension. May we learn from her beauty. Giving is priceless when it comes from the heart. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

You Can Take Him At His Word

Have you been walking at your own risk? You know, your own ideas about living and what to do with life? It can be confusing trying to make it on our own. Oh, we try with all our might, but something is always missing. It's right there, but we can never quite place our finger on it. Things tend to not work out the way we planned. Been there? 

"Make Your ways known to me, Lord; teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; I wait for You all day long." Psalm 25:4-5

We live in this 'right now' kind of world. We see it, we gotta have it. Somebody else it doing it, we too gotta get involved. Yes, we try with all our might to fill up and be satisfied, but something's always missing. We look everywhere to be satisfied, but after a while we are left empty. We are left hungry and thirsty. 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Seems we turn to everyone except our Creator. Why is that? Do we really think others are going to know what's better for us? I think we kinda  like listening to people who agree with us and walk beside us in our confusion. I mean, do we really want to admit to others that we don't understand at all? So much in our lives is confusing. Why do we forever keep wasting time searching on our own? That dreadful pride gets us every time. 

"For the Word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

See, here's the thing. When we surrender our lives to Jesus and take Him for His Word we can trust Him. Yes, we can believe Him. He's the One person who will never lie to us and who will never let us down. His Word is our road map to life. Prayer is our communication system with Jesus. 

"The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged." Deuteronomy 31:8

He is our Compass. Our Guide. He is our Everything. So, why do we keep putting off going to Jesus and simply asking Him, "Okay, Jesus, what's this message I keep hearing about?" We gotta start somewhere, right? He knows our heart. There isn't anything we can hide from Him. So, why on earth do we keep pushing Him away and inviting the world's view to guide us through our lives? 

"The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose waters never run dry." Isaiah 58:11

Just begin. Open His Word. Read it. Pray about it. Search it. Just open the Bible and begin. We all have to begin somewhere and sometime. We may not understand everything we read. God has His perfect timing. He will show us what we need to know and what we are able to understand. He has been preparing you for this moment your whole life. He's waiting patiently. He'll show you the way. He'll give you the key to unlocking your yesterday, today, and tomorrow. 

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8


Living Treasures

We like to keep lots of stuff don't we? We usually keep heirlooms in the attic for safe keeping. The attic is more of a space where we like to box up all those old things that held such importance to others. 

In the basement is more of a collage of laundry room mismatched socks and stuff that tends to pile up. The basement is that place we can put stuff that no one else needs to see, but we can always find it if we need it. 

Now for the main floor of the house. We like it to show off who we are or at least who we want others to perceive us to be. We place out photos of family, knickknacks that add flair to our home. We like eye catching gadgets that we can talk about. 

Let's be real. We enjoy showing off our stuff. We hide things we don't want others to see and we set out an array of things we want guests to ponder over. We can shut doors to rooms that are messy. We can cram all the dirty dishes that have been left over from the weekend into the dishwasher. Those dirty clothes can get tossed into the laundry room for safe keeping. No one has to go in there. 

So, if you went through your house right now and could only choose three things to keep what would they be? What would they say about you? See, the thing is, we have a lot of stuff. The question could be, do we value our stuff over people? 

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
Matthew 6:21

"I have treasured Your word in my heart so that I may not sin against You." Psalm 119:11

See, we think our stuff tells our story. The world measures our importance and value by how much stuff we have. Our stuff may tell a bit about us. Probably how insecure we really are, but there is so much more to us than our accumulating stuff. Our story is really told by how we loved. 

There isn't anything of more value than love. At the end of my life I don't want people to remember me for my stuff or lack of stuff. I want them to remember me by my  heart. How I lived and loved. I want my faith to speak volumes above anything I own. 

Please don't misunderstand me. There's nothing wrong with having stuff, but when that stuff says more about us than our heart, there is a huge issue. It's time to clean out the stuff and get to the heart of the matter. I have found as I have cleaned out closets and cabinets and underneath beds, I've learned I need a lot less stuff than I thought. 

Remember those three things I asked about keeping? You got'em yet? I know, that's a lot of stuff to go through and make a choice of only three things. But see, if we  stopped allowing this world to tell us who to be and started looking toward our Lord for guidance I believe we would come away with something totally different than collecting stuff that will one day hold no value. 

Have you visited a resale shop lately or maybe an antique shop or estate sale? They are filled with stuff no one wants any longer.  My husband and I always find old quilts that took someone an entire winter to piece together by hand. We find old German Bibles that date back to years of long ago. We find treasures upon treasures that at one time meant something of great value to those who had it, but after they have left this world it doesn't seem to mean so much to those who have to figure out what to do with it. 

Sometimes I'll have tears in my eyes and ask my hubs how someone could let go of something so beautiful. We fill our lives up with stuff that will lose value. But what if we lived in such a way that we built treasure troves in heaven instead of filling landfills on earth? 

Let us love our neighbor. Give a helping hand. Serve in areas that make us uncomfortable. Most of all, use our God given gifts for His glory. Only if we could place our faith first and give witness to this lost world. Look around. Would it be better to share our stuff or share Jesus? We share Jesus by loving people and giving our time to those around us. See, love has a way of growing more love. It's contagious and life changing. If we could only live out love like Jesus. Might the three things we choose be something lasting eternal and not something that just takes up space. 

"And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13

The Extraordinary Reach

I love envisioning the Word. How about you? I  have come to enjoy reading the Word aloud. It makes it more personal for me. I too have learned not to speed up too fast through scripture, but to stay put for a while until I hear the Holy Spirit speak to my heart. 

Recently I have been reading in Matthew 14. It's the story of Peter, the apostles, and the storm that had them scared motionless. I shared a few thoughts here in the post, He Goes The Extra Mile. I thought maybe I was finished, but the Spirit had more to share with me. Take a look and read the verses below. 

"Immediately Jesus spoke to them. "Have courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." "Lord, if it's You", Peter answered to Him, "command me to come to You on the water." "Come!" He said. And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Matthew 14:27-31

Peter steps out of the boat. To experience Jesus we have to make the choice to step out of the boat. Those in the boat seen something extraordinary, but they didn't experience it like Peter. 

Peter starts out, one step at a time, one foot right in front of the other. Waves crashing around him. Winds whipping in excess. Maybe he looked down. He could have looked back. But for whatever reason he took his eyes off the Savior. Something had his attention and this caused him to begin sinking. Doesn't this happen to us in our daily journey with Jesus? I can be walking right along, my eyes upon Him the whole way, and then something happens and I'm no longer focused on Him leading me. My steps get jumbled and there I am calling to Him once again to save me. 

Peter starts to sink. What I love is this: Peter cried out to Jesus. He didn't turn back to the safety of the boat. Not the comfort of his friends. He turned to his Savior. That gives this girl chills of glory. How about you? Jesus was the first name on Peter's lips. 

What we see next is Jesus reaching out to him. Don't miss the importance here. Jesus reached for Peter, but Peter had to reach back. He had to believe and trust in the One who called him to come. 

It takes courage to be obedient to Christ. Not courage we find in what 'self'can accomplish, but courage to reach out in hope and faith in a God who will never allow us to sink beyond His reach. 

Through life we will question who our friends truly are. We turn and expect them to be there, but we look back for their support and they aren't in our reach. See, we are an imperfect bunch. We like to stay in the safety of the boat. We like our comfort zone. But what Peter realized was safety wasn't in the boat. It was in his Savior and the only way to reach him was taking a leap of faith. 

We are too hard on one another. We expect from others what we ourselves are unable or unwilling to give. We always want others to help us in our time of need, but how many of us are willing to step out and help others when it is uncomfortable or unaccommodating for us? 

We will never find in another what we can only find in our Jesus. Don't limit him by staying in the boat. When we stay in our comfort zone we are going to miss out on the extraordinary. 

It may be frightening. We might be the only one willing to step out. On this day, it was Peter who stepped out in faith and by grabbing a hold of his Savior's reaching hand his faith grew. 

Peter didn't allow his fear to hold him back. He moved in his fear willing to take a chance on his Savior, his Friend. How about you? Are you willing to take a chance on Jesus? What do you have to lose? You may just get the chance to not only see something extraordinary, but to experience it!

There is no distance too wide, no depth too deep for our Savior's reach! 


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

More (From Messes To Miracles) by Tammie Head

When I received this book I wasn't quite sure what to expect. In looking at the cover it's kind of plain. Nothing really stands out. Or does it? On top of the word MORE is printed a gold {more} and the name Tammie Head is printed in gold. In looking closer this gave me a whole new perspective. I LOVE the gold print. When Tammie gave her life to Jesus she became royalty! She is an heir to the throne of the King of kings, Lord of lords. Of course her name is in gold! When she chose to give her mess to God, He began a holy work within her soul and today He continues that work as she offers Him her messy life and He returns her with a blessing of glory.

On the very first page Tammie gives us this:

Mess: a situation that is confused and full of problems.
Miracle: an extraordinary and welcome even that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore attributed to a divine agency.

"He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where He always wanted us to be. And He did it by means of Jesus Christ." (Rom. 3:23 MSG)

Tammie Head's name is new to me. Her story is now imprinted upon my heart. I picked up this book and I was more than pleasantly surprised. I felt like I walked a personal journey with Tammie and she showed me her life messes, beauty, and all. It was a holy experience. I say that because she shared raw and real. She shared stories that many of us keep buried and locked away so no one can ever find out we are such a mess. But, she goes beyond the lock. She gives Jesus the key to her life and He says, "Share, Tammie", and that's exactly what we see. God turning ash into beauty.

For us this happens on paper. For Tammie it was her life and what an experience for her to allow us into her secret places. It's there we see a Jesus who never gave up. In fact He courted her and she fell head over heals in love with Him. Now it's her mission to share the words that He shared with her long ago, "You are made for more".


This is a journey of grace, mercy, and redemption. As I read her words a holy hush came over me. She writes with a pureness that only comes from the experience of journeying through the mess to find God's glory in everything.

This is Tammie's story, but even more so it's God's story her life. Before she ever knew Him, He had plans for her. He was setting everything in place for them to finally meet and there upon the meeting she gave Him her heart and He gave her a new life.

This is one of those books that surprises you. Glory is all over these pages. Tammie brings us her story, but she too brings us stories of scripture. It all connects perfectly. We are all searching for something. This girl is soaring for Jesus. Your gonna want what she has. This was a true blessing to read and I feel honored to read her penned words that share such love for a God who didn't change her overnight, but walked with her until she was ready to discover all He is.

This book was a gift from B&H Publishing Group for sharing my review with you. 

Tammie Head will be the first to tell you that her life is a walking miracle. God has taken her from utter depravity to living a life she never dreamed of. Head's desire for God is insatiable, and she cannot keep Him to herself. The effect on others who come in contact with her is usually the same, Christians and non-Christians alike: they want to know God like she does.
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