Author Archives: Eileen

Holding Hands With a Stranger

I love when you meet someone and you just know you were meant to meet them. You might not know why…but you just know…you know?  That happened tonight.

So I wrote those words four years ago today on Facebook; they popped up in the Memories section this morning.  It’s interesting how it popped up today because yesterday the same thing happened in the most odd and beautiful way.

The short story: A stranger and I ended up holding hands on a sidewalk, praying for one another, and exchanging phone numbers so that we could grab lunch together one day.

The Long Story: Teresa had forgotten her phone earlier in the day at a bookstore across the street from where I work and was coming back to retrieve it. Our eyes locked a few times as she pulled into the parking space and then she spoke to me as she got out of her car. She had never noticed the sign on the side of the building that said Rock Bridge Community Church…so she began asking me about it.  We chatted for few minutes about her current season in life and then she asked me if there was anything I needed prayer for. I wan’t expecting that question but the first request that popped into my head was “Please just pray that I stay connected to the vine.”

“Ok,” she said. “Can I pray for you now?”

“Certainly.” I answered. “And I would love to do the same for you!” I added.

So there we stood yesterday afternoon. Two strangers, holding hands and praying for one another.

Teresa not only prayed for my request but also prayed for protection and wisdom for my son as he navigated through high school…that he would be salt and light.  I smiled as those words came out of her mouth. I thought about the car ride conversations with Sean and my parting words to him that morning (and most every morning) as he exited the car at his school.  “Go be a light.”

Go be a light.

Thank you, Teresa, for being a bold light that crossed my path and prayed with me yesterday.

I know it wasn’t a coincidence that we connected.  There are no coincidences. This faith journey is such a beautiful and strange scavenger hunt. You never know when you will encounter another piece of the puzzle.

Choosing Him in the Take Away

“Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out, I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

God, you give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name”

I was out for a run last night at the ball field while my son was participating in soccer camp.  Matt Redman’s song Blessed Be Your Name began to play and I suddenly remembered a particular moment in church ten or fifteen years ago when the song first came out.  I remember we’d sing this song on a few occasions, but each time we did we would never sing the last stanza.

God, you give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

I remember wondering why we never sang it… It was just a fleeting sort of curiosity that would cross my mind as we’d go on and sing another song or move on to the message for the day.

Why don’t we sing that, Lord?  It wasn’t something I dwelled on…just something I would notice.

I don’t know the answer to the question my heart would ask. I never took the time to find out why.

However, as I ran along last night and thought about those words again, “God, you give and take away, You give and take away” I thought about how critical it is for a believer to come to terms with this reality. Of all the hard truths we need to come to terms with as we journey further along this beautiful road called life…this one is a biggie! We need to wrestle with and make peace with how a loving, wants the best for us Savior will “take away.”

I don’t think our faith can endure for the long haul if we don’t learn to recognize His unfading beauty through all the tears that we shed. I don’t think our faith can endure if we don’t learn how to hold onto and trust in the goodness of the Lord during those inevitable seasons of painful and paralyzing loss.

A heart must learn to choose Him in the “take away.”

A heart must come to believe that He is still all together worthy to receive glory, honor and power…(Rev 4:11)

I think about Peter’s response after Jesus asked him in John 6 (after many followers deserted Him) “You do not want to leave too, do you?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

we have come to believe and to know….

It was a journey for Peter to arrive at this decision. It didn’t happen overnight for Peter and even after making this faith-filled statement, Peter “the Rock” still crumbled in fear on the night Jesus was arrested.  Even after coming to believe and coming to know…this fear grabbed hold of him when Jesus was taken away. His faith was put to the test in the take away and he failed miserably.

I think about my running away days, how the fear grabbed hold of me too, and how I failed miserably too.

And then I think about Jesus, the moment I stopped running away from the take away and turned around to finally see everything He desired to “give” me.

It’s been an ongoing journey for my heart to learn to choose Him in the “take away.”  It’s been an ongoing journey to see how He has made all things beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

These Things Matter Deeply to Me

My son and I were talking about character on a recent car ride.  I LOVE car ride conversations with my boy.  I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the ideas we discussed.

Character, respect, integrity, humility, honesty, compassion, kindness

These things matter deeply to me.

These things matter more to me than if you lean to the left or if you lean to the right. They matter more to me than if a politician has an (R) after their name or a (D). These things matter more to me than whether you and I agree completely on a political, personal, or lifestyle issue or if you and I are radically different.

For 10 years (ten LONG years), I lived my young adult life knowing what it felt like to be lied to, deceived, manipulated, used, and taken advantage of. I also learned how to unhealthily adapt to that kind of toxic environment. I learned to lie and deceive myself and others. I learned to rationalize things that were clearly wrong.  I became a queen of justification.

And then, one day, the pain of living a fake and inauthentic life caught up to me (it couldn’t help but catch up with me because I was living in a prison of my own making)  And, on that day, I made a different decision…chose a different direction.

I said NO MORE.  Never again.

What do you want to be remembered for?

“What do you want to be remembered for?”

I read this question last night while scrolling through Twitter.  I knew how I would answer almost as soon as I read it.

Hope

a spreader
an extender
an includer
a vessel
an instrument
a sticky note reminder
a “yes this life will knock you down but hold onto the beauty”
…of hope

That last thought reminded me of a Mike Foster quote I read earlier this month:

“sometimes we fall down because there is something down there we’re supposed to find: a gift, a vision, a clarity, a truth about love that we would have never found without the pain”

Personally, that pretty much sums up how ugly things can be made beautiful. When the eyes of our hearts can tap into this…we unwrap the bizarre and totally unexpected gift of redemption. And this gift is so precious. I can not (nor would I ever want to) imagine this life…in all it’s twists and turns and valley and pits…without it.

This morning I found myself reading through Psalm 22.  There’s one particular verse in that Psalm that always catches my attention no matter how many times I’ve read it.  “They will come and tell a people yet to be born about His righteousness–what He has done.”  (v 31)

It reminded me of the question I read last night.  “What do you want to be remembered for?”

How do we tell a people yet to be born?  The only thing that comes to mind is to start a fire so big and so hot that even after we are gone those yet to be born will be able to come across the smoldering embers left behind and still feel the warmth…still recognize the burning hidden hope just below the surface…all it needs is a little oxygen.

“So don’t be embarrassed to speak up for our Master or for me, his prisoner. Take your share of suffering for the Message along with the rest of us. We can only keep on going, after all, by the power of God, who first saved us and then called us to this holy work. We had nothing to do with it. It was all his idea, a gift prepared for us in Jesus long before we knew anything about it. But we know it now. Since the appearance of our Savior, nothing could be plainer: death defeated, life vindicated in a steady blaze of light, all through the work of Jesus.”  2 Timothy 1 8-10 Message

When Life Seems Cruel…

Pain and struggle can become this firm foundation for one’s faith and character.  

I thought about this after reading a little bit more about the 25 year old soccer coach, Akkapol Chanthawong, who, no doubt, played a huge role in keeping his soccer team alive, hopeful, and calm for the nine days it took a rescue team to locate them in the Thailand cave they became trapped in.

“He was orphaned (at 10 years old) after a disease spread through his town, killing his parents and his younger brother. He moved to a monastery, but has moved back to the region to care for an ailing grandmother.”  -CBS News

As I read about this coach’s life, I couldn’t help but have this thought.  Of all the people that could have been stuck in the cave with those boys for nine days, it’s this young man…a man who had already learned how to navigate through a seemingly hopeless situation, a man who had already learned that perseverance through struggle and pain is possible. 

His pain became a tool that helped to keep a whole team of young boys alive for nine days.

This is redemption at its best.

When life seems cruel, this is what fills my heart with hope, and yes…even joy.

I know this nightmare is far from over. I see the tragedy and hardship in the situation. I see the unfairness…but then, I read stories like this and I am reminded that our pain and struggle is never wasted; it is never in vain.  

Our past navigation through pain or grief becomes this oxygen mask we extend to another human being in need.  And we can say with confidence… grab hold, don’t let go, rescue is coming.

You Will Never Forget

Every year as the 4th of July approaches I think about July 4, 1992.  For that particular 4th of July, I was approaching the one year anniversary of my mom’s death, July 14, 1991. That was the year I was on my way to meet some friends to watch fireworks and a terrifying thought crossed my mind as I drove along.  What if I forget her? What if the memories begin to fade?  

As this idea swept over my brain, I became so upset that I had to turn the car around and go home. Thankfully, when I arrived back at the house, my then sister-in-law, who had lost her mom when she was 15 years old, wrapped her arms around me and reassured me; you will never forget.

Every 4th of July since the one in 1992, it’s this memory that fills my brain more than any other. I remember those words “you will never forget” and I am thankful they still hold true nearly 27 years later. I have not forgotten.

The more I think about this memory, the more I think it’s an appropriate way to honor and celebrate our Independence Day.

You never forget the preciousness of love; you never forget the preciousness of freedom.

Freedom and Love

A taste of both can change the trajectory of your life forever.  A taste of both fills you with a desire to stand alongside those living in bondage and oppression.  You want others to experience the sweet embrace of unconditional love.  You want others to experience that unforgettable moment when their prison door swings open and the warm sunshine hits their cheeks.

An old post I wrote came to mind as I was thinking about all of this.  Thought I would share it again.

Freedom Circles Back
Written December 29, 2012

The other night I had a rather intense dream about captivity. I know what prompted the dream. I went to bed thinking about my running away from the Lord days. I couldn’t breathe in those days.  I couldn’t find peace or freedom. I was a prisoner and the life I was living was a jail cell.

In my dream, I was both a spectator and a participant. It was like I was there but wasn’t there. Several people in my dream were being held captive and I could feel the hopelessness of the situation. After several years, one prisoner escapes and leads authorities back to help rescue the others who are still being held captive. I woke from my dream in a sweat.

As I thought about this topic it made think again of why I feel compelled to share my thoughts on this blog. It occurred to me that I feel like the prisoner who escaped and every time I write, I  am coming back with a desire to help rescue those who are still held captive. The Scenic Route circles back to show others that there is a way out, that there is a place where you will be able to breathe again.

That’s the beauty of freedom. It is not content to just be free, it desperately wants others to find it too. Freedom circles back.

He Loved Me The Best He Knew How

That first Christmas morning after my mom died, my dad struggled with gift giving. Yet, as I shared in this post, I knew my dad was simply doing the best he knew how to do, much the same way I knew the words, “keep one in the chamber” at the end of all our phone conversations were synonymous with “be careful, I love you.”

The other morning, on the drive to work, the radio station I was listening to was asking listeners (in honor of Father’s Day) to call in and share the best advice their dads had given them. I smiled because I wondered how well the two examples I immediately thought of would go over if I called in and shared them on air. “Keep one in the chamber” that was the first one I thought of… I wouldn’t necessarily call it the “best” advice but it was certainly advice I have never ever forgotten.

The other example, in comparison, was much much better advice… “If you don’t start, you’ll never have to stop.” My dad grew up with an alcoholic father and he’d often tell me this. I wish I’d heeded his advice. I haven’t had a drink in nearly 17 years…but “stopping” was, hands down, one of the hardest journeys I’ve ever been on.

My dad was far from perfect. He had his share of racist attitudes and was highly bigoted towards anyone who didn’t share his excessively right wing beliefs. And yet, there was never any doubt in my mind that he was loving me, his daughter, the best way he knew how.

As I sit here this morning, reminiscing, I don’t ever want to forget the times along the journey when my dad’s love for me shined brighter and more beautiful than all the cracks, flaws, and dysfunction. Here are two of those times.

When I developed a horrible case of strep throat in college. The University medical clinic prescribed the wrong medicine and the infection continued to get worse and the pain became excruciating. While curled up in a fetal position, I called my dad and groaned…”I am in so much pain; I don’t know what to do.” He drove the 80 mile trip up to rescue me, took me to the emergency room, and then drove me back to his house and nursed me back to health for the next several days.I wrote about it here.

When I finally became willing to divulge just how bad things had gotten in my first marriage. I picked up that heavy phone and through trembling tears I cried out for help.  Dad, I’ve got to get out of here. There was no “I told you so” lectures, although I deserved them. Instead, he met my pain and desperation with compassion…I’m here for you…let’s figure out what needs to be done.

I am grateful for the imperfect dad I had in my life.
He loved me the best he knew how.
Sometimes, as you look back, that’s more than enough.

Before Understanding

“Take up your cross and follow Me.”

Take up your cross…

I’ve been reminded lately of how the peace doesn’t show up, the doubt doesn’t begin to subside, and the joy struggles to burst through… until we do.

In His Kingdom, obedience comes before understanding.

It’s in this journey when we begin to see how the cross that we bear or the thorn in our side is being redeemed and used for His Glory. He gives us eyes to see and we begin to scratch the beautiful surface of His redeeming love, the depths and the lengths of His mercy and grace.

Take up your cross…and follow 

Watch as scales begin to fall..
Watch as new paths are carved out through the wilderness…
Watch as springs of living water appear along your desert path…

Eyes open wide

feet firmly planted

His joy becomes your strength

Take up your cross…and follow

The Best Wine

I have one coworker in particular who regularly inspires me to pray more than I worry. There’s been countless times when I’ve bumped into Michelle at work, expressed a concern on my heart, and she will right then lift up the need in prayer. It’s not even a bow your head, close your eyes moment but more like Jesus is standing right there next to her, right there in our midst, and she is simply including Him in our conversation.

Last weekend was Memorial Day weekend and the beginning of summer vacation for kids in the area. Sundays and summertime are always a little interesting at church and at my job. So many of the wonderful volunteers who help to make things flow smoothly are enjoying family vacations away. We couldn’t “do” church without volunteers and the Lord always has a way of using holiday weekends and summer schedules to remind me of all the beautiful hands and feet who dedicate their time and use their gifts every week.  Did I mention  we  I couldn’t do church or my job without all the help they provide?  So grateful for them!!

And nothing reminds us how grateful we are of something than when we experience a shortage of that something. We tend to remember the great value of something when what we value is suddenly not there. The absence or shortage reminds us that we don’t ever want to take the fact that needs get met and jobs get done for granted. We recognize that when needs are met and jobs get done it is truly a gift…and we praise the Provider and Giver of every good and perfect gift!!

I wanted to share a cool God moment with you all from last weekend. I knew, because it was a holiday weekend that it would be a challenge to find enough volunteers who were in town and able to serve. On Sunday morning, as I was driving to work, I received a text from a family of four who couldn’t make it to greet because a tree had fallen across the main road in their neighborhood…it was the only way in and out of their neighborhood. I had also received a couple of other last minute calls and texts throughout the weekend of folks needing to be out due to sickness. Instead of going directly to my knee jerk reaction of worry, I decided to send two of my coworkers a text message, telling them the situation and asking them to please say a prayer.  In true fashion, Michelle immediately replied to my text with a prayer.

And in true fashion, Jesus responded.

A few minutes later I receive this text from one of our rock star volunteers…

I shared this text with the coworkers who had prayed and simply shook my head in awe at how the Lord hears our prayers.  I then had this thought come to mind.

Lord, you don’t simply turn water into wine…You turn it into the best wine!  (John 2: 1-11)

I’m sharing this moment with you all today because I hope it encourages you the way it did me.

It reminded me of a few important truths about the big God that we serve…

He hears our prayers.
He likes to answer our requests in ways that exceed our expectations. (Ephesians 3:20, John 6:12)

Keep blowing us away Lord!

i can’t explain it


I’m convinced that it’s God’s redeeming, relentless love that eventually cracks open the eyes to a heart
Once you see it; there’s no way to unsee it
Once you taste it; there’s no way to un-taste it
And those things that once only tormented you like thorns
now
somehow, someway
also
become treasures for the trip
I can’t explain it
I can only embrace it