Author Archives: Eileen

some thoughts on broken handles

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever. ~Vance Havner

I remembered this quote again as I thought about a coffee cup I broke yesterday morning at work. I was hurrying along with an armload of items and the bag holding this cup slipped from my grip. I heard the breaking sound as it met the concrete floor. I knew what I was going to find even before peering into the bag. The handle had broken into several pieces. The cup itself was fine.

I thought about how often this happens when coffee mugs break. The handle of a mug is the most vulnerable section of the whole beautiful creation. However, even though we tend to toss these cups into the trash, the truth is, a broken handle doesn’t make a cup unusable.

Broken handled cups have seemingly lost their “curb appeal”but that doesn’t mean they can no longer serve the purpose for which they were created. A broken handled cup can still be filled up; it can still hold that which gets poured into it and out of it.  A broken handled cup can still provide those who thirst…a drink.

Our broken, imperfect, and flawed journeys still serve a purpose.  A life that has slipped from your grip and has broken into pieces very well might turn out being the most necessary (dare I even say most beautiful) part of the whole journey.

Pain, Popped Bubbles, and Truth

I wouldn’t want what works unless I’m also convinced that it’s true too. I need both.

I had this thought while reading through an article in my email inbox titled When They Ask “Does Christianity Work?”.

What I found interesting was the article explained how college kids growing up in today’s world aren’t necessarily asking “Is it true?” like students in the 60s would ask. Instead, the overriding question they want answered is “What can help me deal with my pain?”

The more I thought about this desire to find an answer to pain apart from or regardless of whether it’s true, it dawned on me why I’m so passionately against this method of journeying through life:  I lived my life that way before and all it did was lead me down a dead end street.  More on that thought in a moment.

I want you to imagine a scenario:  What if you got married to who you thought was the perfect husband. He said all the right words. He treated you (at least from what you could see) the way you wanted to be treated. He was the perfect husband, the man of your dreams.  However, 20 years into the marriage, you find out that all of it was lie. Your husband had only been playing a part, acting so to speak, to cover up the fact that he had a whole other family he had been spending his life with too. Yes, for 20 years the marriage “worked”. And, based on what you saw and what you were being told…you had lived a relatively pain-free, happy, blissful life up until this point.

How would knowing the truth change things? Would you want to disregard this new information and just continue on with this “workable” life?  I hope the answer would be a clear no.  Learning the truth changes things.  When our eyes and our heart are opened to deception we begin to see that just because something works doesn’t mean it will lead us to the ending or the results we are desiring.

This is why what seemingly works must always be placed under the “is it true?” microscope.

After my mom died when I was 18, I ran from truth and went searching for things that could ease my pain and numb my grief. A decade later and I could sum up the journey with this familiar cliche… I had jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. Yet, this journey ended up teaching me a life long lesson: Looking for what works apart from truth doesn’t last and will not supply the peace, joy, and love that your broken and grieving heart longs for. What works must always be joined with authenticity and truth or we might wake up in 20 years and discover our pain-free bubble has popped because it wasn’t built on truth.

Wilderness Wooing

“And now, here’s what I’m going to do:
    I’m going to start all over again.
I’m taking her back out into the wilderness
    where we had our first date, and I’ll court her.
I’ll give her bouquets of roses.
    I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres of Hope.
She’ll respond like she did as a young girl,
    those days when she was fresh out of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15 Message

Some mornings I like reading scripture in the Message translation.  Eugene Peterson has this way of painting a picture with words.

The beauty jumps right off the page.

Can you see it too?

There’s a sense of familiarity that comes over me when I read those words in Hosea
deja vu
I can see my Redeemer in these verses
I can see His relentless
always redirecting
forever pursuing
ever present
love
He leads us to a barren land
not to abandon us
not to punish
not to leave us for dead.
No
He knows the truth about our prone to wander hearts.
In a world
full of noise and distractions
The wilderness
is where our senses our heightened
It’s here where we can recognize His voice again
a love song…
serenading us back
back to that place of sweet surrender.

Trusting the Transcender

“When desire responds to grace it’s transformed.”

I heard that quote last night while watching an interview with David Bennett.  David was once a gay activist who encountered the love of Jesus and his perspective and heart was forever changed. In the interview, he talked about something that has always piqued my interest. I’m paraphrasing here but it’s the idea that desires are available to us through a relationship with our Creator that transcend (or surpass) what we can ever fully understand or arrive at on our own.  And, we need the love of Christ in order to comprehend it. There is something beyond, something that brings us more joy, something even better.

I feel like I talk about this quite a bit in this space, but I think it’s important because it was at that point in my own journey when everything shifted. I’m speaking about that season in my life when there was this tug of war match going on inside me. At the time, I could identify so strongly with the turmoil the Apostle Paul was feeling as he wrote the words he wrote in Romans 7 and the battle between the flesh and the spirit.

I then had a lightbulb moment during this struggle when I realized nothing could or would fully change unless my desires somehow shifted. The only obvious problem was…I didn’t desire to change. Duh!  I even vocalized my lack of enthusiasm to the Lord. I remember being so angry and I came to Him kicking and screaming. However, I was also determined to bring my anger and questions to Him and not stomp off mad or turn a deaf ear.  (I had already tried that technique for a decade and it hadn’t led to anyplace good.)

The only hope I was willing to cling to during this challenging season was this: I truly believed the God who created me deeply loved me and wanted His absolute best for me. There was something inside me that knew He held the picture of this perfect plan even if I couldn’t understand it fully or see it clearly. Placing my trust in the only thing I did believe about God changed how I began to pray.  My prayer became “Lord make my desire for You stronger than my desire to drink. Lord, change my heart.”

My desire for a drink did not magically go away, but eventually there was this beautiful, profound moment in my story when His desire transcended my desire and I experienced a peace and a calm like I had never known before.  It was the something beyond, something better that I had been searching for all my life. He did it!

“For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,  may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. ” -Ephesians 3: 14-21

 

Name Calling and Grave Leavers


Sometimes, I get this feeling that the Lord uses rain showers on Sunday morning to remind me of His sovereignty, to remind me that He has this amazing track record of doing His best work through inconveniences and adversities.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
and your ways are not My ways.”
This is the Lord’s declaration.
 “For as heaven is higher than earth,
so My ways are higher than your ways,
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
 For just as rain and snow fall from heaven
and do not return there
without saturating the earth
and making it germinate and sprout,
and providing seed to sow
and food to eat,
 so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do” – Isaiah 55:8-11 

***

I wrote those thoughts on Sunday morning before heading out for yet another rainy day of worship.  The next morning, I found myself in John10.  It’s in this chapter that Jesus declares to be both the door to walk through and the shepherd to follow. His sheep will walk through this door and follow this shepherd because they will recognize the sound of their shepherd’s voice when He calls their name. It reminded me of the last portion of the verses I shared above.

so My word that comes from My mouth
will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please
and will prosper in what I send it to do” (emphasis mine)

I love the reminders and assurances in these verses.  The words that He speaks have a purpose and that purpose will always prevail, always accomplish and thrive.

“For the word of the Lord is right,
and all his work is trustworthy.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the Lord’s unfailing love.

 The heavens were made by the word of the Lord,
and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth.
He gathers the water of the sea into a heap;
he puts the depths into storehouses.
 Let the whole earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.
For he spoke, and it came into being;
he commanded, and it came into existence.” Psalm 33:4-9

As I sat here thinking about the power and purposefulness of His words, two more memories came to mind.  First, a post I wrote last year about Jesus calling out Mary Magdelene’s name the morning of the resurrection. It may not have been raining that day, but Mary’s heart was certainly swarming in a sea of cloudy despair. And, then, Jesus calls her by name.  Mary!

Here’s an excerpt:

Then Jesus responds “Mary!”

I’m trying to understand why this one word response from Jesus means so much to me. That single word response is overflowing with heart gushing love and anticipation.

In the middle of her pain, Jesus calls Mary out by name.  He doesn’t respond by saying “It’s me, don’t you recognize me?”

No, Jesus cuts right to the chase. He calls His child out by name and, instantly, Mary’s heart hears the truth and responds.

This scene actually reminds me of how Jesus tells us He is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. The shepherd calls his sheep by name and the sheep recognize His voice.

“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3

He calls his own sheep by name…

Mary!

Can you hear it too?  There is so much love packed into this one word! I can almost see Mary standing there, full of despair, and then hearing her Savior’s voice calling her out by name.  And, if this were a scene in a movie, we would see a flashback scene of Mary’s journey with the Lord. We would see the moment she encountered Jesus for the first time, the moment her life went from captivity and torment to freedom and joy.  The moment this once demon-possessed lady knew, with complete certainty, who was King over her life and Lover of her soul.

The second thought that crossed my mind was these song lyrics.

“He called my name, and I ran out of that grave.” 

It’s interesting to think about how, on the day of resurrection, Jesus walked out of that grave and the first thing He did was call Mary out of her grave too.  The storm of uncertainty was over and she stood there, heart fully alive, basking in the sun.

Maybes, Mustard Seeds, Mountains

“Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:19-20

Maybes are the mustard seeds that move mountains.

Because you have so little faith... but truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as.

It’s about more faith not bigger faith.

We need more maybes
more perhaps
more moments of loosening our grip on what we’ve always believed to make room for what could be
more moments of looking beyond what we can only comprehend with our eyes

More faith not bigger faith

Because it’s not about the size of our faith but the size of the One who had the power to speak the tiny mustard seed into existence and breathe life into the tiny.

Like grains of salt or grains of sand. 

One tiny grain of salt won’t salt an entire meal.
One tiny grain of sand won’t make a whole ocean beach.
We need grain on grain.
Small piled on top of more small.

We need buckets spilling over with small.
We need grocery bag armloads of perhaps.
We need hearts bursting with maybes.

“if i’m not authentic, i’m dying inside”

“i’m authentic not because it’s in style, but because it’s part of my own healing. if i’m not authentic, i’m dying inside.”- Mike Foster

My mind keeps going back to this quote Mike Foster tweeted out a few days ago. I love it. The message resonates with my soul, especially the last part “if i’m not authentic, i’m dying inside.”  For the record, when I retyped his words this morning I was tempted to correct all his “i’m”s to “I’m” because the spelling/grammar nazi still living inside me was cringing, but then I resisted the urge. I thought it best to leave the quote in its authentic form. 😉

After allowing these words to roll around in my heart for a couple of days, I responded. “Gosh, this is so true. Spent a decade of my life decaying. Never again.”

I think this “fear” I have of never again wanting to feel like I’m slowly dying is a healthy fear.  Once life begins to take root again in those desolate/decaying places in your heart, you will do everything in your power to make sure you find ways to get those places all the water and sunshine necessary to insure they keep growing and thriving.

When you experience, firsthand, the power and the freedom of the light and the living water, you never ever want to go back to hiding away in the dark. The dark smothers you in shame and tries to convince you that it’s safer in the shadows. The light invites you to stretch out in a spacious place and breathe. That’s the beauty of grace.

Just one sweet taste of freedom… and you know this is the home your soul has been searching for all its life.

Rubble and Rooftops

What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight;
what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.~Matthew 10:27

I’ve been able to go for a couple of runs along the beach road this week while on vacation.  As I headed out the other morning, I turned on some music. All Because of Jesus started playing.  This song holds a special place in my heart. It was the song that was playing in my ears and accompanied me across the finish line when I completed my first 1/2 marathon in April 2011.  When it began playing again the other morning, I realized I was wearing the race shirt from that same run.

“And it’s all because of Jesus I’m alive
Yeah, it’s all because the blood of Jesus Christ
Covers me and raised this dead man’s life
And it’s all because of Jesus

Every sunrise sings Your praise
The universe cries out Your praise
I’m singing freedom all my days
Now that I’m alive”

Back in April 2011, I was coming up on a decade of sobriety, a decade of sweet surrender, a decade from when Jesus first breathed life back into my broken life, a decade of looking back in the rearview mirror and seeing the breadcrumbs of His beauty and His faithfulness. A decade…yet in many ways, it was still so fresh.

It’s been 7 years since that moment and I think about it again this morning praying that the miracle of how He resurrects us from the rubble never ceases to bring me to my knees in gratitude. I pray that a part of me will always feel compelled to shout it from the rooftops. I pray that the joy of His salvation is the first thought when I open my eyes in morning and the last thought that crosses through my brain as I drift off to sleep at night.  Bookends of praise to YOU LORD!

“They will proclaim his righteousness,
declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!” Psalm 22: 31

“I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 146:2

Sea of Surprises

We are spending this week down in Panama City, Florida. Growing up in Georgia, my husband visited this area a few times as a child. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean but this week, seeing the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico, was a first for me. The color of the water reminds me of the waters off the coast of the Dominican Republic and also the turquoise river water I remember seeing while we drove from Salzburg, Austria down to Venice, Italy while on a trip to Europe a few years ago.

I spent the first four years of my life in the Cape Canaveral area of Florida prior to our family moving to Arizona.  As a child, I remember how our family of five would make (a number of times) the crazy long drive on Interstate 10 from Arizona back to Florida during the summertime to enjoy the ocean and visit with old family friends. However, I don’t ever recall my dad slowing down long enough for us to take in any of the beauty along the Gulf. My dad was not a stop-and-smell-the-roses kind of road tripper. On most family vacations, my two older brothers and I were just grateful our mom was there to remind our dad that we needed potty breaks every few hours.

Looking back, I’m sure we must have been pretty close to the beauty of the Gulf of Mexico as our station wagon sped by Pensacola and across the panhandle to reach our final destination, I just don’t recall us ever stopping to see any of it. Taking in its beauty for the very first time this week has been a delightful surprise.  Last night, as I reflected on coming across beauty that exceeds our expectations, I remembered my One Word for 2018: Surprise

I’m grateful that the beauty unwrapped in creation never seems to diminish in its ability to delight and surprise me.  Seas and seas of mercy…new…each and every morning.  


Perhaps it all Starts with Maybe

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he pulled me out of deep water.  He rescued me from my powerful enemy…”Psalm 18:16-17a

I think if I had to sum up what Easter means to me personally, that verse does a good job of extracting the words right from my heart.  As I’ve shared countless times in this space, several portions of Psalm 18 greatly encouraged me during a season in my life when I was trying to break free from an addiction (my powerful enemy) that had taken hold of me.

Most of my life I had known the story of Easter and even believed the story of Easter… but it truly didn’t become tangible and personal to me until that specific season in my life when I felt as if I was battling for my life.  It was during this season when I finally understood that I could not rescue myself.  The enemy’s grip was too tight and the pit I was in was too deep. I knew I needed to trust a power and a strength and a plan that was bigger than both me and my enemy.  And that power, that plan, was Jesus.

It had been the plan all along. I just didn’t truly understand the plan (nor was I willing to trust the plan) until the battle landed on my doorstep and hit me personally. That’s when I had this ah-ha moment in my journey where I said to the Lord.  Ok, I’ve tried it my way (and that hasn’t worked so well).  So, what’s the harm of me trying it Your way instead?  Maybe You are who You say You are. Maybe I can trust You with my whole heart.  Maybe You are bigger and stronger than everything that has been trying to destroy me. Maybe You can rescue me.  So, Lord, I guess you could say I’m putting all my (Easter) eggs in one basket and trusting You will do Your saving and redeeming work on this doubting, hurting heart of mine.  

And can I tell you what happened?  The old eggs in that basket began cracking open and new and vibrant life started to break through. It didn’t happen overnight.  It became this journey of learning to trust, learning to hold on through the dark, and learning through all of life’s disappointments and delays that healing and freedom wasn’t going to follow the “Eileen timeline.”

No… I’ve discovered that life in Christ is so much bigger and so much more beautiful than that.  

He grabs hold of your hand, pulls you out of deep water, rescues you….and that’s just the sweet beginning…the adventure goes on and on…