My life has been a journey full of twists & turns, highs & lows. Honestly, I'm not sure I could really define where I'm headed. But one thing I'm learning, the journey isn't all about the final destination but more about how we travel. And fulfillment is found in all that we learn & experience as we journey, not just getting to the end of it. I can't even imagine making mine without Christ before me, behind me, and beside me...

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Life-Changing Day

First glimpse of Alice Madeline Mora, my first grandchild.
 Alice & Mommy (my daughter Brittany)
 Alice & Daddy
 Alice & Uncle Mikey
Alice & Uncle Andy
Alice & Uncle Elias
 Alice & Uncle Zachary
Alice & G-Mom... that's ME!

There just aren't any more words to describe this day right now. If there was ever a day I wish I could have shared with Phillip, it would be this one. G-Dad is missed very much.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


      There were some empty chairs at our table this Thanksgiving, each one bringing its own reflection and remembrances. The year has wrought extreme sorrow in losing and extreme joy in expecting so missing the ones I love resonated a little deeper. 
      Mikey and Kaci were absent only because her family had come from such a long way to spend the day with "Memaw." The time together with Kaci's family was precious and will always be remembered. Their chairs don't seem quite so vacant when I know they are making memories they will always hold dear. The blessing of marriage is that each partner is part of TWO families. Missing them isn't so hard because I know their hearts really aren't far from home. If home is where the heart is, it can be in more than one place. Though they couldn't share the day with us, they were making memories where their hearts needed to be... In reflection, their chairs really weren't so empty at all.
     Elias' chair has been empty at our table several times in recent years because he's served his country in distant lands... All of my children have left empty chairs through the years in pursuit of their purpose. For my Marine sons, MRE's have been a more likely holiday dinner than festive turkey and pumpkin pies, and knowing what they are missing deepens the longing to have them home. A mama's heartstrings always tug in awareness of these empty chairs because a Marine's coming home is never certain. And the unknowing if he is well and at peace or in the midst of conflict weighs heavy. This year, missing him and knowing that he misses his dad even more makes his empty chair seem lonelier because I just want him to know he isn't alone in his sorrow. We all share it together. But knowing this year that he was on a journey that led him out of danger leaves me hoping. He's coming home. From Afghanistan to Hawaii and in a few days...HOME. If home is where the heart is, his heart will be home this year for Christmas--my empty nest will be full though I look on at my fledglings alone now. Looking forward with expectation seeing him face to face reminds me that "coming home" makes the emptiness of Elias' chair seem less empty. Anticipation of his homecoming offers HOPE in place of despair. 
     Excitement and expectation of meeting our new little Alice Madeline brightens the shadow of that forever empty chair yet the forsaken chair still remains. There's no possibility  that he will eventually "come home" and, though many precious others may come and go, no one can fill the void that death leaves behind. There's no escaping it. All one can do is just believe, as Chad reminded us, that there was a special homecoming celebration in heaven this year. In believing, we must remember with joyful acceptance that a chair in heaven no longer sits waiting for him to come home. He sits at a new table with his dad, Grandma, Frenchy, Aunt Dutch, and all those others who have gone before from this world. He may remember but he isn't missing us because he is forever HOME where his heart belongs. How could we ever wish to take that from him? 
      Though our hearts grieve, we hold on to hope...We remember with sad fondness but we look forward with joyful anticipation of yet another homecoming--our own--when room for one more is made to share in the heavenly feast. We will finally be HOME--the home where our hearts will always be.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


     Since Phillip--the children's dad--died in January, the question of how I will be remembered has lingered heavy on my heart. I've watched my children and those who loved him most deal with losing him by remembering him--each one remembering different and/or similar aspects of his character and nature. And remembering his words--those words that shaped who he was and how he influenced them. I remember still a whole different set of memories and words through our relationship as husband and wife...and mom and dad to our kids. Those memories have left an imprint on each one of us that will never fade. So especially as my children have remembered him, I've wondered how they will remember me... How others will remember me... Will their memories be positive? Will they leave a lasting imprint? Or will those memories be here today and gone tomorrow?
      I look back on my own life journey--and I realize I am not the same person I was five years ago, 10 years ago, or 20 years ago... I'm certainly not the person I was 40 years ago... (Gee, I'm sounding old!) I remember those who have walked in and out of my life at different points along the way. If I never see them again, they will never know the person I am today and that hurts.     
     The truth of it has become evident in the last few weeks since my youngest son came to stay with me since he got out of the Marines. We haven't lived together since he was in junior high. I've realized we don't know each other very well. When we talk, he often relates and responds to the mom he knew as a boy. I'm not "her" anymore; he's not that little boy anymore either. So I'm not so sure how to relate to this man either... This man who went through much of his "becoming" years virtually without me... Who has served duty tours in Iraq and Afghanistan for the sake of his country... Who has opinions, values, beliefs, strengths, and hurts that I'm just learning about. So I have to wonder: if I died today, who would he remember?
     Given the chance to return to "back then," I would have done many things differently. If I understood then what I know now, I would have lived differently. I would have been stronger, braver, kinder. I would have given more love and less anger... More hope and less hurt... More grace and less judgement... More of the Jesus-Me and less of the World-Me.
     But, in reality, I'm left with only today--being the best "me" I can be today. I can only hope that the person I am today makes a deeper imprint than who I was in my yesterdays. Today, I'm living in grace and by grace. Today, I seek to see the "me" that Christ sees...His workmanship, created for a purpose--those "good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (EPHESIANS 2:10 ESV) Today, I strive to walk in His purpose. And that purpose is what I hope people remember most... 
     It took me so long to even begin to see myself as Christ sees me. I saw a mess--ugly, scarred, and imperfect. I lost all hope in the "me" I used to see. But today, I have hope because the Christ IN me is my Hope of Glory (See COLOSSIANS 1:27). He shows me who I am and what He wants me to do. My purpose is to give others that same hope by helping them see themselves as His workmanship--His masterpieces. And to show them that He made something beautiful. I want them to KNOW Him as their "Hope of Glory" and to be changed.
     If people remember anything about me, I would hope that those memories would point to the Christ in me. If they remember love, compassion, grace, beauty, or hope in me at all, they would know that it's the "Hope of Glory" in me and that they would know HIM. Philip Yancey wrote, "You can gauge the size of a ship that has passed out of sight by the huge wake it leaves behind." The bigger the ship, the bigger the waves that follow. I hope that my life today is big enough to leave big waves--not because of anything I say or do so much as because of Him in me. I pray that the waves that follow me are waves of Hope bringing about change in the lives that touch mine. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011


"But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all..." - Philippians 2:17 NASB

    She was an unwelcome guest. She entered the room even as protesting servants tried to hold her back. It was all she could do to walk in there...unwanted and uninvited by the host. She risked ridicule, shame, and even self-respect for she was a sinful woman, but she had a purpose. She saw Him, the invited guest of honor. Her eyes met His for a moment as she fell at His feet. At the sight of Him, tear flowed unchecked down her cheeks. No,not tears of shame, sorrow, or fear but rather tears of love and gratitude, believing that this Man would see her heart not just her sin. This man Jesus spoke a different kind of love to her than any man had ever spoken before and her life was changed. Grace brought her to this room. 
    Under the glare of the disapproving host, she broke open her most precious possession--an alabaster box filled with a rare expensive perfume worth at least a year's wages--and poured it over Jesus' feet. The sweet aroma filled the room as she bathed His feet. Overwhelmed with love for Him, her tears rained down mixing with the perfume on His feet. As she kissed His feet, she loosened her hair so it fell long and dried His feet with her hair...
     She had nothing else to give so she gave Him all she had: her treasured alabaster box and her tears, symbols of an even more precious gift. Out of the grace He had so lovingly given her, she poured out her broken life as an offering to Him with all the love she had. Her heart spilled out for the sake of Him... "Broken and spilled out for the love of You, Jesus..." 
     Jesus understood what no other could, "I tell you, her sins--and they are many --have been forgiven so she has shown Me much love..." (Luke 7:47 NLT)
     Jesus, too gave all that He had...for the love of us. He poured out His life as an offering so that we can live eternally. By grace, He fills us up with His love. In all that has been broken in my own life, He makes me whole and fills me with love and grace again and again. With the love and grace He pours into me, I pour into others. Sacrifice sometimes, yes. Difficult, yes. And often so exhausting... But worth it? You bet! I empty myself into another with all He has given me. As I see His love and grace fill that other and empower her to pour herself into yet another, I am again filled to overflowing and ready to pour myself out to yet another...and another. In emptying myself into others, I pour my life out as an offering to Him for He has forgiven much in me too...
     "Broken and spilled out just for love of You, Jesus. My most precious treasure lavished on Thee. Broken and spilled out and poured at Your feet. In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out and used up for Thee." (Gloria Gaither)

"BROKEN AND SPILLED OUT" as performed by Steven Curtis Chapman. 
Lyrics by Gloria Gaither, music by Bill George. 1984 Gaither Music.

Friday, October 7, 2011


     I hear voices....No, not THOSE kinds of voices! (At least those aren't the ones I'm talking about today...) I hear voices--we all have them. Voices that speak truth and encouragement. Voices that lift up and push onward. Voices that impact our lives so strongly that we will never be the same. Whose voices are they? For me, they are the people in my life who matter most... Each one for the individual unique things they bring to my life and hopefully what I bring to theirs too somehow. Their voices stay with me, making me stronger, and laying my paths straight. And sometimes even holding me back or barring my way when I try to get ahead of myself...or God.
     I hear the voice of PERSISTENCE--Chad...One of the single most influential voices in my life. Why? Because he believed and persisted in reminding me, "There's a reason you are here." And he helped me find that reason.
     I hear voices of my PAST, PRESENT, and FUTURE--my children: Brittany, Mikey, Andy, Elias, Zachary, and Kaci. And my newest plus-kids--Larry and Megan. Each of them fill my life and give me strength in different and unique ways, adding dimension with laughter, an unexplainable kind of love, so much joy, and blessed memories of good times and hard times. They remind me that through it all, they still need me...even when I'm not so perfect. And I need to be needed. I hope they realize how much I need them too.
      I hear voices of HOPE--women walking through their own struggles but making each other strong as they share their experiences, their encouragement, their laughter, and their tears. They are the living example of the strengthening strands in that 3-ply cord, each one making the other stronger together as they press on toward God's goal.
     I hear voices of WISDOM that have proven true to me again and again--Jeff M., Tom, Paul, Lori, Latimer, and Susan. Though they are not constant, their words rise up to remembrance when wisdom is needed most, pointing me in the way I should go.
     I hear voices of SURVIVAL both near and far--Geana, Amy, Emily, and Mary. Their perseverance in the midst of formidable circumstances amazes me. They are overcomers, reminding me that I can overcome too--I can make it. Their stories prove that God IS able and ready to stand in our defense. 
     All of these voices build me up, shape me, and give me purpose...So I'm not ashamed to shout it from the rooftops, "I HEAR VOICES!" And through each one of them, God also speaks...Telling me that I am His...That "neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither my fears for today nor my worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell... No power in the sky above or in the earth below--indeed, nothing in all creation can ever separate me from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus..." (from Romans 8:38-39) The love of God that is revealed...HIS love revealed through each of these voices. 

Friday, September 30, 2011


Hmmm... What fuels me? What keeps me going? Well.... 
     ...Anne's contagious laugh and Scottish admonition "Don't be cheeky!" because a year ago, the laugh was all too rare and faint--life was all too serious.
     ...Jessica's hard questions because I know that she's growing in all the hard places and in asking, she reminds us all that we too have had to grow in the hard places. 
     ...Jenna's insatiable hunger for more of God and her unbridled compassion for others because she is a living picture of "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."  
     ...Tamara's initiative to write down her own power verses and tell us about them because she knows now that she CAN. She is empowered by encouragement of others. 
     ...Melissa sharing what she read in her morning devotion because I know her determined dedication to those morning moments with God comes hard sometimes. But through it, she has risen above her struggles. 
     ...Rebecca's randomness simply stating that God makes her happy because I know she is persevering and wading through the hard stuff to get a glimpse of Him. She CHOOSES to rejoice. 
     ...Vera's phone calls asking me to pray for yet another member of her family because she is so committed to bring them ALL to Jesus no matter what it takes. She audaciously believes God will make it happen. And one by one, two by two, they ARE coming to Him.
     ...Random dinners with Jolissa because in reaching out to friends, she is learning to cope with loneliness and to be a positive presence wherever God takes her. 
     ..."Proud Mama" pictures and posts from Angelica & Carissa because I know their love for their little ones empower them as they strive to be the best moms they can be--even if they have to do it alone.
     ...The list could go on and on--these women who have touched my life so deeply. THEY keep my flame burning as I can witness what God has done and is doing in each one of their lives and realize how far they've come from where they started. I am fueled, not because of what I've done or haven't done but because of who HE is. These broken, beautiful ladies make me want to be a better teacher and a better woman--to be certain that I "readily recognize what He wants" from me and to quickly respond. The women of HOPE continually remind me that I'm not just a teacher--I am also still a student of life and faith and friendship. As I teach them, they teach me even more. Living, learning, and teaching HOPE was not in my own original plans, but HE knew what was needed. And He brought us all together in one place. We walk together on this journey of hope--not one ahead of the other, but side by side holding each other up and pushing each other onward... As we place our lives before Him, "each of us finds our meaning and function as part of His body" and I am filled to overflowing with the fuel to seek Him more and more and to do whatever He wants me to do.

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life--your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life--and place it before God as an offering. EMBRACING WHAT GOD DOES FOR YOU is the best thing you can do for Him. Don't be so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You will changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what He wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture aroudn you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
In this way we are like various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around. The body we're talking about is Christ's body of chosen people. Each of us finds our meaning and function as a part of His body. But as a chopped-off finger or cut-off toe we wouldn't amount to much, would we? So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ's body, let's just go ahead and BE WHAT WE WERE MADE TO BE, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren't.
I'm speaking to you of deep gratitude for all that God has given me, and especially as I have responsibilities in relation to you.  Living then, as every one of you does, in PURE GRACE,
it's important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what He does for us, not by what we are and what we do for Him.
If you preach, just preach God's Message, nothing else; if you help, just help, don't take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching; if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don't get bossy; if you're put in charge, don't manipulate; if you're called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don't let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.
Love from the center of who you are;
don't fake it.
Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who LOVE DEEPLY; practice playing second fiddle. BLESS your enemies; no cursing under your breath. LAUGH with your happy friends when they're happy; SHARE TEARS when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.
Don't burn out; 
keep yourselves fueled and aflame
Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times, pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Don't hit back; DISCOVER BEAUTY IN EVERYONE. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."
Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he's thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don't let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good. --  ROMANS 12 The Message

Sunday, August 21, 2011


"For I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether wellfed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do ALL this through Him who gives me strength." - Philippians 4:12-13

     He answered, "God's Bible says no worry so I will be HAPPY IN JESUS." Those words washed over those of us in the room with him, almost in disbelief. The question: "How do you feel about that?" In the weeks preceding, his life had literally been turned upside down. He had every reason to be UN-happy in Jesus by human standards. 
    You see, on Father's Day 1986 my father-in-law Arnett Bennett collapsed in seizures as he fellowshipped with some of his church family. We had just returned home after being out of town for the weekend when we got the call. "Sheri, Arnett is in the hospital. He's having seizures. They think he has a brain tumor and they want to send him Parkland Hospital in Dallas." Those words fell heavy....Cancer invaded our home.
     Arnett went to Parkland Hospital for brain surgery to remove an orange-sized tumor. This wasn't his first overwhelming obstacle--my father-in-law had lived a life of adversity. Fever made Arnett deaf as a toddler in a world (the 1930's) that saw handicap as a mental disability. Arnett's parents didn't--they sent him to the Texas State School for the Deaf where he learned to communicate and function as any other person. He learned early in life not to let obstacles be unsurmountable mountains. He married, divorced, and raised his three boys with the help of his mother. He worked hard his entire adult life in spite of people who believed he wasn't useful. He supported his own family against the odds. And now this...
     When he regained consciousness after surgery, Arnett was told with the help of an interpreter that he had a malignant tumor that could not be completely removed and his condition was terminal. The family was told that his prognosis was 6 to 18 months. He accepted that without question. He was unable to move his left side. His pickup keys were taken away from him due to recurring seizures. And he was moved from his home into ours--a small two bedroom already cramped with three small children--before he even came home from the hospital. For weeks, I drove him from Cross Plains to Abilene every day for radiation treatments and physical therapy. He suffered from violent headaches, loss of hair, radiation sickness, and extreme exhaustion. Still, he accepted it all without question. 
     This day, we sat in the social worker's office at West Texas Rehab after he had finished his physical therapy to close out his services there. She was bound by profession to make sure he understood what was happening. I had interpreted for him so often in the hospital with doctors, but I was by no means a professional--I was still learning myself. For this, we made certain there was an official interpreter present so we were sure he understood everything. Jerry Drennan was one of his closest friends from South 11th & Willis Church of Christ--he knew Arnett well and had walked through the past weeks with all of us. 
     The caseworker asked Arnett if he had any questions about his illness, his treatment, and what the future held. He had two...First, what did the word "malignant" mean? And second, what did "terminal" mean? His questions punched us in the gut. The words had been bandied about fairly often. We thought he understood--he never asked before. But the deaf vocabulary is more limited--they don't use 12 words for the same meaning. We had never actually said the word "cancer" to him--malignancy seemed less abrasive I suppose. The caseworker, Jerry, and I sat dumbfounded for a moment. The caseworker simply explained what the words meant while Jerry interpreted. He had cancer and he would die probably within 6-18 month--a truth that would hit most people hard. When asked asked how he felt, he didn't even waiver, "God's Bible says no worry, so I will BE HAPPY IN JESUS."
     He lived 3 1/2 years with us. He ate heartily. He taught my children sign language. He rejoiced when Elias was born. He walked to town every day, knocking on every store and business window and going in to hug people and visit, equipped with pen, notepad, and a smile. He went to the bank and everyone called out his name and waved. He went to the local soda fountain or cafe and enjoyed a hot cup of tea, always greeting everyone with a smile and a wave. He went every weekend to spend time with his church family and attend deaf services at S. 11th & Willis. At home, he read his Bible faithfully and studied. He read through all my hymnals and songbooks and found his favorite... He would lay his hands on the piano when I played and sang it for him--my own respite from the cancer in my house. He couldn't hear it but he felt it, and he would smile. He was the epitome of those words..."BE HAPPY IN JESUS." Those have been some of the most powerful words I've ever heard in my entire life and I often remember them when I'm drowning in my own struggles.
     He passed away five days before my youngest was born. Cancer stole his life but it didn't steal his joy, even in the last moments. I had always wondered how he remained so happy when he was losing so much... At his service (and in the beginning stages of labor pains), the secret of his happiness found its way into my heart as I sang that country & western hymn for him one last time...
"I don't know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day.
I don't borrow from its sunshine for its skies may turn to gray.
I don't worry o'er the future for I know what Jesus said,
And today, I'll walk beside Him for He knows what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand, 
But I know Who holds tomorrow and I know He holds my hand."
Composed & written by Forest Stamphill 

Sunday, July 24, 2011


      It's been one of "those" weeks. You know... When the week holds more interruptions and trials than any week should hold... When I feel the impact of Paul's words concerning the Body of Christ: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it." My own heart breaks for those I care about as they face harsh realities of life: sickness, death, damaged relationships, threatening and hateful words, abuse, broken hearts, overwhelming fears and pressures, and very ugly truths coming to light. Add to that, the frustration of the mundane--plumbing, electrical, and a/c problems, overtaxed schedule, and everyday busyness; and I was slowly unraveling. Most of the battles and struggles had not been my own but in loving and serving others, I had reached my limit. I'm not complaining--If I had to do it all over again, I would still be right where I am doing what I do simply because God has called me and I CHOOSE to follow. It's just that sometimes the load of responsibility looms large and there's nowhere to hide from it. So yeah--it's been one of those unrelenting weeks, leaving little or r no time for meditation. God's presence seemed so very far away...
     But in simple small ways, God shows up just when I need Him and reminds me where He is. And this week, He granted a brief and blessed respite from the stresses that seemed to surround me. I had the honor of spending some time with a sweet and very tiny friend as Mom sat at the bedside of a fading life and Dad took a much needed pause from the watch. My role was simply to keep this little one happy and calm in the in-between times so they could be where God needed them to be. So to entertain her, we strolled the halls of the hospital watching people pass and enjoying each other's company. Though we've only shared a few scattered hours together before, she has already learned that we have a common passion--the love of melody and song. To keep this tiny tot calm and collected outside of Mom's presence, I simply sing. I can't explain why it works--it just does.
      I'm sure the sight and sound of it must have been comical to others...this unlikely duo. Remembering the last time together I suppose, she began to sing and I was so blessed at that sweet small baby voice that I just listened. This tender moment was one to be treasured, but she soon let me know quite loudly and rambunctiously that she had no intention of singing a solo! This was to be a duet performance!  And so we wandered the hospital hallways--she in her stroller singing and waving at the doctors, staff, and patients who passed by and me singing and pushing behind her as if it were the most natural thing in the world--albeit with an occasional pause to allow these same stranger/friends ooh and ah over her cuteness. Maybe it was the most natural thing...
     My young songbird especially seemed to like one particular song best, one I also used to sing with my own daughter many years ago. So we serenaded each other down one corridor after another. If I stopped singing with her, she protested... So I would sing with her again. Her baby voice can't form the words yet, but I can't help but wonder if, in some innate sense, the certainty of them had somehow already settled in her baby heart...

They're all above me, beneath me, before me. They're all around me.
My Father's Angels all protect me everywhere.
I could never stray so far my Father would lose sight of where I am.
Angels go before me holding tightly to my hand...

     At first the words were more for her benefit than mine. Admittedly, when I arrived at the hospital to watch over this little girl, I was feeling a little lost and alone in the burdens of the week. But in the intimacy of these tender moments, those child-like words washed over me and I began to find my way again. No matter how great the burden, how high the hurdle, how deep the hurt, or how lost I may become in the process of living and serving, He never loses sight of me. Just as He never loses sight of this precious little one who so stirs my heart or for her great great uncle whose life faded away in the hours that followed. As my Father's promise began to soothe my weary spirit, the eyes of my heart saw His many angels surround each and every heartbreaking circumstance that grieved my soul. And suddenly, as my special little "angel" continued her sweet wordless melody in the quietness of the hallway, she reminded me so sweetly: He never abandons or forsakes us. He is always as near as the mention of His name. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011


"I would rather have 1% of 100 people's efforts
than 100% of my own." - Andrew Carnegie

     In desperation she said, "I don't know what to do. I can't do this...I need some help..." The invitation to be VILLAGE begins. I am just one and her need was greater than my strength. Circumstance has knocked this tender young life down one too many times and the wounds run deep...
     It's ironic... I detest asking for help for myself--I don't want to "need" anyone. But when the asking is for the sake of helping someone I care about so deeply, I can't even hesitate--this opportunity to show another how God blesses. We aren't meant to trudge through this life alone. God knows that this beautiful young lady is a champion in the making, filled with possibility. She's just in need of an encouraging and supportive community.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith." - Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT

     Sometimes the only thing between God's purpose and where we are is the UN-knowing of that "huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith."  So I began recruiting--I needed help to help her. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting too much. My request was last minute; the air was more than 100 degrees; and the circumstances we would enter crackled with tension, drama, and confrontation. Who would even consider going with me into this "business" that was not their own? 
    But this girl's well-being and faith depended on it, so God prompted hearts. This task was more than just moving someone from place to place--it was showing her that faith can move mountains. So I began texting... First my son. He was easy--he can hardly say no to his own Mom! And he's a big-hearted guy to boot! But even though I see him as my own personal Superman sometimes, I knew that his strength was still not enough. So one by one, I texted the "faithful" who are so often willing to help if they are able. And finally, my fellow staff members. I'm not sure why I waited till last to ask those who walk beside me in ministry every week. Why would I even hesitate wondering if they would stand with me now? But you know what? They answered the call--all these whom God had chosen for this particular task. These who will continue to be witnesses with her and for her. I am humbled in my doubt and reminded that races are meant to run together. As this "village" gathered around my sweet friend in her need, they gathered around me and around each other. And as God works miracle upon miracle, one other unsuspecting new recruit with stories yet untold discovered this brand new truth for herself too. I am so blessed to be a part of a "village." 
    As God would have it, the work of many made light the work of one. You see, a "village" adds strength in numbers that we couldn't possible have if we run a race solo. One ant can't move a slice of bread on his own but a colony can work together and move it even if crumb by crumb. This arduous and grueling task was accomplished in a fraction of the time it would have taken had I tried to be the Lone Ranger. But there was so much more blessing than just the addition of brawn and brains...
    Because of the circumstances, this was a tense and unpleasant task, crackling with confrontation. In her fear, my young friend may have backed down or run away, but our "village" came together in the spirit of Christ with love, fellowship, "can do" attitude, and most of all smiles--an encouragement that she desperately needed. Because of their presence and positive spirit, confrontation was avoided and this young woman walked through these moments with courage rather than fear. She FACED FEAR; and that "great big wolf" suddenly became not much more than a chihuahua. She can now move forward into her NEW LIFE WITH CONFIDENCE... She has a village behind her.
     Just a few days ago, this precious girl was at wit's end not knowing which way to turn. She knew she had a couple of friends who would do what they could regardless how meager it might be, but today SHE HAS A VILLAGE--each member offering their 1%, 10%, or whatever God calls them to offer. Added together, even 1% can far exceed 100%; and we are all reminded, just as this now-hopeful young woman is discovering, that each one of us has a wider circle of love and support that we ever knew existed. That alone is well worth the effort to "ask for help."

 "There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service,
but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways,
but it is the same God who does the work in all of us. . .
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. . .
All of you together are Christ’s body,
and each of you is a part of it."
- From 1 Corinthians 12 NLT 

Monday, July 18, 2011


     There's no denying that the struggles in my past have impacted my life--have directed my passions and priorities in many ways. No doubt, had it not been for violence in my own life, I probably wouldn't have such a passion for women who have been through unspeakable circumstances. Had I not made regrettable mistakes, I wouldn't now be such a proponent in this fight to silence the silence that enables violence to shake and thunder through the lives of innocent people like an avalanche. No doubt, if I hadn't known the struggles of being a mom of five and being poor, I wouldn't have such compassion for new young moms struggling to be more "mom" than they've ever known themselves. Had I not known the heartbreak of caring for my father-in-law and a precious friend in their last months and hours, I wouldn't know now that there is more to this life than THIS life... If I had not lost them, I wouldn't understand that there is life after loss when I need now to know it best so that I may encourage my kids and friends who lose those they love.
     I often hear that our pasts make us who we are, but that just doesn't settle well with me. I understand that my life is influenced by my experience but my past did NOT make me who I am today. If I was a product of my past, I wouldn't be here today.
     Many of us have pasts that we are not proud of--we all have those parts of our lives we would rather forget or keep hidden... Those secrets that we are so ashamed of or traumatized by that they become our undoing. And in honesty, I have to admit that there was a time that those struggles and tragedies burrowed so deeply in every part of my heart that I couldn't--I wouldn't--see anything beyond the circumstances that defined me. Raped--I'm ruined. Abused--I'm worthless. Guilty--I'm condemned. Rejected--I'm unwanted. Forgotten--I'm unneeded. There was a time that my past became my own undoing--dismantling my life piece by piece. I was so trapped in the pain and scars of my past and lost in the hurt that I withdrew from life itself and gave up everything, even the good. I wished my life away and prayed to a God I didn't really understand for the strength and the release to make that wish true. 
       There was a day when the decision had been made, the plan had been laid out, my goodbyes had been written with pleas for those I loved most to be stronger than I... I had tried before but this time I knew what I was doing--it would be the time that I was successful. One last pause to look behind me before I went out the door....and something happened. 
      God stood in my way and whispered, "I am here." And He began the process of undoing my past rather than letting my past undo me. If my past had "made" me, my life would have turned out very differently--not in a good way. If my past had "made" me, I would be someone else entirely, incapable of giving and receiving love or of even knowing love. But I am NOT a product of my past... I am a product of GRACE.
     God stood in my way and GRACE happened. He began writing a brand new story. If not for GRACE, my past would have left me in shambles, incapable of repair. If not for GRACE, I would still be hiding in the shadows and memories of my past, shattered by them. If not for GRACE, I would be an empty, lonely shell, void of love and life. If not for GRACE, I would be drowning in guilt, consumed with bitterness and hatefulness, seeking vengeance that was not mine to gain. If not for GRACE, I would still be looking backward with regret rather than forward with hope. If not for GRACE, I would be dead by my own hand...
    GRACE made me who I am today. My past left me completely "undone" but GRACE transformed me, re-created me, and made me brand new. GRACE took the broken pieces left by my past and made something good and beautiful from them. If not for God's AMAZING GRACE, I would never have discovered that life begins again each day I let my past go... GRACE ALONE is the "undoing" of my past.
I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and gall. I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have HOPE:
Because of the Lord's great love, we are not consumed
for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

I say to myself, "The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him."
Lamentations 3:19-24 NIV

Saturday, July 2, 2011


    "If only I had..." Oh, how often those words have tumbled through my guilt-ridden brain. If only I had been brave enough, strong enough, bold enough... If only I had defended myself...If only I had told someone...If only...if only..if only..., then my life would have been different. I would have been a better mother, a better wife, a better woman... I wouldn't have hurt the ones I love the most...maybe. If only I had known what I know now... 
     Back then, I let my circumstances determine that I was shameful, ugly, worthless, and hopeless. The silence of shame does that, and we believe the lies. Then shame makes us liars and cowards. If I tell, then I will be hurt again...or killed. If I tell, then everyone will know and I won't ever be able to get over it... Better to pretend it didn't happen. If I tell, my marriage will fall apart, my children won't trust me to care for them, and people will think I'm crazy. If I tell, my offender will deny and lie, no one will believe me, my offender will make good on his promise to hurt another... Isn't it ironic that often the things we may fear in our silence are the reality of our "if only's" now? At least they became so for me... If only I had told, we would have gotten past it and my marriage would have survived. I would be closer to my children and they would be stronger and more secure. If only I had told, maybe he would have been stopped and others wouldn't have become victims too. But would it really? Can I be certain that if only...then none of things would have come to pass. Do you see it? Silence makes us victims and sometimes even creates new victims. The guilt of it can still consume if I allow it.
     Rape, domestic violence, molestation and abuse, gang violence, hate crimes....people become unwilling slaves to hurts that are bigger than life. Little do we know the freedom that comes from telling someone. Our fear and shame enables the hurt to continue--not just within us but for those other victims who may lie in wake of the violence that continues in our silence. 
     If only I had...but I didn't. For a long time, my silence caused my circumstances to determine who and what I was. Honestly, there are times I still struggle with that self-image. Back then, I didn't stand up or fight back. I lived in so much shame and fear of those secrets being revealed that I was suicidal and a harm to myself. My family was destroyed. I was less the woman, the wife, and the mother I could have been...should have been...back then.
     I couldn't tell a living soul but every once in a moment of despair, I cried out to God before I crawled back in my cave of hopelessness and shame. And that was enough. NOTHING REMAINS IN THE DARK when put into the hands of a God who turns darkness into light...even when I try to hide in it. 

I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night--but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.
 Psalm 139:11-13

Today is a different story--a new day. I can't live my life in "if only's," just wishing for what might have or should have been. That same God who seemed so far in the distance when I cried out to Him in despair heard me. He shone a light in the middle of my darkness. Today, I can't fix my "if only's," but I can move forward. No, I didn't shout my shame from the rooftops or expose every detail to the world. And no, offenders haven't found their just dues in a criminal court--God's justice is a work in progress. And no, my pain and ordeal has not been erased from memory... God doesn't "undo" our past--He brings light into it.

In Him was Life, and that Life was the light of all mankind. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 
John 1:4-5

     His Light blazed the day I told someone. The darkness was overcome. I didn't tell the whole world--I told one single person who listened, and Light became Life. I'm not sure how the kinetics of it works--that's a God-thing, no doubt--but in telling one person, I began to want more for my life. I could see the light at the end of this tunnel of fear and shame. I began to fight back. In time, I began to realize that my circumstances do not make me...they may be used to shape me but they are only tools in the hands of the Potter. He didn't will for harm to come to me--evil is the choice of evil men. (Our God is a God that loves us enough to let us choose to love Him back. Some don't choose to love...) But I have a God who is so much bigger than my circumstances and the choices of men. God alone created me and He has worked "all things together"--every circumstance--for my good because I love Him. He shines His light on those rough and damaged places. He smooths those scars and faults with His gentle hands and makes something beautiful. 
    There are times in the shadows, that it appears evil wins a battle, but Light reveals that it can't win the war. In the Light, I am made stronger in my weak places. The evil that once sought to destroy my life is now the loser as I begin to tell some of my story and to share what God has done. Silence didn't win. Though my telling won't necessarily bring my assailants to justice in a courtroom, other victims can find hope, courage, and strength as I encourage them to tell their stories--to fight back. hey can find peace and healing in telling at least one person and maybe their offenders won't go free.And I can find peace in knowing that maybe their offenders won't go free. I can't rewind my "if only's" but I can look forward to the future.
     Who really knows what may have changed--or not--if only I had raised my voice years ago? But the important thing to remember is that one day, I finally did. If by sharing my journey now, one victim ends his or her silence one day sooner, my hope is secure. One day can make all the difference. It did for me.
As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me and my God will certainly hear me. Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. I will be patient as the Lord punishes me, for I have sinned against him. But after that, He will take up my case and give me justice for all I have suffered from my enemies. The Lord will bring me into the Light, and I will see His righteousness.
Micah 7:7-9

Sunday, June 26, 2011


     I remember how that word sliced through me like a knife. I couldn't say it myself out loud. I wanted to pretend that isn't what happened. TC persisted, "Why don't you get mad? He RAPED you..." I cringed--not so much at the anger in his voice as at the word itself. His anger was at the man, not me. The violence was denied vehemently yet I had lived the silent shame of it for years. I knew it but I couldn't say it out loud--as if not speaking it made it less true...
     Fast forward to about a year ago...another counselor insists, "He RAPED you." Another time, another place--yet still a victim. I tried making excuses but they fell lame. PI knew me well. "No, he RAPED you." The word still cut through me as it did years before, shredding my insides. I had come too far to go back to the way it used to be. His frustration was obvious, but I knew it too. My soul was shredded by it. It was easier to excuse the violence--to blame myself somehow. But it was time. I had to face the truth--I had to speak it. I wanted to run or hide but finally, the words barely came out as a whisper, "He raped me..." and it felt like a dam exploded inside my heart... My life began again that day I said it out loud--this time no longer a victim but a survivor...
    Fast forward to now...I was confronted this week about the way I teach. That in HOPE--a support and recovery group for women who are surviving difficult circumstances--I talk too much about struggles women face...If I say the words--MOLESTATION or RAPE or ADDICTION or ABUSE--someone in the room may take it "personally." Those words are personal--because it happened to them too. Many women live with the horror of domestic violence, abuse, childhood molestation, and rape yet they keep their secrets and refuse to speak out because of their shame. Because of their silence, that crippling shame take its toll as these broken and shattered women sink even deeper into hopelessness, depression and other mental disorders, alcoholism, addictions, self-injury, and sometimes even promiscuity.  Our silence becomes the deafening roar that shatters any remaining shard of confidence and hope. It destroys us one day at a time, soundlessly chipping away at the core of who we are. I know because I have seen it up close and I've lived it firsthand. I understand the silence all too well...
     But as long as we remain silent, we remain victims. That's a hard lesson to learn--I too was a stubborn student. Chad--pastor of Mission Abilene--is an even more stubborn teacher. I've often heard (or read) him quote William Wilberforce,
And he isn't silent--not at all. When I met Chad, I was a different person than I am today. I was hopeless, so deeply ashamed, and incapable of helping myself. I didn't have much to live for and had just about given up the fight. But Chad is one of those everday heroes who doesn't EVER back down from the TRUTH. TIme and again, he told me I had to stand up for myself...I had to speak up and tell the truth. Over the years, his influence finally brought me to the day I could finally say the words out loud...This time, I wouldn't remain a victim. This time, violence had to take it's icy grip off of me. 
     Over the last 8 years or so, I've personally seen him do the same thing with others who were chained by the silence of their shame. Violence knocked them to the ground, but with Chad's persistence and patient but firm prodding, violence didn't consume. Victims began to speak out. In the last four years, Chad has taken an even greater stand and made his passion public: STOP THE VIOLENCE. We will host our 4th annual rally and event August 27. From the very beginning, his main purpose was to get people to take a stand and speak up...For victims to let go of the shameful secrets... For witnesses to have the courage to speak up and testify... For friends, loved ones, and citizens to take a stand and speak out against violence. To do whatever they can, wherever they can... ALL that they can to cease violence. It has to begin right where we are. 
     "Stop the Violence" is a movement that began with one man's hope that by speaking out, he could change the world. By speaking up and exposing violence, the statistics will turn upside down and violence won't be the number on top. Silence is evil's greatest weapon. It enables evil men and women to commit their atrocities time and time again as they go unchecked. If I could put it in one simple phrase, Chad STANDS FOR TRUTH. He doesn't back down or back away. He doesn't try to pretty it up with nicer, less impactful words and he doesn't try to hide it just because it's sometimes hard to take. I am only one who has been impacted by his persistence, his wisdom, and his love for the least of us. There are so many others...  TRUTH WINS and violence is defeated for those who have been recipients and witnesses to Chad's mission. Because he was willing to speak truth to me, I was slowly but inevitably changed as are others. Gang members have found the courage to give up their rags and turn their lives around.  Geana--a survivor of brutal, unthinkable violence--is now one of the bravest women I know because she can tell her story. Even a member of the mafia left a lifestyle of money, women, and power to become something greater--even if that means imperfect and poorer. I've seen lives totally changed and turned around as the family of Albert Cadena keeps his hope and memory alive as they strive to live out his legacy of life-changing faith. 
     Story after story, lives are undeniably changed. Violence loses; Love wins. Evil loses its hold as people begin to speak up and make some noise...All because one man said, "I have to do something." All because Chad said, "I won't be silent any more." He has held to his promise and he didn't stop there--he implores all of us to silence the silence.  Chad has held firm to his purpose. His spirit hasn't waned with time or energy spent. He is more passionate today than he was even four years ago. 
    Yes, I am only one that was changed. But because Chad had the courage to speak truth when I didn't want to hear, I want other women like me to hear it. He and others made me face the truth. I got my life back and I have no regrets. I'm still alive today because of that hard-hitting truth...because they made me say my worst shame out loud. So in HOPE, I won't back down and I won't give in. I will still speak about truths that may make some uncomfortable or cringe. I will not pretty up those ugly words because I want the women to take control rather than let a violent past control them. As long as we remain silent, we cannot heal because our violent offenders have accomplished their purpose to humiliate and intimidate. If we are no longer silent, they no longer have power over us. If I raise my voice and make some noise, maybe others will find the HOPE that I have found because one man had the courage to stand up for the truth...Because he was not silent when I needed him the most. As for me, "Let it never be said that I was silent..."
     Thanks Chad for being my everyday hero...

Friday, June 3, 2011


Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!”  But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!”
Genesis 28:16-17 NLT

    I woke in the morning and looked out the patio door of my room...My first thought was, "Oh my God!"....And I meant every word of it, as if experiencing God's very own hand-built cathedral--surrounded by lake and mountains all intertwined with each other. And the beauty of it all brings me to worship...To worship this glorious Architect who created all with loving hands to share His glory with such as me.

    I prayed only a few days ago that I would be awed by God and nature and see the magnificence of life and be touched by it. And the "wow" has begun. At this moment in this time away from my norm, I inhale--breathing in life and being glad for this, not just lake and mountains but to be alive. And I suddenly realize that my desire is not just for a moment of awe but for every day to be touched by His grace and beauty. 
     My prayer now--to be touched by His magnificence in my every day--not just out of my element, but right in the middle of see that which God has made beautiful with new eyes that see beyond the mortally visual to His throne of holiness. In mountains and lakes and pines that stretch tall to the sky but also in marigolds, black-eyed susans, children, paint, colors, and Texas sky, I want to "see" with His eyes and behold what is real and present in this every day.

He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”
 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”
   “Lord, I want to see,” he replied.
Luke 18:38-41

Sunday, May 29, 2011


     Summer has kicked off with sizzling 100+ temperatures. When asked what my plans are for the summer, my first thought is enjoy the A/C!!!  This is the first summer since childhood that I get to enjoy adequate cooling for my house. I am SOOO enjoying my new home--for many other reasons than just the A/C. But I have to admit, the A/C makes the summer heat stretching before us much less intimidating!...
     My summer is filled primarily with writing and helping to organize our annual Stop the Violence event. My work doesn't really seem like "work" in that dreaded sense--I'm looking forward to every moment! Writing is cathartic for me and helps me to face and think through the issues of life that I would otherwise avoid. And though I sometimes struggle through the process, I am changed by it. 
     "Stop the Violence" is so much more than just an event for me. It's inhabits hope, possibility, and healing for myself and for so many others. I love seeing the entire community and even beyond--individuals, businesses, churches, and non-profit organizations--come together to take a stand against violence. I love hearing the stories and meeting people who are overcoming the paralyzing and traumatic effects of violence and witnessing their growth and healing. And if I ever wonder if we are spitting against the wind in this effort, I meet one after another of those inspiring people who move from being victims to being survivors but don't stop there. They march that next mile as they turn their tragic past circumstances around by stepping up and speaking out to end violence and to make a difference for themselves, for others, and even for future generations. That's the greatest reward in letting my work be my passion.
     Although these two great passions consume much of my summer, I still plan on taking time to rejuvenate and take life with joy. It's odd that what I look forward to the most is watching my children stretch their wings and fly...even though it means they get further and further from my nest. I will watch with anticipation as my daughter blossoms in her pregnancy--I am excited and overjoyed at becoming a G-MOM!!! As this little one grows inside her, I can also see Brittany making a life with the man that I know God placed in her life at just the right moment to step in shoes left vacant too soon as they turn the page and begin this next chapter of life. Her dad would have no reservations placing the reins in Larry's hands. Brittany is growing from the inside out--heart-wise, not just belly-wise! 
     Andy and Megan are already busy making their March wedding plans (what a wedding that will be!) But even more exciting, they are making their life plans. Andy will be seeking a teaching position in the Waco area as Megan prepares for law school. Although a part of me dreads seeing him leave, my heart knows that Andy has been preparing for this next chapter of his life for a very long time. I can't wait to see what God will do in him and through him. 
     Mikey and Kaci are already beginning to make his childhood home their very own. And I look forward to the changes and growth that will take place in the process. Their new chapter reads like a faithful novel of endurance. Zachary will be coming to Texas to visit and making plans for life outside the Marines next fall. I love to hear his excitement as he anticipates this brand new chapter with all it's challenges and expectations. And finally, though I won't see him, I look forward to those rare precious phonecalls and facebook messages from Elias as he lives his present purpose in Afghanistan. I love watching the man he is becoming.
      But life isn't all about being just a spectator. As my children make their own lives, I have to make mine as well. To be more comfortable in my own skin and enjoy life as it is rather than wish for what I think it should be or regret what it hasn't been. And I can't just be so busy that life just passes by without my noticing. I have to be actively involved in my "today" and be content in it. So I already have several gallons and colors of paint waiting to brighten my life as I make my home my own and more personal. In the process, I am going to try my hand at some Chinese painting techniques--with a couple of my own unique touches of course. I also want to take some time away from the "norm"--somewhere out of my element. I'm not quite certain how or where but I want to to be wowed by life and nature and God in extraordinary ways...
    The summer stretches before us. Colors of love, laughter, contentment, creativity, rejuvenation, expectation, and "neverbefores"--seeing the magnificence of life and being touched by it.... All in a single summer! It's gonna be great!