When I Am Afraid, I Will Trust In You

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. There’s been so much going on in life that I haven’t felt motivated to put my thoughts on paper. It takes too much effort to try to sort through all the chaos and try to make sense of things. I have more questions than answers. More doubts than it seems my faith can overcome. Right now life exhausts me. 

What happened to us nearly a year ago is happening all over again. This time not to us, but to those close to us. We watch in horror as the same fate we faced not too long ago becomes their reality. They now join us in this unwanted club of walking through the valley. The future uncertain; the hurt very raw; the pain too fresh to mention without it awakening a whole bunch of other emotions that when left to themselves would be considered uncivilized and most certainly not very “Christian”…whatever that’s supposed to mean.

It’s like I’m living in a battlefield and I’m surrounded by wreckage and ruins. Not of buildings and structures but of people’s lives. I understand what this new wave of casualties is going through because we once stood exactly in the same spot. Our footprints haven’t even faded and now they stand where we once stood. Disbelief. Hurt. Anger. Sadness. Uncertainty.

And I wish I could speak into their pain. To offer some words of wisdom or hope. To tell them that everything will be okay. That it’s going to be alright. That there is a light at the end of the tunnel and things will most certainly get better. Just hope. Have faith. Don’t stop believing.

But I can’t. 

Not because I don’t want to, but because I’m still right there with them living that same awful nightmare that you wish you could wake up from. I don’t know how things are going to end up for myself. Things may get better, and then again, they may not. And if they do get better, it sure beats me on when that glorious day will come.

But as I lay awake in bed the other night, this verse came to mind:

When I am afraid, I will trust in You. 

Psalm 56:3

On the drive to school, I talked to the kids about this verse and we had a long discussion about it. We talked about things they are afraid of. The dark, monsters under their beds, having to make new friends, getting a bad grade on the spelling test we forgot to study for (which thankfully got postponed until next week)! We talked about how some of the things we are afraid of may not even be real like there aren’t really any monsters under the bed.

And then we talked about how when we are afraid we can trust in God. We can trust in God because He is real. He loves us. He provides and protects us.

And then 7 year old said, “We can trust God because He is eternal and transcendent”. This is something she learned at school, so I can take no credit for this. But I thought she was just spouting off words so I probed further, “Do you know what eternal means?

“It means God will always be with us,” was her reply.

God is always with us. Even when your world is crashing around you and your eyes are swollen from tears. He’s with you. And God is transcendent. It means He is beyond space and time. Even though we don’t know what the future will bring, God knows. 

And that is why, when I am afraid I can trust in God. When all of life is uncertain and messy, I can trust Him because He is with us and He knows.

Hard Times Are Close-to-God Times

Another rejection. Another door slammed shut. Another longing unfulfilled.

This isn’t the first time we’ve gone through this. I wish this was new and unfamiliar territory, but we’ve been here before. Sometimes it just feels like we are walking around in circles because here we are at square one all over again.

Yet, each time we start over again, the ache is a little less intense. The pain not so stinging. The hurt a bit more manageable. What we are going through still stinks, but this time around I don’t feel like the whole world is crashing down around me.

It’s just another day… and for that I’m grateful!

Who knows, tomorrow may be completely different, but today I’m choosing faith over my feelings. I could sit here and cry. Shake my fists in the air and cover myself in sackcloth and ashes, but I won’t. I’ve done it before and sometimes in life you just need to have the freedom to do that, but today, in the midst of more disappointing news, I’m choosing instead to view this season as a blessing.

I’ve been working my way through Lysa TerKeurst’s new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way (Which I’m almost finished with. Yay!!! If you’re a mom with littles you know what a great accomplishment that can be.) and came across this timely gem this morning:

“And what about the Israelites? They were far from perfect. But their hard times were their close-to-God times. Their disappointments became divine appointments. Because when they were desperate for God, they remained with God. And those were the times when they would experience great blessing, joy, and peace.”

Lysa TerKeurst, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way

We’ve faced a lot of hard times recently and it can simply be overwhelming. I want off this crazy roller coaster called my life, and yet I am reminded that this is exactly where God wants me. This is not a curse or a punishment or a “time out”. This is my close-to-God season in life.

I also think it’s pretty amazing that just a few days ago I had written this in my journal. I believe God was preparing my heart for today. Thankful for His grace and how He even used my own words as a reminder of this close-to-God season we are walking through right now.

If God can do exceedingly abundantly more…then why is He not doing that for me now?


Maybe He is, but my perspective is wrong. Abundantly not in the world sense of material and financial gain, but in giving us more of Himself. If so, then absolutely “Yes”!

During this time of suffering I have been met with more of His grace. More of His presence. More of Himself. Christ has been my only sufficiency. In the valley, when I have faced things alone, He has been there. When “friends” have abandoned me, He took me by the hand and comforted me.

He is always there. He never leaves. He goes before me, is there beside me, and he hems me in from behind. When everyone else has deserted me, He is there. Always. Without fail.

O ye of so little faith. He is with you, until the end of the age.

He is not causing you harm. He is allowing it because what is exceedingly abundantly for your good is more of Himself. You then, have received the greatest gift during this time of hardships and trials. A nearness to Christ that not many experience to the depths that you have gone with Him. He has become your all. Only He satisfies. Only He can comfort you and bring healing to your wounded soul.

Isn’t it amazing that your soul hunger can only be satisfied by more of Him- nothing else will do. Praise God that He has placed a longing in your heart that only He can fulfill. A longing for only Him. No material possession or temporal thing will do.

Oh the wonder that his trial has chosen you to make you long for more of Him.

Once you taste and see His goodness, nothing else will fulfill your deepest longings. You can’t go back to your former way of thinking. For every unfulfilled desire, He has given you a new desire-for Himself. Enjoy this valley season where it it just you and God walking through this time. As your heart bleeds, this is your time where He becomes your everything. Retreat away with Him.

In time, life will pick back up, and you will get out of the valley to soar and fly. But your nearness won’t be the same as in the valley. So many other things will clamor for your attention. Use this time to press in to Him. So when you start to feel like everyone else has the perfect life, remember, you’ve been chosen for this. Many are called, but few are chosen.

FREE “Thank you for helping me to GROW in Christ” Printable

Every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening when I drop my kids off at church, they are greeted with smiles, high-fives and hugs from their teachers. I know that not only are they learning about the B-I-B-L-E and Jesus’ love for them, but they are also seeing a tangible manifestation of Christ’s love through the body of Christ.

Sometimes, when the week as been especially long, they give parents (esp. during those early years when you’ve been up all night with a screaming newborn or a clingy toddler) a chance to breathe and spend a few peaceful moments having your soul refreshed in sweet fellowship and being washed in the Word. They can also be the gentle touch our children need to remind them that God still loves them unconditionally even though mommy was super frustrated with them during the drive to church.

They partner alongside us as parents as we try to help our children walk along the way and train them up in the way they should go. They rejoice with us, pray for us and invest so much of themselves into the lives of our children.

And yet, week in and week out, many of these teachers, who spend hours upon hours preparing for and spending time with our children, don’t get so much as a thank you. Maybe the church has some kind of an appreciation banquet, but for the most part it’s a thankless job. Many of them are volunteers and spend money out of their own pockets to provide little prizes or gifts for our kids…just because! Most of them don’t expect anything in return, it’s a joy for them to serve and there is no place they’d rather be than to be covered in spit up, changing a dirty diaper or seeing the freshness of the Bible through the eyes of a child.

Their service does not go unnoticed. Or perhaps it does and by then it’s too late. Burn out has set in and no one is willing to take up the mantle and let the little children come. I hope I don’t miss an opportunity to let those investing in my kids’ spiritual lives know how much I appreciate them!

So earlier this week the kiddos and I made a little something to show their teachers how much we appreciate them. It’s not anything big, I’m not Oprah giving out new cars or anything, but it’s just something small to let them know that what they do does not go unnoticed and is making an eternal difference.

We got these cute little pots with seeds in it (thank you Target dollar spot), put them in a treat bag, tied a ribbon on it (found these cute “thank you” ones at a local craft store), and attached a tag that says, “Thank you for helping me to GROW in Christ”.

Ben with two of his awesome teachers!

Is there someone that you’d like to thank for making an eternal difference in your child’s life? I’m giving away a free printable of these tags to everyone on my email list. If you’d like one, make sure you subscribe on my website. Don’t worry, I’m still new to blogging so I only send out emails maybe once a month…if that! 

Sweet Spots in Life

A couple of weeks ago, Ellie had a bake sale for her AHG troop and decided to make chocolate chip cookies and banana bread mini muffins. In order to make the banana bread muffins, the recipe called for several ripe bananas. I made sure we bought a lot of them and bought them early since it would take several days for the bananas to ripen from green to yellow to brown.

But during the ripening process, my four year old passed by the kitchen,counter and with a look of utter disgust gasped and said, “Yuck! Mom, something is wrong with our bananas. I think they are getting sick.”

I explained to her that they weren’t sick, in fact, those ugly looking bananas were actually sweeter than the perfect looking one we brought home from the store. The spots were an indication of how much starch had been converted to sugar. The more ugly spots meant the banana contained more sugar. Even though the outside looked yucky, the inside was pure sweetness! [Sidenote: I also learned that the spots are immune system boosters that are rich in antioxidants and have been linked to preventing cancer. I did not bother explaining that to the four year old though].

I paused for a moment to soak in our short little conversation. Sometimes I view my life like it’s an ugly, spotted, brown banana. I think something must be wrong because it looks ugly and imperfect. It’s not pristine and flawless like everyone else’s. There’s nothing pretty to look at, just the train wreck called my life. I have all these hurts and hardships that keep putting spots on my life. Outwardly, my life looks (and often feels) like a mess. It’s definitely not what I expected my life to look like.

But maybe this time of trials, struggle, heartache and sorrows; maybe these things that look like ugly spots in my life are actually bringing about a sweetness inside of me. Even though it sure doesn’t look or feel like it, perhaps this is a time when God is in the process of bringing out some of the sweetest things in my life.

And at just the right moment, when God has brought about all these things to fruition, He will use me, spots and all, to be made into something pleasing and wholly satisfying. However, if I refuse to let God use me, if I allow the spots to inaccurately define me or hold me back, I’ll be left on the shelf to grow rotten and spoiled. I will become bitter and unusable.

Maybe there are spots in your life, too. Failure. Rejection. Guilt. Blame. Illness. Death. Whatever it may be, allow God to use those spots as a time to cultivate pure sweetness into your life. Don’t allow the spots to define your worth and make you grow bitter and unusable. Let God use them for your good and His glory!

Transforming Roadblocks into Pathways

By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.

Hebrews 11:29

When God delivered the Israelites from the hands of Pharaoh, it wasn’t long before Pharaoh sent his men after them. They were pursued up to what seemed like a dead end, the Red Sea. With their enemies pressing them from behind and an impassable sea that lay ahead of them, it doesn’t come as a surprise that they began to complain. Can you imagine the horror and dread they must have felt? The complete and imminent defeat they were certain would overtake them.

And then God!

Hebrews 14:21 says, “Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the LORD opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land.”

What was once a roadblock God transformed into a pathway to freedom. God made the impossible, possible. He didn’t just show up that day.  He had always been there. He just revealed Himself to them in a miraculous way.

However, when Pharaoh’s men attempted to do the same, they weren’t successful. They drowned.

How many times have I attempted to do things in my own strength, only to have it end in failure? In my own flesh and abilities, I try to play God. It only becomes a matter of time before all my plans are destroyed and I am left with the waves crashing in on me.

Yet, when I place my faith and trust in a God who calms the storm, brings the dead back to life, makes the lame walk, the blind see, and parts the seas, I am placing my life in the hands of the very one who created me.

Sometimes life requires us to take a leap of faith. To trust someone who sees and knows my past, present and future. I can choose to trust in myself, which will only end up causing me to drown, or I can watch God perform the miraculous as He transforms my roadblocks into pathways.

Never Exchange the Truth For a Lie

I’ve recently started reading a book by Lysa TerKeurst called It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way and so much of it resonates with my soul. The hurt, the disappointment, the pain. But one chapter triggered something in me that I’ve wrestled with for a while now.

She talks about hurtful words that people have spoken into your life and how whatever statements come against the truth, must be called a lie.

At the end of the chapter she asks reflection questions, “whom have you given so much power to that their words about you…make you afraid. How have their words affected you?”

It reminded me of the months that led up to my resignation from my ministry position a little over a year ago. It was a time that was quite possibly the lowest I have ever felt about myself.

  • Passive aggressive
  • Arrogant
  • Untrustworthy 
  • A mistake
  • Not as good as the others
  • Unsatisfactory 
  • Don’t measure up
  • Unworthy

These are the words that were either spoken directly to me or implied. They cut deep and hurt to the very core.

The crazy thing is that when you hear words like that over and over again, you start to believe them. It messes with your head. Even though you know it’s not true, you begin to doubt and become insecure in who you are and what you can do. You become paralyzed in fear and it’s no longer you but just a shell of you merely existing.

But one day you get the courage to stop believing the lies. However, to do so means you must walk away from everything you have ever known. Your heart is broken. Your hopes have turned to dust and ash.

And that’s when God steps in. He mixes the dust with the water from your tears and He turns it into clay. And when placed in the potter’s hands, the clay can be formed and fashioned into a beautiful masterpiece.

Dust doesn’t have to signify the end. Dust is often what must be present for the new to begin.

Lysa TerKeurst

And those old thoughts are replaced with new ones

  • Fearfully and wonderfully made
  • A treasure
  • Beautiful
  • Chosen
  • Set apart
  • Forgiven
  • Fully known and loved

No matter what words may have been spoken over you, if it comes against the truth, it is a lie. Never exchange the truth for a lie.

You Can’t Move Ahead While Looking Back

This past weekend we took the kids to Lanterns in the Garden at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.  A spectacular display of silk lanterns lit up against the night sky. We all “oohed” and “aahed” over the brilliance of each display. Truly a magnificent sight that is well worth the price of admission. As we were walking down the path to view each display, our youngest turned her head back to look at something but kept walking forward. Of course, she was oblivious to all the people who moved out of her way. It wasn’t safe for her or the people around her. Several times, I had to grab her from walking into someone or something. Finally, I said to her, “you can’t move ahead while looking back”.

Isn’t that true in life. We keep on looking behind us while trying to move ahead. We look back at past hurts or a former way of life. Trying to either hold on or remember things, but if we keep looking back we cannot move ahead. If we try, we will get hurt. It’s not safe or wise to try to move ahead while looking back.

However, life is not just about plowing ahead and moving forward. Sometimes it’s good to remember our past. In fact, God even commands us at times to remember our past. Joshua 4 talks about how the Israelites were to set up 12 memorial stones as a reminder of what God had done to help them cross over the Jordan River on to dry land. When future generations asked what the stones were for, it was supposed to remind them of God’s power and to fear the Lord.

I am sure when the younger generations asked what the stones stood for, they didn’t just talk about all the good things. I imagine that since it was an oral tradition, they told the whole story about their slavery, wandering through the desert, unfaithfulness to God and yet despite those hardships, God was faithful and still choose to bless them.

History serves as a reminder to help us not forget things. Not just to remember God’s blessings, but also to learn from hard and painful things so we do not repeat them. Even now we remember the Holocaust, bombing of Pearl Harbor, 9/11 and other horrible atrocities so that we learn from those times.

But we don’t just sit around ruminating on the past, at some point, you have to stop looking back and you have to move ahead.

After the Israelites set up the stones in the Jordan River, they kept going and entered into the Promised Land.

Remember your past. Embrace it. It will always be a part of who you are and will shape who you will become. But don’t let it hold you back. Let it serve as a reminder of God’s power, but continue to move ahead as you fear the Lord and enter into the Promised Land.

Haven’t Seen It Yet

During this difficult season, I have been encouraged by a song that I recently heard on the radio called “Haven’t Seen It Yet” by Danny Gokey, a former American Idol contestant.

Here are the lyrics:

Have you been praying and you still have no answers?
Have you been pouring out your heart for so many years?
Have you been hoping that things would have changed by now?
Have you cried all the faith you have through so many tears?

Don’t forget the things that He has done before
And remember He can do it all once more

It’s like the brightest sunrise
Waiting on the other side of the darkest night
Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
You’re closer than you think you are
Only moments from the break of dawn
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it

He had the solution before you had the problem
He sees the best in you when you feel at your worst
So in the questioning don’t ever doubt His love for you
‘Cause it’s only in His love that you’ll find a breakthrough, oh

It’s like the brightest sunrise
Waiting on the other side of the darkest night
Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
You’re closer than you think you are
Only moments from the break of dawn
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it

He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe that
He is moving with a love so deep
Hallelujah for the victory
Good things are coming even when we can’t see
We can’t see it yet, but we believe that

It’s like the brightest sunrise
Waiting on the other side of the darkest night
Don’t ever lose hope, hold on and believe (Don’t ever lose hope)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
(Just haven’t seen it yet)
You’re closer than you think you are (Think you are)
Only moments from the break of dawn
All His promises are just up ahead
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
(You gotta hold on, hold on)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet (Hold on)
Maybe you just haven’t seen it, just haven’t seen it yet
(Just haven’t seen it yet)

I pretty much just loop this song and listen to it over and over again. It inspires me. It helps me to remember that things will get better. Good things are up ahead and are just waiting around the corner. Just beyond the horizon, there is victory. After listening to this song, I feel like I can make it one more day because whatever it is that the Lord has in store for my life, I just haven’t seen it yet.

But as I was driving home from a meeting the other night, belting out this song at the top of my lungs, I stopped mid-Hallelujah.

It was like God was tugging at my heart.

Marissa, what if there is no bright sunrise? What if there is no other side of the darkest night? What if there’s no break of dawn? What if there are no promises up ahead? What if you have seen it all?

Can you still praise me for the victory? Will you still be content if this is all there is to life? Am I enough for you?

Or are you waiting for something up ahead before you can truly rejoice? Before you believe I love you? Before you trust me?

I was broken. My heart was exposed and it was wretched.

I’ve been holding onto the hope that things will get better. They have to get better. There’s no way God is going to leave us in a mess like this. The good guy always wins. David defeats Goliath, Moses leads the Israelites to the Promised Land, Daniel gets out of the lions’ den… alive! God’s not going to forget about us. Even Jeremiah 29:11 says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

But hope is no hope at all, if it’s not found in Jesus.

For some people, things don’t get better. The cancer spreads, the divorce is finalized, the womb remains empty, the sickness leads to death.

Does it mean that the Lord’s plans for them was not to prosper, not to have hope and a future? Not necessarily.

Even the Apostle Paul faced a grim future. He was thrown in a prison cell, shackled and bound, and eventually beheaded. Not exactly the future one wants to see on the other side of the darkest night. What about Jesus? Of all people, you’d think his outcome would have been better. He was betrayed by one of his very own disciples, beaten beyond recognition, died a criminal’s death by being crucified on the cross.

Were they without hope and a future? At face value, it seems that way. But even from a prison cell, even from a cross; they had a future and a hope…an eternal one.

As Paul sat in a cold dark prison cell and as the Savior hung on the cross, I believe they would have still agreed that God had plans to prosper them and not to harm them. Plans to give them hope and a future. They rejoiced not in a hope found in this lifetime, but in life to come in eternity.

What seemed to be utter defeat for Christ, was the greatest victory of all. Jesus didn’t stay on that old rugged cross. No…waiting on the other side of that darkest night was the most glorious day ever known to mankind. Death would lose it’s sting. The grave was conquered once and for all. At the break of dawn the faithful would proclaim, “He has risen; He has risen indeed.”

So even if things do not get “better” for me here on earth, I can still rejoice. I can still be content. I still have victory because I have an eternal hope…I just haven’t seen it yet!

Where Lost Dreams Go

It was a beautiful service at church on Sunday. After searching for a new worship pastor for the past several months, the personnel committee recommended our associate worship pastor for the position. When asked to stand in agreement with this decision, I was surrounded by fellow church members who all agreed that this young man and his sweet family were who God had called to lead our church in worship. And while it was truly moving to be able to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” my heart also began to ache.

Maybe the ache will never go away. Maybe it will always hurt as I think of all the dreams that have been lost over these past few years.

Most of my adult years I have been involved in church ministry. For almost ten years I was employed by the church that I grew up in. A church my grandfather helped to build, the one that my mother had gone to for over 50 years, where my parents meet and got married, where my brother and I were saved and baptized, where my husband and I met and were married, and where all three of our children were dedicated.

It was more than a building. It was family. They had seen our family through some of the most traumatic experiences we had ever been through. Even the ministry that I worked for as created by a family friend who had a vision to reach the people of Hawaii with the gospel by setting up a lecture series. I loved my job. It was a joy to carry on the legacy of a man who meant so much to our family and to serve at my home church. I learned and grew so much. I discovered my gifts and talents and it was a privilege to be a part of something that I knew was bigger than myself. I could have served there my whole life.

And yet, God had other plans in store.

I won’t go into too much detail. There is no need for it. It’s not edifying. I know and love many people who still go to church there, and I do not wish any ill will. But at the end of 2017, after many months agonizing in prayer, I submitted my resignation. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

I was crushed and it felt like my dreams had been shattered.

Then several months later, Shelby’s boss, and former president at the seminary he attends, went through the most public modern-day character assassination I have ever witnessed. He was disgraced, shunned, and treated like a leper. Even prominent Christian leaders were rejoicing in his demise. It was awful. We had front row seats to this tragedy that was unfolding right before our eyes. And then it wouldn’t be long until Shelby and the rest of the staff he worked with were also fired.

So, as I watched this young man and his family forge ahead in ministry, I couldn’t help but wonder why our dreams had been crushed, no…more like blown up by an atomic bomb into a million fractured pieces. We set off on this journey in ministry with such passion and excitement, and now we’ve been robbed of that naivety. We didn’t ask to be involved in the politics, the harshness, the rawness of ministry.

Is our journey in ministry over? Has it been destroyed? Damaged beyond repair? Where do the lost dreams of people who have once been involved in ministry go?

Maybe we weren’t even supposed to go down this path from the very beginning and God is saving us from ourselves. Maybe we aren’t cut out for the cold cruel world of ministry. Perhaps God has something else in store for us. Maybe we minister to people in a different capacity that isn’t within the confines of church walls.

Or maybe God is going to take all of this mess, all of this ash and dust and He’s going to make something beautiful out of it. Something that only He can do. I certainly know that I do not have the strength to do it. If we make it out alive, only the Lord can receive any glory. It won’t be us. We have been done in. If this mess gets made into a masterpiece, I’m telling you now, we had nothing to do with it.

A few days ago, I was also listening to a message by Chuck Swindoll. In his broadcast library he has a message entitled, “Meaningful Messages in Misfortune”. He speaks to a group of seminary students (of course!) and talks about things that will enhance their years in ministry. It’s really for anyone in ministry, not just seminary students, but the whole thing is brilliant. At the very end, he talks about his 5 hopes for those seminary students:

  1. I hope you will not know early success. Rather, I hope you will encounter difficulties that drive you to your knees.
  2. I hope you will experience obscurity and anonymity after you leave these halls of learning—especially if you are greatly gifted and bright. The result will be a true humility that will keep you surprised when and if God ever chooses to use you.
  3. I hope you will fail because you relied on your own flesh to reach certain goals. . . . You will learn far more from times of failure than through great accomplishments.
  4. I hope you will be forced to deal with a difficult leader in the church you serve or face disagreements with someone with whom you serve closely, it will teach you discernment.
  5. I hope you will be hindered by unexpected obstacles that keep you from reaching your goals in ministry as you had planned. It is no accident. It is exactly what God has planned.

Shelby and I might as well have been sitting in with that group of students he spoke to because I feel like we have gone through each of these.

So maybe, just maybe, God’s not through with us being in ministry. Everything that we have encountered thus far is a part of His plan. His plan where all things work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

In the notes for the message, Swindoll writes:

Ultimately, the only way to learn full dependence on the Lord is to experience misfortunes and failures that bring you to the end of your own resourcefulness. Only then can you turn in full confidence and humility to the One who delivered you from a past from which you could never recover and who leads you into a future you cannot see.


Father, thank You for this trial—this misfortune—that I face today. Forgive me for complaining about my circumstances and expressing such dismay at my current lot in life. Open my eyes to Your plans and purposes in the gathering clouds of defeat or failure . . . and shelter me with Your gracious presence and love until this storm passes by.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lifesize Zoo

The kids started their Spring Break yesterday, and since the weather was finally nice enough to go outside, I decided to take them to the Fort Worth Zoo. According to USA Today‘s 10 Best Zoos, it is ranked #5 of the best zoos in North America. We already have annual passes, so even though it was a spur of the moment decision, the kids were excited to go. They are always excited to go to the zoo. No matter how many times we go, it never gets old. But this time I wanted to try something a little different.

Yesterday, we received our box of Usborne books from an online party I hosted about a week ago (I made video of all the books that we got. It’s long and I’m a mess, but I was so excited to get our books just in time for Spring Break), and one of the books in our Usborne haul was called Lifesize. I feel bad, because in the video I refer to it as our default book because the Lifesize Dinosaur book that I originally wanted to purchase was sold out. Well, I could not have been more wrong about the book and I am even more in love with it now that I’ve actually read it.

Before we went to the zoo, I got out the book and started reading it with the kids. You guys, it’s amazing!!! The book is all about lifesize animals or animal parts. It starts off with part of an elephant’s foot and shows the actual size of the elephant’s toenails. Then you compare the size of your toenail to it and can see how really big an elephant’s toenails are compared to your tiny toenails.

Each page has an actual lifesize animal or animal part. Some are huge, like the elephant’s toenail, and others are super tiny like a bee hummingbird. But wait…the best part is that some pages even have you hold it up to your body to make you see how it would look on you. Like kangaroo ears, a bengal tiger’s mouth or a toucan’s beak. So the kids hold the book up to the top of their head or the side of their face; it’s very interactive. The kids were totally engaged in reading it…which I love so much!!!

So after we finished reading the book, I told them that we were going to use the book like a scavenger hunt list. We’d walk around the zoo looking for the animals in our book (not all of them you’ll find at the zoo…like the giant 60 ft. squid) and take a picture next to the animal that we found.

This was seriously the best idea!!! The kids were so involved in finding the next animal to take a picture with, that there was hardly any fighting!!! They did complain about all the walking though because we had to find ALL of the animals at the zoo that were in our book.

So much fun! It brought new life to visiting the zoo for what seemed like the millionth time. I love that reading doesn’t have to just take place in a quiet library or in your favorite cozy chair, although I love those places, too. You can take your books and read anywhere…even the zoo!

The best was as we were getting ready to leave, my 7 year old said, “Mom, if I come to the zoo for a field trip, I want to bring this book with me.” And she may not realize it now, but she is already becoming a lifelong reader.

Photos from our Lifesize Day at the Zoo