Chasing God's glory through all circumstances

abundance

The dance of grief and glory through the holidays

Posted by | abundance, behold, christmas, courage, death, gifts, grief, hope, Incourage essays, kids, laughter, Stories, transitions, Uncategorized | No Comments

I still remember our first Thanksgiving after my husband Ericlee died. My family tried to hold it together. We tried to stay the course with certain traditions, but it was clear everything was off-kilter.

He wasn’t there to run the Turkey Trot. He wasn’t wearing his silly apron in the kitchen, helping me chop the butternut squash for the soup. He wasn’t there to say the Thanksgiving blessing-prayer. We tried to make conversation around the table, but it felt strained, awkward, even empty without his presence.

Looking back, I wish I spoke up when things felt wonky. My heart was heavy, but I couldn’t push to find the words to articulate it. As a newly-single mama, I was cracking inside for my three girls who were without their gregarious daddy. I saw my family stumbling through the holidays as our gatherings lacked his leadership, but I knew I could never fill his shoes.

Now I know it takes time for a family to recalibrate when someone dies.

We need to blanket ourselves and others with grace. We need to make space for the emotions and the grief. We need to give ourselves permission to throw out or reinvent some of the traditions for the sake of our souls.

Since Ericlee soared to Heaven, I’ve learned to carve out intentional time to cherish his memory with my girls. That first Christmas without him, we ended up re-imagining some of our traditions. Ericlee would always wear a Santa hat while we decorated the house. Now my new husband Shawn or one of my daughters dons Daddy’s hat.

When we decorate our tree, we take time to linger over the ornaments and share stories about him as we hang each one. It’s not the loud, festive tradition we once had with Christmas carols blaring in the background and Daddy’s blazing voice, but it’s our own way of including his memory in our season.

I know many of you may be tiptoeing into this holiday season feeling raw and vulnerable. That miscarriage you experienced a few months ago, that recent cancer diagnosis, that child estranged from your family, the death of your spouse or grandparent, the unspeakable injustices raging in our world – all these griefs weigh heavy on your hearts.

This is not the time to plaster on a cheery face, to go through the motions and shut down our emotions.

This is the not time to turn away from our grief; it’s time to draw close and offer the present of our presence to each other.

This is the time to muster up the courage to sit together, to weep with each other, to listen to each other’s stories, to rejoice in the new beginnings, and the unexpected gifts. Friends, let’s vow to lean in together, to embody Immanuel for one another.

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:23 (ESV)

This next week you may be throwing a football in the front yard, or sitting down at the table with family to carve up a turkey, or to feast on Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie. Our family will celebrate our fifth Thanksgiving with my beloved in Heaven. We are deeply grateful for all the things God has redeemed. I can honestly say that joy tips the scale more often, outweighing the sadness in our home. That’s the truth.

What’s also true is that sometimes the tears still spill over, the memories overwhelm, and grief sashays into the room when we least expect. And that’s OK too. We are ready in our hearts for this wild dance. I am starting to believe this dance is the way to embrace the holidays. I could sit on the sidelines and fake it, or I can jump into the dance whirling with joy and pain, memories and merriment.

Friend, It’s normal for the holidays to hold both a tinge of grief and a taste of glory.

Like in the birthing process, pain often precedes the joy. Mary endured painful contractions so that the Messiah Jesus might enter the world. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes was wrapped in the paradox of death and life from the very beginning of the story.  God knew He was sending His son to earth as a baby born to die so we all might live.

Jesus said,

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 (ESV)

To fully discover the abundant life Jesus gifted us, we have to embrace the pain with the joy, the bitter with the sweet, the grief with the glory. He continues to show me His glory shines in every dark corner, in every cold stable, in every rough manger.

*Dorina has written and recorded a free Advent devotional about discovering the abundance of Jesus in the Christmas season. Sign up for her Glorygram here and a free copy will be delivered to you weekly during December.

Pivoting Away from Jealousy Toward Abundance

Posted by | abundance, community, compassion, flourishing, friendship, gifts, grief, Incourage essays, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized | No Comments

When I was a newly-minted widow, I started to struggle with envy. In those early days of grief, it was excruciatingly hard for me to see all the summer vacation photos with daddies playing with their kids, the wedding anniversary celebrations, and the perfectly-crafted family Christmas pictures. Feelings rose up inside me that I never faced before. My heart was pricked with surprising envy and jealousy because I desperately missed my man, and I was trying to parent my three daughters alone.

We often use the words jealousy and envy interchangeably, but there are some important nuances. Jealousy is motivated by the fear of losing something or someone, like a friend. Envy is aroused by wanting someone else’s possession, qualities, talents, etc.

We live in a culture that sets us all up for constant comparison. I believe comparison is a tool Satan uses to divide us, discourage us, and push us into isolation instead of flourishing together in community. Just think about all the Bible stories that deal with jealousy and envy. Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Rachel and Leah – even the disciples had to work through the jealousy and envy among them.

I have watched friendships grow toxic, neighbors keep to themselves, and marriages grow bitter because of envy and jealousy. As a mama of three daughters, I’m realizing it’s important to process these feelings regularly. I need to model for my girls how to combat envy that creeps up on us even in the smallest ways. We need to call out jealousy and encourage each other to turn away from it.

The Bible challenges us to be on guard against these thoughts. Peter paints a powerful picture in his first letter, encouraging all of us to “clean house” and get rid of anything in our hearts that might be divisive or distracting:

So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. You’ve had a taste of God. Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

1 Peter 2:1-3 (MSG)

He exhorts believers to live in a way that they might win over their non-believing neighbors – not with legalism or righteous attitudes, but with gospel-centered humility and love.

Social media is one area where envy and jealousy are often stirred up. We may see a post of two good friends getting together without us and feel that twinge of jealousy. Or, we see someone share about an exotic vacation, a success in their business, or a gorgeous family photo, and we feel envious, wishing we had what they have.

The core dilemma is: What do we do with those feelings?

Here are a few things I’m working on:

Bounce jealous or envious thoughts. In other words, if I look at someone or see something that makes me jealous or envious, I bounce that thought out of my mind, and do not let myself dwell on it. I turn away from the scarcity mindset that tells me there’s not enough to go around.

Rejoice with that other person. I might send a quick word of encouragement, share a compliment, or simply whisper a word out loud to myself rejoicing with that person for the gift they’ve been given.

Pivot toward something edifying. If I notice I have consistent feelings of jealousy or envy showing up, I intentionally unfollow people, or even turn off social media and spend time in God’s Word. I may reach out to intentionally connect with my family or with another friend who inspires and challenges me. It’s healthy to take a break and refocus.

Offer up gratitude. In that first year after my husband’s death, I challenged myself to share gratitude on social media. I wrote out the gifts God gave me each day and posted them on Facebook. I thanked Him publicly for the swirling colors of the sunset, the sink full of dirty dishes, for my 2-year-old’s contagious giggles, and the breath in my lungs.

That simple practice shifted something deep inside me. I no longer focused on my pain and discontentment. God lifted my head to see Him at work even in my season of grief. Little did I know that modeling that practice was affecting others too. Through the years, many have shared stories with me about how reading through my gift list during that season inspired them to write their own gratitude list.

Sometimes I hesitate to post pictures of our family or with my new husband Shawn. I’m especially sensitive to what my widow-mama friends might see or how a friend prone to jealousy might receive it. However, I’ve realized that it’s not fruitful to constantly be second-guessing myself. Managing others jealousy is not my job. Instead, I ask myself a simple question: “Is this post pointing people back to God’s glory?”

Friend, do you struggle with jealousy and envy? Do you find discontentment coloring your outlook or relationships? Let’s stop living with a scarcity mindset and instead bask in the abundance only God can provide.

Pray this simple prayer with me today.

 

Dear Jesus,

I confess I’m letting jealousy and envy take over too many of my thoughts.

Help me to surrender these feelings back to you.

When I feel insecure, help remind me who I am in your eyes.

Show me opportunities to collaborate and build others up.   

Amen.

*This post was originally published at www.incourage.me.

**I have written a Bible study called Flourishing Together: Cultivating a Fruitful Life in Christ about learning to flourish by God’s design in community. I loves speaking on this topic for women’s events.

Running for His glory: Learning to breathe at higher altitudes

Posted by | abundance, community, courage, flourishing, friendship, grief, hope, Incourage essays, relationships, sharing faith, Stories, Uncategorized, writing | No Comments

Breathe in deeply. Let the air gently fill your lungs. Pause. Then release. Feel the tension in your shoulders drift away. Inhale again. Then exhale.

This is the give and take of breath. This is a deliberate slowing of the cadence of our breath. This is discovering a new, unforced rhythm.

Breathe was the theme of the retreat I attended in June for the writers of (in)courage. After a wildly busy Maycember, this was exactly what we all needed. Thirty-one writers and staff traveled to Estes Park, Colorado for three days at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park to just breathe.

The goal: to exhale the rush of responsibilities and inhale the presence of God through fellowship with sisters.

Although we spent some time in meetings and creating new content, the leaders carved out lots of space for us to breathe. We were encouraged to take a nap, go shopping or hiking, participate in rooftop yoga, or spend time with God in the mountains. To just breathe.

The Hebrew name for God is Yahweh. It is said when the Hebrew letters YHWH are pronounced, they sound like a deep breath. This connection is no coincidence in my mind for God Himself fashioned Adam from the dust of the earth and breathed life into his lungs.

Here’s one thing I learned about breathing that weekend in Colorado: Sometimes the air feels thin at higher altitudes.

One morning I went for a 5-mile run on a path not far from our cabin. My chest pulled tight as I tried to fill my lungs. I slowed down and took shorter breaths. I had to give myself grace that my pace was not as fast as it might be at home, where I live in a valley.

In life, sometimes the same is true. We find ourselves at an unfamiliar altitude, and we need to take shorter breaths. We need to slow our rhythm to breathe deeply.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’ve experienced some trauma in your past or you are presently walking through a crisis, and it feels hard to breathe.

These are the times when it is a gift to sit shoulder to shoulder with others. It’s so easy to default into isolation when we feel overwhelmed. When we share our stories, when we bear witness to truth and pain, we offer each other breath.

Breathing then comes a little easier. Inhale long. Breathe out.

I experienced this in Colorado with my (in)courage sisters. Writing and speaking can be lonely work. I don’t have many people in my everyday life who understand what I do and its challenges. These women, who live all over the country and minister in many different ways through words, are my colleagues, my co-laborers.

As I listened to the stories and experiences of other writer-mama-sisters from diverse backgrounds, I felt breath fill my lungs. I was bolstered for the task ahead – to continue to share the Gospel message and to help people discover God’s glory through my words.

In Ezekiel 37, the prophet talks about a valley of dry bones – a symbol of lifelessness. God says to these bones:

I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

Ezekiel 37: 5-6 (NIV)

Then He breathes into them, and the dry bones miraculously rattle and snap to life. These bones were once dry and dead, but now they are alive and moving.

God breathes – sometimes through the stories and encouragement of others – and we come to life.

May we also look for opportunities daily to breathe new life into each other. As a mama, I want to consider ways I can breathe life into my children. This may mean softening my tone when I’m irritated. This may mean encouraging my daughters to try new things or persevere through challenges.

I desire for my words to be life-giving to my friends. This may mean calling out talents my friends have or speaking truth to them when they are struggling with self-doubt.

One of my favorite songs is “Great are you, Lord” by All Sons & Daughters. This song became especially meaningful to me in 2014 when my beloved husband was battling cancer. A couple of friends from the worship band at our church visited our home to sing with my husband. He was too weak at that point to go to church.

As they sang and played guitar, my husband sat on our big red couch and listened with a look of heavenly contentment on his face. Our three daughters danced as these worshipful words filled our home:

“It’s your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise…”

Ironically, the cancer was spreading during that time to my husband’s lungs. His breathing was labored. Little did we know that soon he would soar to meet the One who first breathed life into him. He would exhale this earth and breathe in Yahweh face-to-face.

Whenever I hear this song, I can’t help but think of that moment. I reach for gratitude even when breathing feels hard like on my run or when I’m working. I thank God for my lungs, for this daily cadence of borrowed breaths, and for the privilege of living one more day to reflect His glory.

 

My new husband Shawn and I love connecting with Christian runners. Check out our Glory Chasers running group on Facebook where we offer up courage, community and coaching for runners at all levels.

Redeeming Ruth: The Father’s Heart for the vulnerable

Posted by | abundance, community, compassion, courage, culture, death, flourishing, grief, hope, inspirational, relationships, Stories, struggle, Uncategorized, video | One Comment

I was invited to share a message this Sunday at Action Community Church in Clovis for their summer series, “A Father’s Heart: a series about things God cares about.”

I chose to share about God’s heart for the vulnerable, specifically widows, orphans, immigrants/foreigners and the poor.

In this message, I unpack the story of Ruth in the Bible and how God also brought a kinsman-redeemer for me and my family.

Check out the full video of the message here!

*If you’re interested in more details about my speaking & teaching, check out my Speaker Page here.

Running for His glory: When God brings you full circle

Posted by | abundance, community, courage, finishing well, grief, running, Stories | No Comments

This summer we are featuring a series of stories here on the blog about the intersection of faith and running.  Through the years, running has been my lifeline, the place I connect with God, and my therapy. Over the last five years, I’ve written several essays about how running has helped me grieve the death of my husband and given me new courage. I’ve invited 10 friends to share their stories of how running has shaped them and become spiritual practice for them as well. I hope you will join us weekly for the “Running for His glory” series. 

 

By Dorina Lazo Gilmore

The conditions may not have been ideal for a race. Gray, overcast skies. Muddy, slippery trail.

Of course, the elements rarely deter trail runners. They show up rain or shine for the pure adventure of the race.

My friend Heather and I donned running parkas and set out at the sound of the starting whistle. We were filled with gleeful anticipation of the race to come.  I knew in my heart that God would show up with His presence and gift me some glimpse of His glory along the trail.

He always does.

The first time I ran the San Joaquin River Gorge Trail race was in 2015. That was my first trail race ever. Although I have been a runner all my life, I quickly discovered that running on trails through hills and valleys is very different from racing on the flat road. Trails require negotiating rocks, ducking under tree branches, and sometimes coming face-to-face with wildlife.

The trail taunts and charms me at the same time. It’s challenging, but I just can’t get enough of wildflowers chasing around each curve in spring or the rainbow sherbet colors of the sunrise dancing over the mountains.

That morning the trail felt less intimidating. This was my third time running this race, and in many ways, I felt like I was coming full circle.

We come full circle when we experience a series of developments or circumstances that lead us back to the original source, position, or situation. It kind of feels like déjà vu but with a twist.

In Exodus 3:12, God speaks to Moses from a burning bush. He promises to bring the people out of Egypt and that they will return to worship Him on Mount Sinai. This is the beginning of Moses’ journey before he is sent out to rescue the Israelites from slavery and lead them to the Promised Land.

I imagine Moses felt like I did the first time I ran a trail race. I was unsure of my footing, tentative about what lie ahead, and insecure about my abilities to complete the race.

In Exodus 19, Moses and the people have finally escaped Egypt and journeyed back to Desert of Sinai at the base of the mountain. Moses has come full circle.

Sometimes we have to return to the mountain so God can remind us who He is and set our feet back on the rock.

On that morning, God shows up for the Israelites in thunder and lighting, fire and smoke. God displays for the Israelites just how big and powerful He is.

He reminds them that He is greater than all the idols and false gods they could make for themselves. He underscores who He is – the Lord, the God of Israel – who is faithful to keep His covenant promises to them. He provided passage for them through the raging Red Sea and food (manna and quail) for them in the desert.

In Exodus 24, Moses goes back up to Mount Sinai and experiences the glory of God in a cloud. This time he enters the cloud and stays for forty days and forty nights. He abides and dwells with God. During this time, God gives Moses life instructions on many things and sends him back to the people with the Ten Commandments written in stone.

Sometimes we have to return to the mountain to dwell with God and learn something new for our journey.

Every time I go for a trail run God shows me something new. One time He showed me His power in the rushing waterfall. Another time, He reminded me of His Presence through the fiery orange wings of a butterfly. On the San Joaquin River Trail, He renewed my courage on a familiar path. He reminded me that I can do hard things when I run with Him and let Him set the pace.

Sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships, or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come.

This year God has brought me full circle in surprising ways. There was a time after my husband’s death that I felt crippled by grief. I wasn’t sure if I could run without him. I’m not that woman anymore. God meets me again and again on the trail and shows me His faithfulness to lead and provide.

This past season, I had the opportunity to coach my daughters’ track and field team. As I watched my girls run and jump for God’s glory, I thought about my late husband Ericlee. He and I coached track and field together for nine years. Our kids grew up on the track.

In many ways, I feel like I’m coming full circle now coaching my daughters – and with my new husband Shawn. It’s wild to think about how far we’ve come!

Are you coming full circle?

Maybe you find yourself returning to a favorite childhood spot or connecting with an old friend. Maybe you are sitting by the grave of a loved one who has passed into glory or digging into some difficult memories from your past. If you are feeling like you are right back where you started, take heart. God may have brought you full circle to remind you who He is, to teach you something new, or to measure just how far you’ve come.

 

*The original version of this essay was featured at www.incourage.me.

*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.


Book review: Taste and See

Posted by | abundance, book reviews, cooking, food stories, friendship, world travel | No Comments

For more than 8 years, my husband and I hosted a Cooking Club at our home for 10 couples. We gathered monthly to try out recipes across various themes. Whether it was rolling fresh Italian pastas, hovering over salmon on the grill on a blazing summer day, or reading a detailed recipe for some French delight we couldn’t pronounce, it was always an adventure.

We discovered exotic spice blends like berbere and curry. We learned the nuances of working with phyllo dough and puff pastry. We also tried out a whole myriad of cooking gadgets.

There was something magical about inviting people into my kitchen to prepare food and gather at the table to eat our creations and do the dishes together. Through the years, we swapped stories, celebrated births, mourned deaths, dished about parenting, dug through political topics, and grappled with our faith together.

In those years, I discovered that food was my love language. I love to gather my people in the kitchen and at my table. My favorite way to love on others is to bring them a meal when they are on bedrest or to arrange a meal list after a new baby is born.

I know I’m not alone. I’ve met other people along my life journey who share this love – not just for eating, but for connecting deeply over food.

In her new book, Taste and See: Discovering God Among Butchers, Bakers, and Fresh Food Makers, Margaret Feinberg points out that God was the original foodie. He handcrafted humanity to need food and designed a plethora of delectable options for us to choose from.

Taste and See is a culinary adventure, a food memoir, and a spiritual journey. The premise of the book is that food plays a significant role in helping us taste and see God’s goodness in our lives. This book is an invitation to the global table (with recipes included!)

Needless to say, I was quick to RSVP yes to this invitation.

Margaret presents food as not merely functional for survival, but also as a source of deep pleasure and a vehicle for building community. She unpacks how food is both sacred and symbolic, playing a prominent role in the most spiritually-significant moments throughout the Bible.

“When we gather to eat, God wants to nourish more than our bodies: he wants to nourish our souls with transcendent joy and supernatural community and divine presence,” writes Margaret. “When we feed our physical appetites in community, we open our hearts for God to feed something deeper as well.”

Taste and See is divided into 8 parts, focusing on 6 types of foods that are abundant in the Scriptures. Through Margaret’s descriptive prose, we learn about fish, figs, bread, sea salt, olives and lamb chops. I love how this book offers us a new lens to view the Bible.

Margaret takes readers from a fishing expedition on the Sea of Galilee to a fig orchard in Madera, California (which, by the way, is practically in my own backyard). She invites us to mix dough for matzo bread with a professor at Yale university and to harvest olives with a family in Croatia.

One of my favorite tidbits Margaret reveals is that the fig tree will continue to produce fruit for eighty to a hundred years after it is planted.

“That’s Christ’s vision for us,” she writes “that we will continue to yield the fruit of Christlikeness and find our satisfaction in him long after gray hairs sprout and crow’s feet nestle near our eyes.”

This is just one example of how this book takes us from the savory to the sacred.

The book concludes with an invitation to a Passover feast enjoyed at a table in the Holy Land. Margaret helps us taste each intentionally-prepared bite of the seder, the ceremonial dinner that commemorates the freeing of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.

These words speak life to my foodie heart: “God is waiting around every table, in every pantry, in every backyard garden. You just need some fresh ingredients, some time, and a friend or two.”

 

*I regularly recommend and give away books to my Glorygram subscribers. Join my tribe here

**I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by linking to amazon.com. There is no additional cost to readers.

 

Love after loss: When the end of the book was actually the next chapter

Posted by | abundance, death, family life, grief, hope, kids, parenting, relationships, Stories | 2 Comments

Three years ago today, I floated down the aisle and stepped into the most unexpected glory story. After my beloved husband Ericlee graduated to Heaven in September 2014, I believed my love story was over. Until death do us part. On January 16, 2016, our Author-God handed us a new draft, a new chapter. He invited my three daughters and me into a redeemed story only He could write.

Like the widow Ruth in the Bible, who in her grief found a path to her new husband Boaz, God led me to mine. Shawn was one of Ericlee and my dearest friends. We had many grand adventures with him through the years. He supported our ministry in Haiti. He celebrated with us when our three daughters were born. We prayed faithfully for his future wife. I never ever imagined it would be me.

When I look back over our wedding pictures from that glorious day 3 years ago, joy bubbles up in my spirit. We laughed, we cried, we feasted, we danced, and all the while giving God glory for the surprising beauty He brought from our ashes.

These last 3 years have been full as God has grafted Shawn into our family and woven us all together. I always felt the deepest brokenness about my girls growing up without their daddy, but now they have a new daddy who lives Ericlee’s legacy. He cares for them, provides for them, patiently helps them with homework, and takes them on special Daddy dates. He has adopted them as his own. (Talk about a plot twist for a single guy who never imagined having children!)

The other night I went to dinner with girlfriends. When I came home, I noticed Shawn wasn’t in our room so I tiptoed over to our youngest daughter’s room. Sure enough, he was asleep right next to her – the two holding hands. Don’t get me wrong, our home life isn’t always peaceful and perfect, but that picture of the two of them side by side speaks volumes of the redemption God has brought into our narrative.

My own grief journey did not end the day Shawn and I said “I do.” That’s the funny thing about grief; It isn’t easily brushed aside or replaced by moments of happiness or even deep joy. The grief ebbs and flows, and we must go with it. I’m grateful for a husband who gives me permission to grieve even four years out, who sits quietly and holds me when I cry, who feels the depths of loss because he also lost a dear friend.

I also had to find the courage to love again. It is a deliberate and daily choice. I try not to compare my husbands. Each one is unique, each gifted in his own way. In this new chapter of life, I have to continue learning to be vulnerable, to lay down my selfishness, and embrace what God has given us as a family in this new season.

Recently, Shawn and I got to share our story on the #staymarried podcast. The light bulb moment for me was when Shawn said Ericlee and my marriage was the one he most looked to as an example. We were the most influential couple in his life. In that way, Ericlee lives on with us today. His legacy is not forgotten because his love as a husband and father influences who we are as a family. It’s a thread that is woven intentionally throughout our story.

Today we celebrate a wedding anniversary, but more than that, we stand witness to the glory of a great God who is constantly redeeming our relationships, rewriting our stories, and restoring with abundance. Friend, I want to encourage you that your story isn’t over yet.

**Are you navigating grief? Are you on a journey after the loss of a spouse, sibling or friend? I would love to mentor and encourage you. Sign up here for my weekly Glorygram to receive stories, resources and recommendations that will usher you through your unique story.

*I am a Dayspring affiliate at no extra cost to my readers.

One word for 2019: The big reveal!

Posted by | abundance, community, courage, flourishing, grief, hope, One Word, Stories, wonder | No Comments

This past Thanksgiving my family and I took an epic trip to Hawaii. We started planning the trip last December with the goals of spending time together, celebrating my late husband Ericlee’s life, and introducing the kids to Hawaii where our grandparents first met.

Eighteen of us cleared our schedules and boarded planes to travel to the Big Island. For much of the week, we were together as a big, beautiful, boisterous group. But on Wednesday, we chose to split the group and go on our own adventures.

I agreed to take a group to a favorite spot my husband Shawn and I fondly call “Hidden Beach” because most tourists don’t frequent it. When you approach the beach, you can see the lava rocks, which are characteristic of this island’s landscape, form a natural cove.

The sand is white-blond, but in the cove the water is serene and so clear I could see my teal toenail polish. Waves crash in the deep-blue distance. I grabbed a snorkel mask and headed out on what I call a “wonder hunt.”

My feet stumbled at first over the jagged rocks and coral. Sand swirled around me. I had to hold back my hurried pace. I began to walk slowly, deliberately, trying not to disturb the ocean playground unfolding beneath my feet. There was a heavy hush in my soul.

I stood perfectly still. Then a beautiful yellow fish with black and white chevrons sashayed before me like a ballet dancer. My eyes lit on a canary yellow fish with blue fins being chased by a parrot fish with an iridescent purple and blue body. They moved in and out of holes in the amber-colored coral, chasing each other like kids playing tag. A school of silver fish swished by.

I swelled with a sense of awe for my Creator, who spoke these creatures into being. I felt like a gleeful child twirling in the wonder of this giant, God-inspired aquarium.

Beneath the water, I learned a lesson I’ve been embracing all year. I’ve been chasing wonder as my theme word for 2018. God has continued to remind me in a myriad of ways to still my soul, to slow my pace, to stop. Every time I do, wonder kaleidoscopes before my eyes.

Navigating transition

2018 was a year of transition for our family of five. Last January, I began to feel a wrestling in my soul. Shawn and I prayed over some heavy decisions and big changes we felt God was leading us to make. We processed with our girls as well. This provided a good opportunity for us to talk with them about discerning the voice of God and His direction for our lives.

In the end, we decided to leave a beloved community and transfer all three of our daughters to a new school. We also decided it was time to look for a new church after 18 years. We did not anticipate that in this same season my husband’s company would restructure, requiring him to move to a new office. God also opened the door for us to move to a new house in August.

In many ways, I felt like we were transplanted to a whole new life. All of my rhythms were shaken up or abolished. I had to make space to grieve the loss of community and recalibrate my heart. I’m not going to lie. It was hard. Some days were heavy and lonely, but God surprised all of us with wonder.

What I learned about wonder

I learned that wonder can’t be rushed. It requires slowing and noticing God at work in the small details.

Wonder requires stillness. I learned to embrace the silence instead of being afraid of it. He met me in the open spaces we carved out on Sundays and each morning. He whispered healing to my soul. He showed me the rich value of Sabbath for myself and for my family. I started to crave solitude with God in a way I have never experienced before.

As I went on a treasure hunt through the Bible, I discovered lots of examples when God performed wonders and miracles for his people. He healed the sick, spoke through clouds and fire, and rained down grace through the birth of His Son Jesus.

In the quiet, I also leaned into some of my own brokenness and deepest questions.

Why didn’t God choose to heal my husband Ericlee from cancer?

Why does so much evil and violence prevail in our culture?

Why should I invest in communities when I know I will be met with hurt and disappointment?

God gently listened to these piercing questions, sometimes accusing questions, and ushered me to some understanding of truth. I am confident now that He always works for His glory and our good. I don’t have a full understanding of His mysterious ways – why some are healed on earth and others in Heaven – but I do still believe in miracles. And I witnessed them throughout this year.

He proved faithful to our family in small and big ways. He provided for our needs and many desires. I stepped into some exciting new opportunities to write for (in)courage and WeCoach Together. I signed with a literary agent and completed two book proposals, which will go out to publishers in the new year. New doors are opening every day for speaking and sharing my story. My girls are flourishing in their new school. We have made new friends at church and in our neighborhood.

Pursuing a new year of abundance 

Sometime in November, I began to hear a familiar whisper. A word. This one word gave me pause, made me curious. It seemed to beckon me until I finally decided to pay attention.

That word appeared in the most surprising places – in conversation, in books or blogs I’m reading and in Scripture. Somehow, I can’t stop thinking about that word.

This is my 8th year choosing a word theme. It’s become a practice for me to lean in close with God and to listen to what He might say to me. Of course, He always teaches, leads, disciplines and comforts me in ways I wouldn’t expect.

One Sunday, our Pastor Brad shared in a sermon about the nuances between the prosperity gospel mindset and the poverty gospel mindset.  At the heart of his message was a challenge to think about the difference between scarcity and abundance. Scarcity always worries about not having enough. It’s focused on lack. It believes that someone else’s gain or success or happiness will put you behind.

Then he talked about abundance, which is unexpected blessing from God – not earned or stolen – used for God’s glory. Abundance allows us to accept his good gifts and also extend generosity to others without hesitation. Abundance makes room for collaboration and flourishing in community.

God has already been showing me His abundance is quantified in a much different way from the prosperity the world chases. It’s not about excess of material stuff or wealth, but about pursuing and embracing abundant life.

Abundant life is characterized by a fullness of joy, rest, and energy for the work of God. Abundant life runs in contrast to an existence that focuses on what I lack, what I’m missing, or what I’m dissatisfied with in the day-to-day. For too long I have been bracing myself for what tragedy might be around the next corner.

On this first day of 2019, I’m stepping forward with courage and these questions on my heart:

What does God have to say about abundance in His Word?

How can I live into God’s abundance without being poisoned by selfishness, pride, gluttony or entitlement?

Where will God reveal abundance in 2019?

Friend, I’m inviting you to join me on this journey of seeking abundant life. 

Let’s meditate together on these words in Psalm 31 and and take refuge in Him:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!

-Psalm 31:19 (ESV)

My word themes through the years:

2012: joy

2013: grace & mercy

2014: glory

2015: redeem

2016: flourish

2017: behold

2018: wonder


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