Deeper Story

God is good

I was raised to believe that blessings and healing and victory belong to those who believe. Which is a wonderful thought. But the flipside of that belief is that failure, sickness, and lack are signs of not believing enough. So while I was taught to instinctively respond to "God is good" with "All the time", it was understood that God's goodness is only reflected in the goodness of our own lives.

It's not in the pain or the difficulty or the challenges. For those, clearly, are signs of a wayward heart... a faltering faith... an unexposed sin.

Basically anything but blessing, success, and victory boiled down to me not being enough.

Not praying enough. Not believing enough. Not claiming the victory enough. Not speaking words of faith enough.

It was drilled into me that difficult and painful circumstances were never God's will for me. And if I found myself in the midst of them, then obviously I needed to change/fix/do something to get back in right-standing with God, so that things would turn around.

I think back now and I wonder how I processed all the stories I read in the Bible.

You know, stories like Stephen being killed because of his faith. And Joseph's decades of wrongful imprisonment. There's also Paul's beatings, jail sentences, and never-abating thorn in the flesh. John the Baptist, Jesus' own cousin, had his head chopped off. And let's not even talk about Job...

I don't know what I did with those stories that clearly flew in the face of the you-will-always-walk-in-blessings-if-you-have-enough-faith breed of Christianity I embraced.

Because the truth of the matter is this: There are a good many things in life that I simply can't believe my way out of.

The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Bad things happen to God-fearing people. Life isn't fair. And life is harder than anyone ever tells you it's gonna be.

A faith that only acknowledges the goodness of God when things are going great, isn't faith at all. It's nothing but a sandcastle mirage...

Faith is believing that God is good even when my life is anything but.

Faith is believing that God is good even when my world is caving in.

Even when the sickness isn't healed... When the pain gets worse instead of better... When my husband leaves me... When I lose everything...

Faith is looking at my world that's spiraling out of control and choosing to believe that the God of the universe is still in control.

God is good. And God is sovereign. And faith is believing both those truths at the same time.

Life is hard. This we all know.

But, still... God is sovereign, and God is good.

All the time.

No matter what.

Originally posted atDeeper Story. Read the comments there >

grace runs

"Avoid the appearance of evil." We've all heard it said before.

And while it comes from the Bible, I think we may have warped its original intended meaning. More often than not, I've seen it used as a weapon of divisiveness and judgment and condemnation.

I grew up in a Christian home. I went to a Christian school. We went to church religiously. And the message was drilled into me from an early age: Avoid the appearance of evil.

I was taught to avoid places, activities, and people that might raise eyebrows.

If my presence or involvement could be misconstrued, I shouldn't be there. After all... what will people think? Or worse... what will people say?

It's why we shouldn't go to bars or clubs. It's the reason we shouldn't get tattoos. It's why we shouldn't hang out with the "rough crowd". Because all of those things might give an appearance of evil.

Someone might see it or hear about it, and jump to the wrong conclusion.

Because clearly it isn't very Christ-like to be caught in a potentially compromising situation. Right?



Jesus didn't avoid the appearance of evil. He ran straight into it.

Party at the thieving tax collector's house? He's there.

Intimate conversations with prostitutes? One of His favorite pastimes.

Hanging out with the scum of society? Nowhere else He'd rather be.

Enjoying some wine with His friends? Of course.

No, Jesus didn't avoid the appearance of evil. He sought it out. He pursued it. And as a result, He quite often appeared evil.

That's why the religious leaders of the day hated Him so much. Everything He did seemed to fly in the face of their long list of do's and don'ts.

They called Him a liar.

A drunk.

A glutton.



They didn't understand His approach to life and ministry, because it was the complete opposite of theirs. He embraced what they shunned.

The scandalousness of grace is that it runs toward evil, not away from it.

Being like Christ is not about what I avoid. It's about what---and who---I embrace.

Because, after all, Christ embraced me.

And I am no different than the drunks, whores, adulterers, and all-around "rough crowd" I was taught to avoid. I am them. And they are me.

And Christ embraces us all.

Who am I to pick and choose?

Originally posted at Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

taking it deeper: the double-standard of my heart

Photo credit: taliesin from

For years I've prayed for my ex-husband’s heart to return to the Lord.

For him to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

For the consequences of his decisions and actions to open his eyes to how deceived he’s become.

For him to hit rock bottom.

For God to do whatever it takes to get his attention.

But if I’m being most honest, I haven't been as concerned with his repentance as I am with wanting him to feel the weight of what he’s done.

The reality is that I sometimes still want him to hurt like I’ve hurt, more than I want him to live forgiven and free.

I’ve had to come face-to-face with the double-standard of my heart.

Because my struggle to genuinely pray not only for his repentance but also for his forgiveness really only means one thing—

I don’t realize just how much I’ve been forgiven.

I want to accept the work of the cross for my sins, but not for my husband’s.

As if my sins have been lesser.

Or even fewer.

When they are neither.

“…God’s kindness leads you toward repentance.”

I remember gasping out loud when I saw that verse as if with new eyes.

And I’ve wrestled with Him long and hard over the implications of it.

It has taken me a very long time to get to this point, but I’ve begun praying—still with tear-filled eyes—for God’s kindness to lead my ex-husband to repentance.

I’ve started asking God to smother him with His goodness and grace and mercy.

Some days it’s easier to pray that way than others.

Some days I can’t at all.

On those days, I just sit in the reality of what it truly means. And I pray for God’s kindness to lead me to repentance.

Originally posted at Deeper Story. Read the comments there >

even when i deserve stoning...

I keep thinking about the adulterous woman who was dragged before Jesus. Mainly because I can't help but see myself in her. The crowd was ready to stone her for her sin, for her failure. And then Jesus spoke. He looked the mob straight in the eye and actually challenged them to go through with it. Under one condition.

He called for the one without sin to throw the first stone.

I can only imagine the shift that instantly took place within the crowd. They knew they were just as sinful as the woman was. They were well aware of how stoning-worthy their own hearts were.

So one by one, the crowd slowly turned and walked away.

All of them.

Until Jesus was the only one left with the woman. Perfectly fitting with what He'd said... "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." He alone was sinless. He alone had the right to judge.

Yet the One without sin cast no stones.

Instead He barraged her with grace.

Just like He still does with me.

It doesn't matter how many accusations are hurled at me. Or how many I throw at myself. It doesn't matter how far I've run, how deeply I've messed up, how ashamed I feel.

He casts no stones. No judgment. No condemnation. All He casts is love.

Every single time.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story...]


Broken skyphoto © 2009 Kevin Gessner | more info (via: Wylio) I see beauty all around me. I find it in painted sunset skies and majestic mountains. I recognize it in the joy-filled eyes of the poor. I discover it in the authentic sharing of hearts.

I see beauty all around me. But I can't see it in the mirror.

My self-image---that picture inside my heart of how I view myself---has long been distorted from a lifetime of feeling not enough. No matter how hard I try, being good/smart/funny/pretty enough has always felt far beyond my reach.

Looking back over the past few years, I can see, as if in slow motion, how that belief was reinforced even more.

My husband's 18-month affair with my friend shouted that I wasn't desirable enough. When he left me after ten years of marriage, I heard that I'm worth leaving more than I'm worth fighting for. And when he told me on his way out that he didn't love me and probably never did, it reiterated that I'm not valuable enough to be loved.

The fragile remains of that picture in my heart loudly shattered into a million pieces.

I am not enough.

Slowly God has been restoring my heart and, with it, the picture I have of myself.

I know He wants me to see myself as beautiful, but the reality is, it remains a daily struggle for me.

Like Alabama in the aftermath of its tornado, all I see in my reflection is the broken, messy, ugly devastation of my life. And I can't help but question how there can be beauty in all this rubble.

God responds by lovingly and gently showing me.

As I hear from people who've found hope and strength from hearing my story, I get glimpses of the ways He's making life out of my brokenness.

But I know God doesn't only want me to see the beauty in how He's using me. He wants me to see the beauty that's in me.

If I'm being most honest, that part is probably going to take a while. Possibly a very long while.

I know a healthy self-image will come solely from staring long and hard into Jesus' face. I catch my true reflection only when I see myself in His eyes.

It's there I see that I am enough because He is enough.

It's there I see that I am desired, valued, and fought for.

It's there I see that He recklessly loves the beautiful mess that is me.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story.]

scarlet letters

I'm divorced.

::Deep Breath::

That's the first time I've actually said that word out loud.

Over the past two months, I've used varying versions of "my divorce was finalized", but I've avoided saying the actual word.

It's as though I feel a shameful sting in the word divorced. I hear unspoken judgments, like What's wrong with her that made her husband leave? and She's used goods and even simply a sigh of disappointment.

I hear them because my heart has also condemned others that way.

My good Christian upbringing left me judgmental. Pious. Spiritually stuck-up. I've unconsciously viewed divorce as the ultimate failure.

And now here I am, walking around with a red D on my chest for the world to see. And I feel not only the weight of others' judgment, but also the historical weight of my own.

Oh how arrogant I have been...

A friend recently spoke some healing and freeing words for my heart:

Divorce is no more a sign of relationship failure than marriage is of relationship success.

And even just typing those words out, my breath catches in my throat. Because I know it is true.

Even when it is hard for me to believe.

I hope someday I won't feel completely defined by my divorce. And that I can eventually say the word without hanging my head in shame, or feeling the need to justify it with an explanation, or wincing as I hear it megaphone my insufficiencies.

Because though it feels like divorced has been written on my heart in permanent ink, I need to remember... So has beloved. Chosen. Loved. His.

And those are my true scarlet letters.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story...]

velveteen heart

velveteen rabbit

I remember so vividly our Sunday morning routine when I was a child. There was screaming and fighting and swatting and tears.

Always tears.

Like an unseen bully, the volatile tension would follow us into the car, its presence thick and heavy and loud.

I'd hold my breath, and silently beg for a ceasefire. The words "please stop" would turn over and over in my mind. All the way to church.

And as we pulled into the parking lot, there came the inevitable instruction: "You better put a smile on your face before we get inside."

I'd do my best to dry my tears. Wipe my snot. Calm my blotchy skin. With my plastic smile crookedly in place, we'd walk into church. Together. A happy family.

And so I learned to live a double life.

I don't have much of a poker face -- my eyes always give me away -- so I tried my best to be invisible. In the church foyer, I'd scurry away from my family as soon as I could. I'd walk close to the wall, stick to the outskirts of the crowd, avoid eye contact. And when I inevitably still heard my mom's voice from across the room -- "Oh, praise the Lord!" -- I'd recoil inside. I'd roll my eyes, let out a groan, and inwardly seethe with resentment.

I wanted to scream; I wanted to run and hide. I hated feeling like a genuine fake. But somehow I knew that exposed truth would hurt more than hidden truth. Besides, who could I possibly tell? And how would I ever find words that could explain?

So I became good at remaining unseen. Master of the phrase "I'm fine". Proficient at simply being quiet. Skills I still excel at, even though I am desperate for different...

And so I live in the tension of my love/hate relationship with authenticity.

I despise artificiality, yet I find it strangely comfortable. I crave transparency, yet I cower away from it. I so deeply long for authenticity, but I am scared to death of being laid bare.

So I learned to be authentic in past tense. To speak of what I've overcome, how much I've changed, what I used to struggle with. But past tense authenticity isn't really authenticity at all, is it? The present tense, bare-boned kind is vulnerable and exposing. Naked, with nowhere to hide. Just me, broken and battered.

Deep down, I want to be Velveteen-Rabbit real: threadbare and worn, and loved even more for it.

But I despise my own frayed edges, torn limbs, matted fur, missing whiskers. Afraid that if anyone really saw me for who I am, there's no way they would love me... There's no way they could love me...


In an attempt at present-tense authenticity, I don't have a red bow to wrap this all together with. I don't have a grace-lined ending or some nugget of Scripture that ties this all neatly together. Just an honest confession of my constant struggle to be really real.

And I keep thinking about that stuffed bunny who became real because he was deeply loved. And how I want the opposite to be true of me.

I want to be deeply loved because I am real.

Maybe not so much despite my flaws and failures and shortcomings... but because of them.

[Originally posted at Deeper Story...]

*photo credit

i am not an island

After a decade in Africa, I finally had a friend fly out to spend a few months with me. I'd had friends visit before, but only for a couple weeks at a time. If that. But I got the gift of Natalie for two solid months. She stayed with me in my house. We ate meals together and paused for coffee breaks during the day. We went on walks and took leisurely lunches. We filled our time with laughter and tears and hearts.

We did life together.

And then she left.

I'd moved to Africa at 19. My entire adult life was spent an ocean away from my closest friends. And I'd suddenly gotten to do everyday life with one of them for two months straight.

It's one thing to miss something you'e never really had. It's another thing entirely to miss something once you've experienced it.

When Natalie left, my heart felt an ache like it never had before. I missed having a close friend in my everyday life.

And when I voiced that to a loved one, I was told I'm not spiritual enough.

"You shouldn't hold people that closely. Jesus should be enough for you."

Along with so much of my Christian upbringing, a Biblical truth was distorted into something it was never intended to be.

Yes, Jesus is absolutely more than enough for me. I don't doubt His all-sufficiency. (Well, sometimes I live like I do, but that's a whole other blog post for a whole other day...) Jesus is enough for my salvation; He alone should be my source of hope and purpose and value.

In typical God fashion, there exists this paradox in our faith:

God is enough for me. But God also created me for relationships.

I was not made to be an island. I was not intended to live life alone. I believe part of the enough-ness of my relationship with Christ comes from my relationships with others. He wants me to bare my heart to people. To be real. To love deeply and be loved deeply in return.

I want to love hard.

To miss to the point of tears.

And I want to be loved and missed that much in return.

Because in the context of that kind of intimacy, I learn so much about intimacy with Christ. I grasp more of His love. I discover different sides of His character.

My heart hurts from yet some more recent goodbyes, but I welcome that ache because of all it tells me... about love, and value, and relationship.

And I realize anew the longing in God's heart...

For me.

Originally posted at Deeper Story...

a deeper story

One of my favorite descriptions of God is that He's the author and finisher of my faith. I love words. And I express my heart through these typed letters on the screen. So it makes me smile to think of God having that same passion. He is the author of my faith. The author of me.

He is writing my story.

I'm just watching it unfold before my eyes. Watching the path appear before my feet, written into existence by the hand of God.

He is the perfect author. He needs no editor. He needs no second draft. He needs no backspace. He writes it perfectly the first time.

Author and finisher. No abandoned writing projects. No half-hearted attempts. No arms-in-the-air, "I quit!" moments.

He finishes what He starts. Completely. Thoroughly.

He is writing my story all the way to the end.

He's writing yours too. Everything that's been and all the chapters you have yet to see... all crafted by the creativity of His mind, the unbridled love of His heart, and the mighty providence of His hand.

And because He's writing them (and we're not), there is power in our stories.

They are meant to be shared.

Life is found in that place where hearts are laid bare. Sermons set aside, opinions thrown to the wind... No soapboxes, only stories.

Jesus loves to multiply meager offerings.

And like the loaves and fish, He transforms our brokenness to create new life. In us. In others.

But first we must hold out our hands.

Open our hearts.

And surrender our stories.

I'm offering my lowly lunch to Jesus along with some other incredible women on a new site called A Deeper Story. Together, we're holding out the simple stories of our lives, trusting Him to make something beautiful and life-bearing from our menial crumbs.

A Deeper Story just launched this week. Will you come hang with us?