October 13, 2018

Live Alive: a New Series Coming Soon!

Hi friends!

It has been ages since I've done any kind of regular writing here at Life in the Valley, and even more ages since committing to a series.  I feel prompted, however, this November 2018, to pour out to you a little of what has been on my mind over the last several months: What does it mean to live alive?  What would it look like if I approached life thinking "I am alive"?

Y'all know, or may not know, that I write from a Christian perspective about "life in the valley," i.e. the life we live in the normal day-to-day that makes up most of what life is for us on this planet.  The "mountain top experiences" are wonderful, but they're not where we spend most of our time.  Nope.  We come down the mountain and have to figure out how being on the peak influences and relates to how we stroll along by the streams in the valley, loving God and our neighbor in the mundane routines of daily life.

I also believe, because of who God says He is and who He's calls us to be (His very own sons and daughters!), that just because life is routine and mundane - hold on, I need to go switch the laundry and wash some dishes - doesn't make it void of meaning and something we endure until we finally get to that awesome eternal life Jesus promises us.  Oh no, my friends!

Ephesians 2:1-2a & 4-5 says:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, ... But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved -

Once we were dead, but if we are in Christ, we are alive.  That seems important!  So that's what the Life in the Valley November 2018 series is going to investigate!  What would my life look like if I lived alive?  What would your life look like if you lived fully alive?  Oh, it's gonna be fun to discover together!

Oh my gosh, writing is so much fun and helps me explore my thoughts so much better than sitting and thinking! (I envy my introverted husband who can process information in his own head and then say such intelligent things - I ain't that person!)  All that to say, I would love for you to join me on this journey to learn to live alive with me.  November first we'll get the party started!  If I get my ducks in a row, or at least slightly less all over the pond, my plan is write each weekday about one Biblical description of an alive person.  For example: alive people are kind or alive people remember they are alive.  That last one sounds silly, doesn't it? But just you wait till we get there; I'm excited about exploring the importance of that one!

In the meantime, start thinking about it:
  • Have you experienced being brought to life by God?
  • Are you living alive?
  • What the heck does that even mean?

Live alive!

May 15, 2018

On Mentoring

As I begin to write about mentoring, I wonder why you are choosing to read it.  Are you longing for someone to mentor you - to help you figure out how to figure out how to do this life that seems more complicated the older you get?  Or are you wondering how to be a mentor - seeking guidance about how to get started or what to do next?  More than likely it's the first set of reasons.  We all long to have a mentor, but cannot imagine ever feeling put together enough to be a mentor.

This past semester our church college ministry (Yay, CCO!) invited church members to mentor a student or two.  One young woman, requested me specifically as a mentor, so I was approached and asked to do so.  Friends, I am the kind of person who wants to help everybody all the time everywhere.  I know that I cannot do so, and have been in a season of saying "no" to a lot of things.  But I knew this was supposed to be a YES!  We were paired up, and the church provided us with a wonderful little book called The Gospel-Centered Life to work through together through the spring semester.

Let me tell you why this book was so wonderful: it hurt!  Every chapter and activity not only probed my mentee's heart, but it cut through my defenses as well.  Together we shared about our sin, where we get tripped up most often, what embarrasses us, how hard some of our relationships are.  Apart we tried putting into practice things we were learning, because we knew God had good in store for us and we have confidence that He can transform us.  Together we would marvel at the goodness of God and the beauty of the Gospel.  Apart we'd pray for one another and send texts during the week to encourage one another or just to say, "Hey, friend!"

And that's the best thing I learned through this mentoring experience!  When God invites us into someone's life as a mentor, it's not about dumping our life-experience or knowledge into them from a distance.  It's about sharing life together in an intentional way.  It's about being the real you, so together you get to see that God is at work in the ordinary and through the imperfect folks He calls to be His own.

Your church may not have an official mentoring program, but I know there's a gal or a guy (if you're a male reading this) out there who would love it if you'd invite them out for coffee or over for dinner (or whatever dudes like to do).  How desperately we all want to know and be known by another; we spend so much time in this life pretending.  Someone coming along behind you wants a relationship with someone a few steps ahead of them to run alongside them and cheer them on.

I'll leave the prompting and the details up to the Holy Spirit, but in summary, here's the deal:
  • To be a mentor, all you need to be is YOU.  I firmly believe you are the best at that!

  • To be a mentor, you don't even need to use the word mentor.  Simply pursue a relationship intentionally.

  • To be a mentor, walk with the Lord yourself each day.  He provides all we need to grab the hand of another and sojourn from here into eternity, or at least for a semester!
  • To be a mentor, an outside resource can be a great help.  My friend and I are going to read Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis "together" while she's home with her family this summer.

K, all!  I don't have time to really proofread this, so it is what it is!  Haha.  Have a blessed day and may the Lord lead you to that person or group of people who need a relationship with you, for the sake of the King and His kingdom.

December 17, 2017

The Prince of Peace - Part II

In the last post, I described the peace the Lord brings in to the world.  It is a peace far different from mere personal comfort or even the absence of war.  God's peace is shalom, a wholeness that only our Creator can provide for us, because we need to be made whole, but cannot heal ourselves.

I don't know about you, but I want to experience that kind of peace.  And I believe the Bible tells us three ways to do so: becoming a Christian, daily placing our faith in Christ, and sharing God's peace by living God's way.

Placing all your faith in Christ - establishing a restored relationship with God by receiving His gift of forgiveness of all your sin - is the first step to know true peace.  This is what we call "becoming a Christian."  So the big question is, do you know Jesus as your very own Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace?  He came for one purpose, to go to the cross to die for our sins, so we could be restored to right relationship with God.  The angel told Joseph, You shall give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.  (Matthew 1:21)  And Isaiah prophesied, But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (53:5)

Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace.

Believing in your heart and confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Savior and Lord is the first step to embracing the peace you long for.

Receive the best Christmas gift this Christmas!

You may be well aware of step one, so let's move to number two.  I think this is where many of us lose our way and say, "I am a Christian, but I'm not feeling the peace you're talking about."  To experience the peace God alone can give, you must keep placing your faith in Christ day by day.  Daily, the believer must remember the Lord and trust in Him.  Isaiah said, You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  (26:3)  And Paul says to the Philippians, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.   We experience God's peace and are protected by His peace as we keep our hearts and minds focused on Him, the peace-giver.  I like to think about it as a daily throwing all of my eggs in God's basket.  Trusting the Lord is  throwing all your eggs in His basket!  Every day.  Sun up to sun down.  This is the only path to peace that passes all understanding.

Throw all your eggs in God's basket!

The final way to experience God's peace is to share the peace of Christ by living for the Lord!  Again, our prophet-pal Isaiah has a good word: And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. (32:17)  Living the way God directs us to live (i.e. righteously) gives us peace in our hearts and our trust in Him increases as we see Him work in our lives.  We will know God's peace more as we obey Him, which leads us to peace with others - an increase of peace on earth.  We can be an epicenter of peace when we know Christ as our Savior and follow Him as our Lord.

Be an epicenter of peace because you know the Prince of Peace.

I hope you have gathered that the three "steps" above are not a checklist to peace, but rather a way of life that pursues, embraces, and reflects the peace offered by the Prince of Peace.  Until we live eternally with our Prince of Peace, we cannot do this perfectly.  But while we wait, let's be people of contrite and humble hearts who acknowledge our need for our Prince by surrendering to Him and living for Him, and, thus, be people who know peace and share it with a dying world.

Of the Isaiah nine passage one commentator says, "In Christ peace has come!"


Jesus said to His disciples, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives do I give it to you.  Let not your hearts be trouble, neither let them be afraid.   To modernize, He said something like this, "Hey guys, I'm giving you my peace, real true shalom that satisfies your souls.  Don't be afraid!"  The real peace we're looking for that makes us right with God and satisfies our souls, even in the midst of trial and tribulation, is found in Christ, the Prince of peace.  This peace (shalom) is a comfort to us.  We are comforted to know and experience the peace that passes all understanding.  This peace is also a challenge to us.  We are challenged to bear out this peace in the world, living at peace with all men.

Peace is not sentimental.  Peace is a person and a reality we can know in Christ.  The prince of peace is and ever shall be the Prince of Peace!  Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.

Peace is not about warm fuzzies or a neat, conflict-free life.  Peace is about salvation and transformation - our deepest needs being met by the Prince of Peace: our lives being changed, our world influenced.

May this Peace be yours this Christmas!

December 8, 2017

The Prince of Peace - Part I

Sunday evening I was invited to be the speaker at a service our church hosts once a month at a local continuing care retirement community.  There's a group of church members who regularly facilitate the service, providing musical accompaniment and structure for the time, but individuals rotate in to give a message.  I don't post much here these days, but since I have the content all typed up anyway, I thought I'd share it with you.

The Lord directed me to speak about peace, specifically the Prince of Peace.  How did He direct exactly?  Well, it went something like me thinking one morning, God, what should I talk to these people about?  I am feeling clueless and have no specific direction other than thinking it's December, so it should be Christmasy or Adventy or something.  Then later as I was praying (I journal my prayers, by the way, because, well, focus, you know), I called God the Prince of Peace, and it was like a light bulb went on.  I felt 100% positive that was the trail I was supposed to follow for the folks at St. Andrews.  Fancy, right?  Ask God for direction and He gives it.  And yet, I am still always amazed He does.  Grace upon grace!


Christmas is a time when we think a lot about peace.  We long for "peace on earth" and receive Christmas cards with the phrase, and probably an image like the one above, maybe with an outline of the world, as well.  I have a Peace decoration I put above my kitchen sink this time of year, in fact.  But what the heck is peace?  I mean, what are we talking about, and do we all think of the same thing?

The dictionary defines peace as:
  • freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility
  • freedom from or cessation of war or fighting
That sounds good, right?  A life free of disturbance and a world free from war.  Sign me up!  I really, really hate conflict.

But the Bible calls Jesus the Prince of Peace, which makes me think that maybe peace is something more that mere tranquility and the absence of war.  Maybe peace is not about my personal comfort, my plans coming to fruition without difficulty, or all nations and peoples getting along, but rather about something deeper - soul deep - a reconciliation and a comfort that we all long for, but can't create for ourselves.

Speaking of, the peace that we try to create always has an end, doesn't it?  There's often that uncomfortable feeling when things are going well that perhaps something terrible is lurking just beyond the next sunrise.  The peace we long for cannot be offered to us by the world in which we live, the governments ruling over us, or the protections and plans we put in place.

That brings me to Isaiah 9:6:

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

The Bible tells us that the Prince of Peace will usher in a government and peace that will have no end.  Peace with NO END?!  God was doing something BIG when he sent the Prince of Peace!  (By the way, the Prince of Peace is more commonly known as Christ Jesus.)

In Hebrew, peace is the word shalom, which means completeness, soundness, or well-being.  The angels announced peace to the shepherds.  Jesus spoke of His peace, a peace different than the world gives,  to His disciples as he was nearing His crucifixion and ascension.  Paul taught that when we have been justified by faith in Christ we have peace with God.  I don't know about you, but I want to experience that kind of peace!

But since this post as gotten long enough, I'll save the details of how to experience the peace offered to us by the Prince of Peace in a subsequent post.  Advent is all about waiting, right?

Till next post, grace and peace,

March 3, 2017

Walks for WASH

One day last week as I had laundry running, dishes drying in the sink, and a cool glass of water in my hand, I thought about how amazing it is to have access to water all. the. time.  I began to wonder, then, how to combine this thought with the Lenten season, to get our family thinking about relieving the stain on others' lives (loving our neighbor) through these six weeks before Easter.   World Vision is one organization that I know endeavors to alleviate and eliminate poverty in the world, so I got on their site and looked around for their water initiatives.  They have great things going on.  Their main water initiative is WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).

The most surprising thing I learned was how water collection effects girls' education.  Girls and women are usually the water fetchers, and since they can spend more than half their day walking back and forth to bring water home, their opportunities to go to school are limited, if not completely impossible.  Other effects of lack of clean water access are better known, like diseases that weaken or kill and the inability to grow food.  Yet I am shocked by my complacency as I enjoy my comfortable access to a liquid that enables me to do so many things.

With all of these thoughts floating in my mind, I wanted to come up with some way to incorporate giving clean water into our family's Lenten season.  After speaking with my husband, I decided we could walk a mile a day through these six weeks to remind us of those who walk much more each day simply to have clean-er (cause let's face it, it's not clean!) water.  At this point, I'm not even sure what we will be contributing; I'm trusting God to bring that to light over these weeks of examination and reflection.  But I wanted to use this space to invite you to join us!

I'm not going to start up a Go Fund Me page or anything.  If you feel compelled to give, please do.  In fact, here is World Vision's page with donation opportunities that involve bringing water to communities.  You can give a share of a well, water to a family, a whole well, etc.  If you want to pledge to our walkathon-ish thing we've got going on, let me know.  I'd be happy to put together a larger collection to give on Easter Sunday to World Vision; the kids would love that!  Perhaps you'd like to walk a mile every day in solidarity, as well!*

I cannot even imagine how different my life would be if, like many mothers in the developing world, my children and I had to walk 3 or 4 miles every day (maybe more than once) to get the water we needed to survive!  We'll be working to learn more over Lent and I'll share off and on about those things.  No one in a world like ours should go without access to clean water.  Don't you agree?

To close, here are a few photos of the last couple of days. The weather here is bonkers!

It rained on our first day, and the little one's feet got too hot.
She took a short break.

 Snow on the second day

This is our jerrycan to keep track of our miles;
Containers of this shape are common for carrying water in Africa.

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
John 4:13-14 

*If you decide to give or walk with us and want to let the kids know, that would be fantastic.  They'd love to hear that others are behind them as their mom makes them walk a mile every day. (Poor kids! haha)  There's snow on the ground here today!

January 28, 2017

A Valentines Challenge for You, Married Person!

February is upon us.  Around here that means we're starting to think about our youngest's birthday, which happens to fall on Valentine's day.  Since she was born, Valentines day - a day I could focus on my husband and give him some much-deserved attention - is often overshadowed by celebrating her wonderful little life.  While folding laundry this week, an idea came to mind that could remedy this problem: lead up to Valentines day by sharing with him one thing I love about him each day during the first two weeks of the month.

Coming up with ways to keep the romance alive when you've been married for a while can be challenging, can't it?  Kids distract, work overwhelms, exhaustion overtakes, and our spouse does that little thing that really annoys us, and why don't they just stop it!  ;)  We must be creative and proactive to keep our till-death-do-us-partner in life at the forefront.  Taking him or her for granted is far to easy, which is why I share this idea with you.

The Challenge, should you accept it:
  1. Spend some time thinking about your spouse: What attracted you to them?  What are some of your favorite memories together?  What do you love about them: looks, personality, behaviors, style, gifts, etc.?
  2. Make a list of fourteen things, (twenty-eight if you want to do the whole month), so you are ready to go.
  3. Starting on February 1, write them a note or whisper in their ear each day one thing that you love about them.
  4. Be prepared with a couple of reasons why you love that attribute of who they are - my husband always asks when I compliment him!
  5. Be prepared to find that you really do quite like that person who keeps you awake with their snoring at night!

There you are, then.  Whatever you do to celebrate the marriage God has given you, I pray He would strengthen you to know how high, long, wide, and deep His love is for you in Christ.  And may that love fill you to overflowing into the lives of others in your homes, workplaces, towns, and cities.

Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 3:18

December 18, 2016

Fighting for Christmas

Eight-twenty this morning was a comical and accurate example of what December has felt like for me this year!  My phone dinged a notification.  I was working on this post and it was a couple of moments till I checked my phone.  My daughter had to be at church 5 minutes ago to acolyte for the first service!  Obviously it was on my calendar, but I never noticed it this week.  She was sound asleep snuggled under her blankets, recovering from a busy weekend that included a youth lock-in.  Intentionally, I was letting her sleep in.  Oops!  Well, I threw on clothes as quickly as I could, slipped into a coat and boots, grabbed my purse, and drove way-too-fast to church to sub for her!  Thank goodness I'd showered the night before - it's the little gifts!!

Even better, I really enjoyed being in the service.  Immensely.  The choir's anthem fit so well with the Sunday School lesson I had ready for the youth this morning on the transfiguration in Mark 9 - the glorious Christ, the center of Christmas Himself on beautiful display.  The sermon was about celebration and fit so well with the post you are about to read, confirming for me the need to interrupt my hiatus to write this Christmas.

I have been needing to get this all down, to get the thoughts in my head sorted out one way or another.  Hopefully these words are not only a help me, but to you too, dear reader.  I wish you a very merry Christmas, giving this to you as my gift!  Cling to Christmas with all your might!!

Earlier this month in an Advent devotional provided by our church, which includes Bible passages and selected readings from C.S. Lewis, I read:

Christianity is a fighting religion.
It thinks God made the world - that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colors and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out of His head" as a man makes up a story.  But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.

Christianity is a fighting religion.  I don't know what December has been like for you, but I think that sentence really struck me because I feel like I have been fighting this month - fighting for Christmas to win over in my heart.  Not Christmas-the-feeling promoted by Deck the Halls, White Christmas, and Holly Jolly, but Christmas-the-Truth proclaimed by Joy to the Word, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

December has been a tug-of-war in my heart and mind between the Truth and the lies.  I have been more impatient and frustrated in the last few weeks than I have been in a while, and for no good reason that I can find other than the reality of the earthly battle every Christian faces against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And oh!  How the latter would love to see us stop fighting:
  • to give up on the Advent readings with our family, because it seems like no one is listening;
  • to let go of the traditions, because they seem like too much this year;
  • to give in to all the stress of preparations, because it's more natural to complain than rejoice;
  • to take our eyes of that precious manger, because it seems more comforting to wring our hands and lament than to cast our cares on Him and live in the freedom Christmas heralds into the world;
  • to forget about loving our neighbor generously, because we aren't sure we have the reserves to care for anyone else.

Christianity is a fighting religion.  And I'm gonna fight!  Why?  Because I know Jesus.  Because there is victory over the grave.  Because I'm in enemy territory and I want to stand firm.  For What?  Not a feeling, but for Truth.
  • So my kids can taste and see that God is GOOOOOD. 
  • So that in my little spheres of influence I might have the opportunity to see the Kingdom come in new ways.
  • So that I can see my Savior demonstrate His strength in my weakness.
  • So that God can be glorified, as He is worthy to be.

None of us are entitled to anything, not even a holly, jolly Christmas. But Christians know the Prince of Peace.  And we can let Him rule in our hearts.  As Lewis points out, we can participate in God's work of putting the world right again.

So when I lose my patience, I ask my kids and my Gracious God to forgive me.  When I feel my pulse quickening with anxiety about gifts, or plans, or not measuring up, I stop and look to my Good Shepherd to takes my hand and says I love you, always, little lamb; let's take each day one step at a time.  I will lead you.  When I want to grumble, grovel, or gripe, I will turn on the Pandora Christmas Hymns station and let the lyrics permeate my mind and soul.  When we pass a bell ringer and her red bucket, I dig in my wallet, the kids throw in coins, and we talk about God's love .  Through all of those things I am reminded how the Lord has put my soul right with Him thought Christ, and it renews my desire to be a part of His ministry of reconciliation in the world.

Christmas, true Christmas, is restored in my heart.

Every time we choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, despite every fiber of our being wanting us to go in the opposite direction, we are fighting the good fight!  Every time we repent and believe the good news, heaven rejoices and hope is restored!  Every time we put our neighbor's interests before our own, the Kingdom comes and Christmas is rightly observed!

Christmas is God-come-down, true, life-changing love.  That "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" came to rescue a world lost in sin and destined for death and destruction.  When our hearts are filled with the faith to believe that Truth, well, everything is different.  Christmas holds fresh new wonder, and will year after year!

We have a choice.

Will you fight with me? 

Let's start here.  Sing along and rejoice!

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"