A Different Kind of Ash Wednesday


This afternoon, I got goosebumps as I reflected on the beginning of Lent. I look forward to Lent as a time of closeness with the Lord, as He walks alongside each of us in our personal wildernesses.


I did not attend Ash Wednesday service at church this evening, because I am trying to avoid bringing the flu home to my husband and my mom — both at high risk for serious flu complications. My heart is both at home and at church, however, as I look forward to returning to church soon.

So back to the goosebumps. Maybe Lent has an even richer meaning for me after the past year, when my family trekked through the wildernesses of heart failure, depression, and anxiety. We lean on Jesus in the desert of grief as news headlines announce yet another mass shooting. Sometime plain old despair is the temptation we face in our desert.

But blessings have also abounded in recent months. Prayers for healing and recovery draw us close to the Lord and to each other.


Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’“ Matthew 4:4

“and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor”
Isaiah 63:1

I love to observe this sacred day in community, at church. Today was a different kind of Ash Wednesday, but no less rich in meaning. And Easter is on its way.



Perception and Breathing New Life



February has always been a month of contrasts for me. The magic of the first snowfall is long gone, and the once flourishing garden is a tangle of gray, dormant branches and stems. And that lingering fatigue from the latest flu strain is getting old. On the other hand, it’s time for seed catalogs, late winter pruning, and first glimpses of crocuses. I think of my Star Word of the year, “perception,” and how one scene can trigger contrasting emotions — depending on one’s perception.

Here in Boise, the temperature has been in the 60s for the past few days, so my husband John and I picked up the pruning shears and headed for the patio and garden. Later, my mom and I savored the sunlight in our front yard. I’ve seen enough winters to know that spring always returns, but I admit I am relieved when I see those first shoots emerge in late winter.


“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22

As we approach Lent and then Easter, I am keenly aware of God’s fierce and renewing love for His creation: a love that repeatedly breathes new life into our cloudy, icy mornings, and refuses to give up on any of us. It’s a love so fierce that it will lay down its life to give new life. A love that says “I forgive you” before it hears the words “I’m sorry.” A love that says “I love you where you are right now, because I can see past the dry, dead brambles and anticipate tender new growth.”

“Where man sees but withered leaves,
God sees sweet flowers growing.”
~Albert Laighton

I pray for sharpened perception as the Creator breathes new life into our dreams. What new perspective will He show us in a cherished but stale goal? What refreshed perception will we have of ourselves? What new beginnings will he create — as only He can create — out of what looks like ashes?

I hope that wherever you are, whatever your circumstances at this moment, that you sense the promise of renewal and rebirth in the coming seasons!

Perception: Who Says I Can’t Have Two Words for 2015?

Perception: My Star Word for 2015
Perception: My Star Word for 2015

Since we moved into our new home in Boise, Idaho last March, so many things have been new. I was introduced to a lovely new tradition at church this Sunday, as we celebrated the Epiphany, or the day that the Magi visited the Christ child.

After we received communion this Sunday, we each received a Star Word for the year 2015. As I turned over the star-shaped paper, I read my word: perception. In my previous blog post, I wrote about my focus on the word “mercy” for 2015. As a lover of words, I will gladly ponder, pray and learn from my Star Word, too!

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

At first glance, the word “perception” brings to my mind the age-old question, “do you perceive the glass as half empty or half full?”


Merriam Webster tells us that perception is

  • the way you think about or understand someone or something
  • the ability to understand or notice something easily
  • the way that you notice or understand something using one of your senses

To perceive can also mean to discern, realize, recognize. The word “recognize” reminds me of the walk to Emmaus after the crucifixion, when the disciples did not realize that the stranger who was walking with them was the risen Jesus.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. Luke 24:13 (NIV)

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, Ephesians 1:18 (NIV)

Will 2015 be a year of sharpened perception for me? Will it open the eyes of my heart and bring the word mercy into clearer focus? Will I see Jesus in places I didn’t expect to see Him?

Mercy and perception: so I’m starting the new year with two powerful words. Stay tuned to see what these words teach me this year!

Five-Minute Friday: Because


Welcome to Five Minute Friday, where we gather at Heading Home every week to write for five minutes straight from a prompt. That’s five-minutes of spontaneous writing, with no edits, no second-guessing 🙂

This week’s prompt is “because.” Here I go:


Because I have to write, just like I have to breathe.

Because the line was too long at the checkout. I’ll go back to the store and pick it up tomorrow.

Because sometimes I need a day off from writing.

Because I didn’t know it was going to rain today.

Because I wasn’t sure if you would actually read this.

Because I will always love you.

Because I forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer.

Because I didn’t sleep well last night and got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Because the submission deadline is two days earlier than I thought.

Because the cat was afraid of the vacuum, so I let him sleep next to us.

Because He created me this way.

Because I can carry this with His strength.

Because you can carry on, knowing that you are loved.

Because we can do all things through Him.


Time’s up! I hope you’ll link up and join us with your take on this prompt!

Five Minute Friday: Hands

Five Minute Friday


I’m happy to link up with Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes — no editing or second guessing. This week’s prompt is hands. Here we go…


By this time in the afternoon, the hands begin to ache. It starts in the fingers and works its way through the palms, pounding with every key stroke. The hours go by faster than you’d think, and these hands are more grateful than it sounds, but they do ache. Days of typing, scrolling, clicking and then the same all over again.

But is the ache from the hundreds of keystrokes and clicks? Are these hands aching for their true work, the work that You created them for? Hands can serve, embrace, comfort and write verses that draw tears. You wait for these hands to reach out not only to You, but to Your people with love.

At first I keep my hands in my pockets, wondering if I can really reach these people. Then the heart speaks and the words flow from the heart as I reach for the pen and write the true words You have burned in my soul.

Multitude Monday: 186-193


A wise friend told us the other day that home-ownership is yet another opportunity to see how Jesus answers prayers. That certainly turned out to be true last week, after we discovered a slow, bubbling leak in our front yard, coming from underground. Many phone calls followed, along with price quotes and questions about water main pipes, sprinkler control valves and frost lines. This Multitude Monday, we are indeed thankful for answered prayer and many blessings, including:

186. A much more affordable pipe repair than we had feared, completed in a few hours. How Jesus carries us through again and again!

187. Carrying water to the back yard flower beds, giving the plants CPR as we wait for a sprinkler system tune-up.  Feeling the uneven, cool ground beneath the soles of my shoes. Remembering working in a garden, years ago at my grandfather’s house. Blessed to be working in our own garden now.


188. Meeting our neighbors, waving across the street, across the yard. Respecting what has already been built, taking the first tentative steps toward belonging.

189. My first morning walk through the neighborhood…the first —  I hope — of many walks and runs!

190. Quiet evenings with the sun shining through our patio door, with no sound except for wind chime in the breeze. Able to hear ourselves think, realizing how big-city traffic had drowned out our thoughts for the past two years. Watching the birds dart through the golden light, catching bugs.


191. Watching our cat Lucky stake out his favorite new places and settle into new rituals. Catnaps under the comforter, behind the couch, in front of the door.




192. An impromptu late-afternoon nap for us as well, not realizing how much we needed plain old rest and sleep. Feeling the mind let go of the checklist, the number-crunching, the “don’t-forget-to” and “what-do-we-do-if.”

193. Seeing Jesus working in our everyday lives, renewing our hope. Knowing that He is here now, ready to catch us, comfort us or nudge us in a better direction.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

I hope you’ll join us at Ann Voskamp‘s blog for more Multitudes on Mondays. See you there!


Multitude Monday: 178-185


“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.”

Psalm 127:1 (NIV)

Early spring…what a perfect time for fresh starts, including a move to a new state! The home purchase and move took place after months — years, actually — of worries and prayers. Would we ever decide where to move? Were we waiting on the Lord’s timing? Had we misread His timing? Had we waited too long? Not long enough? The prayers of friends and family saw us through the entire process, which seemed endless during the past three months.

After an exhausting trip from Texas to Idaho, we were greeted by April showers and spring flowers at our new house. We now call Idaho home, and we feel especially blessed on this Multitude Monday. So many reasons to share gratitude…

178. A house of our own, with plenty of room and light.




179. Looking forward to a promising future with my husband.

180. Splashes of colors and sunlight in our front and back yards. We arrived in time to enjoy the flower beds planted by the previous owner.

flowers front yard 1


flowers front yard 4



181. Refreshing rain showers most of the week here in Boise, an area affected by drought.

flowers in front yard 2


flowers front yard 3

182. Our cat Lucky, adjusting very well and making himself at home.


183. Spectacular views of the Rocky Mountain foothills from the city and from our street. Pictures to come!

184. Going shopping in a new town with my mom.

185. A chance to make snowballs during the drive from Texas to Idaho. What a change after that balmy Texas climate! We look forward to four seasons here in Idaho.

I hope you are enjoying the promise of spring. Have a wonderful week!