All posts tagged relationship

Sleepless in Misery

Published March 19, 2018 by Dawn

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Insomnia and I have a long history. As far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled to sleep. The boogie man was real to me, and I have always slept with one eye open.

We became considerably closer when I moved out of my mom’s house. My kids and I lived in a three-bedroom house and my son slept in the back bedroom for the first few weeks. I didn’t sleep much. His room had a window, and I couldn’t sleep at night, fearing that in the back of the house while I slept, someone might snatch my kid right out of his bed. It was a paralyzing fear, really. I mollified myself by moving my son into the middle bedroom with my daughter. Oddly enough, the middle bedroom didn’t have windows, and after that adjustment, I slept alright for three years.

When I bought our house, nearly ten years ago, I was suddenly faced with an overwhelming problem: my house has six-foot-tall windows in almost every room. Two. In each room. My kids were getting old enough to have their own rooms, and I wanted them to, but the first few months, I hardly slept at all. I was exhausted, to say the least. It was obvious that living every day on little sleep wasn’t going to be sustainable much longer. I was already a single mom with a full time job and college. Sleeplessness was about to wreck me.

When exhaustion had me at my breaking point, the Lord said to me, “You have to deal with this fear.” I didn’t want to. You see, I believed in the boogie man. I had reason to. He was real and every window in my house was an opportunity for the boogie man to steal my children and inflict horrific torture on their little bodies and souls. I was petrified every night! I could lock him out with dead bolts, but my windows scared me so much. Finally, though, the Lord encouraged me to deal with my fear. He said, “Do you believe I can keep you safe?”

“Of course I do.”

“Then you must believe for your children, too. Just ask me every night to keep you safe in your home. I will be faithful.”

It seemed so easy. Just ask.

So I did. I asked the Lord to keep us safe and He was faithful. He has kept us safe every night for almost ten years. I still pray this nightly. And with this prayer came peace in my heart and rest in my bed.

This scripture kept jumping out at me, so I thought I’d share this. It’s awesome that God cares about our lack of peace in certain areas of our lives. I encourage you to pray to Him about what is keeping you up at night. Whatever it is: God knows, He cares and He will take care of you.


My Defender

Published January 11, 2018 by Dawn

I was standing outside my office chatting with a coworker today when a loud, angry voice cut into our conversation.

“Who do you think you are?”

We both froze. Her eyes got wide and she looked anxiously over my shoulder. I turned slowly to see what she was looking at, afraid to see what was going on behind me. The voice continued to loudly, sternly explain itself to an unknown offender we neither could see. Neither of us recognized the voice, but we stood there, shamefully listening, trying to figure out who was behind the tirade less than twenty feet from us but hidden behind a wall. Finally, we identified the speaker by what he was protesting. He angrily continued, “You may talk bad about myself or my wife behind our backs and we would never know, but you will not sit in my class and talk bad about anyone in my family.”

Right after I recognized his voice, the reality of what was happening hit me so powerfully: the quietest man I know, the calmest and most level-headed man I know suddenly became one of the fiercest. He was defending his wife against an attack she most likely knew nothing about in that moment, and he had put the accusing student in his place in such a powerful way, it sent shockwaves down the hallway that affected anyone within hearing distance. It was startling and wild and beautiful.

When I got off work today, I checked the mail on my way in the house and found something there that shook me. I am susceptible to emotional tsunamis when crises hit, and my initial reaction was to run into my room, cry and call my mom for a freak-out session. I reacted like I normally do, but when I got off the phone, I immediately remembered listening to my coworker defend his wife and I realized that I, too, have a defender. I have a heavenly Husband who loves me and the Bible tells me that He confronts my enemies. He vindicates me. He destroys the work of the enemy and scatters them in all directions. I finally understand what it means for God to be our defender. You see, God is not just love. Love is an attribute of God. So is merciful, graceful, and many other wonderful things. But the Bible also says that God is just. He is jealous and He defends those who love Him.

I qualify.

The turbulent waters became immediately placid inside me. The tsunami didn’t happen this time. For the first time in forever. I finally know what it feels like to know that God is going to take what Satan purposes for evil and turn it around for my good. I know what the face of a defender looks like. I know what the voice of a defender sounds like. And I know that the enemy trembles when a Husband stands up for His bride. For the first time in my life, I feel secure leaving all of life’s triviality in God’s hands. I pray the Holy Spirit reveals this wisdom to you in such a powerful way, you come to truly understand what it means to be defended by our heavenly King.  He loves us fiercely, and defends us even more so.


Are You a Wedding Crasher?

Published August 10, 2017 by Dawn

“The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:29-30).

I’ve been in four weddings, none of them my own. I have thus far only been a bridesmaid. I have always loved getting the call to attend the bride in some capacity, though one thing is always abundantly clear from the get-go: it’s HER big day. Her day. All that I did in preparation for each wedding was with “her” wishes at the forefront of my mind. I wore the dress “she” picked out, put on make-up, let someone else fix my hair how “she” wanted it. I loved every minute of it.

Each time I walked down that aisle ahead of “her” big moment, I walked next to a man “she” chose (or her soon-to-be groom, as it were) and stood where “she” wanted me in the front. I was simply there to see my beautiful friend get married to the love of her life.

One thing a bridesmaid knows (or should know) instinctively is that this day is not about “you.” It’s about “her.” Wedding etiquette might be a short list, but there are definitely a few things you don’t do:

  • You don’t wear white. EVER.
  • You don’t propose at someone else’s wedding/reception.
  • You don’t argue with the bride or groom … it’s “their” day, not “yours.”

John the Baptist used the analogy of a wedding to explain his relationship to Jesus when his disciples became concerned that Jesus was stealing John’s thunder. John simply said, in effect, “it’s not my day, it’s his.” All that John did in ministry was to point others to Jesus. His heart’s desire, and great delight, was for other people to be a part of what Jesus was doing. Everything John did was for Jesus to be noticed, loved, celebrated, etc. John knew wedding etiquette and he knew his place.

Proverbially speaking, John went down that aisle first, looking, speaking, and acting just as Jesus wanted him to. But he wasn’t the main attraction. He was simply the prelude. At this point in his ministry, this was the moment when he would have been approaching the front, stepping to the side and taking his position next to the man of the hour: the bridegroom.

I’ve never seen it done, but I’ve read horror stories of brides and/or their grooms being upstaged at their wedding. Unfortunately, some people can’t stand to be in the background. I found a group of such people as I read further on in John today. Chapter 11:47-48 tells it like this: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”

You guessed it … it was the Pharisees. The Chief Priests. A little to smug in their positions, they had forgotten their calling. You see, the Pharisees had taken pride in their positions, forgetting that they were called for one purpose: to draw attention to God. To magnify God. To exalt God. To lead people to God. They had a really hard time stepping out of the way so the Lord could have a personal relationship with His people. They upstaged the bridegroom, so to speak, and it really upset them when He tried to take his rightful place. They were afraid of losing their influence in society, their positions which had always made them feel superior to the people they ministered to, and all the finery that their position afforded them. They didn’t want to be servants, because that was too humbling. They wanted the center-stage with lights, and they wanted the love of the nation to bolster their pride.

Which are you: friend or foe? Do you live to make Jesus known, or yourself? Is the ministry God has called you to “your” ministry, or His? Take this test: if God told you to step down tomorrow and live in obscurity doing menial tasks in the church – or no tasks at all –  how would you respond? Don’t hide the truth from yourself, get real!

I believe we have to ask this of ourselves often in the ministry: what is my motive in this? Who gets the glory? If the answer isn’t Jesus, we’re not being a very good friend of the bridegroom. Our callings get us up out of the pews and a little closer to the limelight, but that spotlight isn’t ever for us. It’s to draw attention to Jesus. To direct the gaze of others to their beloved groom and watch in fascination and awe when their eyes meet for the first time. If we go beyond that, we have sinned greatly against our Friend, at the least. We may lose our position in the ceremony and be thrown out, if we aren’t careful! Take heed, and be a true friend of the Bridegroom!

Planted in Christ

Published March 13, 2017 by Dawn

It all started with an egg carton and a whimsical fancy.

I bought a tray of 30 eggs the last time I went shopping, and after using them up, I noticed that the egg carton seemed extremely useful. I was immediately sure of what I wanted to do with it, because on a whim, I had bought flower seeds just a few days before and suddenly, I had the perfect planter to start them in. I planted a different seed in each row, putting down a little bit of potting soil before dropping the seed, then covering each one with a layer of potting soil in top. Then I watered them. I measured the water with an oral syringe, making sure each seed got the same amount. That’s more care than I’ve ever put into planting. This is the third time I’ve planted flowers, and twice before, I labored for hours over the flower boxes and tossed the seeds in prepared soil while hoping for the best. This time, I was meticulous. Every day for the next two weeks, I measured out the water the same way and made sure each had a decent amount. Remembering that April showers bring May flowers, I was liberal with it. The water soaked through the soil, the cardboard and trailed along the table. Those seeds had all the water a seed might need.

I checked my homemade flowerbed every day for two weeks, watching for a sprout. Amidst all of the brown, I noticed a tiny bit of green a few days ago. My first shoot! A closer inspection before bed revealed nine more! I excitedly said to my kids, “Look what I have grown!” Immediately, my spirit was indignant.

“What you have grown?”

Ah, pride.

The Holy Spirit reminded me of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3, “I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. He who plants and he who waters are one in purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor…”

Clearly, it was absurd of me to claim that I had grown anything. I had put a lot of meticulous work into the process, but although I planted and watered the seed, there would be no growth unless the life God put inside it is awakened by God himself. The growth is a miracle of which I am not capable. I am literally going through the motions if God is not doing His work. I believe the same can be said of anyone who finds themselves in a ministry of any kind. It doesn’t matter how much time, energy or thought we put in to anything. If God is not in it, creating life in the midst of our efforts, it’s all in vain.

I also took notice of the amount of water these seeds needed. Every year, the beauty of spring arrives through the coaxing of an abundance of rain. Before that seed sprouts up into something unique and wonderful, it nearly drowns underground. The beautiful thing it soon will be is delicately prepared under a lot of dirt and water. The same is true for us. The beauty that God is meticulously preparing in each of us happens in place of darkness and distress, but if we are willing to accept the pouring out of the Holy Spirit in those dark places, if we are receptive to Him, we will eventually come out from beneath the load of it and show forth a beauty that could not otherwise exist.

Another thing I have learned about plants over the past few years of breeding aloes in my dining room is that plants grow toward the light. Their shoots reach toward the sun. A few days without a light source and plants wither. All other things being the same, couldn’t it also be said of us? How can a Christian expect to remain strong without a light source? Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” We need His face shining on us, and we must behold Him daily lest we begin to falter, or cease to grow. Like plants, we will naturally yearn for our light source and reach for it. But there are so many distractions!

I have a Bonsai on my dining room table, and every once in a while, I have to dust it’s leaves because if I don’t, the tree cannot grow. Although it has water and sunlight, it cannot photosynthesize correctly if the leaves cannot absorb the sunlight without distraction. We Christians must also keep ourselves clean of distractions if we intend to grow uninhibited in the Lord.

There are many things in nature that mirror our relationship with the Lord. All the things He has made reveal who God is in our lives. He has taken great care so that we may know Him. Keep reaching for Him, be receptive to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and free yourself from distractions so that you may continue to know Him more. God bless!


Published August 26, 2016 by Dawn

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Since night running is no longer an option around here, I had to schedule my run during the daytime. I have not been feeling up to getting up really early, so I chose to schedule my run for right after work while the kids are at their sport practices. Turns out a really great idea as far as timing goes. The weather, however, makes it more of a chore than I anticipated. Take yesterday, for instance.

Of course, yesterday is an extreme example. There was a lot of mitigating factors going on. Firstly, I skipped lunch. I did have breakfast, but it was two poptarts, which only count as empty calories with no significant nutritional benefit to account for. I had two 8 oz. cans of V8 around lunchtime, but nothing in the way of food. My water intake was next to nil, but I still naively thought running would be a breeze. I didn’t realize the weather was also against me.

It was a perfect day … for the beach. Ninety-four and sunny. No clouds. Not even a hint of one on the horizon. No chance of rain. I went running at midday heat. Of course, I took my faithful partner along … the dog. We walked a little first, so he could do his business beforehand. Mission complete, and we were off!

It seems like all there is around here is hills. But not the kind that do down. Just the up-side of them. I don’t know how that works out but it’s a pretty amazing trick nature has played on us here. I immediately noticed that running was much harder from my new start point, but I just pressed forward, urging my pained muscles to take step after step long after I wanted to quit … five minutes into my run. That’s not even half a mile.

We were on the biggest hill when the dog made his first stop. He just needed to sniff a powerful trail. It ticked me off. Stopping is the worst, because then I have to exert more of an effort to start running again, because inertia is no longer in play. I reflexively said to my dog through gritted teeth, “Oh my gosh, I hate you!”

Don’t judge me. I was hot, I had no energy  and I was in the middle of a hill!

That was all the excuses I used to justify my heart attitude toward my dog. About a mile into our run, he began to really fatigue. I suddenly felt like, no longer was I just pushing myself to run, I was pulling my dog along for the ride. He tried to stop several times, but each time, I said something mean in a tone of voice that thoroughly intimidated him and he immediately picked up the pace again.

Two miles in, I needed to rest. The little bit of water I had brought was almost gone, my muscles were suffocating, I couldn’t breathe and we were facing yet another giant hill. I noticed a house that had a “for sale” sign in the yard and a vacancy notice on the door, so we stepped off the sidewalk into the shaded yard and rested ourselves on the front step of the house. My poor puppy sank down into the grass and panted. I squeezed the last few drops of water onto his tongue. Together, we rested for ten minutes before starting out on our last little bit.

We walked most of our last mile. I ran a few times, but at this point, the heat was really getting to me and my legs, chest and upper back were hurting from exertion. We made it back to our car much later than I anticipated, and melted into the seats while waiting for the air to cool down enough to shut the doors and hole up in our cold haven until the kids were done.

Horrible run.

I attended my mind to the Holy Spirit while I was running because it’s what I do. No sense in letting my mind wander for an hour if I can just as easily be taught in that time. So I listened. Every complication on my run had a spiritual implication:

  • I ate junk for breakfast – Sometimes, we fill up on “junk” and expect to run our race well. But junk has no value, and we find ourselves exerting so much more effort, relying on our natural selves because the junk has failed us. This junk comes from the things we watch, listen to and say throughout the course of a day.
  • What little good I had (the V8) wasn’t enough – Sometimes, the little good we take in (Sunday sermons, daily devotionals, etc.) isn’t enough. We need more substantive nourishment (ie. Time in the Word of God) to run our race with endurance.
  • No shade is a killer – “Under His wings you will find refuge.” We need to be sheltered sometimes. We need rest and retreat on our run. It’s refreshing! Don’t be afraid to duck out of the limelight and be sheltered at times. It’s often imperative to running a good race.

In addition to all of this, the Lord shared some great things about running with a partner. My life journey doesn’t include a husband yet, but it could one day and here’s what I gleaned from this run with my dog:

  • Our partners get sidetracked – My dog chases rabbits, follows scents and sometimes, just stops to “feel out” a place. It’s a selfish run if I don’t let his needs be fulfilled too. His needs matter to him as much as mine matter to me.
  • Our partners may need a break – Running is hard work. In this race called “life,” very few of us are taking it in stride. Our partners grow weary, restless, etc. just like we do. They may need to take a break and that has to be okay unless we plan on leaving them to forge ahead on our own.
  • Sometimes I pulled him, sometimes he pulled me – the lovely thing about a partnership is the shared work. I have to admit, though. I loved being pulled much more than I loved pulling. I didn’t want to drag him along, but I didn’t mind being dragged myself. I didn’t mind the extra help, just the demand on my faculties to reciprocate it. This was not a good partnership.
  • I was mean – When my dog struggled, I was not supportive. I was hateful. I told him I hated him. Called him names. Yanked his leash. Rolled my eyes. Huffed. I did not recognize his needs, or care about his desires. I had a goal and I mercilessly pursued the finish line, disregarding any trauma caused by my selfish disdain cast in his direction. Also not a good way to foster that relationship.

Yes, life is a race of sorts. In order to run well, we have to eat healthy stuff (reading the Bible, filling up on good media), take a break to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, and if God gives us a partner, be mindful of his or her needs. We should encourage those God puts in our lives and be willing to share their burdens as much as we desire them to share ours. This is how we run well.


Imperceptible Growth

Published August 22, 2016 by Dawn

There’s a tree on my dining room table. It’s a lovely gift from a good friend, which I received in April and surprisingly, have kept alive since then. I was afraid for a while because leaves were falling off one branch at a very rapid pace and I was sure I had somehow killed it. Even though the idea of pruning seems counter-intuitive, I thought to save my tree by cutting off that branch that was only producing death, to divert the water and food intake toward the healthy part of the tree. I gritted my teeth and snipped it off. Then came the wait.

I eagerly watched the tree, day after day, waiting to see of anything new would grow and assure me I hadn’t killed my tree. Days turned into weeks, but nothing new seemed to be growing. It was a very scary waiting time for me. I was told these trees were hard to keep alive, but I wanted it to live so badly. It’s beautiful!

A few months after clipping the branch, the inevitable finally happened. Three days ago, I noticed a small sprout near the base of the tree. Almost overnight, it seemed to have shot up and unfurled its first leaf. Two days since, today, I noticed a second shoot coming up near it, and another leaf next to the first one. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My tree is going to live! Not only is it going to live, it’s going to flourish. It is growing!

I thought about our lives and how this tree is the perfect analogy to the inner ministry that the Holy Spirit is doing in each one of us. After Jesus gifts us back to the Father through His saving grace, we become a new creation. Our Father tenderly cultivates us so that we may grow in all the fruits of the Spirit and become more Christ-like. This includes an often painful pruning of the old, dead stuff. This pruning must be endured and surely hurts. Things that hinder our growth are removed.

Then comes the agonizing wait. We often cannot see the purpose in this pruning. We feel the pain of it, but we don’t see immediate growth and during the wait, it is tempting to believe that we have been left to wither away. It seems inevitable. But you know what is inevitable, if we trust in the wisdom of God during this process? Growth.

Having removed all the things that disable us in our walk with the Lord, He has actually redirected our attention, our energy and all that sustains us toward the parts of us that are good and capable of thriving under His delicate care. Soon, we see a small evidence pop up that assures us we are growing more and more like Christ. This small sprout will grow in its own time, often imperceptibly,  until it is as big a part of us as those things the Lord redeemed from before.

Imperceptible growth. It’s what’s happening on the inside during the waiting. You can’t see it, but it’s happening just the same. Believe it. Receive it. In Jesus’ name! Not only will we grow in Him, we will flourish!

Painting Alongside Our Father

Published July 20, 2016 by Dawn

I decided last week to paint the porch a brighter color. I picked a teal color simply because of all the half-used paint cans in my collection, I liked this one the best. Without a whole lot of careful preparation, I just got up one day and started pulling things down and washing the wood in preparation. Then I started painting.

About half-way through, I decided I wanted my kids to help me. Child labor’s nice and all, but it wasn’t even about that. It was about them sharing in the transformation of our home. I wanted them to be a part of changing things up around here. I asked them if they wanted to help and they both did, so I pulled out a few more brushes and directed both of them to a part of the porch that was specifically “theirs.”

That’s when things got messy.

What I had begun, and been careful in, had suddenly become a little more careless and chaotic. Paintbrushes were whipped about with little to no precision, leaving paint on siding and portions of the walls I didn’t intend for it to ever touch. My porch carpet became a two-toned throwback to nineties paint splatter. And near the finish line, they both called it quits and left me to finish it alone.

Want to know something? I thoroughly anticipated all of this happening. I know my kids well enough to know they are a little less concerned about perfection. They like to enjoy themselves and when the fun wears off, they head off looking for something more entertaining. They’re a little reckless, so the paint everywhere was exactly what I expected. Thank God, I’ve become so chill because my past self could not have handled all of this “help.”

As I stood with my hands on my hip on my fresh-prince carpet, I realized that this is us and our Father, working together on something He could do alone – and undoubtedly do with a lot less of a mess – but He loves to pull us into this work of changing our world. He loves to see the wonder in our eyes and appreciates the joy we receive from it. He knows some of us will get antsy and walk away from the job unfinished, searching for something else to do. He knows we’ll color outside the lines and make His perfect plan look more like a Picasso than a Monet. Still, He hands us a brush and delightfully watches us do our little portion of the work with all our hearts.

I love that about Him. God is so chill. And I love this gentle reminder because I have a judgmental side, and often the Holy Spirit has to remind me that to their own masters, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand (Romans 14:4). Honestly, I can’t tell you who got paint on the carpet, who painted the siding or who left me hanging first. That wasn’t my focus. I appreciated every moment of their time with me, and I chose to focus on what little time I had working beside each of them. I know that one day, our works will be tried by fire (1 Corinthians 3:13). I am learning, however, that Judgment Day is an appointed time, and I don’t want to live in it prematurely, tormenting myself with what God thinks of my pitiful attempts. Nor do I want to live in judgment of others any more. We are all working together toward a common goal, messing things up a little as we go and no doubt, putting a great big smile on God’s face because we have managed to be a little childlike in our feeble attempts to make a difference in the world around us.