I just picked up my baby boy from band practice. Rock band practice. How did he get so grown? My two older boys aren’t boys anymore; they’re grown men with grown-up goals and grown-up worries. What happened to my stair-step blondies?   Think of all the timelines we measure our lives by. Birthdays. School grades. …
My dog peed on my bed. One minute, I’m fluffing my pillows and snuggling in for the night, and, the next, I’m screeching at Riff to stop midstream and yanking the quilt off the bed before the pee hit the sheets. And it’s a good thing the pee missed the sheets. As I crammed my …
It’s been a while since I wrote anywhere but my journal. I’ve been worn slap out: body, mind and soul. The last six months have been a combobulation of heaven and hell. The shame and pain over my husband’s rejection continues to break my heart into a million pieces. But, through the shards shines the solid …
As I muddle through month five of an unwanted separation from my husband, my circumstances don’t exactly shout out, “HOPE!” to the rooftops. With each day, the distance between us grows, and I have no clue if that will ever change. Left to my own tendencies, I’d be a frayed and knotted mess right about …
My new journal is filling up fast these days. I find my day goes much better if I start it with Jesus. I’ve known this for decades, but, these days, I can’t afford to mess around. I wish I could go back and redo my life by clinging to Jesus with the same urgency I …
Don’t you love it when you hear a message that seems like it was just for you? On Sunday, Pastor Ken took us to a familiar passage in Daniel. As I flipped to Daniel 3, I glanced at two of my kindergarten Sunday school girls sitting in the row in front of me. We just …
If you’re visiting from Karen Ehman’s blog, welcome! It means a lot to have you here. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a selection from my first book, Prayer Gifts While You Wait: Grace for as Long as it Takes. Karen is giving away three copies, so be sure to head over and leave a comment …
I was the boss of the Fisher Price medical bag on Sunday. Our bible story was about poor sick Naaman sick with leprosy (2 Kings 5). While some of the kindergarteners fashioned the Jordan River out of blocks and others dunked plastic toys in water tubs, I let cutie pie doctors fix me right up. …
I have an announcement to make. Today—right now—I’m taking back my joy. When my husband left a little over two months ago, I fell for one of Satan’s favorite lies: Joy and happiness are joined at the hip. They are not, and I refuse to live another day as if they are. The joy of the …
Don’t you just love it when God slips a word of encouragement under your door? Well, in my case, He slipped it into my inbox, just when I needed it. My family is in turmoil, and I have no idea what will happen. As I settle in at my new apartment, my heart feels like …
Have you ever felt like punching someone in the throat? Sometimes, pain fills us up to the top of our tolerance. The excess has to go somewhere, right? This scene from the movie Steel Magnolias captures one of those ugly moments.   We can’t take it out on Weezer, friends. As good as punching someone may feel …
I totally forgot about April Fools Day. Since I can’t fib convincingly to save my life, I seldom come out to play on April Fools Day. It wasn’t until I saw my FB feed full of fake pregnancy announcements that I realized what day it was. As I scanned through all those “tee-hees” and “LOL’s”, I …
Like a good Bible should, my Bible is marked up with ink and highlighter. Instructions for living the God life. Kick-in-the-tail reminders of changes I need to make. And the promises…lots and lots of promises from God’s heart to mine. The other day, I ran across a humdinger of a promise from Isaiah shared on …
Nothing like a birthday to turn me as reflective as the bathroom mirror. I’m 44 now, and I have a choice. I can focus on all the things about me that still need changing, or I can focus on all the blessings God keeps pouring into my life. Hmmm…I think I’ll pick Door Number TWO!  Happy …
Consistency is NOT my middle name. My family, friends and regular blog readers are probably saying, “No, really?” right about now. It doesn’t take long for folks to catch wind of my pattern. I resolve to make a change and make lofty commitments to anyone who will listen. But, within a week or two, I’m …
Is Valentine’s Day a day you dread? Does all the romance in the air choke your spirit and leave you in a pile of Hershey Kiss wrappers? Don’t let it get you down, Sister! You have a valentine whose love never fails! Receive this prayer gift from my heart, sweet sisters! Full of love and …
Bible study was cancelled last week, and I sure missed it. I missed a mid-week helping of Pastor Gary’s passion for God’s Word. I missed authentic discussion from Believers who know lots about suffering. I missed unabashed questions from new Believers desperate to understand our mysterious God. This week, Gary took us to Job 1:6-22 …
Do you recall the awkwardness of sixth grade? Not quite a teen but too big for our little kid britches. When I was in sixth grade, my parents moved me from Forest Hill Elementary School to a private school, Agnew Town and Country Day School. I left my comrades I’d had since 1st grade and …
Lord, give us active, hands-on love for all children.
Each week, I get to spend the Sunday school hour with a herd of quirky kindergarteners. I hate to brag, but the kindergarteners at the Heart of Mesa just happen to be the cutest, funniest, smartest kindergarteners in the history of kindergarteners. I love watching them play and interact with each other. I love how …
January sped by like a rabbit with a wolf on its tail. I spent the month cleaning, purging and packing. As I sit here at my kitchen table, I see evidence of “my word” for 2014. It took FOCUS to get it all done. And boy did it feel good! We’ll be moving into a smaller, …
The devil is a sneaky snake. I’ve known this for a while now, but he showed off his skills again this week. A couple weeks ago, my pastor started a Wednesday study of the book of Job. After the first session, the Lord prompted me to write a series of prayer gifts based on Job. …
Super Bowl Sunday and other huge sporting events are not just about the sports. Such events are big-business for sex traffickers. The thought of young women forced into prostitution to satisfy the ugly greed of their pimps and the putrid lust of their paying customers makes me sick. And furious. And, for just a minute, …
We got an offer on our house! And now…we wait for the powers-that-be to tie a red tape bow on the deal to make it official. I doubt the mortgage company shares my desire for the fast track. I’m ready to get on with it already! A new place with a clean slate. Waiting is …
Since I’m a slow learner, God gave me the opportunity to facilitate the same Bible study twice a week. On Sunday nights and Tuesday mornings, I’m leading two groups of ladies through Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. My attendees range from moms of kindergarteners to retired grammies and …
I almost skipped Bible study last night. It’s been a stressful week, and, honestly, I didn’t feel like being nice. I just wanted to hide in my room under my comfy quilts and to play Candy Crush. But my devoted-momma self won out. If I stayed home, so would my 14-year old son, Jacob, and …
I should buy stock in Windex. We’re trying to sell our home so we can downgrade into something smaller and more affordable. I’ve been scrubbing baseboards and shining surfaces like a mad woman! Bathrooms are the hardest because of the mirrors. Everytime I turn around, my worn-out reflection stares me down. You wouldn’t have to …
The other morning, I woke up with filthy, black fingernails. I stared at them with disgust and said to myself, “What the heck? Did I do bare-handed gardening in the night or what?” Then, I remembered. I used newspaper to pack up some breakables before collapsing in bed in utter exhaustion. The Merrills have been …
My Android phone bit the dust well before I’m eligible for an upgrade, so I’m now the proud owner of my sweetie’s hand-me-down iPhone 4. Well, let me tell you…the Apple App Store has lots of tools to help me focus! Last night, I downloaded two apps: Strides and Promodoro. Strides is the easiest way …
I love new things. New journals. New outfits. New jars of peanut butter. Oh, and don’t get me started about mornings, Mondays and new years. New beginnings are the best kind of new. Happy New Year, friends! As much as I love new years, I completely stink at new year resolutions. For the past few …
While sitting in a waiting room, a mother and son attracted my attention. Both of their faces illuminated by handheld electronics, the mom watched a Christmas video and the son played a video game. The sight seemed typical, but the sounds gave me pause. From the mom’s phone wafted a piano rendition of “Have Yourself …
Does anyone else have a stinkin’ case of the December Doldrums? As the calendar flipped from autumn leaves to jingle bells, a heavy cloud eased in to hover over my happy. My blahs stem from a few sources. It’s the end of 2013 and many of my goals remain unmet. I’m still overweight, still disorganized, …
Are you looking for a way to foster compassion and generosity in your children during the Christmas holidays and all year ’round? Well, I have the perfect tool to help you do just that. A brand-new Christmas book is out this year, and its message has the power to change Christmas for your family forever. …
I told you I have a hard time sticking to a schedule. See…I’m already playing catch-up. Play catch-up with me by reading selections about Abraham here and here: Lord, Oh, to have the faith and obedience of Abraham. You said go, and he went. You said he’d father a nation, and he believed You. No matter …
  Read the story of Noah and the Flood here. Lord,  Noah and the great flood…another story I’ve heard and read since childhood. The picture books make it look so tidy with the animals lining up two-by-two. But it was messy, Lord. Horribly messy. Jeers from evil onlookers slashed at Noah’s heart. The animals and …
Read today’s Bible reading: Genesis 3:1-21 Lord,  It’s easy to be hard on ol’ Adam and Eve. They threw it all away for a bite of fruit and the empty promises of the very first con artist. But I know I would have fallen for that serpent’s lies. Probably faster than Eve did. My heart …
  Read today’s Bible passage: Genesis 1. Lord, How many times have I read those first verses in Genesis? Hundreds, I’m sure. Thank you for giving me fresh eyes to see Christ connections through advent. Before God spoke those first words, “Let there be light,” there was nothing but darkness (Genesis 1:3 NLT). Before Jesus …
I have a confession to make. I’ve never participated in an advent celebration. My family doesn’t own an advent calendar with tiny doors to open each day in December. We have no special advent wreath or a Jesse tree. I’ve no clue what the colored candles stand for. It’s not that I don’t think religious …
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s pretty much the only time my inner Martha Stewart comes out of hibernation. I love preparing a huge meal for my family, especially now that the boys are older and like to eat more than Happy Meals and pepperoni pizza. In the midst of my personal contentment …
Full Circle Moments
“Can you message someone for me?” a young Facebook friend asked. “Why can’t you message her?” I asked. “She blocked me.” “Ohhh…Well, Sweetie, if she blocked you, it would probably be best to just leave her alone.” While I waited for my young friend’s response, I found myself fighting a bashful grin. I was having …
The F-words were flying in church yesterday…and they’re still bouncing around in my heart and mind today. Pastor Gary took us to the Book of Colossians and introduced us to a Believer named Epaphras. Paul thought a lot of Epaphras…enough to point him out as an example of how a vibrant Believer should be. As I …
Life can be prickly sometimes. Even in the best relationships, there comes a time where hard conversations must happen. Sometimes, we have to… say “no” when it would be easier to say “yes.” bring reality into someone’s fantasy. build a fence for someone used to free rein. let go of someone holding on for dear …
Sunday, I saw a man perched on the church fence catching a smoke before he went in for the worship service. The sight made me smile. I remember the day when something like that would have made my inner church lady come out with her tongue clicking and her finger wagging. Not anymore. And the scribes …
At the grocery store last night, I overheard an employee belly aching to a couple of his buddies about how awful his job is. The irony is that his buddies were in the process of loading their trunk with pumpkins for some kind of autumn activity. To me, this time of year with the fall …
If you’re visiting from Tracy’s place, One Degree Ministries, welcome! Don’t you just love her? I’m excited to give one of her readers a copy of Prayer Gifts While You Wait! I love how her pastor’s sermon this weekend “just happened” to be about waiting. Nothing every “just happens” with Jesus, does it? …………………………………………. At my …
Worship leaders are lucky. We get to stand on the platform and hold mics and stuff. Just kidding. We get to witness pure worship of unhindered people. As I stand on that platform facing my church family each week, God always pinpoints my worship leader. Today, my worship leader was Melody, a cancer survivor fighting the …
I feel like a proud momma showing off her new baby girl! May I present to you my first book.   Isn’t the cover beautiful? My firstborn son, Garrett, designed it for me. What a blessing to have tech-savvy fellas under my roof! And even sweeter that my guys support my dreams. Prayer Gifts While …
I had a major breakthrough in my counselor’s office this afternoon. A few years ago, my sweet counselor, Wendy, helped me pick through some serious rubble when my family suffered a string of sudden losses. Well, grief has a way of bringing long-buried wounds to the surface. With her caring, Christ-like guidance, I took some …
My cowboy daddy’s picture is next to the word “accident-prone” in the dictionary. If there was a way to get hurt, he found it. Once, he caught himself on fire trying to light the gas grill…with gasoline. I have a picture of my mom plucking porcupine quills from the seat of Dad’s Wranglers. While trying …
My Granny Maxwell was a Southern cook Paula Deen would admire. Seems like her stove always had something simmering. Turnip greens and ham. Fried chicken with mashed ‘taters. Fresh-picked peas and corn bread. My personal favorite was her made-from-scratch chocolate pie. Oh my goodness, my memory is licking its lips. If you came within 100 …
Have you ever had something awful happen only to discover later that it was a blessing in disguise? At the time, you thought you’d flat-out die from the pain. But, eventually, you saw things clearly and realized God had a wonderful plan all along. In April, my awful happened. After working at the same school …
A year or two ago, my pastor’s wife and my youth minister’s wife found something missing at our church, the Heart of Mesa. Other than a once-a-year Mother’s Day tea, we had nothing going on in the women’s ministry department. The Second Wednesday Club was born. Nothing fancy. Just a time to get to know …
Have you ever gotten so focused on your troubles that you can’t seem to see anything else? Me too. A couple of months ago, I let my issues get the best of me. With my mind consumed with questions and self-pity, I sunk into depression like a brick in a bath tub. Fortunately, I had …
Off and on over my blogging years, I’ve posted about my weightloss journey. Honestly, I stopped because I was so tired of going one step forward and two steps back and then having to post about it. No one likes to broadcast repeated failures for everyone and her uncle to read. But since June, I’ve experienced …
Tonight, as I scanned my Facebook feed, my heart shriveled as I read jokes and ridicule directed toward Miley Cyrus, a young woman we’ve watched grow up on the big and small screens. I feel like shrieking across the world-wide web: “This is NOT a joke, people!” And then my mind drifted to another young …
I’m please to have a special guest on the Prayer Gifts blog today! Dr. Laurel Shaler wears lots of hats! She’s a licensed social worker, an adjunct professor, and a Christian counselor with extensive experience working with military veterans. Her Christian speaking and writing ministry focuses on intersecting faith with emotional wellbeing. As someone who …
Wyatt held my hand at Sunday school. While Miss Robin told the story of Priscilla and Aquilla working with Paul to make tents and disciples, five-year-old Wyatt gave me a sideways glance and clutched my hand like he’s been doing it his whole life. He’s never done it before, and I don’t know if he’ll …
My firstborn turns 19 today. I was engaged to his daddy at 19!  How did this happen already? Garrett moved back home after living in the dorm at Northern AZ University for a school year. I missed him. I enjoy seeing his face and watching him do life. I cherish our conversations and omelet dates. …
Most of the schools in my area start back this week. The stores are packed with back-to-school shoppers and school supply addicts who can’t pass up the smokin’ deals on Crayola markers. For all the parents out there ready to send their cherubs into brand-new classrooms with fresh bulletin boards and crisp stacks of worksheets, …
Is it weird that I love Mondays? There’s something so new and fresh about them. To me, Monday means “new beginning.” Today, I have a lot going on. A new job. A new Bible study. A new writing project. God provided me with a part-time job with an educational firm that provides special education services …
Have you ever found yourself in the middle of a deep darkness so black you thought you’d never see daylight again? Sometimes, the trials of life feel that way. My season of darkness occurred when I lost several family members in a short span of time. Grief stifled the light in my soul, and every …
Have you ever had one of those weeks when it feels like you’re stuck in the middle of an emotional briar patch? No matter which direction you turn, your heart gets poked by prickly circumstances. Next thing you know, you’re a bloody, scratched-up mess.  That was me last week. My colleagues started back to work …
If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, be sure to head over to read my devotional about prayer gifts. I guess you could say prayer gifts are my thing. But I don’t want to be the only prayer gifter out there! I want YOU to experience the joy of prayer gifts, too. ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦ …
Can I tell you a secret? I have a little issue with laziness. It’s true. If I let my nature have its way, I’d be perfectly content being the proverbial bon-bon eater.  Easily, I could stay in my jammies all day long snoozing and surfing around on the TV and Facebook. So, here I am …
As I type this post, my sweet hubby of 23 years is sleeping away in the bed next to me. I know how blessed I am to have him here with me as my husband and as co-parent to our three boys. I can’t imagine doing life without him by my side. As I thank …
I got a speeding ticket on I-20. After driving eight hours through Texas, I got stopped one mile from the Louisiana line and ten miles from my sister’s house, my destination. Sigh. Story of my life. After the country cop handed over the ticket, I got back on the road and called Karla. “I’ll be …
If you’re visiting from the Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, head on over there to read a story from my stay-at-home momma days. These days, my three sweet sons are taller than I am, but the 10 years of staying home with them when they were young feels as fresh as this morning. I remember …
I turned in the key yesterday. The key that unlocks the B-building and the classroom I shared with sweet Lorine all year. The key connected to the black and red lanyard that hung ’round my neck day-after-day for eight years. Teacher at PJHS is no longer part of my present. I hugged my friends goodbye …
Does your church feel like home? If not, I’m so sorry to hear that. When my car wheels touch the pavement at the Heart of Mesa, I experience the same sense of comfort I feel in my driveway. I know I will walk through the doors to acceptance and unconditional love. Today, Pastor Gary took us …
When the teacher’s lounge phone rings, no one wants it to be for them. It’s usually the office staff asking you to pause your already-too-short lunch to go do something for someone. “Lee, you have a visitor in the front office.” My lunchmates cocked their heads in wonder as I shrugged and said, “It’s probably …
How many fake food meals have you eaten? Every Sunday, my kindergarten Sunday school students feed me a smorgasbord of creative culinary creations from the pretend kitchen. Usually, they bring me triple-decker steak burgers with a watermelon wedge on the side. With gusto, I admire their offerings and make the loudest chomping sounds I can as …
I’ve never been a fan of surprises. One year, I had a feeling Cliff was going to throw me a surprise party, and I snooped up a storm until I figured out all the details. Not my finest moment.  The waiting and wondering just slays me! In 22 days, my tenure as a teacher at …
Not that I’m tooting my own horn, but it’s Teacher Appreciation Week! Not only am I a teacher, I’m the daughter of two retired teachers. Back in the day, my mom and dad would come home with every kind of apple-themed desk accessory known to man. Today, the gift of choice seems to be Starbucks …
If you are visiting from Blog Talk Radio, welcome! On this National Day of Prayer, I’m tickled to be a guest on “My Journey of Faith,” hosted by my dear friend, Cynthia McCutcheon. If you haven’t listened to the episode, pop on over anytime! Listen to internet radio with CWA Radio on BlogTalkRadio Anytime I get …
The Spirit of God rested heavy and sure on the Heart of Mesa today. From the Sunday school hour with the kinders to the 11:00 worship service to the prayer meeting at suppertime. In Sunday school, our lesson was on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came just as Christ promised He would. …
Has your life ever played out like a country song? As I drove to work yesterday morning, an old ballad by Kenny Rogers settled on my mind. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, Know when to fold ‘em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. ~from The Gambler   Yesterday, …
If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome! If not, pop on over there and read the devotion I have running there. It’s good for both a laugh and some perspective, and it goes perfectly with this prayer gift. Does it feel as if your life is crumbling around you? I’m so sorry, my sister. I’ve …
The tragic death of Rick and Kay Warren’s son is all over my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Oh, how my heart aches over their suffering. The thought of losing one of my boys slays me. But losing one to suicide? My heart won’t let my mind go there. I’m reminded of a conversation I had …
Sometimes, I long for what was. Before I dipped my timid toe into the Christian blogging/writing/ministry pond, I had two sets of friends: my locals and my lifers. I do life with my locals. We serve Jesus side-by-side. We are second moms to each other’s children. We hug necks and wipe tears and laugh loud. …
I’m worn slap out. It always happens after any kind of Christian women’s event. This weekend, I joined five of my friends (and close to 5000 sisters-in-Christ) at Living Proof Live with Beth Moore. Beth was fired up over the word God gave her for Phoenix. But let’s face it…Beth is fired up over the …
If you’re visiting from Encouragement Cafe, welcome to Prayer Gifts! I hope you’ll take a few minutes to search around and see what I’m all about. My devotional post at Encouragement Cafe is about prayer walking, an activity I enjoy but can’t seem to turn into a regular habit. The prayer part is no problem…it’s …
I’ve done a lot of thinking lately. Why do I blog? What’s my motive? What’s my mission? What’s my message? Well, here it is. Motive: I love God, and I love people. Prayer Gifts is a place where I can do both. Mission: My mission is three-fold: 1. To honor God and to make Him known. 2. …
  Well, foot. (That’s what my momma says when she gets disappointed) After months of waiting, I got a rejection email from an editor who showed some strong interest in my Prayer Gifts book proposal. Truly, I trust God to open the doors He wants me to walk through, but boy, the rejection feels like …
My February 25 birthday sort of sprawled through a whole week! All that love and attention can go to a girl’s head. Maybe that’s why the Lord bombarded my heart with the same message all weekend long. Deny yourself. Take up your cross, daily, and follow Me (Matthew 16:24). I am more concerned with your …
As my phone pings and rings with Happy Birthday wishes, my love tank is filling up to the point of bursting. It was already plumb full from the love I received all weekend from my family. Saturday, my mom took me out to lunch; Garrett and Logan tagged along for charm factor. I got my …
The weather here is downright nutty! I never thought I’d throw a snowball in Phoenix, but I did it last night! My Texas friend, Amy, left me this message on Facebook. “I saw on the news that y’all were getting snow. It made me think of you.” Don’t you just love being thought of? There’s …
I just returned from my first weekend writer’s retreat. You know…just me, my laptop, and Jesus. Well, the good news is I got some writing done, and I spent some time digging through the 2013 Christian Writer’s Market Guide and Mary DeMuth’s book, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published. But I wasted so much time. Between …
I’m tickled to death to have my She Speaks sister, Shelly Hollis, on Prayer Gifts today. Shelly is the heart behind Shine Ministries where she studies the glorious truth of God’s word, puts it into practice in her own life, and teaches others how they, too, can have a vibrant friendship with Jesus Christ. In …
I love prayer. I love doing it, I love writing about it, and I love hearing from other’s about it! Meet my She Speaks friend, Dianne W. Bailey. I love her take on how prayer is a way to shine for Christ behind the scenes. Diane W. Bailey is the author of String of Pears …
Since I’m a Southern girl (and a Southern Baptist), my inner Paula Deen comes out anytime one of my local pals gets sick, has a baby, or just needs a little pick-me-up. Chicken and dumplings is my specialty. What better comfort food than chicken and dumplings? Chicken soup with Southern charm. When the giant stock …
I don’t know why God saw fit to give me a heart for prayer, but I sure am glad He did. I love everything about it. Prayer is a portable passion. Whether I’m in the church pew or soaking in the tub, God hears me. We have the best chats when I’m driving to work …
My heart is pretty gullible sometimes. Some days, it falls for every lie the enemy spews. You’re destined for fatness. Your husband doesn’t love you enough to stick around for the long haul. Every struggle your sons face is your fault. Your writer dreams are nothing but a pipe dream.  Sheesh! It’s time for my heart to …
Relentless. Irresistible. Mesmerizing. I can’t seem to refuse his wooing. Each morning, as the alarm clock attempts to lure me from my slumber, I hear the Holy Spirit call my name. “Come to me, My child. I know you are weary, but I want to give you true rest. Spend time with me.” But someone …
What a Sunday! My time at the Heart of Mesa started a little earlier than usual. I went to the early service “to sing a special,” but I got the special blessing. I loved spending time in prayer and worship with my early bird church family. I should join them more often. They are a …
This year, I have the biggest caseload I’ve ever had as a special education teacher. Overseeing the education of such a diverse group of learners keeps me hopping all day long. Therefore, I wasn’t exactly thrilled when my supervisor informed me that I’d be getting another student to support…a student on a different team of …
I have the blessing of leading a women’s bible study on Sunday nights. Oh, how I love my ladies! We are so different, yet we are all handmade by the same Creator. Our backgrounds are diverse, yet God’s presence hovers over each of us. Myriad circumstances wound our hearts, yet the One, True God works …
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