Friday, October 27, 2017

A Win-Win

II Corinthians 2:14 "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. 

I love the game of baseball. 

Yes, sometimes the game can be a bit slow, but it can be equally as exciting. Each individual player has a specific job to execute and for a brief amount of time during each inning throughout the game, we focus on one player as they do their part to move the game forward. Two individuals delivering and attacking the same ball, one pitching and one hitting. One giving and one receiving, and the support ready to respond in equally talented play and athletic ability. It's a game of strategy and signs, fouls and fair play, hitting, running, throwing and a lot of concentration.

We get to know their faces, their stances and body language and nuances, their choice of gum, seeds or chew.

We see their hair grow into long red strands and bushy beards or cut with patterns. Their stats are repeated and we know the line up.

Take me out to a ball game.  I prefer Chavez Ravine. 


I love planning and executing the NephCure Walk. Last Saturday, we completed our ninth year of providing this fundraiser for specific kidney diseases, nephrotic syndrome and FSGS. Bloating and retaining fluids, lethargy and immune system compromise, testing strips and biopsis, steroids and side effects and a lot of discouragement--that defines the line-up of these conditions.

Yes, sometimes this project, this endeavor can be tedious, a bit overwhelming and emotional. But, on the day of the event, all that seems to disappear. Teams arrive and each individual player participates to make the few hours we walk and cheer and gather our forces, a win-win. In our efforts, we are delivering hope, cracking the bats of our hearts to put donations over the fence and many more seasons of play for our kiddos with this disease.

My son, Tim..he came out of the game early. Now, we pinch-hit in his memory.

With each walk, I've gotten to know our teams and the children we walk for, Mateo, McKayla and Aiden, Kennedy, Gabi, and Isaiah and more.

Aiden is getting tall!  beautiful.  Then there is Mateo, an adorable reminder of my son at the same age. They come every year, healthier, feeling stronger because new medicines are helping.

I know the stats of a previous game.  I pray that no mom or dad has to watch and worry as their child continuously strikes out in relapses.

In October, Take me to English Spring Park where I will continue to raise awareness and walk for a cure.

Thank You Lord for giving us gifts of athleticism, for personal fitness and to also entertain--cheering for teams that we love. Thank You Lord, I am so grateful to be a member of Your Team and listen to the ways You give me hope and cheer me on. Because of that amazing grace, You guide me and encourage me to keep up the proactive involvement in developing the Inland Empire NephCure Walk. Every year it grows and my faith in You and in my teammates increases as well.  I am excited our Dodgers are in the World Series. I am blessed to complete and celebrate success in my own yearly campaign to save kidneys and save lives. Life is not easy, but with You God as my Manager, leading me to see things in an eternal perspective, I embrace an attitude that in the end, all becomes a win-win forever. Thank You for allowing me to be a team player, not just a spectator. Keep me Lord in the centerfield of Your will. May I be a statistic that magnifies Your glory no matter what position I play. Amen.


Friday, September 29, 2017

Down But Never Out

Psalm 145:14 "the Lord sustains all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down."

I can hear her correction, her should I say it? "protect me." 

"Sit up straight."  (slouching is bad for the posture). 

"Pick your feet up!" (shuffling or dragging one's feet slows you down and may cause a fall).

And her most famous one..."You need a little lipstick!" ( Maybe that's why I always have one in my pocket to this day).

Moms always have good intentions, even if their constant repeating gets annoying. (I hope my son realizes that soon). 

So today, and also a few weeks back...I shuffled and you guessed it, I tumbled. 

I fell hard both times. The first time, walking from the hospital to the medical office, ironically for an urgent care appointment for myself! 

A bridge straddled a drainage area and garden and it had a narrow metal grate running across. I caught my flip-flop and down I went, hard on my knees and hands on the concrete. I scraped and bruised both knees, one more that the other, the pain lasting the rest of the summer. 

Urgent care now became about two things. Nothing was broken, except my pride. I will gladly admit though, I can be a klutz. 

Today, at school, in front of the Library, yep, it happened again. Down I went as my foot abruptly stopped on a raised tile area of students names and memories. 

"Coleene, and here is where I fell, September, 2017." 

Between classes, I think no one saw me. I less than graciously, lifted myself up, made sure nothing was broken and hobbled back to my classroom, bleeding and disheveled, eventually making my way to Nurse Lila. She directed me to clean my wound, bandage myself up and maybe some paperwork. 

Now I have to document my blunders!  Ugh! 

Ungraceful at times, we fall. Maybe, it is the sin in our lives that trips us up. It is always when we take our eyes off the One who balances us and leads the way. It hurts, stings, bleeds and bruises up. Our achey hearts and spirit make us difficult--we cannot respond to others who are hurting because we are too focused on our own wounds. 

Maybe sometimes we need to just stay on the ground a bit longer, prostrate and needy, allowing  God to pick us up and sustain us.

 Can you picture that? His arms under yours, gentle and guiding as He wipes our brow and hands us a glass of living water, brushes away the gravel stuck to our wounds and then carries us the distance until we can stand strong once again.

His grace becomes my grace. My grace, given, can help steady another and point to the One who is the Lifter of our heads, the Binder of our wounds, our Healer and Strength-giver. 

Mom, thank you for your wisdom in my outward appearance and posture. Lord, thank You for grace that sometimes allows the fall, but is ready and anxious to pick me up and straighten me out.  Each and every time my own self begins to shuffle, slump and trip over obstacles of this world and the adversary's accusations get under my feet, I know a simple prayer of asking for Your wisdom, Your forgiveness and Your grace will keep me walking with discernment and foresight in all that lies ahead of me.  Lastly, I pray my lips will be ready to proclaim Your goodness to me, in the right shade and shine! Amen. 

    Get Back Up ~ Toby Mac 

                                                         You Lift Me Up ~ The Afters 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Walking in Love and Faith

Ephesians 5:2 "...and walk in love, just as Christ loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."

"I need my walker."  

I've heard that request quiet a few times in the last 6 weeks. My husband, as some of you know, had his first full knee replacement surgery on June 15th. 

Experiencing a successful surgery, the recovery process even has the professionals a bit baffled. Here is a bit of a timeline...

6/15  Surgery
6/17  Released

In home physical therapy begins. 

7/1  Ted started to feel a lot of pain in his wrist, the opposite side. 
7/2 6:00 a.m. Arrive in emergency, excruciating pain in the wrist area, waiting,  not wanting to go to the ER in the middle of the night.  Using the walker with one hand, it took 45 minutes to get him in the truck because of the pain in his wrist.

We spend almost 12 hours in the E.R. while the doctors examine, take blood, test, poke more, prod, ask questions, consult and then decide. 

Around 6:30 p.m. he's wheeled into surgery again where his wrist, infected inside by something "angry" the doctor would relay, is irrigated and cleaned out, an aggressive treatment to save the knee from being compromised by any infection. 

Now he has a full soft cast on his wrist. 

7/3  Released from hospital. When we arrive at home,  a new "walker" is waiting at our door with a platform for his hand.

7/5  Our regular in-home physical therapist pays a visit and he informs her of a new pain behind his surgical knee. She examines him and finds concern enough to add an ultra-sound to our appointment the next day, a check for clots. 

7/6  I take him back to the hospital to see his regular physician and she sends us to get the ultra-sound. Diagnosis confirmed, 3 blood clots behind the knee. The doctor then orders a cat scan to double check the lungs. Result: a clot in each lung, D.V.T. and P.E. as the acronym goes; ( we know it all too well). He gets a bed on the fourth floor, admitted again, and the protocol for blood clots in sues. 

7/10 Ted gets to come home. Now we have an occupational therapist coming, in home-health professionals coming, his physical therapist still coming because he hasn't been released for out patient yet and blood collectors coming in between fielding phone calls, 
e-mails and pharmacy issues. 

7/25  This last Tuesday, he takes a nice shower (with my help). He probably enjoys it too much, stays in, standing, although his walker is half way in the tub. Finally getting out, I help him maneuver out, the walker always bearing his weight. Only a towel thrown over his backside, he scoots out of the bathroom, stops for a second and complains of dizziness, gets himself to the couch and then passes out. 

I call 911 in a panic, and the first responders arrive quickly. Now alert and cooperating, they take him by ambulance back to the hospital where he is misdiagnosed with pneumonia then correctly diagnosed in the morning. The paramedics were correct, dehydration coupled with the hot shower caused his blood pressure to drop, thus the fainting spell.  

On Monday, 7/31 He finally has his first out patient therapy appointment. By the way, his knee is doing great! The other knee? ...not so much; (the worse one of the two). Is he in a hurry to get that one done? ...not so much. 

"I need my walker." 

I gladly retrieve it for him and open it, allow him to stand and move to where he will rest tonight after another day of recovery, exercising his wrist and knee, while I do all I can to serve him, take care of him, encourage him and listen to him...and sometimes checking myself, capturing my thoughts and giving them over to The Great Healer. 

God has placed a timeline for me as well, although it is one involving my heart issues, my self issues. With each setback, each chore, each need, each time I have to stop what I intend to do or never start at all---to meet his needs, the Lord builds His strength in me as I ask Him to fill me with it. As I have experienced in past heart issues, the prayers of many who surround us in love are felt and doing a mighty work. I have offered my self up to help my husband heal, setting aside a lot of personal projects and a few social events. Those can wait. God's timing and His plans are for Ted to regain his strength and his ability to walk again, to grip again, to return to work. For me, to learn how to serve him in and through this time of need in a summer usually planned for many other activities. We both walk together with the Lord leading the way and we lean into each other in our love and in to Him to carry us through. 

Thank you Lord, for being the wondrous "Walker" I can grasp, hold on to and depend on so I do not fall and stumble over my own selfish desires and worldly needs. Lord, thank you that Your righteousness stands tall above the darkness that wants to trip us up. Help us Lord to desire servant hearts not just towards the ones we love, but for those who need to know Your truth and Your hope. Some of those people are so difficult, so lost, yet they too, need Your care, Your healing power. Thank You Lord for protecting Ted this week and for giving us both strength to continue this journey. In the end, may we look back and proclaim Your glory through it all and know that in our weakness, Your strength becomes evident. 

Walk by Faith 
Jeremy Camp 

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Rule of Love

Psalm 32:8 "I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you."

Rules and instructions are a good thing. They keep us safe, teach us about boundaries and help us live in civilization, and even get rewarded. We all experienced one of these, and/or all, either told by another person or written on how to drive a car, how to put together a book shelf from IKEA, grow a rose, operate the DVR. Today, YouTube is filled with how-to's on just about everything! --And shall I mention Pinterest!

Rules are a bit more serious. They help us obey our parents, keep our job, stay out of jail, and board an airplane safely and securely.

Did you know there were rules to fly a kite?

This week my husband's written instructions were not exactly correct. Facing a serious surgery, he followed what the anesthesiologist wrote, "take all heart meds as usual with a small sip of water." Stopping his .81 aspirin, the only other instruction given a week before at his pre-op appointment, he continued to follow the directions. This might have, probably would have...caused a very serious bleeding problem. Leg shaved and marked up, hospital gown in place, his surgeon went over the instructions and double-checked for accuracy. He caught the mistake.

The body of the story in my manuscript is pretty much complete. I am working on edits and now starting the not so fun job of formatting and preparing it for submission. Rules apply. Today I spent most of the day converting, indenting, changing fonts, eliminating white space and pictures. Tedious indeed! The last thing I want is for my work to be ignored because I didn't follow rules of submission. A special friend and teacher instructs me in this truth.

Another bestie friend practices relentlessly with her partner getting ready to perform a special dance in a musical production on Sunday. There are steps to follow and counts to hear for the swirls and twirls. She has a more difficult time with moving and learning quickly because she is a bit older; she dances with her son! (so sweet).  Oh, if only I could move how she does! Her discipline and passion to dance at her best encourage me to be my best at what I am passionate about. Yet this week she discovered something, a position her elbows were in, affecting her posture when she dances, Now, she must re-learn to keep her elbows back. It is an instruction, a new way of looking at things for improvement. No one will notice her elbows, but she will be thinking about it, wanting to feel at ease with her son and get through the performance flawlessly. I know they will succeed.  *

God gave us instructions. He said, "Love Me, love one another." His rules to live by were given to Moses and the Israelites, the 10 Commandments. If we follow the instructions first, to love God with all our heart and then love one another, the "rules" become natural. We want to follow God and be obedient. But sometimes, instructions get messed up, we break rules, we don't love God as we think we should, we don't love each other very well.

The Holy Spirit counsels us on our mistakes. He renews our instructions in grace and we get a do-over.
When it comes to submitting to God, we can come just as we are. He formats us in all the right places and prepares our story for His glory. When we are practicing the dance of faith, God gently reveals to us our steps and guides us in His wisdom, orchestrating trust in Him, our Lead.

The surgeon, the hospital, rescheduled. A do over. 
My manuscript needs attention and guidelines and in time, it will be ready. A work in progress.
My friend recognized her mistake. She will continue to move and dance despite a slight flaw. A perseverant attitude. 

Lord, we can never be perfect, good enough, follow every rule, know every instruction for living a Holy life. You knew that. It is why You sent Your Son to take our sin away for us. That is a free gift called Grace. Your Word is our instruction manual. Keep me aware of Your ways, Your truth, not some watered down version or worldy advice. Edit out those habits that distract me from obedience. Hold me accountable with like-minded friends who walk alongside me serving You with love and sincere hearts. Thank You for the doctor finding the mistake this week, even though it means waiting. Thank You that I have people in my life who mentor me in my publishing quest. Thank You for friends that inspire me! You are a God who loves us first, Your loving eyes are upon us! Lord, may I love You and love others in a way that pleases You. Every day is a new day to do Your will, follow You and be obedient. Thank You for every new day of Grace. Amen.

Chris Tomlin
I Will Follow 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Help Wanted, Help Received, Every Day

Psalm 121:1-2 "I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from whence shall my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

It is almost here! We're on the final approach. Crossing the "t"s and dotting the "i"s,  having conversations, testing, cleaning up, stopping and starting, scheduling, seeing this doc and that P.A., this nurse and that other doc. Questions asked and answered and papers documented, going over the dos and don'ts before, preparing and...PRAYING! 

This date of his full knee-replacement is just around the corner. God, our Helper, knows the plan, and guides us to continue in the everyday while we wait and move forward. He showed us the way while some major things were dealt with. In the waiting, the right doctor came back from a leave of absence, and the date given? Just a few days into summer break, when school is out and I am home. God orchestrated all this. In our waiting and obedience, He lined up the ducks all in a row and they are moving swiftly now up a stream of anticipation of healing and hope. 

Where does our help come from? My help comes from the Lord. Your Will, not mine, for Your glory. 


A wonderful conference came together with volunteers and church staff support. I doubted my abilities, but never God's. I gave it to Him, dedicating the day to my mentor and dear friend and prayed for our purpose. Placing the day at His feet, my eyes gazed upon the beauty of my garden and knew from seeds planted and deep roots, My Helper never fails me. He knows my weaknesses and in them He is glorified. 

Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. You are a Mighty God!

A gathering family, ready to celebrate and regroup--love one another, but news breaks--a difficult situation. Not the expected, yet even in the next few hours, God's indwelling Spirit gives grace, spoken in gentle words and support, unity and hope. Yes, the processing happens but God, already at work, places the right people before and after reassuring in the pain and confusion. He rises above and His magnificence shines and we KNOW because He does a mighty work in us everyday! A vacancy appears and only One can best fill it. The Spirit lifts eyes and hearts and hears the prayers. In this Lord, You will be glorified. In this, we thank You. 

Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord. Great and gracious are You, Lord. 

Lord, everyday our own little world brings challenges. Everyday, I look to You, to trust that You are much bigger, omniscient and omnipresent just for me and my circumstances.   Every day Lord, growing closer to You sometimes comes in waiting. Everyday Lord, I need a Helper. Everyday Lord, Your promises guide every step in the waiting, revealed in the doing and glorified in the giving over. You Lord, are the Maker of Heaven and Earth! You know the future and in that I lift my eyes, trust You and keep praying for Your wisdom and strength. I am living in a broken world...I am broken, yet You see me blessed as I strive and call on Your Name, hire You as my Helper, wait on Your answers, feel Your Winds of direction and encourage others waiting and hoping as I am, together, believing that You make all things good in Your perfect timing. Thank You Lord for being our Helper, then and now and always. Amen. 

Praise You in the Storm
Casting Crowns 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Treasure Box Moments

Philippians 3:14 "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

It always catches my eye, something sparkling, something shiny, on the ground near me.  I see it reflecting the sunlight as I'm walking past, on the concrete, stuck in the low places. It is usually broken,  lost.

I've been doing this for many years. A collection or shall I say a "treasure box" holds them, waiting until one day I can use them in art--like multi-medium, or a three-dimensional embellishment.

They once served a purpose as part of something, but became loose, separated, a bit bent. Once they are found though, I like to think their purpose is brought up to another level, waiting with the others until their do time, to shine again.

I've only told one other person about this crazy habit of mine. When these little bits of broken jewelry or clothing decor started appearing, I thought they were little messages from Heaven, to encourage me...a heart,  a butterfly...yes, I've found several of each. Sometimes, I found stars, and I felt God just telling me I was on the right track, ...keep shining.


For the last several months, my writing and ministry partner, Linda,  and I, embarked on a dream of extending our writers' group to a community event, hosting a half day writer's conference, to connect aspiring writers with others and encourage the journey. We hoped to even inspire the beginning of other writer's groups in other churches or elsewhere. After all, we have enjoyed great success in our 8 years, seeing many completed manuscripts and published articles.

Linda has thrived through her health challenges over the years,  despite some setbacks.  She is a miracle, living 30 years past the date the docs said she wouldn't.  This year, her battle has taken her to the front lines, hospitalized for 3 weeks in February and for the last 8 1/2 weeks again. Yes, you read that right, 8 1/2 weeks!  With the encouragement of the Body of Christ, I press on to make this conference, this initial concept of hers a reality. The big day is tomorrow. Though she came home yesterday, she will be unable to attend the event she so invisioned and prayed for to become another step of faith in her heart for writers and her Lord.  My heart is broken over this.  God has a plan and I see part of it is to stretch me.

Our goal stays the same, to build relationships through our common love of writing and in that, be salt and light. I dedicate the day to Linda, my writing mentor and dear friend, for without her, I would never have believed that God gave me this gift to write and share His truth in and through story. I would not be a leader in my church, respected and healed from the hurts of the past. God goes before me, slaying the giants that loom on the horizon.


As I have written before in this blog, God has a way of tangibly showing me His glory and love, His steadfast encouragement. Driving into work this morning, no DJ talked, just three songs played until I parked:

Strong Enough ~ Matthew West
The Heart of Worship ~ Matt Redman
Hills and Valleys ~ Tauren Wells

I immediately recognized my journey putting this conference together without Linda, that God is strong enough despite our weaknesses, that when we set out to bring Him glory, He will accomplish great things through us, despite the pitfalls and that God is with us in every hill and every valley as well as the mountaintops of our lives. What a great God I serve!


I took the students out to their P.E. class, sitting on the bleachers watching them play baseball.  I looked down at this sort of shiny object, a scuffed up, bent star. I reached for it and smiled, hearing God's voice  telling me all was good, keep trusting. I snapped a picture and sent it to my only friend that knows about my secret treasure box.

A bit ago, she knocked at my door with a note for me and a heart shaped box. Reading the verse, I am overwhelmed with God's way of showing me His love in the treasure box of special friends that surround me.

From her jean business, she found a stud that came loose. She placed in on her desk for a few days, never tossing it. Today, after receiving my picture and text of the star I found, she collected the shiny stud, wrote the note and made her way over to my house, her little gift in hand. I reached in my pocket and placed the scuffed up, bent star next to the beautiful shiny stud she gave me and proclaimed the truth, God makes beauty from ashes. He takes what is broken, lost... and brings it to glittering, shining beauty for His glory in and through our faith.

Lord, tomorrow is going to be good. Linda, God's got both of us, He always has. You are my shining star and I am yours and together we make up a sky full of the faithful, all for His glory. Melody, thank you for always making me smile with the smallest of gestures but the biggest heart. Lord, I thank you for allowing me to see Your vision that we persevere even when it seems impossible to press on. Lord, you make all things possible when we put our trust in You. Amen.

 Strong Enough ~ Matthew West 
For you, Linda. 

Friday, April 28, 2017

Complete Joy in Friendship

Philippians 2: 1-2 If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose... 

A conversation took place this week between me and one of my closest friends. We talk almost everyday and even when we don't, I know, she knows, that our thoughts aren't far away from each other. I even texted her a question, a text she never received because she didn't have her phone with her, but she answered me anyway...10 minutes after I texted, on a different device. Yeah---we're just connected that way. 

Anyway, as we shared this week about other people we love and are praying for--all this stuff and heartache, people in desperate situations, health dilemmas, and ongoing family separations, we agreed, it is all so hard, but it is our choice--that we feel deeply, petition, encourage one another, hope together and love one another because the other alternative is isolation. We wouldn't have each other or the beautiful relationship and trust God ordained. Friendships with Christ at the center blooms continuously out the window of our souls, a creative, tangible view of God at work. 

Isolation: No true, authentic friendships in which one can share the deepest of hurts, frustrations, fears, prayers, intimate insights, JOY and HOPE from God. I am sure there are a number of reasons why this happens, but God doesn't intend our lives to be that way. Hope comes from seeing it in another and then believing it for yourself. It is a promise from God. God also instructed us to live in fellowship with one another. 

There is always, always HOPE.

I cannot imagine my life without these close friends who all are dealing with pain of some sort. We talk every day, share every day, pray for one another every day and love God in and with each other every day. God is good. I am hurting for all of them. I cry to God. They have done that for me--do that for me now. I know. I know I am deeply loved and cared for by each one of them in their unique and gifted ways. I learn and see God beautifully in my life through these women of faith. 

In His timing and sovereignty, God will make a way. Then, we will again, feel deeply and cry, rejoicing and praising our Heavenly Father for His divine intervention and our growth in trusting Him. 

It is a choice--to have a deep, intimate, authentic relationship with the Lord or to isolate yourself in your sorrows, disappointments and fears and pretend that nothing matters outside your own bubble of hurt. Eventually, I think, that just might turn into resentment and a very lonely existence. 

One small step of trust, one tiny but faithful prayer to lead you to a true and trusted friend, might just find you surrounded in a circle of deep and passionate relationships who will be your warriors when times are desperate or when joy is over flowing in your heart. It must go somewhere and to me there is no better feeling then praising God with friends who have prayed right along side for God to make Himself known. 

Lord, tonight I pray for the isolated, the hurt, the lonley souls that do not or choose not to trust in friendships. We are still abiding on this earth, thus we are not perfected yet, but God desires for us to live in unity and fellowship, and we must trust Him for the right people alongside us. Help me Lord to be the kind of friend that encourages and prays unceasingly for my friends and believes in all things good, that Your Hope and Your Joy are awaiting us. Thank You Lord that I, that we have seen it and we await for it again. We wait to plan a party! Amen. 

Brother (or Sister)
NEEDTOBREATHE with Gavin DeGraw 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tangible, Visible Evidence

Ephesians 3:14-16 "For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in Heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man." 

A question was asked of me, of others this week, "how have you seen a visible, tangible, representation of God--His Holy Spirit dwelling in you?

When I opened my spiritual eyes, recognized my wretchedness before God,  my own sin, then responded to His calling, His open arms and smiling face, I received His Holy Spirit. In that moment of surrender, of knowing I am in need of His mercy--that intimacy between myself and His Spirit recreates a miracle and the connection to His Holy work, that which He willed for my life. This is a constant prayer, "Lord, Your will, not mine." The spiritual becomes the tangible in changed lives, changed desires, changed conversations, changed hopes and new dreams. It also allows a unique perspective, to see more of God in every thing, no matter how random, how insignificant, how worthless the world might judge. That is Holy Spirit.

Everyone sins, misses the mark of perfection and thus, separated from the Holy, (Romans 3:23). At first I just knew from what I was taught-- God made me, and that His Son, Jesus, died for me and that God is Love. If I believed that, I would go to Heaven one day and live there forever. Of course, when you are nine years old, that seems pretty reasonable, simple. God whispered in my ear, "I love you, will you love Me back?"

"Yes," I answered. God came into my heart by means of asking for forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit. Can I explain that at the age of  nine? No, but I knew I belonged to Him that day. Serving Him has always been important to me as I studied His Word and served in various ministries. In all this time, some 50 plus years later, the Holy Spirit navigates my steps to a deeper relationship with Him. Have I spent some time being idle, drifting? Yes, I have gone down wayward roads and sat for too long on the bench for the luke warm, watching but not participating. He calls me back and convicts my heart, leading me into His grace and fellowship. I know and recognize that God dwells within me in the form of the Holy Spirit. I didn't need a bunch of classes, a party or a ceremony to know that, to experience His indwelling in me. My prayers for more of Him, my proactive trust--enough. My growing faith in story--evidence, tangible and visible.  And then there are those goose bump moments. That IS Holy Spirit.

We all want to test the world, and we all wander, striving, curious humans we are. When God keeps ringing your spiritual phone of your heart, and He hears busy signals or hang-ups, or just no answer at all...but He persists by sending certain people and certain circumstances and signs--that is tangible Holy Spirit.

When  placed in a compromising situation or have to make a choice and most say one thing, but your heart is saying another, you are feeling that voice of discernment giving you strength--that is Holy Spirit.

When one longs for their mom, sister or brother,  spouse, the kids, best friends, the neighbors, to walk along side you in this journey, seeking growth and knowledge, wisdom and blessings, hope and purpose, pure fellowship of His goodness---more of Him, --that is Holy Spirit.

When you are called to a ministry you never thought possible, to leadership positions and opportunities no one would have placed you in, when scripture comes alive and is always applicable to your situation and prayers, when you have the constant desire to be in His Word, fellowship with His people and seek Him through your trials and adversity--that is Holy Spirit.

One day, my mind and heart crashed and melted. Grief-stricken, drained and depleted from my own thoughts and words, God took over. His Spirit activated a palpable, tangible love on me and began the process of showing me how to lift my head again. I look up and I look back... and I know His grace. His promises I find within me, even more intense than before,  guiding me to His purpose. Part of His healing plan, He stirs and sieves the brokenness, replacing it with Hope. It is tangible, like a frown becoming a smile--that is Holy Spirit.

He lifted my head, to see not one, but dozens of swallowtail butterflies coming down from the trees filtering my grief-filled prayers up to Heaven. They surrounded me in the Light of a new day and a different life, but a hope-filled life. Ten years later, another single, transformed butterfly of the same genus, a swallowtail, lands on my windshield as I am stopped at a light and dances across to my driver's side, constantly fluttering, encouraging me and loving me, a tangible reminder that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit dwells in me and I recognize and feel  LOVED as tears flow. The radio plays Chris Tomlin at that very moment--and that is Holy Spirit, and that is God!

There's a place where sin and shame are powerless.
Where my heart has peace with God and forgiveness.
Where all the love I've ever found.
Comes like a flood,
Comes flowing down.

At the CROSS, that is tangilble, visible in my heart. Hallelujah! 

The butterfly is not something to be worshipped, for it too is temporary, a manifestation of His beauty in creation, but scripture reminds us in Romans 1:19-20:

...because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and devine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 

and in Luke 19:40  "And He answered and said, "I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!"

Father God, thank You for my salvation and that I know and want more than just the promise of Heaven. Your Holy Spirit was sent to believers so that we can participate in the Holy and receive Your power and strength. You saved me so that I may glorify Your name! What a privilege to be called to Your Plan, to find my own purpose within the gifts You have given me and the discovery of so much through fellowship and Your Word. Because Your Holy Spirit dwells within my soul, my Helper, Strength-giver and Inspirer, I can accomplish mighty things for Your Kingdom, for Your glory, in that I am awed and humbled, thank You Lord. Holy Spirit, thank You for hearing my long prayers, my simple prayers, my utterances and all my thoughts towards wanting Your Will and even those words and thoughts not aligning with Your Will. In that, You bring about Your discerning wisdom and lead me to better places and/or bring about obedience which leaves tangible evidence, for Your glory. Thank You Lord for Your prompts to pray, to listen, to watch and to wait. Thank You Lord for giving me Hope. As I have told my story, some have said to me, "I don't see God like you do..." Oh, Lord, I know that they can, if only they take the time to humble themselves, be authentic before You, asking You for that gift You left for us, Your Holy Spirit, God dwelling within us and among us. God, You so loved the world, every one of us can know You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit--You are welcome here. Amen.


                                           FRANCESCA BATTISTELLI ~  HOLY SPIRIT

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Greater Grace

Psalm 86: 12-13  "I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Thy name forever. For Thy lovingkindness toward me is great, and Thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol." 

I said goodbye to a collegue, a man whose friendship I treasure and whose wisdom and grounding in Truth encouraged me at work. He retired. Bon voyage, Art. I will miss your greetings across campus, "How ya doin' Sis?!" Grace is made greater when friendships are centered around His faithfulness.

I honored a classmate's passing; again cancer rears its ugly head and wins the earthly battle, but eternity is a victory. I didn't know him in school, yet I knew him in what we shared; God, classmate friends, family love, a neighborhood and The Dodgers. RIP Alan.  I now have two new friends, your son and daughter. Grace is made greater when we can serve one another.

February 27th this year fell on Monday. Ten years ago, it was on a Tuesday. Myself, my husband and my youngest son received the heart-breaking news that our oldest son, our brother, did not survive the clutches of a deteriorating disease he suffered with most his life. He was only 26. His name is Timothy. Grace, my emulsion, my strength, my soul-giving breath continues to guide me and strengthen me to understand a God who is great, a God who is good. Even in the darkest of times, God's grace is greater.

In my time with my writing group this week, our prompt for our journal session was to write about grace, its impact on our life. Well, I kidded with the my writing partner who penned this particular opening segment of our curriculum...

"I wrote a whole book already on that subject!"

She laughed along with me, knowing that "grace" in itself, is what we all write about in every word we attempt to put together to makes sentences, to explain our insignificant lives--but how He in His grace set upon and in us, changes us. He makes us significant and continues to do so.

So, I wrote and in my "not allowed editorializing" before I shared my words, I stated that this might just be the beginning of another book of my amazing moments with God who so lovingly shows me His care of my heart concerning the loss of my son. His visible grace I received on a day marking a 10-year anniversary and I serve a God who lavishes lovingkindness on me and delivers my soul in a very clear yet personal way. So Amazing. So thankful. So Good.


Dylan. He is 20 now, so that would make him 10 years old when we first moved here, just 5 short months after Timmy died. We shared this townhouse, his family on the other side of our common wall.  Dylan and his brother Jordan came over frequently, to love on us and share with us. Their mom and dad, Raul and Ronda became like family.We felt for the first time in many years like we were "home." That was so God. He graced us with this home, orchestrating this place...these neighbors, so we could settle in, so we might grieve surrounded by His care and love. It DOES come generously in His servants.We love those two boys, and I believe God placed us here, next door to the Zavaletas for His purpose and comfort.

So now, ten years later,  my husband and I plan a half-day at Disneyland, dinner somewhere--just be together to remember the day Tim went to heaven. It rained, poured hard all the way to the Park, but stopped as we parked following the car in front of us. We merged from our vehicle as the occupants next to us do the same--Dylan, and his girlfriend, randomly parking right next to us in the biggest parking lot in the country. After the laughs, selfie-taking, and chit-chat, they went on their way and we did the same. I felt God...I heard God say to me...

"Remember...not just Timmy, but how I chose to bless you, give you comfort in your grief. I moved you to a better place, a good place, and surrounded you with love. Dylan is that reminder, of 10 years in your home and 10 years of seeking Me and allowing Me to love you and show you My glory." 

I knew we would have a good day.

We chose ESPN Zone to have dinner, a place represented by sports, fans and good food, three things my son loved. The server walked us to a booth right in the middle of the restaurant with a clear view of the huge TV, the LA Kings skating against the Minnesota Wild. Ted and I ordered and as I enjoyed a glass of wine, I read the scrolling trivia atop the screen, the "Did you know" questions and answers zipping by as the defense and offence slashed across the ice below.

"Did you know that Barry Bonds holds the home run record of 762 runs in his career? 

As a matter of fact, I DID know that, because a chapter in my book recollects that moment he hit that ball, achieved that record the summer we moved, the summer right after Tim's death...the summer I thought a lot about heaven.

Then those dates scroll along...1954-1980.

I have to wait another 10 minutes for the board to repeat itself so I could see those dates again. Those dates...get its content. I knew what they meant to me.

1954, the year I was born. 1980, the year Tim was born.

..."but he does not hold the world record. That is held by Sunahara Oh, a Japanese player who out hit Barry Bonds by 160 home runs in a career spanning from 1954-1980."

I take a picture on the next loop with my cell phone.

Later that night, I would ask my husband, Ted, what he thought that meant--seeing those two dates, those years on that screen as we were "celebrating" a heavenly birthday. Ten years of hearing from God and receiving His grace and comfort in so, so many significant and amazing ways--I am always the one to interpret, to know the meaning, to ponder and recognize.

But not this time. I asked Ted, not even trying to analyze it. I asked the father of our son to tell me what Our Father meant by showing me those dates.

"God's showing you the bond between a mother and a son, that He understands and knows you miss him. You and Timmy--together, forever."

(Did he know he used the word "bond?"...that was unintentional, right)?

God is so Good. His lovingkindness towards me is great! Greater than a huge parking lot with thousands of cars and people. Greater than cheering crowds and professional hockey players and broadcast capabilities. Greater than Disneyland and rain storms and home run records!

His lovingkindness is greater than my grief. For I have experienced the depths of that emotion and God has delivered me from the part that leaves me feeling alone, insignificant, angry, questioning, worthless, empty, fearful...doubting. He made Tim's time here significant. Grace does that. Grace continues to do that. He keeps giving and showing me beauty in this ugliness of what we call death. For death in grace is only an earthly, flesh, temporary departure. Death in Christ is a home run straight to eternity. That is something so significant, one can't help but proclaim His goodness, scroll it out in the words and actions of my heart. 

Thank You Lord for your grace, your lovingkindness towards me. Thank You for the grace that saved my son and brought him to eternity where we will see each other again in Your Glory. Thank You for giving me such amazing moments that point to Your lovingkindness towards all who believe in You and seek You in their time of great need. With all my heart, I cannot thank You enough for Your gift of grace, an undeserved favor from You, the Holy One, my Creator and Giver of all things good. Help me Lord to also be a grace-giver in these times when Your lovingkindness is needed in so many dark places.  You are good, Amen.

                                                Your Grace Finds Me ~ Matt Reddman