The 40 Day Un-challenge


I don’t know why every time around my birthday I end up in challenges or learning seasons.

Two years ago, 39 days before my 39th birthday, I embarked on the 39 Things Challenge inspired by an article in the New York Times about how we needed so much less STUFF to live on that we actually use.  I went back and read through all of those pieces of the challenge and saw how I had grown, but then how I have allowed all the stuff back into my life without any hesitation.  It reminds me so acutely that I can do anything for a few weeks, but it is going to take a lot more work, a lot better new habit development, and a lot more relying on God to actually get where I am trying to go: less stuff, more faith.

One year ago, I ventured down the 40 Days to 40 Journey.  I felt like there were some big things ahead (I had NO idea, this year has been an absolute whirlwind), and wanted to spend time focusing ten days each on being a better mom, a better wife, a better worker, and a better person.  Some of the stuff stuck.  Some of the areas I’m actually worse today than I was a year ago.

I don’t have any grand challenges this year.  Not until I can learn how to keep the new habits engrained and thriving.  Instead, I’m joining a good friend of mine’s church (virtually, they are in FLORIDA!) as they embark on Mark Batterson’s Draw The Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge.  The idea is to draw a circle around a promise God has for you, and then pray regularly, every day for 40 days, about it.  Because all too often we pray about something and then fail to keep after it, and we forget to recognize God’s hand as it appears in a situation we prayed about.

I don’t have something specific I’m praying (yet).  I all too often fail on more specific ideals I plan or target.  I love that the introduction to the challenge gives you the permission not to know: Pray about what to pray about.  God will reveal a promise, a problem, or a person.  Then circle whatever God has prompted you to pray for with the same kind of consistency with which the earth circles the sun.

I’ll admit, I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch.  As I mentioned, due to a fair amount of travel this month you won’t hear a lot from me in the next few weeks, and it couldn’t come at a better time.  In this season of struggling, I’m craving the quiet.  I’m ready to hear what’s next.  So no grandiose plans for this year’s 40 day challenge.

I started Draw the Circle yesterday and read from II Samuel 22 as my prayer.  There’s a powerful excerpt in the middle of the chapter that, if nothing else, I’m praying.  Each Bible translation says it a little differently – this is my favorite:

They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.  He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. (NIV)

He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. (ESV)

 He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. (KJV)

I have this picture of a wide open field.  Fighting uphill to finally encounter the vista.  And regardless of the words used for the place you reach, each version concludes with the reason why God brings you to this spacious open place: He delights in you.  He delights in me.  I can certainly pray, even without certainty, for a spacious place for the next 40 days.   


Photo Credit: Mike Cattell

How Darkness Tries To Crowd The Light


When we let people or food or drink or pride or ignorance or materialism grow in spaces that are meant for generosity and discipline and patience and wisdom and selflessness, then we stand ill-equipped to resist the lion stalking us constantly.  When we abandon self-control, also translated as a sober mind, we lose right along with it the strength to resist the enemy from a position entrenched in our faith.

Writing over with my sailing dreamers at God-sized Dreams today, won’t you join me for the story?

The Words Series: Part 5, His Words


Today is our final installment in The Words Series – thanks for sticking with me.  This week we’ve talked about how to speak with gracious words that are healing.  If we can’t, then less is more.  If we’re attacked by others’ words, then trust that God has us.  And never forget to say I love you.

Sometimes, that feels like a tremendous amount to remember.  Filled with a road of pitfalls and traps since many times that means we’re fighting instincts that come naturally to us (like fighting back!).

But we’re not in this alone.  God offers to speak wisdom to us, then to put the right words in our mouths, and then we will speak with wisdom and our words will be protected.

1.  Hear His Words.

You are my portion, Lord; I have promised to obey your words.  Psalm 119:57

You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.”  Deuteronomy 11

2.  Ask To Be Given The Right Words.

You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. Exodus 4:15

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand— I who set the heavens in place, who laid the foundations of the earth, and who say to Zion, ‘You are my people.’” Isaiah 51:16

As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever,” says the Lord.  Isaiah  59:21

3.  Wisdom Through, and Protection Of, Your Words Will Come.

My mouth will speak words of wisdom; the meditation of my heart will give you understanding.  Psalm 49:3

 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  Luke 21:15

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground.  I Samuel 3:19

Next week we’re back to leadership and fashion and random thoughts for the week.  I hope you’ve found a nugget in this study and thank you for allowing me the time, as Ann Voskamp says, preach this gospel to myself.  My hope, after a lot of work and practice and mistakes, is that I will be able to say, like David:

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

The Words Series: Part 4, I Love You


My trio started school on Monday.  I tried not to completely fall apart since this year is only PreK-4 and I know that next year I’ll be a wreck.

As I prepared for all the back to school activities this weekend, including having to pack lunches again, I purchased two special packs of napkins while I was at Target.  I thought it would be fun for the kids to have kid-friendly napkins in their lunch kits when they opened them at school the first week.  Bold red pirate ship napkins for the boys and bright pink Hello Kitty napkins for the little lady.

I woke early on Monday morning to prepare a big first day of school breakfast and pack their lunches.  I sometimes write the kids or Bray notes and wanted to reintroduce the tradition in their lunches.  Since the kids are pre-readers, I marked a big I, then a heart, then a U, and signed my name in black marker that would show up.


The kids had a wonderful first day, and as I was talking to the baby in the kitchen Monday night he said, “Mommy, I missed you at lunchtime today when I saw your note to me.”  I gave him a big hug and kiss and told him I loved him and we went on with our activities.

I did the same thing with the napkins Tuesday morning when I packed lunches.  After dinner, the baby came into the kitchen and said, “Mommy, the same thing happened today,” and he threw his arms around my neck.  I asked, “You missed me again?”  He nodded yes and then started to cry.  Squeezing my neck in his tiger hold while these precious tears wet my check, we stood wrapped together for a minute.  “I can stop leaving the notes, I hate to make you sad at lunch,” I whispered into his little ear.  “No, no, don’t stop.  I love them,” he replied smiling.

There’s a lot to say about words.  All the right and wrong ways to use them.  But there is nothing more important to say about words than to remind us all to say (or write) I love you.  Bray and I tell the kids every morning and every night.  We tell each other we love each other every day even if we’ve had a big fight.  Our parents tell us they love us whenever we see one another.  Heck, sometimes my friends and I even say it.

Telling someone who you love that you love them is one of the most powerful things you will ever do.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:13

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me. Psalm 42:8

The Words Series, Part 3: Them’s Fightin’ Words



Have you ever had someone be mean to you?

Really mean.

Maybe it was warranted, if meanness can ever be warranted, but maybe it was completely unsolicited and the person just needed to take out their sadness or madness or terribleness on someone and you happened to be the closest human.

In Part 3 of The Words Series, we’re talking about what to do when you hear “fightin’ words.”  We talked about gracious words in Part 1 and about silencing ourselves when fewer words are called for in Part 2, but today we explore what God tells us to do when harsh words are leveled at us.

1.  Recognize verbal attacks on you will inevitably happen.

People having been saying deceptive things for thousands of years.  Leveling attacks against one another.  Spreading untruths.  God tells us not to put any stock in them.  And He warns us not to start doing it ourselves (even in return).

Do not trust in deceptive words. – Jeremiah 7:8

If anyone teaches otherwise…they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth.  I Timothy 6:4

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you. – Ezekiel 13:8

These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.  For they mouth empty, boastful words …they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves.  II Peter 2:18

2.  Acknowledge there is nothing you can do to control what someone else says.

3.  Forgive them anyways.

In a conversation between Jesus and Peter, Peter thought he was being magnanimous by saying, How many times should I forgive my brother? Up to seven times?  Because let’s face it, forgiving someone seven times IS pretty magnanimous by today’s standards – and I’m sure it was then too.  But Jesus replied with, No, not seven times.  But seventy times seven.  (Matthew 18)  We don’t have to continue to put ourselves in the path of someone who attacks us or tears down our character, but recognizing there isn’t anything we can do about it means that we keep forgiving them if they keep attacking – even from a distance.

If you forgive others, you will be forgiven.  Matthew 6:14

Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven.  Matthew 12:31

4.  Only respond with words that reflect your character.  Do not allow someone else’s meanness to incite you to impugn your own character; that feeds into what they’re seeking (a reaction, inflicting pain) and it gives their statements credibility if you respond in anger. 

There’s a scene in I Samuel 24 when King Saul and David, who was not yet king, were near one another in the desert at the height of Saul’s hatred for David.  David had the opportunity to kill King Saul as his men encouraged him to do.  But instead, David rebuked his men, and called out to King Saul, “This day you have seen with your own eyes how the Lord delivered you into my hands in the cave. Some urged me to kill you, but I spared you; I said, ‘I will not lay my hand on my lord, because he is the Lord’s anointed.’ See, my father, look at this piece of your robe in my hand! I cut off the corner of your robe but did not kill you. See that there is nothing in my hand to indicate that I am guilty of wrongdoing or rebellion. I have not wronged you, but you are hunting me down to take my life.  May the Lord judge between you and me. And may the Lord avenge the wrongs you have done to me, but my hand will not touch you. As the old saying goes, ‘From evildoers come evil deeds,’ so my hand will not touch you.”

Saul, shocked, responds, “You are more righteous than I,” he said. “You have treated me well, but I have treated you badly. You have just now told me about the good you did to me; the Lord delivered me into your hands, but you did not kill me.  When a man finds his enemy, does he let him get away unharmed? May the Lord reward you well for the way you treated me today.  I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands.”

I don’t know what would have happened had David acted rashly, as he sometimes did, and killed King Saul.  I don’t know if that would have prevented him from ascending to King.  But I do know that he trusted the Lord to judge what happened, refused to be drawn into a terrible reaction by someone else’s bad words and actions, and he was rewarded by becoming King.

5.  Then leave it to God to sort out. 

A little later in this story, II Samuel 22 shares David’s joy and ultimate blessing because he left it in God’s hands:

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul He said, The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation…He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord says the Lord.  Isaiah 54:17