I Saw the Sign

I often find myself feeling jealous of the Old Testament people. Not that I’d like their nomadic life. Or lack of indoor plumbing. They can have that stuff. What I really covet are the very clear signs of God’s presence in his prophets and in his miracles.

Imagine seeing lightening come down and light a bonfire for Elijah. The prophets of Baal had already busied themselves with hopping around their altar, inviting their god to light their pile of wood. Hopping, praying, chanting, cutting their skin, all useless. Elijah steps up, dousing his altar with water with dramatic flair, making it even ‘harder’ for God. Ha.

Fire came immediately from heaven to torch the soggy wood.

Noah build an ark with plans given to him by God himself. Right from His own specific directions. That’s pretty amazing right there. But then imagine seeing this ark assembled, loaded with animals of every kind, followed by a flood that covered the earth.

Who could deny that God was at work?

In our modern times, the voice of God doesn’t seem to boom for His prophets to hear. Dry bones don’t rise and assemble themselves. (Ezekiel 34) Hands don’t appear and write on castle walls. (Daniel 5) But it sure would be nice to have such clear signs from God, wouldn’t it?

When my husband and I were looking for our first house, we knew where we wanted to live. It was an old, established suburb that was on the high end of our price range. There were such great schools, beautiful parks and a thriving shopping district too.

The first house I liked was sold before my husband could get home from work to see it.

The next house we were shown had a full-scale bar in the living room. Mirrored glass on the wall, gleaming oak bar with tall barstools…the whole nine yards. I love me a glass of wine now and again, but who wants a Cheers set in their living room?

Why weren’t we finding anything in the city we liked?

Finally, we looked in another suburb, and found our house. Perfect price in a perfect location, lots of young families in the neighborhood, and best of all, NO BAR!

Looking back… I guess God’s voice was pretty clear.

I think one of the biggest challenges I have, as a ‘non-Old Testament-person’ is appreciating the subtle ways that God speaks now. He doesn’t hurl lightening, but instead whispers through me, the people around me, and in my life circumstances.

It’s easy for me to wonder how the Pharaoh could miss the communique from God, given through Moses. All those bloody rivers, swarming frogs, locusts and bugs. Yikes. That wasn’t enough? Incredible, right?

Well, not really. How many times has it taken for me to ‘get the message’?

Dear Lord, how about we make a deal. You hold back the plagues, and I’ll keep trying to recognize you in the softer ways you speak. No more Jericho dreams for me. Instead, let’s agree to meet in a deserted place.

No fire. No bugs. Just your quiet voice and me.


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Being Grateful for Grace

Sometimes, the most ordinary of circumstances has a story to tell about grace.

As you may have seen on my Facebook page, we’re having some work done on the house. Work that involves quite a bit of demolition.

It’s odd to see the bare walls, even the insulation is stripped from the 2×4’s. I know the bare walls along with electrical wires and pipes were there, but of course, I never saw them. The innards and framework were always covered by drywall and paint.

It’s surprising what you end up seeing. The walls have little areas with splashes of paint that were covered up long ago with new color. We even saw a receipt for the original house inspection stapled to one of the exposed beams. And then there was the little surprise we found when the family room rug was pulled up and discarded.

Oh my. There on the floor was some of the ugliest peel and stick tile we’d ever seen. As my husband and I looked at it, it was hard not to laugh. But then, it came to me. Not only was the tile unattractive, it was almost fifty years old. Just the right age to be made of asbestos.

Yikes. I called the contractor right away.

He said that as long as the tile wasn’t disturbed, there wouldn’t be a problem. We decided to have the new wood floor laid right over that pesky tile. Problem solved. With the new flooring in place, we’ll be protected from any harm.

The episode with the tile reminded me that I have faced many potentially harmful situations in my life. But looking back, I realized that I was protected by God’s loving power in grace.

Like the time I was in a car accident in downtown Chicago two days after my father died. I was driving two of my siblings to the planning meeting for the funeral. I had to make a quick stop at an intersection. I made that stop. The woman behind me didn’t.

The traffic attendant waved us over to the side of the road, while my brother dialed the insurance company for me, and my sister called the police. The woman who hit me flew out of her car, arms flapping in the air, yelling at the top of her voice that the traffic cops were incompetent.

It was a scary situation. But by the grace of God, the driver did calm down. I had just finished physical therapy for a neck strain, but the accident didn’t cause a reinjury. No one got hurt, and the other driver had insurance.

Finally, we made it to the planning meeting. We were late, but we were there.

In every circumstance, even in what seems dangerous or toxic, God’s presence and grace is active in us. Just like the wood that covers my asbestos tile, his grace envelops our lives, sheltering us from harm.

I’m so grateful for that love and protection. May I always be thankful.




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Shine Like a Lighthouse

I like visiting lighthouses. Not many are open to the public anymore, but just seeing one standing strong on the shore gives me a feeling of peace and safety.

Lighthouses create a focus for sailors looking for a port. Sailing in the dark, the shore is nearly impossible to see, and trying to navigate in a storm makes it even worse. The sight of a solid, stable light is a joy to the sailor, leading the storm-tossed to safety.

I usually think of a lighthouse as a building, but there are people who are lighthouses too. Friends, family members, even strangers who grace us with their light in our darkness, leading us to that same sense of peace and safety.

For me, Mary was one of those people.

I met her at the pediatricians office. My nine-month-old foster daughter had been in and out of that office a lot, struggling with colds or runny noses that quickly progressed to hoarse coughs and wheezing.

Two days before Christmas, we were back again.

Finally, the diagnosis came. My daughter had asthma. The doctor handed me an order for a nebulizer machine, and a prescription for medicine to put in it. Ummm. Ok. But I have no idea how to get this, or how to use it…

Back at home, I started calling local pharmacies, but none of them sold the machine. With only two days until Christmas, I knew if I didn’t connect with a vendor soon, the holiday weekend would delay treatment even further. 

I finally contacted the doctors office and nervously explained my problem. The billing office set me up with a nurse visit the next day.

That nurse was Mary, and she gave me a beautiful Christmas present. She guided me through the insurance process, found two medical equipment stores (open on Christmas Eve!) and showed me how to use the nebulizer machine. When I got back to the car, I just cried. I was so relieved.

This nurse was so helpful and so kind. I was lost and drowning in a sea of anxiety. I was beside myself trying to soothe a sick baby, be present to my two other children, somehow prepare for Christmas, and to top it off, I couldn’t find the equipment I needed. I was definitely in a storm. But I didn’t go under thanks to Mary. She was my lighthouse.

I’m sure she thought she was ‘just doing her job’, but to me, she was a beacon of hope. Lighthouses are like that. In the middle of a storm, they stand strong and immovable.

‘Common courtesy’. ‘Just doing my job’. Well, it might look like that. But Mary showed me that everyday acts of kindness can change lives.

All of us have the ability to be a steady light in a storm. Just being who God created you to be, and sharing it, qualifies you as a beacon of hope.

So stand strong, and let your light shine, because somebody needs you today.

I wonder who it will be?


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The Power in Persistence

When you hear the name “Abraham Lincoln”, what word comes to your mind to describe him? Maybe it’s one of these: Brave. Leader. Honest. Caring. But you know what word was used to describe Lincoln back in the early to mid 1800’s?

Loser. As in, ‘Nice try but you failed. Again.’

This was a man besieged by defeat and difficulty. Raised in poverty, he was still able to establish two different businesses. Both failed. The death of his fiancee, Anne Rutledge, drove him to a total nervous breakdown. He spent six months in bed.

And that’s not all. He ran for eight public offices including Congress, Speaker of the State Legislature, Senator and a Vice Presidential nomination. He lost each one. Don’t you think at some point he would have looked at all this loss and thought, “Is God trying to tell me something?”

But the faith he had in himself and his goals was so deep, he just kept getting up every single time he failed. Somehow he knew he was born to serve, and loss was not going to hold him back. 

He had the gift of persistence.

It’s a quality that all creative, inventive people share. No new process, product or theory just ‘pops’ out of the brain fully formed. Ultimate success requires endless cycles of trial and error.  Thank goodness for scientists who have the tenacity and patience to continue looking for solutions that often take years to find.

Failure doesn’t stop them, they just consider it another form of feedback.

Mr. Lincoln treated every rejection as a lesson, just like a careful scientist. Failure made him the most persistent, dogged, determined person on the planet. And you know what? That was exactly the kind of person the United States needed in 1860. God wasn’t about to send some weak, wimpy politician to face the horrors of the Civil War. He needed the person he chose and prepared for that job. Abraham Lincoln. The man who wouldn’t give up.

Kind of makes you wonder…

Have there been times in your life that have been dark and hard? Times when you felt lost, alone or defeated? Probably more than once. Our Father knows that you will experience loss and hardship, but he definitely doesn’t want you to be crushed by it. Oh no, he’s got big plans for you. Failure isn’t the end of your story.

Where we see loss, God sees opportunity. Our missteps become a powerful training ground in persistence. Every experience of falling and rising tempers our souls, allowing us to become the ‘polished arrow’ God needs us be.

Honestly, every person who has done anything of value has met failure. At the time, it seems like something to be mourned. But like every inventor and scientist learns, losses lead to new solutions and new life.

So remember. Falling isn’t failing. Rise up and try again. You need to be on your way. As Mr. Lincoln found out, there’s victory in your future…


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Sharing today with Barbie at: Glimpses of Beauty

A Journey Home, A Journey Back

On May 22, I signed off the blog to take an extended break. My private life was hopping, and honestly, I felt a little blocked in the inspiration department. It was puzzling to me that I would need months off – it’s not anything I’ve done before in my four year writing life. But God was calling me to rest, so I said goodbye and stepped into the quiet.

Well. That’s what I thought anyway.

In less than a month after starting the break, my beloved father died. He had been living with a Stage 4 cancer diagnosis for over a year and a half, so it wasn’t unexpected. But the surprising thing was that he didn’t die of the cancer. He experienced a medical complication on Tuesday, and died two days later on June 9th.

I am blessed with siblings who are loving, supportive, and dedicated to family. Every single one of my seven brothers and sisters dropped what was happening in their lives, and came to be at my dad’s bedside.

We prayed together and shared stories about the old days. We talked about our sorrow in saying goodbye, and our joy in knowing that dad wouldn’t be in pain much longer. And finally, we were all together when my father, Ralph G. Ryan, quietly finished his life on earth.

Losing my dad has been tough, harder than I ever expected. I think it’s been especially difficult because not only did I lose a father, I lost my last parent. (My mom died in 2010.) I’ve felt both sad and overwhelmed, but then again, I’ve experience the joy of knowing that dad doesn’t suffer anymore.

All these conflicting feelings needed time to be sorted out, embraced and accepted.

I know he’s closer to me now in Spirit than he ever was on earth. I know his death was a blessing, and that he’s finally home. But sometimes my friends, those thoughts don’t help all that much. I still get sad, although these days, the sadness isn’t as deep, and it doesn’t last as long.

Which brings me back to May 22nd. Now I know why God was calling me to put down my pen. He knew what was to come, and he knew I’d need time to spend with my dad and my family…and to have the time to grieve.

I have used that time over the last few months. I’ve read some really great books and spent time in prayer. I’ve visited both of my children and their families, attended a family wedding, and traveled to Colorado to visit my sister. But probably the biggest trip of all was the personal journey from the darkness of loss to the breaking dawn of acceptance and even joy. I’m beginning to experience the comfort that comes with knowing that my dad is reunited with my mom in heaven.

I’m so grateful that my heavenly Father nudged my hand, and asked me to let go for a while.

And now, three months later, I’m so glad to be back.


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Time For a Break

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve put up any new content on the blog, or been around to visit other blog friends. Unfortunately, I strained my neck about three weeks ago, and was having good days and bad days. In the end, the bad days were winning, so I went to the doctor.

I’m now in physical therapy for about a month to help my neck muscles calm down, and strengthen them so this doesn’t happen again (yes please!). I feel a little better now, which is great, but I look forward to getting back to full strength.

In the middle of all that, my husband was involved in a car accident (not his fault). He is now dealing with some pain too, so we are quite a pair! I think between the therapy, the soreness, and the coming summer activities, it’s probably a good time for a blog break.

I wish you all a wonderful summer, with the joy and peace the good weather brings. I plan to get back to blogging in August, so I hope to see you then! I’ll keep you in my prayers, and I hope that we will be in yours.

God bless us all, and keep us in the palm of his hand.



Life’s Little Surprises

I explained to my son that he was going to be a big brother. He was 21 months at the time, so I knew the information would seem a bit abstract and hard to grasp. But my husband and I still had to try.

So we tried for three days. Then his sister, our new infant daughter arrived.

Because our children are adopted, there is precious little time to get siblings ready for a new arrival. My husband and I knew about the adoption for a few days, but you never know what can happen. We waited a bit more, to be as sure as we could be, and only then brought our son into the big surprise.

So really, we were all scrambling to absorb the joyful concept of adding another person to our heart and home. 

I think my son did as well as could be expected. He treated his new sister with alternate levels of intensity. Intense interest. Intense love. Intense lack of interest. Sometimes she was just that funny lump on the floor between him and the toy box. It would be a while until he could appreciate the true gift that she was.

Last year, the Huffington Post published an article showing how some big sisters and brothers reacted the first time they saw their newborn siblings. The photos that accompanied the article were both heartwarming and hilarious.




The sibling reactions ran the gamut between unimaginable tenderness and horror. Well, sometimes it takes a little while for gifts to look like…gifts.

That wait time applies to the little surprises that crop up for us as adults too. God’s sudden ‘little presents’ are often bewildering. They are all expressions of God’s great love for us, but sometimes, they don’t look much like it.

But God has a wonderful way of transforming our gifts.

“If you work hard and are a team player, you’ll go far.” That’s what you heard at work three years ago. “Oh please, give me a break,” you think. But you keep at it, doing the best you can, with little fanfare. Now you sit in the chair dumbfounded while the boss tells you about your raise and new responsibilities.

Your child bugs you for weeks to be a chaperone for the class trip. Now that’s about the last thing you’d want to do, but you finally cave and do it. Not only is it a great trip, but you meet a fellow chaperone who becomes your best friend.

Each of our life experiences are wrapped-up gifts, one after another. Some we accept with joy, most look a little sketchy at first. But if we can hang on in faith, they transform into delightful surprises.

So here’s what I’d tell all of us who give a gift the side eye. It’s going to be okay. We’ll survive the confusing, upsetting newness, and watch it change into joy.

And to all those older sibs, I want you to know that God has a wonderful plan. Someday that little squawking, confusing stranger…will be your best friend.


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Living in the Flowing Waters

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple, and behold, water was issuing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east). The water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and behold, the water was trickling out on the south side.”    Ezekiel 47

I don’t know about you, but every time I hear this Scripture proclaimed, I try to visualize the temple and the water flowing… But it’s pretty hard to do. All those sides of the Temple, all that water. It gets confusing.


Yeah. Not so helpful is it. Fortunately, it’s not a must to understand the origin or flow of the water. It’s really all about the water itself.

There’s healing and life-giving water flowing out of the Temple, it can’t be contained. Well, what can contain God? We all live and splash in this water of life, flowing naturally from His throne.

And here’s some more good news: You are God’s Temple too.

Before we were born, our lives were planned and decorated, waiting for the moment we would be loved into being. At just the right time, we are born, and a new grace-filled temple comes to live on earth.

In Ezekiel’s dream, the temple didn’t just leak water. Oh no. This was rushing, life-giving water in super-abundant amounts.

We all have a share in this abundant life, roiling and sloshing in and around us. This healing grace will not be kept captive. It pushes and shoves, eager to escape and share itself in never-ending supply.

Like waters that spill over a dike after a rainstorm, grace grows and expands in us as God’s Temple. Once it fills, it can barely be held back, restless and pressing, finally cascading out of us and onto our brothers and sisters.

Have you ever met someone who needed help, and felt compelled to step in? That’s the nudge that comes from the swelling grace inside you. It’s always looking for a place flow, a situation to heal, a person to support.

I’ve seen it in action in children. I have four-year-old and two-year-old granddaughters, and those two are always tussling over something. A favorite doll, a book. “I WANT IT!”

Yeah. Well. She had it first. (I’m sure you all know the drill.)

But there are many times, I’d see one or the other sister wait about three seconds after her sibling ‘requested’ the toy she was holding, and then cheerfully hand it over. “Here you go!”, she’d say.

What can this be but grace? This little Temple spilling over with the loving power of God.

So, who cares what direction or what door the grace flows from? The most important thing is, it’s flowing.

And truly, that’s a beautiful and powerful sight.

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Linking today with Tracy at Winsome Wednesday

Sometimes, It Takes A Little More

I stood in the waist-high water of the shallow end of the pool. Not two feet away from the edge, I squinted into the sun to see my little boy standing on the edge of the pool deck.

“Jump to Mommy! You can do it – I’ll catch you. You’ll be fine!”

My little one’s face was a rainbow of emotions. Excitement. Dread. Love. Doubt. Those little feet stayed firmly planted on the deck. Nothing I said seemed to help or encourage a leap into my arms.

Well, there was all that water between us too.

I’m sure thoughts were racing through his mind. Thoughts like:


Will she catch me?

What if I drown?

You know, this doesn’t look like a lot of fun. PASS!


I finally had to give up. Again. “Maybe next time Buddy,” I said with a little sadness. I couldn’t help wishing my child had more trust in me. Haven’t I been worthy of that trust?

I had fed, clothed, napped, Mommy-And-Me’d and treated him to ice pops. I covered outlets, put up safety gates, and caught his flying body as it careened off the bottom of the slide.

But, sometimes it takes a little more.

Remember the story of Thomas the Apostle? How he doubted that Jesus ‘appeared’ to his friends? His doubt was so disturbing to Jesus, that He came back again just for Thomas’ benefit.

What really hit me were the words in John’s Gospel that came after the visit.


Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book.  But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ.       ~John 20


The disciples needed Jesus to perform ‘many other’ miracles and signs too, even though He appeared to them after His death. Even though He had come back after dying and rising, they still needed added assurance that He was the Savior.

Jesus, still having to prove Himself. What did He think of the situation?


Will they get it this time?

How many signs will it take?

Why is there this river of doubt between us?


Jesus did everything He was supposed to do. He healed, taught, fed, protected and shared His Spirit. What more could the disciples need?

If you think about it, the apostles were just like my son. They wanted to believe. They wanted to leap over that chasm of doubt, and land in the arms of Jesus. It just took a little more. A little more proof. A little more encouragement.

The good news is that the apostles did come to believe. They did make that leap to become strong, purposeful leaders in the beginning years of the Church. They were rock solid in faith, converting the people they were called to serve.

Back at the pool with my son… He jumped when he got enough encouragement too. Years later he was a member of his high school’s water polo team, winning the state championship four years running.

A little extra. Sometimes, that’s what we need…to finally come to trust.

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Try. Fail. Fall. Repeat.

I remember watching my children learn to walk. They’d stand, and then cruise the furniture. It took at while, but eventually they got up enough nerve to let go of the couch and take a wobbly step or two before they’d plop down on their backsides (if they were lucky!).

It looked painful. I think I’d be in traction for a week if I fell that hard on my derriere.

My son was more determined than my daughter. He would fall and get right back up. And fall again. He was like a bouncing Energizer Bunny. Nothing would stop him from getting right back on his feet.

My daughter was different. Every attempt to walk, followed by the inevitable fall, was a Shakespearean tragedy. She would yelp and wail like she had been electrocuted, and then wouldn’t try again for a few days.

Fade to learning to ride a bike…

Basically, it’s the same procedure. I’d hang on to the back of their bike seat while they pedaled down the sidewalk. Hopefully, they’d get up enough momentum to glide when I let go, but that was never guaranteed. There were plenty of wobbles, crashes and slow-mo tip overs. But still, they kept at it until they were sailing down the sidewalk, grins a mile wide on their faces.

In the end, they both learned to walk and ride a bike. They both had to suffer the hard bumps of failure, decide to try again, and then begin the process one more time.

There’s just something inside our children that moves them from sitting to crawling to walking. And from walking to riding a bike. I suppose they learn a lot by watching other children, but I also think that’s how they’re wired. Like the urge to eat and sleep, the call to walk and move is deep and primal. Failure doesn’t crush their spirits for very long.

As adults, we can lose sight of that primal call to courage and change. Failure hits hard, and we wonder if we’re supposed to keep trying. If someone sees us fall? Now embarrassment crawls in on top of feeling useless and unable.

Sometimes, having more worldly experience can be a negative.

Children fail, get frustrated and then try again. Adults fail, and now it’s less about the goal, and more about all the ways we tell ourselves “this might not be for me.”

I wonder why we’re so good at talking ourselves out of things when we are capable of doing more than we could ever imagine. Like our children, it’s going to take an investment of time and experience. Not to mention falling on our backsides. But we absolutely can overcome.

If God is calling you from deep inside to do something for Him, don’t let failure stop you. Let that calling lead you to rise up and try again every time you trip and fall. That strength is in you.

When you finally succeed, you’ll run and ride like the wind.

Your Father will be so proud…

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