Category Archives: Intentional Living

Beauty from Ashes


Ashes. The rubbish left after devastation. The wasteland remaining after tragedy. Nothing left but to sweep it up and toss it to the wind. No one wants ashes. No one cares about what is left. The focus is only on what is gone, all that is lost to ruin.

My soul is in ashes. I have pummeled it and beaten myself down to nothingness. I have come to believe no one cares because I am not worthy of the concern. The wildfires of despair and pity have ravaged my body and my heart, leaving behind only ashes. A pile of worthlessness detracting from beauty.

But what if it could be different? What if I could be different? What if all the years, all the failed attempts to save myself from the slavery of my sinful habits could be wiped away, allowing me freedom to grow in beauty and strength? What if?

I’ve all but given up hope. All but. I have one last chance to salvage this body of mine, to allow the forest of my soul to flourish and grow fresh, renewed, beautiful as my Creator intended.

But fear holds me back; I am afraid of the fires of failure. They lick at my heels, whisper to me that today doesn’t really matter, I don’t really matter. Fires of unforgiveness against those who lost hope in me and unforgiveness for losing hope in myself. Those fires consume me, weaken my core until I am too afraid to put down my roots, stretch to the heavens, and cry out to God for His salvation.

Can I do it? One more try? You, Oh Lord, have given me hope, one more option, support for the trials. Can I block the flames of insecurity, gluttony, and pity to give You room to heal me to the core?

Can we, together, create in me beauty from the ashes?

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And then there is BRAVE


Learning to be brave can take many forms. For some, it goes so far to as find a newly brave soul jumping from an airplane; others test their taste buds with strange foods in strange lands. Many people consider stepping in front of an audience to be a bravery make-it-or-breaker. In my own quest, I am testing my limits and finding my courage by sharing my heart via this blog and offering it for others to read.

To that end, I recently submitted an entry to be published in an online publication. While my piece was not chosen, the act of editing it to conform to the publication’s standards (and limit of 450 words!), then sending out to be judged took as much gusto as that first time I stood behind a podium to address hundreds of people. And, maybe, just maybe, when the task was complete, I put on my well-worn SuperGirl tee shirt!

The following is a consolidated story from my mission adventures in Honduras

And then there is Brave

I thought I was so brave when I left my children. I filled their arms with stuffed animals to cuddle and their hearts with promises to love them forever. I arranged for babysitters, church friends, my mother to comfort them in my absence. My MOPS Mentor mom suggested I leave love notes and Bible verses to read if they felt sad. I packed my bags, I kissed my babies, and then I left them.

As the plane took off and my home receded farther into the distance, I recited the verse I had left with my daughters, my mantra of bravery.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
Joshua 1:9

Several hours later, our plane touched down in the third world country I was to spend the next two weeks. My mission team and I wound our way through customs, hoping our bags would not be confiscated. We traveled through checkpoints of armed teenaged military personnel and were awoken at night by nearby gunshots. I was often frightened, but not afraid. This was an adventure, an opportunity to see another side of life, to bring God’s love and hope to hurting, abandoned children. I would return home and tell my daughters I had left them to spread goodness in the world. It was hard being away from them, but I would show them I am brave.

And then I met bravery face-to-face, looked into eyes of true courage. She arrived at the orphanage with her five young children, then the young woman signed paperwork, handed over her babies, and walked away.

The native language being foreign to me, I gleaned only a little of the conversation but words were unnecessary. Grief has a language all its own, a non-verbal way of taking over one’s posture, gaze of the eyes, strength of hand, to expose the deepest heartbreak. I saw the vacant look in her eyes as she left her babies; the orphanage would provide a safer home than the one she offered full of sickness and abuse.

What love and wisdom – bravery she probably didn’t know she possessed – it must have taken to leave her children, giving them their best chance at survival. In weakness, my heart crumbled as I recognized the strength she possessed was something I do not, with my clean, secure home and healthy, well-fed children. Choosing to separate herself from her children in order to save them, she revealed to them – and me – what true bravery is: a sacrifice of love.

One Word


Resolutions. I’m not very good at keeping them. They feel altogether confining and un-authoritative. The rules are too strict, but no one is watching so who cares if I break them anyway. And once I do break them, I struggle to get back on track. Lenten sacrifices elude me, too, for the same reasons.

Conversely, I do have pretty decent will-power. As long as the commitment is on my terms (i.e. 365 days beginning January 1: NOT my terms) where I control the rules and the opportunities to break them. Yes, I’m sure we could find a correlation to my childhood and my parents’ challenges raising me, as well as the battles I have with my own children, but that’s not really the point here.

How about a word? Some people suggest selecting a word as the focus for the coming year. One word. An intention. Not a set goal, not an overall lifestyle change, not an abandonment of myself in order to become someone different than who I was last year. Just a word to guide me through the year, a checks-and-balance system in decision making, an improvement on the foundation of who I am, a focus when life is spinning. Perhaps I could do that.

But what word? It would take a lot of introspection to find something impactful. Several blogs suggest starting with a list, then praying over it for weeks. Weeks? We’ll be into March before I get around to a project that complex. So, I read through comments on a friend’s Facebook discussion about this; her friends posted their words and the purposes behind them. As I read each, my responses went something like this:
Gasp! (Audible gasp. I may have woken the baby)

It’s like God hit me over the head with “Here’s looking at you, kid!”

Among all the words, the adjectives, verbs, nouns, all the intentions others are using to guide them in 2014, discipline spoke to me. To my lack of it, to my back when I turn from it, to the commitments I break because I choose to ignore it … And to all the joy I miss out on because self-discipline doesn’t matter enough to me.

Okay, Discipline, we are in this together. I’ll probably have to make some changes, give up some bad habits, pick up some better ones, and check in with you at least once a day. With a little (a lot!) of prayer, I can do this. Let’s see where a little self-discipline takes me in 2014. Beginning, not January 1, but January 9 … the date I chose.