Monthly Archives: April 2013

On the Backside of 180 {lessons from the lunchroom}

The sound of Nerf guns blare from the living room – background noise to accompany my thoughts this afternoon.

Make it stop! That’s what I’m thinking. Goodness, mercy me! How in the world have we survived this experiment, this year-long foray into the world of homeschooling? Month upon month, day-in-day-out of intentional bonding with my kids. Three days more and we’ll cross the finish line . . . and we still like one another, this lunchroom lady and her pupils. Some days it’s been too much; some days a good fit with family routine.

All days . . . yes, each one of them grounded and founded in prayer. It’s the only reasonable explanation for our being able to reach this milestone with any measure of grace and tangible accomplishment. Early on, God impressed into my spirit a daily requirement: Feed your soul, Elaine, before feeding others. And so I have. So we have. A collective, morning requirement.

We start the day with prayer, followed by individual Bible lessons. Jadon in the kitchen. Amelia in the living room. Me in the bedroom. Each one of us opening up the Word of the God and allowing him a moment or two or thirty at the lectern of our hearts. For my children, perhaps, it’s a practice that’s felt a bit perfunctory at times. I suppose the same could be said for me. But I know something they have yet to fully grasp: Faithful obligation yields a firm foundation. A daily dose of truth roots us deeper within the everlasting soil that is touched and tended by the loving Gardener of our souls. He is where we must start – each day, each thought, each hope – anchored within the eternal.

To God belongs the success. He’s been the key to our learning – a schooling that has far exceeded any information contained on the pages of textbooks. Yes, God has required more of us this year than what can be calculated and quantified by end-of-grade testing. He’s required heart growth, a garden of Spirit-led expansion that includes fruit like patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and a love without limits.

Oh the lessons we’ve learned! Some through tears. Some through wounding. Some through joy. Some through laughter. I imagine we’ll spend this next season discovering the fullness of what this means for us as a family. But today, as I stand on the backside of something I was sure I wouldn’t be able to accomplish of the front side of its unfolding, there is one thing I know for certain.

I’ve given my all for my students. I’ve not always given them my best, but I have willingly surrendered my heart to the process so that their hearts might grow in a right and good direction. In years to come, I don’t know how my kids will remember this time. If they take nothing else away from these last 180 days spent together, my hope is that they will remember our morning prayers and their daily digs into truth.

Faithful obligation yields a firm foundation. From here, God can grow a kingdom . . .

In Jadon. In Amelia. And in the one they call the “lunchroom lady.”

It’s been my joy and privilege to serve you, sweet ones.

Peace for your journeys of grace and beyond. I love being your mom.

Running my race . . .


Safe . . . protected under the shelter of God’s wings.

Those were the phrases that surfaced in my mind and the feelings that settled deeply within my soul when I awoke at my parents’ home yesterday morning – a Sabbath morning. Certainly the fact that I was with them and under their watchful care had something to do with the peace that I felt. Even more so, knowing that I was under God’s watchful care and firmly attached to his will and his strength, well this was a great grace for me—to know that I know that I know that all is well with my soul and that I could firmly and forcefully approach the day with certain confidence.

And so we went, Jesus and me together, sowing kingdom seed during the three morning services at Garner UMC. This is a big week for the folks in Garner. Their annual Relay for Life event will take place on Friday night at Lake Benson Park. The community will come out in force, none more so than the community that gathers each Sunday at Garner UMC. Their hearts are passionate about Relay, about this race for life. In a small way, my preaching was to be a rallying cry of sorts—a central meeting point for the saints to begin their intentional steps of pilgrimage toward Friday night’s festivities.

By the time the noon hour rolled around, I had a strong feeling that we had done what we came to do . . . God and me. His call to me to go and preach grace and my obedience therein—a corporate venture toward kingdom multiplication. A call not to solely reflect on my cancer survivorship but, more importantly, to address the issue of my soul survivorship. In doing so, in talking about what it means to survive this life with Jesus as my compass, everyone who made it out to Garner UMC yesterday morning was able to find their place and mark their paces in the survivor’s lap of the most important relay they will ever run—a relay for everlasting life with their everlasting King.

Safe . . . protected under the shelter of God’s wings. There we stood yesterday morning, linking arms for the kingdom cause, and I am undone with the memory of it all, unable to fully reflect in a few words what it meant to me. What it meant to my family—daughter, sons, husband, and father on the front pew, mother in the choir loft. What it meant to the congregants. I just know that it meant something special for all of us, and on this Monday morning, I am exceedingly grateful for yet another undeserved blessing from my Father’s heart and for the privilege of joining him on the front lines of grace.

I leave you with a few words my father wrote to me last evening; forgive me if they seem self-indulgent. Perhaps I’m not writing them for you. Perhaps more so, for my children and for their children for a season yet to come so that they, too, can hold this memory as part of their spiritual heritage and remember a day when Faith Elaine took to the pulpit and rallied the troops in the name of soul-survivorship and exclusively for the name and renown of Jesus Christ her Lord.


It isn’t very often that a preacher gets to sit at the feet of another preacher; especially when that preacher is your daughter. I sat on the front pew this morning—watching, listening, and feeling some very deep and heart-warming ‘moments’, as I heard Elaine preach. Tonight, to reflect or write on what I experienced would be fruitless—some things are too deep, too precious, and too sacred. Silence is often the best response to the ‘deepest of things’. One of these days I might be able to, but not tonight. So, let me offer a prayer instead—a prayer that I keep nearby and use it often. While the author is unknown, it comes out of the 17th Century, entitled, A Nun’s Prayer.

“Lord, thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing old and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody; helpful but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all, but thou knowest Lord that I want a few friends at the end.

“Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience.

“I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.

“Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a Saint—some of them are so hard to live with—but a sour old person is one of the crowning works of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so. Amen.”

Goodnight, Elaine, sleep well, and when the morning greets you with the rising sun, you will hear music, the kind of music we all heard this morning. Keep singing that Song! 



messy and mad . . .


Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Messy life. Mad me. There’s no prettying up this one, not enough shine and polish to make it less obvious to others. Anyway, what’s the point of a cover-up other than to possibly fool someone into thinking I have it altogether?

I don’t. On my best days, I’m always one step away from behaving badly. My flesh doesn’t consistently keep pace with my faith. Today has been one of those days for me.

The messiness that surrounds me creates a terrible ache inside of me for calmer days, although at the moment I’m having a difficult time remembering what they look like, feel like . . . live like. Accordingly, a less than gracious display of emotion bursting forth onto the pavement in front of me and into the lives of those who sit most closely to my influence.

My influence. I type those two words with a penitent heart and with a few questions to the Father about why he has allowed me so much of it, especially on days of amplified tension. This wasn’t supposed to be this hard. Or so I think. But my supposition doesn’t change the facts.

Life is hard, messy too. And every now and then, living within these constraints gets the best of me. Perhaps you understand. Perhaps you know something about the “hard and messy” of life.

We don’t get too far in our walks of faith and not experience the push for transformation. God will bring our “hard and messy” to the surface so that we might accurately assess the condition of our hearts. His assessment is always clear; we, however, are sometimes a bit slower in recognizing the inward ticking of a sometimes veiled reality. And while I’m not a fan of painful disclosure, I am a fan of fleshing out the hidden contents of my heart in the safe and loving presence of Father God.

Honestly, I just wish we’d already taken care of this years ago.

Messy and mad.

Life is. I am.

Gracious and loving.

God is. God does.

And therein I find my compass.

an opportune time . . .

A couple of nights ago, I called my older boys and offered them this caution:

“Be on guard, sons. Apparently our family is now Satan’s new, favorite chew-toy.”

The next morning, my mother called with a similar warning:

“Elaine, I’ve been standing here in front of the mirror, curling my hair and thinking about all that’s been going on in our family over the past couple of weeks. We’re fighting something we cannot see, a battle of spiritual proportion.”

It seems as if my family is standing up against a formidable foe in this season, feeling the constraints of our faith in overload. Accordingly, I go to God’s Word this morning and allow it to speak truth to my soul. In thinking about Christ’s struggle against the enemy, I am strengthened in my own efforts at resistance.

“When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” –Luke 4:15

Two things strike me about this verse:

  • An opportune time known as desert testing.
  • An opportune time yet to come.

There’s a plurality to the devil’s scheming. Funny how often we’re surprised by this reality. It’s not as if one opportune time is more difficult than the other. Opportune times are straining times, all of them stretching the comfortable boundaries of faith and requiring a step beyond what feels reasonable. I don’t imagine many of us go looking for opportune times (especially ones involving a forty day fast in the desert or a gut-wrenching surrender to nails and a hammer); instead, they seem to find us, pulling us in without notice. Almost accidentally.


Opportune times. The Greek word kairos, meaning “season, opportune time. It is not merely as a succession of moments, which is “chronos,” but a period of opportunity (though not necessity). It is a critical or decisive point in time; a moment of great importance and significance; a point when something is ready or favorable, a propitious moment.” (NIV Key Word Study Bible, 1635-1636).

Read that again slowly and consider Christ’s conflict; consider your own. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Opportune times are not accidental occasions. Instead, they are orchestrated, carefully selected, and purposely planned. Whether schemed by the devil for our destruction or willingly allowed by God for our perfection, opportune times are those hinge moments in our life’s history that swing faith in one of two directions: a right one or a wrong one. Really, there’s no middle ground in opportune seasons. Either we live them right—live them forward and in faith—or we live the lesser road. A road of regression, wrongful conclusions, and regrettable distrust.

I don’t want to live on the side of distrust. I want to live rightly on the side of faith, fully believing that no weapon forged against me will prevail. That, in fact, victory is my heritage as a servant of the Lord (see Isaiah 45:17). Accordingly, I must pick up the sword of the Spirit and strap on my spiritual armor, because the opportunistic arrows of the enemy will not be quenched by feeble, weak-minded, and weak-willed faith. No, to stop his forward progression, I must stand in the strength of who I am in Jesus Christ.

I am God’s child. I am his chosen bride. I am the apple of his eye.

So are you.

Be on guard, friends. If you’re not in the middle of an opportune season right now, I imagine one is waiting for you down the road. Don’t fear its advent; rather, recognize it as it arrives and for what it has the potential to be—a hinge moment in your faith’s history that will strengthen your understanding of God and will catapult your witness forward for the exponential increase of the kingdom.

Satan may have come to me and my family in what he thought to be his opportune time. However, he seems to have momentarily ignored that my times (opportune and otherwise) are in God’s hands. They all belong to him, and his purposes for my life override any schemes to the contrary. God holds the chain to the short leash attached around Satan’s roaming, and today my Father has willingly and forcefully yanked it a few times so that the devil remembers who’s in charge.

I am grateful for God’s strength in this season and for your prayers that have, undoubtedly, tightened the noose around the devil’s neck. What privilege there is in standing alongside you, my mighty warrior friends! As always . . .Peace for the journey,

hearts on pilgrimage . . .


“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.” –Psalm 84:5


Her heart spilled over into mine as I read the struggle in her words. Another pastor’s wife, just like me, living the itinerant lifestyle—a nomadic calling of sorts, requiring that the tent pegs remain pliable and the baggage minimal. She asked me if I ever felt “stretched and thinned” by it all, ever really felt settled in my spirit about the ministry road and my calling to stand jointly alongside my husband as a harbinger of the kingdom of God.

Stretched and thinned. An apt description for those (not just pastors and their families) who pick up the Gospel torch and who covenant with the Creator to carry it forward. Stretching and thinning is part of our trajectory of faith. From “strength to strength” with the line in between tethered to tomorrow’s promise while being restrained by yesterday’s productivity. A sacred tension between our future and our history and, if not carefully protected by perspective, a rip or two in the fabric of our souls.

Yes . . . stretched and thinned, even unsettled at times. This is where I’ve been in recent days, standing next to the man I love with one hand clasped around his and the other hand loosening the tent pegs at my feet. The last time I felt this kind of pull was three years ago when we moved to our present location. The road to arrive here was a bumpy one, and my heart was torn in two at the thought of having to start all over again.

Today, my heart feels the same, a difficult tug between all that’s been and all that will be. Stretching and thinning, desperately trying to keep in step with the Spirit and with the preacher-man whom the Father has so generously given to me for this life. Together, we’ve set our hearts on pilgrimage, knowing that the time has come for us to move forward in faith. In June, we’ll make our trek southward to a small community just north of the South Carolina state line.

I don’t imagine it will come as easily as I would like for it to, and I’ve long since given up trying to forecast the future. I can only live the stretching and thinning of this day and commit my forward movement to God’s forwarding grace. He will see to my next steps, and he’s too thorough with my sanctification to leave one stone unturned or untouched by his refining love.

Oh friends, would you pray for us, all six of us? We’re all being stretched and thinned by God’s good pleasure and because of his strong desire to move us further along in our perfection. But along the way and as we go, it’s good to know that we have friends who partner with us in the advancing of God’s kingdom through prayer. If you’re so inclined, we covet your prayers for:

  • a collective faith unafraid to move forward;
  • a resolute-passionate spirit to get the job done;
  • an unbridled, heavenly joy to keep us company as we walk it out.

If I’m going to be stretched and thinned let it be so for the glory and renown of my faithful God who has yet to waste a single, surrendered moment of my life. He’ll work with what he gets, and today I’m putting my all back into his hands.

Peace for the journey, ye pilgrims of grace. I’m so blessed to have you partner alongside my heart as we all move onward and upward to take hold of all of that for which Christ Jesus has taken hold of us. I love you dearly.

PS: Photo credit – KCC Photography, Fayetteville’s finest photographer!

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