Category Archives: packing up

Rodeo . . .


This isn’t my first rodeo.

In the course of my lifetime, I’ve lived in five different states, ten cities, and changed physical addresses at least eighteen times. My family and I are less than a week away from making it number nineteen.

A new home. New community. New ministry. New everything. Alongside the new, will arrive some old. It’s the old that sustains me. Strengthens me. Maintains me. That old?

God is near. (Ps. 145:18; James 4:8)




When breathed in isolation, those three words hold enough theology, imagery, breadth, and depth to transition a heart from the old into the new. God and his nearness are old. God and his nearness are new. Never changing; ever the same. Ever present, active, and accurate. God simply and profoundly IS wherever I am. I cannot outrun his presence or hide from his heavenly GPS. He knows where I am and is willing to keep pace with my progression. Movement wins when God is with me.

This is how I can do this thing—keep making these moves and living the itinerant life. Knowing that God is near me keeps me upright in the saddle and focused on the finish line. Certainly, I’ve kicked up a little dust along the way, taken a tumble every now and again, and even knocked over a barrel on occasion. Each rodeo comes with its unique obstacles. But even then—even there in those moments of holding on for dear life—joy can be found. There’s something about the ride that trumps the risk.

To ride and rope and gallop alongside Jesus is to live life on the solid edge. This is how faith feels to me right now—dusty, wild, fast, and furious. I am hanging on for dear, sweet life. I’m resolved regarding the finish line, tenaciously gripping the reins in one hand while waving to the crowd with the other . . .

Just so you’ll know I’m still here. Just so you’ll know I haven’t given up. Just so you’ll know that I’m still committed to the ride, regardless of how bumpy it gets some days.

How grateful I am for the nearness of God and for this ride that draws me ever closer to his heart!

*Fair Warning: Number nineteen, here I come! Saddle up, and get ready to rodeo, friends. We’re in for the ride of our lives. May God grant us his favor, his strength, his discernment, his joy, and his peace for the journey that lies ahead. I thank you for the privilege of riding my horse next to yours.


a table for grace . . .

It’s not much. Just an old table with two even older chairs. I spied them alongside Hwy. 70 while winding my way home from my annual run to the eye doctor. My U-turn came as no surprise to my eldest son who made the trek with me; after twenty-four years of being my child, he’s grown accustomed to my motherly whims. After all, he needed this collection of not much.

A table for grace. A table for my boys.

“Think of the meals once shared there, Nick. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of them, son, when you and your brother find your places around this table in coming days.”

And there it lingered between us – our thoughts about coming days and about how a table for grace might just be the thing to keep our family together, even though our paths are diverging.

Grace tables are keeping tables because grace tables are framed upon firm foundations. What is built there (through meals, stories, tears, and prayers) is enough to write a history and fortify its remembrance. Hearts are shaped, beliefs are forged, memories are collected, and sins are forgiven at a table for grace. It’s where we do some of our best work as human beings. Why?

Because when we sit down at the table with others, we lean our hearts, minds, and souls toward understanding. We extend reciprocity. We offer respect. We lend grace. Tables cry out for such generosity. To deny them this possibility is to live underprivileged. Who wants to live like that? I certainly don’t, and as the mother of two cherished and adored, grown sons, I must extend this privilege due them.

And so, I made a U-turn on Hwy. 70, did some negotiating, and came home with two chairs and a table for grace. I know something of its value, even though my boys have yet to bow their heads in thanks around it. That will come for them and for the four of us they leave behind; of this I am certain.

As a family, we love the table for grace. We didn’t just discover it. As far as we know, it’s always been . . . long before any of us made entrance into this world. A keeping table built on a firm foundation that will outlast our earthly occupancy and that will carry us forward into our eternal one.

Think of the meals shared there, friends. The stories told there. The tears cried there. The prayers uttered there. Think of it all – God’s all – when you find your place around a table for grace in coming days. God’s children (the ones who await our arrival at the heavenly banqueting table) understand the value of such meals. They no longer live under their privilege. Instead, they live inside of it, surrounded by grace and keeping company with the King.

A table for grace. A worthy U-turn. An everlasting history.

Would you take time to live your privilege this week? Find a table and find a loved one. Share a meal and write rich history together. Grace is waiting to meet you as you arrive. As always . . .

Peace for the journey,

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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!

I love you this big…

I love you this big…

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” (Psalm 137:3-5)

I jokingly commented to my neighbor last evening…

“Of all the women least likely cut out for motherhood and children, somehow I wound up with a quiver full of them.”

I’ve been a mom for at least half of my life—twenty-two years of rearing and raising a brood under my roof. Sometimes getting it right. A lot of time failing miserably at the task of loving, but at all times with the understanding that mothering is a privilege … a sacred trust not to be taken lightly.

With parenting comes pain. Unavoidable pain—good and bad. Good pain issuing forth because of the natural flow of give-and-take while growing a child into an adult. Bad pain because sometimes that growth is accompanied by the willful, stubborn choices of both the parent and the child.

Today there’s some good pain in my heart. An ache not unfamiliar to me as a mother of four beautiful children. Today, my eldest son moves to Charlotte where he will be attending graduate school in the fall. A van load and car load just pulled out a few minutes ago, and my obligatory wave at the end of the drive-way was met with a few tears and the all-too-familiar, wrenching kick to the mothering gut.

I first felt it four years ago when we left the parking lot of Nick’s college campus. Sobbed most of the way home and then sobbed some more when I opened the back door and found a bouquet of flowers waiting for me on the counter. I still have the card on my nightstand.

“I love you so much! Thanks for an incredible 18 years. I am so grateful to have you as a mother and you have my love and respect. Reliant K writes: ‘If home is where the heart is, then my home is where you are.’ Your Son, Nick XOXO” (August 18, 2007)

Today there are no flowers to greet my pain. Instead, I take one from my quiver and give it back to the world. Today I release my “twenty-two-year-old, so-much-like-his-mother” son to his life as an adult. Today I trust and believe in those two plus decades’ worth of heart investments that we’ve made together knowing that they have been enough to grow a boy into a man. A man of honor, respect, depth, and godly intention.

I will “not be put to shame when my enemies come and contend with me at the gate.” My son’s got my back. Nicholas, he whose name means “victory of the people” is strong and courageous and will be a leader in this world. A name well-suited for this man who has overcome many obstacles in his short tenure upon this earth and who has always done so in the light and shadow of the cross.

It’s time for you to run,my boy. Time for you to live your life as a man. This mother will miss you; but even more so, this mother is ready to release you to the world.

Live it like you mean it, Nicholas, and always, always, always, take good care of your heart. I love you this big.


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