Saturday, May 21, 2016

The Vinedresser

As I sit under the shelter of a profusely blossoming crab tree, I reflect on John 15:

Jesus said, “I am the true Vine and my Father is the Vinedresser.”

I notice that means the Son is completely submitted to the Father, modeling the way for us to do the same. The Father cuts off every branch that doesn’t bear fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit gets pruned so that it can bear even more.

Yes, trimming the long, unruly branches will direct more nutrients into the parts that remain. Just like pulling the creeping charlie from my gardens will give more room for real flowers to grow. It would take over everywhere if left unchecked!

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” He says. “No branch can bear fruit by itself.”

When I tried to find my own happiness, I found only a shallow, mediocre version of the life I have now connected to Jesus. I had eventually realized my own navigation was sadly lacking, so I came back to where true life and nourishment is freely given. Where all good things originate in plentiful measure.

The blooms of the crab tree are prolific. This beautiful tree is a reflection of the Father’s glory. He smiles to see His disciples growing and thriving. Those who choose to put Him first and rely on His influence more than any other will be like a fruit tree on the best fertilizer. They will have everything they need to flourish. They will be sweet, fragrant and full of life.

A call to remain connected isn't to restrict freedom, but to offer true freedom and joy. Abiding in the Vine, staying close to our Creator, will bring out the best possible version of ourselves.

Dear God, I need to be focused on you and not any imitation of what life might be. Help me stay connected, listening and following. I want the thriving life that only you can give.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Written on our hearts

Thirteen years ago, Ted and I were still dating and writing daily emails about the Bible chapter we had each read separately. We eagerly looked forward to these emails. Sharing our thoughts brought greater perspective. We found that we often commented on the same points but expressed different ideas. This reinforced our like-mindedness and also helped us appreciate our differences.

Now, these emails are like mini Bible studies. What a treasure it is to still "study with Ted."

On May 13, we were reading Hebrews 8 in the Message.

First, here are some of the observations I emailed to Ted:

The new covenant is not on paper or chiseled on tablets. It's inside of us -- God carved it on the lining of our hearts (a very intimate place). We can get to know God firsthand by being forgiven, by living the example set by Jesus with the prompting of the Holy Spirit, by accepting a personal relationship.

I'm glad God is so personal with us. He invites us to intimacy with Him. He gives us everything we need, and even dwells right within us. What commitment! Where the tablets were cold and impersonal, there is nothing impersonal about the new covenant.

I remember being allowed to borrow something special of my mom's or dad's. How good it felt to be trusted with it. I could treasure that feeling and the luxury of the item all day. It brought intimacy and made me know that they loved me. (I don't even remember the items, just the feeling.) We are trusted with God's most precious gifts every day. How blessed we are to have His lavish love!

Here is what Ted wrote to me:

Our priest isn't before God, He's beside God because He is God. He doesn't offer sacrifices, He is the sacrifice. He is the full picture of what Moses got a glimpse. Jesus is part of a plan that really works. The author may be quoting from Jeremiah 31 about the new covenant.

This covenant isn't on tablets of stone or paper but written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. I'll be their God, they'll be my people. What beautiful words. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 100). Those who had no mercy will be shown mercy and those who were not my people will be my people. What mercy to be chosen by God.

They will know firsthand, everyone. Not by a cloud or thundering or indirectly -- but clearly; we saw him and beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father. Boy, this sure is a better way! We have to be careful  not to neglect the new way God has given us. This relationship in His blood needs to be maintained for us to enjoy its benefits.

I'm so glad we can do it together," Ted had written. He signed this one, "You are ever in my thoughts. Lovingly yours, Ted."

God, I am so thankful you want to be so intimate with us. Thank you for writing your covenant on our hearts. I am also very grateful Ted and I chose to write emails and that these emails have been preserved. You knew then how much these would mean to me now.

More stories about our emailing is included in Life, Love and Loss.

Join in this study by adding your observations in the comments below.

Sunday, May 1, 2016


Three years ago, I was hours from saying my final goodbye to Ted. I was calling the kids home one final time. The tears now come easy as I reflect on everything leading up to May 2, 2013. My heart remembers the pain of losing such a vitally important part of my life.

Of course I yearn for the adventurous life I had with him, my best friend ever. I long to go back to the way things were, when I felt so loved, so happy and purposeful. The days of camping, traveling, hiking, laughing and worshiping God together through all of it.

There were times, in the early days of grief, I thought the best part of my life was over. I couldn’t imagine doing more than “existing” for the rest of my days without Ted. On the other hand, sometimes I felt I could live out my years basking in the great memories until I see him again in Heaven. But that would be to live in the shadow of what was, and not to experience the fullness of what is yet to be in God's design.

Because of God’s strength poured into my weakness, today I am standing and enjoying  fullness in life again. I have rich purpose with our five kids going in five lively directions. Yesterday, I was surrounded by our five beautiful grandchildren, with the legacy of their grandfather living on in each of them.

My tears turn to joy when I recall how great God has been to me through the journey. The difficult times have made me better acquainted with the ways God speaks individually to me. I have walked with Him more intentionally, more desperately, more completely. I could not have gotten here another way. I am thrilled with what God has done and what He is doing. God continues to open doors and give me new purpose.

Writing my book, Life, Love and Loss, has been a tremendous source of healing. When I penned its first words in June 2014, there were tears of grief. As the structure formed and the momentum grew, they turned into happy tears.

And now, I have tears of incredible joy as I daily hear feedback on what sharing our story is doing for others. All those hours behind the computer, piecing together many fragments, choosing the words best suited to embody our story, have finally produced fruit that is encouraging others.

Abiding in Jesus is everything. Apart from Him I can do nothing.

Gracious God, I’m so thankful that you gave me the life with Ted, and now have given me new purpose in sharing our story! I pray for others who are in a difficult spot. Lord, I know that you can redeem it all.  

Pictured in the foreground is the magnolia memorial tree from my siblings; and in the background, the hundreds of daffodils Ted and I planted in summer 2012 that began opening for me May 2, 2013.

For a copy of the book, please connect with me (my favorite way!) or you can purchase online at