How are you smiling?

Today is Easter Sunday. A day when Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and how he defeated the power of evil by rising from the dead. Through his resurrection we have hope for a new life. A new, full abundant life. A life of love and freedom. A life of peace and joy. And it’s not just for the future in heaven but available to us right now…in THIS moment. It’s an awesome day!

A good friend of mine who I haven’t seen in a few weeks came up to me at church and told me I looked fantastic…like I am enjoying life. Laughing. Smiling. I said thank you and

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

A beautiful image by Jennifer Studio JRU

we proceeded to catch up for a bit. We talked about life and I told her what has been going on for me the last few weeks. Her next amazed question

“How are you smiling?”

You see what I filled her in on is…my cancer might be back. A few weeks ago my Dr. confirmed there is something in my hip bone and I am currently waiting on the results of an MRI I had last week. I don’t know what it is. I know it is in a place where I feel something like a bruise but it has been more annoying than painful. The last few weeks have been a process of getting scans and waiting…waiting…waiting for results. It could be benign. It could be malignant. I don’t have any answers.

I wasn’t going to go public with this process until I knew more information and could tell a definitive story. Posting information like this makes people concerned and I don’t want to worry anyone unnecessarily.

But I was convicted this morning that I need to share this. Right now. In THIS moment. The moment where everything feels uncertain again. The moment where my tentative future plans are once again abruptly stopped. The moment in the midst of the fear and anxiety BEFORE I know what the path forward is. Because THIS is the moment where I experience the power of Jesus most profoundly.

When my friend told me that I looked fantastic and seemed happy…it’s because I am genuinely good. When she asks “How are you smiling?” I think of Philippians 4:7 which says “and the peace of God which transcends understanding will guard you heart and mind in Christ Jesus”. I can’t explain it. I just know I’m not faking it. There is a peace deep in my soul that can only come from God. I am always a bit hesitant to proclaim this because I know everyone has a different experience of God’s peace and I don’t want to say it always feels like this. I have been through seasons of grief and sorrow where peace was much harder to experience through the pain.

But, right now…for me in this incredibly difficult moment…God’s got me…and I can’t help but smile.

My future in this life is completely uncertain…thanks to Jesus my future after this life is solid.

So…How am I smiling? It’s Easter Sunday…He is RISEN…a better question is How can I keep from smiling?





Preparation and Expectation

A lesser known fact about me is that my dining table is (almost) always set whether I am planning a dinner party or not. I enjoy it. It is a rotating design feature in my home and keeps my table from collecting mail and other clutter I can’t be bothered to put away. My life, somehow, feels a bit more ordered when it is set.

This is a common dialogue for a first time visitor:

Them: “Are you having people over for dinner?”

Me: “Nope, I don’t have anything planned at the moment. I’m sure I will eventually.”

Confusion…Them: “Then why is your table set?”

Me: “Ummmm…I like it like that.”

Them: “Strange…that seems very American

Me: “Not sure…I think it’s just me.” 🙂

Recently, I have been thinking about this a bit more deeply. “Why do I like it set so much?” I’m sure it’s partly due to the creative element. My rockstar mom has made almost all the napkins and table runners for me…so it’s partly feeling like my family is closer than they are.

But mostly it comes down to HOPE and EXPECTATION.

I don’t need to have a dinner party planned to know there will eventually be one. That sometime in the future friends will come over to laugh and share a meal together. I am preparing in advance with an expectation it will happen. And it always does. Sometimes it is my initiative and sometimes it is a spontaneous evening. I never know…but either way I am prepared.

This morning I was reading in Matthew 24 in anticipation of honoring Jesus’ death on Good Friday and celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. It is one of His final sermons and He is talking to His disciples about the last days…how He will come again in judgement and establish His kingdom on this earth. You can feel the urgency in His words as He compels his disciples to stay alert…to be vigilant and prepared…because no one knows the hour or day He will return in glory…and they don’t want to be caught off guard. There will be trials…they will be persecuted…many people will turn away due to the rampant sin in the world…but those who endure will be saved.

“Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm til the end will be saved.”  Matthew 24:12-13 NIV

I confess that I don’t think about Jesus’ return enough. Most of the time I think about how thankful I am that God loved me enough to come to earth and cover my sins with His son’s life. I think about the resurrection and how I no longer need to fear an ultimate death. I think about grace and love…broken chains…redeemed lives. I mentally stop at Easter Sunday…get caught up in the present day and forget that Jesus WILL return. And when He does, will I be prepared? If I live with the EXPECTATION He will return, would my life look different? Would I stay selfish or surrender easier? Would I love more? Forgive more fully? Serve others? Live with more generosity? Build my life on hope even with significant trials?

This Sunday…look beyond the resurrection…will you be prepared?

I wish you all a very blessed holy week. Remember Christ has died…Christ has risen…Christ WILL come again.



Lenten Check – In

We are now at about the half way point in the Lenten season. There are 3 more weeks until Good Friday and I wanted to send out a little check in note. If you chose to add something or abstain from something how is it going? In the past I have found Lent decisions to be kind of like New Year’s resolutions. I’m enthusiastic about it for a couple weeks or so and then it becomes less intentional until I forget about it. 40 days can be long. And if I break a fast during Lent I can feel an extra layer of guilt because I let God down or just give up because “Now that I’ve broken my commitment I suppose there’s no use continuing for the rest of the time”. This is where I have to remind myself that it was never about me to begin with. It was never about what I did or didn’t do or if I did or didn’t do it perfectly. It is about Jesus and the grace offered to us on the cross and the freedom in his resurrection. Period.

I did something different for Lent this year…normally I wouldn’t talk about it but I think it may be helpful for some people out there. My personality tends towards perfectionism and I can very easily be caught in the trap of legalism and somehow thinking that I am “earning” my way. It is easier for me to live in a black and white world with rules that need to be followed and consequences if they are broken. It is much harder for me to accept and rest in the gray/grace filled world God offers. This year for Lent I gave up alcohol…but not completely. Most of the time I choose not to drink but I have allowed myself to pick one day during the week to have drinks with friends. Some people may not think I am actually observing a Lenten fast…I do…and honestly that’s all that matters. When I choose to abstain from alcohol I am absolutely reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice and my dependence on him. When I choose to have some drinks with friends (and if I’m honest I felt a little guilty about it at first – like I was doing something wrong) I am reminded of the gift of grace and that it is absolutely NOT about me. The word that best describes this season for me this year is Freedom and it has been such a blessing.

So, I can say this…wherever you are at…maybe you are diligently observing your Lenten commitments…Maybe you started strong and lost focus…Maybe you never made any commitments. It’s not about you and it is never too late to start. There is nothing magic about the full 40 days. It is about making an intentional effort to prepare your heart for Easter. You can start (or restart) now… It is ultimately about recognizing the price Jesus paid for your life and the freedom that brings.



Let’s talk about Lent

It starts this Wednesday.

I was raised Catholic so Lent was an annual obligation I was accustomed to. (If you are uncertain what it is click here) Every year 6 weeks before Easter Sunday we would talkLent about what we were going to give up for the next 40 days. One year I gave up my blanket. 🙂 As a kid I never really understood why…it was just something we did. No meat on Fridays and choose something to abstain from. There was always a strategy to what I would choose. It should be significant but not too difficult that way the next month and a half would be bearable. And it couldn’t be something like spinach that I wouldn’t really miss. Many people give up alcohol or another vice…actually Carnival started as a way for people to get all their demons out of their system before they had to give everything up for Lent. Nice.

It took until my early 20’s to figure out the real beauty behind this fasting season. It is not an obligation but an opportunity. On Easter Sunday we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection and God’s victory over sin. It is a joyful day. But you can’t have the celebration on Sunday without the pain and sacrifice of Friday. Friday is the day where we recognize that a blameless Jesus died an agonizing death on a cross for the sins of humanity. For me. For you. The ultimate sacrifice.

Living in a western culture I know that I don’t have to experience sacrifice very often. I live in a pretty comfortable, entitled environment. And it is easy for me to sing praise songs on Easter Sunday without really “getting it”. Not that we could ever possibly “get it” but the Lenten season gives you the chance to change your habits for a bit to have a daily reminder of the real reason we are celebrating on Easter. I believe you can either subtract something (make a sacrifice) or add something like a spiritual discipline…as long as you made an intentional choice you will notice.

I found 3 questions that I thought were great when trying to decide what you may want to do for this season:

1. Is there a habit or sin in my life that gets in the way of me loving God? How can I make a change to address this?
2. Why am I giving this up? How does it draw me closer to God?
3. How do I want to be different when I wake up on Easter?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Giving up various food items: meat, sugar, coffee (caffeine if you don’t want to cheat with tea 🙂 ), alcohol
  • Taking a break from Facebook, TV, Computer
  • Adding a discipline: reading the bible every, 10 minutes of silence, quiet time in the morning
  • Taking a walk with God everyday
  • Not turning the computer on immediately when you get home – taking 30 minutes to be “unplugged”
  • Reading a chapter from the gospels every day

And if you decide on one…tell someone it will keep you more accountable. 🙂