Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. ~ Abraham Lincoln

Preparation is deflated soccer balls, bubbles, crayons, and Spanish lessons on You Tube. Hola, me llama Krista and Jesus te ama. Preparation week culminates with a Chipotle burrito and a Walmart run for play-doh and Pepto Bismol.

Evidence of months of preparation surround me. Clothes, shoes, and personal items packed amongst a collection of toys. Final preparation for our visit to meet Angel, a special little boy in Mexico. Angel is confined to a wheelchair but has a contagious smile.

With suitcases packed and checklists accomplished, I pause to consider a deeper level of preparation. Is my heart ready?

Lord, prepare me. Prepare my heart to love. Prepare me to be a blessing. Prepare me to love my bothers and sisters with a heart like Yours. 

As Simon Peter requested a total-body cleansing, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” (John 13:9 NIV), I seek complete-body prep work.

Prepare all of me, Lord.

Prepare my hands to grasp little fingers. Prepare my eyes to see the lonely and encircle them with love. Prepare my feet to travel where poverty lives and offer hope. Prepare my voice for giggles and prayers. Prepare my mind for the lessons You have for me. 

When I kneel beside Angel’s wheelchair, prepare me to communicate a love he feels and understands. Prepare and bless our time together. May our gifts keep his smile burning bright. Prepare words of hope and encouragement to his family members. Then prepare me for my final good-bye and hug. Yes, Lord, please prepare me. 

I’ve spent 5 months sharpening the ax, now it’s time to go cut down the tree. Jesus te ama. Adios. 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

Due to this trip, my next posting will be Thursday, January 25th.


I longed for beauty as January’s cold and gray enticed me to remain in bed. As neighbors yanked lights from their doorways and tossed once decorated trees to the curb, I searched for beauty. 

Beauty calls and awakens us uniquely. My mother-in-law creates beauty through embroidering and beading. My husband describes beauty as a well-crafted golf shot. My oldest daughter’s face reflects the beauty in her son’s giggle. My youngest daughter designs and paints beauty on her easel.

I see beauty in every child’s face and in a spiral-thrown football delivered to an open receiver. January displays her beauty in snowflakes and icicles, crowded bird feeders, thick wooly sheep, crackling fires, sweater-wrapped dogs, steaming mugs of hot chocolate, and deer tracks through the snow. With a recent loss of electricity, beauty appeared when darkness gave way to light.

On this side of Heaven, I seek and find earth’s limited beauty in people, places, and things.

We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Not until I reach my Heavenly Home, will I experience the Beauty described by Lewis.

At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in.~ C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

When I am no longer on the wrong side of the door, I will bathe in the light of True Beauty, Jesus Christ. Lewis is correct. That kind of Beauty cannot be described with words.

  • Let’s look for beauty and thank God for filling our lives with it. 

Dear Heavenly Father,  Until we stand in your Splendor, help us to seek beauty and appreciate this world You created for us. Thank you for loving us. Amen


Believe. A popular word during the holiday season especially with children and their parents. The elf on the shelf watches and reports to the big guy, so believe.

As the calendar turns to 2018, I chose Believe as my guide word for the New Year. Years ago, I moved passed the struggle of belief in Santa and reindeer. Now, my head and heart engage in a tug-of-war of higher and holier beliefs.

I read and believe God’s Holy Word. I believe in six-day Creation, Noah’s Ark, Moses’ exodus, David’s Goliath, Esther’s and Ruth’s courage, and Elijah’s chariot of fire.

I believe in the Virgin Birth and the Holy Resurrection. I believe in Paul’s conversion through John’s Revelation.

I battle how to live according to these beliefs? How to live a life empowered by the same strength, same courage, same faith as Noah, Moses, David, Esther, Ruth, Elijah, Paul, and John? How to step out and act boldly?

Too often fear, worry, and disbelief cloud and confuse. I waver and doubt. Dare I ask Jesus to show me His nail prints? Jesus isn’t surprised by my struggles. He knows ‘me of little faith’ and loves me still.

In Mark 9, a father with an impure spirit-possessed son asked Jesus’ disciples for healing. They could not, so the father pleaded his case to Jesus.

 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Mark 9:19 (NIV)

Before Jesus commanded the deaf and mute spirit to leave, the father spoke words of truth.

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NIV)

Those words are my prayer for 2018:  I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief. 

Help me believe I am loved with an outrageous love of another kind, believe I am here for a unique purpose, and believe I am a chosen daughter of the King. 

When unbelief threatens my belief, I will cling to Jesus’ words. 

“Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 (NIV) 


Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. Proverbs 16: 3 (NIV)

A catch-up breakfast with friends, an impromptu lunch with my best friend, and late-night hot chocolates with my best buddies. December’s calendar overflows with plans. Shopping, wrapping, decorating, and family gatherings. A December wedding created a flurry of plans: floral arranging, light hanging, table decorating, and cup cake delivering.

Plans fill the season. Then life happens and plans change.

Seventeen years ago, my mother celebrated her first Christmas in Heaven. Sudden and abrupt, she left behind Christmas gifts and holiday plans. As family gathered around the tree and table, she sat in the wondrous light of Jesus. 

Funeral plans in the midst of Christmas caused sadness and confusion. Life turned upside down brought plans to a halt.

This December, a sudden change of plans. A Pastor called to his eternal Home. Now, a wife plans without a husband. A mother and father plan life without a son. Three children plan their futures without a beloved father. A church plans for a new pastor. Many new plans needed to fill the hole vacated by a big life. A new normal requires a new plan.

When life happens and plans change, God is never surprised.

His plans have been in motion since the beginning of time.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

Mary, a young girl from Bethlehem, had a plan. A wonderful plan. A practical, common sense plan. 1. Marry her beloved Joseph, a carpenter. 2. Set up their home as newlyweds. 3. Start a family.

God had other plans. He interrupts our plans with His very best plan.

The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Luke 1:35 (NIV)

Plans change as life ebbs and flows. Unplanned interruptions take us down new paths filled with new plans.

The challenge is to respond as humbly and selflessly to God’s interruptions like Mary.

I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. Luke 1: 38 a (NIV)





How would you like to be a spotted elephant?
Or a Choo-Choo with square wheels on your caboose?
Or a water pistol that shoots… jelly?
We’re all misfits!
How would you like to be a bird that doesn’t fly? I swim!
Or a cowboy who rides an ostrich?
Or a boat that can’t stay afloat?
We’re all misfits!

In 1964, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special introduced the world to a group of misfit toys. The eclectic group lived together on an island because of their abnormalities. All abandoned by their owners due to a handicap.

As I considered my own limitations, the misfit label seemed to apply.  Injured by a heavy barn door, my right foot is larger than my left. Misfit. Poor hearing in my right ear. Misfit. I have no sense of direction and I can’t swim. Misfit. My front tooth is chipped. Misfit.

My earthly body has many shortcomings and limitations. But one day, I will be upgraded to my eternal body. God promises a transformation: lowly to glorious!

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)

When I leave my residency here and enter my eternal home there, my right foot will be healed. My sense of direction will be spot on. Swimming will become my favorite heavenly hobby. And my hearing and my smile will be perfect. All my wrongs will be made right since there are no misfits in Heaven.

We may be different from the rest
Who decides the test
Of what is really best?
We’re a couple of misfits
We’re a couple of misfits

Hermey, the Elf, and Rudolph ask the question, Who decides the test of what is really best?  I’m thankful God has the final say and misfit isn’t in His vocabulary.

Why am I such a misfit? I am not just a nit wit! Why don’t I fit in?

Yes, I’m a misfit! But only for a short while. In eternity, I will be splendid, glorious, and perfect. God promises.


brown leaves

For 363 days a year, I am a tree-lover. I enjoy their shade during the summertime heat and marvel at their colorful fall display. During thunderstorms, I witness their strength as they bend and sway anchored by deep roots. Trees improve my air quality and provide homes for a gazillion pesky squirrels and my beloved birds.

But two days at the end of November, I transform into a tree-whiner. As the hickory, maple, and oak leaves float to the ground, I moan and groan as I rake and rake.

Most of my anger is aimed at Ornery, the Oak. Ornery is the mightiest oak, the big man on campus. He refuses to play by the established yard rules. When it is time to battle the leaves, Ornery never cooperates. Towering above the rest, Ornery delights in keeping his brown leaves longer than any other tree. He prefers to wait until the first snow to release his lingering leaves. Every winter, Ornery’s brown leaves dot the white snow. Oh, Ornery is a stubborn oak.

What are the brown leaves in my life? Like Ornery, what do I stubbornly refuse to release?  Fear, worry, and unforgiveness are some brown leaves I allow to linger.  Unlike Ornery’s light-weight dried leaves, mine weigh heavily hindering my walk and my growth.

God encourages me to release my burdensome load into His care. He promises to gather my brown leaves and give me a fresh start like Ornery’s new buds in springtime. Let go of the dead, embrace the new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

As December winds blow, I look up and see Ornery waving his brown leaves. I ask God for strength to let go of mine. Strength to trust deeper and forgive faster.

With my rake stored and snow shovel retrieved, I await the first snow. Ornery and I are ready to release our brown leaves.

Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime. ~Martin Luther


never little

Linus Van Pelt nailed it. When he wrapped his beloved blanket around a frail tree in 1965, he loved. Maybe it just needs a little love. His simple gesture demonstrated love for us to follow.

 Just a little love.

Early this summer, I maneuvered my cart up and down the flower aisles. Displays overflowed with vibrant red geraniums, bright yellow marigolds, and happy-face daisies.

In the clearance section, I stopped in front of a shopping cart filled with discarded hanging baskets.  A flowery mess of drooping petunias and withered impatiens, smashed and thirsty.

They just need a little love. 

The flowers needed someone to love them and provide much-needed water. They will be fine, I told myself, maybe even thrive. I selected two hanging baskets from the discarded pile. At home, my husband surveyed the wilted flowers and questioned my reasoning. They just need a little love.

With the arrival of the holidays, busy days are filled with lists to check, schedules to keep, and lines to endure. But everywhere I go, I see them. They stand behind cash registers, they jockey for parking spaces, and they brush past me in crowded stores. In their faces, I see exhaustion, frustration, and loneliness.

Like forgotten tiny trees and withered flowers, I see people who just need a little love.

Slow me down, Lord. Help me see those in need of a little love.

Help me see and move me to give love. 

Like Linus, I want to see a need and offer a little love. A smile. An opened door. A parking space. An overdue phone call. An encouraging note. A visit. A hug. A drink of water. Maybe even a beloved blue blanket.

A little love yields big results. My clearance flowers bloomed and provided beauty throughout the summer. Each Christmas season, Linus’ scraggly tree is transformed into a beautiful tree laden with decorations. A little love goes a long way.

Because when love is given, it is never little.

It is Christmas every time you let God love others through you…yes, it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand. ~ Mother Teresa




  • Vote
  • Open a checking account
  • Enlist in the military
  • Change your name
  • Get married or divorced
  • Sign legal documents and contracts
  • Buy insurance
  • Apply for a credit card

Weighty privileges accompany 18th birthdays in the United States. On Saturday, our sponsored son in Tanzania celebrates his 18th birthday. How will Bilali spend his special day?

Since the loss of his father, he and his mother shoulder the weight of caring for 5 additional family members. Bilali’s struggles are daily and real. Yet, he writes of hope and thankfulness.

Hope-filled news.

  • My family and I are fine. 
  • I am doing well with my studies. 
  • I am also doing well with my Center studies: spiritual, social, and learning how to keep chickens. 

Thankfulness, too.

  • I thank God because He helps me. 
  • I trust you are praying for me that is why I am succeeding. 

From this soon-to-be-18-year-old, I hear education, health, income-generation, thankfulness, and spiritual maturity. I hear hope.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  Romans 5:3-4 (NIV)

Bilali’s words and life resonate of perseverance, character, and hope. The kind of hope built by the sweat of perseverance and character-building choices from life within a still-developing country. Hope produced from need and sacrifice, not abundance. To claim hope in a world of need is where true hope lives.

I am humbled yet joyful to read of Bilali’s hopefulness in good health, positive grades, God’s faithfulness, and chickens.

On his 18th birthday, Bilali won’t open a checking account, buy insurance, or apply for a credit card. He won’t enjoy a cake piled high with gooey icing with 18 glowing candles. But I believe Bilali will spend his special day tending his chickens under the watchful eye of a faithful Father. Thankful and hopeful.

And with God, hope is enough.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:5 (NIV)

Happy 18th Birthday, Bilali.



They are packed and awaiting their long international trip. Some will travel many miles by rafts, canoes, helicopters, bikes, wagons, and feet. Others on camels, oxen, horses, and elephants. Stretched rubber bands contain bulging treasures. Nine red and green boxes ready for smiles and giggles.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine lives changed through Operation Christmas Child.

Nine stuffed animals (bears and bunnies) for empty arms and snuggles. Nine glittery play necklaces to adorn nine petite necks. Nine notepads for scribbled hopes, dreams, and fears. Nine toy flutes to compose joyful noise.

  Why all girls? 

 Words from the Director at a Compassion Center in Kenya remind me. In this 21st century, he battles the barbaric practice of female genital mutilation. Girls begin life, disadvantaged, simply for being whom God created them to be. They are forgotten, unwanted, and too often abused.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Nine paint sets to paint brighter futures where they discover value and worth. Nine inflatable globes to encourage big dreams. Nine foam crosses to point them to their loving Heavenly Father.

Nine toothbrushes to brighten smiles. Nine packs of crayons, markers, colored pencils to create beauty.  Nine wash cloths to scrub away dirt and reveal their loveliness.

Nine boxes for nine little girls.

Inside, heart-felt words for 9 precious little girls…

You are loved.



Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Psalm 127:3 (TLB)

(Top Photo:  Courtesy of Samaritan’s Purse)




It dangled from a peg with the displayed Christmas ornaments. The miniature, rainbow-colored xylophone with its tiny mallet caught my eye. I smiled as I pictured my eight-month old grandson, Cam, banging on his toy xylophone. He creates music only a grandparent can love. 

This Christmas, I decided to continue a tradition my mother began 30 years ago. Each year, she chose and dated an ornament for my daughters. When we decorated our tree, we unwrapped the ornaments and remembered. Seventeen years ago, my mother entered her Heavenly home. Now, the box of ornaments represents precious memories of her and Christmases together.

In Lima, Peru, 3,600 miles away, a nine-year old boy creates music with his xylophone. My husband and I sponsor Israel through Compassion International. Israel’s recent letter shared the news of his musical adventure with a xylophone. I smiled. There is something special about boys and xylophones.

I held the mini xylophone ornament in my hand and considered my choices. For $15.95, it could adorn my grandson’s first Christmas tree. But images of Israel and other children in need around the world came to mind.

The choice became clear; a new tradition born.

My husband and I explored Compassion’s Christmas gift catalog. For less than $15.95, a baby and mother can eat for a month, a child can be protected from parasites, or receive an age-appropriate Bible. All life-giving. All giving back gifts.

On the tree this year, amongst the cherished ornaments, will be one representing the choice to bless others. A dated note to Cam explaining his first ornament: a mother and her baby ate for a month.

Our tradition will remind Cam Christmas is about giving back not getting more. As he gets older, he will choose how to bless others.

There will be no mini xylophone on Cam’s tree this year. One day, we will share with Cam the $15.95 difference he made. A giving-back tradition.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. Matthew 25:40 (NIV)


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