Lessons from my Mama’s Kitchen

… A very grateful daughter inherits more than recipes—she learns her mother’s taste for life.

She was a Kentucky girl, my mother. Born on a small farm set among the rolling hills of the south-central portion of the Bluegrass state, she learned quickly that she preferred the “inside” work. To her, cooking and cleaning were better any day than working in outside in the tobacco fields. So, early on, she started setting the table with hearty farm-cooked fare and cleaning the farmhouse that sat close by the strawberry patch and a stand of hickory nut trees. Humming and singing, she took her task to heart.

When she was 18, Mama met Daddy on a double date. As a child growing up, she would tell me the story of how their eyes kept meeting in the rear-view mirror during the evening’s drive. Never tired of hearing the story, I delighted in its retelling, time and time again. Each time I’d feel a pang of sadness for their poor, unsuspecting dates—but only for a moment! Then, breathing a sign of relief, I would be overwhelmingly delighted that fate had thrown them into the same car that evening. It’s not surprising that Mama was soon practicing her self-taught culinary skills on her new husband, Cliff.

I was Mama’s second born, sandwiched between two boys who took their cue from Daddy and treated their sister like a princess. Daddy worked hard, but Mama worked equally as hard making our humble home a wonderful place for growing up. Mama could take the simplest ingredients and turn them into something really special. Her steamed cheeseburgers were a family favorite. I still remember learning to season and pat out the ground beef into fat burgers and helping Mama drop them into a hot frying pan.

Also at the top of the family favorites list was Mama’s homemade German Chocolate Cake. My brothers adored it and that cake was always their birthday request. As for me, all Mama had to do was mention peanut butter pinwheels and my lips were smacking with anticipation. I would drag a kitchen chair to the counter while begging to help mash the potatoes and mix in the confectioner’s sugar that made my favorite candy. Taking that first bite of the finished product was always a magical moment for me. How mashed potatoes ended up tasting so delicious and sweet was a mystery to me as a young girl and I loved Mama dearly for allowing me to be a part of the magic.

As a teenager, evenings were a ritual in my Mama’s kitchen. You could set your clock by the time that supper was put on the table. When my dad walked through the back door from work, the table had been laid and the evening meal was in its final stages of preparation—just about ready to be transferred to serving dishes and carried into the dining room. Mama knew Daddy would be tired and hungry and she always made sure she was there to greet him while he washed up, then she’d call us three kids to the table. We’d quickly settle into our places with ease, laughing and merrily tossing conversation across the table like a light, rubber ball.

After dinner, I’d begin my daily chore of washing up the supper dishes . Somehow I managed to stretch out what should have been a 15-minute task to at least 45 minutes or an hour. First I’d put on a stack of my mama’s favorite albums on the stereo. Then, luxuriating in Ivory Dish soap with bubbles up to my elbows, I washed dishes and scrubbed pots and pans while warbling along with Dean Martin and Englebert Humperdinck. Later, my broom and I swayed to the orchestral music of Billy Vaughn as we finished our final task of sweeping the day’s crumbs away. Often, Mama would join me in the kitchen and we’d soulfully sing the heart-stirring ballads together.

Many years have passed since those amiable days spent in my mother’s kitchen. For years, Mama was always willing to satisfy a prodigal child’s craving for a childhood memory at a moment’s notice, but she’s 84 now, and most likely, it’s the kids and grandkids who are making and carrying in the holiday meals these days. Nevertheless, her kitchen is still warm and familiar in my mind, and the memories of working alongside of her always bring thoughts of love mingled with a relaxed contentment.

When I walk into my kitchen today, chances are there won’t be a cake baking or a pot roast in the oven. With busy schedules and healthy good-intentions, Terry and I are more apt to toss salads and grill the vegetables. But, that’s okay—because it wasn’t really the good cooking that made my Mama’s kitchen special—it was the love. Mama loved her family and found great joy in serving us with her wonderful meals and special treats.

And, now that love has been passed on to my kitchen. I feel it every day when I stand at the sink, load the dishwasher, or sweep the floor. It’s a love that brings joy through the recipes and traditions of my own home and family.

If you listen hard enough, you just might hear me humming a vintage Dean Martin tune.

Wanna try those peanut butter pinwheels that use to rock my world? Yes, they’re made with potatoes—an unexpected but essential ingredient. Here’s the recipe for this family favorite:

Peanut Butter Pinwheels

1/2 cup freshly cooked mashed potatoes
1/2 cup salted butter softened
6-7 cups powdered sugar plus additional for dusting
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Creamy peanut butter for filling
With electric mixer, combine mashed potatoes, butter, and 1 cup sugar.
Add in remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time. Start by adding 6 cups of powdered sugar, if the dough is not moldable in your hands and can’t be rolled into a ball, continue to add sugar until it is firm.
Stir in vanilla.
Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.

Once chilled, divide dough into two pieces and place one piece on a clean surface that you’ve generously dusted with powdered sugar. Dust the surface of the dough with additional sugar, and use a rolling pin to roll dough out into a rectangle about 1/4″ thick. Make sure that your dough can be rolled at this point, if it’s too sticky or falling apart, you may need to add more sugar, re-shape it into a ball, and start over.
Once dough has been rolled into a 1/4″ rectangle, spread evenly with peanut butter, leaving a small amount of space peanut butter-free around the perimeter of the dough.
Starting with the longer side of your rectangle, gently but tightly roll into a log.
Use a knife to slice into pieces about 1/2″ thick.
Repeat steps with remaining half of dough.
Serve and enjoy.
Recipe Notes
*Use russet potatoes, peel, dice, and boil until tender. Drain potatoes throughly and then mash well. Allow potatoes to sit at room temperature until completely cooled before making your dough. Do not use leftover mashed potatoes for this recipe!

God’s Eyes

The really great people are the ones who know how to make the little people feel great.” –  Ashley Brilliant

I saw her as soon as I stepped out of the car.

I think it was the color of her skin. It was sunny out and her face, a rich creamy brown, was glowing. It reminded me of the café con leíte I’d had for breakfast earlier that morning. Combined with intense, chocolate eyes and shiny, dark hair that tumbled gently onto her shoulders, she was adorable. I fell in love with her the moment our eyes met. The feeling must have been mutual because she skipped and bounced her way across the churchyard and shyly introduced herself as Fernanda while slipping her small, needy hand into mine. From that moment, we were best friends.

Fernanda and most of the other children I met that week at Bible School lived in Cidade de Deus (City of God), one of the most notorious slums in Rio de Janeiro. I’d never been there but had often heard tales of the violence that took place in that maze of alleys and shanties when I previously lived in Brazil. All the slums were dangerous, but City of God was where most children learned to handle guns before learning to write their names.

Every morning, Fernanda arrived at the church freshly scrubbed and smelling sweetly of soap, her curls still damp. Somehow her loveliness resisted the scorching Rio summer that melted me into a puddle of smelly sweat.

While the kids were having snack time on one particularly sweltering day, I slipped out and went into the church auditorium to catch a quick nap on one of the hard, wooden pews. The thermometer on the wall read 114 degrees. Sweating profusely, I lay prone on the bench, my eyelids so heavy I could barely keep them open. I felt a large drop of sweat fall from my head onto my arm. Turning my head, I watched it travel, leaving a trail of white as it raced downward through the dirt and grime on my skin. It’s the last thing I remembered before falling asleep.

When I opened my eyes, Fernanda’s face was in close proximity to my own, and I looked straight into her voluminous eyes. She smiled her adoration for me and I quickly reciprocated. Then a strange, wonderful thing happened. For a moment, time seemed to be suspended. And then I felt like I was no longer seeing things through my own eyes. Instead, I was looking through God’s eyes and seeing things from his perspective. I was overwhelmed by the intense love and tenderness he felt for Fernanda as I stared into her eyes. It was the deepest compassion I have ever known.

The moment passed. But it left me with a deep sense of urgency to make very sure Fernanda and the other children understood how much they were loved and valued before I left that place.

For the next few days, we laughed and played. I told stories and planted seeds that I trusted God to water. All too soon, our little Bible School was over, and the children gathered their drawings to take home to crude shacks where there were no refrigerators, and the walls were made of cardboard with bullet holes pierced by drug lords during drunken rampages.

Fernanda asked me to sign my name on a scrap of paper she kept from a craft project earlier in the day. I spelled my name out in large block letters, and we pronounced the unfamiliar sounds together, laughing at her unsuccessful efforts at the American version of my name. “I will keep it forever,” she exclaimed, hugging the paper to her chest. Then she pulled an envelope from her pocket and handed it to me with great ceremony. Wrinkled from living in her pocket all day, it smelled of soap and Fernanda sweetness.

Saying goodbye proved to be a difficult task. Hearts are often betrothed in shorter time than the days we spent together, and my pockets were filled with cheap plastic trinkets, symbolic of hearts surrendered in love. Fernanda stayed so close to me, her shadow merged with mine and only one was cast upon the concrete walk.

“God, I wish you could promise me that Fernanda will grow up to be a healthy young woman who lives in a safe and beautiful part of the city. Is that so much to ask?” I silently demanded. There was no answer, so I pulled her tightly to my chest and showered the top of her head with kisses.

Climbing into the car, I pressed Fernanda’s envelope to my lips and waved madly until I could no longer see her standing in the churchyard.

I opened the envelope. “All my life, I have dreamed of meeting an American,” she wrote in her shaky schoolgirl lettering. “Now, my dream has come true. I will never forget you.” I tucked the letter inside my bag and carried it home with me.

Smoothing out the creases on the thin, crumpled sheet, I wrote the date and these words at the bottom of the page under Fernanda’s signature: “God sees each one of us through eyes of love.” Then, I tucked it into the drawer where I keep all my treasures. Sometimes I pull it out to remind me that God looks at me, like Fernanda, through eyes of love.

Fernanda felt invisible and insignificant, but I saw her. When I feel invisible, God still sees me. When I feel insignificant, I am still loved and valued by God.

Making someone’s dreams come true is no small thing.

Life Note: Every day we pass by people who feel invisible and insignificant. Life’s too short not to see them through God’s eyes.
“The king will answer, “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Matt. 25:40 CEV)


Every year on March 12, I always think of my childhood friend, Sharon—it’s her birthday. She always had such a cheerful spirit; a “joie de vivre.”  To this day, I am inspired when I remember it.  This is one of the stories I wrote about her in my book, Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture for Women. Happy Birthday, Sharon. Thinking of you today!

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” –Mae West

A shaft of light drives through a crack of the carelessly closed drapes of my bedroom window and penetrates the darkness. The glass becomes a prism throwing spears of light across my face. Piercing and full of heat, they shatter my sleep and pull me into the waiting day. The moment I open my eyes and see the colors of the rainbow always feels like a miracle to me. It beckons me to rise and embrace the gift of another day of life. I throw the covers off and blindly stumble after its promise.

Day after day, the miracle arrives. Mostly, I just smile and accept God’s gracious gift of another day. But once in a while, I am overwhelmed by the enormity of this fragile and precious offering. I’ve lived life long enough to know we’re never promised that when we close our eyes at night, we’ll wake up to blue skies and sunshine the next day. Heck, forget the blue skies and sunshine stuff; we’re not even guaranteed that we’ll wake up.

Growing up, one of my best friends was Sharon. As kids, we made mud pies together in the backyard. We spent the night at each other’s houses and managed to get into trouble on a regular basis. Like the time we spied her daddy’s big, wicked-looking, double-edged razor on the bathroom sink counter as we were brushing our teeth one Saturday morning. Second graders, we impulsively decided we didn’t want hairy legs anymore. Surely we were old enough to shave it off. Naturally, since we were at Sharon’s house, she got to go first. She filled up the tub with water and lathered up her leg with Ivory soap. She then proceeded to take off the entire top layer of skin from her foot to her knee with the first swipe. I was mesmerized by how quickly the water in the tub turned red from blood, but her cries broke my stupor, and I grabbed a towel and helped my sobbing friend wrap her leg. I looked up, and she gave me a wobbly smile just before I went flying out the door screaming for help. I just knew my best friend was going to bleed to death!

Even as a child, I understood Sharon’s instinctive ability to grab life by the horns and relish the ride it brought. She lived life in a large way—ready to take on any challenge and always with a big smile on her face. Sure, it got us into trouble sometimes, but it was always fun and almost always worth it.

That’s why it’s hard to imagine her gone.

But life can be like that. One day you’re living large and smiling, and the next day you’re gone.

It was a Monday. Sharon came home from work. She wasn’t feeling well, so she lay down on the bed to rest. When her husband Mike came to check on her a few minutes later, she was not alive. Without warning, her life just stopped. She didn’t even have a chance to call for help or say good-bye. I’d like to imagine she faced death with that wobbly smile I remember so well.

Tomorrow may be full of promises. But Sharon reminds me there are no guarantees. Her death taught me that life’s too short not to live every day like it will be your last one.

When we close our eyes to sleep, we’ve got to know our love is branded on the hearts of those we cherish and that the world is a better place because we bothered to show up.

That’s how I want to live life. I don’t want to retreat from anything. I want to charge what life throws in front of me and not waste time thinking about it.

That’s what Sharon did.

So tonight, I’ll close my bedroom curtains, pulling them almost closed. I’ll lay my head on my pillow and pray. I’ll close my eyes with the expectation of another miracle tomorrow morning. But if it doesn’t come, I’ll be satisfied.

Life Note: The truth of the matter is that not everyone is destined to live a long and productive life full of rich experiences and prolific contributions. But here’s the deal—if we’re alive, we’ve been given an extraordinary gift that’s just too precious to squander. It doesn’t matter if we’re destined to die young or end our years like a spent bloom, withered and dry. What matters is living every day like it’s the last one we’ll ever spend on this blessed earth. When we lie down at night, we must be content with who we are and satisfied with the way we lived life that day. There can be no regrets.

“Because I have lived right, I will see your face. When I wake up, I will see your likeness and be satisfied.” (Ps. 17:15 ncv)

Going Rogue

IMG_6199 (1)I couldn’t help but notice this morning that a tulip has gone rogue.

Instead of being like all of the other blooms in this beautiful bouquet Terry brought home earlier this week, this tulip has a mind of it’s own and insists on doing it’s own thing.

It makes me smile because it’s  a great reminder that we as Christians are supposed to do the same thing—we’ve been set apart to do God’s “thing” in this world and if we focus on Jesus instead of being distracted by the world, the same thing is bound to happen to us—we’ll go rogue!

That’s because as believers in Christ, we have been set apart for a higher purpose.

God Has Set Us Apart to Show His Glory  

The moment we put our faith and trust in him, asking him to be our savior and lord, we are transformed. I like the way the NLT version of the Bible translates II Corinthians 5:17:

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”

Think about it.  When we become believers, we symbolically leave darkness to dwell in the kingdom of light. From that moment on, we are strangers to the world we left behind. Everything about us changes—especially the way we think and act—and that brings glory to God.

Set Apart to Live Our Purpose

We’re also set apart to live the purpose God created us to do on this earth. Jeremiah knew that when he said:

“The Lord gave me this message. ‘I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.’” Jeremiah 1:4-5 (NLT)

Continue reading Jeremiah 1 and you’ll see that Jeremiah, then a young ruler of 21, understood that God’s call on his life included promises. God not only promised to give him the words to speak, He said he would perform them. He also promised that he would make Jeremiah like a fortified city that couldn’t be captured so that he wouldn’t be overcome by the people. Jeremiah understood that he could walk with confidence because God not only set him apart for his purpose, he would walk with him every step of the way!

Just like Jeremiah, God knew us before he formed us in our mothers’ wombs. Before we were born, God set us apart for a higher purpose. The moment we accept and trust in Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we begin to live and fulfill that purpose.

Set Apart to Be Holy

Finally, being set apart also means we’re also we’re called to be holy; fully consecrated to our Abba Father.  Contrary to what a lot of people believe today, it is totally possible to be authentic and holy at the same time, but only if we’re fully consecrated to God.

What does that mean? Simply that we give ourselves to God; become “a living sacrifice,” as Paul says in Romans 12:1. Although it’s a term often used to denote the role of ministry or missionary personnel, the consecration spoken of in throughout the New Testament applies to all who follows Christ. The truth of the matter is we cannot become spiritually mature without fully consecrating ourselves to the Lord.

“And so, dear brothers and sisters,[a] I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.”   Romans 12:1 (NLT)


When we know and understand who we are in Christ and who He is in us,  we can walk in the purpose to which we’ve been called and set apart and live a holy life that brings glory and honor to God. We were made for a mission. God has a plan and purpose for each and every one of us. Isn’t it time we went rogue from the rest of the world?



Disappointment: 4 Steps in Overcoming the Letdowns of Life

spilled milkLife has felt an awful lot like a roller coaster ride these days. Chances are, you’ve experienced the same sort of thing. One day life feels as fresh and full of hope as a beautiful spring day. You go to bed and wake up—and boy, have things changed. Before you know it, a conversation or email plunges you to the pits of despair. There’s spilled milk everywhere!

All of a sudden, what you thought was steadfast hope and faith collides with an unexpected reality check leaving behind disappointment big enough to knock you down.

A natural optimist, I generally see the good in people or in situations. But I’ll be the first to admit just how quickly my positivity is overtaken by a depressive spirit. Sometimes it takes every ounce of spiritual maturity I have to climb out of the deep places that disappointments take me.

Disappointment leads to hurt. Hurt leads quickly to anger and anger to bitterness. By that time I’m fighting to find a sliver of forgiveness in the deepest crevice of my heart.

If not for a strong belief that God can bring good from the worst situations, it could be overwhelming. Thank God we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight that comes because God has rushed in and proven that he is bigger than any disappointment that has ever come our way.

Rarely is God the one who pulls the rug out from under us. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t ever do that, but it seems to me that God occasionally allows a “big picture” view when it comes to taking care of us. I don’t mean that as an existential statement saying God does not care and isn’t intricately involved in every aspect of our lives, because I know he is. I simply mean I believe there are times when he allows injustice or disappointment to happen in our lives for the sake and benefits of what he can and will do in the big picture if we trust him and move forward with confidence.

Disappointments are a part of life. People let you down. Your body fails you. A precious child suffers and dies. Cancer comes back. Friends betray you. Bosses turn on you. Organizations toss you aside. The Stock Market falls. Children make bad decisions. Old habits—thought conquered—return, [insert your disappointment here] , and the list goes on and on …

It doesn’t matter “which” disappointment you’re dealing with now, this one thing holds true: no matter how bad life looks or how let down we feel, hope is always there. In fact, it is the believer’s constant companion—even when you can’t see it, it’s there.

So how do we overcome the letdowns of life? Here are four steps I use to process disappointment and help me move on with life.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
Psalms 34:18


#1. Grieve
Although I’d like to say I am able to start the process of overcoming disappointments with step two, personal experience has taught me that it is almost impossible to defeat deep disappointment without going through a grieving process of some sort.

Feel your disappointment. It’s okay to be sad and grieve. When things don’t go the way you’ve planned or expected, or when life as you know it is shot down, it’s natural to be sad and even mourn what was or could have been. For some, grieving is a time of quiet reflection; for others, it involves tears and anger. Of course, the trick here is to release the sadness and accept the inevitable without feeding the root of bitterness that can quickly sprout up and flourish.

Pray. How blessed we are as believers to not have to carry the heavy burden of disappointment alone. Scripture teaches us, the load is more easily carried when the yoke is shared with others. We have Abba Father, Spouses, Trusted friends, Life group families; surround yourself by those who love and care for you and share your burden.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7

God already knows about your heartache and disappointment, but tell him anyway. He wants you to talk to him. Be honest; speak from the heart. If you’re mad, tell him. (It’s okay—he’s God and he can take it!) If you want to know why, ask him. (Again, it’s okay—he’s God!) More importantly, ask for his wisdom and insight. Be still. Be quiet. Allow him to speak to your heart.

Cast your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.
1 Peter 5:7


#2. Put Things into Perspective
It’s during my times of great disappointment that I’m reminded of Isaiah 55:8-9: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your thoughts.”

Realize that God knows best. How many times have we railed against circumstances and disappointments only to praise God later for the way things turned out? Though it’s difficult to swallow, there are many times when God will use a very painful disappointment to move us; even if we feel called to be right where we are. It’s okay. He’s faithful. He’s our defender and will go before us. Psalms 59:9 says, “God, my strength, I am looking to You, because God is my Defender.

Other times God will use a disappointment to take us  where he’s been trying to get us to go. And, almost always, God allows it to grow our character and faith.

Be thankful. It might sound tough when you’re reeling from disappointment, but be thankful and look for God’s goodness and graciousness in your life. Sure, it’s easier to wallow in self-pity, but don’t. 1 Thessalonians 5:8 teaches us to, “Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” Easier said than done, I know, but be intentional about your thankfulness and God will bless your efforts.

Serve others. When someone or something disappointments us, the inclination is to withdraw, turn in and focus on ourself. That’s the easy choice. But it’s not who we are in Christ; We can chose to be driven by what has happened to us or we can push through and live by the principles that guide our lives.

When it’s hard to put things into perspective, that’s the most important time to find the good, grab it with both hands, and celebrate it.

For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:11


#3. Focus on God’s Purpose for Your Life
Do we serve the God of the universe or not? I mean this is GOD we’re talking about—the one who created the earth. The author of life, purveyor of miracles. essence of resurrection and all things new. Omnipotent, Omniscient, God; Savior of the world! He can do anything. ANYTHING! [Note to self: God is in control!]

Reaffirm your faith. When disappointment takes a nose-dive down into our lives, it often brings a crisis of belief with it. That when our faith has to kick into gear and make a conscious decision of saying “yes, I believe in God’s plan and purpose for my life.” “I trust him with my future.” “I believe he’s got this,’ and he’s looking out for me and one day I’m going to step back and see how God’s perfect plan unfolded in my life.”

Move forward. In the meantime, things may stink but God’s plan for your life and the way he has gifted and shaped you hasn’t changed. Step back and look at where God is at work around you; then move forward. Sometimes we become so focused on “us,” we fail to see where he is directing our path. Even in our pain and suffering, God will use us.

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Romans 8:28


#4. Adjust Your Life Accordingly
There comes a point when all the wailing and gnashing of teeth subsides and life must continue. Psalms 30:5 says: “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Sometimes it takes a while to get to the “morning,” but eventually, the sun comes up. And when it does, there’s often change involved.

Embrace the change. If you can’t embrace change, go back to step three and review the part about God being in control. This is when we have to pull ourselves from the mire of disappointment and believe what we believe! If we don’t, we run the risk of becoming hostages to our disappointment.

Trust God and have courage. Trust God that you’re going to be able to say, “That was the best thing that could have happened in my life.” Why? Because sometimes God allows disappointments to take us where we otherwise would never have the courage to go!

Let go. The first time I went hang-gliding, I quickly realized it takes a lot more trust to jump off the mountain than to hang in the air. Once you’ve jumped, there’s not much more you can do than just hang on tight and enjoy the ride! We need to let go of “anything” we’re hanging on to tighter than God. The only thing we need to be holding on to IS God. Sometimes that “anything” may be more than just the disappointment—it may be people, places, jobs, homes, health—it may be everything. But, it’s when we let go of everything except God that hope thrives.

Hope Flourishes
This is what I know with all my heart: God has plans for us. They’re plans for good, not disaster; he wants to give us a hope that flourishes. We have a purpose and it doesn’t run or go away because someone or circumstances rocked our world. God will allow us to live out our purpose on this earth.

Even in the midst of great disappointment, God is preparing us for even greater work in the days ahead. Because of that, I’m inspired to make a promise this day—and every single day—to use my life for his good.

No matter what. Come rain or shine.

Billy Graham once said, “Even if we may not understand why God
allows certain things to happen to us, we know he is able to bring
good out of evil and triumph out of suffering.”

He can and he will.

Remember, it’s on the roller coaster of life that we discover the truth of Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

We can and we will; because life’s too short to do anything else.

My Willing Fraudulent Heart

IMG_4446One day I was sitting around the office going over editorial details with my boss, Jon. He was sitting on the sofa, strumming a guitar while throwing out ideas. Pastor Rick strolled in, picked up another guitar and joined the meeting. What followed was one of the most creative “idea-throwing” sessions I’ve ever been a part of in my communications career. The conversation was golden, and there was so much wisdom flying through the air, I felt like I was sitting at the feet of sages.

I must have looked contemplative as we were wrapping up because Rick asked me what I was thinking.
“I’m wondering what I’m doing here in this room,” I responded honestly. “I mean, how did I get here? There are moments—like right now—that I don’t feel qualified to be here.”

Rick looked me square in the eyes and said something I’ll never forget. “Sure, there are people who might be more qualified than you to do this job. But you’re not here just because of your qualifications. You’re here because of your willingness to be used by God.

“You’re here because you’ll do what he asks,” he continued, “and because you’re willing to do anything, he put you here.” Getting to his feet, he smiled and said matter-of-factly, “A willing heart that will do whatever God asks is the greatest qualification a person can have.” Then he perched the guitar on its stand and walked out of the room.

That was a few years ago.

The self-doubter in me—the one who lives in a small corner of my heart and makes snide remarks and ridicules me—sometimes still shows up. “Who are you to think you can do something like that?” she whispers in my ear. She makes me feel like a fraud. Like at any moment, someone is going to rush in and say, “What’s that girl doing here? She’s deceived us all—she’s an imposter. Off with her head!”

Or some such nonsense.

Usually I stick my tongue out at her leaving my “nothing is impossible” kind of faith intact because I really do believe I can do anything through Christ when he divinely empowers me to do it. But sometimes, I listen to her when she says, “If you really believed that, then you could be the brightest, most capable woman in the world.” Then I feel like a fraud, because I know I am not the brightest, most capable woman in the world, and I never will be.

That’s when I start fighting battles I won a long time ago. Plagued with insecurities I thought were long gone, I even start questioning my ability to construct an understandable sentence on an empty page.

Then I remember that conversation with Pastor Rick.

I forget about everything but having a willing heart. I look for it, and when I find it, I do the only thing I know to do—run hard after God and offer it up to him like a long-lost prodigal who has found her way to the page again.
When he takes it from my hands, I find the trust I carelessly misplaced; I tuck it back into my pocket, where it feels safe and warm. And I know with every fiber of my being that he knows who I am. If he gives me a job to do and a page to write, then he’ll give me the goods I need to get the job done.

Adapted from Life’s Too Short to Miss the Big Picture for Women , Leafwood Press, available at Amazon.com.

Life in Detail


It was a perfect day for taking a drive in the mountains, so we grabbed sweaters and piled into the car to make the familiar trek to a fishing village on the other side of the island. We spent the next several hours watching the fishermen come in with their catches for the day. When the last boat finally came in, all the fishermen rushed out to grab hold of the thick sea ropes and pulled the boat onto the sandy shore. Groaning nets of freshly caught fish were emptied into plastic tubs and packed with ice, as they were made ready for the trip to the fish market. Heading back to the car for the long drive home, we bought two bags of fresh tangerines and threw them onto the backseat.

As the car began to climb the double-lane highway, we rolled down all the windows, tore open a bag of tangerines, and proceeded to have an impromptu picnic. The fresh peels split easily, revealing the plump, juicy fruits inside; the pungent tang mixed with the salty sea air and filled our nostrils.

Sweet as candy, the juice dribbled down our chins as we chatted and gobbled down the sweet treats. Before we knew it, both bags of fruits were gone, and the only thing left was sticky fingers. Searching for napkins in the glove compartment, I lifted them up with a victorious shout and raised my head just in time to see the magnificent postcard view of the lagoon below as we crested the mountain and began our descent down the other side.

All it takes is the smell of tangerines, and the memory of that day comes rushing back with such force I have no choice but to settle into it like a comfortable easy chair and remember. Every detail is etched on my brain: the warmth of the day, the perfect cerulean blue sky, the bright sunshine, the cool wind whipping through the open windows of the car, the heady perfume of tangerine juice spraying through the air, and the view I memorized and tucked into my heart. The love and laughter that filled our car that day made a memory that will last forever.

Life’s too short to miss the details. They’re not merely the distinctive or minute parts of a particular moment, they are the very facets of our life that collectively inspire and remind us of who we are, what we’ve become, and why. They’re the fibers from which we are woven together.

Ultimately, they become the beliefs that compel us to determine what we stand for and what will be important in life.

When we live life in detail, we create moments that stay with us forever.

© 2014 Kathy Chapman Sharp

Everyone Has A Story

Everyone has a story.

IMG_1709Although I was born in 1955, mine really started on the day I gave my life to Christ. I was 17 years old and to this day, I still remember that moment of letting go of my willful self and slipping out of the pew to walk down the aisle of the church I had attended most of my life.

It wasn’t a sudden decision.

When the Jesus Movement began sweeping across America in the late sixties, even my hometown of Louisville, KY saw its own mid-western version of religious coolness and I began my on-again, off-again relationship to the church. During my younger teen years, the church was the center of my social circle. There was a skating rink, gymnasium, youth activities and earnest youth ministers who moon lighted as seminary students (or vice-versa!). I attended regularly. I knew how to respond and all the right words to say. I was a good girl; one my parents could be proud of. The problem was that I had a head knowledge of Jesus but I never quite let him into my life.

When I started high school I went to church less. There were other things to do, boyfriends to date and my group of friends expanded to others outside the church. But my best friend, Karen Carter was always a rock in my life. She was the tie that kept me bound to the church. Her life was a constant reminder of my need for Christ and the church. Even when I sat behind her in home room at Durrett High School, it was what I thought about staring at the back of her head. My older brother, Dan was also a huge influence in my life. He sensed my struggle but he never condemned. He only encouraged and prayed for me. I knew this and I loved him even more for it.

Revivals were the hardest. I’d always tuck a little pack of tissues into my pocket because I knew I was going to cry and feel convicted about something. I just wouldn’t allow myself to figure out what it was I felt so badly about. So, I’d sit there feeling miserable. And worried. I might have an accident on the way home and it would be tragic because I didn’t quite have the salvation thing figured out. I remember hearing that Jesus was only going to knock on my heart’s door a few times — and if I didn’t answer, he might never knock again. I even answered a few times, but I wasn’t sure what to say when I saw Jesus standing there, so I’d quietly close the door, asking him to come back later.My father decided that if I was dating, then I had to attend church more. It was easy. Going to church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday nights equaled three dates a week. So that’s what I did. I was physically there, but my stubborn heart resisted and stayed away.

I remember hearing a lot about God’s wrath and revenge during those years but not enough about his love or mercy. I watched so-called “Christians” live one way on Sunday and another way during the week. I always told myself, If I ever decide to become a real Christian, I would not live like that — I would be sold out. I’d walk the walk and talk the talk. If …

So here I was sitting in the pew, up front in the third row because I’d rushed into the sanctuary at the last-minute and it was the only place to sit. I’d just graduated from high school a couple of weeks earlier and I was feeling rather smug because I was pretty sure I had the rest of my life figured out. I had plans. Life was out there to be lived and I couldn’t wait to get started with life on my own terms.

But Jesus had other plans. No sooner had the sermon started than he began to speak to me. It was so real and so audible that I actually looked around to see if anyone else was hearing his voice. He spoke clearly and with authority telling me that I stood at a fork in the road of my life. I could either choose to go my way or I could choose to follow him. With great love, he reminded me that he had a plan and purpose for my life. All I had to do was follow. He would forgive my sin. He would turn my stubbornness to determination.

But, today was the day. I needed to make a choice. Go his way or go my way.

As he spoke, for the first time in my life, my heart listened and answered back. “You’re real,” it said. “I can feel you here and I’m not afraid!” I bowed my head, opened the door to my heart, stepped aside and invited Jesus to come in. And he did. To this day, I can recall the moment the holy spirit came to me. It was as if a cloak was gently laid upon my shoulders. I felt the weight of his power and presence immediately.

When the invitation was given, I did not hesitate. I was on a mission. My life was transformed. The holy spirit began guiding my life and choices immediately and I let him. Within two hours, I’d broken off a steady relationship and began exploring what God wanted me to do next. I knew my plans were over. I wanted only his will for my life.

A few weeks later I was traveling across Europe and it was amazing how God used this time to teach me. I met missionaries and other believers along the way and it was not only encouraging but eye-opening. Stretched out on a hillside in southern France with the wind blowing my hair and my face lifted to the heavens, God audibly spoke to me again. “I want your life,” he said. “You have me, Lord,” I spoke back aloud with sincerity in every word. “I want all of your life” he answered. Then silence. Speaking and praying with my pastor upon my return to the United States, I came to realize that God was calling me to ministry. I made a decision in that moment to go anywhere, to do anything, and say anything that he might ask. His purpose for my life was revealed!

Just a few months later, at the University of the Cumberlands where God led me to prepare for the work ahead, I met my partner in ministry and life, Terry Sharp. That was 39 years ago.

We’ve lived a lot of life since then and it has been amazing. There are times I close my eyes and consider what might have been if I’d chosen the other road — my way. There’s a moment of sheer panic. Darkness. But then I’m quickly reminded that I didn’t. I chose God’s way and I’m overwhelmed with gratefulness for his grace on my life. That’s why my life is amazing. Every day!

I’ve served him as a wife and mother to husband, Terry and daughter, Rebekah. I also have a son-in-love, Terrence.

I’ve served him on church staffs and organizations where I’ve walked alongside and learned from some of the most incredible men and women of God.

I’ve been privileged to be a part of innovative practices and strategic missions and God has used them to teach and prepare me for the task he has given me today.

I’ve served him as a missionary to Spain and Brazil where he allowed me to live out and share my faith in a way that I will never forget. I am forever changed because of the relationships and experiences I had serving God overseas. I’ve also discovered that, “Once a missionary, always a missionary.” The place of my assignment has changed but I continue to share my faith and build relationships wherever God directs. Volunteer missions around the globe will always be a part of my life.

I’ve served him with my strengths and spiritual gifts. He made me a leader, a teacher and a communicator and I’ll use those gifts in any way that he asks. I actively mentor young women. I consult with churches to help them find their voice in the area of communications. I’m a writer and a speaker — I serve him with my words, written and spoken, and I’ll continue to do so until he tells me differently.

I’m sold out. I’m always ready to go anywhere, do anything and say whatever he asks — anytime.

My story began 40 years ago on June 10, 1973. As I reflected and celebrated my spiritual birthday yesterday, it occurred to me that my story will go on forever. Eternally. How cool is that?

Everyone has a story and we should share them more often.

What’s your story?

© 2013 Kathy Chapman Sharp



April 2013 will be one of those months that stays with me for a lifetime.

I anticipate the first week of April unlike any other month of the year. If you are lucky enough to live in middle Tennessee, you know why I say that with no apology. Verdant growth begins to sprout on stark, dormant tree limbs and the forest lands become embossed with the neon raspberry of the Red Bud trees and the clotted white cream of Dogwoods. It’s also the time when one can be sure that winter is gone and the warmer, breezier days of spring and summer are truly going to happen.

Just when my heavy winter heart began to release some of it’s burden and I was anticipating the yearly ritual of raising my face to the sky to feel the warmth of the sun, dark clouds rushed in again.  It stole the warmth away.

A dear pastor and his wife whom I had the privilege of working with in Southern California — folks I still love, learn from and admire so very much — lost their adult son to suicide after a life long battle with mental illness. As the parent of an adult child diagnosed with Bipolar Disease, I identify with the struggle they have lived over the years. There was a period in our lives when depression and the daily struggle for our daughter to simply get out of bed was so dark and difficult that every time the phone rang, I just knew it was someone calling to tell me that she had taken her own life. Joy and happiness that comes our way always has a bittersweet aftertaste.

I can’t even begin to comprehend what it feels like to receive that phone call, but my dear friends do.

On the heels of one tragedy, came another.

“My sweet baby boy is fighting for his life,” a dear friend in Louisville pleaded on Facebook. “I so covet your prayers for my son and my family,” she added. So I prayed, asking God to please spare the life of this beautiful young man, only 32 years old.

His life slipped away in a hospital room in Indianapolis. A senseless death with senseless circumstances.

A moment of anger that now another dear friend has lost a child.

“It’s not the way it’s supposed to be Lord,” I cried. “Children aren’t supposed to die before their parents.”

It’s moments like these when all you can do is run to God and sit in his lap and release the grief you are holding so tightly so that it hurts when you let go; pleading for peace and comfort for those you hold dear, it flows from your weak, pitiful heart into his strong and caring arms.

Help them to breathe, Father. Every day. Every hour. No, every minute.

I pray that way because a dear friend who lost his precious wife to cancer not so long ago told me that afterwards breathing was the hardest part. “Sometimes,” he said, “the grief and pain is so great, I don’t think I can take another breath.”

Tragedy and loss are desolate places to dwell in when the earth is returning to life.

Now May is just around the corner and a chill still hangs in the air. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that winter continues to creep in and steal away our warm spring days or if my soul is just cold, swollen and remote because it has cried so much for people I care about so deeply.

I think it may just be a little of both.

Five Foot Nothing

“I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made …” (Psalms 139:14a)

When my daughter Rebekah was eight years old she told me the story of Amy Carmichael — an Irish woman who followed God to India where she eventually founded a mission and orphanage in Dohnavur. As a young child Amy often wished that she had blue eyes like her little brother’s rather than the brown eyes she had been born with. In fact, at night before going to bed, she would often pray that Jesus would change her eye color. Jumping out of bed in the morning, Amy would run to the mirror to see her new blue eyes and was disappointed when her prayers were never answered.

When God called her to minister in India, Amy finally realized God’s wisdom in giving her brown eyes. Often criticized by colleagues for her unorthodox methods, she wore Indian dress and dyed her light skin with strong, dark coffee. She often traveled  hundreds of miles on India’s hot dusty roads to save a child from the life of being a temple servant. And because Amy Carmichael had brown eyes she was able to gain the acceptance of the Indian people and allowed to enter the temples where she rescued hundreds of children.

Wow! I think God knew what He was doing when He gave Amy Carmichael brown eyes!I can’t say that I’ve ever wanted blue eyes. Mine are dark brown and I’ve always been partial to them. My nemesis has always been my height. I topped out at 60 inches in junior high which I affectionately dubbed, “five foot nothing.”  “Stand up, Kathy,” they would often say. “I am,” I would answer. I’ve never enjoyed being short but like Amy, I’ve learned that God can and DOES use every detail of our creation in his work.

Take a long look at yourself in the mirror. There may be some things that you’re not happy about but its important to realize that God created you the way he did for his greater purpose. Yes, it’s easy to obsess about weight or the fact we don’t look like a super model. It’s even easier to get sidetracked from God’s truth and start thinking like the world that tells us physical appearance is the most important quality we can have or that our intelligence, talents, and achievements can bring us power and wealth.

But, realize this; everything about you was created to bring honor and glory to God. Everything. That means our self-worth is based in Christ and his magnificent love for us! Life in Christ is deeper than eye color, weight, height and even beauty. Life’s too short to dwell on what we perceive as imperfections — instead, why not look forward to discovering the life and ministry for which God uniquely crafted us to live!