{when God [finally] opens the door}

So we have a local hero around here named Nevin Ashley. He is one of North Knox’s own and has
spent ten years in the minor leagues. WHICH IN ITSELF IS A VERY BIG DEAL. Whether you know him personally or not, if you are a Knox County native, chances are you are talking about him this week. And if you do happen to know him personally, you are certainly talking about him tonight!

He’s a local favorite, a great guy, and even though we all cheered him on through his many moves in the minors… His heart has always been set on the big show.  Major League Baseball.

I’m sure to many, after three years… four years… eight years of waiting it had to seem like that dream would not be realized. According to the Brewer’s website, he had his own moments of doubt as well, nearly retiring in 2013. It gets weary, standing in the hallway just waiting for that door to open.

And then, this week… it DID. After a decade working his butt off in the minors, Nevin got the call he had dreamed about since he was a little boy playing summer league ball.  Eight hundred and seventy games in the minor leagues, ten years of practice, playing, injury, moving, and waiting… it all paid off as he took his first at bat stance in a Major League game.  And our family, along with countless other families in the NK area became instant Brewers fans.

And we all cheered like crazy when his first at bat yielded a double and an RBI.  We hung on every word the announcers had to say about his plays in the game (Jim is, as I type, re-listening to them all). They were rooting for him too, they recognized the magic of someone called up after a decade in the minors.  All because he didn’t give up. All because when he felt like giving up, he had a wife who encouraged him to keep playing the game that he loved. All because he made the absolute best out of the hallway.

As my Facebook feed fills up with congratulations, well wishes, and posts sharing his story into the Majors… I wonder if he is pinching himself? All that wait… and here he is, playing Major League ball. EIGHT HUNDRED AND SEVENTY GAMES, you guys.


Are any of you in a season of waiting? Feeling your way down an unfamiliar hall just waiting for the door to be opened for you?

I know about life in the hallway. I know what it’s like to have a call on your life, a destiny, a dream… and to wait and wait and wait for that door to open. I thought I was on the verge of the door being opened, six years ago.  But the Lord had different plans. He knew exactly what I needed, and He had to take me into a season of waiting to teach me things. So that I could learn from Him how to walk in humility and peace and love. So that he could train my spiritual muscles to respond quickly to His bidding and slowly to injury.  

Like Nevin there were times when I doubted the dream He had given me… and then an encourager would come along. A message out of the blue from someone who had little idea of the season I was in that would say “don’t give up, He’s still going to do this thing”. A Word spoken at just the right time. He sees you, and He’s using this season.

And like Nevin, this very night I am pinching myself. My life is overflowing with praise for all He has done. For the doors He has opened. When I look back on the last few years and the wait that felt like an eternity… I can see why. I can see the refining. The changing. The growing. The persevering through injury. Learning to trust in seasons of transition and moving. 

I am still a million miles from the "big league", but today as my friend Jeanie and I walked from the jail with smiles on our faces we both felt the same thing- encouraged. Tonight as the kids at Sprouts leaned in to hear how specially they were created by God- I was full of hope.  A few nights ago as a teen said “we can trust you”- my heart nearly burst. I may not be playing in the Majors, or have my name spoken on national TV, but tonight I feel like I'm exactly where He wants me to be. And it's amazing. 

What even is my life? How did I get so darn blessed? How did that long season of waiting turn into this??

I wonder if Nevin is feeling the same thing?

What even is my life? I had almost given up… now I am catching in a Major League Game. How did I get so blessed? How did 870 games in the minors turn into this??

Be encouraged, my friend. If you are playing your 698th game in the minor leagues, be encouraged that the door is still there and it can still be opened. Be encouraged that this season of training is for the good. Be encouraged that He has a plan and a purpose, and that if God has planted a dream in your heart, He will bring you to it.

Tonight as we watched Nevin play against the Marlins… as we cheered him on with every play… I was reminded that dreams really do come true. It’s amazing to hear a corn fed Knox County boy’s name being called out by MLB announcers. It’s kind of a big deal.

I’m so not a big deal. But my God certainly is. And if He can put hands like mine to work for Him, what in the world could He do with you. Don’t shy away from a season in the hallway. Don’t give up when the door feels like it’s a million years away. Just keep doing what you can do where you are until He calls you up into your destiny.

And when you are sitting on your couch after a day overflowing with blessing (or in the locker room after your first game in the MLB), remember to thank Him. I can only imagine that Nevin has been… and I’m beyond certain that this girl is too.

Father, thank you for all the seasons of our life! Lord I PRAISE YOU for time spent in the hallway! Lord I praise you that even when doors are opened, it's not an END but a NEW BEGINNING! Father encourage those tonight who find themselves in a season of waiting. Encourage the ones who have grown weary in the wait... remind them tonight Lord that YOU are a God who is in charge, and who knows exactly what we need to walk in everything you have destined for us. Lord, we say tonight that we trust you... help us to praise you, wherever we are... even if it's in the hall! In Jesus Name...


{when Jesus weeps}

I remember the exact moment I heard the news. The hot tears pouring down my face and the
confused prayers to a God I couldn’t understand.

Sarah, Chad, Nathan, Christopher, little guys who fought cancer and won eternity, babies lost during pregnancy, a sweet faced little man who I had never even met. 

Mitch, my dad, Mary.  And now a man who fathered many, loved many, who lived a gentle life and praised the Lord for his many blessings.

Others taken what seemed like an eternity too soon. Friends who lost their anchor. Wives who had to plan the funeral of their loves instead of their retirement with them. Parents who had to walk through a valley no parent should ever have to walk through.

I remember falling at the feet of Jesus, as Mary and Martha had done after their brother died, and saying “Jesus, if only you had been here… Jesus, it didn’t have to end like this… Jesus, why didn’t you come sooner… Jesus, why didn’t you do something.”

I cry out to Him… You so could have been glorified in this! You could have raised him up off His sick bed and EVERYONE would have known it was only by YOU! It’s just so hard to understand. Such good people, gone so soon.

And just as He did with Mary, I can feel His gentle response to my questions, my confusion, my frustration, my grief…

Jesus wept.

Jesus doesn’t just understand our tears, He joins us in them.  There’s something about those words, “Jesus wept”, that have changed the way I grieve. Changed the way I have comforted others in their grief. I once mistakenly thought faith in Jesus meant that we could say things like “we will see them again someday” and that would make it alllll better. But it doesn’t. Because when you are standing at the casket of your child, someday feels like it’s a million years away. When you are sitting at a family dinner and there is an empty chair staring back at you, you want someday to be RIGHT NOW. When you have exciting news and the one who would rejoice the loudest is gone, someday just leaves you with silence.

Don’t get me wrong, someday gives us hope. Someday is something we can cling to in this world 
until we make it to the next.  Without someday I don't know how we would get through this day. But someday doesn’t make the pain go away.

I still pick up my phone and want to text Mary and share the news.  I still wish my dad could be there cheering Zach on as he runs the football down the field.  I wish I had the chance to tell him to stop screaming at the referees so loud.  I wish he were here to give Tali’s boyfriend a hard time. I wish… I wish I could get my mind around God’s plan that doesn’t always make sense.

But Jesus wept. When His friends Mary and Martha were grieving over Lazarus… He did too.  He knew that He had come to that place for the sole purpose of raising Lazarus up from the dead, not someday but THAT VERY DAY… and still He wept. He entered into their grief. He joined them there. He didn’t chastise them for not understanding, He didn’t turn around and leave because they questioned Him, He wasn’t let down by their accusing tone- Jesus, if only you had been here, our brother wouldn’t have died…

Instead He entered into their grief. And He cried with them. His heart was deeply moved by their mourning, and He wept. He didn’t tell Mary to get up and dust herself off. He joined her in the dirt.

For my friends who are grieving, I just want you to know that Jesus is too. Even though He knows the plans and the purposes… even though He is working all things to the good… even though He knows that Resurrection Day is COMING… He is still right there with you in the midst of your grief. He is sinking down in the dirt beside you and He will cry with you until you are ready, until you are able, to reach out and let Him help you up off your knees.  He can handle your questions.  He can handle you pounding on His chest and screaming “WHY?!” He can handle your tears. Because He loves you. And He understands.

Friends, Resurrection Day is coming. And the hope for those in Christ is that we will see our loved ones again. Until that day comes, it’s okay to miss them. It’s okay to wish they were here. It’s okay to wonder why. Even when I can't understand Him, I am comforted knowing He always understands ME. He understands you too. He grieves. He weeps. He sits in the dirt and He comforts you. 

Your Word tells us that you alone can turn our mourning into dancing. Your Word promises us that you are near to the broken hearted. Your Word assures us that those who mourn will be comforted. Your Word tells us that you will save those who are crushed in Spirit. Would you just make those words real for those who are grieving today? Jesus would you sit down in the dirt with them and just love them? Wrap your arms around them, let them FEEL your embrace in a most tangible way, Father. Whether the loss is a day old or a decade old, would you bring the comfort that only your Holy Spirit can bring. Fill them with the hope of someday, while you weep with them today. I love you Jesus, thank you for loving me. Jesus, I trust you. In your name we pray…


{the space in between}

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent a teenager. I don’t know how to move from helicopter mom to teaching my daughter how to fly. I don’t know how to navigate this space in between child and adult.

Those were the words left on my computer screen after I got the call from my husband that I needed to take Zach to football practice, and the message from our carpool that I also needed to pick Tali up from cheer. I have been thinking and praying about this topic for weeks, how to write about this place I find myself in with my daughter… this space in between. As I sat down to write yesterday morning, those were the only words I had. I don’t know how to navigate this. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how to transition this relationship in a healthy way.

I typed them, and then went about my day, praying for a way to articulate all of the wrestling in my spirit. Parenting is hard. But now I'm seeing that parenting a teen is it's own special variety of hard. I'm not good at relinquishing control. I'm not good at watching people I love make less than ideal decisions. As I closed down programs in my computer before climbing in my big, silver taxi and hitting the road [again], they flashed across the screen at me.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to parent with space. I don’t know how to give Tali the room she needs to stretch and grow and fall down and pick herself back up. Especially when I see so much of myself in her.  When I see the me that had everything in front of her and made such poor choices. When I see the me that is afraid to invest emotionally. When I see the me that can’t open up to people.  And I want to tell her the easy path. I want to pour into her the lessons I have learned and have her “get it”- ALL. Without the harsh learning curve I had.

When they are little, when we see them running faster than their little legs are equipped to keep up with we can stop them. We can yell ahead “Don’t run!!! You’ll skin your knees!!! Slow down!” We can keep them from so much hurt. But even when they are little… sometimes they still run. Sometimes the warning comes too late. Sometimes the knees still get skinned.

And here I am with this teenager… and I want to yell “DON’T RUN! Slow down!”… but the truth is, there are going to be bruises and wounds along this path.  And not only can I not keep her from all of them, but it wouldn’t be in her best interest if I did.

Sometimes we learn our best lessons from the skinned knees.

Sometimes that is the only way we figure out how fast our feet can carry us without toppling over.

The thing is, when it’s a six year old’s knee, we can kiss it and put a Band-Aid on it, and offer up a popsicle (because they make EVERYTHING better)… but when it’s a heart. Oh, it’s so much more difficult. And the mama bear desire to protect and guard is strong

And that’s where I found myself standing in the shower, tears running down my face asking God… how far do I let her go? How closely do I guard?  Oh Lord, what decisions do I let her make, and which ones do I make the call?

And He answered… how far will I let you go, Becky?

And I know, He will let me go as far as necessary to learn to lean. He will guide and direct and steer with the power of His Holy Spirit, but in the end, the choice is mine. The path is laid out before me, His way and Mine… and I get to choose.

And so it is in this space in between with my teen… I can guide and direct, I can lay out the options and explain the consequences… but in the end she will decide. She will choose to be home by curfew or not. She will choose the way of honesty or not. She will save sacred spaces in her life or not. 

I recall my mom warning me when Tali was two years old and throwing a temper tantrum… “what seems cute and harmless at two isn’t so cute and harmless at thirteen, you are setting the stage now”.  She was so right. Oh, moms of littles, imagine that temper tantrum or talking back or ignoring the rules on a teenager and use that as a gauge as to how seriously you will take it now.  How far will you let them go, now? Because when they are teens those are the tools they will have in their tool belt to make their own decisions.  Be mindful of the pace you set for them now, because tomorrow, they will need to know how fast they can run.

My job as a parent is far from over, but it is definitely changing. My littles are now 11 and 13, and just aren’t so little anymore. It’s a season of transition and I don’t know exactly what it is supposed to look like or how to know if we are doing it well. I look back and hope and pray that we have laid a firm foundation. I pray that we have the courage to let our children fly, even when the nest seems so safe. In the end,  it's not even about her heeding my advice. But learning to hear the Father's voice. Following His call on her life. Letting Him pick her up when she stumbles.

I know that I can warn (and I will), I can call out “don’t run!”… but in the end, these years are about Tali learning how to set the pace. Learning how fast she can run without toppling over. Learning who she is and setting her sights on who she wants to be.  Learning how to navigate disappointment and words that hurt and relationships that are complicated and friends who aren’t.

And maybe, the best thing I can do is be there with a hug and a popsicle when the knees get skinned a little.   

But it’s hard. It’s hard to bite my tongue when I want to offer advice. It’s hard to navigate a space where words are easier spoken via text message than face to face and to know if that’s okay. It’s hard to see so much of me.  It’s hard not to guard and protect against every hurt.  It’s hard not to micromanage. It’s hard to honor the space she needs to grow.

And so that is where I was yesterday, as I typed those words on my computer screen.

I don’t know how to do this.

I don’t know how to navigate this thing. I don’t know how to parent a teenager because I’ve never done it before… and it’s too important to mess up. I feel inadequate and overprotective and scared and excited and sad all at the same time. This space in between… it’s hard.

Those words… I don’t know how to do this… danced in my head as we pulled out of the high school parking lot and the tears began to trickle down Tali’s cheeks. She poured out her hurt and her frustration and her disappointment, and I thanked God that she trusts me with these things, and asked Him to please help me have words that would encourage and build up and teach and challenge…

We talked. I told her that it did suck. I told her that it was okay to be upset and frustrated. I told her it was not okay to give up. I told her to remember she is good enough, and not to let anything change her smile.

And that’s when I opened the envelope with six one dollar bills in it. Money that someone had just given me unexpectedly. Money that I didn’t even realize I was “owed”.

Looking at the money I had a crazy idea…

“Steve and Kinzi are behind us… what do you think they would do if we threw this money at them?”

“What?!” Tali asked… and a smile began to spread across her face… “we could throw it out the sunroof!!”… so I gave her three dollars (because really, throwing money out the window IS crazy, and Dave Ramsey would NOT approve, and so we were only gonna toss half of it because apparently that makes it –OK–). And one at a time she tossed them out the sun roof.
Tali's Facebook Status last night. #worthit

Turns out, money is quite dramatic flying out a sunroof at 60mph.  

And it was hilarious.

We watched the shock on our friends’ faces as the money flew back toward them….

And we laughed til the tears changed.

Her friend called her, and we giggled even harder. She also threw one more dollar out just for good measure.

It wasn’t a Popsicle. It wasn’t a Band-Aid. But it was the best $4 I have ever spent.

When I got home, I opened my computer and I saw those words again…

I don’t know how to do this.

And the truth is, I don't. But in that moment I heard my Father speak loud and clear... but I do

Father, help us lean on you as we parent. Help us lean on you as we navigate new seasons. Help us lean on you to guide and direct our yes's and our no's. Be the Light to this path, Jesus. In Your Name we pray, AMEN.


{I was a prisoner and you came to me}

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:35-40)

I remember studying this passage of scripture in Sunday school and actually thinking to myself "I'm glad you send me to the sick and not the prisoners, God." 

I looked at the guy in our class who works at the prison. That's just too hard. Those people are too hard.  Sure, someone needs to go minister there- I was just really glad it wasn't me. I couldn't do it. I couldn't go so far out of my comfort zone. And yet, His Word kept assaulting me with the truth of our calling to minister to those in jail...

Of course, that is precisely where He was going to take me, and I weep with joy that He would love me enough to send me to the jail in His Name. My friends and I that minister there are so wildly blessed by the Jesus we meet inside those cinder block walls. Sitting with women, in jail, singing songs to our King, with our King... no other worship service quite like it!

And then, last week, THIS happened. Seven of our girls were baptized, and it was one of the most powerful experiences of my entire life. 

I wish you could have been there. I wish I had pictures or a video. I wish that I had more than words to express the amount of Jesus that was in that place that day. The amount of grace. The amount of joy. The amount of peace. 

Still, I have a way you can join us in that place. I have a way that you can be a minister of grace in the Knox County Jail. 

I am looking for people to partner in a Bible ministry for the jail. Let me be real here, there is no shortage of Bibles at the jail. In fact the library has stacks and stacks of Bibles that people have donated or given or taken in there. The problem is, these Bibles have no study notes, no concordance, no glossary... no tools to help someone who has never opened a Bible before to understand on their own what they are reading. 

So, He led me to start getting these Bibles for the girls. 

As I asked the Lord what Bibles to get His answer was simple... "what Bible do YOU read". I know there are many worthy Bibles out there with study notes, but these girls really respond to the the Life Application Study Bible in the New Living Translation. I know there are less expensive options, but if this particular Bible can help these girls grow the deep roots they will need to withstand the temptations of this world outside those jail walls, it's so worth it!

And so, I invite you to join our ministry and bless these girls. The local Bible Bookstore, who is always incredibly supportive of this ministry, has offered to sell them to us, in bulk at just over $20 a Bible... so I'm looking for people willing to buy "one of those really nice Bibles" (as they call them in the jail) for a girl desperate for a hope and a future. Desperate for the truth. Desperate for the armor she will only find in these pages. 

If you want to buy a Bible (or two, or twenty)- just get in touch with me. There are always new girls coming in, and so the need will be steady.  You can email me at becky.boyles@gmail.com (also my PayPal address, just in case you were wondering) or text me at 812-890-1463. If we end up with "too much" money, there are many ways we can bless the girls- Bible Study guides they can do on their own time, books, etc. 

I was in prison and you came to me.

You may not be called to physically visit the prisoner. But you can still be a minister of grace to them. Can't wait to see who God will bless with partnership in this ministry! Thank you, friends!!!


{when i gave up on my marriage}

I remember the days when I was ready to give up. When it was hard to love you. When it was hard to love me. I remember loud, violent fights. I remember throwing things and screaming in your face. I remember slapping you trying to evoke a response.

Such a bitter wife you had, Jim. Such a broken, confused, bitter wife. Full of sin and sadness and hatred.

I remember words that tore you down. Cut to the quick. I remember betrayal. I remember hurt. I remember chasing anything that might make me feel whole... or that would numb the pain I knew inside.

I remember giving up. Knowing in my heart that we weren't going to make it. That there was no way. Imagining what it would be like to not have my children on the weekends.

And then, oh then… the unexpected.

Then I bumped into Jesus.

Looking back, He had been there all along, pursuing, wooing, calling… but this time I realized it was Him. This time I was ready to relent. This time I was ready to give up and give in and throw my heart into His hands…

And slowly He began to heal the hurt, the hate, the bitterness… the brokenness he found there.

You didn’t understand what was going on. You saw me going to church on Sunday and yet during the week I was still this mess of a wife sometimes. It was such a struggle between who I had become and who I was becoming. I walked out my fledgling faith so poorly before you at first.

But things were changing at the heart level.

And even that day when I stood in our empty house with tears streaming down my face saying  ”God, this is IMPOSSIBLE! He hates me now! I have ruined everything!!! Tell me God, how in the world can we NOT get divorced?” Even when everything in me said there was no way, we had gone too far, said too much, hurt too deeply… I wanted to turn that sinking ship around and find shore before we drowned.

It seemed impossible. Everyone could see it. Our family, our friends, our children.

And then, there are the prayers of a three year old. There are the prayers of a three year old girl in her bed that no one knew about until last year… there are prayers of a little girl saying “God, please don’t let mom and dad get divorced.”

And God was listening.

Slowly, I learned what it meant to really follow Jesus. How to love like Him, even when it was hard. How to bite my tongue when everything in me wanted to argue or nag or convince. How to walk as a Godly wife, in submission even to one who did not yet believe.

And then, I gave up for real. I  realized that I couldn't fix what I had broken, only God could do that. I couldn't undo the hurt I had caused, only God could do that. I couldn't make my husband fall in love with me again, only God could do that.  

It was not me, but Jesus in me… refining and teaching me through this marriage.  It was Jesus fanning the flame of my first love and giving me the want to to make it work. It was Jesus listening to a little girl’s pure and simple prayer to keep her family together. It was Jesus teaching me how to love my husband with His love.

Jim, it was hard. It was hard to know what a bitter wife I had been to you. It was hard to know that the words you spoke out of hurt, came from wounds I placed there. I am so sorry, babe… I am so sorry.

And then Jesus called this one with so many words to live a quiet life before her husband. To love you well, even when it was hard. To let you lead, even when I thought I knew a better plan. He told me to get so completely out of the way, that He would have direct access to your heart. I was learning how to love you like Jesus does.

And we began to fight again. Not with each other, but for our marriage.

We fought with the tools of compromise and apologies and patience and perseverance.

Ours is truly a love worth fighting for. When I’m driving down the road and I think about the way your smile explodes into your eyes… I still get butterflies. When you sneak behind me in the kitchen and kiss my neck… there is still electricity.  The love I have in my heart for you has never been this big or this pure or this full of admiration.

You amaze me, Jim Boyles. You amaze me with your quiet love. You amaze me with your quiet service. You amaze me with your gentle care of me. The way you flirt with me and make me feel pretty. Figuring out how to make all my favorite foods gluten free.  Giving me the space to chase hard after Jesus. The way you care for others: building bedrooms for dreamed-of-children, mowing lawns without ever being asked, rescuing from the side of the road, coaching little men in so many more things than baseball and football- but also character and integrity and sportsmanship.

Thank you for not giving up on me. On us. On our family.

Friends, if you are at the end of your rope… ready to throw in the towel and walk away. Know this… God is able. He is able to take something that is broken and hurting and make something beautiful. He is able to take a marriage that is coding and bring new life. He is able to take your bitterness and replace it with love, your anger and give you gentleness, your hopelessness and give you HOPE. He is able. If He was able to take the mess that was Jim and Becky Boyles and create the beauty that we now know, truly He is able to do anything

I won't sugar coat it and tell you that the journey was easy- it was not. There were few steps forward and many steps back. But when I look over at the man driving us to church on a Sunday morning, my heart explodes with praise to the God that restores. I thank God that He gave me a heart of surrender in my marriage! I thank God that He showed me how to love this man well... 


{from mud to mercy}

Today I knelt by a black plastic horse trough filled with grace from a garden hose.

This one whom I had just met a few months ago came toward me. Her loose fitting jump suit not fitting an occasion such as this, but it is the only garment she has. No robe of white for her baptism. No heated baptistery. Just a striped jump suit, cold water, and grace.

And these hands. These hands of mine that have stolen and cheated. These hands that have been perverse and vile and violent. These hands on hers…

This mouth that once denied God. Words that once cursed, lied, slandered. Words that cut to the quick and then exploded with a death blow. Now a flow of love from the mercy seat…

“Jesus loves you so much, my friend. He loves you with everything…”

Tears streaming down her cheeks and mine. This is not how we picture grace. Our hearts grow cynical. Names in the paper become faceless statistics.  

But those names have stories.

And for this one, her story just collided headlong into grace. And it is being rewritten.

“Are you ready, sister? Are you ready to follow Jesus with your entire heart, and mind, and soul?”

Tears become sobs… and “yes, yes, yes, yes, yes” comes tumbling out of a spirit that is desperate for a Savior. Desperate for the promise of a hope and a future. Desperate for HIM.

And then from the same mouth that once denied Him… “I now baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father… and of the Son… and of the Holy Spirit”.

And hands that were once stained with sin follow her as she kneels forward. All in.

All in.

Face forward into grace.

Water from a hose become a symbol of union with Him. Union in death, and union in New Life.

Water turned grace in the wash bay of a jail gushing over the sides of a black horse trough… I feel it’s cool on my hands and up my arms… splashing feet that had once taken the path of the prodigal… soaking the hem of my skirt. The hem of my garment.

An anointing like no other. An anointing of grace I have never known. An anointing of grace I would never have dared to dream about or imagine when my own desperate sobs cried out to Him in my sin.

That He could use a wretch like me. That He could use hands that have done such harm. That He could use a mouth that has wounded so many… as an instrument of grace.

He found me in the mud. He found me in a pig sty of my own making after I had demanded my inheritance and ran off to the far country. He let me get to the end of myself… He knew I had to… or I would never see my own desperate need for Him.

He watched as I went my own way. He wept as I made wrong choices. He hurt as I denied Him.

And somewhere in that mess… somewhere in that darkness… He declared “THAT ONE… bring her to me”… and sending His Son right into the center of my messy heart, He did just that. He sought me… He rescued me… He sent people to love me right where I was at. People who spoke grace and lived love and stirred a desire in me for more.

And now, my hands on the back of one who had just arrived to the end of herself.  My heart overflowing with His love for her.

As she steps from the water, overcome by His love, another comes.

And another.

And another.

Seven times I kneel by that beautiful baptistery.

Seven times He issues an invitation to love and mercy and grace.

Seven times His Bride says “yes”.

Seven times hearts are overwhelmed and tears fall and forgiveness is received and lives are reconciled.

Seven times His grace covers His Beloved.

Seven times striped jump suits are traded for robes of righteousness.

Seven times it splashes over the sides of a horse trough that could not contain it.  

And I am undone.

From mud to mercy. If ever those words were ever true of my story, they were true today. 

{don't step here}

A few weeks ago I interrupted my kids' summer plans of vegging-out-in-the-air-conditioned-house-alllllll-day by forcing them to come pick wild flowers with me. I was helping with a party for a friend, and with the wild flowers in bloom along every country road in Southern Indiana I knew we could get enough to decorate.

I had been scoping good spots on my adventures to and from photo shoots for a week or so, and knew there was a place that had shoots of beautiful little purple flowers that would be perfect, so we would start there.

Begrudgingly, they helped me get containers of water in a galvanized tub and off we went.

I parked at the side of the road and headed into an overgrown patch of purple flowers that had caught my attention days before. All of the space around these intermittent patches of flowers was mowed and as I neared I saw why the mowers stayed away from here- it was wet, "marshy" looking soil. As I walked directly to the flowers I realized there was a small ditch full of water, and that just on the other side of it was muddy, soggy soil- just enough to keep me away from any of the flowers on this side.

"Don't step here!" I cautioned the kids, "it's nothing but mud." I turned and walked away to see if we could get to them from the side or back, away from the road and the ditch, thinking it would be a bit drier that way.

And then it happened.

"Hey mom! You can go right HERE------" and taking a big step over the water, she stepped HARD into the DEEP mud just on the other side of it.

And with a squeal, Tali was in mud almost up to her knee.

Pulling her leg out, her favorite Cons were caked in mud. Her new white shorts splattered.

I could have been mad. I just told her not to step there.

But all I did was shake my head, laughed out loud, and said "I told you not to step there... there's a towel in the back of the car", and went on looking for a way to the flowers, which I found.

As she cleaned herself up, and moved on to an easier location to cut flowers across the road, I happily collected the perfect purple flowers for my decorations, and thanked God for providing them at just the right time, mud and all.

And then I could see it.

I could see how He so often says "don't step here, Becky... this way is nothing but mud" and in my stubbornness and pride and thinking I can find a better-faster-quicker-easier work-around than His way... I step right in it.

At one point in my life, I actively sought out the mud. But that's not what I saw here. Tali didn't want to get mud on her brand new white shorts, and she DEFINITELY didn't want to have it seeping in every stitch of her Converse. She just wanted to help mom get to the flowers and thought she knew the way.

She didn't realize that my words of caution weren't about the obvious water in the ditch, it was because I could see the soggy soil on the other side. I recognized the mud shining just beneath the tall grass that obscured it from her sight.

Being a parent looks a lot like that. It's guarding our children and saying "don't walk there" because we can see the mud. We can see the heartache, we can see the pain, we can see the compromise, we can see the danger. I have said to both of my children at various times "I don't say no because I hate you, even if it feels like that- it's because I love you enough to say no".

Sometimes I have had to say no to things the kids really wanted to do. "All" of their friends would be there, or are playing that game, or seeing that movie, or are allowed to... Honestly, the easy thing to do would be to say yes. Honestly, this momma's heart never wants her kids to miss out. Honestly, I don't want to be the "lame" mom.

Honestly, I want to fit in too.

So I get it.

But at the end of the day, Jim and I are set as guards about our children, and their hearts. And sometimes our job is to say no. Even when the yes is a lot more comfortable.

And each of us have this Heavenly Father who is so much better than us at parenting. Sometimes I miss things. Sometimes I let something go and then look back and realize the slippery slope we've found ourselves on, how easily it would be to slide into the muck, and we have to regroup (which is even harder than the "no" would have been in the first place). Video games put on the shelf indefinitely. Television shows no longer tuned in. Relationships learned from.

But if I'm really honest, there was this voice in my ears all along saying "Becky, this is the way... walk in it". If I'm really honest I wanted to say YES to them so much more than I wanted to heed His "no".

My walk with the Lord has been one of learning that His "no" always has a purpose. A protection. I am learning that He sees things just beyond the obvious that I cannot know. I am learning that His way... that narrow road is worth it.

And my heart rejoices that my children are learning that too.

A couple of weeks ago, I had to give Tali what felt to me to be an all-too-familiar NO to something. I can't even tell you now what that something was, but I do remember the conversation we had later that day. We were in the car when she said: "Mom, you and dad always say yes unless you have a REASON. We know if you tell us no, there is a good reason why."

And my heart sang. For you moms with littles and it seems so hard and the answer always seems to be NO and it feels like a lot of chasing and stopping and disciplining... let me offer you this hope... someday they will see.

Some day you will be riding in your car, sipping on a Lic's milkshake, and your daughter will say "I trust you" and it will be worth it

Some day your child will tell you that he had a choice to make, and he chose honesty. And it will be worth it.

Some day you will have a daughter navigating an entirely new kind of relationship and you will give her advice and she will say "I just told him the same thing last night!!!" And it will be worth it.

They might not always like it (and we have had heated discussions in GameStop or via text message because of it), but somehow in this crazy-hard journey that is full of so much joy and adventure and peace... they are learning the purpose in the no.

Somehow, in this crazy-hard journey that is full of so much joy and adventure and peace... I am too.

I am also seeing that there is a lot more "yes" than "no" in our Father's heart. Tali said the same thing over those milkshakes- "Mom, you always say yes unless you have a reason".

Father is perfect in His love, and so, if he is telling you no, you can trust Him. Our God knows that the mud, whether it sneaks up on us or allures us, is a thief. It steals our time and our joy and our purity and our peace. When He says "this is the way..." it's not because He wants to keep us from the joy of another journey, it's because He so clearly sees the pain down that path.

Father doesn't want us holed up in our homes all of the time- He wants us out picking the flowers.  He wants us enjoying the journey. He wants us living this life, and living it to the FULLEST. He knows it can get messy out there, but if we will listen He will show us where to step. He will show us the way.

I think about Michelle Duggar from "19 Kids and Counting"... when she is talking to her children she will say "I need your eyes" because she knows "when you have their eyes, you have their attention".

As we walk this out, I hear our Daddy saying "I need your eyes"... He needs our eyes fixed on Him. He needs our ears attentive to His voice. He needs us to trust His path and His good purpose in our lives. Would you give Him those things today? Would you give Him your focused attention in this next step He is asking you to take? Would you allow Him to guide your parenting? Your next career step? That relationship decision?

Will you listen when He says "Don't step here, it's nothing but mud..."