Top 10 Lessons Learned from 2013

generic_clock-150x150The clock ticks…the calendar rolls over from one year to the next…time continues as it always has. But the first day of a new year always feels special. What will define 2014? And what defined 2013?

For me, it began in January with a spiritual battle. At times, it felt like a tailspin- a close call to a crash and burn. But I  experienced gradual progress- clawing my way back. I saw glimpses of hope that helped me keep going forward. Was my struggle self-perpetuated? Was it a refining fire from God to get my heart clean and righteous? Or was it an attack from Satan? I could barely take it. I don’t ever, ever, ever, ever want to go through that torment again. But what has resulted? Humility. Dependence. Intimacy. Clarity. Grace. Mercy. Love. Compassion. Joy. Boldness. Becoming engaged in God’s Kingdom once again. Understanding. Creativity. Passion for studying God’s Word. Passion for being in His Presence. Fresh, renewed spirit within me. Hope. For those things, I am eternally grateful.

I still battle nerves and a racing heart- which is so physically uncomfortable and exhausting. Not sure if it’s from changing hormones in this aging body of mine, but whatever it is, I endure and I’m learning to turn my weaknesses over to the Lord. Oh, the flesh. Such a battle.

As I reflect on 2013, what were the lessons I learned? With all the battles, it was such a rich year for spiritual growth and victory. I feel compelled to share my ‘Top 10’ with you.

10) Learn from the past and then let it go. (Replaying negative past events is counter-productive. If I’ve asked for forgiveness, trust God’s promise to forgive, cleanse and heal. Then place those things at the foot of the Cross and leave them there.)

9) Don’t waste time evaluating everyone else’s spiritual condition. I’m not  an accurate and objective judge of other people, or even of my own heart. Seek and ask the Lord to reveal areas that need to be addressed and then obey what He says in His Word. (Doing a spiritual inventory is a healthy thing, but comparing my ‘good lists’ and ‘bad lists’ to others is not. God’s holy and perfect Law is my standard- and only by faith and in Christ’s grace can I be empowered to live it out!)

8) Thank God continually for His blessings- His love and presence in my life ARE my greatest reward! (And thanking Him for my trials, as well.)

7) One day at a time. Focus on what the Lord has for me, what He wants from me, right here and right now.

6) Be informed, but not consumed about world events. Look at all things from a biblical perspective, always having His eternal plan in focus.

5) Ask, “Okay, what now? How can I be a part of the solution, rather than just being a complainer?”

4) Separate ‘good things’ from ‘God things.’ There are many opportunities and time fillers available to me- even self-fulfilling and gratifying things. But what does God the Father want me to do?

3) Don’t hold on to the things of this world too tightly. Only clutch to one thing- the Lord…. and don’t ever let Him go!

2) Honor and invest in my commitments to my husband and children.

1) Forgiveness is freedom to my soul. (Forgiving others and forgiving myself.)

I’m sure there are many, many more things I could add. And each of us has our own unique list. But whatever it is, I pray that we each recognize how the Lord is working in our lives and then walk in it. God bless from our family to you and yours!



551-1024-x-768H- Hoping in our Lord Jesus Christ!

A-  Acknowledging His Goodness in our lives!

P-  Praising His Glorious Name!

P-  Praying for His Will to be accomplished!

Y- Yeshua is the ONLY Way!

N- Needs are met through His Amazing Grace!

E- Every good gift comes from above!

W- Washed in His Atoning  and Cleansing Blood!

Y- Yearning for His Return!

E- Eternal Life is a promise from our Heavenly Father!

A- Ask and you will receive!

R- Repentance leads to salvation!

2013 was a year of healing, restoring and refocusing for our family. We are so grateful for the blessings God gave to us and for His peace in our lives. I look forward with great anticipation as to what the Lord will show us and where He will lead us.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blogs this year. I have deeply enjoyed the process of journalling, studying and passing on the nuggets I have learned. I very much appreciate your feedback and pray that the messages that have been shared have blessed you. I wish you a year of deep intimacy with our Lord Jesus Christ. And may His Will be accomplished here on Earth in and through your lives, as it is in Heaven.

Love God and love others,


Merriest Christmas to You All!


‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light….for to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.’

(Verses from Isaiah 9)

Where Are You, Baby Jesus?

photoTime to unpack the Christmas boxes

And ready the house for all to see.

Ornaments, garland, gingerbread houses,

And we can’t forget the flocked tree!

Untangling the lights is quite a chore

And removing the Snow Village with care,

How shall I decorate the mantle this year,

Will I have time to mend the tree skirt tear?

Now where is Baby Jesus?

Is He at the bottom of the tinsel pile?photo

Cookie exchanges and cards to address,

It’s time to prop my feet up for awhile!

Burnt appetizers, crumpled gift bags

From the previous holiday season,

Santa’s beard is a mess, the parking lot is full,

Have I forgotten the true Christmas reason?

Now where is that God-Child?

I began searching with all my might.

photoDid I drop Him in the mistletoe

When I was hanging the wreath last night?

Broken angel wings, chipped China dishes,

The snowflake tablecloth has a crease.

Oh, how I need to find that pristine

And heavenly Prince of Peace!

Hours upon hours of gift-wrapping,

The Butterfinger bells have all but disappeared.

The fire is crackling, the coffee is brewing,

Then I heard a “smash!” from the tree- was it what I feared?

A broken baby Jesus, “Oh no!”

I could only sigh and stare.

I tenderly held the pieces of Him in my hands,

And thought about my sins He did bare.

Distractions, bad attitudes,

Anger, lust, envy and pride;

Vanity, hate, materialism and guilt,

Ridding my heart of these things, I had tried.

The appearance of true beauty Is not what first appealed,

Jesus-in-mangerBut the brokenness of Jesus’ body Is how His divine glory was revealed!

He was pierced for my transgressions,

He was crushed for my iniquity;

He chose to take my punishment Upon that ancient tree.

His love is everlasting,

In Him my spirit is sealed;

When I chose to bend my knees and confess,

By His wounds I was now healed!

Forgiveness and eternal life He has given me,

From His shattered body He’s made me new;

How beautiful the salvation gift,

He has offered to me and you!

kinkade_nativity1As I held the broken Jesus in my palm,

I thanked Him for many things;

But especially that the One who loves me,

Will be returning as the King of Kings!

– Lisa Epperson

The Light of Life: Lessons from Hanukkah (Days One-Seven)

Our family embarked on a spiritual journey in late November. We decided to purchase our own Hanukkiah and light the candles each night. We have talked about the holiday of Hanukkah before, but it was time to put it into practice and allow the Holy Spirit to lead and teach us. (Okay, yes, it was mainly because of my urging, but they were great sports!). So, each night, we went through a devotion looking at various aspects of the holiday, the biblical significance and the practical application to our lives. It was a very rich experience. Below is a ‘journal’ of the evening lessons. I hope that they are a blessing to you and will encourage you to try it with your own family next year!
Okay, here’s our picture from day one of Hanukkah. We are clearly rookies at this and are learning as we go!  (I discovered that we weren’t suppose to insert all of the candles right away. At least we litphoto-3 the right ones- from right to left!) We devoted the lesson to the historical story of Hanukkah. It’s an eight-day celebration commemorating the victory of the Jews (led by Judah Maccabee) over the Syrians. The Syrian ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes, had devastated Jerusalem in 168 B.C. by defiling the Temple and prohibiting Temple worship. It was a terrible time of persecution for the Jews. But Judah and his small, but courageous, ban of Jews stood up for their faith and took back the Temple! When it was time to rededicate the Temple to God, there was only enough oil to burn for one day, but the Lord miraculously kept the oil burning for eight days until they could make more. (Hence, the eight-day holiday. And by the way, Hanukkah means ‘dedication.’)
Lesson: God was a faithful miracle-worker then and He still is today!
Day two we learned about the Shamash candle. This is the middle candle that is used to light all the other candles.  Shamash means “servant.’ What a beautiful picture of Jesus, who is the ‘light to all mankind.’ John 1:1-14 speaks of this Light that has come into the world…
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testifyconcerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.’

I love the passage in Philippians chapter two that describes Jesus as a servant (a Shamash):
‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a photoservant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Philippians 2:6-11)

Application? Serve others like Christ did. Consider others more important than yourself.

Days three and four of Hanukkah (or Chanukah? Or Hanukah?), we looked at the practical uses and biblical symbolism of olive oil. Olive oil was the type that was used in the Tabernacle and Temple Menorahs, as well as the Hanukkiahs.

Throughout Bible times, olive oil was also used for cooking, medicine, anointing and lighting. Before candles, Menorahs only used oil in the lamps (and many still do today). I have a clay oil lamp and bottle of olive oil from Nazereth, Israel, so we decided to light it as well. Pretty cool.

In several verses throughout the whole Bible, oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. We read this awesome passage about how we are like the clay vessels and how the Holy Spirit indwellsphoto in us, like the vessel holds the oil. The wick ignites as our faith is ignited in our hearts by God’s power and knowledge!

‘For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ (2 Cor 4:6-7)

Application? Let your light shine!

On day five, we continued our lesson of the olive oil (which was the type of oil used to light the Temple Menorah). We took a closer look at the tedious process of extracting oil from the olive fruit- the ancient method of the olive press.

Unknown-9Did you know that the Greek name for olive press is Gethsemane? The olive press, or gethsemane, was a circular stone basin where the olives were poured into. Then a very heavy millstone (pulled by an animal) crushed the olives and the extracted oil dripped down into a groove in the basin and into a gathering pit at the bottom.

This, of course, ties in perfectly to the Easter and Passover stories, but it also expresses the very reason Jesus came to Earth two thousand years ago as a baby. He came to die. He was the promised Messiah that the prophets spoke about and yearned for!

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)

Do you see the picture of the olive being pressed? And what comes out? The life-giving oil. photoHe came to take the heavy burden of sin upon Himself to give us life. Jesus is the Giver of Eternal Life!

Yesterday, we read the verses in 2 Corinthians 4:6-7. The next three verses in this passage are the following: ‘We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.’ (2 Cor 4:8-10).

Application? Remember the eternal life-giving Holy Spirit that is in us that gives us hope and strength in times of affliction and persecution. Jesus already took the crushing punishment of death for us so that we may have life; abundantly now and forever!

On days six and seven, we looked at the history, elements and symbolism of the seven-branch Menorah). In Exodus 25:31-40, we learned the Lord instructed Moses that the Tabernacle Temple was to be made of one solid block of gold and molded into seven branches. Lesson? The people of God are to be unified, but are diversified.

Jesus also expresses in John 17 His desire that His followers would be unified. ‘I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, photojust as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’ (John 17:20-23)

This Menorah symbol is also mentioned in Revelation 1:12, 20, which represents the seven churches or congregations of Asia Minor and symbolizes the worldwide body of believers. ‘I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,…The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.’

Application? Strive for unity within the body of Christ.

Day eight has been recorded in its own entry, titled, “Hanukkah: Preparing the Way to Christmas!”


Cascadian-FarmEcclesiates 3:1-8

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

God’s timing and purpose is amazing. There is truly a season for everything. And God is consistent and harmonious with all of His Creation. He is the Author and Perfector of life! Just as He puts the agricultural and natural life cycles into being, we, too, go through the same cycles in our spiritual lives- both personally, and corporately. The Holy Spirit tills the soil in our hearts. Seeds of truth are sown. Then there is a long summer waiting period of learning and preparation, during which the ground is watered frequently and the sun

Unknown-7shines warmly. This is the season we don’t yet see fruit, but in time, we eventually do. (Just like a teenager rests and eats during growth spurts, so does our spirit.) Then several weeks later, signs of life emerge from the ground. And by late fall, the crop is ripe and ready for harvest.

But there is one more piece of the agricultural cycle that occurs. As a sown seed lies buried in the soil, it must ‘die,’ in a sense, before new life (and more seeds) can spring forth from it.

I love how God’s Word uses the natural aspects of this life to explain the supernatural. Let’s listen to the words of Jesus- a message he gave to his disciples, Philip and Andrew.

John 12:24 (The Message)

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”

Jesus died, was buried and then came back to life.Our own salvation follows the same cycle. Our old seed (self) dies, is buried with Christ and we are given new life!

Galatians 2:20

‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.’

I Peter 1:23

‘For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’

The life starts to take on the appearance and function of the kind it came from. As the new life grows up, it begins to bear fruit. If we are born of the Spirit, we will produce this fruit:

Galatians 5:22

‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’

And what function do we now have in this new life?  To know Christ and to make Him known! To do good works in the Name of Christ! To share the Gospel of hope,  eternal life and salvation to a dying world. To love others like Jesus loves us.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

But Why, Daddy?

photo-35“But why, Mommy?” “Because I said so.” This could sum up many of the conversations that filled the early days of my child-rearing- at least with one of my children.

My firstborn was not much of a questioner or tester. He wanted to please Mommy. He followed the rules. He rarely asked me why we had certain rules, he just focused on obeying them. Ah, that’s dreamy music to a young mom’s ears, right? Well, it definitely made life easier at times.

Then our secondborn came along. She didn’t seem to pick up the ‘don’t ask, just do!’ code from her older brother. Every other word was ,”Why?” Because I said so just didn’t fly with her. “Why do you say so, Mommy?” I could sense the tension and impatience in my body grow with this constant interrogation! Why can’t she just accept my authority and do what I say?  

The mind of my inquisitive daughter is like my Cutco knife sharpener. She definitely keeps me sharp! ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17)

Then there came a day, a few years later, when I personally started questioning some things I had been taught over the years. ‘What had always been done’ was being challenged by what I was learning through God’s Word. My heart so badly wanted to know the truth and to know the why about what I believed. Every fiber in my being begged for clarity. I was almost paralyzed from my aching to know what was right that I could barely move one step forward in my spiritual life. My mind was full of questions, not doubts. I wanted to go deeper. I wanted to understand God’s Heart! And if there was any wrong thinking in me, I desperately wanted it corrected right then and there. I wanted God’s blessing and peace in my life and wouldn’t let him go until He gave it to me.

I think maybe my questioning made my Father smile. As a friend of mine once said, “Be honest with all things before God. He’s got broad shoulders and He can handle it!” More than that, He wants to handle it. So, I took that advice and concluded, better to be honest about all things with God, because He knows my heart and every thought anyway! So, I started to ask away.

Why do we do this tradition in church? Is it really biblical? Or are we following some man-made ritual that has just been passed down from generation to generation? And if ‘principle A’ is to be followed, what is it suppose to look like in my life? If the first generation church lived out their faith in a certain way, how are we to also live it out in 21st century Suburbia, USA? “Why, Daddy?” “How, Daddy?” Surely my heavenly Abba felt the constant tugging on His Holy Garment from a child who was demanding answers!

And how did He respond? Patiently. Graciously. And with answers and wisdom. Not every question was answered immediately. He gave me just the right amount of understanding I could handle at once. He brought Godly teachers of the Word to direct me. Intercessors to pray and ask for discernment with me. Testimonies of many followers of Christ who were asking the same questions and discovered the why. Let me tell you, that when I started asking, God opened the floodgates and poured into me! If ever I could think of a time in my life where I could see the Holy Spirit working deeply in my heart and mind, it was at this time. The Holy Spirit prompted me, revealed to me, mentored me and brought understanding to me. But this was not without a battle. Satan did not sit idly by and watch God do His thing! No, I had to work for it. I had to guard my heart and defend my mind so that the riches that were given to me were not stolen by the enemy. With God-given treasures of truth comes sanctification. With sanctification comes opposition from the outside.

I look back and compare my daughter’s curiosity for the wonders of the world to my later-found curiosity to God’s wonders. It all has the same root- a hunger for understanding. As most of us moms may do from time to time (look back and wish we’d done things differently now that we are much wiser!), I have a much better appreciation for a child’sScan 107 questions. I see those questions as windows into their heart that they have opened with a trusting soul. What an honor it is when a child reveals their wonders and seeks understanding! And I believe that this is one of God’s great desires for us- to ask Him the question, “But why, Daddy?” so He can grant us great wisdom!

Proverbs 2:3-10

‘indeed, if you call out for insight
    and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Then you will understand what is right and just
    and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.’

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

God Rejoices Over Us with Singing

Unknown-6This morning, I caught a news clip about a You Tube video that recently went viral. It’s a video of a baby girl tearfully responding to the calming sound of her mother’s singing. It is so touching. I then started thinking about how God sings over us with love. I”m thankful that God doesn’t sing over us ‘heartbreak songs,’ as the video shows, but songs of love, grace and hope!

In my search for this Bible verse, I came across a devotion so beautifully written by Randy Alcorn. I couldn’t have expressed it any better with my own words.

So, here is Randy’s blog entitled, “God Rejoices Over Us with Singing.’ It is my honor to  share it with you all.

And here is the YouTube video that sparked my search this morning. If you have not yet seen it, enjoy. But grab a box of tissues first.

Tumbling Along the Path of Life: My Early Years

Thank you for taking the time to meet me today for a little stroll down Memory Lane! I’mphoto-7 going to map out the first part of my life journey for you with signs and pictures. (Visual aides help me understand and articulate things better. I guess that’s why I always enjoyed picture books the most!) The first place I want to take you is a few miles back to when I was a young girl. I was blessed to be born into a very loving family. We were the typical All-American family- a family of four (one boy, one girl, happy parents) who lived in a modest split-level home, had a dog, took annual vacations, went to church and unknown-4-1hugged a lot. What more could a kid want? This part of the journey was sprinkled with lots of hearts and smiley faces.

Starting at the age of three, I took dance and tumbling classes. I found out quickly that it was a lot of fun being upside down and cartwheelin’! Many years ago, my brother, Rich, described me quite well in a newspaper quote… “Spontaneous energy. I remember when Lisa was little and we would all be photo-11eating at the dinner table. She would all of a sudden break away from the table and start doing walkovers on the kitchen floor. Mom was always telling Lisa to get back to the table. She was so full of energy that she couldn’t sit down long enough to finish her meal.” God sure has a sense of humor. He then blessed me twenty years later with two little ones who preferred to use their chairs as apparatus to swing around rather than a place to plant their little tushes!

As soon as I discovered I had the bug for gymnastics, I enrolled myself into my first gymnastics club. It was located in my front yard. My teammates (okay, any neighbor kid that wanted to flip around, too) and I would try tumbling tricks all day long in the summer and pretend we were training for the Olympics. My personally-appointed coach (my brother) would often ‘assist’ me with my stunts. He was great at launching me high in the air, but not so good with catching me on the way down.

One vivid memory I have of those summer days is when I learned an aerial  (no-handed) cartwheel. As usual, I had spent the whole day in training. It was now dinnertime and getting dark outside, but I had not yet accomplished my goal. My friends had all gone home. I was determined to do this trick, no matter how dewy the grass was getting or how late I was for dinner. I can still remember the excitement as I ran and flipped upside down and finally resisted the temptation to put my hands down! Mission accomplished!

My mom soon realized it was time to upgrade my training program so she took me to a 367_1062216949978_6619_nreal gymnastics club. Through a recommendation from my old dance teacher, we made a weekly trek to downtown Minneapolis on 6th and Hennepin to Dr. Watson’s Club. I was a petite eight year-old clutching my mother’s hand tightly as we walked from our car to the old, shady-looking building. The songs the men in the barbershop on the first floor sang as we ventured up those dark, musty stairs to the third floor always amused us. As I waited for my class to begin, I would watch with amazement as the older gymnasts did flips and twists. I felt in my heart that one day I would be doing them, too. After about a year of classes there, I switched to a club that was closer to my home. I was soon asked to join their competitive team at the age of nine. (Compared to today’s standards, nine isn’t exactly a young age to start competitive gymnastics.)

It didn’t take long until I was living, breathing, eating and sleeping gymnastics all year round. The gym became my second home and my team, my second family. I excelled quickly and by the age of 14, I had qualified twice to the US Junior Olympics and had competed all over the country and world.

“Quick learner! Good work ethic! She has talent that could take her to the Olympicsphoto-12 someday!” These were comments I heard from coaches and others in the gymnastics community. I was told often I had a special talent. I loved making my parents proud.  So this part of my journey seemed to be covered with trophies and accolades. But there would soon be a change in terrain just beyond the bend that would prove to be….. well, a bit bumpy to venture through.

During the highpoint of my club career, my coaches decided to moved away.  The last words I remember one of them say to me before she moved was, “Don’t ever quit!” I tried another club, but it just wasn’t the same without my former coaches. A series of emotions  started to take root in me- ranging from anxiety and self-doubt to fear of failure.

With all the changes occurring, I started losing interest in gymnastics and was becoming increasingly curious about life as a ‘normal’ teenager. Up until I was fourteen, praise and affirmation through gymnastics was all I knew. But now at 15 years old, gymnastics just seemed hard and uncertain. I didn’t have a good chemistry with my new coaches and skills and progress just didn’t seem to come as easy as they did before. So, I hung up my grips. I’ll never forget the painful words from a coach the day I left club gymnastics. “You are a loser for quitting!” Wow. Ouch. So, with that stinging departure and with no more golden trophies to proudly display on our family’s mantle, I started searching for other things that could fill this deep need for identity and purpose- this hole in my heart.

Off I went, seeking fulfillment and eager to discover ‘normality.’ I left the safe and familiar  road I had been travelling and decided to do some ‘off-road’ sightseeing. I wasn’t sure at  m4_10the time where it would lead me, but it looked fun, different and exciting. I had seen other others go there and I was curious to know what it was they were doing or looking for. So I followed….

One of the first positive discoveries I made was a successful track and field season. I saw how my Unknown-1gymnastics skills and fitness helped me find immediate success and ‘belonging’ on the team. Since I had more time to spend with school friends now, I found a new social life.  I had always wondered what happened at all those parties I had been missing out on. When I was in year-round gymnastics training, I was never free to attend them. I now finally had my chance! Unfortunately, I wasn’t very wise in choosing certain travel companions. My driving force at the time was that I just wanted to be accepted and liked by my peers. I tried to be all things to all people. To my athletic friends and coaches, I was dedicated and a winner. To the shy kid at school, I was their friend. I partied with the partiers. I studied with the smart kids. I went to church with the ‘good kids.’ If a boy paid me any attention, well, I enjoyed the attention. I went from virtually invisible to having lots of friends. My ego ate it all up. I didn’t intend to go down a wrong path. I just wanted to be known as somebody. But in that striving to be ‘somebody’, I forgot who I really was or what I stood for.

I noticed ‘Danger’ and ‘Caution’ signs all around, but chose to ignore Unknownthem. Besides, I was going to turn back soon, anyway. So I thought…

It’s amazing how quickly one small step after another can get you way off the road! The safe path I had left was becoming a distant memory. I had tossed aside many pricelessr1_1 and helpful treasures I had been given during the earlier part of my journey- including my parents’ wise counsel, my moral upbringing and my life dreams.

But there was one sign I noticed in that dark place that once in awhile appeared out of nowhere. “Follow Me. I will protect you.” It gave me finger-pointing-mdhope. I still didn’t know how to get out of that place, but I knew someone was watching over me and pointing a way out.

Let me explain to you who I thought the Maker of this sign was. See, going to church and learning about God was a part of my childhood, but it never felt very personal. The one positive thing I held onto was that, for some reason, God gave me many gifts- a great family, athletic talent and opportunities. But the performance mentality I had with gymnastics in many ways influenced the way I perceived God. I felt like I had to perform for God’s love and acceptance. At times, I saw him as this intimidating, stoic gymnastics judge sitting in His heavenly chair, pencil in hand, waiting to see if I was going to fail or succeed. I grew tired under the burden of high expectations from God, myself, and everyone else; which was the reason I left my original path in the first place. I was running away in fear.

Well, by God’s grace, I found my way out of that dark place and was back  ‘in view’ of the right road again. Along the way, I stumbled upon one of my most precious treasures- my love for gymnastics. My junior year of high school, I decided to get back into the gym- except this time, I joined my high school team. The enjoyment of competing without heavyphoto-13 stress was a great relief. The following year, I won the Minnesota State High School Championship All-Around title. I was grateful I had given gymnastics a second chance and felt satisfied to finish my career on a high note. But just when I thought I was done and ready to move on to other opportunities, I was awarded an unexpected gift. I was offered a full-ride gymnastics scholarship to the University of Nebraska! I knew competing as a Lady Husker would be a great honor because I had ‘Big Red’ in my blood. I grew up watching my Uncle Tim play football for the Huskers in the late 70’s and early 80’s. God had big plans ahead for me in Nebraska.

gbr_balloon_promoMy new view of the journey was now very red- Husker red, that is! The fall of ’87 I was off to Lincoln to begin the next phase of my journey- as a college-athlete. Everything was new. A new city, new friends, and definitely new challenges. The first day of practice, I thought I had accidentally shown up at thephoto-6 wrong place. It felt more like military boot camp, than gymnastics! I knew from that first day that it was not going to be a stroll through the park. Our team spent up to five hours a day, six days a week training in the gym, running or in the weight room. On top of that, we were expected to maintain excellent grades to stay eligible. This was a rocky, uphill part of the journey, but at least I was hopeful and going in the right direction.

Competing as a Lady Husker was a fantastic experience for me. Over my four collegiate seasons, I had surpassed my personal goals in many areas of my performance. Twice I was the Big-8 conference All-Around Champion, competed all four years at the NCAA Nationals and set numerous school records. As a team, we placed in the top five in the country, in 1989 and 1990. But 367_1062213389889_7904_nthere were other things that made my experience there even sweeter. For one thing, I found a very special new traveling companion. His name is Mike.

Mike was also a Husker gymnast. He was different than anyone I’d ever met before. There was something about him I couldn’t describe then- only that I saw an inner strength and peace in him. Things I never had. From witnessing the loss of his father and his career-ending injury, I noticed peace was always there. He never seemed phased by circumstances. He was Steady Eddie.

One time early on in our journey together, I asked him how he could be so cool and367_1062213749898_346_n collected about everything. He answered me with a question- one that seemed completely irrelevant at the time. “Lisa, if you died today, do you know if you would go to heaven?” I had never been asked that question before and I quickly tried to think up some good reasons that were in my favor. But the more I tried to list the ‘good things,’ the more I was reminded of all the mistakes and ‘wrong turns’ I had made in my life. It was like the movie of my past was playing in my mind, replaying over and over the bad experiences. I didn’t know how to answer him and that disturbed me. The view from this point of the journey was filled with question d9_10marks. Who am I really and where was I going?  And though I was at a place on my journey that appeared good and positive from the outside, I still had restlessness in my heart.  I especially started having serious questions about my relationship with God.

18366_487750440435_5052398_nOver a few months, Mike and I started attending a church together that ministered to college students. It was amazing- drums, electric guitars and clapping! Everyone was so nice and FUN! And another thing… the teacher encouraged us to bring our own Bibles and take notes in them!

Going back to my church experience as a kid, I had only remembered organ music and our minister reading from the Bible. Occasionally, we would recite some memorized creeds or prayers altogether.   Though I had grown up going to Sunday School classes where I had learned all the main Bible stories and Christian songs, I had never personally studied my Bible and read it for myself. I’m pretty sure it just sat on my top bookshelf collecting dust next to my once-read Judy Blume and Hardy Boys novels.

That nagging question Mike had asked me (about going to heaven) wouldn’t leave my mind. Every Sunday, our college pastor taught directly from the Bible. I began exploring who God really was and what the Bible was all about. It started to make sense and I was seeing how maybe I fit into God’s larger story. It all came together for me one evening during a church service. The worship leader asked the congregation at the conclusion of the service, “Do you want to know Jesus?” That was the cry of my heart, but this otherwoman-kneeling voice in my head was saying, “Why would God accept you?” But that night, the full Gospel message was shared with me. The REASON Jesus Christ, the Son of God, left heaven, came to Earth, led a ‘Perfect 10’ life,  willingly died on a cross and was raised from the dead, was me. I had heard all these things about Jesus a million times before, but now it was personal. He didn’t just die for all sin… He died for my sin.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I had no problem believing this for myself. I knew I had sinned a lot. I had always been aware of my hopelessness and rebelliousness apart from Him. But I had no idea what the remedy for my sin and shame was. This perfect God-man chose to be sin for me and willingly laid down his life to pay the penalty of my sin, which the Bible says is (eternal) death. He did this so I could have new life and real hope for a future. He had taken my 15752645-christianity-representation-with-the-symbol-of-a-crossplace on the cross and died for all my sins- past, present and future. And that penalty was paid in FULL! It wasn’t a down payment or given conditionally based on my future mess-ups. I was told that God would accept me right then and there. Romans 10:8-9 says, “If you just confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” So that’s what I did. I believed and I confessed that Jesus is Lord!

This promise of eternal salvation was so comforting to me. Ever since I was a small child, I had been terrified of death. Now, knowing I could know for certain that when I left this life on Earth, I would be with God in heaven forever, was mind-blowing to me! To think, I was walking around with an eternal death sentence for 20 years, and now I have been pardoned through the blood of Jesus. Wow.

May I emphasize that this gift of eternal life (or salvation) is FREE.  Nothing I can do, or you can do, can earn this gift. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” In fact, Romans 6:23 says that, as sinners, what we HAVE earned is death!

He has also given me a clean heart. In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, the Lord says, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” Wow! I was set free from shame and filth!

Not only has the Lord given me the gift of eternal security and a clean heart, He has put inside of me His Holy Spirit- to love, teach and guide me. And to be my Peace, my Comforter, my Hope and my Joy. To transform my mind, strengthen me to turn from my sinful ways and walk in newness of life. Salvation was not a one-time decision. It was my spritual birth. From then on, it has been about growing up in Christ and deepening my relationship and knowledge of Him.the-light-at-the-end-of-the-road-109014-530-484

So, what’s the view of my journey at this point of my life? Well, I’m on a completely new road now. When I look behind me, I see my old path ending at a cliff. But there lies Jesus- creating a bridge from my old path to my new one. He stretched out his body for me to walk from death to life! Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

The Lord blessed me with an incredible opportunity right at the end of my college gymnastics career. It was 1991 and I was competing in my final NCAA Championships. My team did not qualify that season, but I qualified individually. So I was there with my two coaches and my athletic trainer, James. I was a pretty healthy athlete so James didn’t have much to do. I had just completed my competition and was back at my hotel. I was having a little pity party because I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to. But as I was sitting on my bed reflecting on the meet, I decided to pray and open my Bible. A few minutes later, I got a knock on the door. It was James. He wondered what I was doing, so I told him  what I was reading. He was very curious and had lots of questions about the Bible, Jesus, my church experience, etc. I was so happy to share with him what Jesus had done in my life! I could tell that just like me, James knew ‘about’ Jesus but had never had a personal relationship with Him. When I shared the Gospel with Him, I saw in his eyes that the Lord was touching his heart.  He thanked me and went back to his hotel room. Just a few minutes later, I got another knock on the door and it was James again. This time, he was there to tell me that he had given his life to Christ and wanted to share that with me! Wow! I sure wasn’t having a pity party anymore! I was rejoicing with the angels that James was now a new born-again believer in Jesus Christ! This eternal victory in James’ life definitely outshined any golden trophy I could’ve ever achieved that day! I love how the Lord uses all things for His glory!

My new path has not been perfect. Nor has not been easy. I still make mistakes all the time! But with each obstacle that wants to get in my way, the Lord has continued to walk with me and help me through all situations. I can’t imagine living without Him. He is everything to me.  I cling tightly to His Arm as he leads me. He gives me just enough light to see and take another step of faith. I am in awe of who He is. I trust He will lead me the right way because I know without a doubt, He is trustworthy and faithful. This last sign says it all for me: photo-14

Oh, and you may be wondering what happened to Mike. Well, he was gracious enough to ask me to be his wife and we’ve been married for 21 years! I’m so thankful my Lord Jesus has blessed me with such a fun life companion! With Christ at the core of everything, life is glorious!

And what about you? Was there anything you read here that truly resignated in your heart? Are you like me- maybe you’ve known about Jesus but you know you have never asked for forgiveness for your sins? Do you know without a doubt in your mind that you have received the free gift of eternal life that only Jesus can offer? If you need to make sure, I invite you to make that decision right now. Today is the day of salvation. We are not promised even one more day so don’t put it off. Where you spend eternity hinges on your personal decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Please remember this… it is much more about the attitude and sincerity of your heart than the words you speak. This is not a ‘formula’ to receive a free ticket to heaven. This is a life-changing decision. And it’s the most important decision you’ll ever make!

When you are ready to open your heart to Jesus and begin a whole new life with Him, express these things to Him and believe them in your heart:

1) “I am so sorry for sinning against you by breaking Your holy and perfect Law; 2) Please forgive me and cleanse me ; 3) Holy Spirit, come into my life, transform my mind and help me turn from my sin; and 4) Jesus, You are King of kings and Lord of lords. My Prince of Peace. Thank you for loving me and for saving me from eternal death! I am a new creation, the old is gone; the new has come!”

If you made this eternal decision in your heart and have repented of your sins, all of heaven is rejoicing over you! And if I don’t meet you in this life, I can’t wait to get to heaven and meet you there! What a big party we’re going to have!

For more information about the ‘next steps’ in your new life with Christ, please send me a message and I’d be happy to connect you to a variety of wonderful books and study guides to help you. (I also have more verses about salvation written in the “What I Believe- and Why’ section that may be helpful to you.)

Don’t stop learning. Don’t stop pursuing the Lord. Gather with other believers to encourage one another. Start attending a Bible-believing church in your area. And God bless you!!!

Compelled by Love

Have you ever had one of those days, that you are so overwhelmed by compassion that you have no other choice but to act upon it- sometimes in the most outrageous ways? You know it’s the Holy Spirit living out through you. You are compelled by the love of God! There’s no other explanation for such behavior!

I’ve had experiences where I just started weeping uncontrollably over someone. “Where did that come from?” And just recently, I was sitting in church next to a sweet, older Asian women who was no more than 4 foot 8 inches tall. The whole service, I just felt ‘compelled’ to give her a hug! I was feeling a bit awkward because that particular Sunday, we didn’t do our regular ‘meet and greet your neighbor’ thing. But I knew the Lord wanted me to express compassion and love to her. So, during one of the concluding worship songs of the service, I just reached over and put my arm around her. When it was time to leave, she leaned over and said, “Thank you for showing such kindness to me!” I didn’t know her and I certainly didn’t know what she was going through. But I was so happy I was obedient and did what God had asked me to do- even though it seemed a bit ‘out there.’ (Not everyone appreciates a hug, you know!)

Or take today. I was shopping for some new autumn decorations in a specialty shop and I saw the most gorgeous painting of a cardinal. Well, you may or may not have read my “I Praise You’ poem that mentions the cardinal (I reposted it below in case you missed it), but today I just felt ‘compelled’ to read it out loud to those lady workers right there in the store! I did ask if they wanted to hear it- as if they’re going to say no, right? And I did purchase the painting so they could listen to my poem! Ha ha! Anyway, the poem is about praising God through all things- more than it is a poem about a cardinal. But it felt amazing to shine a little of heaven into that store. And the lady that was ringing me up quietly thanked me for sharing it. “I’m a Christian, too,” she said. We then further discussed church and other things. You just never know where conversations can lead to when you let the Spirit flow out of you!


But I kindly ask one thing of you…. please don’t run the other way when you see me coming. I don’t always feel compelled to hug! But if you need a hug, I will be more than happy to give you one!

‘For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.’ (2 Cor 5:14-15)

 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)