Bird Seed

elvis-bueno-0wHrPww7JeA-unsplashAs I sat waiting for the service to begin, something stirred my memory of my grandmother’s love for her backyard birds.

Grandma always had a multitude of bird feeders in her back yard. She loved cardinals, chickadees and little finches. As we’d sit on her covered porch we watched the beautiful variety of birds flit around the lovely feeders she’d carefully collected throughout the years. Her backyard was often full of colorful, singing birds happily visiting special feeders or splashing in a birdbath. She provided watchful care over her beloved birds, finding special ways to meet their needs. She would describe what attributes of the feeder attracted different types of birds. She carefully considered each species and the seed they preferred and she wasn’t afraid to invest in what best suited these feathered friends. “The most important element in attracting any bird is to supply them with the food they enjoy.” Each season forest-simon-rT-I7IB_eHg-unsplashrequired particular needs and she invested the time to make sure the birds were cared for well. Cardinals needed to feel secure with sturdy perches and they loved the black oil sunflower seed and corn. Chickadees were energetic and could feed without a perch on lightweight cylinders; they loved peanuts and peanut butter. Grandma would describe the reasons for the domes over suet feeders and the size of the holes in others to protect them from bullies. stephen-walker-mMxvAc83evo-unsplashThe first time I was delighted to spot a flashy brilliant blue, blue jay she explained her complete annoyance at this nuisance. They may look beautiful, but these “bully birds” ate all the food in one sitting “like glutens” and selfishly frightened away other birds. My grandmother couldn’t guarantee which birds would visit each day, but she did everything she could to attract each winged beauty. Her yard was a place they wanted to come back to again and again. Grandma always found a way to preach a gentle reminder, “if God cares for the birds how much more He cares for me”.feeding_station

Sitting here in the celebration of life ceremony for another great woman of faith, I couldn’t help but reflect on how her life, like my grandmother’s care for the birds, was so similar. I glanced around the room and saw many other key players from my past, also saying goodbye to one of the great spiritual moms.

IMG_0038When I showed up at Red Bridge Baptist church, hurting and searching for a genuine, Christ-following community; I found it here. Many of the folks gathered here today were instrumental to my faith during my last few years of high school. The Favazza family was one of the first I met and they embraced me immediately. I felt included from the start; there was no girl drama or taking time to get to know me before I’d be welcomed. Everything they did was to attract others to gospel, especially the youth. It didn’t matter if we were just hanging out after school or having a planned get together, Mrs. Favazza prepared amazing food and it was always served in style. She was the first Martha Stewart before we heard of Martha; a hostess with the mostess! There was never a “throw it on a paper plate, they’re just teens attitude”. Her table or peninsula was always welcoming and hospitable, but mostly it was beautiful! Shirley carefully considered the needs of those she was serving and then she did it in a way we wanted to come back again and again.paige-cody-T_tAojyynCk-unsplash

We weren’t just fed with physical food either, God’s Word dripped from the mouths of the leaders at Red Bridge. Frank could dissect a passage with such intensity you couldn’t wait for more. Roger could take biblical truth and apply it to our daily activities in such a way that we learned deep principles of the faith. Anita taught “old fashioned” Sunday school stories with a devotion to Jesus that these stories seemed brand new. Max preached with evangelical urgency that compelled us to want others to hear the gospel. Nadine modeled a ceaseless praying life that provoked me to desire prayerfulness in my own life. These people fed with seeds that produced a deep devotion to Jesus in my heart (and of the Godly man I’d one day marry.)

As I reflected on the men and woman sitting here and how each of them considered the “seeds” they served to the people they ministered to over the years, I was stricken with gratefulness. None of them were guaranteed that we would hear and follow Christ forever, (I’m sure they had worries about me) but they continued to invest in us with a quality gospel that wasn’t filled with frills or afraid to be honest. These folks took the time and energy to get to know each of our needs, invest in us because they deeply cared for Jesus. They were not afraid to speak out against the harms of those ‘attractive nuisances’ the world wanted to use to entice away from Jesus, and they did everything to teach us to put up barriers against these bullies.

I think of the teens who were under their watchful care, many have walked through deep valleys, made choices that cost dearly, some have suffered great pain and some have even left the faith, never to return. The gospel they presented was the only sustainable hope they offered, and they offered it freely with no expectations of the outcome.

christian-bowen-6F3ZfmKAwio-unsplashI would love to have the opportunity to thank some of families from the Red Bridge community who consistently and carefully provided good seed used to draw me to Him. We can never know which lives we will make a difference in. We are not guaranteed all the people we invest in will come to Christ, but we are entreated to live a life in such a way “they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

I could have become very sad in this memorial service with the flood of emotions and memories, but instead I have a sweet sense of joy. I have lived a sin-filled, flawed life, but I am forever humbled by God’s hand in directing me to a place, full of flawed faith-filled Christians. I am thankful for times I sat by my grandmother in the simple pleasure of bird watching. These faithful servants loved Jesus and modeled a true understanding of my value in Christ from Matthew 6 and most importantly how to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. I hope to leave a similar legacy at the end of my days. I pray I am carefully considering the seeds I am offering to the people God has directed into the path I am journeying down.grayson-smith-ihDVZkfp0gM-unsplash

“We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.”~Psalm 78:4

For This Season

“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”~ Bilbo Bagginsalisa-anton-DwlNPM1doKA-unsplash

“Whatever season God has given you right now, be all in!” My words are coming back to haunt me. It’s easy to feel unsettled and discontent when things aren’t going as planned. Dreams delayed; life interrupts. How do I recognize the duty and mission for my life when things take an abrupt turn?jamie-street-dQLgop4tnsc-unsplash

I know God uses seasons of waiting to reflect an image of the bride of Christ waiting on His return and God’s kingdom reigns. I know He teaches me patience in these seasons and make me more like Him. But what about the seasons of busy and doing?

God has given me passions, desires, gifts, talents, visions and opportunities; all to specifically glorify Him. Opportunities always outnumber hours in a day, but not all “good and righteous” opportunities are mine for this season.


So I am preaching to myself today, when circumstances in my season come with disappointment. When my life is being stretched and I’m feeling spread thin. “Whatever season God has me right now, how am I ‘all in’ for His plan?” Maybe it’s not too little butter, but too much bread for today’s allotment of butter.

hayden-walker-fgpg3KzFrQY-unsplash“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” Ephesians 5:15-16

Party Girl

twinsfisch-x-EoJVXSQKY-unsplash          I love a good party and may be known as a party girl. Discovering a set of beautiful inlayed chopsticks led to a full themed oriental dinner party. Roasting sticks on clearance at Lowe’s and a gourmet S’mores night began a neighborhood fall tradition. Hearing a great local band and we now have a stage ready for outdoor concerts. Parties are my thing.

         However when it comes to political parties, for years I wanted to be an independent. How I voted, or for which candidate I felt best portrayed the needs of the community had nothing to do with party affiliation. In complete honesty, I mostly lined up with the conservative party and have worked phone banks for the GOP’s Presidential elections for almost every one since Reagan. Sometimes holding my nose, sometimes wincing of the choices I was left with, and unfortunately at times, trying to make sure the lesser of two evils prevailed. I want to stand with the “principle before party” mantra’ and I am more than willing to stand up and speak out against the leaders in my party who are doing something I see as unconstitutional or growing our government. “The” party has greatly disappointed me over the past season. I even stepped back from serious volunteering when the state GOP made a decision to endorse a candidate before the primaries, an attempt to override the people’s voice. It was an unnecessary move that created skepticism and distrust, contributing to an increasing civil war within the party. I’ve never been afraid to vote for the out-side candidate or door-knock for someone who I think would make the truest conservative decisions while in office.

  Missouri_State_Capitol_and_Fountain_of_the_Centaurs-20150920-157One of my biggest irritations with many of the right-side-of-the-aisle legislators, who serve currently, is their lack of being truly interested in limiting our government. Government’s growth since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal has blurred the lines for some of our young leaders who just assume it’s their job to fix something. I admit that bleeding-heart issues can tug at my heart. I hear the heartbreaking stories that drive us to want change, but I stop and ask myself, “Is this something the government should be responsible for?” One of my favorite State Representatives, affectionately known as “Representative No” has been a great example of someone who stands firm as an ideologue! He quickly sends out a legislative report when he votes NO on what seems to be a great conservative piece of legislation. Usually, it’s the way it is written and the amendments added that tend to make it unconstitutional. Sometimes he feels it’s too watered down and doesn’t represent the best intent of the writer. His colleagues criticize him, but he stands firm and principled. During the past US Senate election I found myself in support of someone with whom I had little in common with, he stretched many of my traditional ideas, but really pushed for a government who led well by ruling less! I want to hold firm to this same honorable ideals.r v d         I know we are not going to agree on every issue. I have watched men and women who I think represent me well, debate over issues with such force that the outside world may think they were serving in opposite parties. I’ve also seen “teammates” become enemies and it makes it awkward to champion for issues from their own platform. I hear the ardent pleas of some who feel the only way to serve well is to be willing to compromise, and I’ve been in meetings where a point-of-view is so strong that the ears to listen (or even consider another option) become clogged with passionate debates. I have met politicians that genuinely want to serve their community and those who are in it for self-gain, and those who are both! Politics is messy but our Founders knew there needed to be some sort of order to protect all citizens and make this a truly great country.

oregon-trail-4So why am I so passionate at the moment about circling the wagons within the conservative party? Unifying above strict ideology? We are at a serous crossroads in this country. No longer are there rational differences that allow a moderate compromise. No longer are there middle-of-the-road concepts of the governments role in keeping our freedoms as they should be. It’s not just liberal and conservative, right and left. We are in a time when the left want to remove the constraints of our constitution and totally redefine America. There is no longer just a difference between what it means to be limited; there is a real sense that the left wants to control everything through an unlimited and bigger government. That is frightening!

  daryan-shamkhali-7zn9UvUyRFE-unsplashHistorians differ on the idea that Ross Perot was the reason George HW Bush didn’t win his 2nd term in the 1992 presidential election. But a decade later, we are in no place to take that same chance. According to our Congressmen in DC, the “fringe” new socialists are far from the exception. The liberal side of the aisle is espousing radical laws, changing rules of conduct and is hell-bent on changing the make-up of our government.   There is no loyalty to our constitution and no loyalty to the will of the people. They think they know best and they are ready to take American freedoms to the grave. We are not in a place to debate issues and ideas for solutions, because if you don’t agree you will be labeled with horrific names and shut down. We must be unified as a party and refuse to blink.

         I am not saying we shouldn’t be vigilant on vetting our candidates! I’m not saying we should not point out a specific problem or call a legislator (or our President) out when they make a gross mistake. But the constant vague complaints and groans and disparaging remarks have got to stop! We cannot take our tenuous control of the Senate for granted. We cannot lose another House seat in Washington. We cannot lose our super majority in our own state either. Especially with our Initiative Petition process, that makes our states constitution vulnerable to a simple majority vote. We are about to be gerrymandered with “fair” maps, we are about to destroy business growth with a mandated minimum wage and we are going to face a candidate for Governor who will turn our conservative state into a progressive cousin of the east and west coast.

Republican-party flag_810_500_75_s_c1     Yes, you can accuse me of being a Party girl. As discouraged as I can be over the inner workings of the party on the right, I have made a consciences decision to support the candidates within the GOP. Even with all its faults, with confusion over what it means to be a conservative, it is the side that aligns closer to my principles and ideas. I will look for Liberty minded candidates and encourage them to run. But this is the season to hold fast to any leads we can hold. Anything close to middle ground is better than the alternative, this is the time for circling our wagons; the opponents are prepared to burn us down!


HB 581 Testimony February 5th, 2019

Many of you know I have been on a mission to see quality education return to Missouri. As a homeschool mom, I want to be clear that I am also a public school ally. I believe that most citizens will be educated through our government schools, but we, if given the option of choice, we can provide parents with quality choices that fit or precious unique children. Public schools have lost their way and seem to be hanging on to the threads of control that may prove detrimental to Missouri’s schools.

I promised to post my recent testimony regarding school choice and Charter School expansion, and the blog is the best way to provide this.

HB 581 Testimony:

My name is Cathy Jo Loy, I live in Joplin and I am the mother of 5. I have a plethora of stories about schools and choice and why we made educational decisions over the past 32 years, but today I want to share my 17-year-old son, Max’s story.

We became Max’s foster parents when he was 3 months old. His parents were considered mentally delayed and he was a 3rd generation foster child. Although Max displayed some delays he was verbally advanced and a clever problem solver. Max had an August birthday, so to give him an advantage, we chose to wait and enroll him in kindergarten until he was 6. For 1st grade we chose to enroll Max in a private school, but a few months into the year, his principal and teachers called us into the school and explained Max was just not ready for the fast-paced rigor their curriculum required and advised we put him in our local public school. Our local school,known as the Fairview ZOO, had been on academic probation for over 6 years, and so against their advice, but as his parents who knew him best, we chose to have Max repeat kindergarten there. We then began laborious & costly testing to determine the source his delays. One of the public school principal explained Max’s biggest hurdle: he was a delight to have in class and because he wasn’t “behavioral” and tested so high verbally he didn’t have the “differential” needed to qualify for any extra services.

After the 2011 tornado we moved to Joplin and chose an elementary school that we were directly involved serving through Bright Futures. This school, considered the poorest in our city, opened my eyes to the vast needs of students, parents and the disparaging opportunities in Joplin. Max began to hate school. One night he came home with 800 multiplication problems. Rocket Math, 100 timed problems and those you missed or didn’t finish must be written 10x each for homework. Max took longer to process but knew his multiplication tables through 12’s; Max failed at rocket math and as his teacher explained, “Well, I’m sorry, but this is the way we are required to do it here.”

When I noticed the class working in pairs on fun science experiments. I asked Max and his buddy Charles why they weren’t working on theirs and they both replied that they didn’t get to do the science because they went to Mrs. Dee’s reading class.

As Max’s parents, we knew he needed something different than this current schools could give him, but there was nothing available in our local public school. Max needed more auditory learning and more hands on, tactile curriculum. Looking at schools that fit these needs, a common theme kept coming up; Public Charter Schools. Missouri’s laws prohibited a Charter in Joplin and were forced to begin homeschooling. We chose a curriculum that worked beautifully for my curious, verbal child. Even diagraming sentence & Latin thrilled my non-reader because he saw them as puzzles. Max built an engine; designed a forge, debated in logic, and took first place at the Science Fair.

Because my husband is a physician we were privileged with “School Choice” when we didn’t even know that was what we were doing. We could hire tutors, buy the right educational toys, I had the freedom to stay home, and a car to drive across town so that Max could succeed educationally.

But what about Charles parents? Charles lived in a one-room hotel and his parents didn’t speak English. What choice did his parents have? What about Sarah’s dad and mom who were working through Children’s Haven to retain custody of there 6 children, with no car, if they couldn’t walk, it wasn’t an option. How were the single parents, whose very best is just to get their child to school each morning, able to choose?

Because of my economic and social standing, I am not naive to the fact, that although limited, I had school choice options for my children. But I love my community also have a deep desire to “seek the welfare of the city I have been planted”. For a town above the national poverty rate, I believe educated citizens are the key economic freedom and tomorrow’s workforce. I am here to advocate on behalf of the children and parents that do not have the choices outside of their district public school. We must give children in public school the best quality education that fits their unique needs. Public Charter Schools have proven successful options throughout the US for over 30 years. We have some amazing Charter School success stories right here in Missouri, but only in 2 large cities.

In spite of the public schools failing Max, quality education has allowed Max to be on track to graduate with his high school diploma & associates degree concurrently.

George Washington said

“The best means of forming virtuous and happy people will be found in the right education of youth”.

PUBLIC Charter School expansion is one of the “right” options and must become available to all the Max’s of my community and across Missouri.

My Most Excellent Adventure: Lynchburg


On Tuesday morning, September 27th, Clint and I took off to see Blake, Andrea and all five grand-girls!  They moved mid-July, and Clint knew my heart couldn’t take much longer to be separated.  With all our teens schedules and rules clearly written and posted on the cabinets, the 20 year old close at hand, an aide for Aunt V in place and 16 emergency contacts listed on the fridge, I was ready to relax and enjoy 3 nights and 4 days visiting my precious family.

Clint worked all night and our flight left early from Springfield, so one of us was a little more “ready” than the other! My suitcases were heavy with little gifts and this grandma was ready for some neck-squeezing, cheek-kissing, grand-daughter hugs!.

It’s been years since we used stairs to depart from a plane directly onto the tarmac, but both our layover in Charlotte and the cute little airport in Lynchburg required it. Clint and I are glad this little trip didn’t include Aunt V, because I even had some difficulty maneuvering the wobbly, steep steps. (Maybe it was my 3″ wedge shoes!) Rental car picked up! Address of Blake and Andrea programed in; we couldn’t get there quickly enough; but Lynchburg is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, and I right away was at peace that this was a good place for my precious family to live!img_8772

Our days were going to be too short to waste a moment. On Tuesday, Blake would not be home until late (he teaches a class at the CVCC, Lynchburg’s community college) so we were ready to start relaxing with just the girls. They gave me the guided tour of their amazing condo. As always, my lovely daughter-in-law has it looking adorable, and I am so tickled to see how lovely their home is. When Clint started Medical school in 1998, God provided us a brand new home we built over the summer. In a crazy busy season, it’s just a sweet gift of grace for us wives to have a beautiful, spacious “nest” to make our family’s home.

We spent Wednesday enjoying the girls, taking walks, getting “concerts”, and watching Tim Hawkins videos. We wanted Andrea to have a day to play and explore her new town. When Blake came home, there were back rubs and massages, and then that night we tried out Benjamin’s Great Cows And Crabs restaurant.img_8765

On Thursday, while Clint attended some classes with Blake, the girls each had alone time with me. Delia chose breakfast at Tropical Smoothie, Hayler and Vivion, (who decided they wanted to go together) chose McDonald’s for Hayler’s “favorite” Sausage McGriddle, and a mini-tour of the Medical school. At noon I was able to bring Sheetz for Grace’s lunch at one of the areas Classical Conversations Communities, where she helps in the nursery.  I met her new best friend and also their new pastor who was eating with his children that day. (Sheetz is an experience in itself and a special treat when we are at Grove City in Pennsylvania, so I was a little nostalgic.)


Liberty University has built their medical school on top of Liberty Mountain, next to Candler Mountain and has breathtaking views of the valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s four-story Jeffersonian-style facility is beautiful. This moms’ heart smiles to think that long hours, hard work and a difficult season is buffered with the magnificent scenery!

I wanted to take a little tour of the downtown area, so Andrea and I loaded up the girls and off we went. Simply Irresistible Bakery called out our need for a mid-afternoon snack. Ruby Jane  was a hug fan of the cake pops! We also stopped to grab our photo at the famous

Lynchburg LOVE sculpture, created by a local artist as part of a state-wide tourism initiative “Virginia is for Lovers” in 2013. (Andrea was our photo hero, she knew how to set the timer on my phone camera!) The girls showed me their favorite biking spot along Percival’s Island Trail. Also, many painted piano’s, (similar to the KC cows)  are out in the streets of downtown Lynchburg.  I could have spent an entire day exploring this artsy downtown area! img_8830-2

On Thursday afternoons, a small farmers market sets up in the Doc’s Diner parking lot at LU. We had to go there for one reason only; Mama Crockett’s Cider doughnuts! There’s apple cider and hot chocolate on the menu, and THE doughnut! They are smaller than usual, dark from the soybean oil the batter was fried in, and lightly dusted with sugar and cinnamon…and I’m not sure why, but they are absolutely amazing!img_8842-1

On Friday morning we met up with some friends we hadn’t seen since our early marriage. Chris and Sharon Kirk were that cool young couple the high school kids liked to hang out with. They were instrumental in our desire to be a couple who loved and served God together. They shared with us “love in hard times” and molded our early concepts of Complementarian relationships. It was great hearing their story and seeing what God has faithfully brought them through!

I was not ready to say goodbye, but luckily, Blake had an early lunch, so we met up at Panera for our last hugs.  I felt resolved that my sweet family was getting settled in a good place, but sad that it is so far away. I know they are following a great God and He loves them extravagantly.  I know Lynchburg and LUCOM are evidence of grace in their lives and confident that they will do well there. (I just wish it was 15 1/2 hours and 992 miles closer!)img_8852



I Remember: Baby Caroline Grace

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

In January 2000, I found out I was pregnant again. Ruth was thrilled with the idea of a baby, Blake, a senior in high school, was a little weirded out!

Because of my history and the fact that I was 39, I was considered high risk. I was so sick, and on my first cruise vacation, I was wishing they would just throw me overboard at times, but grateful for this healthy sign of pregnancy. This was what we had always wanted and I took every precaution directed by my specialists.

Every two weeks, Ruth and I would head downtown for the sonogram the doctors requested, and every time Ruth would leave the appointment proudly carrying “her baby’s” photo. This little blessing appeared to be growing healthy and on schedule. Clint was in his second year of medical school and we were waiting on the “lottery” to see where his last two years of clinical rotations would take us. Blake would be graduating, and heading to William Jewell and our best friends were moving away, so a new baby would help this mamma’s transition.

On a rare day off in early March, Clint was able to go to the appointment with me, so Ruth showed him the way down the winding corridors.   We were in the same examining room as always, with our familiar technician, but I immediately knew this appointment was different. After several minutes of probing with cold jelly and her doppler, she paused and said she would like to go to a “more sensitive” ultrasound machine. All the way down the hall, which was only a few doors down but seemed to be miles, Ruth was demanding her picture. Clint tried to quiet her by reassuring her to be patient. The transvaginal ultrasound did not alleviate our fears, but confirmed that this 12 1/2 week little baby no longer had a heartbeat.

That day we left the hospital was so different from the many other miscarriages I’d had prior to Ruth. I was sad, but not hopeless. I was grieving, but with an overwhelming sense of God’s goodness. We called only our closest friends, but with the going-away party for my friend that evening, I really didn’t want the word out yet. (These women had been through all the years of my infertility heartbreak and wailings. I knew they would be worried about me from past experience.)

During my season of infertility, I was filled with hopelessness. My life seemed to be always falling apart. But I was almost 5 years removed from that dark season and God was using another loss to show me a different kind of healing that He had worked in me.

While I was leading the woman in our farewell to our friend, 2 Thessalonians 3:16 was the benediction verse I was trying to encourage them with. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

God was with me. It was clear that God was giving me a peace that I’d never experienced before. He was giving me a picture of the transforming work He was completing in me. (Phil. 1:6) Past miscarriages sent me into a hopeless state of despair, but not this day. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but snot forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Cor. 4:8-9

“I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me; He freed me from all my fears. The oppressed look to Him and are glad; they will never be disappointed” Psalm 34:4-5

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5

On September 19th, she would have turned 16. I remember how God used baby Caroline Grace to show me the transforming work He was (and is) doing in me.



I Remember: The Beauty in My Shattered Marriage

“Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us” Hosea 6:1

Marriage is hard, and complicated, and made up of two sinners sharing a tight space! I have been married for 36 years. He’s “the one” because of our covenantal commitment we made on August 16, 1980. I once heard it said, if you wonder if you married the right person: check the name on your marriage license. However, I love my man, and through thick and thin I am blessed that God is allowing me to walk through life on this earth with him. He loves me, prays for me and points me to jesus. Although our love for one another is rich and deep and growing, the most important marriage-sustainer in us is the rooted spiritual foundation for our relationship.

10570390_10152583118693559_1198408791729069554_nI have many dear friends who love Jesus and whose marriages have not survived. I am sad for them, but this really isn’t about marriage vs. divorce. This is about the work Jesus did in me. The funny thing, the ‘works’ not ever over. He continually shows Clint and I that loving one another doesn’t always come with passion, and romance, and candle-lit diners. One of our favorite sentiments is from Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred MarriageWhat if God designed marriage to make us Holy more than to make us happy?” God has done some of His most transforming work in my own heart through the institution of marriage. Marriage can teach us to love God and others well. Marriage exposes sin, and Gary even calls marriage a spiritual discipline. Clint likes to tell couples, “you don’t fall in love, you dig your way in.”

I entered into my marriage with unrealistic expectations. Marriage was my idea of happily-ever-after. Long strolls in the moonlight, snuggles on the couch, happy, happy romance! For years I’d dreamed and planned. Yes, a Christ-centered marriage was important, but in reality I had no idea what “Christ’-centered” truly meant. I knew marriage was a beautiful gift from God, but I had no clear understanding that He ‘d actually designed marriage to reflect and display the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people. So without fear I raced into marriage ready to begin the life of


After a bumpy 6 years, a realization that “marriage is NOT what I had envisioned” had overshadowed my heart.  But in 1986, Clint and I moved far away from friends and family so he could go to flight school and I held out hope that this would turn things around. We were prodding along out of sheer stubbornness and a massive dose of God’s grace. Clint was enjoying a huge amount of success, but I still struggled with everything: my weight, infertility, frustrated expectations, not enough money, spending too much money, loneliness, and overall dissatisfaction.

One long weekend when Clint was going to be out of town, I was left on base with the other Officers wives. Most of them were not Christians and I was appalled at some of their conversations. However, God was using those lost women to reveal my own sin. I went home and got out an old book, Creative Counterpart : Becoming the Woman, Wife, and Mother You Have Longed To Be by Linda Dillow. (It was the first topical bible study I’d done as a wife and I remembered it showing me the type of wife I desired to be.) That weekend God exposed my need of some massive heart and life changes. He began to show me the way to have a great marriage was by not focusing on marriage, but on Him. God’s purpose for marriage: to reflect His glory. There was little in my life that was reflecting God to these women, and I needed radical change. I had no idea that God was preparing me for the battle of a lifetime. (John 10:10) For 6 years the enemy wanted me to believe my marriage was the problem, when in reality it was the idol of my marriage. Clint was not my enemy, and the problem was a spiritual one. (Ephesians 6:12-13) God needed to shatter my marriage and all my idea of marriage so that He could restore it into a glorious refection of Himself. He was calling me to “Come, let us return to the Lord; for He has torn us, that He may heal us; He has struck us down, and He will bind us up.” Hosea 6:1

I’d made an idol out of Clint and my fairytale images of marriage, even in what a Christ-like marriage should “look” like. I had placed too much pressure on Clint to “complete me” and make me well. That week I really dove into God’s word and began to recognize the biblical truth that would transform me and help grow a picture of the gospel through our marriage. Not only was God working on my spiritual changes, He was showing me practical outward changes. I watched my calorie intake, cleaned and organized the house, thought of tangible ways I could encourage Clint as his helpmate. I fixed his favorite meatloaf meal, and waited for him to return to the base Sunday evening. He retuned home very late, and had to be back with his unit the next morning before I woke. I was disappointed that he wasn’t going to be around to see the transforming work God had begun in me, but I had a great amount of Holy Spirit empowered strength during that time. (Romans 8:11) God was supplying the strength I would need to successfully battle for our marriages. The difficulties I was about to face forced me on my knees and to seek God’s face. In doing so, I got to grow closer to my Jesus; the ONE who never leaves, or fails or betrays. (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5b-6) 

In the past 30 years, we have faced many trials, seasons of hot love and chilly indifference, but God has continued to grow our love. He has deepened our covenant to one another by teaching us His covenant-keeping love. Knowing Him in our hearts and then reflecting Him in our actions towards one another has been our priority. We fail all the time, but He sustains us. When I hear young wives struggle with love and marriage being “so hard” I remind them of the death of Christ for His church, His bride. That hard death was the ultimate expression of love, which is the ultimate expression of God’s glory.

In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis’s writes, “True love, real life-long love, marriage love; is not two people staring deeply into each others eyes. That is Eros. That is lust. It always burns hot and it usually dies young. True love, fidelity love, is two people with the same vision, same worldview, same goals, having the same view of marriage. Nothing is more important short of having the same view of Christ.”

390278_2685291930335_1567766229_n-1Clint and I hold tightly to the Biblical vision for marriage. We are thrilled that He is letting us grow old together. Whether it is in a season that is satisfying or strenuous, marriage can cause you walk with God more closely than you ever dreamed; a successful one actually requires that you walk close with God. Whether you are seeking-marriage, sustaining-marriage or in the fight of saving-marriage, the essential part of your God-centered marriages rests on “Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Eph. 5:25). God did not design marriage for self-fulfillment but to reflect His selflessness and service to others. Marriage is gratifying but it is hard and the difficult times are meant to transform you into His likeness. And, Christian marriages should be salt, seasoning the world around us with the flavor Christ! (2 Corinthians 2:15) Marriage is a beautiful gift, but it’s not God. I remember when God shattered ours and made it into something beautiful.


cropped-evidenceofgraceheader2.jpg*The last two photos were provided by Allyson Bird of Allyson Neely Photography



I Remember: When Joy Came in the Morning

“for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:10b

Sometimes I suffer from depression. I’m not making excuses, but with the melancholy temperament, I sometimes cannot shake my feelings of sadness. I know that “happiness is based on happenings, and joy is a fruit of the spirit.” I know that joy can be a choice, and I create in my mind an unreasonable picture of what joy should look like.

wet-leafIn the late 90’s, on one occasion of an extremely low time, I was distraught and overcome with anxiety and depression. I wanted true fruit-filled joy that rose above all circumstance, but I was not able to find it. As I lamented with my dearest friend, her husband, our pastor at the time, came in to see how much longer we would be. My discouragement was not from my circumstances, but that I couldn’t shake how my depression was keeping me from knowing biblical joy!

My pastor and friend were extremely helpful that evening and began turning my thoughts into truths. He reminded me that God made all of us differently. Some people have naturally up-beat temperaments and others, by His design, are more melancholic. He then began to share with me that seeking to know and recognize the joy of the Lord was part of our growth in Christ. He shared many verses that night about God’s command to be glad and rejoice. (Philippians 4:4, 3:1,Psalm. 5:11; Psalm 9:2; Psalm 32:11; Psalm 33:1; Psalm 40:16) and they both encouraged me to begin to write down and memorize verses about joy. He reminded me that joy doesn’t always mean a life free from conflicts, sadness and grief. Even Paul understood that there are days that are less than joy-filled. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8b and For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” 2 Corinthians 5:2 Even Jesus was troubled in soul and prayed for His Father to rescue Him.

That night my friends prayed that I would recognize the joy of the Lord in the middle of my circumstances. They reminded me of Psalm 56:8-9, that He keeps count of my tears and God is for me! My friends told me to “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14

wet-leaf-2As I left to drive home, the reception on the radio station was extremely static, but I could hear the faint tones of Twila Paris singing, “The Joy of the Lord will be my strength”. This divine appointment caused joy tears,  I sang along with her through those tears and my heart began to be encouraged.

The next morning when I woke up, I realized that I had been hearing that song throughout the night. In my sleeping, He was singing over me. “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God.” Psalm 40:3 I was rested and refreshed. I received such a sweet gift of His joy that night. I began to sense the cloud lifting and my head lifted. (Psalm 3:3) He was showing me that He was completing my joy.

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
I will not falter, I will not faint
He is my Shepherd, I am not afraid
The joy of the Lord is my strength

The joy of the Lord will be my strength
He will uphold me all of my days
I am surrounded by mercy and grace
And the joy of the Lord is my strength

clouds-shadowsToday, for a while now actually, I am overcome with anxiety and depression. I have prayed. I have read and re-read my “joy” verses. In Christ, I know I am “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). Yet, my tears flow constant and without warning. My sleeping is fitful and filled with restless wakefulness from dreams I cannot shake. My thoughts rum wild, even when I take them captive. (2 Cor. 10:5) I have pleaded for rest, I pray for my heart to heal, I have repented of sin, but joy does not come. So I, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” – Psalm 27:14

Jesus could have healed Lazarus when he was still alive. God could have kept Joseph out of prison or at least given an early release. He could have given Abraham a son when he was still a young man. But instead He waited. There was a richer gift in the waiting.

He is not blind to my constant tears, that I have leaned into hopelessness. He is making me wait. He wants to build faith and give me greater hope as I wait.He wants to remind me that this world is not my home. He is not fearful that I am hopeless, because He is my hope.“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 So He comforts me tonight, knowing that even my tears and heavyheartedness are His gift to me for this season. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

And I remember, when joy came in the morning.


Photo credits to Ruth Loy

I Remember: Loving Joplin, My Home

art-11In 2000, Clint, Ruth and I moved to Joplin Missouri. It was only supposed to be a temporary 2-year stint while Clint finished his clinical rotation. (And, we only moved here because of our attempt to outsmart his medical schools raffle; we put Joplin as our first choice and Kansas City second. Clint was number 6 in the draw!) I remember coming down to check out the town, how run down it seemed and how the people seemed way to lax for my liking. Pajama pants were worn during the day at Wal-Mart, there was a high “no teeth-to-tattoo” ratio, the run down Main Street held more empty buildings than open. I saw very little culture and not a whole lot of people who looked like me. But, I can stand any adventure for 2 years!

joplin-city-street-signJoplin never felt like my home, in fact I thought of it as my Nineveh. We continually talked about our return to KC someday. However, we were in the middle of the adoption process, and leaving Joplin right now would thwart those plans. So we stayed for Clint’s residency. It would just be “a few more years”. In the spring of 2006, children adopted, and Clint graduating from residency, we jumped at the opportunity to move to Branson Missouri. Our house didn’t sell, but that was O.K. by me, we’d rent it out and try to keep selling it. After 6 years in Joplin, I affectionately called Branson“My Shangri-La”! (Some of you may be puzzled at why a city girl would love Branson, but that is another story!) The kids and I were so happy living in our fun little city, but Clint was miserable. With our house continuing to cost so much and the hospital back in Joplin offering cash incentives to return, Clint brought us back to Joplin kicking and screaming in 2008. Joplin was not my home and I continued to discuss our returning to KC sometime soon. I really wanted friends who looked like me and had my same interest. I wanted to be in a place with culture and art and things to do. I just couldn’t see this in Nineveh Joplin.

By our return to Joplin, the city had done some major revamping of the downtown area. I was thrilled to see new business, clean streets and beautifully restored buildings. We became part of a church that was planting in the heart of downtown. I wanted to be a part of God’s missional work and be a part of helping bring cultural events to the city “where God had exiled” me to for this season. Joplin was not my home, but while I was here for the next “few” years, I would try to seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile“ Jeremiah 29:7a. Joplin was my Nineveh, but in my arrogance, I at least was not going to be a Jonah and refuse to go! I began to serve at Art Walk and work with Joplin’s Downtown Alliance, but with a grumbling heart for being “stuck” here. But God began showing me how much like Jonah I really was! One Sunday we sang “God of This City” (not new) but God used it to reveal some serious sin I had towards this place. God was the God of these people. He loved the people of Joplin and my attitude was just like Jonah’s: displeasure for the things of God’s heart.(vs. 4:1) The mission statement for our church was the “we exist to glorify God through our transformed life, and see a city changed by the power of the gospel.” Was my grumbling life and attitude glorifying the gospel to the people of Joplin? With the prompting of the Holy Spirit that day, I went back to read my Jeremiah 29:7 verse, “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile,” Wait! There was more to that verse…”and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

As parents, we love when our children love the things we love. So, as His child, God wants me to have the same love for the things He loves. He desires for me to find pleasure and passion for the same things He is passionate for! That Sunday I began to pray that God would change my heart for this city. He had asked me in my verse to “PRAY’ on her behalf. As I began to get ready for the first Art walk of that year, I began to pray. I prayed for the artists and the people who would walk though the building. I prayed for the city of Joplin and that God would In the same way, let (my) light shine before others, so that they would see (my) good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

drink7As I was busy rushing around preparing for the evening, filling the food trays and drink carafe’, God wanted to reveal and transform my heart that night for His people for this city. He gave me His eyes that night, through the act of one of the homeless people who came in to the gallery to fill up on the food and drink we set out. A homeless woman walked up to the counter to get a drink. She looked at the beautiful carafe’ then, she wrapped her dirty arms around it began to hug the container of water. I began to get irritated when suddenly, I thought of John 7:37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink”. I held the key to living water (John 4:10) and the power of the gospel, and I was worried about a silly drink container. He was hope to this hopeless woman, and He had me in this place, in the very center of Joplin, Missouri to live a transformed life. God loved these people, who were candidates for His grace, just as much as He loved me. “Those” people who were different from me, who had different life stories and circumstances needed the very hope that He had shown me.

You’re the God of this city
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You are

You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
You are

And greater things are still to be done in this city
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this city

That night, God transformed my heart for Joplin; my home, until He calls me elsewhere.joplEvidenceofgraceheader2

I Remember: He Granted My Petition

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrew 4:16

 I had struggled with my infertility for over 10 year. Like Hannah in First Samuel, I was deeply distressed and wept bitterly for years. There were always several women pregnant at a time at our church, and the joke was “there must be something in the water”! I can tell you there wasn’t, because I could sail a cruise ship with the amount I drank; just in case. It got to the point where friends were afraid to tell me if they were expecting, and it was no secret that I was troubled in my spirit. My desire to have another baby consumed my every waking moment. If children were a blessing from God, then was I being cursed?

churchIn the early 90’s this same church was also hosting many well-known pastors/authors in what we called Abundant Life Meetings, revivals of sorts. As staunch Southern Baptists, we were being stretched in our understanding of God’s word. We were hearing about freedom from habitual sin and strongholds, living out our gifting, freedoms in worship, and that the Holy Spirit wasn’t scary. We were changing our views on outward “rules” for the sake earning favor, to the inner changes of a life lived in Christ. We heard of Christ’s great and glorious love for us, and I started realizing: “God’s not mad at me”. One of the Pastors, Peter Lord, preached the first 15 minutes in a leather biker jacket with a bottle of beer on the podium and a cigarette butt hanging from his lip! (Now, remember, this was before the current craze of the relevant, seeker sensitive junk our churches are falling prey to today.)

One night, before the end of the service, a preacher was challenging us to confidence in our prayers and petitions before a good and loving Father. Before long, the entire room was transformed by what I would call a prompting and filling of the Holy Spirit. Men and women were praying like I’d never witnessed before. Not weird stuff! Genuine prayers pouring out over one another. Petitions for healing and jobs, for forgiveness of hurts and and repentance of sin.

I sat in the middle of the auditorium, taking it all in, when two friends from opposite sides of the room came up to me. Each had been prompted by the Holy Spirit to pray for my infertility. That night Shirley and Tim, boldly and with great confidence prayed that God would open my womb, heal the brokenness and that I would become pregnant. They prayed that my home would someday, very soon, be filled with babies! They didn’t ask in fear of it “not being His will”, they didn’t couch it in niceties, or with any back-up plan. They didn’t settle with low expectations for Him to answer. With the desperation of beloved children, they were pleading with a Father who they trusted for good gifts. They laid their hands on my belly and prayed scriptures over me like John 14:13-14, 1 john 5:14 and Matthew 7:7-11; not in a “name it and claim it sort of way”; but their prayers for healing were faith-filled prayers! Prayers of confidence before the throne of Jehovah Rapha, God the Healer! I felt a warm heat fill my belly that night.God! The creator of all, who upholds the universe, He was listening to the requests on their lips, pleas He already knew, and He was healing my troubled soul.

FullSizeRender-6I didn’t get pregnant for 4 more years. But there was healing that night. Not just the healing of my womb, but healing in my heart and a new trust; God was not punishing me. I had an overwhelming faith that I was going to have another child with the paradox of complete confidence that He was faithful even if I never had another child. I had a supernatural satisfaction in a good, faithful, and loving God because of the prayers of those two friends. I no longer believed the lie that there was something I could do to merit or deserve God to answer my prayer, but any blessing was only His extravagant mercy!

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:13-16

In God’s sovereignty, I believe that He answers prayers for healing, such as mine; Hebrew 2:4. God obviously doesn’t answer every prayer for healing because I have several precious, Godly friends who He has not healed with an open womb. However, healing will bear witness to the gospel.(Acts 14:3) and we should pray earnestly and expectantly. You have an audience with the King of kings, His full attention is devoted to you.

“Oh, that every Christian enterprise were commenced with prayer, continued with prayer, and crowned with prayer! Then might we also, expect to see it crowned with God’s blessing.” C.H. Spurgeon