Living In Thanksgiving

In a cabin on the edge of the Smoky Mountains, she sits together at a table with her parents and children. In her eyes are strength and beauty, but behind them there is brokenness and despair…

Do you know someone who is broken this Thanksgiving? Join me at 5 Minutes for Faith. Click HERE to read the rest of my devotion.

Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours!


Be Careful Who You Trust

Plates were scraped from left over bites of turkey and dressing. The women chattered in the kitchen, giggling over secret mom stories.

The kids spilled out of the house into the crisp air. I wore a jacket and followed my older brother Jay and cousin Johnny around the side of the house. Earlier we had raked leaves and taken flying leaps into the piles.

I trailed close behind the boys not wanting to miss out on anything. I remember twirling and wandering around the yard, while Jay and Johnny climbed tree limbs and piled rocks. Before I knew it they had created a homemade seesaw – at least that’s what it looked like to me.

“Carol,” they called. “Do you want to do something fun?”

When you are the youngest and the older kids ask if you want to have fun, you are so thrilled they want to do something with you, your answer is always yes. They could have said, “Carol, do you want to skin a chicken?” And I would have jumped at the chance.

They may as well have asked me to skin a chicken. It would have been safer. They had piled bricks and centered an old wooden board across the top to make their “seesaw.”

“You stand on this end and Johnny is going to jump on the other end,” my brother explained. “It’ll be just like flying.”

Only it wasn’t just like flying. It was flying.

Eager to join the fun, I stood my six-year-old self on the end of the board and waited as Johnny climbed a tree limb and dropped off on the other end.

One, two three – JUMP!

My body went flying high in the air. That first second was pure exhilaration. I was flying. The next second was sad realization. What goes up must come down.

As fast as I went up, I came down – and crashed into the ground.

Thankfully, I didn’t break anything. But I did go running inside to tattle.

Sometimes when we put our trust in people and things, we find ourselves flying, but soon have a quick and painful landing. When we put our hope in the Lord, it’s like building our house upon the rock.

The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. Matthew 7:25-27 NIV

Moral of the story: Trust in God. And when your older brother and cousin ask if you want to have some fun? Run!

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*Photo credit


Just Keep Swimming

Did I ever tell you about the time I was almost a lifeguard?

I was seventeen and applied to be a counselor for Campfire Boys and Girls. They accepted me, but also asked if I would be willing to be the camp lifeguard. I grew up swimming a lot but was really unsure if I was capable of saving someone and shared my concerns.

“Just try it,” they told me and gave me specifications about where to show up for an all-day Saturday training.

So there I was the following Saturday in my swimsuit and flip-flops with a towel slung over my shoulder. (Just in case you are trying to visualize the story, may I remind you this was a pre-three-babies much trimmer version of me?)

The first indication I was out of my element was when everyone pulled off their t-shirts and Umbro shorts, and I was the only one in a swimsuit from TJ Maxx. Every other person there was wearing a Speedo brand suit from his or her swim team.

They started doing secret swimmer stretches while I stood on the side rubbing one foot on the other secretly pulling my suit from my rear.

We started the day with 20 laps; the first 10 were to be breaststroke and the rest freestyle. I jumped in the water and eyeballed the Speedo in the lane next to me to figure out what breaststroke looked like.

Every other lane in the pool was operating in fast forward, but someone had placed my lane in slow motion. It must have been, because I was working and stroking, but my body wasn’t propelling.

As I was on my 15th lap, the other swimmers started jumping out. They were already done. Two others were still in the pool, so I pressed on. Before I could return to the side for lap 16, the last two hopped out. So I did the only thing any respectable girl who was out of her element could do – I reached for the side and hollered, “Twenty” with a huge sigh. The sigh was real, the twenty not so much.

I pulled myself from the pool and fought the urge to vomit. We moved to the deep end and listened to our next test. We were to retrieve a 10 lb. weight from the bottom and hold it over our head while we tread water.

Miraculously, I heard the instructions over the loud wheezing sound coming from my mouth. I allowed others to go first, giving me a chance to catch my breath. I completed this task on the second try.

The next test was swimming the length of the pool without coming up for air. I’m pretty sure the pool was 3 miles long. At least that’s what it felt like. Many of the super swim-teamers had to try this multiple times before succeeding. On my third try I was huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, but by the grace of God I did it.

I drug myself from the water and fought the urge to throw up. I spent the entire morning in agony and was thoroughly convinced guarding someone’s life was not in my future.

“I just don’t think I can do this. I’m about to die,” I told the trainer.

He looked shocked and said, “But you are doing such a good job. You are good at this. We are going to watch a film now. Are you sure?”

I was sure the minute after I arrived. I wanted to shout that I cheated on the laps and my lungs were about to explode. I wanted to ask if he was crazy. But I was so out of breath all I could manage was, “I’m sure.”

Wrapped in my towel I walked out into the warmth of the sun. I couldn’t wait to eat my lunch. Swimming works up an appetite, and it had to be almost lunchtime if not slightly past it.

I collapsed in the seat of my car, cranked it and stared at the clock in disbelief. Tapping it didn’t change the time either.

9:28 a.m.

9:28 a.m.?? 9:28 a.m.!!! What seemed like an entire lifetime was only one hour and 28 minutes.

I ended up being the songs and games counselor that summer, but I’ll never forget the longest hour and 28 minutes of my life.

I’ll leave the lifeguarding to the swim team. And to God.

Guard my life and rescue me; do not let me be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. Psalm 25:20 NIV

Have you even taken the lifeguard test? Have you ever experienced a time that drug on forever? How has it changed the way you view things?

*Photo credit


When the Puzzle Doesn’t Fit

“Hmmm,” my little girl mused as she stared at a picture of Big Bird and wondered where her piece of the puzzle would fit.

I watched from a short distance away as my three-year-old daughter pushed and smacked the pieces of her puzzle. She had just graduated from the wooden ones, where each piece has a separate place, to the puzzles whose pieces work together to create a picture.

The longer she slid that one piece around on the table looking for its spot, the more frustrated she became. Finally, after selecting where she thought it went, she began the work of fitting the shapes together. She pushed and grunted, until finally she screamed…

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Don’t Be Afraid. Just Believe.

He was desperate.

Yet in that despair came a glimmer of hope. He’d heard stories of the one they called Teacher. He’d never seen any of the miracles, but there was talk of him healing the sick and even raising the dead.

So with a modicum of faith, Jairus went in search of Jesus to help his daughter. When Jairus found him, the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanied synagogue leaders such as himself, crumbled as he fell at Jesus’ feet. In despair he cried, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (Mark 5:23 NIV)

So Jesus went.

The Bible states it simply. Christ didn’t ask questions. He didn’t give instructions for the disciples to pass out tracts while he ran on his miracle errand. He just went.

Jairus must have been thrilled. I imagine him trying to move briskly in the direction of his home suppressing the urge to break into a sprint. But there were all those people. I would have run, shoving men and women as I went. Shove now, apologize later. There was a life at stake after all.

Then this woman showed up – hoping for a miracle of her own. The embarrassment over her “unclean” condition was perhaps what motivated her to touch Jesus in secret. She probably thought, I’ll keep my head covered and just touch his clothes. He is so powerful, even the fibers woven to adorn his body will be enough. No doubt, she intended on slipping out of the crowd as soon as she was healed, but Jesus was aware of her presence.

He knew that power had gone out from his body. (v. 30)

“Who touched me?” Christ asked, wanting to look upon the face of the woman with such faith.

Let’s freeze that moment and talk a minute about those around Jesus and what they were thinking. We know the disciples were thinking their Lord was loco (crazy). The Bible doesn’t tell us their tone, but one can only imagine.

After Jesus’ question, their response was, “You see people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31) I can almost see the sarcasm dripping from the words.

What I want to know is what is Jairus doing? This man is desperate for his daughter to be healed and is afraid she is going to die. If it were me, I might have been silent on the outside, but I’d be screaming on the inside, “Let’s go! Okay, okay. She’s healed already – besides the fact she totally jumped in the ‘I need a miracle’ line. Let’s go!” I bet he worked up a little dirt cloud, tapping his impatient sandal.

Back to the situation at hand.

In terror, the woman came forward and collapsed at Jesus feet. The same feet Jairus gazed upon mere minutes before. Her story came spilling forth, and instead of criticizing her, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

But before Jesus can even finish speaking these words, some men from Jairus’ house approached Jairus with the nightmare he had been trying to avoid. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Can you imagine the agony? He succeeded in getting Jesus to come only to have his daughter die before they could arrive. Once again, the Bible is silent on Jairus’ response, but we can infer from Jesus’ next words that Jairus was upset.

“Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (v. 36)

Can I share with you the words that struck me? “Ignoring what they said…”

How many times have you heard the worst? Perhaps the doctors have given no hope. Maybe your family laughed when you shared your dream. You thought you heard the voice of God, but now you are not so sure.

Take Jesus’ advice – ignore what they said. Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

Sometimes in order to achieve the impossible, we have to disregard the obstacles. When God is in it, all things are possible.

You see, Jesus went on to Jairus’ house, telling the people there the girl was asleep. And guess what the people did? They didn’t fall down and worship. They didn’t even run in her room and place a mirror under her nose. Instead, “they laughed at him.” (v. 40)

But Jesus went into her room and brought the child back to life. She got up and had a fruit snack. (Just a guess. Dried figs would qualify as a fruit snack, right?)

So today I ask what impossible task are you facing? Perhaps you need to ignore the discouraging words and the laughs.

Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.


*photo credit