The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: Encouragement for Today

When We Feel Alone in Our Darkness…

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find and you’d welcome a trickle of inspiration in your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my blog and I’ll send you a splash of encouragement now and then. (You’ll find a subscription box on the top right sidebar on my home page.) Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Of course, my favorite way to connect is the old fashioned way—face to face so I can see your smile.  I’m scheduling speaking engagements for the 2017/2018 school year, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you! (Contact me at if you’d like to explore the possibility of partnering in ministry in the year to come.)

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today talking honest and real about those hard times when we don’t understand what God is doing. If you haven’t read my devotion, feel free to check it out here and bring a tissue, ’cause we may just need to sit down for a good cry together. Also, I hope you’ll grab the free printable I’ve made for you called “Truth in Times of Tears.” (You’ll find it at the end of this post). It’s like a hug from me to you, a little something to buoy your heart when life gets hard.

But before you go, I’d love to tell you what I’ve been learning about finding faith in the dark times…

Her wails beckoned me to her bedside once again.

I’d lost count of the number of times I’d raced up those stairs in the moonlight. And this time, as I trudged to the second floor, I fought the urge to cry myself.

Nighttime was no longer a peaceful pause between dusk and dawn. It was a battlefield bloodied with tears and angst, anger and disappointment. Doubt screams loud when the noise of the day slumps still. And in that dark that settles slow after the sun sets, my youngest one grappled with great big questions.

Is God good?

Does He even care?

And if so, why won’t He answer my  prayers?

Night after night, I felt the ache of her heart in mine, and I wished for answers to quell her seven-year-old angst. But words fall short when discouragement looms long. And even my forty-four-years-of faith couldn’t make sense of the storyline God was scripting at that time.

Our family had put feet to our faith and nothing was turning out as we’d imagined.

We’d trusted and obeyed, listened and surrendered. We’d said yes to God’s dreams and no to our comfortable plans. But our leap of faith had landed us right in the middle of the wilderness rather than on a wild wide of wonder.

And so we’d waited and prayed, inhaled his promises and exhaled hope.

We’d cried out like the desperate father in Mark 9– “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

And we’d all wrestled with our own fledgeling faith in different ways.

The moonlight spilled quiet through my daughter’s bed room windows, and I wiped her stringy hair away from her flushed face.

Her words were a rant and a whimper, seven-year-old sadness and skepticism all blurred into one.


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The “LIKE” that Matters Most

Welcome to the Overflow!  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll linger here where faith is spilled and souls are filled. If you like what you find, feel free to sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or, if you’d rather, we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you face to face. I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017/2018, and I’d be delighted to bring a message of encouragement to a ministry event near you. 

Speaking of encouragement, I’m over at Proverbs 31  today sharing about a life-changing truth once spoken to me through the peanut-butter-laced lips of a four-year-old:  Not only does Jesus love us; but (gasp!) He likes us, too. Keep reading and discover why He delights in little old you and me. And don’t forget to sign up for the give-away at the end of this post. It just might help you to delight in Him, too!

“Mommy, tell me what you were thinking the first time you saw me…” My eight-year-old turns her head to look at me with an expectant smile, already anticipating the answer she knows so well.

This “baby” of mine is no longer a baby; but she still loves to climb on my lap. So, on this evening not so long ago she’s stretched out across me,  her sun-kissed legs tangled in mine as we end our day together in the big leather chair by the window.

The book we’ve reading before bedtime rests on my knees, but tonight, my youngest daughter needs to hear those treasured lines of her own story. Again.

I close my eyes as if a mosaic of her birth is painted on the back of my drooping lids. And I recount the details of that bitter cold January day when this fifth child of mine moved from womb to world.

She already knows every detail of this familiar narrative, but I tell the tale again–The routine 38 week appointment that raised unexpected concerns, the doctor who decided we needed to get the baby out as soon as possible, the flurry that ensued and the fears that rushed in.

I recount how I hurried home to grab my suitcase and tucked her “big brother” in for a nap; how Grandma came to the door so I could slip out and gave me a hug that squeezed those tears from my throat to my eyes.

I remember aloud how I drove back to the hospital all alone and talked to God  every mile of the way.

And how right as those little feet tucked just beneath my stretched-out skin gave a mighty kick, God whispered assurance to my anxious soul.

“What did He say?” she asks, not because she’s curious, but because she loves to hear this part of the story we share.

“He reminded me that He’d already scripted every moment of your birth,” I whisper with a smile. “Every second of your whole life,” I marvel, my voice dropping to a holy hush.  “And He told me that however you came- healthy and whole or broken and sick- you were exactly the gift my heart needed.”

I bend my head a bit to kiss my daughter’s crown of tangled hair and she lifts her chin to look at me.”And then your heart stopped beating so fast, right Mommy?” this girl on my lap asks with pleasure.

“Yep,” I say as I recall once again the supernatural peace that rushed my trembling soul as I pulled my suitcase down that long sterile hallway to the OB ward.

I tell of how her daddy dressed in blue scrubs met me in that hospital room, his strong and gentle confidence buoying mine.

I recount how we prayed before the C-section began, how quiet tears of anticipation baptized my cheeks when we lifted our pleas to Heaven and asked God to guide the surgeon’s hands.

“And then FINALLY, you saw me!” my daughter exclaims.

I remember the moment shrouded in wonder and nod my head with a happy sigh. “Yes,” I tell my giddy girl, “That’s when I knew God’s words were true. You were the gift my heart had always needed.  You were my Magdalene Hope.”

Maggie wraps her slender fingers around mine and presses her chin against my chest. Then she voices the question that sits quiet on her heart. “And did you like me right away…Even though I couldn’t do anything like jump rope or tell you jokes or color you pictures?”

“I liked you the minute we met,” I answer. “And I loved you long before that…”

My girl exhales a satisfied sigh and the woods beyond the window alight with the golden glow of sunset. And as we sit there in silence I marvel that my daughter’s pressing question is simply this– “Did you like me even though…?” 

She’s not surprised by my love, this “baby” of mine. It’s my like that astounds her.

And then I realize that we’re more alike than different.

After all, I rarely doubt my Savior’s love.

He proved it once and for all when He took my place on Calvary’s cross—There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:3)

His love does not surprise me anymore. It’s His like that leaves me speechless.


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Why Motherhood is Like a Never-Ending Game of Limbo

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. If you like what you find, I hope you’ll sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or we can stay connected on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you face to face. I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for 2017/2018. Let me know if you’d like me to speak at a ministry event near you.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m talking about that time years ago when my son gave me dead daises for Mother’s Day. And I’m explaining why those brown blooms were the perfect centerpiece for my table on that special day.  If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to swing over here and check it out. But before you go, let me tell you why I’m shrinking. And why the moms that you know might be shrinking too.

“Mom, I think you’re shrinking,” my firstborn said a few years ago in the middle of our morning rush.

He stood beside me with that infectious grin, the tip of his blonde head occupying the space above mine, and he puffed out his sixteen-year-old chest and held his shoulders tall to prove the truth of his declaration.

I stretched myself up on tiptoe so I could look my son in the eye.

Then, I returned his goading with a playful punch and reminded him that “sometimes the best things come in small packages…”

But what I really wanted to tell that boy of mine is that it’s his fault. ‘Cause I’ve been shrinking ever since the day that tiny pink cross on a pregnancy stick declared his existence.

Before I’d willed him from my womb with pushes and prayers, before I’d held all slippery seven-pounds of him in my arms, before I’d known his name or the sound of his flurrying feet racing across the floor, I began to shrink.

Pregnancy may grow a stomach large, but it’s just the beginning of growing a mama small.

I remember reading and re-reading every page of What to Expect When You’re Expecting before I even heard my baby’s heartbeat.  I underlined diet plans and plotted out exercise regimens; practiced kegels and bid farewell to my firm abs, my bladder of steel, and life without heartburn.

I learned how big my stomach should be measuring each week and how much sleep I should be getting every night. I scanned lists of what to pack in my hospital bag and what to purchase for the nursery. But there was no mention on those highlighted pages of how the me that had always been me would begin to shrink. 

No one told me that pieces of the woman I’d been would quietly disappear, as if that bump growing just beneath my heart was elbowing her out, making space for another life that would forever change mine.

I didn’t know it then, but I was learning the timeless dance of motherhood.

And, in time, I’d discover that this dance isn’t an ephemeral boogie or an occasional bop. It’s more like a perpetual game of limbo, an arduous blend of bending low and stooping steady. A selfless sway that moves with the heartbeat of Heaven.

So, I grew and I shrunk all at the same time, my stomach stretching thin and taut while the woman I once was waned and changed.

I dreamed new dreams.

And learned to pray.

I worried and wished and wondered.

My waistline disappeared and so did my stride. And as I waddled into that ninth month of pregnancy, even the very air I breathed seemed to be shrinking as an unseen tangle of legs and life pressed hard against my ribcage.

My water burst for the first time right there on our ugly plaid couch in the little apartment we called home, and the contractions swept me away on waves of hot pain and cold sweat. I gasped for breath and prayed for strength and wondered how one small life could consume every ounce of me.

I didn’t understand as I panted and pushed that I was giving birth to far more than my first baby. I was  giving birth to his mother as well. 

And  when the doctor placed that warm bundle of wet wrinkles and soft cries in my arms, I assumed that I’d already survived the toughest part of motherhood. After all, I’d lived through labor. But after bearing five children and clocking five thousand sleepless nights, after wiping bottoms and blotting tears, kissing skinned knees and praying over bruised hearts; after surviving potty-training and driver’s training and all the commonplace moments in between; I realize I was wrong.

The past eighteen years of motherhood have taught me what countless generations of mothers have always known–a mother’s labor never ends.

Oh, we can leave the delivery ward and those babies can grow six-feet tall, but they won’t be the only ones growing.

We’ll keep growing large in love and small in pride; tall in truth and short on self-importance.

Because motherhood is a daily invitation to contract in smallness so Jesus can grow bigger within us.

It’s painful. And messy–this life of dying to self and being emptied of entitlement, this life of loving without limits and serving without recognition.

It’s a dance that demands grace and second-chances, patience and prayer.

Motherhood is not the only way God refines us, but it is one of the surest ways…if we are willing to learn this dwindling dance.

Just moments after my firstborn declared that I was shrinking, he cast me a sheepish grin and asked if I could please pack a lunch for him. ‘Cause he was running late, and he still needed to cram for that physics test and find his track shoes and brush his teeth before he left for school. 

I really just wanted to sit down for a moment and take a sip of that coffee I’d brewed at 5 A.M., but I remembered the words I’d read in my Bible at dawn, the ones that had reminded me that my Savior understands what it means to shrink.

“When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.”  (Philippians 2:7).

So I reached for the bread and began to pack a lunch, and that’s when I realized it with fresh awe–Growing up into smallness is a giant challenge, but we’re not left to shrink alone. We have a Savior who understands every step of this diminishing dance, a Savior who has lived the ultimate limbo. 


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Why that Mess of Yours May be the Start of Something Marvelous

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. If you like what you find, I hope you’ll sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or find me on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll stay connected as we chase after Jesus day by day. Better yet, I’d  love to meet you face to face!  I’m scheduling speaking events for 2017-2018 now and would be delighted to head your way. (Feel free to contact me at if you’d like more information).

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m telling a story about a great big mess and a creative little girl with eyes of possibility. If you haven’t read it, you’ll want to swing over here and check it out. But before you go, let me tell you what I learned from another mess right beneath my roof…

I heard the clank of the crash before the sound of her wail reached my ears.

The clamor of sad sobs led right to my daughter’s bedroom door. And when I entered that little yellow room, I found her. Beside the tall white bunk bed, in the center of the floor, my sullen eight-year-old sat in a spray of scattered bricks and pummeled plans.

“This wasn’t supposed to happened,” she howled as she waved her hand over the motley mess of fallen Legos. 

I gazed at the jumbled pieces on the floor and squatted low to put my arm around her sagging shoulders.

“I was almost done building the most amazing castle, Mom,” my girl explained. “I was just adding the very last tower over here-–” she said, her pointer finger hovering over the place where her grand creation had stood. “But when I reached for that pretty  purple Lego, I bumped my jewelry box off the dresser and it fell right on top of my castle and wrecked the whole thing….” She flopped face down on the floor in the middle of the scattered bricks and punctuated her story with a hiccup and a sigh.

Drizzles of disappointment seeped from my young builder’s eyes, and I tried to think of something to say- something wise and maternal. But I too have watched some of my greatest plans topple and fall. And I know all too well the sting of disappointment when my best plans fail. So I just reached for my little one’s hand and held it quietly right there in the middle of the mess.

My daughter held her face in her hands as I lingered at her side and gathered up the toppled pieces of her greatest plan

I sifted through the jumbled pieces of that great castle and plucked out pieces to use again–winsome pink windows and teeny arched doors, blue bricks and purple ones; white bricks and pink.

The sun streamed through the window like a beacon of hope and slowly I began rebuild.

In time, my daughter’s wails waned and she lifted her tousled head to eye my efforts.

I reached for a sky-blue brick and offered her a subtle smile.

Her frown flipped with expectancy and she squared her shoulders with new resolve.

Then she reached across the pile of blocks and gave me a one-armed hug of gratitude. “Mommy, thanks for making something great again,” my girl declared with inarguable confidence.

I stared at the blob of bricks taking shape in the center of that mess and I swallowed a giggle. The configuration between us didn’t look like a fairytale fortress or a charming chalet; it didn’t resemble a spindly-spired palace or a quaint little cottage. It just looked like an ordinary stack of Legos at the moment. But I saw it in her eyes– my daughter believed what she couldn’t yet see.

“How do you know what I’m gonna do?” I asked my girl with a playful wink.

She cocked her head to one side and looked at me like I’d just asked her what color the sky was. “I don’t know what you’re going to do, but if I know you, it’s gonna be great!” she said with a happy shrug of her no-longer sagging shoulders.


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The Best Balm for a Bad Day

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.  Whether you’re an old friend or a new one, feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. If you like what you find, I hope you’ll sign up on the sidebar to receive my blog in your inbox now and then. Or find me on Facebook or Twitter and we’ll stay connected as we chase after Jesus day by day. Better yet, I’d  love to meet you face to face! I’d be happy to speak at a special ministry event near you this year. Contact me at for more information.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m talking about how those faulty and frazzled moments in our day can be one of our greatest gifts.  I hope you’ll hop over to P31’s website and be encouraged. But before you go, I’d love to share the best tonic I know for those no-good-very-bad days.

When my daughter, Hannah, was six-years-old, we lovingly called her “Little Nightingale.”

It wasn’t because she was a winged warbler or kindergarten crooner. It’s because of her self-declared role as playground nurse.

You see, it didn’t take Hannah long to realize that recess can be a bit rough and tough on little kids. Or that a playground filled with racing and chasing hoopla can quickly become a crowded canvas of boo-boos and tears.

So, one afternoon when our sensitive third-born came home from school, she took a little treasure box from her bedroom and filled it with Bandaids and cotton swabs, bandages and tissues. Then she slipped it into her backpack right beside her library books and her lunch box. Hannah carried her “emergency kit” out to recess each day and wandered the dusty playground in search of kindergarten quandaries.

There was the pig-tailed princess who had fallen from the monkey bars and the singing diva who had slipped from the swings. There was the bragging boy who had scabbed his knee on home base and the klutzy kid who had stumbled on the snarled root of the old oak tree.

There were skinned knees and stubbed toes, bloody elbows and bruised bottoms. Tears and pouts and all kinds of tattle tale-ing.  But Hannah never ran out of empathy for her wounded, whining classmates. And when she wrapped up those sad playground tales, she usually ended with this simple summary–

I think he was just having a bad day.

I think she was just  having a bad day.

We heard of Gracie’s scrapes and Johnny’s falls; Samantha’s scabs and Ryan’s bumps. And thanks to a treasure box filled with Bandaids and a little girl’s heart filled with empathy, we heard, too, about the power of kindness and the tonic of mercy.

But then one afternoon, I opened Hannah’s school bag, and I discovered a bright orange shoe box tucked in the pocket where that little treasure box had always been.

“What do you have in there?” I asked Hannah as I waved that heavy shoebox in the air.

“Oh, that’s my new emergency kit,” Hannah replied with a smile and a shrug.

“But why is it so heavy? Are you carrying Band Aids made of steel?” I asked with a playful wink.

My little Nightingale giggled and shook her head at my ludicrous words. “‘That’s just my Bible in there, Mom,” she explained with a shake of her tawny blonde hair. Then she flashed me a toothless grin and held my gaze for a long serious moment. And with old-soul wisdom, she declared, “‘Cause a Band Aid can’t fix everything, ya know

I stood there speechless, soaking in my daughter’s words and nodding in quiet agreement.

Then as Hannah skipped down the hallway to go play Barbies with her sister, I opened that orange box and lifted out the well-worn children’s Bible tucked carefully beneath the bandaids and cotton balls, the bandages and tissues.

I ran my fingers along the cover of that treasured book and watched the bright colors blur through my own haze of grateful tears.


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