The Overflow! where souls are filled and faith is spilled

Tag Archives: Encouragement for Today

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.


Read more ...

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.


Read more ...

When Jesus Asks for More

Welcome to all who are stopping by from Proverbs 31 Ministries today. I hope you’ll make yourselves at home. If you like what you find, feel free to subscribe to my monthly posts by signing up on the side bar. Or if you’d rather, we can connect on Facebook or Twitter.  Better yet, I’d love to meet you in person! I’m still scheduling speaking engagements for the upcoming year, so let me know if you’d like me to bring a message of encouragement to an event near you.

Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m sharing about that one small thing that has changed my life in a great big way. It’s a little prayer I learned when I was sixteen years old, and nearly three decades later,  I still pray it every day. Because I’m learning that in order to experience all of Jesus, I need to give Him all of me…

“I think Jesus is asking me for more…” my friend admitted as we lingered over steamy mugs of earth-brown java in the balcony of our small town coffee shop.

Her slender fingers broke her blueberry muffin into bitesized bits and she held my gaze as she fumbled with her food.

Our lives had been twined for years. We’d shared maternity clothes and potty training woes; carpooling schedules and marriage tips. We’d shared bleacher seats and book recommendations, prayer requests and parenting concerns. But just recently we’d begun to share the wee morning hours of our Saturday mornings.

Desperate for sisterhood in a season of diapers and discipline, short nights and long days, we hauled ourselves out of bed in the dark before dawn now and then and shared an hour of coffee and conversation before our children woke.

We were sleep-deprived and weary red-eyed, but we were learning the simple joys of bedhead beauty and yoga pants, unfiltered honesty and unbridled tears. And little by little, we’d  begun to share more than motherhood’s steps; we’d started sharing our strides of faith as well.

“What do you mean?” I asked in response to my friend’s forthright words.

“I don’t know,” my friend hesitated, her lips pursed into a soft pink question mark as she fumbled to explain the burden on her heart. “Lately I’ve been feeling like Jesus doesn’t just want just a part of my life; He wants all of my life.” 

I sipped slowly and pondered her words. And for a moment, I let my mind shuffle back to when I was  a sixteen-year-old girl lying beneath the stars at church camp.

That was the first time I’d been challenged to make Jesus my greatest dream, and the first time I’d had to admit that He wasn’t my defining desire.

I’d given Jesus my heart as a little girl, and I’d fallen in love with His lavish mercy and constant kindness. I’d valued His friendship and treasured His Word. But when the adventure of life had stretched before me like an undiscovered road, I’d wanted to blaze my own trail. I was content to have my Savior to travel beside me, but I wasn’t interested in inviting Him to lead and guide me. I wanted Him to fix me when I was broken, but I didn’t want to follow Him along the broken way.

I wanted all Jesus offered, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to offer Him all of me.

My friend squirmed in her seat and swatted a strand of hair that had slipped from her messy ponytail. “I don’t know if I’m brave enough to give Him all the pieces…”

Her honest declaration dangled over those muffin crumbs between us, and the first rays of morning light slithered through the dusty window beside us.

We peered beyond the smudgy glass and watched the sky alight with the pink-hued promise of a new day. And finally I asked in a raspy whisper, “So what are you afraid of?”

Quiet tears welled in my friend’s eyes; then she exhaled a jagged sigh. “What if I don’t like the life He’s dreamed for me?

The aroma of warm bagels and dark espresso beans wafted through the air, and I reached over those muffin crumbs and wrapped my fingers around my soul sister’s trembling hand.

I knew that flavor of fear. I’d drunk from that deep well of doubt for years.


Read more ...

When You Don’t Want to Miss the Christmas Miracle

Hello!  Welcome to all who are stopping by from Proverbs 31Ministry today. And merry Christmas to my new friends and old!clip_art_illustration_of_a_chair_with_a_flower_pattern_0515-0811-2017-1316_SMU

I’m always honored to share a few minutes with you here at the Overflow! If you like what you find and would like a little inspiration to dribble into your inbox now and then, feel free to subscribe to my monthly posts on the side bar or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter. Over at Encouragement for Today, I’m telling a tale of a naughty toddler, an exasperated mama, and a lesson I learned about Christmas while huddling in a cramped corner.  But before you go, let me tell you about another little girl who helped me recover my waning wonder many Christmases ago…


It happened thirteen years ago in a grocery store in Lincoln, Nebraska, but when I think about that awkward moment in the check out line, I can still feel the red hot embarrassment that rose from my neck to my cheeks. The store was bursting with holiday shoppers and my one-week-from-due-date belly was bursting with our third child. And my three-year-old daughter Lizzy was bursting with excitement as she anticipated the arrival of her new sibling and the thrill of the Christmas season that was unfolding in lights and color all around us.

Maybe it was the giddy gladness of those the tinny Christmas tunes streaming from the speakers overhead or the giant inflatable Santa Clause that had greeted us as we’d hurried through the doors of the grocery store that morning, but for whatever reason, my daughter could not contain her joy on that winter’s day long ago. So, as we in a slow, snaking line waiting for our turn at the check out counter, my curly-haired girl flashed an endearing smile to the gentleman behind us.  She sidled up beside him as if they’d been best friends for ages. Then, with a twinkle in her big blue eyes, she asked the silver-haired senior, “Do you see my mommy’s BIG tummy?”

Right on cue, the poor man’s eyes bolted from the smiling face of my little girl to my bulging midsection. I felt the burn of a rising blush as Lizzy drew nearer to her captive audience. She stood on her tiptoes and craned her neck so she could loudly whisper something in that poor man’s ear.

“You won’t believe what God is GWOWING in there!”  She paused for dramatic effect, batted her long lashes and then fired the punch line with breathy glee:  “I know it looks like a basketball, but it’s weally A MIWACLE!”

The old man feigned a look of shock to satisfy my daughter and then grinned over her bobbing head at my crimson face.  I flashed him a paltry smile and sighed with relief when the cashier gave me the go-ahead to unload my groceries on the moving belt. Of course, I tried to pretend that the cashier was just chuckling to herself because she had a joke running through her head, but the way she kept glancing furtively at my belly, I knew she’d overheard that my little girl’s declaration.

I sighed and wished my own excitement matched my daughter’s ever-growing sense of wonder. Lizzy’s awe had grown with each added inch of my skin-stretched middle. But sadly, as the press of the holidays hovered close and the aches and pains of pregnancy clamored loud, my wonder was waning fast.  And on that day in the grocery store, the miracle beneath my heart felt heavy and cumbersome rather than wistful and wondrous.

Please understand, I was incredibly thankful for the blessing of my third born. I’d hoped and wished and waited for the child in my womb. I’d walked through the treacherous waters of infertility with too many friends not to be keenly aware of the lavish gift I’d been given. But the closer the calendar inched toward the arrival of the baby, the more my eyes were fixed on the must-do’s in front of me instead of on the miracle inside of me. And when my eyes shifted from the baby to the busy-ness, my zeal was zapped.


Read more ...

The Buddy Bench

Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. If you’re an old friend or a new one, I hope you’ll find that this is a place where faith is spilled and souls are filled.

If you like what you find, feel free to sign up on the sidebar to receive The Overflow in your inbox, and enjoy a splash of encouragement now and then. Or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter if you’d prefer.

Today, I’m over at Encouragement for Today talking about friendship and mud puddles and the powerful gift of presence. And if you keep reading, I’ll tell you about the “Buddy Bench” on my daughter’s playground, because I think we all could learn a few lessons from this simple wooden seat…


“What’d you do at recess today?” I asked my seven-year-old, Maggie, as we lingered with ice cream cones on the back deck at the end of a hot September school day.

My daughter paused and then cocked her head in thought as if the school day were already an ancient memory.  She lifted her ice cream cone to her mouth and scooped a melty lick of chocolate sweetness with her slender pink tongue; then she closed her eyes as if the answer to my question might be painted across the back of her eyelids.

Brown drizzles slithered from her lips to her chin, and suddenly my girl’s eyes popped open with a burst of recollection. “Oh, now I remember….I played a game on the monkey bars,” Maggie exclaimed.

She bit into what was left of her ice cream cone and gave me a knowing nod. “And I kept an eye on the buddy bench, of course,” she added with a toothless smile.

While it’s no rousing ride like the bumpy slides or a childhood staple like the chain-link swings, the buddy bench is my favorite part of the playground at my daughter’s elementary school.

A painted wooden seat planted beneath the canopy of a sprawling tree, the buddy bench, is the place where children go when they need a friend.

It’s a sanctuary for the sad, a pew for the lonely, and a refuge for the hurting.

That humble little bench is a silent summons to be seen instead of overlooked, fortified instead of forgotten, loved instead of lonely.  

When a child can’t find a friend, she sits on the buddy bench.

When a child has been left-out or left-behind, he sits on the buddy bench.

When a child just needs a helping hand, a listening ear, a willing companion, she sits on the buddy bench.

And according to my watchful daughter, nobody sits alone on that buddy bench for long. After all, in the words of a pretty smart second-grader, “Anyone can be a friend.”


Read more ...