Love Fiercely and Difficult Conversations

Love Fiercely and Difficult Conversations

While I have been absent from this site for several years, I have not stopped writing. Five years ago, we discovered one of our children was involved with pornography. Out of respect for his privacy, I did not talk about this issue publicly. However, I have written about it in a pen name. Recently, my son gave me permission to write in my given name. I invite you to head over to my most recent website, Difficult Conversations: a hopeful mom on her teenage son’s freedom from porn. Please pass the word about this resource, as it’s an epidemic in our society—one that needs talked about. If you know of a parent with a child struggling with porn, please give them a link to the site. As a mother who has been there, I would have been grateful to know a site like this existed.

The following is an article I published on Difficult Conversations. While some of it is geared toward parents dealing with a child battling porn, it’s a universal message. It could be your child battles an ongoing illness or learning disability. Whatever the issue or trial, we could all use a reminder to love unconditionally.

A mom died. A mom of a 19-year-old girl. A mom who was unable to communicate for six weeks because of a coma brought on by COVID. A mom whose body just could not recover. And now a daughter left without a mother.

My heart aches for a motherless girl, barely raised. And I wonder about the last interaction. Was it full of flurry and panic as mom called an ambulance and left in a whirlwind? Or was she quietly dropped at the hospital assuming she would be home soon? Was she lucid enough to tell her daughter about the love that overflowed for her? Did she know they would be the last spoken words? That time was not on her side? Did she give enough, say enough, do enough . . . so her daughter would know the deep love a mother has for her daughter? Did she love fiercely? . . . Or will her daughter always wonder? What will her daughter remember? What will that lingering memory be?

And I wonder . . . Do my children know the deep love I have for them? I mean, do they fully comprehend, grasp, and appreciate my love? Do they get it? That they are accepted and respected and admired . . . by me? Do I love fiercely? Today, as my heart aches for a child, a barely-grown child, I want to gather my children, the ones scattered across these United States, into my arms and hold them tight. I want to look them in the eyes and say, “I love you from the bottom of my heart. More than you can fathom. Nothing you say or do can change that.” And I want them to believe it.

Memories for a Lifetime

We talk about death in our home. The running joke is that mom wants to die by being hit by a semi-truck. Quick and painless. And I tell them to celebrate. I’m not afraid to die. Jesus awaits. But leaving children, not quite grown children, motherless . . . now, that would be tragic. So, I’m not ready.

And, I wonder . . . if today were the day . . . the day the Lord saw fit to take me home . . .  what would be the lingering memory for my children? What would have been the last interaction? One of anger and condemnation? Or one of love and hope? And if those last words were unpleasant, have I done enough over the years to communicate the love, respect, and admiration I have for them? Will they know I loved fiercely?

This battle with porn is long and difficult. At times, it’s trying and exhausting. In the beginning, as we struggled to understand our son’s issue, my temperament rose and fell. There were days I wanted to scream and yell. There were days I did scream and yell. I was impatient and irritable. For the first few years of our battle with porn, there were days when my nerves were on edge and I could barely hold my tongue. The atmosphere was tense. The exchanges were short. My words were curt. My body language showed disappointment and disapproval.  I wanted to take my son by the shoulders and say, “Just stop it.” And what if tragedy had hit? What if, at that time, he had been left motherless? Would he have known that even though I was brokenhearted and depressed over his struggle, I still loved him fiercely? I hope so.

Offer Hope

Parents, I know our children’s behavior causes deep grief and disappointment. I know we can be fixated on the ongoing battle our child has ahead of them. The constantness can be overwhelming. And it shows in our body language and verbiage. Our children see it in our eyes. I’m not downplaying the seriousness of this struggle; but, I am encouraging you to offer hope and communicate love to your child in the midst of it. Find your hope, encouragement, and strength elsewhere, so you can, in turn, show it to your child. Pray. Seek help. Talk with a friend. Learn from others who have been where you are. Then love fiercely.

In the middle of the trial, use words and tell your child how much you love them. Don’t let the daily in-your-face moments cloud the bigger picture. While you and your child endure the battle with porn, find a trait you admire about them and tell them you admire it. Notice an area of their lives you respect and communicate it to them. Do activities you enjoy together. Tell them, “I hope you comprehend how much I love you, admire you, and respect you.” Let them know that, even if your last exchange with them is a poor one, if you get hit by a semi-truck while driving home from the grocery store tomorrow, they can live the rest of their lives knowing without a shadow of a doubt that your love for them was real. It was immense. You loved fiercely.

I have loved you with an everlasting love.

Encircling My People

Encircling My People


I feel like a lioness rounding up her cubs after an attack, encircling them physically (by treading a path around & around) and spiritually (by calling out their names one-by-one to the Lord on high).


photo from Pinterest by Design You Trust

We live in a broken world, and as I age (50 this year!) it’s becoming more and more evident. The enemy is alive and well. (But so is Jesus!) I recently read this phrase in Acts, “There was a plot afoot among the Gentiles and Jews . . . ” (Acts 14:5 NIV). Sounds like the beginning of a Sherlock Holmes book. “There was a plot afoot . . . ” I kind of chuckled and had to read it again. But the truth is, there is a plot afoot. Our enemy is making plans to destroy us and our testimony. And he will use whatever means possible. Our marriages. Our families. Our health. Our relationships. Our finances. Our addictions. The list is endless.

My mama antennae are up — not just for my biological (and adopted) children, but for my spiritual children as well. I am encircling my people – the ladies I have come to love and will defend. I am thinking of the ladies in our small church family, but there are others. The ones I’ve laughed with and cried with. Celebrated and mourned alongside. I am saying to the enemy, “These are my people–God’s people. You can’t have them.” I am praying fervently to God on their behalf. I am believing and trusting in His faithfulness and promises.

The enemy is trying to crush us as a church, as families, as witnesses. But we have the power. We have hope. We have the One who defeats. So this is my heart-cry: Let’s ban together. Let’s love each other and pray for each other. Let’s be there for each other because we need each other. Let’s be on our knees asking God on high to redeem and heal and forgive. To love and penetrate our hearts. Because we know Who wins and we have hope.

” . . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)

Follow Jesus First

Follow Jesus First

kaboompics_Woman in a grey sweater taking notes in an organizer-02

I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d share something quick . This is one day’s thoughts while reading through the book of Luke.

The Pharisees asked Jesus why He and His disciples were picking grain and eating it on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Luke 6:5). Not the other way around (my two cents). In other words, we shouldn’t allow the law to rule us — it’s Jesus who rules. We shouldn’t follow laws so much as follow the Person of Jesus Christ. It’s not the law itself that’s god — It’s Jesus who is our God. Now, I’m a rule-follower so this gets hard for me. But when we follow Him, we won’t do what’s against His nature/character because He won’t lead us astray. Observing the Sabbath (day of rest) isn’t intended as a burden, but a blessing–rest for our well-being. When we make it difficult or burdensome,as the Pharisees did, it’s out of the bounds of God’s intentions. Let’s keep first things first. Follow Jesus first. Obey His laws because you love Jesus and are following Him.

We Were Made for Communion

My family departed–only to be gone for a few hours; yet, my heart sank, already feeling the loss. My attachment is real. Our last two children still at home interact with us in a personal, intimate way. The four of us, Don, me and the kids, are tight-knit. Our bond is unique and strong. I am amazed that these teenagers desire to spend time with me–to share life with their parents. And I am grateful.


My screensaver while Don, Kenneth & Melinda were in Houston for eight days.

We were made for communion.

I think that’s why I felt their loss–why I wanted to cry when they left and the house was quiet. Even though the noisiness of everyday life can grate on my nerves, I missed their presence. Even though we may not say three words to each other in an hour’s time, I missed their company. I missed their smiles and antics; I even missed their pouts and complaints.

Communion is defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.” (Google) This describes my relationship with my husband and children. This should also describe my relationship with the Creator of the Universe.


Never a dull moment with these two.

We were made for communion. Communion with those around us, but, more importantly, with the One within us. My bond with Jesus is also unique and strong. My heart should sink when I feel the separation between God and myself–when I allow our relationship to wither and weaken. I should invite His presence into my space, if only for whispering comments and calming effects as I go about my day. I should look forward to intimate times of prayer and conversation. I should miss Him when I’ve pushed Him away.


We were made for communion. Find someone to interact with today. Open your Bible, get on your knees, and commune with the One who made us for communion.

A Tribute to Friends, Silver and Gold


My “silver” friends. Love the bond we’ve formed already.

As a child I was shy and insecure. I didn’t make friends easily, as you have to look someone in the eye to befriend her. The friendships I did manage to form were the on-again, off-again type. (Can I just say girls can be mean? And I wasn’t always on the receiving end. I knew how to dish it out.) The difficulty in maintaining friendships was intensified by the fact that my family moved across country twice between my eighth grade year and my sophomore year in high school.

high school friends

High School Graduation


The moving didn’t cease. Since high school, I have lived in six different towns, moving, on average, every five years. Some would think this lifestyle makes it more difficult to make friends. While that was true of me growing up, as I’ve matured, it’s had the opposite effect. I am friendlier and more determined to find friends.


My “gold” friends.

On my recent visit to IL, I re-connected with many of the friends I left last summer. I felt so blessed to be loved on by these precious ladies. On the flight home, I thought of the new friendships I’ve forged. I started reflecting on the groups of friends I’ve belonged to over the years–how attached I get, how difficult it is to leave. It reminded me of the Girl Scout saying:

Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver,

the other is gold.

My attitude toward moving has changed. I used to be so emotionally devastated to leave the comforts of what I knew, I took a “don’t look back” approach, choosing not to stay in touch with those left behind. Additionally, my insecure-self knew I didn’t do friendships well, and I was sure I would be quickly forgotten. Now I seek new friends, overturning every rock, looking for them like the gems they are, not forsaking those established relationships. Now I cherish each friend I have – one is silver, the other is gold.


More “gold” friends.

So here’s to friends!

They fill us up. They cheer us on. They teach us.

They encourage and admonish. They give us strength to face the day.

They laugh with us, and cry with us–on occasion at the same time.

They rejoice in our triumphs and mourn our losses.

They pray for us on a good day.

They pray for us when we have lost our hope and have no words.

They know our strengths and weaknesses, our strong points and flaws, our courage and our fears–and yet love us.

They hug us hello and hold our hand when we hurt.

Without friends, our marriages would suffer and our sanity would flee.

Friends are a gift from the Lord. Cultivate and nurture your friendships, old and new.

One is silver, the other is gold.

In the comments section, tell me what you love about your friends.


It’s barely visible. It sits off the road a bit in a neighbor’s yard. But that’s not why Don had missed it time and time again. No, Don had missed it each time we rounded the block on our walk because it was camouflaged. But this time he noticed. “Look, there’s a swing in there.”

“Yes,” I replied. Underneath and in between the overflow of foliage sat a swing.

I imagine the original owner sitting there in the cool of the evening with his wife, rocking their cares away. Instead of the traffic we now hear zipping by, they hear the cicadas and woodpeckers and other animals rustling about. They watch the sunset, whispering about their day, holding hands underneath a beautiful arch of greenery and blooming, fragrant flowers.


But now the home is vacant and the swing is overrun. It’s not functional. It cannot be used for its intended purpose. No one can sit and swing. There are obstructions, barriers. Because of the neglect of the owner, the plant life has taken over. The vines have intertwined with each other and the structure in such a manner that the swing is engulfed and unusable. It needs an overhaul. It needs someone to care enough to clear away the obstacles, to snip and chop and carry off the excess plant life.

If we aren’t careful, our lives can be overrun. We may allow something that was once beautiful to take over.  If we don’t keep things in their rightful place, trimming and maintaining, they may overrun us to the point of unusefulness.  We won’t function as we were intended. We must allow the Gardener access to the areas of our lives that may need reduced or shaped.

When we allow things around us to enhance us, to help and not hinder, we will thrive. We will be used by God and glorify Him.

What things, be they materialistic or abstract, are threatening to overrun your life?

Will you go to the Gardener and allow Him to trim it back?

Mary Was My Age

free image cross_jesus_wood

Last night we saw a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was seen through the eyes of several witnesses. One of those witnesses was Mary, Jesus’ mother. The actress, playing the part of Mary, stated she was “old.” Now I know old is a relative term, but it didn’t sit well with me. So I started doing the math.

Tradition states in Biblical times a Jewish girl could be betrothed as young as age 10 or 12. We do not know how old Mary was during her engagement to Joseph, pregnancy, and the birth of Jesus; but, based on common knowledge of the culture at the time, we could guess somewhere between 10 and 16.  What we do know is Jesus was crucified when he was 33. So I added 14 (possible age of Mary at Jesus’ birth) and 33 (Jesus’ age at time of death) and got 47. 47! That’s my age! (That’s NOT old!) But that’s not my point.

When I started thinking of that blessed mother as someone my age, something clicked. There was Mary at the foot of the cross watching her son die. My heart sunk. For Mary, He wasn’t only (as if Jesus could be described as “only” anything) the Messiah; He was the baby she had nursed and the child she had raised.

What if that were my son on the cross? The pain would be excruciating.

I wonder if Mary clung to the hope she had that Sunday was coming. That Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection was the hope for the world. That all Gabriel and Jesus had told her would come to pass.

As I walk through trials and hurts of life, I cling to the hope I have.

It may be Friday . . . but Sunday’s a comin’!

Merry Christmas, from Florida


Don, Barb, Kenneth & Melinda Winters with Samuel and his fiance, Ashley

We miss God’s beauty in snow on the ground (a little) . . . but are basking in the 80 degree weather.

We’ve added one (Samuel) and lost one (JT) . . . but there are still five of us journeying together.

We miss our old jobs and co-workers . . . but are thankful for new jobs and those helping us through.

We miss celebrating Christ’s birth with our friends . . . but are meeting and making new.

We are reading our advent book in a different house . . . but it’s the same candles and the same story.

We will spend Christmas Eve outside with a different group of people . . . but it’s still for God’s glory.

We will spend Christmas Day with different family members . . . but it’s still the same celebration.

Some things change, but Christ never will . . . yesterday, today, and in tomorrow’s expectations.

Merry Christmas from the Winters Family



Don bought me flowers. More pointedly, he purchased two hibiscus shrubs, each displaying one beautiful flower. New house. New yard. New plants. We loaded them into the van and drove them home.

We waited a day to transplant them, taking time to contemplate the perfect spot. Within those 24 hours, the ninety-degree heat took its toll and each lost its flower, its prettiness, its initial attraction. By the time we shoveled a hole and buried the roots, they were thirsty. So we watered; and watered some more.

We still water.


As we water, I watch as many of the lower leaves turn from a deep green to yellowish-green to yellow. Every time I walk outside I pluck a newly-turned yellow leaf from the foliage hoping to stimulate and strengthen the plant, hoping to see new growth, new blooms.

I was told transplanting is hard on plants (it’s called transplant shock), but with proper care (trimming, watering, patience) they should bounce back and flourish again.

I am a transplant–most recently uprooted from IL and implanted in FL. As the transfer affected my new plants, so has the upheaval affected me. It seems my flowers have fallen off and my leaves are yellowing. My roots are searching for new ground to grasp. I am thirsty.

There is an appropriate time to prune and pluck and re-evaluate oneself–a time to go back to the Creator and ask to be cared for. This is my time. I’m on my knees. I’m in the Word. I’m worshiping. I’m listening. I’m waiting. My roots are long and healthy and I have plenty of deep green leaves, so I know I will eventually bounce back and flourish again.


Maybe the sight of a big, bright yellow flower on my hibiscus shrub will inspire a small bud in my life.

Bread Crumbs and New Beginnings

bread crumbs

God began tugging at our hearts, individually and then, over time, jointly. We didn’t know where specifically He was leading, but we started to pay attention and follow the trail of crumbs He laid down for us. Books like True Religion: Taking Pieces of Heaven to Places of Hell on Earth by Palmer Chinchen and Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker brought us to our knees. We felt as if we hadn’t completely understood God’s directive to reach out to the brokenhearted. We weren’t connecting with the unchurched like we should.

I knew the stirring was leading up to something big. I read Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker and began purging my house of extra items in preparation of something, not knowing what.

On we followed, crumb after crumb, wondering and anticipating with excitement where the trail would lead. We asked questions, we perked our ears, we focused our eyes. We explored various new avenues of ministry. God led on, crumb by crumb. We narrowed our search, discarding anything not lining up with our thoughts and beliefs. And the phrase that kept surfacing out of discussions and books was “church plant.” He plopped church planting authors’ books in our laps. He put people in our path that were pursuing a church plant. Just as God had used people who had adopted, were adopting, and wanted to adopt to tell us to adopt, the topic of church planting came up so often we couldn’t ignore it. So we pursued it . . . bread crumbs.

And one day before the end goal had solidified (it was still quite fluid and abstract), I came face to face with my sinful nature of desiring comfort and stability. I came to the passage in Luke where Jesus asks some men to follow Him. Each had an excuse. Each excuse I had.

While Jesus had “no place to lay his head,” I had the comfort of a nice home with a newly remodeled (did I say beautifully remodeled?) bathroom & kitchen. And similar to the man who wanted to “bury his father,” I wanted to continue living within three hours of my mother so I could take care of her should she need me. But the hardest obstacle to hurdle was the last. The final man asked to “go back and say goodbye to his family.” And the weight of reality sunk deep. I did not want to say goodbye to the “family” I would leave behind: my 20-year-old son. His decision was clear. He would not go. He would stay back to finish his degree.

I wrestled with these excuses, these obstacles, these real-life issues. I knew I could not pursue God and continue to hold on to these securities. “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” (Luke 9:62) So I let go. I wrote in my journal that day, “I know God is asking me to lay it all down for Him and His glory because of Him, because of His kingdom, for His children . . . in recognition that it is not about me. He cannot increase if I do not decrease.”

So we are going. Our bread crumb trail leads to Wildwood, FL . . . and a new church aptly named Hope Community Church. On August 1, four Winters family members and one new college graduate, Samuel Cutshall, will begin the process of planting. We have been warned it won’t be easy. But we are confident we are pursuing God’s plan.

I invite you to check out the church website HERE and like our facebook page HERE. I also ask that you pray for us as we transition and consider contributing a special gift or monthly gift toward the start-up of this ministry. If you would like more information, let me know.