An Orphan Boy, A Pregnant Girl, and Teenage Rebellion: What’s the Connection?

Today my children and I finished a book about a boy who is orphaned twice, once as an infant and again when his family dies in the plague that hit London in 1665. As DCFS was non-existent at the time, this eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy is left to fend for himself. He is dejected and downtrodden, believing his life is worthless. The boy meets up with a man willing to help him out “temporarily.” This man is a wanderer who doesn’t necessarily care if he makes enough money today in order to eat tomorrow. And while he is a huge asset to the boy, the boy’s picture of himself remains one of bleakness.

Last week, I read a non-fiction book in which the author, a girl, fakes a pregnancy for her senior year project. This girl’s mom became pregnant at the age of fourteen, had seven children, and, later, birthed the book’s author out of wedlock. Most, if not all, of the author’s seven older siblings had children before their senior years in high school. The author’s project centered on the thoughts and feelings of teen moms as well as stereotypes and expectations. She believes a person’s image of him/herself and subsequent behavior is highly affected by others’ expectations and actions toward him/her. Even though the author had vowed to stay celibate through high school and was in the top 5% of her class, she heard comments like, “I knew it. It runs in the family,” when she announced her (fake) pregnancy.[1]

During Don’s sermon on Sunday, he held a Styrofoam cup in one hand and a crystal wine glass in the other.[2]  One is disposable, the other precious. Some people see themselves as the throw-away cup—useless, unnecessary. God sees them as the crystal wine glass—valuable, beneficial . . . priceless.

Yesterday I began reading a book called Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion against Low Expectations. The authors believe teenagers have underperformed for years because that is what society expects. They are calling for teens to rise above these expectations and excel—to push themselves beyond what comes easy, to take responsibility, come out of their comfort zones, and rise to their potential.[3]

How we see ourselves is paramount in determining the choices we make. Too many times we allow others’ beliefs about us to affect our choices. We tend to rise or sink to the level of expectations of those around us, forgetting that the truest things about us are what God says.[4]

And what about that eleven-and-a-half-year-old boy? He stumbles upon a mapmaker willing to teach him. In the process, the mapmaker sees in the boy the qualities and artistic skills necessary for making maps. At the end of the book this Master gives the boy a home and tells him, “To me you are of great consequence—an heir for my treasure. Not sacks of gold. I speak of the treasure in my head, my eye, my fingers. . . . You are the gift of God, an empty cup sent to me to pour my treasure into . . .”[5]

And so, you are of great consequence—you are the gift of God, an empty cup (crystal wine glass) sent for His treasure to be poured into. Do hard things—things that can only be done by the power of the Holy Spirit backed by the belief that you are valuable. Along the road, encourage others to rise above the status quo and display God’s wondrous power.

Ephesians 2.10


[1] The Pregnancy Project by Gaby Rodriguez with Jenna Glatzer

[2] For a link to Don Winters’ sermon Physical & Spiritual Blindness, click here.

[3] Do Hard Things by Alex & Brett Harris

[4] See Ephesians 1

[5] Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw

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Something Similar to National Lampoon’s Vacation

beach at night

My beloved husband booked a short getaway for us recently. We needed to be in the St. Louis area Sunday evening, so he purchased tickets out of St. Louis Monday morning traveling to Cancun. I gloated (more than once—CANCUN! baby) about leaving behind the foot of snow and all my responsibilities and basking in the sun and gorging myself at the all-inclusive hotel we were bound for.

What Went Wrong:

Monday morning the flight attendant was late due to weather (freezing rain), so our flight took off late.

When we arrived in Chicago there was a plane at our gate, so we had to wait on the runway. We missed our connection to Cancun by ten minutes.

We were added to the stand-by list for three flights but none of them had room for us. (Yes, flights were flying in and out even though Chicago got 8 inches of snow that day.)

We paid for lunch (pizza), supper (pizza), and a hotel room in Chicago while also paying for our all-Inclusive room in Cancun. (I ate leftover pizza for breakfast.)

I chipped a tooth Monday night.

Tuesday morning our flight out of Chicago was delayed because computers were down.

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

Don at the airport . . . pretending to be on the beach

When we arrived in Cancun we were told our suitcase was still in Chicago.

We hailed a taxi and drove 35 minutes to our luxury all-inclusive hotel only to be told our room had been given away and the place was booked. (I had called our booking agency Monday but had not been clued in to the fact that the hotel needed contacted to hold our room.)

The “sister” hotel they sent us to was 25 minutes away.

When we arrived at the new hotel, the lone restaurant open served pizza. (See my previous three meals.)

Our sunscreen was in our suitcase. We paid $35 for a tube at the hotel.

Unbeknownst to me, the red flags on the beach meant the waves were dangerous. The pull was so strong Don had to help me back to shore.

When our suitcase arrived at our hotel (Wednesday at 5 p.m.) it was missing a wheel.

On the way home (Thursday), our connection out of Houston was delayed because of severe storms and the drive from St. Louis was difficult because of high winds.

What Went Right:

The children enjoyed time with their grandmother.

A terrific friend encouraged me during our very long delay in Chicago.

I packed our swimsuits, flip flops, hats & sunglasses in the carry-on bag.

The “new” hotel staff and most of the (numerous) airline employees we spoke with were friendly and helpful.

I took a kindle loaded with books which meant I could read on the beach without my glasses (big font) and no worries of ruining a paperback book.

We eventually received our suitcase. (Don’t laugh – I still have a full suitcase that has been floating around out there since 2006.)

We spent 43 glorious hours at an all-inclusive resort with breath-taking views and enormous amounts of food.

cancun sunset  cancun sunrise

The weather in Cancun was perfect.

The food was yummy. (Yes, I eventually got something besides pizza.)

All of our problems were minor and inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.

No one was injured or in an accident.

I spent five days alone with my husband.

don and barb in cancun

We both maintained positive attitudes (mostly) and a proper perspective. (We know people living in countries without clean drinking water.) We also got along well and worked together to troubleshoot problems and help each other during the stressful times.

God blessed us with the means to take a luxury vacation (plus some unexpected extras).

Don and I recognized all along that these were first world problems.

Lessons Learned:

Pack the 3-1-1 items (including sunscreen) even though it is an extra step through security.

Don’t wear embroidered jeans through TSA security screenings. They set the alarms off every time.

Joy is found in the little things.

Cultivating and maintaining a relationship with our loved ones is more important than having a perfect vacation.

God is magnificent. I was awestruck by the beauty of the ocean, sun, moon, beach, flowers, trees, etc.

God is in the business of refining. He uses grandiose landscapes AND minor irritations to purify us.

God is in control.

I am grateful for God’s attention to detail and desire to maintain a close relationship with His children. After our last flight, Don overheard one of the pilots telling another airline employee that something on one of the wings was broken and hadn’t been working during our flight. Wow! That puts it all into proper perspective.

cancun beach

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

Loss and Sympathetic Grief

A friend of mine tragically lost her four-year-old niece a few days ago. When I first learned of the calamity, my heart sunk, grief rose, and tears flowed. No four-year-old should die.

I have never met the parents of this precious child, but as I processed the information and my emotions started to surge, I thought, “I wish there were some way I could transfer some of this young mother’s anguish to myself, to siphon some of the heartache.” If only hearing of the death of this beautiful girl moves me so profoundly, how extensive is the pain and sorrow of her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles?

full of grief

Yes, I wish pain, grief, and sorrow could be measured like we measure water. And when it was on the brink of overflowing, it could be poured into someone else; thereby reducing the amount of distress felt by the original sufferer.

pouring water

I desperately want to help and at the same time recognize there is not a thing I can do (physically) to ease the discomfort, the agony.

Pain and grief are a part of life. No one can walk through it for someone else. That leaves those of us watching at a loss, feeling inadequate and ill-equipped (which probably explains why I skip out on most funeral services).

I believe God created me with an “extra-sensitive” feelings button. I easily “rejoice with those who rejoice” and “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). But the mourning feels unproductive and “less than.” If I had a measuring cup that magically reduced the hurting person’s misery by the amount of pain I feel for him/her, I could bear it easier.

shared grielf

But while I own no magic measuring cup, I know of One who can bear the pain—One who has borne the pain. Jesus is a “Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:12).

My sympathetic grief need not be fruitless because I have access to the One with the answers. I have a direct line to the One who heals. I can throw myself at the throne of grace and ask for mercy to be poured out on the victim of grief. I can ask God to be the Vessel in which they pour their aches and pain. I can hope God’s healing will eventually come. I can rest in the promise that His complete healing will eventually come to those in Christ.

This is my prayer for this young couple and family still reeling in shock.

This is my prayer for those of you suffering from loss or unbearable pain.

Magnify the Lord

This post was written by my beloved husband, Don Winters. He inspires his congregation each week through his Midweek Connection. This one spoke to me, and I hope it inspires you.

“O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3

The magnifying lens in a telescope does not change a planet in any way. The lens only makes the planet clearer and larger than how you previously saw it. As God’s people, we are called to magnify the Lord. Our worship and our very lives should bring clarity and enlarge people’s picture of God.

When the world looks through the lens of our lives, what do they see?  What do they think God is concerned about? What breaks His heart? What is worth fighting for?

We need Christians that magnify God rather than self. Does this mean we need to be perfect? No! We need to be authentic, humble, and repentant. This type of person magnifies a transforming God who is full of grace and mercy. The world actually needs us to return to the Gospel.

Does your life give people a clearer and bigger picture of God to those around you?

Snowflakes

Snowflakes

Triggers, Visions, and A Solid Foundation

A trigger.

The memories came whizzing at me without restraint. Past episodes that hadn’t been brought to the forefront of my mind in months, possibly years, were suddenly vivid and fresh, as if they had happened yesterday.   It’s not a matter of forgiveness; that’s been extended. It’s not a matter of lingering over hurts; the wounds are healed with only scars left behind.

But there are triggers.

And I couldn’t halt the memories that crashed into my present time without permission.

It still confuses me how one can believe her world is stable, built on truth, and that she lives in reality when, in fact, it’s all an illusion—whether created by herself or someone around her. And when the fallacy fades and reality is revealed, the firm ground she thought she was standing on disappears.

I saw myself back then. I envisioned the floor caving underneath of me and falling through the hole while all around me—that which I thought was concrete but in actuality feeble and weak—faded, slowly dissipating into thin air. And the drop was long and took a while. Yet in the end it was God who caught me and carried me until I could stand again—this time on a more solid foundation.

Woman Falling

And I wondered what that drop would look like today if my world again turned out to be an illusion. This time I imagined a short drop, causing only a slight tremor, as I live closer to the solid foundation. The drop would be relatively quick and without much damage. I chuckled at the thought of coming to an abrupt stop as my knees bent to absorb the shock—like jumping out of a window a foot off the ground.

Woman Falling

And I am thankful . . . oh so very thankful my Rock, my Foundation, my Lifeline is not that far away.

Has your world caved underneath you?

Are you far from your Foundation?

God’s Joy Found

There are days the pressure of life feels heavy—more so than normal. On one such day last week, I sought solace in the breathtaking beauty of His sunset.

More and more I find myself turning to God’s wondrous nature to uplift me. I bask in His unending brilliance and marvelous miracles seen in the touch of His hand.

In the comments below, share how you seek God’s peace and joy in the midst of life’s whirlwind.

Psalm 65:5-13

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior,

psalm 65.6
the hope of all the ends of the earth and the farthest seas,

psalm 65.10
who formed the mountains by your power,
having armed yourself with strength,

ocean waves
who stilled the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
and the turmoil of the nations.
Those living far away fear your wonders ;

sunset on lake
where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy.

fall foilage
You care for the land and water it;

fall foilage
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.

psalm 65.9
You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers

corn stalks
and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.

birds
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;

sunset on lake
they shout for joy and sing.

A Good Friend is Dying

sunset
A good friend is dying;
My heart cries inside.
My good friend is dying;
I can’t say good-bye.

I should pick up the phone;
I can’t seem to call.
Memories come to me;
I remember it all.

The advice, the love,
The hugs galore.
She watched my baby;
She swept my floor.

She picked me up
When I was down.
She held me and prayed;
Her advice was sound.

She told me of God;
She pointed to truth.
Her faith is solid;
Even under her roof.

My husband does death;
He’s good at his job.
My husband does death;
He won’t break and sob.

But I sit in my home
Contemplating my friend.
Knowing she’ll be better,
I don’t want it to end.

She left an example;
She passed on her beliefs.
Her life will keep living;
Through her disciples—like me.

I rejoice with the Lord;
I rejoice with my Savior.
He’ll soon receive a saint,
One who has found favor.

Thank you for my friend.
Thank you for my mentor.
When I recall her life,
I’m reminded . . .
You’re the Center.