Posted by: karanoel | March 7, 2018

Patience in gardening (and life)

When I first planted the bougainvillea plants in my yard, they couldn’t have been more than a foot tall. I tied their wee limbs to the bottom of the wooden arch that gets bathed in sunlight, watered them faithfully and waited for growth that just didn’t seem to happen. I wondered how they could ever make it up the sides of the arbor, no less meet at the top, particularly in the hands of such an unskilled gardener as myself. Even if they did grow, it seemed unlikely that their pace would allow us to enjoy them before leaving our rented house.

My neighbor Ruth, whose half-acre beams with life and beauty, was over in my small garden one day. Her response to my doubts about my bougainvillea’s future was “oh yes, they take a while to get established.” It was such a relief to realize that the slow start was not a failure on my part, but simply the nature of what I planted.

Jump ahead a couple years (we’ve lived here way longer than anticipated) when the first of two small branches met at the top of the arbor. The plants were still mostly leaves with sparse flowers, but it was such a joyous occasion that I grabbed John from inside to witness the miracle. I felt like we could now move from this house because this long-awaited delight had happened. But I am so glad we stuck around a few months longer, because those plants are now so established they’ve gone a bit wild and are covered with brightly colored blossoms that make me smile every single day.


Ever since Ruth made that statement and I’ve watched the truth of it play out, I have wondered about some of the things God has planted in my life and yours. Maybe we have become discouraged by the painfully slow pace of the growth of these dreams. Maybe we feel pressured because of a predetermined time frame or doubtful because we believe they are dependent on some magic touch we lack.

But what I know is that God is a master gardener. He knows the nature of what He’s planted, He knows the beauty that’s going to come from it, and He isn’t worried for a moment that it’s taking too long. So what I’m learning to do is rest in the golden warmth of His love and drink up the water of His word while He works to establish the good and joyful things He has created me for.


Posted by: karanoel | February 22, 2018

We are the clay

Hands on the pottery wheelChase and I bought some clay a few months back. As we kneaded the large lump and attempted to coax it into shapes that at least vaguely resembled ornaments, I couldn’t help thinking of this verse in Isaiah: “We are the clay, and You are our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” Looking at that shapeless blob on the table, it didn’t seem to be the most flattering comparison.

In our culture, which does not admire passivity or deference, it’s hard to reconcile such a seemingly inactive and submissive role as that of clay. We are far more comfortable considering ourselves the potters and our lives the work of our hands. But the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that we are no more able to make something of our lives than a lump of clay can – on its own – rise up from the table and become a sculpture… or an ashtray… or anything at all.

The only thing clay is capable of doing is yielding to pressure or resisting it. While not a prestigious role, it is a crucial one because to what it yields – or, rather, to whom it yields – will determine what it becomes. And so it is with us. While our identity as God’s beloved will always remain secure, what becomes of our life and what we can be used for are determined by whose touch we yield to. Since we’ve established that we can’t shape ourselves, that pretty much leaves us in the hands of God or the world.

Yielding to the world’s touch will look like freedom. (It is the wide gate, after all.) That’s because the prince of this world doesn’t care who we become – no matter how noble – just as long as it isn’t who God purposed us to be. Which makes sense because becoming our true selves requires intimacy with the Father and will naturally express His nature, making it a profound threat to the stability of the enemy’s kingdom.

The world can’t shape us into anything without our willingness, so we must be persuaded. The foundation for this argument usually begins by casting shadows either on God’s goodness and His intentions for us, or on His ability to meet our needs and fulfill our desires. This typically secures at least slight resistance to God’s touch and a readiness to place our trust elsewhere. Since pretty much no one would willingly surrender to satan, the world doesn’t ask us to trust in him. Instead, it presses hard on our tendency to trust in ourselves, making a deeply convincing case that we possess the surest way to happiness, security, significance, acceptance or whatever it is we most crave… and then it illuminates tangible paths to satisfy those needs. We so often yield to these ill-intentioned designs and false promises, comforted by our control; oblivious to the fact that we are being made.

Yielding to God’s hands will often feel more limiting. That’s because he is shaping us into a specific vessel that will best express our heart and His; the one He saw in us long before we were even a formless mound of clay. He’s not concerned that we know what that is supposed look like or how to become it – only that we trust Him, laying down the security of control for the incomparable security of love. Because that is freedom. It looses us from the exhausting burden of striving, comparing and performing and delivers us into rest because all outward measures of success are rendered irrelevant by the wholeness and completeness of our identity as seen by the Master, before He had even made one imprint. 

But it doesn’t end there, because once we are at rest and are no longer resisting, we become soft and pliable in His hands and get to see the reality of His vision as masterpieces of great beauty emerge from raw material…  each exquisitely different from the rest, but all bursting with joy, fulfilling our purpose to the fullest, and bringing glory to the patient, loving, perfect Artist who created us.


The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 133:8

May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose. Psalm 20:4

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves… 2 Corinthians 4:7

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand. Isaiah 64:8

You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? Romans 9:19-21

You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”? Isaiah 29:16

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; only what He sees the Father doing.. John 5:19

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. Matthew 7:13-14

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Posted by: karanoel | January 23, 2018

A greater want

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” John 4:34

Last week, I fasted from food for one whole day.  I’m guessing this isn’t a big deal for most people, some of whom probably even forget to eat. But for someone like me whose body often calls the shots – not just needs but very particular wants – it borders on the miraculous.


My heart had been feeling stirred; like God was doing something in there I couldn’t yet understand. And then it felt pressed – hard – which created an urgency to hear what the something might be and made fasting suddenly seem like a very reasonable response.

With my utter lack of willpower, it was no surprise that my initial effort ended by morning’s first hunger pangs. Shame didn’t follow; just a prayer that went something like “I’m willing God, but if this is going to happen, you’re going to have to do it.” The following day He did. It was really rather shocking. It wasn’t that I wasn’t hungry… I definitely was… but I wanted something more than I wanted food. The Spirit just kind of breathed life into that and it made eating seem pretty insignificant.

My day-long fast ended with a bit of the pressure lifted, some joy in its place and a new understanding of something pretty foundational. The filter I have been looking through is an awareness of my limitations. I want ease, comfort and predictability. I want people to approve of me. I want my life to look a certain way. And I am terribly afraid of even a small amount of suffering (I mean, I consider being tired suffering). These are not traits that would highly recommend me for wholehearted surrender to an untamed God. Or so I thought until my fast.

But then I grasped something. If hunger and a lack of willpower don’t disqualify me from fasting, then wants and fears – even a slew of them – don’t disqualify me from being used in the Kingdom of God. All that is required is a greater Want that dwarfs all the lesser ones and makes them seem kind of insignificant.

That thing pressing in on my heart? I’m starting to think it was that Want; the one that sees how worthy God is and hungers for His love to be expressed through my life. Maybe all those other wants are going to be quieted or rendered irrelevant as the Spirit breathes life on this one.

As for my cowardice? I’ve read enough stories to know there is a cost and that still scares me. But I’m guessing that the same God who became my willpower for a day can become my courage for another.


Posted by: karanoel | January 9, 2018

Chase’s Big Mountain

RocksAt the end of the walking trail by our house are a few large rocks which provide a perfect place for Chase to snack and play before turning around for the second half of our trek. Last week he became particularly curious about the small hill and storm drain that lie just beyond his dusty playground. I offered to explore it with him but to my extremely cautious son it looked like a treacherous cliff that should not be explored – at least not by the likes of him.

At the Top

So I sauntered down myself to have a look around. I could see from the corner of my eye that he was was watching me keenly. The moment I returned, having realized that I didn’t lose my life or even a limb, he asked if he could go down with me. Holding hands firmly, we wandered down to explore the large cement arches, now empty and dry, that channel rain on the rare occasion we get any. He wondered aloud what would happen if he got stuck in one and I couldn’t help but smile at his worst-case-scenario thinking. I told him we would work it out.

When the exploring was done, Chase decided he wanted to climb up by himself and asked with childlike innocence, “Mom, if I fall will you catch me?” It took my breath away to know that he trusts me like that. Satisfied with my assurance, he bravely marched up the hill that only minutes before looked to him like a fierce mountain.

Chase's mountain

It was undeniably magical to explore with my son on this warm California day and see his fear transform into courage, an experience I’ve already tucked away in my happy memories file. But it impacted me beyond that because it gave me such a picture of the way the Lord faces life with me.

He doesn’t roll his eyes or belittle me when the hills or valleys look to me like impassable peaks or perilous depths, nor does He bark at me to man up and march forward. He understands my inexperience and fear, and calls me into courage by showing me the way. There’s not a single path He’s asked me to take that He hasn’t walked first, and there’s not a danger lurking that He isn’t already aware of – and able to overcome.

I’ve never had a greater jolt of confidence in the middle of an overwhelming circumstance than when I realize that He knows the entirety of the situation (not the little sliver of a view that I have) and He is not worried. I repeat: He. is. not. worried. He doesn’t see a hopeless situation. Ever. He sees an adventure; obstacles that we can tackle together. All He is waiting for is my hand in His so he can lead the way.

…because this isn’t just about God’s help to get through the hard places, grow me up or strengthen my muscles so I can climb bigger mountains. This is about relationship. It is magical for my Dad to explore with me! It delights Him to see my desire stoked to step into adventure with Him, and to see my vision transformed from daunting to doable by His presence on my path. I cannot imagine how great His joy is when I run ahead and call out, “Dad, if I fall will you catch me?” The answer, of course, is yes. Always yes. With a twinkle in His eye and deep pride in His heart.

Posted by: karanoel | December 7, 2017

Let it go, let it go

Decorating is not a gift I naturally possess, which frustrates me to no end. Not only do I thoroughly appreciate well-designed spaces, but I also enjoy attempting to create them myself… until I fail and the fun ends, making me feel like the perpetual Salieri with great passion but the inability to express it, while beauty pours effortlessly from the Mozarts around me (you saw Amadeus, right?).

Dino Bedding

Big boy bedding

Chase’s room needed an update since he is now five and it still looked like a nursery. Eventually we will need to swap out some furniture, but for now I thought some older-kid decor would do the trick without breaking the bank. After an enjoyable field trip to TJ Maxx, I took my souvenirs home, hung them on the wall and arranged them on the bookshelf. And then I hung them on a different wall and rearranged the bookshelf. And then I hung them higher on that wall. And so on and so forth until I stuck half the items back in my car to return, decided the partly decorated room was ‘maybe, possibly better than before, but I’m not really sure since I suck at this,’ and called it a day.

When John went into Chase’s room that evening, he immediately asked if we needed all the tchotchkes I’d purchased and wondered how much I’d spent on them. It was a fair question, especially since we’ve ended up with cupboards of unwanted frames and knick knacks when I changed my mind about their desirability. He meant no harm, but in light of my earnest effort in this very sensitive area, it hurt.

Angry frilly lizard

My defensive look

Now, I am a generally a kind, fairly mild person. But when I feel attacked or misunderstood, I turn into a ruthlessly fierce creature defending my territory with bared teeth, growls and a counterattack. Fortunately, on this occasion, the transgression wasn’t deep enough to draw out my very worst. But I did launch into a very defensive monologue about how “I’m just trying to make this rental feel homey” and, “hey, I was trying to save you money by buying decorations instead of furniture” and “you do realize that most everything we used for Chase’s nursery was hand-me-downs, right?” [which, for the record, was because I didn’t want to spend the money on a brand new nursery]

John kindly explained that it was an offhand comment and he didn’t mean anything significant by it. He just didn’t want to spend money on what we wouldn’t use, but apparently it wasn’t really a big deal to him. Clearly it was to me, though, because even after the conversation ended, my mind kept going in circles defending myself and, perhaps, attacking John. I felt so lame that I couldn’t just let it go, and knew the answer wasn’t trying harder to make him understand where I was coming from. The Lord broke through my mental merry-go-round with a gentle, but profound truth: I was stuck because I had taken up an offense.

An offense is technically “a resentment brought about by a perceived insult.” I think it is often (or always?) just a protective reaction to feeling hurt or misunderstood – one that feels very justified and quite logical. It assumes it has assessed the situation rightly, attaches judgments to people or their intentions, draws conclusions about what the experience means and determines how justice should be enacted. None of this actually heals the initial hurt, but rather builds a fortress around it to keep it safe and alive. This is how some people who experienced hurt more than 50 years ago are as emotionally charged when talking about it as if the experience happened yesterday.

God can heal our hurts, rather easily actually, and can draw beauty from even the most painful encounters, but He is a gentleman and will not force His way past the defenses we erect… which is such a lovely thing. But it means it has to be our choice to let the walls down; to trust that He has a better way than our resentment and the control we think it gives us (when in reality it controls us). It takes great humility to be willing to hear a different narrative than the one running through our heads and throbbing in our emotions. And it requires immense vulnerability to entrust God with our raw, tender hearts. But rest assured that any part of us that is exposed to the light of God and His deep care for us will be healed and restored. It is as certain as the law of gravity. It’s no wonder the enemy works so hard to keep the offense alive.

I have so much more to I’d like to say about this, but will instead finish my story. I got unstuck quicker than the blink of an eye. Along with the offense went a whole slew of exhausting things, like my need to manage John’s perceptions of me, to defend my motives and actions, and even to be loved or understood in a particular way. As those walls fell down, my arguments were rendered irrelevant and the most divine silence fell. I was able to open my heart wide open again to this husband I love as God touched the hurt and used the whole experience to transform part of my understanding that I’ve struggled with.

He even gave me another opportunity to practice with someone else I love during the Thanksgiving holiday. Her words (unintentionally) stung deeply, sending my mind into wild defensiveness complete with passionate counterattacks and a determination that she couldn’t be trusted with my heart. Once I remembered the lesson to let go of the offense, my walls came down. Tears flowed freely (though discreetly) through the trailers of Thor as I poured out my exposed pain to the Lord and, I kid you not, my heart was healed by time the movie started… for which I was grateful because it was a terrific movie. The rest of our time together was as sweet as it’s ever been, without a single barrier between us. If that’s not freedom, I don’t know what is.

If this holds true for us, how much greater does it hold true for God who must then hold no offense against us. There is no wall up in His heart towards us, no matter how greatly we wrong Him. I’ve hardly ever known a thought so sweet. Maybe that is what it looks like when the Bible says “love covers a multitude of sins.” They are all buried, never to be found again, in this beautiful expanse of a Heart so much bigger and deeper and wider than we could ever imagine. 

Even if this doesn’t translate to being Mozarts of this world, at least we will know that we can be the most vibrantly free Salieris who ever walked the earth 🙂

Posted by: karanoel | December 4, 2017

A time for every season

Cole Me

As a single mom with Cola Pop

After a short-lived marriage at 19, I was single for a very long time – 15 years to be exact. Raising the son who came out of that marriage while trying to grow up myself took a good deal of effort and since men weren’t exactly knocking down my door, I only went on a handful of dates during those years. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend 15 years longing for someone to share my life with and fervently wondering if a soulmate were even possible for me. But what looked like a very worrisome romantic drought turned out to be a profoundly important break as I learned how to relate to myself and God and the people around me, an utterly necessary foundation for the future marriage that would indeed materialize.

I met John just as I was turning 36. My initial caution gave way to giddiness and a desire to be with this guy all the time. The closer we became, the closer we wanted to be. Not just emotionally, but physically. We felt like middle-aged teenagers with raging hormones and an urgency to get it on. But since God’s heart for us was to first build a spiritual and relational foundation, upon which the physical side could be securely built, we agreed to wait. It was not an easy task, but we managed to make it to that coveted wedding night where we ventured into a whole new area of God-ordained freedom. Let me just say that it’s been a really fun six years!


Sorry if that’s more information about me than you wanted to know :). But as Solomon says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecc 3:1) During both of these times, I had a tendency to fixate on what the season wasn’t about, rather than what it was. Not too long ago, it struck me that if I’d had any idea how fulfilling my physical relationship with John would be on this side of marriage, I wouldn’t have struggled with such impatience while dating. Rather than focusing on that one piece we didn’t have (yet) and grinding it out, I could have embraced more fully the time of building our friendship and getting to know each other, while still joyfully anticipating what was to come. It was the same with my life as a single person. I could have engaged more wholeheartedly if I didn’t feel like life were on hold until a husband appeared… kind of like standing by the window waiting for summer to come when I could have been laughing and playing in the snow with the rest of the kids.

It is so easy to get ahead of ourselves and become overly focused on a goal or desire – or maybe even a promise from God – that hasn’t yet been fulfilled. From marriage or a baby or a house or a job to healing from sickness or freedom from our struggles or answers to our questions, we are all waiting for something. What I am learning to do rather than just try to demonstrate patience and restraint is to seek out what this particular time is about… and then to fully inhabit that space, trusting that He is working to prepare me for the next season with its gifts – and challenges. As wonderful a gift as marriage has been for me, it has also stretched me in ways I honestly don’t think I could have handled if I’d jumped ahead of His timing. If we allow the Lord to accomplish each purpose for each season, we can trust that we will be fully prepared for all that is to come.

Ultimately, this whole life is preparation for our final destination in heaven. Looking back, I’m pretty sure we will realize how much, despite our circumstances, we could have joyfully, restfully, recklessly embraced our brief season of life here in hopeful anticipation of the all-encompassing fulfillment we will experience there.

Posted by: karanoel | November 14, 2017

Love your life or list it?

Hillary&DavidOnce in a while, we watch a show called Love It or List It. Each episode focuses on a married couple who owns a home with significant issues. Half of the couple always thinks these are livable or fixable issues, while the other thinks the only solution is to sell the home and buy another one. A designer named Hillary tries to entice the couple to stay (love it) by addressing the problems with the current home, and a realtor named David tries to entice the couple to move (list it) by hunting down properties that bypass their problems. Each is given a budget by the homeowners, and set off on a problem solving adventure. It ends when, having seen the best Hillary and David have to offer, the couple declares whether they will love their home or list it.

What is truly astonishing to me – and the reason I watch the show – is how someone with vision (and a budget to fund it), like Hillary and her team, can transform a space so completely that it hardly resembles its former self. We’re not just talking about hanging some pictures on a wall and moving furniture around. These people bust down walls, raise rooflines and rearrange rooms to make it function like a good house should, and then fill these renovated spaces with beautiful things to make them feel warm and inviting. I’m not someone with that kind of vision, so it borders on the miraculous to me.

Gutted House.jpg

As with any good story, obstacles arise. Construction begins and deeper problems surface… maybe a faulty foundation, water damage or bad plumbing, which have to be fixed before moving forward with the design plans (because building pretty rooms on top of major problems is utter foolishness). Upon hearing about these setbacks, some homeowners continue to trust in Hillary’s ability to come through, while many nurture a growing doubt that this house will ever become what they need it to be. But, of course, when the results are revealed, which tend to be pretty extraordinary, those doubts are replaced by a dropped jaw and a sense of awe.

My cousin quickly tired of the show because, as she said, “They always choose to stay!” I had to laugh because while it’s not entirely true, they almost always choose to stay. I mean, like 9 out of 10 times. It’s kind of ridiculous.* But when you see “more than you could ask or imagine” become a reality before your very eyes… and you happen to own that stunning reality, it makes sense to me that you would pass on all the other tempting options and hold on tight to what you’ve got.

I get this on a very personal level, having spent much of my life wanting to “list it.” Not my house, mind you, but my life. The issues I had did not seem remotely fixable and my doubt over the possibility of the “house” I inhabited being made stable or functional, never mind beautiful, seemed insurmountable. As with the show, I’ve also had two people along on the journey: God, a designer with vision for even the most dilapidated and dysfunctional house, and the devil, a realtor bent on showing me how much better all the other houses are (as if I could just sell off my life and get another one). Both operate on the simple budget of my trust.

If I’m honest, I was mostly hoping God would just beautify my life – you know, give my circumstances a facelift and put some fresh paint on a few irksome behaviors. There certainly wasn’t enough trust in the budget to do any major kind of work. But, if you’ve had any interactions with this particular Designer, you probably know quite well that He is not some sort of flipper who makes things look nice and leaves the real work undone. He is in the business of a full and complete restoration. He is committed for the long haul and is in no rush to do the work, so long as it is done right.

The work always began when I came to the end of my ability to cope with the exasperating realities of living in my dysfunctional house and recognized the need for change. Of course, at that opportune moment, the devil would direct my focus to everyone else’s houses, which seemed to be lacking my particular problems. When I tried to defend God’s plans for my life, he responded much like David who is always saying, “Yeah, but is Hillary going to give you this [insert awesome feature]?” As I invested my trust in his angle, doubt would come, as would envy and self-pity and maybe some accusations against God for the crappy house He gave me and all the things that He, like Hillary, was going to be unable to accomplish. But that only ever made things worse, leaving me with the same problems and a bad attitude.

So, with nothing to lose, I would give God a little (and I mean a little) trust and freedom to do some work. Time after time, He would take that tiny little budget and do something beautiful with it – always according to His vision and order, not mine – and yet it was undeniably good. Which built enough trust to give Him a bigger budget for the bigger work that needed to be done. I won’t say it wasn’t terrifying as the work got underway or that I didn’t doubt His ability to fix the wretched mess of it all as walls were knocked down and deeper problems were exposed – flawed beliefs in my foundation, creating instability for every square inch of house on top; water damage from the storms in life where the house was not fully covered by truth; faulty wiring and rusted-out plumbing, creating an inability to give or receive light and life. But there seemed no other viable way; just forward.

Thankfully, despite seasons of all-out panic and denial and many appointments with that shady realtor, the good work has continued on and I know with everything in me that I’m being reconstructed on the most solid foundation to last for the duration. Already, I hardly bare a resemblance to my former, broken-down self and yet I know there is so much more transformation to come. Like I said, this Designer won’t quit until everything is strikingly complete.

At this point, I feel like I’m still a stripped-down house, but do you know what? For the first time in my life, I think this house – this life – is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen and the only place I would want to live. So I am choosing not just to tolerate it, but to fully and wholly embrace and inhabit it. Yes, indeed, I am choosing to Love It.


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory…” Ephesians 3:20-21

*I do realize this is TV drama and it’s hard to know what’s real. And, no, I don’t think David is the devil 🙂

Posted by: karanoel | November 2, 2017

A kitchen, a garden and a book

I am absolutely terrible at following directions. Cooking is a prime example. Maybe it’s because I am usually paying attention to more things than my non-multi-tasking brain can handle, like managing text messages, listening to the news or looking at Chase’s newest creation. Or maybe it’s my tendency to skim a recipe, rather than actually read it (apparently all the steps are important and sometimes it even matters which order they go in). And it certainly doesn’t help that I rarely look beyond the list of ingredients before attempting to cook, which often results in unforeseen obstacles, like “marinate meat for at least 4 hours” when my family is hungry now. Lastly, I tend to blow off what doesn’t seem important, often realizing later that there was a reason that particular instruction was included.

When I started my garden a couple years ago, I ran into the same problem. After frequenting local garden shops to a rather obsessive degree, I quickly gathered an abundance of vegetable seedlings to plant and nurture. Each little sprout came with instructions (presumably written by someone with more expertise than myself) that gave me all the information needed to make it thrive or, at least, to keep it from dying. As with recipes, I gave the instructions a quick look-over to get the basic idea and then jumped into the good part – getting things into the ground! Not just a few things, mind you. I wanted to use every square inch of that plot to reap a legit harvest. So, after a brief mental struggle with the spacing part of the instructions, I entirely blew them off. I just couldn’t see how that tiny, little zucchini plant, no bigger than my palm, could possibly require 3 feet of precious space around it. How then could I possibly fit all the other vegetables I wanted to grow? As you may have guessed, that tiny little zucchini plant grew to gargantuan proportions, crowding out all the poor surrounding plants and creating a minor garden meltdown.*


My takeaway is this… We have the freedom to do life willy-nilly like my cooking and gardening, but following instructions from a wiser source will give us a much better chance of getting the outcome we want. The best set of instructions I know of, by the wisest source possible, is in the Bible. I’m not going to say I always follow all of it, because I don’t (clearly this is an issue for me!). Forgiveness is one of the hardest mandates, especially when I have been deeply wronged… and loving my enemy? Well, let’s just say that doesn’t come naturally. Trusting God in all my ways and not leaning on my own understanding is so very counterintuitive that my temptation is usually to disregard it. But what I’m coming to understand – by decades of seeing the results of my way and His way – is that the Creator of life knows far more than we do about how to live it well and can see far beyond our limited vision of a circumstance. Like a seed growing to maturity, the fruit doesn’t always show up overnight and it’s sometimes hard to trust that the instructions are right. But as we continue to follow them, we will find that our lives begin to look like the beautiful feast or fruitful garden that our hearts have been yearning for and have been unable to achieve. I won’t say that it is always easy, but I will say that it is simple. Try it and see!

*My cooking style has yet to improve, but I now garden with a tape measure to get my spacing right!

Posted by: karanoel | October 19, 2017

Because I’m your kid

Our five year old, Chase, is an amazing kid. He is creative and fun, smart and affectionate, and a total and complete character. But he has some other qualities that make him harder to like on some days. His opinions are absolute, his will is made of steel and it seems as though the world will end if life is not lived on his terms. To be honest, there have been times when his tantrums over something like putting on shoes or eating a single kernel of corn have turned into growling, drooling, writhing fits that made me think he might be, I don’t know, possessed.

He has often asked me why I love him when he can be so very bad (self-awareness is another of his better traits). The answer is always the same: “Because you’re my kid.” There are lots of things I love about him and I try to share those with him on a regular basis because it’s wildly delightful to be affirmed. But those aren’t the reasons I love him. If they were, when his best parts weren’t shining brightly, he would always be at risk of losing my love. The real, true reason I love him is because of the unchangeable fact that he is my son.

Before he was even born, my heart stretched to create a space that fits him alone; a very special, very particular spot that will be his and no one else’s, always and forever – no matter what he chooses, how he behaves, what he believes or whether he is able to love me back. I can only hope that reality sinks so deeply into his heart that despite the storms that will come in his life, he can always return to his identity as one who is loved and can live with increasing freedom out of that identity.

That said, I’m human and no matter how good my intentions, am totally imperfect in the way I love. But God, oh my good God, loves with perfect purity and selflessness every moment of every day, with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”* For no other reason than that we are His kids. When He conceived each one of us, His heart was stretched to create a space that no other person on this earth can fill. His love will not wane – no matter what we choose, how we behave, what we believe or whether we are able to love Him back. Because it comes from our unchangeable position as His sons and daughters.

When we start to wrap our understanding around the deep security of that position, we can lay down our striving to become acceptable enough to be loved and instead live out of the identity of one who is loved. It changes everything. There is no end to the freedom, the joy and the beauty that will result. Because kids who know they are loved can’t help but go out and love others.

When I asked Chase this morning if he knows why I love him, he said, “because I’m your kid.” My prayer is that when God asks us that same question, our heart’s reply would not be “because of how we act” but “because of who we are”… kids of our perfect Dad.


*From the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I highly recommend.

Posted by: karanoel | October 3, 2017

Come as you are

justice scalesI’m not one to weigh myself. A number on a scale seems so absolute, taking into account only one of so many variables that equal good health and fitness. And yet, I can be strangely influenced by its power; uplifted when it’s a number I like and disheartened when it’s not – perhaps a throwback to when I misconstrued weight to mean something more than it does. For these reasons, I haven’t felt the need to interact with a scale on a regular basis and certainly not to own one.

That’s not to say I don’t care about the shape or health of my body. I do. I try to eat well, take daily walks and give my body the rest and care it needs to thrive. There are plenty of times when I fail to do these things and eventually feel the result in my flagging energy levels, compromised immune system or very tight pants. Rather than seeing my body as an enemy and becoming a tyrant to it as in years past, I now attempt the more loving approach of figuring out what’s been fueling the wrong choices and partnering with my body to make better ones. There is a real rest and joy evolving from this connected kindness; getting in sync with myself, I guess you’d say.

Last year, after one too many times of showing up at the airport with an overweight suitcase, I bought a scale; a slim silver one that now resides in my bathroom for lack of a better place. I can now pack the big suitcase I use for long trips with confidence that I’m under that 50 pound limit. I had no intention of using it for myself, but I’ve noticed a funny thing. If I’ve suddenly been very virtuous with my eating and exercise, I find myself hopping on to see what I weigh, expecting to be rewarded with a pleasing number. The rest of the time, I pretend it’s not even there. It’s not really a conscious choice, but in the back of my mind, there must be a belief that it’s likely to make me feel bad about myself.

How similar is this to how we often interact with God? When we have behaved particularly well in some area, we jump into his lap for the ‘well-deserved’ affirmation we expect to hear. When we feel like we’ve compromised or straight-up failed to be who we want to be or think we should be, we avoid God like a scale after a week-long binge. We have a belief tucked away that when we approach Him, He will weigh us and find us wanting, which will make us feel bad about ourselves and sink us into condemnation. So we keep our distance – maybe act too busy or distracted or simply pretend He’s not there – until we’ve had a chance to clean ourselves up, get some things right and maybe slim down on our sin. But that’s just a throwback to the old covenant of the law, which could only say whether we had done right or wrong – and judge us accordingly.

But the new covenant of grace says, “Come! Come with your failures and your heartbreak and your disappointments and your suitcases full of sin. Come with your hopes and your fears and your victories and your defeats. Come as you are!”  We won’t be weighed and found wanting because every single time we draw near, God weighs the perfect righteousness of Jesus and says we are enough. As we begin to experience His kindness and cease viewing Him as a threat or enemy, we will find ourselves getting in sync with the heartbeat of Love found through grace. And, bit by bit, we will be transformed into the people we always wanted to become but never could… not just people who behave well, but people who live abundant lives of wholeness and freedom. “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink–even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk–it’s all free!” (Isaiah 55:1 NLT)


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