What Are You Afraid Of?

She saunters out of her bedroom and it’s nearly 9 PM. She mumbles down the hall, her lowest low voice, still high and sweet as a song bird. The pony tail I twisted atop her head hours before now droops down at the nape of her neck and she whispers quiet:

Something’s waking me up.

You’re waking you up, I think to myself, say out loud. I’m certain she hasn’t fallen asleep yet, but she wants me to bring her back to her room and she wants a fresh diaper and she asks me to sing her a song: Can you sing me a song about me?

This girl who’s a mess of long strands that curl at the ends, this girl who ties strings around our hearts, she’s three years old. And sometimes there’s something, just something, that keeps her from trusting it’s okay to let go, and go to sleep.




I was standing at the sink scrubbing one scuffed old pan with wearing edges a few weeks ago when the eldest came into the kitchen with a statement that grabbed my heart’s attention: “Mama, I need to go to the bathroom.” (That wasn’t the startling part.) “And I need to tell you something.” (That was.)

I’m all ears and eyes as I lift his seven-year-old frame onto the counter, hoping to catch a good, deep glimpse into his eyes to see what his heart really wants to say. “You know that movie we watched last week?”

I nod, certain he’s speaking about a PG animated film he saw at the theater.

“It had some scary parts and I don’t want to go to sleep because I’m afraid I’ll have nightmares and my dreams are so real.”

Tears begin to stream from his eyes, and then mine, and my husband and I offer comfort, encouragement, hugs, compassion. Hero Hubs reiterates two words again and again: “You’re safe.”

He saunters slowly back to bed and I silently pray that he’ll sleep with heavenly peace.

There’s something these kids are telling me, on the edge of my heart and the tip of my tongue, and I’m trying to put my finger on it.

There are always dark places we are afraid of.

There are always reasons we would rather just ask someone to hold us like a baby and stay near a little longer.

Maybe it takes a lot of bravery to admit what we’re really afraid of.

And why did Jesus say Perfect love casts out fear?

Is it knowing we’re loved that solves the problem?

I wonder, if in the grand scheme of things the Father doesn’t look down and wish He could just “fix” the problems — but He knows better. Knows what we need and what we want are different things.


I can’t make the bad dreams go away, but I can tell the kid I love him and I’m here for him.

No one can make the fear of what people think, the fear of messing up, the fear that everyone is really just tolerating your presence, the fear that you don’t measure up… all those unspoken deep whispers in the dark that say “you are less than enough” … no one can make them magically disappear.

The Name of Jesus is incredibly powerful, but it’s not a lucky charm from a cereal box.

The message isn’t “Come to Me and I will fix it all better for you” — it’s “Come to Me because I’ll be with you in it — I already came for you, I am still coming for you, and I will come for you again.”

It’s “In this world, you will have tribulation but be of good cheer… I’ve overcome the world.”

I recently said yes to something I was afraid of doing. I thought it would be hard. I thought it would take up lots of time, lots of effort, and it could even not work out at all. Flop.

But I remembered: it’s not really about things all working out, life being easy, things going smoothly, never putting your hand to anything that might fail.

It’s about saying “You’re my Lord, and if You want me to do it, I’ll do it.” 

Those are the words that brought me to villages in Mexico where I tasted Jesus like never before. Those are the words that brought me to orphanages in Zambia — to places where I got to see poverty, and at the same time, true wealth. Those are the words that carried me over the ocean where I met the man, not just of my dreams, but also of my destiny.

And perhaps it’s knowing the Father’s love — being so sure of that love — that’s the thing that casts out the fear. That speaks brave to the heart: You can because He is…

You CAN because He IS.


YOU can because HE is.

What are you afraid of? Do you believe in a God that’s bigger? A God that doesn’t promise it’ll all be perfect, but does promise He’ll always be there?

The greatest moments I’ve lived so far started with me saying yes to God saying come.

But every time I walked on water, I first had to get out of the boat.


To Smile at the Good, and To Smile at the Bad

While enjoying new and different books with my children these first few years as a parent, I’ve rediscovered lots of favorite books from my childhood. One lovely rediscovery I enjoyed from the Bear’s kindergarten year at homeschool was Madeline.

Ludwig Bemelmans’ simple, rhyming narrative is wonderfully engaging, and his matching illustrations, which guide you through the streets of Paris are so charming:

In two straight lines
they broke their bread
and brushed their teeth
and went to bed.

They smiled at the good
and frowned at the bad
and sometimes they were very sad.

In the book, the twelve little girls who walk in those two straight lines smile at a nobleman caring for his horse, frown at a thief running off with a purse and are very sad at the sight of a wounded soldier walking on crutches in the snow.

Over the past few weeks, it seems like memories of a dozen different experiences in my life have come to mind, and I (mostly) smile at them now, seeing how good they were for my life, my soul, my walk with the Lord.

But at the time? There was a lot more frowning.



When I finished my Masters’ degree and my first job was at a Pawn Shop, or when Hero Hubs and I were in our first year ministering in a new country together, and life was hard, and we felt isolated, and it was totally unclear how we were going to make it financially… I can furrow my brow just remembering what it felt like. Frown.

No one has the ability to completely step outside themselves and see their situation from an un-invested point of view, but once each challenging season has finished, and I’ve had a chance to regroup, perhaps heal a little and catch my breath, I’ve had the privilege of beginning to recognize a few of the incredible things that the Lord was doing in my life during that hard time.

A friend of mine lost her grandmother last week, and as she shared about how she was feeling and I talked with her about that long and strange journey called grief, the opportunity to remember and think about my own grief in losing my Dad arose. While I still frown at the thought of losing him, I can also smile in thinking about how near the Lord was to me in that brokenhearted season. He gave me so many gifts, as I heard important words I needed to hear from complete strangers at the hospital, or received smiles from my four-month-old baby girl who was a fountain of joy in a season of sorrow.

While none of us knows for sure what lies ahead on the path of our lives, if there is a lesson I could permanently seal on my heart (and perhaps yours?) from watching this pattern over the years, I’d remind myself of this truth:

For the Lord God is a sun and shield;
the Lord will give grace and glory.
No good thing will He withhold 
from those who walk uprightly. {Ps. 84:11}

Even though our walks with God may not be perfect, because we are covered in the upright walk of Christ, we can trust that God is a sun — giving us light — and a shield — giving us protection. He breathes grace and glory into every situation we will ever face.

And the things that we would initially want to frown at — a job that will teach us a lifetime of lessons, including humility, or a season that will teach us to trust Him — are actually good reasons to smile. He knows that the difficult seasons produce beautiful fruit in our souls — and, how beautiful!,  He does not want to withhold those good things from us.

So here’s the challenge in all this, for both your heart and mine: the next time we receive some bad news, what if we just tried to smile at the bad? And to breathe words of faith through those teeth that we’re gently bringing together — God, you don’t withhold good things from Your children. You breathe life, You give grace and You make hard places glorious. I trust You, right here.

Lord, help us all to see, in our lives, Your glory.



For Erin and for Sydney

How to Choose a No Good, Very Bad Day

Have you ever had one of those days where the cares of the world (or really your small section of them) were so heavy on your shoulders, you were practically laying flat on the floor trying to carry them? I had one yesterday.

The day started off with me bringing a few things that were concerning me to Jesus, asking Him to be present in situations that concern our family, things we cannot control. My heart was heavy with worry and concern, but I did my best to lay it down.

By 8:15 am, I’d picked it up again. And, as the day progressed, I — unaware of what I was doing — had three or four other concerns that I also allowed to weigh me down. I’d been sick with a cold and had barely a whisper of a voice with which to manage the children. I had a babysitter back out and had to scramble to find a sitter for a commitment the next night.  One family member with health issues was constantly in my thoughts. I ran out of cloth diaper detergent and refused to put three children in the car to go and fetch some.

It was turning into a terrible horrible-no-good-very-bad-day.

I was aware that I was feeling low and moving slow. And I pretty much did the opposite of what I should’ve done: I just wallowed in it.

Boys at the Beach

{There was indeed a trip to South Africa that I’ve told you nothing about so far… and I promise to share some photos and stories from it with you. But you don’t have to be at the beach to have a happy day!}

Fear has this funny way of sneaking in a side door. Often, we don’t even realize that fear is at the root of an issue or situation that we’re discouraged about, meanwhile, it’s busy building all sorts of traps and snares in our hearts and minds, meant to keep us fearing instead of trusting.

And fear can be terribly paralyzing. If we don’t allow it to draw us closer to Jesus, you can be sure it will be quick to pull us away, and we will struggle to make our way out of it.

I moved slowly and laid lowly throughout the day, and just sort of chalked it up to “having a lot on my mind” and “feeling a little under the weather,” but truthfully, I was making a conscious decision to allow fear to have its way, instead of choosing to hope, to trust, to have faith.

When we choose to cling to a care or concern in our lives, we are often choosing not to bring it to the God who can remind us of Who He is, how sovereign He is, and how much He loves us.

I’d written Psalm 16:11 in my journal that morning, and (obviously) promptly forgotten it:

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

If I had chosen to turn back to the presence of Jesus, to share my cares and concerns and allow Him to rescue me from fear, I would’ve found joy in His presence. And for the believer, the joy of the Lord is a strength like no other.

Proverbs 17:22 says “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

I chose to sit, sapped of strength, because I chose not to go back to the source of joy: Jesus.

This morning, as I reflected on why yesterday was lousy and what I could have done differently, I read Romans 8:5-6 and had an Aha! moment of enlightenment:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Why did I feel a little like warmed up death yesterday? Basically, because I allowed all the cares of this world to be the place where my mind dwelled pretty much the. entire. day.

When we set our minds on the hope that we have in Jesus and the truth that this world is just a shadow of what’s to come, we can find life and peace. 

Is there anything God can’t handle? Anything He can’t walk you through? Absolutely not!

We can trust Him and we should trust Him.

So don’t be a ninnymuggins like me and exchange the joyous gift of today for a pile of cares and concerns that won’t change just because you’re worrying about them.

Find life and peace in God’s presence, and let today be an unexpectedly wonderful gift.


The Christmas Story: Oh Night, Divine

Hi guys and gals! As we count down the days to Christmas, I’m looking forward to writing about The Christmas Story. Not “A Christmas Story” with Ralphie in the bunny pajamas, although I love that movie, but The Christmas Story, the coming of the long-awaited Messiah nearly two thousand years ago. 

But first, I need to ask your forgiveness for my delay in picking a winner for the {Minted} Giveaway! We were traveling back from Thanksgiving in Atlanta and it totally fell off my radar! So, powered by Rafflecopter and Random.org, here is the randomly-selected winner of $50 at Minted:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Congratulations, Debbie!!! I’ll be emailing you the details so you can head over to Minted and enjoy choosing something from their beautiful collection!

And a big thank you to all who entered! I hope you enjoyed checking out the unique stuff on Minted’s site and please keep dropping by, I think we’ll have another giveaway soon! Now on to The Christmas Story…


It’s funny that the stories of each of my small people’s births start in the night, or perhaps, more specifically, the early wee hours of the morning when it’s still dark. The Bear’s marathon labor all began with my water breaking very early one morning, and the Belle’s sprinting arrival jumpstarted with contractions around three or four AM.

Most especially our darling Tank was a late night arrival — and we were so grateful. The empty streets at 2 am were what allowed us to rush to the hospital, and what made it possible for me to give birth in the hospital instead of in the car on the way to the hospital, which seemed like it was going to be the case.

It was strange to consider: while the world around us was sleeping, this big event had taken place. Our friends and family would wake up to hear the news: the six-days-overdue little Tiger of ours, or the Bear who arrived exactly on his due date, or the Belle who definitely took her time and then made haste, each finally made their lovely appearance.

Luke’s account of the Birth of Jesus tells us that He made a similar appearance, that while they were in for the census, “the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”

Next, “there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” And to them, the angels appeared, declaring the Good News of the arrival of the Messiah, the Lord.

It is worth stopping to wonder — why was Jesus born at night? Why not during the day where more people might’ve been awake to hear the news or see the angels?

Perhaps it was partly for His own protection — knowing there was a King waiting to find this very child and put an end to the beginning of the change of history forever. The less people who knew about the Christ’s arrival — in this fragile, early stage — the better.

Perhaps it was protective for Mary and Joseph as well — the animals in the stall serving as the only witnesses to this miracle-made-flesh.

I wonder if it wasn’t also for you, and for me, too.


Jesus was born at night and it’s easy to notice the symbolism. The stage was set on one dark and Holy Night for the Light of the World to arrive into a world of darkness. A world that deeply and desperately needed a Savior.

Many of us would say these are dark days — we fear the decisions of our governments, we see children starving halfway around the world or around the corner, we watch the news of how 10,000 people can lose their lives in a single day, due to a single Super-Storm crashing onto their shores.

But those days were dark, too. The people of Israel waited, desperate for a Messiah to deliver them from political oppression. On the throne sat a king willing to wipe out a giant mass of baby boys in order to secure his place of power.

The Light of the World didn’t just arrive into the literal darkness of night. He also appeared on the scene of a dark night of the collective souls of the people He would deliver.

And the truth is right there: He didn’t just set the stage for the greatest life ever lived. He set a pattern for how He first operated, and how He continues to operate.

Jesus arrives in the dark night of the soul. He arrives in the dark places where we see no hope, we see no way out.

He brings His powerful presence into the situation. And though we might not at first perceive that He has arrived, or that He is at work, yet things have absolutely changed forever — already.

He arrived, with Presence, as I sat on the floor of a hotel room on one of the darkest nights of my soul — knowing that, short of a miracle, the loss of my Dad was imminent. His Presence didn’t immediately change the reality of the situation, 2,000 years ago or seven months ago.

But His arrival was a sign of Hope that brought great Peace. Like a voice declaring:

Behold — deliverance is at hand. Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices.

Something spectacular is taking place.

Perhaps that first arrival is also an important foreshadowing of the second: one glorious day, He will come again. On that occasion there will be no mistaking Who is making an appearance. And everything will be set right for all eternity.

But for now, let’s not miss the meaning of that great Light, arriving in the darkness.

Remember, dear ones, when you are in the midst of a dark night of the soul, when you’re in a dark place, the stage is set for His arrival. Turn your gaze ever so slightly — like a shepherd looking up at the sky at night — and I trust you’ll get a sense of the One who can bring Peace into every situation, the One who is always with us.

The One the named God With Us.

He was with us, in the dark, long ago, and — glory, glory, absolutely Hallelujah — He still is.



Day 19: The Voice(s)

Hello there! This post is part of a 31-Day writing adventure I’m now halfway through! Woop woop!  I’d love for you to meet up ’round here and read along. You can find the introduction to the series, and a “Table of Contents” as each day goes live, right here. Thanks so much for dropping in!

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This morning I woke up to the sound of some unpleasant voices. None of them were speaking out loud — it was all an unpleasant cacophony swirling around inside my brain.

You see, yesterday, perhaps sometime mid-morning, this cheeky little itch of a sore throat started and I immediately began preparing for the worst, thinking I’ll be practically knocked out with this unpleasant sickness for a week or two, with only enough energy to barely make it through each day, getting the minimal amount of work done around the house.

By last night the cheeky little itch was a full-blown OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW sore throat with a runny nose quickly joining the party. The Tank began coughing suddenly, and fervently, and the Hubs had a full-blown OWWWWW sore throat, too. {The Bear never seems to struggle with the colds the rest of the family gets!}

It was an okay night at the Collie house, with a couple of sleep interruptions but nothing major, but when I woke up this morning, feeling poorly and knowing the Hubs would be away shooting a wedding today, the voices set in, ready to begin whispering discouragement to my every attempt at even getting out of bed.

Here goes another rough day. Hope you can get through it.

Mark’s not going to be here and I have a sick kid to deal with.

You’re trying to do more than you’re capable of. You’re going to have to back off of something.

I wonder how long this sickness will last this time?

Needless to say, I didn’t really want to get out of bed.

Yesterday, I mentioned the fact that the sheep know their shepherd’s voice, and we, the sheep of the Good Shepherd, will know His voice by spending time in His presence.


And all of those sentences listed up there? They don’t sound anything like His voice. Some of them have surely come from my own soul in its discouraged state, and others are straight from the pit, where the enemy of my soul (and yours) prowls about like a roaring lion, hoping to devour the destiny God has planned for you.

What does the Voice of the Lord say instead?

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze. {Isaiah 43:2}

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. {John 16:33}

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. {Hebrews 12:1-3}

What does all this mean?

First, the Shepherd doesn’t promise the absence of adversity. Bumps on the track are likely. But the Shepherd does promise His presence in the midst of adversity. Second, we don’t have a God who hasn’t walked through adversity. Considering the example of Jesus, and what he endured, let’s take heart when we’re met with opposition and discouragement. He has already made it through — He can coach us to make it, too!

Hope has a name — and that name isn’t our president’s, it’s our King’s.

No matter what the other voices are whispering, what the circumstances in the world around you make you want to believe, we will overcome if we learn to listen to the Voice, as He can enable us to walk through anything for our good and His glory.

Whatever it is that’s in your heart, that you deeply sense you were created to do, it’s going to be met with opposition and there are going to be days of discouragement. You and I CANNOT allow the voices of discouragement to turn into the excuses that determine the course of our life — and run it off the course that God marked out for us.

When discouragement starts whispering, friends, run as fast as you can into His presence, soaking up the Truth that He says about who you are — and most important, who He is and ever shall be. Let discouragement become an unexpected gift that pushes you to focus even more on finding the Presence and hearing the Voice of your Savior.

Whether it’s a catastrophe or a head cold — He is with you, and He is gloriously good.