A soul makeover, bringing the inside out

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:19-21

Something is brewing.  I can feel that God wants to change me deep on the inside, let go of things that I have been pursuing for most of my life. He wants to turn me inside out.   Big change is scary as all get out.  I pray that God will give me the courage to be the woman He wants me to be.  To dare to step into a place of adulthood and responsibility that I have shirked my whole life.  He wants me to really and truly put Him first.

I am talking about money and possessions and the place they have in my life.   I am talking about how I define myself (my looks, my house, my children).   About being responsible and planning and owning up to my own really bad habits.  How much time do I spend distracting myself with small pleasures that cost money?  How much money do I spend on my appearance (more than you would think)?  How do I approach the second half of my life – what will be the focus?  Where is the real Helen?  What’s down in there?  It’s hard to break habits and patterns that have been in play for 40 plus years.

Heavy thoughts on a Friday morning.

I need some Grace today!!!  And some Joy.  Let’s see what God has in store….

(Umm, Helen, joy does not come from your next acquisition).

The challenge

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Mark 4:35-41

This is the challenge.  To welcome everything God gives us in a day.  Not just the good, pretty, feel-good things, but everything.  The ankle strain of the cheerleader who has a big competition coming up, the husband whose back is bothering him, the dog who sniffs something into his nose and sneezes for 2 hours.

How do I not worry?  How do I “Let go and Let God?”  I know that His ways are different and better than my ways.  It’s just that letting go is difficult.  I want to know all of the outcomes all of the time.  And also, please can I have things be entirely peaceful, no rocking the boat, for a couple of days?

To be clear, I understand that none of the above problems are a big deal – at all.  But they are messing with my peace.  How do we keep peace when the waters are rough?

As I read the verse from Mark above I realize that peace comes from Jesus, not from myself.  I will continue to try to empty myself so there is more room for Him.  When Christ lives in us, we can be Christ to those around us, in all situations.

I have a long way to go.  But understanding is a beginning.


I found Jesus today at the soup kitchen.  What an amazing place is Clyde’s Kitchen in downtown Atlanta.  It is a joy filled, God full place.  I am so thankful that God led me there.  I look forward to getting to know the people who work and volunteer there and to serving Christ through serving those in need in Atlanta.

Today I am full of God, His grace and His love.  Even on a day that started out rough.  He can do what we cannot.  I trust you Jesus to calm the rough waters in my soul.


“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

I’m in my house trying not to spend money.  This not buying clothes is killing me.  I had no idea how truly ADDICTED I am to buying pretty clothes for myself.  But I recognize the signs of withdrawal – fantasizing about the addictive behavior, feeling restless, starting to rationalize the behavior again, thinking about what else I can do to escape.

Escape from what?  I have a great life.  Truly.  A. GREAT. LIFE.

I have a relationship with God, who shows me constantly how much He loves me.  I have the best husband a woman could ever want, and after 25 years I am still madly in love with him.   I have three children I love so much it hurts.  I live in my dream house that we designed and built.  My husband has a fantastic job and is excited about being a deacon in the Catholic church.

So what gives?  I feel bored.  I have cleaned, I have sorted, I have done laundry and I have cooked.  Yesterday, I ironed, which I never do.  Still feel restless.  Ok, I remember now, one day a time.  One minute at a time if I have to.  I will pray and then go to the grocery (we are out of coffee!).  Don’t buy clothes.  I will tell myself that over and over.  And stop looking at catalogs and websites selling cute clothes (they are so cute).  Say the serenity prayer, and breathe.


Just Breathe.

Thanks for letting me vent.



“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:8-11

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat…”

Matthew 25:35

Here’s the beauty in being thankful and taking the time to see God’s daily gifts – my inclination is to share the gifts.  Pass it on. Spread the love. Give back.

The first place I notice this is at home.  I don’t know what my kids see, but what I feel a lot of the time is that I am a grouchy worker.  Yes, I do the laundry, cook dinner, clean the house, drive carpools and clean the toilets, but I do not do the work joyfully.  To be honest, a lot of the time I feel too good to do the work.

But this thankful living, this seeing God’s gifts all around me has altered that today.  I am thankful that we have plenty (read too many) of clothes to wash, that we have a washing machine (so I don’t have to do it all by hand), that we have running water in our house.  I am thankful that we have delicious, nuticious food to eat, that my decision every day is what to cook, not how do I put food on the table for our family?  I am thankful that I drive a new car that is quiet and clean, that I have a car to drive at all.  I am thankful for my health.  That today my sinuses are clear and I have energy and I do not have to be on strong medicine right now.

The thoughts about outreach started last week, I believe they are due to the thankful posture.  I see how much we have and want to share the blessings.  Working with the poor and underprivileged has never been my strong suit.  It has always scared me.  But I am going to take a leap and jump into the thankful pool.

I called a soup kitchen to volunteer.  It will be interesting to see where this leads.  I am excited to trust God and let Him lead me to the right place.  Stay tuned….

Writing and Remembering


“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.

You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,

that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!”

Psalm 30

So it turns out that writing down on paper the gifts we see from God is a big part of the thankful journey.  I thought that writing in a blog format only would do the trick, but I have been feeling a huge urge to put pen to paper and keep a hand written journal of one thousand gifts, as Ann VosKamp suggests we do.

Today I bought a small journal that fits into my pocketbook so I can jot down the gifts as I see them.  And here’s the thing – when you are writing them on paper in a journal, the gifts become more apparent.  As I wrote down my first four gifts, more started popping to mind.  Seeing the world through thankful eyes makes all the difference.

  •   a soft breeze on a warm fall day
  •   the clean taste of water when you are really thirsty
  •   green pumkpins
  •   cinderella pumpkins with their blazing orange color and squashed shape
  •   an unexpected anniversary gift from my husband 

And then it hits me.  I have seen this way before.  Years ago, in a particularly fruitful spiritual time in my life, on retreat.  But hey, now I am feeling the retreat closeness to God just living my regular life.  Thank you God for Ann Voskamp’s gift with words and for whomever first thought it was a good idea to write a list of one thousand gifts.

Slow it down Sister

be still

“Be Still and Know that I am God.”

Psalm 46:10

Psalm 46:10 has long been one of my favorite verses in scripture. I bought these coffee mugs at least 10 years ago.  During a time when I was in touch with slowing down and finding God daily. My kids were young and life was more simple.  I was saturated with God and it was wonderful.  The pieces were in place to keep myself connected to God – bible study, prayer, volunteering at church, speaking at church events, a couple’s book club focused on furthering our faith etc.  I remember feeling as if I could only go “further up and further in.”  (CS Lewis , The Last Battle).

I thought my faith was strong, but it had not been tested.  Then some things happened in life (as they do for all of us) that threw me off course.  I did not lose my faith, but I definitely lost some of my connection to God.  He didn’t move, I did.

We are all creatures of habit, and I began to drift from good habits which kept me close to God.  Daily prayer became once in a while prayer, I dropped out of bible study, pulled back from church, was just going through the motions. I got busier and busier, distracting myself with as many things as possible.

I am grateful for the Catholic church and her sacraments because the one thing I did do was go to mass.  I believe the grace received there kept the connection alive (it was just that I was not fully present to God).  But God will work with what He gets and that’s all I had to give him for about seven years.

Two years ago for the first time in my life, I began to have health issues.  I got sick, had surgery, and had to slow down.  In the slowing down I found myself wondering what life was really all about, what is my purpose? I really hit me that I was not in control at all. ( I have spent most of my life trying to control everything around me.)  All of this has happened as I approach 50 and so I have also felt my own mortality for the first time.  A reality check.

In the slowing down of the last two years I began to see God again.  Some of my old, good habits are coming back.  Writing this blog is part of the waking up and coming back alive.  It’s  a process, and it has only just begun, but I am excited to see where God will take me.

I am open and not afraid.  I do trust God, which is not a small thing for me. I have been working on trusting God for most of my life (maybe many of us do?).  So today, I am thankful for the health issues that made me stop and reassess my life.  I am thankful that the path is more clear now.  I am thankful for this day and am excited to see what He will teach me as the day unfolds.

A great friend send me this quote earlier this week, it couldn’t have been better timing.  It’s CS Lewis from The Problem of Pain:

“The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”


PS – I am also thankful for the autosave feature on wordpress that helped me when I wrote this post and then thought I lost it!

25 years of love and laughter



“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

1 Peter 4:8

Today I have been married to the love of my life for 25 years.  I do not feel old enough to have been married this long.  God has been so good to both of us – truly we are compatible in nearly all ways.  The most meaningful of those is that we are both trying to be on the path to God and His kingdom, and we are trying to raise our three fantastic children in that way.

There are  many stories of thanksgiving about my marriage that I  could tell on this wonderful day.  But the one that always stands out to me is our ring story.

First I have to say that after our first date I called one of my best friends to say that I had met the man I would marry.  We got engaged exactly one year after our first date.  Before we got engaged he asked me to go look at rings and then he would go the store later to see what I liked.  It turns out what I like is VERY expensive. He asked me to go look again with a lower price point in mind.  I did and apparently those choices were still too expensive (hey, I know what i like!).  So we agreed that maybe we should go to the diamond district in New York to look at rings together to find a ring that I liked and he could afford.

The night we got engaged my love gave me a brand new coffee maker with an IOU note  for a ring inside the coffee pot.  The coffee maker was meaningful to us because we met in AA, and boy do you drink a lot of coffee when you are getting sober!  We planned the trip to New York to pick out a ring.  But he did mention that his mother had given him a family ring years ago, and that we should look for it at his parents’ Virginia house before making the trip to New York.  There was a catch.  The guest house where the ring was stored had burned to the ground a couple of years before.

Now I secretly thought this was a really stupid plan, but I went along.  We got to his parents’ farm and went to the pile of rubble that was the guest house.  He seemed to be very determined and was looking with intense concentration. ( His mother had been looking for jewelry in those ashes for 18 months and had not found anything other than small fragments.)   I on the other hand was quickly bored with the whole scene and went to play catch with Jake the black lab – a much more fun way to spend the afternoon.  After about an hour he started yelling “I found it, I found the ring!”

The first thing out of my mouth was “nuh-uh.”  Typical of me.  The ring looked shockingly awful.  It resembled a big, ugly man’s school ring.  I couldn’t believe this was the ring he had been looking for.  But he knew it would clean up well and so off he went to clean it up with a tooth brush and some soap.  It started to look better and I became hopeful.

We got back to Richmond and took it to a jewelry store whose jeweler couldn’t believe it had survived the fire.  The setting was completely intact.  Some of the small stones had fallen out but they were easy to replace.  They soaked the ring in acid for two weeks to remove the soot.  When we picked it up I could not believe my eyes.  It was stunning!!!

The lesson of this story is not that I was a greedy, spoiled girl who needed to grow up (although all of that is true).  The lesson is that from fire and ashes amazing things can survive and flourish.  My husband and I met in AA and were both healing from hurt and pain.  From that place of suffering we found healing through sobriety, fellowship and the beginnings of a relationship with God.  My engagement ring is a sign of God’s love for us, a sign that He can bring beauty and joy from suffering and pain.  Thank you God for your signs and gifts that show us how much you love us.

I am immensely thankful today for my wonderful husband of 25 years.  I am thankful for his unconditional love and support, his companionship, his leadership and his love for God.  I am thankful for the three children that God has entrusted to our care.  I am thankful that as a family we can worship together and learn about God together.  I look forward to another 25 years of walking the faith walk with my best friend.  Hand in hand we walk towards Him who is the lover of our souls, who is eternal, and who is BEING itself.


” He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:30

I’m 49.  Sometimes by accident I tell people I’m 50.  Middle age is coming fast, has in fact caught me.  And I am feeling not so young.  But now and again I see a picture of myself that looks good to me and I get excited and think “Alright, I don’t look bad for my age.”  You wouldn’t believe how long I feel happy because of one good picture – days, weeks even.  My facebook profile picture has remained the same for four months because I can’t let the picture go.

All vanity.  Pure and simple.

Why do I care so much how I look?

I have always cared too much about how I look.  Vain.

And the problem with vanity is how much it can control us.  I once said jokingly to a friend in bible study “If I thought about Jesus as much as I think about myself, wouldn’t that be amazing?”  But I wasn’t really joking.  It would be amazing if I could think about myself less and let God in more often.

In prayer this morning I was praying about God’s love and my own vanity I heard it loud and clear:

“Helen, I love you because I made you.”

I flashed back to one of my favorite Max Lucado children’s book called You Are Special.  The book is about wemmicks, puppets made by Eli the woodcarver.  The wemmicks are obsessed with each other’s approval, giving each other gold stars or gray dots.  But when the wemmicks get really down they can always go see Eli, who made them.

I cried every time I read that book to my children.  I often feel like a have a gray dot on my forehead.  Then for a little while I swing back to a gold star and feel elated.  Whose approval and love am I looking for anyway?  The world’s or His?

I am humbled by God’s love. I’ts hard to believe that he can number the hairs on the head of every human being.  But He can.    When I am focused on God, I do feel His love.  I feel it real and overwhelming.  I just have to stay tuned in to His frequency and shut out the radio waves of the busy, self-obsessed world in which we live.  And when I allow myself to feel loved by God you know what happens?  I stop thinking about myself as much.  Then I can reach out and touch the world on God’s terms not mine.

I must decrease that He can increase.  

One way is by being thankful.  Thankfulness leads out of ourselves and into the heart of God – all goodness.  Each time during the day that I stop to acknowledge God and say thank you,  I break down the barrier of me and break into the world of God.   Today I am thankful for God’s love and for His Presence in our lives.  I am thankful for the many ways He shows Himself to us.  Sunshine in a beautiful Fall sky.  A dog’s wagging tail.  A child’s smile.  A teen’s faith revealed in his playlist of moving songs about Jesus.  A husband’s loving hug at the end of a long day.  The eucharist.

I am thankful for Mass where I can break bread with the Lord and receive Him into by body.  The ultimate communion with God here on earth.  Thank you Jesus for the gift of yourself in Mass.  Thank you for the grace that we receive when we receive you.  I love you.  Amen.


hawick drive house


“Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places; “  Isaiah 32:18

I wake up thinking about how God gives us what we need when we need it.  He fulfills our needs much more often  than we see.  It’s easier to see looking back over our lives or from the outside looking at a friend’s life.   I am still reading Ann Voskamp’s book one thousand gifts.  This morning I think about how God blessed her (who lost a toddler sister and whose family of origin was grieving and empty and without God for many years) with a solid family of her own, a family full of love and Christ centeredness.  And also how he has blessed her, who suffers from agoraphobia (anxiety disorder in which one fear  places one can’t escape), by giving her a wide open farm where she can live and raise her family.  I wake up marveling at the gift of her seeing how much He loves her now, and has always loved her, and wants to make her whole and bring her home – to Him and life with Him.

This leads me to look back at my own life and see the miracle blessings of a God who is always healing.  My parents divorced and remarried 2 years later.  The divorce shattered me, and yet my parents REMARRIED – that doesn’t happen very often. The idea of home, of having a place to feel safe and have refuge from this crazy world, is important to most children. Divorce can take that away.

The shattered part of me was always looking for a solid structure in which I could find refuge.  I didn’t know God so I looked for a physical home.  The house that I and multiple generations of my family grew up in is pictured above and still feels like home to me, although it is no longer owned by anyone in my family.  When I see the house I feel that warm, cozy, settled feeling of home.  So when we decided to build  a house for our young family, guess what I wanted it to look like?   While building my dream house I was very aware of being given a huge gift.  I was being given the very thing that I had longed for – a cozy, warm, beautiful place to raise my kids.  For once, I was very thankful.

young house b and w


But something interesting happened after we lived in the house a few years.  I began to realize that a house is just a house.  Even if it’s beautiful and just the thing you think you want, it can’t fulfill the deeper yearning that we all have – for God and His love.  So today I am thankful for the understanding that home is when I am with God, and that is where I want my heart to be.  And getting my heart on the path to God is through thankfulness – at all times.  Naming and describing the things I am thankful for, as Ann Voskamp does in her book, is the first  step that puts me on the thankful path.

Trying hard to be thankful and unexpected Joy

fall cross

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

Psalm 16:11

Trying to be thankful all day is hard work.  I am retraining my brain and my heart – less complaining and griping, more thanking.  But I have been grouching to God for so many years that my standard method of communication with Him is to:

  1.   Whine
  2.   Plead
  3.   Whine some more, perhaps listing my grievances
  4.   And then say by the way, thanks

I rationalize this by saying “At least I’m talking to Him.”  But this doesn’t lead to a very joyful or joy-filled life.  So when the complaining thoughts come, I am trying to quickly come up with something about the situation to be thankful for – not always easy.  While walking my dog this morning, down the street came a neighbor with 2 unleashed dogs.  My first thought was “expletive, I hate when dogs are off leash” and then I was getting ready to say some not nice things to the neighbor.  But I remembered that I was trying to be thankful so I turned around and went a different way.  I said thank you that the dogs were small and couldn’t reach us quickly, I said thank you that I didn’t yell at my neighbor.  I also realized that the different walk was prettier –  I hadn’t walked that direction in quite some time.

While headed back home I saw the sun filtering through the trees and it stopped me in my tracks.  I took out my phone quickly trying to snap a photo.  But the darn telephone pole kept getting in the way.  As I took the photo I saw the unexpected beauty – the pole is a cross.  Sometimes when we look beyond the surface we find surprising joy.  The cross was a horrible way to die, but Jesus’ death on the cross lead to His resurrection and our salvation.  What could be more beautiful and surprising than that?