A Saturday to Grieve

Several years ago, maybe 12 or so, I stood before the students at my church and gave my testimony. There was probably 100 people in the room; a mix of middle school and high school students along with adult leaders. I spoke with a timid heart and a quivering voice. Speaking in front of crowds was still a new and uncomfortable venture for me and the subject matter was rough. I told them of the heartache I endured when my dad left. I shared the pain of watching my mom descend into depression. And my tears fell hot as I told them of her suicide.

But I also told them of God’s faithfulness. I told them how the tears still fell sometimes and that there were days when the pain was so heavy that I wasn’t sure I could take a breath under the weight of it all but that God would remind me how to breathe. I told them that I believed there is no pain in life so great that God hadn’t felt; that he understood grief on the deepest level because he watched his own son take on the sin of the world as he hung on the cross.

While telling my story was hard, I had a burning in me to make people understand that it was more than a sad story. It was a story of healing, ongoing as it may be. It was a story of hope because God didn’t let me die in my grief and abandonment.

When I finished I was met by kids and adult who hugged me, assuring me that telling my story was the right thing to do. They thanked me and reminded me that  God wasn’t finished with me yet.

And then there was one. A lady from the back of the room waited for the crowd to disperse a bit. Her face was tight and she had a forced half smile. She walked up to me and took my hands and told me that I needed more faith. She told me my tears showed my unbelief and that if I could only find it within myself to trust in God he would take away my grief. She said that if I really believed my mom was a Christian then I should be rejoicing that she’s in heaven and no longer suffering from the mental illness that Satan put upon her when my dad left.

And it is only because I stood there with my church employee name tag declaring me Tamara Lexow – Student Ministry that I didn’t claw her eyes out.

Along with other areas of healing, God has worked on my anger since then.

I think about that woman a lot. I especially think about her on days like today. This morning marks twenty years since my mom died. Twenty years is a long time to hurt and it’s a long time to heal and yet here I am, doing both.

This week has been particularly hard, with this anniversary falling on Holy Week, a week that generally wrecks my heart anyway. But this morning I can not help but think about those followers of Jesus. The men and women who had been faithful believers that he was really was the Son of God followed him for three years. They’d hung on his every word, allowed his touch to heal their bodies and their souls, and witnessed miracles like they’d never seen or imagined before. They listened to his stories, learned how to pray, and shared God’s promises coming to fruition before their very eyes.

And then they watched him die.


Did anyone walk up to them and tell them that if they’d only had a little more faith he wouldn’t have had to die? Did they question all they knew; all they had seen? I can only imagine the pain, the frustration, the exhaustion they felt on that Saturday between. The abandonment, the confusion, the loss was surely hanging over them like a wet, wool blanket. He had told them he would rise but did they get it? On that Saturday, as they sat in their pain, did they have faith?

What I wanted to say to that woman that morning that I couldn’t say because my anger was choking me was that it is only because of my faith that I was standing before her, allowing her condescending words to pierce me. It was only because God’s love for me was so great that I could stand up and tell of his goodness and his healing. It was only because His Spirit would sometimes whisper, “Breathe, Tamara” that I could take my next breath when ignorant people like her wanted to tell me what my faith should look like.

On that Saturday, one day after they watched him die and yet one day before they would realize that death could not hold him, Jesus’ friends had to have a glimmer of hope. They might not have called it hope but there was something there. They couldn’t have known what it would look like but so many of them had a tiny seed of faith that he really was who he said he was. How would he pull through?

I have days when I feel grief overwhelm me (yes, even after all these years) and I draw strength from that same glimmer of hope. That same hope that lived within the friends of Jesus lives in me.

There has to be more.

This can’t be it.

One day I will see my mom again. One day I’ll hold her hand and touch her face. One day I’ll introduce her to my children. One day there will be no more pain, no more suffering. One day we will all be together and no one will decide to leave. One day Jesus will take his followers and we will not ever shed another tear.

I can have that hope because of what his friends didn’t fully grasp that  Saturday. They didn’t know that he was taking the sin of the world to the pit of hell and dropping it at the door. They didn’t know that his body was being restored and that they would see him again in all his beauty. They didn’t understand how soon they would see him again. And yet they hoped.

Today I hope, too.


He Created Beauty for All of Us

I went on a women’s retreat this weekend with my church. There were ladies of all ages, stages, sizes, and shapes; ladies who are married, ladies who aren’t. There were ladies with babies, with grown children, with no children. There were ladies with great means and ladies with little. The beauty of a group of ladies together for a weekend is that we could celebrate God’s love for us…all of us…and not have to worry about our differences.

The point of the retreat was to reconnect our hearts with the wonder, delight, and awe that God designed us to experience. Folks, to say we live in a delight deprived world would be putting in mildly and I feel that we are standing at a place in the path where we have two choices. We can choose to walk a path of gratitude, openness, creativity, and grace or we can choose to head in the direction we, as a society, seem to be barreling towards – one that is fear driven, over scheduled, tired, discontent, and very, very, very judgmental.

This morning during my prayer time I read the passage from Luke 7 about the woman who cried over Jesus’ feet. Jesus had gone to have dinner with a Pharisee and no sooner had he been seated, a woman came rushing in to be near him. In the presence of Jesus she began to weep, allowing her tears to pour over his feet. She poured precious oil on him as she cried.

The Pharisee was shocked. Surely if Jesus was who he said he was he would know this woman was wrong. She was doing it all wrong. The Pharisee, who knew the law well and had studied the scriptures back and forth, had lived a righteous life, was disgusted that Jesus would allow this sinner to fall at his feet. But Jesus replied,

“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven – as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

It’s easy for me to slide, unconsciously into judgement. I hate that about myself. I can look at people who might interpret scripture in a different light than I do, or worship in a different church than I do, or sing different songs and think, right of the bat, “They don’t know the right way.” I pass judgement that if they only knew my way, the right way, that they might live a fuller life.

Dear God, forgive me.

Dear God, forgive us.

I know I’m not alone in this because I see it all over social media. Fellow Christians, we look like complete and total asses when we spout anger and judgement at each other. We look ridiculous when we spout it at the world. When others, especially other Christians, are creating art, becoming leaders in our communities, and taking leaps for God’s Kingdom and we do our very best to shoot them down because it’s not the way we would have done it or said it or painted it we are no better than the Pharisee.

Of course we use the Bible as our guide. Of course we pray for truth to prevail. Of course. Of course. Of course.

But we have to stop the judging. It is not our job.

Our job is to love. Our job is to live in a way that every single thing we do and say brings glory to Jesus.

That’s it.

What if, today, instead of worrying about pointing out each other’s flaws in theology, we took time to notice each other’s gifts? What if we stopped to say, “Wow! It’s so amazing that God gave you a passion for writing!” or film, or painting, or singing, or baking….or whatever gift God has given your friends and neighbors?

What if, this week, instead of rushing to our phones and laptops to argue about books and movies we sat with a friend in a coffee shop and caught up on each other’s lives?

What if, this month, instead of using scripture as a weapon to point out the sins of others we sat down and prayed for God to forgive us our own sins?

What if we all just shut down Facebook and went for a walk? What if we spent some time in our gardens, tilling soil, planting herbs, watching for butterflies?

Yes, friends, we are at a crossroads, you and I. We are so very close to walking a path where we loose sight of God’s love, his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and all the wonderful beauty he has put on this planet. So let’s not go there, okay? Let’s take each other’s hand today and choose to walk a slower path. Let’s walk towards the beauty. Let’s bend down and smell the wild flowers. (They’re blooming particularly early this year. It’s almost like God sent them to calm us down.) Let’s listen to the birds singing and remember that God didn’t create all this beauty for only a few of us…He created it for all of us.

God is Good


“God is good all the time.”

The words from my pastor this morning caused bitter tears to sting in my eyes. I blinked quickly, dabbing the inner corner in an attempt to catch the tears before they fell. I had to deliver the children’s message in mere moments and I did not need to have red eyes, smeared eye liner, or any semblance of sorrow. My message was on thankfulness, not sadness.

That’s the thing though. I wasn’t even sad. So why were these words, words I hear almost every Sunday, causing such a commotion in my tear ducts?

As I questioned myself, sitting in the pew, I felt my heart tug.

“Do you believe it?”

Do I believe what, God?

“Do you believe I’m good?”

Of course I believe.

“All the time?”


There it was. Can I sing the praise from Psalm 145? Can I exalt His name forever and ever? Do I speak of His mighty acts and the splendor of His majesty?

Some days I do.

But then some days….

Some days the plumbing backs up. Some days the dog pees on the floor for the thousandth time. Some days the kids forget to show manners of any sort. Some days your iTunes account gets mangled with your husbands and he has all your information and none of his own. Or so I’ve heard from some people.

Do I believe God is still good in the midst of a presidential election where both candidates seem like a train wreck waiting to happen?

Do I trust in His sovereignty when the price of oil drops?

Do I sing of God’s splendor and majesty when police are being shot by children, when police are shooting children, and when terrorism screams at our faces through every single news cast?


No, I don’t.

Forgive me, God, Forgive me for forgetting of your love; of your goodness. Forgive me for sitting in despair and wondering where you are. Forgive me, Lord for not singing your praises and falling to my knees in gratitude for the simple fact that I have air in my lungs and food on my table and family who loves me dearly.

I want to celebrate God’s goodness because He is gracious and compassionate. He is slow to anger. He is rich in love. May my eyes look to heaven and be satisfied with all I have.

God is good. All the time.

Practical Applications of Platters and Silver



I watched a video this morning from a beautiful writer for whom I have great admiration. She’s offering an online course in writing and I’ve literally been lapping up all the information like a kitten starved for milk. Every video, post, piece….I read and watch ravenously. I’ve been very sick for a couple weeks with pneumonia though and have been sleeping a lot. The past couple of days I’ve been pushing my stamina a bit, trying to build strength back from a place of deep depletion. After a short trip to the grocery I came home and collapsed on the couch with the laptop to catch up on my instruction.

Her words rang loud and crisp and clear – “Always leave your reader with practical application.” She spoke of hungry readers and the duty to feed them with substance and good nutrition on a beautiful plate with polished silver.  While I see great  truth in her words and frankly, they are not new words for me to hear, I wanted to throw up. So. Much. Pressure.

I shut my laptop and thought, “Well, I’m done then. I have no words of substance. I have no lovely platters. I don’t even own silver.”

And then I took a nap.

When I woke an hour later I reached for my Step Study books. Pneumonia had left me behind on homework and I don’t like to be behind in anything…especially Step Study.

Lesson 19: Grace

“‘My grace is enough for you. When you are weak, my power is made perfect in you.’ So I’m very happy to brag about my weakness. Then Christ’s power can live in me. For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I’m weak, then I am truly strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Part of living in grace is forgiving others. Part of living in grace is forgiving myself. Loving myself. Believing that I am loved by God so much that he not only offers me forgiveness for my sins but that he offers gifts, talents, and beautiful platters. If I can accept God’s forgiveness then why is it so hard to believe that he would also give other good things? Why do I wallow in the weakness, not seeing the strong arms passing me silver?

I said earlier this month that I want my focus word this year to be “fierce grace” and here is God saying, “Yep. It really does apply to you. I am enough and I’ll give you enough.”

I put so much pressure on myself to be everything for everyone and when I can’t be the best – the prime rib on the beautiful platter – I tend to shut up shop and go home. I have lived with the belief that it is better to not try than to disappoint and give fluff. This is not living in grace. That is not what fierce grace looks like at all. That is certainly not trusting that my Heavenly Father has good plans for me and wants me to use my gifts to bring him glory.

“Come. Let’s talk some more about this matter,” says the Lord. “Even though your sins are bright red, they will be as white as snow. Even though they are deep red, they will be white like wool. But you have to be willing to change and obey me. If you are, you will eat the best food that grows on the land. You must obey me. You must obey me.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)

Pressing into the gifts God gives us brings him glory. Shutting down gifts God has given us because we feel they aren’t as good as our perception of the gifts he’s given others slaps him in the face.

I have a gift for communication. It is a passion of mine and I love it. People claim to enjoy my methods of communication. I have a responsibility to learn more about communicating. I must practice. I must learn. I must hone in on what would make me a better communicator in speech, writing. dancing….okay, not dancing. Dancing is not my gift. But the rest, yes. When I communicate, especially about God’s love and grace, it brings glory to his kingdom.

When I look at fabulous speakers like Lysa Terkeurst, Jen Hatmaker, or Shauna Niequist I am tempted to say, “I’ll never be that good. They have said all the words. They’ve reached all the people. I should curl up and quit.” The gremlins in my ear tell me to throw my laptop away and never communicate again.

Then there are the gremlins that like to remind me of all my sins. The time I gossiped, the ugly words I said that time, the stupid text I sent to the wrong person and hurt her feelings….how could I ever be a person who communicates truth when I’m such a screw up? I  should throw my laptop and my phone away. I suck at communication.

This is the exact opposite of fierce grace. Not embracing God’s goodness, comparing myself to others, not forgiving myself…it’s ugly. It’s so very ugly.

I think this is where the practical application comes in.

“After you have borne these sufferings a very little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to share his eternal splendor through Christ, will himself make you whole and secure and strong.” (1 Peter 5:10)

This is the point where I got on my knees and asked for forgiveness. I asked God to forgive me for shirking my calling and for comparing my gifts. I asked him to give me the strength to shut out the gremlins that whisper lies. I asked him to help me forgive myself for the wrongs I have committed and asked him to stir in the hearts of people I have asked forgiveness from and have yet to give it. I want to give grace to others and to myself. I want to live in the grace he has given me. I want to do it with fierceness.

I want this for you too, dear reader. God gives us ALL good things. We all have a platter and silver with which we can serve the Kingdom. Your platter and my platter probably look completely different. How boring would it be if they all looked the same? Let’s press into where he’s leading us. Let’s lean on forgiveness – both to give and to receive. Let’s revel in who He has created us to be. Let’s get out our silver and use it!