That Speaking Thing I Did


Gentle Reader,

Never open your mouth at a retreat.

This past spring I was able to attend my church’s district women’s retreat. (I am a member of the Church of the Nazarene. A district is just a group of congregations in a particular geographic area, overseen by a superintendent. If you’re interested in what that looks like, here’s a map). I got to stay with friends in a beautiful bunkhouse up in the mountains, surrounded by trees and quiet, with a lake just a few hundred yards away. The speaker’s messages moved me to ponder the Lord and my relationship with Him, the music was deep and soulful and did I mention the quiet? How I needed the time away.

There were also workshops. One of them focused on Bible study and small groups.

That’s my jam.

In my “this chick is far too intense about this” way, I shared how important Bible study is and how, if God has gifted you to serve Him in that way, then that’s exactly what you should do, no matter if you lead a group of 3 or your group is so big you have to break it down into several groups. Two of the district leaders present encouraged me and affirmed my calling, which was incredible. One of them even told me that she thought I should speak at “The Mix,” the district discipleship conference in October.

I pretty much laughed at that.

Never thought it would happen.

Because I’m not a speaker.

Then I stopped being a Resident Assistant at the shelter and moved over to the Chaplaincy Team. Suddenly speaking was expected. Now, of course I’m used to leading a small group. I know how to guide a conversation and keep discussion flowing. But just me? Up front, alone, talking? With people looking at me?

Not my jam.

Just after becoming a chaplain, I received an email. Would I speak at “The Mix?” Would I do two sessions on Bible study, the “why” and the “how” of it?

Wait, what?

God, I think, delights in shoving us outside of our comfort zones, because we have no choice but to rely on Him. I knew immediately that I was supposed to accept the invitation. Definitely flying without a net.

Shortly after that, the pastor who heads the Chaplaincy Team asked me if I would like to teach. I’d been there…maybe four times at that point. This was just before I had surgery, so I asked if it could be a combination of sermon/lesson/testimony/whatever. He was cool with that. I showed up at the shelter an hour before I was to speak, pacing the room, praying. “Um, yeah, Jesus? I don’t know what I’m doing. Would you please just really show up today? Make sure the focus is on You, not me.”

When we seek to glorify Him, God’s answer is always “yes.” My words weren’t polished or amazing or up there with “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” But the Holy Spirit moved and He was strong and the prayers afterward were powerful and something really began to unwind in me that day.

Still, as of 8:00 a.m. on Friday, September 30, I wasn’t sure if I was going to show up for “The Mix” the next morning.

As I got ready for the day, I listened to this and the line about David running at Goliath hit me with all the force of the stone from that sling. David didn’t kill the giant because David was so cool. David killed the giant because God was there, with him, enabling to do what he had been tasked with doing.


I heard that.

Yet my heart continued to pound. My palms continued to sweat. I felt like running away. I even asked my mom if she wanted to read what I had written (I am definitely NOT an off-the-cuff speaker, for sure) as we pulled into the parking lot of the church where “The Mix” was held. She just smiled at me.

I was supposed to speak in the afternoon, but of course the schedule changed. Up first. Back-to-back sessions. I don’t mind telling you that sweat trickled down the back of my neck. (That could have been due to the ungodly temperature of the room, but I doubt it).

The person who had asked me to speak opened the session in prayer.


For a second I thought I might have a heart attack and drop dead.

As soon as I opened my mouth, a strange, indescribable peace descended. I may never be asked to speak at anything ever again, but those two hours on that Saturday morning – that’s exactly where I was supposed to be. The Lord filled me with assurance. My voice didn’t crack. I didn’t cry. I was able to make eye contact with each person there.

Only God can do that. Only He can take a person who can’t do the thing and give her all that she needs to do the thing. Only He can empower that way. Only He can provide the necessary boldness, confidence and love for the hearers required to share a message that was, at points, hard. It was no fluffy, feel-good sermon I had. It was, for all intents and purposes, a call to action.

I doubt that I’ll be setting up a speaking tour anytime soon, but next time, if there is a next time, I won’t be quite so afraid. Or maybe I will be. Doesn’t matter. It’s all about God, anyway.

May I remember that.

May you remember that.


There is no video or audio of my sessions. If you are interested, you can read the text of Session 1 and Session 2.

Five Minute Friday: Protect

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

Long days. Little energy.

I press the heat pad against my abdomen. Here, on the couch, battle rages. My head hangs low. Beads of sweat run down my neck. Sleep beckons.

Kate says: protect.


The good Lord knew what He was doing when He made dogs.

Petey, the mutt, was the first. All of my earliest memories include him. To this day I remember the feel of his curly, black-and-white fur beneath my fingers. He could hear cheese being grated. He slept on an old quilt, in a corner, wedged between two couches. During the night he would get up to check on us.

Murphy, the Papillon, loved to shove her blue rubber bone underneath a big pillow and dig at it. She was beautiful, with her long flowing fur. Except for her rear. That always had to be cut into what we called “turkey butt” to avoid…issues. She loved to sit with me while I read, munching on sunflower seeds. One for me, one for her.

Bugsy, the Shih Tzu, did a dance whenever he wanted a treat. His paws slapped the ground in a beat only he could hear, ending in a little bow. He had a wide smile. My brother would blow in his face and Bugsy would snap at the air, defeating his foe every time.

Blue, the Dachshund, obsessed with playing fetch. From dawn til dusk. His long body snakes around corners, a little bit of belly dragging the ground. Sturdy legs carry him here and there. Sometimes he jumps, suddenly, into my lap, full of happy licks and wiggles.

Benny, the PomChi, all round softness. He is by my side at all times. He grows old and slows down. He doesn’t mind that I have to rest so often. He’s happy to keep my feet warm. His sigh of contentment makes me feel safe.

Other dogs – Patches the puppy who died too soon, Tramp who was a girl so her name never made sense, Bella the super-crank, Rags the nut, Pippa the terror and Fuzzy the handsome Pomeranian who just needed more room to run. Each one has loved me, loved my family, well. (Except maybe for Pippa, who really only loves my mom).

In this harsh world, God gave us a loyal, loving creature. One who supports and accepts us at all times. Dogs are evidences of His constant care.


My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Matthew Wiebe

Five Minute Friday: Haven

Along the Way @

Gentle Reader,

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: For a writer, rejection is a badge of honor.

Of course rejection stings. It strikes right at the core, right in that tender spot. To read, “your work has merit, but it’s just not quite the right fit for us” is crushing. I felt the blood rush to my face. I immediately began to question just who in the world I think I am, sending book proposals to literary agents.

Then I looked up the word merit.

And found that it means, “the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.”

I’m choosing to focus on that. My work has value. It may have been rejected. I may come through this process bloody and bruised. At least I’m stepping into the arena. My prayer is that God would give me a spine of steel so that my head will never bow in shame. For rejection comes. It comes to everyone who must write.

I realize, in this feeling of being sucker-punched, that I am a writer. No matter if my name never appears on a spine. No matter if no book of mine ever gets a MARC record. (Sorry, library talk). I am a writer.

Speaking this truth to myself now as a sense of smallness washes over me again and tears blur the screen. Don’t pity me. They are the tears of a fighter.

Kate asks to write about our: haven(s).


The wind brushes against the rosebushes, moving pink blossoms, green leaves and honey-colored trellises in a waltz whose tune only nature knows. Rhythmically the heavy flowers bob and weave, flashing their bright yellow pistils here and there. In and out, up and down. The trees join in with a joyous rustle.

We never see the wind and yet we know it’s there.

So, too, the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the busy and bluster, He fills me with a knowing. A belonging.A deep and abiding feeling that cannot be categorized. I am stilled in the chaos at the sound of His whisper. I strain, longing to hear more. He speaks life and truth. Never aloud. Never contradictory to the words on the thin pages of my Bible. He tells me that I am safe when the adrenaline rushes. That I am beloved when I wish the floor would open and swallow me whole. That I do not have to lash out in anger. That it will turn out all right.

I cannot stay home all day, every day, much as I often wish I could. And so He is my Haven, my Rock, my Fortress. He pulls me close. If I lean in, I can hear His heart, filled with holiness and love. The beat drums into me the sweetest kind of peace.


My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Michael Fertig