Secret #5 – The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is

I’ve been slowly working on our backyard. Though it is nice and green and beautifully paved, I’m not in love with the arrangement of plants.

Whenever I get a few moments of free time in the early evening, once the Florida heat begins to lessen, you can find me digging up and replanting plants. Some of them are growing great but have outgrown their spot. Others are struggling because they are not getting enough sun. Some are getting too much. So I keep my hands busy in the garden, giving attention to each plant to find the perfect situation for each, but always keeping in mind the big-picture view.

With the same intentionality and care, each of us have been hand-placed by God exactly where we are. You and I are part of His big-picture garden plan. A purposeful planting. The work of His hands. As individuals, we are precious to God . . . but we are also a part of the whole. He did not plant us in isolation. And we are not the center of His world. The end goal of our planting is not simply for our own enjoyment and prosperity. Our place in history and location in geography is no accident. You and I have been personally planted and perfectly placed exactly where we are for a reason: to display the glory of God to those around us.

We see this truth way back in Genesis through the command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). He gives it again in His covenant with Noah (Genesis 9:1) and with Israel (Genesis 35:10). To Abraham, God promised to make him extremely fruitful (Genesis 17:6). And at the heart of the Ten Commandments and the rest of the Law given to Moses for God’s people, is for the thriving of both the individual and the nation. And while this charge to be fruitful and multiply certainly includes the bearing and raising up of children who know and love God, this command is not primarily one of physical fruitfulness. It is a spiritual fruitfulness. The heart of the commands of both the Old and New Testament is that of our spiritual growth. God has given us the recipe for living a spiritually fruitful life, in order that we would be fruitful followers of God. His plan has always been for our flourishing and so that He may be glorified. This is why we exist, to give God glory with the way we live our lives, because it is through the beautiful blooming of the Happy Soul that others see her heavenly Father.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,

because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives

and freedom to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,

and the day of our God’s vengeance;

to comfort all who mourn,

to provide for those who mourn in Zion;

to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,

festive oil instead of mourning,

and splendid clothes instead of despair.

And they will be called righteous trees,

planted by the Lord

to glorify him.

Isaiah 61:1–3

The Old Testament is filled with prophecy, the foretelling of truths to come. These verses foretold much about Christ, the promised Messiah who would come to earth to rescue His people.

Jesus will bring good news to the poor.

Jesus will bring healing to the brokenhearted.

Jesus will bring liberty to the captives.

Jesus will bring justice, comfort, beauty, rejoicing, and hope.

We are the poor, the brokenhearted, captives in need of great help. This is the point where many teachers and preachers, books and blog posts might tell you that Jesus loved you so much that He gave up everything to come to earth and rescue you. And He did. But this is not the end of the story. There is more. And while Jesus indeed loves us with a great love, and this love was one big factor for why He came to earth, it is not His primary motivation; it is not His ultimate purpose. What Isaiah foretold as the purpose of why Jesus came (and the purpose Jesus himself stated again and again for coming) was for the glory of the Lord our God.

Do you see it there, tucked away at the end of this Isaiah passage? It’s the very last part: “to glorify him.” The good news is proclaimed to us—the bound and the mourning, the faint and the brokenhearted—so that we might be a “righteous tree, planted by the Lord,” so that we can “glorify him.” God has rescued us from our hopeless state, gifted us new life, and firmly planted us. All this for His glory.

The end goal of Jesus’ coming was not our rescue.

The end goal of our salvation is not our salvation.

The end goal of becoming a Happy Soul is not simply being a Happy Soul.

The end goal of Jesus’ coming was God’s glory.

The end goal of our salvation is God’s glory.

The end goal of becoming a Happy Soul is God’s glory.

The Happy Soul exists to bring God glory.

This is the piece we often miss. Yes, we are recipients of mercy. Yes, we are beneficiaries of grace. But the implications of these truths are not to simply give us a healthy self-esteem. What is true of us because of Christ is not the end of the story. All of what God has done for us is for a greater purpose than just our salvation. The rescue of our souls from sin and the bestowing of every spiritual gift was all done for His glory. We have been saved to be a reflection of our Savior. The Happy Soul gets this, and it shapes everything she does—and doesn’t do—because the Happy Soul exists to bring God glory.

I am a recipient of deep mercy.

I am a beneficiary of glorious grace.

I exist to bring glory to God.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.


Psalm 150:6

This is an excerpt from my book, Secrets of the Happy Soul.

Secret #1– The Happy Soul is FOCUSED on God

Secret #2 – The Happy Soul is RESOLVED to follow God’s Way

Secret #3 – The Happy Soul is ATTACHED to God’s Word

Secret #4– The Happy Soul is DEPENDENT on God’s provision.

Secret #5– The Happy Soul is CONFIDENT in who she is.

Secret #6– The Happy Soul is SURRENDERED to her King.

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My heart on the presidential election and the image of the church

My heart has been incredibly heavy this week over the state of our nation. I have friends and family on all sides of every issue and I can’t stand to be on social media right now. So much of the back and forth—the hate, the pride, the lashing out—is disappointing, at best. I’ve been fairly quiet online as I process where to go from here.

Lord, what is my part? What actions can I take? How am I supposed to pray?

This I do know: I am a Christian and an ambassador for Christ, not primarily of a political party or certain candidate. I am the brand of Christ. When people look at me, they are to see and feel something that is supernatural and special. Not because of who I am, but because (whether they can identify it or not) they see Christ in me. Everything I say or don’t say, do or don’t do is a reflection of Christ and I long to reflect Him well.

Everyday Love Images.009

I wish I was better at this. There are so many days and moments that I fail to reflect the glory of God to the people around me. And yet God is to be glorified through all His people—the church. I long for His good and gracious character to be made known. I want souls to see their utter need for Christ. And none of this can happen if Christians don’t look like Christ.

Lately it seems our reflection of Him has been covered in mud.

Everyday Love Images.010

So—starting with me—I’m praying for a revival of a renewed repentance and deep humility among the church. I’m asking God to show me if there is any wicked way within me and lead me toward repentance. Today, I choose to focus primarily on my own actions and attitudes and —by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit—I will follow the example of Christ down the road of counting others more significant than myself.


I sin — Grant that I may
never cease grieving because of it,
never be content with myself,
never think I can reach a point of perfection.
Kill my envy, command my tongue,
trample down self.
Give me grace to be holy, kind, gentle, pure,
to live for thee and not for self,
to copy thy words, acts, spirit,
to be transformed into thy likeness,
to be consecrated wholly to thee,
to live entirely to thy glory.

. . .

O God, the Eternal All, help me to know that
all things are shadows, but thou art substance,
all things are quicksands, but thou art mountain,
all things are shifting, but thou art anchor,
all things are ignorance, but thou art wisdom.

—Valley of Vision, Purification




Missionaries to Sarajevo

Today’s post is from my dear friend, Taylor. We served with Cru together in Atlanta for several years. She and her husband, Josh are still on staff with Cru and live in Bosnia, bringing the gospel to college students in Sarajevo!

Taylor shares her heart with us today…


“Did we make a wrong choice?” The thought rushed through my mind like a waterfall. I looked out the window of our rental car at the rugged Bosnian countryside. Three weeks after moving from the States and the honeymoon period was over. I remember the tears streaming down my cheeks.

We were heading to Croatia for a conference. Our two children—ages 3 and 2—were in the back seat. My homesickness was flaring up again. I was thinking of all the things my children would miss out on: homeschool groups, children’s museums, church events, grandparents (and I would be lying to say I didn’t miss my places too, like Target and Starbucks!). Would it be worth it to follow God’s calling to live in Sarajevo, working with university students?

During that long car ride, I clearly remember Nichole Nordeman singing You Are Good through the car stereo:

With every breath I take in
I’ll tell You I’m grateful again
‘Cause its more than enough
Just to know I am loved
And You are good

So how can I thank You
What can I bring
What can these poor hands
Lay at the feet of a King
I’ll sing You a love song
It’s all that I have
To tell You I’m grateful
For holding my life in Your Hands

With tears I sang over and over again: “You are Good. I am grateful that You keep me and You love me…and that is enough.”

That is a choice I make frequently, if not daily, living here. There is immense joy in God’s plan. I would not trade what we have gained these past three years for anything. But I still miss what we left behind.

You don’t have to make an international move to experience these same feelings. A move across town, a career change, a church transition; these all come with joy and sacrifice. Even three years after that lonely car ride, the dark questions have not completely disappeared.

But there is one thing I have learned (and keep learning): He keeps us wherever we go. And he has used a story from Bosnia’s past to help me remember that truth.

Meeting Miss Irby

It is the story of a wealthy woman who left everything she had in England to serve the beautiful women of Bosnia 150 years ago. With her own funds, she started a school and orphanage for girls. She saved thousands of refugees from starvation during a brutal war and became a national hero. I think of her every time I leave the mall in Sarajevo, where a street bears her name: “Mis Irbina Ulica”, Miss Irby’s Street.

This woman was my husband’s distant cousin. We discovered her story just a few short months before moving here. When I’m having dark moments, I take a walk to Miss Irby’s Street, not too far from my house. I imagine the school that stood there. I imagine the girls who received an otherwise impossible education. I think of the generations of people who would never have seen life if it weren’t for her sacrifices.

After living here for less than a year, my husband felt another calling: Miss Irby’s story needed to be heard. He was led to write a book about her life to be released in one year’s time: the 100th anniversary of her death. That next year was incredibly taxing. Josh dedicated several hours a day to writing, we experienced some spiritual warfare including a miscarriage. However, during those dark times, one question kept reappearing in my mind: Why would God move us to the same place as a distant relative, doing similar work, if it weren’t a part of his plan?

We would like to share this story with you. It is an inspiring story of hope, determination and the beauty of God’s plan unfolding.

Taylor Irby lives in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina with her husband Josh and their three children, Israel (6), Elijah (4) and Adeline (10 months).

affiliate links present


I want you to meet Anelson.

He lives in Mapou, a small village on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. Anelson was one of the first of the children we met last year on our week-long trip to Mapou. He is a curious boy, always hovering around, hoping to catch a word or two of English he might know.

Cholera in Haiti

Anelson, July 2011

A few days into our trip, our team took a walk around the village to see the “garden” of corn they had planted. The terrain in Mapou is so rocky, that they find whatever patch of soil they can find, and plug something in it to grow whatever source of food they can. Along the way we spotted a fruit tree. Anelson climbed up the tree with ease and shook the branches for us. We all attempted to catch the ripe fruit as it fell from the sky.

Cholera in Haiti

Many of the villagers do not smile when you take their pictures. I guess they have not been taught to “say cheese” whenever they see a camera. Though, Anelson would smile.

Last week we prayed for Mapou, and God brought the rain! Thank you! Yet, they still need more rain to fall, as what they received is not enough to last them through the dry season, but their immediate need for water has been met. Praise Him!

However, last week amidst the drought, they found out that cholera has been passing through the villagers.

Anelson is among the worst of them affected by cholera. He is in the nearest “hospital” three hours away being treated for this bacterial infection. Here is the latest update:

Please pray for Anelson, a young boy in the village who has been in the hospital for a week with cholera. He is not doing well. I was told this morning that his body is badly swollen up and tingling as if he is having an allergic reaction. There are no nurses like we have in the US. His family has to make the three hour journey down the mountain to care for him at the hospital. They are also the poorest family in the village and will struggle greatly with paying the hospital bills. Please pray for wisdom for the doctors and healing for Anelson.

Cholera in Haiti

Photo taken by Craig Lovely, during this summer’s 2012 church trip to Mapou

My heart is so heavy. It is hard enough to hear of all the suffering and pain around the world. But when you know their name, you’ve looked into their youthful eyes, and now you envision them lying in a bed—weak, severely dehydrated, and possibly dying . . . well, it is hard.

Will you pray for Anelson? Will you consider giving to International Ministries of Hope—the ministry who has truly brought both physical and spiritual hope to this little village—and designate your gift for Anelson’s family to afford the hospital bills?

I would love for you to leave a prayer in the comments for Anelson and his family.
UPDATE 8-18-2012: “Happy to share that he is now well and strengthened enough to attend a soccer game.” Yay! Thank you for your prayers!
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First World Problems

I need a new pair of black shoes. My Kia needs new tires. Mac Mini is on its last leg.

My heart can run wild with a list of endless “needs.” Yet, just a few short weeks ago I witnessed true need and received needed perspective on wants versus needs.

The people of Mapou, Haiti are not concerned with coordinating shoes for their outfits. Living in the rocky village is a family who can‘t afford to buy their five children each a pair of shoes. Without shoes, they cannot attend school.

first world problems
The villagers do not have cars to buy tires for or computers to repair. They don’t even have electricity.

Their needs are much more simple. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Water.

These people desperately need water. Without water they cannot cook, wash clothes, or bathe. Without water, crops fail and bodies thirst. Without water, they die.

The village of Mapou has no running water. They have no well. No river. No springs. They are utterly dependent on rain.
first world problems
These people are not worried about tires, black flats or how much ram to get in their new computer. Their concerns are much more about weather patterns and rain gutters.

They don’t pray for a good deal to pop up at Walmart, or their favorite team to win a championship.

They pray for rain.

first world problems

first world problems
first world problems

first world problems

first world problems

first world problems
When the rain comes, they rejoice.

If it doesn’t come soon enough, they start walking until they find another village with a surplus and a willingness to share their precious resource and bucket by bucket, they bring it home.

first world problems

How often I am guilty of looking over the fact that all of my needs are met. Needs that have been met every single day of my life. It is too easy to focus on what I don’t have, instead of rejoicing in what I do.

Ultimately, we are all dependent on the rain and the One who is gracious enough to send it. I am thankful for His grace and gentle correction, when I lose sight of what my true needs are.

What about you? Can you imagine being so utterly dependent on the rain for survival? Am I the only one who struggles with putting wants in the category of needs? Let’s chat about it in the comments.


The Rich Became Poor

I have been given grace upon grace.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 ESV)

Jesus became poor for me. He sacrificed all so that this poor, desperate, lifeless soul might have life abundant.

My soul is truly rich.

As I seek to follow Jesus in this example to become poor for the sake of others—deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him—I often hesitate.

Become poor?

Take up my cross and die?

Am I really willing to become “poor” so that others may be rich? Do I really intend to die, so that others may live?

Again, the answer is no—without grace.

He has given me much grace and it is this grace alone that enables me to give sacrificially. Give my time, my money, myself; all so others may become rich through Christ.

One Way to Become Poor

Will you pray about where God is leading you and your family to give—to become just a little “poorer”—to bring the riches of Christ to others?

One way our family is becoming poorer is through bringing a verse a month to the Vidunda people, through OneVerse. It takes only $26 to sponsor a verse and bring the Word of God to the nations.

Will you join me in helping to end Bible poverty through sending the riches of God’s Word to those who do not have it?

Will you prayerfully consider the reality of the millions out there who do not have not even one verse of scripture in their native tongue, and cry out with me “I’m not OK with that!

If you are a blogger, and interested in becoming OneVerse Blogger, to help end Bible poverty, head on over to the OneVerse/Seed Company blog, where I am linking up today!


St. Patrick’s Day Activities

Looking for a way to tell your children about the reason behind why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick's Day Activities
St. Patrick's Day activities

The Real Reason for St. Patrick’s Day

Besides being a fun reason to wear green and pinch those who don’t, it is a celebration of a man of God who sacrificed all for the sake of the gospel. Hands down, the best book for telling the true story of St. Patrick’s Day is The Story of St. Patrick: More Than Shamrocks and Leprechauns Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .

This is a great book to read for family worship time together, as it will certainly bring up some good conversations about a heart for the lost, and sacrifice for the sake of others and their salvation.

Highly recommend this book! You can read more about The Story of St. Patrick book in last year’s post.

Fun Ideas for St. Patrick’s Day

We had all sorts of fun with the color GREEN last year! A quick trip to The Dollar Store and we were set with fun accessories! We ate pistachio pudding (yummie!) and green macaroni and cheese (just add green dye to the water when you boil the noodles.)

Green food, St. Patrick's, fun with kids

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

real reason for St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

How do you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?
Any books to share?

Waiting and waiting (and waiting.)

After months of research and searching for the right deal, I buy it.

“Your order will arrive Tuesday.”

Tuesday!? It seems forever away…

Tuesday is here and I anxiously await the arrival of my package. I open the door, looking to see if maybe the FedEx man forgot to knock on the door when he left the box.


An hour later, I check again.


And then it comes…a knock!

“Yay!” I yell excitedly to the kids. From my reaction they are expecting something quite exciting to be at the door.

“What is it, Mommy?” Anna asks. “Can I help you open it?”

She helps me open the box. All. Too. Slowly. Little fingers struggle to pull the tape across the top of the Amazon box. We pull back the cardboard flaps.

The waiting is over; it’s here…

My new Bible!

Bible Poverty

Did you know there is such a thing as Bible Poverty? Well, there is. And OneVerse is striving to end it.

There are more people in the world without a single verse of Scripture in their language than the entire population of the United States. In fact, more people live without a complete Bible in their language than without enough food and clean water combined. –

For months, Lara and I have been working hard on our ebook. Both of us have wanted to be able to give of the proceeds of our book. But hadn’t been certain of where the Lord was leading.

Then back in May Lara saw this and shared it with me. It is a video of the the Kimyal Tribe of Papua, Indonesia receiving their first Bibles ever in their language. We watch as the people dance, jump up and down, and weep because they now have copies of the New Testament in their native tongue.

It was then we knew where He was leading: We are to give in order to bring the nations the living water it so desperately needs.

A Chance to Give

Next Tuesday, Lara and I will release our new ebook Savoring Living Water. To say that we are excited is an understatement!

We are also thrilled to announce that we will be donating $2 to OneVerse for every copy of Savoring Living Water sold. And, the cool thing is, for every 13 copies purchased we will be able to fund the translation of a verse.

So, we’ve set a goal; a chance for the Lord to show off and for us to be a part of bringing His Word to the nations. Through the proceeds of Savoring Living Water we would like to fund the translation of the book of Philippians.

That’s 104 verses, folks.

They are Waiting

Last week I anxiously awaited my new study Bible to arrive on my doorstep. There are people all over the world who have NOT ONE COPY OF THE BIBLE to call their own.

The Rutara people are waiting.

The Rewe people are waiting.

The Ayta-Abellan people are waiting.

The Bible brings life, and for every day that passes, enough people to fill 16 Boeing 747s die without hearing the Gospel in their own language. –

There are people longing in anticipation for the Word of God to arrive in their dialect.

Let’s bring it to them.


Be sure to check out Lara’s post on OneVerse and her heart for this ministry!

Photo Credit

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World Vision in Haiti

Every where we turned, both on the journey to Mapou Village as well as on our trip back to Port au Prince, we saw evidences of the work and ministry of World Vision. Mile after mile there were schools, wells, homes and other aid provided by World Vision.

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

Our family has loved being a part of the work of World Vision, through our family world vision nights and in our gift-giving. We’ve given aid like chickens, ducks, building supplies, a share of a well, seeds and agricultural training. It is exciting to have a specific need to fill, and I love the way it helps my children understand how to “be Jesus” to the world.

The village of Mapou, where we stayed for eight days, is extremely primitive. Before World Vision came to the village the villagers lived in homes like this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

And this.

world vision in haiti

Four years ago World Vision came to the village and built each family a vision in haiti

world vision in haiti

The villagers of Mapou now use their old homes as kitchens.

world vision in haiti

It is thrilling to get to see the work of World Vision while I was in Haiti.

It could not be missed.

Here are a few ways you can get involved in the ministry work of World Vision in Haiti:

Are you a part of the ministry of World Vision? What life-changing gifts have you been able to give?


Pray for Rain

I need a new pair of black shoes. My Kia needs new tires. Mac Mini is on its last leg.

My heart can run wild with a list of endless “needs”. Yet, just a few short weeks ago I witnessed true need and received needed perspective on wants versus needs.

The people of Mapou are not concerned with coordinating shoes for their outfits. Living in the rocky village is a family who can‘t afford to buy their five children each a pair of shoes. Without shoes, they cannot attend school.

The villagers do not have cars to buy tires for or computers to repair. They don’t even have electricity.

Their needs are much more simple. Food. Clothing. Shelter. Water.

Click here to join me over at My Heart’s Desire today to read the rest of the story…