LentI never understood the full symbolism of winter until I moved to Rochester. I grew up in a place where it got plenty cold, but usually for just a few days or a week at the most.

Even when we were bundled in our winter coats the sun was shining almost every day, and snow was an excuse to stay home by the fire and throw snowballs with the neighbor’s kid.

Winter was just a break from mowing the grass and watching for rattlesnakes. It wasn’t anything I thought about enduring or rushing through until I had my first late February and early March here, when spring and rebirth couldn’t come fast enough.

I was desperate to go outside without gloves, to see some sign of life coming out of the soil – to finally have light and warmth.

Now, I understand when people say they are living through winter in their lives. I know about darkness and gray. I know how snow and bills and medical concerns can pile up and block your view.

I know how it can look like the end.

In the Christian tradition we’re beginning to celebrate Lent this week and we’ll follow along in our scriptures as Jesus ministers, is adored by the crowds and then faces his own winter, his own suffering and death.

His followers were, of course, unsure what to do. Worried about their own safety. And so very sad and heartbroken. But scripture tells us that on the third day some of the women who were closest to Jesus went to his sealed grave and found that the stone – the one specifically chosen because it was so difficult to move – had been rolled away and Jesus had risen from the dead.

Spring and light had come after all.

As we prepare for Easter this year, my prayer for us is that whatever heavy boulders are blocking new life will be rolled away.

Self doubt.

May it all be moved so we can be alive and free.

Simply Faithful prayer journal

I believe part of loving others is praying for them and that we shouldn’t miss an opportunity to be an answer to prayer.

My hope is that this little printable — designed with two weeks on one page — will prompt you to pray for people you might not always think of and remind you to put love into action.

May it be a blessing!

Kindly sign up for my email list (at the bottom of the page) and then click here to download the Simply Faithful prayer journal.


Want more suggestions for keeping a prayer journal? Read about a Bible and prayer journal caddy or check out this video for step-by-step instructions on creating a well thought out prayer notebook.

Cottey College ribbons

IMG_2694I never meant to go to a women’s college. In fact, I really only visited the campus because a family friend couldn’t stop talking about it.

There were small class sizes and amazing access to technology and science equipment even for first-year students, she said. Not to mention the leadership opportunities, the new art building and how accessible the professors are.

She was right about all of it, and so I found myself in Nevada, Mo., with more than 300 other women studying, growing, eating shakes and becoming more like sisters than friends.

At the time, Cottey College was a two-year school and first-year students were called freshmen and second-year students were seniors. We lived in suites, so we shared a living room, kitchenette, bathroom and most of our lives with nine other women — a mix of freshmen and seniors. When I was homesick that first year, it was my seniors who comforted me and told me that it gets easier. It was one of my seniors who edited my first college essay, and a senior who hugged me when I had my first fight with my roommate.

So, you can imagine the tears at graduation and all the promises to keep in touch, even as we packed to go to places like Alabama, Wyoming and Croatia. But in true Cottey fashion, our seniors had a plan, a tradition for later that helped us stay close at heart.

With their freshmen gathered, my seniors talked of friendship and of its value and worth. And then? Our seniors gave us ribbons. Some chose symbolic colors, others a plaid or pattern they were known to wear. When they handed them to us, they told us to pin them inside our jackets because the ribbons weren’t meant for others to see. They were meant to be a reminder for us that we are never alone. We share this walk together.

I’ve long since removed the ribbons from my jacket, but I have them in a glass jewelry box that has traveled with me to every apartment and house I’ve lived in since. And some years around Valentine’s Day — when it seems the perfect time to honor friends — I tuck ribbons in the mail, in coat pockets and into the hands of loved ones because my seniors were right.

We are not alone and we are loved.

Your dance mattersWith a husband motivated to sample European cheeses and little boys itching to be outside, we found ourselves at the public market on a Saturday winding through the booths of apples and leeks and spicy pickles.

The crowd flowed by the bell peppers and the pineapples and the asparagus and eventually pooled in a small circle around a man singing and playing the guitar. A woman with red hair and bright blue leggings started to dance, her movements as wavy as her hair. Even though she drew our attention, she seemed to not need an audience. She seemed to just need to dance.

A little girl, I’m guessing about 6 years old, made her way closer to the musician. At first she swayed in her long, dark coat. Then, she danced, too. Sometimes she imitated the woman across from her, but mainly she moved her own way.

A toddler in a stroller started smiling and then waving his arms at the woman and the musician. And his mom sat next to him and tapped her feet.

Isn’t it always this way?

One brave soul begins to dance and that gives others permission to take a chance, permission to be vulnerable and share their art. One man takes to the podium and shares with the world his dream of a day when all are equal and that gives others confidence and direction.

One mother says no more to addiction and abuse and generations are changed. One co-worker pulls up a chair and tells us we can do better than this I’m-rushing-but-I-can’t-keep-up life, and we all sigh and relax our shoulders. We start to spend more time and money and grace on people.

One person issues the invitation and others, buoyed by her courage, begin to dance. It works in a group of millions, or hundreds or two because when we share – our art, our story, our truth, even our struggles – it strengthens us and our faith.

It reminds us we aren’t alone and our dance matters.

It matters among the beets and the carrots at the market. It matters at home, in the coffee shop and in the cubicle. It matters in the pews, in the studio and in the seat of the tractor.

It’s always this way. Your dance matters.

your dance matters

having the faith to starthaving the faith to starthaving the faith to startMy favorite journal is brown with antique maps wrapped around its cover. Just inside it carries a 2008 inscription from my husband. Words of love and encouragement. Words that urge me to “become intoxicated by the fragrance of every flower that makes up the beauty of (my) heart.”

Beyond that is a blank page. And another, followed by another.

In seven years, my pen has never landed there, never rolled across the lines for fear my words wouldn’t be sturdy enough to hold my expectations.

What if my penmanship was messy? What if all I could think of to write was a shopping list? How fragrant would those words be?

The edges are turning with age and thankfully I’m turning as well – toward beginning and enjoying.

I have a handful of resolutions for 2015, and they all fall under a one-word theme: start.

Start writing in the journal, even if it gets filled with ramblings and doodles.

Start the project I’m afraid I’ll never be able to finish.

Start learning something new.

Start scheduling regular dates with my husband.

Start praying out loud for my kids.

Start kicking fear out the door, and start trusting that – whatever it is – God’s got this.

Start acting like this life here is a gift, and I really don’t have a moment to waste on worry or self-doubt or unforgiveness.


It’s a good word, and I suspect it’s a good way to come alive in 2015, a good step toward true faith.

That eloquent husband of mine, he likes a scene in one of the X-Men movies from more than a decade ago. One of the characters, Magneto, is crossing a dark abyss. At first, there is no bridge. No rope. Nothing. But when Magneto lifts his foot to take the first step, rocks rise and form a steady walkway. Each step after that – each start – brings more rocks for Magneto to walk on until he has safely crossed.

It’s that way with faith, too, my husband tells me. We start and we trust, even without a visible pathway. Without all the answers. Without all the resources lined up in neat rows. Without knowing how we’ll fill the page.

So, here’s to having the faith to start in 2015.


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