Posted by: Kara Luker | May 15, 2023

Living Stories

Last week, Chase was grilling me about my writing to discern whether it is a job or a hobby and decide whether or not I should be allowed to do it on our family’s tech-free-Tuesdays. Since I write inconsistently and don’t get paid for it, we agreed it’s currently a hobby.

“But I’m trying to write a book,” I said, “which would make it more of a job, right?”

“Well, yeah. What’s the book about?” 

“It’s a memoir,” I explained. “I only have a little bit down on paper but lots of it written in my mind, which obviously doesn’t count.”

“Why not?”

“Well, no one can read it while it’s still in my head, right?”

“Haha, I guess not.”

Which is clearly true. While a mental seed is the necessary precursor to everything I write and sometimes I even let it grow and take shape in my mind, it still has to work its way from the inside to the outside through the sometimes-arduous writing process for others to be able to read it. 

How true that is of our lives as well. Paul tells the Corinthians: “Clearly, you are a letter from Christ… This ‘letter’ is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts.” You guys, we too are a letter from Christ, written by the living God. Who wouldn’t want to read that story? 

And yet so often we let it stay on the inside where the transformative love and power of God can’t be seen and “read” by others. I don’t say this to guilt any of us into trying harder to be good people who represent God better. That just sounds exhausting and we’ll never get it right. But I think there is an important piece in surrendering to His process and allowing the radical transformation we’ve undergone by receiving His love and forgiveness to work its way first through our understanding and then outward into our lives. I can’t help but think that’s a story that people will gravitate toward. Like the way Moses was drawn to the burning bush that wasn’t consumed. 

Again, I’m not talking about being good church-going folks dressed in big smiles and our Sunday best. But about people who are so rooted in the relentless love of God that when disaster strikes, we stand in the hope that God will redeem even the worst of circumstances and use them for our good – and for the benefit of others, because His light swallows up darkness. We grow in peace when the world is falling apart around us and fear seems like the natural response because we know we are secure in our Father’s care. We take no offense when judgment or rejection come our way because we live from a place of undeniable acceptance. We reach out with compassion and self-sacrifice toward those around us, whether they are deserving or not, because we grasp the reality that we too were (and are) undeserving of the costly, boundless compassion given to us. This is the story written on our hearts by the Spirit of the Living God. This is the story we were born to tell. 

I’ll leave you with the words of Horatio Spafford who, after the death of his son and his financial ruin that resulted from the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, lost all four of his daughters in a shipwreck in the Atlantic. These are certainly not circumstances anyone would envy, and yet I think so many crave the story of unshakeable security told in this hymn he penned on the way to meet his grieving wife…

It Is Well With My Soul

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when the faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
A song in the night, oh my soul!

Posted by: Kara Luker | April 26, 2023

A new set of wings

John whispered to Chase, “Mom is a pickleball fanatic” as I left the house to play with a few women in my neighborhood yesterday. The opportunity sounded too fun to pass up, even though I’d already played earlier in the day. I’m not yet capable of playing very competitively, but I did find an opportunity to hit an aggressive shot, after which one of my neighbors joked, “It’s always the innocent ones you have to look out for!”

In a non-pickleball-related conversation recently when a friend and I were talking about our strengths and identities, she immediately spoke of my gentleness. I was giggling in bed last night as I asked John, “Who would ever have thought I would be seen as innocent and gentle??” I mean, those are lovely words and I think they are mostly true, but if you could look back in time, they are probably the last ones you’d choose. You’d more likely have lead with angry, manipulative or self-destructive; or maybe just “hellion” to keep it simple.

But that’s how transformation works. You have a starting point and then something happens in the middle that makes the ending point look a lot different. Maybe like a caterpillar, cocoon and butterfly. My starting point was essentially a mistaken identity, crawling on the ground with my belly in the dirt because I thought that’s where I belonged. Jesus entered the picture, wrapped me up in his love and helped me grasp my true identity. Without realizing exactly what was taking place (it’s kind of hard to see in a cocoon), I found myself on the other side with a new sense of joy and a beautiful set of wings.

Don’t get me wrong. I am no angel. John can testify to that. And my gentleness goes away in a hurry if I feel passionate about something. But there is no doubt that a radical transformation has taken place. I’m not what I was. I truly didn’t think that was possible. And yet at the same time, I am who I always was because my identity was (and always will be) fixed and secure. The best part is that this transformation didn’t come about by trying to change, but simply by spending time with Jesus and learning what was true.

There are some areas in my life where transformation is wanted and needed and still on the horizon, so I’m writing this as an encouragement to myself but also to anyone out there who is walking in a mistaken identity (maybe without even realizing it yet), struggling with what your life or behavior looks like, and feeling hopeless that change is possible. If God can do it for me, He sure as heck can (and will) do it for you.

p.s. If you haven’t stumbled upon Jamie Winship, I can’t encourage you enough to listen to one (or a dozen) of the many podcasts he’s been interviewed on or to read his book, Living Fearless, to learn more about walking in your true identity and to hear some amazing stories along the way.

Part 1 of 3 with Jennie Allen: Conflict Zones, the CIA, and Listening to God

Living Fearless by Jamie Winship

Posted by: Kara Luker | April 6, 2023

A blazing testimony

Having slacked on the homework for my bible study covering the first half of John, I was determined to do better as we launched into the second half so I could fully soak in the material and get the most out of our group time. Yesterday I took the time to complete the first lesson and, wow, I was not disappointed. 

We enter at John 12 into the nearly-completed ministry of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Lazarus is reclining at a dinner held in Jesus’ honor ahead of the Passover feast . A large crowd of Jews finds out Jesus is there and comes, not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus. This isn’t because of Lazarus’ wonderful qualities, charisma or achievements, but because he had been dead for four days and now, thanks to Jesus, is alive again. It’s certainly not something you see every day.

The crowd that had witnessed this miracle is continuing, as you might imagine, to spread the word. People are drawn, out of curiosity or a thirst for truth, to see with their own eyes this resurrected man walking around as though his body hadn’t been recently dead and decaying. Not only Jews but also Greeks and, according to the Pharisees, “the whole world,” is going after Jesus because of Lazarus. The Pharisees are so flustered and threatened by this fact that they plan to help Lazarus meet death (again) as quickly as possible, no doubt crossing their fingers that if they succeed, he stays down this time.

What struck me about all of this is that Lazarus can take no credit for this miracle. He was dead when it happened, after all. And yet, because of the new life he was given, his very existence is a blazing testimony of God’s love and power. Every breath, step and interaction is a marvel that draws people to see and know Jesus. This thrills me to the core. Because that’s us, you guys! We were once dead. In our sins. In our own understanding. Stuck. Enslaved. Entombed. There was no way to slow the decay. And then, by no merit of our own, God reached into death and pulled us out. We now walk in resurrection life and, like Lazarus, our very existence is a blazing testimony of who God is. I mean, wow. 

I know sometimes we don’t recognize the miraculous glory inhabiting our own lives, let alone think it’s a blazing fire for the world to see. But it’s there, smoldering, flickering and yet, like the burning bush Moses encountered, we are not being consumed… not by the darkness of this world or by the trials we face. People will be drawn. Not to us but to Jesus who saved us and gave us new life. Can I get an amen?!

Photo: Moses & the Burning Bush, Oil painting by Deana Harvey

Posted by: Kara Luker | April 4, 2023

A revised equation

Having been plunked down by God into the middle of an amazing church, neighborhood and circle of friends, I’ve been drawn out of my cozy, controlled cave into the somewhat uncomfortable – yet decidedly joyous – realm of community. It’s something I’ve longed and prayed for but at times, especially in group situations, I’ve felt old insecurities rise up alongside the ugly fear of rejection. 

My thoughts might start like this: “It’s so great to feel comfortable enough to contribute to the conversation, but wow I talked a lot. I mean, like I kinda dominated the conversation. That’s pretty obnoxious.” Usually it ends there and I realize I have pretty amazing friends who love me despite my shortcomings, but recently I felt especially vulnerable and let myself conclude that I had been (rightfully) judged and rejected, and even allowed myself to read into cues that likely held no significance… “Is she avoiding me? Probably. I would avoid me too.”

If I continued to let this play out, I would probably create distance between me and the people I believed did (or should) reject me, removing me from this community I actually want to be in. Or I might try to compensate for my negative behaviors, which is doomed to be a major flop since it only increases my self-focus, resulting in an exaggeration of insecure behaviors and taking me further away from the potential ease of being my actual self.

I think it’s fair to add that rejection might not be falsely perceived. There are going to be people who don’t like me or approve of me. That is a scary thought; one that tells me that I have bought into the lie that if people don’t like me (or I don’t like myself), I’m unacceptable and deserve to be rejected, as if my identity is a fragile thing that can be damaged by other people’s opinions of me (or my opinion of myself).

It makes me think of an equation that goes something like this:

Me + An inability to fit in = Rejection

I’ve spent a good portion of my life believing that equation, but with Jesus it simply isn’t true. In Him, I’m loved… from the very source of love. I’m accepted… by the one who created me and defines my identity. His presence with me in any circumstance changes the whole system by which I calculate any and all answers and conclusions. The equations that can now be proven by His true measure go something like this:

Me + Jesus + An inability to fit in = Loved, accepted & worthy of relationship

Me + Jesus + A whole lot of awkwardness = Loved, accepted & worthy of relationship

Me + Jesus + Talking way too much = Loved, accepted & worthy of relationship

Me + Jesus + Not being fun/smart/talented enough = Loved, accepted & worthy of relationship

As I was reflecting on this after that whole hyper-sensitive over-reaction, I knew I’d been “had” by an enemy who wants to keep me chasing after the acceptance I already have and desires nothing more than to shame and isolate me. He wants to block me not only from receiving love from people but from loving them back – in my utterly unique capacity, from the security of my true identity. So I started thanking God for His acceptance of me and fixing my mind on what that means. In no time at all, the weight of fear was lifted and I could see clearly again, without the filter of rejection.

Did this instantly set me at ease will all people? Um, no. Learning is a process. These are truths I have to practice, just like the game of pickleball I’m learning. Once I have an understanding of the game, the only way I’m going to get better is by showing up again and again, making some really terrible shots and hopefully some good ones too, and then showing up and doing it again. At some point, muscle memory will develop and it will become a lot less awkward and a lot more fun. So I am going to keep practicing acceptance in community, which is the only place where I will truly grow into the freedom and joy and occasional awkwardness of being me.

Posted by: Kara Luker | March 7, 2023

Resurrected love

I wrote the following post in 2019, the year after my 22 year old son, Cole, committed suicide. I wanted to share it again followed by a few more thoughts…

Grief Quote

A friend recently posted a short passage on Facebook that said grief is just love with no place to go. I didn’t give it too much thought at the moment, but yesterday while on my walk, it floated into my mind and I couldn’t help but ponder its truth. 

The picture that formed was a river of love thwarted by a dam of death. The river won’t just dry up due to the absence of one beloved whose presence sculpted and filled river beds in the landscape of our hearts. Love doesn’t work that way. Once created, it is a living thing, eternal; restless until its purpose is fulfilled. No, the rain will still come, the mountain snow will melt, and the river will continue to flow. But now, unable to reach the place where it can empty itself, where will it go?

It will pool in one place, rising at times as rivers do, pressing up against the tender truth of an end, irrigating our lives with tears. We might bathe in that reservoir of frustrated love until the moisture has pruned our skin or immerse ourselves until our lungs are at bursting point. But at some point, we will climb back up to where we’ve set up camp on the banks and try to carry on, maybe stand once in a while with our feet in the water looking at the expanse of what could have been. With no apparent path past that dam, it seems the best we can do.

But what if death doesn’t have to thwart love any more than it thwarted life when Jesus was crucified? What if, like the third day in the tomb, it is resurrected into a new kind of life, having only gained scope and power through loss? This, it seems, is a significant part of the process of surrender: That by yielding our ideas of how this river should flow, we allow the Lord to bust down these dams or carve out the ground around them, releasing a wild flow of love from our hearts, not just to those we’ve lost, but to wherever it is needed.

I don’t know exactly what this will look like, but I can think of no better way to honor Cole and the extraordinary love formed in my heart because of him than to pour it out on others. I do know that it can only be done by the Spirit as I continue to yield in trust and ask Him to help me see with new eyes and to love like He does – without end. I can’t wait to see where this river will flow. I’ll keep you posted. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:8


I am in my living room as Chase is racing around the sofa with two other boys in intense pursuit of each other’s lego Star Wars ships. The boys, 7 and 11 year old brothers, have been staying with us this week while their mom works on housing for their family. It has been a far livelier household than we are used to, with a lot of joy but also some challenges and complicated emotions for these kids who have been through a lot. God has shown up in ways that have astonished me, providing needed wisdom and a surprisingly deep level of love. 

To find this kind of love in my heart for kids who were recently strangers is fairly shocking to me. I’ve always embraced the idea of sacrificial love, but have typically fallen short in the actual doing of it. It’s costly, you know? And yet, this week the cost feels worth it; almost like I’m walking away with more than I have given. I have felt the same with the couple of other kids we have hosted. It’s as if God is using our small amount of willingness and availability to do something sacred and lasting, far beyond our ability.

Well, I started this post over the weekend and got swept away with the rushing current of three boys and a dog. After a week of hosting the brothers, we handed them off to another host family yesterday. It was hard for me. I mean, life is decidedly easier without them, but my heart got invested and I want them to feel secure, known and loved, just as I do my own kids. So I will be praying and trusting that God is going to keep meeting their needs and depositing into their hearts through his Spirit and this amazing community of people.

But this got me thinking about how becoming a mom to Cole over 27 years ago was the first time I understood how an inherently selfish person like me could love someone so much that there would be a joyful willingness to sacrifice for them. And then it got me thinking about the cry of my heart after Cole’s death for God to repurpose that love so that it could be used for others. I feel like I am experiencing the first itty bitty sprouts popping through the surface in response to those desires and prayers. My prayer is that it is only the beginning; that a fruitful garden of God’s love would grow into the fulness of what began through Cole’s life and is being resurrected into something of greater scope and power through his death. Would you join me in that prayer?

Posted by: Kara Luker | January 30, 2023

Inspired confidence

Well goodness, it’s been a while since I’ve checked in! It feels like life lifted me off the ground in December, swirled me around for a good month or two (with so many wonderful things, mind you) and deposited me here on this rainy Southern California day with some time to write and an earnest hope that I can remember how. Thank you for joining me in this attempt.

At a dentist appointment last year, I was told that the gums in the lower front part of my mouth had receded enough that it would be in my best interest to have a gum graft. I wasn’t so sure what suddenly made things turn that corner since my gums had always seemed low and I’d never been flagged for such drastic measures. But since the dentist is the expert and I didn’t want exposed roots, teeth falling out or any other consequences, I figured I should respond accordingly. 

“Okay, sure,” I said. “I’ll do it.” I scheduled a date with a periodontist who comes monthly to my dentist’s office. But there was a problem. The idea of someone taking a chunk out of my palate and stitching it onto my gums seemed unpleasant and quickly triggered my fear of pain. It also seemed incredibly inconvenient to take time off of regular life things, including exercise and a good many foods, to recuperate. Fortunately another problem arose, which was that my insurance wouldn’t cover it until the new year so I had to postpone. Phew!! I bought myself several months with that convenient – and very legitimate – excuse.

In the meantime, I researched every possible way of enduring less suffering. Donor tissue? Nope, doesn’t work as well. Pinhole technique which doesn’t require cutting into the palate? No, not effective in this area of the mouth. Shoot! Okay fine. I get it. I have to do the whole awful thing. The upside of my frenzied research was that I came across a different periodontist. Unlike the first one who had fumbled with his camera when taking pictures of my gums and didn’t inspire a lot of confidence, this one, alongside his fabulous assistant, provided a consultation that made me feel like I would be in the best of hands. His demeanor was upbeat and professional, his methods made sense and there would be much greater freedom in scheduling the surgery since he had his own office.

The strangest thing happened in between scheduling the graft and approaching it. The fear and dread disappeared and were replaced with excitement about getting this thing done. I was ready and knew I was in the best hands with this doctor. He would do a great job; I was sure of it. I would get through the process and heal up and all would be well. Heck, maybe I’d even be less fearful next time something came up.

So last Tuesday, I drove myself to my appointment, confidently hopped in the periodontist’s chair, got the work done with little fanfare, made a couple quick stops on the way home and have been recouping for the past week. I’ve obediently taken ibuprofen and antibiotics, eaten soft foods, rested as best as I can and am feeling like myself again. The hardest part has honestly been slowing down, but it’s actually a gift because I think I needed it. The most surprising part is there has been little to no pain. Who would have thought?

This story turned out longer than I meant it to be – oops – but it really got me thinking about how many hard things we are going to have to face in life. Fear and dread are pretty natural responses. After all, who wants to experience pain, even when it is deemed necessary for our wellbeing. Many of us are likely to put off dealing with these hard things – like hurts, failures, disappointments, grievances, regrets, addictions, (fill in the blank) – and grab hold of any reasons, legitimate or not, to justify this procrastination. Again, a very natural thing. No shame necessary. 

But what if, while trying to figure out how to postpone or circumvent the process, we come across the most trustworthy expert who inspires the confidence needed for us to lean forward? I don’t mean to lean forward into pain or the idea of it, but into the process determined by this expert, knowing that we are in the best of hands and our problems will be handled with perfect wisdom and care. And what if, in response, the fear and dread we initially felt melts away as excitement for our healing and freedom rises to the surface?

The only completely trustworthy doctor I’ve ever found in matters like this is Jesus and I could write the greatest reviews because of the impossibly hard things his expert care has gotten me through. But in all honesty, I usually waltz around problems in every other way possible before fully bringing them – or entrusting them – to the Lord. And I often cancel appointments, “surgery” and the like because I panic that he will expect more of me in the “treatment plan” than I have the courage for. So this post is not only intended as an encouragement to you, but to me as well, to bring our problems – and all the fear about dealing with them – for a very honest consultation with the Lord to see what he has to say. I think we might be surprised by the confidence and hope his very presence draws up in us and maybe – just maybe – we will realize that we are suddenly willing to submit ourselves to his care, experiencing far less pain and trauma in the process than we thought possible, and find ourselves on the other side of our troubles with healing and freedom in hand. 

Photo: Avalon Dental Care (which reminds me, I should probably start flossing)

Posted by: Kara Luker | December 15, 2022

Divided body

There has always been a divide between me and my body as if we were two separate entities forced to do life together. Almost like an awkward pairing for a three-legged race, stumbling along and falling down repeatedly while watching others soar past us with rhythm and grace. I attribute this to the fact that my body did not line up with what I thought it should be. Nope, not in form or function. How was I expected to partner with such a thing?

From my earliest childhood when I would gladly risk a spanking from my health-minded parents for the chance to get sugar in my bloodstream to my teenage years when the cravings turned to far worse substances and the risks increased exponentially, it seemed like my body was exacting demands that I felt powerless to deny. It was like a traitor, selling out my best for a hit of happiness or comfort.

Then there was the issue of fatigue that began in those teenage years, which was understandable in the restless swirl of substance and emotion when I was trying to figure out which way was up but didn’t seem to improve when I got nourishment, rest and tried my best to meet my body’s finicky list of conditions. It’s no wonder methamphetamine was my drug of choice, wanting to experience the feeling of a “normal” body that delivered the energy it should.

And then, of course, there was the look of my body which never seemed to satisfy my expectations. The shape was all wrong or the size or the proportions, causing me to ignore the needs my body expressed through hunger or to beat it down with strenuous exercise. Never mind the knife I took to it at one point, carving out lines in my arms that can still be seen. My body and I were pretty much enemies at this point so I didn’t feel too bad about it. After all, I wouldn’t have to treat it so poorly if it did a better job of meeting my needs.

That just leaves the promiscuity, which seemed insignificant when there was such a disconnect between my heart and this ugly shell I inhabited. It felt no more meaningful than sharing a pair of old socks with a stranger. Take ‘em or leave ‘em. What’s it to me?

Except it turns out that my body is a freaking rockstar. By some miracle, it is still standing despite the hell I put it through. It survived an onslaught of nicotine, alcohol, drugs and even a heroin overdose. It made it through neglect and outright abuse. It birthed two sweet sons who changed my life and carried me through the loss of one of them. It wakes up every single morning to facilitate this beautiful life I never thought I’d have. How could I ever have considered it an enemy?

Yes, we are still working out the kinks of our relationship, especially when it is tired and I start to panic, but I am feeling so much gratitude for this vessel of life God has generously given me. No longer is my focus on making it look a certain way or even act a certain way. I just want to learn to treat it kindly; to listen to its needs and respond with gentleness and wisdom; to be a friend. I have a feeling that as I continue on this path, my body and I are going to learn to run together with rhythm and grace. And we are going to have the time of our lives. I look forward to telling you all about it.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Cor 6:19-20


Have you ever experienced a disconnect with your body? What was the cause… and were you able to reconcile it?

Posted by: Kara Luker | December 1, 2022

God of redemption

If you had told me when I was younger that my life would be so good that I would cry thankful tears of joy on a random Tuesday, I would have called you deluded. Not only was my life a disaster, the problems seemed to go far beyond my choices and behavior. I thought it was my very self that was broken beyond repair and for my life to have any good in it, I had to be removed from the equation. But if I died, it would no longer be my life. It was a catch 22. 

At a certain point, I came to realize that I truly wanted to have a good life, one that looked so different from the one I possessed, but also came to the horrifying conclusion that I was completely unable to affect that change. It was this desperate tension, the tug of war between desire and need, that finally caused me to wave the white flag and give my life, the whole tangled mess of it, to Jesus.

He entered into my trainwreck of a life as if it was a garden that he was delighted to visit, and began to gently teach me and show me a very undeserved love. I thought that now that I was “saved,” I should get it right. But nope, he didn’t say, “You need to get it right.” Or anything like that. He said, “Let me love you and show you my ways.” It was not easy. I felt so unworthy of love and too fearful to trust. But the desire kept tugging and wouldn’t let me off the hook. There was no going back. 

So I followed him little by little, day by day, year by year, having so little understanding of the transformative power of this beautiful God I was trying to pursue as best as a broken-down person could. Never did he start saying, “Now you need to get it right.” Instead he said, “I got it right so you don’t have to. Just let me love you and show you my ways.” Somehow, along the way, he sorted out the impossible. He set me on a firm foundation. He made my life so incredibly beautiful that I have found myself in tears several times this week in humble gratitude for his relentlessly patient and bountiful love and his ways which are at once so tender and powerful. 

I am not saying I don’t have problems anymore. Or that I don’t struggle. Or that I don’t come up short. I do. But I now see that Jesus resolved the catch 22 by dying on the cross and taking the old sin-riddled, failure-bound me with him. And then resurrected me as a brand new creation. At that moment, though I couldn’t yet grasp it, his perfect righteousness was imparted to me. It’s on this journey of understanding what this means that I have been transformed. While sometimes I wonder if my heart is big enough to contain more kindness, I know I’ve only just begun to see the height and depth and width of this love. 

I have a cousin who once was so hopeless, he also nearly self-destructed and even tried to take his own life. Last Sunday, this same cousin preached the most beautiful sermon at the church he now works at. His amazing wife sat in the front row while his two kids played in Sunday school. His relationship with his family has been restored, as has his joy and purpose. He helps people every day with the patient, compassionate love God showed him. His laughter is one of my favorite things on earth. He is living in the impossible, undeniable radiance of our redemptive God.

I am sharing this because I think there are people out there right now who are without hope, maybe to the point of despair, that their life could ever change or could ever matter. Take heart. It can’t help but change in light of this love. And you do matter, so much, right now, regardless of how you see yourself or how impossibly tangled your life looks. Wave your white flag when you are ready. And one day you too will be crying tears of gratitude as you survey your beautiful life; one that seemed like it could never, ever be within your reach and yet here it is in your very hands.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Romans 8:31-34

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. Ephesians 3:18

Posted by: Kara Luker | November 28, 2022

Our relationship-loving Dad

A day before school let out for Thanksgiving break, Chase got really sick with a high fever, an aching body, a nasty cough and endless congestion. I felt very fortunate to be able to rearrange my plans and take care of him. Even his eyes hurt and propping him up in front of the TV wasn’t an option, so I pulled him onto my lap, held him close and prayed quietly over him. 

In between the silent spaces of rest and the tear-filled ones when he was expressing his suffering, he apologized – repeatedly – for being sick. He felt guilty, he said, that he was taking up so much of my time and energy. “I love taking care of you, buddy,” I told him. “It’s what moms do!”  “But I don’t really do anything for you and I feel like I should,” he responded during one of these conversations. He laid out all the ways I care for him and how short he falls in repaying that care in any meaningful way.

The whole thing felt sweet and earnest, yet odd at the same time; like he misunderstood our roles. I explained that it’s not a kid’s job to take care of their parents, but the other way around. “Yeah, but I want to help take care of you,” he said. “I appreciate that! But the thing I want most from you is relationship because just being with you delights me every single day and it makes my heart full when you receive my love and friendship.” When he pressed about what he could do for me, I told him “I feel loved when you willingly do what I ask because it shows that you trust me. That means so much more than some important-looking gesture!” “Huh,” he responded, clearly never having thought of helping around the house as an act of love. “And,” I continued, “I looove when you treat other people well.”

When walking away from that last conversation, my feet stopped moving as my brain was struck with the reality that Chase’s sentiment parallels my own. Having come to understand so much more profoundly how much God loves me and what he sacrificed to demonstrate that love, I have been wanting to repay him with something equally big and sacrificial; a life that reads like a grand gesture of kindness. While that desire probably touches God’s heart, just like Chase’s touched mine, I think that maybe that’s not what he’s asking for.

I think more than anything I can “do” for him, my heavenly Dad mostly wants relationship with me. He wants me to be able to receive his love and care, knowing it is a joy for him; something given freely, not something I owe him for. He wants to hear about the big and little things in my day; to laugh with me over the silly things and to hold me close when my heart breaks. He also wants to share his heart with me and impart wisdom and perspective, giving me a glimpse of what lies beyond my childlike and often self-focused vantage point. If I grasp nothing else in this life, I think this alone would make him pretty darn happy.

But what if I want to do something for him? I think that’s also a lot like what I told Chase; that rather than grand gestures, which are often self-serving anyway, God is blessed beyond measure when I willingly do what he asks because it means that I’ve heard him and trust him. And I think he’s also super blessed and proud when I treat others well because it demonstrates an understanding of how well I’ve been treated. 

This is a huge relief for me. Because, despite my best intentions, I’m not remotely capable of living the life I’d like to live in response to his kindness. I’m tired just thinking about it. But I do think that as I press into him each day, sharing my heart and hearing his, I have a very good chance of living a life that brings him a whole lot of joy, just like my kid brings me.

Posted by: Kara Luker | November 18, 2022

God is not withholding good

Have you ever had a thought or feeling running unnoticed in the background of your life, not demanding much attention, and then all of a sudden, something external presses on it and suddenly it is right up in your face?

Well, that happened to me recently and revolves around decisions made several years ago. The backstory starts with John and I being fortunate enough to have our sweet baby Chase after getting married. Between my age, which was on the older side for bearing babies, and my control issues, I felt a need to know pretty quickly whether we were going to try for another one. John was willing (for my sake), but felt the financial weight of providing for another kid. I was willing but was concerned about my ability to manage two very small human beings with my limited energy, and also didn’t want to be so consumed by my own family that I couldn’t help others. 

Seemingly, things were leaning in the “against” direction, but there was still a lingering desire; a sense that our family wasn’t quite complete. So I wrestled down the competing voices in my mind and took the whole thing to God in prayer. While there was no audible voice from heaven, I felt a peace descend about letting go of another possible pregnancy. Joy followed. It felt so right. Of course we would adopt at some point; that was always the plan. Besides, we already had a very full, recently-blended household with a baby, two teens, a dog and a tortoise… certainly enough to keep our hands and hearts full! So before Chase was a year old, surgery was scheduled to prevent further pregnancies and that was that.

Back in the day

Until a couple years passed. Chase was in a more manageable place, Cole had left for the Navy, Madison was hardly ever home and we didn’t have pets anymore. I suddenly found myself ready – really ready – for another baby. Except we had already closed that door and John quickly shot down my suggestion to reverse the surgery. Go figure. So we started moving forward with the fostering process, which turned out to be a six month journey that stopped short of us being approved. We were given a yellow light and by the time we got the green light, neither of us felt a peace about moving forward. In the end we hosted a few sets of kids temporarily through a great organization called Safe Families, which scratched the itch to help other families and proved to be a helpful reality check, but left me without a sense of resolve for my deeper wants and expectations.

As the years have gone by with Chase getting older – and us too, expanding our family doesn’t seem as realistic or appealing. So I’ve been left with a slight sadness that Chase is basically an only child, a conversation that feels unfinished, and a mild regret that we didn’t just have one more back when we had the chance. But it’s all been under the surface with very little conscious thought. That is until our friends stepped into the temporary care of a little girl who might, contrary to the way the program normally works, become a long term part of their family. It’s not that I want to be the caregiver for this child, as sweet and magical as our interactions with her have been. It is that this external circumstance pressed on this unresolved thing inside, squeezing it right up in my face, making me acknowledge the nagging sense that either I missed the boat or God failed to show up in some way. Which was uncomfortable, but a gift to be sure.

I took it to prayer, wielding two of my best weapons – surrender and praise – which lined me up beautifully to grasp the truth I needed to hear; one that hit my heart like a game-changing revelation: God is not withholding any good thing from me. I repeated it a few times, chewing it over and getting excited, “God is not withholding any good thing from me.” He could have spoken loud and clear if his best for us was having another baby. He could have cleared the path for us to foster and/or adopt or given us a peace when we got the go-ahead. Even if we got everything wrong – misunderstood him in prayer, forced a decision before it was time to make, made an entirely wrong decision or one based in fear, or didn’t pursue something we should have – he can still make right what we didn’t. Because he is the God of second chances. And third. And fourth. And fiftieth. 

While that doesn’t mean I can prance back to my baby-bearing years and make a different decision, it does mean that I can let go of my doubts and regrets. Because it was – and is – his intention to meet my needs and fulfill my desires… abundantly, richly, fully. While I might be fixated on a certain way (or time) that needs to happen, he grasps with a perfect wisdom that is often far beyond my understanding the way and timing that would best accomplish that, not only for my good but for those around me too. So if I can let go of the attachment to my ideas, no matter how good they are, and spend my time embracing where he has me and delighting in who he is, I am positioned in a place of trust to receive the beautiful things he would love to give, knowing that he is also protecting me from anything less. This frees me up to live wholeheartedly here and now, with a heart that is deeply satisfied and a life that glorifies him. I can’t think of a better way to live.

This all feels very personal, but I’m sharing it in the hope that it will encourage those who need it. Maybe you have been waiting for a desire to be fulfilled and have felt like you missed the boat or God failed you in some way. Maybe it seems like there is now no way for you to see its fulfillment. Or maybe you see people around you experiencing what you desperately want, pressing hard on your unmet desire and waving it in your face. But I am certain that if you will take it to God, asking him to help you to surrender your sorrow, regret, disappointment, fear, doubt or whatever nagging torment you are carrying – as well as the way or timing you have determined the desire needs to be fulfilled, he will tenderly hold your heart and meet its deepest needs in the best way possible, satisfying your heart abundantly, richly, fully. Because he is not withholding any good thing from you. He will never withhold any good thing from you. Blessings to you, friend.

Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Psalm 37:3-4

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