Friday, January 7, 2011

Out on the Ice

Mountain View
A mountain view can literally take your breath away. Getting a clearer view of God can do the same. Here at the Warming House, you'll find truth about who God is and how He feels about you. You will be challenged to live your life a little differently.

Sometimes you read something that just sticks with you. That happened to me recently when I read an article by Les Steckel (FCA President/CEO). In his article, Les describes life as being much like a hockey game. We can be skating along on smooth ice then suddenly an unexpected life event slams us into the boards and leaves us lying on the ice. Thankfully, we have a God who helps us get back on our feet again when we trust Him to do it.

As I thought about this writing, my mind wandered to the spectators and teammates standing behind the boards as we lie on the ice. In my life there have been times when those who watched me go down responded by turning away and telling me they'd be there to listen one day down the road "when I got better". Others stayed behind the boards shouting theological platitudes and quoting scripture about what I needed to be doing and thinking. While I was familiar with the things they were saying and knew them to be true, their words left me feeling empty and cold - as though I wasn't measuring up.

Now for the good news! I have also had the good fortune to experience a very different kind of community where friends immediately came out on the ice, knelt down beside me, wiped the blood from my forehead, held my hand, and stayed with me until I was strong enough to get back up and skate on.

I encountered this type of Christian compassion just this past week when our family traveled to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City for our son's heart procedure. As we sat in the waiting room, visions and remembrances flooded my mind. 15 years earlier, we had been in this same room before our son's heart surgery at the age of two. Our pastor, friends, and family had been there with us. In the weeks leading up to surgery, there had been many expressions of love from people in our church and community. I recalled the prayer vigil held on the eve of his surgery; numerous phone calls; gifts of teddy bears, musical giraffes, books and cards; visits to the hospital; and meals brought to our home after our son's discharge. Some just walked up to me and simply said, "I don't know what to do or say, but I'm so sorry for what you're going through. Let us know if there's anything we can do." I clearly remember the woman who intentionally read my favorite children's book, Love You Forever, during the children's sermon the first Sunday we were back in church. It was Mother's Day.

Our family has since moved away from that city, yet when our son had his procedure last week, our phones were once again busy with calls from family and friends. People prayed for us and offered to open their homes to us if we needed a place to stay. Facebook messages ministered to us, and the morning of his procedure, numerous texts of support and prayer flashed across our phones. In addition, four friends from our former church unexpectedly showed up at the hospital waiting room.

Joshua, Tanner, and Courtney on the elephant bed.
(Gotta love Children's Mercy!)

The actions of these people remind me of the sweet love of my Savior who came out from behind the boards to save us and show us the truth about God (John 5:19, John 14:9-11). He comforted hearts that were broken and shattered (Luke 7:11-15) and fed those who were hungry (Matthew 15:32). He cared about the whole person (Matthew 4:23-25); welcomed the outcasts and those society had rejected (Matthew 15:21-28); healed the unlovely and unlovable (Mark 1:40-42); gave rest to the weary (Matthew 11:28-30); took the time to listen to stories of hardship from hurting people (Luke 8:47-48); touched those who desperately needed a loving touch - even those with despicable diseases (Matthew 8:3); rescued women in crisis - including prostitutes (John 8:1-11); sat at the bedside of the sick (Matthew 8:14-15); crossed socioeconomic, political and racial boundaries to show mercy (John 4:43-54); lifted the oppressed and devalued (Matthew 20:29-34); courageously demonstrated compassion even when it was unpopular (Luke 13:10-17, Mark 3:1-6); and showed mercy to those who mourn (Luke 7:13-14). In the end, He willingly gave His life to save those in danger (John 10:14-18, Luke 23:44-49, John 3:16-17).

(If you aren't familiar with the Bible, just look up the books in the table of contents. They'll be listed by books of the Old Testament and New Testament. The verses listed above are all found in the New Testament.)

People can tell me about the love of Jesus all day long, but when they demonstrate His love it leaves a permanent imprint on my heart. Let me tell you, that's exactly what I need when I'm lying on the ice. Those expressions of love and compassion, no matter how small, feel like clouds and warm blankets softening the harsh edges of crisis and challenge in life. Friends, that's called comfort.

John (one of Jesus' followers and a close friend) tells us, "Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" - as Jesus did.

Considering the heart of Christ, it seems to me that coming out from behind the boards is a practice that should be the norm for Christians in our world today as we follow His example. Imagine how the world might change if we would give Christ the freedom to live and love through us as we kneel down beside those who lay on the ice.

This past week I have been loved well, and I am so grateful for the ways God has demonstrated His love to us through these faithful friends. Whether or not you have experienced this type of compassion from the people around you, know that Jesus has compassion for you and cares about the things you're going through today. He is there beside you on the ice and will help you if you let Him. All you have to do is ask.

Join me by the fire for conversations about how to nurture your family and create a warm and inviting home for family and friends.

We have always viewed our home as a place of ministry. At the main entry to our home stands a beautiful handmade wooden door, but in reality it's more like a revolving door with people coming and going at all times. That's the way I like it.

When family, friends, teens, college students, the lonely, the grieving, international visitors, those recovering from surgery, and even the homeless have stepped across the threshold of our home, our desire is that they feel completely welcome and at ease. It is intended to be a place of comfort (much like a warming house) regardless of the path that has brought them to us. Some of this "comfort" can be accomplished through decorating.

Inside our home, I have used scripture in tasteful ways throughout my decor because it brings comfort and encouragement to our family. The use of color also makes our home warm and inviting. You will not find one white wall in my home. Although it sometimes requires courage to paint a wall a rich burgundy or deep brown, color is an inexpensive way to dramatically change the feel of a room.

Brown walls in our master bedroom

Cozy blankets are an essential item in a comfortable home. We've placed them in just about every room. Hung across the backs of chairs and stacked in baskets, they are always ready to warm a family member or guest.

Lighting also plays a major role. We have dimmers on key light fixtures so we can soften the light when we want to create a warmer atmosphere. Candlelight is my favorite. I use real and battery-operated versions everywhere. Strings of white lights aren't just for Christmas and can be used throughout the year in creative ways. The new "twig" lights are really fun and look great tucked into plants and floral arrangements.

"Twig" lights

During these cold winter months, hot chocolate is the perfect drink to make guests and family feel warm and cozy inside. Here's our family's favorite recipe.

White Hot Chocolate
Recipe courtesy Paula Deen, 2007
(Found on

1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped topping
Mint leaf, for garnish

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips and heavy cream. Stir continuously until white chocolate chips have completely melted. Stir in the half-and-half, and vanilla extract. Stir occasionally until heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of whipped topping and garnish with mint leaf. Absolutely delicious!

Watch next week's blog for 10 things you can do to make your guests feel at home.

Pinecones and Twigs
Just like gathering nature's treasures on a hike through the woods, you never know what you'll find here - a great read, an inspiring photo of nature, or maybe the latest bargain. Check out this spot at The Warming House for something fun.

My daughter and I were in one of our favorite stores (Anthropologie) recently and saw this cozy cookbook - perfect for The Warming House.

"Home-baked fruit desserts warm from the oven, bubbling up with delicious juices, fragrant with spices, encased in crisp buttery pastry are comfort foods at their best. (" You'll find over 65 recipes including Apple & Blackberry Crumble, Blueberry and Lemon Polenta Cobbler, Plum and Hazelnut Pandowdy, Apple Brown Betty with Dried Cranberries and Pecans, Caramel Apple Crisp, as well as recipes for clafoutis, slumps, puddings, tarts, and dessert cakes. Is your mouth watering yet?

You can find "Cinnamon, Spice & Warm Apple Pie: Comforting Baked Fruit Desserts for Chilly Days" by Ryland Peters and Small at Anthropologie and

A Steaming Hot Mug
Stories of Compassion to Warm your Soul from the Inside Out

Submit your stories to and I will select some each week for publication on this blog. Your stories must fall into one of the following three categories: 1) Stories of a time when you experienced God's compassion directly or through the actions of another person; 2) Specific things you've done to teach compassion to your children; or 3) How your church or someone you know has demonstrated the compassion of Christ within your church or to those outside its walls. Can't wait to hear (and share) your stories here at The Warming House!

Down the Path
In the future, watch for information about a mission trip scholarship contest. At the end of the year, bloggers will have the opportunity to vote on a Christian charity they would like to see receive a donation from The Warming House.

Stay warm and cozy,