God of “The Plan”

At the risk of being branded a heretic, I’ve decided to give God a new name.

It all started a few weeks ago at a Compassion conference, where I heard a young woman from the Philippines tell the story of how God rescued her from a hopeless situation.   I had no idea that an hour later, my own life would be turned upside down and I’d be clinging to her words.

Keewani Vallejo, telling her story

Keewani Vallejo, telling her story

Her name is Keewani Vallejo – but her friends call her Kiwi.  Looking at her today, you’d never guess she grew up in total poverty, living in a bamboo shack. Her twin brothers were born by C-Section – their mother cut open…without anesthesia. Three brothers died in childhood from medical complications. Her family lived on rice and soy sauce. And when it rained, they would wake up to flooding – the water dark, pungent, full of rats and garbage.

Things began to change when she was enrolled in the Compassion International sponsorship program at her local church. She began attending school.

But Kiwi was still living in poverty….

One day at church she asked her teacher “Ma’am, why are we poor?” Her teacher answered “Kiwi, I know this is your situation right now, but the Bible says God has plans for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and hope. Kiwi, this is your situation right now, but this is not your destiny.” (Jer. 29:11)

And so Kiwi began to break out of her “mental box” and dream of a life outside of poverty. Even though she could see no way out. And as Kiwi told us the various trials of her life, she kept reiterating her prayer – “God, this is my situation. I know you have a plan, even thought I can’t see it right now.” She then told us how God coordinated various circumstances that totally changed her life. Fast forward 20 years, and today Kiwi is a licensed physical therapist, giving others hope by sharing how God worked in her own hopeless situation.

God did have a plan, and it was good after all.wallpaper_20090804100302_18567063232

I’ll admit Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t new to me. Not at all. But it’s relatively easy for me to talk hope and future, when I have family, friends, church, money, and – if all that fails – I have government programs.  Heck, I even Facebook (I’ve seen some amazing posts for people needing jobs, money, friends, you name it – and answers flood in). In that environment, it’s easy to talk about hope and a future.

But when you’re living in deep poverty, with no options and no way out, it’s an entirely different thing to say “God has a plan – this is my situation, but it’s not my destiny.” To trust God in spite of everything you’ve ever known. That takes faith. In times like that, how long would I hold firm to “God has a plan” before I start to feel stressed?

And as I was pondering all this, it happened….

Within an hour of Kiwi’s talk, I received texts, emails, and facebook messages.  All saying the same thing – “EMERGENCY,” “Come ASAP,” “Mom fallen and in hospital.”  I would soon learn she was being taken to the Intensive Care unit.

This was not MY plan.  I had great plans for the conference I was attending that day.  I had friends coming to stay at my house that night.  I couldn’t “Come ASAP”…but I had to.  And so I began to pray “God, You have a plan. I don’t know what it is, but I know it’s good. Help me trust your plan.”

This may not seem profound, until you compare it to my normal prayers.  Because….well, let’s just say I am the master of planning. And I tend to prefer my plans to God’s plan.

Too often I pray:

“God, help me know what to do.” Which really means “I’ve got most of this figured out, but I’m stuck on this one point. If you’ll help me here, I’ll handle the rest.  Oh…and I’ll call on you again if I need you.

“God, please fix [this problem].” Which really means “I’m focused on this one problem, not the big picture. Even though I know You’re working everything for my good in the big picture…yeah, I’m still stuck on this one problem right here and now. Because it’s messing up MY plan.

But “God, I know You’ve got a plan, and I trust Your plan” is different. It means:

“God, you’re in control, not me.  I may want things fixed today, but I know you’re focusing on my best in the long-term.  I don’t know exactly what you’ve got planned for me, but even if it means tough periods along the way, I’ll trust you.”

So in the last few weeks of dealing with my Mom, I’ve been practicing “God, I have no idea how to deal with this.  But I know you have a plan.” And you know what?  God has shown His plan!  Seemingly out of nowhere, He’s provided people, information and resources where I didn’t see any – before I even got a chance to ask God or anyone else for help.

I hadn’t been alone – God was with me all the way.  He was using the very situation I wanted Him to get me out of to reveal Himself to me.  Showing me He was meeting our needs.   Building up my faith.  Preparing me to stand firm in the future.


Yes, God has a plan, and it’s way better than mine.  If I’ll only stay flexible, trust God and take the time to notice Him acting.

And so I’ve decided to give God a new name.  A name that helps me remember God is with me, and He’s got it all under control. That helps me remember my plan pales in comparison to His. You may have read some of His other names in the Bible. Names like:

  • El-Elyon – The most high God.
  • El-Shaddai – God Almighty
  • Jehovah-Jireh – The LORD will provide
  • Jehovan-Shalom – The LORD is peace.

And now my contribution to the list, complete with (definitely questionable) anglicized Hebrew:  El-Machashabah – God of “The Plan.”

How about you? How has God let you know He was with you in tough situations? If you had to pick your own name for God, what would it be and why?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

How My Personality Landed Me in the Mud!

I need to have some fun with today’s blog – so I hope you’ll join in!  Here goes…..

If you’re like me, you’ve got a personality trait or two that impacts most areas of your life, for better or worse.

My Trait #1:  If you give me a good challenge, I’ll probably agree to do it.  Even if it’s something most people in their right minds wouldn’t. For example…..

In 2012, my friend Amanda challenged me to do something called the Warrior Dash – a 5K Mud Run with various insane hurdles to get over.  First she told me it would be fun, and that I didn’t really have to be a runner to do it.  I wasn’t convinced, so I suggested perhaps people my age don’t do things like this (surely not, I thought!), to which she replied (and I quote) -“sure, plenty of old people do it”!

Did she really just call me OLD?  With that, she had given the challenge – and I accepted!  I would show her!

I was off and running, literally, to get ready for Warrior Dash.  I took a running class.  I pushed harder than any middle-aged non-athletic woman in her right mind should.  As a result, a few months later, I was sidelined with a stress fracture.  Warrior Dash was not to be – that year.

But that didn’t mean the end of the Warrior Dash!  Of course not, because….

Trait #2 –  Once I tell you I’ll do something, I keep my word – period.

Fast forward 2 years.  After recovering from my injury and doing a lot more running, I signed up for the 2014 Warrior Dash.  And this time, I finished!  3.4 miles running – lots of hills, barbed wire and mud – climbing cargo nets – even swimming across a lake.  The best way to share it is with pictures, so here goes:

The "BEFORE" Picture

The “BEFORE” Picture

I figured my clothes would get trashed, so I wore the most hideous clothes I had available.  When were those shorts EVER in fashion?  I can’t imagine why I ever bought them….15 years ago.

The rest of my sporty ensemble:

Ugly white shirt with red dots, which turned into my very own wet t-shirt contest shirt (thank goodness for sports bras!)

Garmin sports watch – which, fortunately, IS as waterproof as they say!

The shoes I never wear because they don’t fit right.  Kudos to my trainer friend Todd Soura for telling me to put holes in my shoes before the race – otherwise my wet shoes would have been even heavier and I probably would have drowned in the lake.

I LOVE my hat, so I took it off just before the race started.

WD2014 younguns

I did this race because Amanda told me plenty of old people do it.

See all the old people?  Yeah, me neither….


The start of the Mud

The start of the Mud

At the start of the race, there was a little mud.  I’d heard you should stay up off your knees to avoid scraping them.  That worked when we were going under netting.  Later on, it changed to barbed wire closer to the ground.  If you didn’t get down on your knees and elbows, you ended up with holes in your shirt from the barbed wire.  Yes, I learned the hard way….and ended up with holes in my shirt AND sliced knees.

More mud

More mud







wd2014 goliath1

Near the End!



WD2014 balancebeam









race collage

As I was running this infernal race, I have to admit I wondered if I’d finally taken things too far.  Was it possible there are things people my age just should not do?  I was two years older than when Amanda originally challenged me – if I’d just let this thing quietly die, I don’t think she would’ve ever noticed.


But I did it – because I said I would.

I couldn’t let myself off the hook.  And by the time it was over, I had two gashed knees, one less toenail, and a bruised tailbone.

But I did it…and that’s what counted.

It all comes down to those traits that drive my entire life.  Give me a compelling challenge and I’ll do it – no matter what.  Just ask my second grade teacher, who I’m lucky didn’t march me straight to the principal’s office after I accepted an (inappropriate) challenge.  Or the people that convinced me to go rappelling down cliffs.  Or to be the target in the dunking booth at work.  Or spend my vacation with people living in poverty.WD2014 fire

These personality traits have worked great for me – they helped me finish my education well, they helped me in my career.  They helped me honor commitments to God, even when the going got rough. They’ve helped me be there for people when they needed me.  They’ve been a real plus.

Yes, God gave me some pretty good traits when He made me, but the problem is that Satan knows just how to exploit them.

DONE - The "After" Picture

DONE – The “After” Picture

Because the ugly truth is when I’m challenged and I tell you I’ll do something, the ME inside my head kicks into high gear.  I can slog my way through lots of things – by myself – no God needed.  That’s my natural tendency.  And sometimes that means I end up covered in mud – literally or figuratively.  Over the years, I’ve been reminded countless times how I can take the toughness and feistiness God built into me and use it in ways He never intended – as self-reliance, rather than determined reliance on God.

I know y’all are thinking now “What did they talk her into doing in second grade that almost landed her in the principal’s office”?  Or better yet…..”What crazy NEW challenge can we give Diana – do you think she’d really do it?”

You never know friends, you never know.  I just might!

But be forewarned.  Because I’m not the only one with these quirky little character traits that can be both good and bad.  No…..You have some too. (Yes, I’m talking to YOU).

SO – here’s the deal.  If you’ll share a brief story in the blog comments about a wonderful character trait of yours that’s landed you in some funny or awkward situation, I’ll consider a new challenge.

So bring ’em on!  Let’s have some fun :-)  We’d all love to hear your stories in the comments!




I Have a Confession to Make

Just What We Wanted - Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Just What We Wanted – Our Very Own Porta-Potty!

Ever had one of those times when you wanted to crawl into a hole?  Yep, me too.  Just the other day, for example…..

We recently started having some maintenance done on our house.  It wasn’t a surprise – I knew it was coming.  We’d been anxious to get the work done. Hubby signed a contract.  Brian the foreman called and gave us the start date and time.  The porta-potty appeared in our driveway.  ALL the signs were there.

So you’d think I’d be ready, wouldn’t you?  But NO……

When Brian rang our doorbell that first morning and came into the house, was I fully dressed and ready to meet him? Nope – I’d been doing my normal “non-morning-person routine” – procrastinating, having one last cup of coffee, dragging my feet.

I always keep a camera handy for those....awkward moments.

I always keep a camera handy for those….awkward moments

So I did what came naturally – made a panic-stricken dash for the bathroom, where I sat in darkness waiting for him to leave.  I kid you not.  Don’t ask me why I didn’t turn on the light…there may be some psychological explanation about darkness reflecting embarrassment at my appearance.  I don’t know, but that’s what I did.  Until Brian went back outside.

Then he reappeared at the back door and walked into our kitchen.  And I (still in my robe and frizzy hair) sank down into the family room sofa cushions, hoping he wouldn’t notice me.  Trying to be invisible.  If Brian saw me, he was polite enough not to comment.  And for that I am forever grateful.

I wasn’t ready for Brian to come. Even though I knew he was coming. Even though I had plenty of warning.  Why couldn’t I get myself ready?

And as I cringed in the sofa, I realized I’d had hints of this feeling before.  Usually when my mother talked about how

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like....

My view of what my mother expects Jesus returning will be like….

wonderful it will be when Jesus returns.   This has become a fairly frequent topic of conversation with her – more often than you or I would discuss.  I think it’s partly because of her age.  When you’re facing the ever-nearing and increasing likelihood of dying, there’s an appeal to just bypassing the whole death thing by having Jesus return. I also suspect she envisions herself staring into the sky from her driveway, watching the whole “Jesus Returns” thing like some Cecil B DeMille movie.  It would certainly add excitement to her life!

But here’s my confession –

Whenever she says “wouldn’t be be great to be here and see Jesus returning” my answer is usually a very tempered “uh-huh.”  Outwardly I agree, but inwardly I’m not quite as confident.  You see, I have a slightly more pessimistic view of how Jesus returning is likely to play out.

I think it would be great if Jesus returned while I was in church, in the middle of awesome worship.  Or telling someone about Jesus.  Or caring for the poor.

But not all parts of my life are ….well…ready for company on a moment’s notice, if you know what I mean.

And it’s not just about Jesus returning.  Because I have no idea whether Jesus will return today, next week, or in the year 4014.  There’s probably a decent chance that I will die someday – just like people have been doing since Adam and Eve. But whether Jesus returns first or I die first, the result is still the same.  I’ll be standing face-to-face before God and Jesus.  Not me and Hubby.  Just me.  Alone.

And if I haven’t gotten my act completely together with God by then, it will be like me – a child of God – standing there in my pink bathrobe, with no makeup and messed-up hair.  Wishing I’d done something to be more presentable.

And as I thought about it more, I thought about the Hubby. It’s different with him.  He sees me all the time – and I don’t cringe at the thought.   He certainly sees my flaws. But he loves me anyway.  He’s seen them, we’ve talked about them, he helps me work some of the flaw-edness out of my life.  He knows things about me I’m not even ready to admit to myself.

And yet he loves me. He sees the potential in me, not just the current reality.  And it’s that vulnerability we have with each other, the trust that he loves me regardless and he works to help me overcome my flaws – that’s what has made us closer.  All because I’ve openly shared all my flaws with him.

The cringe factor is gone.

And then it hit me.  THIS is why the Bible tells us to confess our sins to God. For years I’ve known “If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  I’ve always viewed this as just describing a transaction – “I confess, God forgives.”  But it’s more than that.  It’s also relational.  Because when I bring my shortcomings to God and confess them – yes, He forgives me.  But it also opens me up to a much deeper relationship with Him.  We’ve discussed my shortcomings.  He’s said “I forgive you.”  He’s helping me overcome those sins (good thing, because on my own I’ve not been too successful!).  He sees me as perfected, because Jesus died to take away my sins.  We can be closer because I’ve experienced His unconditional love – in spite of me.

“If we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong.”  1 John 1:9

Another confession –

I’ll admit that in the past I haven’t been too consistent about confessing my sins to God.  OK – Maybe if I did a “whopper sin” – but otherwise, confession hasn’t featured prominently in my prayer life.  The smaller sins tended to just slide on by.  After all, I’m alot less sinful than I used to be….  And I would rather spend my prayer time asking for things and praying for other people, rather than dwelling on my sins.   But when I don’t confess my sins, well….I can’t even forgive myself, much less experience God’s forgiveness.

I know I’m not the only one.  King David was a man after God’s heart – and even he messed up big time by sleeping with Bathsheba and then having her husband killed to avoid discovery.  And after trying to avoid the topic with God, even David experienced the restored relationship with God when he said “I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide them.  I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’  And you forgave me!  All my guilt is gone. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble.  You surround me with songs of victory.” (Psalm 32:5)

And with that, I decided it was time for a confession experiment. If confessing could make me not want to cringe before my Lord about some parts of my life, then bring it on!

And while I was doing that, I decided to go for the gusto!  No more of those wimpy confessions – like (hypothetical example) “I told a little white lie today.”  Because those are merely symptoms.  While I was clearing the air, I wanted to get at the root of my sins. Why did I lie? Because I want to look good, because I care more about me than about honoring my God, because I am proud and self-centered.  Because I don’t trust God to get me through the consequences of telling the truth.

Why confess just symptoms, if the root issues remain?  Whatever it was, I was ready to bring it before God.  Because on the day I end up standing before God, just me….I don’t want to be cringing.  I want to be saying “Thank You God – that was SO awesome how you helped me overcome that!”

So lately I’ve been spending time each day focusing on confession.  And you know what? I don’t think I’ve shocked God yet.  In fact, I’ve never been so motivated to confess my sins.  I’ve got plenty!  But I have a great God who forgives me and helps me overcome.

How about you?  Have you “come clean” with God about your sin?  If so, what was your experience?  Or (like me) do you tend to avoid confession?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Worship – Setting My Inner Child Free…..

This past week’s snowstorm caused no end of excitement in our household.  So much, in fact, that some of my friends marveled at how I could get so excited by something as simple as a little snow. But here’s the thing – it wasn’t about the snow….. My life is complicated – I’m sure yours is too.  I routinely deal with heavy topics that  consume my life.  They spill over into everything.  I’m distracted when I shouldn’t be, I’m too tired to enjoy things, and occasionally I don’t react as I should (yes, it’s true…).  What’s more,  when I go to church, sometimes I struggle to stay focused and worship. But every once in a while, something happens that changes all that.  Snow is one of those things.  I’m not talking about just seeing lots of “white stuff” on the ground, or skiing or sledding.  I’m talking snow FLAKES – watching them land, and looking at their designs before they melt to nothing before my eyes.Snowflake1 Yes, like most of you (at least those that will admit it), there is a small child that still lives in me. And this child plays a bit of a game, trying to find two identical snowflakes.  I haven’t done it yet.  And I understand from those who’ve tried, even after cataloging thousands and thousands of snowflakes, I’m not likely to see two that look the same.  And even if I did – I’m pretty much guaranteed they will be different if only I look closer. But I digress….. The whole point is that snowflakes captivate me – they make me lose all sense of time, and forget my problems and anything else that’s not really that important.

   I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do.

And they evoke this surprising response from me. It’s like God is showing off part of His creation in a private showing – just for me.  I’m filled with wonder – at the beauty and detail of what God has made, and at the incredible God that could create something like this. I’m  amazed that God would choose to show off His creation….to ME!.  It drives home to me that God not only knows I exist, He delights in me and loves to reveal Himself to me. And I love Him…. Well, it’s not just snow that does this.  There are other things….. Like seeing the tops of the clouds when I fly in a plane:  Above_the_Clouds In all of history, it’s only in the last several decades that anyone has seen this.  I get all excited to see this view that previously only God and the angels saw.  How cool is THAT???       And spider webs (without the spiders :-) ):Spider Web Morning I think about the God that designed the webs – all their various shapes and purposes.  They are beautiful and so perfectly detailed…..     Things like these in nature trigger the same reaction in me: This is SO beautiful……I can’t believe I got to see this….that God is showing this to ME – just me! And I feel like the most special child of God on the planet! I am TOTALLY delighting in God!     I am WORSHIPING God! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever felt that way.  I think might be a little of how David felt in 2 Samuel 6, when he was bringing the Ark to Jerusalem for the second time. You may remember that his first attempt didn’t work out so well – because David didn’t do it God’s way.  But David learned, and now the second time was incredible.

David Dancing before the Lord

David Dancing Before the Lord(http://lorialexander.blogspot.com/2013/11/a-scolding-wife.html)

And so we see David, in pure joy, praising God by “dancing before the LORD with all his might.”  It got to the point that David’s wife told him this was totally inappropriate behavior for a king.  But David was adamant: “therefore I will celebrate before the LORD.”  I think David was bursting with joy that God had allowed him to do something as special as bringing the ark to Jerusalem. And so he danced with child-like abandon, not caring what others might think. That’s what I want.  I don’t want to act my age, or according to what others think is appropriate when I’m with God.  I want to worship and celebrate before Him – no holds barred, in  pure joy.  I want to let my “inner child” worship, as only my inner child can do. Which makes me wonder – isn’t this another aspect of what Jesus meant when He said that only those who receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will enter it.   Yes, we need to come to Jesus with child-like faith, trusting Him as a child trusts a parent.  But then we are also called to worship as a child would worship – in pure amazement, pure wonder, pure enjoyment. That’s what I want in my relationship with God. And little things like snowflakes help me do that. How about you?  Am I the only one who sometimes struggles to worship in church (please tell me it’s not so!!!)  Have you found things that help you worship?  What does it look like for you when you delight in God and worship Him?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!