Goodreads to Muse

Click to read my reviews

The Book Thief
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are
On Gold Mountain
Bread & Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
City of Tranquil Light: A Novel
The Distant Land of My Father
The Paris Wife
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
Fall of Giants
World Without End
A Stolen Life
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
The Pillars of the Earth
Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation
The Road
Trials of the Earth: The Autobiography of Mary Hamilton
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal
Cutting for Stone

Gigi's favorite books »

Entries in grace (39)


blessing of God

The words of the Aaronic blessing offer us a powerful glimpse into the heart of our God and our own desire. All of us at our core wish to have God’s blessing upon our lives. We all wish to see God face to face and feel His love and acceptance of us. 

As I have been musing God’s gaze upon my life, I encountered these words in Numbers 6. The blessing goes like this:

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.

God gave these words to Moses to give to Aaron (the first high priest) and his sons to give to the Israelites. They were embarking on their journey through the desert. This is the first time the Israelites were “numbered.” They were numbered some 40 years later when they finally did go in and claim the land.

This speaks to me because God knew they would fail. Even with these powerful words of blessing upon them, they chose their own way and chose not to trust their God. God disciplined them for 40 years. 40 years. All the time with his face shining upon them.

Our God, an Artist, delivered this blessing in an artful poetic form to his children. The structure in Hebrew is important. Line one has 15 letters forming three words, line two 20 letters for five words, line three has 25 letters for seven words. The language builds in emphasis. 

And so God’s kids started out a journey doomed to “failure” with a poem. In my mind’s eye I see haggard and bedraggled old Israelites wandering the desert. Their shoes in tact but what of their souls? They must have wanted to give something to their kids, the next generation. Something different. I picture them kissing their children goodnight and uttering these words over them willing them to believe. I conjure up visions of them struggling through heat, snake attacks, human-eating earthquakes, plagues and clinging to this poem at the very center of their being. 

I imagine their last breaths surrounded by this next generation of warriors uttering the words of faithfulness. He is faithful when we are not. 

This poem held them together at their center. This poem grew around it another generation of believers who were courageous, obedient, conquerers. 

I wrestle with my flesh and the principalities and powers to accept these words. I desire to know deep down in my center that God loves me and his face is turned toward me. He is brimming with love perfected by the death and resurrection of his Son. I am becoming more and more aware of the places that don’t believe. I offer those parts a seat at the table of grace. Pass the poem. Munch on these words. Let them become a part of you. Believe. Pass it on.

And I say to my sons, He is faithful when we are not.


gaze of God

At the heart of the Universe, God wears a smile. 

For weeks now, I have mused the gaze of God upon my life. It all started when we studied the life of Peter in my small group. I came to believe that Peter’s life pivoted when Jesus gazed at him after his third denial. Jesus looked at him and knew him and loved him. There in the mess of Peter’s greatest failure, Jesus met him. He did not look away. He did not shrink from Peter. He did not even give Peter up as a fraud. 

I remember a time when this shift began in me. While on the mission field in Honduras, I began to understand that God loved me even in my greatest failures. I think the change in God’s expression - more accurately the change in my perception of God’s expression - marked me. And since then, I have come to believe that God uses my brokeness more powerfully than anything else.

I’ll never forget the day Donnie came to our clinic in Honduras. His mother and grandmother brought him wrapped snugly in a blanket smelling of smoke. The people of the mountain where we lived,  Rincon de Delores (corner of pain), had no electricity. Often they did not even have running water. Donnie was the fifth child of his family, and he had cleft lip and palate. At first I could not discern which woman was his mother. One held him and did all the talking. She clearly loved him and meticulously fed him with the tiny bottle they brought. She often asked questions of the other woman, the one with her head down in shame. This one would not meet my eyes. She seemed to want to run. She hovered near the door. 

I took Donnie in my arms and began to examine him. His thin arms and legs told a story of the difficult time he was having. He was close to being dehydrated despite being fed. His lungs rattled with fluid. He did not have fever. As I asked questions about how they cared for him, I discovered they fed him while he was lying down. Bottles are rare in Honduras. The women did not know that Donnie was likely aspirating the milk. I taught them how to feed Donnie correctly. 

As I examined him, I talked to Donnie and told them how wonderfully made he was. I praised him for his strength and his courage to fight for his life so far. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the mother (the shame-filled one) soften. The corners of her mouth began to turn up just a tick. She could not take her eyes off her baby. 

She returned to see me over the years never with the other woman. Donnie grew and thrived. He eventually had surgery and all that was left of his wound was a small hairline scar. 

This interaction marked me. For the first time, I saw my lack of gentleness in myself toward myself. I would never have told this mother - just let Donnie tough it out. As I modeled kindness, she shifted and the love she felt for Donnie conquered her shame. 

I began to embrace the broken and crusty parts of myself. I asked Jesus for grace to wrap my arms around the entirity of my life. I began to see His grace equally in joy and in pain. And I invited the weaker, frightening, frailer parts of myself to the banquet of grace. 

As I muse the life of Peter, as I muse the interaction with precious Donnie; I see God’s gaze toward me. His loving gaze changes me. It changes my face. As my face looks to Him, it is radiant and will never be covered in shame. 



I’m writing this post with a precious 7-year-old head resting on my shoulder. We are lounging on the couch. Sam’s body is covered by a UT snuggie. (Side Note: two things I would never have dreamed could be in my life: UT orange and a snuggie.) Cartoon Network blares in the background. A softer sound emits from my iPhone: the sound of hold music from Apple. My iPhone 5 is smarter than I am. I need help conquering it. 

Every now and then Sam fires a toy gun with an annoying electrical bullet sound. He could be a Storm Trooper. It also has a sound for cocking as well as firing.

Occasionally my phone gets a text. Mama had surgery yesterday. I am staying connected to her by some thin phone wires and cyber stuff that I cannot understand.

So much stimuli. 

Sam has a stomach virus, hopefully the 24-hour variety. Yesterday he swam his first ever IM in the swim meet. The IM is the Iron Man but it actually stands for Individual Medley and consists of all four strokes. It is a rite of passage and I’ve seen many young swimmers exit the pool in tears from exertion and exhaustion. He won’t let me out of his sight.

Here I sit tethered by a computer cord and an invisible but just as real umbilical cord. Mothers sit by their sick children with bowls and cold wet rags. We mop foreheads and kiss fearlessly praying that we won’t get the bug.

This morning as I sat on my patio and watched the sun rise along with the temperature, I read familiar words. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. II Corinthians 4:18

My reading this morning shifted my focus from the seen to the unseen. The seen, it says, is temporary. The unseen is eternal. Why do we do this? Verse 16 says it: so that we do not lose heart. 

I read that and in about 10 seconds my focus is right back on the now and the things jangling for my attention. I need to come back to it again and again throughout a day. What is unseen?

Our souls, our spirits. Relationships. The forces in spiritual realms. As we live like this, grace reaches more and more people. Thanksgiving overflows. And we start all over agin. Unseen. Grace. I’m not losing heart. I see it. Unseen. Thanksgiving. Grace.


mulligan: 40 words in 40 days


Yesterday I bombed as a mom. It happens.

The 6th grade field trip to Adventure Science Museum approached us. I had signed up to go as a chaperone. I told Joshua that if he did not want me to go, I would not go. Matt even asked him in under-cover CIA-mode if he was okay with me going.

Having received the thumbs up, I proceeded with clearing my schedule for today. When I got home yesterday and mentioned the field trip, Joshua said I was not on the list to chaperone. A lengthy discussion ensued. I sniffed out that he possibly did not really want me to go, but he would not own it.

Ultimately I pulled a Dr. Spock migraine move. I got out my stopwatch app. I said if you don't tell me what you want at the end of 30 seconds, I am making the decision. And I am going.

At 29.75 seconds, he said, "No."

Now, I had prepared to hear this. I thought I was fully okay with it. I had begged him to tell me the truth. And when I heard it, I felt a bullet in my heart. I did the only thing a real mom could do. I went to my room and cried.

The truth hurts.

I had to tell him the truth about my reaction. I put him in a catch 22, a no-win situation. I apologized.

And later in the evening, Joshua asked me to go on the field trip. He had good reasons and explained them to me. I decided to go and honor his olive branch.

I am thankful for grace in parenting. I am thankful for a mulligan.


release: 40 words in 40 days

Lent culminates in the resurrection. A place where Christians celebrate the forgiveness of sins and the release from the prison of depravity. We are new creatures because of the forgiveness extended to us.

This morning as I mapped out my world, my day. I noticed how many offenses I carried. I thought of how futile and unnecessary it is for me to carry those. It’s exhausting. It’s stressful. It’s harmful.

One of the meanings of forgiveness is release. I can let go of these offenses and my compulsion to control the outcome. When Peter asks Jesus how  many times we must forgive our brothers, Jesus replies 70 x 7. Then he tells a story about a king and an evil servant. 

The servant ran up a debt of $100,000. When the king called the debt, the servant threw himself at his feet and asked for more time to pay. The king acquiesced.  As soon as the evil servant left the room, he encountered a fellow servant who owed him $10. He seized him by the throat and demanded he pay up. When the fellow servant begged for mercy, the evil servant threw him in jail. No mercy. 

The king got wind of the injustice. He dealt with the evil servant by demanding that he pay up the $100,000 in total. Jesus said, “And that’s exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn’t forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.” Luke 18:35

I want to bask in the mercy extended to me through Jesus. And then let it overflow to those in my life. These petty offenses pale in the light of the love given to me freely. I release them.