You Brought Me Here Why? {Anchored Souls Series}


Today we welcome my sweet friend Bethany McIlrath to the blog. Bethany’s heart to seek the Lord in the midst of life’s struggles shines through her writing. She encourages me to look for his hand at work even when his plans are different from mine, and to keep trusting in the middle of chaos and heartache. Please give her a warm welcome today as she shares a story I know will inspire your heart.

You Brought Me Here Why?

I remember the excitement when the phone call came. “We just have to finalize it, but you can schedule that moving truck,” the Midwestern man’s voice exclaimed. Expectantly, we did.

We waited.

But the paperwork never arrived. Weeks later, the same voice apologized on the phone. Unforeseen circumstances arose. The position was cancelled. We’re weren’t moving to Iowa. We were moving though… we had to.

We waited.

Living out of suitcases at my in-laws’ house, we sought work.

We waited.

My husband showed me a job listing. It wasn’t what was expected. We knew one person in the whole region. But the Lord said yes with perfect clarity and abundant confirmation. One Skype interview and a phone offer later, we were scheduling another moving truck. This one was bound for the unknown of Minnesota.

With just two weeks to prepare and little in the bank, we signed a lease online with high hopes.

We’d waited.

The Lord had made the way. We believed it.

Then we pulled up to the apartment complex.

Singing paperwork, we discovered they changed the lease from what we original signed. Shrugging, the woman said “well, yes, it’s more expensive than you agreed to. But you just moved across the country. What can you do?” The deceit stung.

Our lease was cancelled. Tired of waiting, my prayer was “Lord, you brought us here. Why??”

In a new state, 24 hours distant from home, we drove to a storage unit. My in-laws helped us move all our stuff into a 6 foot cement hole. On that October day, the first snowfall drifted down. We stayed with a friend for a whole homeless week, searching frantically.

We waited.

The Lord provided a place to live within a chaotic week. But not a good job for me. We waited through church challenges, friendlessness, and open opposition at my part time job.

My prayer?

“Lord you brought us here. Why?”


I wasn’t ungrateful. I’ve lived much worse.

But never had the Lord so clearly made a way where there was no way, only to bring me to something I couldn’t make sense of.

Exodus became more personal to me. We’d just left a harder chapter of life. We’d just faced promise after promise of newness, waiting until the Lord said “go.” He parted some unbelievable waters for us and led us through on dry land.

When we arrived, the land stayed metaphorically dry and literally frozen. Life felt parched and biting.

I spent much of my time grumbling like the Israelites in the desert: “now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death” (Exodus 16:3.)

God, in fact, had different purposes.

Since our Minnesota wilderness waiting season, the Lord has reminded me of the “whys” I was too discontent to notice then.

It was in our waiting we learned firsthand about how God gives peace when our circumstances are intimidating. We’ll never forget how He parted the way and the assurance we had, even as I grumbled, that He was with us and leading us.

We learned an awful lot about prayer. Our marriage grew immensely while knowing no one but each other. We met amazing people.

While in Minnesota, we were blessed by the Lord’s provision through miraculous financing, too-coincidental of timing, unexpected gifts, and even the car we are driving today. My husband and I had time with his best friend we never would have if we didn’t live close.

I also learned about the blessing of loneliness. I learned what it is to wake up to mundane circumstances and immediately turn to the Lord. It was in Minnesota God taught me to write my first manuscript and challenged me to read His whole Word for the first time.

It was there I began to make memories with the Lord. It was there I learned the sound of His voice.

I still pray that prayer though- just a little revised.

“Lord, you brought us here. You know why.”

I pray it even when our circumstances seem settled.

Because I know while we’re waiting on God, He’s always both bringing us out and drawing us in.



A grateful recipient of salvation and hope in Christ, Bethany McIlrath can’t keep from writing His praise. She loves joining with others ii testifying about the Lord. Her reflections on God’s Word and character can be found at First and Second Blog and on Twitter or Facebook.

When You Need to Give Thanks for God’s Love {Anchored Souls Series}


To kick off our series, I’m thrilled to welcome my dear friend Betsy de Cruz back to the blog. Betsy has a gift for explaining God’s word in a practical, easy-to-understand way. Her words have prompted me to dig into scripture with fresh eyes and apply new techniques when studying it. I know you will be encouraged by her words about gratitude today.

When You Need to Give Thanks for God’s Love

Do you ever wonder what on earth God is up to? Life brings constant change, doesn’t it? Just when you think you have things figured out, God surprises you again. The unexpected hits you, and you wonder what to expect.

Last summer my family and I returned home to the Middle East after nine months of living stateside in an unfamiliar city. We could hardly wait to get back to “normal” life. We looked forward to the best tomatoes ever, summer peaches, olive trees, hot glasses of tea, hugging and kissing our friends on the cheek, and laughing for the pure joy of it all.

What we didn’t count on was culture shock all over again, a family member’s struggle with depression, political violence, and a national state of emergency.

When life throws you for a loop, it’s hard to give thanks in the transitions you didn’t plan.

You lose your job, or watch your child lose a friend to an auto accident. Deep inside, you wonder what God is doing and if He cares. And you ask all over again, “Are you there, God? Do you really love me?”

Sometimes it’s hard to believe, let alone give thanks.

If you’re struggling during this Season of Thanks, how about returning to the simple truth?


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

We know this verse forwards, backwards, and upside down. We’ve heard it so many times that it goes inside one ear and out the other. I can hardly read it without remembering Sunday school in Fort Hancock, Texas. Miss Malloy said it was the Bible in a nutshell, so we painted “John 3:16” on pecans. Only I wasn’t that artistic, so I ran out of room after “John 3,” and the flower I tried to paint on my pecan got all smudged.

Today I read John 3:16 for the 967th time, but God impressed the words on my heart.

For God so loved the world that He gave…

God is love. It’s his nature to love. He loves you and me desperately. He loved us so much that He gave. He poured out love for us at the cross. When life shakes us, we can hold on because we have a love to hope in. In the fiercest storms, we can rest because we have a love to remain in.

We can give thanks no matter what because He’s already given His Son.

Here’s a Bible journaling exercise:

Write John 3:16 down, substituting your name for “the world” and “whoever.”

Read it a few times. Believe and receive it. Rest in it. Give thanks for it.

Lord, thank you for loving me. Help me to feel your love resting on me just as tangibly as I can feel a sweater on my shoulders. Your love covers me. It protects me and keeps me warm. I receive it right now. Help me remember today I’m dearly loved. Help me to love others well.

Betsy de Cruz headshot


Betsy de Cruz enjoys God, life with teenagers, and dark roast coffee. Betsy’s passion is to encourage women to get God’s Word in, so their faith can spill out, even during life’s bumpy moments. She and her family live in the Middle East. Most days she feels privileged to live overseas; other days she wants to pull her hair out and catch the next plane home. You can find Betsy at her blog, , on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.


Why Can’t They Just Be Grateful?


“Why is this taking so long?”

My six-year-old’s words caught me off guard. I was working feverishly to get dinner on the table and my two sons were already sitting down, waiting.

Almost instantly, I could feel my blood pressure rising. Who did this kid think he was? I had spent the past half hour assembling this meal and he wasn’t showing an inkling of gratitude. Did he know how hard I worked each and every day for this family?

Of course he didn’t. He was six.

Fortunately, before a torrent of anger came spewing out of my mouth, my husband addressed the situation. He told our son to apologize. Over dinner, we had conversation about being thankful and informed him he would be helping with the dishes, a chore usually done by an adult. But I couldn’t get my son’s words out of my mind.

My heart’s desire is to raise children who have grateful hearts, not children who think they are entitled to everything without having to work for it. We could delegate more work around the house, but what that it? I sensed I was missing something.

Out of curiosity, I conducted a survey asking some of my readers how they instilled gratitude in their children. I received a single response: Be grateful. The reply left me asking myself the question: Am I thankful?

There are certainly some days when I grumble. A lot. Like the other day when I lost my temper while trying to get the kids out the door in time for school. Often, my body language is enough to do all of my talking for me. It says, “I’m tired and irritable so leave me alone.”

When I take stock of my attitude toward life, I know I am grateful, but do my kids? Our children model what they see, so the best teacher on gratitude is their parents.

Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Whenever I see that word “all” in the Bible, I have to admit it makes me cringe a little bit. After all, who can search for missing socks and clean up endless messes to the name of Jesus, all while giving thanks? 

No one. Not without the help of the Spirit living in us.

When my desire is to become more like Jesus, the best place to start is at the foot of the cross.

Fully aware of my need for guidance, I went before the Lord in prayer. I bared my soul to him and admitted my weaknesses. And right there in the midst of my shortcomings, I found his strength.

As I awoke the next morning, I knew the day was brimming with possibilities. My kids and I made it out the door on time and as we pulled out of the driveway, I saw hint of rainbow in the middle of a huge, dark cloud.

It was getting more vivid with each moment.

Excitedly, I pointed it out to my son.

“Do you see it, buddy, do you see it?” I asked.

“Yes, Mama! And look, it’s following us!” he said with a grin.

As we made our way down the road, I felt giddy with anticipation of what the day held in store. And I thanked God for providing us with a step in the right direction.


*Linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and Holley Gerth

When the Days Are Long and Tired


Although the days have been getting shorter, within the confines of this house they have been long. Over the past couple of weeks as my entire family has battled sickness, I’ve seen my favorite season passing by. From our bay window I’ve watched the rain and the leaves give their last vibrant bursts of color before falling to the ground.

My fuse, on the other hand, has been short. I’ve counted the hours until my husband would be home from work to help care for whining babes. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve apologized more than once.

I’ve sent up prayers for recovery, for patience, and protection for my husband, the only one who has not fallen ill. And in the middle of it all, I’ve seen that even in this I am so, so blessed.

I’ve seen it in friends reaching out with words of encouragement. In hot bowl of soup from a kind spirit. In text messages, well wishes, and thoughtful gestures. Yes, I have so much to give thanks for.

When I focus on the gifts, all of the grumbling fades like a mirage. I see how long his love for me is, even when my vision is short-sighted. I see how long his patience with me is, even when my anger flares.

With all illusions gone, I feel that much closer to the One who gave it all.


*This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of brave, bold writers who meet every Friday to free write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word was: long. Click the button below to learn more.

Fill Someone’s Need Today


I love my morning coffee. One of my favorite sounds is the drip filling the carafe, permeating the house with pungent aroma.

One of my friends is a barista, and she once told me that if the expresso is not emptied into the drink within minutes of being made, it goes bad. Its taste becomes stale and it must be thrown out. The expresso machine goes through a continual rhythm of being filled simply so it can be emptied into lattes, frapaccinos, and bubbly goodness.

Filled to empty. Emptied to fill.

As a follower of Jesus, my life should follow the same pattern. Yet so often God blesses me and I want to simply bask in it for a while. I hold on to the blessing with clenched fists, thinking if I let it go, it will be gone forever.

I forget that our God is one of abundance. He is not limited by time or space or power. He is infinite.

He fills us so that we can be emptied out.

So that we can bless others. So we can fulfill a need.

When we hoard gifts, the flow stops and what was once a blessing becomes spoiled and hackneyed. Instead of being thankful, we become entitled.

God, let your Spirit be a constant reminder of where my gifts come from. Help me to remember that when I open my hands to others, the flow opens like a stream fed river.

When I clench my hands, the river becomes a cesspool, good for nothing but waste.


This post was written for Five Minute Friday. I beautiful group of brave, bold, beautiful writers who meet each Friday to free write for five minutes on one word. Today’s word was: fill. Click the button below to learn more.


Just Be Thankful


When we discovered that the case of children’s DVDs was stolen from our car, gratitude was not my immediate response. Irritation and anger, maybe, but not gratitude. With a ten hour car ride looming in a couple of weeks, I knew how much smoother the trip would go if the boys had something to hold their attention other than the passing scenery.

I didn’t think my son noticed my response. But oh, how our kids notice every bad attitude or negative behavior we think we’re hiding from them, don’t they?

A couple of days later, my son wanted to watch one of the movies that was in said case. When he remembered we no longer owned that movie, he immediately began echoing what he’d heard, no doubt, from me.

“I can’t watch it because someone stole it. Someone stole our DVDs. And now we’ll never have them again.”

It was as though I was looking in a mirror. Here was my son making a dramatic dialogue over something that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t matter one bit. But I wasn’t going to let this attitude progress. I grabbed hold of the situation and used it as an opportunity to teach my son.

“Yes, it was wrong of the person to steal the DVDs. But you know what? We can replace them. It may take some time, but we have the money to buy new ones eventually. The person who took them may not have had any money to buy their own. We should be thankful God gives us these things to enjoy.”

As my son thought about what I’d said, his attitude changed. He realized that not being able to watch The Incredibles at that exact moment was not the end of the world. There were other ways we could enjoy our time together. Other blessings to be enjoyed.

When we focus on our blessings, anger diffuses in a cascade of grace.

God’s word tells us not to merely be thankful in the happy, shiny, rainbow filled moments of life. He tells us to be thankful in all things.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Is this even possible? Is it possible, when the stress of life is overwhelming, to be thankful? When tragedy strikes? When things don’t go according to plan? Yes, but it does not come naturally. It is a discipline. We must choose to be thankful.

Why? Because this is God’s will for us. And when we really stop and think about it, how can we not? He has given us a life we didn’t deserve and paid a debt He didn’t owe, so that we can live in eternal communion with Him.

When I pause and reflect on what he’s done, I am more than grateful.

I am overwhelmed.


Today I’m linking up with these communities who inspire and encourage each week. Click the links below to learn more.


There’s Glory Right Here in the Mess


Our first family camping trip with our church friends began with a torrential downpour, which caused me to let go of any future expectations of how the weekend would go.

Instead of complaining, we laughed. Three families huddled around a picnic table and ate soggy burgers under a leaking tarp. We made jokes. We took pictures. We watched the red areas on the weather apps move directly over our campsite.

Memories were made. Community was forged. And the rain just gave us something to talk about.

That evening, when we were all beyond tired and ready for rest, my two-year-old decided it was party time. It was his first night outside of the confines of his crib. This fact did not escape him. I closed my eyes and feigned sleep, thinking this might calm him.

Instead, he crawled to my side of the tent, put his face directly to my ear, and in a loud voice said, “Hey!”

It was an extremely long night.

As much as I love my bed and a good R.E.M. cycle, I will never forget that night. Even as I type about it now, a smile comes to my face.

When we embrace what is instead of wishing for what isn’t, memories that last a lifetime are made.

We have the freedom to open our hands and receive the blessing that is right in front of us with gratitude, instead of clenching our fists because things didn’t go as we’d planned. We can receive what’s given to us as grace, because everything is.

Our God is not one whose miracles are limited to saving lives and healing the sick. Everywhere we look, the earth is filled with them.

A beautiful sunset after a storm. An expanse of stars that forms the Big Dipper. A dry tent.


The following day after our restless night, we took a hike around the lake. As I was walked hand in hand with my oldest, he looked up at me, all of a sudden, and said, “Mom, I love you. I really like walking with you.”

I would have given a hundred sleepless nights for that one moment.

So today, I’m opening my arms to the unexpected. I’m embracing the glory in the mess, and letting go of those unseen ideals.

And I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next.


Unwrap the Gifts in Everyday Moments


One of my two-year-old’s favorite words is one that I need to say more often: “thank you.” He repeats it over and over until I acknowledge him with a simple response, delighted to hear me say it. How many times have I opened my hands to receive but never bothered to stop in a moment of appreciation? A “thank you” for all the gifts that surround me?

Thousands of blessings envelop me everywhere I look, but I hurry through the day, eager to check the next item off my to-do list. And then I wonder why I’m tired, why I’m empty, why I have nothing left to give back.

A week ago, an author challenged me to a new experiment. To record the gifts I already have. And though I’m still trying to feel my way through the fog and recognize what’s been in front of me all along, I am determined to continue.


The more I look, the more I see it. God reaching out His hand and touching earth through the minute details I missed for most of my life.

I don’t want to keep pushing through my days with blinders on. Because life is not a race. It is a journey with many twists and turns and stops along the way.

When we are blind to the gifts God gives us each day, we miss the very essence of life.

Each gift God gives is meant to be unwrapped, savored, and most of all: appreciated. To be ungrateful is to be careless, reckless.

God, help me to slow down. Help me to breathe and embrace the goodness of each day. An iris in bloom. The warmth of the sun on my face. An unabashed, mischievous laugh. All of these things, Lord.

All of these things draw me into your very presence. And I lift my hands in awe of you each time I toss the paper aside and uncover another moment, another miracle, the evidence of your love.


This post was written for Five Minute Friday. A beautiful group of writers who meet each week over at Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog to encourage, inspire and learn to let go. Writing about one word for five minutes flat. Today’s word was: hands. Click the button below to learn more.

Five Minute Friday