Breathe it in, Mama.

Worn out from the Sunday funday activities, I laid my head down on my pillow, threw one leg half-heartedly over my husband and immediately was sound asleep.  Then, ever so faintly, I heard our oldest child quietly calling out for me.  I felt confused for a moment because he never needs me in the middle of the night anymore but as soon as I heard him again, I sprung out of bed and went into his room.

“My stomach hurts mama.  Will you lay with me for a minute?”

I asked him if he needed some medicine and he shook his head no so I crawled in the bed with him. At 13, when he wants one of us to lay with him, he rolls over as far as he can on the other side of the bed and just wants to talk until he falls asleep.  Although it’s unspoken, both of us know that with each passing day, he is crossing the threshold from child to man, needing me less and less.  But on this night, the night when his stomach hurt and he wanted his mama, he rolled over next to me and gently laid his head on my shoulder.  His messy hair tickled my nose but instead of turning away, I breathed it in. I imagined for a brief moment that he was that chubby toddler who always wanted “under my wing, chick” and would drop anything he was doing for a chance to sit in my lap and just be held.  He seemed more settled, having me there, and my heart felt the contentment that only a mama’s can.  Just as I was about to fall back asleep, my eyes popped open and I thought to myself, “what if this is the last time he snuggles you like this?  What if that was the last time he calls for you in the night?!”  The thought made my heart race a little and I squeezed him tight and kissed him on the forehead, determined to etch every detail of the moment into my long term memory-just in case.

And so I’ve been thinking, as my children grow older, why don’t we worry and plan for the “lasts” in life like we do the “firsts”?  We talk and obsess, plan and prepare for their first words, first steps, first night sleeping in their big bed alone, first day of kindergarten.  Always the firsts.  And the are important.  But as a mama in this season of life, I want to be just as concerned with the “lasts”.  When was the moment I last held my toddler and packed him around on my hip before he became a little boy, to heavy for mama to pack around?   I’m sure it happened when I wasn’t looking and was over so quickly that I didn’t give it a second thought at the time.  When will my daughter need me to put up her hair in a ponytail for the last time?  When will she ask me to play American Girls with her for a final mommy and me play-date before her preteen years call for her with unrelenting persistence? Will her words hit me with the importance and force of a child leaving one stage and entering the next or will I be so preoccupied with something trivial that her words come and go like the blowing of the wind?

And God forbid something happens to my husband before we’ve lived out all our dreams and are well into our golden years.  Will I pick up his clothes from the floor and grumble words of disdain under my breath for the last time?  Will I know to savor it and  linger a little longer than normal if we should share a kiss before one of us goes on to be with the Lord, our time together ended abruptly by life and circumstance?  Lord, help me to breathe in the “last” moments with my children and husband as much as I breathed in their “firsts”.

When I want to clean and gripe about the house being a mess, Lord help me to pause and just breathe it in.  When I want to blow my teenager off when he asks me to watch him play video games, help me to remember that one day his desire for me to watch will become nothing more than a memory.  When my baby girl needs her mama to listen to her tales from school, help me to savor her words, storing them away in case her teenage years silence the chatter.  Help me Lord, to remember that my baby boy still wants to climb into his mama’s lap to get some snuggles and read a book-and that is more important than a sink full of dishes.  And Lord, please help me not to forget that when my precious husband wants to take me out for the night, I should always go, even if it’s pain to find a sitter.

The Glory Days. Also Known as my 30s.

older I get

It hit me this week.  It started with me almost puking during an exercise class because I got so winded that I couldn’t breathe.  But it really hit me with what I have lovingly dubbed the “furniture fiasco’. My husband put our couch up for sale on a whim and it sold in an hour flat. That night, we had nothing to sit on to celebrate our victory lap- you know, the last part of the day when the kids are in bed and you get to sit on your couch and watch whatever you want on TV.   My husband suggested we lay on the floor.  I heard myself rebuke his idea with such utter disgust that I knew I had to finally acknowledge what I have been afraid of for quite some time; I am getting older.  My back will hurt, I complained.  I followed with, my hip will do that weird thing where it goes numb when I lay on it to long.  He just laughed and teased me for being an old lady but the truth is,  I am getting o-l-d-e-r.  This is my last year in my thirties.  I can’t think about it to much because it kind of gives me this panicky feeling.  Something about knowing you have probably lived half your life already really punches me in the gut.  I was talking to someone the other day and he told me that he had calculated how many days he had left on this Earth if he lived to be double his age.  I was intrigued so I ran some numbers myself.  If I live 39 more years, I have 14,235 more days to wake up and live.  Giving it a number might seem morbid but it has helped me to put some things about growing older into perspective.

I live loud.  For some people I am always to much.  For others, I am never enough.  I have spent the better part of my life trying to mold myself, my quirks, annoying behaviors and personality into something, someone, to make those people like me.  I have always wanted so badly to fit in.   In my teenage years, I was the outsider who was always trying to squeeze her way into the “in” crowd that had grown up together.  In my twenties, I wanted to be accepted by all the super beautiful girls on campus that seemed to have in all together.  And as an adult, I have sought out relationships, even within my own family,  that I so desperately desired.  The funny thing about life is that it rarely gives you what you think you want.  Despite all the bending and turning I have done to make myself someone I am not, I have never been able to get away from myself.  My constant anxiety and plotting to change to fit someone else’s mold has never, not even once, gotten someone to love me more.

Love me or leave me, I am who I am.  When I get tickled, I laugh obnoxiously loud.  I am not even the least bit funny, no matter how hard I try.  Actually, I am a cheesy nerd who laughs at her own jokes.  I can make a funny situation awkward in about two seconds flat.  I never know what to say in small social talk and usually wind up endlessly stringing a bunch of confusing words together.  I don’t have a good poker face so you never have to guess how I am feeling..my face will tell the story.  I can sound like a snob in social situations because I occasionally forget my raisin’.  My mind moves faster than you can imagine and sometimes it causes me to cut off others in the middle of their sentence just so I can blurt something out.   I am habitually running late.  I have no idea why.  I love hard and wear my feelings on my sleeve.  Some people see me as dramatic because I am expressive and theatrical.  I am impulsive and moody.  My emotions change as much as the direction of the wind.  I am loyal to a fault and will be there for you, even when you don’t deserve it.  I’d rather eat wings and have a Pepsi in my blue jeans than get dressed up and go to a snooty restaurant to eat food I can’t pronounce.  I love a good roller coaster and I’d eat junk for every meal if my husband would let me.  If you invite me to go out on a weekend, I won’t come.  But if you don’t invite me, I’ll be sad and worry why you didn’t.  I will helicopter the crap outta of my kids and lose sleep about things that are out of my control.  I am honest and try to be kind but if I am not prayed up, I can be a little ugly.  I am mess most days but no matter what, I made a promise to myself that this is the girl who is apologetically showing up from now on.

My late 30s have taught me that the people in your tribe will love you hard just the way you are.  They will see your faults, your screw-ups and your awkward moments and will continue to show up, day after day.  They will be there when you need them and even when you think you don’t.  My tribe might not have as many people as I used to think it needed but I wouldn’t trade the people who love me with reckless abandon for a hundred people who are fair-weather family or friends.  Life actually does go by in the blink of an eye and I mourn for all the time I’ve wasted worrying about the people who don’t see the value in me.  In my twenties I had far fewer wrinkles and way less cellulite but I also had far less self-esteem.  In my thirties, my glorious thirties, I have learned to love myself and love those who appreciate the real me.  It hasn’t been easy but with approximately 14,235 more days to leave my mark on this world and live for Jesus, I don’t have time for anything less.

 

 

 

One is the Loneliest Number…

Being a person in today’s world is hard.  Being a parent today is even harder.  Being a Christian parent in today’s world is next to impossible.  The facade of Christian parenting is easy to pull off; cleverly placed scriptures on your social media sites, polished children who sit quietly in the church pews and smile on Sunday mornings, blessings before dinner and bedtime all make you feel like your doing alright.  But the uncomfortable truth is that if that’s all you’re doing, then it’s not alright.  No, parenting children to be warriors for Christ requires so much more.  It requires that we actually train up our children in the way they should go and that is an enormous task.  When a soldier trains for battle, they do it day in and day out.  When a soldier rises in the morning, they condition.  When a soldier puts food into his/her body, they are mindful of what they consume.  When a soldier trains for battle, they practice what they will do should the enemy attack.  You see, training our kids to be Christians in today’s society requires that we show them how it looks with our every word, thought, action and reaction.  Isolated, our family does okay with training.  When thrown into school with their peers however, we are like salmon swimming upstream.  I get so frustrated because I feel like we are among the last of our species, fighting against extinction.   We are parents who have rules that go against the grain.  We take our kid’s phone and check his messages constantly, we won’t let him have it at all hours of the night, his search bar is linked directly with mine so I can see what he searches on his phone, we question him and poke and prod until he gives us information, we check up on his friends and say no when we are uncomfortable with a situation or set of people.  Are our kids perfect?  Lord heavens, no.  I know they aren’t.  I know who their parents are and quite frankly, that scares me because I know what they were capable of.  It’s exactly this reason that we constantly fight against the grain.  I realize my children’s natural inclination is toward evil and not good.  I know that if we want to raise children who love the Lord with all their hearts,  it actually requires catching them in awkward situations at school and with peers, it requires finding out that they looked up something inappropriate on their phone.  If we never intercept their bad actions or catch them just after they have been done, we are losing out on the ability to show them the overwhelming grace of God.  We lose out of the instructional moments that show them how, even at our worst, God can turn a situation around.  If we never acknowledge the sin in our own children, we can never show them the freedom that can be found in Christ.

I’m not trying to discredit anyone’s parenting style.  Parenting really is hard and unless you beat your kids, I promise to never judge.  I have given in to my kids many times even though I knew that I was spoiling them.  I have bailed them out of stuff even though I knew I was doing them a disservice by bailing them out.  I get it.  Maybe you didn’t have much growing up and love to spoil your kids, maybe you are divorced and carry guilt about it so you give in more than you should.  Maybe you fear that your kid will get bullied and made fun of if they don’t have the newest, greatest things like everyone else.  But guys.  Listen.  We are killing each other and ruining our kids in this crazy giving-in-to-their-every-request mindset.  We are taking an already exhausting job and making it so much harder by taking the path of least resistance.  I see it in things my own kids say about their friends at school AND I see and hear it in the things my students at school say and do.  I actually had someone argue with me the other day about constantly checking our oldest child’s phone.  They said I was a “helicopter mom and needed to trust my kid.”  You know what I say to that?  Ha.  Ha.ha.ha.  Why on Earth would I trust my 13 year old kid with a cell phone with unlimited access to the world and all it’s information?  Just Thursday on my way to work I saw a grown woman texting on her cell phone, slowing down the fast lane and a guy who almost killed everyone on the interstate swerving back and forth while he WATCHED A MOVIE ON HIS PHONE.  And this was just on my twenty minute drive to work, with grown ups who know better.  Why would I think my kid wouldn’t use it to do foolish stuff as well?  I know I have been guilty of sending an ugly text or email in the heat of my anger and I bet you have done some foolish things with your phone, too. And don’t get me started on the unlimited access to inappropriate videos and pictures that my 13 year old, hormonal child can get his hands on.   Some of ya’ll have forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager and it really shows.

We are better than this, guys.  We are smarter than this, too.  Our most important job on this Earth is not something we will do at work.  It is raising our children to be the next generation of warriors for the Lord.  And warriors are in constant battle with the enemy.  Warriors don’t need to be spoiled, they need to be TRAINED.  Let’s agree to choose the road less traveled more often than not.  Let’s agree that our kids are worth it and let’s agree that if we see each other’s kids doing something that would put them in Hell, that we will tell the other without fear of offense.  I believe in the next generation of warriors and I believe in US.

Train up a child in the way he should go,and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6

 

Raise the White Flag

At my son’s Upward game last weekend the ball went rolling across the gym floor.  My child and his teammate both went to get it, eager to make a play.  They wound up rolling around on the floor with each other, fighting over the ball.   I heard the coach shout, “Boys!  What are you doing?  You are on the SAME TEAM!!”   Under my breath I muttered a quiet, “that’ll preach.” but didn’t think much else of it until the next day.  The Lord sent those words back into my heart as I wrestled with him over some things that are going on in my life.   The question from the Lord kind of caught me off guard.  I wanted to shout, “Lord!  I love you!  Of course I am on your team!!” but somehow the words evaded me as I examined my own heart.

Over the next several days I wrestled, and I mean wrestled, with the Lord.  Finally, my husband looked at me and said, “I love you but you are wrong, Christy.  You aren’t supposed to wrestle with the Lord.  You are supposed to surrender to the Lord and obey.”  Ouch.  After I got finished nursing my ego after the hard blow from my hubby, I sobbed in frustration.  The truth is, I don’t allow the Lord to be the captain of my ‘team’.  I crave control in every situation of my life.  I spend days calculating, planning and overthinking decisions so that the risk of failure is minimal and so that I am as comfortable as possible in the process.

I know everyone could tell a sad story about their childhood so I will spare you any details but in the early years of my life, my parents divorced unexpectedly, my mother lost most of her vision soon after and we had to move in with a grandparent in a one bedroom apartment.  With the divorce came a new school, new friends and a new normal.  Somewhere in the process I made up my mind that I would control everything in my life so that I never felt such hurt, shame and confusion again.  At first glance, I guess that might seem like a great quality to have.  Most things I have set out to do, I have accomplished.  But under the surface, I have spent years of my life wanting perceived control of everything and everyone and it has left me a miserable mess.  I say perceived because obviously I am not powerful enough to control what happens to others and what decisions they ultimately make but it isn’t for lack of trying.  It’s exhausting, almost debilitating.  And it really comes to a head when I try to grow closer to the Lord.  As long as things are going well in my life and the blessings flow, it is easy for me to have perceived faith.  I say all the right things, I know the scriptures and I will quote them often but in reality, since things are going the way I want them to, I secretly feel in control.  Like I am the captain of my own team.

Recently, a series of events have made it blatantly clear that I have zero control over what is going on in my life or the life of those I love.  And boy, have I been a huge brat about it.  I have been wallowing in a puddle of anger, resentment, questions and tears.  Hence my “wrestling” with God.  Do you know what it made me?  Exhausted.  All of the arguing with God, all of the questions and fear, none of it has changed his sovereign power over my life and his plan for me.

I was praying about my wayward heart this morning and I begin thinking about soldiers in battle.  Soldiers in the same army are fighting a common enemy, a common cause but each side fights with all they have until the point of utter exhaustion.  I think that the moment of surrender in battle has to be relieve both sides.  Yes, the surrendering side might be giving over control but they are also ending the fight. The winning side is probably weary from the battle as well but relieved that the fighting will stop and everyone makes it out with their life.  Yes, I know that in actual war it is much more complex than this but stay with me here.   The waving of the white flag brings peace to the battle.  And at some point, if you want to grow in your walk with Jesus, you have to come to a point of surrender.  Waving the flag and showing Jesus that you are just to weary to fight for the areas in your life that are hindering you from advancing.  I am sure Heaven’s army rejoices when they see your white flag waved high in surrender.

Maybe you are like me and have trouble giving up control and putting your trust in the Lord.  Maybe you have been hurt by people or events and the wounds are so fresh that you, too, protect them deeply.  Perhaps you need to surrender other things in your life that are keeping you from developing your relationship with the Lord.  Ask the Lord to reveal to you what it is you need to lay down and surrender and then pray that God will give you the strength to do it.  As for me, I was weary from battle and I decided to give it all to the Lord.  I am thankful he loves me enough to walk with me through my hardest valleys just so I will know he is always there.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.”  Philippians 4:6surrender flag 

Woman, Reclaimed.

Today I heard someone say, “you’ll find what you’re looking for when you finally get to the end of yourself.”  She wasn’t talking to me, or to anyone I know, it was just happenstance that I heard them at all yet they’ve lingered in my mind all day.  Of all the things I’ve pondered today, I can’t get away from the question that has begged my spirit for a response: what does it look like when you get to the end of yourself?

I’ve been tempted to settle for a superficial answer to appease my spirit and temporarily quiet the voice that has been nagging me all day.  But somehow, at this particular time in my life, a superficial response just won’t do.  I’ve decided that getting to the end of yourself looks a little like the silent sadness that can sweep over you when you’ve sacrificed bits of yourself doing the same mundane things day after day.  The end of yourself is the place you find when the demands of work and home feel like a heavy weight that you just can’t escape.  When the stresses and worries of uncertainty and doubt begin to turn your dark hair shades of silver that can be visibly seen by the world, when the once beautiful smile you’ve worn for so long is replaced by fine lines that show both age and experience, that’s where the end of yourself is found.  When you are praying for the world and sometimes wonder “oh Lord, but who is praying for me?” Yes, the “end” of yourself is the most desperate place to be.  It’s looking up and seeing yourself surrounded by mountains that seem so overwhelmingly large you know you’ll never make it to the top again on your own.  The end of yourself looks just like it sounds.  Maybe not the end as in actual death but something even more dangerous: a weary woman not walking in the safety, goodness and favor of the Lord.

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that coming to the end of yourself, as excruciating as it may be, is necessary to walk in the fullness of the Lord.  In a valley, surrounded on every side by immovable, impassable mountains, a woman has two choices.  She can sit down in her valley, stare at the mountains and cry herself to sleep or she can kneel down in her valley, turn her gaze to the sky and raise her hands to the Heavens like a warrior going into battle!  She can’t climb the mountain on her own and she isn’t strong enough to pick  herself up to even take the first step BUT if she will change her focus from the mountain to the mover, suddenly escape is within reach.

Are you hearing what I am saying, friend?  We let ourselves become self-sacrificial offerings to the vultures of this world.  Leaving a piece of ourselves everywhere we go, we don’t leave much hope for our weary minds to rest.  I am the worst for this.  My internal hard drive wants to talk about worst-case scenario all the time.  I don’t expect goodness to follow me, I’ve trained myself for disaster.  Some people, including myself, call this being a realist.  The truth is I have yet to remove the baggage I have carried for so long and step into the fullness of the Lord.  I have not walked as a daughter of the King, worthy of goodness and mercy, favor and victory.  No, I have allowed myself to be dictated by the circumstances I can see instead of shifting my focus to the one who can see what I cannot.  It’s time that the Godly women of this world realize the goodness that the Lord has in store for them.  Ladies, if you have come to the end of yourself, pick up your crown, steady your gaze on the Heavens and walk into the joy and fullness of the Lord that was bought for you on Calvary so long ago.  You were a weary woman but shifting your eyes on God can make you a woman, reclaimed.

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.  When you pass through waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned, and the flames shall not consume you.  For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your savior.  Isaiah 43:1-3

The Tale of Two Sorry’s

My kids.  Lord, they can drive me crazy.  They almost never pick up after themselves, they usually protest loudly before they eat anything I cook and they definitely don’t have an “inside voice (to be fair, I’m not sure that last one even exists).  I guess that’s why I always find it amusing when God uses them to get my attention and reveal himself to me.  And he almost always uses them to get me to listen.  And so begins the tale of two sorry’s.

Yesterday, my daughter got in the car and began emptying out the contents of her folder.  She happily chirped about this and that; who did what at recess, who said what during lunch.  She casually comes across a quiz that she had gotten a D on.  She pulled it out quickly, made a yucky face and rolled those pretty brown eyes.  “ugh.  I’m sorry, mom.   quiz

I got a D on this.”  She had even written me a little note on the side expressing her sorrow.  We talked about what she could have done better and what we needed to study and that was it.  Any anxiety she had carried over telling me, her math teacher mom, vanished.

Later that night, Luke was kind of sulking around the kitchen while I was cooking dinner.  He kept looking at his skates, which he loves, like he wanted to use them.  He had parked them in front of the wall in the foyer a few weeks ago.  He propped them up really cute and told me he liked them there against the wall so I agreed to let them stay there until he wanted to skate again.  Finally, he asked me to come into the foyer with him. As we walked in, he took a deep breath in and with his exhale, confessed his crime.  He explained that he had been skating a few weeks ago and put a dent in the wall.  He was so afraid to tell me that he hid the dent with his skates.  I could tell that this confession took all his strength and courage.  He looked up at me with those little blue eyes and said, “I hope you aren’t mad.  I feel so much better already now that you know.  It was hard to keep that secret.”  I hugged him up tight and thanked him for such a courageous confession.  He couldn’t believe that was all he was going to get but he grinned really big and laced up those skates.  He has talked about how much better he feels now that I know what he had been hiding all this time.

skate

I got to thinking about those two “I’m sorry’s” tonight.  I was wondering why Ava had such an easy time asking forgiveness and was able to move on quickly while Luke struggled with confessing and asking forgiveness.  His inability to confess quickly caused him to carry around unnecessary grief and anxiety inside and it also caused him not to do the thing he loves the most-skating.  I settled on one profound truth.  Ava is used to discussing grades with me.  As a teacher, grades and education have always been a central part of our nightly discussions.  She knew, with certainty, how I was going to respond.  She could predict how I would react, what I would say and that she would quickly be forgiven.  Isn’t that how it is with the Lord?  We get used to our own behaviors and faults and we get fluent in saying, “I’m sorry” for those.  Now, I’m not saying that we continue to repeat the same mistake and carelessly ask forgiveness but I am saying that we know the areas where our flesh finds trouble and, because of our familiarity, we think we know how God, and others,  will react.  He will be quick to forgive and we can move on in righteousness.

Luke, on the other hand, didn’t know how I would react to a dent in the wall.   As far as he knew, he was the first one to do something like this in our house and because of that, it brought uncertainty and fear.  Out of fear, he hid his mistake and chose to carry around the consequences of hiding it.  He felt nervous, probably unhappy because he could no longer do something he loves, and he felt shame for denting the wall.  I think his situation is parallel to many of our own reactions to sin in our lives.  We find ourselves in a funk or overwhelming situation and instead of reaching to Jesus, we look for sin.  We always find it but it usually the sins that we aren’t familiar with.  Maybe you take up an unhealthy addiction you shouldn’t, perhaps you begin to carry the burden of unforgiveness and hate toward another or maybe you develop an attitude of unthankfulness and contempt for the blessings you do have.  It doesn’t matter the sin, it’s the response that is crucial.  When we walk outside our what we consider “normal” sins, we began to fear God’s response.  We don’t know how we will react so rather than confess and ask forgiveness, we hide it and bury it down deep.  We move it around inside ourselves, we ignore it and we try to rationalize it.  What we don’t do is address it head on.  These are often the sins that we fear will bring the greatest disappointment to  not only God but others around us.  It’s a lie that the enemy gets us to believe because he wants us to feel just like Luke did.  Shameful.  Full of anxiety.  Not enjoying our life.  Unhappy.

I had actually been feeling a little like Luke lately.  I had been hiding some shames down in my heart that I needed to forgive myself for and allow in to forgive me for.  I was reminded by my husband that there is no condemnation in Christ.  None.  It doesn’t matter the sin, confess it quickly, ask forgiveness and strive to do better.  Don’t be like Luke and hide it for another month.  Don’t even hide it one more day.  Let me say it again, there is NO CONDEMNATION IN CHRIST.  Allow yourself to feel the joy and relief that comes from knowing that the God of the Universe is waiting for you to just confess and ask forgiveness so he can set you free. Free from shame, unhappiness and anxiety.

There is now no condemnation in Christ, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.” Romans 8:1

Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride…

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.  That’s what I heard myself repeating over and over again last week to anyone who seemed interested enough to listen.  I had faced a tough disappointment over something I had really, really wanted, something I had prayed hard about and asked God to give me.  I had even thrown in the “if it’s in your will, Lord, let me get this thing that I want” and quite frankly, I didn’t want his will to be different than mine.  I expected that with my natural ability with this particular thing, coupled with favor from God that there was no way I wasn’t going to get what I desperately thought would somehow make my life more fulfilled.  It turns out that God actually had a different plan for me and the answer was a closed door smacked right in my face.  Ouch.  I mean, I realize I did ask him for his will to be done but there is nothing like not getting what you want to make the really immature, spoiled side of you come out.  First I handled it like a champ, then I cried hysterically until I looked as if I had been on the losing end of a fist fight and then I just got incredibly, irrationally angry.  So angry that when i got in the car I purposefully turned the station off of K-Love to another one.  Honestly, you all, I must be so exhausting to the Lord when I let my flesh rise up in me so recklessly like that.  To say I had a full blown hissy fit that afternoon would be a grave understatement.  I grumbled and argued with the Lord for hours that night and was downright hateful to my entire family and strangers alike.  NOT MY FINEST HOURS, for sure.  When the dust settled from my cyclone of a tantrum, I sat alone in my bathroom floor and pleaded with the Lord.  “Why Lord?  Why do I have to always be the bridesmaid and never the bride?? Why couldn’t you give me this one thing that I really wanted just because…?”  Something about the way the sentence rolled out of my mouth and into the air caused the air to seem stiff and uncertain, like the words didn’t belong out there in the atmosphere.  But alas, I am a slow learner and quite stubborn when I am walking in the flesh, so I repeated that one phrase several times over the next couple of days when referencing the disappointment I had experienced.  Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.  Each time I said it, it stiffened the air around me just like it had in the solitude of my bathroom floor days earlier.

I will admit that the sting of rejection and disappointment almost took me under.  My enemy-your enemy- would whisper words of self-hate and insecurities in my heart when the world was still and I was all alone.  I was beginning to feel myself being swallowed up by the encompassing darkness that Satan can surround us with and I would become terrified that I would die in this condition.  But one day, all of a sudden, and right on time, the Holy Spirit spoke directly to my heart.  I was vacuuming my bedroom and I heard him almost audibly say, “Have you forgotten who you are?  Have you forgotten whose you are??  You are a child of the King.  I have given you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the powers of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.” (Luke 10:19)  It was a spiritual pep talk and just what I needed to remind myself of my worth.   I have had a rather turbulent year and all of my grief has been within my own soul.  Questioning my worth, devaluing myself and my God given talents, identifying with worldly possessions and titles rather than focusing on Heavenly gains.  It has been a year of misery.  I was suffering from what I like to call spiritual amnesia.  I was walking around everyday, everything appeared to be okay on the outside but inside, I didn’t remember who I was….or whose I was.  Most days I felt like something was missing, as I am sure people with amnesia do, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what I needed to feel whole again.  Thankfully, Jesus left the 99 to come rescue this one lost sheep and made me whole yet again.

I have been reflecting and praying with my whole heart this break and I have finally figured out why saying, “always the bridesmaid, never the bride” just didn’t feel right.  At church this morning I heard the pastor reference what I have heard all my life.  He said that the time was right and that one day soon Jesus would be back for his “bride”.  We, the church, are his bride!  Everyday with Jesus makes me a BRIDE!  On the amazing days when things are going my way and especially on the days when God gives me answers that I don’t like!  I realize that I prayed for God to do what was best for me, his beloved bride, and fully trusting the Lord means accepting “no” without fully understanding why.  If I were him, I would have left my crazy, stubborn self years ago and wouldn’t have looked back but because of his great mercy and loving kindness he never, ever gives up on his bride.

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

 

 

Holy Fidget Spinner

Let’s just get right to it.  My kids are spoiled.  It’s actually not their fault though.  Their parents!  What a hot mess those two are….oh, wait….whose kids are we talking about again?  Mine?  Crap.  Well, my kids or not, it’s true and God has been dealing with me about it for quite some time.  I wanted to write this sooner, I really did, but I was terrified that I would mess it up.  But things this important can only stir in our hearts so long before they must come out.

God usually speaks to me when I’ve had far to little sleep and even less coffee and this time was no exception.  It was the last week of school and our kids were already antsy.  We’d spent the weekend before frantically running around our town looking for the awe-inspiring-had-to-have-or-we-are-gonna-die fidget spinners and Amazon finally came through for the win.  Our oldest child was so excited to get his fidget spinner on Monday but by Wednesday afternoon, in true first-world fashion, he was bored with his.  He was explaining to me his big “trade” that would only require his current spinner and nine extra dollars in exchange for an American Flag spinner.  I laughed out loud at him for his incredulous (and ungrateful) request but he was determined.  He tried to reason with me and when that didn’t work he resorted to begging.  When he realized he was making no head-way with that tactic either, he pulled out the deadly “I’m mad at you” trick from his hat.  He snubbed up and got out of the car without so much as a goodbye.  I shouted how much I loved him to cold silence and his backside as he walked into school.  Devastation.  I slowly began to drive away and fought the tears back.  I mean, how could I make my kid furious with me and let him leave that way, all before 8 a.m. and only a half cup of coffee!!  I audibly spoke to God.
“Oh Lord, help me be a better mama.  I just want my babies to be happy.”  No sooner than I got the words out of my mouth I heard him speak right back to me.  “No, I don’t want them to be happy as much as I want them to be holy.”  He could have hit me upside the head with a brick and I wouldn’t have been as stunned.  When the Lord speaks, he never minces words; right to the point and it almost always inflicts the pain of a good lesson.  Suddenly my perspective changed and my parenting did, too.   I pondered on those words that day and many of the days that followed.  I’ve spent countless hours studying scripture and taking notes just so I could wrap my head around what it really means to raise holy children.   While I’ve in no way got it all figured out, I think I’m beginning to get the idea.

Holy people are people that are living according to a highly moral spiritual system.  They are set apart for sacred use.  I want my children’s lives to be set apart for God’s sacred use but that requires intentional parenting.  At the rate we were going, we were cruising along by the world’s standards and didn’t really focus on much more than getting by in the day to day grind of life.  Thankfully, God left his word to guide us.

“I am using an example from your everyday life because of your human limitations.  Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.  When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness.  What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?  Those things lead to death but now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6: 19-23

Holy people are righteous.  Righteous people uphold God’s standards of living as outlined in his word.  They are truthful and just, using God’s wisdom to speak and act (think Solomon).  Holy people deny themselves and their selfish desires to take up the cross and follow the way that God is leading them (Mark 8: 34) Holy people can experience hard times and persevere (think David). They can pray through circumstances in their lives and use it for God’s glory (think Job).  Holy people exercise self-control given to them by the Holy Spirit (think Esther).

I almost get scared when I look at the description of what a Holy person looks like.  The world we are living in, raising our children in, is so far from any of it that it makes my chest heavy.   Can we do it?  Can we raise holy children in such a self-pleasing, I-want-it-now, anything goes culture?  In a world where selfish desires are exploited as free and fun and self-control is a thing of the past, is it possible to raise holy warriors for Christ??  I say it is and, in this family, it started with saying no to the fidget spinner deal.  Was he happy to hear the word no?  Uh, no.  Obviously.  Did he survive and was he a happy, chatty 5th grader when I picked him up that afternoon?  Absolutely.

In this house, we’ve decided to take the road less traveled.   We are saying no more often and we are talking about why.  We are having conversations about holiness and what it means to deny the flesh, persevere and pray though our troubles.  We are showing them how temporary happiness (like the fidget spinner) can never lead to eternal joy (like living for God can).  Today it seems almost like abuse if you don’t get your kid whatever they want or cater to their every need and quite frankly, it’s making it hard to do this parenting thing!! We hurt our kids chances of eternal salvation when we give in to their every desire.  When we don’t teach them to obey us and authority, how can we expect them to obey God when he speaks in their lives?  If we don’t teach them to deny the flesh now, how will they stand up against peer pressure, pornography and pre-marital sex?   Yep, raising holy children is surely the road less traveled these days.  It’s the harder road, for sure,  but it leads straight to Heaven so it’s worth the risk.  <3

 

I Am a Sinner. How About You?

Christian.  Failure.  Fake.  Which one of these words doesn’t belong?  That’s a trick question, if you ask me.  Someone, somewhere, one day decided that the word Christian was synonymous with the word perfect and it appears the whole world has bought into this idea.  I’ve never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed but this is horrible for a couple of obvious reasons.  First, no one on this Earth has ever been perfect except the Son of God.  Second, even it it were possible to attain perfection, the definition of what that looks like is a moving target.  It’s like you tell people you are a Christian and people immediately place unrealistic standards on your behavior that set you up for eventual failure.  Now here my out when I say that I absolutely think Christians are held to a higher ethical and moral standard and people should see us as ‘different’.  What I am talking about here are the unrealistic standards of perfection people seem to hold you to when you mess up and are *gasp* human.  And what’s worse, we Christians do it to other Christians all.the.time.  They look something like this:

  • You are a Christian but you lose your temper and post something on social media out of anger/hurt/betrayal.  *Let the stone throwing commence.
  • You say you are a Christian but you are in a bad mood (because we do occasionally get in those), you’ve been waiting in the check out line at Walmart for thirty blessed minutes and your hormones are all out of whack because you messed up your birth control (again).  You lose it on your kids in the check out line when they ask you for a Skylander/Shopkins mystery box for the fifty ninth time in three minutes.  *Elderly couple from your church standing in the next line whisper about how you need to “get yourself to the alter next Sunday” because surely you are a backslider with a temper like that.*
  • You are a Christian and you stand your ground and tell people when they are participating in sin or refuse to buy into the idea that if the world accepts something, we should too.  Even at the cost of going against our own biblical standard.  *You are a judgmental, hypocrite and need to get off your “high horse” and recognize your own sin*
  • You are a Christian but you stand up for yourself when someone wrongs you and cause a disagreement.  *You must not be a Christian at all because no Christian would ever cause a disagreement or speak up for themselves*.

The list could literally go on forever.  Maybe you’ve been in one of these situations I’ve mentioned above.  People love to use the word hypocrite, judgmental and self-righteous; just to name a few.  But here’s a news flash for all you folks reading this blog.  A Christian is a sinner SAVED by grace.  That’s it.  And you know what grace means?  It means “the free and unmerited favor of God”.  So basically, we get the favor of God, even though we don’t deserve it.  Even though we sometimes do things we shouldn’t.  Even though we sometimes say things we wish we hadn’t.  Once we accept Jesus into our spirit, he resides there.  Our spirit then, by default, is perfect because Jesus is living there and he makes it new.  It’s our flesh that we wrestle with daily.   We sin, we fall short, we are undeserving.  It seems like this grace would be easy enough to accept and also give but we’ve placed these unrealistic expectations on each other and our enemy uses them like a deadly arrow, piercing us right through the heart.

I often think of my walk with Christ more like a run in a race.  I imagine myself running along, the sun shining on me, the wind blowing my face like a cool breeze, I can see the finish line and I am feeling great but then out of no where, and I trip and fall over a giant rock right in my path.  It’s not just a graceful fall either, it’s a dramatic, somersault, broken bone, bloody shins kind of fall.  I almost got to the finish line but got the wind knocked out of my sails and didn’t make it.  Can anyone relate?  Those rocks in our path as we are running our race with Christ can be the lies the enemy tells us when others place unrealistic expectations of our Christianity on us.  He takes what that elderly couple whispered behind your back in the check out line and he manifests it until it takes up so much room in your thoughts that you believe you are a fake, a failure in your walk with Jesus.  Pretty soon you aren’t focusing on the task the Lord has for you on this Earth, or the talents he has given you.  You are focusing on other lies that the enemy is feeding you through this measure of perfection that we hold each other to.

Maybe nobody has told you this today but I’m here to tell you that the devil is a LIAR and the father of it.  As a matter of fact, the bible says there is no truth in him.  Let me say that again.  There is no truth in him.   So that means that all those lies you believe about yourself, all those measures of perfection and criticism that we hold each other to, they are all lies.  The bible tells me Satan is literally incapable of telling the truth.  Any negative emotion or feeling you have about yourself is an untruth from the pit of Hell. You feel worthless because Satan is using others to convince you that it’s true?  Well, sister, let me tell you, you are worth far more than rubies in the eyes of the Lord.

I have felt like a failure in my own walk with the Lord recently.  I have been made to feel like I am a fake.  And it has been a terrible struggle of spirit and flesh ever since.  I questioned who I was in Christ.  I pondered my walk with him and reflected on my words and actions to see if I had veered off the path of righteousness.  This morning, I was even contemplating going to church at all.  I was having a pity party in the largest fashion.  But as I was talking with God, he reminded me of Peter.  Peter was a disciple of Jesus and his list of accomplishments was great.  He was one of Jesus’ inner group of three.  He wrote two books in the bible.  By all means, he was a true follower of Christ.  But you know what else Peter did?  He also often spoke without thinking and was impulsive.  He DENIED Jesus three times, even after Jesus told him he would do this.  What a failure and fake he must have felt like denying Jesus as he was being nailed to the cross!  Peter was a human and by all standards, humans are subject to the attack of the enemy.  I can’t be sure but I can bet that the devil had a hay day playing with Peter’s heart and mind over the denial of Christ.  If he would have believed the lies of the enemy and given up on his walk with Christ, he would not have been able to go on and preach the gospel after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven.  And what a shame that would have been.

I am a sinner.  Through and through.  I’ve never claimed to be perfect or to know it all. I will mess up again probably before I post this blog.  BUT I am also saved by grace.  I have a God who gives me forgiveness and mercy especially when I don’t deserve it.  You are a sinner too.  You can also be saved by grace, if you aren’t already.  But let’s agree on something, ok?  Tomorrow let’s wake up and begin truly seeing others through the lens that God uses.  He knows we are sinners.  He loves us anyway.  He knows we are sinners.  He gives us grace we don’t deserve.  He knows we are sinners.  He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it.   My study bible describes Peter and sums his life lesson up like this: It is better to be a follower who sometimes fails than one who fails to follow.

John 8: 44 ” He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for their is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for his a liar and the father of lies.  

 

Love, Actually.

Ah, love.  It’s perhaps the most overused and misunderstood word in the English language.  Between hearing it commercialized in songs, movies, books and TV shows and then out of the mouths of people in our lives, I think we are almost becoming desensitized to it.   Don’t get me wrong, a new baby wrapped up in a tiny receiving blanket, or my children’s chubby hands wrapped around mine as we walk together definitely gives me the feels.  But overall, I think we just don’t think about what it means to love anymore.  And if we do, its some weird sensationalized version of what society has convinced us that it looks like.  Certainly not a biblical love.  But who really cares what society says love is?   I mean, its most recently given us jumpers for men, so ‘society’ has questionable judgment, at best.  What I really care about is what my Creator, the God of the universe, says love is.  His definition is how I want to love.  So I turned off my TV and silenced my phone, locked my kids in the basement (just kidding.  I don’t even have a basement) and reached for my bible.  I read scriptures on love and waited for the Holy Spirit to speak.  Here’s the verse that stuck out to me the most this week:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  1 Peter 4:8

I’ll admit, the Holy Spirit stepped on my toes all week long as I sought out the truth in this verse.  At first glance, its kind of like, “yeah, yeah we gotta love each other real hard.  I get it.” But its so much more than that.  To cover over something means to cover something so that it cannot be seen.  It’s not saying to make an excuse for a sinful behavior or to sweep our sins under the rug but to cover them completely out of sight of anyone but God.  So wives, when you husband offends you or is involved in a sinful behavior what do you do?  Do you analyze his comments or behaviors with your girlfriends over coffee?  Or do you take it to God in prayer?  To be in line with the word and love our spouse the way God wants us to love, we need to completely cover our spouse’s sin and take it to the Lord in prayer.  No one hates to hear this more than me because I, A. analyze everything to death and B. talk to my sister on the phone every morning.  Sometimes it is just so nice to complain to someone who always takes my side. But if I want to align myself to the word and show love to my husband, I shouldn’t point out his sin to anyone but God.  God doesn’t need us or our girlfriends/sisters to convict our husband.  How’s that for a #truthbomb?

When I begin to notice one of our children lying or cheating, or being repeatedly mean to their siblings the first thing I want to do is ask my mom why she thinks they are acting up.  Then I want her to go to her “How to fix kids” manual and tell me what to do!  True, my mom might have more experience than me and it’s certainly ok to request that she pray for my children, but if I want to show the love of God to my children, his manual is the only one I need.  My mama can’t change the sin in my children’s hearts, only God can.  A mama blog can’t give you some magic advice that washes sin away and no psychologist can cure the sinful nature we are all born with.  If you want to show biblical love to your children, take them to God in prayer.

What about that sassy little broad at work that is having an affair with the boss and has a snarly comment for every little thing you say?  Surely you can just show her some fake, “bless your heart” kind of love and get by with that, right?  I mean there has to be some kind of clause that exempts us from having to bite our tongue when it comes to people like her. I  have had co-workers who have literally made my skin crawl  and I’ve been sooo guilty of shamefully putting on a fake front and playing nice.  One thing society has taught us to do very well is to show this vomit-inducing fake love to people.  We gloss over our eyes, and hearts, with the expertise of an Oscar winning actress and pretend to be a loving friend when in reality we are gossiping about her (or him) the first chance we get.  I got news for you, and me, sister.  We might be fooling the whole world with our fake love, but God sees right through us.  And he doesn’t like it.  I don’t know about you but I don’t want to make God mad!  If we really want to practice what we preach and show the love of Jesus, we must choose to not gossip (no matter how despicable the person) and take it to God in prayer.  Ouch.

The last part of the verse says we are to offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.  Hospitality is another one of those words that has gotten totally twisted.  And thanks to my arch enemy Pinterest, it’s managed to get even worse.  I mean, who has time to hand paint tiny little turkeys on cupcakes for Thanksgiving, anyway?  Who are these people and when do they sleep??  But hospitality actually puts focus on the guest and *gasp* NOT THE HOSTESS.  This knowledge in and of itself is actually thrilling news to me.  I am so relieved to know that God doesn’t care one ounce if my floors are spotless or if I’ve polished my silverware until I can see my reflection.  He doesn’t care how staged my house is with throw pillows, rugs and fancy lamps.  The pressure is off, ladies.  At least in the “all about me” department.  Focusing on others might require that we sit and listen without interruption, that we pray with a friend, that we have clean sheets and a comfy couch but it will never require a trip to Hobby Lobby for more throw pillows.  Can I get an Amen?  Or maybe even a Hallelujah?

All of these things lead me to one truth: to love deeply and offer hospitality we must crucify the flesh daily and resist the urge to expose the sins of another.  Instead, we have to take it to God in prayer.  Let’s work hard to redefine love based on God’s definitions and not what society tells us it should be.

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.  Proverbs 17:9