On Calling, Adoption, Living Life, and Intentionality

Y’all know I’m supposed to be taking a break from writing . . .

And I’m about to officially start that break for real, but before I do . . .

I initially thought I’d hop on Instagram and share this as a quick post, but as the words came, I realized that this needed to be fleshed out a bit more on here. This morning, I opened up Timehop and read the following words, written eight years ago after we lost our first adoption placement and over six months before we would even know our Anna existed. I wrote this during what was one of the hardest, most confusing, and most heartbreaking years of my life. But I also knew, after months of intense prayer and struggle and honestly, wanting to quit, that I was, without a doubt right where God wanted me to be.

The words may be eight years old, but the sentiment and belief have not changed. I could camp out on the words in the beginning, the part about God not creating borders, and on the fact that I vehemently believe that when the Word of God says to “Go into all the world” He means ALL the world . . . that while I have every assurance that God loves Americans, and before anyone comes at me, I certainly love my country of birth, I also know that He loves every one, of every nationality and race, just as much. And, well, God isn’t American. He’s God. Creator of the universe. But enough about that because I’m sure someone is mad and done reading, and I want to address the rest of what I wrote. The “calling” part, if you’ll be so kind as to let me use that word. It’s the end of International Adoption Month, and maybe you’re not called to adoption . . . maybe you are . . . regardless of where you land, I promise you are called to help and participate in some way. There’s an image that has floated around the internet for years that says:

Adopt

If you can’t adopt

Foster

If you can’t foster

Sponsor

If you can’t sponsor

Volunteer

If you can’t volunteer

Donate

If you can’t donate

Educate”

Original Author Unknown

The Word of God doesn’t give us the option of not participating. It’s not an if but a when situation.

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27

I believe as Christians our lives aren’t just a series of coincidental circumstances. I believe that every step forward should be intertwined with our calling from God. I know there are people that don’t like the word “called” when it comes to adoption, but just as I believe I was called to be a mother to my oldest, I believe I, we, were called to adopt our daughter. I believe I was called to be a mother to both of my children, called to be a wife to my husband, called at one point to teach school, and after a decade in the classroom and a few years working part time, called to serve my family by staying home. It’s not that there is never free will or choice within that calling. I think that’s the amazing thing about the God we serve, that He uniquely calls each of us, my calling is not your calling, and within that, He gives us so much choice and leeway. When I use the word “called” it’s not because these people I love and serve are some sort of project forced upon me. I use the word “called” to define who God created me to be, and I have always found my “calling” to be coupled closely with desire. I believe that when God calls us to something, if we are seeking Him, He places within us both the deep desire and ability, through Him, to do that thing. And while that almost never means it’s going to be easy, it does mean that trying to ignore it, trying to pretend like it doesn’t exist, only leads to deep dissatisfaction within us.

Which leads me back to why I’m here today. As this month wraps up, I feel like I would be remiss in not acknowledging the significance of what God has done in our lives and our family through adoption. It has not been an easy journey. Sometimes, I’d say it has been downright hard and felt impossible. But it has changed and transformed me. It has sharpened and softened me. It has made me bolder and more outspoken than I ever dreamed, and it has created within me a compassion and empathy that I definitely did not have before. It has shown me the rough edges and glaring faults I failed to see in my own life, the beliefs I held so tightly that were not biblical (although I thought they were) and were in so many ways harmful. It’s caused me to see myself and those around me as God sees us, in a way I’m convinced I never would have had we not adopted. It has pointed me to my need for a Savior, my Savior, Jesus, day after day after day. It has not been a journey in which I’ve always felt complete peace. I think there is immense danger in letting the “feeling” of peace be our only guide because feelings, emotions, can lie to us, and there have been times, more than once, when the fear and anxiety have made me want to turn and run the other way. But as I’ve walked this path, I’ve known, in the deepest parts of my spirit, that I am exactly where God wants me to be. None of this is an accident, and in continually turning back to Him, His peace has surrounded me, in the midst of deep concern, anxiety, and even fear going forward.

As I’ve aged, the calling God has placed on my life has grown and shifted, but the One who calls me never does. And so, I try to do everything intentionally and with a purpose. And whatever God calls you to. . . maybe it is adoption or fostering or sponsoring . . . maybe it’s mission work . . . maybe it’s to clean house and cook for your family . . . maybe it’s getting up daily and heading into a job or a career where you’re meant to change the world one small decision and choice at time . . . maybe it’s all of the above . . . maybe it takes you in a totally different direction . . . whatever it, your calling, is at this moment, I encourage to pursue it wholeheartedly knowing that we serve a God who equips us. And as I, for real this time, take the rest of the holiday season off, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.”

Mark Batterson

Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving morning here in the United States. In our part of the world, it’s a little rainy . . . a lot foggy . . . muggy and relatively warm after being cold for almost two weeks. I’ve been up for a couple hours while everyone else sleeps. And I’m sitting here thinking about thankfulness. Seems fitting for Thanksgiving now, doesn’t it? But the reality is, it seems like we try to relegate gratitude to one month out of the year. As if we can fit it all in to 30 days, and somehow, the rest of the year, we all too often find ourselves chasing all the things we think will make us happy, make our lives better . . . but gratitude can’t be put on shelf and dusted off for just a month or so each year . . . it’s where we need to live and dwell each and every day.

The truth is the past few weeks have been a bit on the rough side for my youngest. This time of year, her absolute favorite time of year, can be a double-edged sword, if you will. It’s a lot to take in. A lot to deal with. A lot of excitement and anticipation of so much fun. A lot of stress and busyness mixed in with that. Add to the standard holiday madness, my eldest’s crazy basketball schedule, and we’ve seen some behaviors emerge that we haven’t seen in a minute. Not to mention, on a personal note, that if I think too far ahead about all that’s on our calendar, I quickly become overwhelmed with all the things, all good and necessary things, happening over the next couple months.

So, as I sit here this morning with my bible and my coffee and my prayers, it’s easy to forget the gratitude and go straight to “fix it Jesus”. Because I know He’s the only one that can. He’s the only one that can truly heal the traumas and wounds of the past. He’s the only one that can mend broken hearts and set captives free. He’s the only one that can bring peace in the chaos of life. But I can’t just skip straight to the “fix it” part of my prayers. Because gratitude matters. Jesus isn’t just the Santa Claus for grown-ups, here to grant all our fantastical (and not so fantastical) Christmas wishes. Not that He doesn’t want to hear what we need and want. Not that He doesn’t desire to meet those needs. He does, but that’s only part of what He desires. He desires a relationship, communication, worship, and yes, gratitude. Gratitude is an integral part of our walk with Christ.

It can be so easy to focus on what’s lacking . . . what needs fixing . . . what’s not right. And this year, both on a personal level for many, and on a much larger scale for most, there is a lot that needs to be “fixed”. But there’s always always so much for which to be grateful. As I sit in the silence this morning, waiting for sleepy heads to emerge from bedrooms, and another Thanksgiving Day to kick off, I am thankful. Thankful for this moment of peace. Thankful for a Savior who loved and loves me enough to come to earth and live and die for me, but that also loves me enough to sit with me in these moments and walk with me through the hard and the beautiful of this life. Thankful for the fact that I can take anything to His feet, and He will “perfect that which concerneth me” (Psalm 138:8) because He is a God that understands our weaknesses and struggles and keeps His promises. Thankful for all the blessings in my life, both big and small, and thankful in the struggles because I know “He works all things together for good” (Romans 8:28) even when the circumstances themselves are far from good.

I pray that on this day, however it may look for you, and beyond . . . that this week, this month, this year and next, be filled with the knowledge of God’s goodness. That your heart be overflowing with gratitude that can only come from knowing my Jesus. Whether you’re facing a time of peace and plenty, or a time of storms and stress, or like most of us, you land somewhere in the middle, may you know how deeply loved, valued, and cherished you are by your Heavenly Father.

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

– Ephesians 3:14-21

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy . . . Merry . . . Sacred . . . Holy

I already have all my Christmas decorations up. I always put everything up early, but this year, due to everyone’s busy calendars and the timing of a minor surgery my husband had scheduled, plus the fact that it takes approximately 20 years to put everything up, we decided to decorate even earlier than usual. Cue all the comments about skipping Thanksgiving and going straight to Christmas.

The thing is, I love Thanksgiving . . . and I love Christmas . . . to me they’re inseparable. I love this time from November through December because it reminds me so much of what matters and what’s truly important in life. Rather than get bent out of shape because of all the things I see as wrong with the way the holidays, Thanksgiving through New Year’s, are celebrated, I choose to see all the good in it.

Is it too commercialized? Probably . . . yes . . . but also . . . no . . . I think you can embrace all the fun things . . . the lights . . . the decorations . . . the shopping and parties . . . Santa (yes, we do Santa or at least 25% of our family does ;)) . . . and keep your mind and heart focused on why we celebrate . . . because when I say “Jesus is the reason for the season” I’m not just being cliche . . . I mean it. I am deeply thankful because I serve a Savior, who is also God, who was willing to leave His heavenly home to live as a baby, a child, and ultimately, a man . . . who sacrificed His life in order that I might live forgiven and free here on earth and eternally with Him in Heaven. For that I am immensely grateful . . . and because of that, for me at least, there’s no way to truly uncouple the joy that is Thanksgiving and Christmas.

These are the holidays . . . literally the “holy days” . . . the spiritual and the everyday, mundane joined together . . . the quiet moments with Jesus in the dark morning hours with only the light of the Christmas trees and a warm cup of coffee . . . the prepping and preparing for family meals . . . the dressing up for parties and giving of gifts . . . the shopping and the movies . . . the reading of the account of the birth of Jesus from the book of Luke . . . the post turkey and pumpkin pie naps . . . the singing of Christmas carols . . . the beauty of the season . . . it’s all holy. It’s all a gift from our Heavenly Father.

With that, it’s once again time for a some sort of break . . . both here and on social media . . . it’s even earlier than usual this year . . . but it’s time to soak in these next eight weeks or so . . . to sit in the holy and the sacred of it all . . . the time with Jesus, yes, definitely and always, the time with Jesus . . . but also, the moments with family and friends . . . to step back from the busy, and with basketball season colliding with the holidays as it does, busy is an understatement . . . to slow down. We can say no to never saying no. We can stop ourselves from buying into the insanity and frenzy and the overspending and never stopping to breathe. I think sometimes we “go-go-go” and constantly pursue doing things and checking social media and being entertained because we’re terrified of the silence. We need to stop . . . to embrace being still and quiet and enjoy all these rapidly passing moments of everyday life. . . not just during the holidays but all year round.

I may pop in here and on social media from time to time. I’ll probably share pics here and there on Instagram, but I want to spend more time these next couple months leading up to yet another New Year living life in person rather than on a screen. I encourage you to do the same. Step back, rest, and delight in the good gifts that God has given you.

In honor of Thanksgiving, I’ll leave you with the words from one of my all time favorite songs:

Gratitude

All my words fall short
I got nothing new
How could I express
All my gratitude?

I could sing these songs
As I often do
But every song must end
And You never do

So I throw up my hands
And praise You again and again
‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
Hallelujah
And I know it’s not much
But I’ve nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah
Hallelujah

I’ve got one response
I’ve got just one move
With my arm stretched wide
I will worship You

So I throw up my hands
And praise You again and again
‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
Hallelujah
And I know it’s not much
But I’ve nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah
Hallelujah

So come on, my soul
Oh, don’t you get shy on me
Lift up your song
‘Cause you’ve got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord

Oh come on, my soul
Oh, don’t you get shy on me
Lift up your song
‘Cause you’ve got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord

Come on, my soul
Oh, don’t you get shy on me
Lift up your song
‘Cause you’ve got a lion inside of those lungs
Get up and praise the Lord, hey

Praise the Lord
Praise the Lord

Praise the Lord

So I throw up my hands
Praise You again and again
‘Cause all that I have is a hallelujah
Hallelujah
And I know it’s not much
But I’ve nothing else fit for a King
Except for a heart singing hallelujah
Hallelujah

Songwriters: Benjamin William Hastings, Brandon Lake, Dante Bowe

May these next couple of months be filled with gratitude and joy and the peace that only Jesus can bring.

Political or Biblical?

Well, the Astros did it . . . they won the World Series . . . and I am one happy gal. . . I’m also very thankful they did it at home, during game six, on the night we all got an extra hour of sleep. Because it was wearing me out.

But enough about sports . . . midterm elections are tomorrow . . . yep, I’m going there. Talk about a swing from fun to serious. I don’t have much stomach for politics or politicians so that’s not the point of this. I’m honestly ready for it to be over and am not looking forward to the madness of another presidential election.

Having said that, I always want to be sure that I’m totally transparent, and I think it’s important that people understand, as much as is possible via the internet, who I am and what I believe. How I vote and what I believe are informed, not by a political party, but by a very literal and traditional biblical world view. The word of God over politics every single time. Having said that, I also have cultural beliefs and personal convictions that determine how I vote on certain issues and topics, and sometimes those convictions and ideals can shift. The thing is, I think it’s so important to distinguish between biblical beliefs, which are the moral absolutes, and the personal convictions and culturally based stances and ideals. Because my biblical beliefs are my “lines in the sand”, non-negotiables that I believe God set out in His word for all of mankind to follow . . . and when I say “all” I mean “all”. There’s no changing my mind or getting me to view these from another perspective. These are not shifting in any way. That’s not to say that I believe that it’s okay to treat those who disagree unkindly. It’s most definitely not. But when I say biblical beliefs and moral absolutes vs personal convictions, I think personal convictions can and do vary from person to person. Some are my opinions and are influenced by my own history and upbringing. Some are because I believe God has led me to a certain position and/or choice to which I certainly don’t think He leads everyone, and I’d venture that they are ever evolving, shifting, and growing as I grow in my relationship with Christ. If you want to read more about my thoughts regarding the distinction between the two, you can read Moral Absolutes and Personal Convictions. However, I think, as Christians, when we get the two, the moral absolutes, the biblically based beliefs, and the personal convictions, confused, we do others and our witness for Jesus such a huge disservice.

A long time ago I wrote a post entitled Uncompromising Beliefs, and you are certainly free to go read it. But just in case you don’t want to bother with clicking over and wading through the other stuff to get to the point, I thought I’d share (i.e. copy and paste) a bit of what I wrote on that post here. These are not just my personal convictions but although I’m certain there are those who would say otherwise, because I believe that the bible is the inerrant word of God, are absolutes:

Starting point- because this is why I think how I think and believe how I believe. I believe in the Bible cover to cover. I believe that it is literal and God inspired and God breathed . . . both the harder parts and the easier parts to accept. And I cannot and will not compromise on that. These aren’t opinions to me. These are non-negotiables in my world.

And because of said “starting point”, I believe Jesus is the only way to God. Period.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:6.

I believe that Jesus loves everyone deeply and passionately and compassionately and completely, unconditionally. I believe that He sees people for who He created them to be and not who they are right now . . . I’m so thankful for that because I’m far from perfect.

I believe in the sanctity of life . . . I don’t just mean I’m anti-abortion. I am pro-life. I am pro-adoption. I am pro-helping and supporting and giving resources to parents that want to raise their children. And there are a million ways to support these causes, but screaming hellfire and brimstone to those who are making choices with which we don’t agree isn’t one of them.

I am pro-marriage . . . traditional marriage . . . between one man and one woman . . . for life. I believe in this because the Bible is clear on how God created us to live. I believe that God knows what’s best for us and loves us deeply. I believe there is forgiveness and grace and redemption for everyone at the foot of the cross. I believe that no matter what is in your past, God is here to redeem you. And I believe that we can live and walk out what we believe while still loving others deeply no matter where they are in life. Because again . . . hellfire and brimstone and pounding Jesus into people really doesn’t do the trick. (And as I’ve said before, there are times when you need to walk away from a marriage, after a lot of prayer and seeking God, because the marriage vows have been broken and cannot be repaired whether that be through emotional and/or physical abuse and manipulation, continued unrepentance and infidelity on the part of a spouse, abandonment . . . please seek help if you’re in this type of marriage.)

I believe that God created all people equal, and I believe that He created a myriad of beautiful skin colors (and hair colors and eye colors . . . ) because He is the God of beauty and creativity. I do believe we need to look at our hearts and our motives and our attitudes toward others and be one million percent certain that there isn’t even the hint of racism or prejudice there. There is nothing wrong with evaluating deep seated thought patterns that likely need to change. Rather than trying to deny or justify or argue, take it to Jesus. Ask Him to transform you because I promise, it’s not from Him.

I believe the church, Christians that profess to follow Jesus, need to look deeply at their own hearts. Because if we’re harboring hatred, unforgiveness, ugliness, bitterness, and anger . . . if we’re feeding on and perpetuating those things, then not only are we not a witness for Christ, but we are not following the Bible. We’re not walking out His word. We tend to give weight to sins here on earth. And while I’ll completely own that there are sins that are heinous and horrible and have larger, more destructive, consequences that hurt others deeply, I’ll also say, that allowing any of the things I listed above to simmer, unchecked, just below the surface, causes huge damage to ourselves and others as well. Maybe not the obvious, in your face kind of damage that we can call out, but if my actions, words, and behaviors push others from Jesus . . . and I’m not talking about speaking biblical truth set out by God here . . . then I’m doing more damage to the Kingdom of God rather than the kingdom of darkness.

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
‭‭Galatians‬ ‭5‬:‭19‬-‭26‬ ‭

Of All the Things, I Wrote About Sports . . . I Know . . . I’m Shocked Too

Let me talk to you people about something . . .

Sports . . . Not a normal topic of conversation around these parts.

I am, as my family and friends will tell you, not an athlete. It’s not that I’m not in shape and don’t work out. I am (in shape), and I do (work out) because I think that it’s very important to take care of myself physically. But, while I have great endurance (that’s at least partially genetic), I’m neither particularly coordinated nor particularly fast (understatement of the century), and when it comes to team sports, exercise classes, or anything competitive, the anxiety level I experience is just stupid. My family and friends will also tell you that while not athletic, I am a somewhat intense and very competitive person, and I hate . . . HATE . . . losing. So, seeing as how I’m not coordinated and all that, I learned, early in my life, that the best way to avoid not winning in sports is to not participate or compete. Because you can’t lose if you don’t take the risk. Thank you for coming to my talk on how to avoid dealing with your issues. Maybe I should write a book. I’m sure it would be a best seller.

Back to the topic of the day. . .

The fact that my oldest both plays basketball and runs track, in addition to my personal issues with sports and tendency toward competitiveness, has led to the realization that I must work hard to keep myself in check because I am that parent. I am the parent that has the potential to completely lose it and become C.R.A.Z.Y. if massive amounts of self-control are not exerted. Lots of deep breathing is necessary especially during basketball season.

Due to the aforementioned issues, I don’t usually watch sports because the level to which I become personally invested is somewhat unhealthy. I follow basketball and baseball on the internet, and my 15-year-old is obsessed with basketball, so he makes sure I know all the things that are happening . . . when I say “all the things” I mean ALL THE THINGS . . . y’all it’s way more than I ever needed to know . . . EVER. I also have a vague idea of what’s happening in baseball thanks to “the Google” and my sister, who happens to be a rabid Astros fan. But because I take it personally when “my” teams lose, I avoid watching, at least until the playoffs, in order to maintain some degree of sanity.

Enter baseball . . . specifically enter Astros baseball and the World Series . . . I have a “no watching baseball” policy in my life because of all the sports it causes me the absolute most anxiety, and I’m convinced that the length of time it causes me to stress is not good for my health. I have neither the time nor the bandwidth to watch countless games each year. So, I only watch when and if the Astros make it into the World Series . . . which they have. And now, here I am, fully in it, and let me just tell y’all, it’s killing me slowly. I’m pretty certain that four games in, at least ten years have been shaved off my life (but I’m planning to live well past 100 so I’m still good). Not to mention the fact that level of sleep deprivation under which I’m currently operating is not helping anything. How do you people deal with an entire season of this? I can’t cope with four games.

Ultimately, there is no point to all this . . . I’m just tired, and I really hope (and pray . . . even though I don’t believe in praying for a specific team to win) that the Astros win this thing in six because I seriously don’t know if I can handle anything more (or less). And if you happen to overhear someone yelling super useful things from my house like “Just hit the dang ball!” and “Pay attention!” and my personal favorite “Get your head in the game” . . . I mean I’m sure none of this has occurred to them . . . just ignore it . . . maybe I should’ve been a coach . . . because nothing makes a great coach like a lot of anxiety mixed with highly impractical and unmotivational (not a real word) advice <insert eye roll here>.

Side note: Don’t even come at me with the cheating stuff. I’m not here for it.

Love Is . . .

Yesterday, Patrick said to me, “I cleaned out your sink drain so it wouldn’t drain slowly.” I have really long hair (for now anyway), and if you’ve ever had or lived with someone with long hair, you know that drains, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, get clogged. I’ll add, it’s gross. It makes me gag.

But here’s the thought that I had when he told me that. That’s what love looks like. We’ve been married over 19 years. Tomorrow will mark 24 years since we started dating. We were 17 (if you care to do the math) and young and stupid (no need to tell me not to say that . . . we were) and naive when we first met and started dating shortly thereafter. We weren’t close friends or besties first. We got to know one another while dating, but we dated for a long time before getting engaged. We were still young and somewhat stupid and maybe slightly less naive when we married at 22. We’ve grown and grown up together. We are very much different people, yet somehow still the same, as we were over 20 years ago.

Patrick still has a ridiculous sense of humor and is extroverted as all get out. Sometimes he makes me laugh hysterically. Sometimes he annoys the living daylights out of me, but he regularly pushes me out of my comfort zone. For that I’m grateful. He still procrastinates but then manages to get it all done and works harder than anyone I know. I’m pretty sure there’s not a day of the week he’s not working. He runs a business, works on our investment properties, teaches and is on the worship team at church, and provides for and leads us beyond well. He also, knows how to have fun and enjoy life.

I’m still over here struggling with OCD tendencies. Not to mention, I’m incredibly introverted. I still fight fear and obsessively worrying about things, but I’ve also learned to fight that on the front end. I’ve learned to pause, take a breath, and admit when something is making me anxious. I’ve learned, or am learning, excellence and doing things well are not the same as being perfect, and lowering my standards to be somewhat reasonable does not equal compromise. And maybe most importantly, I can sometimes let go and just have fun.

I think we’ve both learned that love for one another can look so many different ways. It can mean romance and flowers and dates. It can mean weekends away and fun trips to far off places. Romance, doing thoughtful and caring things for one another, should not be something we totally neglect. Those things do matter, and we make an effort to spend time together, away from the kids, away from the crazy, and to prioritize one another and our relationship because it is that important. But also, love is cleaning out the dumb, gross sink drain. It’s letting the other one sleep in while you get up and let the geriatric dog out long before the sun rises. It’s working together to figure out schedules when your fifteen-year-old is insanely busy and your nine-year-old is running a sky-high fever.

It’s all of those things and more. It’s not a Romcom or a romance novel. It’s way more than a feeling. Because there are times when you feel it, and times when you don’t. There are times when you’re dead tired and just doing good to get through the day. And there are times when you have all the good feels and you remember, yep, this is my person. Love is first an action, a verb, a commitment, and the feelings often follow.

We’re far from perfect. We have good days and days when we both need an attitude check. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, we’re both hardheaded, stubborn, and strong willed, and God has really had to work some things out in both of us. I’ve had to learn, I’m still learning, to let Patrick lead our family . . . to not try to take control and take over. But thankfully, by the grace of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, we get better with each passing year. I wouldn’t want to live this wonderful, crazy life with anyone else.

A Martha Moment

4:00 a.m.

I know my alarm is going off in about an hour and a half.

I’m still beyond tired.

But my brain will. not. stop.

I try to pray but interrupt myself figuring out all the things I can do to fix all the things that need fixing.

I need to leave it at the feet of Jesus. I need to rest at the feet of Jesus, but I’m too busy having a Martha moment.

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

One . . . I get Martha. Martha is my people. I am Martha.

Two . . . I would’ve been so annoyed with Mary. I would’ve been grumbling and complaining about how Mary never helps with anything because she’s too busy worshipping Jesus. Does she think things just magically happen???

Three . . . I don’t think Jesus was just worried about Martha hustling around and doing stuff. Taking it back to the Greek, the word “distracted” means “drawn away”, and the word “serving” actually means “preparations” and “ministry”*. Martha was drawn away from Jesus because she was so busy with her ministry of the moment. That’ll preach y’all. How often do we let our ministry and serving, whatever those may be, no matter how good and Godly they are, get in the way of our relationship with our Savior? I think Jesus was far more concerned with Martha’s heart, with Martha’s need to be in control, to manage everything, than He was about her being physically busy. Because when you “get” Martha, you get that Martha was probably a perfectionist control freak. She thought that she was keeping everything under control by doing all the things. And, as we all know, that control is just an illusion. Jesus wasn’t just after Martha’s attention. He was after her heart. He wanted her to relinquish control and learn to trust Him.

Lying in bed at four in the morning, I may not be physically doing anything, but mentally I’m running a marathon. I’m handling it all. I’m maintaining control, or at least I think I am. I can keep on keeping on. I’m not just good at this, I excel at this. I can lose sleep in order to maintain the illusion of control. Or I can close my eyes and sit at the feet of Jesus and let Him handle it. And if and when there’s something that actually needs to be done, because yes, there is absolutely a time to get yourself moving, I have no doubt He’ll let me know.

* https://biblehub.com/lexicon/luke/10-40.htm

People Pleasing Ways . . . Idol Worship and Lip Service

Massive reality check: I am a people pleaser. I do not like it when people do not like me.

My husband and kids might disagree. I mean, my kids will tell you they’re frequently displeased with me. It comes with the territory of parenting. But when it comes to saying “no” to those not closest to me (i.e. these three people I live with), I struggle greatly. It’s not that I never say no initially, but I don’t have a particularly assertive personality. If someone asks me to do or allow something that I know I can’t or shouldn’t be doing or allowing, I’ll very often start with a vague, “I/we can’t because ______”. But that often snowballs rapidly. Enter lengthy explanation and/or justification, if they push back, which people are known to do. I become very uncomfortable . . . are they mad, annoyed, upset, disappointed with me? Do they think I’m just making excuses? Do they hate me because I said no? And then one of two things happens. If the answer has to remain no because I have no choice, I start giving more and more justification as to why I cannot say yes to said “thing”. It very rapidly enters the territory of “tmi” and then some. OR more often, I say yes in stages. I give in slowly because I don’t want to upset the other person, and quite frankly, I’m fairly easily coerced. So, then I’m on the hook for something I do not want to do, and I absolutely know I shouldn’t be doing. My husband asked me just yesterday why I don’t just say, “No we’re not going to be able to do that” and leave it at that. Because that is way too simple y’all.

Now, I need to clarify, there are definitely times we need to say yes, even if it’s not something we completely want to do. Want is such a relative term because I really don’t want to do much outside my house or family ever. If it were up to my introverted self, I’d probably never say yes to anything. But there are plenty of times where I know I need to step outside my comfort zone and anxiety and say yes, and I’m (almost) always glad when I do. I’m not talking about those times here. Because those are the times, I’ll give a yes, without being coerced, or I’ll volunteer, without even being asked, even if I’m super uncomfortable.

All this to say, I don’t like other people to be unhappy with me, and I find myself giving in, in order to keep others happy, way too often. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the very long-winded explanation, of why I’m a people pleaser. Specific examples withheld because, well, see (literally, see it and read it) all of the above . . . I wouldn’t want to offend anyone . . . on the off chance that they may somehow stumble across this . . . it’s a highly improbable probability y’all, but it remains a probability none-the-less.

So, this is where I land this morning. Because it’s something God has been working on in me, the problem of people pleasing, and dare I say it, idol worship. (Insert sarcastic smirk here) I have learn to be okay with people not being okay with me. I have to be okay with the fact that sometimes they’re going to be mad, upset, annoyed, etc. with me, and that’s not on me. That’s on them. I’m not responsible for other people’s feelings. (Now I’m not saying I plan on going out of my way to make others angry or hurt. I’m in no way saying that. Romans 12:18 tells us that as much as possible with us we should live at peace with others . . . paraphrased, obviously.)

An excerpt From Jess Connolly’s Go and Tell Gals email newsletter from yesterday . . . it’s funny, not haha, how God repeatedly places messages in my path when He wants me to learn something . . . the podcasts I subscribe to, the emails, newsletters, etc. seem to be hitting this topic hard in the past few weeks . . .

If you’re weighing out whether or not something needs to be a “no,” here are five GREAT reasons you should say no. Check for these in your soul + life: 

  1. You should say “no” if you’re only saying “yes” to get the approval of others.
  2. You should say “no” if you’re going to show up bitter.
  3. You should say “no” if you think saying “yes” will make God love you more. 
  4.  You should say “no” if you’d only say “yes” to prove a point. 
  5.  You should say “no” if you believe you have to because no one else will say “yes”.

And here is my number six: you should say “no” if you feel like the Holy Spirit is leading you to say “no”, even if it’s a good thing on its face. Because we are not called to do everything . . . even good things, and that can mean at church, or at our kids’ schools, or at work (when called to go beyond your actual work duties), or even holy and good volunteer opportunities . . . none of that comes before our relationship with God, serving our spouses and families, and being present where God has placed us . . . we’re called to do what God tells us to do not what others think we should do (thank you Priscilla Shirer for that lesson many years ago).

Now I’ll add this, I think the term “I just don’t feel peace about it” is way overused and a Christian cop out far too often (the only term that I think is more overused and/or manipulative is “The Holy Spirit is telling me you should do _____” . . . but that’s another post for another time). Sometimes we’re going to have anxiety and fear about moving forward with something, even if God is telling us to do it. Sometimes we’re not going to feel physically peaceful about it. If you tend to run more on the high-strung end, like myself, anxiety does not equal an automatic no. If it did, I would’ve never moved forward with some of the hardest and best “yeses” in my life. What it does tell me is I need to pray for discernment and guidance and strength to do those hard things. But there are times, when I feel an unholy discomfort, if you will, that tells me I will regret it, hugely, if I say “yes”, and that’s almost the Holy Spirit telling me to put on the brakes. That’s when I know I’ve entered the “people pleasing” territory.

Enter scriptures, because y’all should know by now, that if I feel like God is telling/showing me something, then it absolutely has to be confirmed with scripture. And I don’t mean making scriptures, taken out of context, fit my narrative. I mean digging and seeing what God has to say about the topic, and then changing my narrative if needed . . .

  1. Read the gospels. Jesus loved people, but He was not a people pleaser. He lived a sacrificial life, but so much of His ministry and teaching turned what was popular and pleasing to the “big wigs” of the day on its head. He healed, delivered, and set free, but He also called sin what it was/is, He called out the Pharisees and Sadducees for their self-serving ways, and He spoke the hard truths in the most gracious and loving way. Further, Jesus knew when to pull back. He knew when He needed to say “no” to the crowds and the people and spend time in prayer and solitude and in community with those closest to Him, in order to be His best and complete His Father’s work.
  2. “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10 . . . this one is commonly used to speak against people pleasing, but I had to really think about whether or not I was reworking it to fit my narrative which is what I want to avoid. In context, Paul is talking about preaching a gospel that is pleasing to men rather than God. It was a problem then, and it remains a problem now. Preaching a people pleasing gospel. Here’s the conclusion I came to, if we’re running around say “yes” to all the things to keep other people happy, then we’re not going to have the capacity to do what God is calling us to do. Seeking to “please men” is a problem no matter how you look at it, and it is a gospel of idol worship rather than trusting in God. Our lives are a testament to God one way or another. If we’re flat out frenzied, exhausted, and spent because of all the things we’re doing in our own power, that’s no testimony to the world.
  3. “A man who flatters his neighbor
    Spreads a net for his feet.”
    Proverbs 29:5
  4. “The fear of man brings a snare, But whoever trusts in the Lord shall be safe.” Proverbs 29:25 . . . nothing like Proverbs to give us perspective.
  5. Ultimately, here’s the problem with people pleasing, it’s putting someone or something before God. It’s being more worried about their opinion of you, than what God is calling you to do or not to do. It’s at its root, idol worship. Because if God is telling you to do or not do something . . . because it’s wrong or unsafe or just not right for you or your family . . . if it exceeds your capacity to serve and pushes out those things that you’ve actually been called to do . . . even if what you’re called to is as simple as caring for your family . . . then you’re worshipping man and not God.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:2-6

We have this thing in the church where we think, since we’re not physically making carved images, we’re not worshipping idols. But make no mistake, we have plenty of idol worship within the church. We have plenty of “gods” before Him. They just look different than those in the Old Testament. And people pleasing, putting men or a man before God in any capacity, pretty much sums it up.

My daughter came home from school last year with a phrase her teacher, bless her heart, probably had to use way too often with my very persuasive child, “My answer is ‘no’ and no means no.” And I think we need to both employ that (maybe in slightly less blunt terms . . . maybe not) and learn to accept that. Because being a people pusher rather than pleaser, and not accepting that or punishing others for saying “no”, is no better. And y’all this goes beyond just saying “yes” or “no”. What I’ve written here, while not brief in the least, doesn’t come close to being exhaustive when you take a deep dive into people pleasing. I find myself not speaking up when I should, keeping things to myself out of fear of man’s response, and not being willing to be authentic (authentic does not equal obnoxious nor does it mean airing all your dirty laundry on social media) at times, in order to keep others happy. That is not what or how God created us to be. In the end, it all comes back to priorities. It’s great that we say our priorities are in the right place (1. God 2. Marriage . . . if married 3. Kids . . . if you have them 4. Everything else . . . ministry, church, extended family, friends, work . . .), but if it’s all just lip service, if we’re not following through with actions, then those words mean nothing.

All Things To All People

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

I read these words this morning, and I just kept circling around them. What do they really mean? What do they NOT mean?

  • First, I have to work somewhat backwards, with what does this passage of scripture not mean?

This is not a passage of permissiveness. It’s not Paul giving us license to sin. Having said that, it’s also not a license to legalism. We are not under the Jewish law. We are under the law of Christ. And Christ, His person and His very being, is the word of God, the bible in its entirety. He both is and was God and is and was with God.

People often say things like, “I follow the teachings of Jesus . . . ” referring exclusively to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Or just as often, “Jesus never directly addressed ___________.” John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” One of the hardest truths, facts, for our finite minds to grasp is the fact that The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit are one in the same, all God, and yet, three distinct persons of The Trinity, all present from the very beginning. The Bible was divinely inspired not by some “big guy” in the sky, but by God himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And so, if you follow the teachings of Jesus, then you follow the entirety of His word.

The word of God is very clear on what is and is not sin, and we are never given a license to commit or excuse sin. Having said that, so often we pass judgment on people not for actual sins, but for things that would fall under the category of “our own personal convictions”. Neither compelling people to follow our personal convictions nor excusing sin are acceptable under the law of Christ.

  • So if it isn’t a license to sin then what does this passage mean?

In this day and age of, “I don’t care if you’re offended”, and “I’m not everyone’s cup of tea” (which, is sadly true . . . none of us are going to be liked by everyone all the time . . . and that’s okay), we have to be careful that we’re not intentionally trying to bring offense . . . that our goal is not to be offensive but to share the gospel of Christ. The word of God is offensive to sin. It’s offensive to Satan. The world sees God’s word as backward thinking. There’s no denying or getting around that.

“For the message of the cross is foolishness (absurdity, folly) to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

Having said that, there are times and situations, where I make decisions on how to proceed or not proceed based on the environment and the beliefs of those around me. I’m not talking about sin here (as addressed above). I’m talking about respecting the personal convictions of others, if and when I am able and it’s appropriate and safe. This isn’t the only place Paul addresses this (read, Romans 14). I often tell my kids, “you don’t have to agree with all the rules to follow them and be respectful”, and while we are, by virtue of what we believe and stand for, going to offend others at times, our end goal should never be offense, but to share the gospel, to build others up in Christ, and to make a difference for the Kingdom of God.

Three questions I feel like God brought to mind as I was meditating on this passage of scripture: (1) Am I trying to be a witness for Christ or am I just trying to make someone mad? (2) Do I get more pleasure out of getting a rise out of someone than seeing their life changed or affected by Christ? (3) What is my motive and is it pure?

Because y’all, sometimes, I just want to rock the boat for the sake of rocking the boat. And Jesus wasn’t flipping tables just for the fun of it. He always had a purpose and a pure motive. Always.

“Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

We serve a very kind and patient God. If you read through the Old Testament, you see, not an angry God as some would have you believe (yes, God was angry at times, but anger has never been God’s defining attribute), but a God who chose time and again not to abandon His children even though they were outright rebellious and sinful, even though they repeatedly turned against Him and worshipped other Gods. We see a God who warned His children repeatedly to repent and turn back to Him, and we see a God who rescued and redeemed and loved His children in spite of the absolute sin they chose to chase after. Ultimately, we see a God, who knew we could never get it right so rather than wash His hands of us, He chose to come to earth as a babe and die sacrificially as a man so we could be forever free in Him.

I think being able to walk out 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 is a mark of maturity as a Christian, and being total transparent, it’s a part of the Christian walk that I haven’t fully matured into yet. It’s an area where I still need a tremendous amount of work because I’m just ornery enough to like to put up a fight from time to time. But it’s also an area where I want the Holy Spirit to mold me, to reign me in, to teach me so that maybe one day, like Paul I can say, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”

Ten Totally Useless and Random Thoughts for Your Friday . . .

  1. I love coffee . . . hot or cold . . . I legit don’t care. I just love coffee. A splash of half/half. No sugar. It’s the best. I’ll tell you what I don’t like . . . pumpkin spice coffee of any kind . . . it tastes like perfume smells to me . . . which is weird because no one should ever wear pumpkin spice perfume . . . ever. No offense to anyone that loves it (pumpkin spice coffee not perfume . . . if you like pumpkin spice perfume you should have your head examined). I can eat pumpkin bread, pumpkin ice cream, and pumpkin pie all the livelong day, but I can’t handle pumpkin in my coffee.
  2. I’ve read 30 (fiction) books so far this year. My goal is 50. I don’t know that I’ll get there but considering how crazy life is . . . and how I fall asleep while reading at night and drop my kindle on my face . . . I think I’m doing pretty well.
  3. I always think about doing a top ten favorite book round up at the end of the year. But I don’t because narrowing down favorite books is like picking a favorite food. Pretty much impossible. But I’m keeping track of my books on Goodreads so maybe . . .
  4. Speaking of favorites . . . I have the hardest time picking favorites for anything. And my youngest has been on this, “What’s your favorite __________?” kick. Here’s what I know. My favorite color is blue. Always and forever . . .but also, I love all the colors. Colors are terrific.
  5. Given my inability to pick favorites, my perfectionistic tendencies, and my need to read all the reviews ever before picking a hotel or VRBO (much like I don’t do camping, I don’t do sketchy hotels, condos, or houses), you’d think I might be an indecisive person. But alas, I’m not. When it comes time to make a decision, I’m your girl. I look. I do a quick review run through (5 min tops). I decide. And then I don’t think about it again. Indecisiveness makes me crazy. No need to have a two-day conversation. Make a decision people.
  6. Football is back y’all. I don’t care. But here’s the deal. With football being back, and the end of the year racing toward us at a rapid pace (because it’s important to remember that sometimes you race at a NOT “rapid pace”), the gym is dead on Sunday afternoons. Dead as in I was the only person there last week. Yes, and amen. I love me some football.
  7. Speaking of working out, I’ve been struggling with sciatic pain straight down my left leg. If you follow me on the socials (“the socials” sounds really stupid, but I’m leaving it), you know this already. Pain, schmain . . . going for a 3.5-mile run, followed by a 1.5-mile walk was not the smartest move yesterday. So, other than some targeted stretches sent to me by a PT friend, I’m forcing myself to take extra rest days today and tomorrow . . . rest meaning I am specifically not going to work out . . . I’m sure I’ll find something else to keep me busy because the thought of doing nothing makes my eye twitch. But hey, I don’t have to wash my hair . . . tmi . . .
  8. I ate cookies for breakfast. That is not a good choice y’all. But I’m not regretting it either.
  9. Rain . . . rain is my favorite . . . see I can pick a favorite. But for real, I wouldn’t complain if it rained every single day. I mean, I’m all for the sun peeking through here and there, but I really love the rain.
  10. I also love to wear sweatshirts year-round. Which is why I prefer rain and cool temps. Because turning down the AC to bearable temps when one insists on wearing sweatshirts in the dead of summer gets a little bit expensive.

And there you have, 10 totally useless thoughts for your Friday morning. Here’s to the weekend y’all and praying for cooler temps and rain.