And I Cried . . .

I teach youth two Sundays out of the month. If you’ve ever taught teenagers you know they can be a tough crowd, and I think, the cardinal rule of teaching teens is “Don’t let them see you cry”.

When Palm Sunday rolled around, I originally thought I’d teach on the triumphal entry, but decided, instead, to cover the time from Jesus’s arrest to His resurrection. It’s a lot of ground, a ton of scripture, to cover . . . I knew I’d have to move quickly. And, more importantly, the subject matter is heavy . . . there’s no way to avoid that unless you just don’t teach it which was not an option. So, I went over it once, and then, I went over it again and again. I knew what I was teaching. I had a few stopping points, but mostly, I was sharing, straight from the book of Matthew, the story of who this “man” was and is . . . fully God . . . fully man . . . our Savior . . . our Messiah . . . our Jesus. I thought I was prepared.

Here’s the thing, I never used to cry. I don’t like crying. I wasn’t raised to cry so I’ve always been able to shut it off and down quickly. But something has happened to me over the last ten years, and y’all, I cry so easily now.

But I was prepared . . . I knew what I was going to be teaching and reading . . . I thought I had my emotions under control . . . and then I hit Matthew 27:27. . .

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified. Matthew 27:27-31

And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God.” Matthew 27:39-43

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Matthew 27: 44-45

And as I read through those scriptures, all the way through Matthew 28 when the women realize the tomb is empty and Jesus has risen, I cried. I stood there in front of almost 20 teenagers, my voice cracking, stopping to take deep breaths, and I read through all of it, wiping tears the entire time. It wasn’t just what happened to Jesus, I would hope that, at least in private, the brutality of it all, would bring us to tears. But it is more than that. It’s the realization that He could’ve called His angels to save Him. He could’ve “come down from the cross”. He was and is the Son of God. He could’ve spoken up and defended Himself and chosen to not suffer, but He chose the suffering for me. He not only physically suffered to the point of death. He took every sin of all mankind, from Adam and Eve to the end of eternity, upon Himself in those moments. Can you imagine the weight? The crushing guilt and shame? The darkness and depression? And then to have His Heavenly Father have to look away because of those very sins . . . sins Jesus never committed . . . and He did it all for me . . . He did it all for you . . .

But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away. Isaiah 64:6

My righteousness . . . my goodness . . . my good deeds . . . “are like filthy rags”. I am not good enough. I can never be good enough. You are not good enough. Not a soul that has ever lived is going to be able to earn their way to heaven. That’s why He came. That’s why He suffered. That’s why He died. And that’s why He rose again.

The even better news . . . the best news . . . the most beautiful news . . . not a soul living on this earth is beyond the reach of Jesus’s blood and righteousness . . .

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:13

Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:10-12

So yeah, I cried . . . there were some smirks . . . some smart-alecky comments . . . I’m sure I looked like an idiot, but then one of the sweet girls looked at me afterward and said, “That was really something special wasn’t it?” And she wasn’t talking about my teaching. She was talking about what Jesus did, and you know what? I don’t care. I don’t care if I cry in front of 20 or 100 or 1000 teenagers. I don’t care how humiliating it is. What truly matters is if just one of those kids grasps the sacrifice made and the love of the Savior, Who literally gave all so that we could live victoriously free in Him, both here and for all eternity, then it was and is worth all my tears and discomfort and humiliation.

Springtime . . . New Life . . . And Taxes :(

I was outside this morning, watering and checking on my garden beds and flowers, and waxing poetic about all things spring . . . pictures for emphasis and also because bluebonnets in Texas. Need I say more?

Seeds sprouting, plants growing, flowers blooming . . . there’s something about it that just breathes fresh life into your very being. Like I said, “waxing poetic”. And if you ask me my favorite season, I’ll struggle to answer. I have a hard time picking favorites for anything, not just seasons, because I think everything truly is “beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). But y’all spring is some kind of special. The way new life comes from death. The growth and life and the vibrancy that follow the darkness and drudgery of winter. Everything about spring points us back to the resurrection of our Savior and speaks to the beauty of His redemptive love.

Then, I got the mail . . . and there in all their glory were our tax documents . . . not really, there’s no glory to be had taxes. You know that screeching halt sound from movies and cartoons? That was 100% my brain as opened that stupid, 9 x 12, envelope. Talk about killing the poeticism in my life. There is nothing, not a blessed thing, poetic about taxes. (Ask me how I feel about taxes . . . I’ll tell you.)

So that’s where I find myself on this fine, and it truly is a fine, spring day. The glory of new life AND taxes (womp . . . womp). I’m sure there’s a lesson here. To everything there is a season (also, Ecclesiastes 3)? Or maybe it’s just, this is what they mean when they (whoever “they” is) talk about adulting? Because let’s be real. Sometimes being an adult is just not all you think it’s going to be when you’re 15, but also no one can tell you what time to go to bed or not to eat ice cream out of the carton. So there’s that. Anyhow, I’ll let y’all know if I learn anything from this. But for today, I’m shoving the taxes in the rolltop, and soaking in all the spring I can. And I am pretty sure there is, most definitely, a lesson in that.

On Sin and Truth and Change

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” Romans 6:1-2

I originally wrote this post, exactly eight years ago, on my pretty much abandoned, but still “active” (in the sense that it can still be accessed), mostly adoption and family, but sometimes other things, blog. It was written in response to a controversy within the church which I’d say majority have long since forgotten. When it popped up in my memories, I went back to see what I had written, and decided that I would rework and repost. Because it’s still true. The message has not changed, and maybe it’s even more true as we’ve seen the world and particularly, the church spiral in some very questionable things over the last decade (or honestly, the last half century, given or take) . . . we’ve seen leaders make choices that have devastated their families and their congregations . . . we’ve watched the deconstruction movement try to deconstruct the absolutes of God’s word . . . we’ve seen pastors and evangelists and Christian artists completely walk away from the faith . . . we’ve seen others take the bible and misuse, misalign, misinterpret, and manipulate what it says in order to fit their own opinions, beliefs, and agendas . . . we’ve seen people make predictions and basically, glorified fortune telling under the guise of “prophecy” and use their platforms to further their own agendas . . . to put it simply, we’ve seen sin . . . it hasn’t gone anywhere, and we all still struggle with it.

A million, or eight, years ago . . . same difference at this point . . . a very prominent Christian women’s leader (still prominent in certain circles to this day) made a statement. The statement was something to the effect of the Bible being open to interpretation and how we’re never going to all agree. On the surface it was somewhat true. There are parts of the bible, of God’s word, that are very much open to interpretation and doctrinal differences. But y’all, there are certain things in the bible, in God’s word, that are very much NOT (bold, italics, caps . . . ) open to interpretation. Although, there are a number of things that fall into the “not open to interpretation” category, this particular statement had to do with the biblical definition of marriage (man and a woman) and the biblical confines and prohibitions regarding romantic relationships . . . if you read the bible correctly, in context, it’s one of the non-negotiables. Still, at the time this all came out, I was hesitant to throw my hat in the proverbial ring. What weight did what I have to say really carry? Having that said that, I made the decision to speak up because I felt led (classic Christianese . . . “I felt led”) to. And if you know, or have followed me, for any amount of time, you know that as I’ve gotten older and hopefully, wiser, I am even more likely to speak up and out, if you will. Although, I firmly believe that (1) we speak truth in love . . . always in love AND (2) love does not mean shutting people totally out or cutting them off (although you often will have to set boundaries and stick with them), but it also is not equal to acceptance of sin. You can, and forgive me for this horribly cliché and overused phrase, “love the sinner and hate the sin”. As overused as it is, we can absolutely do it.

More and more I see this attitude of inclusion and acceptance that insists that if you love someone you will wholeheartedly accept their choice of sin (whatever it may be), and you won’t just accept it, but you’ll champion it. Otherwise, do you really love them at all? Yeah, that whole line of thinking is a lie. Jesus completely and unconditionally loves us, and He never championed our sins. He died so we may be free from them. But the church is all too often, giving people permission to stay in bondage rather than be set free from the sin that entangles all of us (Hebrews 12:1). Before you burn me at the stake give me a second or ten to explain. Here’s the deal. I feel like we’re afraid to call sin what it is, “sin”. We’re so jaded from fire and brimstone, legalistic teaching and preaching that we think to point out sin is to negate God’s grace (see the scripture at the top). But y’all we need to stop being afraid of sin. We need to start understanding what sin it truly is. It’s more than a bad behavior, an action, a screw up. It’s more than I yelled at my kid, fought with my husband, cheated on my wife, or stole my neighbor’s car . . . Sin is deeper than just a “bad” behavior. Not those behaviors don’t matter. I promise you that if you steal your neighbor’s car or cheat on your spouse, it matters. But sin is a heart problem. And we need more than just willpower or behavior modification. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to truly change us. Not just make us act good. Sin is the absence of the power of God to both transform and heal us.

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7

Jesus wasn’t afraid of sin. He didn’t ignore sin. Nor does the bible ignore sin. But Jesus did say, “Go and sin no more” (John 5 and 8). So we think He was just saying stop doing what you’re doing and do something else. And we usually do need to stop what we’re doing and do something else, but as I said earlier, it’s a lot deeper than that. We need the heart transformation and the healing, both are key, that can only come through letting Jesus rule and reign . . . that are only possible through acceptance of Jesus as our Savior and submission to God’s word and the Holy Spirit. And newsflash, we’re not going to get any of that if we’re not seeking the truth of His word and letting Him lead and guide us.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

If we’re afraid to point out sin, then we’re missing an opportunity to allow God to do an effective work in a person’s life. But, if we try to do it without God, if we try to get people to just change their behaviors, we’re setting them and ourselves up for disaster. We need to start looking at the condition of people’s lives, including our own, and realize that the external behaviors are symptoms of an internal problem. We need to look to Jesus and realize that He can do what no counselor, pastor, teacher, psychiatrist, friend, or foe can do . . . He can change a leopard’s spots. He can take who you are and make you who you never dreamed you could be. That’s what the cross is all about. That’s what grace is for. Not to excuse our sin, but to empower us to turn to the One who can erase our sin and transform our hearts.

And because it’s something I’ve both lived and seen others live, you don’t have to spend every second of every day trying to pound the truth of God’s word into those around you. Given the opportunity, with God’s help and guidance, absolutely speak up . . . yes, with love, tell the truth . . . but then let the Holy Spirit do what the Holy Spirit does. Pray and let Him work. I have to constantly remind myself, I’m not everyone’s conscience . . . I’m certainly not the Holy Spirit . . . I most definitely cannot change someone’s heart . . . so my continual and constant harping only serves to do more damage than good. I have to, over and over again, turn to God, ask Him to guide my words and my actions with others, and trust Him to work even when I don’t see anything happening.

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” James 5:16b

Just so we’re clear, if you come to me a mess, know that I’m a mess too. I won’t shame you or condemn you. There’s more than enough of that to go around. What I will do is share with you about Jesus and His transforming power. I have no desire to drag anyone through the mud, but I also have no desire to see anyone live out their life in the mud.

Controversies abound, not only in the world, but within the church, and for those that choose to not see the truth of God’s word, I’m sad because quite frankly, I don’t think they get it. I don’t think they grasp how important submission to the Holy Spirit and leading of God’s word are. And they’re choosing bondage and prison over true freedom.

And well, I guess ended up throwing my hat into that proverbial ring after all . . . more than a couple times.

The Work Behind the Words

A million little choices . . .

We make them every day.

What . . . who . . . to prioritize . . .

What’s important?

What’s not?

What matters?

Who matters?

Marriage? Family? Kids? Work? Church? Friends? Entertainment? Exercise? God?

Marriages succeed or fail not on one huge decision . . . although that’s often what comes into focus when we see a marriage in distress or falling apart . . . the big choice to cheat, to leave, to exist but not thrive . . . they are all seen as “the” choice that leads to failure or if not chosen, maybe, success, at the least, survival . . . but that big choice is built on a million tiny choices . . . the choice to speak words that bring life or words that tear down . . . to come home a little early . . . to forego the girls’ or guys’ night out in favor of time with our families or spouses . . . to turn off the tv or put away the phone . . . to shield and protect our hearts and our minds . . . to be willing to change and learn and grow . . . a million little choices. Most made without much thought or consideration as to how they are going to affect us, our spouses, our kids in the long term. But every choice we make speaks to what is priority in our lives. Every time we stop and think about the long-term effects of a seemingly small decision, it points back to what is priority and what is not.

Marriage. Family. Kids. Work. Church. Friends. Entertainment. Exercise. God.

It’s by no means a comprehensive list . . . and all of these things are good things. They are all important and have their place in my own personal life. But something that has been impressed upon me as of late is that setting priorities is about far more than just saying (or writing) what our priorities are and thinking that, by default, it will just happen.

I can say all day long that my priorities are:

  • God
  • Husband
  • Kids
  • Church
  • Extended family and friends
  • Self-Care/Exercise

I can manipulate the list and pay lip service to getting all the priorities in their proper place. But at the end of the day, it’s my choices that determine where my priorities truly lie. If my relationship with God is first, then I have to be putting that relationship, through reading my bible and praying, in first place on a regular basis. And if my marriage is truly second only to God, then I have to put forth the effort needed to not only maintain but also grow in that relationship. The truth is if we truly put each thing in its proper place, through our actions and decisions, then the next thing on our list will always benefit rather than suffer. If I’m daily choosing to seek God and His wisdom, my marriage will only reap what is so very good from that, and if my marriage is healthy, that will only serve to aid in teaching and growing my children. It’s a domino effect in all the best ways. And it’s the day to day, seemingly innocuous choices, that determine whether we succeed or fail, whether we thrive or just exist in this life.

So that’s the challenge today and every day. To be thoughtful and wise in the million little choices we make as we go through our lives. To pray and think and yes, use common, God given, sense when making those choices. When I was still teaching school, we often would say to our students, “Show me. Don’t tell me”. We wanted to see the work behind the words, and I believe that’s good advice no matter where you are in life. Show, through your actions and your choices, that you truly mean what you say. Don’t just tell me what matters. Show me.

Embracing Today

I don’t have much to write tonight. Life has kicked my rear end the past few weeks. I haven’t been feeling 100% physically speaking . . . understatement of the year . . . nothing super serious . . . but the past three weeks have found me slowing down and being forced to skip out, not only on my usual workouts, but also on a lot of my normal, daily, routine. I’ll tell y’all, I didn’t like it. At all. But, I also came to a place where I realized there is value in rest and taking the time to let my body do what God designed it to do rather than pushing through exhaustion and pain. Thankfully, I’m on the mend and feeling almost completely better.

Now, here I sit, on Saturday night, mourning the end of spring break . . . which kind of fell apart in the beginning but redeemed itself toward the end. I’m thinking about how summer is so close and yet . . . two more months . . . two months will pass in a blink, and then we’ll be free from early bedtimes and early rising and keeping up with all the things having to do with school and school activities . . . I’m ready for it. But also . . .

We spent the day celebrating my baby girl’s birthday . . . she’s going to be nine in just a couple more days, and as always, on birthdays, I feel a bit of nostalgia creeping in. How did we get from two to nine so fast? I’m the first one to tell you that I love having older, more independent, kids. But yikes, a nine year old and an almost, fifteen year old??? I’m not old enough for that. We’ve all heard the saying “the days are long but the years are short”. I’ve probably even quoted it here before, and I know, it’s about as cliché as you can get. But y’all it’s also the truest thing ever. Somedays, I think these children of mine might do me in. What with the hormones and dramatics and theatrics and whatever else they happen to throw my way, but then I look up and realize that they are growing up. I mean really growing up into actual people with opinions and interests and weird senses of humor (thanks to their dad). I try to remember what they were like as babies and toddlers, but those days are kind of a blur. And well, long days and short years . . . it’s just really relatable.

I’m not even sure where I’m going with this. I’m tired, and I’m rambling. Maybe I’ll have something earth shattering to write here in the next week or so. Maybe not. But for tonight, here’s to resting when we need to rest, healing when we need to heal, and embracing all the days . . . the hard ones, the fun ones, even, the mediocre, run-of-the mill ones . . . and not wishing any of them away.

On Suffering and Sacrifice and Children

Preface: I’ve been pondering and working through writing this post for over a week. I started it after I had a conversation with a very new parent who just wants to “protect” their child from anything that could ever possibly hurt them. And as someone that has parented two children, one of whom is rapidly approaching adulthood (and I still have a lot to learn regarding that transition), that is very much the expectation and job, if you will, of parents to new babies and young children. Your purpose as parent is to guide and teach and yes, protect them from significant suffering. But as a mother whose children are growing older, I’ve found myself recently more concerned with their character than their comfort.

“I never want my child(ren) to suffer.” It’s a sentiment familiar to almost every parent ever, and as a mother, it’s a sentiment which I completely understand and with which I can sympathize and relate. But also, it’s a sentiment with which I don’t fully agree.

I don’t agree that I should always go to the ends of the earth to alleviate any and all suffering my children might have to endure. I don’t want them to grow up thinking that suffering is always equated with bad. Not that we create suffering for the sake of suffering. This isn’t about killing all that is fun and beautiful and joyous in life . . . about creating a false sense of suffering. There are those that do that, and it serves no purpose. Nor do I enjoy watching my children, or any person for that matter, suffer. I’m not a sadist. And I’ll take it one step further, God does not take pleasure in the suffering of His children. I don’t believe He creates horrible situations and pain, just so we can suffer. Suffering is a direct result of sin. Sometimes it’s our own sin, but other times, it’s the result of the sinful choices of others.

The reality is, in this broken and sinful world, we are going to be faced with suffering . . . we are going to be faced with the truth of suffering and sacrificing for what’s right. It’s inevitable, and if I constantly rescue my children in order to keep them from ever feeling pain, then when the time comes for them to stand up for what’s right . . . when it means both sacrificing and suffering . . . in the face of danger and persecution . . . they very likely will choose what’s easy and safe over what’s right. Self-preservation will win out over what’s hard and hurtful but also, right and good.

I recently saw this statement from Louie Giglio, and it resonated deeply with me, “Given the current state of affairs, and the Scriptures, we need less preaching on how God wants us to avoid suffering and more preaching on how God wants to empower us to endure suffering well.” We don’t like discomfort in our culture, and that includes within the modern, western church. We want everything to be pretty and perfect and tied up nicely with a bright shiny bow. But ultimately, I believe we live in a world where there is a very real possibility that we will suffer for Christ . . . for our belief in Him and our choice to follow Him . . . to live out what is right and righteous. And we also live in a world where so many parents have rescued their children, as often as possible, from anything hard. There is a striving to make sure that they never have to work too hard or face anything that is too heavy . . . that self-sacrifice is not part of their daily vocabulary. Alongside that is the fact that many times parents fail to encourage and cultivate an opportunity for their children to develop an intimate and personal relationship with Christ . . . there is more concern surrounding our children’s comfort and sports and entertainment than their spiritual development . . . so that when their faith is tested, and make no mistake we will all reach a point in life where our faith is tested, they all too often walk away. They hold their own comfort and convenience, their own fun and self-preservation, above the sacrifice it takes to serve God. It hurts to see our children suffering. I am not saying it does not. Nor am I saying that as parents we should not be appropriately protective, nurturing, and loving toward our children. But there comes a time, as they grow where we step back and let them learn to walk out this faith without us propping them up or rescuing them. And ultimately, we cannot control it all. We cannot stop all the suffering that our children will face, but it is in those moments that they learn to stand against wrong, even in the face of persecution or pain. Their character is built, and their faith strengthened.

“For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:17

Of course, beneath all of this is the question, “Am I living this out in a way that teaches my children by example and not just with words and lectures? Am I showing them that we are willing to live and suffer and sacrifice for the Kingdom of God? Am I doing it well? Am I showing my kids what it means to ‘count it all joy’ when faced with trials? And am I showing them that life can be beautiful in the midst of the hard?” Because that’s the thing, I’m not talking about putting on a show. I’m not talking about walking around with a poor pitiful me attitude, making sure every soul I come in contact with knows how hard I’m “suffering” and how big I’m sacrificing. And let’s be real, my suffering and sacrifice pale in comparison to so many others. What I’ve had to work through and go through in my own personal life has, thus far, not even touched what the mothers and fathers, the children and grandparents are suffering in Ukraine, but also, in so many places around the world. Even my own daughter has suffered more in her short life than I have suffered in my entire 40 (plus) years here on this earth.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3

And again, just to be clear, it’s not about suffering for the sake of suffering. It’s not necessarily about getting rid of every modern convenience and living like monks on some isolated mountaintop. Although, we do all have our personal mission field that is going to require some sort of sacrifice. It’s not about living a miserable life . . . y’all Jesus was not a miserable human being when He was living here on this earth, but it is about choosing to stand in the face of wrong and hard and trying times knowing that suffering and sacrifice are a very real and distinct possibilities. It’s about raising children who are firm and strong in their faith and relationship with their Savior and unmovable even in the face of loss, danger, persecution . . . It’s about setting the example (easier said than done) and letting them see us walk this walk and work this out for ourselves. Not to live a “do as I say but not as I do” life, but to live, only through the power of Christ and with the enabling of the Holy Spirit, in such a way that we can say, “do as I say and do as I do”. It’s a lot to ponder and process, and just in case anyone is wondering . . . I have not arrived. I am 100% a work in progress in this.

When the World Seems to be Collapsing

Today, in my world the sun is shining and after a cold February, the weather is warming. You can feel that spring is coming, and the prospect of new growth, of wildflowers and green grass, of trees blooming, and gardens growing is not far off.

And halfway around the world, war rages in Ukraine. Mothers hide with their children in bomb shelters. Fathers fight in the streets. Grandparents assemble explosives, and families are, possibly forever, separated as their country is torn apart by a madman.

It’s the dichotomy in which I find myself. The part of me that embraces spring in Central Texas, and all the beauty it brings while, at the same time, my heart is so very heavy for what is unfolding in Ukraine. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself in this place. It’s the dichotomy which I seem to be facing more often and with more and more intensity as each year passes. The dichotomy of both living in immense privilege and blessing while also mourning for the suffering seen around the world.

The question I ask myself over and over again is, “How . . .?” How do I handle this well? How do I respond well? How do respect and honor those suffering and fighting around the world while still living this daily life well? While loving my family well? While continuing to be thankful for all I have?

I’ve had the privilege of spending time in Eastern Europe although not in Ukraine specifically. My daughter’s birth country is Bulgaria. The beauty of both the country and the people of Bulgaria has forever imprinted on my life, and I carry it with me each day in the form of my precious, sassy, passionate little girl. I’ve had the privilege of visiting orphanages and being faced with harsh realities of children who have no families to care for them. And if I’m honest, I’ve had to face the fact that so often, as someone who wasn’t raised in anything incredibly hard or with any measure of suffering, my own life can be somewhat shallow . . . and so I find myself asking, what really matters? What has not only an immediate impact on me but an eternal impact on others as well? Because when it comes to one or the other, I want to always choose the eternal over the immediate. I pray that my life goes beyond just fulfilling immediate needs and wants, not that we don’t enjoy and embrace the life we’ve been given, but that I also, look past just what I want to what makes an eternal change and what is eternally significant.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that God puts these thoughts and desires in my heart for a reason. So today, I’ll continue with my normal routine. I’ll continue as both mom and wife, taking care of the routine day-to-day needs and wants. I’ll work to embrace that fully, the ministry that is motherhood, knowing full well that there are mothers a half a world away that would love more than anything to go back two weeks or two months, to running errands and taxiing kids. And I’ll also, refuse to shut out the hurt and suffering in the world. I’ll refuse to send it to a remote corner of my heart and shut out all that is hard and grievous. I will “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15) I will simultaneously sit in both joy and heartache. I will pour out my heart to my loving Heavenly Father knowing He hears . . . He cares . . . and while we are hard pressed we are never without hope even on the darkest of days . . . even when the world, quite literally, seems to be going to “hell in a handbasket” . . . not because the days are not dark, but because we have a Savior who gave everything so that we may live victoriously through Him and eternally with Him.

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:14-17

Just Some (Crazy-ish) Random Things and Thoughts

Let me just share a few thoughts/happenings on this fine Wednesday morning . . .

I just pulled my son’s retainers out of the dryer. Yes. The dryer. Why??? How??? So many questions. I’m sure there will be a great explanation this afternoon. I mean I guess they’re clean now and shout out to Invisalign retainers . . . they held up well in the washer and dryer (I am not being paid to say that, but I’m not opposed either). Face palm times 1000.

I’m certain that Texas has weather related multiple personality disorder. Yesterday it was almost 90 degrees. Today it’s 36, and there’s a chance of sleet, snow, freezing rain . . . I don’t even know. I’m not here for it. I hate the weather whiplash.

Would someone please tell me I don’t need another swimsuit? I don’t really love swimming, the beach, or you know, wearing a swimsuit. But I can’t stop myself. The first step is . . . never mind . . . I found a cute one.

Speaking of my oldest, God bless his sweet, scatterbrained heart, I’ve realized that he’s mere months away from being in high school, and shortly thereafter he’ll be getting his driver’s permit. I make no secret of the fact that I love having older kids, but how did we get here so fast? Wasn’t he just a chubby little baby yesterday? And now someone has to teach the boy to drive . . . “someone” meaning my husband and definitely not me because my driving skills are solidly in the “just okay” category. Jesus take the wheel . . . and I mean that quite literally.

Also, I have a confession to make. I am that mom. You know, the crazy mom at sporting events . . . that’s me. No chill whatsoever. I’ve suspected it for a while, but this year’s basketball season solidified it. My heart rate reached cardio levels more than a couple times during games so I’m looking forward to high school games where I can really stress myself out.

Carpool lines . . . a.k.a. pick up lines . . . because I don’t know why we call them “carpool” lines when we’re not actually carpooling . . . but I digress . . . the carpool/pick up lines at my daughter’s school are some sort of ridiculous. Here’s my situation. She gets out at 3:00. My son gets out at 3:45, but his school is just over 20 min from hers. So you would think I could get in line between 2:30-3:00, get her, and then head to get my son. No . . . no, I cannot. In order to get through the line quickly enough to get to his school on time, I must get in the carpool . . . pick up . . . whatever . . . line no later than 2:00. That’s an hour before school gets out. And I’m still not near the front. I drove past the school one day, and people were getting in line at 1:15. Almost two hours before school is out. Do people have nothing else to do? Don’t write me and give me all the reasons. I’m sure they have somewhere to be and don’t want to be late, but it’s ridiculous. End of story.

I think that’s enough randomness from my brain for one day. It’s Wednesday. You’re halfway through the week. Hope it’s a great one!

Coming Boldly Before His Throne of Grace . . .

If you were to ask me if I were an optimist or a pessimist, I would tell you neither. I don’t look at life and see all roses and sunshine and rainbows where there aren’t any, but I also, don’t look at it and see all the horrible things that are wrong or could go wrong (most of the time). I would say I land solidly in the category of realist. If there’s a problem, I work to solve it. If something is good, I celebrate it. But you’ll rarely find me sitting in the land of denial in either direction. Life is not perfect, but it’s also not a Greek tragedy.

There are those who would say that acknowledgement of reality is a lack of faith. However, I in no way form or fashion believe that acknowledging what is squarely in front of you somehow shows a lack of faith. I do believe that allowing the hard realities to consume you, to cause you to turn inward rather than toward God, to become bitter and angry and cynical in the face of difficult circumstances, does absolutely show a lack of faith and trust in our Creator, but you know what? He’s not sitting there waiting to whack you over the head with that lack of faith or trust. He just wants you, like the Father in Mark 9, try cry out “I believe! Help my unbelief!” He’d rather have the real, honest you than conjured up faith that denies reality any day.

Y’all life can be hard sometimes. Understatement of the year. And we don’t have to pretend otherwise. That doesn’t mean we have to broadcast all our issues and problems to the whole world. Sometimes we say and share way too much under the pretense of being authentic, but there is an importance in bringing all of ourselves to God’s throne. In pouring our whole heart out to Him. In acknowledging the truth of our struggles, our pain, and our grief before Him, and asking Him to strengthen and sustain us . . . to help us and heal us. He wants us to ask. It’s not as if He doesn’t know so why not tell Him?

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” John 14:16-17

Helper – (a) an advocate, intercessor, (b) a consoler, comforter, helper . . .

Jesus is talking about the Holy Spirit here. Why would He send us the Holy Spirit to advocate, intercede, console, comfort, and help unless He knew we would need that? We should not be ashamed of the God given feelings we have. We should not be ashamed of the struggles we face. In John 16:33 Jesus literally tells us, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” I’ve already said it, but for emphasis I’ll say it again, we are going to face things, hard things, on this earth. This is a broken and sinful world we live in, but make no mistake, if Jesus is our Savior, we win. Period. The key is in not trying to “fix” it all ourselves. In not trying to be the one in control, but in trusting the only ONE who is.

I’m a words person. Words carry a lot of weight for me. I have to be very careful to remember that my words can literally build others up or tear others down. To always take into account Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” To keep at the forefront of my mind that what I say matters and words are very powerful things. But my words do not carry the same weight as those of God. My words cannot create or manifest reality (both new age concepts that have become wildly popular in Christian circles) in the same way that God’s words do. And so, while my words can be both a healing balm or a weapon depending on how I use them, at the end of the day, they are best poured out boldly before God, knowing that He can handle them. Because, in the person of Jesus, He was both fully God and fully man, and He gets “it”. Whatever “it” is that you’re facing. He doesn’t just sympathize, He empathizes. He understands. And He is so full of grace for us in our human hurts and struggles and heartache and pain.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

I’m not sure how cohesive all of this is. And I feel a little bit as if I’m talking (writing) in circles. But these thoughts have been so heavy on my heart these past few weeks that I felt I had to share them. If you’re hurting, know you are deeply loved by a good Father who is for you. Don’t be afraid to turn it all over to Him. Don’t be afraid to tell Him how you’re feeling (whatever those feelings may be), what you’re facing, or even what you’re afraid of. I promise He can handle it.

The Master Multi-tasker

“You know . . . God has bigger things to worry about . . .”

Words spoken in passing during a recent conversation with someone close to me.

I didn’t really think much of them at the time. The “problem” we were discussing was legitimately pretty trivial, and we were off and on to other topics without another thought.

But it came back to me later. That notion that God can truly only handle the “big” things in life. That our little issues, problems, concerns don’t rate important enough for us to bother God.

Only . . . it’s not true. Now, I do believe that God gives us common sense and wisdom and brains and even, tastes and opinions to help us guide our decisions. I don’t think we have to consult with Him on every decision we make at every point in the day. Free will and autonomy are both things He has instilled in us . . . to a point.

But when something comes up, be it big or be it small . . . when we’re facing a decision, and we’re just not sure which way to go, even if it seems frivolous or trivial to some, I believe God cares. I believe He wants to be consulted. I believe He wants us to ask Him for guidance and help.

God does not have “bigger” things to worry about. To God, none of it is “big”. He’s the Creator of the universe, the sculptor of our lives, and I’m about 1000% certain He can handle it all. He is, after all, the master multi-tasker. The truth is, as we learn to trust in the small things, we’ll see our faith and trust grow in the bigger (at least to us) things as well.

At the start of the year, I wrote about one of my scripture passages for the year coming from Psalm 37 (vs 3-8), and toward the end of the passage are the words, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret . . .”. I’ve said before, I’m a world class worrier, but occasionally, I have one of those “aha . . . lightbulb” moments when I stop and realize, I don’t have to worry about ______ ; I just need to pray about it.

Psalm 138:8 says, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”

Perfect accomplish, complete (from Strong’s 1584)

It doesn’t mean that it’s always going to look exactly how we think it should look. Sometimes, a lot of times, God sees a picture we don’t see . . . His view is the definition of “big picture”, and because of that, there are going to be times when His “perfecting, accomplishing, and completing” don’t match exactly what we want or think we want. But God always comes through. He always cares. His plans for us are always good, and He is always there to guide us (Jeremiah 29:11; Proverbs 16:9). So the next time you think, “God is too busy . . . I won’t bother Him with this . . . ” think again. He’s right there willing, waiting, and ready to both listen and help.