Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This is Advent, or, Excuse the Mess

Panic coursed through her hands as her thumb hit the blazing red “end” button on her phone. She tossed it onto the kitchen counter and swept the room with her eyes. Not now, she thought. Seriously? Why is he coming now?

Janet had called her with the news. The Mayor’s son was in town for a visit, and everyone knew what that meant- Inspections. That’s what most people called them, Inspections. No one knew just why, but anytime that man came around he just insisted on getting into people’s lives. Most people assumed it was so he could size them up, so they called the phenomenon Inspections and the name just stuck. Just the word sent shivers down her spine. She looked around again hoping, even praying, some of the clutter would magically disappear. But it didn’t. It just sat there like it always had, piling higher and higher.

When did I turn into such a hoarder?

Most of Natalie’s neighbors had told her about the Mayor’s son, with vastly different descriptions. Sometimes she wondered if He even existed. Some said they invited him in and he was just the most pleasant man you could ever meet. But she had seen their homes. They were beautiful, immaculate, at least from the outside. How could he not be impressed with them? I wonder what people think of the outside of my house? Could they tell she was a complete mess?

Others said he was rude, what with all that knocking. He knocked and when they answered the door he asked them to come in. Imagine that! Uninvited, he would just show up and expect them to treat him like someone special. And the way he acted like he knew them just made them angry. They smirked when they reported how they just shut the door right in his face.

Some didn’t even answer the door.

Was it out of fear? Natalie wasn’t sure how she was going to handle this, but one thing was certain- he was coming her way. At least, that’s what Janet said. Janet also said to just let him come in. It’s easier than fighting it. But Janet hadn’t been in Natalie’s world for some time now. She didn’t know what Natalie’s house contained and how everything had somehow spun out of control.

Better get started. Natalie set out into the living room and got to work. Putting things in their place, she smiled with pride when one whole corner of the room was organized. She stepped back to admire her work when she tripped on the stack of magazines behind her. She fell into another pile of clutter and began to sob.

It was then that she heard the steps outside. Her heart ran laps in her chest, threatening to leap right out. She couldn’t catch her breath. Not yet. Not yet!

There was a pause. Maybe someone was just passing by.

Then it came. The knock. It wasn’t loud, yet it lingered long in the air. Reverberating in her soul and shaking her to the core. She sat there, covered in junk and salt water tears, frozen in fear. No one had been inside in so long. No one ever asked to come in. This was too much. Instinctively, she grabbed the nearest magazine stack and covered her legs. She opened the nearby box of Christmas ornaments and began dumping them, gently so as not to make much noise. She then stuck the large cardboard box over her head. Her body sat there, completely covered. Maybe he would think she wasn’t home and just go away.

She sat there several minutes while the knocking continued. This is ridiculous, Natalie, she thought. You are a grown woman. Go open that door. Still, the thought of exposing her secret life to the Mayor’s son was more than she could bear. She spent so much time hiding, so much time secretly judging herself, comparing her mess to the lives of all the people out there who had their acts together. She couldn’t handle any more judgment.

Another minute of knocking passed as she thought up a plan with a little more dignity. She crawled out of her heap- she was just going to tell him to go away. It was simple. Other people did it all the time. It was the holidays after all- she had enough to worry about without accommodating extra company. Surely he could understand that.

With each step, Natalie could feel the tremors of the knocking shaking her knees into submission. They almost completely buckled. She grabbed the doorknob, pressing her body against the door for support. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly she turned the handle and began to pull.

She opened the door just wide enough to stick her head through. When she finally opened her eyes she started. Nervous laughter escaped her body. She caught herself. “I’m sorry,” she chuckled. “I thought you were someone else. Can I help you?”

The man smiled, sporting little more than a five o’clock shadow.

“Actually, Natalie,” his voice was rich with humor, “I was wondering if I could help you. Would you mind if I came in?”

She froze. Then her smile fell. She slammed the door and locked it.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! She caught her breath and peeked out the peep hole. He was still there. Sneaky in his jeans and sweatshirt. Still, she managed to face the Mayor’s son and not die of embarrassment. That was an accomplishment. She wasn’t sure she could face him again though. She knew she couldn’t. So she called to him through the door, “Uh. Yeah. Excuse me? I’m sorry I just… listen… I’m just kind of busy right now and I’m not really ready for… guests. So if you could just come back later, that would be… great. Ok? Bye then!”

She watched out the peephole as he turned around and headed down her sidewalk. Oh good, he’s going. To be sure, she would watch until he was out of sight. He stopped. He was bending down. What was he picking up? It was a bag. A bag? What, is he camping out? She watched as he lifted the duffel bag to his shoulders and walked back up the stairs to her front porch. He dropped the bag and sat on her steps.

He’s getting comfortable! It hit her that he wasn’t going anywhere soon. She sprinted into her living room and began picking up her junk, throwing it into closets, out the back window. Anywhere. Just to get it out of the way.

That’s when she heard his voice again, calling through the door, “You know, Natalie. You don’t have to bother cleaning up for me. I’m more than happy to come into your home as it is.”

Yeah, you haven’t seen it yet. She plastered on a fake smile, hoping it would give her confidence. She hurried to the door, unlocked it, and popped her head out. She couldn’t look at him, so she turned her eyes downward.

“Ok, thanks for your interest and everything, but you really need to go. I am just really busy with the holidays and presents and family and all that other stuff. You know, giving. ‘Give give give’ I always say.” She laughed nervously. “So, maybe you could come back when things aren’t so busy.”

“When will that be?” His question seemed sincere. She thought about it. He answered his own question for her, “The truth is, you will always be too busy for me if you choose to be. I don’t plan on going anywhere, Natalie.”

“Is that why you have that bag there?”

“This? Ha, no. I was hoping to move in.”


Natalie leaned against the shut door. Her back slid down the cool wood until she sat in a heap of nerves. She was trembling. Was she having a heart attack? Surely this shock was going to kill her. How dare he go around to people’s homes shocking them to death. Knees too shaky for walking, she crawled across the living room, into the middle of her stuff, and in an exhausted ball she closed her eyes and began to cry.

It was the gust of wind that stole her from her misery. Her aching eyes searched the room until they landed on the front door. That’s where he was standing. He was looking at her. No smile this time. She thought for a moment he was disappointed with her. But that didn’t seem to be it. In fact, he didn’t seem to notice the mess at all. He was looking at her and only her.

“You forgot to lock the door. You couldn’t hear the knocks above your crying, but I’m here now. I want to take care of you.”

For a second she thought she should just kick him out, but inside she knew she didn’t forget to lock the door. No one had ever come for her before, and part of her hoped he would. He did.

She placed her hands on the floor and pushed herself up onto her knees. She began picking up her ornaments, her tears flowing freely to the floor, when she felt his hand on hers. "Excuse the mess," she managed to whisper.
"I already have." He knelt beside her, took the ornament, and set it aside. Then he put his arms around her and cradled her to Him. “There will be time for all this later, Natalie. For now, just sit with me.”

And for the first time in her life, she felt peace.
 And again Isaiah says,
“The root of Jesse will come,
    even he who arises to rule the Gentiles;
in him will the Gentiles hope.”
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.
Romans 15:12-13

Today's story is linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday, as well as Word Filled Wednesday! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and I will see you on Monday:)

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Worth It" Friends

I'm suffering from a vacation hangover. I feel I should report that any consequent memory loss is simply due to sleep deprivation or old age. While the hubs headed to a Sr. High youth gathering, the rest of us ventured out to see friends for 25 hours of joyful Jesus-loving happy time.

My mom told me I was more adventurous than she used to be. Who just packs up their 4 kids by themselves to drive 3 hours to see friends for one night? Then we joked that it was really more a matter of survival than anything else.

But the truth is- they are worth it.

I pray you have "worth it" friends.

You can't truly define a "worth it" friend, but in the fashion of Mr. Foxworthy I'll give you some brief examples:

You Might Have a "Worth it" Friend if...

1. Your house is crazy busy and a total mess, but you shoot them a text or a phone call because they have been on your heart lately.

2. You realize you haven't talked to them in a couple months, but when you call them it's like no time has passed.

3. You don't have to shower, wear makeup, or change out of your pajamas to see them.

4. You can talk about the most disgusting aspects of health and children, really it's ok. Shoot- you probably even ask their medical opinion.

5. You can ask each other questions about pretty much anything- even those things that require real honesty.

6. You never judge- and you never feel judged- even when you don't do everything exactly alike.

7. You have no idea how dirty or clean each others' houses are because you are just so excited to be together!

8. You can search each others' kitchen cabinets, refrigerators, and drawers for anything you need.

9. You can laugh and cry together.

10. You make each other "better" people.

(Now share this list with ten other friends in the next 8.5 minutes or in 17 days your old 5th grade teacher's niece will receive a disturbing letter in the mail marked, "You are pre-approved!")

This isn't some sappy list to forward. It's just ten reasons I carted four kids halfway across the state to chill with this family.

Because I knew it would totally be worth it.

Maybe you see where I'm going with this.

Of course, Jesus is totally worth it, but that's not my point. Harsh much, Lauren? I didn't mean that to sound flippant. It's just that my real point is this:

We have a God that comes to us.

And He came because we are worth it.

Not in and of ourselves. It wasn't our worthiness that sent Him here- it was His.

He created us and watched as His blessed children traded His love for their own pride.

Then He watched it again. The Old Testament shows scene after scene of betrayal- all by humanity.

And the faithfulness of God.

Because He knew it would be worth it.

It would be worth the birth. The persecution. The abandonment. The betrayal. The death.

It would be worth the tired feet. The chapped skin. The aching muscles. The hunger. The fatigue.

It would be worth the dirty looks. The cutting words.

It would be worth the separation- the total separation from the Father.

It would be worth it because we would finally be together. The Bridegroom and His bride.

So He left it all behind, traveled from the throne of heaven and into His creation with nothing.

To offer Himself up and redeem us. To set the captives free.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Galatians 4:4-7

It's Thanksgiving and Christmas and Easter all wrapped up into one glorious holy day. One that we will be celebrating for all eternity.

As the next few days and weeks turn into one giant countdown of parties, presents, houseguests, and travels, may we be mindful of the One who truly is Worthy and who loves us beyond compare.

Friday, November 22, 2013

More Than Tissue Paper Christians

They scurry in the door.
Backpacks thud on the kitchen table top.
Frenzied zippers fling open and the mouth of the bag opens wide.
Little mittened hands shove full-force into the void.
And emerge. With a plastic bag of treasures.
Their classes have one assignment for the week:
Turn off your screens and turn on your minds.
To aid in the effort, the school sends home 2 gallon Ziplocs filled with odds and ends. Yarn, tissue paper, glue sticks, straws. paper plate etc.
Project time. Make something, anything, creative. Then turn it in. Relentless doodads, claiming residency on my kitchen table. Evicted every single day.
He makes puppets. She makes a... can you guess it?
It's a chandelier.
She's got vision. She just plans as she goes. A little duct tape here. A flashlight there. Voila.
It's a masterpiece she is proud of, therefore so am I.
She clicks the button and the flashlight burns bright, the tissue paper letting the light through. Not all
of it, but some. With a gentle green glow.
Not transparent, translucent.
I've been struggling with this parable. Is this what we want to be? Translucent? Casting a gentle glow of Jesus, with just a tint of ourselves?
I want to say yes- because God made each of us unique. He gave each of us gifts to shine His glory into a dark world. But I'm confronted with Matthew 5- a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.
Translucence is not the goal.
I wouldn't say the most faithful witnesses I know are translucent- I'd say they were transparent. Or at least pretty close. Brightly colored by the Creator God, but seeking to shine Him everywhere.
Absolute beacons of hope.

So then, what if our beacon doesn't amount to much more than an LED bulb shining through the middle of a paper plate covered in tissue paper? That's how I feel. How much is enough? How transparent do I need to be?
I confess. I'd rather be wrapping paper than tissue paper.
And tissue paper rather than crystal clear glass.
Then maybe we need to remember Who the light is that is streaming through our chandelier. Not so we can try to take over. Try to shine harder for Him. He is the only one who can do the shining.
All we need to do is get out of His way.
The things that cloud God's love in my life all have to do with me. Is that how it is for you too?
We just get scared.
Because getting out of the way means giving up the control.
But Who better to take control in our lives than the One Who holds all of life in the balance in the first place?
The One Who gave up His life for ours.
The One Who rose again, and Who gives us the joy of the resurrection every single day.
The One Who knows us better than we know ourselves and Who is sufficient for us.
When we focus on the true Light of the World, instead of the vessels that carry Him, letting Him through is not only less frightening- it's far more satisfying.
Praying that He shines undeniable love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy into and through your lives today, every day. More and more.
 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16
I'm joining up with Missional Women today for Faith Filled Friday! Come on over and join us!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fill Me Up

"Dad and I had a talk tonight."
They talked earlier in the afternoon. I had been on the phone with a friend, but their disappearance caught my attention. Snippets of their conversation had floated into the kitchen. Now it seemed the conversation was on her mind again.
"Really? What about?"
"Um. Well, I don't think I should talk to you about it."
"Ok... why not?"
"Well, we just got it all figured out and I don't think I need to bring it up again."
A couple hours later I sat on the couch, knowing what I wanted to write, but not sure how to get it out.
Then my husband told me. Our sweet daughter with the big heart acted out of character. Mean.
And my heart breaks because all she wanted to do was fit in. For once. Been there.
My daughter is weird, and she's just about the most refreshing weirdo you could meet. She really truly loves Jesus and lives like it. She loves everyone because that's what Jesus does.
So it broke my heart to hear her struggle because there are times when her specialness isn't enough for her. When she would trade the very thing that sets her apart, that makes her look like Jesus, just so she could look like everyone else.
My heart breaks for other daughters. Sons too. People like me. People who sometimes would rather just fit in. Who would trade our love for our neighbor just so we could join in the gossip, or not look odd for keeping company with the less desirable crowd. Who would forfeit the new creation for the old Adam.
Let's be honest- doesn't it just seem easier? Easier to make decisions based on what we want? Easier to keep "our" money and buy nicer things? Easier to spout our opinions- giving no regard for speaking the truth in love. Easier to have a conversation completely ignoring whether or not that person has saving faith or anyone serving them in Jesus' name?
Maybe I'm the only one, but I've read enough of the Psalms and Ecclesiastes to figure this mindset isn't anything new under the sun. And I'm pretty sure the Israelites didn't scurry after foreign gods because they didn't know it was wrong. Being chosen by God wasn't quite enough- they wanted to be chosen by their neighbors too. They wanted to fit in. So on the off-chance you ever find yourself camping out with me, my eldest, and the Israelites yearning for the easy road, maybe my girl, myself, and you, my dear friends, can learn a lesson from a maple I once knew:

It was a sad moment in an otherwise raucous celebration over FaceTime. Unable to join the rest of the family for Thanksgiving, they feasted a couple weekends early and we joined in later over the iPad to see all the darling faces. That's when my father-in-law broke the news. He had some trees taken down. 

I had no particular attachment to any of them, except one. The attachment is shared by many others, and for that reason my father-in-law was hoping the tree could get by with just a trim.
See, it holds the tire swing.

The tree service man inspected the tree, and there was no question about it. The tree had to go.
There was one crucial fact that my father in law could not see from where he stood.
The tree was hollow. The fact that none of the limbs had crashed into the house can be received as nothing short of a true blessing.
It's hard to believe it. To look at a tree so strong, so loved, and discover it's hollow.
It's not so different with the people around us. Looking strong. Standing tall.
But from where we stand, we don't see the whole picture.
Only One is privy to that information.
One strong gale and it all comes crashing down.
There's one truth that the Liar wants us to forget: being hollow, taking the easy road, doesn't make anything easier.
If you are tempted to believe your unbelieving neighbors might have it better than you in at least some areas of life, just talk to them. Really talk.
* Hollow is an eye for an eye. Being filled with the spirit is freedom to love. (Who wants to keep track of all those eyes anyway?)
* Hollow is "I make my own way." Being filled with the spirit is freedom to be made into our true selves by the Master Craftsman.
* Hollow is uncertainty about God. About the future, and who will care when I'm gone. Being filled with the spirit is certain hope, an imperishable soul waiting for a glorious reunion.
* Hollow is an incomplete definition of love, a sickly shadow of it. Being filled with the spirit is knowing a completely sufficient and unconditional love that we don't even have to earn.
* Hollow is... empty.
* Being filled with the spirit is being full:
of light (Luke 11:34)
of grace (John 1:16)
of joy (John 15:11)
of goodness (Romans 15:14)
of the love of God (Ephesians 3:19)
of courage (Philippians 1:20)
of knowledge (Philemon 1:6)
of assurance (Hebrews 6:11)
of mercy and good fruits (James 3:17)
of God (Ephesians 3:19)
Because even if you think you have nothing else going for you, Jesus + nothing still equals Jesus.
And Jesus is all that matters.
Praying that we all praise the Lord today for filling us up. May the forest of believers stand strong, pointing the way to our Creator.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Today I am linking up with Simply Beth for Three Word Wednesday and Michell for Doing You Well Wednesday! Click on the button, join in the reading, writing, and fun!

Monday, November 18, 2013

All Things. Really, He Works in Them All. {Messy Monday}

It's riddle for you this Monday morning...
We all have one. Some of us have more than one.
We all use it.
We all hide it.
What is it?
If you've seen the photo then you probably aren't straining to answer.
And we must be besties now because I am going reveal to you what I don't usually show anyone.
My junk drawer. That's the answer, and you'll see mine in a bit.
I have a few of them. Also, I'm not sure the exact date that our craft closet became our "crap closet." But yeah, that's happened too.
I like to save things. Store them- not hoard them. But  those egg cartons and popsicle sticks could be so useful someday. And I'm sure I'll be using the scraps of construction paper and plastic beads for something really awesome, when I get around to it. Honestly,  Pinterest is my enabler.
Hence my various indoor junk yards.
It's been on my mind to turn them into a Messy Monday for a while now, but nothing really developed until a few days ago when I was forced to spend time praying about some really hard things.
Things that don't make sense. Things that no one asked for.
Some terrifically tragic, some that flap in under the radar.
How do you make sense of the senseless? If God is Good*...
The pain? The illness, death, neglected children, abused wives? The defeated man? The anxious woman? Why? Why why why?
The same questions I asked years ago, yet only yesterday. In the days after I lost my mother-in-law, and then my sweet babies.
The why's forced me to my knees. To stop. To remember. Because I was being called upon to serve those who were facing pains I had faced. Questions I once raised.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
The dissonance of pain healing into chords of comfort, and not for me alone. Comfort is to be treasured, and then shared. Because God's love cannot be hoarded.
And as I pondered, prayed, remembered- one thing came to mind.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.
Romans 8:28
All things.
Not some. Not most.
Every single thing. 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 gave us another all- He's the God of all comfort. He comforts us in all affliction.
Not some. Not most.
Jason Gray puts it this way: In the hands of our Redeemer, nothing is wasted.**
I put it this way:

As crappy as things might be- He doesn't have a crap closet either. He doesn't shelve us or our hardships away, just in case He finds time to get around to using it all. He doesn't half-heartedly shove you where you don't want to be. He doesn't overlook you. You are precious, and this is the truth:
We have a God of detail, and He overlooks nothing.
He's using it all right now- even if we can't see it.
The tragic becomes triumphant in His hands.
And when we are tempted to doubt this, the Bible gives us example after example of this truth.
Just look at the Christ.
Or if you need a sinner to relate to- try Paul, who was "gifted" with a thorn in his flesh. No one knows for certain what it was, but it was obviously more than an annoyance.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10

Do you want to know how sufficient God is? Let Him reign in your weakness. Crown Him Lord of your circumstances. And watch Him work. Especially in the details. He knows every single thing about you. Nothing escapes His devotion.

And you cannot imagine how He will be glorified in your life.

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9
*If God is Good is a book by Randy Alcorn that walks through the questions believers and unbelievers have about the nature of God and the problem of pain. It absolutely rocks. Another fantastic writer on God's providence in the area of pain and suffering is Joni Earekson Tada- check out When God Weeps.
**Click that link. Watch the video for Jason Gray's "Nothing is Wasted." I should say please, but it will so bless you, I'll just say "you're welcome" instead. ;) So good.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Post of Praise and Whatnots

First of all, for any of you lovely people who prayed for me and my dear strong-willed child- THANK YOU! ThankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouTHANKYOU!

Really, the thanks goes to God, but I am so honored that you spoke to Him on our behalf. This past week, as well as today's worship service, went remarkably well. And while I'm not getting my hopes up, those glimmers of grace give me hope, and that is about the best gift I can receive. So thanks for devoting some of your precious time to lifting a sister up.


I was published a few years back. Just a short devotion, but it. was. AWESOME. So, as I unloaded some of the Christmas stuff the other night (to dig out "Elf" because it's about time we watched that movie again) I found the book, A Cup of Comfort Book of Christmas Prayer, and got a bit giddy.

A collection of stories and devotions, the book takes you from December 1st through the Christmas season (that's into January) and into Epiphany. I'm on December 8th.

So, I was thinking Why not give it away? Not my copy, but surely I could buy one and do a giveaway on the blog. It would have to be short and quick to get the book out before December 1st. I hopped onto the internet and searched. As I scanned site after site one phrase haunted me - out of stock. Lame.

Here's the deal. If you want to read the book, there are some used options and the kindle edition. Either one I would totally recommend.

Otherwise, stick around. I'm keeping my eyes open for some good deals and cute gifts. We will have a giveaway in December, and I'm excited to shop for you!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rats in the Cellar and the Strong-Willed Child

Shortly after becoming pregnant with our second child, I decided to get to the library and check out some more parenting books. This new endeavor would naturally take more parenting skills that I had yet to develop. I perused the shelves, in search of any of the books I had seen in the bookstore, but was too cheap to buy, until one book caught my eye. I snatched it up, took it home, and set to reading.
The name of the book, The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. After all, other than some clinging issues, our first was a rather compliant child, but I couldn't afford to take any chances. I needed to be "prepared" in the eventuality that this second one was more headstrong.
I read the first chapter. The second. Then quit. It freaked me out. A young mother, I was already struggling with the idea that I would be capable of loving another child as much as the one I already had. If this second child acted like any of the case studies in Dr. Dobson's book, I was petrified that I wouldn't love the child at all. Plus, it just looked like so much work to love that kind of child. And mothering one obedient child was tiring enough.
Our second, a son, had issues like every other kid, but being strong-willed wasn't one of them. Antagonizing, anxious, goofy, sensitive- he's all of those. Strong-willed? Not really.
Then I had the privilege of raising a third child. For this child I prayed. And God let me have it. I wonder why Dobson's book doesn't grace our shelves as a source of constant wisdom.
You've gathered it from previous posts. She's our spit-fire. Our "wild card." Jekyll and Hyde. Time-bomb. She's even been referred to (lovingly) as Sybil on a couple occasions.
After a series of hard days this past week, I finally got around to asking people to pray for me as I navigate this relationship. The switch she flips between happy and irate was on a hair-trigger, and so was mine. It was rough and I was coming unglued.
It was her fault, I believed in the heat of the moment. I couldn't possibly be expected to respond civilly when she was always catching me off guard. But too much musing in bed revealed what I knew to be true. It was on me.
It reminded me of a point C.S. Lewis made in Mere Christianity. (Which is amazing, considering this morning I went into the basement to grab something, only to stare blankly at the overflowing shelf, completely lost as to what it was I needed. I headed back upstairs. Bingo. Paper plates. I chanted "paper plates" the whole way back down.)
"On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in the cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am." Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 7
So I am embarking on a thankfulness journey, again. Not because it is November. Not even really of my own will. "After the first few steps in the Christian life we realize that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can be done only by God." Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 7
It is starting because of this relentless love. Turns out, I can love a strong-willed child. No matter how long their season of stubbornness lasts.
And that's not on me, or in me. I have the rats of selfishness and anger running around in my cellar.
The relentless love begins, continues, and ends with God. I'm the strong-willed, weak-willed, disobedient, fickle child. And yet He rejoices in me. He delights in me. He loves me and He even likes me.
He rejoices in us. He strengthens us. He makes us new. He shines the light of His love into the cellars of our souls, and doesn't recoil at the rats.
Again and again and again.
And there is one person who reminds me of that day after day- my third-born. God will show me the good. Give grace to our short-comings. And if the only thing I see at the end of the day besides my regrets and her tantrums is His relentless forgiveness, then that's a good day.
Pray for me in this please!
If there are any prayer requests you have, please message me at my Facebook page!
Today I am linking up with the fabulous writers at Faith Filled Friday! Click on the link and join us! Write, read, enjoy:)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Check Jesus

The worship service was awesome, in case you were wondering. I sure do hope you aren't tired of reading the disastrous exploits of a young family in church, because I can tell you there is more where this came from.
The boy displayed near-OCD tendencies, adjusting of his mohawk while sitting in the front of the church- kneeling tall, facing backward on the pew to survey the crowd during the sermon.
The three year old was relentless, producing uncontrollable and inexplicable sobs throughout the service- the full realization of their origin not occurring until 15 minutes after we arrived home- whence she fell asleep.

So I quit my job as soon as I got home. It happens sometimes. I tell my husband that his kids annoy me, and then I take a breath before heading back out into the fray.

I meandered out of our bedroom, embraced by exhaustion and insanity, and then Scott mentioned his amusing exchange with our son.
It seems that while Scott was opening up the floor to any other announcements after church, our darling boy asked him to announce that there was a new sign up sheet in the back of the church. "For who you like better- Jesus or the devil."
"Yeah. I don't think so, Bud."
I asked our son if there was indeed that sign up in the back of the church. He confirmed it and went to fetch it for me. (There- it is recorded. He listened and obeyed. Remind me of this in the future, please.)
Scrawled in kindergarten handwriting on a communion card were his words (which I shall translate into modern English for you): "The wan (one) you lik (like) more. Check one. (I think.) Devil / Jesus."
Reasons for praise carried from the sanctuary to the kitchen.
I laughed and lauded. Then I asked, "Which one would you check?"
"Mom, I checked Jesus!"
Then from the oldest girl in the living room, "I check Jesus!"
And the three year old, "I check Jesus!"

They spoke the name of the devil with no fear. And the name of the Savior with no hesitation.
The name that is above every name, spoken by the young, the weak, the unruly. And how that must please Him.
Because they were borne of His will, not mine. And the hoodlums that send me to my room crying for just a bit of peace, are full of the life that He gave them. In the kitchen last Sunday, they spoke the name of their most important family member as though He was right there.
Out of the chaos a simple sentence, and the rest just melted away.
"I check Jesus!"
In the face of all the mountains of chores, deadlines, relationships, may I remember to Whom I belong. I am His and He is mine. You are in charge, Lord. I check Jesus.
Today I am linking up with the writing family over at Simply Beth. Stop over! Read! Write! Link up! Encourage and be encouraged:)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Share the Love Tuesday

One of the most fabulous things about writing about God is His boundlessness. That's a word, right? He is absolutely everywhere! Yesterday, a friend of mine told me that one of her absolute favorite things about God is just how big He is. We try to box Him up and stick Him in our pocket, understand everything about Him, but He's just soooo big! Big enough that it will take all eternity to get to know Him! That's something worth looking forward to, and about the only thing that makes me really happy on this sore-throat, phlegmy day.

There are two women I've read and conversed with lately (via blogs and Facebook) who get this. And that is something worth sharing. So today I'm giving them a shout out for their support, their perseverance, their voices, and their hearts for God. Check them out and be blessed!

Rebekah is over at Three Bees in a Blue Bonnet. She is honest and feisty. Her transparency makes you laugh and think. She has a gift for putting you right into her situation and changing your perspective, and she has a depth of faith that comes with working through struggles and finding refuge in God alone.

You've seen links to Beth's blog around here about once a week for a while now. At Simply Beth she not only hosts Three Word Wednesday, but she also provides encouraging and inspiring insights into the character and love of our great God. Her husband leaves for his first deployment very soon as well, so please keep her family in your prayers during this time of waiting and change.

I hope to be able to take this kind of time more often- the kind that shares the love with other gifted and Christ-centered writers. When we come together to uplift and encourage one another, there is such blessing in that!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Serving the Chronic Unbeliever {Messy Monday}

"I sometimes hear Christians talk about how terrible life must be for atheists. But our lives were not terrible. Life actually seemed pretty wonderful, filled with opportunity and good conversation and privilege. I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don't know what you don't know. How could I have missed something I didn't think existed?"
So said Fox News' Highly Reluctant Jesus Follower Kirsten Powers, in her article for Christianity Today.
The quote haunted me even days after reading it. I've heard that before, but it's so hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea of living for this world alone.
Don't worry- God clued me in yesterday morning. I woke up in pain. Not the good kind of pain that tells me I worked my body hard and it was paying off. Joint pain. I don't talk about it much because it seems so... blah. Mundane. It's not glamorous. It's just arthritis, and since it is so common and boring I'd rather just act like I don't have it.
I couldn't do that yesterday. My arthritis fooled me like it does from time to time. Like it did two days ago when I was feeling good. So good. Like, normal good. And I'd had that normal feeling for a few days in a row and I thought perhaps the most ridiculously unfunny thought, "Maybe it's gone."
 Really, a few days of ease and I think it's gone? Yet it happens every time.
We get used to what we know. When I wake up with joint pain every morning, albeit it is slight in comparison with so many, I get used to it. It can be tiresome sure, but I function and everything seems fine. Like Kirsten, I know now that it was not as wonderful as it could have been. But you don't know what you don't know.
Unbelief is like being diagnosed with chronic illness.
* You do what you can and you deal. When you're in a lot of pain, you get desperate and might even try a crazy remedy just to see if it works, but if there are no immediate results you move on.
* You get so used to the abnormal, that it becomes your normal. And that is fine as long as it is manageable. You live life as usual.
* Unless someone lives a pain free life in front of your face, you actually forget that some people have that option.
* You don't take advice from anyone on the topic unless you trust them. That means they either have a vague idea of how you feel, they have treated multiple people with your condition and have a heart for it, or they have a vested interest in your wellbeing- meaning they like you enough to listen to you.
Maybe our witness would be more effective if we saw unbelief for what it was: a soul-killing sickness that only Jesus can cure.
Would that add some urgency to the issue?
Would that take the pressure off of us to "save" the person, and place it on the Only One who can?
Would that highlight the true gift we have to serve those around us?
So how do the "well" serve the "sick"?:
* Don't "deal." Live. Jesus needs to be more than the crazy remedy for our personal lives. He needs to be our lives. I'm not talking the need to live perfectly as an example to the sinners around. I'm talking living in joy and thankfulness, and forgiving ourselves and others when we screw up. I'm talking living with patience and hope when the immediate results the world demands do not coordinate with the awesome plan God is working.
* Live normally in an abnormal world. Christians are weird. Maybe we are in the abnormal minority. So own it. Revel in it. As vanilla as it may seem to you when you step out of the gossip, out of the parties, out of the complaining- what you are doing is rebellious. You are rebelling against the world! That doesn't mean leaving out the ungodly participants. It means living respectably and serving neighbors no matter how they spend their time and resources. People know who they can trust- who they can talk to honestly- and when you show yourself to be humble and trustworthy, they'll pick up on that.
* Don't mask your struggles- show them Who's boss. Fake isn't following. Denial isn't discipleship. And just like people detect an honest person, they just as easily detect a false one. The only difference in our struggles is how we deal with them. Unbelievers ignore their struggles or bow to them. Believers do neither. Believers face their struggles for what they are, and bow only to the One who bears our burdens for us. One of the greatest gifts you can give your unbelieving neighbor is a glimpse into your imperfect life, because it is there that the might of God shines gloriously.
* Be a friend, not a fixer. Think about it- who do people speak most honestly to? Doctors and loved ones. So, unless you are interacting with them as their therapist, if you aren't willing to love them they probably won't be open to your witness. That doesn't mean you don't offer it, that just means you take the time to love first. Remember, the sick need relief.
* Pray for them. This is something that has come to mind a lot lately. I guess there have just been a lot of situations where all I could do was pray. All I could do. Like interceding to the Lord on behalf of a friend, taking that person's needs and cares to Jesus, was too little. What? It is the number one thing any of us can do, and as I ponder and pray on this topic I hope to add a new page to this blog for prayer scriptures, quotes, and concerns.
If you are curious about any other specific ways you can love the unbelieving (or the believing, for that matter), Colossians 3 has some absolutely rad words of wisdom. Seriously, so good. And after all that good stuff, Paul writes these words, that I pray will resonate with you all day long:
Praying for a love-filled, harmonious, and God-glorifying day for us all around.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Love Answers

My kids are not funny. Well actually, they're circumstantially funny quite a bit. Unintentionally- accidentally-they are hilarious. But deliberately, not so much. The older kids are getting better. They are honing their comedic skills, reading joke books and mastering the art of the punch line, even if they don't get the joke.

The three year old has a ways to go. Like last night:

Her: Knock-knock.
Me: Who's there?
Her: Apple.
Me: Apple who?
Her: There's a wolf outside! AHH! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

I must be quite the actress, because she translated my attempt at a laugh as, "Great joke, Babe! LOL! You're on a roll. Keep 'em coming!"

She turned to the second grader, "Knock-knock!"

The good thing about three year olds? Most of them look like three year olds. So you expect nonsense. You give all the right answers and they respond out of left field, because that's what they are supposed to do. It's their job.

Other three year old mentalities are a little harder to manage- because they are trapped in adult bodies. You give all the right responses and they respond out of left field, and you are left feeling exhausted, frustrated, and angry. You explode.

Where did that come from? What are they thinking? Didn't they hear what I said? I didn't say anything wrong! They are acting like such a three year old!

The funny thing is that whether we are three, thirty, or beyond, chances are we still haven't mastered the skills we need to predict human response: mind-reading and heart-seeking. No matter how many books we read, how much Dr. Phil we watch, how much therapy we sit through- we just can't get a handle on the inner workings of other people.

Look at those questions above again. Only this time, switch the "they"s and "I"s.

Honestly, we can't get a handle on our own hearts, minds, and actions.

That is a privilege the Lord reserves for Himself alone.

Isn't that awesome?! That's what David thought!
O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.
Psalm 139:1-6

So then is there no hope for us? If God alone knows the right thing to do, do we throw in the towel? No way. Because God didn't ask us to fill in for Him. He told us to love.

And love answers.

Love isn't about being right. It's about being there.

Love is about the Truth. And Truth is about Love. You cannot divorce the two. But being right is never the end goal. If it happens in the process, then I guess that's a bonus. But speaking from experience, any time my thoughts and energies were devoted to being right, I blew it on the love end. Any time my thoughts and energies were devoted to loving (really loving- not just sycophancy) the truth was served as well.

So, I'm pitching the palm-reading and turning in the turban. Enough of the predicting. I'm about 0 for a million, so I guess I wasn't that good anyway.

We're much better equipped for the love job. God makes sure of that. It's still hard and unpredictable, but it's worth it.

Praying you connect with God's love today, and love someone else in the process.

This morning I am linking up with Missional Women for Faith Filled Friday!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Christian Response: Why My Kids Are NOT the Center of My World

Just recently, I read an article quite a few Facebook friends posted on parenting titled, Why My Kids Are NOT the Center of My World. It was passionate and challenging. And for that reason I really liked it.

I write this response not because it was wrong, but because it was incomplete.

It was a very strong indicator of a parenting issue I've seen grow by leaps and bounds in my generation of parenting. There's a purposeless people crisis going on right now- fostered by crippling parenting techniques.

So we’ve hopped aboard the parenting pendulum that swings to either “modern” parenting that enables children- thereby disabling them from increasing their skill set and contributing to the world, or “old school” parenting- giving the kids a 24/7 dose of the loving reality that they aren’t the center of anyone’s world.

So as a Christian parent, how do I handle the truth that our Heavenly Father sacrificed His one and only Son so that we could be reconciled to Him? That action clearly indicates that I am worth dying for. I have value. How do I parent my kids and combat the lie that they are the most important person in the world, without swinging into the lie that they really aren’t that special?

By changing the focus. I like to call it our third dimension. Believers get another option. Ultimately, it’s not about us or them. It’s about Him.

Center of the Universe- we simply aren’t it. But that’s not because we aren’t that special compared to the population of the planet. It is because God is so surpassingly special.

I didn’t grow up learning to serve others and love others because that was the way to serve society. I didn’t grow up learning a good work ethic because that was how America was built, or because I owed it to the community around me.

I grew up learning those things because I grew up knowing God first loved me and acted on my behalf.

It’s not discipline that grows good kids into good adults. It’s love. It has always been love.

That doesn’t mean living for your kids. It doesn’t mean living in spite of your kids. It means living with your kids, and living for God.

It means teaching your kids that they have value beyond what the world says. And as a matter of fact, so does everyone else. So it means teaching your kids to treat every single human being as God would treat them- with love. Because everyone- every single person has value. God doesn’t screw up. He doesn’t make mistakes. (1 Cor 1:25-31)

It means teaching them that, while the world may be harsh, while they may be shoved and disregarded by mean people, they have the ability to take all those hurts and anguishes to a God who loves them. Who sympathizes with them because He endured it all. And endured it for them.

It means teaching them that it will all be worth it. That when you die to self and live for Christ, all that other crap isn’t that big of a deal.

It means teaching them consequences. Because God uses discipline to prune out the branches in our life that would block out His presence and shrivel our faith. It hurts- daily- but our faith is strengthened most in the times we realize our need for Him.

It means teaching them perseverance. To not give up. To never quit or grow weary of doing good. It means teaching them to follow through because God has it all worked out and will complete that good work in us. (Galatians 6:9)

It means teaching them thankfulness. Teaching them to pray in thankfulness because every moment is a gift. Every moment has been given to us- good and bad- by a faithful God who never deigns for us to go it alone.

It means teaching them to be prepared. Because attacks will come. They’ll be disguised in human flesh, but the devil is on the prowl. (Ephesians 5:10) And God doesn’t leave them stranded ever. He prepares hearts, and the battle is His alone. They need only be still and let Him do His work.

It means teaching them to forgive like you’ve been forgiven.

It means teaching them that God’s near enough to talk to.

 It means that our lives are all wrapped in to one big story- His story. And that they are so crucial to it because His love for them is one of a kind. His love in their life glorifies His ultimate goodness.

It means teaching them to wait, because God’s timing is always best. (Galatians 4:4)

It means teaching them to live passionately, because there is more to life than working hard and accumulating knowledge. More than skills and money. Even more than faith. Without love from God, you can wipe your be-hind with all good stuff of the world, cause it’s worthless. That’s why it doesn’t fulfill. It wasn’t meant to. (1 Cor 13)

It means teaching them to live by faith, not by sight. It means teaching them to live courageously, because courage looks beyond the trials to the end goal. There will be times when their circumstances seem too much to handle- but godly courage lifts their eyes to the One who holds their future. It may be risky, but God is right there. (2 Corinthians 6:5-7)
It means bringing them to Jesus. Not on Sundays- every day. Because their troubles don't keep a calendar. They don't care what you're doing on Friday night- they might just show up. And if your dear ones are only acquainted with a weekend Jesus- they are going to be lost. Plus, Jesus is just so awesome. Really. And you can grow in your love for Him and each other simultaneously- BONUS!
I'm sure it means teaching my kids lots of other things too. There are oodles and oodles of scripture passages- you are welcome to add any in comments- that I could have used. But see, I was supposed to clean the office when I sat down to write this and I'm not good at multitasking when I type. My bad. But it's ok, because I know my value goes way beyond my typing-tasking prowess. So I won't let it get me down. See how that works? ;)

We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.
Psalm 78:4