Know the Truth

I read the most fascinating, convicting passage the other morning in scripture. It made me think again about the importance of knowing truth and speaking truth. Just because someone is educated or speaks eloquently, does not mean what is communicated is truth. The only way to really know is to check with the original source of all truth, God. What does His Word tell us regarding the facts and opinions we are flooded with daily? If what is being said does not line up with scripture, it simply is not true.

IMG_1463What I read is Matthew 28:11-15 and it answered some questions I have had as to why some jewish people are still waiting on the Messiah. Apparently, a group of soldiers reported to the chief priests that Jesus was not in the tomb. It had been sealed and guarded, but they found it empty. The priests, soldiers and elders came together to come up with a plan to explain the empty tomb. “They gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, ‘Say this, His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.” (Matthew 28:12-13). Money does funny things to people sometimes. I wonder how many people have not told the truth for money? Truth seems to be something that we think can be bought and sold for a price. Lying is hard at first, but with any sin, the more you do it the easier it gets.

If we back up just a bit, the chief priests and Pharisees had met with Pilate earlier. They reminded him, “that while this deceiver was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.” (Matthew 27:63). Fear of Jesus was evident to me here. You do not guard and seal up something if you are not afraid that what He said might actually happen. However, neither death, a stone, a seal or a guard of soldiers kept Jesus in the tomb. Make no mistake, God always does what He says He will do. He can not lie, but satan can do nothing but lie it seems.

This lie that was made up about the empty tomb over 2,000 years ago has done so much damage. The love of money over truth has led to people not knowing that Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day. It says, “So they took the money and did as they are instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Matthew 28:15). Can you believe this? The belief in this lie has caused many to spend eternity in Hell. What sum of money could ever make this worth it? Now, do not think that all Jews are not Christians, this is not true. Many have believed the truth about Jesus and are saved.

So, what about you? As we move closer and closer to celebrating Good Friday, the death of Jesus and Easter, the day of Jesus resurrection, what do you believe? Have you gone the way of the soldier or the way of a believer? Like our son Eli has said many times, “It is a choice.” Friend, the price that was paid for you to be cleansed of all your sins and to spend eternity in Heaven has been paid. It is not hiding like an easter egg, but close as John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

If you need more, keep reading. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). The question is, do you want to be saved? Saved from yourself, your past, hurts, fears, sin and death? The choice is up to you. Today could be your day and trust me, this upcoming weekend will be forever changed for you. You will finally know the truth about Easter and your eternity will be spent in the presence of our risen Savior.

“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” 

*This shell washed up on the beach with these words written on it.

Trees, Seeds and Dreams

A few weeks ago I purchased our first olive tree. It just seemed fitting with the name of this blog. I plan on buying more, one to represent each child. The thing is, I do not want to plant it here. This dream keeps coming to the surface and I want to save this tree to plant else where. So many obstacles in the way, but the last time I checked, that is a great place to see God show off. Want to hear about it? I assume you all said a collective “YES”!

IMG_1931Years ago a property caught my eye. We drive by it several times a day taking and picking up the kids from school. I wondered about who lived in the house and what animals they might have in the barn. I really wanted to get through the gate, knock on the door and just ask for a tour. Then one day a sign was posted outside the property advertising an estate sale. I would finally get my chance! The kids and I explored after school, but it was a bit of a let down. What looked so charming from the outside, was not carried inside. It was so outdated and the price was way too high. Projects do not scare us, but this would require so much on top of the cost of the home.

Then the day came when the property went off the market and I was a bit sad. I assumed it had sold and did not ask my husband to check on it. Time went by and another for sale sign appeared at this house. This time the price was lowered significantly and the owners had done lots of remodeling. I could not wait to take another look! It was beautiful and our kids loved playing in the wide open spaces. They ran, explored and were kids. We prayed as a family before we left and continue to pray. If this is for our good and God’s glory, we will be moving. If it is not, we will remain in our current wonderful home.

As I have asked God about what His plans are, much comes to mind. What would be perfect for our family and friends, would work wonderfully for others to come and enjoy. Ideas started flowing and they have not stopped. We could build a small cottage for families who have adopted or foster families who need a getaway. They could be cared for during their stay by our family who does love well. Missionaries who need a break could come and stay. We would serve big meals and pour out hospitality. Our kids could have the groups they are apart of at school and church come and play. People who are in need of restoration could come and find encouragement. Barn dances and meals could be had in a moments notice. Our doors would be open to whomever the Lord would bring our way. As a family, we would welcome them and give them a place at the table. Jesus would be spoken of often, it’s just who we are. Teaching, worship and prayer would happen anytime. In fact, worship really never has to end. Sounds a bit like the early church doesn’t it.

We continue to pray and ask the Lord for His will to be done and know it might not match up with our desire. We trust Him because our family has no doubt He loves us so. Our home, regardless of location, is a place where love is grown daily. Its roots are deep and our foundation is God. We take His Word as a letter of love, pure truth and desire to live out what He has written to us. It would be such a gift to share with others even more than we do now.

So, there it is friends. A bit of a dream that comes from my heart. Thank you for letting me share it with you. I have been just about ready to burst with excitement with the thought of this home where love would dwell. I have many verses marked in my Bible with this dream in mind. One is, “Build it up, build it up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle from my people’s way.” Isaiah 57:14. I pray these words back to the Lord since they were His to begin with.

I will leave you with a great quote from C.T. Studd that a friend shared on social media recently. “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”  So, “We have put our hope in the living God.” 1 Timothy 4:10. And while we wait, we will tend to our potted tree and the cute little seed growing in the window. Yes, love grows well in our family.

 

Worthy Work

One of the reasons I love God’s Word is because He knows how to say so much in so few words. Just one verse can have you thinking for days and can offer correction, insight, joy, peace, love and understanding. If you do not take time to read your Bible daily, start today. You will begin to look at it more and more for direction in every area of your life. I can never spend enough time in this book of truth.

IMG_1741This morning one of the places I spent sometime reading was Proverbs 31. I remember this particular chapter being a bit overwhelming and thinking this was a high standard for a woman that I could never be. It was yet another way I measured my worthiness to God and man. Satan whispers lies of defeat so often. We just need to be made aware of the truth so those lies can be thrown out immediately. For a girl who thought I had to earn love, worth and acceptance, satan did not have to try very hard to convince me of my defeat. However, I still tried to check these boxes of the perfect Proverbs 31 woman.

When behavior or actions is your worth measure and the heart is disregarded, you end up exhausted or wanting to just give up and rebel. Wonder why so many kids go that road? I might ask a few questions as to how they were raised, not casting blame, but in order to unravel their broken heart. Usually there is someone significant in their lives that created, intentionally or unintentionally, a deep heart wound. Having more of a dictatorship style of parenting would probably be great in military situations, but I have never met a child that this has lasting results. However, obedience comes easy when you love and trust the One asking you to follow.

It always goes back to the heart doesn’t it? Who does your heart listen too? Does it listen to the God of the Bible or do you have kind of a mask of sorts on the face of God? Friend, if you see anything other than the One, true God, ask Him to take that disguise off of your eyes so you can see Him. People, even ones who are doing their best, are not God. We need to see God as God. When you see Him for who He truly is, love, trust and obedience become incredibly easier. A child who knows their worth, acceptance and that they are unconditionally loved, is completely free from the chains of the “are you good enough prison” satan loves to hold people captive.

Because it is the hearts of our children, their freedom that is at stake here, this verse today really got my attention. The Message translation of the Bible phrases it this way, “She senses the worth of her work.” (Proverbs 31:18). With that before us, do you see your role as a mom as worthy work? I have said this before, I know I have been entrusted with much, not because of the number of children we have, but because a heart was placed in my hands. Meeting their physical needs is not that hard, tiring yes, but doable. Shaping their heart required me to deal with my own heart matters first. At times I kinda limped along, but I never gave up. I have no desire to distort the image of God in my children’s eyes because of my sin.

One of the best books on parenting that I have ever read, outside of the Bible, is Parenting, by Paul David Tripp. I have mentioned this before, but want to offer you help if this concept is new. One day I think writing a book about this heart shaping, worthy work that I have been entrusted with would be so much fun. It is one of my many dreams. I do not have all the answers and have failed much, but I do know the One who has never failed and has every answer because parenting was His idea.

Another verse I came across today reminded me again of my Heavenly Father’s invitation to me, His daughter. “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:19). Because I know, not just believe, that I am the daughter of the Most High King, it is very natural for me to ask with boldness. I trust Him in the answer because it comes with a loving guarantee that it is for my good and His glory. Being a wife and mom gives me so many opportunities to be in need and I know where to go.

So, no matter where you are today, no matter how far you have run in the opposite direction and how far down you think you have fallen, there is a gift waiting just for you. This gift cost God His only Son. He died a death so violent and painful that we see clearly how horrendous our sin is. But the debt of our sin has been cancelled with the blood shed of Jesus and His resurrection.  All you have to do is believe, accept and have faith that what He says is true. It is like taking the best gift you can ever receive, unwrapping it and what you find inside is eternal life, love, forgiveness and help for today.

I will wrap this up with words from a beautiful song we sang in church today called Bigger Than I Thought by Passion. As we sang it, I glanced up at the cross in the stained glass window and knew how deeply loved I am. I was also reminded of the power of God and His ability to do the impossible. He is more than you can ever imagine. He is just waiting to be your Heavenly Father!

“You understand me

So I throw all my cares before you

my doubts and fears don’t scare you

You’re bigger than I thought you were

You’re bigger than I thought

So I stop all negotiations

With the God of all creation

You are bigger than I thought you were

I will rest in the Father’s hands

Leave the rest in the Father’s hands….” 

A Return

Today I stood at the graveside service of a dear friends mom. We were surrounded by her family and precious friends. Honestly, if I did not love this friend so much, I might have backed out. When her father died, just a few months ago, I did not go. I have not been to a funeral since my own mother’s service. Would grief crash me against the rocks again and would it be like starting over in the whole process? All I knew was my God is faithful and my friend needed me as I set out. Courage comes as you begin doing what you know to be right.

IMG_5203There were familiar things like most funerals, but there was also a peace that you could almost touch. The words spoken about this dear women were beautiful. The praise my friend and her sister received for how they served their mom and dad, were such a tribute to the God we know. They honored their parents in how they physically took care of them. What a privilege to return help when needed to the ones who raised you. Something seems to be planted in woman that drives them to take care of others. It baffles me when this is not the natural response.

I remember as my mom was dying, feeling so helpless. What could I do to care for her? To show her how much I loved her? I put together a care package and sent it to her. She was a great gift giver and always selected each item with such thoughtfulness. I tried to do the same for her. The last note I ever got from my mom was a beautiful thank you note for this box. What a treasure it is to me now.

My mom and I talked often by phone the months of her decline. Never really diving into big issues or questions I had, but just talking about the day. Looking back, I am actually glad we didn’t waste words on things that do not really matter now. So much time is wasted on the past, when it is the now we are living and have hope of a future. My questions and heart issues have been entrusted to the Lord.

I will give you a glimpse of what this entrusting has looked like for me. I do not know how the Lord might lead you. For me, I held all these broken pieces in my heart and I was a bit uncertain as to what to do. Then one day I knew. I took them all and let them fall on His feet. I was bent low for them to flow. I added my tears to the pieces and left them there because where else was I to go? He accepted my pieces, my tears and my heart lovingly. He then began to create in me a new heart. Within this new heart, He has had complete access to shape it and fill it as He sees fit. It is now filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and faith. You might know them as the fruit of the Spirit. Also, repentance comes much quicker now. For that I am thankful.

With this new heart, I have also been given eyes to see differently.  I see people as made in the image of God and that we all have a great need to known and be loved. I recognize people who know grief, suffering and sorrow. They are easy to spot. I see people who are filled with joy that only comes from God. They make great friends. I pray differently and count it such a privilege to be asked to pray for others needs. To talk to God on another’s behalf, such a gift.

This journey has been just that, a long, slow process. When even more losses hit, I wondered if breathing counted as an act of worship. It seemed the only thing I was able to do. A little further down the road, I can actually say that I praise God for the treasures that have come from each heartache. Only God can take what looks hopeless and redeem it all with such amazing love. I will never be the same.

Today, as a bagpipe player played “Amazing Grace”, I looked up and beheld a display of such beauty. An enormous cross was in the sky right above us. Yes, He is a God of amazing grace and will not hesitate to show His children they are seen and loved, especially at the grave. There is no God like our God!

*Picture by Andrea Danley

Come Home

Lately, I am hearing and reading so much about the important role father’s play in the lives of their children. This is not new information, you and I know this to be true. A friend in my husbands Bible study recently said, “We are all imprinted with the desire for a fathers approval.” How true this statement is and how many people have gone without approval? Our world is filled with people who are in need and probably do not recognize their void.

IMG_1731This constant reminder made me think of an amazing father Jesus used in a story He told His disciples. It is found in Luke 15 and Jesus tells of a father that had two sons. The younger one comes to him one day and asks for his inheritance early. The father gives it to him and the son leaves home. The day comes, after wild living, when the son is out of money and finds himself feeding pigs. He was in such a desperate state, he would have eaten what the pigs were being fed, but nobody helped him. “But then he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger. I will arise and go to my father’s house…”. (Luke 15 17-18). The son had come to the end of himself and remembered the good life at home with his father. Not everyone can say that, but we can all say our Heavenly Father is good if we are in a place of humility. To come to the end of yourself feels like death, but where true life actually begins.

The son then plans his return speech. “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18-19). With these words ready, he makes his way toward home. “But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20). This verse touches my heart so deeply. Can you even imagine this scene? After being away for so long and in such need without help, you are shown compassion. In hard times, I know the smallest act of kindness means so much, so this must have been overwhelming.

The story keeps getting better. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.” He was able to get his words out and acknowledges his sin, not only against his father, but also God. This is a great place to start. The father does the most remarkable thing and I wish this would be every father’s response when a humbled child comes home. “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. And bring the fattened calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry…”. (Luke 15:22-23). We are not told of a response to the son’s words, but orders start flying.

What I love so much is that the father does not hesitate to hug his son and nor does he send his son away to get cleaned up. He orders the best robe, ring and sandals be brought out for his son. He places the best over this son, who had to be filthy if his last job was feeding pigs. He was dirty, but he is now covered by a clean robe. This concept was spoken of earlier in scripture. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness…”. (Isaiah 61:10). When we come to the end of ourselves, return “home” in repentance, confessing that we are a sinner and that God sent His Son to die for our sin, our Heavenly Father now sees us covered in a clean robe of acceptance. All sin is forgiven and we will one day be home for good in Heaven.

A feast is being prepared and a celebration is coming. The father actually says, “for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:24). Such love this father has for his son! He does not lecture or use the excuse of how his father responded to him. His first response is pure love and calls him son. With this kind of love, after messing up so badly, I bet this son never wanted to leave home again. The same is true with our Heavenly Father. When our heart and head finally accept His love, we never want to wander into anything that would dishonor our Father. Oh, we still sin, but we repent and remain forever covered in righteousness.

Like the father with his son, there is no need to clean yourself up or wait, just come home. I do not know your story and who your father was or is. You might not know either. Or maybe just the thought of your father causes fear and anger to arise. The heartbreaks a father can cause are tremendous, but brought to our Heavenly Father, can be healed. I think perhaps so many dads do not realize the impact they have on their kids. And maybe like my dad has said, that each generation does a little bit better than the last. More information is available and the realization of what you as a parent have been entrusted with becomes a bit clearer.

When I put myself in either the son or the father’s place, I just want to weep. To feel loved and accepted as a child would be phenomenal. To have your father run with compassion in his arms… can you even wrap your head around that? As the father, to see my son coming towards home would be like a dream. I wonder how long he had waited for this day? I do not think I could have gotten to my child fast enough. You better believe I would have put the best I had over him and covered all he had lost. A son of mine does not dress in rags, but the finest of what I can give. A party would be planned immediately to show everyone that my son was home and to join in the celebration. The days following I would sit with him to hear the unfolding of the story that led to the return. What had happened was covered in repentance, so punishment would not have been extended. There were natural consequences, his inheritance was now gone, but he was home. Things would all be worked out.

Friend, I do not know your story, but you can place yourself as the son in these remarkable words of Jesus in Luke 15. You have a Father just waiting for you to turn, repent and start moving towards home. He has His eye on you and will meet you. What are you waiting for? Jesus also says, “Likewise, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10). Eli’s decision on Thursday caused a party in Heaven. Today you could too and I would love to celebrate your return too!

 

Snakes and Salvation

Yesterday was a good day. I spent the morning exploring the zoo with our kindergartner on his class field trip. He has been fascinated with snakes all week, according to his teacher. This was news to me, but loved seeing his excitement when we actually got to see real snakes. He cornered a zoo employee and she gave him a tour with lots of explanation. It was fun for him, but I on the other hand was a bit creeped out. The highlight for him was actually getting to pet a snake! Honestly, leaving that exhibit was a relief for me. The monkeys are more my speed. A mama monkey and I locked eyes, and it made me laugh! She had two small babies crawling all over her and a look of understanding passed between us.

IMG_1669The day moved along and we saw some of God’s amazing creations. He is just so creative! It was a day to be amazed by the details and confirm that only God could do what He does. Why do we doubt His hand in the making of our world and everything in it? Take a trip to the zoo if you ever need confirmation. Also, look at God’s word. “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds – livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:24). Do you not just love the fact that “God said…and it was so.”? Only God can speak and it is so.

We wound down our visit and began walking to the car. Snakes were the topic of conversation. We began telling the story together of how satan came to Eve in the Garden disguised as a snake. I would tell a part and he would pick right up. Back and forth we went and it made me smile. We then moved to the time the children of Israel were complaining in the wilderness and God sent poisonous snakes in response to their heart condition. However, He also sent healing and those who chose to were healed.

This child has a lot of words and down the road we went talking back and forth. We talked about how satan has been lying to people ever since the Garden. We discussed his disguises and I see that so clearly these days. One of his best tricks is half truths, just enough scripture to make you believe. That it is why it is so important to read God’s Word for yourself. Know why you believe what you believe. Your parent’s faith does not save you and neither does being a good person. There is only One way to salvation and His name is Jesus.

Back to our car ride. He started asking questions and I answered. We then began talking about Heaven and Hell. He knows so much for a 7 year old! At one point he said, “Wait! You mean it is a choice?” I told him it was and we are all given that choice. You either believe or you do not. I asked him what he believed. His words were simple and so matter of fact. I love this quality in kids. I want to be more like him when I grow up. He stated simply that God made him and that He sent Jesus to us and He died on the cross. Because of sin, going against what God has told us to do, we have a problem that we can not fix. He said that after 3 days Jesus came back to life and later went back to Heaven. I kept asking, “And then what?” I loved his next response, “Do not be afraid.”

We talked about how Jesus told his disciples in John 16 that it was good for Him to go. Jesus says this, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 17:7). This Helper is the Holy Spirit. We talked about how the Holy Spirit is where our power comes from if we allow His help. Need help with temptation? Ask the Holy Spirit. We think we are so weak and give in time and time again. Left to our own strength  we fail so many times. I wanted him to know right from the beginning that he has help. When we do sin, satan comes like a crafty snake, whispering in our ear that you will never be good enough now. You have failed and there is no way God could possibly love you now.  This is such a lie! Read these words, “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). God can not tell a lie, so this is true. Will you believe and accept His love with Eli?

With Eli’s simple, childlike faith and us riding down the interstate, he asked to make the choice. He saw no reason to wait. I kept one hand on the steering wheel and reached another to the back seat to hold hands with this precious boy. His prayer was so simple. I started and he told God how much he loved Him. He told Him that He believed He created Him. He said that He believed that God sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin. He said He believed that He was buried and 3 days later came back to life. His joy of becoming a Christian was uncontainable! He could not wait to share his good news! When a sinner, even at 7 years old, comes to a cross in the road and decides to choose eternal life and be saved, it is a reason to rejoice! I will never forget yesterday.

Read what God says on this matter of salvation. It is so simple. “…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9). When you make this step of faith, watch what happens. You will never be the same. Come be apart of the family!

Celebrating

The months of February and March find our family celebrating three of the kids birthdays. It is a lot of fun and hard at the same time. There is so much joy to be found in giving each child their special day, especially in a big family. To be singled out is nice. They are each so unique and what makes them feel loved is different for each one. It takes time talking, observing, listening and trying different things to learn this about each child. Each one of us need to know we are loved and this is just one of the gifts I want to give all our kids everyday.

IMG_1416The hard part comes when I see the years slipping by and how independent they have become. I want them to learn how to function well outside of our home and giving them more and more freedom aids this process. However, as their mom the memories of them being little and needing to be close are still fresh. If I kept them little in my mind, I would do them a terrible, selfish disservice. That is not happening in our home. So, we press on and encourage them to grow in every way. Daily I feel like we add a piece to their foundation that will remain through life’s storms and joys. We do this by talking about the Lord, reading God’s word, repenting, praising and praying. Our church does a wonderful job supporting our foundation building, but as parents we consider this our daily job, entrusted responsibility and great privilege. If I could spend my extra time doing anything, it would be to tell others how important this job of being a parent is and encourage them not to miss it. 

What if I would have not taken this entrusted role seriously with our son that just turned 15? He is such a great kid, but had so many struggles early on that I was not prepared for. When he was little, I had the mindset that getting the strongest educational foundation was as important as a God honoring foundation. If they do not do well in school, they do not get into a good college and therefore will not get a good job. So where are the plans the Lord has for them in this if I have it all mapped out? He might very well have this in mind, but I do not want to base their entire years in our home with academics as our main focus. Yes, this is probably not a popular parenting model, but I will let the Lord lead you on how He wants you to parent. This is how He has convicted me to raise our children. Academics is important and yes, you need to do well in school for college and later on, but what is your motivation? I am teaching our kids this, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17). And this, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23). You do your best in school as if you are working to serve and honor the Lord. A heart that knows they are loved by their God wants to serve Him, even with their academics. They will then do their best.

Back to our son. After too many tests to count, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. On one hand we were so thankful to know what the issue was, but on the other hand we did not know what to do. We listened to experts and that was an expensive disaster. It took therapy to make it through those years. Finally, with the sound wisdom of my husband, we made a school change and truly got the help he needed. His future was greatly impacted because of this help. He now sees how he learns as a unique gift and is thankful that he thinks differently. He is learning to be who God created him to be. He struggles at times with the normal middle school stuff, but I pray he chooses the way of wisdom and not folly. It is such a crossroads, but I am so thankful to be here to walk him towards truth. I will pray this for him this year, “Whoever is wise, let him understand these things; whoever is discerning, let him know them, for the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.” (Hosea 14:9).

The next child we celebrated after is a precious, very free spirited daughter, who is now 11. She sees things as very cut and dry and expects others to do the same. This can be a bit difficult at times. She has had her struggles, but learned a very important lesson of grace in the midst. One that I pray took a deep root in her tender heart. She tends to be a bit shy when it comes to her relationship with Jesus. I am praying this year that she be given the gift of boldness. This usually comes when your heart has been captured. I am praying that for her. When you love someone, the natural response is to let everyone know. You want them to know love too. Her cheerfulness is a reflection of her heart and her light within shines bright. My verse for her will be, “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 5:16).

And our last celebration was for our daughter who turned 13. This is still unbelievable to me. This past year I have seen so much growth in her. Middle school is not the best season of ones life, but for her I am seeing good things. She has found a love for running and continues to excel in academics. This discipline has been really fun to watch. It helps to direct her strong will. This is not unique to her, all our kids have this gift. She has such a heart for kids with special needs and for little kids too. She loves them well. She has her hard areas and we often clash, but because of our love for one another, I see this as a way for the Lord to use this to make us more like Him. The verse I will pray for her this year is, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1).

So I pray our children know they are loved, prayed for and we celebrate them. We are so thankful to be given each of them as a gift from our loving God. When the days are long, I pray the Lord reminds us of this gift perspective. He could have given these kids to anyone, but He wisely picked us to train them in the way they should go. It is extremely important and I am running right beside you, cheering you on. Let’s go parent well this week. And when we fall like we all do, may the arms of grace pick us up and set us back on the track. Our children are counting on us.

Did you know?

It was date night and we were enjoying a peaceful dinner. A group, of probably college age girls, came and sat at the table right by ours. They had been taking pictures and were looking over their images. I heard all kinds of comments about what they saw as they looked at the screen. Their waitress approached the group and you could tell she was intimidated. These girls were all blond and confident. She had brown hair and was timid, not yet comfortable in her own skin. It was a quite a contrast.

IMG_1518I told my husband I wanted to go talk to the waitress. He asked what I would say? The first thought that came to my mind was, “you are enough”. I wanted to take her sweet little face in my hands, look beyond her glasses into her eyes and speak those words to her. I wanted to tell her that God created her to be her, not anyone else. Her hair color, eyes that needed glasses, the skin tone, all of it was done on purpose. She is an original design. She was created in the very image of God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27). Is that not such good news? When you look in the mirror, your image was created by God and you bear His likeness. It is also clear that it is He who makes male and female. He decides, we do not. This clearness is found on the first page of our Bible. Why do we debate?

Back to the precious waitress. My heart was immediately drawn to her because I saw myself at her age. I would have loved if someone would have been able to reach into my insecure world. However, I am not sure if I would have heard them. My defensive wall might have blocked truth. Wounds can create self protecting walls as fortified as Alcatraz. In our home, when wounds happen, I want to deal with them as soon as they become known. I want our kids to know home as a safe, loving and truth-telling place to land. When the wounds are a result of their sin, I find it best to deal with it sooner than later. You repent, ask God for forgiveness and turn in the opposite direction. Turn towards grace. Sometimes it is my sin that wounds our kids or maybe another kid at school. I do the same thing, then ask the wounded one for forgiveness. Saying I am sorry and asking to be forgiven get much easier the more you practice.

Also, the lies we tell ourselves have tremendous wall building power. Tell yourself enough of them and you have made yourself quite a defense. Add on to that the reality of living in a world full of us sinners and walls become normal. Ever met an angry, controlling or bitter person? Ask a few questions about their life and I bet you see wounds, that over time have become walls. Anger, control and bitterness become weapons to protect the wall fortified around their broken heart. I recently read a book by Corrie Ten Boom and she completely gave words to how I grew up feeling. She explained that hearts broken lead to feelings of insecurity. Goodness, that explains so much of my bent towards sin that gave me the false sense of security!

Our hearts are a precious space. How do we protect our hearts? Are we suppose to? We read in Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This explains so much. As I look at my own children, I see what gets to their heart and then what flows out. I have noticed that if too much time is spent isolated, on their phone, playing video games, being inside or if their schedule is too busy, they are different. A hardness is evident in their eyes and words. I recognize this and make corrections. My sister gave me the best compliment one time and it has stayed with me. She said, “You guard your kids hearts at all cost.”

Something very hard is allowing painful situations to shape their hearts. This is hard to see as loving, but it is necessary in my opinion. I use to jump in and rescue at the first upset. I did not want them to experience any kind of pain. To me it falls under part of the “Training up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). By the way, I pray this over every child I know of that has been trained, but right now is away from the Lord. I ask the Lord for these children to come back. I ask that there be rejoicing around the table for the child who returns.

A great verse to remind ourselves of in the waiting is, “Behold the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy that He cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1). We have a God who hears our cries for our children and has help in His hands. I like to remind the Lord of His words, promises I am counting on. “As for Me, says the LORD, ‘this is my covenant with them: My Spirit who is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth, shall not depart from the mouth of your descendants’ descendants’, says the LORD, from this time forevermore.” (Isaiah 59:21). So I will be encouraged as a mom that takes the time to teach our kids scriptures, God’s very words, that these life-giving words will not depart from them. These words are wisdom that direct them continually. They may forget for a season to whom they belong, but the Lord says they will come back and I will remind Him of that promise if that time ever comes.

So to all the parents with children far from the way they were trained and to the precious waitress who is someones child, I am praying for you. I pray that these children will have your eyes opened to how God sees them. I pray with this new sight your children will remember the way they were brought up and return, even today.

For the ones with children at home who are in the midst of training years, I have a great verse for us too. “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches; pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift up your hands toward Him for the life of your young children.” (Lamentations 2:19). This is one of the reasons I get up early every morning. I have so much to learn from the Lord in training up what I have been entrusted with.  I have to know the Word in order to live and teach it. Being a mom is a huge responsibility, a privilege and one I am so thankful for. So be encouraged moms, the work of today has an impact on our children for the rest of their lives. Let’s get to it!

 

Wind and Waves

“And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” (Matthew 14:29-32)

2DFA9112-7566-4DC8-9B9A-EEE80C8BF0C4I read this passage this morning while overlooking the ocean. The wind is strong today and the waves are huge. These conditions made it very easy to put myself in Peter’s place. Would I have reacted the same? Do I react the same when circumstances seem scary and out of control? The answer is I am learning to react differently. In fact, I am learning to praise Him in the midst of the wind and huge waves. Sounds strange and not normal. The expected reaction should be panic and trying to figure a way out. However, this pattern leads to sinking and a figurative drowning in anxiety. Jesus calls this out in Peter as “little faith and doubt”.

Earlier, I read Paul David Tripp’s words, “Anxiety is God-forgetting”. Isn’t that a wonderful definition? He goes on to say “In all those moments when life is out of your control, it is not out of his control.” As Peter stepped out of the boat, his life was not under control, he literally was walking on water. He however was walking towards Jesus. But when he saw the reality around him, he begin to sink in fear. I love his response though, “…and beginning to sink he cried out…” (vs. 30). Peter cried out to the only One who could save him. Who do you cry out to when the waves and wind circumstances of life seem to surround you?

Look what happens next. “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him…” (vs. 31). What I noticed this morning was that it never says that Jesus let go of Peter. It wasn’t until they got back into the boat that the sea calmed down. So the walk back to the boat held the same reality. What mattered was who was holding onto Peter. Do you trust that He holds you too?

Sometimes the response of Jesus in our situations does not feel like He has ahold of us at all.  I would ask, are we trusting only in what we can see? We read in 2 Corinthians 5:7,  “…for we walk by faith,not by sight.” Peter got out of the boat based on faith in Jesus, whom he could literally see. But seeing was not enough, his reality made him fearful. Like us, Peter forgot who he was walking towards. That is so easy to do, but we must cry out to our Savior. He may not calm the wind right away,  but I wholeheartedly believe He will never let you go. Waves and wind are much easier to walk on when you know He has ahold of you because He loves you. He proved this love for all of us on the cross. Cry out today and trust Him.

”When he calls out to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble.” Psalm 91:15.

A Root Called Pride

I do not have to look far to see the deep root of pride that use to reside in my heart. The price I paid to keep my pride tended, was far greater than I ever dreamed. And the sad part is, I had no idea I was prideful. Sin has a deceptive side and blinds us spiritually.

IMG_0896C.S. Lewis says it best, “For pride is spiritual cancer; it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense.” Isn’t that so good? Makes me think about the state our world is in. Wonder if our biggest problem is not our pride? Go with me a minute. Pride is the stronghold that makes us think and argue we know best. We could not be further from the truth. Left to our own reason, we fail miserably and leave a trail of destruction in our wake. Look at the mess we are in just as a nation. Our national debt is unbelievable. Killing babies is now legal. Marriage has been redefined. Let’s not forget that it is now up to you to decide if you are a boy or a girl. Little by little we have said God does not exist and we know better. We throw half truths of scripture around like confetti and think this is all perfectly okay. We even invite others to our parties with the lure of a place to be accepted. If you believe what God says is true, well you are close minded, unintelligent and lack tolerance. Oh, how blind we are to our pride.

When more shocking news is reported, I wonder how much more God is going to take? Open your Bibles and read what happened to other nations that went the way of pride. It does not end well. Do we really want to follow in their footsteps? Here is a strong warning that was true for the Israelites and it is true for us today. “Then it shall be, if you by any means forget the LORD your God, and follow other gods, and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish. As the nations which the LORD destroys before you, so you shall perish, because you would not be obedient to the voice of the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 8:19-20). We can never say again that we did not know. God’s word is clear and we are as a nation disobeying. How much longer will He hold back from giving us what we deserve?

The children of Israel left a place of bondage and ended up in the wilderness for 40 years because of their prideful rebellion. I wonder how many of us call the wilderness our reality? I bet you feel alone, angry, afraid, unloved and like each day is without meaning. Pride has that affect on a heart. There is another way if you are willing. I pray the Holy Spirit touches your heart and begins to uproot pride. It is a painful process, but when you trust the One doing the work, you know it is done in love. Will you consider it today?

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with him who hates Him; He will repay him to his face.” (Deuteronomy 7:9-10). This is reality, this is truth. Please do not delay.

The God who is faithful, merciful and keeps His promises, sent His Son to die on the cross for the worlds sins. The price has been paid for our sin, our pride. There is no longer a reason for us to be separated from all our God has to offer, other than our pride. Take it from me, one sinner to another, He is worth it! Pride is a big liar and will ultimately lead to destruction. Is it worth it? The choice is yours. Life eternal with the God of the universe or life eternal in the never ending fire of hell and completely separated from God? I know this sounds harsh, but to not tell you the outcome is wrong. My insecurities could whisper, ” Hold back, you don’t want to offend anyone.” Or I could tell you the truth because my love for you is far greater than my concern over offending anyone. Remember that root of pride has been uprooted and I am wiling to offend to tell you the truth. It is the most loving thing I can do.

“…but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage…” (Deuteronomy 7:8). There is no freedom like the freedom like God offers! How about you join me today.

*Picture taken on the campus of Dallas Baptist University