Keeping In Step

As soon as the kids got out of school, we headed to North Carolina for Christmas. When we arrived, a party was in full swing. As we walked through the door of my dad’s new home, we were met with hugs and smiles by lots of relatives. I think everyone should be greeted this way after a very long journey – it’s good for our hearts. We laughed a lot, caught up on life, exchanged skincare tips, heard about adventures and spoke of grace. There was plenty of food, but that did not draw my attention. It was the people who held my focus and I did not want to miss a thing. My husband commented later that night when all was quiet, how I seemed to be in my element. He was very right. I love family, encouraging conversations, laughter and grace.

IMG_6731The next morning, I quietly came downstairs and found my way to a familiar chair. To have time with my Savior is also good for my heart. With the Christmas tree lit and coffee in hand, the silence was interrupted by the ticking of three different clocks that were totally out of sync. Do you know how loud clocks can be? It was a bit annoying and distracting. However, I ignored the sound after awhile when God’s word captured my full attention. I thought to of how the festivities of the day before had totally drowned out the noise of the clocks. Good words and laughter can have a wonderful affect on many things.

As the days went by and the clocks kept ticking, I started noticing what was also out of sync. People we encountered around town were sometimes angry and in a hurry. Everywhere we went seemed to be crowded and I got caught up in the need to try and beat the crowds to make sure we had a place. Beautiful mountains surround Asheville, but too small streets for an enormous amount of people, made me want to run home to the open spaces of Texas. When change of any kind is rushing into what seems like a small space and the desire to remain the same collide, I feel out of sync in a town or in my heart. The only thing that never changes is God, His Word and His love. To hold back moving forward can cause one to become angry, rushed and blind to beauty. So I move forward in the new today, but firmly planted in the unchangeable. Makes my steps much more confident, a bit slower and more friendly I like to think.

These were the thoughts that I was thinking about yesterday morning as the day began. One of my sweet boys and I headed out to buy much need groceries. We had just driven home and we were out of pretty much everything. He wanted to spend time together and off we went. We needed to reconnect. While we were in North Carolina, he was the one I felt like I was watching constantly to make sure he didn’t mess anything up or break something. You never know what he is going to say and that can keep you on your toes. The whole thing was exhausting for him and me. Instead of looking for the good, I watched for mistakes. While he is a bit immature, he is also very insightful and fun. One misses that when you do not have eyes of grace. Out of step again.

After shopping and loading everything into the car, I noticed eye makeup that had not been rung up but remained in my cart. To leave the makeup in my cart and drive home was an option, but not the right one. So, we walked back in, paid for the makeup and walked out hand in hand. He said, “Mom, look at our feet, we are walking the same!” I told him that we were walking in sync and this is how we are to walk with God. We were keeping in step with one another. He then said, “And I am following your footsteps.” I told you he was insightful.

To walk with God matters and if I choose not too, what would happen to this child? If I allowed noise, distractions, anger, to want to go back, remain the same or have this ever changing worlds opinion on truth to cause my steps to move away from God, how would this affect him? I make mistakes like how I acted towards him on this trip. Thankfully, there is grace given by God and repentance on my part for my mistakes. As with this child and for the rest of our kids, I have found them to be very forgiving. I also know that God’s love for me never changes and I am secure because of His love. Also, things change as the days, months and years tick by and I am changing too. To want to go back or hang onto what was will keep me from moving forward. As I move forward day by day, there is so much more I have found God has in store for me. Just when I think things cannot getting any better or sometimes any worse for that matter, the Lord surprises me. My faith is strengthened and I fall that much more in love with God.

Read with me these words, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:25).  The Spirit is what comes to dwell inside of us when we accept Christ as our Savior. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that causes us to change more into the likeness of Christ. It is the Spirit that keeps us in sync and our footsteps worth following. “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17). This conflict plays out in all of us and can become heightened during the holidays. What was is not anymore and places are overcrowded, time is short and expectations are high. The sound of time ticking becomes heightened and our hearts beat fast and out of sync. Then our thoughts, actions and words follow. We forget others, especially our children, are watching and are influenced by our steps.

So what do we do to get back in sync? We quiet our hearts, read His word, repent and ask the Lord how He would have us walk. He word is full of guidance and love. His ways are not rules to follow, but boundaries to keep our steps close to His. Why would we want to move away, falling and tripping our way through life? I want my steps to cause my children to see Christ. I want my life to reflect Him and not my flesh. When they walk beside me, I want them to imitate what will matter in eternity. I want them to see my eyes turn to them in love and not carefully watching for mistakes. Some days I do this better than others because of this whole flesh thing, but tomorrow is a new day. As we walk towards a new year, I am reminding myself of these words – “Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Importance of a Name

Time or place do not matter, but the words have stayed with me. I bent down to help a little boy put his shoes on the right feet. He just sat down right there in the middle of a busy hallway, so I joined him. The shoes were on their proper feet, but he remained seated. His sweet eyes met mine and he said, “I can’t remember my name.” He knew what his name was now, but he was once called by another name. The frantic search in his mind could not find it. We talked for awhile and I asked questions. How does one forget their name?

IMG_5996As I have thought often about this question, I am reminded of how easy it has been to forget the name the Lord calls me, Beloved. “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12). What love can compare? Do I live like a girl who knows her name or do I try and remember as I walk through my days? Somedays I forget and my actions or words follow.

Yesterday was one of those days where I forgot. The morning time was good as I sat with the Lord in study, prayer and listening. As the day wore on, the list of what needed to be done snowballed and I let myself forget. The day ended with one little girl crying and saying, “Just tell me what I did wrong.” Heartbreaking words to this mom. She was picking out pajamas to wear to school because that is what was requested. She wanted one pair and I wanted another, a cuter pair. What she looked like was more important than her heart in this situation. One thing I never want to do is elevate appearance over her heart and I had. We worked it out and she curled up beside me and said, “I just want to be with you.” Funny how acceptance draws one near. I asked if she would forgive me and said I was sorry. She forgives easy and our relationship was restored. She looked cute as a button in her pajamas today, by the way.

The Lord has entrusted us with raising, shaping four daughters. What I speak and live have got to line up. When I remember my name, who He says I am, they have a mom they can trust. They see compassion, patience, kindness and gentleness. This verse often comes to mind as my years increase, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman that fears the LORD, she will be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30). Appearance is not praised, but fear of the Lord, living on His terms, is what matters. He created us and knows how we can tend to forget and get distracted. Reminding ourselves that we are loved, chosen and accepted stops the striving for external, fleeting beauty. I want my daughters to know and see this in our home.

Some dear woman shared how their grandchildren are blessed with a new name. They pray and ask the Lord to give them a name for each one. Servant Leader and Peacemaker are two of many. I thought about how amazing that would be to have this bestowed on you as a young child. The desire to grow into who they see the Lord has made you to be, must give security. What this has to do to their heart astonishes me and had me longing for such a gift. Since this is the Christmas season and I thought what a wonderful treasure to give to each of our children! They may not have received this from my lips when they were born, but they can hear it now. Many prayers have been prayed for them and I see how the Lord is shaping them daily, but a name sums up so much. So, under the tree this year, each of the kids will receive the gift of a new name all wrapped up. I am praying for each one and look forward to treasuring them in my heart. May they grow to look more and more like Christ and who He says they are, Beloved for starters.

Merry Christmas!

Morning Words

Getting seven kids out the door for school is not an easy task. Breakfast and lunches need to be made. Scripture and prayer go into our minds and hearts and then there is the clothes, backpacks and snacks. We double check folders to make sure everything is signed and that homework was indeed done. This is a team effort and everyone has a part to play. One of the things I do is help with getting hair fixed. Some do their own, but some do not and often the older ones need just a bit of help getting it just right. I am happy to help. It is a time to encourage, pray and physically touch their precious heads before they head out.

IMG_6397When I was fixing one little boys hair this morning, he said the most unusual thing. He told me, “Make room, make room in your heart. Sometimes to make room in your heart, you have to go to the hospital.” The conversation then turned to something else and I was left speechless. Just minutes before I had been spending time praying, reading my Bible and listening. I had been looking back over this past year and then over the last nine. His words perfectly described this past year in the most unique way. Allow me to explain.

It has taken years of the Lord gently removing from me that which does not look like Him. Pride was alive and well for starters. Then there was bitterness and anger, not very attractive. Events broke me in the best way and added to this emptying. High places, idols were worshipped and had to be taken down. God will not share His glory. Then this past year, after what has felt like being empty, there were some wounds that I honestly thought had turned to scars. Beth Moore recently said that scars do not hurt anymore, but wounds do. We all have scars, but some of us are walking around with wounds too. I had a few of my own. This has been a year of surrendering these wounds. The picture that has often come to mind during this process is lying flat and letting the Lord examine each one. He then bandages them up and once they are healed, the bandage comes off. Only a scar remains and it is no longer painful. Memories may remain, but they no longer carry anger, bitterness, unforgiveness and cause us to withhold love.

When my sweet boy said those words I just was stunned. With the empty and the healing there is a life that is surrendered and available for the Lord to completely fill. His Holy Spirit has been in me since I accepted Christ, but there remained some of my old self that took up space and I acted out of this. Now He takes up every inch and I can honestly say there is nothing more freeing. Read with me, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Do you want to have the best Christmas ever? Then allow the Lord to fill you completely with His Holy Spirit. It is the best gift you can ever receive and give to your family and friends. May this be a Christmas of freedom for each and everyone of us!

Keeping Peace

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

We are barely into December and there have already been so many opportunities to take the Lord up on His promise of peace. I must do my part and keep my eyes, heart and mind focused on the One I trust. Having scripture verses ready helps and so does remembering. Another way is to just tell the Lord what is on my mind. I have found Him to be the best listener. Often times He whispers back something that only my heart can hear. It might be a bit of correction that will lead to repentance or it might be a loving word. This I know and is always what I need for peace.

IMG_6302We dove into the month, which is one of my favorites, having just celebrated Thanksgiving. It was good and restful. We then celebrated our youngest turning 6 years old and were reminded of the blessing she is to our family. When I picture her, I often think of her twirling. She is the most graceful little person I have ever known. Her beauty was evident literally from the minute she was born. She is very much full of life and brilliance. One of the things she recently said, that brought tears to my eyes, was the answer to a very important question. I asked, “Why do you love Jesus?” Right away she said, “Because He loves me”. Simple but life changing words. She never complicates truth and this is a gift.

The day after celebrating, we were given the most amazing gift. Some friends opened their beautiful home up for a silent retreat in preparation for this Christmas season. It was a wonderful morning and I am still processing all that was whispered. As I sat in a precious little room and wrote the date at the top of my journal page, a wave of remembrance crashed over me. Two years ago on that same morning, we learned that the little baby that was to become part of our family, had died. I sat for a minute not knowing where my heart would land. Then peace calmed the waves and I thought of all the Lord has done in the mending of me since then. Thanksgiving was my response. Only a God of peace can make this happen.

On the same day, we received some other news that tested the peace that we had earlier taken hold of. Would we panic or trust? We decided to trust and peace returned. During all of this, our sweet dog of 10 years started not acting like himself. Three vets could not figure out what was wrong. Then last night he took a turn and died. Another loss and there were many tears. As the news was setting in, one of the kids responded with words of faith. He said, “We need to pray for Jesus to bring him back to life.” I love that kind of childlike faith! I pray we all have more of that. While the answer was not life for our dog, it was an opportunity to trust Him and ask for His peace and comfort. I have never found our Lord to withhold either.

Read with me this amazing verse. “For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. Who Jesus is to us, was planned before He was even sent to earth. God knew we would need a counselor, a father and a prince of peace. We would also be given a glimpse of our Mighty God in the form of the Son of Man. He knew that the weight of government would need more than mans shoulders, so He placed in on Him. Never doubt who God puts in office, for He is in complete control. Pray for those He has placed there. Also as you pray, ask for what you need this season too. Is it peace, a father, counselor or maybe God to be God? For me, I love the picture that comes to mind when we read “Prince of Peace”. A royal robe, a crown and radiance that lights up the darkness, fills my imagination.

As we go through this season that holds so many feelings and memories, remember who He is and what we have been given in Him. I am praying that peace, joy, strength, comfort, wonder, excitement, anticipation and overwhelming love flood your hearts and overflow to everyone you encounter. May this be a Christmas season to remember!


Shaping and Celebrating

Last week was a good week. We picked my dad up from the airport and the fun began! We celebrated one of our boys turning 10 years old and ate very well on Thanksgiving. We laughed a lot as a family and spent time playing new games together. Have you ever played the game Spoons? With a table of 10, it can get pretty loud. It reminded me of growing up around my grandparents table. My grandmother would make a delicious dessert and some game would be played. I remember thinking that I could not wait to grow up and get to play. Now I am the grown up and our kids join in the fun. I would rather them not have to wait to play. However, observing like I did as a child had many advantages too, like never losing.

IMG_4354We also went to the movies one day and some of our girls and I saw the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is a story based on an interview with Mr. Rogers.  There was so much that I loved about the movie, but I will not ruin in for you here. I also picked up the book and there is wisdom within the pages. One of the scenes in the movie and then a quote in the book, really stood out to me.

“Take a minute to think of  at least one person who helped you become who you are inside today. Someone who was interested in you for who you really are. Just one minute…one minute to think of those who have made a real difference in your life.” -Fred Rogers 

Sometimes thinking of those who helped us become who we are today, might press a tender place in your heart. Some might make you smile and others might cause you to laugh. The impact people have in our shaping is of high value. It makes me wonder if we kept this in mind when we speak, especially to children, if our words would be considered a bit more carefully. Imagine being a person someone thinks of when they look back at how they became who they are today. We all have this potential.

There are also the ones who shaped us, but they were not at all kind. When I think of these, forgiveness follows. I am sure I have done the same as well. We can sometimes blame everyone else and not take responsibility for our own words and actions. However, sometimes the affect of a person on us had nothing to do with us at all and we are not responsible for their sin. There is forgiveness for this too. The cross paid the price for sin and it is our gift for the receiving. Will you open it today?

When I think of people who influenced me for the good, many images surface. One is of a great uncle who had the most calm, kind and strong voice I have ever heard. He spoke of God so freely and was never in a hurry. He had a great impact on my mom too. For him I am thankful. There are Sunday school teachers who taught me week after week about the Bible. I loved to learn. There are my parents who were entrusted to care for me and the Lord used them in a mighty way. I was given so many opportunities to learn and grow. Some I fought and others I loved. All have been used by God for my good and His glory.

This idea of the shaping of people is pretty big. I had an idea that those who have any encounter with children, should be investigated very carefully. Teachers should not step foot in a school if they do not love children. Principals should not renew contracts of those who are causing damage to the heart of children. The cost of repair is very high. Will these teachers foot the bill? Parents should not be able to leave the hospital if they do not know the great treasure they are being given. If they were not raised as important, how will they give what they do not know? The cycle will continue unless someone steps in and repairs what is broken.

It is time for this world to wakeup and see value in every human. Each person, regardless of age, color, convictions and true gender, matter to God and they should matter to us. May we be used to call out in anyone we meet who they are in God’s sight. They are loved, sin paid for and made for worship. Maybe today you will see someone that needs to be reminded. Ask the Lord to give you the words they need to hear. Speak the words in love and leave the results up to Him. I bet your day will be much more exciting.

I have watched our new 10 year old boy live his life pouring out love, validating people. He sees people, has no fear and chooses to be selfless. He has the biggest brown eyes and smiles a lot. He speaks truth with courage and boldness. He knows and loves God with all his heart and that makes all the difference. He feels deep and can easily get his feelings hurt. He reads people well and is cautious when necessary. Age has no meaning to him and he is as comfortable with a 5 year old as he is with a 50 year old. While not perfect, he is looking more and more like Christ with each passing year. He is a treasure for sure and shapes people in the best way. I bet he will be on the list of many! I pray the same for you as well. Today, chose to be a good shaper.