Tears

Twice this past week, while talking to two different moms, their eyes have filled with tears. My first reaction is a bit of fear because it might be that my honest words have caused pain, but the other part of me is thankful for a glimpse into their tender hearts. One sweet mom I met at the park in my dads soon to be neighborhood. Almost immediately she started sharing with me how anxious she is about the upcoming school year. Last year was a bit of a nightmare, with one of her children being bullied and one newly diagnosed with dyslexia. Oh, how I have been there! The times we have experienced bullying was so hard. Then the early years of navigating school with a child who has been created with dyslexia is not easy. You hear all kinds of opinions and pour out money right and left just to get answers. Our hope in doing this was to get answers in order to get help. For us, it was not until we took our kids out of private school and into public that we got answers and help. In the midst of this moms rapid fire fear filled words, I did the only think I knew to do – speak truth. I told her that God had given her these unique children not by accident. She was chosen to be their mom, not anyone else. She has a choice to be anxious or calm each and everyday. Why not choose calm? I shared how I start my day with God because I can not do this mission of motherhood on my own. I have tried this approach and it was a disaster! How many other mom’s feel this way?

IMG_8536The next beautiful encounter was during lunch with some of my dearest friends. We sat visiting and catching up, but my eyes kept noticing a precious mom with two super cute young boys. They sat on the same side of the bench, eating their lunch, content as can be. Lunch was followed by cookies and I just could not sit still any longer. At the risk of appearing weird, I approached this mama. I asked if she wanted me to take a picture of her and the boys with her phone. She immediately started telling me how terrible she looked, why she was just in a t-shirt and more words to “excuse” her appearance. That was not enough and comparison to me soon followed. Oh, the lies satan loves to whisper in our ears and how familiar they were to me. However, I now recognize them as lies and not truth most of the time. Again, truth needed to be spoken. Reminders of how the kids are growing up fast and that hard days come. To have a picture to look back and remember a fun time, while the boys are 3 and 7, is priceless. I am pretty sure her children could care less that she had on a t-shirt and a top knot. No, they will remember their mom sitting close and laughing over lunch and cookies. They will know a mom who chooses to spend time with them and one who believes in dessert! As they left the restaurant, they stopped for a few more words and the 7 year old thanked me for taking their picture! I was thankful I took a small risk to capture a memory and to remind her of the truth.

I am just so tired of satan whispering lies to moms! Because pretty soon, he no longer has to whisper, it has become recorded and played often. The playlist of “you are not enough”, “your appearance is far from perfect”, “everybody else is way more together than you” and the ever popular “it is all up to me”,  are the lies I had lived with for far too long. Have you heard them too?

The only way I have found to combat lies is with truth, but you have to know what is true. The world will shout one thing, but God’s word waits patiently for you to open it and find out for yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to start a new school year differently? What if we read more truth and believed it? It will make all the difference. This I know to be true. Not reading our Bibles just does not make sense. The God who made you, me and our children, spoke through men He created to reveal Himself. I see His heart every time I open it.

One of the most incredible things my husband has done for me was covering my bathroom mirror with pink post-it notes, penned with words of affirmation on each one. If you saw how big my mirror was you would know this was not a quick project. This act shifted something in my mind and then in my heart. I could not see my reflection, only words of love. What if we got into our Bibles and covered our hearts and minds with post-it notes of who God is and how great His love is for each one of us? What if we let Him tell us how we are to raise our children instead of this world? What if our eyes saw other moms as uniquely created in the image of God and not someone we need to compare ourselves too? Tell me this would not make for a much better school year.

So, to the mom at the park and the mom at Bluebonnet Bakery with eyes full of tears, I see you as made and very much loved by God. If I could fill every mom’s bathroom mirror with words of truth and capture pictures of fleeting moments everyday, believe me I would. Your kids need you to know the truth and live it before their eyes in well worn t-shirts and top knots or whatever is comfortable for you.

I’ll leave you with a quote by Mr. Rogers that I recently read. “The greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know they’re loved.” Yes, this right here is my theme going into the upcoming school year!

Walking Stories

There is this phrase stenciled on the wall in what has been the kids nursery. It is now empty of a baby, but the phrase remains. It says, “Every child is a story yet to be told”. I feel blessed to be apart of my children’s stories each day. However, I know from scripture that our days are already planned and our stories known by God our Creator. “Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Psalms 139:16). It is quite exciting to see these plans unfold each day. These words bring me comfort that not only are each of my children’s days planned, but so are mine and so are yours.

IMG_0874Do you ever think that before the day begins God knows each and every detail? He knows the choices we will make, to bring Him glory or glory to ourselves. He knows the joy we will bring to others or the selfish pain we will cause. He knows the work we will do that will go unseen or maybe recognized. He knows the conversations that will happen around the table and he sees the empty table where you sit alone. He knows who you will run into while running errands and who you will sit by at church. All of it. He knows.

Earlier in that passage it says, “Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol , you are there. If I live at the eastern horizon or settle at the western limits, even there your hand will hold on to me.” (Psalms 139:7-9). He is unescapable and I am so thankful. He is ever present in our unfolding stories. He is with my children, when I am not. This was especially comforting while our oldest was out of the country. He knew and was with her when she got up each morning and went to bed tired each night. I think of Him smiling as she poured her days out to the people in El Salvador. She went there confident in sharing the gospel, but gained a new fire for making disciples. I am watching this play out now that she is home. All of this, God already knew and wrote down.

Somedays I would like to peak ahead or ask why certain events happened in our story, but I trust the one who has it all planned and written down. I respond with trust because I know he loves me. I did not say it was always easy, but I chose to trust him. We can get stuck in the joy of days gone by or we can drown in our recent sorrows. Maybe even become paralyzed in the fears of what is to come. In each of these places, “even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me.” (Psalms 139:9). The one who holds your hand makes all the difference. I love these words, “You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me.” (Psalms 139:5). If he has ahold of our hand by his right hand and it sounds like the other is on us, why should we be worried or fearful? Plus, he has encircled us! Oh, the comfort and a sense of protection this brings for me and our children.

On the flip side, if our hearts are bent towards self and the sin of this world, our thoughts might take comfort in the next verses, but only for a minute. “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night’ – even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you.” (Psalms 139:11-12). I will admit there were and are still sometimes in my life that I hope the darkness would hide my sin. If I was not caught or if I just did not do that particular sin again, maybe it would stay in the dark. This is impossible with God. It is something I pray for my kids, that they will be caught in their sin. I pray that for myself as well. I can not ask something of them and not expect it for myself. That kinda levels the playing field. In our family, I am just one sinner, coming alongside 8 other sinners, daily depending on the One who holds my hand. (Side note: The book, Parenting, by Paul David Tripp, really helped me understand this part of raising kids.)

One good prayer to pray is found later on in this chapter. “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalms139:23-24). I have a dear friend, who when her head rests on her pillow at night, she asks the Lord to bring to mind any unconfessed sin. She then confesses, repents and drifts off to peaceful, forgiven sleep. What a picture of the grace God so willingly gives!

Another comforting part of this chapter says,  “God, how precious your thoughts are to me; how vast their sum is! If I counted them, they would outnumber the grains of the sand; when I wake up, I am still with you.” (Psalms 139:17-18). God’s thoughts are written out in the Bible that is so easily available to us in the United States. We can not forsake teaching our children God’s thoughts and ways found in the Bible. These thoughts should be precious to us. This is something I am convinced would help turn this nation around. However, I will save that for another day.

Dinner is waiting to be cooked, so I will close with this. Guess who wrote Psalms 139? Remember that kid, who was just running lunch to his brothers, who ended up confronting Goliath because he defied the Living God? Who came at the champion with only a sling shot and 5 smooth stones? Yes, the same David who killed the giant wrote these words. He knew the God who defeats giants and he knew who had written this part of his story. And like David, we are all walking stories written by the Living God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and he knew the One who held his hand. Who holds your hand?

A Giant Falls

I left off last time with the battle story found in 1 Samuel. The Philistines, along with their champion Goliath, are on one side of the valley and the Israelites are on the other. David has shown up on the scene and has heard Goliath taunting the children of Israel. He is taken to King Saul and says, “Don’t let anyone be discouraged by him; your servant will go and fight this Philistine!” (1 Samuel 17:32). I love David’s courage! Can we all follow his lead, see what satan is attempting to steal and be willing to enter the fight?

Saul’s reaction is normal. “You can’t go fight this Philistine. You’re just a youth, and he’s been a warrior since he was young.” (1 Samuel 17:33). David could have agreed and taken the empty lunch pail and returned safely to his father’s house. We can too you know. This giant is just too big and we are too small. Besides the fashion, cosmetic, advertising, magazine, book, internet, movie industry, pornography, sex trafficking, abortion, same-sex marriage and the list could go on that promote sin, generate too much money to be held accountable and stopped for defying the Living God. Add on top of that, it isn’t popular or culturally acceptable to live by the truth found only in the word of God.

Back to the battle. “David answered Saul: ‘Your servant has been tending his father’s sheep. Whenever a lion or a bear came and carried off a lamb from the flock, I went after it, struck it down, and rescued the lamb from its mouth. If it reared up against me, I would grab it by its fur, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed lions and bears; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, for he has defiled the armies of the living God’. Then David said, ‘The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37). David had been unknowingly training, preparing for this very day. I am not sure if he saw something like this coming, but that seems to be the way with us all when looking back over our life. He went after what the enemy carried off and rescued the lamb. Aren’t our children much more valuable than a farm animal? The other piece I love here is that David had full confidence in the Lord. Is there any other way to go into a battle?

“Saul said to David, ‘Go, and may the Lord be with you.” (1Samuel 17:37). Saul tries to protect David by having him outfitted in his military armor. However, if you remember Saul stood head and shoulders above everyone. “I can’t walk in these’, David said to Saul, ‘I’m not used to them.’ So David took them off. Instead, he took his staff in hand and chose five smooth stones from the wadi and put them in the pouch, in his shepherd’s bag. Then, with his sling in hand, he approached the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:39-40). I don’t see myself continuing on in this battle to “protect my house” with violence and slinging stones, but I do see myself continuing to stand for the truth. Also, David did not leave home without his shepherd’s bag, sling shot or staff. He came prepared. Are we prepared with the truth, only found in God’s word, to do battle when the occasion arises? David was only on an errand run after all.

“The Philistine came closer and closer to David, with the shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he despised him because he was just a youth, healthy and handsome. He said to David, ‘Am I a dog that you come against me sticks?’ Then he cursed David by his gods.” (1 Samuel 17:41-43). Yes, it looks like a champion Goliath is coming against families, children, marriages, innocence and purity. Yes, we may look unpopular and small in comparison. Yes, we make look unprepared. Like me. I am “just a mom” so what can I possibly do to fight back? Because to stand on the rock of truth is not being tolerant and therefore unloving. Nothing could be further from the truth! We love people so much, that to think of anyone spending eternity in hell compels us to stand. That is what is at stake here. And if people are already believers, that salvation can not be lost, but being held in the captivity of sin cripples ones life.

“David said to the Philistine: ‘You come against me with a sword, spear, and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel – you defiled him. Today, the Lord will hand you over to me.” (1 Samuel 17:45-46). The enemy has come against us too, created in the very image of God (see Genesis 1:25) for much to long. The twisting of truth, hate and depravity are only growing in intensity. It is time we remind him who he is up against – “the Lord of Armies, the God of the ranks of Israel.” That is whose army we are apart of if we are followers of Christ. You have to pick a side. I ask my kids all the time, “Who are you going to let win? God or satan?” It is a choice to be made day in and day out.

“When the Philistine started forward to attack him, David ran quickly to the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in the bag, took out a stone, slung it, and it hit the Philistine on his forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown to the ground. David overpowered the Philistine and killed him without having a sword.” (1 Samuel 17:48-50). Scripture doesn’t mention what happened to the shield-bearer in front of Goliath. It doesn’t really matter, God won the battle and used a small, youthful shepherd to take down the defiant champion.

As for the rest of the army,  “When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they fled. The men of Judah rallied, shouting their battle cry, and chased the Philistines to the entrance of the valley and to the gates of Ekron.” (1 Samuel 17:51-52). I would have loved to have seen them retreat and I would love to see our enemy flee now. Can you only imagine the children of God rallying together, shouting a battle cry and chasing after the thief who “comes only to kill, steal and destroy..” (John 10:10). Saying “Enough! You can not have my family!”  We are on the side of the one who has “..come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” (John 10:10). It is time to stand up, pick the side of truth and fight! Our children now and those to come after us are counting on us!

 

Questions

IMG_8509I get asked questions continually throughout the day. The kids ask questions, people in stores ask things and lots of questions are asked in Bible studies. Today was no different. Our 8 year old son is very insightful and loves Jesus, others and legos big time. Out of nowhere he asked, “Mom, do you think some actors are trying to steal?”. What kind of question is that and how do I answer? Then just as quickly as that thought ran through my head, the answer came. “Yes, Paxton, yes I do think satan is using lots of actors/actresses to steal. They are trying to steal innocence, purity and so much more.”

Our family loves to go to the movies together, but that is hard to do these days. We like to have family movie nights at home, but again this is getting almost impossible. It is however easier to watch movies at home because we can control the previews. Sometimes those are just horrible. Before I continue, know this is my own conviction and much comes from scripture. The other guards we have in place come from remembering being kids ourselves and needing boundaries drawn to protect our innocence. As the kids get older, we trust that they will continue to protect what goes in their minds, that filters into their hearts and then their actions follow. Generations are counting on us to love our kids enough to guide them in what is attempting to be stolen. I have no desire to go along with what is popular, to be my children’s best friend right now or to be swept along by the culture.

It doesn’t just stop with movies, tv shows and commercials. No, this attempted robbery comes in the form of fashion, cosmetics, books, magazines and the list could go on. For example, in my own makeup drawer I looked at some of the names of the cosmetics, after a friend and I had been talking about this very thing. I was shocked, saddened and sick of heart by what I found. I unknowingly bought some horribly inappropriate named makeup. I now carefully check the names of what I buy for the girls and I. Also, I do not support companies that choose to name their cosmetics with names that seem to be whispered by satan himself.

When I see what is coming at us from every direction, it can be very overwhelming and feel like we are fighting against a giant. Surely we will not make it out alive with our children’s hearts intact. Then I am reminded of King David from the Bible, before he became king and was just a young shepherd. He was bringing lunch to his brothers, who were actually fighting a battle against a mighty army. “The Philistines were standing on one hill, and the Israelites were standing on another hill with a ravine between them. Then a champion named Goliath, from Gath, came out from the Philistine camp. He was nine feet, nine inches tall and wore a bronze helmet and bronze scale armor that weighed one hundred twenty- five pounds. There was bronze armor on his shins, and a bronze javelin was slung between his shoulders. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s beam, and the iron point of his spear weighed fifteen pounds. In addition, a shield-bearer was walking in front of him.” (1 Samuel 17:3-7).

Sounds like a perfect description of the evil giant, satan, that is attempting to steal from our children, you and me. He is suited up in deceptive armor and even has the shield of the almighty dollar, carried by many, in front of him. This Goliath in the Bible actually shouted and taunted God’s people everyday for 40 days. “Then the Philistine said, ‘I defy the ranks of Israel today. Send me a man so we can fight each other!” (1 Samuel 17:10). I hate but totally understand this next part. “When Saul and all Israel heard these words from the Philistine, they lost their courage and were terrified.” (1 Samuel 17:11). Each and everyday they retreated in fear until one day David showed up.

“When he arrived he was speaking with them (his brothers), suddenly the champion named Goliath, the Philistine from Gath, came forward from the Philistine battle line and shouted his usual words, which David heard. When all the Israelite men saw Goliath, they retreated from him terrified.” (1 Samuel 17:23-24). David asks a few questions and learns that a big reward will be given to the man who defeats this giant. Then he asks a very important question. “Just who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:26). I ask the same question to all that tries to come against us and steal from us each and everyday, but I already know the answer. The one who is attacking is satan and he is doing everything he can to defy the Living God.

I will save the ending for next time, but we can no longer close our eyes to the enemy in front of us. Like I said before, generations are depending on us to stand up and fight for them. So until next time, take notice of what is coming across the valley and into our homes each day. Are you willing to join in the fight?

*I intentionally do not capitalize satan’s name. He just isn’t even worth a capital letter. The other thing is that as I was typing, Eli put on this shirt in the picture. I love what it says, “Protect This House”! Yes, Eli I will protect this house!

 

Bonus Box

IMG_8145Today just could not end without me typing out a few words celebrating my husbands birthday. If you know him, you know he is kind and calm. He is a man that doesn’t strive to be noticed or get recognition, but does the job placed before him to the best of his ability. He tries new things and constantly amazes me with the things he figures out. He isn’t a big talker, which helps because I tend to be. He is loved and respected by me and our children and takes opportunities often to show love and respect back to us all.

I have to tell you that when I was in college, and really wanting to be married since the time I was like three, I sat down and wrote out a list in the back of my Student Bible of the things I wanted in my long awaited husband. The list was extensive with love and follow Jesus at the top. At the bottom of the page, I drew a box and entitled it bonus box. In this box I wrote sings and plays the guitar.  So, imagine my delight when I walked into the Sunday morning worship service at Young Life camp and there stood Damon holding a guitar and singing! Inside my head I’m pretty sure I screamed “bonus box”!!

Years later, the back of my Bible does not contain enough space or bonus boxes to write out all this man has become. He has far exceeded my list with being more than I thought I wanted or needed. He does this because he loves God first. It is the Lord that  directs his steps and who he turns to in order to lead our family. With putting God in his rightful place, he is able to lead, love and serve beyond anything he could do on his own. Our family is blessed because of this man and we look forward to celebrating!

Happy Birthday!!!!

Baggage

Recently I was listening to a teaching that referenced 1 Samuel 10:22. The teaching was more focused on David and Goliath, but the concept mentioned kept coming back to me. Previously, the scriptures tell us that the people of Israel had rejected God as their King and were requesting an earthly one. The people took their request to an important man named Samuel. He was prayed for earnestly by his mother, Hannah, and grew up in the Lord’s house. Also, the Lord audibly called Samuel by name when he was just a boy. Samuel answered the Lord by saying, “Speak, for you servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10).  I pray we hear and do the same when he calls our name.

IMG_8385.jpgThe Bible says, “Samuel grew and the Lord was with him, and he fulfilled everything Samuel prophesied. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was a confirmed prophet of the Lord.” (1 Samuel 3:19-20). A prophet is described in Deuteronomy 18:18 as one who God says, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.”  So, God had given Samuel words to speak to the people of Israel, but they did not always listen. “No!, they said, We must have a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations; our king will judge us, go out before us, and fight our battles. Samuel listened to all the people’s words and then repeated them to the Lord. “Listen to them,” the Lord told Samuel. “Appoint a king for them.” (1 Samuel 8:19-22). This sounds so much like us. We desire to be like others and have the world direct us as “king” instead of letting God be the King who judges us, goes before us and fights our battles. The Bible is so relevant even thousands of years later.

But back to our story. Samuel was told by God who the king would be and his name was Saul. He was described as, “an impressive young man. There was no one more impressive among the Israelites than he. He stood a head taller than anyone else.” (1 Samuel 9:2). Wow! Sounds like Saul really stood out! Samuel and Saul met up because Saul’s father had him go look for a lost donkey. Saul and a servant went on the search and the servant shares the most fascinating information. “Look, the servant said, there’s a man of God in this city who is highly respected; everything he says is sure to come true. Let’s go there now. Maybe he will tell us which way we should go.” (1 Samuel 9:6). Indeed, Samuel would tell Saul more than which way to go to look for the donkey, but the direction the Lord would have his life go.

I have to insert this part. “Come on, let us go.” “So they went to the city where the man of God was. As they were climbing the hill to the city, they found some young women coming out to draw water and asked, “Is the seer here?”  (the prophet of the day was formerly called a seer – vs. 9). The women answered, ‘Yes, he is ahead of you.” (1 Samuel 9:9-12). I just had to put this piece of the story in to ask a question of us. Are there people on our path of life who point us to where we can hear from God? Having people pointing us to him is so important. Also, be that person in others lives.

Now, “Saul and his servant were entering the city when they saw Samuel coming toward them on his was to the high place. Now the day before Saul’s arrival, the Lord had informed Samuel, “At this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin. Anoint him ruler over my people Israel. He will save them from the Philistines because I have seen the affliction of my people, for their cry has come to me.” (1 Samuel 9:14-16). Samuel invited Saul to eat with him and gave him a place to stay for the night. I love this next part. “When I send you off in the morning, I’ll tell you everything that’s in your heart. As for the donkeys that wandered away from you three days ago, don’t worry about them because they have been found. And who does all of Israel desire but you and all your father’s family?” (1 Samuel 9:19-20). What Saul had been asked to find has been found and so much more.

Saul immediately rattles off how insignificant his family is and wonders why the prophet would say such things. Samuel invites him to dinner and they talk a bit on the rooftop, but it is what happens the next day that set Saul’s future in motion. The future that God had planned for him before time began. He has yours planned too, you know.  As for Saul, the next day Samuel anointed Saul’s head with oil and said, “Hasn’t the Lord anointed you ruler over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1). Saul leaves Samuel with some instructions for his journey home. He also says, “The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully on you, you will prophesy with them, you will be transformed.” (1 Samuel 10:6). Samuel sends him off and “When Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed his heart…” (1 Samuel 10:9). “Then the Spirt of the Lord came powerfully on him…”. (1 Samuel 10:10). Not only was Saul the most impressive man among the Israelites, stood a head taller than anyone, he is now anointed, had his heart changed and the Spirit of the living God is on him! Amazing!

Then the most interesting thing happens that does not make any sense to me after reading how Saul truly seemed to have it all. Samuel gathers the people and says, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I brought Israel out of Egypt, and I rescued you from the power of the Egyptians and all the kingdoms oppressing you. But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your troubles and afflictions. You said to him, ‘You must set a king over us’, Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and clans.” (1 Samuel 10:17-19). The tribes and clans present themselves, but Saul cannot be found. “So they inquired again of the Lord, ‘Is there a man still to come?’ and the Lord said, ‘Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’ Then they ran and took him from there. And when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulder upwards.” (1 Samuel 10:22-23).

This tall, anointed, spirit-filled man is hiding in the baggage. Again, are we any different all these years later? I am the opposite of tall, but I have been anointed (2 Corinthians 1:21, 1 John 2:20) and the Holy Spirit lives inside of me (Acts 19:2, 2 Timothy 1:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:8). On top of that, I know where I will spend eternity. However, with all of this going for me I still tend to hide in my baggage. I hide in my fear, pride, uncertainty, lack of hope at times, anger -sin actually. Why? When our identity has been made clear, why do we not take our rightly place as a child of God? “For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirt of adoption, by whom we cry out ‘Abba, Father’! The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are Gods’ children, and if children, also heirs – heirs of God and coheirs of Christ – if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:14-17).

What more could we want? I think it is time for each of us to come out from hiding in our baggage and step into all that God has for us. You with me?

 

Off Again

This morning our oldest boarded a plane with lots of friends and is flying to another country. I love this and struggle with it all at the same time. She has worked for years to learn another language and now is her chance to put all her hard work into practice. However, the best part is she will be telling others about Jesus. The verse that comes to mind is, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (1 John 1:4). She is walking in the truth of who God says she is because she knows him as her Savior. She serves others because of this and desires that they know the truth too.

IMG_8264This verse is written by John, “to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.” (3  John 1:1). John is praying for his friend and then says, “For I was very glad when fellow believers came and testified to your fidelity to the truth – how you are walking in truth.” (3 John 1:3). I know a little about what John must have been feeling. When someone comes and shares with me something about my children that I did not see, but brings God glory, I am overjoyed! What we pour into them at home is reflected outside these walls.

John goes on to say, “Dear friend, you are acting faithfully in whatever you do for the brothers and sisters, especially when they are strangers.” (3 John 1:5). I pray as Maggie walks on foreign soil, she acts faithfully in all she does, especially to the strangers she meets. I pray she offers them hope only be found in Christ. I pray she will be able to say after this trip, “You answer us in righteousness, with awe-inspiring works, God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth.” (Psalms 65:5). I pray she will continually “Sing about the glory of his name; make his praise glorious. Say to God, ‘How awe-inspiring are your works!” (Psalms 66:2). She taught herself how to play the ukulele and has been practicing songs of praise to play on this trip. Hearing the song “Reckless Love” spilling out of this 16 year olds room causes me joy. Can you tell I love this child?!

She will be going into a public school on this trip, moving from class to class, sharing the good news truth in her testimony. For this adventure, I pray she will be able to say, “Come and listen, all who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.” (Psalms 66:16). This requires courage and trust in the One who sent her and is with her. When she went last year, this was one of her favorite days. She has even more to share of what he has done for her this year and for that I am thankful.

For those of you who bought a t-shirt or cookies, sent money, are praying, spent time encouraging and working with her on her Spanish (thank you Robin), you are helping make the very name of Jesus famous! I think we are doing as the scripture says, “Therefore, we ought to support such people so that we can be coworkers with the truth.” (3 John 1:8). We might not be on the trip, but we are coworkers in spreading the truth! That is so exciting and as her mom, I am thankful for your kindness.

And Maggie, if you get a chance to read this before your sweet head hits the pillow tonight, know this is my prayer for you, everyone on your trip and us coworkers here in the United States, “May God be gracious to us and bless us; may he make his face shine upon us so that your way may be known on earth, your salvation among the nations. (Psalms 67:1-2).

Vaya con Dios!

Peace

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In the past 4 days, I have been continually hit by peace and unity.  These words have shown up as the topic of Sundays sermon, Bible study, different scriptures and other teachings I listen to. With all that is going on in our world, this does not surprise me. I do not have any desire to go down a political road and honestly, the pure hate I see in disagreeing parties is heartbreaking.  So many times I want to cover my eyes and ears to block it all out. I am by no means in the dark, but am fully convinced that all this hate has us playing right into the hand of satan. What are we to do?

As a mom during this time, I am convicted that I have a responsibility to the children entrusted to me that our home will be a place of peace and unity, as far as it depends on me. There is little I can do politically,  but there is much to do at home. Sometimes I think the other would be easier, especially the hour before dinner. So, how do we bring peace and unity into our home? It is a choice we have to make in my opinion.

My mom and dad made us a sign for Christmas one year. It has Joshua 24:15 painted on it in my moms beautiful script. I’ll back up to the verse before it first where Joshua is speaking before the Israelites. “Therefore, fear the Lord and worship him in sincerity and truth. Get rid of the gods your fathers worshipped beyond the Euphrates River and Egypt, and worship the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14). The Israelites needed a reminder of who they were to worship and so do we. The verse my mom painted says, “But if it doesn’t please you to worship the Lord, choose for yourselves today: Which will you worship – the gods of your fathers worshipped beyond the Euphrates River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living? As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15). Who will you worship? Our family has chosen to worship the Lord!

To the world this choice is unpopular and might look like we are very concerned about what we can and can not do. However, I have never been more free. I very much relate to the verses that follow. “The people replied, “We will certainly not abandon the Lord to worship other gods! For the Lord our God brought us and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery, and performed these great signs before our eyes. He also protected us all along the way we went and among all the peoples whose lands we traveled through. The Lord drove out before us all the peoples, including the Amorites who lived in this land. We too will worship the Lord, because he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

Just imagining this scene between Joshua and the children of Israel is incredible to me.    To give you a better picture, look at the beginning of the chapter. Joshua says to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says…” (Joshua 24:2) and gives words of remembrance. When he gets to the part about their time in the wilderness, it is only one sentence. Forty years of wilderness wandering because of their disobedience and all the Lord says is, “After that, you lived in the wilderness a long time.” (Joshua 24:7). Now that is grace my friend. When God says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12), I think he means it. No matter how long you have served and worshipped other gods, you can today leave the wilderness and step into the land, so to speak, he has planned for you. The other choice is to keep serving yourself, idols and all the other gods that lead to slavery. Your home will not be a place of peace and my guess is that you will be very lonely.

After the Israelites declare that God is their God and it is him they will worship, Joshua says the most interesting thing. “But Joshua told the people, ‘You will not be able to worship the Lord, because he is a holy God. He is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions and sins. If you abandon the Lord and worship foreign gods, he will turn against you, harm you, and completely destroy you, after he has been good to you.” (Joshua 24:19-20). What? This doesn’t sound a bit loving. However, God had told them, just as he tells us, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4-5a). God is the only one we are to worship. When we decide to follow other gods and disobey, there are consequences and the loss of peace is one of many.

Watch how the people responded and I pray this is our response as well.  “No! The people answered Joshua. ‘We will worship the Lord.’ Joshua then told the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you yourselves have chosen to worship the Lord.’ ‘We are witnesses,’ they said. ‘Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.’ So the people said to Joshua, ‘We will worship the Lord our God and obey him.” (Joshua 24:21-24).

“On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people at Shechem and established a statute and ordinance for them. Joshua recorded these things in the book of the law of God; he also took a large stone and set it up there under the oak at the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said to all the people, ‘You see this stone – it will be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words the Lord said to us, and it will be a witness against you, so that you will not deny your God. Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance. ” (Joshua 24:25-28). Do you wonder what the conversations were like as the people headed back to their homes? I wonder if they are discussing what they would need to get rid of materially and spiritually speaking? I know in the past fews days,  I’ve had to repent of somethings that I needed to get rid of. A judgmental attitude for one and the areas where I have not been loving, just to name a few.

I also love the stone of remembrance Joshua sets up. The sign my parents made, acts as a stone for us. I pray that each one of us choose this day whom we will serve. For our family, we say along with the people of Israel, “We will worship the Lord our God and obey him.” (Joshua 24:24).

 

Raising Arrows

IMG_8123Yesterday was  Independence Day and our family had a great day. We celebrated with friends and laughed a lot! When it finally got dark, our neighbor texted that they were setting up fireworks. We all hurried out and sat in our driveway to enjoy the show. All the kids were with us and I wasn’t really paying attention to the costume our youngest had put on. She does this often and I think it is great! In a few short years, running outside in a princess dress will be outgrown. She looked beautiful and was excited to see the fireworks. We enjoyed the sights and headed back inside. It wasn’t until early this morning that I woke up in a panic. The costume she had on was made from cheap, highly flammable fabric. The wind kept kicking up and we were pretty close to the sparks. At one point, she was very close to lit roman candles. What could have happened is what woke me up and I was so thankful nothing had.

This moment of panic got me thinking. Are we sending our children out into the world unprotected and unequipped to face all that fires at them? Are we giving them a foundation of truth to build on? Do we place more importance on the things fire can destroy or eternal treasures? Are we buying into the cheap, worldly views of parenting or the precious words of God, who actually created our children?

This was a lot to think about during the early morning, but I needed to answer these questions. The years are quickly approaching when we send out our oldest. She talks about different colleges and lots of things she is interested in pursuing. We will start visiting these colleges this coming school year and look forward to what lies ahead. However, I am not under the mindset that our job of parenting is over when our children leave home or turn a certain age. I see my role changing, but not ending. When they leave, not necessarily for college, but truly on their own, I see this like pulling back on the bow and letting the arrow fly.

I recently read out of New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp, a remarkable statement in regards to arrows. He is actually talking about true love. He says, “true here means, “straight”,  like the kind of arrow a marksman make sure to pull out of his quiver. He wants a completely straight arrow so that when it leaves the bow, it won’t veer off in the wrong direction. True here means consistent, reliable, and not apt to go in some unloving direction.” It is the time that these arrows are in the “quiver” of our home that is so important to me. It is my conviction that this is not a time to be taken lightly.

So, I need to add to my original questions. In order to send the straight arrows out, how do we equip them to not veer off in the wrong direction? First, we need to know that God is in control. “For everything was created by him, in heaven on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things and by him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16-17). This is the foundation I have built my life on. This is what we are teaching to our children. It is the truth, the only truth. The world will send fires of lies, pretty and fleeting as 4th of July fireworks, that will say the contrary, but that is satan’s oldest trick. Glance back at Genesis 3:1. “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say,…”. He’s been trying to deceive us ever since. Trying to cause doubt in what God has said in his Word. The way they can know the truth for themselves is to be taught, guided, watch it lived out and encouraged to spend time in the Bible themselves. We take them to church, where truth is affirmed.

The other important role of arrow raising is prayer.  “… we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, so that you may have great endurance and patience, joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14).  This is what I pray for my children now and the years to come.

Also, I do not desire for any of my children to ever think that it all depends on them. Do their choices have consequences? Yes. However, if they are being filled from the time they are born with “the knowledge of God”,  they know where their strength comes from to make sound decisions. My kids are well aware of the “domain of darkness” and the choice to accept this rescue offered. Many of them have and are now called redeemed. This is what makes an eternal difference.

Perhaps you were not raised like this and when you flew out of the bow, you were far from hitting any kind of good mark. And if you have been off target ever since and now have kids, what do you do now? Well, if you are still breathing and I am assuming you are, the same prayer I am praying for my kids, I pray for you. Recognize your need of rescue and being taken from darkness to light. The first verse I ever memorized growing up was, “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. (John 3:16). Respond to this love. Then, place yourself back in the quiver of our Heavenly Father and let him do a work that only he can do. And when he places you in the bow and sends you soaring, I have a feeling that you will hit the mark.

Anna Kate

Our 12 year old daughter is away at camp. She boarded the bus very early in the morning on Wednesday and I barely got a chance to say “have a great time”. I stuffed notes and little gifts in her suitcase, prayers written out for everyday. It is a way for us to be connected, even being states apart. She was half excited and half nervous having never been away from home for so long or being so far away. I felt the same way too. Letting a piece of your heart leave is not easy.

IMG_6705This child was our first redhead, which comes with a unique personality. While the color is rare and can not be duplicated, it makes her stand out. Some girls would like this, but not Anna Kate. She would rather remain in the shadows with her quiet ways and genius mind. Drama doesn’t suit her and it surprised us all when she announced she was trying out for a part in the school play. She got three small roles and shine she did on stage. Every now and again, as her mom, I like to have my kids noticed by others. It feels a bit like sharing a gift that I get to see all the time.

Sending the gift of her off, feels a bit like sharing too. I also know that she will grow during this time. She will hear teachings from God’s word, spend more daily time with Him and have fun. By the way, being a Christian is extremely fun! I don’t understand the mindset of unbelievers that think they have to give up fun if they accept salvation. It is quite the opposite. Freedom and accepting love is incredibly fun! She will experience this at camp and I pray she comes home desiring to continue to grow deep roots of being loved by God.

One thing I’ve noticed about this little redhead is her compassionate heart. You will often find her sitting with the precious special needs kids at school. She gets invited to their birthday parties and loves walking alongside these friends daily. It spills over to how she treats her brothers and sisters too. The younger ones look to her for help and direction. She takes them all under her little wing and spends so much time with them. It isn’t in a bossy way, just sweet and caring. I love this about her. They respond well to being loved like this. We all do.

When I watch her,  I see a bit of the “good samaritan” story recorded in the Bible. The book of Luke tells this parable and is believed to be written by none other than Luke himself. He was a doctor and follower of Christ. In chapter 10, Jesus is answering the question asked of him by “an expert of the law”. This man “stood up to test him, saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers with a question. “What is written in the law?” he asked him. “How do you read it?” The expert answers, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:25-27). This expert had the head knowledge, but it sounds to me that Jesus was after his heart.

Jesus responds and you think that will be the end of the discussion. “You’ve answered correctly,” he told him. “Do this and you will live”. (Luke 10:28). However, the man shows his real motive in the very next exchange. “But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29). I love this part. Jesus begins to tell a story that hopefully sinks into this experts heart and to all of those listening. He tells of a man going on a trip and being at the wrong place at the wrong time. This traveler gets beaten up, stripped, robbed and left for dead on the side of the road. A priest, a supposed very religious person of that day, literally moves to the other side of the road to pass by. A Levite happens by and does the same thing. “But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion. He went over to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on olive oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denari, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, “Take care of him. When I come back I’ll reimburse you for whatever extra you spend.” (Luke 10:33-35).

“Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? “The one that showed mercy to him,” he said. Then Jesus told him, “Go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37). I wrote last time about a Samaritan woman who meets Jesus face to face. This Samaritan being spoken of here acts like Jesus in how he treats the hurting, broken man. Do we do the same or are we like the “move to the other side of the road” type? I can say that Anna Kate lives out mercy. It is a heart response, but I not quite sure she recognizes it yet. A prayer I have for her is that she will be secure in how God has uniquely crafted her. Mercy is part of how He has made her.

Anna Kate, may you continue to pour out mercy at home and school. Keep seeing the broken and the ones not always included. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and do what He did. Keep moving to side of the road, where the hurting lay or the cafeteria table that isn’t always popular, and make yourself at home. Keep being you. We can hardly wait for you to get home!!