Heart Writing

“Never let loyalty and faithfulness leave you. Tie them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” Proverbs 3:3

 

The book of Proverbs amazes me. So much life wisdom packed into only 31 chapters! The way it is written is pretty straight forward and a wonderful guide to how we are to live. Most of the book is credited to have been written by King Solomon. “God gave Solomon wisdom, very great insight, and understanding as vast as the sand of the seashore.” (1 Kings 4:29). His God given wisdom brought peace and great wealth to the land. If this king knew so much, should we not read what he has to say? “Emissaries of all peoples, sent by every king on earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:34). This is remarkable to me! Today, we do not have to leave ours homes to hear wisdom, we just have to open our Bibles.

IMG_2603The book begins with a bold statement. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7). This weekend I feel like I said “foolishness” more times than I can ever remember. Nothing in me wants our children to live bent on foolishness. However, that seems to be our natural tendency. It is a constant fight to pull our hearts towards wisdom. This reminds me of the olive tree I bought some time ago. The tree has a wooden stake along side of it and the two are tied together. This stake is called a mainstay. A mainstay is defined as “a person or thing on which something else is based or depends.” My desire is for our family to be tied to God as our mainstay. Wisdom can act as the rope that binds us together.

It is common to hear teaching that contradicts fearing the Lord. Messages are blasted constantly that could have us fear failing circumstances, health, relationships, appearances and the list could go on and on. If we have tied ourselves to these as our mainstay, what is this saying about what we have written on our hearts as wisdom? What will happen when one or more of these fail? Our lives will be uprooted and we will fall to the ground. Will we be able to get back up? What will the condition of our hearts be?

This little tree of mine is still in the pot it came in. My husband said pretty soon it will outgrow its confined space and need to be planted permanently. I know, just holding out for different land. I have tended this tree and am watching it grow slowly. It is pulled onto the back porch sometimes and other times left to bear the storms. The rain and wind help strengthen its roots. All the while it stays tied securely to its mainstay. Wisdom keeps us trusting our God when storms come. Where else will we be safe?

Everyday we are writing something on our hearts and those around us. Will we allow God to write words of wisdom, through His Word, with a Sharpie or will we let the world scribble its “truth”? I have found that God’s Word is much harder to wipe off. Believe me, I lived years trying. Thankfully, I did not try very hard to untie myself to Him as my mainstay. However, if you have or are living a life apart from Him today, you are only a prayer away from binding yourself to Him. What is holding you back?

Do you want to hear some of the promises God offers us when we remain loyal and faithful to Him? “Then you will find favor and high regard with God and people.” (Proverbs 3:4). How do we do this? Keep reading. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6). These verses give us words to write on our hearts. These words give us direction and hope because we know the one who gave them. Our understanding can take us down some pretty crooked paths and we end up so lost. Watch the news if you do not believe me.

What is written on our hearts and what we are bound too, determine our lives here and after we die. Trusting my life to God, based on the great love He gave me, by sending Jesus to die on the cross for my many sins, then rising from the dead and returning to Heaven, has been the best and most important decision I have ever made. With my mainstay in place, I daily desire to have Him write words on my heart and on the hearts of my children. It is a priority in our home. We make God’s word the final authority and our source of wisdom. We take very seriously the command in Deuteronomy that says, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (vs. 5-7).

As we begin a new week, make the words that are being written on your heart and the hearts of all those you come into contact with, words of truth. Speak wisdom and not foolishness. Spend time with God, reading His book that is full of wisdom. Ask Him for wisdom and watch what happens. Read the book of Daniel and see how important wisdom was in his life. There is no end to the treasures you will find in the Bible. Open yours today and begin writing on your heart.

 

 

 

My Favorite Question

Can I just tell you what makes me very happy? It is being a mom, every part of it. Some aspects of motherhood are tougher than others and we have not hit college yet, but I do love being a mom. When I am often asked, about how I do it all with 7 children, my response has gotten so easy it just rolls right out of my heart. I simply say, “I was made for this.” I have been entrusted with much and it is a privilege. God did not give me the wrong kids or them the wrong mom. We fit together just right.

IMG_1624Each child is a shaping tool in His loving hands and me as well. Their personalities are very different and bring out the best and worst in me. I have seen where I lack patience, wisdom, places of selfishness, fear and the list could go on. One kid in particular humbled me greatly and I am so thankful. Lack of humility keeps people at a distance and they are not real with you. I would have missed so much with others if this child had been like anything other than who he is.

My kids know they are prayed for often and one of my greatest privileges is when they ask me to pray for them. Some of our sweetest moments have been had in prayer. It makes sense to go to the One who made them and ask for help.  He is worthy and more than able. I want this to be normal to them and the first response to any need. I want them to always be looking for reminders of God. He is not distant and hard to get to know. He is real and available anytime. Also, praise becomes a way of life when we have eyes to see. My biggest prayer for each of them is that they are head over heals in love with Jesus. With their heart captured by Him, the world does not have a chance of distracting them.

So, today I celebrate being a mom. I have laughed a lot and felt extremely loved. There is nothing like handwritten notes from my kids. They express their hearts so well in written form. Words from friends and family have been sent and that just means so much. Everyone knows I miss my mom and wish she were here to be celebrated. However, when I think of her in Heaven and the joy that is her continual reality, I am so happy for her. She taught me so much and was the perfect mom for me. Because of her, I am the mom I am today. The Lord has also sent other amazing women through the years that have been huge in showing me what it means to live in fellowship with Christ. For those, I am so grateful. They do not take my moms place, but they sure have helped heal my broken heart. How kind of the Lord!

I pray that whatever today holds for you, that you know you are seen and loved. Your day might not look like mine, but maybe it does. I pray you take great comfort in knowing that God is big enough to be all you need. And if you are struggling as a mom, ask the One who made you a mom for help. Get on your knees and pray, He hears. Generations are counting on us and that reinforces my mission to do my best. Celebrate today and look forward to tomorrow. You were made for this!

 

 

 

The Key to Peace

“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you,

because he trusts in you.”    Isaiah 26:3

 

IMG_1777 2This verse has so much that we desperately need. The source of our peace, focus and trust is only found in the God who created them. It just seems to make sense that if we remain focused on Him, He will keep our thoughts in peace. Notice this does not say anything about our circumstances.  So much is out of our control, isn’t it? However, to have peace, regardless of what spins around us, is only possible with God. Could you use some peace today?

To live with a knot in your stomach, thoughts racing trying to figure out a solution and lack of joy, is not really living in my opinion. If we are honest, most of us know exactly what I am talking about. I know I have wasted many days in this state of heart and mind. Those are days that I can never get back. So I will let them rest in the grace that God extends me each day. There is nothing in me that desires to return to that way of life and miss what God has in store today. Are we going to trust in what we see or place our trust in only what we can have full confidence in?  Have you found Him worthy of your trust yet?

Looking around at the craziness of our world, I can find no other place for my confidence and trust. I trust God because I know He loves me and He is working all things for my good. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). He will not lie, so I rest knowing even when I do not understand, He does. There are a lot of things I am waiting on to see Him work for my good, but I have seen Him do this plenty of times. I know you have stories of your own. I would love to hear them.

If you watch the news, you see that our country is without peace in many places. What is our country headed for if this continues? Total confusion and insanity seem to be our destination. Are we not told and shown that we are to love others? Absolutely, but what is the correct definition of love? Our country is in such a sinful mess. People are screaming for equality, but seem to want sin to be excepted and celebrated in all honesty. What can we do to stand up and speak the truth that is love? Protesting worked for Martin Luther King, Jr, might it work for those who believe in truth? However, look at what standing up for truth cost him. To remain silent would be safe.

Equality according to Google means, “the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities.” Interesting. What about equality of those who live according to what God says is right? Will we even be considered and given equality anymore? I have my doubts. Satan is having a grand time in our country. We are doing our best to remove God and with it peace. This plan has not served us well. To continue in this divided, hateful state will only fuel the work of evil. The extremes taken to confuse, manipulate and lie to people are at an all time high, in my opinion. How many people have been killed because of abortion? How many children have been told the lie that they can determine their gender? Parents are telling them that God made a mistake and feelings have the final say. Gun violence and drug use continue to rise, yet people are working hard to change laws. What needs to change is the heart of man. Drugs are illegal, but still used. Guns are used to kill people and criminals go to jail because of murder. However, how many babies are killed daily by the choice of abortion? Murder and abortion are the same thing. Guns, needles, drugs, it makes no difference. What makes the difference is in whose hand they are placed and what is in the heart of the person. We need to let this sink in. However, acceptance and blame have a more tolerable ring to it don’t you think?

So, I will do what I know to do. I will continue to pray for our country. I will pray for those who are being lied to by satan, who is using anyone he can enlist. I will keep my focus on Christ and ask Him to lead me and give me words to speak. I will stay rooted in the only truth and that is the word of God. I will live the way He has clearly told us is for our good. I will mess up plenty and ask forgiveness. Yes, I will live in peace and trust the One who made me. My eyes are not closed to what is happening around me, but they will not be focused on what will not remain. My heart and eyes are captured by God. He will get the final say regardless of what new act or law comes down the pike. He is victorious and will remain King. My heart is that all may come to know Him and live in peace. It is the only way to truly live. Join me?

And one more thing. Recently, when our oldest child and I visited a college, the person giving the admissions speech declared a scary lie. She said that this college had 60+ faiths. What? Such a true statement of why our county and so many individuals are confused. Look at scripture for truth. “…live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope at your calling – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6). I would ask if those believing, declaring, shouting, pushing and supporting anything other than the One true God and all He encompasses have ever heard and accepted the call of our Lord for salvation. This is by no means judgement, but actually comes from my deep longing to see all accept, believe, and love Jesus. It makes all the difference. You will find true peace only in Him. What are you placing your faith in today?

*I see a cross when I pass by the dining room. A great reminder to stay focused.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despair or Repair

If your eyes are open and you are looking for opportunities to share a genuine encouraging word, it has been my experience that you will get your chance. Some days you end up being the one on the receiving end and that is a gift too. Of course, the obvious is to encourage those in your home, but what about others that land in your path? Talking to strangers can be a bit risky. What will they think? What if they do not want to be talked too? What if they want to talk longer than the time you have? Lots of questions could keep you from engaging in conversation. However, I have not found one of them to really matter when I look at how Jesus spent His time.

IMG_1264With so much despair in our world today, a kind word can change someones day. It might not change their week, but a day is a good start. I have found that words cost nothing, but can pour over you like water on a Texas summer day. Think of times when you were in need and how genuine, uplifting conversations helped you keep going. A real look in a persons eyes can tell you so much. Take a look and ask the Lord to give you the words to say. He knows the persons heart and just might use you to speak exactly what they need to hear. What a blessing that can be!

A good rule to follow is not to have any hidden motives. Most people are not blind to those with an agenda in mind. Genuine care and love for others looks a lot like Jesus. Why don’t we follow His model? I know my feelings have been hurt when I discovered there was a reason why someone seemed genuinely interested in getting to know me, but actually wanted to use me. The truth usually rises to the surface before too long. I often wonder about extremely wealthy people or those in high positions, if they feel like they have those around them that just want to be their friend. Is trusting others hard to do? I pray we will be trustworthy, encouraging and loving to everyone not wanting anything in return. Trust that the Lord will meet your needs and do not try and wrestle your need from others.

Maybe, just maybe, we can be used to repair what is broken in someones heart by telling and showing them the love of Jesus. It can make your errands so much more meaningful. However, I must warn you ahead of time, this requires you to be flexible. It also requires you to ask the Lord what His plans are for your day and be sensitive to His leading. It has made some interesting adventures. Just today we encountered a man that had stories to tell. The line of work he had been in caused him to see things that most do not. I did not know if he was a believer or not, but told him I would pray for his mind and the images it held. I told him I would pray for discernment in doing his job. Does he have anyone else praying for him?

We continued on our day and had just prayed at lunch. Within minutes a beautiful couple sat down next to our table and did the same thing. I was so happy and told them so! The husband said we could have prayed together. As we were leaving at the same time, I spoke an encouraging word that honestly was not mine. God does things like that and it is incredible. Our lunch date was made even richer by that sweet encounter. Yours can be too.

It must be genetic because one of our boys came to tell me that he met a new friend. My husband had been playing with the kids in the driveway and somehow this kid ended up inviting a teen girl passing by to write with sidewalk chalk. They spent sometime together and he never got her name, but said that was fine with him. I would have loved to hear the conversation. He knew some facts about her and was happy as could be. He said recently that, “Strangers are just friends we haven’t met yet.” I think I read that Chip Gaines’ grandfather said the same thing. I love it!

So, let’s pray and ask the Lord to open our eyes to those around us. We need to have our eyes off of ourselves and our phones more. There are plenty of people in despair that could use a word or our time. Much is broken in our world, but the last time I checked God was in the business of repairing. If we are willingly and surrender our ideas and plans, He has something to work with. A life lived spent on loving others sounds like a life lived well. Let’s get to it!

 

 

Consider

My desire is to spend time in God’s Word every single day. To miss time would be like not hearing from my closest companion, one I am used to conversing with daily. To stay in bed would be nice, but what would be missed is not worth extra sleep. So each morning I get up and have uninterrupted time with the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is a discipline to an extent, but it is so much more. It is life to me. What the Lord reveals, how He answers my questions, hears my prayers, lavishes love in extravagant ways by the way He directs me to specific scriptures and brings peace obtained no other way, is a glimpse into my mornings. He fills my heart up to overflowing and I spend the rest of the day pouring that love out. I mess up plenty, repent, apologize, accept grace and remember what He has taught me and how much He loves me.

IMG_1707Because of the time spent and the heart work that is done, it creates a bit of a challenge. Some mornings I attend Bible studies and when questions begin to be asked, it takes some self-control not to spill out all the morning has held. There are plenty of things that are just between the Lord and I, but insights gained often need to be shared. This has helped change the way I see people and how I interact. Again, I fail plenty, but my eyes are different now. My heart breaks easier because of the lies I see people believing and the truth that some in our world just cannot accept. I wonder why that is so hard?

Yesterday we were running errands and I had an unusual encounter with a salesperson. They had obviously believed something that was not true and dressed accordingly. I was startled at first, but then quickly sad. We talked about makeup and went our separate ways. What should I have said? What questions could I have asked to reach their heart? Throwing scripture would have only confirmed what they probably already believe about followers of Christ. What would have made them want peace, freedom and unconditional love only found in Christ? When we are insecure, live a lie and protect the lie at all costs, is there anything other than love that can break through fortified walls? It is not my job or right to condemn sin, that seat of judgment belongs to God alone. If only there was a way to speak this without defenses rising, but I think this has become a way of life for the broken.

The book of Lamentations is fascinating to me. Such heartache, hope and truth is found on each page. One verse really stuck out to me the other day. “She never considered her end.” (Lamentations 1:9). Our days are numbered, yet we so often live like we have time in abundance. Moses wrote a prayer that says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). When we set heaven in our hearts as our eternity, we have considered and determined our end if we have confessed and believed Jesus to be our Savior. How many people do we encounter each and everyday who do not have this assurance? What are we doing about it? What am I going to do about the person I encountered? Are they not worth knowing the truth too? It is not reserved for just a few of us.

Look with me at this convicting verse. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life…”. (John 6:40). I do not see anyone omitted from this bold statement, but simply everyone. Also read this one, “As scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11). Again we read there are no exclusions, but anyone can believe. Do not miss the next words. Shame is no longer an option for the believer. It is my understanding that satan holds many captive in prisons of shame. What is keeping you from breaking out? The lock opens at the name of Jesus my friend. What Jesus did for you on the cross made this freedom possible. Using my imagination, I see the key to the lock in the shape of the cross. Place this key in the hand of any prisoner and with faith, unlock your cell.

When our eternity is secure, our in-between can be lived with an unexplainable love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and love. Others will take notice and ask why we are different. We make quite a contrast in dark places. I use to fear my kids being in public school big time. We have all heard what is being taught and the activities that come with abandoning truth. However, it is in these dark places that light shines. I will say some of my kids have unbelievable teachers that know and love the Lord. Praise God! For those that do not, I pray they see a difference in the way our children behave. I pray they see a light in their eyes, even on hard days. I pray they feel loved and accepted. This is a great training ground, but makes for much work on our side. Again, praise God! The last time I checked scripture, this was the design from the beginning. What a privilege! When I pick the kids up I try and always ask, “How was your day?”. What I am asking is, “What did the world tell you today?”. We then sort through it all and replace lies with truth if needed.

So, consider your end and consider you present. Consider what the world has told you and hold it up to scripture. Does it match up? Popular belief can still be wrong. What are you doing to share truth, which is quite possibly the most loving thing you can do? Do people around you notice that you are different or do you blend in? Do you have something that others just cannot put their finger on that seems to be missing in their lives? This is not a call to be perfect, I am wanting us to pour out love because it has been given to us to share. We would not keep a cure for cancer in our journal and not share it with those dying would we? Then why do we keep the Good News to ourselves? Friend, do not be afraid. In fact, ask the Lord for help. Be encouraged by this, “You came near whenever I called you; you said, ‘Do not be afraid.” (Lamentations 3:57). He is near when we call and will give you words, eyes and a heart that cannot help but spread the only message that will matter in the end.

When my alarm goes off tomorrow morning, I will rise and grab a necessary cup of coffee. I then will settle into my chair and encounter love. It is the best way to start any day. I will remember these words too, “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

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!