Free of Want

“Make your way to the everlasting ruins, to all that the enemy has destroyed in the sanctuary.” Psalm 74:3

I believe it is time to share this piece of the story and tell how I am now free from want. It may seem to be a bit of an odd phrase, and I thought the same thing too when I first read it on my grandfather’s medal. Then it became like a key that unlocked a piece of my heart that I did not realize was closed. The unlocking started about 6 years ago and took a bit of time, but was worth the process. Sometimes old locks take some time to open.

IMG_7401I remember the scene like it was yesterday. I know exactly where I was standing and how I wished I could hide. It happened so fast, but the impact was huge. From the time I was 6 weeks old until 9 years old, both my parents worked and I was entrusted into someone else’s care during the day. One of my earliest memories was of being told I was not wanted by this caregiver. This was followed up by telling me I was stupid, looked stupid and asking if I was stupid. It was a lot for a small, quiet child to hear and constantly take into my heart. I remember my favorite book while under this care was to look at and then read was The Sword in the Stone. There was something about the main character that I wanted to copy, but never could figure out how. However, my younger sister has always been the brave, outspoken one and she spoke loudly on that particular day. She happened to have heard the words that I was accustomed to and when my mom came to pick us up, she questioned the caregiver. She wanted to know why this was being said. No answer was ever given.

While we later moved and I grew up, those seeds of rejection were planted. They grew and shaped me in ways that I had no idea. This person has been forgiven and I never would cast a stone. However, I do wonder what had happened to their heart to pierce a child so? Only the Lord knows and I trust Him. He has been a great healer. There have been consequences to those seeds of rejection and goodness did I try and buy my worth. Even in that I see how God has opened my eyes to others who bear the marks of rejection. And I think that is why I have worked so hard as a mom not to ever place that seed in my kids hearts. They will never wonder if they are wanted because my words and actions say otherwise. Our kids will and have faced hard things, but wondering if they are wanted by their parents will never be a question.

The result of rejection takes many forms in my opinion. Mine may look different that yours. However, if anyone knows rejection it is our Savior. Take a look at the cross if you have any doubts. This is where I have taken it all and let Him sort it out. I have allowed Him to dig up the seeds and plant His love. I saw no good in blaming others or wishing it had been different, but I did make sure that this was not passed on to the next generation. A friend and I were talking recently and she said that my kids would probably never know the work that has been done on their behalf. I agree with her and think it has been worth it.

To give you a picture of this work, I’ll describe for you an image one of my son’s pointed out the other day. We were watching the new Sonic movie and the one that raised him was an owl. Danger was coming and she was protecting him. She threw a golden ring to open an escape portal and spread her wings over the opening to ensure his safe exit. Arrows were piercing her, but Sonic was safe. My son even said he saw me as the owl, but the arrows did not kill me. Now, I am no owl and my children are not hedgehogs, but I think you understand what I am saying. As parents we do hard things, painful things, but it is worthy work. Generations from here on out are greatly impacted. To remain in a place of rejection would only give the enemy another garden to sow seeds into using my wounded way of speaking and living.

If the Lord can use the shed blood of His only Son on a cruel cross to pay the price for our sin, then He can also take seeds of rejection and turn them for good. The enemy meant this for evil and thought he could keep me always in fear and want, but God had other plans. I love how Joseph said, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Genesis 50:20). The good I see is how my children are growing up, knowing and living loved. The good I see is how I have eyes to see the rejected ones in my everyday and offer hope. The good I see is a hunger for planting seeds of God’s Word daily and watching them grow. The good I see is typing out words of encouragement here for anyone to read. The good I see is exposing a lie and living in truth. And friend, the courage, acceptance, freedom and love that comes from having your identity fully rooted in the Rock is tremendous. He truly does work all things for your good and His glory. I can give you 7 examples that say this is true, for their names all end the same as mine.

Use if all for your glory Lord, Amen.

 

12 Years

“Then David said to Abigal: ‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel who sent you this day to meet me! And blessed is your advice and blessed are you…” 1 Samuel 25:32-33

Twelve years ago our middle child was born. We named this precious girl Abbey Grace and it fits her perfectly. She reminds me of the wise Abigal in the book of 1 Samuel and she is also full of grace. Her wisdom is beyond her years and her joy is catching. She lives free and courageous. I have watched her navigate change, relationships, unruly hair and boys with acceptance and maturity. You want to spend time with her. She smiles easy and with a light in her eyes.

IMG_7132Our family is blessed because the Lord decided she was just what we needed. My bent towards perfection was met with quite a force with this one. She made it clear to all at the age of 2 that she was a leader. Ask her preschool teacher if you want the story. I have never had to practice the art of following a leader in a line until this one. Seems she knew early on who God created her to be. Thankfully she knows it is He that she takes her orders from and she does so with love.

May the Lord continue to shape this precious child with His grace. May she lead well and in love to all the Lord entrusts to her. May she have wisdom, humility and quick discernment. When a choice for good or best, may she always choose God’s best even when it is not popular. I pray she keeps her eyes on Jesus and the work on the cross. May His gift of life never leave her sights as she presses on. If He is our example to follow, I ask the Lord to give her a heart that easily surrenders to His will too.

When she feels uncertain about the upcoming middle school years, I pray for peace to rain on her as she remembers she will never walk anywhere without His presence. With this peace may she be bold to share with all who will listen the source of her peace. She is not like the world and never will be. She walks to the toon of His drum and it often involves a dance. The one word we often use for this child is FREE. Oh and it is beautiful to glimpse!

So keep leading and dancing sweet girl. Know that I am crazy about you and am so thankful to get the privilege to love you well. May you continue to shine and fall more and more in love with your King.

Happy Birthday Abbey Grace!!!

Who Cheers For You

We sat in the stands this past Saturday watching a track meet. These events go on for hours and there are long stretches of time in between events. It is hours of your life you will never get back, but very much worth seeing your child run. We sat with some friends and their family and I was thinking how blessed they were to have family in town that can come to events. Honestly, I was a bit sad that we do not have the same because we have chosen to live in a different town/state, but was thankful to have friends. The more fans a child has the better in my opinion. Then later as I was thinking about the day a thought hit me – who cheers for you? We all need someone cheering us on.

IMG_7373As a high school cheerleader, I remember being on the sidelines cheering for our football team. I loved the idea of cheering, but did not put in the work to be a really good one. However, as an adult I do enjoy putting in the thought and time to cheer people on. It can be a stranger, my child, your child, friends or family, it makes no difference. I want people to fall in love with Jesus and live loved. It is so fun to come alongside and encourage each other in this love relationship! Sometimes it is a simple verse or a prayer. Other times it is a conversation or opening up the Bible together. Maybe even a kind word or a smile. Jesus is alive and well inside of me because of the Holy Spirit and cheering comes naturally. The same can be true of you.

Today go slow enough to see those around you. See if someone could use a cheerleader. You never know what your encouragement can do for a person. To be seen and then cheered for is a remarkable privilege.

I am cheering for you today!!!

16 Years

“But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Numbers 14:24

 

I came across this verse this morning and decided it was the perfect verse for our son, who is celebrating his 16th birthday. I am asking the Lord to make him very aware of this different spirit inside of him like in Caleb. One that is courageous, unafraid and a leader of many. I pray that when he looks, like Caleb, at impossible situations, he remembers that God is with him. When others doubt and go the “easy” way, I pray that he goes the way of courage. May he always know a closeness with the Lord all the days of his life and set an example for the ones younger than him.

IMG_7403Just as he daily trains to run, may he push himself to keep going when it would be easier to skip practice. When there are choices in front of him, may he have the wisdom to pick the best. I am asking the Lord to give him a deep love for His word and that it serves as direction, identity and his first love that is unfailing. May he be seen as different because of his priorities, discipline, humility, kindness, patience and joy. While not always popular, they will honor his Heavenly King.

As he runs this life towards home, may he always hear us cheering him on. When he needs a reminder of whose he is, I pray the words spoken, prayed and studied in our home will encourage him. When trials come, as they always do or sorrow that seems to be too crushing to endure, may he know his Heavenly Father loves him and uses all things for good and His glory. May he be so thankful for having parents and siblings that adore him and will never stop loving him. As the Lord daily works to make him more and more into His image, I pray he surrenders quickly. IMG_7374I ask that pride never be rooted in his heart, not ever, for it is painful and difficult to remove. May he never let self rule, but God alone. He is who we serve and were created to worship, not self.

As the years continue to fly by, I am confident that this child will soar as he daily lets the Lord guide and shape him. The plans for him are unique and perfectly written just for him. I am thankful to watch his story unfold and have a part to play. Son, you are loved so, so much and I am your biggest fan. Happy 16th Birthday!

Speaking from the Heart

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, an evil man brings evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

This verse came up on my phone today from my Bible App and made me think. What is my heart full of today? Whatever it is full of is what will be spoken and what people will receive. Do my words overflow from a heart that has good stored up or evil? I want to bring good out in all my conversations and thoughts. When people walk away from our conversation, they can take away good or evil. We all have given and received both. Good always sets better in my spirit, but evil makes my stomach hurt. I am thankful I have a physical response.

IMG_6305Months ago we heard a phrase and then recently read verses to back it up. “…speak evil of no one… (Titus 3:2). And also, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. (James 4:11). It is pretty clear is it not? Your heart has good or evil stored up and this determines the words you speak. Now, when you are brokenhearted, angry, afraid sometimes words are hard to find. However, as I watch a dear friend walk through the loss of her husband of over 50 years, I see what has been stored up in her heart. I hear no bitterness, anger or fear. What I hear is thanksgiving, encouragement, sweet memories and the assurance of seeing her husband again. She looks for blessings and for ways to bless others. Years of living in relationship with our Lord has filled her heart with good.

One of my boys got in the van after school today and one look at his face told me it was not a good day. Apparently, two boys in his grade made fun of him. He said he was angry and sad. He then said, “I saw their hearts.” And there you have it. Even at 8 years old he can see. And while he is not always innocent with his words, he does speak good often. I like listening to what he has to say. I hear what he has stored up in his young heart and it blows me away!

Words display our hearts, friends. As we go into the weekend may we all overflow with His goodness. We will be much more pleasant to talk to!

An Important Medal

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power                                                 and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Years after my grandfather died the medals he earned in the military were given to each of us grandchildren. This was very special and something I treasure. Having something of value matters when someone is no longer on earth. A tangible object is a wonderful reminder of an impactful person. My medal has a rather unique inscription. It reads, “Free From Fear and Want”. I wonder what he must have done to earn such an award? Sometimes I would like to pin it to my coat as a reminder to myself that I am free of fear too.

IMG_7285If there is anything that I have lived with for most of my life, it would be fear. It seems to have been imbedded in my DNA. I remember being so afraid as a child and it never seemed to stop as I got older. In fact, it is something that I am so much against as a parent that I do not allow frightful things in our home. We do not even watch scary movies. I find nothing funny about deliberately frightening someone. We never turn away a child that has a bad dream in the night either. A little less sleep is worth a child feeling safe. This chain of fear has been broken.

We read in scripture, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. Be he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18). This verse helps shape my words a bit better on how I feel about fear and what seems to be the opposite, love. And while my love by itself is not perfect, the love Christ has placed inside of me by His Holy Spirit is perfect. This is the love I want poured out in our home and anywhere else we go. What a difference that would make! Watching how our kids are growing so quickly reminds to not waste opportunities to give love away here at home. I choose love over fear.

Today in Bible study we read from Acts 18. The Lord spoke some powerful words to Paul and I let them sink deep into my own heart. He said, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent; for I am with you…”(Acts 18:9-10). The constant reminder that the Lord is always with us and living inside of us gives me great confidence. Not in myself, but in my God. This is the place I want our children to grow confident in. Fear will flee when you remember who you are and whose you are. And in the remembering I can picture a beautiful medal pinned to my coat. One that I did not earn, but Jesus Christ gave His life for me to have. Because His perfect love has the power to cast out all my fears. It seems to be that this has been satan’s plan all along. Maybe he thought if he could keep me fearful, then maybe I would be quiet. The opposite has indeed happened. This ingrained fear drove me straight into my Heavenly Father’s arms. And now I can recognize a fearful person in a second and I long to offer them the gift of His love. This invitation is for you to, friends. The choice is up to you. Freedom awaits.

*Go listen to Zach Williams, Fear is a Liar, if you need some encouragement:)

*Medal is from World War II. I addressed the fear part and will dive into the want piece soon. Been set free from that too!

A Good Race

“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you                                     from obeying the truth?”  – Galatians 5:7  

A few days ago our oldest daughter said she was running in a 5K and asked me to run with her. She said she needed a running partner. While I really tried to be a runner, I have settled for fast walker instead. However, inspired by her asking and an amazing friend just completing a 50 mile race, I thought 3 miles should be doable. It was a really cold night, so be bundled up, got numbers pinned to our backs and off we went. We had been told the course and that signs would mark our way. It was a beautiful night and started of fairly easy. After a bit it was getting tougher. With my girl offering encouraging words and a few minute walk, we kept going.

IMG_7186She shared her AirPods with me so we each had praise music going through our ears. By sharing we were able to listen to the same music. It helped us keep the same pace. At one point, a song about being with our Heavenly Father was playing and I was getting tired again. The man in charge of the race came up beside us. I told him I did not feel very light on my feet when I ran. He never stopped running, but gave me a few tips. These few adjustments changed everything. He stayed beside us and then when we went through a dimly lit area, he moved ahead of us. There was so much that resembled life as a Christian that I could hardly stand it.

Being asked to come along someone is such an honor. Our children ask all the time when they are younger for us to be close. They want you to read, play, see and hear them. If you do not take the time, they will eventually find someone who will as they get older. I have found as the kids get older that we as parents have to be the one asking more since their lives expand outside the walls of our home. One thing I love is that my husband and our oldest have a standing breakfast date every Thursday morning. This thrills me to no end! He will do the same with the other 6 children. They never outgrow wanting to be valued, worthy of their time by their parents, in my opinion. Keep pursuing your kids.

Another resemblance was the music. When words of truth are being heard, received and obeyed, unity comes. The “keeping in step” piece is also in place. There was also the correction. I was not running properly. My steps felt hard as they landed and took extra effort. I listened to someone who knew what they were talking about, corrected my thinking and immediately my steps were adjusted. The race seemed to end too soon and I wanted to keep running. However, a dinner was planned to celebrate and then we ran to our car. What a difference correction can make and how fun it is to celebrate.

A few days before our run, I stumbled upon the verse at the top. “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?” (Galatians 5:7). What a powerful question, don’t you think? We can look at Christians who start strong, read the Word of God and obey truth, but when things get hard, they stop running and maybe stop talking to God all together. Maybe it was a camp experience and the week away was good, but the reality of home cut in. Perhaps it was a broken heart that cut in, and instead of drawing even closer to the Lord, you somehow blamed Him. Regardless of the who, what, where that cut in, you have left an unfinished race. The time is still ticking and others runners are missing you on the trail. Do you not realize that He has a feast (Revelation 19:7) prepared for those who run home?

I do not know where you are in this story. I pray you are running the race well. I pray that you allow nothing to cut in on you and you press on in truth. There is so much shouting these days and anger abounds. Fear can easily set in and sideline you for the rest of your days. Selfishness can keep you so wrapped up in your own race that you miss the others runners. What a sad opportunity to encourage others. I am thankful for the day with our daughter. It was a gift in so many ways. Don’t miss your race friends.

 

An Age Old Question

“If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” Luke 23:37

We read this verse in church this morning and it hit me like it was brand new. This question was mockingly thrown at Jesus while He hung on the cross for our sins. His authority was in question, but He did not spend the strength to answer. Maybe we should do the same. Does every comment really need a response? When you know who you are, you do not have to defend yourself to everyone that questions you. Some fights are not worth fighting because if a person has a hard heart, nothing you say will make a difference. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your words and your response.

IMG_6970The other part that stuck out to me was the demand to “save yourself”. How many times have we heard something similar? This burden is placed on our shoulders and it is up to us to save ourselves. The thing is we cannot save ourselves. We cannot pay the price of sin and no amount of trying will cover our debt. The very thing Jesus was mocked for is the only way to be saved. What kind of King is He that saves sinners like us? King Jesus, the Son of God who longs to have you accept His life in place of yours.

I know it goes totally against our culture today. We are shouted out to make our own way.  Stand up for yourself. Do not go the way of the humble, but rather make a name for yourself. The past two mornings I have been reminded of this verse, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). I would rather walk with my God and make His name famous. I know who He is, my King and all authority has been given to Him. I trust His power and therefore can remain humble.

Maybe you have heard the term, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps” or maybe that is just a Texas thing. Yes, do your part, but I think it is beautiful to ask the Lord for help. Sometimes He is loud and clear and the path levels quickly. Other times the path feels more like an underground tunnel, but you trust the One who is leading you. I love this verse, “When I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me.” (Micah 7:8). For me it has been a very long season of being in the dark. However, the Lord is my light and I trust. I do not feel the need to kick and scream my way out, because my noise would only hinder my hearing Him. Instead I do what He has before me today. This time of darkness has grown my roots, so to speak, deep in His love and I am actually very thankful. A weak root system is very unhealthy, especially in a storm.

I once asked an amazing artist and author about her work. She said that people only see the results, but not the 10 years of her hidden work. That has long stuck with me and helped encourage me to keep trusting and depending on the One who knows me full well. He knows the plans written for me before I was born and His love for me is sure. The cross tells me this is so. And if He chose to die on the cross for all the world, then I will spend my days making Him known. I may be in the dark, but that never changes who He is. In fact, I would say He is even brighter to me here. And anytime you want to come sit with me here in this space, I will point you to His light.

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

He Stays Awake

“…the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:8

 

As the kids get older, their schedules change. Their days get a bit longer and they stay out later. The season of early bedtimes are gone and therefore requires us to change our patterns. I have tried and cannot seem to become a night owl. Thankfully, I happened to have married a man who can get up early and stay up late. When one of the kids stays out past my bedtime, he remains awake. He waits for them to come home at the agreed upon time. He meets them at the door to make sure the lights are on and to hear how their outing went. If it isn’t too late, they will make a beeline to our room and I get to hear a rundown of the night as my eyes are usually closing. I like that and know it will be one of the million little things I miss as they each leave.

IMG_4944I was thinking about this the other day and what a picture it is of God. How He is always awake, ever watching over us and it brought such peace. The example I see each and everyday of the loving father these kids have, floods my heart with gratitude. He waits up because he loves them. He asks questions, listens, helps, is available, goes out of his way to show them they are loved, wants to spend time with them and it is remarkable. I am in no way putting him on a high place and idolizing him, for that throne is reserved for God and God alone. No person belongs there, for they will fail. However, I am saying that this shows our kids a glimpse of their Heavenly Father.

When I think on the living God watching over me because He is never asleep or distracted, it reminds me that I am loved. It reminds me that He has my life fully under His control and I can rest. I can trust Him to always be available and His help is perfect for my need. Sometimes it feels like He has fallen asleep because I do not see anything changing, but that is not the truth. Funny how feelings and truth can get tangled up in my heart. When that happens, my thoughts and words follow suit and it is a mess. Even still, He waits with the light of His Word shining bright and welcomes me home into His presence. How can I not love Him?

As the kids continue to grow up, I pray they remember, not only does their earthly father love them no matter what, but that their Heavenly Father will never stop loving them either. The teacher of the class I took last week really drove that truth home too. One look at the Bible in its entirety takes that option of God ending His love for us off the table. I am so thankful and goodness, this sure makes me love Him even more. And as far as parenting goes, I have found this to be a wonderful truth as well. Kids respond so well to unconditional love.

 

*Picture was taken years ago on Father’s Day. I think we need to do this again!

Too Much

“…and to know this love that surpasses knowledge -that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:19

 

I have spent the past three days increasing my knowledge of the Bible. Our church has a great partnership with a local seminary and they host classes at our church. It was a class that walked through the entire Bible, presenting the grand story of our God. What I can tell you after this class is I love God now more than I did before it started. It was remarkable to see His His love on display. It was also a prayer I have been praying for awhile now that my love for Him increases and my heart has expanded in love for Him.

IMG_7029It reminded me of when I met my husband and getting to know each other was so exciting. We could not spend enough time together and living in different states made that a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, that distance gap closed when I got a job here and moved. Looking back at that move still shocks me. I lived alone for the first time ever, in a new city and with only knowing a few people. Funny how this city is now our home and I cannot imagine living anywhere else. It also amazes me the courage that came with knowing this was part of God’s plan for me. I should not have even gotten the job, but I did. Now over 20 years later, looking back I am so thankful for His plan for me. I cannot deny His love, even in hard things. I also still love getting to know my husband too. He is easy to love.

Back to my class experience. One of the sweetest things happened even before the class began. I was about to walk in and I saw one of our pastors. Years ago I had emailed him because I was troubled with a few things in our church. He responded kindly, but my heart was arrogant. I later apologized in an email and sent encouragement a time or two, but there is something good about a face to face apology. I told him my name and what I had done. He looked at me and said some amazing words. He said he didn’t remember, but that in every criticism there is some truth. He told me it was forgotten and forgiven and to never mention it again. If I reminded him then he would remember and we weren’t doing that. A load lifted from my shoulders that I did not know was there. Forgiveness is a good thing to receive and to give.

I had only taken a few steps away from this conversation when I heard my name. A friend was there and then another one joined us. We were all so excited to learn and quickly found a seat. Even where we sat was a gift because I met some precious people. There was also one lady that sat behind me that would say softly some amazing words at times when the teacher was talking. I quoted her in the margin of my Bible because it impacted my heart. For three days I honestly felt saturated in love.

So how do we respond to love? You live loved in your everyday. You share the Good News, you pray for others, you smile, you offer help, you give your time, you encourage, you laugh, you spend time getting to know God and His Word. I pray we live loved well this week! And GO CHIEFS!!

*This picture was taken a few days ago at the rodeo. It also perfectly mirrors how I felt the past three days.