An ordinary woman living real life, powered by an extraordinary God.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Just a Little More Grace

Last week, my husband came home just as I was putting each of my two children in the corner.  Yes, we're old school and use "the corner". Time out is what happens when the quarterback can't get the ball hiked in time or when the team down by two points manages to steal the ball at half court with 2.8 seconds left on the clock.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it and keep sending your kids to time out.)  But, I digress.  My husband literally opened the door from the garage as I was telling the 3 year-old to stand in the corner and putting the 1 year-old in the corner (he does not yet go willingly).  

What had they done, you ask?  Does it really matter? NO!  I can assure you, they're actions warranted the previously prescribed discipline.  In fact this was one in a series of insane toddler acts that had occurred that particular day.  There seems to be some sort of schedule that only children know about that dictates one day a quarter when they will do every wrong thing they can possibly do to disobey and wreak general havoc in a concerted effort to break their mother (I'm not saying it doesn't happen to fathers. I just haven't witnessed it yet).  This had been one of those days.  If there were frequent flyer miles for going to the corner, they would have earned a trip to Disney World that day.  All treats of the cookie & chocolate milk variety had been lost.  Episodes of Daniel Tiger had been erased.  I was just about ready to start throwing beloved toys out the window, when my hero came home from work and saved me.  

As the kids stood/sat/squirmed/wiggled/whined in the corner, I whispered the horrific play-by-play of my day to my husband.  Being the incredible man that he is, he took it all in and then said, "why don't you go to our room and take a few minutes."  I did. I stumbled blindly past the two-who-shall-not-be-named and fell onto my bed with my eyes closed. I didn't sleep. I just tried to breath and began to create in my mind the mom-of-toddlers version of a Psalm complete with "how long, oh Lord" and "remember me".  

It was in that precious 25 minutes of silence and alone time that God revealed to me, "This is why I call you all my children."  Yep. Right there in my moment of much needed recovery from parenting, God decided to point out to me that I was experiencing just a fraction of what He has been dealing with SINCE HE MADE MAN!  How on earth has He not destroyed us all already? Oh yeah. He's God. He's not on earth.  He's perfectly patient and loves us enough to extend grace through His son, Jesus Christ. 

"Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.  
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ 
even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved." 
Ephesians 2:3b-5 (NIV)

It was with this thought in mind, that I was able to roll limply off the bed and venture back into the fray with my children, and when I did, I was looking at them with different eyes.  God had imparted upon me in those few minutes, just a little more grace to extend to my children.  That grace pushed the frustration and irritations of that day to the back and brought my immense love and adoration for my babies to the forefront.  Before they went to bed that night, I found myself curled up with both of them in my bed reading books and giggling as we snuggled together.  Don't get me wrong; right after that I was happy to put them to bed in their room and firmly close the door for the night, but instead of feeling exhausted and annoyed, I was grateful for the gift of my kids...and exhausted.  

I know a lot of moms will read this and relate to what I'm saying, and I hope it encourages you to find a way to extend just a little more grace even on the worst days with your kids whether they are toddlers or teenagers. However, I think this applies to more than motherhood.  With every blessing from God, there are challenges.  If you get the job you've been praying for there will likely be a co-worker or client that needs just a little more grace.  When you get the promotion you've been waiting for, there will be an employee or boss that requires you to extend just a little more grace.   When you finally get that husband you've been waiting for, however great and godly you may both be, I can guarantee you will need to find just a little more grace to extend to him at times.  

In an imperfect world filled with imperfect people, ourselves included, we will always need to both receive and extend just a little more grace.  We'll need to be reminded that we have to love on people even when they aren't lovable.  We'll have to be forgiving of those that aren't at all apologetic.  We'll have to offer compassion even when we are met with indifference.  We have to do these things because we are children of the Most High God. We are His ambassadors on this earth.  We represent Christ, so we must represent His grace, even when it is the last thing we want to do.  

"Live such good lives among the pagans that though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us. 
For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people."  
1 Peter 2:12, 15

This is not easy.  I repeat.  THIS IS NOT EASY!  I mean, I love my husband and children more than any other people on this planet, and I have to pray for the Holy Spirit to help me extend just a little more grace in my own home.  Passing on that grace to the obnoxious stranger cutting me off in traffic or anonymous hater on social media can only happen when I'm submitted to the Holy Spirit and allowing Him to control my responses. 

My best wisdom on how to do this is to pray daily, read and memorize Scripture, and plan how you need to respond rather than allowing yourself to react.  That means you have to give thought to how you will deal with difficult people in your life ahead of time. You can't wait until the moment, because you will react--that means you will lead with emotion and that is always dangerous. Plan ahead, so you can lead with Truth.  You know what your kids do, so plan how you want to respond the next time they do it.  You know how that co-worker is going to behave in the meeting tomorrow; take some time tonight to pray and plan your response.  If you have a plan and they act a fool, you're ready to respond well.  Hopefully, you won't have to put your response into play everyday, but you should be ready every day to represent God well.  After all, He extends just a little more grace to you every day. I'm just sayin'. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Your Father Has Big Shoulders

I want to take just a moment to talk to my faithful, believing, single sisters out there.  Let's be real for just a moment.  I know you love Jesus.  I know you trust God and want His perfect will for your life. I know you are submitted to the Holy Spirit in your daily life. I see you serving in the church, faithfully attending worship and Bible study.  I see you going on trips with the youth, rocking babies in the nursery, and serving coffee on Sunday morning.  I can almost read your journal where you write out the desires of your heart to God, praying and trusting that He will answer them.  I see you squealing for that girl who just got engaged in genuine excitement for her.  I hear you cheering her on in your role as bridesmaid yet again as she gets buried in the chaos of wedding planning.  And I see you sitting at home alone at night, and I know.

I know that you are tired of waiting. I know that you feel forgotten. I know that you are angry, frustrated, hurt, lonely, sick and tired of everyone around you finding their someone while you are still left waiting. I know because I was you for a long time.  I was, and I have the journals to prove it, journals in which I lamented and raged in almost illegible scrawl to my God. 


I get it, and today I just want to tell you, it's okay to feel what you are feeling.  Your heavenly Father has really big shoulders.  It's okay to pray it all to Him.  He can handle the tears, the wailing, the snot, the despair, because He is your Father, He loves you, and He has really big shoulders.   In fact, He is the one to whom you should take all of those feelings and thoughts, fears and doubts.  He is the only one who can truly handle them all.  

I remember thinking at one point that I wasn't supposed to voice my feelings of  frustration brought on by my singleness to God.  I thought that it somehow meant I wasn't trusting Him for my husband.  In fact, I think it means the very opposite.  There is no one better to take those fears to than the sovereign Lord. Only He can offer you comfort, because only He can see the big picture of your life. Every time I took those feelings to Him, after the waterfall of tears was depleted, He would reveal to me in the next hour or day or week, some new thing that brought me comfort or hope or joy.  He did it in different ways each time, but the most important thing is that He heard my cries and offered me comfort. 

Sister, I know that you are doing your best to show the world your faith and trust in God, and I don't just believe that is admirable, I believe it is right.  As believers, we walk in hope and faith and need to reflect that to the world.  However, I don't think you're not allowed to be lonely and hurt and long for more.  I know from my own experience that God will offer you His big shoulder and let you cry on it as long as you need. You can't hide your hurt from Him anyway, and when you bring it to Him you are affirming that you know only He can meet your need; you are strengthening your faith in Him.

My point in this is to offer you a hand and encouragement from a sister who has walked the path and felt the pain of singleness. I have single friends in my life in their 20s, 30s, and 40s all currently walking the path and feeling the pain. I pray for them regularly, and I ache for them.  I will be praying for every one of you that reads these words.  My prayer is that God will give you the desire of your heart, that you will continue to wait on His perfect will for your life, and that you will take your pain to Him so He can offer you the solace that can only come from Him in the meantime. 

I also offer you these words from His Word as you wait.  Let them bring you comfort and hope. Let  them encourage you from day to day. Let them remind you that your Father has big shoulders!

"My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word." Psalm 119:28

"I call on the Lord in my distress, and he answers me." Psalm 120:1

"Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely." Psalm 139:4

"I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope." Psalm 130:5

"The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.  He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them." Psalm 145:18-19

"Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight."  Psalm 119: 35

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Looking for A New Thing

In these first days of the new year, I have been meditating on and (slowly) memorizing the verse from Isaiah 43:19,  

"See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." 

In its context, the verse is a promise to the Israelites who were in captivity in Babylon. God was letting them know that He was already preparing the way for them to leave Babylon and return to their land.  It is also a foreshadowing to the promise of the coming Savior.  Jesus coming to earth to live as a man, die on the cross, and come back to life three days later to pay the price for the sins of all mankind and give eternal life to believers was most definitely a new thing that God was going to do.  

I love this glimpse of the New Testament deep in the Old Testament.  It reminds me of my much less significant love of movies trailers. I love getting that first glimpse of a film that I'm eagerly anticipating.  The fast paced clips thrown together with just the right music and text on screen or magical voice over give me a little thrill, especially when it is a film I want to see.  I probably watched the first trailer for "The Force Awakens" dozens of times in that first week it was released.  I clapped and cheered out loud when I first saw the trailer for the live-action "Beauty and the Beast".   Even though those one or two minute clips leave me with more questions than answers and a whole lot of wait-and-see vibes, I just like knowing that something is coming!  

As I've been reading this verse over and over, I've realized the concept of the movie trailer is biblical. Stay with me here.  God is all about promises for the future, prophecy that reveals elements without giving away all the details, and building anticipation for what is to come.  Prophecy gives us hope for the future, an opportunity to live out our daily lives with faith, and the assurance that God is in complete control of everything from the writing of the story and casting to the the production and final release date! 

As we step into 2017, I hope that we are all doing so anticipating that no matter what our season of life may be, God is going to do a new thing in this coming year.  If you don't believe that God is going to do anything new in your life this year, I'm hear to tell you that you are WRONG!   In John 5:17, Jesus tells us, "My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working."  God has not stopped working in your life or mine.  What's that? You say you don't see Him working? Well then, I'd be willing to bet you're not looking in the right place.  

See, too often we accuse God of being absent, silent, or inactive in our lives when the truth is we are unhappy with one particular area of our life that is not going the way we want it. It's like my almost 2 year-old looking for a toy.  He'll stand in one spot, in all of his cuteness, and move his head all around looking for the toy that is directly behind him.  Even though I'll point to the spot behind him and tell him to turn around, he'll keep looking in the one direction he's facing because that's where he thinks the toy should be.  Is it possible you're missing what God is doing in a particular aspect of your life because you are hyper focused in another direction?  

I know I was guilty of this for a season when I was desperate for a child.  I was so busy praying for and vigilantly watching for a healthy pregnancy, that I almost missed the incredible work God was doing in my marriage. It was amazing when I turned around one day and realized God had been doing a new thing in our relationship that I had prayed for long before.  Thankfully, I didn't completely miss it! There was nothing wrong with me praying for a child, but it was dangerous to be come to focused on that one desire, that I missed the other things God was doing and wanted me to be doing in my life during that season. 

I don't know what the new thing in your life will be, but I know it is vital that you turn 360 degrees and look for it!  He may have actually started it in 2016 and is saying to you, "do you not perceive it!?"  Let's step into the new year anticipating that God is already at work in our lives.  Let's have eyes open to perceive that work He is doing.  Let's be ready to set aside our own desires to embrace His will for our lives.  I promise you will never regret receiving the blessings that God has chosen to give you! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

1st Day of ...ANYTHING

Today was my 3 year-old daughter's first day of preschool. Up until today, she's only gone to childcare for a couple of hours during church or Bible study, when I was just down the hall with the other grown ups, but this morning we walked up to her school with a lunch box and nap mat and the knowledge that mommy was leaving.  She has been counting down the days to starting school with nothing but excitement and eager anticipation. This morning she marched right through the main doors, looked for her name over her hook where I had to place her bag and lunch box, and then sashayed into her classroom without a backward's glance.

I was anticipating getting a bit teary-eyed as I left her this morning, but, instead, I found myself laughing as I walked back to my car.  Her boldness and confidence as she walked into a brand new environment was energizing.  Her complete lack of hesitation about a new experience was encouraging.   Her excitement to start a new chapter of her life was inspiring.  All I could think was, "This is exactly how I should approach every new part of my own life!" How much better would new seasons of our lives be if we approached them with boldness and fearlessness rather than with uncertainty and anxiety?

Too often our adult minds question, second guess, over analyze, and anticipate the worst of a new situation. We start a new job or new role at work with trepidation, worrying that we might not catch on to the new role quickly enough.  We look forward to a new baby, but worry ourselves to death that we will make mistakes and mess up the kid. We mar a new experience with our worries, rather than energize it and ourselves with excitement.  Even when we are looking forward to something, we often manage to steal some of the joy out of the experience with our worries.

Watching my Faith walk into her room this morning, I knew that she wasn't the least bit worried about making friends, figuring out what to do, or getting things right.  She was simply excited to finally start something she's been looking forward to for a long time. She wasn't imagining possible obstacles, just eagerly anticipating new opportunities.  She walked in living out the verse that we too often forget:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 4:6-7

To be clear, I'm not talking about a medically diagnosed anxiety here. I'm talking about the kind of anxiety we magnify and make worse by over thinking a situation.  This verse says we should not be anxious about ANYTHING.  There is no situation in your life that warrants your worrying over it.  God is in control and is walking with you through every single door!

Instead of wasting time worrying, we are to use our time wisely and pray!  When you catch yourself worrying about your next new situation, stop and pray for God to prepare you.  Ask God to provide all that you need mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and financially for whatever situation you're facing.  Worrying is ALWAYS a waste of time. Praying is NEVER a waste  of time!

Be thankful for the season you are entering. However challenging, a new season is a reminder that you are still getting to live life on this earth and receive the blessings of God. Be thankful for whatever that may be in your life.  If you're heading off to college or grad school, be thankful for the opportunity to learn and expand your mind.  If you're adding a child to your family, be thankful for another little one to love.  If you're starting a new job, be thankful for the provision that comes with that job!  Even if the new season is not a pleasant milestone like divorce or losing a loved one, there is still something for which you can be thankful. Last month, I experienced my fourth miscarriage.  While it is hard to imagine, I found myself being grateful for my husband who is amazingly there for me each time we have walked through this loss. I thanked God for my faith that my unborn children are living a perfect life in heaven with Jesus. I even found myself thanking God for the 10 weeks of pregnancy and the time this child did get to live in my womb.  There is ALWAYS something to be thankful for, and when we focus on being grateful, we end up being focused on God's glory!

When you shut down your worry, step up your prayer, and speak your thankfulness, you will discover new depths of joy and contentment. This is that peace that comes from God! When the Bible says it transcends all understanding, it is talking about the inability for the world to understand how steady you are no matter what you are facing.  You are experiencing something supernatural that only comes from Christ.

It is my prayer that you and I will know that peace and show it to the world, for God's glory.  In the end, we will not only glorify God, we will also spend much more of our lives experiencing joy.  And wouldn't you rather spend more of your life being joyful and at peace rather than anxious and stressed out?  I'm just saying'!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

My Candidate

It's impossible to ignore the presidential race right now.  Between the news, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and the randomly overheard elevator conversations,  I feel like I'm constantly subjected to a barrage of information on the two candidates.  Every week there is a new poll, a new social media rant, and new mistake or offense.  In the midst of a lot of information that doesn't actually seem relevant to the job of being president of the United States, I hear the moans and groans of so many Americans who love one, hate the other, or feel like they are being offered a choice between brussels sprouts or beets for dessert (my apologies if you consider either of those actual good dessert choices).  As I listen to the rhetoric, the spin, the commentary on the spin, and more, I can't help but feel a sense of relief.  Yes, I said relief.  I'm relieved because never am I more aware of how very human and helpless we are as I am right now.  While I will definitely vote--I always vote; people took beatings and died so I could vote--I am still aware that I'm helpless as an individual person to get the perfect person in the oval office.  I'm not able to change the stalemate that seems to be the new status quo in Congress.  I have no actual power when it comes to selecting or influencing future Supreme Court judges.  Rather than depress me, this comforts me.  Why?

"Each time he said, "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." 2 Corinthians 12:9

That's why.  Any time in my life as a believer that I have been helpless, incapable, weak, or lacking, God has shown up big time to confirm that I am not enough, but He is more than enough.  God is 100% aware of the state of things in our nation. He sees the corruption, the divisiveness, the inequity of wealth, the immorality, the arrogance, the fear disguised as hatred, the idolatry, and, most painfully, the failure of too many Christians to represent Him rightly.  He sees it.  He grieves it. He has a plan to resolve it all.

I know this as David knew with a certainty that can not be shaken.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Psalm 27:13

I know that He will use the bad for good, as he did in Joseph's life.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  Genesis 50:20

I know, as Paul did, that regardless of who is in charge on earth, God is still in charge of it all!

At the right time, he will make him known. God is the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 1 Timothy 6:15 

I know that we live in a fallen world and things can never be completely right until Jesus returns. 

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned-.... Romans 5:12

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4

My true candidate, the one who always has my vote, who always wins, who can solve all problems and is worthy of my complete faith and trust, is Jesus.  It's in Jesus that I have true hope.  Like, I said before, I will choose a candidate to vote for in the booth, but I will do so knowing that person is limited, is human, and is likely to make mistakes along the way.  That's just reality.  The best way I know that we can live in this reality, is to keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ, and share the Gospel more than we share political opinions.  I'm just sayin'!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Prayer of a Mother of a Black Son

Father God,

As I write out this prayer, I'm sitting in my living room watching my 15 month-old boy play with puzzles and wondering how many of the people who see him today as sweet and cute, will someday fear him.  This precious baby that loves Elmo and banging on toys like drums, may one day be viewed as a threat simply because he is tall and muscular and black. Lord, am I to pray for him to not have his father's genes and somehow end up under 6 feet tall so he won't be so "scary"?  Jesus, should I pray that he moves overseas and lives in a nation where black men aren't stopped and questioned and suspected simply for being black?  God, only you know exactly what these men and boys that have been killed in our nation in recent days and years have or have not done.  I don't presume they are innocent of any wrongdoing, because I know that none of us are innocent of wrongdoing.  Your word assures us that all have sinned and fall short.  Yet, these men and boys aren't even getting due lprocess. They are being executed in the street. My sweet son's greatest sin right now is toddler selfishness. He will grow up and do worst things for sure, and it is my greatest prayer that he will repent of his sins and yield his heart to Jesus at a young age.  However, I now find that I must pray just as fervently that his life is not cut short by a nervous civilian or police officer who assumes the worst simply because his skin is brown.  I'm praying against fear today. I'm praying against the fear in my heart for my son and my husband.  I'm praying against the fear that is the root of biggotry and prejudice. I'm praying against the fear police officers feel when they approach black men, praying it does not rule them, so they will be less inclined to reach for their guns and shoot.  I pray against the fear of offending people that makes too many feel that we can't or shouldn't discuss these things.  I pray against fear because it is the tool of the enemy. I pray against fear because it leads to divisiveness.  I pray against fear because the result of it is hatred and senselessness rather than compassion and thoughtfulness.  I pray against fear because I refuse to let it overshadow the joy of being the mother of my sweet black boy.  God, You can transform minds, heal broken hearts and instill courage. I plead with You now to do what only You can in the hearts and minds of our nation. We are all made in Your image.  We all matter to You.  We all need You desperately.  In the meantime, Father, protect my father, my husband and my son.  Keep them safe from those in this world who will see them as a threat,when all they should see is Jesus.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Summer Suck

Okay, that title is flinch worthy, but I just couldn't think of a better way of describing the condition that hits me too often in the summer.  There is something about summer in my adult years, that just throws me off my game in so many ways.  Spring is all about fresh energy and reorganizing.  Fall is that sweet season of football, fresh clothing options, and holiday anticipation.  Yes, winter often brings the blues for a while as we get tired of extra darkness and recover from our holiday whirlwind but that's to be expected.  It is the lull that sometimes hits me in the summer that is always so surprising and frustrating. 

Too often I find myself in the summer, covered in sweat as I walk the 15 feet from my door to my car (did I mention I live in Texas), uncertain of what the actual date is if it's not July 4th, my daughter's birthday, my anniversary, or Labor Day, and wondering when fall will get here  and things can "get started" again. Seriously, what the heck happened to summer?  I remember when I used to run out of a school building chanting with glee about the end of pencils and books.  I would be thrilled to wear my summer clothes, head to the pool, and pack up for vacation.  I remember rolling down the streets of Northern Virginia with my windows rolled down (manually) blasting DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, singing, Summer, summer, summertime, with all the coolness of a high school student enjoying her free time.  This bliss followed me through my undergraduate years and then I grew up and reality hit.  Summer for adults is NOT THE SAME!  

I remember that first summer after I'd worked a full year, when I realized there was no longer a summer break when you're an adult.  The disappointment of realizing I still had to go to work, and in 99 degree heat was devastating.  I remember when I left the corporate world and went into ministry how we would foolishly talk about summer as if things "eased up" only to realize that nothing eases up because Sunday still happens every weekend, and we still have church, again in 99 degree heat.  Now, I'm a mostly stay-at-home mom with two small people who have no concept of time, seasons, or days of the week and look to me to be their cruise director each day, providing activities and entertainment.  They don't understand why so many of our fun activities shut down for the summer; they don't understand why the playground slide now feels like the oven I tell them not to touch.  They also don't understand the heat.  Today, my almost 3 year old daughter pointed to her armpits and said, "Mama, why is it wet under here?"  Seriously people,  99 degrees!

Maybe you are also feeling the drag of the summer suck, or maybe you love summer and think I'm nuts. If that's the case, I invite you to reflect on whatever season or occasion unexpectedly, yet habitually tries to knock the joy out of you by throwing off your routine or pulling you from the things that you typically enjoy.  The point I'm making here is that it is crazy how something like heat and an endless routine  or messed-up routine can sneak up and steal your God-given joy from you.  

How easily we are thrown.  How foolish we are to ever believe the source of our joy is our surroundings or circumstances. 

" The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy...." John 10:10a

Every time summer or any other season or situation creeps up on me and hits me in the back of the head, I'm reminded that the enemy is a thief.  Thieves creep up behind you and knock you out to take what you value most.  At least they do in the movies, I've seen.  Forget the red cape and horns.  I'm more inclined to picture the devil as a dude in a black turtleneck, black pants, and a black knit cap or ski mask tiptoeing through my house bagging up my patience, peace, joy, and self-control like they were electronics and jewels. And when I picture him like that, it reminds me that I'm not the victim in the house, I'm the safe.  

"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in your midst."
1 Corinthians 3:16

The Spirit lives in me, and I am His temple.  That means, it is my job to keep the temple secure. I can't allow the gifts that I have been given to be stolen from me.  I have to arm myself, stay on my guard against spiritual attacks, and keep focused on the things of God, so that nothing He has given me can be taken away, nothing He has spoken into me can be outshouted, and nothing He has planned for me can be derailed.  What's true for me is true for you.  When you are feeling low, spiritually drained, hopeless, or down because of circumstances, remember that you have the power that raised Jesus from the dead living inside you, the Holy Spirit. He lives in you, He enables you,  & He wants you to experience the joy and peace that comes from Him.  

Earlier this week, I looked around me and realized I was letting the "funk" of the summer season suck me into laziness both spiritually, mentally, and physically. You noticed, if you follow my blog, the lack of posts for a few weeks.  I wasn't depressed, I was simply being lazy as a result of feeling "off". I had one of those 5am wake up calls (from God, not my toddlers) where the Spirit rebuked me for my laziness and told me to get up and do the things I know I'm supposed to do.  He reminded me that God also does not get a summer break, so His work still needs to get done and that means my work still needs to get done.  He reminded me that there is joy to be found even in 99 degree heat.  And just to be sure I heard Him on Monday morning, He popped this verse into YouVersion this morning as the verse of the day: 

"Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me." Psalm 51:12

You know, Romans 8 tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us when we don't know what to pray for ourselves.  I'm pretty sure this verse in Psalms is exactly what He was praying for me when He woke me up Monday morning.  Now, I'm praying it for myself, and I'm praying it for anyone of you out there who is reading this and finding yourself getting sucked into circumstances whether that's today as I write this, or six months from now when you stumble across this post for no reason you can fathom.  He will restore your joy and have you singing happy songs about "summer" again! 

Here it is the groove slightly transformed, just a bit of a break from the norm. Just a little something' to break the monotony... (duh, of course I'm playing it right now).  

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Don't Be THAT Girl!

Guilty!  I'm guilty of doing it yet again.  Every time I think I've recovered from that dreaded JABBIC disease, I find myself coming down with a fresh case of it.  You know JABBIC disease right?  Judge-A-Book-By-Its-Cover disease?  You know, that tendency I (and maybe some of you) have to let someone's outfit or appearance guide me to a conclusion about their character?  Whether its assuming the girl in the Tory Burch flats and Kate Spade purse is a snob or thinking the guy in the wife-beater and grungy jeans is a slob, it is ALWAYS dangerous to think you know what someone is like based on how they look.  Once again, I was guilty of making the wrong call even though it was just for a few seconds before God opened my eyes to the truth. 

I was at a local mall having just wrapped up some quality time with my two toddlers in the play area. Wait. Let me stop right there.  Right now, some of you are judging me for taking my kids to the mall playground.  You know what? Go ahead. I used to do it. I used to swear I would NEVER take my kids to one of those areas. I used to say the whole concept of a playground in the mall was an abomination. And then I found myself staying home with a two-year-old and a one-year-old and I realized, the indoor playground is a gift from God.  The ability to go to one place and let your kids play and tire themselves out, pick up a cup of coffee from Starbucks, and  return that impulse buy from Nordstrom all while only getting the kids in and out of the car once is one of the tangible ways I know that God loves me.  Sorry, I got off subject there, back to my Miss Judgey moment....

I had both kids in the double stroller, and we were heading to the car maneuvering our way around a long line of people waiting to order food. In that line were several business man, and one twenty-something girl wearing a fitted cropped tank and leggings.  I remember seeing her out of the corner of my eye and thinking to myself, "God, please don't let my daughter ever be THAT girl."  Now, I will argue for modesty ALL day long and truly think it matters, but I wasn't just thinking of the lack of modesty of her outfit. I was assigning all kinds of negative character traits to her based on that outfit, things I couldn't actually know about her.  And then the next second happened. Just a few feet from the young woman I was busy judging, a frail, elderly woman who was getting her morning exercise in the mall tripped and fell flat on her face. All of the dozen or so people in the vicinity, including myself, immediately reacted with concern. Several people knelt down to check on her.  I pulled out my phone and after a quick consultation with the three people kneeling down close to her, called 911.  The poor woman was not moving, and while conscious, was bleeding from a would we later learned was on her chin.  

For the first few minutes, everyone stayed nearby expressing concern, looking for ways to help.   When the mall security guard arrived, several people moved on getting back to their shopping or eating or ordering their lunch.  A moment later when the police officer arrived, only a couple of us were still standing by ready to help.  Ten minutes later when the EMTs arrived to take her to the hospital, only one person was still kneeling by her side.  That person was not the professionally dressed gentleman who first asked her if she was okay.  It was not the older, motherly figure who had shown such concern and thanked me for calling 911.  Yep, you guessed it.  It was THAT girl.  Without a bit of regard for herself, that midriff bearing, twenty-something had knelt by the woman's side as though it was her own grandmother.  She was the one who asked her name first.  She was the one who looked around the crowd and asked if anyone was with her.  She was the one who made sure I was calling 911.  She was the one who dug in her purse and pulled out a wet wipe to clean the blood from the sweet woman's hands.  She was the one who was holding her hand and whispering comforting words as the EMTs began to check her out.  As distressed as I was for the poor, injured 91-year-old woman, I was incredibly moved by the compassion of this young woman.  I wasn't the only one to notice her.  My two-year-old daughter saw her actions and asked me if she was the lady's mother.  In her mind, the person that takes care of you when you're hurt is mama and through eyes that couldn't yet distinguish the vast age difference, she just saw actions of the young woman towards the injured woman and came to the only conclusion that made sense to her. 

Suddenly, I went from thinking, "God, please don't let my daughter ever be THAT girl," to "God, please let my daughter grow up to be THAT girl!".  Of course, I want her to dress modestly and I'm teaching her that. However, that was not the thing that caught her eye or convicted my heart.  My daughter got to witness the story of the Good Samaritan played out in modern times right in front of her.  This young woman was of a different generation, a different race, and who knows what other differences existed between her and the sweet elderly woman on the ground.  The dozen or so others who were closer in age, of the same race, and probably the ones I would have expected to stay and help had all gone on about their day, but this young lady didn't think twice about staying and helping.  Later that day, my daughter asked about the lady who fell down. She wanted to pray for her again.  She prayed for God to make her feel better, and then she prayed for the "other lady", the one who helped her.  In the weeks that have followed, when she has thought of the incident,  she has asked about the lady that fell down, and she always asks about the "other lady", the one who helped her.  I don't know anything about that young woman. I don't know what she believes or how she lives, but I know in that moment she modeled Jesus. She did exactly what Christ has called us to do in such a moment.  I was convicted in that moment of my personal failure in judging someone that I knew nothing about. In that moment of prejudice, Christ was saying to me, "Janay, don't you be THAT girl!"   I was convicted in that moment and I was also inspired, inspired to be sure that my actions are like the ones of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 and the "good samaritan"  we saw in the mall that day.  I can hear Christ saying to me exactly what He said at the end of that parable in verse 37, "Go, and do likewise" or as I hear it in my head, "Go, be THAT girl."  I intend to do just that. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

My Mother's Day Mix

I know. You thought you were going to get a really cool playlist to jam to this Mother's Day.  I might try to come up with one after I write this, but we're not going to all agree on the same songs, so I might as well confess right away that this title is more about the mixed emotions I'm experiencing as I approach this Mother's Day and not my latest playlist on Amazon Music or iTunes.  In the past I have written about the pain of approaching Mother's Day after miscarriages and infertility struggles, the anticipation and empathy I experienced as a pregnant mom-to-be one Mother's Day, and the joy of celebrating Mother's Day with little ones calling me mama.  The one thing I can say that has been consistent is that Mother's Day is charged with emotion for us as women, both positive and negative ones.  Whether our focus is on a struggle with our own mother, a longing to be a mom, the joys of motherhood, or the need to rediscover our identify outside of being "mommy", we never seem to face this day in neutral.  True to form,  I'm approaching Mother's Day 2016 with some big emotions and fresh perspective on God. 

On March 13th of this year, four years to the day, and two adorable children since my second miscarriage, I experienced my third miscarriage.  Another baby in heaven.  Another life that won't take a breath on this earth.  Even after two miscarriages and a frank diagnosis from my infertility specialist that assured me I would be highly likely to miscarry a future pregnancy again, I was still caught off guard.  It had only been a week before when I realized I was expecting again.  My husband and I found ourselves laughing hysterically throughout that day after the plus sign showed up on the pregnancy test.  I mean, when you have a not yet two year-old singing Adele at the top of her lungs standing a few feet away from an almost one year-old attempting to take his first steps  and possibly singing along (if that's what you call that sound), you can't help but laugh at the prospect of adding one more bundle of joyful chaos to the mix.  Typical of me, my brain wanted to start running through the "where are we going to put this kid" scenarios right away, but my husband said one of the greatest things he's ever said to me that day, "Let's just be excited and enjoy it and not get caught up in the details."  Immediately, I shut down the logistical side of my brain, grabbed his hand and dove headfirst into the joy.  We spent the next seven days giggling and exchanging looks that only come when you have a really fun secret.  There was no panic, no fear, no anxiety, no worry, just pure, unadulterated joy at the idea of changing our family title from The Wilborn IV to The Wilborn V.  I wasn't braced for the worst, in fact it didn't even cross my mind.

So, when that Sunday morning came, and I realized the worst was happening...again... I was completely surprised.  It wasn't the speeding car slamming into the brick wall shock of my first miscarriage, but it was definitely the feeling of a rug being pulled out from under me.  I was heartbroken, shedding tears, and filled with grief, but I was also surprised to find myself simultaneously joyful, hopeful and filled with gratitude.  The first two times, I could not claim any of those three things in the first days and weeks afterwards, but here I was, in the midst of the experience, thanking God.  What was different? Certainly, the presence of my two living little ones running in and out of rooms, giggling and giving me sweet kisses served as a balm for my broken heart.  I have seen the goodness of the Lord in my children and live with a confidence in Him that I didn't know before they were born and that was definitely the source of my joy.  I have also seen all the ways that God has used my past pain to help others. I can not enumerate the conversations I've had, emails I've received, or hugs I've shared with other women who have struggled with the loss of children or the emptiness of infertility.  I've seen God use my words to bring comfort and hope, to replace loneliness with a sense of community, to bolster a weary spirit.  My hope came from knowing that God would once again use what I was going through to bring glory to His kingdom and spread compassion to His daughters.  My gratitude was directed completely toward God for the incredible man He has blessed me with as a husband.  That I get to hold, my husband's hand through these valleys of life is an incredible blessing that I do not take for granted.  I have watched marriages fall apart around us, I've seen some plateau into a numb co-existence, and I recognize that the fact that we are thriving is God's grace combined with our own commitment to make our marriage work and work well! We have dug in through tough seasons, sought counseling when needed (even when it was not fun AT ALL), and, most importantly, yielded to the Holy Spirit and worked on ourselves to be better people--and by that I mean, I work on me and he works on him, just to be clear :).   We are not perfect, nor is our marriage, but I can say our marriage is strong because of Christ. Our faith in the Lord is even greater than it was before we ever uttered the word miscarriage years ago.  Our faith in each other is greater than it was when we exchanged rings almost seven years ago, and that is all due to the love, grace, and power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. 

Tomorrow, I will celebrate being a mother. I will have lots of happy moments as I look at my wrecking crew of two here on earth.  I will shed a few tears for my babies in heaven: the one I foolishly sent there myself some 18 years ago, the two I lost just months apart three years ago, and the one that just joined them this March.  I will celebrate being a mother of all 6 of my children, because I am.  I will not try to just have one emotion or one feeling about the day, because it isn't possible.  On it's best day, motherhood is a mix of emotions. My encouragement to all of you out there is to simply feel whatever you need to feel tomorrow.  If it is regret and grief for a child you aborted, feel it. If it is sorrow for a child you miscarried, feel it.  If it is longing for a child that lived for a time, but has gone on to be with God, feel it.  If it is joy for a new baby in your arms this year, feel it.  If it is happiness for the little one or ones running around your house armed with crayons and legos, feel it.  If it is frustration with a teenager working to redefine the word attitude, feel it.  If it is apprehension for an adult child who has lost his or her way in the world, feel it.  Feel all those things, because all of those feelings come with the title of mother.  Feel it, but cover those feelings with your faith in a God who is bigger than your pain, greater than your fears, and the provider of your joy.  Let you faith in God be the thing that carries you through the day as it is the only thing that will carry us all through this journey that is motherhood.  Feelings will take us on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs that make navigating life on our own impossible, but God is constant and when our faith in Him is constant, we can get through anything with joy, hope, and a thankful heart!

"Not to us, Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness." Psalm 115:1

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince

I remember it like it was yesterday.  It was 1983, and I was 9 years old attending the birthday party of a school mate, whose name I can't remember.  I can't remember much about the party except the moment when this song came on, and we all started dancing around in the way only silly 9 year-old girls can. I remember the song ended,  and I ran over to the record player (you know those cool vintage things they sell at the front of Urban Outfitters for way too much money) to read the label on the 45 so I could know what this song was.  It said "Delirious" by Prince.  I also remember going home after the party to look up the word "delirious" in the dictionary (you know that really thick book that says Webster's on it that is on your mom's bookshelf) because I had no idea what it meant.  I can't say that my nine year-old brain comprehended the complexity of the song or its meaning.  I just knew it was a lot of fun, it made me want to dance, and I had just become a Prince fan.  By the time Purple Rain came out a year later (a film I was definitely NOT allowed to see), we were living overseas, and I was the proud owner of a Sony Walkman (shout out to my fellow 80's kids).  I purchased my bootleg copy of the soundtrack at the souk in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia, and to this day, I can't picture the landscapes of that desert land without hearing "Purple Rain" and "When Doves Cry" in my head.  By the time I was in high school back in the USA, Prince was mandatory for dance team camp, and I still remember running to the group that would be learning the routine to "Batdance".  I mean even people who were not Prince fans got caught up in Julia Robert's rendition of "Kiss" in the movie Pretty Woman  and everybody had something to say when he changed his name to a symbol to protest his contract with his record label.  But, I didn't care about the hair, the heeled shoes, the bizarre outfits, or any of the theatrics.  I was simply a fan of his music. 

When I opened Instagram today and saw that Prince had died, I didn't have to look for a Prince station to stream (which apparently you could not do anyway).  I just opened up iTunes and started listening to my Prince playlist.  Yes, I already had a playlist.  Like I said, I'm a real fan.  I danced around my kitchen to "Delirous", "1999"and "Let's Go Crazy". I sang "Kiss", "Diamonds & Pearls" and "Adore" at the top of my lungs.  I vehemently explained to my 2 year old (who did not care at all) that "Nothing Compares 2 U" is Prince's song that Sinead borrowed, and his version performed as a duet is THE definitive version of the song.  And then I found myself alone in my car (praise God for babysitting friends) driving to Starbucks to do some writing, listening to "Purple Rain" and the tears began to form in my eyes.  Now,  I always thought the song had a heartbreaking sadness to it that made me well up even when I was 10, but today the tears were coming from the thought that came to my mind as I listened to the voice of this man that I was such a fan of for so many years, "Did Prince know Jesus?"  I've heard all kinds of rumors over the years about his beliefs, but you never know what is truth and what is gossip, and even when you know someone personally, you can't know for sure that they have made the decision to follow Christ. However, I began to wonder, did he?  Did someone share the Gospel with him in a clear and concise way at some point in his life? Did he hear the message? Did he recognize his own sinfulness and need for a savior--something we all need to do at some point if we want to spend eternity in heaven with God--and give his life to Christ? 

I don't know.  I just don't know, and that is why my sadness went even deeper than it had been when I first heard.  I've been in a study of the book of Revelation since September with BSF International and my pastor just started an incredible series on that same book.  Most people study the book of Revelation and get caught up in trying to understand all of the symbolism,  the four visions, the timeline of the end times and more.  Scholars debate all kinds of issues, and in my BSF group, we have had many discussions about the things we don't quite understand in the book, but the fact of the matter is, we are all curious about how the world will end and what happens after we die. We watch movies about it, read books about it, listen to songs about it.  Prince's own "1999" reveals his own interest in the subject and was written almost two full decades before we all freaked out over Y2K (Remember Y2k?  How ridiculous did that turn out to be!)  

I find that my own curiosity is easily satisfied.  When you tell me that I'm not supposed to completely understand something, I'm totally good with that.  Each time I've studied Revelation, I've been told at the beginning that there are some intentional mysteries in the book that we are not meant to understand, and I'm 100% satisfied to not understand them.  What is clear, is that in the end God wins, the devil loses, and every person who has ever lived will be on one side or the other - living eternally and joyfully with God or eternally and torturously with Satan.   I know that there are people who will read this and scoff, because you just don't believe that it is this black and white, this absolute.  You don't believe it because you haven't yet put your faith in the one true God.  I know there are people who read that sentence and get offended that I would claim there is only one true God.  I do believe that. Wholeheartedly.  Completely. Without question.  If I didn't believe it completely, then I could not claim to have any measure of faith.  

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Just a week ago  as Revelation was coming at me from all sides, I wrote this prayer request, "Let my worship be more heavenly, my witness have more urgency, and my will be completely yielded to God's!"  It's that second part that is at the forefront of my mind today as I mourn the loss of an incredibly talented man.  Does my witness have enough urgency? I didn't know Prince personally, so I can wonder if anyone told him about Christ, but I know plenty of other people personally that I can speak to personally.  There are people in my life: friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers, schoolmates that I'm not sure I've taken the time to tell the Gospel.  I don't know for sure that they have ever heard clearly and concisely the Truth: 
  • We are all born thinking of ourselves and our own desires first and foremost.   It's obvious when you simply watch a 1 or 2 year old (I have both of those at my house right now, so feel free to come over and see it in action).  That selfish mindset is sin.  When you put yourself first and think only of your own needs you will lie, cheat, steal, hit, or do whatever you need to do to please yourself regardless of how it impacts others.
  • God, our creator, is holy and perfect and can have absolutely nothing to do with sin.  He is eternal, meaning He has always existed and will always exist, so because He is eternal and can't have anything to do with sin, sin has to be finite, it has to end in death.  We all sin and the consequence of sin is death. 
  • God sent his perfect son, Jesus, to this world to live a completely selfless life from his birth to his death.  He was brutally punished and killed as though he had committed crimes, when in fact he was innocent of ever doing any wrong, making his death the ULTIMATE sacrifice.  An innocent man, died on the cross for all of us who are not innocent, taking on the punishment of death that we all deserve and he never did earn.  
  • Jesus was dead, for two days, but on the third day he rose from the dead and was seen alive by hundreds in the 40 days after he rose and before he went on to Heaven.  (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
  • All who place their trust in Christ, acknowledge their sinfulness and need for a savior, believe in His death and resurrection, and receive the gracious gift of His sacrifice will be saved and will get to live eternally with God.   
There it is.  The truth.  The Gospel. It's that simple.  Knowing that it is that simple, and knowing that the consequence of not receiving this truth is so incredibly horrific, I'm compelled to share this truth with every person I can.  If you are a believer, you too should feel this urgency.  I don't want to hear about someone that I actually knew personally dying and know that I never once shared this eternity altering truth with him or her.  Whether or not they receive it is on them, but don't you want to know that they had a chance?  Don't you want to know, without question that you tried?  What holds me back? What holds you back? What keeps us from sharing the Truth that we know so well and hold so dearly?  Fear of rejection?  In this day and age you may be labeled crazy for sharing the Gospel.  Actually that's been true in every age.  There has never been a time in the history of Christianity that someone wasn't labeling true believers as crazy.  You can either be "safe" and make sure everyone thinks you're "normal" or "cool" or "sane" and never share the truth that could mean someone you know facing eternity in hell rather than in heaven, or you could speak up for God; you could allow compassion to direct you and maybe be called crazy.  To quote the artist formally know on this earth as Prince, LET'S GO CRAZY!!