Sunday, April 22, 2018

Mom with Confidence

Is it just me, or do any other moms out there feel like all of the choices and recommendations and guides make our lives harder rather than easier sometimes? I mean it started for me before my firstborn was out of the womb! I remember standing in Buy Buy Baby looking at the pacifier options and saying out loud, "Are you kidding me?"! There were so many different brands and styles and within each brand there were too many options of color and patterns.  They all had packaging that claimed why their choice was the best.  There were different "sizes" based on the age of the baby, and some had a dentist recommendation.  I really just wanted to pick one that came in yellow to match my nursery choice at the time.  It's a pacifier for crying out loud! 

Another time the choice bus ran me over was when I was looking for a Mother's Day Out program.  I thought I could just call a few churches nearby and see what the cost was and the hours. I had no idea there would be tours, applications, every possible combination of days and hours of availability.  People were talking to me about parents camping out or lining up before dawn to get the open spots and not end up on the waitlist.  Camping out? These aren't concert tickets!  Waitlist? This isn't the Ivy League.  We are talking about Mother's Day Out. I just wanted my 3 year old to have a place to color, play, sing songs and make friends.  Suddenly I was making pro/con lists and comparison charts and losing sleep.

The problem with all of these choices and recommendations and guides is every little decision gets elevated to DEFCON 1 status.  As moms, we are often making what should be minor decisions, but we can get psyched out and start to believe that choosing the wrong lovey will cripple our child's ability to be a good spouse in the future.  Y'all, we have got to stop allowing these things to mess with our heads, and I do mean we because I have to stop freaking out right along with you!

It starts with us remembering what is really important. As mothers and Christ-followers, our number one job when it comes to our children is to lead them to a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That's the main thing. We want to expose our children to God's goodness, love and truth.  The future that matters most is their eternal future.  As you are making day to day or even moment to moment decisions, discern what only matters in the moment and what will matter for eternity.  The momentary things don't need as much of your energy, attention, or time in thought.  

Once you get your perspective right, remember that you are the person God chose to be mama to your  children.  However you got your kids--birth, adoption, surrogacy or stork--they are yours! God chose you to receive them.  Our children belong to Him first, so the very fact that the Creator of the universe has trusted us with these children, should give us confidence.  We can be confident that God will also give us the wisdom and discernment to make good choices for our kids.  Will we make mistakes sometimes? YES! However, we will also recover from those mistakes with His help and, ladies, we get a lot more right than we tend to give ourselves credit for on a daily basis.

As Mother's Day approaches, I want to encourage you (and me) to live with the confidence that comes from knowing Christ and having His loving guidance in your life.  You have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, purifying your heart, offering counsel and comfort, and even praying for you.  He is advocating for you as a mama too!  When you are next hit with one of those DEFCON moments of motherhood, stop and pray.  Ask Him to give you peace and calm.  Read God's word and be reminded of what matters most, so you can approach your situation with the mind of Christ.  Be confident that the same God who made you a mom, is providing you with all of the resources and wisdom you need to raise your children in a way that pleases Him.  Motherhood was meant to bless us and grow us, not trip us up and take us down. I'm just sayin'!

In an effort to help all of us live more confidently, I created Confidence in Christ cards, a collection of a dozen cards each with a Bible verse and words of encouragement.  You can carry them with you in your purse, keep them on your desk at work, put them on the wall above the changing table, in your kitchen window above the sink while you do dishes, or anywhere you'll see them regularly.  Use them to help you memorize scripture and plant God's word in your heart so that it can strengthen you and build your confidence day by day.  Get a pack for yourself or for a friend who you know could use the encouragement!  

Monday, February 19, 2018

Good Grief

Grief is a reality of life. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, a relationship ending, the death of a dream, or the end of a season of life, we are faced with grief over and over again. The sadness can be overwhelming; the weight of grief can feel suffocating.  Grief can come and go in waves, so that just when you feel you've come out of it, some small thing can trigger your grief and send you right back into the fog of it again.  I have experienced grief in many different ways through various seasons of my life and the one constant I can attest to is the fact that grief can't be put into a box. Yes there are stages of grief, but they are not necessarily linear. You can bounce back and forth from one stage to another.  I have often wondered if the hard to pin down, seemingly chaotic nature of grief is the result of the "chaos" that our world was thrown into when sin entered the world, and the perfect creation that God spoke into existence became twisted and damaged by sin and death. Whatever the reason behind the roller coaster ride that is grief, I have learned some things from my grief experiences about how God will carry you through it, and how you can navigate through it if not with ease, then hopefully with a little more grace for yourself.   

1. Let yourself grieve, no matter how recent or distant the loss.  

The most ridiculous thing I think we do to ourselves in grief, is set some arbitrary limit on how long or how much we "should" grieve.  Loss hurts!  If your marriage just ended, your sister just died, or you were just fired from your dream job, you experienced a loss, and you are going to feel the pain and sorrow that comes with that loss. Don't measure your loss against another's loss.  Your miscarriage is not less sorrowful than her spouse dying. All loss is loss and your hurt, hurts you. God himself assured us in His word, that there is a time to grieve. 

"There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: ...A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance."  Ecclesiates 3:1,4 (NIV)

When sorrow hits you, don't try to block it out or "suck it up". Instead go ahead and allow yourself to feel the sadness and loss.  My grandmother died over 20 years ago and I still have random moments when the sadness hits me all over again, and I cry.  I miss her. That's absolutely okay. You miss the ones you love when they are gone and there is nothing wrong or shameful about that. 

2. Take your sorrow to God.

There is no one more qualified to comfort you in your grief than God.  He knows you are hurting and He is waiting for you to bring your pain to Him, as He wants you to bring everything to Him because He is your Lord. He understands grief because He has grieved Himself.  Your grief is not a lack of faith nor is it a contradiction to the joy and peace that comes with knowing the Savior.  Just this fall, we experienced our fifth miscarriage.  I can tell you that it is absolutely possible to be heartbroken and thankful all at the same time.  My sweet little family of four spent Thanksgiving day together in sweatpants as I waited for the child in my womb to pass from my body, having learned just days before that the heart had stopped beating.  As I cooked our holiday meal I listened to my husband and my two living children giggle as they  made gingerbread ornaments and my heart swelled with joy even as my eyes filled with tears of sorrow.  Our grief is not an affront to God's faithfulness, but a reminder that we live in a fallen world that can bring us moments of happiness, but will never be the fulfillment of the hope we cling to.  The perfect life will only come with the Savior's return.

I spoke and prayed my grief to the Lord even as I thanked Him for all that I do have.  I cried out to Him and allowed the Comforter to do what only He can.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."  
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)

3. Know that your grief has purpose.

I'm not saying it makes it better instantly, but there is something precious about knowing that as I grieve, God will use my loss for His purpose. Just as the verse above stated, we are comforted in our grief so that we can comfort others.  I have been the one passing on comfort, and I have been on the receiving end of someone else's comfort, and I can tell you that both bring me a little more peace.  When I opened my mailbox this fall and received a card and a charm acknowledging the life I had miscarried this fall from a friend who was walking through her own miscarriage at the same time, I marveled at the goodness of God.  She'd heard from a mutual friend of my loss, and when she could have rightly been curled up in her own grief, instead she extended love and comfort to me.  She reached out and loved on me, which reminded me to look outside myself and my grief and see who around me was hurting.   There is an amazing thing that happens when we let our grief remind us of others hurting around us.  We begin to look more like the kingdom of God!

The greatest news I have for us all is that there will be no grief in eternity with God, but in the meantime, it is my prayer that we will all find comfort, purpose, and increased compassion for others in the midst of the grief we will all experience in the here and now. My prayer is that we can all find the little bits of good in our grief.  

Thursday, February 8, 2018

He Delights in You!

One of the things I know I can say to someone and have a good chance of being on the receiving end of a crazy face, is to tell them that the God of the universe delights in them. Yep. I say those words and as often as not, I can see the eyes in front of me glaze over as the person begins to wonder what other signs of insanity I may have been showing recently.  

The fact of the matter is, many of us have a hard time believing that the all-powerful God finds anything delightful about us. We look in the mirror daily and list out our faults and flaws. Some of us make a full time job of displaying an image that will cover the truth of who we really are, because we find something lacking in ourselves.  

When I had no belief in God as an active, loving creator, when I just saw Him as a distant "man upstairs", I certainly couldn't imagine him having any real interest in me, never mind  taking personal delight in me, so you can imagine my surprise when I began to understand that the almighty God loved me, knew me by name, knows the number of hairs on my head (and with my hair, that number changes daily), and cared about me even at my absolute worst, so very much that He sent His own precious and perfect son to die for me.  

Even when I accepted God's love, and believed that Jesus Christ had died for my sins, I still hadn't really taken hold of the idea that God delighted in me.  At least I did not until a beautiful woman of God who was walking me and a handful of ladies through a study to help us heal and recover from the heartache of our past abortions, shared these words with me, words from God's own word:

"The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you but will rejoice over you with singing."  Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Suddenly, I didn't just have the word delight baffling me, but I had an image that I could truly relate to and understand.  He [GOD] "will rejoice over you with singing".  Y'all, we are talking about the kind of delight and love that causes you to burst into song.  As a lifetime lover of musicals, I suddenly got it.  This is the show stopping song that comes in a musical when something amazing happens!  This is Gene Kelly splashing in puddles belting out "Singing in the Rain".  This is Annie tapping with the household staff to "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here".  This is Eliza spotting Alexander across the room and declaring she's "Helpless"!  This is the kind of joy and delight that leads to an expression through song because words are not enough, and this is the God of the Universe singing over you and me!  

And here is the best part.  You don't have to understand why He loves you.  You don't have to think you deserve His delight. You don't even have to do a single thing to earn it.  In fact, you can't earn it.  You and I are on the receiving end of the gracious and merciful love and delight of God the Father. All you have to do is open up your heart to the Savior, trust in Him and receive it.  Once you receive it, feel free to hum along to His song and dance a little too.  I know I will. I'm just sayin'!

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).