The problem with birthdays…

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“My name is Mysti, and I have a problem with birthdays.”

This would be my introduction to my support group. Not my birthdays, my kid’s birthdays. Can I get an “Amen” from any other parents out there? Please tell me I am not the only one who has to get an emotional grip and truly give myself moment by moment pep talks as my children approach the day that they become (gulp) a year older. My baby boy has a birthday in a few days and in my mind, I’m trying to slow these last days down. As if that matters. I have been immersed in the reality that I can’t stop this ride. I can’t even do anything to slow it down. Not one thing. Time marches on and my kids are growing up. As well they should. But, I’ll be honest friends, sometimes it’s just plain hard to let them.

I have this terrible tradition. A torturous tradition that I love. The night before my children’s birthday I walked in their room and just sit by their bed as they sleep. I always do this the night before birthdays. (Don’t tell me its just torture because I’ll be honest, I thoroughly enjoy this particular torture.) I praise the Lord for creating them, I pray for His Glory to be evidenced in them, I beg for grace as their imperfect mama…etc, etc, etc. I pour out my heart to the Lord and beg Him for His mercies over my children and our family. It’s like a slideshow plays in my mind, to the most sentimental song I can think of, of every little detail I have experienced with them…. Their birth into this crazy world, the first time I saw their faces, the first night in their little cribs, first smiles, first foods, first words, first steps, first everything. I retrace it all, and I cry tears of great joy for who they are now and tears of sadness for who they will never be again. It’s just a part of me growing up. Yes, ME. For I have never walked the road of being a mama before and I really don’t know what I’m doing. So as with any life stage, I remember the sweet, I even remember the bad with sentiment, and I grieve what’s behind while in the EXACT same moment that I celebrate what is ahead. Weird. I fully own that it is a weird feeling. But it is what it is.

Can I just say that I am okay with feeling this way?? I am told all the time that I am going to miss all of “this” (Most of the time in the grocery store in the middle of a raging toddler fit) and let me just shout at the top of my lungs, I KNOW I AM. I already do. I am caught day after day in the purgatory of how do I savor the day and survive the day…So much so that I feel like it might make me crazy!! But here is what I am learning… THAT IS OKAY.

I am a human. I am a creature bound and limited by this thing called time. I am sinful and selfish. While I want to long for the things of heaven and eternal value, my flesh only knows what is here and now and precious on this earth. I can’t possibly understand what it will be like to forever experience heaven’s glory WITH my children forever with no timeline of birthdays or milestones. All I know is the natural progression occurring which means everyday this world and it’s luring devices creep more into the lives of my children. They lose just a little more innocence. And just a little more wonder. And become just a little bit more educated in the ways of this world. in short, they are becoming more like me. And I just don’t like that. Once you get a taste of innocence and wonder in your children, something from years past comes alive in a parent and we just want to stop the madness. And not let our kids know the cynicism and jadedness of our fallen world. But, they will know it. They will know it well as we do…maybe even on a deeper level as we approach the return of our Savior. But here’s the hope they have. They also get to see the beauty and light of Jesus in this world…and Jesus never changes. His light becomes brighter the darker this world becomes. The hope that sustains me will sustain them!! The God I serve is completely trustworthy and faithful. Can my children choose to reject Him? They can. But may it never be from the fact that they don’t see a clear picture of grace, joy, discipline, and forgiveness in their parents. If my children worship my Jesus and we train them in such a way to see Him in EVERYTHING, then even if they choose the LOONNGG way home, His promises can never be “shut off” in their hearts. And oh Lord, PLEASE, LET IT BE that we as a family are on the verge of an eternity together. No goodbyes, no growing up, no time marching on. NO TIME. For this is what God’s word says,

“He has made everything beautiful in it’s time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men, yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 4:11

So, for today, in all of its “dailyness”…I have to remember that every day is game day. No days off. I choose to look back and remember with sweet, endearing sentiments and I choose to look forward with great expectation at the exact same time. I choose to give it my very best human effort and allow God to take my feeble attempts and beg Him to exponentially bless them like 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes. My heart’s longing is to raise kids who honor and glorify the God of all the ages. I get to be their mom and the one who daily has the privilege of showing them Jesus. Friends, there is no greater responsibility. Now, probably in the next hour, I’ll completely mess this whole thing up. But hey, these kids gotta learn grace somehow. They might as well get a clear picture of it from me…

Peacemakers

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Peace. It’s a hot commodity around this house. And incredibly elusive. One moment it’s here and then it could be hours before it resurfaces. Sometimes it stays for awhile and sometimes it is gone before I can even whisper its name. You never know or have any warning before it’s gone. That’s just how it goes in active, growing families…or at least I tell myself that. Home is loud and boisterous with some screaming, hitting, pushing, pinching, biting, tattling and frustration involved.  It’s the sign that learning is taking place and refinement of our selfish nature is in full force. It’s evidence that small people (and their parents) are trying to grow up, to learn to navigate life, relationships, joy and conflict. Lots of conflict. I’m not a seasoned parent but I think i’m right about this. You have to press through the conflict and the selfishness to find the peace and confidence that waits on the other side. Right?! I hope that’s true.

While peace itself may be hard to find at times, may it not go unnoticed that what might be even a greater rarity is that animal called the Peacemaker. The one who actually “makes peace.” Sometimes I look for her all day long and can’t find her. I try to make her appear but the person I find instead is just the referee. The one who calls the fouls as I see them and makes you pay the punishment. The one who makes one team happy while the other team is mad as a hornet and demands justice. The one who blows her whistle constantly as loud as she can so that she may be heard and the game may be stopped so that the offender has to pay. Sigh…. That’s who I am most of the time. I am constantly fighting trying to “keep the peace”… trying my hardest to make it stay. But “making” peace??? What does that even mean??

Well, I don’t really know what that means because my selfish self knows nothing of it naturally. Peaceful is not a characteristic I would use in describing myself and I don’t think anyone else who knows me well would be quick to accuse me of it either! The only thing I know about the art of peacemaking is found in the perfection of God’s word. God gives us healthy doses of this all throughout scripture. It’s not hidden in obscure verses. It is blatant and frequently spoken about. It, in fact, is a fruit, or a by- product of a life filled with the spirit of Christ. It cannot be attained in completion any other way but through Him.  Galations 5:22 starts out this way… “But fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE…” What that means is that HE alone makes peace in our lives where none was before. Just as He made us out of dust where nothing useful was before, He actually creates peace out of nothing in us. He makes peace from scratch in our lives… and thus, as we are walking in His spirit, we become peace-makers. Those who actually make peace. And one step farther, just as the mere presence of God in my life should create peace, so should my mere presence in the life of those around me, my husband, my children, my friends, should be a force that is constantly creating peace through the power of Christ in me. Yeah, well, I haven’t done a great job of that so far today….BUT, I absolutely have that power in me.

The toughest, most chaotic moments can be prime soil for making peace. Since conflict and noise are in excess around here, that simply means that I am being given tons of practice in how to make peace… test after test after test come constantly. And I either contribute to the loud selfishness OR I do what I am capable of as a child of God, and I make peace appear out of chaos. I think mothering may be the most perfect example God gives of what making peace is all about- there are no days off here and its hits hard all day long. So I think what that means is that God is TRYING his hardest to develop this fruit in me and He is relentless in the pursuit.

Why in the world is peacemaking so important??? Sometimes I’m too tired and letting chaos reign is actually the easier choice! But walking in the Spirit of God, this should not be an option! Peacemakers are PROMISED things in scripture. Good things. They are certainties since we have a God who never breaks promises. Let me just tell you some of them…

James 3:17-18 tells us that “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving….Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a HARVEST of righteousness.” Anyone else want to see the harvest that will yield children who grow up to be faithful disciples of Christ?? Or a marriage that honors God and points others to Him because of the way that in the midst of conflict we let Christ peace-make in us?? Because I do. I want that more than anything.

In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” I want to be called that every day….a child who rests in the love of my God as He calls me his child.

Isaiah 32:17-20 says this, (which is an anchor for my soul while raising young children), “The fruit of right living will bring peace. The effect of that will be quietness and confidence FOREVER. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail may flatten the forest and the city is completely leveled, HOW BLESSED YOU WILL BE. Sowing your [peaceful] seed in every stream…”

Peacemaking may get hairy on any given day. Lots of conflict must be pressed through before peace is made… and even then, it must be constantly re-created time and time again to maintain it!! It will never end this side of heaven. But how much sweeter will the peace of heaven be after knowing the chaos of earth??!! I know my God is faithful and He tells me this battle of peacemaking is worth the fight, (if that word choice even makes sense.) Peace is not our default setting…it is only a creation of God in us. I’m praying that even today He will create it in me.

Peace-make in me Lord Jesus. That all around me in the world will recognize it as an act of YOU alone on this peaceless, restless earth. 

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The Protector and Provider

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Several weeks ago, my children and I were given the most beautiful visual of family. It was a divine glimpse that I easily would have missed. Thankfully my kids, because they are still overtaken with such wonder, did not let me miss it and sparked some sweet conversation about what God’s intentions of family are to look like. I know God gave me this moment to capture in my mind so I snapped at picture of it as well.

It was a family of Canadian geese who stayed right around us for the longest time. We watched and talked until we exhausted all possible analogies and comparisons of what they had to teach us. This is how they pretty much conducted life- Daddy out front protecting and on full alert. Mama followed, staying very close to him (slightly to the side and just a little behind) and nurturing and guarding the babies. 3 little ducklings following, mimicked and never worried.

They weren’t doing anything out of the ordinary. They were just doing their deal. Daddy wasn’t mad that he had to always lead. He just led in visible confidence. Mama wasn’t nagging or trying to be the boss. She just let him lead and trusted him. Kids weren’t whining, complaining, bucking the system, no; they just followed and knew they were cared for. These geese were living marriage and family in simple purity.

Now, hang with me and don’t get bent out of shape. The complications of sin in this world happen, and I know that the analogy can break down quickly!! But people. It was so interesting and so humbling to me. It was so convicting to me. They are geese….and yet had greater perspective and instincts than me on any given day. I know that families all look different. Some moms work, some stay at home. Some dads have flexible jobs, some dads practically kill themselves to protect and provide. Some moms are the breadwinner and dad has more domestic responsibilities. I know, I know. You cannot put families in a box. They all operate differently and what works for mine may not work for yours and vice versa. But this is what I know from God’s word; no matter what the designated roles look like down to the specifics, Fathers provide, protect and lead. Mamas, submissively we LET them lead and yield under the comfort of that provision and protection. And children, follow and obey. Those are biblical standards. And they work! They work in people and they worked in these geese.

I have thought about these geese for weeks now. My man, the father of my children is soooooo much like this Daddy goose. He is a protector and provider down to his very core. He would do anything for me or my children even if his life was on the line. ANYTHING. I know this about him. He’s far from perfect, as is his wife, but He protects and provides each day as if his family’s life depended on it…because we do. So now that I’ve established that, let me confess what I’m still prone to do….I complain. I complain that I need his help, that he’s not tender enough, he’s not communicating with me enough, he’s too immersed in his livelihood (which is his life calling), etc, etc, etc… You name it and I’ve complained about it. And I am learning every day that this is one of Satan’s attacks on not just my family, but yours as well! To convince us that our men would be much improved if they were more like, well….more like women. Ladies, (and I point the finger at myself) we have got to let our men be MEN. They work long hours to provide for you and your kids?? Praise them and make them feel worth it. They come home late and exhausted from protecting and providing?? Praise them and make home a sweet place to come home to. They need breaks and time to re-group?? GIVE it to them with no strings attached. They don’t always deal with kids the way you would?? They are the dad- do not intervene.

Good grief- I know its hard. But our men deserve it. They are made to be men and God MADE them very specifically and intentionally this way. He never asked for our help or input on how to “improve” them. It’s because HE made them the way He wants them to be! We need to not just let them be but encourage them to be these things. Sometimes, we as wives can quickly become their greatest liability rather than their greatest asset. As Proverbs 21:9 says, “Better to live on the corner of the roof than to share a house with a nagging wife.” Geez…hard to hear.

I need to celebrate my guy just because he’s a guy and he protects and provides for me. If he goes the extra mile and goes beyond?? Awesome. That’s great. But if he doesn’t and he comes home worn out and spent then I need to celebrate it all the more because he’s doing what he was created to do. My children need to know the value of this, and I need to know the value of this. It’s hard being a Daddy. And I am so thankful that he thinks we are worth the hard work and sacrifice. It makes my life and the lives of my children rich and blessed.

The godly walk with integrity and hard work; blessed are their children who follow them. -Proverbs 20:7

The Greater Work

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“I can’t do a thing…but I can pray. And I will.”

I feel like this statement rolls off my tongue more than I wish it did. While I do get overwhelmed with my own life, I am often greatly burdened by the magnitude of the needs of those around me. Struggling marriages, sickness, job struggles, poverty, war…I can’t do anything. Even good stuff such as friends waiting on adoption, mission work, philanthropic efforts, people making a great difference on this earth…what do I matter in all that? This broken world just turns and turns in its neediness and brokenness. As Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 2:11) But sometimes I just feel it more deeply and get more overwhelmed with my inability to do a darn thing about it. Totally powerless against cancer. I don’t make a hill of beans difference against the death of a child. I can’t return to you what natural disaster has taken from you. I am not in a place to travel the world delivering the gospel with my 3 children at this time in my life so what do I matter in your mission efforts? I simply can’t overturn Satan’s lies that have broken your marriage. I can’t intervene in your infertility. In a nutshell, I can’t take your burden away from you. ALL of that is true. I really can’t do anything about what is going on in the lives of those around me. And yet, here comes that statement again… “I can’t do a thing, but I can pray. And I will.”

So the statement begs the question, Do I really believe that prayer works or makes a difference? Or is it my default conversation filler that is my token way of saying that I’m at a loss and don’t believe that I matter in this situation.

Well, I’m going to speak this with all the conviction I can muster up... I do believe that it works and that it matters!! In fact, I am convinced more and more that we, as the body of Christ, are living in great limitation simply because we are not expectantly praying and interceding for those around us. I have been marinating in a quote by Oswald Chambers where he refers to prayer itself as the “greater work.” This thought is completely wearing my heart out with conviction and also great anticipation. Because friends, just think about that for a second….WHAT IF prayer itself really is the greater work.

This is what Chambers says in “My utmost for His highest”….

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God. The way fruit remains firm is through prayer, but remember that it is prayer based on the agony of Christ in redemption, not on my own agony. We must go to God as His child, because only a child gets his prayers answered; a “wise” man does not (see Matthew 11:25). Prayer is the battle, and it makes no difference where you are. However God may engineer your circumstances, your duty is to pray. Never allow yourself this thought, “I am of no use where I am,” because you certainly cannot be used where you have not yet been placed. Wherever God has placed you and whatever your circumstances, you should pray, continually offering up prayers to Him. And He promises, “Whatever you ask in My name, that I will do . . .” (John 14:13). Yet we refuse to pray unless it thrills or excites us, which is the most intense form of spiritual selfishness. We must learn to work according to God’s direction, and He says to pray. “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38). There is nothing thrilling about a laboring person’s work, but it is the laboring person who makes the ideas of the genius possible. And it is the laboring saint who makes the ideas of his Master possible. When you labor at prayer, from God’s perspective there are always results. What an astonishment it will be to see, once the veil is finally lifted, all the souls that have been reaped by you, simply because you have been in the habit of taking your orders from Jesus Christ.”

SO….If this is true, (and the Lord himself is proving to me daily that it is), then it should change everything about the way we approach everything! We, in Christ, are not powerless. We have infinite power if we just accessed it on our knees. We not only have power, we have heavy responsibility!! If we really prayed and interceded for our brothers and sisters, for our lost and searching friends, for our spouses…. Can you imagine??? What would that look like??

E.M. Bounds said this, “God has of his own motion placed himself under the law of prayer and has obligated himself to answer the prayers of men. He has ordained prayer as a means whereby he will do things through men as they prayer, which he would not otherwise do. If prayer moves God to work on earth, then, by the same token, prayerlessness rules God out of the world’s affairs.”

In other words, by not talking to Him about it, by not asking Him, by not putting things at His feet in a sacrifice of prayer and worship of who He is, we are saying to Him that we don’t really believe He can do what He says He can do. Our prayerlessness speaks volumes to the heart of God about how much we trust Him. And on the flipside, our prayerfulness also moves His heart to WORK as He sees our wholehearted devotion to Him.

The following statement is not scriptural fact, (at least I don’t think it is!) but just an observation. It seems the body of Christ is made up of 3 different types of people across the board in every situation. The one who is actively walking through something, the ones who hold that person up in prayer and encouragement, and the ones who watch and criticize and don’t do anything. I know all these people intimately because I am all 3 on any given day. Sometimes in the same day! But, now, let’s think about THIS …what if we all were those particular people who held each other up. What if we were all the ones who interceded when all hope seemed to be lost? I know it’s just a question, but it lights a fire under me! Yes, because I want to see the sick healed, and orphans adopted, and marriages healed, etc, etc,… But mainly because in the midst of it all, I want to see God’s power and glory manifested on this sinful earth! I need, you need, we all NEED to see His beauty in the ugliness of life. And I believe that scripture is clear that we forfeit that for lesser things in our failure to believe that intercession MATTERS. It not only matters, it’s our critical lifeline.

So I’m gonna go ahead and echo and “Amen” my brother in Christ, Oswald Chambers and say this. I believe prayer itself really is the greater work. And I best hit my knees and get to it. God is waiting to work on behalf of His children. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2 Chronicles 16:9

May we and those around us not stumble and fall because we have failed to pray and touch the very heart of our God with our deep dependence on His power. Let’s do our homework…its the greater work.

Lucky 13? Not a chance…

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This week we will celebrate 13 years of marriage. I’ll be honest, I’m very proud of us. Not just a little bit, I’m extremely proud and thankful… because I know the marriage statistics and I know how hard we’ve worked to get here. “Lucky“13?? No way. Don’t even insinuate that luck has the privilege of being mentioned here. Luck would suggest that some twist of fate or karma has had a hand in bringing us to this point. I’m very sorry “luck”, but we know nothing of you around here. But I’ll tell you what we do know. We know hard work. We know many days of begrudgingly reminding ourselves of those vows we took. We know buckets of grace. We know boatloads of forgiveness and self-denial. And most of all, we know Jesus who outpours His limitless love and mercy to each of us when we are so selfish and self-centered to even understand how to love each other. That is what we know. And here we sit, 13 years in, and we testify that not only is He sufficient, He is more than enough. It reminds me of when Job said, “My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you.” (Job 42:5) In the ups and downs of marriage, we have not just heard of the Lord, We have seen Him!! And He has been the most beautiful reward. He has overwhelmed to the point of overflowing with His great love and grace towards us and we are a thankful husband and wife.

It’s interesting to reminisce about my thought process on the day we wed. Full of pure excitement, unjaded anticipation and semi-unrealistic expectations! It’s hard to remember exactly. My view from this end, 13 years later, has somewhat skewed my innocence/ignorance as to what this journey would look like. What it looked like then and what it looks like now are 2 different animals! But both with this one assurance- we serve a faithful God who loves us perfectly and in the overflow we attempt to love each other as perfectly as our imperfect nature will allow. That’s hard. No doubt. But oh my goodness, it is WORTH IT, so very worth it.

As a new bride I was smitten. Smitten with this man, smitten with playing house, smitten with the independence and freedom we had together after such a long courtship. We rocked along…learning about each other, learning how to fight, learning how to deal with each others strangeness, and learning how to deal with the selfishness that reared its head in ways that we had not known before. Selfishness that can only be known by one who lives with you…all the time. Other than God my creator, no one knows the selfishness of my soul like this man. I physically can’t keep up the facade 100% of the time. However, the opposite being true as well. No one knows the sweetness of Christ in me as this man does either. I think we would both say we are still smitten…yes, with each other on occasion, but mostly with our God who despite our worst days, has loved us, held us and restored us. We do not complete each other as our culture would lead us to believe is the intent of marriage. In fact, at times, the 2 of us added together equal even more incompleteness than we offer separately, if that’s even possible!! Only Jesus brings wholeness to us, together and as individuals. We are learning that more every day.

These 13 years have been jam-packed with LIFE! 12 years of schooling and career training, 3 difficult pregnancies and 3 amazing kids in the middle of it all, 2 moves, new jobs, the death of a parent. Life at its sweetest, stress at its most intense, conflict at its height, grief at its lowest, but JOY in abundance….all those things make up our journey. Some of those days I regret deeply, but probably wouldn’t change them if I could. Some of those days I would love to go back and repeat but that would mean leaving where we are now and I do not want to leave this place except to move forward. It is the place where all we have been through together meets and we continue to love each other, with all that is in us, as much as humans can know about love this side of heaven…we strive for it day after day. I wouldn’t trade a day of this journey so far.

Each day the Lord is teaching me more from His word about what the faithful family of God is to be about and each day it seems I grow a bit more overwhelmed at how far we fall short. Praise the Lord for His grace that knows no limits. Praise Him that He knows the deep desires of our heart even when our actions are not in line with his commands. Praise Him that He will never abandon us on this journey with Him and with each other.

No, luck has nothing to do with what has transpired in our marriage over the last 13 years. It is only the unwavering faithfulness and unmerited grace of our God that has kept us from becoming another divorce statistic. We are to provide evidence that marriage is designed by God to give us a visual picture of His great faithfulness to faithless people. I pray that we bear witness that day after day after day after day after day, marriage at its very core is worth fighting tooth and nail for! Faithful marriage honors God. Period. And if we had no other reason but that, forget the love, forget the self-fulfillment, forget the companionship, we should fight for it. People, you can’t just give up. Marriage is about daily, constant refinement and sometimes being refined really hurts. God’s gentle refinement is not intended to drive us apart, but rather to bring us to a place where together we look more like Jesus that we ever could have a part. Marriage is truly not even about us, except for the fact the God desires that our strengths, and even more so, our weaknesses would bring Him glory and be a living display of His fullness and power. Oh my goodness, Lord Jesus, may that be our story.

So, Happy 13 years to us!!! 13 years of not leaving each other behind, of being faithful only to each other, of not killing or physically harming each other, of somehow, in spite of the toughest of days, really loving each other more today than we ever imagined that we were capable of before. It’s been a beautiful journey to get to this point. I pray that the depth of our love, forgiveness, failures, and restoration would depict a clear picture in this broken world that our God reigns and He is relentlessly faithful to His children. We are proof of it.

“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” ~Hebrews 10:23

Still that same girl

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I had a birthday this week. 35. It felt rather milestone-ish since it was the half-way mark between 30 and 40. I celebrated big with awards days at my children’s school and little league baseball…just as I should. ‘Tis the season of life and I’m trying to glean all I can while I’m in the throws of it. It’s a constant challenge to get perspective in the middle of it but along with the moments if insanity I do have occasional moments of clarity!
I’m no philosopher but I know enough to know that I think too much. I don’t struggle much with getting older but I do tend to do a great deal of re-evaluation each year when my birthday rolls around. This year I cracked myself up as I pulled out my journal from Jr./Sr. year of high school. While it was quite hilarious, it was just really interesting to read the rhythm of my 16 year old heart. I was taking chemistry, trying to understand dating relationships, attempting to make my way through friendships that were in transition, pondering the next steps of college, and all in all trying to seek the Lord in all these things. Sometimes experiencing great successes and sometimes completely frustrated with my failures. To be honest, not totally different from now! While wisdom and maturity has allowed me to have greater perspective as an adult, I am still trying to maneuver my way through relationships and trying to understand God’s love and grace towards me. I have grown up a lot, but I’m still that same girl with those same concerns. And I’m gonna go so far as to speculate that in twenty years when I turn 55, life will still be about managing responsibilities, working through relationships, pondering the next steps of life, and trying to honor my God in the daily things of life.
While some in this world are called to change the world on a massive scale, most of us are called to change the world by being faithful and committed in our own little corner of it. God has done huge things in my life that I am amazed by but they never started out as huge. They started out by tiny steps of obedience in which I either obeyed Him or disobeyed Him. All of those choices that were made in my 16 year old mind, in the scheme of things really did build upon each other, and build upon each other, and build upon each other to become the foundation I operate upon now. I had a youth leader in high school pound this important truth into me, “Every difficult, challenging choice you make in the name of Jesus for his glory, He will honor. ALWAYS. ” And where I sit now, I can testify that nothing could be more true or reliable. He may have honored it that very day or it may have been years before I saw the beauty of how He honored it, even to this very day. But no matter, God honors our faithfulness to Him. Period. And on the flip-side of that, it just gets better. Jesus is our redeemer. Which means His death compensated for all our bad choices. Even when our choices don’t honor Him, only He can make beautiful things out of the messes of our bad choices. While we have consequences that we must often live with, we don’t have to live defeated. Because we aren’t. I’m thankful for that today. I don’t deserve that. Thinking of my 35 years of life, my God has honored the good things I’ve chosen and somehow restored the bad. And well, I call that the good life, my friends. At 35, 55, God willing 75 years old…I am always that same imperfect girl who wants to hear “well done, sister” from the mouth of my Jesus at the end of this life.

Might sound strange…

“For the trouble is all with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead I do what I hate… I know that nothing good lives in me. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good but I don’t… I love God with all my heart! BUT there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. Oh, what a miserable person I am!! WHO will free me from this life dominated and sin and death? THANKS BE TO GOD, who delivers me through Jesus Christ my Lord!” Romans 7:15-18, 22-25

May sound like a strange passage for Mother’s Day night but I gotta be real and say its just timely for me tonight. I wake up each day with such high, lofty hopes of how loving, self-less, servant hearted I will be today. I will be gracious and forgiving. I will not yell or lose my cool. I will be just a wonderful mom and wife and daughter and friend. Then like a ton of bricks I fall under the weight of life. I succumb to the lack of sleep, the screams of children, the poop (yes), the spills, the tantrums, the dishes, the laundry, the fighting siblings, the miscommunications of marriage, the everything. I get prideful when I deny myself in an effort to serve others then get frustrated when they don’t do the same for me…I quickly get into the groove of sin. The cycle rears it’s ugly head. I hate Satan like that but I play into his appeal. I can’t see straight, I erupt and then feel ashamed, I strive and I strive and in my striving, I lose. I just lose every time. Truly, what a miserable person I am, in the words of Paul. I got nothing. Nothing….except the only thing I need. My Jesus. And tonight, in the stillness that follows the storm of kids, life, marriage, family…all the good stuff…I am clinging to Him like my toddler clings to me at preschool drop-off. I need a strong infusion of every thing He is. I need double portions if I can be so bold to ask for it, to cover the depth of my inadequacy. Without Him I really am a miserable, hopeless sinner. But I am not without Him! I repeat, I am not without Him!! I have a Saviour. And He SAVES. He is able and much more than my most impressive efforts on my best day. He supersedes and must get a good laugh at my attempts. He is my Jesus and my love. The love from which all other love flows. So before I sleep tonight so say with great confidence as Paul did…. “Who will free me from sin?? Thanks be to my God, who delivers me (EVERY SINGLE DAY) through Jesus Christ my Lord.” Amen, Amen, and AMEN.

great moms

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My husband and I have really great moms. We really do. They invest deeply and sacrificially in their families. As a result, you can see fruit consistently being produced long after the daily details of child-rearing have ceased. I so want to be a great mom. A mom who daily points my children to the Lord. A mom who guides them and provides for them all the while resting in the comfort the God holds them safely in the palm of His hand. I do trust Him completely with their lives…or at least today I do. Tomorrow it may be harder to trust Him. To be honest, I just typed that so that when moments of challenge arise, (and they do) then I will read my own words and be reminded that HE is ALWAYS good and faithful. God is sovereign over the lives of my children and regardless of my faithlessness on any given day, that is just the absolute truth.

It’s amazing how becoming a mother changes you. No one can ever prepare you for the fact that in a split second, your world is never the same. That is probably a good thing. Not sure if we would sign on for it if we REALLY knew ahead of time. In fact, in some ways I hardly recognize who I was before. There are days I would like to revisit that mind-set for just a few minutes!! I say that jokingly because I could not be more thankful that God has allowed me to be a mother…I know that not everyone is granted that gift. I pray that with everything I have I will lead my children to experience the love and grace of our Jesus. Only He is worthy of any effort we can give and isn’t that what this life is all about? Loving Him and pointing others to Him.

There are so many opinions concerning what exactly constitutes a “great” mom. That is  influenced greatly by our own mothers and what they did. Or maybe even more, what they failed to do. My definition is greatly impacted by my mom. She is a great and wonderful mom. I want to share a few things that I believe she has passed on to me as I walk this road. (As well as my husband’s mom as she has raised this man who leads my family!!) While not perfect, they continue to meet the challenges of motherhood and now grandmotherhood with passionate, servant hearts. The older I get, the more I become intrigued by and want to learn from those who have mothered well, so to speak. I guess it’s the whole truth of Titus 2 that I am so drawn to… that “Older women would teach younger women how to love their husbands and their children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God.” I want to soak up all I can from those who have walked this road. I want to mother my children well because I only get one shot and I want my efforts to bring my God much glory. Now, I am fully aware that God’s redemption is large for our failures. We will make a stink of things no doubt. But what I am talking about here is day in, day out, a consistent DESIRE for faithfulness and authenticity from conception to the empty nest and beyond….

So, here is what I see in the lives of the mothers I greatly respect.(primarily my own)
What is it that makes them great?

~First of all, my mom was, and is, far from perfect and never desired for us to think she had it all together. I actually think that it was one of the things that made her great. The fact that she was so comfortable with not doing everything right only made me realize that Christ is the only standard by which we can gage ourselves and we can never attain that. Actually, looking back, many of her shortcomings impacted me as much, if not more, than her successes. I have to say, now that I have my own children, that blesses me tremendously and gives me great hope!! Oh, how I pray that the Lord would use even my failures to bring my children even closer to HIM ….because my failures are many.

~Also, because my mom was so aware of her inadequacies, she was a praying mom. An “on her face” praying mom, if you know what I mean. There is no way to explain some things in life except to know that someone was praying for you. More times than not, I believe that that person was my mom. Now that I have my own children, I do understand that it’s very difficult to MAKE your children do anything. And even if you make them do it, it is likely done in the wrong spirit. Whether its poop in the potty or choose the right friends… You can lead, guide, and encourage them to do right things but ONLY God can mold and form their hearts and their decisions. I KNOW that my mom prayed me through. She interceded on my behalf when I didn’t know I needed it. And probably many times face down, on the floor, in a puddle of tears. But that makes her great.

~Another thing that made my mom great was that she always supported my dad. (Obviously, I know that many mothers are single. But, again, this is only my experience.) That is not to say that my dad was always right, but she supported him regardless. As I look back on the path they traveled together, I am quite sure that it was difficult at times to follow his leading for our family. But she did and I believe that God has blessed our family as a result of her submissiveness to him. In this day of women always needing to be heard and never “ruled over,” I have a lot to learn from the example my mom set. It is not Biblical for me to ALWAYS have my way and ALWAYS be heard. It is however, my God-ordained duty to let my husband LEAD. God did not make me a man. He made me a woman…a wife and a mother and that is hard enough. I don’t need my husband’s job too. Needless to say, I have alot to learn from my mother and that makes her great in my eyes.

~Finally, I know that my mom loves me unconditionally. I have never questioned her love for me. She has always wanted only what is best for me. In fact, I believe that sometimes that desire is all she had to give me. That in itself makes her a GREAT mom. A mother’s love is amazingly intense and always perseveres—I know that because that is the way I now love my own children. I think it’s the closest thing to our Heavenly Father’s love for us which is how I KNOW I can trust Him completely with my children!! He loves them more than I do which my mind can’t begin to conceive.

SO, there you go. It all sounds simple. Much easier said than done. But I want the entirety of my life to speak for itself one day in the way I have done this mothering thing well. Don’t you?? As Francis of Assisi said…. “Always preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words.” May our actions speak and our words never have to defend us.

Happy Mother’s Day to all! We have much work to do!!

“Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value….Her children arise called her blessed….Give her the reward she has EARNED and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.” -Proverbs 31:11, 28, 31

Confident of this…

Most days I fly by the seat of my pants and can’t really get it together. Reality hits hard around this house…unmade beds, piles of laundry, dirty dishes and lots of spills. This is not a blog about organizational tips, homemaking DIY, or really even anything inspiring. It’s just me; a wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend who loves Jesus and is trying to figure out how to live a life that bring much glory to my Lord. The reality is that I mess this up royally most days. The greater reality is that my God redeems my mess ups in His great mercy because my heart really does LONG to see His glory. So… in the end I end up being amazed at the beautiful things He makes out of my messes. Life is uncertain but Jesus is not. So I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in me will carry it out until it’s completed which my Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6) If you identify with this in any way, then read on…if not, then don’t:)