Sunday, December 22, 2013

What holding back REALLY holds back

I leaned over Olivia's shoulder as we colored together and beamed "Oh wow, Olivia.  I LOVE the colors you chose!  Your picture is beautiful!"

She turned her head up at me, covered her picture with her arm and defensively barked "Not for you, mommy!"

I think I would have been annoyed or angry if I hadn't been so hurt.

I wasn't asking for her picture.

I gave her the markers and paper.

She was sitting at my table, during the time I had set aside to spend with her to co-create art.

Seeing her weak, skinny arm trying to hold something back that I wanted to share with her stung me.

I laughed about it with my husband last night, because when things are funny they hurt less.  And I mean, "Not for you, mommy!" was kind of hilarious.  Seriously, child.  You have nothing that I do not give you, and mostly at great sacrifice to myself (that pedicure budget is pretty sad these days).

It finally hit me this morning.

God gave me everything I have.  He could take or demand it at any moment, but he desires to co-create with me.  He gave me my talents and gifts, not so that I could produce results to please Him, but so that He and I could go together into this dark world and shine light and love.  How silly for me to hold on to areas of my life where I use my gifts or He has clearly blessed me and say, "Not for you, Daddy!"  Not only is it hurtful, but I miss out on a HUGE opportunity to spend beautiful time accomplishing great things with Him.

I'm sure we all hold on to different things more tightly.  The last couple of years that I have spent at home with my kids often leaves me dreaming of returning to my career.  The things that make me great at work are the ways that God has uniquely designed and gifted me.  I was one of the lucky ones who actually found a job that engaged those passions and strengths of who I am.  In truth, those same gifts make me effective for other ways God wants to partner with me to love people- and I should be more thrilled about that than PowerPoint.

So today I choose to say, "It's for you, Daddy!".  Thanks for joining me in my day. Thank you for creating this home and family alongside me.  Help me to hear your affirmations and gentle guidance.  Make me aware and thankful that everything I touch, see, have, and am is a gift from you.  Give me joy in painting a small corner of the beautiful story you are telling today, knowing that the big picture is as awesome as you are even if I can't see it past the green playdoh ground into my carpet.



1 Peter 4:10
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,as good stewards of God's varied grace:

Proverbs 8:27-30
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Beautiful Mess (The one where I was ugly.)

The lighting in an airplane bathroom is not kind.  Neither is motherhood.  The haggard reflection of an unshowered woman with vomit down the front of her shirt, purple circles under her eyes, and a squirming two year old under her arm stared back at me blankly from the mirror.

An hour earlier I was feeling a little melodramatic rolling through the terminal after an exhausting week of time change, sick kids, and long days full of activity (aka “vacation”).   Finally heading home, my arms and elbows were full of bags and children as our family moved awkwardly through the busy airport. I could not help but notice the business women, wearing heels and packing light.  Some of them sat in cafes, alone, with a glass of wine and business at hand. “I used to be like you once, business women.” I thought.  “I was beautiful and important.  You would simply cry if you knew how little separates you from this encumbered mess walking by.”

I’m sure some of those women were actually loving moms who had seen their own fair share of late nights and yoga pants; but in that moment I felt jealous of their solitude, beauty, and professionalism.  I finally got to my gate and squeezed my awkward mess of diaper bags and clinging children through the narrow walking aisle of the plane. The flight was very hard.

That’s when I ended up face to face with the reflection of the worn woman in the mirror.  That gross little airplane bathroom became the place where this blessed, happy mom who adores her children and loves playing with bubbles and sidewalk chalk was ready to give it all up. That blank stare from the greasy girl who couldn’t even go pee by herself really got me.  People used to say I was pretty.  

I was praying my way through that entire flight starting from my flashes of jealousy and insecurity in the terminal.  Painfully, my feelings of being “unseen and unheard” felt amplified by Gods silence over those hours.  I couldn’t kick the ache in my heart that I had become an unattractive, unimportant woman.

We made it home.  Barely.

I finally got a few precious moments to myself, so I took out my Bible Study homework.  30 minutes later I was on the floor, bawling my eyes out and laughing with God over His “silence” and all of that vomit. 

Here’s what I learned that changed my life:

  •      I want to be beautiful because that’s how God made me.
  •          I am beautiful.
  •          Love (even when it looks like vomit) is beautiful.
  •          True Beauty is Messy.

I want to be beautiful because that’s how God made me.

I feel like on the subject of beauty, inner beauty gets a lot of time (Proverbs 31:30, 1 Peter 3:3-4). I understand that those purple circles under my eyes are “beautiful” in that abstract way of symbolizing the hours I was up rocking my child the night before.  I still hate them.  I still want a shower. 

I’m so glad that it isn’t shallow to want to be beautiful.  God created beauty, He created humans to appreciate physical and natural beauty (SOS 4:1), and has destined me to one day be a beautiful bride in heaven.  Of course my heart longs for that.  The problems only start when I look for anyone other than God to affirm my beauty.

I am beautiful.

Thankfully, God affirms my beauty any chance I ask Him. He died to be with me, his love for me is etched across the history of the universe.  There is a prophetic story about a royal wedding in the Psalms that points to the day when we will be the bride of our King in Heaven.  The stunning bride to be and her entire wedding party enter the palace with joy and gladness.  She has been told, “The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for he is your Lord.” (Psalm 45:11).

Before this day is over, you walk over to your bathroom mirror.  Allow the reflections of any unscrubbed showers or cluttered vanities to remain in the background.  Look that woman staring back at you in the eye.  You tell her: “The King is enthralled by your beauty; honor Him, for He is your Lord”. 

Take time in prayer to ask God if you are beautiful.  Allow all of the hurtful things people have said, negative images swirling in your mind, or lies of being ugly and worthless to surface.  Ask God to sweep them away like a cloud so that you can find your most beautiful reflection in His eyes alone.

Love (even when it looks like vomit) is beautiful.

One day we get to be brides again.  God has been planning this wedding feast for ages and has every last detail perfected (Revelation 19:6-8).  Our dress is being sewn together as I type, bright linen white and clean made possible by the ultimate sacrifice of love (Isaiah 1:18).  The linen itself is “the righteous acts of the saints” (Revelation 19:8). 

We won’t contribute anything borrowed or blue to our heavenly gown, but when we choose righteousness in the form of love we are weaving eternal threads into our own beauty in heaven.  When I hold my (vomiting) child close because I choose to honor God in my motherhood, serve without complaining, and love someone else more than myself that is not inner beauty- it is eternal beauty.

True beauty is messy. 

Jesus came to “give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes” (Isaiah 61:3). 

It isn’t until we look at our heads (possibly in the mirror of an airplane bathroom) and see the messy ashes of grieving our lost selves, youthful beauty, or sense of importance that we can truly appreciate what it means for the Prince of Heaven to place a crown on our heads and say “Marry me, my darling. I am enthralled by your beauty.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When the Going Gets Good, the Grieved get Scared

Do you ever find yourself indulging in nightmarish speculation?  My morbid little mind often wanders into dark spaces that it doesn't belong- imagining the worst when my husband is late coming home from work or I feel the slightest pain that I decide is cancer. I have actually stared at a dark ceiling at 3:27am deliberating how I would spend the life insurance money.

If you've ever experienced deep grief or loss, you almost certainly know what I am talking about.  For everyone else, do not judge this intimate view into a scarred soul.

There's something about the hard times that feel almost comfortable to me.  I've walked through grief and pain and disappointment.  My soul has seen the dawn of incredibly dark nights.  In that darkness I was writhing, but God was so intimately close to me I cold almost reach out and touch Him.  His voice so clear, his peace and presence so strong.  

Somewhere in this beautiful experience of knowing God as my rescuer I lost perspective of His love.  I decided that since the Bible talks so much about trials, persecution, and endurance that this life was something I had to endure.  I had new resolve and conviction that I could do that with the strength I had come to know from God.

Then the strangest thing happened. Life got good.  

And a stranger thing happened.  The more blessed I felt, the more scared I got.

My contentment and resolve began to falter.  Strange, isn't it?  When you have nothing to lose at emotional rock bottom there is a security not only in God's presence but in an absence of risk.  Suddenly I had people I loved, achievements that felt important, things I enjoyed and I became paranoid about losing them.

God isn't just strong enough to get us through the bad times.  He's strong enough, good enough, and just ENOUGH to get us through life.

Paul puts it like this:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.- Philippians 4:12-13

Usually people emphasize that through God's grace we can persevere through times of need, hunger, or want.  I'm most encouraged that I can be content when "fed" and "living in plenty".

I can do it because God gives me strength.  Strength to resist the temptation to worry.  Strength to enjoy and fully experience my blessings with gratitude for God who gave them to me.  Strength to let my heart attach itself. Strength to trust Him that he is not waiting to trick me, teach me a lesson, or torture me by taking everything away. Strength to have hope in His love.

Even though God was so loving toward me in my grief, anxiety wells inside me when I think of going back to that painful place of loss.  Paul gives us the secret to his full contentment with God regardless of circumstances a few verses earlier:

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 your minds in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7

So when things are bad, pray.  When things are GOOD...pray!  

Instead of ruminating in your anxiety, refuse the temptation to "take control" of an imaginary situation you do not have grace from God to experience- because it isn't real.  Lay your fears, mistrust, and worry at the feet of Jesus. He will replace it with a perfect peace that will guard your heart from your own painful fixations.

Memorize Philippians 4:6-7 and recite it when you start to imagine that the creak in your hardwood floor is a psychopath invading your home.  

Surrender your mind and heart to Jesus, there is peace there. Peace and joy and FREEDOM to experience the blessings of life he loves to give you.  You will discover a whole new side of God's love when you surrender to Him when times are good.

***

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things - Philippians 4:8

Will all your worries add a single moment to your life? - Matthew 6:27





Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Beauty of Discontentment


There is a philosophy that says we can experience joy and contentment if we simply accept our lives as they are and focus on the positive.  It's just not true.  You don't have to feel guilty when counting your blessings doesn't make you feel better.  It never will. It's time to embrace our discontentment instead of shoving it to the side and thinking "thankful thoughts".

5 Reasons Discontentment is Good for Us:

1. Being discontent reminds us that we need God.

Nothing reminds us that we need God like a feeling of actual need.  There are so many beautiful prayers in the Bible that come from places of pain, distress, and being overwhelmed.  Of feeling angst and aimlessness.  God is there.  In those dark places.  He isn't hanging out with the people who are doing "okay", he is chasing after the heart that has sunk so far down it needs RESCUE.  That is what our savior specializes in: saving.

2. Our anxiety creates room for God's peace. 

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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Thankfulness has a role here, but it is the how not the what.  We approach God with thanksgiving, but also with anxiety!  The thankfulness isn't what produces peace.  God's peace is a gift we receive when we need Him, only He has peace that transcends understanding that can wash over our souls to guard our hearts.

3.  Discontentment can be the courage to say something needs to change.

Good intentions to invest in our marriage simply fell victim to tight budgets, overbooked schedules, and sheer exhaustion.  I told myself it was alright.  Love is a choice.  Although I have a husband I can be thankful for, I have officially decided I am NOT content with rarely having quality time with him.  Date night was born.

Do not talk yourself into being thankful for a life that could benefit from change.  There is an element of mothering young children that will always feel short on time, money and sleep.  Instead of being content with martyrdom, consider how you might make small changes with a big difference.  Once you've poured all of your anxiety at God's feet, ask Him for some practical guidance (James 1:5)

4. Discontentment mean's I'm not perfect.  (Shocker.)

There is a real temptation for me to fall into the "Count your Blessings" trap.  It has a lure of positivity, control, and self-determination that all appeal to me.  Realizing that two small children can break me to my knees and create an absolute dependence on God is humbling in an uncomfortable way.

I have to be the real can't-handle-it me to truly know the peace and joy of the real can-handle-it God.

5. Here comes the Holy Spirit.

I know that real joy and contentment is the outcome of the Spirit of God in my life, not a sentiment I can manufacture or create.  It's crazy for me to realize that God's Spirit lives in me.  There's still plenty of "me" in me.  The Spirit of God is loving and full of joy.  I'm invited to walk with Him and have Him transform my perspective and attitudes, but that is a decision I make moment by moment.  When I find my heart is full of angst and discontentment, it's an instant reminder that I am not allowing God's Spirit to guide me.  Those icky feelings of bitterness, angst, or jealousy remind me that life apart from Him is far more difficult and less desireable than the challenging life I strive for in surrender to Him.

***

Inspiration for the discontent and overwhelmed:

O God, listen to my cry!
Hear my prayer!
From the ends of the earth,
I cry to you for help
when my heart is overwhelmed.
Lead me to the towering rock of safety. Psalm 61:1-3

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning,For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress. O my strength, I will sing praises to You;For God is my stronghold, the God who shows me lovingkindness. Psalm 59:16-17

In my distress I called upon the Lord,And cried to my God for help;He heard my voice out of His temple,And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. Psalm 18:6

She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 1 Samuel 1:10

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Daddy's Little Helper

My heart leaped in my chest.  She chose ME.  I asked my 2 year old Olivia if she wanted to watch Curious George or come help mommy sweep the kitchen.


Let's be clear.  Olivia and her little red broom are not really helpful (observe the empty dustpan).  She spends most of her time wildly sweeping the crumbs I've gathered back under the cupboards.  

I didn't ask her to help me sweep so that she could clean the kitchen for me.  It was an invitation to spend time with me.  I hope that as I tell her aloud how to start in the corners and make little piles she will figure it out by the millionth time, years from now.  I hope that she learns a heart of working hard with a smile (and loud music).  Mostly I just think it's adorable when she uses the teeny red broom I gave her to try to be just like mommy.

Then it clicked.  I am "Daddy's little helper" in the Kingdom of God.  

I get confused about doing God's work because of the analogy of workers in a field that is used in the Bible.  It feels like I am busting my heart out sweating in the field, accomplishing rows of planting or harvesting, while the "master" sits in his big comfortable house.  I think that I am working hard to show what I have accomplished to God one day in heaven.  I think that I am a warrior, a worker, a woman to whom much has been given and who bears a great responsibility of stewardship.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am a baby with a tiny broom.

My calling to the work of God is an invitation to be with Him, to learn from Him, to work alongside Him as he accomplishes great things.  He uses another analogy about working in the kingdom of God that explains it beautifully.

Matthew 11:28-30
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

When a young ox was being trained, they would put him on the yoke of an older more experienced ox, to walk along side him.  By being tied to the other ox, he would learn how to do the work by doing it.  God isn't putting a light yoke on us, He is inviting us to join Him like an ox joins another closely on a yoke.  He promises that He is strong and knows what He's doing, so it will be easy for us.


I know it's oxen, but it's pretty intimate isn't it?  It looks incredibly annoying for the strong ox to have the young ox pulling the opposite direction.  I can hardly believe the God of the universe has invited me to be tied together with Him.  To learn from Him by shadowing closely.  To walk along side of Him as He in His strength and wisdom accomplishes great things, and to some how think of ourselves as a "team".

I couldn't imagine how God would WANT to do this, until I look at my little Livs holding up her empty dustpan so proudly.


It's so unhelpful, but so beautiful. I'm so thankful for the time I get to spend with her.  I appreciate her effort and am incredibly proud of her- not for her accomplishment or contribution to cleaning the kitchen, but despite the fact that there was none.

God doesn't want us to work FOR His kingdom.  He wants us to work WITH Him, with the tools He gave us.  To learn, to build relationship, and to try

Are you working for God or with Him?  Think of the ways you are leading, serving, or volunteering.  You'll know if you are doing the work with God because your relationship with Him will be getting deeper in trust, dependence, and mindset- not to mention He will be doing the heavy lifting!

Do you feel further from God than you would like to? He is inviting you to walk closely with him in his work.  Pray and ask Him to show you where you can work together with Him so that you can spend meaningful time with Him, learn from Him, and grow closer in your relationship. Consider how you can act in love alongside Him.

Daddy's working on a BIG and BEAUTIFUL project, girls.  Let's "help" Him out.


Monday, July 8, 2013

Moms on a Mission: Reclaiming our Calling

Do you long for God to use your life in exciting ways but feel totally stuck in your role as a mom?  No time, no energy, and no consistency made it seem impossible for me to feel like I was doing much more than surviving the day; let alone doing something big for God.  It didn't feel like my gifts or talents fit into the schedules of any of the ministries at church anymore.  It has taken me a looong time to understand my calling as a mom.  There were several failed attempts along the way:

I remember sitting at a conference when a 20-something got up to talk about her AMAZING call to Africa, where she literally held women’s hands to lead them out of slavery.  I sat there and thought, “I missed out.” I was married, had a mortgage, and was nursing a newborn.  I felt so useless.  I had no freedom to go on an extreme adventure for God.  Maybe I could give some money to this girl who could do exotic and life-changing ministry while I was at home changing diapers.   I thought, maybe that is my boring calling- to be a steward of God’s money to fund people with good callings.

Nope.

I remember driving my car with a gallon size Ziploc bag open under my mouth.  I had one of those “super fun” pregnancies where I literally did not know the moment I would start vomiting uncontrollably, only that it would certainly come.  I prayed that the baby inside of me would be “worth it”.  That God would use them mightily.  I thought, maybe this is my horrible calling- to sacrifice everything to raise up a godly child who will impact future generations.

No Again.

I remember studying the life of David, who was a shepherd and a servant for 32 years before he took his rightful place as anointed king.  I thought, maybe this is my calling- to sit on the sidelines for a season of servanthood so that some day in the distant future I will be humble enough to accept my REAL calling that will be beautiful, exciting, and involve leadership.

Wrong.

Our calling is never someone else’s calling.  It’s not even our children’s calling. We are definitely not called to sit around and do nothing until some giant opportunity we aren’t even preparing our hearts for magically presents itself.  We are called as moms to the same ministry as every other daughter of God.  To make disciples (Matthew 28:19) and to bear fruit (John 15:1-2). 

Stop for a minute.  If you feel like you can’t live a joy-filled, powerful life for God as a mighty and impactful force in his kingdom while you are nursing a baby every 3 hours, chasing a toddler, or driving carpool- then pray with me.

“God.  I want to follow you.  I feel stuck.  Show me the calling you have for me that is supposed to be uniquely mine.  That will fill me with purpose and joy and change lives for your glory.  Amen”.

Now read with me. 

1 Corinthians 13:1-3 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.  If I have the gift of prophesy an can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move the mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I posses to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Or to paraphrase: If I can teach like Beth Moore, but don’t have love- it’s meaningless.  If I live like Francis Chan or Bob Goff, and give everything to the poor, but don’t do it in love- it’s meaningless.  If I go to Africa to save orphans like Katie Davis, but don’t have love- it means nothing.

It is not about how big or different or radical we can make our adventure for God.  It’s not what we do or how many people we get to show up somewhere or listen to us that makes our work for God powerful, important, or meaningful- it’s LOVE.

Why? 1 John 4:8 “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Because God is love.  His Spirit of love is what makes us different from the world around us.  His Spirit is the breath, and life, and power of any meaningful, powerful, interesting calling we could ever hope to answer.

We have all been gifted in different ways.  All of our life experiences and talents and personalities coupled with supernatural abilities that God’s Spirit gives us lead us to do and to love to do different things. 

Romans 12:3-8 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

We each have different gifts, and some are even more gifted than others. You may not ever have someone else’s gift, calling or ministry…but you do have yours.  There is no room for jealousy here.  When you turn your nose up at your gift or your calling, you are insulting the giver of both. Always use your gift at every opportunity in love (1 Peter 4:10) and realize you may not be ready for more at this moment in time- “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.” 

Did you know that your gift was given to you by Jesus Christ?  He is so wise, and he gave it to you thoughtfully.  He gave it to you specifically for a VERY important reason:

to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”- Ephesians 4:12

Our gifts were meant to cause UNITY and maturity, never jealousy or discontentment.  We are all supposed to work together as a single team, like one body, to reach the fullness of being like Christ.  Judging from the church today, I’d say we are not all using our gifts in love.  Let’s change that, starting with us.

Join in the Mommas Revolution.  Don’t look at the four walls around you as a prison, make your home a temple for the presence of God and his Holy Spirit.  Love your husband and kids in a sacrificial way that displays the glory of God’s character to everyone who knows you (1John 4:12).  Be thankful for your calling and the space God has carved out for you to use your gift.  It is the perfect size for you, your faith and your gift at this moment (Psalm 16:6). 

What would happen if instead of wishing you were in charge, you used your momma eyes to look around and see who needed a little encouragement?  If instead of standing on stage looking into a backlit crowd of shadowy silhouettes you let yourself sit in the back and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and took notice of who was insecure, hurting, doubting, or learning and took a chance to love them?  If instead of having your headshot on a popular blog or book cover, you just let that pretty little face of yours be approachable to all the other moms on the playground, with no makeup, picking up screaming kids from the nursery or sneaking a third cup of coffee?

Love would happen.  Grace would happen.  You have your gift.  You have the Holy Spirit to teach you how and show you when to use it.  THAT is your calling. To use your gift RIGHT NOW, in love, to make disciples and bear fruit.

Girls.  God does have a dream for our lives.  It’s a big one.  It’s beautiful and it is custom fit to our hearts, passions, weaknesses and strength.  He has had it in mind from the time he created us, called us, and everything he has been teaching us along the way.  I wish you love and joy and peace as you learn to listen to him and walk in the true passion of your spirit to HIS GLORY.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

More Loving than Thou

Holiness has much less to do with perfection than we think.  Nowhere does God say that the goal of the Christian life is to "not sin".  Holiness NEVER looks like finger wagging condemnation, distanced relationships, judgement, shame, guilt, hypocrisy, or nit-picky over-the-top controlling rules and regulations.  If you've been burned by "holy" people, or feel like holiness is not worth your heart, keep reading to discover true holiness- which looks and feels like God's LOVE and power.

Holiness simply means that as followers of God, we are different from people who don't follow God.

When we look at the Bible, it is very clear that we are not different because we are "perfect", but because we have God's spirit (Ephesians 1:13, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22) and it is the primary force that drives our actions and attitudes (Romans 8:5-9).  God is love, and if we are followers of God we are set apart from this world not by our high moral standards, but by our LOVE (1John 4:7-8John 13:35).  The holy spirit is not an annoying conscience that we can push to the side when it tries to keep us from watching bad movies.  It is a raw force of the universe whose power transforms lost causes, revitalizes melancholy hearts, and always acts in heroic and sacrificial love.

If being Holy looks like God's spirit acting through us, then being holy looks like love and the Holy Spirit.  Less like being "perfect" and more like:
  • Forgiving people who don't deserve it.
  • Not letting jealousy or bitterness ruin our relationships.
  • Being humble and not having to be "right".
  • Serving other people even if it means we can't do something for ourselves as a result.
Holiness doesn't have to look like this,


It looks a lot more like THIS.



Holiness has nothing to with us "quitting sin".  It has everything to do with us deciding to live in a way that is led by God's spirit of LOVE.  Even though everyone who believes in God and follows him has his spirit in their life, we all know it doesn't always feel or look that way.  How do we unleash this powerful spirit that fills our life and transforms the world around us?  God says the best way is through obedience (1 John 5:2-4).

We don't stop sinning to GET holy, we stop sinning because we ARE holy.

I saw a documentary on the vegan lifestyle (I was not converted, but still impressed).  They were explaining how making the transition off of processed foods is really challenging, and your body truly needs to "detox".  They recommended NOT going cold turkey, if you try to go vegan by "giving up" foods you love you will fail every time.  Instead they said to slowly just add more vegetables into your diet.  As you do that, you experience the energy and health that come with it and slowly the vegetables just naturally push the junk food out.  So in theory, instead of clinging to your Cheetos bag, you won't even want it any more.  That's really how holiness and sin work.  We are all clinging to our little addictions or habits, and letting go feels impossible and honestly undesirable.  But the closer we get to God, the more natural obeying him will feel.

Getting closer to God can feel intimidating, and it's hard to think of all the changes you would need to make for a spiritually "healthy" lifestyle.  It doesn't have to be overwhelming, he is closer than you think.  He is ready and waiting to do all the heavy lifting (Matthew11:28-30).  Unlike all those times I have tried and failed to "get in shape", I'm not alone on my spiritual journey.

My relationship with God is driven far less by my own will power than by His grace.  

And as hard as it may feel to take the first step, Holiness is truly God's plan to make us HAPPY.  It will be worth it.  If you're up for the adventure, here's some simple ideas of how to get started "eating your veggies".

Practical Tips for a Spiritual Detox:
  • Ask God to help you  Tell him you want to spend more time with him and learn his wisdom.  Admit that you will give up quickly on your own.  Ask for his voice of encouragement and love to strengthen you. (Hebrew 13:20-21James 1:5-7, 2 Peter 1:2-4)
  • Read your Bible everyday  (Romans 15:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
    • Start with just a verse of the day, it will take you less than 5 minutes to read.  
    • Work your way up to 15 minutes a day when you are ready.  This should cover about a chapter a day.  Start with a small book like Ephesians or James, it will feel good to finish it in less than a week.  
    • Spend some time reading through a gospel, like John, it's a great way to get to know Jesus as a person.
  • Pray
    • Start with asking God to be present in your journey to get closer to him.
    • Move on to being thankful.  Give god credit for at least one thing you are thankful for and praise him everyday, even if it is combined with a simple mealtime prayer at first.
    • When your heart is ready.  Ditch your baggage.  Confess the things that have been keeping you far from God and ask for his help to claim your victory over your addiction to sin. (2Timothy 2:21)
  • Choose who you listen to
    • You will be listening to God through prayer and reading his word, but this world is a noisy place.  Choose some of the other messages that come into your brain wisely.  Consider listening to classical or Christian music, thinking critically about the movies and TV you watch, and trying to make as much in your life consistent with hearing God's voice as possible.
  • Get in the real world
    • Make sure that you are getting the right support for your journey to get closer with God in a solid Christian community at a church or with Christian friends who are encouraging you. (Hebrew 10:24-25)
    • God's spirit will transform your heart, don't let it stop as a personal experience.  Practice the same  love and forgiveness you are experiencing with the people around you.  Either through volunteering to help your community or by taking a step to let God heal a broken relationship you are holding onto by forgiving and reconciling with someone.
John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

May God's love guide, protect and strengthen you on your adventure!


Monday, June 17, 2013

For the days Motherhood feels like unwashed laundry, dirty dishes, and coffee that isn't working.


My little girl had her dollie cradled in her arms.

She rocked her back and forth, making a strong shushing sound right in her ear.  She reached for the empty plastic bottle and put it up to her doll's lips.

"Is the baby tired?" I asked.

"Yes."

"Are you..."

I was interrupted by a "Shhhh."  Olivia then made a snoring sound, the kind we make when I am pretending to be a sleeping princess and she wakes me up with a kiss (or the other way around).  She wanted to let me know the baby was sleeping, and- come on mom- to be quiet.

She turned her attention back to her dolly and looked into her eyes intently, so tenderly.  She started to hum.

My heart beamed to the point of bursting.

She has seen me do this a million times, with her and with her little brother.  I quietly handed her the little blanket and she finished putting the baby to sleep.

"Olivia", I told her, "I love you.  I am so proud of you.  When I see you taking such good care of your baby I know that you have a loving heart.  It shows me that you are so kind, and that makes me very happy.  I can tell that you have been watching me.  You are so smart!  You remember everything you saw me doing when I put my baby to bed- and you are doing such a good job being just like mommy!"

I gave her a big hug!

And then I got chills.

Because for a moment, I heard God whisper "I feel the same way about you, sweet baby girl.  I'm so proud of you when I see you loving your babies.  It tells me a lot about your heart.  Keep learning from me.  I love you."

This simple act, mommas, of rocking our babies, of late night tears (theirs and ours) of all that is entailed on the journey of mothering- is truly an act of love.  Our daddy is so proud.

1 John 4:11-13
Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another.  No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we reside in God and he in us: in that he has given us of his Spirit.

video

Here is a younger Olivia quietly shushing all of her dollies and moving them out of her room to all go to sleep together on our couch. 

Confession: Flint slept on the couch behind a bank of pillows for much of his early life (he loved falling asleep around everyone).  So that's just where Olivia thought babies took their naps :).


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Listen

"Listen".

My fingers draw back from the keyboard, my eyes close, my back relaxing and head tilting up.  This simple writing prompt feels more like a command after a rare hour where I have had time to write.

Typing is noisy.  So many thoughts in my head begging to be organized on the screen.  So many voices and stories echoing through my thoughts, either validating the truths, questioning my assumptions, or laying colored lenses and perspective onto every choice of word, every conviction, every vulnerable confession.

My laptop listens to me.  It repeats back my sentiment on it's screen to check that it understands.  It doesn't.  My words fail me.

***

#FiveMinuteFriday

*This is a creative writing exercise I participate in with a beautiful community of women bloggers.

3 Unexpected Reasons Holiness can make you Happy

Buck naked.  Flat on my back.  For like...forever.  Looking in the corners of the ceiling suspiciously for hidden cameras.  The most awkward doctor's appointment I have EVER been to.  Ever.  And I've had 2 kids.

I thought getting my moles checked would be like when you get a massage and they have the warm blanket over you and they uncover your arm and then cover it, then uncover your leg, then cover it.  It's not.  Having an elderly woman with lipstick on her teeth (and unevenly on her lips) tell me about skin cancer, wearing my sunscreen, and warning signs for mole growth while walking slowly around my naked body was...mmm...off-putting.

Then she hands me a brochure about sun protection.  The cover is a woman out hiking in the sun who is covered from head to toe.  Long sleeve windbreaker, long pants, huge safari hat with a neck flap.  It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen.  I left it there.  But picture something like this:



I'm sorry.  I'm sure that is a GREAT way not to get a sunburn, but seriously...is that really necessary?!

Is that how you feel about holiness?

I mean holiness is a great way not to get in trouble...but isn't it extreme?  Like these guys swimming fully clothed with their dumb hats on?  Won't most of us be okay just putting on our sunscreen and drinking plenty of water?

Here is the secret that Satan has been great at keeping all these years:  Holiness is not judgmental, extreme, conservative, old fashioned, hypocrisy, or legalism.  Real Holiness can actually make us extremely happy!  

Here are 3 ways.

1.  Holiness is our CALLING.

1 Peter 1:15-16 "But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy".

My kids are still really young, but I will admit that I fantasize about them someday saying, "I want to ____, just like you mom!".  Whether it's writing, serving, studying, cooking...anything!  Isn't emulation the highest form of flattery?  Our father DELIGHTS in us when we say, "Daddy, I want to be holy just like you!"  It is the absolute core of who God is, on a completely different plane than hobbys, sports or talents.  Can you imagine how painful and disrespectful it is when we say holiness is not worth our time or effort?

We are adopted children of the king.  You know what is beautiful about our new place in our family?  Although we couldn't have been any more different that our father and big brother at the time of our adoption, over time, we start to resemble them more and more.  There is a family identity as a child of God and we are invited to participate in it!

God's Holy Spirit lives in us (Romans 5:5, Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 1:13).  God is love, and for us to  be able to hear his spirit, love him and others, and truly be holy or "set apart" as his children we have to obey him. (1John 5:2-4, John 15:12-14).  Obedience, or holiness, is how we respond to the Spirit of God's love and truly experience our calling as His children.

2.  Holiness gives us FREEDOM.

Romans 6:14 For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace.


Does holiness feel restrictive?  There is an amazing truth waiting for you in God's word.

You know what is restrictive?  Sin.  Ugh.  It's packaged to us like fun times and cool kids and marketed by Satan like cigarettes- but it's death.  Anxiety, depression, loneliness, addiction, aimlessness, angst, bitterness, victimhood, broken relationships...sin is a disaster waiting to happen.  During different seasons don't we all feel powerless before our own tempers, sex drives, or other cravings?  You may not be in a dark place at the moment, but the result of sin is always death.

In Romans 6 Paul draws the line.  You are either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness...there are no free men.  Holiness can feel like slavery to righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:14)...but it's actually freedom from sin!  You don't have to be stuck in the cycle of meaningless, broken, defeating sin.  Ditch the baggage.  Just stop what you are doing.  Tell God and anyone else that you need to that you are sorry.  Decide to be different- to love others, to learn the truth, and to follow God.  You will be amazed at the transformation and freedom that the Holy Spirit will bring to your life.

3.  Holiness produces JOY!

John 15:10-11 If you obey my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be complete.

Did you hear that?  These "commandments" from Jesus aren't mean to make us miserable...they are designed to protect and deepen our relationship with God so we can experience complete JOY!  Here's the truth about sin. It separates us from God.  When we let sin into our lives and refuse to deal with it, we are letting distance come between us and God.

Satan would love to claim your soul, but he'll settle for your life.

We can't have an intimate relationship with God if we are still sneaking time with our ex-master on the side.  The distance grows and grows.  When we are far from god we can't hear him speak love into our lives, his wisdom seems so hidden, his strength inaccessible, and our will to follow him and his power to change our lives and use us to affect the lives of everyone around us isn't there.  We don't even realize what we are giving up!  The immediate pleasure is not worth the ultimate gift that came at the ultimate price (1Peter 1:13-20, Pastor Andy Wood says more).

Just say no.  No to mediocrity and YES to holiness with all of it's purpose, freedom, and joy.  Chasing after God and trying to obey him by learning the Bible, living in christian community, and obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of you is the only way to truly live.  




Check out my other post "5 Ways to Know if it's a Sin" to think more if there is something in your life that may be keeping you from the happiness of holiness.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Survive a Family Vacation in 5 Easy Steps

We just came home from our first ever family vacation with our two kids under two. We had SO MUCH fun, but it was so much work.  In case you are planning something similar, here's 5 lessons I learned the hard way.

1.  Play "Expectations Limbo"- How low can you go?

A whole week.  With my man undistracted by work and my kids giggling and discovering spectacular things they've never experienced before in their short little lives.  What could be better?!  I looked forward to it for months...which is basically asking for disappointment.  I brought a book and bubble bath and the stuff to give myself a pedicure "after bed time".  None of those things saw the light of day from my suitcase.

I felt guilty sidestepping the "how was it?!" question from a dear friend when I got back.  How ridiculous is it to complain about a weeklong vacation?  But she's been there and taught me: "If it's time away with only your husband, it's a vacation.  If it's time away with the kids, it's a trip."  Wise words.

2.  Wherever you go, there you are.

Here's the thing, this is "vacation" not the twilight zone.  Unless you are traveling with someone or to somewhere that provides childcare you are still on the hook for feeding, naptime, bath time, bed time, sick kids and night wakings.

Life is tough with young kids.  At home (a childproofed, familiar place) I have a hard time getting to the grocery store.  I'm not sure why I thought that going to Disneyland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, and Coronado beach all in the same week seemed reasonable.  You know, sandwiched between an 8 hour drive on either end.  Next time I am going to focus more on family time and less on family attractions.

3.  Repeat after me: "My husband is a wonderful man."

The best and worst part of family vacation was expecting to have quality time with my hubby and getting family time instead.  He wasn't distracted by work but we were both distracted by the kids.  Mike and I almost never fight, he is my hero.  I was so sad when we got in a fight (even a small one) on vacation.  Up till now vacation was always a recharge and connect time for us.  Something about expecting to have a ton of fun and ending up with melted down kids, not enough sleep, and an ant infestation in your vacation cottage just doesn't bring out the best in people. 

Take a breath.  Remember how much you love each other (make a list!) be ready to apologize and make up...the fun way.  Meet in the middle, recognizing you are both stressed out and not getting a "vacation" in the relaxing way you are used to.  The truth is, you're in it together- and isn't he so hot when he is loving those kids, spoiling his family, and holding your hand in the middle of a weekday?!

4.  Take turns.

"Family time" is oh so fun...in moderation.  Take turns giving each other a break, or take your kids out for one-on-one dates.  It's fun to mix it up and if one kid is antsy, one parent can go be goofy and silly while the other one stays home to relax during nap time.  It works.  If it's possible to work in a babysitter, DO IT.  

5.  Enjoy the little things.

Forget getting the perfect picture, rushing around to see everything, or the "make the most of it" mentality.  You can make the most of your time not by skipping naps to squeeze in more activities, but by taking it waaaaaaay slower than seems reasonable.  If you aren't so worried about not missing anything, you'll be less likely to actually miss having fun.  Giggle with the kiddos, look them in the eye, don't stretch them (or yourself) too far and remember that "vacation" is going to look a lot less different than real life for a little while.

Hope this was helpful!  Enjoy your trip!  We had a lot of fun on ours...even if it wasn't exactly what we expected.  We did it together and came home blessed and thankful, able to laugh about some of our ridiculous expectations and rookie mistakes.  That's what being a family is all about :).











Friday, May 10, 2013

Comfort

My husband keeps all of his t-shirts for too long.  He won't let me throw a single one away, or make them into a quilt, or hide the tattered ones in the far back corner of the closet.  He is on to my schemes.

Mike does have one old shirt I love.  It comes through the laundry with all the others, but it is still incredibly special every time I fold it.  Thousands of washings have not removed the waterproof mascara on that undershirt, from when I buried my head into his chest that day.  I sobbed so hard.  Dad was dying.  

Mike and I had dated for less than a year, but he was my rock in that valley.  Instead of running away from my brokeness, he ran toward my tears and embraced me.  He gave me a diamond ring under a waterfall and said he wanted me to know that when I cried again and again and again he would be the one to hold me.  He wanted me to know that when my world felt like it was crumbling, he would be solid and constant and strong.  He wanted me to know that he loved me, forever, so he married me.

His arms have been my comfort countless times, always my strong and steady.  He knows God is stronger than both of us, so he has held me tight while he prayed over my pain.  He still lets me use his undershirt as a tissue while he is wearing it, after all these years.  Now I see him hold our children in those same strong arms and I know how lucky they are.  How lucky we are.  That his are the fearless arms that hold us.  I love you, Mike.

***


After Mike proposed under Yosemite Falls we rushed to the hospital to tell dad before visiting hours were over.  It was the first time I couldn't stop smiling in a long time. 


THIS man.  I will always be happy in your arms, Babe.  


 Now he has three of us to hold.  But he is strong enough.  We love you!


***

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Brave

I felt brave.  Taking off my shirt to reveal my bathing suit and skin beneath.

The suit hid my stretch marks but not my hips and thighs that marked my body as unmistakeable wear from bearing two children.  The fact that I was with other moms made it worse, instead of better.  They were beautiful and thin beside the backyard pool.  Fortunately the fact that I was with my two year old daughter gave me courage.

I don't want her to grow up being afraid to go to summer camp, fearing jumping in the lake in front of the boy she likes, or slouching in shame instead of laughing with her chin back and head high while she sits in a hot tub with her girlfriends.  I don't want her to grow up being like me.

I would fight a lion for her, I tell myself.  So instead I battle my own demons of insecurity and self doubt and fear.  Even though it may seem simple, taking off that blue tunic was the bravest thing I've done since I brought those beautiful babies home with me.

"I like your bathing suit" my kind hostess said.  "Thank you" I replied, and slunk in the icy water with my daughter clinging to my side and the sun hot on my hair.  She had no idea what this simple act in her backyard symbolized: My commitment to raising my daughter to be beautiful in her own skin and to be brave...just like her mom.

***

#FiveMinuteFriday
This brave act took a lot of prayer to come to.  My honest journey is here on my blog about Why Being Fat Makes me Cry.

5 Minute Friday confession- I was halfway through my last paragraph when my iPhone buzzed, so this was more of a 6 Minute Friday.  Phew.  It's been said.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Why Being Fat Makes me Cry


I've been blogging a lot about what God has taught me.  I thought I'd take a turn at what God is teaching me.  This one is raw.  Like, I can't totally talk about it without crying.  Girls, I have over 20 pounds to lose to get back to my weight before baby #2...and baby #2 is already 7 months old.  I weigh 3 pounds less than when I was pregnant with him.  Just typing that makes me want to throw up in shame, fear, and bewilderment.

So here was my process.   

FIRST  Write out why, specifically, this hurts so much.
  1. Because I feel like I am living in someone else's body.  I've never felt my thighs rub together or had the fat on the top of my back touch the fat on the bottom of my back when I reach up to the top of the pantry. 
  2. Because this feels too familiar. I never felt like I was one of the "pretty ones". I finally found my confidence in my twenties and now it's gone again.  
  3. Because my husband is awesome.  Sometimes I worry that he could do better than the chubster who stays home all day and still can't manage to keep the house clean (me).
  4. Because it feels like it reflects on my character and competence. The fact that my baby is seven months old and I still can't fit in my clothes makes me feel like an undisciplined, lazy failure.
  5. Because it makes me grieve the "old me".  Being active and in decent shape feels like thing #324 that falls into the "Before kids" category that I can't see coming back any time soon.  
  6. Because it feels overwhelming to even think of the energy it would take to meal plan and exercise to fix it.
  7. Because I feel like I can't enjoy all that life has to offer when I am dodging being in any pictures and dreading every month older my son gets as a declaration of another month gone by that I am still fat.
  8. Because I feel like being a stay at home mom is already one strike against me in making a first impression, so I have to make up for it by being hot, entrepreneurial, or in some other way interesting and I am none of those.
  9. Because even writing this out makes me want to eat a brownie and that makes me feel this weird guilt and shame and like I deserve to be overweight.
  10. Because it brings every "I should be/do" to mind and just makes me feel like I'm not good enough.  
THEN consider, for a moment, my assumptions. 
  • I have to be thin and pretty to be likeable.
  • I will never lose weight.
  • I am not a good person if I am not ambitious or successful.
  • Being overweight defines who I am.
  • I have to prove that I am perfect.
THEN be brutally honest as to the effect is having on my behavior and those around me.
  • Insecurity, depression, alternately craving and then resenting food.
  • Keeping tally of what I do in an unhealthy way to try to prove my worth.
  • Not giving God the glory or my full passion in His calling and purpose for me as a mom.
  • Hiding from my friends, worried what they will think or that I will make them uncomfortable if I reveal my real struggle with my weight.
FINALLY pretend like I am talking to someone else (more gently and lovingly than I talk to myself) and share the truth that I know.
  • God sees my heart.  He values my love for my family and others INFINITELY more than my looks.
  • My husband and kids ADORE me.  Why would I rob myself the joy of basking in that?
  • I should be living with the perspective of the Kingdom of God.  The values of this culture around vanity and beauty are twisted and only take me away from the happiness of keeping my eyes on what really matters.
  • Every moment I spend trapped under this emotional boulder is a moment wasted, I already have victory. I need to look to God and my friends to help me claim my freedom.
Here is a GREAT link to some scripture, and an amazing book that have been encouraging me.

I'm not going to lie, this is a battle that is not over.  It doesn't help that on a morning when I wake up feeling good I think I probably could fit into that outfit and then I try it on and disaster strikes...I feel like I am reliving failure over and over. I have to recite to myself the words of love God has whispered and rehearse where my value and identity are found.

Whether it's weight or something else that feels like a boulder pressing down your joy, I hope you'll take a moment to be vulnerable.  Write it out.  Think about the subconscious assumptions you have.  Admit the way it is affecting you and others.  Let the truth in through prayer or seeking encouragement from friends.

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised


Lord, come into this dark corner of my heart.  There is shame and fear and sadness and oh so many tears hiding.  Please, shine your light so brightly into this darkness.  Shower your truth and love and joy over my brokeness.  Help me develop a healthy attitude toward self-image, food, and pleasing others.  I want to love you, my family, and others...and I want to love the woman you are making me.  Help me see myself the way that you do.  God I surrender my heart to you, but I will FIGHT for the victory you have already given me over this.  I love you.  Thank you for loving me.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Friend

It's like a breath of fresh air.  But it's more of a gasp, really.

Life feels like a lap swim, the same movements being relaxing, grueling, new, and exhilarating over time and repetition.  In quick succession moving arms and swiftly kicking legs feels focused and dreamy and immediate all again.

And from time to time there is the breath.  Not too many breaths.  They kill your speed.  But each one just as you need it.  Each one enough to get to the next.  The only thing that can get you though the pain and the joy and the exhaustion and the relaxation of lap after lap.

I choose my breaths wisely, and I choose you.

My friend who lets me come over in my pajamas with kids who aren't wearing shoes.  Who has made me coffee when I am about to cry.  Who can give me a breath in the most unexpected moments: as a text, email, or memory remind me of your prayers and the Spirit of life we share.

My life is wonderful, exhausting, repetitive, changing, confusing, clear, busy, lonely, and...{gasp}...I'm so thankful that I can share it with you, Friend.

***

I'm trying something new :).
#FiveMinuteFriday



Tuesday, April 30, 2013

5 Ways to know if it's a Sin

There are a lot of gray area these days...aren't there?

Good Christians are reading romance novels, sharing hotels rooms with the person they're dating, drinking, stalking married exes on Facebook, and watching TV shows with intense sex scenes.  And other good Christians are not.

If you are trying to figure out if that thing you're thinking about is aaaaaactually a "sin", you're probably starting in the right place- Because you want to know.  Chances are you won't find a verse that's exactly about it, so here are a few different perspectives to help you think about it in a fresh light.

1.  Yes.

Sin is anything that falls short of the glory of god.  So the bad news is, if you have to ask about it, it is probably a sin.  We all actually sin a LOT more than we think we do.  Romans 3:23.

2.  No.

If you think of sin as something that separates us permanently from God, then the answer is No.  If you are a follower of Christ, nothing you can do can separate you from his love.  We are forgiven.  Already.  For anything we have done, are doing, or will do.

Does that mean it doesn't matter if we sin since we're forgiven?  Should we prove that we are different than the "crazy" Christians by ignoring all of their rules?  Forgiveness is so much bigger than that.  Suddenly we CAN be the people we want to be, we don't have to be trapped by strong pulls or addiction.  That's freedom.  Read Romans 6.

Freedom in Christ is only restricted by God's love for us and our love for God (2 Corinthians 5:14).  There are plenty of horrible things I could do to my kids or husband, and they wouldn't leave me.  They're my family.  We are committed for better or worse.  But I know who I want to be as a wife and mother and I know they love me and I love them.  I am not trying to do the minimum to avoid divorce, I make sacrifices and go out of my way to love on them because I am investing in a lifelong healthy and loving relationship with them. It's the same way in our relationship with God.

3.  Does it threaten your intimacy with God?

Song of Solomon talks about catching the little foxes that threaten to ruin the vines (2:15).  What it means is that in the relationship between these two lovers, little things sneak in.  Not lions.  Foxes.  They nibble at the blooms on the vines, and if you let too many in these seemingly harmless creatures can ruin the whole vineyard.

Guilty pleasure confession.  Reality TV dating shows.  I know.  Ridiculous!  There's nothing wrong with it (other than that they are fake and poorly written ;)).  It came to a point recently, though, that I had to stop watching for a while.  As parents of two kids under two, we can get a little starved for romance from time to time.  I was suddenly bitter that my husband didn't take me bungie jumping or to foreign countries for dates.  That's really not fair!  So I gave it up simply because it wasn't healthy for our relationship.

There are things that may not even be bad that are not healthy for the intimacy we have with God.  Are there "innocent" things are negatively affecting your perception of or intimacy with God?  It may not be sin, but guard your relationship with God with the same voracity as you would guard the most important relationship in your life.  If you don't feel like you are starting from a place of intimacy, fight to get there.  It might mean giving some things up, but it is more than worth what you will find in return.

4.  Do you tell your friends about it?

Satan loves to work in the dark.  If there is something that you are wondering "Is this bad?", ask a friend.  Bring it up in your small group or with a trusted Christian friend.  If it's not something you feel comfortable talking about, it's not a good thing.  Get free of the grip!  You already have freedom in Christ.  Bring it into the light and ask a few trusted friends to pray with you through it and claim your freedom!

If you don't have a trusted Christian friend, ask God to bring it into his light and pray through it with Him!  He will happily forgive you, love you, teach you and strengthen you. (Psalm 139:23-24, James 1:5, Romans 6:22)

5.  Is it just not worth it?

Here is the crazy truth about sin: It's not about how much God will tolerate, it's really about how much YOU can tolerate.

Every little one takes you further from God, further from joy, and away from your true calling. Sin will bury you.  The fruit of the Spirit in contrast with the results of living by this world are a stark and ugly contrast (Galatians 5:16-25).  You don't have to live sin-free to live free from guilt and shame.  God doesn't expect you to be perfect, He couldn't be more clear that you aren't and He's already forgiven you.  But you can't live with the full joy of knowing that unless you let God speak to you moment by moment- telling you that you are free, forgiven, loved, and your life is meaningful.  When we sin we break that relationship, end the open dialogue, and isolate ourselves in the dark.  Is it worth it?

Sin will take you farther than you wanna go...leave you longer than you wanna stay...[and] cost you far more than you wanna pay.  - Harold McWhorter

Let's live in victory and freedom.  It's the life we were meant for.  We can do it in God's power, and with a little help from one another.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Am I as good as she is?

Sometimes I say things even though I know people might think I'm crazy, if I feel them strongly enough.  So I put my hand on the elbow of a woman I had just met.  I looked her in the eye, and said "Give yourself a little grace.  You are a great mom and you are doing a good job.  None of us have it figured out."

I've been thinking about it a lot since, and there is just one problem.  None of us really CAN give enough grace to ourselves.  

There is only one giver of grace.  Only one who can pour out enough grace for our tired moment, for our insecure heart, for our fears we may not be strong enough to hold our kids, husband, household, and selves all up at the same time.

So here is some Grace.  Straight from the source.

God is easily impressed.

I've read at least a dozen or so blogs condemning Pinterest and Facebook for making moms feel bad.  It is true that it never ends well when we compare ourselves with others- especially when we are "comparing their highlight reel to our behind the scenes."  To be totally honest, I think most of the moms I know are actually pretty good about trying to be genuine and real (even if we hide our laundry piles before someone comes over).

The truth is, it's not Pinterest and it's not Facebook...it's us.  We can tell ourselves that the other mom who can do things, create things, or afford things that we can't is somehow secretly unhappy or over stressed- but what if she isn't?  What if instead of imagining her miserable in some unknown way we just allowed ourselves to be impressed, gave her a genuine compliment, and didn't let it affect the way we felt about her or ourselves?

Being a mom doesn't always come with a loud cheering section.  I've been amazed at how inadequate I can feel for the task some days, even though for the most part I know I am doing a good job.  When I was at work or even in ministries I used to be involved with it was easy to keep track of my success with numbers, milestones, and money.  I do sometimes hope that baking for my playdates or throwing an amazing party will fool people into thinking I am good at my new "job"...but could it be that it only makes some of them feel as insecure as I do?

The truth is we are all holding a different hand of cards.  Income, time, support from spouses or extended family, kid's ages, stages, or sleep habits...you may have it better or worse in any of these areas than any other person.  Guess what.  It doesn't matter.  God sees us, loves us, provides for us, and calls us to care more about what HE thinks of us than how impressed everyone else is (Galatians 1:10, John 5:44, John 12:42-43).

I LOVE new parent posts on Facebook.  The total thrill and excitement with which it is announced "He rolled over!!!"  or "She ate with a fork!".  It doesn't take much for our little lumps of baby to impress us, does it?  God is SO thrilled with us.  When we humbly serve our family, look for ways to love and forgive one another, and try with our wobbly baby legs to walk in the Spirit.  He can be the loudest cheering section in the universe if we allow Him to speak to our heart.

Let's just give each other the benefit of the doubt.  Assume we are doing our best with what we have, and try to remember the goal is not to win:  It's to look like Jesus when we love our kids and love each other.  

God loves it when we don't have it together.

Do you know that back when the Bible was written there were people who looked like they had it all together- the Pharisees.  Do you know who Jesus chose to hang out with?  The tax collectors and the prostitutes.  Because they wanted him, worshipped him and needed him (Luke 7:47).  So for all of us moms who have forgotten to put shoes on our kids before going to Target, who have said a little prayer during our toddler's tantrum in an all too public place, or ran into an old friend while wearing sweat pants and zero makeup...God loves us.  He loves that we DON'T have it all together, so there's no need to pretend like we do.

We need His peace and love and grace daily whether or not our house looks like a page from Pottery Barn Kids...but for those of us who wonder if we will be featured on "Hoarders" anytime soon- man do we KNOW we need His peace and love and grace for our day- and THAT ladies, is a blessing.

God is SO MUCH bigger if we let Him be.

If only I lived in the daily realization that God's plan for the world and my place in it had absolutely nothing to do with how soon I lose my baby weight, how early my daughter starts swim lessons, or if I have custom invitations for her birthday party.

God's voice is never unkind.  When He disciplines us or corrects us it is very direct and always because of sin- not because we let our kids out of the house in pants that clearly did not match their shirt.  That voice: that tells us we are not doing good enough, that tells us if we "had more" or "were more" we would be happy, that tells us we should be bitter, resentful, jealous, insecure, or defeated- that is NOT our Father talking.

God calls us into His kingdom of love and grace.  We can live for Him, seek His voice, and let Him tell us there is no need to be afraid.  That even if we aren't enough or don't have enough, HE IS and HE DOES.  We can do anything we need to do in his power (Philippians 4:13).  And suddenly, when we look at Him, all other opinions and shallow badges of american motherhood fade away (1 John 2:17).

Sigh.

Does this blog feel long?  I think it's because it's something that no matter how many times I shine God's truth on, it always comes back around again.  For now I will NOT let Satan ruin my chance to build community and friendships with moms who need love and encouragement just as much as I do over...ugh...jealousy.  At the end of the day, that's what it is and it does NONE of us any favors.

1 John 2:17 "And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever."

Galatians 1:10 "For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ."

1 Corinthians 3:3 "for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"


God.  Let me bask in your view of me.  Let me love others, admire them, encourage them, and build them up generously and without thought of how I will benefit.  Let me love unconditionally like you love your church.  Help me to not be jealous.  You have blessed me and forgiven me beyond what I could ask for.  Remind me of that on a daily basis.  Help me serve and bless other women without thought of how they see me, how popular I am or am not, or competing in any arena.  No judgement, no competition, no jealousy. Love, mercy, grace, contentment.  Let me be a blessing to everyone I meet and serve them the way you call me to.  I'm sorry my heart is like a broken shopping cart, always swerving toward jealousy and competition.  Fix me.  I want to live in your Spirit.