Monday, August 25, 2014

Dear Grace

An open letter to Grace Driscoll and pastors' wives everywhere.

Dear Grace,

Forgive me now, please. Normally I have my thoughts more well together before I sit down to write. I'm one week into a new semester, math and English homework are taking a toll on my brain. I'm sorry if I ramble or make little sense.

Today is Monday. Ideally a Monday should be a little calmer for women like you and me. Sunday is over. The smiles and the sermons, the handshakes and hugs, the early morning, last minute tasks, and the long afternoon waiting to leave the church parking lot. That was all done yesterday. And so today is Monday and it's a new week. It will be full of new activities, new planning, and new possibilities. But there is room for rest today. I hope you find it.

Like I said, ideally we would expect things to be calmer today because it's a Monday. I don't know how things go for you and your family, but Monday's don't typically slow down for me. They're different, but still just as busy. We're not a mega-church. In fact, we're just about as opposite from being mega as you can get. We're a young church plant (remember those days?) and we're actually in the middle of inheriting an older congregation to replant within our young plant. It's been full of amazing developments, lots of exciting moments unfolding, a LOT of hard work, and God moving right before our eyes. Birth and rebirth. It's all truly amazing and it's all for the glory of God. (And it's why we do what we do. The long days are worth it, as exhausting as they are.) So today I have reports to file, and lessons to plan, schedules to make, media to put together, and cleaning to wrap up. We're small, and we have few hands on deck, so the work load is heavy. But the blessings are abundant even though it all wears me out.

Ministry life for ministry families... it just gets hard sometimes, doesn't it?

Grace, I'm writing you this because even though our lives as ministry wives may be completely different, they're also all too much the same. Sometimes in ministry we face mountaintop moments. Things are smooth, lives are changing, and the kingdom of God grows a little bit bigger under our watch and care. Sometimes we're in a valley. The sun has set behind the mountains, clouds have rolled in. It can be pretty gloomy in the valley. Sometimes that big, strong man - the one we not only get to call pastor, but also have the blessing to call husband - sometimes he faces trial like nobody knows.

Or sometimes everybody knows.

It's hard to scroll through my homepages and newsfeeds today. I honestly can't say that I know what has happened. None of us on the outside, no matter how many sources "reveal" information, actually know what happened. It's none of our business. But it's still hard to watch the stories be published. My heart hurts for you, for your children, for your husband. My heart hurts for your ministry.

You see, while I may not know what it's like to be in a mega-church, I do know what it's like to feel protective of my pastor husband. I've seen my Bradley criticized and attacked. And that hurts. It hurts because I know him. I know his heart for this calling. I also know that he's imperfect, just like the rest of us. He has such a heavy load to carry. He's charged with the care of his flock and the care of his family. He has meetings and visits to make. He has studies and sermons and more studies to write. He has good days and he has bad days, just like the rest of us. Sometimes my protective nature rises up just because I feel like those in his care don't appreciate him and all he sacrifices. Sometimes it rises up when I see people talking through his sermon. Those are petty responses, they're things that result in me repenting and asking God for renewal to serve and love as He's called us to do. I just know that my Bradley gives so much of himself and sometimes it bothers me to think that it goes unnoticed. Imperfection runs rampant around these parts. Now, sometimes Brad falls to the flesh and he makes a mistake. I've never seen that not result in an apology, but just the same, somebody hurts as a result of his sin. And sometimes he doesn't make any mistake but still somebody gets hurt. And even then he apologizes, because he only wants to serve God and serve others. That's the heart of a God ordained pastor. But apologies don't always fall on open ears or open hearts, regardless of fault. And that's where the criticism starts. That's where the attacks begin. People we see as friends so easily turn against us. Rumors can spread like a wild fire. Sometimes we put up walls, because it's almost easier to be lonely in ministry than feeling the hurt when friends fall away.

Ministry is hard. We're just these imperfect people trying so hard to tell others about our perfect God. We can't compare to Him. But we hope, even if just for a moment, that those we love and are called to serve will know why we do what we do. It's not about us. Goodness no. It makes for a glass house life, and nobody wants that.

I can't know exactly what you're facing today. I don't know if you're feeling protective, or hurt, or lonely. I don't know if you're walled up or letting those you trust most lift you up and encourage you through this trial. But what I do know is that there is no way that I'm the only one who aches for you, who feels a burden to pray for you, who knows the pain of seeing my pastor husband hurt. I hope you are encouraged. I hope that Christ is giving you all you need to encourage your husband and your children. I pray that your church family is rallying around you, in support and care.

In your time of trial may you find rest. In your time of trial may you feel His overwhelming comfort. In your time of trial, above all else, may God be glorified.

Much love and so many prayers,

Monday, August 18, 2014

Enjoy the silence

I've been pretty quiet here lately.
But things have been anything but quiet.
Lots of changes and transitions and adjustments. Lots of hard work, sweat, and some tears. All good. All for the glory of God.

The short story:
We received a phone call inquiring on our interest in the "acquisition" (for a lack of better words) of a church into our existing church family.
We went on a much needed family vacation. (Pictures? Maybe sometime in the future.)
We came home to a vote for churches merging. (A resounding yes on both parts.)
We've been busy building on the legacy of said church merger, renovating, cleaning, moving, gently embracing new members of our family. It's important to honor those who are coming in, honor tradition, but not lose sight of the vision God has clearly laid before us.

And all of this while life continued. Kinks here and there, cars that won't start and bills that need paid. A dear friend undergoing surgery and her babies that need an extra kiss because mommy just can't hold them the way she longs to. Errands and birthdays. Family members that need an extra hand. Ministry projects and trips and retreats. Long hours at work, at church, at home... and cheerleading, for the love of mercy, cheerleading has started. And now, school. We're still schooling the younger three at home. 10th grade, 7th grade, and 4th grade. The oldest begins college. And I return to college.

It's been a little busy. I've had an idea here and there of things to share, but at the end of the day when things have settled - honestly - the last thing I want to do is write. I just want to rest. And so that's what I've been up to. Resting when the moments come, though brief and few and far between. Resting for refreshing and strengthening. Preparing to serve and stay on mission. Resting for recharging peace. Enjoying the silence. And it is good.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

And He Calls Me Beautiful

There's this struggle I have at times. Insecurity. Inadequacy. Incomplete. It often comes out in feeling like I need more from him, from my Bradley. We go through the routine dance of where I come up short and where he comes up short and where neither of us feel like we can do enough. I express what I need and he does the same. The last time this played out wasn't too long ago. You don't do life with someone for nearly two decades and not find yourself dancing this dance at times. Life is good and full of joy and seasons of delicate, unblemished happiness. Life is also rough and full of sticky seasons of wear and weakness.

So we danced the dance. There was a lot shared, resolved, and put to rest. One of the things that came to the surface was his need for me to receive his affirmation. You see, I have this need as his wife to hear him say to me those sweet whispers of adoration and admiration - the kinds of things that make me know what I already know, that he longs for me. That he finds me lovely in any and every way possible. But this wasn't just about me needing to hear those things. This was about him needing me to hear those things. To REALLY hear those things. Breathe them in. Receive them into my heart from his heart. Because, as much as I hunger for him do this, I have this destructive pattern of rejecting what he says. My precious husband will lay over me sweet whispers of love and adoration, and I brush them off. I blow them off. I come up with reason after reason why I can't accept what he is saying, even though hearing him say those things to me is something I want so desperately. And so, we're working on this. He's sharing more of these sweet whispers from his heart, and I'm breathing them in. Accepting them as truth. Because no matter how I may see me at any given moment, he still loves me finds me beautiful.

Now, this struggle, it isn't just isolated to my marriage relationship. This struggle of insecurity and inadequacy likes to try and take root in my walk with Christ. I see who I am, who I've been; Filthy. Thief. Promiscuous. Liar. Idolater. Adulteress. Unsightly. You name it, I claim it. And I find it hard to embrace those sweet whispers of my heavenly Father.

Why do we do that to ourselves?

And really, when I get honest with myself, when I'm stuck in the torrent of feeling like I need more from my husband, that's not what I really need at all. What my heart is really needing is to brush off these lies, push through the mess that they leave all around me and just sit in the stillness of my Savior. I still hunger for that affirmation from my Bradley, but when I really breathe in how Jesus sees me... there's nothing like it. Because in Him I'm Clean. Vindicated. Pure. Honest. Redeemed. The Bride of Christ. Beautiful. He whispers it sweetly over me...

He calls me beautiful.

He sees beyond who I was and who I am. He sees who He created me to be. I can't always see that - I don't even fully know who that is! But He does. And I'm in process of being perfected. And His truth, sweet whispers, fall over me. Cleansing me from the inner depths of darkness. Lifting me out and lifting me up. And that is where true power lies, in Him who saw me, saved me, and loves me perfectly. He's what I really need. So I find power and rest when I REALLY hear those things from Him. Breathe them in. Receive them into my heart from His heart.

Now, that precious husband of mine, he is a gift here and now. I love him. I thank God for giving me this man to do life with. But what I REALLY need is Jesus. What I really need is to lay in the sweet whispers of His truth.

He calls me His and He calls me beautiful. He's all I need.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pajama Pants & All The Rest

I was driving my oldest girls to the library the other day for a theater practice, in my pajama pants, at 2:00 in the afternoon. I'm not ashamed. It's not like I was at Walmart or anything (because who wants to end up as one of the People of Walmart?!) I was in the comfort of my kid infested mini-van. Some days the combination of pajama pants and car seats and floor boards full of stale popcorn, used napkins, and other questionables go together just fine.

There are days that I do that. I lounge around in pajama pants. All.Day.Long. That's just who I am.

As I was sitting at a light, I saw a woman that I know drive by. She was obviously more dressed for the day than I was. Hair was done, she probably had put on some make-up or something - I couldn't know for sure, only seeing her for a moment. I looked down at my comfy fleece pj pants and started thinking about how different our days probably were. She was probably up before the sun and I had barely rolled out of bed before my husband left for work that morning. Maybe she had been out and about all day, yet we hardly made it out the door to get the girls where they needed to be on time. And I started thinking, should I be less like me and more like her?

We do that, don't we? Compare ourselves to other wives and mom's. The ones who work full time and still manage to make homemade bread. Or the ones who have that disciplined exercise routine, every single day. Or the ones who spend every waking moment with their seemingly perfect children. Or the ones with the super-model hair, or the immaculate car, or the manicure that I could never keep even if I wrapped my hands in batting and did absolutely nothing.

I'm not the kind of woman who gets up early, at least not without complaint.
I'm not the kind of woman who dolls herself up every day.
I'm not the kind of woman who makes breakfast. Cereal is a blessing from heaven and a staple in this house.
I'm not the kind of woman who does her daughters hair in cutesy up-do's, just because. That's a special occasion type of thing around here.
I'm not the kind of woman who makes her husband lunch. I mean, I'll help him, but some days I can hardly operate the coffee maker. So unless he wants last nights leftover casserole coupled with a jar of maraschino cherries, sometimes it's better if he makes his own lunch.
I'm not the kind of woman who always has the laundry done. And when it is done, I'm not the kind of woman who always has it all folded and put-away.
I'm not the kind of woman who has dinner on the table when her husband walks in the door. Some days are better than others, but most days this isn't accomplished. (Of course, he walks in the door sometime between 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. I guess I have a "defense" given the unpredictability of his schedule?)
I'm not the kind of woman who pays every bill before the day they're due. I don't even keep my checkbook balanced.
I'm not the kind of woman who goes to bed before 10:00... or 11:00... or even midnight. I'm a night owl, through and through.

I fall short in a lot of ways. BUT as I was going through these things in my head, examining all the things I'm not, a still, small voice spoke up in my heart and reminded me of the kind of woman that I am...

I am the kind of woman who values rest. I see the need in the middle of this crazy, chaotic life to make sure our family is taking out the time we need to relax. And sometimes that rest is nearly impossible to come by. But we're fortunate enough to have flexible schedules, and so rest comes when rest can. And sometimes that rest is going to occur during the hours of five and eleven in the morning. And that's ok.
I am the kind of woman who knows that beauty is more than skin deep. I have a husband who loves me whether I'm a size 8 or 18 (and God knows that I've been both, and every size in between!) Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30) I'll brush my teeth and comb my hair. I'll even paint my nails. I'll make sure I'm presentable, but all of that is temporary. My heart, and the hearts of these children that God has entrusted to my care, that's where true beauty should lie. Investing in the heart is far more important than investing in the face. Not to knock personal care, exercise, or eating right - all of that is important, too. There's just more to life than having a pretty face.
I am the kind of woman who cares what her family is eating, but lets face it, some days a carry-out pizza is easier and more practical than homemade anything. And in moderation, that's ok too. But you'll almost always find fresh fruit and veggies to snack on here and very little processed foods in my pantry. (Except cereal. Like I said, it's a staple here.)
I am the kind of woman who FREAKS THE CRAP OUT if her house is a mess. Out of all those things I'm not, one thing I am is a neat freak. So, while the laundry may be piled up in the basement (out of sight, out of mind) the dishes are clean and the floors are swept and the toilet is scrubbed and the shelves are dusted. And that isn't done all by me, because...
I am the kind of woman who makes her kids work. We all contribute to this family because that's what families do. I'm training up these kids to be responsible and respectful. My girls know how to take out garbage and do yard work, and my son knows how to clean a bathroom and operate a washing machine.
They don't do it alone, the husband and I do a lot of the work too. We make these wheels go 'round together.
I am the kind of woman who makes sure everything is taken care of. Some things can be handled days, weeks, months in advance. Some things get left to the very last second. But every single thing is handled, and (most of the time) they're handled with love and a lot of prayer. I'm aware of all of our comings and our goings and, even with a checkbook that is technically unbalanced, all of our affairs are still in order.

As women and followers of Jesus, we have this ideal. The Proverbs 31 Woman. She has noble character and her value is of great measure. She only brings her husband good, provides his every need, and he has complete confidence in her. Her husband is a respectable man and people recognize him as such. This woman is a worker - she's diligent in all she does. Not only is she providing all she can for those in her household, she's also generous and cares for those in need outside of her home. She takes care of her home, and this woman, she is SMART. She is wise and well knowledged - she knows her stuff. Her children see her goodness and they tell her she's a good woman, so does her husband (an accolade we all long for.) She's an honorable woman.

But you know what? I bet she has her down days, too. 

I bet there are days that she lets the laundry pile up in the basement and chooses to play with her kids instead. I bet there are days that her fine linen clothing aren't the best garments in her closet, but that they may just be pajama pants. Because sometimes, some days, we need that down time. We need that rest. 

We can strive to be that woman of great measure and great faith - that woman of God. Seeking Him first, seeking His will. We should do those things. And we shouldn't be idle and we should be diligent in caring for our families. BUT I would dare to say that the shoe of the Proverbs 31 woman fits differently on each woman. And it looks different. And it feels a little different, too. We can strive to be all of those great things for our husbands, our children, and those we love and serve in our families, churches, and communities. But we need not compare ourselves to each other. The great value of that Proverbs 31 Woman isn't found in how she is compared to others - it's found in who she truly is.

Daughter of Christ. Mommy and wife. Child, sister, and friend. My mind goes on tangents and my heart breaks for the broken. My house is clean but my car is a mess. My family is fed and my bills are paid. I stay up late and sometimes I even get to sleep in. I'm far from perfect, but I am in progress. 
Pajama pants and all. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

One down, three to go

She did it! Our first baby graduated high school!
I may be biased, but I do believe that she is AMAZING.

And my Bradley and I, we have officially raised one of our children all of the way through all of their childhood school years.

We will be turning her over to the young adult world.
In less than three months.
Oh, and just in case you were wondering, the thought of that? It's terrifying.

The time flew by. Seriously. It's cliche, all adults say it. Especially parents. But really, where did my premature, jaundiced baby go?
She was JUST born. And I was just learning what it means to be a mom. But now, here she is, practically a grown woman. And here I am, still learning what it means to be a mom. We're in all new territory here. How in the world do we transition from raising a child to simply guiding a young woman?

All. New. Territory.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Go fly a kite!

It's been a few weeks since I last shared here. We've been busy, but it's been a good busy. A busy full of times with friends and family, times of rest and worship, times of work and play.

My Bradley's recent diverticulitis attack (which lasted for three weeks, by the way) gave us the opportunity to hit the reset button on a few things. It gave him time to evaluate the ministry needs of family and church, which led to finally having the down time necessary for discerning prayer and conversations - conversations which gave us new leadership within the church plant, allowing the two of us a chance to shed some hats. And that is definitely a good thing.

We've spent the majority of our evenings taking walks through our city. What started as a way for him to come off of modified bedrest with some easy activity and food-free date nights has evolved into building a regular workout. I imagine that with time we'll be able to get up this hill we live on with less complaining.

In my own time of reflection and prayer I've come to a decision on my James memorization... It started with a week that I just couldn't let go of James 1:1-5. Those verses were verses I memorized at the beginning of the year, but yet here I was drawn back to them. Let perseverance finish it's work so that you may be mature and complete... Finally, after much prayer, I felt I needed to go back through James 1, entirely. This has never been about wanting to just be able to recite this precious Word of God. It's always been about application and committing it to heart and mind. At this point, honestly (and at first I didn't quite know what to make of it myself) I feel like James 1 is my memorization project. Possibly for the entire year. I'm taking this as it comes and as led.

In other news... we're wrapping up another school year. Julie... she's done. Finished. Completely. No more high school, we now have a graduate! So we're gearing up for a party in a little over a week and her ceremony on June 1st. The others each have just a handful of lessons left to complete and we're all eagerly awaiting the beginning of our summer break! Julie and I both registered for our fall classes for college, which begins mid-August (all the more reason for us to wrap up these lessons and start our break!)

Life is just moving right along. In the fullness of it all, we recently took some time away with a GINORMOUS kite. No lie, this thing was bigger than Ellie. We gave it to the kids as an Easter gift because we just knew it would be so much fun to fly.

Once we got it all assembled, Brad and the kids took it for a test run. 

We each took a turn with it. The wind was just about perfect for kite flying that day so it was pretty simple, even with it being so large.

After a while though, the wind picked up a bit more. During my last turn, I was having some trouble controlling it, so Brad took over. And during his last turn, the kite and the wind kind of took over.
That thing just flew higher and higher, and the string just kept going further and further out. And then... well, it was a blur. I had told Ellie to be careful, because I saw Brad was struggling with the string and I could just imagine it wrapping around her ankles or something. Next thing we know, the string had wound itself around Brad's arms, and in an attempt to free himself, he got rope burn (string burn?) and lost the string.

And the kite flew away!
Can you see it up there? Just floating away, over the trees?

This was the point where I pretty much lost it. Ellie, Elijah and I tried to chase it down, but it was long gone. And we were left with tears from laughing so hard.

Brad has since recovered.

After losing the kite and regaining our composure, we decided to walk over to the scenic overlook at the park and take some pictures of our ever-growing babies.

I don't know if they'll ever reach an age where we can get a decent pic of all four of them at the same time.

So, the kite was lost but we had such a great time reconnecting, laughing, and relaxing that it was hard to be upset. It was a good day. And, can I just say, I am SO glad to no longer be working on Saturday's!

oh - and we bought two more of the same kite! More adventures to come...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

James 2 Memorization...

No. I'm not finished with it.
Not even close.

James 1, I got. There were weeks that took a little more 'work' than others did, but for some reason James 1 was easier to commit to memory than James 2 has been. Maybe it's because I've been more overwhelmed with ministry obligations since beginning James 2. Maybe it's because the end of the school year for this homeschooling family is ALWAYS overly busy and full of distractions. Maybe it's because I've been overwhelmed with caring for my Bradley the last couple of weeks. Or maybe I'm just not putting my all into it. No matter what is at the heart of this, I'm thankful that I desire to commit this Word to heart and mind even though it's just not clicking.

So, as of this week, I'm supposed to have memorized verses 1-13 of James 2. It will come, I hope. Even if I spend my summer doing nothing but memorization exercises and prayer (like that would be a bad thing!) It will come.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Life Got Hard

It isn't so much that one thing is going horribly wrong.
And it isn't so much that nothing is going right.
But we get caught up in the happenings and the comings and the goings. There's a lot that needs to be done. And so we just bustle on through, working on it all with diligent hands. But with each intentional act of love and life, our hearts empty a little more, working until they're empty. If we're not mindful, if we're not watching and listening, we just keep working. Busy hands but empty heart. We may not feel empty until we're far past empty.

And that's where the threat truly lies, where the enemy will sneak right in. Knowing you're running off of fumes, he'll just throw in his own toxic gases. And before you know it, you're numb. You don't feel the empty and you can't see the threat.

Last week was Holy Week. Passover. The great sorrow and mercy of Good Friday. The hope only found in the risen Christ of Easter.

It started off like a Holy Week typically does. Remembering the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God who passed over our inequities with a purpose and plan yet to be fulfilled. We remembered how the prophecies and feasts pointed to The One to come. The promised God Man. The One who fills emptied hearts.

The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you...

The week began with that simple reminder. The promise of the blood that covers our souls, making us new, passed over, redeemed. Breathing hope. Lighting the way for the celebration of the week ahead.

And then life got hard.

That big, strong man of mine, he just goes and goes and goes. And he pushes through and does all that he needs to do. He's got a large load to carry - seeking Him first, serving this family we have, and caring for the flock. He's got strong arms though, so it's ok. But even sometimes the strongest of arms can't hold themselves up. And that's where we were. In the middle of a disease that hadn't plagued him in years, ravaging his insides and seeking to destroy. Scary reminders of the first time it hit, the words still ringing through my ears...

He could have died in that bed.
He could have died... 

No destructive plague will touch you.

Proactive as I am, my protective nature takes over. Doctors and medicines, rest and remedies. Prayer. Lots of prayer. We attack this plague now, this destruction shall not touch him. And I keep going, busying my hands but all the while becoming victim of that emptied heart. And the busier I get, the less I see it emptying. And then it's too late, and I'm going off of fumes... toxic. 

Who's septic now?

Steady heart, let us find what is good to be filled with. 

The husband, healing, preaching the message of the Gospel. Sharing on that good day, a great hope of the long awaited Passover Lamb. Hanging. Hurting from the lashes and hurting from the spikes driven through bone and marrow and hurting from the hurts that we still ache with today. That blood that covers all sin, passes over, just dripping down the tattered body of the Passover Lamb, covering the wounds and staining splintered wood... We break the bread and drink the cup and remember the sacrifice so great. We sing our praise from broken and emptied hearts. We leave that sanctuary knowing that the blood wasn't just spilled, but it was forming hope of a resurrected God Man to come. And Sunday comes, and we sing praise of the promise fulfilled, resurrected and walking in a beautiful glory that my mind simply can not fathom. To be that broken woman so desperately in need of mercy and grace, to be the first one to behold Him in all of that glory... 

I am that broken woman. And I do so desperately need that mercy and grace... Can I even stand to take one glimpse of that glory though? This emptied heart needs to be filled but these drab eyes can only see so much. The glory is blinding and I can just barely see.

So, here we are, nearly a week later. And that big, strong man of mine is still bound to the bed. Hurting. 

God... we are begging for healing here. 

And me? I'm just trying. I'm trying so hard (maybe too hard) to be filled only with You, to not fall prey to the sly deceit of the one who would fill me toxic. So that these hands can serve him, and serve them, and serve Him. And my arms? They're weak. Like I said, this is a large load to carry. And my big, strong man, he can barely hold himself up right now. So he needs You. And I desire to help him carry this load, and I need You.

God, how I need You.

But... this is exactly where I need to be. 

This is where true filling comes. In the broken, humble heart, the heart seeking what is good to be filled with. Seeking what is good, and true, and noble, and right, and pure, and lovely. Seeking the Holy. Begging and broken, in need of strength and filling.  

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. -Isaiah 40:28-31

Yes, this is exactly where I need to be.

Father, may You be glorified in my emptiness. Fill me so completely, overflowing with Your Spirit, goodness, mercy and truth. And please, guard my heart like only You can, so that when I run empty again (in my weakness I do this too often) only You are where I turn for a refill. Life gets hard, but You overcame life, death, and the grave so that I may be filled with You and You alone. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wrapping up of James 2:5-7


A few days ago we wrapped up the memorization of verses 5-7 in James 2, which says...

 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Before jumping into that, I have to back track a bit to last week. It all just flows together.

I wonder if sometimes we go through passages like these first seven verses in James and think to ourselves "Well... that's obvious!" Really, I've met very few Christians who actually scoff at a poor person entering the church. BUT then I think a little harder and I realize that this is truly just all too common and the evil judging we do is actually just a matter of the kind of church we're in. Because, like it or not, this happens everywhere, at least every now and again. Now, I am not saying EVERY person in EVERY church is guilty of this ALL of the time. What I am saying is that we've all done it. Whether it's the second glance we give the person that walks into our traditional church wearing jeans, or it's gaze that won't linger away from the person that walks into our casual church with track marks scarring her arms. In those moments, even if it is just for a moment, we discriminate and fail to see another person who - like each of us - was created in the image of God.

The point in these verses is that appearance does not necessarily reflect the condition of the heart. Can appearance reflect the heart? Yes. But even someone who the world could define as tastefully dressed can have a heart that is far from Christ. And, as the verses above share, who the world may define as poor is not necessarily who God would define as poor. Often the poor of the world are the ones who realize just how blessed they really are. And the thing is - we know this. We just allow the world to shade our eyes with what we should define as good and right. 

As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one... - Romans 3:10

Really, none of us are good or right. We're just grace covered. Even with our grace covered souls, sometimes our minds forget that those in the worst of (worldly) circumstances are often the ones who recognize most the need for a savior.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Wrapping up James 2:1-4


So, we're finishing up the first two weeks of memorizing the second chapter in the book of James, which says...

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2:1-4 

Sounds pretty simple, right? Don't show favoritism. Embrace the rich, the poor, the people in between. Welcome everyone and make everyone feel welcome. Over the next few verses James continues to expand on what he's teaching here. So I'm just going to let that sink in for now and dig into it fully later, after going through the next week.  

Besides, my brain isn't up to giving words to write today anyway and it seems silly to force it to happen. No need to ramble on.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Taking in one of those "God moments"

He never fails to amaze me. I’m never actually surprised when these things happen, because I know Him. I know that even He cares about seemingly trivial details like these. And it’s amazing. And then, when taking in the joy of these moments, I am hit with the bigger picture - the unending faithfulness. The impact these seemingly trivial details can have on the lives of people all around us... and on us... the calling that is bigger than we sometimes may see. Hope eternal. Lives renewed.

We’re not done.

We’re not done walking out in faith. That’s a daily call. Where will our steps take us today? Tomorrow? We seek and serve and grow. Churches are planted and missionaries are going, going, going. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Touching the broken. Embracing them in loves strong hold, a hold that doesn’t let go.

He doesn’t let go.

And I’m on this call. And you’re on this call. We all are called to take these steps, daily, to walk into loves strong surrender. We are called to run into His open arms, taking hold of hands along the way and showing them the way. Hands of the hurting and the hungry and broken, bringing them with us into loves strong hold. Who are you holding hands with? Who is He calling you to hold?

Keep my heart humble, my eyes open, my ears hearing, and my feet willing to walk in the steps of Your perfect will. I’m not done. Send me.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. -1 Peter 5:7

Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you. -Psalm 37:5 

Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans. -Proverbs 16:3

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Let it rain

Part of memorizing the book of James, for me, has been to recite each day what I have learned - often several times - from memory. Without fail, each day, something within what I'm running through my mind or mumbling on my lips will strike me as new.

I love that about this Word of truth. I love the way it continually speaks newness and life into my soul. Refreshing. Cleansing.

Like a rain that washes away all the built up dust and dirt. A rain that brings growth and new branches, new leaves and new blossoms. Growing in Him, growing up. Remembering where you've been, dreaming of where you're going, resting in where you are.

Yeah, it's kinda like that.

So let it rain.

This past week I began James chapter two with verses one and two. Since they flow right into verses 3 and 4 for this week, I'm just waiting until next week to wrap them up (because that is what makes the most sense, at least to me.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Remember the Sabbath

“Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. - Exodus 20:8-10(a)

We're pretty busy around here. With six different people, all with our own responsibilities, all with our own activities, it gets to be a lot to juggle at times. I think most families are like that anymore. Going from here to there, every day, nonstop. Because we have to... or, really, just because we choose to. We can quickly take the time to fill our calendars, often more quickly than we take the time to fill our hearts with the very One who created us with a need for rest.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. - Mark 2:27

Busyness is like an epidemic. It's prevalent, wide spread.

Now, I'm not arguing the sabbath law here. We can have our doctrines and opinions on whether or not a sabbath is still "required" for the New Testament church, but that isn't what is on my heart. The truth of the matter is that we all NEED rest. We all NEED refreshing. We all NEED renewal. The sabbath fills those needs (and more) and so - law or not - the sabbath is good. Holy.

On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, - Genesis 2:2-3(a)

Like I said, we're pretty busy around here. For the last 11 months I've been running myself ragged. Working Monday-Sunday, 60-65 hours a week - and that doesn't even touch the regular "stuff" that I'm responsible for, the mommy stuff, the wifey stuff, or the ministry work. And I can't continue in this pattern any longer. I can't keep living without a sabbath day. At first I thought we would adjust. At first I thought this wasn't so bad. But I've hit a wall, and I can't do it anymore.

As I was praying one morning, through sleepy eyes and tired lips, it just kind of hit me. It woke me up, really.

You need to give up your job at the YMCA.

But wait... don't we need me to work there?

But... my coworkers, they depend on me.
So does your family. So does your church.

But I'm managing.

And then, recollection of moment after moment after moment that I have missed because I've been doing too much just hit me like a wave. Last summer with my kids - gone. Half of Elijah's last year in "pee-wee" football - gone. Most of this final year of school for Julie, though I'm physically here with her, I'm often too tired to even do much other than zone out - and it's nearly gone. Ellie wants me to play a game, but I'm heading out the door, and that time is just gone. Ruthie's first year of highschool, and the challenges and changes it brings, and I barely have the time to talk about those challenges and changes, the choices and all they mean - time gone. I've been so busy working through all of these moments, all of these chances. And then my marriage... my Bradley... we're just going through the motions here. Doing life side by side, shoulder to shoulder. Little time or energy left to give each other the face time we need, the face time we deserve. And rest? What rest? With just 1-2 days off a month, which is still full of activity because of the work of ministry, there has been very little time for me to find a sabbath rest. The time is slipping and, with each passing second, I am slipping too. 

Yep. Barely managing.

How did I miss this? How did I get so caught up in it all that I was blinded by the busyness, by the epidemic?

So I shared this revelation with my husband. Brad and I took some time to pray it over before making any decision (because I'm a girl, and my emotions often get the best of me.) Then we shared with family and with our friends. And wouldn't you know that our friends and family knew instantly what needed to be done?! There was no hesitancy in seeing the solution. They saw it instantly - which is always reassuring.

And then our weekend away happened (and I still plan to share more about that here in another post) and as Brad and I went through this time of retreat - a time not just about getting away together, but about addressing what we've neglected and working through the junk we have allowed to accumulate - it became so very clear, without a shadow of a doubt. I need to reclaim the sabbath. I need to let go of my job. 

So I did. 

Instant peace.
And I'm eagerly looking forward to that day of rest, remembering the sabbath. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wrapping up James Chapter 1...

I know, I know.
I didn't post a weekly wrap-up last week for James 1:25-27.

Reasons why?
*My dog ate it. (Not possible. I don't even have a dog.)
*I forgot. (Nope, I thought about it each day.)
*I was too busy. (Nah, I could have made the time if I really wanted to.)
*I knew the next week was a review week for the entire chapter and that I could just catch it up this week. (Now we're getting warmer.)
*I didn't have it fully memorized. (True story.)

So, yeah. I didn't get the end of James fully memorized the week before, and being a review week I figured I'd just wrap it all up today. Or tomorrow. Or something like that.

And I still don't have it memorized. If I've learned anything from the last 12 weeks it's that putting together a memorization plan is harder than it first seems. Some verses, they are just a mouthful. And there is SO much to be said in each and every word of the Word that it should be taken with prayer and time and care.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not throwing in the towel or anything. I just wish I had known to throw in a couple of extra weeks for James 1. Oh well, this coming week as we begin chapter 2 it will still be a review week of James 1, giving that extra time I need to get it down.

But the application... oh that application. That's where I'm hung up. It's not a challenge to desire to continue in the word, to do what it says and not want to forget it (hence the desire to not just memorize it BUT to apply it.) It's not about being blessed, not at all. I just want to glorify God, to honor Him with my life, to live out this Word and draw others nearer to the heart of who Jesus is and how He loves them so deeply. But then I get to this part about considering yourself religious... In my self-righteous, new age Christianity, the thought of being religious is a no-no. We don't want to cling tight to laws and ritual. We want a real, authentic faith. A personal relationship with Jesus. Not religion, but relationship. So to consider myself religious?
And here we go with application.
So to consider myself religious, this isn't a bad thing then. To align myself with God's Word and God's truth and to seek to love Him and serve Him. This is religion. I can define it how ever I want to - relationship, walking with Jesus, follower of Christ. It's religion though, no matter which way you serve it up. And that isn't a bad thing.

Mind blown.

Then we move on, to keep a tight rein on the tongue. You know, I feel like I do pretty good at that - I don't swear. I'm not a gossip. But is my tongue really reined in?
And here comes conviction.
When I speak sarcastically, and not in a joking way - but in a way that really just means "You're annoying me." Not reined in. When I raise my voice with my kids, or choose words that are less than kind. Still not reined in. When I let disrespect flow in tone and action and speech toward my husband. Not reined in at all.
Convicting? Oh yes, so very much.
So that {relationship/walk/following} RELIGION is worthless. Worthless. And that word, worthless, almost seems too harsh. But is it? That answer is a resounding NO. It's worthless because I choose for it to be worthless. I push it aside and let the flesh take over, in sarcasm, in tone, in action, in unkindness, in disrespect. My religion is worthless when I let its worth take second seat and let my tongue take rein. I let that religion become less worthy than my own ways. Conviction.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

And there it is.
I can ask myself "How can I care for orphans?" or  "Am I caring for widows?" I mean, those are legit questions in this reflection. But we do this. We almost do this automatically. It's compassion at its finest. You see a person hurting and you help. So we do what we can. We sponsor a child, we give food to the hungry, we hold the hands of the grieving. It's easy to be a good person. But to be a good person AND keep oneself from being polluted by the world (from making our religion worthless), that takes the Holy Spirit. It's when the power of Christ reins in our tongues and reigns in our hearts and our homes that we lean in and learn to let go of the junk. Just simple, sweet surrender. And He keeps us clean. Not polluted. We become Pure. Faultless. And that can be hard - to surrender, to let go and let the power of Christ reign in our lives. It leaves me thankful that He never gives up on me. 

Because I'm a hot mess down here.

Is it any wonder I'm hung up here? My heart won't let my mind absorb it all fully until my heart has reconciled it's truth, repented of selfish ways, and turned to the One who can make religion worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Sign of the Times

Over the weekend my Bradley and I had a chance to get away from the busyness, spend some time together and reconnect. We drove about an hour south and spent a few days in downtown Cincinnati, staying at the historical Netherland Plaza (now known as the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.)

I have always adored downtown Cincinnati. The lights, the sounds, the beautiful architecture resting right on the Ohio River. We lived in inner city Cincy for a few years while Brad was in Bible college, and that was quite an experience! We had our second child while living in Cincinnati. We grew up a bit, if you will, while living far enough away from family to have to sort things out on our own. I have fond memories of our time there. Later, when we lived in Tennessee, we would travel up I-75 to visit family in Ohio. Every single time we hit that bend in the highway coming right up to the river, and the Cincinnati skyline would just illuminate the drive, aahhhh... it was always a sight to behold! So, when the opportunity to take this weekend away presented itself, and Cincinnati was one of the locations for the conference we were attending (more on that and our time away in another post), there was little question in my mind about where we should go.

The Netherland Plaza is a national historical landmark/historical hotel. It's like walking through history as you journey through the hotel and the adjoining Carew Tower (which is the second tallest building in Cincinnati and the very building the Empire State Building was modeled after.) The detail of the french art deco throughout is gorgeous - detailed wood and metal carving, the murals, the rare Brazilian rosewood walls, the use of marble and mirrors, even the nostalgia of the US Mail drop box that accompanies the elevator shafts - every inch was marvelous. It was hard not to imagine what this place was like when first built in 1930.

When we checked in, we were asked if we had a preference on the floor we stayed on. Thinking how cool it would be to overlook downtown or the river, I said the higher up the better! We ended up in a room on the top floor of the hotel - the 29th floor. SO AMAZING. The view was spectacular.

As much as I love the view driving up to and through downtown Cincinnati, viewing the city from so high in our room was just too awesome! Better yet though was the view that we had from the observation deck located on the 49th floor of the adjoining Carew Tower - you know, that second tallest building in Cincinnati. Truly just amazing.

While on a break from the conference events on our second day, I was sitting in our window just staring out at the city. I had my Bible in hand and opened up to where I've been "leisurely" reading through scripture, The Gospel of Mark. Having finished chapter 12 the day before, I opened up to the beginning of chapter 13 and read these words... As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.” Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” 

My heart broke. And I reread it again. And then my own thoughts and words caught up to me. Look at these magnificent buildings, at the impressive stones!

But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.

We live on mission. Or, at least we attempt to live on mission anyway. Asking God to give us His eyes that we would see the lost and the hurting and the ones in need - the ones in need of Him. And I had thought of those when we first arrived. I had seen the people in all of their busyness and I had wondered about their hearts. But then, overcome by the splendor of the architecture of men, I let those very same people slip my mind. And then in this quiet time, a moment I had approached so casually, conviction struck my heart. Look at these magnificent buildings, at the impressive stones! 

But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another.

Now, this chapter in Mark is a warning from Jesus, a sign of the times to come. It's where many doctrinal beliefs on the events of end times come from. It's a chapter that we as Christ followers must take seriously.

Back to where I sat, looking down on the hustle of the city, eyes welled up with tears. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, where you brought me from. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, those who are still choosing to live outside of Your grace. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, those who are seeking you while shackled in the chains in this life. God, don't let me forget, not for one second, to live on mission.

It's hard sometimes to live on mission. When ministry is vocation and when life is overwhelming by the demands of church and home and work and school, sometimes we have to take a break. Brad and I, we needed this break. We needed the chance to get away, just the two of us, and take the time for the three of us (myself, my husband, and our God.) But taking a break from mission? No. For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. 

God, don't let me forget, not for one second...

And so, while the weekend away was still largely focused on reconnecting with this precious gift of a husband that I have in my Bradley, I was convicted and reconnected with the maker of this marriage, the maker of this city, the maker of the very air we breathe. Mission minded, refocused. Ready to encounter Jesus in the faces of the strangers on the street. Looking for opportunities to serve them, to serve Him.

God, don't let me forget, not for one second... 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wrapping up James 1:22-24

Wow! This week kind of flew by for me...

Maybe it flew by because I've had a lot weighing on my heart lately. Choices that need to be made. Options to explore. Life in general. And trying to walk in application of these words that have sunken into my heart and taken root, letting that which is rooted be watered, giving room for it to grow... that all weighs into these choices and options.

And I'm at peace with one choice that needs to be finalized.
And we're waiting for direction with another, but that also brings a certain peace just knowing that in the stillness of waiting there is a mighty hand at work, piecing together every detail. I pray that as we wait that we will have open ears and walk in obedience. May the will that we walk in not be permissive, may it be perfect.

Verse 22, you may notice, was part of last week as well. It just seemed right to me to carry it into this week - you know, context and what not.

This week we'll wrap up James 1 - Yay!

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Wrapping up James 1:21-22

After sorting through my lack of memorization over these last few weeks (and overcoming!) I wrapped up James 1:21-22 yesterday. As happy as I am to feel "caught up" on the memorization side of things, I kind of want to hang back on these two verses and just let them marinate a bit, study over them, so that I can do what they say. Thankfully, verse 22 actually carries into the context of the verses over the next two weeks.

There's just so much said here, so much to let sink in and take root. It's all too easy to merely listen to the Word - in a message, in a song, in a devotion, in prayer, in study. It's more than hearing it, more than letting it lift you up for a moment, tickle your ear. It's more than just that instance of conviction or challenge that the Word presents. That instance can fan to flame or be snuffed to a small puff of smoke - that rests in how we respond.

Do what it says...  

Monday, March 3, 2014

Something Simplified

I'm taking a lighter note today and sharing one of those "That would make a good blog post" ideas that I've had. It's nothing too original... not at all original, really. But it's simplified and, you know, since this blog is about simplified stuff in life, this is kind of an obligatory post.

Homemade laundry soap.

See. Simplified. Obligatory. And I just made some last week, so this is pretty timely.

I've been making homemade laundry soap for a few years now. Before making my own soap, I was on the fence on doing it because I figured coupons could help me save nearly just as much money as making it homemade would (and really, they can.) But then I watched this documentary on the chemicals in our soaps and cleaners. Understand, I was already in the process of transitioning away from cleaners full of chemicals, which is why I watched the documentary in the first place, but that documentary gave this hypochondriac the motivation needed to make the switch. So I started off with a liquid laundry soap recipe - one that had to be measured and grated. Then melted and cooked up on the stove. And then mixed with a lot more water in a HUGE bucket. It would solidify into this laundry soap goop and would last about 3-4 months. And it was like pennies a load. The clothes were just as clean as they were with the store-bought stuff. It really didn't take too much time or effort to make the soap, and since our laundry room was literally just feet from our stove, I was good with it.

But then we moved into this house where the laundry is done in the basement. There was something about toting that 3 gallon bucket of laundry soap goop down scary basement steps that made me reconsider my soap making. I didn't want to go back to the store-bought stuff. I knew I could put the liquid in smaller containers and tote them down the stairs, but how many containers would I need? How would I accumulate them all without spending money and thereby eliminating the frugal side of making your own soap? Then it dawned on me: Powder. I just knew that some genius had to have pinned a good powder laundry soap recipe. And I was right.

This made me entirely too happy.

And I am completely sold on powder homemade laundry soap. There is no cooking involved in my laundry soap making now. It's still fairly 'natural' so I know what chemicals we have going into our soap (another plus) and it's still pennies a load. And it is SO pretty!


The ingredients in this lovely tub of sweet smelling laundry soap goodness include: one bar of Zote soap (shredded), one 76 oz. box of borax, one 55 oz. box of washing soda, and one 28 oz. bottle of Lavender scented Purex Crystals.

I shred the Zote soap and set it aside, and then I combine a third of everything - the shredded Zote, the borax, the washing soda, and the crystals - and mix completely. Add another third of everything, mix completely. Add the rest of everything, mix completely. And that's it. I store it in a medium (?) sized sterilite showoff's box (the lid secures on with side snap closures and it has a handle on top.) I keep a 1/4 measuring cup with it that also precisely measures 1/8 cup. You can certainly use just 1/8 of a cup per load - even a large load - but we do xl loads around here, nearly every load of laundry, so we use 1/4 cup. And it lasts 3+ months. And it smells AMAZING. I tried to do powder without the Purex crystals, because even though they're "natural" I know they still contain some other questionable ingredients. But then, one day, I had a coupon and I gave them a try and OH.MY.GOODNESS. Never again will I make laundry soap without them. NE-VER. Not ever. Even though they are only 92% natural, I take the risk because these crystals smell like heaven.

oh, and a tip - Zote soap in homemade powder laundry soap is definitely the way to go. I used Fels-Naptha in my liquid soap, and it was perfect. I tried Fels-Naptha in powder, and it was just ok. I tried a non-laundry natural bar soap (Yardley) and it was also just ok. But Zote... oh Zote soap. How have I gone this long without you? It shreds really easy (and I shred by hand...)

...and it dissolves in the water perfectly. AND it is GORGEOUS! Look how pink it is! I don't even like pink, but this soap is just pretty. Between it and those lavender Purex crystals, my homemade laundry soap is delightful to not just smell, but also to look at.

It's the little things, people. The simple, little things.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

So, this ended...

.... on Tuesday,

...and I don't know it fully yet.

The last couple of weeks have got me kind of hung up. And I'm kind of conflicted on that. Not worried, not at all. Just conflicted, kind of. (Because, what exactly is hanging me up?!) It's definitely something to be in prayer over as I press on and push through -- and that's okay. :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Lord is my portion - a reminder when feeling less than adequate

I'm a Today Show viewer. I used to watch GMA but in the last few years GMA has appealed to me less and less and now The Today Show appeals to me more and more. I don't know what it is exactly. Any morning show viewer typically flocks to one or the other, I suppose. If you're in the GMA crowd, you know, that's cool too. But you would have missed this morning's tag of No Make-Up Monday. It was even suggested that we all just wear our sweatpants all day long during No Make-Up Monday. I'm good with that. I haven't had a day "off" from one job or another since the flu hit us a couple of weeks ago and, since that was no vacation, I'm feeling a little worn out. Sweatpants, a fuss free face (say that five times fast) and a pony tail (I threw that one in myself) sound about perfect to me.

Over on the Proverbs 31 Blog-Hop they're talking about Lamentations 3:22-24, which says...

 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;

    therefore I will wait for him.”

This is one of my "go-to" verses as a mom and a teacher of youth. All too often I hear stories of young ladies and young men who are struggling with their identity. They struggle with the things others say to them, or say about them. They struggle with their hair, their face, their pant size. It's in those times that we come to scriptures just like these and revisit the truth that our worth isn't found in the things of this world, in the way other people view us. Our worth is in Christ alone. Because of His love, we don't need to be consumed by the worries of this world. He is faithful - every day - and He alone is our portion.

But it's not just about physical appearance. And when I take a deeper look at myself I see where I truly struggle with allowing myself to rest in the Lord being my portion. I'm just like everyone else, I see my imperfections and sometimes I wish I was different in this way or that way (even my hair or my pant size) but what really breaks me down is when I feel less than adequate. When I don't have enough time to do all that I need to do, or when I don't have enough brain cells functioning to even remember all that I need to do - when I fall short of my expectations or the expectations of others. My glass house can shatter when someone is critical of my actions in the middle of busyness or when someone tells me how they feel about my kids' behavior. We're not perfect. We just aren't. My kids, they run and play and are loud. Being a pastors kid doesn't mean that they are going to just quietly sit still with their hands folded in their laps every waking minute of every single day. They're still kids, they still play. I want that for them. And when I make a mistake - when I forget to print something off, or when I forget to call someone back, I would love for that not to be pointed at me with a wagging finger. I'm trying over here, sincerely. But sometimes it's too busy and sometimes I fall short. We all do. I'm not a spiritual giant, but even if I were, I'm still imperfect me. Most of the time I am ok with that, but in those seasons of critical eyes and finger wags, it can get to be too heavy. And then I have to tell myself the very same things I'm telling the kids -

Your worth is not found in the opinions of others, your worth is found in Christ. He is your portion. When you're running thin, remember that when you rest in His love you will not be consumed by the worries of this world. His compassion, His mercy, His grace - it never fails and is new every day because He is faithful. I say to myself, the Lord is my portion and I will wait for Him. And I say it as many times as I need to say it so that it really sinks into this busy mom's heart. My portion is Him and I am more than blessed.

There I find rest.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Wrapping up James 1:16-18

Some of these weeks are going to be rough.

I know verse 16 (how could I not? It's like eight words long!)
I know verse 17 - I have for years, which actually makes it all the more silly that I couldn't remember it earlier in the week.
But verse 18... nope. Some of these weeks are just going to be rough.

And it doesn't bother me so much. At least not this week (but sometimes the struggle does bother me.) But life happened. And isn't that part of all of this anyway?

Do not be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters...
It would be foolish to believe that this would be without flaw. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights...
EVERY good gift. And EVERY perfect gift. And EVERY single last gift that we mistake in our finite minds as being less than good and perfect, there is something good and perfect to behold in those gifts too - something that has come down from the Father of heavenly lights. Like the rest found only in sickness. Like the quiet found in a windy, sleepless night. Like the togetherness of a couple sitting on the couch browsing the internet for new tires - togetherness that their busyness may have kept them from otherwise.

He does not change like shifting shadows...
This type of perfect goodness is always around us. We just have to open our eyes to see it, to really take it in for what it is. At first glance the gifts are hard to see. We see the circumstances and we see the negatives. Look harder though -- or better yet, get down on your knees and CLOSE YOUR EYES. Take in that breath and ask Him to reveal that perfect good gift.

This isn't prosperity gospel.
Life gets tough. Paths are slick and darkness creeps in. It can be hard to find that stable footing. It doesn't mean it's not there. You just have to LOOK HARDER. SEEK with MORE than what you may think you have within you. Because it's not you within you, it's the Father of heavenly lights, unchanging, ever illuminating.

He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created...
Open your eyes. It's like being born again, seeing this truth, seeing this fruit of creation right before you, right beside you, right in YOU. There's a newness and a beauty that you couldn't see before.

There's a perfectly good gift in that trial. Open your eyes.