Job Description: I Move Mountains

Mountains of laundry (and dishes) everyday. I sometimes feel my sole purpose in life is to move these mountains. It’s as if my only reason for existing is to keep them moving. Into the wash, onto the pile, folded, ironed, into the drawers, (sometimes,) onto the people, and the cycle begins again. Can I get a nod from all the tired Mamas out there?

When I fill out paperwork anywhere, and they ask: “employer…job title…[or] job description,” I want to scream. Because I have “no job,” “no career.” I am a stay at home mom. And there is no easy way to describe the work I do, which most often seems to go unnoticed or unappreciated.

This season is hard. No, it’s REALLY HARD. It’s exhausting. I haven’t slept in months now. Not more than 3 hours in a row. I’m weary to the bone. I’m so tired that sometimes I could just cry. My work is never done. I never get a “break.” I’m always on the clock. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m doing it. I feel like a mirage. A shell of my former self. My level of sleep deprivation equates to wandering around in circles trying to remember what I was doing, or where I put something, and then having no recollection of why I needed it once I find it.

I’m not alone. I feel so utterly lonely much of the time. But I am never truly alone. Even when I’m using the bathroom, someone is always needing me. Most of the time that is great. I am in wonderful spirits, and I march ahead full speed, happily going about my daily duties, using teachable moments and having small victories. But sometimes… sometimes I lose it.

If I’m honest, some nights I sit in the bathtub in the 3 hrs I should be sleeping, just to do something I like, in the quiet, uninterrupted, unneeded. Sometimes I get up for that third feeding of the night with tears of frustration stinging, wishing this time would pass. And then I feel terribly guilty for not enjoying the fleeting “little years.” Sometimes I snap at my husband for no good reason; he only asked me a question, or put his arms around me, and I pushed him away. More often than I like to admit, I give up my 3rd or so attempt to work out that day in exchange for brownies. Sometimes I let bitterness and resentment get the best of me. I find myself fuming over the silliest things. And sometimes I yell at my kids all night, because they won’t stop fighting, nagging, whining, and pestering one another. They won’t stop demanding attention, making messes and disobeying my instructions. Sometimes I come unhinged.

I can’t count the times I pray (scream) aloud each day, “Jesus, help me!” And I mean it with all my heart. I.Need.Help.

Nothing is easy. The other night I had to run into a store for pasta sauce. I found myself exhausted, in the middle of the double doors with 4 screaming children, one balanced precariously in a car seat on the buggy, one sprawled out in the middle of the floor in a full blown tantrum, and two more telling me what I was doing wrong as I frantically tried to maneuver my freak show out of the way of the gawking, irritable 5 pm shopping traffic. I so could’ve used some hugs and encouragement rather than impatient, grumpy sneers, and rude comments. I know you could too, so I’m going to encourage you Mama.

I see you. You matter. You are making a world of difference in so many ways that you can’t yet see, and may never see. This season makes you question everything about yourself. It breaks your heart letting your little one cry himself to sleep, yelling out “one more chance,” when you’ve already given him one too many. But it matters. Every rear-end you wipe, every sock you fold, every tear you dry, every consequence you serve, every mess you clean, every thing you teach. You are irreplaceable. You are needed.

And one day, too soon (then you will think) this season will be over (I’m told.) And everything in it will have shaped and prepared you for the next season you will be in. And you will be grateful, and emotional, and ready to share your wisdom. You are going to make it!

So keep up the good work. Keep crying out to Jesus. He is with you. You are never in this alone. His grace is sufficient for you, when you feel like the worst mom on earth and you just want to hide. His strength is made perfect in your weakest moments of failure. Lift up your eyes. Everyone is needing you, but where does your help come from? Your help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

You are beautiful. You are a giver of life. You are a shaper of minds. You are a world changer. You are more than enough.

With faith, You Move Mountains.

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Overcoming my worst fear

One day, I woke up expecting the day to go like any other. Instead, I was hit over the head with the confirmation that my worst fear had happened. I’d spent a good part of my life in fear of this thing, and here it was staring me right in the face. It got me.

When I first discovered that it had finally happened, I cried out to God. I was bewildered and angry. “God, I spent years praying that something like this would never happen to me, how could you let it happen?!” I felt so betrayed. Yet through that pain, I still felt his presence. He wasn’t surprised by this, He knew it would happen, so now I had to rely on Him to give an answer. I leaned in, and He certainly had a good one!

Oddly enough, I began to feel a sense of relief. I had poured so much energy into this fear, that I didn’t realize how it had completely consumed me. For nearly a decade, I walked out scenarios in my mind, paranoid to an extent, convincing myself if it ever were to happen to me, my life would be over. But here I was, alive. Maybe not “and well” yet, but alive, nonetheless. I scraped myself up off the floor, and dug into the vision God had given me of a bright future.

By allowing my worst fear to happen to me, God released me from the prison that fear had kept me in. He opened my eyes to how I had let it control me, how I had let it get in the way of trusting Him. With fear in the driver’s seat, it had become the motivating factor in all I did. I couldn’t have the relationship with Him that I was meant to have. I couldn’t love others well when my identity was so wrapped in my own insecurities. Fear became the lens through which I saw others, and everything else that happened in my life. I would do anything to avoid the pain I knew was sure to come, so I locked my heart up in a safe and refused to let anyone in.

Now, I felt free for the first time in my life, with the revelation that if the worst could happen, and God could see me through, what on earth did I ever have to live in fear of again? By allowing that pain in my life, God wasn’t out to get me; He wasn’t hurting me, He was inoculating me! He showed me so much through this one thing, that now I am very thankful that He allowed me to go through it.

The thing about freedom though, is that you have to continue to fight for it everyday once you have received it. See we have an enemy who is out to “steal, kill and destroy,” and he will do anything in his power to keep you bound up.

This morning I awoke from a terrible nightmare, and as I usually do after such an event, I began to pray. God showed me that it was simply a remake of that past event in my life, and how it came to fruition. The characters, the circumstances, my feelings of helplessness, were all the same, only the faces, location, and the names had changed.

Through prayer, God made it clear to me that Satan’s mission is to take that most “pain-full” event in my life and make me a slave again to something I’ve already been set free from. So he tries to replay it over and over again in my mind, presenting it as a new scenario, a new risk to be afraid of, to keep me focused on the pain, rather than the blessing that resulted. He wants to stick that thorn in my side and make it raw; he wants to keep me in a place of insecurity, hiding away for fear it could happen again, refusing to trust anyone. Ultimately Satan’s mission is to render me useless for God’s kingdom.

What Satan doesn’t understand is that “I’m no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God!” In fact, because I am loved by God, I am secure. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” So I move forward in God’s love, rather than in fear; I refuse to be held captive to my past. “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

I refuse to dwell on the past, focusing on the fear. I refuse to be a slave. That insecure girl I once was, whose worth relied on the loyalties of imperfect man, is gone. In her place is a woman with great confidence, who can’t be held back by fear of man, a woman whose worth and place is secure. Satan may have caused me to be bound before, but he can never steal my position or spiritual inheritance. Nor yours. That is the security you and I stand on in Christ, and in that, there is no room for fear!

I promise if you are walking through something painful, and you give it to God and trust Him through it, one day you will be thankful too. Someone told me this while I was still reeling and it was hard to believe them, but it is so true! Just wait, He is going to use this, and you will be amazed! “Not a thing is wasted,” so stand firm and be free!

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=no+longer+a+slave#id=1&vid=c18c4a0eaa4073fa89dce30518ba8129&action=click

 

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Slow Down-Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom’s of little ones, let’s connect right now. I’m in the throes. Having 3 little ones 5 and under is no joke, it’s a full time job! And hubby says we’re half way done, but we’ll save that for another post ;). Seems these days I’m always in a hurry, but going no where fast. That video on Facebook, live footage of “my kid” getting ready for school, as a snail trails across the floor, it is real! I have always valued punctuality, maybe because I lived with a mom who had no concept of time. It used to drive me nuts to be 15 minutes late to everything and I vowed when I was in control of my own transportation, I would never be late. If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans, right?

Truth be told, now that I’m a mom of three, I see that maybe our perpetual tardiness was actually because of us three kids. Maybe my mom stopped trying to fight it and just began to roll with it. She never seemed to let it bother her, where the hands were on the clock. She still doesn’t, till my dad bothers her about it, haha.

I have always been the type of person to run out with just enough time to make it five minutes early to my destination. Mom lesson #1: It just doesn’t work that way with kids. Expecting the same of my type A oldest son has been plain cruel at times. He needs transition time, and then transition to the transition time. No amount of pleading, prodding, or straight out pushing makes an ounce of difference to kids. It’s like pulling teeth! We all wind up frustrated, sometimes a few tears are shed, and a guilty conscience ensues for mommy. No matter how often I’ve tried to say I will be patient and not let it bother me, I fail to remember that in the moment.

I have since tried to change my schedule to include extra preparation time. I have worked this to a science, and I know it takes at least an extra 30 minutes prep time [per kid] to make it to our destination on time. But then there are the things you just can’t plan for. Sometimes I think my kids enjoy playing tricks on me: Massive poopsplosions in the car seat upon arrival with nary a stray wipe, diaper, or change of clothes in site, because you were working so hard to get the kids out of the house that you forgot to grab the diaper bag (that’s the thanks you get for FINALLY cleaning out the car.)

Then there’s the “I forgot my favorite toy” meltdown, and I need a snack/drink because I’m super hungry/thirsty and I can’t wait. Or endless potty breaks to nasty gas station bathrooms where it takes longer to safely maneuver your way to the toilet than to actually pee, and suddenly they no longer have to go. The “I took off all my tiny pieces of clothing and strategically hid them in nooks and crannies all over this jam-packed car while never leaving my seat, so I could laugh while you frantically do acrobatics trying to find them, to the amusement of the guy next to us trying to get into his car,” is my personal favorite. Don’t get me started on all the things we forget because it takes 3 stuffed suitcases and a packed minivan hood rack to accommodate all the crap kids “need.”

Then it comes, the day you finally get it all together. Kids dressed, fed, clean, and happy, all gear properly strapped into place, and minutes to spare. You are on cloud nine, daydreaming about the standing ovation you will get as mom of the year. You pat yourself on the back, and BRAKE CHECK–traffic jam! It really is impossible.

But I got a reminder from the sweetest 3 year old boy today that I will never forget. In the midst of unpacking groceries and a quick potty break before jet-setting to our next appointment, he walked over to me in the trunk of the van in the most defeated posture. I paused and asked him why he looked so upset, thinking I’d have to scold his older brother. With his little bottom lip protruding, and the saddest blue eyes, he said “I always get left, mom.”

My heart sank.

Why am I always in such a hurry? Is it to impress a bunch of strangers with the perceived ability that I’ve got it all together? Is it pride, selfishness? Is it a sense of control-trying to hold onto the little things I think I can control because everything else in my life is so out of it? I don’t know, but I do know it’s time to reevaluate.

If you can relate, hear my words:

We are leaving behind the most important moments with some of the most important people in our lives, our kids, for things that don’t matter, things that we won’t even remember.

It occurred to me that the only time I ask my kids to slow down is when they are safely in their beds and I want them to stay there for a while. The days are long, and I pray to make it to bedtime. But I’m thankful for that split second of taking time to see the pain I’m causing my little boy in the process of trying to survive. It is time to change. It won’t be easy, and it will take every ounce of leaning on the Holy Spirit.

I want to work on keeping my cool, taking time to help them get their shoes on the right feet rather than yelling at them for not doing it the first ten times I asked. I want to wait for them to finish whatever it is they are doing, instead of walking out the door to show them I mean business. I want to hold their hand on the way to the car, instead of pushing them out the door in tears. And I want to lovingly help, instead of angrily shoving the socks and shoes back on their feet when we get there. No more exaggerated sighs when I look at the clock, or frustrated lectures about their lack of attentiveness and their being at fault for our tardiness. I want them to remember a loving gracious mommy.

I want them to remember that they are more important to me than any time on the clock, or any place we have to be.

Today we took the long way home. The way I never consider anymore because I am too busy trying to speed down the interstate to save a few minutes. It started to rain, so we went even slower down the tree lined, winding roads. They loved it! A back-roads adventure, a place they’d never been to the same old destination. I turned the radio off, and we talked about life, and about a time I used to take these roads just for fun. I remembered why they call it a joy ride.

Mamas, let’s slow down. Let’s be in the moment with them in these years that will pass too quickly. Let’s take them on a joyride through life. I want to make each day an adventure, rather than a terrifying ride I’m dragging them along on.

 Let us not forget that the most important thing is not our destination, but the ones in the backseat, and the time it takes to get there.  Don’t leave them behind…

Happy Mother’s Day

 

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On the “Lite” side: my advice on dieting

Disclaimer:  I’m certainly not an expert in this field, so take my advice with a grain of salt (that’s likely all you should be consuming anyway.)

Like most women, I suppose, I have always struggled with my body image and weight. It seems the older I get, the more babies I have, the harder it is to lose weight. If we’re honest, my diet has been a wreck since before my last pregnancy. Then, cravings gave way to pretty much eating “junk” all the time. I’ve done some crash diets and crazy exercise routines and managed to lose the weight before, but I was convinced, there must be a better way. My healthy eating kicks never last, because I’m always hungry and cranky when I can’t have my typical southern Louisiana fare. Let’s face it y’all, it’s hard to be healthy down here!

In my quest to embark on a healthier “lifestyle,” with a better “cleaner” diet, I have hit the books, the world wide web, and interviewed people who look better than I do, for the best advice on how to “eat right.” My goal, like everyone’s goal  I suppose, is to lose weight, keep it off, and of course, live longer, all while still enjoying food. There is (at least) a billion dollar health industry that has found all the answers to looking fabulous.  I thought I would offer this free service to the public and let you in on all the secrets I’ve been able to find, without you having to spend a dime. For your benefit, I have compiled this list of do’s and don’ts if you find yourself in the same boat as me…


  1. Methods:
  • Don’t fad diet
  • lose weight fast if you want to keep it off
  • hours at the gym, high intensity
  • it doesn’t matter how much you work out; 20 minutes is fine, it’s mostly diet
  • never have a cheat meal, it’ll make you revert to former eating habits
  • 80/20 good food to junk, or you will feel deprived and your changes wont stick
  • eat a high fat diet to lose weight
  • eat a low fat diet to lose weight
  • evenly space carbs  throughout the day
  • eat  carbs only in the evening
  • eat carbs only in the morning
  • don’t have a bed time snack
  • always eat a bedtime snack: carb and a (healthy fat) at night before bed
  • eat only organic
  • organic doesn’t really matter, and isn’t really organic as you think
  • self-marked healthy foods aren’t really healthy
  • natural doesn’t really mean natural

2. Sugars/Fats:

  • Don’t even get me started on artificial sweetener; it’ll fry your brain and lead you to a slow painful death! To sum it up apparently only Stevia (which leaves a bitter after-taste not even a scouring pad will remove from your tongue) and honey are the only acceptable sweeteners (at the moment.) Yes I know they cost $100/oz, but that’s the price you pay to have food that tastes decent and is healthy for you too.
  •  just find healthy dessert alternatives (that taste like dirt, slime, and cardboard)
  • Fats, we could also spend a whole day on. But only coconut oil, sesame, and safflower seed oils, and possibly olive if you can’t afford the first two.

3. Dairy:

  • cut out dairy, it’s awful
  • have plenty dairy, at least 3 servings a day
  • Ice cream is certainly not allowed, substitute yogurt
  • yogurt is just sugar or artificial sweetener skip yogurt
  • Soy is a good alternative to dairy
  • Soy is awful, never eat soy, avoid all soy, soy is the devil, soy will make men into women (or vice versa, can’t keep it straight)

 

4. Proteins:

  • if you’re hungry load up on more protein, not carbs. (Carbs make you hungrier.)
  • be sure it’s lean protein
  • fatty proteins are fine
  • only eat chicken and fish
  • only buy organic chicken, and fresh caught fish from the cleanest waters, the rest is loaded with chemicals and hormones that will cause early puberty. Again, pay no mind to your budget!
  • don’t eat any meat, only soy products in place of meat
  • see soy advice above

 

5. Grains/bread

  • only whole wheat pasta and wheat flour in recipes
  • no flour at all (because gluten y’all!)
  • grind your own flour from flax seed or oats in your abundance of free time

6. Fruits and Veggies:

  • in abundance of course, except fruit which is merely a disguise for sugar. And sweet veggies, let’s just cancel those out. And Potatoes are definitely not a fruit or vegetable. In fact, I’m not certain they even fit in a food group anywhere. (A safe oil above and some vinegar are okay as dressings.)

7. Drinks:

  • drink fruit juice rather than soda
  • only without sugar added
  • never mind only drink water
  • but only bottled water
  • only bottled water from safe sources, because some bottled water says it’s spring, but it’s really just filtered, treated, toilet water
  • drink at least 5 of those puppies a day (and be sure you are with in an arms distance of the toilet at all times)
  • Black coffee/green tea permitted once a day (nothing added!)

What I’ve taken away from this:

Always read the labels.
But to caution, if you start reading labels, you’ll have to throw out everything in your house that contains (or doesn’t contain) any of the above ingredients. So here’s to my new diet of (organic) celery, and $4.00/oz water from the safest springs on earth. I’ll let you know how it goes…

Let me be real with you. This last pregnancy has left me packing an extra unwanted 20 pounds. I am at my heaviest now at 30lbs overweight, and I am truthfully unhappy with the way I look, feel and fit in everything. Yes, I know many of you would scoff at that, to only be 30 pounds over, but for me it is a big problem. What I see when I look in the mirror are the imperfections, at any weight, and this fear of being overweight has been a life-long battle for me. (More on why I feel we shouldn’t judge, or belittle others for having body image issues at a size we feel is wonderful later.)

My husband literally made me sign a contract a few weeks ago to not step foot on a scale for at least a month. He saw me hopping on and off several times each day with a disappointed look on my face. And it’s killing me to honor that contract! I know that my psyche is a problem I have to change. It’s becoming very clear to me now that I have a daughter, that if I want her to have a healthy view of herself, it has to come from me. That’s scary.

The other day in the midst of my struggle to find the “perfect diet,” a part of a song cut on in my otherwise silent kitchen. Only these words played, and then the radio cut off again. Call it coincidence, I call it God speaking to me, and reminding me that He came to set me free. All of the other stuff is just bondage, that I’m not called to live in. This revelation brought tears to my eyes, and I hope these words bring comfort to you as well.

“Oh you’re trying way to hard, and this perfection you’re chasing, is just energy wasted, because he loves you as you are. So go ahead and live like you’re loved, it’s o.k. to act like you’ve been set free”*

The true perfect diet I have found is not an easy one to stick to: to accept God’s love for me so I can learn to love myself, for how God made me. To focus on my positives and not my negatives. To saturate myself in his word till I truly believe and “fit” into the identity he has given me. To remember, I’m more than numbers on a scale, and my physical body/its beauty, will fade, and ultimately be no more. I work to change my view to live like it only matters that I did (my best) with what I have (the way I’m made), and the legacy that I leave.

Its all easier said than done. This is going to be a journey for me, and I hope if you struggle with this, you will join me in learning to love yourself as well!

*Song credits: “Live like you’re loved” by Hawk Nelson
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Denial about being lost gives way to discontentment

4767_521823060973_2835147_nIn my early adulthood, after a few years of going my own way, I came to question, and at times deny the very existence of God–the God in the Bible. I became influenced by some worldly views and ideas, such as all paths lead to God. After all, if there was one God, wouldn’t he love and welcome all people. Wouldn’t he keep from condemning everyone. I began to see the views I was raised with to be too narrow-minded for my tastes.

I didn’t view myself as a prodigal. I thought I was a “good” person, who believed in a higher power and had a mostly good life. I tried to do good things and was convinced a good God wouldn’t punish a good person.

In hindsight, I think much of it was so I could feel good about some things I was involved in. Sin isn’t fun when you live with the conviction of what you are supposed to do, so you begin to harden yourself a  little bit at a time. Life began to get darker and darker for me during this time. Aimless drifting gave way to depression. A quest for the meaning of life began to consume me, and I felt a battle brewing within me.

I started to question everything I thought I knew about myself. I had a deep longing to fill the void I felt with anything that would take my mind off of it. But the temporary pleasures left me very low after their initial highs, and I started to experience fear as I stared in the face of the dark side of human nature, and the thought of how low I could go.

For nearly 5 years what I had wanted more than anything was to marry my highschool sweetheart, but with the wedding finally around the corner, I started to question even that. I tried to shake it off, and told myself it was just “cold feet.” After all, it was surely the right thing to do. Besides, I didn’t think I could find someone else to love me as much as he professed to. (No this is not a good way to enter into a marriage.)

I decided to just focus on planning the wedding of my dreams, and of course the honey moon. My future husband and I went through all the motions of the Catholic church, to be “approved” for a wedding in the church where his parents and grandparents had wed. It was going to be perfect!

I had a revelation of sorts that I couldn’t live without him. We worked through some small issues in premarital counseling and I felt ready. Some topics that came up during a weekend pre-marriage retreat convinced me that I would feel better about our relationship and impending marriage if I cleaned up my act. So I made a last-ditch effort just before my wedding to “live right.”

I asked God to forgive me, and resolved to change, much to the surprise of my live in fiancé and soon to be groom. He went along with things, but I’m sure he wondered if I was crazy. Of course I was only committed to make some small efforts, but wasn’t ready to fully surrender my life to a higher power.

Marriage was the next thing, and I was sure the best thing, to fill my void. I was elated the day of the wedding. Everything was more perfect than I imagined. I had finally married my best friend. The high I was on was enough to help me ignore the feeling that the honeymoon wasn’t as magical as I’d hoped, and that something was still not quite right. I convinced myself I was right with God now that we were a legitimate couple, and those feelings would fade. We were finally beginning the rest of our lives and I was happy with the new chapter.

It didn’t take long for that to change. A few months back to work and school, (we were both working and going to school full-time in our senior year of college at the time) disillusionment set in. As the old saying goes, “the honeymoon was over.” We seldom saw each other, and this wasn’t shaping up to be the marriage I’d been hoping for. It wasn’t fulfilling, rather it was lonely.

There began a quiet desperation in my soul that would inevitably last no matter what I tried to do to silence it. As I think back to this time in my life, it is clear to me that God had his hand not only on me, but on us as a couple. I was lost, and I was starting to wake up to that fact. For all intents and purposes, my life seemed perfect from the outside. I had everything going for me and I smiled in all my pictures. I had my fairy tale-happily every after ending, but I still had this ache that nothing could help.

For all my “enlightenment,” I was truly miserable. Now I thank God for that discontentment. He allowed me to feel it, so he could begin the years long process of bringing me back to him. He allowed me to be so wrong,  to get to my lowest point, so I would recognize my need for him, and so he could begin to right all of my wrongs.

Stay tuned for the next part of my story….

 

 

 

 

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I want a love like that

John 3:16 is probably Christianity’s most known verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

So familiar. We recite it without even thinking about it. I think because of this, it has lost its power to us. But if we look again and really think about the words, we can begin to realize what they mean, and the impact becomes overwhelming.

Think about it:

I love my children; they are my world. I have great plans for them. They are so precious to me. There is not a single person I love so much that I would be willing to sacrifice any of my children’s lives for. Yet that’s what God did. And he not only did it, but he had it planned before any of us were in existence. He loved us all so much that he planned and purposed to sacrifice his ONLY son for ONE of us. Of course he wanted it to be for all of us, but if even just ONE believed and received, it would have been worth it to him.

That’s incredible! Soak that in for a minute. God loves YOU so much, that his most precious and prized possession, his ONLY son, was purposefully sent to die to save you, so that he could have YOU with him forever. WOW!

Paul tries to explain this to us when he muses in Romans 5: “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” While we were still sinning, still hating God, still being ridiculously and completely unlovable, he died to bring us into relationship with him.

That kind of love is incomprehensible. No one in the world ever has or ever will love someone else like that. It is amazing. It is also life changing if we let it be. It is our true identity. We are not rejected, abandoned, abused, or misunderstood. We are LOVED, more deeply than we can imagine. We are CHERISHED. We are accepted. We are WANTED!

I’ve spent a good deal of my life feeling, unloved, and unwanted, with low self-worth. I have tried to find love, acceptance and admiration from people to take that ache away, but no amount of human love can ever top or even meet the love our Heavenly Father has for us. When I feel like I’m not enough, I know in God, I am more than enough.

Think about that this Valentine’s Day. No one will ever love you as much as God loves you. No one will ever demonstrate their love for you in such an over-the-top, reckless, scandalous way. Let the kitschy Red hearts we wish we had someone to give us on Valentine’s Day remind us of the ultimate gift we were already given in the blood that was shed, because we are that loved. We are worthy of being his prize.

To quote Finding Favour in their song Refuge: “I could search the skies, I could sail across the sea, never finding love that’s as strong as yours for me.” You won’t find it, because it doesn’t exist. All you have to do is accept what has already been given.

Please don’t feel alone this Valentine’s Day, you are loved and desired more than you could ever know. You are so important. Let him wrap you up in his all encompassing love. Tonight, enjoy these songs, and bask in the love he longs to lavish on you.

 

 

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“Come running like a prodigal”

I grew up in a Christian home, and was raised in a Holy Spirit-filled church. My parents had become Christians in their early adulthood, and were each strongly called by God in specific areas. I felt a strong awareness of God’s presence in my life from an early age. I requested to be baptized at age 7. Despite tumultuous preteen years, as an early teen I had a radical experience with God at a church revival, received the Holy Spirit, and recommitted my life to Christ. Shortly after this however, my family fell away from the church. I was faced with what was the beginning of a years long battle with doubt, and ultimately rebellion from the faith I had clung to for my entire life thus far.

This doubt began as a small seed, a thought that had wiggled its way in. It began to convince me that God didn’t care about my family, or we wouldn’t be going through difficult circumstances and pain. I started to think God didn’t care about me or what I did. I chose to stop playing by “the rules” and have “fun.” For the most part I did what I wanted to do, only praying to “God” when I really needed something.

At 16, I met a boy, and fell in love. Slowly, he began to take the place of God in my life. He was the person I knew was meant for me; I was certain I was going to spend my life with him, so I justified the slow slide into immorality that followed. The life I was tempted to have grew way more desirable than the life I knew I was supposed to have in Christ. The louder the world got, the quieter God’s voice in the back of my head grew, till eventually, He became silent.

I had turned my back altogether on God, and no longer felt guilty at all. But I didn’t see it that way at the time. I had convinced myself by this time, that if there was a God, he would approve and bless me for “following my heart;” he’d want me to be happy. This is how I made peace with the conflict between what I did and what I knew to be right.

Looking back on that time in my life has caused me to feel shame for years. I made MANY mistakes. However, God has since reminded me; He forgives and forgets. He doesn’t want me shackled in shame. He wants to use that story, to His glory. I’ve been redeemed. I’ve been set free!

I recently saw a video in church about a prodigal. He asked his father to hang a white sheet on the porch if he wanted to see him again. Like the story in the Bible ends, his dad surprises him in a powerful way. I had heard this Bible story a hundred times, but as tears ran down my face, I realized for the first time, this was my story.

God loves the prodigal. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done, it doesn’t matter who we’ve become. God is waiting for us to come back to him with arms wide open, so we can become the person He designed us to be. Maybe your story of turning away seems much worse to you than mine. Maybe you’ve committed unspeakable crimes; maybe you’ve spent the better part of your life doing things your own way, and you feel it is too late to change now. Don’t. It’s not true.

The Bible clearly tells us that Jesus came to die for us, not just for some of us, and for ALL sins, no matter the size. Don’t ever think you are too far gone. However lost you feel, He is the good father. He calls you quietly; He waits patiently, aching to hold you, maybe for the first time. He wants you, because He made you to love Him.

Jesus said in Luke 15:4-7 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

My story of being a prodigal is not wasted. If you trust in Jesus, yours won’t be either.

 

Title credits: song lyrics from Sidewalk Prophets-“Prodigal:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LZUCtUOPX7I
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I’m back

I took an unintended hiatus from writing this year. There was much on my heart to write about, and much going on in my life to tell, however the words wouldn’t seem to come. I felt I needed to seek God more, and at times, I was overcome, consumed with learning what He was teaching me through this life. Admittedly, there were also times when  I felt sidelined…by my doubts.

Doubt is something I sometimes struggle with, and that is no easy admission. I take my faith and my calling very seriously, so to admit I sometimes struggle to believe in God’s goodness in my life, his faithfulness to me, is something that often makes me feel ashamed. Yet I’m sharing it now, because maybe a lot of you struggle with the same thing and feel alone. You are not.

I don’t think we would be human if we did not doubt from time to time. Thomas the Apostle doubted, and many notable Christian leaders have admitted struggles with doubt. But it is choosing to go on in the face of doubt that produces faith. I’ve had bouts with these feelings off and on for most of my adult life, but these past few years have deepened my faith more than ever before.

With everything I learn, I am committed to teach. These lessons are not just for me and my life; they are not just personally significant. I believe these lessons are to share. So I have plans to share them with my children, and now I share them with you.

I want to tell you the whole story of how in the face of my doubts, fears, and even disobedience, God has consistently showed up for me in such big ways. He challenges me and blesses me, beyond my wildest dreams, in spite of my doubts. In one way after another, He has proven to me not only his existence in my life, but His deep love for me. He has been patient with me despite my continued questioning of Him, even while He answered prayer, after answered prayer, after prayer.

I think it’s a pretty good story so far, with lots of ups and downs. It’s a story of triumph-not mine, but God’s. And now, I’m ready to tell it.

Stay tuned…

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“Call It Grace”

I thought it only appropriate to write about the topic of Grace, since we are approaching Good Friday, and Easter Sunday, the day our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead. That is after all the reason we began to celebrate this “holiday.” I hope if you don’t know him as your personal savior, in a way that you live for him, that you will read this. It is an invitation to his amazingly merciful grace. It’s not an altar call, and I won’t ask you to say the sinner’s prayer with me at the end. But it is an invitation to hear a little about my journey, to hopefully be moved in some way by it, and to be inspired with the hope that I have found. I hope the curious will lend an ear; I hope the hurting will take time to listen; I hope the broken will be moved toward the only healer I know; I hope the ones who think “I’m good,” will think again.

I have heard of Jesus and that he died for my sins my whole life. I thought I knew him; I soon realized that I only knew of him. I heard people sing of this amazing grace, and it seemed nice, but until you have a real encounter with the living God, it’s just another nice story. I chose to put my faith in God at an early age, but I struggled with the reality of a God I couldn’t see, feel, or hear for most of my adolescence and early twenties. You see I knew all the stories, but they were just stories. I heard all the testimonies of lives changed, but I didn’t see the power of God to change my own life. In fact I felt powerless. I was on a mission to seek anything that would give me a sense of power and control over my life. Time and time again, my control was reduced to nothing, and I began to grapple with my own smallness, my own inability to get things done.

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” Is the classic hymnal we all have heard so much that it is cliche. In our attempt to spread Christianity and make it popular, I feel we have made it too nice. We have watered down the story, till it seems like it’s about a good man who came to tell us to love our fellow man and welcome everyone unconditionally. While these are parts of Jesus’s message, they aren’t the whole story. And if we aren’t telling the whole story, because we don’t want to call people out in their sin, or offend anyone and push them away, then we aren’t telling the truth.I couldn’t connect with the nice story, it couldn’t convince me that the way I was living was wrong, and it certainly didn’t have the power to save me.

True words from Jesus in Matthew 10:

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“‘a man against his father,
    a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—
36     a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’[a

See Jesus knew his message was so controversial that it would cause family members to be pitted against one another. His way of loving is so radical, but it’s not always “nice,” and it doesn’t turn it’s head at sin. No, he tells us to “go and sin no more.”

It wasn’t until I met a point of desperation that I met the living God that changed everything about me. When I was at my lowest, I called out to him to save me, if he was real at all. He showed up for me that day. I sought prayer at my church, and the person that prayed for me gave me a powerful message from God I hadn’t asked for, but had been desperate to hear. It brought me to my knees. He took away my blindness and opened my ears to hear his voice. He has showed up for me everyday since then. He has shown me all the things that were wrong in my life, from the things I listened to and watched that were poisoning my mind, to the thoughts I had about him, myself, and others. But that’s not all! He completely changed my husband, who also came to know him, and he completely changed our marriage.

It has been a process for both of us, slow and steady. But our hearts are no longer hard. We had been so consumed with sin, that we couldn’t connect with God at all. In Ezekiel 36:26, God promises, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” That’s just what he did. I felt vulnerable; my heart was pricked. Things that I had done, which had never bothered me before, suddenly became serious issues, that needed immediate attention. I began to change radically. I always thought of myself as a good person, but now I was becoming a godly person.

Big Daddy Weave is one of my favorite Christian artists, and he wrote a song called “My Story.” In it he talks about “the grace that is greater than all my sin, Of when justice was served and where mercy wins, Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.” That’s what happened to me that day. God became real; my need for him became real. The message of the cross went from being a nice story, to something that had the power to change everything about my life. I surrendered my life to God. I recognized his strength, and I became so grateful for his mercy, and that it could save someone like me. It wasn’t fear of going to hell when I die, and it wasn’t because someone yelled at me about my sin; it was the kindness God showed me when he took time to be with me in a very intimate way, the way I needed in that moment. He saved me. I didn’t deserve it, but he did it anyway.

Galatians 5:1 says “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” I had no clue what that freedom meant. Contrary to my worldly thinking, it isn’t a freedom to do as I please, to live an immoral life and not worry about my salvation, because I am covered in grace. It is a freedom to live a life of righteousness, something that without his power is impossible to do. I always thought, well I’m not so bad. That “sin” isn’t so big, so I can live this way, and God forgives me because of Jesus. I said I loved Jesus, so now I’m saved. Now I realize, that’s not how this works. The second part of that verse says, “Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Consider this type of freedom that Paul discusses in Romans 6.

16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

My sin was hardening my heart and separating me from God who loves me. 1 John 1:5-6 “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. In him is only light, there is no darkness at all.” Because of Christ, who has overcome the power of sin and darkness, and who is now living in me, I am able to overcome sin and darkness. I am able to live with a clean conscience, and am able to see when I have sinned, and immediately repent, meaning I commit to quit, and pray for God to help me do so. It’s not in my own power, but through him all things are possible.

It feels so good to have the God of the universe care so much about me that he came not only to give me eternal life, but to give me the power to live a fulfilling and redemptive life while I’m here. No more guilt, no more shame. I have freedom to live for him, all because of his grace. This grace is available to all who seek it. He loves you, more than you can know, and I hope if you don’t know him, and haven’t experienced him, that you will want to. I hope you will imagine your life with a fresh start, where everything that you’ve ever done, or that has ever been done to you gets wiped clean, where you experience peace, healing, and new life. This is what it means to be “born again.” Not only is it possible, it is tremendously indescribable!

I leave you with this song. It gives but a glimpse of what his grace can do in your life. That, my friend, is what Easter is all about.

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“Current” events

I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been sidelined by life, and the unexpected death of a dear family member. There have been a number of people in my circle and community who have died “too young” lately, and it causes me to ponder the state of the souls around me. It seems that every time I get online, I get distracted by the news. Its almost never good. I don’t have TV in my home for a reason, and the depressing state of cultural affairs is a good one, but not the only. Still, I try to stay in the know about what is going on in our community and abroad. As I follow the news, this is what I’m gathering about our culture: Discrimination  and racism seem to be issues that just aren’t going anywhere. Sometimes the claims are legitimate, sometimes they seem to purposely stir dissension and are used as false accusations when someone gets angry about something. Gang and drug activity, and violent crime rates in general either seem to be on the rise, or are being over-reported. We have become used to seeing mass shootings here and there. National debt, illegal immigration, welfare, healthcare, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and the shrinking middle class are issues the government is having trouble addressing.

Sex is a major issue in our culture; people are so confused and lost. The devastating results of the actions of those caught in this trap are particularly sickening and heart breaking to me. In the fray are those preying on children either through child pornography, chat rooms and online sex, rape of children in public restrooms, and even abduction. Added to the growing list of things for parents to worry about: baby monitors are being hacked. Perhaps most troubling are the stories of pedophiles that commonly befriend families for years, slowly “grooming” the child, and gaining parental and child trust, by caring for the child, giving gifts and taking on special outings. Once the relationship is solid, abuse ensues, and the child is coerced to be silent, while parents are either unsuspecting, or don’t believe once a child is brave enough to reveal the ugly truth. A recent article told of toys sold with a symbol for pedophiles, signaling that the child with the toy is a target.

Sex offenders, are becoming more and more prevalent and seem to be getting fewer and fewer penalties. (Just do a search for registered offenders in your area, noting how much jail time they’ve had. You may be surprised and looking for a new residence.) Sex trafficking is a growing problem, and the latest article I read on the topic suggests new targets are toddlers in supermarkets with their mothers. Once abducted, children may be brought to the border and sold overseas. More and more teachers are getting convicted of sleeping with their students, or of sexual misconduct with minors (at least three just in my local area in the last year.) There are epidemic rates of pornography use and sexual addiction. The media promotes promiscuity and sexual freedom and the messages bombard and saturate our youth culture. There is news of the latest naked picture or video of a different celebrity every time I try to check my email, and it makes me realize how constantly this stuff is in our little boys’ and husbands’ faces all the time. I don’t find it ironic that I read of more and more children are using the internet and texting to post nude photos and videos of themselves, and of others.

Cyberbullying and suicide rates among teens seem to coincide and increase. It seems to be acceptable and even inevitable for affairs and divorce to happen; these are no longer shocking events, but daily news and commonplace. What with the sanctity of marriage being so honored and all, we should not be surprised that the definition of family is shifting. There are more single parents, struggling to do a two person job. There is a gender fluidity/gender neutrality/trans-gender movement that we are persuaded to embrace, lest we be labeled discriminatory bigots. If we don’t support and accept the LGBT community, our businesses may be taken to court and sued. There is an agenda to teach new definitions of gender (choose your own, or none at all) and sexual identity, along with practices, in public k-12 schools. Planned parenthood and politicians are backing later term abortion with no limits. There seems to be a coincidental growth in lack of respect for law enforcement, military, and the elderly, and more ignorance about our government and history than ever before. And don’t get me started on election and political issues! Then, let’s add in a few international issues: war, ISIS, terrorists, genocide, persecution.  It seems contradictory to me that even with all of this going on, it is very uncommon to have faith in God or Jesus in the largest generation yet, the millennials.

These are any number of stories I will see on a daily basis, and anyone of them is enough to convince me to move to a deserted island with my children, leaving all of it behind. I have a tendency to be frightened and overwhelmed by the vastness of moral decline. Let’s face it, the world we live in often seems like a dark, scary place with little hope for the future. It makes me angry at times, that this is the environment I am bringing my children into, but mostly just so sad. As a Christian I must keep in mind that I was placed in this time and this season, and I was called for a purpose.

It becomes clearer everyday that we live in a lost and hurting world. Even people who think they are liberated are often lost and don’t know it. So many distractions keep us from coming face to face with the depth our depravity, and the fallen state of our souls. However, that can’t go on forever. At some point, even the most proud will have to stop running and realize the extent of their own brokenness. I did, and I’m so thankful. I could’ve kept running, but I was tired of the emptiness. I knew there was more. These stories in the news fill me with sadness because I was there, lost at one time, and didn’t even know it. I am moved with compassion because I realize, if I had kept meandering down the broad path of destruction, I may have been one of the people in these stories. But God, in his great grace has saved me from that life. I know God will use the time I spent in worldliness to His glory as he shows me how to relate to those who are hurting, through my own story of pain.

When I am tempted to run away to my own little utopia, or just ignore the world outside, I remember that I am called to be a light in this world of darkness. So I grab my children, hold them close, and continue my ascent on the narrow path. I hope to teach them to do the same. I want them to grasp the only hope and answer I have found to all of this: faith in Jesus Christ. We can be the difference. We can live a life set apart, as difficult and at times unappealing as it may seem. We can be calm and loving in the face of adversity; we can offer hurting people a place to heal. We can be the change of this generation, and the next. We can teach our children limits, and discipline. We can refuse to be “luke-warm,” and “go with the flow” of current events. We can stop being blind, numb, passive, and/or silent about what the culture says is acceptable, and take a stand on what we know to be right: the truth we find in the Bible. We can refuse to watch shows, listen to songs, and vote for politicians that violate our beliefs. We can put filters on our internet and save our children (and ourselves) from the pain and misery that they will surely find there if they are left alone. Yes, we can stop letting the media seep into our minds, and stop being blindsided by allowing one small moral shift at a time, till we wake up face down in a ditch of our own making, a little too late.

We can deal with our own sin and issues, so we can be an example to others. We can refuse to accept the things that we know will bring death to our souls, and stop giving ourselves away a little at a time. We can live an unusual life of purity, we can stand with boldness in who we are, and make others look, and think twice. We can exhibit the joy we have found in freedom from being slaves to sin and shame, and in being heirs in the kingdom of Christ. We can stop being angry ranters who accomplish nothing but hatred, and a tainted taste for people who go by the title Christian, and we can remember that we aren’t fighting against flesh and blood. There is an invisible war here: a war for our minds, our emotions, and our hearts. The enemy of our souls is rampant, and he is out to devour anyone with their guard down. We need to stand in unity, and help others get out of danger. We can give the love we so freely receive to those who are desperate for it. We can let the kindness of Jesus draw in others with opposing views, rather than push them away. We can serve others, and show them a better way.

If you’re like me, and so many other people I know, the headlines you hear leave you outraged, and you are demanding change. But we can’t just keep, hoping, wishing, and praying for change to take place. We have to BE the change. This is the only answer. Jesus says He is THE way THE truth, and THE life. He wasn’t just some nice man who said a lot of good things, who we’ll give a shout out to, while we continue unchanged in the way we live. No, if you truly accept Him, He will change everything about you, and living for Him is the only way to make a lasting impact in this present age. In the Bible, we are called a city on a hill. If we don’t start acting as different as we are, how will anyone be convinced our faith is genuine or worth it? Lastly, if you love Jesus, then you must love people; the two cannot be separated. I care, as my faith necessitates, about people’s souls. “The Lord is not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9. I am committed to swimming solidly upstream, no matter how strong the “current.” I want to create a wake behind me, a mighty wave that will turn the tide, and cause those around to feel it, to pause, and want to follow. Let’s give them a taste of the living water that we are surrounded by in the midst of their contaminated, turbid flow. You are the agent of change the world is waiting on. Will you join me?

 

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Ephesians 4:17-19 You must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

Galatians 5:19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Romans 13:12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.

 

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