Sunday, November 2, 2014

New blog!

Hey! Just letting everyone know I'm now blogging over at God's Word in Everyday Life

See you there!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Five-Minute-Friday: Hold


I have an almost 4-month-old baby girl. Sweet. Angelic. Lovely.

When her brother was born two years ago, I became stressed and worried. Why was he crying? Was I doing everything right? Let's get him on a schedule asap!! I don't remember savoring the moments as much as hectically filling my days.

This summer I've spent hours holding my Lou. Holding her little fingers that she's curled around mine since the moment she was born. Holding the memory of her round face and long dark lashes in my heart. Holding my breath when she smiles.

Years fly by even when days seem to last forever. I've been taking a lesson this time around from Mary's playbook: "Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often." Her time as Jesus' mother must have felt so fleeting. And she held those days in her heart.

I want to let my children go as they grow, yet hold the memory of their sweet smiles and sticky fingers and cuddles and tears in my heart forever.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Roots of Bitterness

This past Sunday's sermon was about forgiveness. It struck a chord in my heart and probably many others. God brought me back to a couple of years ago when I learned a valuable lesson on forgiveness.

One verse used Sunday was Hebrews 12:15:
Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
 I have a dear friend who does an amazing job at looking after me to make sure I'm receiving the grace of God. We text back and forth often and once a couple of years ago, when she was planning her wedding, I brought up something from our first year of marriage that was laced with bitterness.  Our first year being married, living in Dubuque was so much harder than we planned. Even though we'd been students for four years in the city, we felt like outsiders for much of that first year and beyond. We moved three times, experienced a difficult pregnancy and 3 or 4 jobs changes, and changed churches. So for a long time, I assumed that everyone's first year of marriage was just as difficult as ours had been.

What I didn't realize was that I had let bitterness seep in and wrap its fingers around my heart. And as I told my friend about the hardships of marriage, she graciously pointed out to me how harsh and negative my comments were. And I wondered where that ugliness had come from.

As I unpacked my feelings little by little, I discovered years of unforgiveness against many, many people for big things, little things, stupid things, hurtful things, and pointless things.

Anger at the woman at the government office who barely believed me that our marriage license from Kansas was official when it didn't look as fancy as Iowa's.

Hurt from the rejection of a person I cared deeply for in college.

Embarrassment from that one comment a friend made about something in my personality when I was 14 years old.

Inward rebellion at rules I had been expected to follow in various situations. 

I took a pencil and paper and wrote out everything that came back to my mind that still bugged me from the past. Everything. Even the things that seemed stupid or small. And then I burned the paper. I let it go.

I'd had no idea that I was being weighed down by all that junk. No idea.

See, you've got to name things or they will keep having power over you. Recognize them. Stop ignoring the pain or anger they are still causing you. Speak them out loud and then speak God's grace over them. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you've made that your head still reminds you of. Forgive others for their wrongs or their mistakes against you. Then there will be release.

Today as I was getting dressed I pulled on a t-shirt I loved (before it became ratty, haha) and remembered a stupid comment someone made about it when I first got it. I realized that literally every time I put on the shirt, I thought of that comment and it ruined my experience of wearing the shirt - every single time. Bitterness where it wasn't welcome, without even realizing it was there. So I named it and let it go.

What are you holding onto? What memories spring up as you go about your day? What or who makes the hair on your neck stand up when you're reminded of them? Those are a pretty good indicator of unforgiveness you're holding onto. Let it go. Receive the grace of God and walk in freedom.

It's so worth it.

To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you. - C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

We Trust the Ones We Know

Today the kids and I were out enjoying the local botanical garden. Breathing in the crisp fall air refreshed our souls, let me tell you! Charlie brought his bike and I pushed Lou in the stroller and we just relished being outside together. We stopped at the gazebo, which Charlie loves, mainly because there is an owl statue in the rafters. He likes to shriek, "OWL! OWL!" and try to jump up and touch it.

Today while there a couple came with two toddler boys and the man was lifting the boys up to actually touch the owl (I'm not nearly tall enough to do that with Charles). He offered to lift Charles up and of course Charles accepted. But when he was lifted above the man's shoulder, Charles refused to let go of the man's jacket collar - too scared to be lifted up several feet. He wanted to, but he just didn't trust the man to keep him safe.

It's hard to trust someone we don't know.

Often I struggle to trust the Lord on something. Why is he allowing this? Why isn't he answering my prayers with a yes? What's going to happen next? What if it's something bad?

But if I remembered what I know to be true of my God, I wouldn't have such trouble trusting him.

Do I really know God's heart? Know it to the point that I feel safe trusting him and his ways?

If I believed that God was completely good and only did good things, would I worry about bad things happening, or would I trust that he knows what he's doing when he allows hard stuff into my life?

If I believed that God knows and cares about my needs, would I fear tomorrow like I do?

If I believed that God's love for me lasts forever, would I doubt my worth and wallow in insecurity?

If I believed that God forgives my sin, would I keep allowing myself to feel condemned and guilty?

Ten to one if Nate had been there to lift Charles up to touch the owl, it would've been much easier for my boy to let go and stretch out the extra couple of feet, because he has a steadfast relationship built with his daddy. He trusts him because he knows him.

How well do I know God? 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Freedom to Love

Kyle Idleman wrote in his book Not a Fan, "Following Jesus is not about trying every day. It's about dying every day." For years I've been coming out from the burden of self-imposed legalism and when I heard those words last winter, they set the last bit of me free.

For years I tried so hard to please God. I knew that salvation from hell wasn't accomplished by my works, but somehow I believed inside that my sanctification - my becoming more like Jesus - was accomplished by my good works. If I do everything right, don't waste a moment of my life, and be as responsible as possible, I will earn God's smile - his "Well done, daughter!"

In my very personality, I want to get things right. I want to make people happy. Unfortunately for me. It became this almost sick obsession. I could take care of the needs of everyone around me and keep them happy. And doing that kept me happy. I felt satisfied. But the satisfaction didn't last and God started showing me that keeping people happy wasn't always what was best for them. Sometimes they needed some things to be hard or to go wrong, so they could learn dependence on God, not me.

And then God began revealing that he loved me just as me and I didn't have to DO anything to make him happy with me. Anything I did for him should be done because I loved him and because we had a relationship - not because I had to earn his favor. Grace is favor we don't deserve. God is so good to us.

But it was hard for me to connect the dots in a practical sense. We still have to put in work on our end of the relationship - that much is evident in the New Testament - we don't become more like Jesus automatically. But I was still trying hard. Too hard. And feeling like I was failing all the time.

That's when I began to understand that following is not about trying and failing. Following is about love. And love is sacrifice. Love is laying down yourself to meet another's needs. Just like God did in Jesus. He died to pay for my sins. The ultimate sacrifice.

Love in any relationship is sacrifice. Sometimes that means giving up the chance to make a person happy so that they can learn something on their own - in particular dependence on God. Sometimes it means stepping in to serve them, over and over again, with no reward. Sometimes it means give and take - you give and are blessed with a return. But you can't have a meaningful relationship with anyone unless you die to yourself in some way.

Jesus talked about this all the time.
Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.
In his own death, the seed of his life brought forth a never-ending harvest of fruit.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
Taking up our cross means DYING, not TRYING. I don't know how I got it confused but for literally years, when I thought of being Jesus' disciple, I thought of working harder to be a better Christian - giving more of myself and my resources, thinking less of myself, trying harder every day.

But it is relinquishing, not grasping. It is "How can I lay my life down today in sacrifice for my relationship with Jesus?" not "How many things on my 'Be Spiritual' to-do list can I scratch off so Jesus is happy with me?"

This is freedom.

1 John 5 says
This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.
In a way this verse has always confused me, because aren't commands in their very nature a kind of burden?

But not if they are kept out of love! God gives us commands in love - life goes better when we obey (I am always reminding my son!) - and he wants life to be the best it can be for us. So if I keep them because I love him and trust that what he says is best, I am obeying God because I love him, not because I want him to love me.

Oh, my heart. God is so good. And it is so good to breathe the fresh, free air of grace.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Power in your Words

Words have power. Been thinking lately about how our kids become what we expect of them in some ways. Today I was at a clearance event for a kids consignment store and was sifting through 50% off t-shirts and has to ask myself - "Is part of the reason our kids are so self-centered because we put them in t-shirts that say, 'It's all about ME!'" Or are they jerks because we talk about them like bad attitudes are all they are capable of?

I know it's not completely the reason, but could changing our words help our kids truly see themselves the way God sees them?

It's easy to label your kids. We call our boy "silly" and "crazy" all the time and I can tell he's starting to act that way more when we treat him like that's all he's capable of. I'm starting to use words like "strong" and "gentle" to define him and am seeing how that makes a change in his actions (on a good day, lol).

And what about our lives as adults? When I say all the time how overwhelmed I am, or how tired I am, it honestly is defeating, and in a weird way, I like to feel that defeat because it gives me license to feel sorry for myself. But what if I used words like "blessed" and said things like "My days are full but I have so much to be thankful for"? Then I would be worshiping rather than complaining. And I'd be refusing to let those negative words overwhelm me.

"Life and death are in the power of the tongue." Proverbs 18:21

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: Beyond Bathtime

***I've written here before that God has given me a heart and a passion to write. I read mom blogs daily and am so incredibly thankful that God has laid a burden on so many women's hearts to write for moms. As of yet, he hasn't given me that same interest for writing lies in several different directions. But I value the blogs and books written by women about motherhood because I am a mom after all! In the past year or so I've read a handful of incredible books about motherhood and want to review them briefly here to encourage other moms to pick up these books and be encouraged. Most of them cost less than $10 on Amazon and are well worth the money.***

Beyond Bathtime

Erin Davis

Not long ago I heard Erin being interviewed on a podcast with Nancy Leigh DeMoss and was so encouraged by her words and her fresh perspective on motherhood from God's Word that I ordered her new book immediately. I just finished reading it today and was so blessed by every chapter.

Erin takes us to God's word to find our perspective for motherhood. Our culture views children as a burden; the Bible portrays them as a blessing. Beyond Bathtime uncovers lies in our culture and lays out the truth from God's word. I had never thought much about what a woman like Eve could teach me about being a mom, or how the fact that God chose for Jesus to come to earth through a womb and be raised by a mom (Mary) shows how he values the role of motherhood. And Erin's perspective on the story of the loaves and fish that the little boy brought to hear Jesus and ended up relinquishing for Jesus to multiply for the crowd blew me away:

Let's trace the journey of that little lunch. Mom packed the lunch. Boy carried the lunch. Disciples noticed the lunch. Jesus blessed and multiplied the lunch. More than five thousand people ate the lunch. And millions know that Jesus is God because the story of this miracle has been told for thousands of years.
That's how mom math works in the kingdom.  (pp 107-08)

Beyond Bathtime includes loads of practical ideas for putting truth into practice. My favorites were in the chapter about celebrating your kids. Her illustrations of how we show by our words and actions that our children really are more of a burden than a blessing really convicted me. Do my kids really know that they are a blessing from God to our family? How do I demonstrate that? Erin had lots of great ideas.

As a young woman I often felt like there were other ministries I would be better off giving myself to than motherhood. God has gradually been changing my heart, so these words from the book struck a chord with me:

If a woman surrendered her life to share Bible stories with children in an unreached people group overseas, we would consider that big and rightfully so. 

But your children are also an unreached people group. They don't come into the world with a knowledge and heart for God. It's your job to teach them, and it's a big job. (p 108)

Beyond Bathtime is not a long book - 10 easy-to-read chapters with questions you can answer to help soak up the information even better or discuss with friends. I've put this book down feeling more than inspired but more so equipped to view my daily life as a mom as actual work for God's kingdom.