Saturday, November 14, 2020

mom enough?

 Sometimes, being a mom is amazing. Other times, it's a hard, lonely, miserable mess. All the time, it's a jumble of emotions all tangled together, each one fighting for dominance. It's humbling and heartbreaking and awe inspiring and incredible.

There are days when I think I'm doing a good job, days when the laundry is caught up, everybody likes what's for supper (with 7 of us, that's quite a thing), and people are smiling and laughing and having fun together. Those days make me feel like I know what I'm doing, which is nice since I'm 14 years into this "mom" thing. The good ones are the ones when I get glimpses of who my kids are growing up to be, when I think that maybe I'm not doing too bad at this whole motherhood business.

Other days, there are piles of laundry overflowing the baskets or a load that gets forgotten in the washing machine and somehow smells like a wet dog. Those days are usually the ones when the brothers are fighting and threatening each other within an inch of their lives. They are somehow also the ones when the girls decide I can't possibly know anything I'm talking about because I'm obviously out of touch with everything and gosh, there's no way I was ever a teenage girl. Those are the days when nobody wants to eat what's been cooked (it, of course, is somebody's least favorite food even though they ate it without complaint the last time). They're typically the days when reminding my kids that they need clean underwear after taking a shower is obviously the worst thing I can possibly do.

Sometimes, all I want to do is hide away. I feel like I'm failing at everything important, like I'm letting my kids down and I'll never have the wisdom or strength or patience to get my kids grown up.

What gets to me the most, though, is the thought that I'm letting God down. After all, these kids are His. They belong to Him, and I'm just borrowing them for a while. I feel utterly inadequate to raise them to be who He wants them to be, so ill-equipped to be their mom, like maybe God should have chosen someone else so that I couldn't mess them up. Because my goodness, there are days when I think I've messed them up beyond repair.

It's in those hard times, though, in the middle of my gut-wrenching cries to God for His help, when I'm on my knees with tears brimming, telling Him that I'm not enough and I can't possibly do this and He must have made some mistake because these kids He gave me need someone better, someone with more patience and better homemaking skills and who loves cuddling and who never loses her ever-loving mind... it's in those times that I hear Him say,

“My grace is enough to cover and sustain you.
My power is made perfect in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9

I'm not enough--I never will be. I don't have what it takes to get myself through this life, let alone the kids who have been entrusted to my care. But that's the amazing thing about being a servant of the Most High. "For He understands how we are made, He remembers that we are dust." (Psalm 103:14) He knows I can't do the things He's asked of me on my own. If I could, I wouldn't need Him.

And that's one thing being a mom has shown me--how much I desperately need Him.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

in the storm

 We've been pretty familiar with storms in our household lately. I don't mean the thunder and lightning, wind and rain types of storms (though here in the Arkansas Ozarks, those are pretty common, too). I mean the types of storms that come from doing this whole "life" thing with a group of little people who are in that hard place of turning into big people while learning the hard lessons of what it means to be family, to grow up, and to just be human. Lately we've had some mornings that have made me want to crawl back in bed and pull the covers up over my head.

They haven't been big storms, as far as storms go. They aren't the kind of storms that have us hanging on for dear life, thinking we're about to go under. They are just the ones that seem to last so much longer than you ever thought possible, storms that drag on for so long that you start thinking you're going to give out, that even though the pressure isn't that intense you just can't hold up against it being so unrelenting.

When the disciples set out that night on the Sea of Galilee, I think that's the kind of storm they were facing. We're told that they had been rowing all night and yet still hadn't made it to the other side. Now, it's not that enormous of a body of water-- it's 8 miles wide, which definitely wouldn't be a walk in the park (can you say that about rowing?) for someone like me. For a bunch of fishermen who had spent their entire lives on the water, though... I'm sure the storm had to be unrelenting for them to only be half way across after rowing all night.

I've been in that place more times than I would like to admit. You know, the place where the storm has been going on for so long that you're starting to think it won't ever end. You've been straining to get through to the other side, but you aren't actually making any progress. You're stressed and tired and defeated and scared, and it feels like you're all alone in the middle of the storm.

We all know what happens next--we've heard the story of Jesus walking on the water and we know that the storm stopped when He stepped into the boat. But there's a promise tucked in there that I hadn't noticed before:

"Not long after, He sent His disciples out onto their boat to sail to Bethsaida on the other shore, and He sent the crowd away. After everyone had gone, He slipped away to pray on a mountain overlooking the sea. When evening came, the boat was out on the sea and He was alone on the land. He saw that the disciples were making little progress because they were rowing against a stiff wind."
~Mark 6:45-48a

Do you see it? It's easy for us to overlook (God's promises sometimes are), but look again at that last sentence:

"He saw that the disciples..."

The disciples were out in the middle of the storm, but Jesus saw them.

They weren't forgotten. They weren't abandoned to face the storm alone, even though they felt like they were.

So many times when I'm in the middle of a storm I feel like I'm facing it all on my own. I feel like I've been left to fend for myself, to fight a battle I'm not strong enough to fight. The thing is, though, Jesus doesn't abandon us. He's there, watching, waiting for the perfect time to step in and calm the storm.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

what you want and what you get

 They wanted a Messiah. They wanted him to come as a mighty conqueror, one who would drive everyone else out of Israel. They wanted a warrior to come in and wipe out the enemy, the mighty "Lion of Judah" who would have the whole world trembling at his roar. They wanted someone to step in and stake his claim as King over the whole world, someone who would intimidate most and defeat anyone who dared stand against Israel. They wanted the one who would usher in the end of the world as we know it, the one who would raise Israel up above all other nations. They wanted a Messiah who would come in as a strong political and military leader, someone who would subdue the entire earth under his heel. They wanted a Messiah they could rule alongside of, someone who would make them powerful by association.

We want a very different Messiah today. We want him to come in as someone who is all warm and fuzzy, someone who just loves us no matter what and doesn't demand any changes. We want him to approve anything and everything, to tell us that as long as it makes us feel good he's good with it. We want someone who will make sure we get all the good things, someone who wants us to be "healthy, wealthy, and wise." We want a friend who will be there when we need one, but not one who will speak up when we need to reevaluate our words or actions. We want to be told that "right" and "true" are words that don't really mean anything, that truth is relative and the Bible is just a bunch of stories. We want someone to make us feel good about ourselves, one who says our whole goal and purpose in life is to make other people feel good about themselves, too. We want someone who only cares about our intentions, not our actions, so that as long as we are well meaning and are good people, it doesn't matter what we actually believe.

There's this habit God has, though, of not doing things the way we think He should. He didn't send Jesus to be the Messiah the Jews thought He should be. In the same way, He didn't send His Son to be the "everything goes" Messiah we think He should be today.

Instead, He sent a Messiah who would rub people the wrong way. He sent a King who would be born in a feed trough, who would grow up seen as a Nazarene in a culture that said, "Nothing good comes from Nazareth." He sent a Messiah who would humble Himself instead of lifting Himself up, One who would call on His disciples to deny themselves in order to follow Him. He sent a Messiah who came as a servant instead of a conqueror, One who touched the untouchable and ate with tax collectors. He sent One who would stand up to the Sadducees and Pharisees, who reached out to Samaritans, who became friends with a quick-tempered and hot-headed fisherman. He sent a Messiah who came, in His own words: 

"Do not imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth.
I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
I have come to turn men against their fathers,
daughters against their mothers,
and daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law.
You will find you have enemies even in your own household.
If you love your father or mother more than you love Me,
then you are not worthy of Me.
If you love your son or daughter more than you love Me,
then you are not worthy of Me
 
If you refuse to take up your cross and follow Me on the narrow road,
then you are not worthy of Me
 
To find your life, you must lose your life—
and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."

~Matthew 10:34-39

 He sent a Messiah who warned His followers that their lives wouldn't be easy. He sent a Messiah who refused to throw the first stone but also called the woman caught in adultery to repent, to "go and sin no more." He sent a Messiah who was tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned. He sent a Messiah through whom all of the universe was created, yet who chose to let Himself be beaten, whipped, mocked, spit on, and crucified because God's will and God's plan meant more than His earthly life.

Monday, November 2, 2020

A prayer...

 Dear God,

We're told in Romans, "We are weak and do not know how to pray, so the Spirit steps in and articulates prayers for us with groaning too profound for words." (8:26) Right now, that's where I am. I think it's where so many of us here in the United States are, because right now our country is anything but "United." The division and hatred is wounding so many hearts and causing so many rifts. The most horrific part of it all, though, is not the fact that our country is divided--that's something that has been coming for a long time. The worst part is how those of us who call ourselves Your children are divided.

God, You are holy and just and perfect in Your love. You know we are weak--after all, You created the dust from which You created us. You know our lives here are nothing more than a breath, and You know how much we mess up. Despite it all, You love us. Somehow, for some awesome reason I can't wrap my mind around, You love us. You watch us fail You time and time again, and You love us.

Your mercy is unbelievable and Your patience is unimaginable, but when it comes down to it, Your love for us means that You also discipline us. Just like my mom always told us, "I love you too much to let you act that way," sometimes that's what You say to us.

Father, this nation was founded on Your word. It was started by men and women who called out to You and based their decisions on Your will. Instead of honoring them--but more importantly, honoring You--we've decided that our country doesn't need You. We've pushed You aside and, like petulant children, said that we can do it ourselves. We've pushed You out of everything--our homes, our schools, our courts, even many of our churches. We've grabbed hold of the idea of feelings over facts, of the idea that it doesn't matter what You said, all that matters is what makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. We've decided that you are nothing more than an old man to be placated, shaking our heads with a knowing smirk as we listen to stories of how things used to be.

For so long, we've tried to take control. We've tried to say that we know better than You, that we're better at this "life" thing, that Your word is outdated and irrelevant. We took all the gifts You gave us and threw them away, demanding something bigger and better and shinier and more modern. Demanding that You let us have our way, that You just leave us alone and let us take control and do things the way we want.

And now, God, I'm afraid that You've decided to do just that. I'm afraid that You are doing like you did when Israel demanded a king--You warned them, then You gave them what they thought they wanted. You stepped back and they found out what it meant to get their own way.

Father, forgive us.

Despite our demands, despite our petulance, I know Your will will be done. You are in control, though sometimes that control means our discipline. Please, remember Your children. Through the coming turmoil, remind us that You love us, and that even when we are in the pit You are close enough to whisper.

Psalm 31

"You are my shelter, O Eternal One—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Shield me from shame;
    rescue me by Your righteousness.
Hear me, Lord! Turn Your ear in my direction.
    Come quick! Save me!
Be my rock, my shelter,
    my fortress of salvation!

You are my rock and my fortress—my soul’s sanctuary!
    Therefore, for the sake of Your reputation, be my leader, my guide, my navigator, my commander.
Save me from the snare that has been secretly set out for me,
    for You are my protection.
I entrust my spirit into Your hands.[a]
    You have redeemed me, O Eternal, God of faithfulness and truth.

I despise the people who pay respect to breathless idols,
    and I trust only in You, Eternal One.
I will gladly rejoice because of Your gracious love
    because You recognized the sadness of my affliction.
    You felt deep compassion when You saw the pains of my soul.
You did not hand me over to the enemy,
    but instead, You liberated me
    and made me secure in a good and spacious land.

Show me Your grace, Eternal One, for I am in a tight spot.
    My eyes are aching with grief;
    my body and soul are withering with miseries.
10 My life is devoured by sorrow,
    and my years are haunted with mourning.
My sin has sapped me of all my strength;
    my body withers under the weight of this suffering.

11 To all my enemies I am an object of scorn.
    My neighbors especially are ashamed of me.
My friends are afraid to be seen with me.
    When I walk down the street, people go out of their way to avoid me.
12 I am as good as dead to them. Forgotten!
    Like a shattered clay pot, I am easily discarded and gladly replaced.
13 For I hear their whispered plans;
    terror is everywhere!
They conspire together,
    planning, plotting, scheming to take my life.

14 But I pour my trust into You, Eternal One.
    I’m glad to say, “You are my God!”
15 I give the moments of my life over to You, Eternal One.
    Rescue me from those who hate me and who hound me with their threats.
16 Look toward me, and let Your face shine down upon Your servant.
    Because of Your gracious love, save me!
17 Spare me shame, O Eternal One,
    for I turn and call to You.
Instead, let those who hate me be shamed;
    let death’s silence claim them.
18 Seal their lying lips forever,
    for with pride and contempt boiling in their hearts,
    they speak boldly against the righteous and persecute those who poured their trust into You.

19 Your overflowing goodness
    You have kept for those who live in awe of You,
And You share Your goodness with those who make You their sanctuary.
20 You hide them, You shelter them in Your presence,
    safe from the conspiracies of sinful men.
You keep them in Your tent,
    safe from the slander of accusing tongues.

21 Bless the Eternal!
    For He has revealed His gracious love to me
    when I was trapped like a city under siege.
22 I began to panic so I yelled out,
    “I’m cut off. You no longer see me!”
But You heard my cry for help that day
    when I called out to You.

23 Love the Eternal, all of you, His faithful people!
    He protects those who are true to Him,
    but He pays back the proud in kind.
24 Be strong, and live courageously,
    all of you who set your hope in the Eternal!"

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Vote

 I've put this post off for a long time, mostly because I'm having a hard time figuring out just what to say. Partly, though, it's because I don't like confrontation and I don't like upsetting people. To be honest, I may have waited too long seeing as how election day is on Tuesday... and I'm writing this on Saturday.

For some reason it's become taboo to say, but I truly believe we live in a great nation. Well, we inherited one, at least. Those who founded the United States did so by declaring their independence from any other country while simultaneously declaring their full dependence on God, the One they referred to when they wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights..."

Right now, we are facing an election that will determine the future of our nation. I have to admit, what I've been seeing lately has me pretty well convinced that we will be living in a different world no matter who wins. A friend put it this way: "If Trump wins, we're looking at social chaos. If Biden wins, we're looking at economic chaos." I think that's putting things mildly.

I've never seen so much division and hatred in our country. The 2016 election made me say that (I wrote about the state of the nation then), but it pales in comparison to what we're seeing now. People spew hatred with no consideration of anyone else, while at the same time preaching love and acceptance and "honoring their experience." We are being told that the Left is the bastion of peace and prosperity, that if we will just step back and let the government take care of us everything will be better... while we watch cities burn and stores get looted in the name of social justice. We are told that women should have access to abortion on demand because "it's her body," but that we should wear a mask because "it might save just one person." Never mind what the data says. How many "just one"s could be saved if abortion was seen for what it is, the taking of an innocent life for the sake of convenience?

I've read post after post on social media that have told me how I'm a horrible person if I vote for President Trump. Many go so far as to say that I can't possibly be a Christian if that's how I cast my vote. Because, they say, don't you see how terrible and sinful he is? Oh, but it's okay to ignore the sins of the other side.

Wait--that's not how that's supposed to work?

This election, though, isn't supposed to be a popularity contest. It's supposed to be a decision based on who will best lead our country, and our decision should be based on the policies that will be enacted when the next President sits in the White House.

On one side, we have someone who has strengthened our economy, who supports law and order, and who doesn't back down and give in. We have someone who has brokered peace deals on behalf of Israel, deals others said were impossible. We have someone who has spoken plainly (though crassly) about the underhanded things that happen in politics and with the media. We have someone who was the first acting President to attend the March for Life, someone who donates his paycheck and does an incredibly demanding job for no pay. We have someone who believes the people of this country are worth protecting and worth fighting for. We have someone who has worked with those who are on the front lines defending the borders of our nation. We have someone who has honored and listened to people from all backgrounds, hosting them at the White House to have conversations and try to move forward. We have someone who believes in our rights, including freedom of speech and the freedom of religion (it's not freedom from religion, like so many seem to think), and thinks we have the right to be able to protect those rights as is laid out in the 2nd Amendment.

Just for clarification, the 2nd Amendment wasn't written so we could hunt. It was written so the American people could protect ourselves from a tyrannical government. Seeing as how they now have guns and missiles, we're already starting off at a disadvantage.

On the other side, we have a movement (not a man; I truly believe Joe Biden is just a puppet) that has admitted to wanting to "fundamentally change" this nation. We have a movement that is trying to take away the rights that have made us great as a nation. We have a movement that is saying babies are only a clump of cells up until the moment they are born, which is a massive slap in the face to any woman who has gone through the pain of losing a baby in her womb. We have a movement that is trying to put the government in charge of every aspect of our daily life--what we can say, where we can go, what we are allowed to do, who can work where. It is a movement that has declared that our country is inherently evil, that everyone born with the "white" box checked on their birth certificate is automatically racist despite their own words or actions. We have a movement saying the police are out hunting black men, a bold faced lie that has been disproved without a doubt by the data. We have a movement that is doing everything it can to create hatred and division, because that plays into their plan to create a ruling elite that can use the rest of us as pawns.

We are facing an election that will very likely change everything. Please, pray and vote. Don't waste the rights others have fought and died to give you. Don't waste their sacrifice.



Tuesday, October 27, 2020

wounds from a friend

 I've never been a people person, but I've always been a people pleaser. I don't like not being liked, which is probably the biggest reason it's hard for me every time I click the "Publish" button and put my writing out there to be judged. My writing feels like so much a part of me that if anyone has anything negative to say about it, I feel like that is a blow to me. When I released my first book, the review that stands out in my mind said, "too long winded and boring." There were good reviews, but those words are seared in my brain and come back to mind almost every time I try to put pen to paper.

Here's the crazy thing, though--the people who mean the most to me, the ones I have the most respect for? They don't hold back when they talk to me. They call me on the things I'm doing wrong, they tell me when I've messed up, and they don't let me just gloss over the bad parts. When I think about them, though, it's not the harsh words that I remember. Instead, it's the fact that they love me enough to tell me the truth.


"Wounds inflicted by the correction of a friend prove he is faithful;
    the abundant kisses of an enemy show his lies."
~Proverbs 27:6

We are in a world right now where people would much rather have the "kisses of an enemy" than the wounds of a friend. We want people to make us feel good; we don't want to be corrected for... well, just about anything. We do our best not to step on anybody's toes. We hear messages from the pulpit that give the idea that there's no real right or wrong and that a loving God will accept everyone no matter what.

My mom has always said something that seems fitting here: "I love you too much to let you act like that."

Love isn't about letting someone say and do whatever they want. Love is about wanting the best for someone, and that often means telling them when what they are doing isn't the best. So many like to use the argument that since God is love, He forgives everything we do and won't ever punish us for anything.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

God is love, yes, but He is righteous love. "Righteous" is defined by Webster's as "acting in accord with divine or moral law : free from guilt or sin." Divine righteousness demands justice; a truly righteous God will not ignore sin. Because of His righteousness, He will correct those He loves. That's not just a conclusion I came to. It's written in Proverbs and then repeated by Paul in Hebrews:

"My son, do not ignore the Eternal’s instruction
    or lose heart when He steps in to correct you;
Because the Eternal proves His love by caring enough to discipline you,

    just as a father does his child, his pride and joy."
Proverbs 3:11-12, quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6

The people who love me the most? They're the ones who love me enough to step up and call me out when I'm headed down the wrong path. They are the ones who take the risk to tell me words that might hurt me now because they care more about me being who I'm supposed to be than me being happy.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

big dreams?

 For a while, there was a group of bloggers who talked a lot about "God sized dreams." The idea was a good one--we serve a big God, so why shouldn't we have big dreams? It seemed like an obvious connection, especially to me. At the time, I was searching for what my future should be. I had started teaching, but I was drowning in my first year (an incredibly common thing, but that didn't make it any easier at the time). I was debating graduate school... then deeply entrenched in grad school... then changing programs... then teaching again...

The list could go on, as I'm sure it could for you. The main thing, though, was that I was absolutely convinced that if I believed in a big God, I needed to have a big dream. After all, as God's people we're called to live out His plan for our life, right? That same topic has come up again lately for me. I listen to Dr. David Jeremiah's radio show on my way to work in the mornings, and lately he's been talking about chasing dreams.

His words have been right along the same lines as those bloggers from so long ago, the ones that got me to start a blog. He talked about how we need to figure out what our dream is, our one big goal from God, so that we can pursue it wholeheartedly. He said that we should focus on the goal so that we don't fall into complacency. He talked about being willing to take a risk, bringing up one of my favorite people--Peter. He spoke of Peter stepping out of the boat, taking a risk by stepping out onto the waves. He said that we need to find out what task God is asking us to do so that we can pour ourselves into accomplishing it.

But that got me thinking--was Peter really focused on walking on the water? I'm sure you know the story. It was late (we're told it was the 4th watch of the night, which means the hours just before dawn) and the disciples had been sent on ahead of Jesus while He prayed. The boat was being tossed around, and suddenly the disciples saw a ghostly figure moving toward them on top of the water. When they called out in fear, Jesus spoke and told them they didn't have to be afraid, because it was Him.

Walking on Water – God In All Things

Then Peter spoke up. Love him or not, you have to admit that he had a talent for speaking up when nobody else would. Sometimes it got him into trouble because he also had a tendency to speak before he thought. Honestly, this is probably one of those times. Peter called out and said, "If it's really You, command me to come to you on the water."

Jesus's answer was one simple word: Come.

So here's the task: walking on the water.

But what's Peter's focus supposed to be?

Matthew 14:29 says that Peter stepped out of the boat and started walking on the water to meet Jesus. But then, we get some subtle information--Peter saw the wind and the water. He took his eyes off of Jesus, turned his focus to the task at hand, and started sinking.

I've spent a huge chunk of my life worrying about trying to figure out God's plan for my life. I've searched the Scriptures, cried out in prayers, written lots of pages, and talked to lots of people about it. Okay, so not "lots of people." There's probably only a handful of people who hear all my crazy. I keep looking for the next step, telling God that if He just shows me what He wants me to do I'll do it. I've spent a lot of time and energy trying to figure out what my "one thing" is, what "God-sized dream" I'm supposed to be chasing after.

Recently, though, I've had a realization.

I've been worrying about chasing after the plan instead of pursuing the Planner.

Micah 6:8 lays out what God wants from us--

"He has shown you, o man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To do justice,
to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God."

Yes, I fully believe that God has a plan and a purpose for my life. Ephesians 2:10 says,

"For we are the product of His hand,
heaven’s poetry etched on lives,
created in the Anointed, Jesus,
to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago."

I've spent a lot of time focusing on figuring out what God wants me to do instead of spending my time and energy on getting closer to Him. I need to stop looking at the task--the waves and wind that are affecting my walk--and keep my eyes focused on the One who called me. 


**If you're like me and you find yourself identifying with Peter, the hot-headed and out-spoken apostle, you might like my devotional. You can find it on Amazon by clicking here!


mom enough?

  Sometimes, being a mom is amazing. Other times, it's a hard, lonely, miserable mess. All the time, it's a jumble of emotions all t...

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