I will go over and see

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m going through the book of Exodus right now and thoroughly enjoying it. There are so many powerful lessons to learn and apply in this story of slavery, oppression, miracles, freedom, fear, wandering, trust, provision, anger, obedience, battles and victory.

Towards the very beginning of this epic story, we can read about Moses and the well-known “burning bush” (found in Exodus chapter 3).

I loved that Moses was just going about his day, tending his father-in-law’s sheep, when …

… the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’

When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’

And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’

I have always pictured Moses just moseying through the mountains and fields with the sheep and be stopped dead in his tracks with a flaming, but not burning up, bush right in front of him. But, that’s not exactly how the picture is painted here.

Moses was indeed out tending the sheep at Mt Horeb when he saw flames of fire from within a bush. However, the bush was not right there in front of him. It was far enough away from where he was that he needed to physically respond and go see it. He could have just thought, “Wow, that’s pretty amazing and unusual. Hey sheep, come back here …” and went to chase after the flock. Fortunately, he didn’t walk away from “this strange sight.”

He went over to see it.

The Lord saw Moses had gone over to look, so He “called to him from within the bush.”

God did not speak to him until Moses had responded. It was after Moses went to see “this strange sight” that God gave him the plans to free His people. This begs the question, if Moses had just meandered away from the burning bush (in fear or in the busyness of his work), would the Lord have spoken to him? Would Moses have been asked to lead His people out of slavery? It’s hard to know as it was only in Moses’ response to “go over and see” … that the Lord spoke to him. Almost as if he was waiting for Moses to pursue Him, to some extent. Then, in that pursuit, God guided, instructed, and spoke to him.

In reading this passage, I began to think about my own response to what God is doing in and around me.

Do I see various “burning bushes” in my life, but in the busyness of the days or because of fear, I opt to ignore them or go elsewhere? Do I miss participating with some amazing things God is doing because I don’t think to myself, “I will go over and see” what is happening here? Do I stick to what I know and not deviate from my schedule, my plan? Am I open and ready for the Lord to speak to me and lead me to do incredible things according to His schedule, His plan?

Even before any vision casting was done (about God’s great plan to free His people from slavery in Egypt), Moses had a willingness and curiosity to pursue and see.

Do I have that same willingness and same curiosity?

If something catches my eye, do I look into it? Do I investigate it further? Am I open to the seemingly impossible?

I was going to say that I hope I’m always ready, but I’m not sure I am.

Then, I remembered, this is actually part of our foster care journey!

Papa and I were just moseying around in our day-to-day life, enjoying our four kiddos, loving the freedom and the low-drama, no-trauma life we lived. All was “normal.” That is, until we were exposed to the idea of doing foster care. Something we never had on our radar or wanted it to be on our radar. We could have easily dismissed “this strange [idea]” of foster care, but we didn’t. We were open to it. We even pursued it. We allowed the Lord to call us into this great plan of caring for the “orphans” for this season in our lives. We had our fears and stumbling blocks (as Moses had his, too), but ultimately said, “Here we are.”

I want to encourage you, friends, if an idea, an action, a plan, or a dream catches your attention from afar, don’t be afraid to “go over and see” what it’s about. The Lord just might be waiting for you to respond so He can tell you and show you a great plan of His. Never underestimate the power of three little words, as they can change everything …

Here I am.”

To God be the Glory!

Sometimes it’s hard to hear

As I am currently working my way through the book of Exodus, I am reminded of so many things that happened to the Israelites as a nation, as well as individually. The miraculous signs and wonders that God did to free the Israelites from slavery always leaves me in awe. It’s easy to see and recognize all that the Lord did as we are on this side of the story and know what happens, but the Israelites did not have that privilege. They were in the midst of it. They couldn’t see the end, the freedom, or the promised land.

In Exodus chapter 6, God promises that He will deliver the Israelites up and out of Egypt, ultimately freeing them from slavery. He tells Moses what to tell the people (Exodus 6:6-8),

I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.

Sounds amazing, right? Freeeeedom!

But, the Israelites didn’t listen.

Verse 9,

Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and cruel bondage.

This last verse is what I want to focus on. All the Israelites had known and experienced was slavery and bondage, abuse and neglect. Why would they understand, let alone hear that things could be different? The concept of freedom was unfathomable and incomprehensible to them. They were born into “cruel bondage.” They were stuck. They did not listen and could not hear what Moses was saying.

In thinking about people, but more specifically about our children “from hard places” (with trauma backgrounds), this response actually makes perfect sense.

It’s hard to hear everything will be OK, when presently it’s not.

It’s hard to hear of hope, when presently you are hopeless.

It’s hard to hear of favor, freedom and blessing, when presently all you know and experience is the exact opposite.

The Israelites did not listen because they were still living in discouragement and bondage.

Sometimes, truth of what’s to come, even if it means freedom, is hard to hear. We don’t always trust that things can or will change, because all that we know or have experienced is discouragement and bondage.

Our kiddos from hard places don’t always trust that things can or will change for the good, even if we speak of hope that things can or will be different. Because, quite frankly, all they’ve known is trauma, neglect and abuse. The Israelites only knew of slavery, bondage and captivity. Their stories aren’t too different from one another. To be free from this pain was not even in the Israelites’ minds, nor is it in our kiddos’ minds. They struggle to comprehend freedom. They were born into “slavery” so why would anything change just because someone said it would?

Ultimately, reading this verse gave me a little glimpse into the mindset of living in captivity. It’s hard to hear of or believe in freedom, even if it is possible or the Truth. Bondage is not just physical anymore, it’s also mental.

Mental bondage.

Compounded by fear.

Helping someone recognize or change their futile thinking is one of the hardest challenges. The thought patterns are well established, so to switch tracks, is not easily done or overcome.

But, it’s also not impossible.

Nothing is impossible with God.

Quite frankly, it might even get harder (think of the 10 plagues) before it gets better. This makes trusting that much more difficult for our kiddos. They have a long journey of healing to go. They don’t easily trust, and they don’t always listen. Not because they don’t want to hear, but because they just can’t. I think this is something I need to constantly remember, because it’s hard to be patient when someone just won’t listen. We need the Lord in every way and on every level.

It takes the mighty hand of God to bring full freedom: physical freedom, emotional freedom, spiritual freedom, mental freedom.

Freedom awaits, but the journey isn’t an easy one.

Keep casting the vision, friends. The Lord is not finished writing HIStory. He still works and moves in our lives.

As foster parents, we are to continue speaking truth and hope into our kids’ circumstances. We are to lead and guide, always pointing them back to the The One who rescues and saves.

May the Lord do miraculous signs in your home today as you parent your kiddos, even when it looks impossible and especially when they won’t listen. I pray the Lord brings complete freedom to those kiddos who are discouraged and in bondage. May His mighty outstretched hand do amazing wonders that tell of His great love for them and for us all …

To God be the Glory!

Numb

I’m reading through an interesting book right now about simplifying our lives. I say “interesting” because it has some very good points … aaaaaand also some weird ones (think: Marie Kondo’s book about talking to your belongings). I’m only about half-way through the book at this point. What I’ve appreciated so far is that it goes beyond “this is how you fold your clothes” or “here’s how to get rid of the excess.” It gets down to the nitty gritty, down to more of the heart and roots of our struggles with excess: why we shop, why we keep all-the-things, why we struggle with letting go, why we feel guilty (about keeping or getting rid of things), why why why. It deals a lot with our why so we can address it, work through it, and move forward. The book is called, “Soulful Simplicity: How living with less can lead to so much more” by Courtney Carver (creator of Project 333 and author of the blog bemorewithless.com).

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go into all of what the book is about, hahaha! I just wanted to give a little backdrop to the main point of the post. 😉

I was reading Soulful Simplicity this morning, and as I reached the bottom of page 56, I read a quote by Brene’ Brown that stopped me dead in my tracks,

We cannot selectively numb emotions; when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.

I can’t stop replaying this quote over and over and over in my mind.

The author goes on to say,

When I heard those words [by Brene’ Brown] for the first time at an event in 2012, I thought, ‘Oh, so that’s where the joy went.’ I was numbing that too.

Confession: I can relate.

Friends, it has been some pretty tough few years here in our home. We have done well overall; we’ve pushed through, persevered, and endured a lot of heartache and struggles. Not that things have been impossible or joyless, but the road has definitely been a rough one, in general.

We have struggled with some of the children in our home (our foster kiddos and our own), we’ve experienced loss of family and friends moving very far away, we’ve had some new and ongoing health issues (glaucoma, spina bifida, cysts, broken bones, stitches, sleep apnea, surgeries, just to name a few), we’ve had some highs and lows in our marriage, and we’ve experienced saying “no” to adopting two little girls at two different times (to be forthright, I still struggle with feeling guilty, even though I know it was “best” for our family). There are other things as well, but these seem to overshadow most of it.

With these big challenges come big emotions. Quite honestly, I’m not sure I’ve worked through or even felt those big emotions. After reading Brene’ Brown’s quote, I’m beginning to think that I’m numbing the hard ones, thereby numbing them all. Pure joy that used to just flow out of me like a beautiful running river seems to have dried up, or slowed to a trickling stream. Though I can smile and laugh with the best of ’em, it drains me. It simply doesn’t feel “natural” like it did most of my life.

It’s as if I’m carrying around a shield that I’ve put up around me. Perhaps it’s to create a barrier between my experiences and my heart. I don’t want to let anything in or out. Protected. Safe. Numb. But, that shield is crystal clear, so I get and give the illusion that I am fully present and experiencing and feeling it all. Yet, I can’t help but sense something’s missing, or out of touch. I might even use the word “distant.”

I don’t have the answers, as this is something I am just now processing. I really don’t think I knew I was (or could be) numbing much of my emotions. I do know I like to be emotionally rock solid. Stable. Secure. Even keel. No drama. I don’t like the mess. So, I shove down many of the messier emotions.

Where has that lead me?

Numb.

I think I’ve numbed and/or denied the full range of emotions of our journey. Now, please know I’m not cold-hearted, not at all … but I do get a sense that there’s a dullness to the world around me. I want the colors to be bright and vivid, once again.

Light.
Free.
Open.

Perhaps that’s where my surroundings are beginning to reflect what’s within me. The excess, the clutter, the chaos … I often feel junky inside. If someone comes to my home, I quickly shove any mess into my room or garage and pile the papers in my closet. I give the illusion that everything is clean or orderly. Yet, I know the truth. The mess wasn’t cleaned up or dealt with, it was just transferred to a new location so no one would know or see it.

Just as I listed above, I long to be light, free, and open. Nothing weighing me down. Uncluttered, both physically and emotionally.

I don’t know what the next steps will be in this process, how I will begin to feel what I’ve numbed (the good and the bad), or when I’ll feel “normal” again. I’m not depressed or anything, I’m just … here. Going through the motions, feeling a bit bland. I do experience being sad and glad and mad and afraid and all of those emotions, but, they’re all just a bit, dulled.

I’m ready to discover the deeply rooted answer to this very big question … “Where did my joy go?”

Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see what You want me to see. Help me to feel what I should feel and let go what I need to let go. Give me insight and understanding into how I’ve numbed the pain, thereby numbing the joy. I don’t want to live a dull life. Bring back the vibrancy, the full and abundant life! Break down the walls I’ve built up and expose the rawness that makes me, me. I know it will be painful to work through and I’ll feel very vulnerable, but I want to be all of who You’ve created me to be. I desire to walk the journey You’ve lead me to walk, including all of those emotions that come with it. Good. Bad. Ugly. Help me to trust. I want to feel and experience the emotions, but not be ruled by them. Lead me in Your Truth. In the power of Your Name, Jesus, Amen.

To God be the Glory!

Keeping pace

I am currently a momma to 7 kiddos (ages 17, 15, 14, 12, 9, 7, 4). I say “currently” because we have a little one (7yrs old) we are fostering, so at some point we will go back to having just our own six. Regardless, whether we have 1, 3, 6, 7, or 12 kiddos, it’s easy to acknowledge that amidst the most amazing moments, life as a parent can be quite a challenge.

I’m not sure what your personal struggles or challenges may be, but one of my greatest struggles is my pace as a parent. I maintain a pretty brisk pace. Always moving, never slowing. I move quickly in order to get it all done. After all, I want to be the best. Mom. EVER! No pressure, right?! Ha! Needless to say, I work hard and push myself to the limit, often. Admittedly, this means I can easily push my kids too hard, as well. The struggle is real. The stress is real.

I pressure myself to do all-the-things-all-the-time: I want to have quality time with the Lord every morning, read all of the books, write all of the blog posts, start a podcast, homeschool like a pro, read aloud to my kids for hours a day, create beautiful craft projects, teach effectively, bake all of the homemade breads, decorate my home, feed the homeless, take beautiful pictures, make meals from scratch, grow a garden, run 3 miles a day, remove all of the clutter, have clean floors you could eat off of, never raise my voice, always be patient, serve the widows and orphans, tell my neighbors about Jesus, practice playing my guitar, put make-up on and look nice every day, have coffee with friends, talk to my far-away family daily, eat the healthiest meals, avoid getting sucked into screen-time, spend quality time with each of my kids on a daily basis, budget like a rock-star and stick to it, always fold and put away clean laundry immediately upon removing it from the dryer … and so the list continues.

That list, my friends, is not a pace I can maintain and definitely not sustain for the long haul. There just isn’t enough hours in the day and energy within me to get it all done.

I need to pace myself.

This leads me to Jacob.

Over the past week, I’ve been reading about Jacob (in the Bible) and was struck by something interesting when I came to Genesis 33. Just after Jacob and Esau (twin brothers who were previously at odds with each other) were amicably reunited, they discussed traveling back to their home land together (Genesis 33:12-14):

Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.

But Jacob said to him, ‘My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.’

I felt as if my eyes were growing larger as I read every word in those verses. Dare I say, it was an “aha” moment.

Jacob didn’t demand that his family and livestock keep his pace, he adapted and changed his pace to match theirs, to meet their needs. He slowed down.

Perhaps that’s exactly what I need to start doing. Maybe I need to “move along slowly at the pace” of my family. This does not come naturally. Even when I’m walking from point A to point B or bustling my way through Costco, I move at a rapid pace. I am often several steps ahead of my people, charging ahead. After all, if I want to do all-of-the-things I listed above, there’s no time to dilly-dally. Let’s get ‘er done!

There may have been multiple reasons for Jacob not to go with Esau, but I thought it was beautiful he did recognize and meet the needs of his family and livestock. The children were “tender” and the momma cows and the momma sheep needed to slow down to nurse and care for their young. He knew he couldn’t push them too hard or too quickly, or surely they would all perish. So, he changed his pace. He didn’t change their pace, he changed his. He also sacrificed walking with his brother (whom he hadn’t seen for 20+ years) in order to stay with and watch over his family and livestock.

Parenting involves sacrifice.

As I focus on being “present” (my word for 2018), I am choosing and trying to let many things go. I’m honing in on what matters most for our family and attempting to pace myself accordingly. This could be tough to discern as several of my kids are at hyper-speed at all times while others move at a snail’s pace. The tortoise and the hare, I have them both in my family! haha! I will be constantly checking in and making sure I’m not moving too quickly for my “tortoises” or too slow for my “hares.”

I want to walk with them. Keeping pace together.

I can hear the Lord beckoning me to walk with my children. To teach them about and exemplify living and loving Truth. God’s truth. THE Truth. If I’m always ten steps ahead (or behind) them, it’ll be harder to teach. It’s best if I am alongside them, connecting, teaching, instilling, correcting, encouraging, loving.

This is what matters most in this season of raising my children. As my eldest child approaches adulthood (he turns 18 this year!), I am hit with the reality of time. It is so short, so fleeting. It’s time to change my pace.

Some of this process is choosing to slow down and simplify our daily living. For example, last year I let Facebook go, and that was the best decision for me (emphasis on “for me”). This year, I’m re-evaluating once again. I am asking the Lord to give me eyes to see how to change my pace and my focus, ultimately, to honor Him and honor my family.

Perhaps you are re-evaluating your parenting as well. If you are a nursing momma and caring for your little ones, take note of what Jacob did for his nursing ones. He deliberately kept a slower pace so they would not perish in the process. Mommas, it’s OK, nay, it’s healthy to slow down and meet the needs of your wee little ones. Not only for their sake, but for your sake, as well. Burn-out is real. Our littles need a Momma who is present, available, healthy, and ready to love well.

Or, maybe you are in the thick of those grade school years of raising your children. If this is you, I’d love to encourage you to enjoy the journey of wonder and the bazillion questions that accompany it. The travels are often slower and faster during these years. They are slower because they want to learn and ask about everything, while simultaneously bouncing from adventure to adventure with unparalleled enthusiasm. I need to remind myself of this one as well since I have a couple of littles who hardly take a breath between questions and activities. They are curious, curious, curious. They want to see and touch and smell and taste and listen to … eeeevveeerrryyyything. This stage, truth be told, could be my hardest. The hurrying up only to slow it all way down, it’s exhausting to keep track of it all. There is an immense amount of intentional training during this season. I often try to expedite the process to get to the next point or destination and be done with this stage. Yet, that’s not always what’s needed or best. I must allow more room for exploration and wonder, while also investing in every aspect of their very being, for God’s glory.

If you are beyond these first two parenting seasons, you are likely in the midst of the culmination of all of your parenting journey. You’ve traveled many miles and happen to look over to find an emerging or full-blown young man or young woman walking beside you. This is such a powerful portion of the journey. As parents, everything we’ve instilled and invested, taught and trained, encouraged and equipped into our children is implemented in this stage. Our children are truly branching out and testing the waters of independence. Our roll looks a little different. We may steadily walk the pathway and be a constant strength, while our children regularly journey away from us, putting into action all that we’ve taught them. But they don’t stay away, they keep coming back to check in. We’ve become a touching point in the journey for our young men and women. A safe place. We are still able to walk with them daily, but we are also starting to let go as they are stepping out. Our pace and our voice is still influential, so don’t let go too quickly or discount your impact, friends. This can be tricky to navigate; to find the balance between walking with our children every step and regularly letting them go out on their own.

To change analogies a bit, we have shaped them for so many years, but the arrows in our quiver aren’t meant to stay with us. They are meant to fly. So we pull back, point them toward Christ as we have done all of these years, and let them fly and be who they are meant to be.

Whew. What an adventure!!!

Maybe you are like me and have a kid or two at each phase of the journey. This is where I am seeking direction from the Lord. He is the source of all wisdom, so I seek Him for it. In order for me to know best how to keep pace with each of my children, I learn to pace myself with Christ. If I am attuned to Him, I have no doubt He will guide my every step, be it fast or slow, active or still. I physically cannot be both fast and slow at the same time, but, I can recognize what pace is needed in the moment, in the present moment, if I’m paying attention and allowing the Lord to show me.

I don’t know about you, but reading how Jacob cared for his family by seeing and meeting their needs during that particular season of the journey was a precious reminder for me. It reminded me to watch my pace and the pace of those around me. It helped me remember to look around and not be so focused on my own journey. I won’t be able to do all-the-things like I often dream of doing, but I can walk with my family: pacing myself, being present, engaging with them, teaching them as we walk along the road, and ultimately enjoying the journey.

To God be the Glory!

Dig down deep

I have heard many times in my life about the parable of the wise and foolish builders found in Matthew 7 and Luke 6. Though I know this parable well, I am continually amazed at how living and active God’s Word is. There is always something new to learn and glean.

For instance, when I was reading Luke 6 recently, one little phrase jumped out to me. It was a little detail I had never noticed before. This could be due to the fact that I usually read the parable in Matthew and not Luke. One thing to note about the Gospel of Luke is that it has some details other gospels do not contain. Luke, the author, is a physician, so it’s natural for him to give extra notice and attention to details in his writing. Being a detail-oriented person, I most definitely appreciate what a gift this is for us today!

Here is the parable found in Luke 6:46-49.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.

What I love about this parable is that both men experienced the exact same thing, but their actions varied, which ultimately led to very different outcomes. Both built a house and both experienced a torrential storm, but one stood firm and the other collapsed. Why?

This leads me to the detail that stood out as I read this passage the other day. The man who put Jesus’ words into practice was like a man who dug down deep, laid the foundation on rock, and built a house. Did you catch it? He dug down deep. This required work, time, sacrifice, and diligence. He was not like the man who just heard Jesus’ words, called it good, and checked it off of his to-do list. No, he heard and put them into practice. He applied them. He lived them. He dug down deep to get to the solid rock in order to build a house that was “well built.” He knew that laying a foundation “on the ground” is really no foundation at all. He needed to dig. He needed to dig down deep.

Did you also notice what both men experienced? They both experienced the “torrent,” the storm. Simply hearing the Lord’s words does not exempt one from experiencing storms and neither does hearing and putting them into practice. There is no exemption, the storms will come.

How will we withstand the storms?

Perhaps you may be facing some torrential storms in your own life right now. I want to encourage you … dig down deep. Do not neglect putting into practice the Word of the Lord. Just as James says, let us be doers of the Word and not hearers only!

This will be something I continually come back to in my own life. Will I be able to stand firm on the solid foundation, the rock, or will I collapse and be destroyed when the storms come?

It is now that I must choose to do the good and hard work, to be diligent, to put His Words into practice, and to dig down deep

To God be the Glory!

My word for 2018

Back in 2016, I had one word and one phrase as themes for the year. I chose them at the beginning of January and thought about them often throughout the year. The one word was “brave” and the one phrase was “follow through.” It’s fascinating to look back and see how much I needed to be reminded of those two things during 2016. In fact, I thought about and followed-through with being brave when we said “yes” to Munchkin’s placement in June of 2016. Little did we know then that being brave in saying “yes” would ultimately change our lives. She is now our forever daughter. I am still in awe and wonder of it all.

Having a word/phrase for the year was extremely helpful. It was like a simple and subtle reminder that held me accountable at various moments in 2016. Some were bigger moments than others, but the theme was still the same. I needed to remember to be brave and to follow through.

Though this process proved to be quite helpful for 2016, I don’t recall having a word or phrase for 2017. I’m not sure why. Maybe I did and I just don’t remember it? I haven’t found it any journals or posts where I mentioned having one for 2017. Perhaps I was too busy focusing on being “social media free” for the year? Hmmmm … maybe that was my theme or phrase for the year?! haha!

Regardless, here we are in 2018 and I’m ready to declare my word, or better yet, my theme for the year. This will be what I dwell on, think about, process, and be reminded of throughout the year. This will be what helps hold me accountable and to focus on something very specific with each new day.

My word for 2018 is “present.”

By nature, I have am a task-oriented person. I love to tackle a good project. I can easily see what needs to be done around me and typically jump right in to get it done. I may get easily distracted (including walking into a room and forgetting why I went in there!) or only partially finish various tasks, but I love to work on them. I love to physically see the fruits of my labor.

What you may or may not realize, is that in my desire to do all-the-things, it’s easy for me to not really be in-the-moment with the people around me. A child of mine can talk to me or ask me a question, but I struggle to truly hear them because my focus is elsewhere. My mind is on what I’m doing or what I’m going to do next, not on my child. I often need to have my children repeat themselves again and again because I’ll say “what” but still not give them my full attention. My brain is still elsewhere. Sad, but true.

Present.

This 2018, I want to be present in all that I do.

Present in my relationship with the Lord.
Present in my marriage.
Present in my parenting.
Present in my friendships.
Present in my conversations.
Present in my homeschooling.
Present during church.
Present in each moment.
Present.

This may mean more eye-contact, more sitting down to listen, more awareness of the needs of my children, more games to be played, more focused attention during conversations, and definitely more setting aside of my to-do list(s).

Yes, I want to be present. A quick google search has the definition of “present” as “existing or occurring now.” Now. Not living in the past or looking to the future, but living right here, right now, in this exact moment.

Here I am.

I’m ready to be present.

To God be the Glory!

I have not forgotten about you

Well hello there, friends and family! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Please don’t worry, I have not forgotten about you. Not for a moment. In fact, I would venture to guess I’ve thought about writing you every day for the last 6 months. I have often wanted to share what I’ve been thinking, dreaming, experiencing, learning, and enjoying. Yet, in my day-to-day happenings, I just couldn’t seem to pull together a new post to share with you. Part of this is due to the fact that I didn’t know where or when to start after being absent for so long. I have/had so much to say, but continued to put it off as I looked for a better time to write.

I have joked with a friend how we can have ideas to start something, only to find ourselves with these ideas on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. So we wait. We wait until Monday to start something new, as Monday is the beginning of the week. Or, we wait until the beginning of a new month or a new season. And, most definitely wait for the beginning of a new year.

Well, guess what?! The time is now.

January 1st (yesterday) was the beginnings of all beginnings. A new year, a new month, a new week, a new day … and all beginning on a Monday! Perfect!

So, here I am. I’m ready to jump back into the saddle, er, uh, jump back online. Ready to write. Ready to share. Ready to start anew. Because, quite frankly, a new year is often the best time to start over and try again.

Thank you for not giving up on me.
Thank you for reaching out and asking how I’m doing.
Thank you for sharing that you’ve enjoyed my posts and are wondering if I’m going to continue writing.
Thank you for continuing to support me in my endeavor to share with you.

I’m back.

To God be the Glory! Great things He has done in 2017 and will continue to do in 2018!

 

Shopping vs. Investing

Our family is in a current state of transition.

We aren’t moving, we aren’t switching jobs, and nothing is changing in our current family structure. What is changing is that we are transitioning to a new home church. We have been going to the same great church for almost 8 years, but feel it is time for a change (the reasons for this are not important for this post). We do not take this transition lightly. It is not an easy one with 9 people in the family, but, this is where we are right now. Change awaits us around the corner.

The hard part is knowing where, when or how to transition.

We have let our pastors know and they have expressed to us their appreciation for our years with them. They continue to pray for us and we pray for them. We do not leave broken, hard-hearted or bitter. We leave with blessing.

With closing the (proverbial) door, we are now in search of a new door to walk through, a new place to reside and settle.

Besides searching for a solid, biblically-based church, what other key factors do we take into account when looking for a home church?

There are many things to prayerfully consider, of course, but one part of the process keeps coming to my mind … our approach. Are we going into this transition as “church shoppers” or “church investors?”

I have heard over the years how fellow believers will say they are “church shopping.” It’s almost as if we, as Christians, “try on” the various churches to see which one fits the best. As I process this approach more and more, it definitely feels and leans toward a consumer mindset. Which, unfortunately, isn’t too unlike our culture at large.

What will the church give ME?
What does it provide for ME?
Will it meet MY needs?
Am I comfortable in it?
If I “buy” into this one or that one, what will I get in return?

I can’t help but wonder if we should switch terms and perspectives. Perhaps, we should move forward with a different mindset, an investing and giving mindset.

To go with President Kennedy’s famous lines from his inaugural address in 1961,

Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.

What a great line as we can also apply it to God’s Church. If I may take the liberty to modify the wording ever-so-slightly,

Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.

If we are in the place of changing churches, are we approaching this decision as shoppers or investors? Do we focus on what we can get out of it or what we can give into it? Or, what we take away for personal gain or add to for God’s Kingdom?

What a different frame of mind!

Consuming vs. Giving.
Being served vs. Serving.

Now, I do realize with “investing” there is a cost, just as there is with “shopping” … but it’s with a different attitude, heart, and outcome. From my view, one approach leans towards meeting one’s personal needs, while the other leans toward meeting others’ needs. One leans toward thinking about the here and now, the temporary, while the other leans toward having the long term in mind, the eternal.

All this to say, it’s been interesting to think about how to approach this season of transition with our family. There is much to consider and weigh as we look for a new church to call “home” … and it’s a journey that will be covered in much prayer.

Lord, give us eyes to see where and how we can INVEST in Your Church, Your Bride. And definitely, always and forever, for YOUR GLORY!

What makes for a GOOD day

I’ve had some pretty tough days lately. The kids have been at each other, emotions have run high, routines are fluctuating a bit, and we’ve had some nasty Summer colds thrown in the mix. Needless to say, we’ve had an influx of whining, arguing, exhaustion, and overall crankiness.

One day, in particular, I may or may not have texted “I quit” … multiple times. Some days, I’m just done. Being a mom is HARD. Good and amazing, but hard.

This got me thinking about a conversation I had a while back with a dear friend. She asked me what constitutes a “good day” … from my perspective.

Without hesitation, I told her a “good day” is one where I know I have been a good wife, mother and friend. The kids could be at odds, the house a wreck, the cupboards short on food … but if I respond and react to the people in my life with gentleness, kindness, patience, grace and love … I feel like it’s been a good day. I can hold my head up high.

Please hear me, I do not enjoy the fighting, having a messy home, or experiencing any lack, but I realize this is part of being a mom, a part of life. It comes with the territory. I don’t think I have ever experienced a perfect day, one without hardship. The reality of being a wife, a mother, and a friend isn’t always easy or smooth.

It is in these moments that I must choose.

Just as I often tell my kids, we cannot control what others do or say, we can only control ourselves. So, it is the same with my own choices.

At the end of the day, I can gage whether it has been a good or bad one based on how I thought, spoke and responded/reacted to the people in my life. Did I seek to honor the Lord and honor others? Or, did I look to only please myself?

Ultimately, I know it was a good day if/when …

  • I had time in God’s Word at the start of my day (it truly does impact the rest of the day!!)
  • compassion oozed from my being to minister to my hurt or sick husband, children or friends.
  • my patience didn’t wane even when others around me pushed all of my buttons.
  • grace abounded.
  • forgiveness was given freely.
  • I died to self and served wholeheartedly.
  • discipline was done for the purpose of teaching, correcting and training in righteousness; not out of spite, malice or vengeance.
  • my voice remained steadfast and didn’t spike in bursts of anger or frustration.
  • I did not whine or complain.
  • I looked into the eyes of those I love and saw them for who they are, not for what they did or did not do.
  • I smiled and laughed often.
  • I walked in integrity, especially when no one else was listening or looking.

I may not experience ALL of these EVERY day, but if I hit many of them, I can tell a difference in my overall view of the day.

As much I would love to control everything and everyone around me, I know I cannot. This leaves me coming back to myself. I have choices to make. My greatest desire is to be able to stand before the Lord and know I have done my very best. I know it won’t be perfect. I know I will fall short daily. I know it will be hard. But, if I know in my heart of hearts I have left it all on the court, then, I feel it’s been a “good day.”

It is in these moments when I feel I have made a difference, I have made an impact in the lives around me. Hopefully, prayerfully, they see Jesus in and through me, as HE is the source of all that is good in me.

Circumstances do not define my days, good or bad; no, it is my response and reaction to those circumstances that draw the distinction.  

I confess, there are many days where I check out and try to just get through it. I often “quit” (though, not really). It is during these challenging moments when I more earnestly seek His face. Then, when tomorrow comes, I start anew. His mercies are, indeed, new every morning. A fresh start with new choices to be made.

Grace. It truly is a gift.

Yes, yes, let’s make it a good day today. Let’s walk with integrity, seasoned with patience and self-control, and saturated in truth and love …

To God be the Glory!

Failure

Failure.

What a yucky feeling word. It’s not one I enjoy thinking about, dwelling on, or experiencing. Yet, we all experience this feeling of failure from time-to-time.

I was recently listening to a podcast as they talked about goals (for the New Year, family, work, health, etc.) and re-evaluating them on occasion. In short, it’s good to figure out what’s working, what doesn’t, adjust as needed, and keep moving forward toward your goal.

Among the many things they discussed during the episode, failure was one of them. One comment, in particular, jumped right through my earbuds and nailed me in my heart and mind. I needed to hear it.

“Labeling something as a ‘failure’ indicates your decision to stay in that space, rather than continuing to learn from it, take it, and move forward.”

-Kelsey Van Kirk, The Purposeful Home Podcast, episode #014.

I found this thought or idea very interesting to ponder. Do I “stay in that space” of failure or do I learn from it and move forward? What do I tend to label as a “failure” in my life? Do I experience shame and condemnation (self or external)? Do I take each experience for what it is, learn from it, and continue on … or camp in my own self-doubt, pity, and wallow in suffering? Am I a “failure?”

It got me thinking even more …

Is “failure” even a Biblical concept? Does it address this idea, or have we brought it into our culture as a “normal” way of thinking and feeling?

Interestingly, when I searched for “failure” at BibleGateway.com, I found very little. There were a few verses about “fail,” but they had to do more with the heart and flesh failing … as well as how the Lord will not “fail” us. I never found anything that resembled being a failure. If you find verses that say otherwise, please do let me know. I welcome correction and accountability!

The Bible has plenty to say about falling short of God’s glory, but this has more to do with sin, not simply making mistakes or “failing.” From my perspective, there’s a difference. Sin is what separates us from the Lord (and dare I say, from others). But, mistakes are not sin.

If I drop a bowl of cereal on the floor, that’s a mistake or an accident, not a sin.
If I lie to my friend, that’s not a mistake, that’s a sin.

Regardless of which one we identify with more, do either of them truly make us “failures?”

Taz (8) will often try to do a new trick on his skateboard or attempt a fancy Lego contraption, and when it doesn’t go according to plan, he’ll emphatically declare, “FAIL!” This idea of failure is in our every day language. We’ve watched those video clips and seen those memes that have the big bold letters FAIL across the screen. It’s everywhere! We need to change the way we talk and think and ultimately, what we believe.

It seems like I have lived far too long, beating myself up and feeling like a failure about various things (especially as a homeschooling momma). This is not how God intended it! I may fall short, sin, and make mistakes, but, God’s grace and forgiveness covers me. I am not a failure. I must change my thinking and declare TRUTH. I am redeemed, restored, and forgiven! To walk in the mindset of being a failure is the opposite of what Jesus came to do. He came to give us hope, salvation, life and life abundantly. We have VICTORY in Him!

I’m a word person, so out of curiosity, I looked up some synonyms and antonyms for “failure.”

List #1:

  • bankruptcy
  • breakdown
  • collapse
  • decline
  • defeat
  • deficiency
  • deterioration
  • failing
  • loss
  • misstep

List #2:

  • betterment
  • improvement
  • increase
  • rise
  • success
  • win
  • accomplishment
  • benefit
  • blessing
  • continuation
  • enough
  • plenty
  • triumph
  • achievement
  • achiever
  • attainment
  • earnings
  • gain
  • merit

Can you guess which list is which? Which is similar to and which is the opposite of “failure?” Which list do you identify with most?

If you identity with feeling like a failure, please don’t let this post make you feel like a failure for feeling like a failure. It’s too easy to follow that rabbit hole and spiral down even further into the pit of despair. It’s time to come out into the light!

I am not a “prosperity” message type of a gal, but I do hope to be one who speaks truth and life. Friends, if you are struggling with feeling like (or believing) you are a failure, or if you are LIVING in that camp or mindset, please remember what is TRUE. The truth – you are NOT a failure … you are forgiven, loved, redeemed, and valuable! God is not a failure, and He did not fail in creating you. We may stumble and fall, from time-to-time, but the Lord is right there to hold, help and carry us. We can learn from our experiences and move forward. Let’s not camp in our imperfections, but let’s take residence in His perfection.

Our weaknesses vs. His strengths.

Our sin vs. His forgiveness.

Our “failures” vs. His successes.

Our plan vs. His plan.

Our lack vs. His abundance.

Our falling short vs. His victory.

Where do you choose to invest your thoughts, energy, and identity? In yourself or in Him? Your thoughts about you or His thoughts about you?

You have the freedom to choose.

To God be the Glory!