B…U…

Psalm 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”

When my husband and I pulled into the driveway with our realtor that Wednesday morning, I couldn’t help but wonder why two elementary-aged children were playing outside on a school day.

At the time, many families from our church were choosing to forego the public school system and begin home schooling their children. So, before our daughter started kindergarten, my husband and I discussed the possibility. I spent months praying about where to send our children to school. In the end, we concluded, “Homeschooling may be the Christian thing to do. It’s just not the Christian thing for us to do.”

Now, pulling into the driveway, just six months into kindergarten, we were buying a house next to a home schooling mom. “Ahhhh!!!” I let out a shrill scream on the inside. “Lord, I hope you are not planning to move me here in order to get me homeschooling my children.

It didn’t happen.

Here’s why…

1. I have absolutely zero desire to home school my children. (And I personally believe that when you entrust your life to the Lord, He makes your heart line up with His plan.)

2. The thought of staying home with my children all day, every day, makes me cringe.

3. Even though I love my kids with everything I am, I need time away from them – to be me.

4. Have you ever tried taking four kids to the grocery store? Need I say more?

5. Remember #1…

To me, it would be ridiculous to try to take on something that I have absolutely no desire to do? Wouldn’t you agree? Yet with all of the reasons as to why home schooling is not right for me, I spent a fair amount of time contemplating if it was something I should do.

Why do we do that?

I thought peer pressure was something that only kids get caught up in? Why do we, as adults, feel a pressing need to please other people? To keep up with the Jones’? To do a certain thing just because somebody else is doing it? Why do we try to be someone (or do something) we are not?

The Lord created each of us in His image. Unique. Special. Beautiful. Wonderful. To serve His purpose in our very own, distinctive way. He created you… To Be You… The best you, you can be. So, if for you – that means home schooling your kids. Home school your kids. If for you – that means working outside the home. Work outside the home. If for you – it means being a stay-at-home mom. Be the best stay-at-home mom you can be.

In order to live out your potential, you can’t do what is right for someone else. You have got to do what is right for you!  (And if what was right for you then, isn’t right anymore. Then change it… Be You.)The Lord doesn’t want a carbon copy of someone else. He wants you. With all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. With your creativity and exuberance. Your successes and failures. He wants you…To Be You!

Stop trying to be someone you are not.

Write your own story.

No one can write it quite like you.

Be You.

B…U…

 

He Hears.

Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.”

I pray about everything. It is a part of who I am. Big things. Little things. And everything in between. I pray.

I pray. Because without guidance from My Heavenly Father, I would be lost. I know, because for years I didn’t pray much. I only considered the Lord when it was convenient for me. When I needed help. Like – when I had a really big decision to make, was in trouble or wanted protection as I drove home with drunk people. (I know it’s terrible. But it’s the truth.)

In all honesty, I hardly considered the Lord. I went my own way. And I ended up dissatisfied with my life. So I asked God for help. And help, he did.

I learned quickly that without prayer, I wander aimlessly. But when I pray, He shows me the way to go…

Towards the beginning of 2013, I began to notice some singing talent in my daughter Aspen. But, because I am musically void, I did not know if her voice was actually pretty or if I was just hearing beauty – from the heart of a mama. (If you’ve seen even one episode of American Idol, you know what I mean.)

I needed direction. So, I made this simple request to the Lord.

“Lord, I need help knowing what direction to encourage Aspen in. I don’t want to push her on a path that is not your plan for her. Direct my steps. And help me direct hers.”

In May, while playing at the beach, Aspen very nonchalantly mentioned, “Pastor Ray said I would lead worship from the stage one day. Did you tell him I wanted to lead worship, Mommy?”

“No, actually I haven’t told anyone.” I said. “Did you?”

“No,” she replied.

Later that week, I emailed my pastor and he confirmed. Yes. He had said those things.

Wow. The very prayer I whispered in my quiet time was being answered through someone who knew nothing of the situation. And – in an amazing way. I stood in awe of the Lord.

Then. As if that wasn’t enough. The Lord confirmed it again, last night.

A man I’d never seen before greeted me in the hall, handed me a Kari Jobe CD and said, “Your daughter has such a pure heart. She is going to lead worship one day. I see her as someone like – Kari Jobe.”

When I asked him what made him say such a thing, he simply stated, “The Lord told me.”

My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t think he was weird or crazy or anything else. I simply know it was confirmation -for the second time – on what direction I am to lead my daughter in. It was an answer to a prayer whispered in the quiet – Important to me. Important to God.

I haven’t told you these things to say what an amazing voice my daughter has. On the contrary, it still needs much refining.

My reason for sharing this story is simple – To remind you that we serve an amazing God. One who hears the heart of His children; Who answers the prayers we cry out in secret; And directs the steps of those who are humble enough to ask.

No Guarantees.

Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Honor and enjoy your Creator while you are still young, before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes.”

Life is short. I know that. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  I know that, too. But somehow in the busyness of every day, I tend to forget – I was created for a purpose…

For me, it was an ordinary Monday morning. I was caught up in my daily adventure of packing lunchboxes, tying shoes and rushing kids out the door for school. In my bubble, the world was small. Then I walked into work. Suddenly, my bubble burst and the world enlarged around me. My adventure became much more important.

I met Mr. Johnson, a handsome man with crystal blue eyes, at the hospital just days before Christmas. In a short amount of time, I learned a lot about him. As far as the world is concerned, he was a successful man. He had been married to the same woman for many years, had an expanding family and a respectable career.  To the natural eye, he looked and sounded healthy. But with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I had a vague knowing that despite how things looked on the outside, his days were numbered.

It’s amazing the things we assume looking at the outside of a person. But, when we get to the end of our life, it is what’s on inside that truly matters. This my soul knows very well. So rather than focus on the outside, that December afternoon I chose to go deeper. To probe into the heart of this man.

Did Mr. Johnson know the one thing that matters?”

As I shared the love of Christ with him, he simply shrugged his shoulders without any outward acknowledgement of the things I said. I left the room wondering, “Could this man possibly be a Christian? Had my words had any influence?”

Ten minutes later, those words were lost. For me, anyway. Mr. Johnson went home. And in the hustle and bustle of life, I never gave the conversation another thought.

Until Friday afternoon, that is. As I walked into a different room at the same hospital, there staring back at me were those same crystal blue eyes. Only this time, there was little life left in them.

“Hello.” Mr. Johnson, I said. “Do you remember me?” It took all the strength he had for the smooth talking gentleman I met earlier that month to let out a quiet, “Yes.”

For the first time in three weeks, my mind went back to the day we met and the uncertainty of our conversation. Once again, I found myself talking to him about his relationship with Christ. This time, however, there was a deeper sense of urgency. When I asked him if he was a Christian, he shrugged his shoulders in the same fashion. Only this time, he added, “Yes… I guess.”

“Yes. I guess?”… What did that mean?

Come to find out – Mr. Johnson had asked Christ to be His Savior, but never truly lived his life for Him. Now, as his days were winding down, he seemed to be questioning the life he lived and the uncertainty of his future.

So. One last time. I did my best to help this man know that he was loved, accepted, and forgiven by the Savior of the world. Then I left the room once again.

I had done my part.

Christ did His 2014 years ago.

The rest… was up to Mr. Johnson.

When I arrived at work Monday morning, I learned that our conversation was one of his last. Two days after our conversation, Mr. Johnson’s adventure came to an end.

Selah. (That means ‘pause and reflect on that’.)

 

 

Forgiven

Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

As I sang the words to this beautiful song this past Sunday morning at the place my soul is fed, my eyes filled with tears.

“I am forgiven at the foot of the Cross.
I am accepted by the power of your love.
My every stain is washed away.
I am forgiven.”

MY… EVERY?… STAIN… IS WASHED AWAY.

As I stood in His presence, hands lifted high and heart bowed low, His peace washed over me.

I repeated the phrase.

I AM FORGIVEN.

The words sank through me.

I AM FORGIVEN.

His love pierced the deepest parts of me.

I AM FORGIVEN.

This isn’t a concept, I don’t know. It is one of the foundational principles of a Christian’s life. Not only have I sinned in my life, but – I do sin. On a regular basis… I sin. Every day… I sin. It is a fact. Sin dwells in me. And no matter how hard I try to fight it, I fail. A lot. I wish it weren’t so. But it is. It is a cold hard fact.

I am a sinner.

As I stood in worship, this gripping fact came to the broad surface of my heart.

And yet, even at my worst, His love covered me. In the midst of my sin, Christ died for me. He chose me. Knowing my every weakness, He redeemed me. Being profoundly aware of the choices I would make and all the years I would reject Him, He chose to love me anyway. To love me, in spite of me.

Standing in the second row of the sanctuary with closed eyes and a wide open heart, I saw it. A picture of His love pouring over me. Like water gushing over the edge of a waterfall, His love washed away my filth.

His love has washed yours away, too.

There on the cross, beaten and bruised, rejected and despised, He bore it all. Your pain. Your suffering. He bore it. So you wouldn’t have to. Because – He loves you.

Before you were ever born, the Lord called you by name. Understanding how angry you would be at Him, He died for you. Knowing that you would reject Him, He accepted you. Fully aware of all your shortcomings and faults, He forgave you.

YOUR… EVERY!… STAIN…WAS WASHED AWAY.

YOU ARE FORGIVEN.

No matter how far you run, the Lord will never stopped pursuing you. No matter how far off course you get, the Lord has a plan to bring you back. No matter what you have done in the past, He forgives you.

He loves you, in spite of you. In spite of every wrong choice. In spite of every ounce of sin. In spite of all the ugliness that lives inside your filth-stained heart, He loves you. He has chosen you.

YOU ARE FORGIVEN.

Faith in Action

James 1:25, “…Being not hearers who forget, but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing.”

One day life is normal. The next, completely different.

In reality, nothing has changed. Nothing, except our perception, that is. Suddenly, cold water is splashed in our face and our eyes are released to recognize something new. Something that has been there all along. But until that moment, we couldn’t see it.

One Saturday morning last fall I woke up to a whole new world of faith. It started with a dream. But this dream – was no ordinary dream. It was one that made me stop in my tracks.

In my sleep, an elderly gentleman was speaking the Word of God to a crowd sitting in a grassy field. At the end of his message, the group watched intently as the elderly gentleman’s body began to float through the air as if he were flying. Moments later, he drifted directly into a live power pole. Unscathed, the man continued floating through the air.

This gentleman, so full of the Word of God, was not subject to natural laws.

As my mind tried to consider this possibility, someone from the crowd looked me straight in the eye and boldly questioned, “What if the life you are living is really subnorm? What if… you are living below your design?”

My eyes shot open. The dream was over.

While I have always considered myself to be strong in the realm of faith, this dream made me question the degree to which I had been believing for years. “What if the life I am living is really subnorm? What if I am living and believing below the standard that the Lord designed me to live?”

Over the next few months, I set out on a mission. Not to only speak faith-filled words as I had for years, but to live – fully embracing and acting – on the truth of the Word of God that is not subject to natural laws.

But… What does this type of faith look like?

As I began asking the Lord how to practically apply action to my faith in everyday life, a small list of unanswered prayers came to mind. At the top of the list was a prayer I had prayed for Shawna, one of my best friends. Together, we had been standing in faith for her future husband for many, many years.

“Lord, what can I do for Shawna?” I asked.

Immediately, I had an idea. I would give her a pair of pajamas with the word, “BRIDE” striped across the front – as an act of faith – to show her that I was standing in 100% agreement with her and the word of God. (It does say, “If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart,” you know. And delight in the Lord, she did.)

Last August, as I handed her the gift, I declared, “Shawna, you are a bride!”

Immediately, she embraced this truth and began wearing the pj’s to bed almost every night. As she brushed her teeth, staring at the word, “BRIDE” across her chest, she would declare, “I AM a BRIDE.”

On October 24th, just two month later, she met Joe, the man we had been praying years for. June 28th they will become husband and wife, less than one year from the day we put our faith into action.

Hmmm… Coincidence? After more than ten years? I think not.

Could it be that His children are believing for far less than the Lord has for us?

Could we actually be living below the standard the Lord intended for you and me?

What if we lived a life of faith in action?

What if this is what normal is supposed to look like?

shawnajoe

In July 2015, Shawna and Joe welcomed Isabel Grace- another answered prayer!

 

 

Children of The King

Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal…”

Two chairs over sat a young couple sipping margaritas and munching on chips and salsa. They looked perfectly put together. He had a perfect smile. She had perfectly colored hair. His pants were perfectly pressed. Her nails, perfectly French.

“Look at the size of the rock on her finger,” I said to my husband as we lounged by the pool.

“She may have a big diamond,” my husband replied, “but I am sure she is not near as happy as we are.”

I can always count on him to keep it real.

As I glanced around the Waldorf – Naples, where we were staying, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone in the world would spend $300 to $700/night to stay at a hotel like this. Sure, the view was beautiful and the pool was heated. But for the most part it looked like any other hotel I’ve stayed in for half the price.

“So, how many of these people do you think earned a free hotel stay like us?” I asked my husband in jest.

“Umm… None,” he replied.

Sitting in the midst of such worldly riches made me reflect… How many people long for days like these? To rub elbows with the wealthy. To sip margaritas pool side. To reside in a large, lavish home or drive a Rolls Royce.

“If only I had… If only I could… If only I was…”

None of these things bring true happiness. It only takes one look into Hollywood to recognize this truth. Yet for some reason, riches such as these call our names. As if lounging by the pool at the Waldorf will bring value to who we are.

I don’t know the circumstances surrounding every person staying at the hotel this January afternoon. Maybe they are in debt up to their eyeballs. Maybe they saved for years to spend one weekend in luxury. Or maybe they have earthly riches beyond anything I will ever know.

I am certainly not suggesting you can’t be happy if you have an abundance of wealth or a flashy ring on your finger. But this I know… Having riches doesn’t buy happiness. Big diamonds don’t add one cent to a person’s worth. And value is a gift from God that every person was born with whether we recognize it or not. Simply because.

We are all… Children of The King.

Blessed

Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

“Emma said the hotels in Paris are not very nice,” my oldest daughter, Aspen, remarked as we cruised around town in the metallic blue mini-van I swore I’d never own.

“Well,” I responded. “The one I stayed at wasn’t near as nice as those we have in the United States, either. But it sure cost a lot of money,” I said.

“Why is that, Mommy?”

Being the “always looking for a teachable moment” mommy that I am, it didn’t take long for me to turn this run of the mill conversation into a learning experience.

Of course, I couldn’t recall the scripture reference off the top of my head, but I began explaining anyway.

“The reason America is such a blessed nation is simple. When the United States was formed, it was built on the principles of the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘In God We Trust’ was stamped on our money, the Ten Commandments were posted in our schools, and the flag that hangs over the capital building was designed to represent ‘One Nation Under God.’ Our founding fathers made the Lord top priority. Not only did they offer up prayer before meetings, but they actually sought the Lord for hours before making big decisions. The first Americans knew that without the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ… The United States of America was destined to fail.”

“When the Revolutionary War began, the United States was scarcely a nation. According to all natural laws, with limited resources and an untrained military, we should have lost the war against Britain. But we didn’t. We won. And now, we are simply living out the fulfillment of the scripture and reaping the blessings ‘of a nation whose God is Lord.’”

As I was explaining these truths to my daughter, it dawned on me…

Americans today owe the blessings of our nation to the principles of Jesus Christ as administered by our forefathers of old. We are merely reaping the results of their seeds planted hundreds of years ago.

The United States of America is blessed beyond imagination because the Lord is our God. But the average American doesn’t even recognize a correlation between the two. Knowing this, I can’t help but wonder what America will look like in the future once Christ is taken out of our schools, off of our money and out of the pledge… If America looks like this now because of what they did years ago, what will America look like fifty years from now because of what we do today?

A Light Affliction?

2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment…”

Torturous.  That is how it feels.  Every moment is painstaking.  And it happens most every night of the week.

From the instant I mention the word, my extremely talented, fun-loving seven year old son turns into a mini-monster.  He starts to grumble.  Tears fall from his big green eyes.  Pent up frustrations spew from his lips. He just wants to play.  He wants to run.  Ride his bike.  Throw a ball.  Watch t.v.  Anything to escape the arduous task…

Homework.

The night is different, but the scenario is the same.   I have relived this episode night after night for three years now.  And, truth is, even with prayer— The situation itself, hasn’t changed all that much.

I hate to admit it, but second grade is hard for him. When I lay it all out there, first grade and kindergarten were no different.

It seems much harder than it ought to be. And I am tired of hard. I don’t want life to have such trying times.  I want it to be easy. I want to it be fun, all the time. I want it to run smoothly, without interruptions. Especially, the ones that repeat themselves over and over again.

The longer I live, however, the more I am reminded… Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard.  Sometimes there are interruptions I’d rather not deal with. Often, the interruptions last longer than I want them to. But, always.  When I gain the right perspective – The affliction is really rather light.

What, really, is a whiny kid in the midst of a lost and dying world?… If my son spells “they” – “thay” until he is twenty-five. Will it really matter?… If he never reads above grade-level, will his life be any less purposeful?… Is his potential to fulfill the Lord’s call limited by his standardized test score?

No.

It really is a light affliction. And if I believe God’s Word, it is only for a moment.  Before I blink my eyes, these moments will be gone.  My small green-eyed boy will be a tall green-eyed man.  And so I will wish for such a light affliction, once again. Even, if for but a moment.

 

light in the darkness

Look for the Light

2 Corinthians 4:6, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness…”

Whether we recognize it or not, the Lord of the Universe commands light to shine in every place. Even the dark places. The ones we’d rather forget exist. Those places we try to run from. The hurt we try to numb. The anxiety we try to hide… He shines the light even there.

Truly, the light is present in every place. But when we close our eyes, we can not see it. When we harden our hearts, the light is shut out.

Then – life is dark.

The darkness is bleak.  It intrudes and reeks havoc. It crushes our plans,steals our dreams, and causes us to cry out in agony. The darkness reminds us of our weakness. Of our humanity. And our need for a Savior.

On the contrary – when we open our eyes, we are awakened to the light. The light encourages us to live life to the fullest. It creates life from death, bestows undeserving gifts, and births impossible dreams.  The light restores and refreshes. It hopes and anticipates. And reminds us that we were created for a purpose. One that only we can fulfill.

When we face obstacles in life that try to steal the light from us, we must remember this truth: It takes but a tiny touch of light to invade the darkness. 

The next time you feel burdened down, but sense a hint of faith rising in the darkness. Reach for it. When you hear a dash of encouragement in a strange place. Hold tight.  When a glimmer of hope emerges where once was none. Cling to it with all your might. Wrap your heart around that tiny touch and don’t let go. For in such moments, the light is unveiled and darkness is destroyed.

So I encourage you…

Awaken your senses.

Live life with your eyes wide open.

Soften your heart to the small expressions of the Lord’s glory.

Catch a glimpse of His heart.

And in doing so, discover a love like none other. A love that is ever-present in good times and bad. One that is true. Unconditional. Merciful. Gracious. Kind.

When darkness looms… Look for the Light.

take the step

It Still Feels Risky

James 1:3, “When your faith is tested…”

It is amazing to me, that after so many years of walking with the Lord, stepping out in faith still ‘feels’ risky. When will I learn that a feeling is nothing more than an imperfect representation of something that may or may not be true?

My feelings are fickle. My faith should not be.

Each time I am tested, I have a choice to make. To hold firmly to my fears or grip even tighter to the Lord. So far, I have chosen faith. I have chosen to believe the Lord with my life. With my heart. With my deepest desires. So far, the Lord has proven to be faithful.

When will I get it? When will that feeling disappear?

Truly, I have no guarantee that it will ever go away. But one thing I know for certain. Without taking the risk, I will never know what could have been. I will never personally explore the trustworthiness of my Lord. And I will never discover what I was created for.

So – Every time I am tempted to shrink back. Every time I am tempted to run. Every time stepping out feels too risky. I think about what could be, if only, I will choose to believe. Then, I disregard that old, familiar feeling that won’t go away. And step out anyway.

Every time. Every day. Every season. The Lords shows up. Never early, but ALWAYS right in time.