Faithful and true

One of my closest friends is a girl I’ll call M. She was a youth leader when I was a student, lived with my family briefly, and has been a source of love and encouragement to me for over half of my life. She is family.

Beautiful and kind, I watched her navigate the rough waters of remaining single despite her desire for marriage. For years I prayed for a wonderful man, but the Lord didn’t answer that prayer the way I thought He would.

Yesterday, M became a mom. A few years ago, she started very cautiously asking for prayer and if we thought adoption would be a wise choice for her. We immediately and completely agreed with this idea and felt it was from the Lord. M loves children, is a school teacher, and sees the good in every child like nobody I’ve ever known. She was made to be a mom.

But adopting as a single woman was a huge step, and a huge leap of faith. My beautiful brave friend sought the Lord, and when He confirmed His call on her life, she obeyed. The Lord provided strong male leadership in her father and her brother-in-law. He provided a way for her child to go to the school where she works. And M had room in her heart and her home and love to give. So trusting the Lord, she took a leap of faith.

Yesterday a beautiful 7 year-old little girl got a mom. For the first time in her little life – she’ll know stability, safety, unconditional love. They are a family. They know that life won’t be perfect, but that together they are stronger and with the Lord as the Father of the fatherless – they can live the abundant life He intends for them.

Any of you who read this know this year has been tough on me. But Friday when I heard the word that this was happening – I praised the God who made me and who has a perfect plan. I worshipped Him for the miracle I knew was happening in a tiny town north of here. My sweet friend and a beautiful little girl had found a family – and I am so grateful.

Lord You are faithful and true.

Streamlining

I have read that when the body has endured trauma, it automatically shuts down organ systems that are unnecessary to survival to conserve energy for the ones that are. Because of the way the Creator formed us – the body instinctively knows that it can’t do it all when it isn’t in optimal condition, so it streamlines – cutting the excess and focusing on the essential until it knows it will survive and can heal.

In small measure, this is the lesson the Lord has taught me the past couple of months. Despite our challenging circumstances, for many months I still tried to do it all. And I was unsuccessful. I became exhausted and depressed. I kept expecting our circumstances to get better overnight and so I was just trying to hold it all together until that happened. But as the months turned into a year, holding it all together became an impossible task.

During this time, the Lord began to teach me that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Freedom to say no. Freedom to get help. Freedom to shut down the things in our life that caused unnecessary stress so that we could function better for our kids, for each other, and for the things that Jesus said were truly necessary. Freedom to fail. Freedom to fall apart for a while and then allow the Lord to put me back together while my husband guarded over our family.

It was a tough time – but highly necessary. The Lord was teaching me the lesson of how He created our body. He was teaching me to streamline.

So one day, not so long ago, I let go of trying. I fell apart. I went to a doctor and got some help for depression and for the ulcers that have made me sick for the past 18 months. I turned down a few events and work opportunities that were causing me stress. I made some decisions to streamline our finances. I even streamlined my Facebook friends and Twitter connections, eliminating people or causes that were sources of anxiety.

I wrote down what was vital: Justin, my girls, loving the Lord my God with all my heart, feeding the hungry and caring for the orphan and widow, my friends and family who love us, the work relationships that enhance our lives.

Six things. That’s it.

And everything else I shut down.

I battled with guilt (especially over walking away from relationships), but the Lord confirmed my decision with His Word. My Baptist upbringing conditioned me to see everyone, even the difficult, as a mission field. So to walk away seemed like choosing my good over their eternal destiny. But in this season time and time again the Lord confirmed this idea with His Word. Even Jesus took time to walk away and commune with His father or with the 12 who He loved when facing difficult challenges. So I asked the Lord to take care of those who I couldn’t – and I walked away.

I am living a streamlined life  – hiding in the shadow of my Father’s (and my husband’s) entirely capable wing until I can recover. And frankly, I like this so much, I may hang out under here for far longer than is necessary.

Because the streamlined life is the passionate life. This streamlining has brought me a new boldness for the things that do matter. I now have energy to fight for my six things that are truly important. I believe, for the first time in a while, that the Lord will use me to accomplish the work He has given me to do.

Streamlining. I’m grateful for it. I hope some of you will join me in it. I truly believe it has saved my life.

Simple.

We as humans tend to want to qualify others as one-dimensional people.  Or at least I know I do.  I can take a tiny bit of information and run with it forever.

That woman is selfish.  That church is all about the money.  That kid is a brat.  That man is evil.

But here’s the truth – it really is never that simple, right?

We are each capable of honor and beauty, love and glory, to an extent that is a preview of heaven.  And we are each capable of terrible evil that is absolutely deserving of the fires of hell. We are a glorious chaotic mix of contradictions, moving towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

We know this about ourselves, so we enter the world defensive and self-protective from the start.   We desperately want people to see the depths of good in us, but we want to hide the weakness and darkness.  We expect the world to believe the best in us, and yet we instinctively assume the worst in people around us – especially people who are different.

When you study history – you see this common theme of fear and distrust of people who are different – a willingness to assume the absolute worst of anyone we don’t understand.  It is the basis of quarrels, war and genocide, racism, sexism and ageism.  It is the common evil of humanity – a rush to judgment and an instinctive need to position ourselves as better than others.

What if, for just a few moments, we could turn that off?  What if we could, in humility, realize our weaknesses, sins, struggles, and darkness while we see the beauty, light, glory, and goodness of others?

What if we didn’t compete?  What if we didn’t judge the character of people around us based on the one negative thing we know about them?

We’d be free, right?

We’d be more loving.

We’d be like Christ.

He was the only perfect man – yet somehow He was also the only man who truly considered others before Himself.  He somehow saw something in us worth fighting for – worth dying for.  Despite our darkness.  He didn’t have a dark side, but while we put Him to death, He willingly took on the sin and darkness hidden in our hearts.  While we put Him to death He loved.  He made himself nothing to save us from the judgment and death we deserve, dying a brutal death like a common thief.  And when He rose from the dead defeating death, He opened the door for us to be righteous.  We, too, could share not only in His glory for all eternity, but in His humility here on earth.  We too, with the power of Christ in us, can put others before ourselves.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,  then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!                                                                                 -Phil 2

So I think we have a choice as we interact with the people in our world.  We can continue the broken, evil, human cycle of judgment and self-protection.  Or we can, only by the power of Christ, give grace, love, dignity, and respect to others.  Even to people who, in our estimation or our inherently flawed judgment, don’t deserve it.

Because when we love and honor others, making ourselves nothing, we are like Christ. 

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Not for this girl.

Come Jesus Come.  I need You to change me.

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Beloved

I actually wrote this blog about a month ago – but have not had the courage to post it.  But this morning, reading this blog, I was given the courage to tell my story.  I am thankful for a God who reaches out to His girls and affirms that we are, indeed, His beloved.

I had an amazing encounter with the Lord about two months ago.  It came out of hurt and weakness, as many encounters do, and to tell you about it I have to be really vulnerable.  So, as an offering to my King, I will open up about this area of my life and pray that someone will join me in healing and hope because of this story.

One day in December, in a joking manner, my husband called one of my children my favorite.  When he said it, I became really defensive.  My walls instantly went up and I dwelled on this idea for days.  After I had gotten over my initial rejection of this idea, I began to look at my home and at my parenting honestly, and the truth is, he was right.  I was demonstrating some favoritism towards one of my children.  I love both of my sweet daughters – I truly love them equally.  But there is one of my children who was just more difficult for me to be joyful as I interacted with her.  I was more guarded with her.  I parented her more negatively than I parented the other child.  As I started dealing with this, I didn’t know where to go, but I felt the Lord lead me to Abraham.

Favoritism was rampant in Abraham’s family.  You look at the line of Abraham in the Old Testament, the price that is paid even today because of parental favoritism was incredibly costly.  It was a generational sin with great consequence, including competition between siblings, division in families, and marital conflict over the favored children.

So I acknowledged this sin of favoritism and frankly at first I felt powerless against it.  I went to the Lord begging Him for healing and confessing this terrible sin towards my daughter, and as I dealt with it in my parenting I began to look back to my childhood.

If I am brutally honest, I can look back at my childhood and it is clear that I was not favored when compared to my siblings by one of my parents.  That’s kind of strange to write.  It’s not so PC to talk about parental favoritism.  But I realized last month this is a reality I need to deal with.  This sin of parental favoritism is pretty easily identified in every branch of my family tree – including the wonderful home I grew up in.

Many years ago in therapy, I remember my therapist telling me to not be afraid to face hard truths, but simply to face them, acknowledge them, and move on.  She said that when we fear something and run from it, it has power over us.  But when we acknowledge it and decide whether or not we will give it the power to define us, we can have victory.

So last month I said all of this out loud, for the first time in my life.  I acknowledged that A) – there was favoritism that existed in our family, and B) that I was not the one favored.  I felt bratty and needy in a way that I really was not comfortable with.  But I said it.  And it was freeing.  I realized, in saying it, that it did not have the power to define me.

I had to deal with this truth because in not dealing, I gave it power, and I continued this sin into my family.  Acknowledging this in love and grace was hard, but necessary.  The brokenness in my family had become my brokenness without even realizing it – and acknowledging it was the first step in healing it.  This was a defining reality and likely has much to do with some insecurities remaining in me and with my competitive nature I have to fight to control, especially with my siblings.  So this isn’t something to mess around with – this is serious and I needed help from the Father to understand it and figure out what He was teaching me by revealing this, and then to get healing, for me and my daughter.

Because although it feels bratty to say outloud – I was hurt.  It did bother me.  I felt small.  Unloved.  Unworthy.  Unchosen.  Fundamentally flawed.

As the Lord began to open my eyes to this favoritism and to the history of it in our family, suddenly I wondered if the Lord wasn’t allowing me to feel this pain and this rejection because He was trying to wake me up to the pain I was causing my daughter and the rejection she was living with everyday.  In realizing this, my heart broke for my little girl.  I desperately wanted healing and to stop this sin of favor and rejection.

I didn’t know what to do with all of this.  So I wrote about it to my sister, who loves the Lord and is very wise.  I very tentatively wrote her a long email explaining where my heart was and why I was so broken over all of this.

My sister wrote back and lovingly, gently, and courageously affirmed my view of my childhood.  She wrote “You’re right” and in reading that – I suddenly felt this pain and this weight that seemed to pin me down.  Her words didn’t create that pain or that weight, but in reading her words I suddenly realized this pain and weight that had attached itself to me at some point in my past unacknowledged.  I read on in her email.  She wrote these words:  I have this picture of you where you’re just growing– in every way– getting bigger and bigger as He fills you and breathes into you more and more. Little pockets of poisonous air are being punctured and aired out, and even though it deflates you for just a second, He is quick to come in and start breathing into that part to re-inflate you, bigger and stronger than you were before.

As I read what she wrote, I stopped and closed my eyes.  I told the Lord how hurt I was, and how broken.  I told him that I felt rejected, unloved, and unchosen.  I asked Him to come into that place of hurt and to heal and mend my heart.  And I felt him do it.  I can’t explain it.  The pain and the weight lifted off of me.  Suddenly I heard in my heart “You are my Beloved.”  That is not a word I use, nor a phrase I connect with myself.  I believe I heard the voice of God in that moment affirming His perfect love for me regardless of my background.  I can’t explain, even now, what it feels like to again realize the perfect unconditional love of my Father.

That night I faced my past with the confidence of one who is loved.  I confessed hurt and anger towards my parents.  I confessed the sin of resentment towards my siblings.  I confessed the sin of favoritism towards my child.  I begged the Lord for healing.  I asked him for His perfect love to enter into my parenting.  I begged Him to heal the hurt I have already caused in my child and to give her a foundation of favor and perfect love.  As I went through this time of prayer, I felt weights lift off of me.  I felt light enter parts of my heart that were dark.  I felt cleansing take place in my soul.  It was an incredibly powerful time.  I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced anything like it.  I was delivered from something, and something was healed in me.  It was pretty amazing.

This all happened in the dark of our room late one night and early the next morning.

That next morning, my previously “unfavored” child came into my room.  I am telling you – I looked at her differently.  I felt my heart break for her.  Since that day, I have understood her better, had more patience for her, less anger, less frustration.  It has broken something in me. In the past several months, I haven’t lost my patience with her and my heart has continued to be soft when it comes to her – regardless of her behavior.  I feel her pain and understand her better.  And she is responding to that change.  I am so grateful to the Lord for every moment of this revelation.  He has used this knowledge and this reality to break something in me that needed to be broken.  I am so grateful that He chose to heal this part of me I didn’t even know was broken.

He has given me His grace towards my daughter.  His perfect, unending, delightful, overflowing grace.

And He has redefined me in that same grace.

I am His beloved.  And that label, and only that label, defines me.  And with His grace and His help, that will be the only label defining my children.

Alone but not Abandoned

It is 5 am and I am awake because my sweet Grace, at 4 am, had quite the meltdown.  Every once in a while Grace kind of spins into hyperdrive and throws a killer fit.  She can, if we let her, control our household for a long time in this mode.  In times like tonight, traditional discipline does not work.  But what does work, we have found, is isolation.  If I put her in her room, I can quietly hold her doorknob from the outside and force her to stay in her room alone.  For some reason this kind of resets her, and she will snap out of the cycle of arguing and crying.  For about 3-5 minutes, while I hold her doorknob, usually with tears streaming down my face, she will rage and scream and cry in there, but then she will begin to slow down.  I will hear her begin to quietly cry.  In that moment, I can go back in and find her reasonable.  I will hold her in my arms, speak to her lovingly, affirm our care for her and our love for her, and I can tuck her back in her bed where she will finally sleep.  When she is in this mode, this is the only thing we have found will work.

Why do I tell you this extremely personal part of our parenting?  Because I know, during the time she is in her room alone, that in that few minutes, she feels abandoned.  Out of control.  Unheard.  She doesn’t know that outside of her door is a mom who understands her exhaustion. Who knows her nature and knows that, for some reason, this brief time out is what she needs.  She doesn’t know how much I pray as I hold her door.  How I cry out to God to comfort and care for my child.  How my heart breaks to hear her cry.  How close I am, ready to come in and hold her as soon as she will let me.

Part of loving Grace means that, sometimes, my job is to show her that she is not the center of the universe and that she cannot, through violent fits or brilliant manipulation, control everyone around her.  It is not a fun part of my job.  I do not delight in it.  It terrifies me, frankly.  But I do it.

Psalm 44 is a passage where David talks about how he believes God has abandoned him.   He has felt, over time, the cooling of his relationship with the Lord.  I can relate to that.  I know that has happened in my life, not only in times with the Lord, but with important human relationships.  I am struggling through that right now with some people close to me.  I’m sure we have all had relationships that are vital, but for some reason, the person pulls away.  And it hurts.  We feel rejected. Like we are “too much.”  We may even, like Grace, rage a little.

But I wonder if sometimes, with the Lord, He has hidden His face for our good.  To reveal sin.  To reset us to realize we are not the center of our universe.  To show us we are not in control. If there is some reason He knows we need to walk (seemingly) alone.  I wonder if He doesn’t stand, just out of reach, feeling our pain, counting the seconds until He can hold us in His arms again.  If He loves us with a perfect love, many times more than I love either of my girls, then of course He could not just coldly abandon us.  The Bible talks about His discipline in Proverbs 3:  My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.

I feel like parenting has helped me understand the Lord in such a new way – and this morning was another of those moments.  I understand the idea of loving discipline like I don’t know I did before.  And so I can only pray, in those moments where I feel rejected and, like Grace, want to scream and throw things, that I will turn to the Lord and, like David, pray:

Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.

Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?

We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.

Rise up and help us;
rescue us because of your unfailing love.

 

Mercy is Alive.

A few weeks ago, my parents kept my kids and allowed me to go to Keystone Church‘s Communion Gathering.  I was tired that Sunday.  Worn out, actually.  I had been working much, traveling much, and patient with my girls and Justin little.  I felt small and broken.  And there was a song we sang that I didn’t know but one line washed over me:

Now’s the time for us to rise

and carry hope to hopeless eyes

and show this world that mercy is alive

Mercy is alive.  As I sang those words, I realized that is what draws me to Keystone, and indeed to any gathering of authentic Believers.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.  Mercy is alive.

That rang through my spirit like a bell – shaking the core of who I am.  Mercy is alive.

It started me thinking.  About how much in need of mercy I am.  About how I can show mercy to others.  About maybe that the point of this life for us Believers left here on earth with a heart for heaven is to show mercy to the others remaining around us who are hurting and lost.

It also made me think that maybe I don’t show the church enough mercy.  And by the church, I mean the total number of Believers on this planet – the Bride of Christ.  I have struggled with frustration with the church for a while.  I feel sometimes like the church is sleeping, only slightly less self-involved than the world we are sent to reach.  And on those days, mercy towards the church is hard to find in this heart of mine.

So the Lord sent me to Hosea.  It is so frustrating and yet so powerful a picture of mercy.  In a nutshell, the Lord is angry with Israel.  They are continuously unfaithful, continuously returning to their sin, yet He loves them.  So the Lord goes to a prophet named Hosea and commands him to marry a prostitute who the Lord knows will be unfaithful.  Hosea, in small measure, is going to live a life demonstrating how the Lord feels every time Israel is unfaithful.  Poor man – his home is about to be the most unfortunate word picture in history.  Hosea’s wife, Gomer, despite his love and patience and kindness, returns again and again to her sin.  And each time, Hosea invites her back.  Throughout the book you see, in poetic measure, this push/pull relationship between the Lord and Israel.  He is kind to Israel, and they draw close, and then over time they run back to sin, so He rejects them for a moment as they face the consequences of their actions, and then when they are lost and hopeless, He woos them back and they return to Him.  And it all starts again.

Sound familiar?  It does to me.  This rejection/relinquishment/wooing process has happened in my own life a thousand times.  But it also reminds me of my relationship with other broken sinful people.  We hurt each other, we turn away, we realize our need, we return to each other.  This is why our families are so messy. Even the best families struggle with this broken cycle.  We are sinful people living out the story of Hosea over and over in every relationship in our lives, demonstrating our collective need for mercy.

And since we make up the church – the church lives this out too.  The church will draw close to the Lord, then run back to sin, and the Lord will reject them for a moment and allow them to glimpse life without Him, and then He draws them back repentant.  This is why the church has sometimes been on the wrong side of cultural issues, for example slavery.  The church is not perfect – in fact, we are like a prostitute returning to her sin.  But we have a bridegroom who pursues us, woos us, urges us to return to Him.  He loves us with an everlasting love, despite our continuous inability to get it right.

We aren’t rejected, we are still His bride.  Why?  Because mercy is alive.  Do you get that it is personal?  That it isn’t a concept – it is a PERSON.  Mercy is ALIVE.  Jesus is ALIVE.  Jesus is mercy.

So, since we are ourselves playing the role of Gomer, living in a church full of Gomers, may we recognize the Gomers all around us, and show mercy.  Because when we show mercy, we show Jesus to a lost world.

  • The son who runs away time and time again – he is a Gomer.
  • The daughter who returns to drugs despite the perpetual destruction of her life  – she is a Gomer.
  • The stubborn atheist in a search for truth anywhere but the cross – Gomer.
  • The people who have made sinful decisions that have hurt your family – Gomers.
  • Me in my impatience with my children and my stubborn insistence on my rights and control – Gomer.

But all of us have a Hosea, our powerful Creator who loves us and knew the circumstances of today before a single day came into existence. Jesus is alive, Jesus is mercy, and He will not give up.  He loves us and pursues us.

So we should not give up.  On ourselves, on others.

Our job, as Believers, is to live in the mercy of our King and to show the world that mercy is alive.  The same mercy that right now allows us to breathe……..this……..breath………. He is alive.  He loves us all.

Thank you Jesus for your love and mercy on me – a Gomer of Gomers.  Please help me to show mercy – to show YOU – to a world around me today.

Adoration

I came home from out of town late last night so I got to go wake up the girls and surprise them this morning.  Grace gave me a big hug with a beautiful smile on her face and with total joy said “Mommy’s home!  Did you have fun coming home?”  Then when Bekah saw me, she started kicking and laughing and quickly climbed up on me like a spider monkey where she held on tight for about 20 minutes, hugging me and laughing.

I am adored by my girls.

In a way that I don’t deserve, in a way that is precious and humbling to me, in a way that brings tears to my eyes.  It is wonderful to be loved.

This morning I was thinking about how my feelings towards my kids often remind me of how the Lord must feel about me, and that it would therefore make sense that my kids’ feelings towards me should remind me of my feelings towards the Lord.  But I have to confess – I don’t know that I adore the Lord in the way my kids express adoration towards me.  I don’t know that I long for His presence when He seems far away, or delight when I am allowed to come into His presence, the way my kids delighted in me this morning.  It is a humbling thought.  He, after all, is deserving.  He has given me every good thing in my life.  He delights in me.  He created me.  He has rescued me.  He provides for me.  I see evidence of His goodness and His love everyday.  Only because of His grace do I exist.  Yet I don’t respond in adoration like I want to, or like I should.

So what do I do about that?  What happens when I want to love the Lord, want to respond in adoration, but find my heart cold?

This morning I went to the Psalms for answers.  The Psalms are often directly written to the Lord, and are full of praise and adoration.  Around that same time, a friend posted this on Facebook:

Mark 12:30 – Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:
Read John 8:44. Satan wants to deceive you about God. If he can distort your idea of God, then beyond the shadow of any doubt he has you in everything else.

ACTION POINT:
What does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind? Start with focusing on who God is, not on what we want Him to be – we are HIS Creation.

I am so grateful my friend posted that – it was directly for me today.  So I look up these passages – and the entire passage of John 8 is a tough passage.  It is basically an argument between Jesus and the religious Jews in the temple about who is right.  Either Jesus is right and these people are whitewashed tombs, or the Pharisees are right and Jesus is a false teacher.  This falls into that “Jesus is either the Son of God, divinity in human form, or he is an evil, crazy, lying man” argument.  It really is true – there is no grey area with Jesus.  He can’t possibly be the “good teacher” so many people dismiss him to be.  Look at the passage in John 8.  Jesus uses some tough language with the Pharisees in this passage.  In verse 23 He says “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”

So what does this have to do with loving God?  Well, there are three things that I have found are key in loving God:

To love God we have to know who He is. I love Justin because I know the great man he is when nobody is looking.  I love my mom because I respect the woman she is and aspire to be like her.  I love my dad because I know his heart and it is tender and good.  Jesus is saying in John 8 who He is.  We have to be good with that.  He is who He is.  He is unchanging.  He is God and we are not.  He is in control and He does what He wants for His glory.

To love God we have to be granted faith. If you look at John 8, verse 30 says “Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him.” Jesus is not giving a warm and fluffy invitation like we so often hear in church today.  He is saying tough truths about who He is and who God is.  And yet people are trusting Him.  It is because their eyes are being opened – God is showing them favor by revealing His son.  In that same crowd, many people heard the exact same words and thought he was a crazy, demon possessed man.  Their hearts were actually hardened.  Jesus, in verse 42, talked about this.  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” Man this passage is hard to wrestle with.  We love Jesus because God is our Father.  It is a matter of revelation.  I really respect Billy and Cindy Foote, and I heard Billy Foote say one day that if we don’t love God, we better get on our face and beg Him to allow us to love Him, beg Him to grant us the faith and the love we desire.  We can’t conjure love, we can only be granted it, as a gift.

We can’t love ourselves, this world, or money and God at the same time. We only can serve one master.  Luke 16:13 says No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon (money). We are really simple people – we can only do one thing well at a time.  So we are either about God and His agenda, or we are about something else.

When I feel my heart is cold, I have to start examining what I do love.  Often for me – that is where the answer is.  I know God –  I know who He is and I love who He is.  I see Him at work around me.  I know I have been granted faith through no merit of my own but through His grace – I believe what others think is crazy and I base my decisions on an eternal focus and not an earthly one.  But I often will trade in my first love for something unworthy – I will often begin to serve the wrong master.

Revelation 2 describes where I am:  I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

So today I am repenting of the love of self and the love of money and security that has grown in me.  I am repenting of this desire to be in control.  I am repenting of my cold heart.  I am remembering the mercy of my Father.  I am dwelling on all He has done for me, and I am repositioning my focus and my adoration on my Father, where it belongs.  So many of you do this so well.  I see your faith and your love for Jesus and it inspires me.  Please pray for me – that my first love would be renewed.  That I would respond to my Father with the adoration that He deserves.  I want to bring joy to His heart the way my sweet girls brought joy to mine this morning.  I want to delight Him even as I delight in Him.

Sitting on the Stairs

I have had the most perspective-altering day today.

This morning, I had the chance to sit down with a dear friend and catch up. She is a light in my life – I doubt she knows the impact she has had on me through the years. She knows quite a bit about our situation, and she was telling me about her times of difficulty in the past and the faithfulness of God through those times. She encouraged me to not be afraid of the humbling work of God. In fact, she encouraged me to walk in it. She used examples from her life and the life of her kids to show me the value in what I am going through. Little did my sweet friend know about the day I would have.

Early this afternoon, my sweet Grace had a very public meltdown at the end of her tumbling class. It began as a moment of defiance, and escalated into a full-out fit at Keller Pointe in front of about 40 people. It was one of those times we all love as parents where we are carrying a screaming kicking child out of a public place and we see people staring at us and we know they are thinking, “Why can’t that woman control her child?”

She was the recipient of a spanking, and when we got home, I sat her on our bottom step and got on my knees in front of her to ask her why she had gotten a spanking. She looked at me, and her little face crumpled as she struggled to tell me, through tears. “Gracie didn’t listen to Ms. Jeanie. Gracie was disobedient.” She then continued and told me why she didn’t listen – that she didn’t want to do the crab walk but wanted to come rest with me. I don’t think I will ever forget that little face crumble. I looked at my sweet girl’s face, as she struggled to keep it together, and I began to cry. I thought to myself, “I never realized that obedience is such tough work.” She threw herself in my arms and held onto me tightly, crying. I held her and carried her upstairs, telling her over and over that I loved her. I can’t even begin to explain my love for this baby girl or how proud I am of her. I know how much she tries. Her meltdowns are occasional tiny bumps in the road with our wonderful joyful child. But I also know I have to discipline her when she does disobey. I am commanded to and I know it is good for her soul. But there is nothing about spanking my child or watching her fall apart that gives me joy. In fact, it breaks my heart. Even writing about it now I am crying. I love her with all of my being – likely more than she will ever be able to understand, at least until she is a mom herself.

I carried her upstairs and tucked her in and prayed for her before her nap. I said something like “Dear Jesus, thank you for our Gracie. We are so proud of her. Please continue to help Gracie learn to be obedient and let her know how much mommy and daddy love her.” As I was praying, Gracie interrupted and said “and help Gracie listen to Ms. Jean and not get spankin’s.” I laughed to myself because I knew then that she understood. I hugged her and told her I loved her. She fell immediately asleep and slept for over four hours. She woke up renewed and was wonderful the rest of the day. My sweet baby was just exhausted – that was what was behind the rebellion in the gym.

I, on the other hand, have been tearful all day about it. I just couldn’t shake it off. I love her so much. I don’t want to see her humbled, certainly don’t want to be the instrument of it. But I know the truth that she can’t be allowed to wreak havoc in public (or private) uncorrected. I have a role to play in her development that isn’t always pleasant. But I do my role in love because I also know her weaknesses. I know that she really only has these meltdowns when she is tired or hungry or not at her best. So I understand. Her meltdown today didn’t make me love her less, or make me feel she is less worthy of love. In fact, I don’t think I could love her more than I did today during this whole episode. I am overwhelmed with my love for Grace.

I thought my lesson on humility was over, but tonight I had to do something pretty humbling. I had to basically ask for mercy from a debt. I had good reason to ask, legitimate reason, but it was still incredibly difficult. I shook as I made my request. Afterwards, I laid in my bed, tears pouring down my face, and I prayed. I needed to talk to my Father. So I came to the Lord in humility. I confessed to the Lord how weak I felt – how much I felt like I was failing. I confessed the sins and shortcomings that He knows so well (even better than I do). I asked Him for grace. For protection. Provision. Forgiveness. In that moment, I felt small. And then He reminded me of my day. I couldn’t help but remember how I felt when Grace’s face crumpled before me on the stairs. How much I loved her in that moment. How proud I was of her. How thrilled I was to be her mom. How much I hurt for her hurt. How much I love that sweet heart that was broken in front of me. And suddenly I saw myself sitting on the stairs in the place of Grace, sitting in front of my Father. I wondered if that is how the Lord felt about me. Did my prayer and confession of weakness make his heart break for me, as mine broke for my tiny girl? Is He overwhelmed with his love for me? Does He hurt when I hurt? Does he understand my weaknesses and love me despite them? Does it hurt Him to see me struggle to understand and obey? Would he do anything for me? Would he give His life for me?

He would.

He did.

It was a pretty powerful, perspective-altering thing. To put myself in the place of Grace – crying on the stairs – in front of my Father made me see myself, and Him, in a totally new way. I don’t know that I will ever come to Him in prayer quite the same.

Tonight I am exhausted, frankly. Physically and emotionally spent. I needed to write this and process it, but now I am going downstairs to go to sleep, just like my tiny girl went to sleep after I prayed with her. But it is kind of amazing to think that my Father, who loves me, is going to have me on His mind all night, just as Grace has been on my mind all day. That He is planning good things for me and my family, and wants to bless me because He loves me. I am forgiven and free. I am His child. I am loved. I can rest.