Thursday, May 5

Happy Mother's Day

As I prepare to speak at a Mother's Day Luncheon on Saturday a lot of thoughts go through my mind. I have been looking at how I have been doing as a mom this year. I think about the ideal mother and what she should look like. And as I have been thinking about these things I have come to realize there is a huge discrepancy between the two.

I think most of us have this high ideal of what the perfect mom is like. I asked some friends on Facebook to describe the perfect mom in one word. Here are some words they came up with: patient, security, comfort, godly, compassionate, servant, wise, understanding, forever, involved and gentle. I am sure you can come up with some words of your own.

The perfect mother always has a clean home, well behaved children, and she never raises her voice. She always cooks delicious meals from scratch and then makes sure the kitchen is spotless when she is done. She bakes cookies after school, but makes sure there are two vegetables on everyone's plate at dinner (and her kids don't complain about eating them). She is never too tired to play with her kids or spend time with her husband. She volunteers at the church, the school and for field trips. Or better yet, she homeschools. She always reads her bible before starting her day and prays for everyone before bed. She is never selfish with her time and always gives the best of herself to others. I could go on and on. You get the picture.

When I start to think of this ideal mother on mother's day I get this nagging feeling of guilt. You probably know what I am talking about. This feeling deep inside that, as a mother, I have fallen very short!

Every mother carries a measure of hidden guilt. We see our selfishness, impatience, and anger and we feel guilty. We look around at the piles of laundry and dirty dishes and undone housework and feel guilty. We finally get around to doing the laundry, dishes and housework and we feel guilty we don't spend more time with our kids. We try to stick to a budget, but don't feel like cooking so McDonald's here we come! Then we feel guilty for the fast food we ate and the money we really couldn't afford to spend. By the end of the day we are exhausted and have no patience for drawn out bed times, last minute drinks or midnight wake up calls. Again the list could go on and on.

If we are honest with ourselves, at the end of most days if we measured ourselves on the scale of perfection, we fall far short of an ideal mother. Not a single one of us is alone in that struggle. We all fall short. Sometimes very short.

So how can we become an "ideal mother"? Is it possible? We strive to live better, do better, be better and realize that is not the answer. Beating ourselves up over our faults and failures is not the answer either. Harboring hidden guilt or shame is not the answer. So what is the answer? Quite simply Jesus!

When we talk about the perfect mom we think of someone filled with love, who considers raising her children a joy, someone whose home is full of peace and has never ending patience. She is kind and does good for others, She is faithful to her family and friends, she is always gentle and self controlled....Wait a minute. That looks an awful lot like Galatians 5:22! "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control"

We may not possess the ability to be a perfect mom in our own strength, but the Holy Spirit is perfect and the fruit of the Holy Spirit in our lives is all of those things. We must allow the guilt we feel and the failings we see in our lives to draw us to the feet of Jesus. To a place of surrender.

Often we struggle and strive in our own strength to change who we are. I don't know about you, but I could strive all day long to be patient and all I will end up doing is hyperventilating from taking deep breaths and counting to ten over and over. I need something more than my own strength and will power to change. I need something greater than my weakness, stronger than my best effort, and more merciful than my conscience. I need Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 3:16-20 says "That He (God) would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fulness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."

It is HIS power that works in us and strengthens us. His Spirit that fills us with the very fullness of God. His power that does exceedingly, abundantly, above all we ask or even think. He CAN change our hearts and lives!

Look at the number of times this passage refers to our understanding of God's love for us. Often when we feel guilt or see our failures and faults we begin to believe that God is disappointed in us and doesn't love us. We allow this condemnation to push us away from God. When in reality God adores us, dances over us with joy, and counts us as righteous through Christ. He loves us so much he sent His own Spirit to dwell in our hearts and give us what we need to be set free and changed into the women of God he has called us to be.

When you begin to feel guilty for how far you fall short of perfection as a mother, just remember that it is the power of God, the strength of the Spirit and the love of Christ that is going to change you. You need Him and to surrender your weaknesses to Him. Sit at His feet, soak up His love, let him change you from glory to glory. He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, above all we ask or imagine!

Happy Mother's Day!

Sunday, December 5

Messy Christmas

I have been quite slack in keeping up with my blog this year! Woops! I wanted to post something for Christmas and hope that it encourages you. These thoughts are from a devotional I am sharing with our Woman's ministry at church.

What comes to mind when you think of Christmas? First thoughts... what comes to mind? Gifts, lights, music, family gatherings, yummy food? We have this quaint idea of what Christmas looks like. It is all "holly and mistletoe". But the reality can be quite different. If we give ourselves time to think about what Christmas "is" rather than what it is "supposed to be" we might think of words more like debt, stress, loneliness, loss, regret, fights, complicated families, etc. Let's be honest, sometimes Christmas is a messy affair!

When you think of the very first Christmas what words come to mind? Angels, wise men, shepherds, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph? We automatically think of a sweet little manger scene.

Recently I had the chance to take my girls on a field trip to an Abby that had 73 different Creche displays from all over the world. Each manger scene was beautifully crafted and pictured relatively the same thing. A quiet little scene where everyone was adoring baby Jesus. But when we take the time to dig a little deeper into the story of Jesus' birth we will find that the first Christmas was a messy affair as well.

Think of these things as they relate to the birth of Jesus. A scandalous pregnant teen mother. A long, painful journey at nine months of pregnancy. A difficult, first time birth on a filthy cave floor surrounded by the stench of dung and sweaty animals. Imagine using bug infested straw as the only ground cover for your birth. Think of placing your newborn baby in a rickety old feeding trough because there was nowhere else to lay him where he wouldn't get trampled underfoot by the animals. And the first visitors to see this newborn king? The very dregs of society. Men who slept with sheep and seldom bathed, were the first to hold this precious child. Then a crazed king plots to hunt down and kill Jesus causing the slaughter of hundreds of innocent baby boys who were ripped right out of their mother's arms. A whole city grieved and weept for the loss. Truly the first Christmas was a messy affair.

But here is my point. We think that everyone has it together. We go to church and only see those around us when they are at their best. Best dressed, best smiles, best worship... We think we should have our act together like "so and so" who sits up front with her flawless makeup and heart of praise. But the reality , if we look deeper, is we have our messes!

Psalm 40:2 says "He brought me up also out of a horrible pit, out of a miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings"

We were all rescued from a pit. A pit of sin, pain, brokenness, heartache or loss. Every single one of us. That is the whole point! Jesus left the glory of heaven to rescue us from our horrible pit, and miry clay that was sucking us down. Almighty God with all His glory and power, all His wisdom and strength, His peace and hope. In His righteousness and justice compelled by His love, looked down and saw us. He saw the loneliness, abuse, loss, divorce, heartbreak, fear, doubt, depression and grief... He saw it all and He came as a baby in a manger.

Philipians 2:7 says Jesus made himself of no reputation, and took on himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men

He came born of a virgin who's life was filled with scandal, in a stable filled with filth. He was greeted by the dregs of society and hunted by a crazed king. His birth was surrounded by death and loss. All so that he could pull us out of our messy pit and set our feet on a solid rock.

Isaiah 61:1-3 referring to Jesus says "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek, the poor and afflicted; he has sent me to bind up and heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those that are bound;... to comfort all that mourn;... to give to them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit..."

The reason I celebrate Christmas with such joy isn't because it comes neatly wrapped in perfect holiday cheer. But rather, because God in all His mercy and grace looked down on this mess I call life and, in His great love, sent His son as a baby in a manger to bring me everlasting hope. He took my broken heart and made it whole. He took a hurting, abused girl from a broken home and gave her peace and hope and a reason to rejoice.

Life is messy. If your life is a mess right now remember, that first Christmas was a messy affair as well. Jesus came to give you forgiveness, hope and peace. He came and reached down into your horrible pit so he could set your feet on a rock to stay.

So maybe this year we shouldn't wish each other a "merry" Christmas, but rather a "messy" Christmas as a reminder of the hope Jesus brings to our mess filled lives. Truly we have every reason to rejoice this Christmas. "For God so greatly loved the world that he gave up his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life"

I wish you a Messy Christmas!

Saturday, May 8

Happy Mother's Day

Tomorrow is mother's day. As a mom of three small girls, I wonder what word of wisdom, or encouragement I might have to offer other moms. So often I find myself struggling through my days. Frustrated with the daily things that frustrate moms. Messy rooms, meals to cook, muddy feet, running late, attitudes that need adjusting, whining voices... need I go on. So if I find myself struggling as a mother, how can I give any advice? What possible word of encouragement can I pass on to you? I suppose if I looked to myself I wouldn't find much to offer other moms. I think most days I am the one in need of a word of wisdom and encouragement. Thankfully I do know where I can find something to encourage all you moms out there.

I don't believe I have ever met a mom who was confident in her skills at parenting. Most moms I talk to feel inadequate. I think it is safe to say most moms feel like they fail in some way nearly every day. We all want to be that soft spoken women with unending patience. We wish we were a cross between Mary Poppins and June Cleaver. But we aren't. We are women who get frustrated, impatient, even angry. We are mothers who love our children with all our hearts, but sometimes don't quite know how to show that love. We get emotionally drained and fed up with laundry and dishes. We wonder when in the world the underwear will pick itself up, cause it sure seems like no one is going to get around to doing it. I doubt that I am the only mother at night who sighs a huge sigh of relief when we realize that the last glass of water has been given and the kids are finally asleep.

There is something about having children that shows us who we really are. They are like little mirrors that reflect our hearts. On a good day we see love shining on their faces and believe that we are raising incredible children. But what about those not so wonderful moments? You know the ones I am talking about. The ones where the reflection we see in our little mirrors shows that our heart is anything but perfect. You know, that moment when you can hear your bossy 6 year old telling her little brother exactly what he can do and how and she is using that "tone" that just makes you cringe. But as you get ready to put her in her place you realize that just yesterday you said those very words and used that very tone to speak to your kids. And you cringe. Or maybe the image in the mirror is an angry voice saying things you swore you would never say to your kids. Or perhaps you see your own selfishness when you realize that you really would rather meet your need before you meet the needs of your kids. After all reading that book is a lot more relaxing than helping your kids figure out how to play a new game. Sometimes it can be hard to look at the image in the mirror.

So where is my word of encouragement? It is this. None of us is perfect. We all fail. We all mess up as mom's and we all wish we could do better and be better. But there is someone who sees us in all our mess. He sees all our weaknesses and he loves us still. I am not talking about your husband! I am talking about Jesus.

As I was thinking about how unlovely I feel at times as a mom I remembered just how deep God's love is for me. Just how unfailing and unconditional it is. And I was reminded of the book of Song of Solomon. It is a book that describes a plain young woman who was forced to work in her families vineyard. She felt ugly and unworthy. And yet the King fell in love with her and pursued her. It is a beautiful picture of the power of unconditional love.

My favorite passage in the book is chapter 2:10-14
My Beloved spoke, and said to me, Rise up, My love, My beautiful one, and come away.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over; it goes to itself.
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land;
The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, My love, My beautiful one, and come away.
O My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is beautiful.

The King is calling her to a place of being close to him. He wants to spend time with her and drawn near to her. And I love the image that is painted in that last verse. A dove will find a crack in a rock to hide in. It will seek out protection and safety there. When a storm rages, or there is a threat, the dove will flee to the cleft and find refuge there.

What a beautiful image that paints in my mind. Sometimes I feel like that trembling little dove who needs a safe place to seek refuge. A place where I can draw near to God and find that he longs to fill me with his love.

The Song of Solomon continues as the journey of the couple develops. The young girl faces difficult circumstances, she is beaten for seeking the one she loves, she seeks through the night and can't find him. She feels lost and alone and yet doesn't give up. In the end she finds her love and she clings to him and doesn't let him go. She has come to depend on his love and rely on the truth of how he sees her. No longer is she unworthy or unlovely. She is a princess among queens. She has also come to value who the King is. She understands his strength and the depth of his love.

The final chapter of the Song of Solomon says "Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved?" What a beautiful picture that is. Of a woman so in love with the King, who has been so consumed with his love, that she can come out the other side of a "wilderness" leaning on him. Close to his side.

When I remember these verses and I think of this story I am so encouraged. I know that I have a long way to go as a mother. But I also know where I can go to find protection from the storm. I know where I can go when I need to be reminded of my value. I know that I have a King who is so consumed with love for me that He was willing to die for me. He died so that I don't have to remain the way I am. So that the image in the mirror can change day to day. So that I can become the mom I hope someday to be.

As a mother you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. Remember there is a rock you can flee to. A King who wants you to draw near to him so he can lavish His love on you. You are not alone in your battles. There is one who will stand with you. Run to Him!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, December 5

What will you do?

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas I have been asking myself a question. What will I do with Jesus? I don't know what your life has been like lately, but mine has been filled with all kinds of hustle and bustle. This year more than any year before I find that I am distracted by all that is going on from what is really important. So I have been trying to take some time to think about what I will do with the Christmas story this year. How will I let it touch my heart and life?

As I have been reading through the first few chapters of Matthew and Luke I have been struck by the fact that the whole Christmas story is filled with how people reacted to the birth of Jesus. Some were filled with fear, some were angry, some were simply too busy to notice him. I am wondering what I can learn from their stories and how that will affect me this year. I wanted to share with you some of the things God has been showing me. Maybe it will help us all to stop for a minute and decide what we are going to do with Jesus this Christmas.

When you read the Christmas story the first character who is affected by the coming of Jesus is Mary. When the angel came to her and blessed her she was confused, even fearful. What could God possibly want with her? As soon as she was reassured that God was the God of the impossible, her heart was immediately put at ease and she completely trusted God with utter abandon. She had a child like faith that was filled with trust.

I have always marveled at Mary's faith. It is so pure and simple. Tonight as I read how she visited Elisabeth, her cousin, and was encouraged in her faith, I realized again just how vital it is to have women of faith in our lives. Women we can trust in our time of need to show us how to draw closer to God. But what really struck me was the pronouncement of faith Mary gives to Elisabeth. You can read it in Luke 1:46-55. Mary had an amazing understanding of who God was. Her faith came from an unwavering knowledge of who her God was and what he had promised to do.

Mary knew that a mighty God who could do great things, would be able to do the impossible for her. She understood that a God who showed mercy to those who feared him, would stand by her if she trusted him. She knew that the God of strength who could scatter the proud, would protect her in all circumstances. That a God who could cast down the mighty and exalt the humble, could hold her when she was weak. She had no doubt that a God who feeds the hungry would provide for her. That the God who helped Israel would rescue her. Her faith was grounded in the truth of who God was.

It made me wonder... when I face the impossible what do I stand on? Do I have faith that is grounded in who God is? Does that faith help me to trust God with total abandon? Do I believe that God can indeed do the impossible in my life?

Of course when we think of Mary we also think of Joseph. One particular phrase in Matthew stood out to me as I read how Joseph reacted to the birth of Jesus. Matt 1:20 says "while he thought on these things". Joseph was just told that the woman who was promised to marry him was with child. No only was Mary with child, but she claimed it was a miracle of God, the coming messiah. I wonder if that claim angered him? Maybe frustrated him? How hurt he must have been! How very embarrassed. But being a man of honer he didn't want to create a huge scandal. He must have been consumed with a million thoughts at once. I doubt he slept very well. You know how it is. You get stressed out, thoughts consume you, worry is pressing down on you. It is a horrible feeling. And yet "while he thought on these things" God spoke to him. God came to him in the middle of the night when his worries, fears, doubts and frustrations must have consumed him. And God simply told him to trust in His plan for this baby. That if he would marry Mary and raise Jesus as his own son, Jesus would save his people from their sins.

I don't imagine that Joseph took that dream lightly. It was a serious thing to be the father of the messiah. I wonder if he felt like running? God's plan can be hard to swallow sometimes. Joseph could have said "no thanks, this is not for me!" He could have put Mary away quietly and never had to deal with her and her scandalous baby again. But instead he chose to trust God's plan for his life. And because of that trust he would become a vital role in God's greatest gift to man... salvation.

We are all given choices in life. God places before us His will and then we are asked what we will do with it. Do we let fear, doubt, and confusion decide for us? Or do we let God lead us in the plan he has for our lives?

So Joseph embraces God's will for his life and accepts Mary as his wife. They then pack up and head to Bethlehem to be taxed. Bethlehem is teeming with people. Everyone is having to go to the town of their lineage to be taxed. The streets are full of noisy people, frustrated travelers, overworked shop keepers, maybe even a few moms yelling at their rowdy children... it is a mad house so to speak. It kind of makes me think of my local mall at Christmas time! And in the midst of all this hustle and bustle there is a young woman in labor riding on a donkey. I wonder if a few women might have looked at her with sympathy while silently thanking God they weren't in her shoes! In all that business no one stopped to help them. No one offered them a helping hand.

And what of the Inn Keeper? His Inn was full to overflowing. All the extra travelers coming to town probably had him overworked and tired. There was a constant flow of customers as one bed would empty and another guest would rush to take his place. I wonder if he was too weary to really take notice of Mary and Joseph. He simply brushed them off and relegated Jesus to the back corner of the stable.

When life is busy and we have a million things clamoring for our attention, do we stop to notice Jesus? When we are overwhelmed and stressed where do we place Jesus in our lives? Do we put him on the back burner so to speak? Do we push thoughts of God aside and forget that Jesus is there?

In the midst of all the craziness going on in Bethlehem, the hills were a quiet refuge. If you could go back to that night you would have found a quiet flock of sheep grazing in the hills. And a small group of faithful shepherds keeping watch over their flock. The shepherds were considered the low of the low in society. They were the outcasts. Everyone depended on shepherds to provide the sheep that were vital to their society, but no one wanted to be a shepherd. When the Christmas story says "lowly shepherds" that is just what it means!

There is something so very sad about a stereotype. No matter how much a person tries it is almost impossible to change how a stereotype affects the way people think. Shepherds were hard working men. They would lay down their lives to protect their flock. They ate with them, slept with them and kept careful watch over them. It is no wonder Jesus used the idea of a shepherd to describe his care for us. Sadly, for all their work, people still looked down on them.

And yet, when the shepherds were given the "good news of great joy" by the angels, they eagerly ran to find Jesus. What is even more amazing is that these humble men did not keep this good news to themselves. When they found Jesus there was no hesitation to share the truth of their discovery. They ran to tell all those people who had looked down on them of the great joy they had found in Jesus. And the people marveled that lowly shepherds had seen the messiah, the long awaited king. They couldn't believe that angels visited the humble outcasts. What an amazing testimony!

I wonder what we would have done in their place? When we are hurt by people or judge wrongly by others, do we think to tell them of the joy we have in Jesus? Does the joy of the Lord so consume us that we can't help to share his love? Even with those who have wronged us?

It didn't take long for the news of Jesus' birth to spread. After all you have "lowly" shepherds shouting out the news to anyone who would listen. But for the magi from the East, it wasn't the story the shepherds told that lead them to Jesus, it was a bright star.

The magi (or wise men) were great astronomers of their time. And when Jesus was born a new star appeared in the heavens. These wise men must have known the prophecies and traditions that had been told for years of a coming King. They saw this new star as a sign that he had been born. And so began a long journey to seek the King of kings.

Most historians and commentaries will agree that the wise men studied and followed that star for about two years. They arrived in Israel when Jesus was a small boy. Not knowing where to find this new King they looked in the obvious place, Herod's palace. According to the scholars in the palace, the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. The wise men immediately sought him there. They were overjoyed when they realized the star they had followed did indeed rest over Bethlehem. Suddenly the long journey that lasted years seemed insignificant. They had found their King. He wasn't dressed in robes or sitting on a throne, but they knew him when they found him. And when they came before Jesus they worshiped and gave him their greatest treasures.

I wonder, when our journey gets long and hard, where is our faith? Do we rely on our emotions to lead us and let them lead us astray? Or do we trust in the truth, in God's word and promises, to lead us? It can be a long journey before we find Jesus at the end of the road. Are we willing to trust he is leading us? Do we choose to worship God and give him our greatest treasures?

King Herod was also given a chance to worship Jesus. The magi had come to him first and had shared their journey with him. But Herod was a man consumed with himself, a man who wanted his own will rather than God's. He was a man who would use others and he wouldn't hesitate to manipulate people in order to get his way.

When the wise men came to Herod I am sure he appeared quite sincere to them. He immediately sought out scholars to search the scriptures to find out where this messiah was to be born. When he gave the information to the magi he told them that he wanted to worship Jesus too. Outwardly he appeared to be just as sincere as the wise men were. Yet his heart was far from his words and apparent actions. He was too preoccupied with his own will to consider God's will. His ambition blinded him to truth.

In the end Herod's choices, his pride, ambition, jealousy and anger all led to death. When he didn't get his way he lashed out at the innocent in anger. A slaughter of small boys in Bethlehem paid the price for his ambition and pride.

Sometimes even we can have selfish pride or ambition that blinds us. When our will is confronted with Jesus, do we let pride harden our hearts? Do we lash out in anger or manipulate those around us to get our way? In the end those actions will only lead to death. God always gives us a choice. May we choose life!

After looking at all these people who were confronted with the birth of Jesus I have to ask myself- where did they get their faith? How do I find the faith to trust God completely like Mary did? Or to let go of fear and follow God's will like Joseph did. How do I set aside the business of life and embrace Jesus? Is it possible for me to let go of the hurt and rejection from others and let God fill me with joy so that I can share God's love just as those shepherds did so many years ago. Will I find myself, like the magi, at the end of a long and dusty road worshiping Jesus and trusting him with the deepest treasures of my heart? Can I let go of my ambition and the plans I have made for my life and let God be King of my life?

Each of these people had one thing in common. They had the scriptures to lead them. They had some amazing prophecies to stand on. They had truth to guide them. We have to have an "eternal perspective" to find faith in the midst of hardships. We have to have an understanding of who God is. Each of these people had that kind of faith. I want to share a few verses with you in hopes that it will encourage you to stand in faith. Whatever you face, where ever you are at this Christmas, may these verses inspire you to faith! They are the same verses that these men and women of old stood on.

The prophet Isaiah foretold of Jesus, he gives us a clear picture of who God is.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called
The mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Isa 9:6
God wants to be those things to us! In the midst of the business, the hurt, the confusion, at the end of the long journey... God wants to be all of those things for us.

Isaiah also foretold of the plan God had for Jesus as our savior.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he has borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:3-6

In the end Jesus' death brought us life because...

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because
the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek;
he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all that mourn;

To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion,
to give unto them beauty for ashes,
the oil of joy for mourning,
the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
that they might be called trees of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.
Isa 61:1-3

Truly God has set us free from all that has had us bound. He can heal the brokenhearted, free those bound in sin, lift up those who are weary, and comfort the greatest loss. He can do all things in our lives if we will allow him. He truly is the King of kings and came as a baby in a manger to show us his love.

and so we should praise him for all he has done! This verse has always been one of my favorite Christmas verses.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.

Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.

Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;
and the King of glory shall come in.

Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory
Psa 24:7-10

The God who spoke to them so long ago is still speaking today. He is speaking to each and every one of us. He wants to do the impossible in our lives. Truly God is a great God. He was born in a little town called Bethlehem, amidst all the noise and clamor. So great was his love for us that he took our sins upon himself. Not only did he free us from the bondage of sin, but he can heal our broken hearts and lives. He longs for us to trust him and believe that He can lead us in this life.

What will you do with Jesus this Christmas?

Friday, August 21

Overwhelmed by Love

What a busy crazy summer it has been. I haven't had much time to think about updating my blog! But yesterday I had a conversation with my girls that sparked a thought. Today I want to share that thought.

While I was making lunch for my girls yesterday, they got on the conversation of heaven. I can't even remember how it started. Sierra asked me if we will be able to actually see God. She seemed in awe of the idea of actually seeing what God looked like. I tried to think of how to describe the feeling they will have when they actually get to see Jesus face to face.

I told them it will be the most marvelous feeling. That we will feel so completely loved. I described it as that feeling they get when their father or I hold them. When we have one of those special moments just between the two of us and we tell them how much we love them. There is a wonderful feeling that rises up in your heart when you have a moment like that. A secure feeling of complete and total love. It can be overwhelming at times. I told them that that is what talking to Jesus will be like all the time. We will simply be overwhelmed by the absolute love of God for us. What a glorious thought!

When I think of heaven I don't think of streets of gold or mansions that are made for each of us. I don't even think of all the people we will see or meet or the incredible things there will be to do and see. I think about just how incredible it will be to actually know God for who he is, and be surrounded by his presence w/o having to struggle past all the things that hinder us. To be overwhelmed by his love constantly.

In the here and now it can be so hard to feel God, to know him, to give him our heart. There are so many things that hold us back. This side of heaven we build walls around our hearts. We have guilt and shame to hold us down. We made bad decisions or are hurt by others. There are so many things that can cause us to keep God at arms length.

Being a Christian isn't about the rules or the church or a religion. So many people who call themselves Christians live as though that is what God desires. Just follow the rules, go to church and try to live right. But that is not what God longs for. He simply wants us to come. To surrender. To stand before him just as we are, with all our baggage and pain and heart ache. To bring him those burdens we carry and lay them at his feet so that he can carry them for us. He simply wants us to trust him and surrender our hearts to him. It is when we allow the walls to come down before God, when we give him all the junk we hold onto and all the dreams we long for, that he begins to change us from the inside out.

Sometimes the surrendering can be a whole lot harder than following a list of rules and "living right". When we are living a legalistic life it almost makes us feel better about how good we are being or that we might be able to earn God's love. But in the end it will leave us empty and frustrated.

So why then do we find it so hard to give God our hearts? The deep places that no one else even knows about? Because it is a scary thing to open your heart and be vulnerable. This world of hurt has taught us to build up walls, not tear them down. People have hurt us and rejected us and taught us not to trust. How then do we begin to trust a God we can't see? It takes a step of faith.

For nearly 20 years I have been giving God my heart. Letting him heal my wounds, lead my life, and fill me with His love. And I still find it hard to surrender. A walk with God is a progression of surrender. Over time he has asked me to let go of things one at a time. I can still remember the moment I let go of the bitterness in my heart toward someone who has abused me. Oh how hard that moment was until it was done. Then- oh the freedom! But it wasn't until 3 years later that I was ready to actually forgive that person. God knew that I couldn't deal with the bitterness and unforgiveness at the same time. For that area of my heart he simply asked me to give them as I could. And in return I found freedom and love and peace like I had never known before.

I don't know what struggles you are facing today. If you are human, alive and breathing... then I suspect you have a struggle in your life. Life is full of all kinds of heart ache. Some of our own making, most from others or the struggles of living. I may not know what you are facing today. But I do know that God is there waiting to love you and fill your heart with peace. He isn't asking for you to give anything other than who you are. Just to stand before him and let it all go. Every battle, every struggle, ever sin, ever dream... whatever it might be. He wants to carry the load for you. He wants to be the one you turn to when you need to give your pain to someone. He wants to be the one you trust and lay your heart before. So, take a chance, and open your heart to Jesus today. I know I need to give him more of myself today too.

May we all find ourselves overwhelmed by His love in a moment alone with him. Just as my children understand unconditional love in a quiet moment alone with me. May we find ourselves wrapped in the loving arms of Jesus today.

As always, feel free to leave a comment, prayer request or message. God bless you!

Wednesday, March 4

The Joys of Motherhood

Lately I have been struck with how much I have begun to look at motherhood as a job. Have you ever felt that way? Only it isn't an 8 hour job, it is an 18 hour job (if everyone sleeps through the night). And you don't clock out until the last door to the last bedroom is shut at the end of the day. Phew, what a sigh of relief that can be!

I have found lately that I spend so much time doing things FOR my kids that sometimes I forget to do things WITH my kids. It is hard to not think that way when you give give give day in and day out. I decided the other day that I was going to start saying "yes" to my kids more. So often I find myself saying "just a minute" or "hold on" or even "no", when I really could have stopped what I was doing and said "yes".
Yesterday my four year old stopped me in my tracks with one sentence. She said "mommy you don't ever play with us". That broke my heart. I had to stop and think, "when did I stop playing with them and why?" So today instead of just getting puzzles out for for my 2 year old to play with, I sat and watched her as she pieced them together. She is amazing. She puts 24 piece puzzles together all by herself! Ones that even I have to stop and think about at times!

Later in my day when my oldest daughter was busy with something and my two youngest started to fight. Instead of getting frustrated with them, I decided to play "duck duck goose". I only had to play for a few minutes to make their day. And it was actually a lot of fun.

Come to think of it, I even started my day off differently today than I normally do. I sat at the table with the girls while they ate breakfast. I am the kind of person who likes quiet in the morning. I make my coffee and retreat to a quiet place in the house while my girls eat cereal and giggle and laugh and make a racket in the kitchen. Today I just sat and listened to them. I drank my coffee and realized that someday the sound of them around the table in the morning will be a distant memory and I will regret that I didn't sit down and enjoy it more often.

So today was a day with a whole lot of little adjustments in it. It only took away from what I was trying to get done for a few minutes of the day. Overall it wasn't a huge sacrifice, but in the end, it made a HUGE difference. I was in a better mood and the kids had a great day. They even loved on me more than usual. My seven year old came up to me out of nowhere and threw her arms around my neck and just said "I love you mom". And then she just stood at my side with her arms around me. She isn't very affectionate normally, so this melted my heart. As I gave little things to them through out the day, they automatically gave right back.
Sometimes in the day to day routine of being a stay at home, home schooling mom, it can get overwhelming to try and invest in my children. There are days when I know I am just waiting for my husband to walk in the door so he can take over some of the chaos. But then there are days like today. Days when I stop and just listen to the sound of my children laughing. Days when a hug around the neck changes my heart in a significant way.

I have decided that the effort it takes to make those kinds of days happen more often will be well worth it. I know that tomorrow I might wake up and want my coffee in peace and quiet. And that is ok, I might just drink it alone tomorrow. But I want to make sure that I stop and think about it before I make that decision. I want to stop each morning and ask myself "when was the last time..." When was the last time I kicked the ball to my daughter rather than just suggesting she play with it? When was the last time I played in the fort after I got done building it? When was the last time I colored in a coloring book or painted a picture with my children? I want to start saying "yes" more often.

I hope you find yourself thinking twice before saying "hold on" to your own children. I hope we can all stop and take a minute to realize that those things that keep us so busy all day, will someday be nothing. But our children, whom we often put off, will mean the world to us. I want to start living my days as though it is my last. I want to close out my day with no regrets. I want to become the mother I know God wants me to be. I hope you do to! God bless you as you bless your families!

Tuesday, February 10

Who is God anyway?

Today I have been thinking a lot about Job. A man in the bible who was just walking through is blessed life, living for God. He had amazing faith, prayed for his 10 children and managed his wealth in a way that honored God. Then one day he lost it all. His children died, his wealth was gone, his life was in ruins. All he was left with was a nagging wife who told him to give up and die. Oh the despair of Job's life.

So what was the point? Why did God allow Job to face such difficult trials? If God loved Job so much why all the heartache? Ever feel that way? Like life goes from one big mess to another? Like the trials seem to run into each other and you just can't figure out why you are going through it all?

I am sure that God had a lot of reasons for letting Job go through his heart breaking life. I am sure he was doing things we can't even begin to understand. But today there is one reason I can't get away from. I believe God wanted to show Job who He really was.

Job was a man of great faith. After all, that is the reason Satan wanted to attack his life and try to destroy him. In the words of Job's wife, Satan's goal was to get Job to "curse God and die".

Chapter after chapter the book of Job is full of the discussions Job had with his "friends" as they questioned why God would allow these horrible things to happen to Job. What sin could he be hiding to deserve the judgment of God like this? What had Job done to displease God? Over and over his friends came up with their theology and their reasons for why God would do this. Over and over Job answered with his own thoughts and beliefs. The whole book is basically man's best attempt at understand why God does what he does. And that is where the problem lies. Man will never be God, we will never fully understand his perspective.

And so I see the book of Job in a new light today. I am looking at this man's life who was full of despair and loss and trials he couldn't have imagined facing and I see that, if for no other reason, maybe God chose to take him down this path to show him who He was. Maybe, just maybe, the whole point of the trial was so that God could reveal himself to Job.

As Job and his friends debate you can almost see the revelations Job received. Job 9:30-33 says "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands ever so clean; Yet I will be plunged in a ditch, and my own clothes will abhor me. For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman between us, that might lay his hand upon us both." And Job 16:17 says "My friends scorn me: but mine eyes pour out tears unto God. Oh that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleads for his neighbor." Job saw that he was unclean. That his sins could not be washed away in his own strength. He knew that there was no way to reach out to God with out help. He longed for someone to stand between him and God and plead his case.

In Job 19:25 Job sees a glimpse of Jesus and that he would indeed stand between man and God. He says "For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at that latter day upon the earth." He declares his faith in a God he can barely glimpse by saying in Job 1:21 "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord". As he and his friends debate the question of why, Job begins to see that it is the wrong question. Rather he needs to be asking "who?" Who is God? Who is he really? Do we really know Him? Do we really see Him for who he is? Do we have a revelation of the Redeemer who lives? Do we realize that He is so much greater and so much higher than we can fathom?

God speaks to Job at the end of the book. He shows Job that in all his knowledge of God, he still didn't really know Him. And maybe, just maybe, this trial taught Job the greatest lesson of all. To not ask "why?" but "who?" To not seek the answers to why we are going through what we are going through, but to settle in our hearts that whatever may came our way, we will seek the very heart of God. That we will seek to know Him more. To find his heart in the midst of the storm. To look for the Redeemer who lives in the midst of our heart ache and to cling to Him.

So today, no matter what you face, ask yourself "Who is God anyway?" Do I really know Him like I think I do? And embrace your trials as a chance to know your God more. For God longs to reveal Himself to you. He wants to pour Himself into you and build a firm foundation for you to stand on in any storm you face.

May God bless you as you seek Him in your storm.