Friday, September 23, 2016

End Your Week Well - Forgiveness: Part 2

I could have titled my post last week Forgiveness ... why? If I had, I could have called today's post "but how?"

How do you hold out a precious gift to someone who doesn't deserve it? I'm no expert ... but I do have some experience on my side. And as always the Bible has a few things to say.

1. Start forgiving them in private. Alone with God.

In case you need any more "why's" ... remember that God tells us several times that the measure of forgiveness we use is what will be used for us. Yikes! It is a heavy gift, but God can give you the strength to lift it.

"For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." 
- Matthew 6:14

"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions." 
- Mark 11:26

Tell Him in prayer that you know you need to forgive ... that you desire His forgiveness for yourself ... but that it is hard. He knows what they have done. Walk through what needs to be forgiven. It is ok to feel it.

Forgiveness starts in the heart. Tim once had something to tell me, and I knew it wasn't going to be good. He wanted to tell me in person, and I had to wait until he was there. All I could do was pray. I will never forget ... God gave me a word. Mercy. God prepared my heart to forgive Tim before I even know what for.

"...If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him." 
- Luke 17:3

2. Understand forgiveness, God's and our own, isn't an absolution from consequence.

In fact, sometimes part of the gift of forgiveness is honesty and safety.

Forgiveness doesn't mean "now I trust you."

Sometimes forgiveness has to be given from afar because to offer it up in person would be unsafe. In an abusive relationship it is both necessary to remove yourself from the abuse and forgive the abuser. Trust me ... as long as you hold on to that bitterness, you can't heal. You keep giving the abuse power over you.

Sometimes forgiveness has to be given from afar because the relationship is that broken. I've found it to be helpful to write a letter of forgiveness and then throw it away. It is a sense of release. You may have to do it over and over again.

"And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him." 
- Luke 17:4

3. Keep on forgiving.

Sometimes those ugly old feelings ... hurt, disgust, embarrassment, you name it ... come back. Something happens to remind you (some call these "triggers") ... you feel a sense of deja vu, or the consequences of someone else's actions continue to haunt you.

Forgive again. Don't resurrect that rotting dead corpse! Your enemy is the one who wants to remind you. Sometimes I find myself having to say "You know what, devil? In Jesus' name I already forgave that ... and Jesus died to pay the penalty for that ..."

But sometimes on those days, even after I do that, I have to forgive all over again. If it is honoring to God and helpful to a relationship ... I confess to them I'm hurting all over again. Forgiveness isn't some magic bandaid that makes the pain go away and never come back.

Sometimes you are in the process of forgiving someone and they are still doing that very thing you are trying to forgive them for. I find it helpful think to myself ... "I forgive you for what you did, what you are doing, and what you are going to do."

4. Accept that forgiving may not change anything.

But it changes you. When you forgive, (really forgive), you are releasing your control, your rights, your anger, your bitterness. When you forgive you lower the bar held up to determine your own forgiveness. When you forgive your improve your health.

You may need to forgive someone you've never met.

You may need to forgive someone for doing the wrong thing who is never, ever, EVER going to do the right thing.

5. Forgive yourself.

We're all sinners and fall short of God's glory (Romans 3:23). Especially where relationships are concerned, we are rarely innocent. Don't forget to forgive yourself ... God already has.

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." 
- Romans 5:8

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Day in the Life - #girlmom

Femininity was never my strong point. I don't really know why - it wasn't as if it was discouraged in my home. I had two brothers, but being the oldest I can only imagine it wasn't their influence that made me a tomboy.

After a rain I could be found down the street in the best mud puddle. One of my favorite colors is camo. I hate cardio. I love lifting. I like punching things. Throwing things. Flipping tractor tires. I don't want to be a boy, I never did. I like a little bling with my camo and a plaid skirt with my Docs and flannel.

If you had told me I would marry a first responder/mechanic/fixer and have two children, I'd have assumed they were to be boys. I'm the perfect boy mom, it was obvious God designed me for that role! We'll rough-and-tumble, play in the mud, I'll teach them to drive standard and we'll go autocrossing as a family!

Enter Shelby. Pink was her first favorite color. She is blond curls and princess pretend. She has had a feminine grace from the beginning; soft, fluid movements and nurturing purring through her voice and her hands. Daddy is going to have to teach her to drive ... she simply doesn't have the instinct. She has asked me to slow down on numerous occasion (when I wasn't speeding). She picks a dress over pants every time. I don't even think she owns any PJs right now; only nightgowns for Shelby.

Don't get me wrong, she's tough. But she has a strongly feminine air about her and I have no idea where she got it. God made her special indeed and I sit back in awe of how He works.

Then we were pregnant again, and I was so much sicker than the first time. I threw up in HEB. I was sure we must be having a boy this time. Enter Victoria. Now, if one of them is a tomboy it is her. She makes a beeline for piles of dirt. She's rough and loud. She has a temper. But she has a softness too and feelings that are hurt with a sideward glance.

Big sister often relegates her to the role of prince, but Tori doesn't take that. She's every bit a princess as big sister. She's picky about her shoes and she loves heels. Singing is her forte, and she does it oh so sweetly every chance she gets. Princess Aurora is her favorite and "Once Upon a Dream" is her bedtime request.

Being a #girlmom is pulling pink, glittery lint from the trap. It's ear-splitting squeals of terror and delight. It's cleaning and cooking and babies. It's dancing and dresses and jewels.

I'm so blessed God picked me to big a #girlmom.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Know Your enemy: slave master

An uncomfortable topic, slavery. Yet we all have been, or currently are, spiritual slaves. Just as not all abuse is physical ... not all slavery is physical. It makes it that much harder to see because you operate under the guise of freedom.

Several of the last few weeks I've been trying to tell you that we all have an enemy. I can only imagine some of you are shaking your heads ... Why Amanda? Even if he exists, why would he bother with me? What does he care if I sin or not? Good question.

The Bible doesn't come out and call him a slave master in so many words, but let me tell you why he is. One of the names the Bible does use is man of lawlessness ... son of destruction. One of our enemy's primary motives is power ... he desires to exalt himself as God, above God. That is the motivation behind everything he has done and will do.

"...the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God."
- 2 Thessalonions 2:3-4

If you are a parent, what is the lowest blow someone could do you? Take your car? Your house?

Your children.We are all God's children, and some of us will never be retrieved. Won't accept the proferred rescue. If we are sealed for that day with the promise of rescue by Jesus blood - our enemy can't touch us. But what he can do is prevent us from coming to the aid of any more of God's children.

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
- Colossians 1:13-14

If we are not serving God in ways that spread His rescue plan to others, we are sinning. If we are outright breaking His laws meant to protect us ... we are slaves to sin. Right where the enemy wants us. Ineffective. Disconnected. Confused. Cut-off.

"Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin."
- John 8:34

Friend. We have all sinned. The Israelites were given the Law so that we could see that in our human form, with our weak human natures, we cannot avoid it. We cannot earn our freedom. We can't buy it. That is why it was bought for us.

"Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."
- Galatians 4:7

Jesus paid the price for our freedom, but we do have to claim it. God does not force us to accept Him as a loving Master rather than the sin we are born slaves to. When you doubt the Bible, doubt what myself and other Christians are saying to you ... my dare, if you will, is that you search that out. Who stands to benefit from you not claiming that which was given to you freely? You are not your own. So who do you belong to?

"No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other."
- Luke 16:13

Christian friends, while we are sealed in Christ (though there are some who would argue if our acceptance of salvation is permanent ... I am firmly grounded in the belief that the Bible says once you have accepted Christ you are sealed even if your free will is left intact). While we are sealed in Christ, the enemy does not give up on us. He can still shut us down. He may have lost us, but he will fight to keep from losing any more through us.

"But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?"
- Galatians 4:9

Claim your freedom, child of God. You are PAID in FULL. Live in it. Only in God can you serve in freedom. He is the Good Master - Adonai.

Friday, September 16, 2016

End Your Week Well - Forgiveness

Have you ever had to ask for it? Have you ever known you needed to give it, but everything in you wanted to hold that angry ember between your hands and blow on it instead?

Forgiveness. Depending on which angle you view it from it can be a drink of cool water or a bitter pill. It is the gift that, when you are wronged, you hold out and say "You don't deserve this, but I am giving it to you. I WANT you to have it." Not a hastily wrapped gift thrown in a crumpled gift bag from six Christmases ago. A gift wrap with love and care. When you are giving it, you want them to know it means something. That it took an effort.

Forgiveness isn't listed as a spiritual gift, which is probably a good thing or I'd think I had it. I feel, as I assume most do, that I've done a lot of forgiving in my time. But honestly - I'm happy to do it. Because He first forgave me.

"For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." 
- Luke 7:47
Jesus could have been speaking of me. My sins are many. I have been forgiven much. If the righteous God who created the universe and His perfect Son can forgive me ... who am I to withhold such from someone else?

"But You are a God of forgiveness" 
- Nehemiah 9:17

When I remember just how forgiven I am ... that anything and everything I've ever done can be cast into the depths sea (Micah 7:19) - not bobbing on the surface waiting to be picked up ... into the DEPTHS ... I just can't hold on to something against someone else.

Jesus DIED so that I could be forgiven (Matthew 26:28, Colossians 1:14). I think I can probably swallow my self-righteous indignation and forgive a fellow sinner. I'm not going to lie and say it is easy. But there is joy in it. And sometimes closure that can be had in no other way.

If sinless Jesus, in agony, can hang on the cross and ask the Father to forgive sinners ... there must be a way for this humble broken heart to share the forgiveness that was given to me.

"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." 
- Luke 23:34

I will share more about forgiveness next Friday - but for this week, simply bask in the warmth of God's forgiveness. Even if you haven't accepted it yet. No matter what you have done. Let it wash over you and ease the tension, the striving, the anger. Let go of the rights and rewards and revenge. Be still and realize that the God who is God isn't out to get you. He is out to give the gift none of us deserve.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Day in the Life - Clean Freak

I'm a little self-diagnosed OCD/ADD. I'm easily distracted and I keep our house very clean. I always have. I get made fun of a bit for it and that doesn't bother me in the slightest. The girls seem to be picking up on it but I'm honestly ok with that.

However, I feel like it makes people afraid to invite me over.

We're all always apologizing to one another for the the states of our homes. I'm sorry my house is so messy/dirty/clean/empty/etc. I say we stop. Just stop. Welcome to my home. Welcome to my life. I'm glad you're here! Lets save the apologies for things we really need to apologize for. I'm sorry we're late. I'm sorry I'm too hard on my daughters in front of you. I'm sorry I'm not hard enough on them and am sometimes just too exhausted to follow-through.

I posted a picture of the dusty underside of my couch a few weeks ago. And a Cheerio. And a barrette. I want everyone to know that I am human too. The house gets ahead of me sometimes. It makes me a mean crazy lady when it does. But my goal in life is not actually to have a Pinterest-pretty social media stream.

I don't clean my house to shame you.

I don't clean my house to impress you.

I clean my house because that's what I do. No earthly comfort soothes my soul quite like a clean house (and a long soak in a clean tub with a clean towel waiting for me).

If we are friends - the chances of your house ever being messy enough ... dirty enough ... smelly enough ... scary enough to horrify this clean freak are just about none. Let me tell you a story ...

My OCD started early. I'll go ahead and blame my mom ... but I'll also say thank you. I've never wondered how to clean something, because I started cleaning for my mom in the summers when she started working. I was about 12.

She didn't literally wear a white glove, but she gave me the white glove treatment. She always checked the top of the fridge, always. I often forgot. To this day ... I tend to start with the top of the fridge when I clean. After Shelby was born, we had moved into a different house and I had to relearn my routine by quadruple because I was recovering from a C-section, caring for a newborn, in a new house, and frankly everything was just plain different. After several months I about had a meltdown when I realized I had yet to clean the top of the fridge.

But part of my OCD also stems from my previous life experiences. When you joke that your house looks like a crime scene ... you forget you are talking to someone who studied hundreds of crime scenes and has been to a few.

You. Have. No. Idea. I won't drag you through the details, juicy as they may be. The odor of diapers and unwashed socks, damp dogs and senile cats will never ever ever (EVER EVER) outdo the things I have smelled. I interned in a medical examiner's office with an entire exam area dedicated to "decos." That little trick of Vicks up your nose? Yeah, don't do that. It just opens up your nostrils and lets the smell down deep so that even after several showers you feel like strangers will turn and look at you expecting a real-life episode of Walking Dead.

I've started thinking the number of unwashed dishes piled up in your sink ... and on the windowsill ... and down both sides of the counter ... and on the floor ... is in direct correlation to the likelihood of some kind of 911 call. Your kid's spilled juice will not gross me out. I have seen floors undulating with the scurries of cockroaches while I shifted from one foot too another in my 5.11 boots ... afraid that if I stand still they will come to rest under the deep treads and perhaps even hitch a ride.

You may have a pile of unfolded or even unwashed laundry on your sofa. But it is doubtful you have an entire room devoted to a pile of laundry that may or may not have a bed beneath it which rises up taller than my 5'4" self. Not a small washroom with a washer and dryer ... no, a room that was probably intended to be a bedroom.

The mess of children at play does not bother me. Wading through trash ankle, knee deep bothers me. Not just mess. Literally. Trash. Empty food containers, soda bottles, entire packs of emptied adult beverages. We're talking an episode of Hoarders. Which I can't watch. We had Netflix when Shelby was a newborn, and I spent many quiet nights watching show after show while holding her and nursing her. I tried to watch Hoarders, and looking across the dusty floorboards of my own home sent me into an "I-might-need-an-inhaler" panic attack.

It isn't that I'm afraid of dirt. It is that I'm afraid if I don't stay on top of it I will somehow wake up in an episode of Hoarders. Or a crime scene. Or that if blankets/sheets/etc are touching the ground the scorpions that sometimes make their way into our home will climb up into the beds and sting us. Or roaches will be drawn to the crumbs and overtake us. Or touch me.

So please, I don't think I'm better than you. In fact, I think I'm just crazier than you. I'm not judging you! Deep down ... I admire your ability to stay sane amidst normality. I'm jealous that you can know where things are even if they don't have a designated place. I'm awed when people do that.

I clean because it keeps me calm. I clean so I don't turn into an anxious freak having a meltdown at every turn. But that only applies in my own house. I've seen enough in my time on this earth to know that if you and I are friends ... there is very little chance that your lifestyle has lead to enough of a mess to freak me out. So stop apologizing and lets just enjoy one another's company.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Know Your Enemy: angel of light

You didn’t see it coming. Or you did, but you didn’t recognize it for what it was.

When I first started driving, I used to drive myself and one of my brother’s to piano lessons. There was a game we’d play while I was driving. It was the early/mid-90s and I had an uncanny talent for identifying the make and model of a vehicle by their headlights or taillights alone. Ford F150, Chevy S10. Corvette. Buick. Camero. Lumina. Crown Victoria. Grand Am. Mustang. Toyota Celica. Suburban. Firebird.

I’m not so good at it anymore - there are more different models out there than there were half a lifetime ago and I don’t spend nearly as much time looking at them. Though you better believe I can still spot a Corvette when it is little more than a speck on the horizon.

Sometimes it is hard to tell what something is until it is on top of you. Our enemy works like that. Not only does he disguise his attempts to tempt and distract us … he clothes himself like the wolf among the sheep covered in fleece.

“…even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”  
- 2 Corinthians 11:14
He comes at us when we are blurry-eyed with tiredness, shaky with weakness, and covers who he is beneath a guise of compassion, help, kindness … a safety net.

He did this with Jesus. He came to a hungry Jesus [Matthew 4:4-11] in the desert with an idea for how to obtain bread. He invited Him to prove He is the Son of God by testing God’s words in Psalms 91:

“For He will give His angels charge concerning you,To guard you in all your ways.They will bear you up in their hands,That you do not strike your foot against a stone." 
Psalm 91:11-12

Yes, that’s right. He can quote scripture. Do you expect to hear scripture slithering from the mouth of your enemy? We know our enemy lurks in the darkness - but in Isaiah he is referred to as the star of morning and the son of the dawn. Thrown down from heaven when his unrighteousness and corruption revealed themselves, but you better believe he recalls beauty and light. He once stood in the presence of God and the father of lies is an impressionist.

“How you have fallen from heave,O star of the morning, son of the dawn!You have been cut down to the earth,You who have weakened the nations!” 
Isaiah 14:12

So sometimes we don’t see him coming because instead of preparing something juicy, tempting, and glaringly wrong - he presents himself as something right and good. What defense do we have against such a seasoned masquerade?

When Sam and I played that game, I could tell what those vehicles were because I knew them. Their patterns were ingrained in my brain because I had seen them so many times before - ads, magazines, commercials, posters, calendars. I’m the girl who asked for transformers for her birthday as a kid. I knew cars and trucks.

“Your word is a lamp to my feetAnd a light to my path.” 
Psalm 119:105

“… I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” 
- John 8:12

The best way to identify a counterfeit is to know the real thing inside and out. When we are immersed in light and life, we know when we’re being dazzled by a mirage.

“for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.” 
- Ephesians 5:8

Friday, September 9, 2016

End Your Week Well - Master Craftsman

Do you ever have one of those moments that makes you pause and listen, head tilted to the East ... straining ... Jesus, is that You? I had one of those last week.

Usually I feel closest to God in the early morning hours when the crickets are still, the frogs have quieted the croaking, and the sky itself seems to be holding its breath. The thin line between night and dawn. My favorite time of day. Everything is new ... hope is mounting ... yesterday is well on its way into long term memory or forgetfulness.

But this morning winked so glorious that I paused to listen for trumpets before dashing outside with my camera.

"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." 
- Revelation 11:15b
And in looking through my lens I wondered that some mornings must be captured ... some are too brilliant to look at with anything other than my bare eyes ... and some pass almost unnoticed. And I was awed that God ... unchanging, timeless God who can simply speak things into being ... gives us such diversity. Not only of mornings ... of everything. His craftsmanship is unending.

This week is our first week of homeschooling, and we start the day with Bible. And we start at the beginning. God spoke and light and dark separated ... the seas and the air became separate entities ... and then look at what He does on the third day:

"...plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them ... let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be fore signs and for seasons and for days and for years ..." 
- Genesis 1:12 and 14

 At last count, almost THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND plant species have been discovered. That's not including the over ONE AND A HALF MILLION fungi and algae species! And if you're like me and enjoy a little time on the microscope ... whole worlds exist in complicated, beautiful mechanisms in each cell that keep that plant alive. Stoma to open and close to release or retain water. Chlorophyll to make energy from sunlight. DNA to code for what kind of cell it is going to be, how it is going to work, to tell the next generations of plant how to be that plant.

Humans are remarkably clever, but we cannot create like this. He could have kept things so simple ... He could have spoken the entire world as we know it into being in one word. Instead, the words of Genesis weave a tapestry of motion and change ... of a God reaching down into the dirt and breathing life into the pinnacle of creation and declaring it VERY good.

He handpicked craftsmen in the desert to build His tabernacle ... His temporary dwelling place. One of the downfalls of the climax of human achievement will be the loss of art:

"And the sound of harpists and musicians and flute-players and trumpeters will not be heard in you any longer; and no craftsman of any craft will be found in you any longer;" 
- Revelation 18:22

The Lord is a craftsman. He enjoys beauty. He created us to enjoy beauty and He displays it for us every day. Sometimes we have to look hard to see it, and sometimes it calls us outside through the windows.