Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Day in the Life - And Then What Happened?

Being a mom is hard work. Cleaning the house, cooking meals, and even homeschooling a couple of kids when classroom teachers may have a hundred each year doesn't sound all that bad.

But add a clingy toddler, fighting siblings, a little general screaming chaos into the mix and things get a lot more complicated. It is hard when you are trapped on the couch under a nursing baby. It is hard when you smell the cast iron skillet scorching because you left it for the more immediate cries of pain from another room.

I try to remind myself to love it, because when they are off at college or moms themselves and I'm staring at the phone, trying to decide if they'll be excited to pick up or roll their eyes, I'll miss it.

One of the things I know I'll miss but that exhausts me right now is "And then what happened?"

In my mind, watching a movie with my family will look like this:

Cuddling on the couch,
Popcorn in a bowl;
Heads heaped upon limbs,
A sigh breathing through my soul.

Some may sleep,
Some may cry;
Spouses glance over curls,
Exchange a squeezed thigh.

We'll all laugh,
In agreement.
Kids will thank you;
Kids will please.

And after movie's over we'll snuggle in peace.

The reality of watching a movie with a four year old and a two year old?

Two: I want you lap.
Four: No ME FIRST!
Mom: There's room for both of you.

Four: It's my turn to pick.
Two: It's my turn to pick.

Popcorn is out of the question because it will be found all over the house for the next month and no one will eat the dinner that is bubbling away in the crock pot, which mom will try to get the family to eat for the next four nights not-so-cleverly hidden in different presentations.

Two will run off to another room and create dreadful crashes which require investigation. Or she'll disappear and reappear naked and laughing, making mom wonder if there is a puddle somewhere and what happened to that diaper? Or worse yet, she'll silently slip away and mom will feel obligated to ensure she is still conscious.

And four. Dear, sweet, inquisitive four who has the attention span of puppy in the woods. She has been a constant stream of "And then what happened?" if you try to watch a movie with her. Sometimes even when you are not.

"And then what happened?" I don't know dear, I'm over here cooking dinner/making lunch/washing dishes.

"And then what happened?" You tell me, you were watching too?

"And then what happened?" I'm not even sure sweetheart. I've never seen this movie and I just walked in.

"And then what happened?" Really dear you have seen The Little Mermaid 1500 times. There are a multitude of context clues. She has legs, human legs! She isn't a mermaid anymore. What do you think happened?

Simply answering is a trap. Perhaps she will miss what happens while you were answering, but as soon as you finish telling her she will take a breath and ask;

"And then what happened?"

Monday, August 29, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Confession

Not the kind that happens through a screen in wooden cubicles. In all honesty I'm a protestant and aside from the assuredly distorted depiction seen in movies know nothing of this kind of confession.

Other than on the witness stand in the courtroom, I've never really been interrogated either. Though I bet I sweat and shook just as much in that little box, squeezed onto the edge of an ancient wooden chair praying it wouldn't squeak. But I myself have never been charged with anything, much less had to give a confession to a crime.

I'm talking about the face-to-face, ugly, chest-squeezing kind of confession. Where you know it is meaningless and pointless unless something changes, and you are the one obligated to change.

I've been talking about our enemy on Mondays, but today I'm going to talk about something he doesn't want you to do. Lets face it, I've never met anyone who wants to. Confess. To own your sins, your mistakes, your wrongs. It usually means to be sorry - and to be genuinely sorry means to stop.

"I acknowledge my sin to You,And my iniquity I did not hide;I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord";And You forgave the guilt of my sin." 
- Psalms 32:5
Our pastor taught on confession this summer, and he said something undeniably relevant:
 Human nature is to expose our strengths and successes 
we hide our weaknesses and failures.
So true. Call it a primal survival skill; something bred into our self-serving, self-preserving temperaments. When we fail to expose our weaknesses we hurt our relationships, we can become a stumbling block to others, and we are incapable of receiving the benefit of our relationship with the Lord and people who love us.

Grab a cup of coffee together if that makes it easier ...
"If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
- 1 John 1:8-9
My confession was necessary for God to begin to heal my conditions: that of my heart and the weakness of my flesh. My confession to Tim was necessary to heal our relationship. Secrets of any kind do not establish trust and understanding within a marriage. And not confessing my weakness to other believers means they can't pray specifically for my vulnerabilities. Ironic, that by not being vulnerable to those who care about me - I was leaving my susceptibility unprotected.
"Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed."
- James 5:16
What do you have to confess? Though painful, it is a healthy practice to ask God to sift our hearts and show us what there is we need to confess. Confession is hard. It feels impossible even when you know the person you are staring in the eye loves you. That can even make confession more difficult because you know it will hurt them too. You want to tell yourself that whatever it is you are about to say isn't that bad, that important.

Grab a phone, grab a seat ... whatever it takes
But just when your heart finally starts beating again, a dam breaks and relief can flood your flushed, overheated flesh. For with confession comes healing. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

End Your Week Well - Holy Fire: God's Presence

This week Shelby asked me "Who made fire?" (We get a lot of the "who made ________" questions lately). Being a scientist I also had to tell her what fire was ... to have fire you need fuel, oxygen, and heat. It got me to thinking about fire in the Bible ... what does fire mean?

It turns out this is a huge topic, but in glancing over all the mentions of fire in the Bible, I found two truths to stand out. Fire is present when there is a sacrifice ... freely given or when sacrifice is demanded of a nation for disobedience. And fire is present when God is present.

Fire at the altar consumed the sacrifices. But it wasn't just any fire. The fire at the altar was originally breathed by God Himself, and the Israelites were commanded to keep the fire burning.

"Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar"- Leviticus 9:24a
"Fire shall be kept burning continually on the altar; it is not to go out."- Leviticus 6:13

God made Himself know before the people of Israel in the desert and He did not want them to forget Him, and He did not want them to try to recreate His power on their own. Perhaps keeping the fire burning was to keep their minds focused on Him and what He had done for Him.

We all know the story of Moses and the burning bush. Imagine you are alone in the desert watching sheep, trying to keep them safe. If you've ever been to Texas in the summer, especially during a drought, you know that fire is something we watch for. Even as rainy as this summer has been, until a few weeks ago burn bans had still been enacted in many counties. So again, imagine you are Moses, in a dry place with your livelihood wandering around you. A fire is going to get your attention.

A fire that doesn't consume is going to keep your attention. Science says fire requires fuel ... so if the fuel is not being exhausted ... this is no natural fire. You just might be, like Moses, enticed to hesitate ... examine more closely this phenomenon.

"So Moses said, "I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up."- Exodus 3:3
Only after he stopped, transfixed, did God speak to him. Moses may be more familiar with God's presence as a flame than any other man that has lived. He watched God rain an inferno on the Egyptians, he followed God's luminosity through the desert, and he was among those who witnessed God fill the tabernacle with His glorious, blazing presence.

"Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle."- Exodus 40:34

In the New Testament, on the feast of Pentecost (more about the significance of that in a moment) the Holy Spirit fell on the early Christians as tongues of fire. Surely to Jewish converts this was far more meaningful that it has become today ... the small flames like a kiss, an assurance, of God's supernatural presence.

"And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit ..."- Acts 2:3-4a
The feast of Pentecost was to celebrate the giving of the 10 Commandments. God sent His fire to write His law on our hearts on that same day. Don't you just love how He works? He weaves such beautiful mysterious for us to discover and rediscover!

"I will put my law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."- Jeremiah 31:33

While we may not see God's fire dancing above our heads, we have that same access to His presence. Have you ever served with passion ... with an excitement or compulsion that you can't hold back? Perhaps the Spirit is moving you in sacrifice of service to Him. God's intensity is no less today than it was when He spoke to Moses. We just have to stop and listen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

A Day in the Life - Bad Guys

"I'm looking for a bad guy book!"

Kids say the darnedest things, and Shelby said this to one of our friends at the library last week. She settled for Spider-Man and Ironman. She's too young for the concept of an antihero, but I think/hope/pray that's really what she means when she says "bad guy."

She's obsessed with bad guys, but it seems to me in her innocence they are heroes who don't always do the right thing. Maybe they even spend some time as a full-on bad guy before converting or returning to the light.

Darth Vader started it. No, she hasn't seen the Star Wars movies. I think Disney is partly to blame ... since they bought the franchise he's been showing up in the strangest places. Like on yogurt. Darth Vader yogurt ... not something I ever really thought about arguing with the girls over in the grocery store ("No mommy is too cheap to get the yogurt with Darth Vader on it! We're getting our normal vat of cheap but good yogurt and you can look at a Darth Vader toy while you eat it").

I know, he's decapitated. I couldn't find his head. Everyone shrugs when I ask.
I know I'm partly to blame. I'm a closet geek. I love the Star Wars movies. I'm excited about Rebel One. Generally I despise the science fiction genre ... but I have a weakness for Star Wars. Lucas is a genius. They got lucky. Lucky casting. Lucky costume design. Great story, great music, everything was groundbreaking and unconventional (for its time). And they hit the jackpot somehow with Darth Vader's seemingly frightening yet appealing persona.

It started when the new Star Wars movie was coming out. There was a doll (action figure?) in the grocery store. It was actually Rylo Ken ... but I mistakenly told Shelby it was Darth Vader when she asked, in a voice filled with wonder, "Who is THAT?"

Her response to this scary dark figure in the mask? "Dark Mater? [think Tow Mater] He's my best friend!!!" Sweetheart. Darth Vader is not your best friend. He's a bad guy. A fictional bad guy at that.

Since that day she has had a mysterious fascination with this bad guy, who used-to-be-good-and-ends-up-good-in-the-end. Recently we were looking for a new "good to grow" cup because her cup had gotten moldy. "I want a bad guy. How about Darth Mater? Yeah that's a good one."

Seriously, the child picked Darth Vader soap. Over Elsa. Over Olaf. Over pink.
There was not a Darth Vader cup. The best we could do was The Hulk, because he was angry. He must be a bad guy because he is very mad. And we had checked out his book from the library before and he is a little on the careless side. And the antihero fascination continues. Spider-Man abuses his powers. Ironman is egotistical and a bit selfish.

He glares at me disapprovingly from her nightstand, in the car, and from tangles of tulle as he rests on a princess hat
Really Jesus Christ is the only perfect superhero. Perhaps we're fascinated with antiheroes because, like us, no matter how much good we do we're still trapped in sinful fleshly bodies and we long for something more.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word: Know Your Enemy - the tempter

There are more names for the enemy in the Bible for anyone, aside from Jesus Christ Himself. I came across that statistic this week while doing some research for this post. I mentioned last week that I don't like talking about the enemy; I shy away from giving him any of our time or attention.

But if the Bible ... God's Word ... addresses him so frequently ... doesn't that sound like something we need to lend some attention to? While I myself have never taken the privilege to hunt (yet) I will tell you what I see hunters doing as fall approaches. They are honing their weapons and skills ... target practice, Hoppe's No. 9, siting bows and rifles in. But they are also studying their prey - their movement patterns, where they congregate, they are offering them feed, they are mimicking the presence of others of their kind in order to lure them to their leases and hunting blinds.

Our enemy does this. God knows you and knows your heart. And your enemy knows you and knows your every weakness. He has been a student of human nature for eons. But more than that, he has prowled like a mountain lion ... observing your ways and your habits. He doesn't strike erraticly. Mountain lions in several places have been known to observe joggers habits and highways for long periods of time before attacking.

The closest I have ever been to a lion; a zoo in Nicaragua
Unnerving to have so little between us and so much boredom reflected in those eyes
"... Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
- 1 Peter 5:8b

One of the names the Bible gives the enemy is tempter. This gets so personal, so ugly. That the very one who is called the accuser is the one who tempts us. Does that not infuriate you? Entrapment of the worst kind. He butters us up and draws us out into the open then exposes us in the wrong ... the crooked finger that coaxed us there now turned on us impeachingly.

"Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
- Matthew 26:4

Those weaknesses of our flesh is what our enemy is well versed in. This same father of lies who will lie to us about ourselves, about the goodness of the father. He tempts us into a trap and holds us there in a web of lies. Anything negative in your past can be your prison. Thoughts like "I'm too _______ for God to use" ... "God wouldn't notice me because ______" ... "God has given up on me because _______." Lies.

Las Vegas is known for temptation ... and the lie that what you do here won't affect the rest of your life
Remember, dear friend, even the truth becomes a lie when whispered from that throat of death. You may have messed up in the past. Guess what? We all have. God knows that; He knew we would before we were born. There is hope.

"then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation"
- 2 Peter 2:9

"No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it."
- 1 Corinthians 10:13

Be aware that the tempter is studying you. Don't be afraid, even when evil your flesh desires comes crawling, dripping with enticement that threatens to overwhelm your pounding heart. Focus on God and beg Him to show you the escape hatch. It's always there; I speak from experience. Your flesh will war with you ... your enemy has done his homework, remember ... and the last thing you will want to do is fall to your knees and ask for help.

Even I can find something tempting in Las Vegas
Sweet friend! All it takes is once. It feels like standing on the edge of a cliff. You can't see any way out but giving yourself over to the darkness at the edge and hoping for a thrilling ride before you hit the rocks you know are waiting at the bottom. The weakest, whispered breath of a prayer though ... your hairs will stand on end in the almost undetectable breeze from heaven itself. It must be the flutter of angel wings ... stay with me, feel it even if you don't believe in angels. Believer, the Holy Spirit will sweep in and you will be lifted up from that precipice. It will shrink away below your feet like it never existed.

"Then the devil left Him; and behold, Angels came and began to minister to Him."
- Matthew 4:11

There is always a way out, and I've found that there is rest and relief on the other side.

"Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
James 4:7b

Friday, August 19, 2016

End Your Week Well - The Truth That Sets You Free

Fiction is easier than fact. That's what I used to believe. When I dreamed of being a writer, I always assumed I'd be writing fiction because I thought it would be easier. In a lot of ways I think it would be - I can only imagine I'll be dabbling in that arena as well. But right now that isn't where God has called me.

In the heat of any given moment, fiction ... or a lie ... something that bends or transcends reality is appealing as an escape. Under pressure our focus tends to narrow; fitting for an athlete, but leading to decisions without a thought or care for the consequences. Monday I warned about the father of lies. If there is a father of lies ... where is the truth?

"... If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."- John 8:31-32
God is the author of truth. That may not be what you want to hear. You may not want to hear about the Bible at all. Or you may want to hear that some of it is outdated. Your belief may be that we make our own truth, but I'm here to tell you that if you are writing it the foundation is the dust of your flesh. If you are writing it, it is fiction. Even logic will tell you that it doesn't work that way.

Think about it with me - if we each wrote our own truth, and we each prayed to "our god" who believes like we want to ... what of the areas in which they disagree? To simplify it ... if my truth is that the sky is red, and your truth is that the sky is blue ... assuming we're at the same location at the same time we can't both be right outside of our own minds.

The truth is the sky is God's. Without His truth it wouldn't exist. Every word that comes from His mouth is a fact. If He speaks something that doesn't yet exist ... there is its beginning. You can't get any more factual than that. The best way to irradiate lies is with truth.
"The sum of Your word is truth,And every one of Your righteous ordinances is everlasting."- Psalms 119:160
Fiction is easier for us than truth, and it is impossible for God. I'm not speaking in a riddle "Can God make a rock big enough He couldn't move it" ... I'm saying that if God spoke fiction it would become fact. If God made a rock and said He wouldn't move it, He's not going to move it. Not because He is weaker than His own power but because He is truth. He doesn't break His promises.

Fiction is easier for us than truth because of our sin. We all sin. Not easy to swallow with our accomplishments and superimposed realism; a flimsy guise we're all too eager to accept because it doesn't require us to shift our focus. But without Christ we are bereft of truth.
"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."- 1 John 1:8
Why would God make the truth a mystery? Why would He allow the enemy to continue to draw us away with shimmering mirages of perfection?

But dear friend, He has not abandoned us. When my flesh clings to the syrupy confection of fiction there is a way. The truth can be buried deep in our hearts where we can hold every illusion up in comparison and be guided in determining what is reality, not based on our own feelings, but on God.

"Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me."- John 14:6
He hasn't left us here alone to work out an inexecutable assignment. He has given us a way ... not a choice. Not a confusing array of paths like some convoluted maze only the clairvoyant will solve. One way. A way we cannot achieve or attain. A way that isn't taken from one and given to another. A way available to any who would simply have faith and accept it. It doesn't cost any of us anything - yet He paid everything.

God's truth doesn't stop there. Oh no. Why would He leave His children here to flounder once we've accepted Him if that was all there is to it? Wouldn't He just bring us home? But He not only saves us from the entangling lies, He helps us. He frees us to show others the way we have found. He commands us to show our love and gratitude through obedience and sends us help to do so.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever;that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you."John 14:15-18
That, my dear friends, is the truth that obliterates the chains of every lie we've willingly and unwittingly taken on. That is the truth that sets you free.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Day in the Life - Where Are We Going?

Where are we going on this day?

Every day I get asked the same question. Sometimes as soon as they get up, but if I haven't by the time I asked them to get dressed I sure do then. Why get dressed if we aren't leaving the house? Its funny to me that they have that attitude because Mommy has this "we're going to get dressed at least for a little while every day" thing.

From the time she was a brand new tiny baby we weren't really sure they'd let us take home (she was barely over the bottom end of the weight range for her carseat) Shelby has done a lot of going somewhere:

Shelby's first trip in the car - we seriously thought they'd take one look and say "Oh no, you're staying here!"

GiGi and Dude's House - 152 miles
Hospital - 68 miles
Pediatrician - 64 miles
HEB - 55 miles (or 39 miles)
Walmart - 17 miles
Church - 7 miles
Library - 8 miles
Grandma and Grandpa's House - 0.3 miles (unless you cut across the pasture)

I want to drive!!!!
Because she was little, and because I'd had HELLP syndrome, we drove back into Austin many times just in Shelby's first few weeks home. Now we drive to College Station every week for gymnastics and groceries. Even if we want to go to Walmart, it's over a 30 mile round trip. You don't just "run to the store."

Getting gas after getting groceries! Party time!
Yet every day, the girls want to know where we are going. Granted, we've been very busy this summer with trips, birthday parties, VBS, and the like. And the past few days we've been receiving blessed, glorious, dare I say rare August rains. Highs in the upper 80s? Mid-August? Thank you Lord!

Awww yeah, this is so much better than being at home in my nice comfy bed for a nap.
We went somewhere every day last week. But you'd think it was the dead of winter in Minnesota and a snow-bank has covering the door for weeks; the cabin fever ran hot in this house Monday morning. I'm all for a little "get out because we just need to get out" ... but frankly, it's still raining. Mommy knows what is coming tomorrow. And Beast gets 12mpg. You don't just run around for the sake of running around.

Maybe riding bikes on the porch after their nap will be something. Sit-n-spin races and a dance-off was apparently not enough.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Know Your Enemy: father of lies

Do you know that you have an enemy?

You don't have to believe me, but it is the truth. Since before you took your first breath you had an enemy. He will be there beyond your last breath.

The accuser. The liar ... father of lies in fact. The prince of darkness. Deceiver. Destroyer. Devourer. Lion. Serpent. Dragon. Disguised. Tempter. Thief. Murderer.

The tempter is the same one who will accuse you ...
Let me introduce you to your enemy. While I don't like paying attention to him or giving any of my time and effort to him ... I think we need to. This is not an evangelical attempt to scare you straight. I'm speaking to anyone who wants to face this enemy, or at least explore the idea that one exists. I challenge you not to dismiss the idea that all the evil in the world points to a lack of God ... perhaps, rather, the evil in the world points to a dark source who stands to benefit from your incredulity.

"... He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies."
- John 8:44

Perhaps the first lie the father of lies wants us to buy is that he doesn't exist. As the father of lies, he is crafty with his deceit. Like a magician he weaves distraction and doubt before planting the lie. He doesn't necessarily commence with a bold-faced lie; he sets us up to be ready to accept it.

Before he told Eve that she wouldn't die if she ate from the tree of the knowledge (the lie) he set her up. The tone ... the question ... the subtle disrespect ... "Has God really told you not to eat from one of the trees?" (Genesis 3:1)

In the end your enemy's goal is death ... death of faith, death of hope, death of belief, eternal death
Such a liar is he that even the truth becomes a lie from his mouth ... "you will be like God" (Genesis 3:5). His statement implies Eve isn't like God ... yet merely two chapters prior we are told that God made man in His own image (Genesis 1:26). We were already more like God than the liar, but somewhere along the way Eve forgot this.

In our weakness it seems to be part of our nature to forget God's truth and buy the lie. The lie often seems more plausible ... more probable ... more palatable than the truth. The tangible world around us instead of being a testament of God's creativity, His care, His character becomes reason to doubt He, or even a spiritual realm of good and evil, exist.

"For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie,"- Romans 1:25

The worst lie of all is that Jesus is not the Son of God. Our twisted enemy doesn't go so far as to deny He existed. Oh no, that would be too outrageous, too easily refuted. Instead he explains Him away as a prophet, a good man, a zealot with a few followers.

"Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son."- 1 John 2:22

You do have an enemy. He has been lying to the human race since before you were born; examine what you are told, what you accept and dismiss, very carefully. To deny his existence is to throw off reason, alertness, and to walk into battle you don't realize exists absolutely naked and defenseless. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

End Your Week Well - God Made Me

Have you ever created something? Made something? Built something?

Even if it wasn't just like the picture, the instructions, dare I say it - Pinterest, I'm going to guess you felt pretty proud. Perhaps you still have some beloved childhood project squirreled away in a closet. Maybe you don't ... but I'm willing to admit that I do.

The other night as I was putting Tori to be she looked at me and said "God made me!"

Sometimes it is hard to feel like God loves us. I have often fallen into the trap of thinking of myself as someone trapped in some kind of cosmic ant-farm. Instead of a benevolent, gracious God I begin to believe the lie that, sure, He set things into motion but now He's watching from a distance, disinterested and bored.

We just keep discovering things He has hidden
But we are not an ant farm, and God is not human. God made us. He made us in His image ... we have His imprint upon us. We can know that He loves us, the He cares deeply about us, that He knows us, because He crafted us. Every other thing He created He spoke into being. But man was different:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
the Lord God formed man of dust from the round, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
- Genesis 1:26 and 2:7
He handmade us. He filled our lungs with His own breath. Even after creation, He knows us intimately.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
-Matthew 10:30

"For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb" - Psalms 139:13
 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.
- Jeremiah 17:10 

He knows you, inside and out. There is nothing that is hidden from Him. Nothing you have said, or done, or thought will be a surprise to Him. If He made us, and knows us, He is compassionate towards anything you struggle with. We are His children. I feel that I understand this better now that I am a parent myself.

I love my girls simply for who they are and because they are our's. I did before I even saw the wonderful, funny, heartmelting things they do. And I won't stop loving them even when they mess up, or even turn in spiteful rebellion, and do some of the same stupid, mean, hurtful things I have done. God is far more compassionate, loving, and forgiving than any of us ever can be. He knows where we came from. He knew that we would break His Son. And He made us anyways. That is love.

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
- Psalms 103:14

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Day in the Life - Too Noisy

Sometimes I just have to get away. It is noisy and distracting for me at our house. The girls vie for my attention and the toilets, floors, sinks, and the top of the refrigerator chorus accusingly that they have not received enough. I often find myself longing for a place of solitude and quiet. My ears grow tired of the constant cacophony of humanity that seems to follow me everywhere.

My heart, no ... my soul ... longs for a place where the only sounds to be heard are the breeze, the birds, the splash of water.

In a huff I flee my house to find a quiet place to write. Success!

But as I sit down, spreading gear around myself like a sandwich board reading "Don't talk to me," a train horn blares and the rumble of engine straining against an impossible weight reverberates the air around me. So I wait, fingers poised above plastic keys.

Children just a bit older than our own come to splash in the fountain. The pleasant ring of water droplets chasing one another erupts with shouts, shoes plopping wetly onto the sidewalk, girls accusing one another of pooping (pardon me??) in the water. I write anyways.

"Load up!" Relief. Grandma's call turns sticky faces homeward. Finally, just me, God, and the summer cry of cicadas!

Until another car pulls in next to mine. This place is Grand Central station today! Who told everyone about my quiet place? It is (no exaggeration here, I just looked at my phone) 100 degrees out? Why aren't you people in the air conditioning?

Two men excitedly spill out of their SUV. Pokemon? No, they aren't grasping cell phones. Perhaps walking sticks? Maybe they are hikers? Until I see the thin discs about the size of a frisbee on the end. Metal detectors. What a strange place to use metal detectors?

A sound like nails on a chalkboard echoes across the square, a chorus of ringing echoes bouncing off the buildings around us. Squealing, squawking ... one of the man erupts with excitement and drops to his knees, calling out to his cohort "Two seconds and I'm already onto something!"

"A penny! A 2007 penny!"

Bearded man "What?"

"A 2007 penny!" His voice to me would relay something along the lines of "The lapel pin of George Washington!"

Bearded man "What was that?"

"I found a 2007 penny! Right here!"

Great. I bet it's worth a penny. The cynic in me screams.

But you know what? It's two people out enjoying their hobby on a Sunday afternoon. Just like me. So I stop glaring up at them between lines. And I realize I kinda miss my noisy little distractions who will probably be waking up from their nap soon.

As much as my soul longs for the quiet of a wilderness, to be alone with God, I know the day will come when I will miss all the noise. So I say a prayer of thanks for the screams, the squeals, the songs, the cries, and the endless "Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy?" that currently fills my days, and my heart.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Flowers of the Field

August in Texas is hot. Even though this year is milder than quite a few in recent memory, the fact remains that it is undeniably hot. The kind of heat that sucks your will to do ... whatever your intention (you can no longer remember because brain cells are frying) was when you exited the house ... right out of your head: a whisp of steam vanishing into the gossamer landscape.

The once-green grasses have bleached in the sun and stand sentry in the yard, brittle daggers that can pierce the thin rubber soles of my summer flip-flops. Mowing is no longer necessary. The graceful wildflowers that splashed the landscape with a palette of spring are a bright memory or dry ghosts whispering threats of wildfire.

The Bible compares our lives to those of the grasses and flowers:
As for man, his days are like grass; 
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. 
When the wind has passed over it, it is no more,
 And it's place acknowledges it no longer. 
- Psalms 103:15

And the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 
- James 1:10

What is the point then? Why create something that will wither and fade and be forgotten? Ah - forgotten by whom? The flower's place may no longer acknowledge it ... but if God can number the ever-changing hairs on our heads, might He be able to remember a flower? To remember us?

The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.
 - Isaiah 40:8

Does God care about flowers? Solomon's temple was arrayed in "open flowers" carved in cedar. He created flowers. He chose to clothe them in delicate petals in a rainbow of hues and perfume them (with a few exceptions) with a pleasant scent. Long after the flower falls ... fruit springs forth, and honeycomb drips with distilled nectar. Yes, I believe God cares very much about flowers.

And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you?
- Matthew 6:28-30 
Yes, He cares about the flowers ... but there it is in Jesus' own words - He cares much more for you.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Freestyle Friday - Compelled

Tuesday I let you know that I'm no longer a Beachbody coach, and warned you that some changes would be coming ... so as promised I'm telling you about them!

Believe it or not the empty baskets and empty shelves are progress ...
The first big change is that Shelby will be starting school ... HOME school that is. I won't go into my reasonings and musings, (because there were many and I feel like it is a very individual decision) but we've decided to start parent-lead A Beka K4 Cursive curriculum in September. Ok, I lied. I'll tell you a little about why I picked it. It is Bible based, I wanted to teach cursive, we wanted a curriculum at least starting out. Let's face it - sometimes I get a little scatter-brained and I didn't want to wake up one day gasping for air with my blood in my toes because we never went over punctuation. A Beka isn't new at this, and I've known several people with at least some degree of A Beka education along the way. They also have streaming academy and DVD education materials available were we ever to decide parent-lead wasn't going well.

If you are thinking about homeschooling ... I recommend talking to adults who were homeschooled, parents who are at various stages of homeschooling, kids who are still in homeschool, kids who have done homeschool and more mainstream education routes, order brochures from various publishers, etc. It's overwhelming at first because there is so much out there ... but you have choices because there is so much out there!

Now, about the changes to my writing.

Just after I had decided I wanted to focus more on my writing than on coaching, I realized that my current self-imposed writing schedule some weeks creates a little too much of a deadline for myself. Most of my writing ends up being for my blog rather than just for practice, for fun, or room for any other pursuit the Holy Spirit sends me on. I've been terrible about editing ... I'm afraid you've been receiving some ugly raw material at times. I'm all about being genuine ... but to be a true writer I really need to sharpen what I have to offer before I put it out there.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate the feedback to my survey! It helped me make some decisions and provided further confirmation of what I felt the Holy Spirit was leading me to do.

Y'all surprised me with the days of the week you prefer to read! I honestly thought Friday was a pretty slow day, but perhaps more of my "hits" on Friday coincide with actual reading rather than robots and ramblers who end up here by accident.

Y'all also tend to prefer to read a little later than I expected (though I give props to my fellow early birds!). So I'm going to push my publishing time later in the morning. That also actually buys me some time if I feel like something needs a little polish in the morning light with fresh coffee in my veins.

Devotionals were never on the chopping block ... that is the direction God has been leading me and I want to stay on course with Him. It was VERY interesting to see that they ranked as most beneficial but also least enjoyable. Trust me - I understand. Sometimes I don't really want to say the things I feel God leading me to say! Lord, Lord that's going to sting! Are you sure you want me to say that? Don't we want people to LIKE my blog? Can't I just keep that to myself?

And I'm so glad y'all enjoy hearing about our family. I love writing about them. I've had to change "what Shelby said" to "what Victoria said" so often that I'm going to take a lovely suggestion that was given and set apart a day for "A Day in the Life." A little bit "anything goes" but always coming back around to family.

Some of you said I write too much, and some of you said I'm short and sweet ... so I'm just going to keep letting God lead me on that one.

I've also started the Compel training offered by Lysa TerKeurst of Proverbs 31 Ministries. I'll save the story of how I ended up here for another time, but let me just tell you that God made this one a "no brainer" (in Tim's words). I'm excited to see where being faithful to God's calling will take my writing! I'm starting with some basics they've outlined, and there are even cute little blog stickers for when I complete them - so you should be seeing some of that in the coming weeks!

I gave you a picture of my schedule earlier so you didn't have to wait, but your reward for sticking with me through all this is further explanation.

  • All posts will go live at 9am from now on.
  • Posts will be published Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
  • Monday will remain much the same, Start Your Week in the Word ... I'm seeing these series I've been doing (like fruit of the Spirit and plant analogies) continuing, perhaps with some "through a book of the Bible" series as well
  • Wednesday will be for family ... A Day in the Life ... cause I feel like we are living the LIFE! For a while I didn't think this would ever be my life and I am SO thankful for the craziness that it is ... homeschooling, funny stories, sad stories, parenting aha moments and horror-filled realizations, you name it. So I'm sure there will be plenty of what these two silly gooses said.
  • Friday - End Your Week Well ... I'm going to focus on more nurturing, "positive", edifying messages for Friday to give you a little boost going into the weekend. I know sometimes the things God gives me are convicting and heavy... I'm praying He will let me show you why I love Him so much, and how I know without a doubt He loves us so much, on Fridays.
As you can see, my writing is always a work in progress (catch the different between one of the pictures and my actual schedule?). I'm so thankful to the Father for this gift and so ready for whatever He is planning to do with it. Lord, please just use this in a way that is glorifying to You and You alone!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

As a Deer Pants - Thirsty Thursday: Miracles

If God used Moses to show pharaoh His power via miracles and signs, and Jesus performed miracles and signs ... why don't we see more miracles?

The answer is two-fold.

They don't increase human acceptance of the free gift He offers us. The Bible shows this bizarre phenomenon throughout history. Pharaoh had a front-seat to the power of God and remained unimpressed, a heart like granite dead in his chest. Even the Israelites themselves, the very generation whose freedom from slavery was won by these miracles ... who passed between the great walls of water along the bottom of the Red Sea ... even they fell away after a time even as the manna dissolved on their tongues.

"They forgot His deeds
And His miracles that He had shown them ...
Yet they tempted and rebelled against the Most High God
And did not keep His testimonies,"
- Psalm 78: 11 and 56

Even when Jesus walked the earth, performing very visible miracles before men ... they didn't believe. He cursed several Jewish cities where He performed His miracles ... people who should have been watching and waiting for the Messiah. Imagine, if you will, you are asked to pick someone up at the airport. You are given a description of them ... what they look like, you have an idea what they might be talking about because you know the one who is sending them to you. But on your way perhaps you begin to forget, or you don't really trust the person who sent you to pick them up and you start to wonder if their description was accurate? So you go to the airport and wait ... and wait ... and wait. Your very life, eternally, depends on finding this person! But because of your distrust of the one who sent him ... you miss him. He walks right past you, saying the things you should have expected him to say ... fitting the many descriptions you were given ... doing things only he could do. And you missed it.

That's what happened to the Israelites in these Jewish cities. Jesus walked right amongst them, and even though He performed miraculous things, they didn't believe.

"Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent."
- Matthew 11:20

Perhaps, like the Jews of His day, we're flat out missing out on miracles happening all around us. If we have the scales removed from our eyes and begin each day with anticipation, perhaps we will begin to see that we are surrounded by miracles. Small and large impossibilities, improbabilities ... favor poured out on our heads like blessings from the Lord.

Dare I suggest that the more miracles we recognize, the more we will see? Instead of demanding a miracle in a time of great need, if we are in the practice of recognizing the small miracles He showers us with on a daily basis ... if our hearts are ready to believe ... perhaps we are more likely to see more? I only suggest this because Jesus didn't perform many miracles in His own hometown. Why not?

"And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief."
- Matthew 13:58

Maybe the reason we don't see many miracles these days is because we just don't believe in them anymore ... maybe they're staring us in the face and we're staring back with faithless, blind eyes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Shelby Said Wednesday - Come Join with Me!

Shelby is an includer. I suppose that isn't really a "thing" because autocorrect keeps trying to change it for me. What I'm trying to tell you is that this sweet girl still seems to notice in that innocent way I think most children do when someone is on the fringes. And more often than not, she invites them to join her.

At least once a day, I'll hear that sweet invitation around the house ...

"Come join with me!"

She loves to include others in her games and fantasies. She's almost always leading Victoria, willing more times than not, by the hand on some grand adventure or to care for a crying baby of some kind. She's a leader, and she leads by invitation and example.

She invited Daddy and Victoria to come sit in the driveway with her
I hope she continues in that sweet spirit of sharing. I pray that even when the barbs come, when her inclusion of others is deterred or ridiculed, she'll have such a depth of character instilled in her to recognize that God included us while we were still sinners ... so why not include that friend that others may feel is too awkward, too loud, too quiet, too anything? Aren't the areas where we are too much and too little what make us unique?

Granted, there are days I hear her say it and half expect her to finish with something about the dark side. She has told me Dark Mater IS her best friend ... I'm just not ready to tell her that Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader ... that Darth Vader has nothing to do with a tow truck named Tow Mater ... for now I'll let that innocence slide. Besides, I hear the dark side has cookies ...

These pictures weren't taken on the same day? My girls really do have more than one set of clothes ... I promise

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Transformation Tuesday - Cheerleader

As we approach our first year of homeschooling, and as I delve further into the gifting and calling I feel God has given me regarding writing ... I've had to evaluate my time.

While many cite lack of time as a reason not to become a Beachbody coach, I'm going to own that I do not want to prioritize my time with this endeavor. It wasn't an easy decision! Of COURSE I want to help people; that's what the best coaches do! However, the more I've prayed about it, the more I feel God is telling me He wants to use me in a different way.

So. I will no longer be a Beachbody coach. It sounds so much like quitting, and in many ways it is. So I've decided instead of being a coach, I'm going to be a cheerleader ... because in all honesty that is more what I feel like anyways!

In leaving this position, I have a few things to say about Beachbody. Yes, it is a brand. Yes, they practice both infomercials and multi-level or layer or whatever-that-L-stands-for marketing. I don't know if you've noticed, but that's becoming the way of things. And while I don't feel that I'm that type of business person, I know for certain that it is a model that works well for many many people with minimal initial cost.

Their products work. That's flat out a fact. A year ago, I had given up on myself and just decided this was, in fact, middle age. I had counted points for ages, I walked as much as I was able, even walking inside. I had the nicest jogging stroller money could buy. So I finally just decided I was going to do what I could and make peace with my body. That is, until my triglycerides came back elevated.

Me last summer ... willing to be silly, feeling an uneasy peace with my body
Um, hold the phone - I have two little girls I would like to watch grow up! We love backpacking! I need to be healthy! There has to be another way. Long story short, I found Beachbody and the 21 Day Fix program (and later Hammer & Chisel) and now I'm in possibly the best shape of my entire life.

I'm more confident, my back doesn't hurt, my posture is better, I don't have to tell the girls we can't do something just because of physical limitations on my part. I'm confident. I feel fantastic. I can't wait for my next blood draw, because I am certain it will be a great report!

I can't even FIND a selfie from last year - me about to enjoy a healthy, unsweetened cup of relaxing tea
So while I'm quitting coaching, you'll find I'm going to be one of Beachbody's "biggest" cheerleaders. When I get bored and need a new workout, you better believe that's where I'll be looking. My coach has been so awesome - she is truly a servant. If you need a program, I will put you in touch with her AND I'll join you in your challenge group! I'm not quitting accountability. I'm not quitting portion fixed clean eating. I'm not quitting my workouts. I'm just spending more time on educating my girls and on honing my writing (more about that on Friday).

I'm not afraid to be seen in a swimsuit - good thing because these girls love to swim!!!
Seriously - anything that can get a 37 year old woman with legs as white as mine into size 8 shorts ... chasing after a 2 year old and a 4 year old gleefully rather than begging them to stop so I can catch up ... that's not something I'm going to be quitting on anytime soon. My reasons for becoming a coach still remain, I'm just choosing to prioritize my time differently. I'm definitely still here for anyone who needs ideas, recipes, accountability, or simply to bemoan the fact that sugar is so addictive. I know, sister. I know. I can still be your cheerleader too!

My first pair of shorts in FIFTEEN YEARS!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Start Your Week in the Word - Monday - Plant Analogies: Rain

I don't exactly have a green thumb. Lets face it ... if it doesn't cry, whine, or beg ... these days I might forget it exists and has needs when we're talking about being responsible for living things. Finally, a few months ago, I found the perfect plant for me: aloe. It has healing properties (its useful), it prefers heat (check! we do live in Texas ...), and it actually prefers to go longer periods without water (cause I might only remember that I have plants that might want a drink about once a week).

The few I have are thriving. And though they prefer not to have too much water, they do still need water. So I'd be remiss to finish my plant analogies from the Bible without mentioning rain.

This is actually the one that is doing the least well, and its still fairly happy.
The first thing we need to understand about rain is that it is important. Just yesterday, Shelby mentioned that it had rained on her birthday ... she said that it was sad. We explained to her that without rain, we wouldn't have anything to eat! No plants = no potatoes for french fries ... no plants = nothing to feed the chickens that become the chicken tenders she was about to enjoy! And we've probably all been told by now in science class (if we were listening) that the Earth is about 70% water and the human body is up to 60% water.

But most important thing we need to understand about this important source of nourishment from the sky is that it is from the Lord:

"Let us now fear the Lord our God,
Who gives rain it its season,
Both the autumn rain and the spring rain..."
- Jeremiah 5:24

"Ask rain from the Lord at the time of the spring rain -
The Lord who makes the storm clouds;
And He will give them showers of rain, vegetation in the field to each man."
- Zechariah 10:1

"For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden. But the land into which you are about to cross to posses it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven,"
- Deuteronomy 11:10-11

Often in the Bible the withholding of rain was a shame and a punishment for the rebellious nation of Israel. We are not stranger to drought ... but I would wager it was even more of a burden in those times of an agrarian society more closely tied to the land than we are today, with less capacity to store up plenty for the leaner times. I'm not postulating that recent droughts have been the direct result of our Godlessness ... though surely we've done plenty to deserve that and more.

"Furthermore, I withheld the rain from you
While there were still three months until harvest.
Then I would send rain on one city
And on another city I would not send rain;
One part would be rained on,
While the part not rained on would dry up.
So two or three cities would stagger to another city to drink water,
But would not be satisfied;
Yet you have not returned to Me," declares the Lord."
- Amos 4:7-8

"...the showers have been withheld,
And there has been no spring rain.
Yet you had a harlot's forehead;
You refused to be ashamed."
- Jeremiah 3:3

"When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and confess Your name, and turn from their sin when You afflict them;"
- 2 Chronicles 6:26

Yet other times, too much rain can be God's chosen method of cleansing the Earth of human unrighteousness. While my aloe plants are easy because they don't require much water - more often than not too much water is what causes problems with this easy to care for plant. Only the Lord knows what delicate balances we need ... and only He has the power to provide for us when the weather makes it seem impossible, as He did for Elijah and the widow He sent him to when He withheld rain from Israel for three and a half years. We can trust that He will care for us through the drought or the storm if we are faithful.

"The Lord said, "I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them ...
... I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights; and I will blot out from the face of the land every living thing that I have made."
- Genesis 6:7 and 7:4

"...The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth."
- 1 Kings 17:14

Why can we trust Him? He is faithful. He knows what we need. He has promised never to destroy the earth by flood again, and He has sent a new kind of flood in its place. Rather than wiping us out, He has sent us living water to rescue us. Just as plants cannot live without rain, we will not live with Him if we are not cleansed by His reign in our lives.

"I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be fore a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh."
- Genesis 9:13-15

"...whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
- John 4:14