Hello Kettle. My Name Is Pot. Nice To Meet You.

Hello Kettle. My Name Is Pot. Nice To Meet You.

IMG_3226

Let me begin by saying that I am in a season of repentance. My emotional entanglement and dread over the election is, simply, not godly. It is rooted in fear rather than faith and indicates that my hope is not in the Lord…

I am sacrificing Jesus on Golgotha because of worry I will not get the political salvation I desire.

I am like so many Jerusalem citizens in the first century.

Sigh. I don’t want to be.

So I am praying for forgiveness and heart change…

In that spirit, I am linking up (late) with the spectacular Kelly at Mrs. Disciple in her #FridayFive discussion of wisdom.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and  their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Romans 1:21-22

This discussion, challenge, thought process on wisdom Kelly is encouraging me to embark upon is poignant in its timing. Providential…one might say.

Deeply pondering my own beliefs, our nations future, and raising my kids led me to an epiphany this past weekend: In the past, people from the left and the right had their biggest disagreements about how to solve problems. Now we disagree on what the problems actually are.

It is a stunning and sad revelation. It is relationship and conversation stunting because no longer is there an easy segue between problems and different perspectives on solutions. Doing life together now involves huge offenses–on both sides–at what people call “problems”.

I feel like I am on an island, and the island is burning. I can’t say for certain that the entire island will be destroyed, but I feel sure that enough of the island will be damaged  to change things permanently.

There are two boats waiting to sail away from the flames. One is captained by an unreliable, morally degrading leader. But the ship has a compass I believe works. I am confident it is headed in the right direction to get me where I need to go, and that the boat has no holes.

The second ship’s leader is equally, if not more, morally repugnant, but nowhere near as bombastic. That captain may (or may not be) more pleasant, but I believe with all my heart the compass guiding the ship will move me farther and farther away from freedom to live out God’s truth. The ship looks like it has holes in it. I am sincerely afraid for the health and safety of my family, should I travel a long time in that ship.

In the few moments I have to decide what to do with my family, the decision is easy: I care far more about the compass than I do about the captain. Certainly the captain may choose to deliberately go in the wrong direction, but the broken compass–even with the best of intentions–is guaranteed to get me lost.

People reel in disappointment at my conclusions and convictions and I struggle to care.

People rail in disappointment at things I think are beautiful and I care too much.

And so I am pushing PAUSE…and seeking WISDOM from the Lord. Digging deeply into Romans 1, these are the steps in my quest for wisdom:

  1. Know God. For me this comes from studying His word. I am in a bit of a dry spell–I do not love the Bible Study we are doing at church–and there is no question this both sets the foundation for and feeds my struggle. I will pick up the project I began this summer–writing out the words of Jesus and collecting my thoughts about them. Ahhhh, it will be sweet joy for my heart.
  2. Honor Him as God. This may be a discipline rather than an emotional outpouring for now, which is OKAY in my world. I will write it out and repeat it often, “NO matter what happens this election YOU ARE STILL GOD. You cannot be dethroned. You still love my family. I still trust You. I still look to You for guidance.”
  3. Give Thanks. Time to break out my gratitude list and, perhaps, reread 1000 Gifts. Gratitude to God centers me. It gives me hope. It reminds me what is true. It shows me I will be okay, no matter what.
  4. I Will Stop Speculating. I will doggedly and with great compassion leave the outcomes to God. They are HIS anyway. I will remind myself out loud and in writing to LEAVE THE RESULTS TO GOD and pray for His strength to be obedient.
  5. I will let my heart be light. Darkness may not take root in me if I beg Jesus to fill me instead. Practically speaking that means I will SERVE. I have a Brighten A Corner project this weekend which will nourish my love for others. Coming along side people of varying beliefs to serve people with varying beliefs is just what I need this contentious season. I will also LOOK FOR THE GOOD and celebrate it.

What people are shouting, “Not on my watch!” about one particular side is, quite honestly, readily available with the other option. If a person decided early in the process not to like one or the other, there has been PLENTY of evidence gathered to support the position. Hypocrisy is reigning from each and every self righteous corner.

Including mine.

Seeing that and wanting to change it means that I am on my way, and while letting go and trusting God may not be easy, it is the only path of hope. My hope is not in who is president. It is not in how much I pay in taxes or even whether or not I can afford good medical care for my kids and my mother in law.

My hope is in the Lord.

May I be faithful to remember.

Five Favorites

Five Favorites

love the Bible. I love to study it. I love to be changed by it.

I am linking up today, a day late, with the fantastic (and disciplined) Kelly over at Mrs. Disciple. Really. She is amazing. Today’s Yesterday’s Friday Five was 5 Favorite Bible Stories. I had soooooo intended to get this done yesterday, but then I accidentally took two Tylenol PM’s instead of regular Tylenol, and my afternoon was a little fuzzy.

But Kelly is grace personified, and she won’t mind if I finish today.

So, here I go.

1 Kings Chapter 22. A few years ago I wanted to get to know Elijah and Elisha. We dug into 1 & 2 Kings at Tuesday Night Bible Study. During that time, I “met” Micaiah, son of Imlah.

This section of the Bible is heavily influenced by the evil King Ahab and his notorious wife Jezebel. In   1 Kings 22, Ahab (King of Judah) is partnering with Jehoshaphat (King of Israel) to try to defeat Aram.  Before they go into battle, they ask the prophets if it is wise. ALL of Ahab’s prophets of Baal were celebrating and predicting victory. But Jehoshaphat asked if there may be just one prophet of the Lord to ask.

Ahab’s response to the question is his life’s motto: “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imlah.” 1 Kings 22:8. (Say it in a whiny, petulant “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT” voice. It helps.)

Evil is defined as anything Ahab doesn’t like. Sound familiar?

Micaiah, after being told to just agree with the other prophets, doesn’t. He tells Ahab the truth: not only will he lose, but he will die if he proceeds.

Ahab, true to his character, tells his guards to throw Micaiah into prison, feed him bread and water sparingly, until he (Ahab) returns from battle. As if threatening the prophet with discomfort would change God’s truth…

Micaiah says, “‘If you indeed return safely, the Lord has not spoken by me.’ And he said, ‘Listen all you people.'”

I love this because:

  • God’s truth is not validated by people’s belief. It just is.
  • Those who hear it spoken are marked by it, whether they want to be or not, and should pay attention.
  • He is unflinchingly willing to pay the price for his belief. There is no wailing or gnashing of teeth recorded.

Spoiler alert: Ahab died.

Philippians 4:2-3. In this tiny little passage, “I urge Euodia and Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true companion, I ask you to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are also in the book of life,” is me.

I am Euodia. Or perhaps I am Syntyche.

I humbly acknowledge that my history is speckled with conflict, often in serving the Lord. Women can be so hard.

And I am a woman.

This little ditty in the New Testament gives me hope because:

  • Conflict happened THEN! WITH PAUL’S PEOPLE!
  • Paul does not take sides or belittle the women. He encourages people to help them be united.
  • Paul edifies and validates them, as women, in service. I believe the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, values women.
  • Their conflict, according to these verses, does not erase them from the book of life. Whew. That’s a good thing for me.

Life is messy, even when the apostle Paul is personally involved.

Numbers Chapter 16. If you were to ask me why, Biblically, I am a complementarian I would not refer immediately to 1 Corinthians or Colossians. I would pour us each a cup of coffee and open the Bible to where it tells us all about Korah’s rebellion.

The Tabernacle had been finished. Each of the twelve tribes of Jacob had been assigned places and responsibilities for God’s house. They had been counted. (Except for the tribe of Levi. God said not to count them.) They were no longer slaves in Egypt, but were also not in the Promised Land.

If you browse the chapter titles from Exodus to Numbers 16, there are some indications all was not going smoothly. “The People Complain”, “The Quail and the Plague”, “The People Rebel”, and “Moses Pleads for the People” just to name a few. Change is hard.

Chapter 16 opens with this: “Now Korah…took action.” Rising up in anger before Moses, complaining that Moses and Aaron gave themselves the “unique right and responsibility to represent the people before God, exalt[ing] themselves.”-John MacArthur.  Korah, as a Levite, already had significant responsibilities in/for/with the Tabernacle, but wanted to be a priest.

Priesthood was designated for the line of Aaron. (Numbers 3:10)

Korah found others who were angry at Moses for other things and incited a revolt, convincing people that God had given the better thing to other people.

Korah’s rebellion did not end well for Korah. He and his compadres were swallowed up by the earth and taken to Sheol.

Uhhhhhh. No thank you.

Do I believe that God has given the better thing to men? Or do I believe that God has given a different thing to men, in order to prevent chaos?

Whenever I begin that conversation in my head…“so and so has something better; God gives these people more,” I try to remember how dissatisfaction and comparison worked out in Numbers Chapter 16. Then I reaffirm my trust in God, remembering that mine is the responsibility to do what He has given me well, and not to worry about what He has given anyone else.

It doesn’t make me less than anyone. It just makes me, me.

Satan bugs me. Several years ago, I went through a very difficult time in ministry. Conflict abounded. I loved how I was serving, but not the person over me in service.

I was learning more than ever and bonding with women as we had real, deep conversations about applying God’s truth to living daily life. But the fiery darts rained down endlessly; I was constantly jumping through hoops in order to maintain a place in ministry.

I hated it.

It was during that time that Luke 31:22-23 was seared into my soul:

Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

That situation did not end well for me. After I left, it did not go well for the people left behind. Sometimes Satan gets a victory.

That verse reminded me that Jesus was still on my side, and that sifting actually separates the wheat from the chaff. It results in a higher quality substance.

I turned again. I am encouraging my sisters. And Jesus is still on my side.

The 3:16’s. One of these days I will teach a Bible Study on the 3:16’s. John 3:16 is the most widely known Bible verse, but the rest of them are really, really good as well. Genesis 3:16 is pretty key to the whole story, but I am going to focus on Revelation 3:16: “So because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”

This verse terrifies me in a holy way. I don’t ever want to be lukewarm. It is also followed, in verse 19, by, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” 

Whenever I am spiritually tepid, I know I need to start with repentance.

I am exceedingly grateful for God’s word and how it is radically revolutionizing my life…these are just 5 ways of the many with the promise of more to come.

Easter: Dead Ahead

Easter: Dead Ahead

I am sitting at the kitchen table, dishes piled in the sink, remnants from last weekend’s birthday party strewn around my world. Over 1100 miles added to the odometer of my car since Monday, as my daughter and I literally drove up and down the state to spend time with gifted therapists.

And as the raindrops splash in their splendor on my driveway, my heart is full.

Full of gratitude. Full of hope. Like the drought parched creeks and reservoirs in my neighborhood, I am soaking in the rain of His provision.

The last several Easters have been seasons of struggle. Aging parents, Alzheimer’s, hospital stays and rehab facilities filled the late winter several years in a row. By the time Easter rolled around my little family was gasping for air.

We didn’t get much out of the Easter Season.

One of those years the kids’ school chose to have spring break NOT in line with the Easter. That turned out to be one of the stupidest things EVER. Let’s NOT do that again, OK?

I am so happy to again be linking up with the spectacularly amazing Kelly over at Mrs.Disciple. Today we are talking about Easter…and what a pleasure to do.

I told my hubby that we were really going to do Easter  this year. Many things are in our favor…Grandpa went to be with Jesus, so there is an area of our world that is naturally simplified. We are kinda figuring things out…and these are FIVE THINGS we will lean into as the season rolls around.

1.) We will celebrate. Because we try to have our faith define our lives, I am super loose with bunnies and eggs. If it makes the season happier, more memorable, and impactful I say GO FOR IT. 

Ryan’s birthday is actually mid-February, but another child in Primary (1/2 combo classes at her school) was having their party the weekend of her birthday, so that was out. I was gone the following weekend, so her party needed to be in March. As it turns out, Easter is also in March this year, so we decided to have an Easter themed party.

DSCN5295

DSCN5298

We do our parties family-style. We want you to bring siblings and join us for a meal.

“How many drops of food coloring can they add?” parents would ask.

The answer, of course, is, “As many as they’d like.” We chatted about remembering there were lots of kids who were coloring eggs, and limited resources to share. There can be such beauty in freedom.

DSCN5318

That one egg was worth saying YES. Isn’t is spectacular?

The kids hunted for eggs in the rain.

DSCN5336

DSCN5337

And ate ham.

DSCN5338

Jesus gathered and lived and loved and celebrated in the weeks leading to His crucifixion. So will we.

2.) We will continue to bring order to our home. The benefit of my creative calm is that kids can run around, make slime, use an excess of dye on their eggs and I enjoy it. The drawback is that my home can be a bit…disastrous.

I am a messy. I struggle and fight and progress but it is just. not. easy. Some of you have no clue what I am talking about because cleaning up is like breathing to you.

Bless you. If I fall off the face of the planet tomorrow, I hope that for my hubby’s next wife.

For now he is stuck happy to be with me, but he does like the house in order. Cleaning up, organizing, simplifying is ALWAYS something I can do to move my life in the right direction.

Before the day’s end the sink will be empty, the laundry will be washing, party supplies organized, and many things thrown away because it is such a small thing to do to make peace. And I will pray as I do it, asking the Lord to make HIMSELF known deeply to my family this season.

3.) We will live life in priority. Here’s my belief: Holidays are life intensified. If my life is out of whack going into a holiday season, the holiday season will be whacky.

Obviously parenting is an all-the-time gig, but this particular calendar is FULL of specific, purposeful investments in our kids. YAF Convention for our middle with a friend, therapies for our peanut, great conversations with our son who is too grown up and too far away.

I bought a new game I think our teen will love. I told my hubby he HAD to play with us. He seems willing…

4.) I will serve at church. If I were to be honest, (shocking, I know) part of our struggle for those few years was that we didn’t really care for our church’s Easter Service. It was big and outside and it drizzled, or was cold, or was hot and just… Aaaargh.

So we sometimes went to a church that was not ours for Easter, which was fine.

But I actually don’t want an Easter that is fine.

A year and a half ago, we moved churches so that our middle daughter could attend youth group with the same kids she went to school with. It was a fabulous decision for our family, and opens the door to a different Easter experience. This year, the church wants to go all out and create a wonderful, fun-filled, Gospel-centered service, and I signed up to help.

5.) I will fill my brain with the Easter story. Years ago I taught a Bible Study that looked at the Easter story through the eyes of the Gospel writers. I wanted to examine how their personalities may have shaped their perspectives.

Want medical details? Read the book of Luke.

Want names of the people involved? Read the book of John.

What did they all include? Which details were individual?

I want to go back and re-look at that. Honestly, the Bible Study class I led was one of my least successful ever, but I still think the idea is incredibly interesting…and my Bible digging in is in bit of a dry spell. (Do you have any idea HOW MANY women’s Bible Studies you can sit through without ever opening your Bible? The piercing scream you hear in the distance is me…)

The rain continues to pound on the kitchen skylight. The weeds that were once my beautiful lawn until the water ran out will be an inch taller next week, but I don’t care. The rain is water for the land, and the Easter season is water to my soul. I just need to drink it in.

 

 

Guardrails

Guardrails

Again, I say, that Kelly from Mrs. Disciple. She hosts a FRIDAY FIVE link up for blogging friends, and her encouragement just keeps us coming back. Her diligence is admired tremendously by this California girl. I wish we lived closer, so she and I could have coffee and chat about all things Bible and Family.

Today her topic is Five Boundaries…so here I go…

I am going to steal from Andy Stanley.

A little while back I facilitated a weekly Bible Study at church. We did one class I called Change Your Mind, Change Your Life. I encouraged the women to read Bob Goff’s book Love Does. (Anytime a woman would walk in shaking her head and laughing I would say, “Chapter 4?”) We also did three Andy Stanley DVD series, Your Move, Take Responsibility for Yourself; Because No One Else Will, and Guardrails.

Andy STanley GuardrailsIn my mind, boundaries are the very farthest you can go, and stay safe. Guardrails are built THIS SIDE of the danger zone…guardrails leave room between where you hit them and where you would get really, really hurt.

I want GUARDRAILS in my life. I want to feel the tension and discomfort that comes from rubbing against the edges BEFORE I am in the disaster area.

Make sense?

Man oh man, it made perfect sense to me.

1.) Plan my calendar according to my priorities. I have read a bazillion books about this. I have listened to tapes watched seminars, and failed over and over again.

Then I gave birth to a child with Special Needs.

She can’t rush. If she needs medicine, I can’t forget or flash by because I am too busy. Her learning takes 10,000 more repeats that my other kids. If I want her to learn to write her name, I must help her write it thousands of times.

I’m not exaggerating.
DSCN5135

The only way to allow her the room to do that is to radically prioritize time.

I am rubbing the guardrail on this now…but the guardrail is here.

2.) I do the Christian basics. I am the poster child for the hypocrite in church.

That’s just the truth.

I pour over the Bible, study with friends, serve in ministry projects, rarely ever miss church, but I have this string of relationships that have crumbled.

People often say, “Well, you know how SHE is…” and the others in the conversation know exactly what they are talking about.

This unfortunate reality of my life would send me off of the cliff except for one thing: MY GUARDRAIL.

Here’s the gig: Because I go to church, listen to Christian music and go to Bible Study, I believe God is working in me.  I am not obligated to repeat the mistakes of my past, AND I am not obligated to conform my behavior to other people’s preferences.

Sometimes I offend people because of following Jesus. (I am not going to play that game, or watch that show…) That is a bummer, but it is easy. My guardrail means I have already made that decision.

Other times I flub up a thing so terribly that I can’t even seem to apologize right.

But God just keeps working in me; showing me this or that passage in the Bible, giving me this new Bible Study to learn a new way, showing me the character I lack in others who do it well.

3.) I evaluate the journey. After every Brighten A Corner project we evaluate thoroughly what happened. The good and the bad are all fair game.

The Leadership Team does not always agree on what is good and what is bad. Years and years of doing this has helped me be FAR LESS THIN SKINNED than I once was. At this point in my life I am much more interested in not repeating mistakes than I am looking good.

My hubby and I sit and write out the pros and cons of holidays, events, school things. We take a hard look and search for new ways for him to do things. (Still a little thin-skinned when I evaluate with my hubby…go figure.)

A ministry I am drawn to, Preemptive Love, puts out a FAILURE REPORT each year. Desiring complete transparency there is open conversation about what went wrong. Why? So you feel sorry for them? NO. Because facing and evaluating failures is one of the most effective tools for moving forward.

4.) I read a lot. Strange guardrail, I know. But a lifetime of learning is important to me.

Mostly I want it for my kids.

But that is unlikely if I don’t do it myself.

Recently I took every single book we owned off the shelves, and grouped them in categories.       This is one table out of 5.

DSCN5119

I gave away bags and bags of books, and grouped the rest of them together.

Classics here. Kids books there. John MacArthur on this shelf. (Yes, he got his own shelf…) Christian books together, success principle books gathered, novels all in one area. Let’s do this life well, and read…a lot.

5.) I laugh. I love to laugh. I laugh at myself. I laugh at funny people and funny things and funny memories.

My friends will tell you that I crack me up. Seriously, sometimes I can’t even control it.

I am so naughty.

Laughing is just a good idea. It is a wise way to get through life.

This past spring my dad had heart surgery. The first 24 hours after were awful. He was in agonizing pain, and an air bubble had gone into his brain so that he was considerably weaker on one side and could not really talk. (The bubble dissolved and all was well.)

But during those 24 hours, my mom and I found a way to laugh. We howled at private jokes. That laughter released chemicals in our bodies that helped us survive a very difficult time. I would make my mom guffaw with proof of my shady character and the claim that I am “going to hell for sure.”

Now…we know about being saved by grace and there was NOTHING real in it; but it was the perfect tool to lighten things for my mom. Laughter spared her from having to face hard things completely in the dark.

Because laughter is a guardrail, I give myself room not to be stodgy, when fresh air would help.

Guardrails make room for joy.

It is counterintuitive, because we buy the lie of freedom…that being able to do whatever we want whenever we want will make us happy.

But that is not true. And happiness is a pathetic substitution for joy. So I will keep my guardrails; and I will tend them so they remain effective. And I will be grateful for them.

The Third Option…(A Lesson from the Good Samaritan)

The Third Option…(A Lesson from the Good Samaritan)

I woke up the day after Thanksgiving with lower back issues. I was in significant pain, unless I was lying down. So I was in bed (or the hot tub) for a day and a half.

I am embarrassed by how much I enjoyed it. It gave me time to ponder…

This has been an interesting year for me and my faith. I have been exposed to far more people than ever before who have a Christian walk that looks different than mine. I can possibly be accused of creating a homogenized environment.

Not totally. Maybe mostly.

My life often feels like it runs thematically. This season over and over again are these situations: One problem evaluated by two different perspectives. Not surprisingly, two different conclusions are made, and fought for, by the two wildly varying views.

It happens with my kids’ education.

It happens in politics.

It happens in current events.

And it happens in the church ESPECIALLY, it seems, about current events.

Recently an old friend, a new friend and I sat down with our Bibles wide open to discuss some differences in perspectives and theology. We asked questions of one another. We flipped through pages and looked at context. We opened my laptop to research original languages.

DSCN4879We connected, rather than divided.

It was wonderful.

We agreed on many, many things and understood each other’s perspectives on others.

That result is shamefully rare. I wish there was that a million times over.

In this heartbreaking season of terrorism and refugees, I seem to swing my way into battles with people on every side. Sigh.

On one side, a close-the-borders-friend posted a meme asking whether a Muslim Nation would allow Christian refugees to come to their country.

Because I believe that is an irrelevant question for a Bible believing Christian, and because we had been in Bible study together for years, I told her so. I contend we establish our morality–that which is right or wrong–not on what another religion says, not on what political leaders say, but on what the Bible says.

That didn’t go over well.

On the other side I have heard (more times than I can count) believers, who are cautious and don’t want the refugees brought by the thousands to America, called “un-Christian” or “not-very Christian.”

Double sigh.

DSCN4872

DSCN4878

Reading through the book of Luke, it occurred to me that God provides us with a beautiful third option right there in Scripture…The Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The 10th chapter tells the story of a businessman who is beaten, robbed, stripped and left for dead on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. A priest–someone who had chosen a life of faith as a profession–saw the victim and passed by on the other side of the road.

A Levite–someone who’s family history tied him to religious privilege and responsibility–also passed by on the opposite side of the road.

Each of them, by their inaction, decided the wounded, broken man was not their responsibility.

Any version of the story makes it abundantly clear that Jesus does not want us to be like the priest or the Levite.

The Samaritan bandaged him, put him on his beast and took him to an Inn, where he cared for him for a day. But as I read on, something really struck me. He then left him in the care of the Innkeeper, promising to pay for his needs.

He didn’t load the beaten man up and carry him off to a foreign land, far away from home. He lovingly cared for him where he was. He offered both his personal time and financial resources to help.

This is food for thought.

Another thing leapt off the pages of the book of Luke and seared its way into my consciousness. The story of Mary and Martha immediately follows.

I think Christians who want to serve the refugees in this country, who are so harshly judging those who don’t, should have a look. If I am serving, but my heart is judging, God is going to want me to change that.

Oh how I have lived that so many times over…

I think Christians who are shouting about terrorists and Radical Islamists should have a look at what is Jesus most radical teaching: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Matthew 5:44.

Not my strength.

That Jesus. He doesn’t let me off the hook, but He does make me think that the Inn Keeper is the unsung hero of the parable. If I am the good samaritan, I need to make sure the Inn Keeper is financially able to do that work.

DSCN4881

I must not look the other way when lives depend on it.

I must be willing to support help where people are, where they can get back home someday. I must not dismiss people who see things differently without working to bridge the gaps. I must base my beliefs and decisions on the teachings of Jesus, which means it doesn’t really matter if they are our enemies, or if they would not help me. I help because I love HIM.

That is the only option that matters.

 

 

When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

When Tomorrow You Knew Would Be Better Longs For Yesterday You Wish You’d Appreciated

I can not count the number of times I have looked at an old picture of me and wished I still looked like that, weighed that number, was that size. But if I were to face the entire ugly truth, I would admit that I felt discontented with me then. As that picture was taken, I was having the “I’m fat” chat in my head.

Perhaps I am the only one.

My body image is not the only place I struggle with this. We’ve hosted many last day of school parties at our house. The kids swim, hubby bbqs and a good time is had by all. Last year I remember sitting at the gathering, listening to the splashing and laughter, and daydreaming about finishing our landscaping.  My hubby was having the best year ever in business and there was hope of having extra money. (It was hard work to remember what that might be like…)

Yesterday I dreamt of a water feature and a flagstone area with a fire pit. I envisioned colorful flowers (on a timed drip system so they would survive) and a walking path through  fruit trees that we could pick fresh fruit from. I had hopes for a raised vegetable garden that the girls and I could plant together. In my mind we would make a leap to a healthier way of life designed to more easily have people gather.

I wouldn’t have to apologize that we still had not yet finished landscaping…in spite of our best intentions.

Ahhhh….such great ideas.

Little did I know at the time that my hubby was planning a surprise trip to Disneyworld for the family.

DSCN0079

DSCN0416

DSCN0172

DSCN0875

There goes the extra money.

And…that doggone el nino did not come through like I hoped. The draught painfully continues and we are on a well. That means when the water runs out of the tank nothing comes out of the faucet until the pump refills the tank.

Imagine sixteen people staying at our house for my father in law’s memorial service last fall, most of whom really wanted to shower before heading to the church.

Selfish, I know.

And when the showers were turned on there was…nothing.

The sound of air filled the room.

There was not even a drip.

Do you know how quickly dishes for 16 extra people pile up when there is no water to wash them? (That is a wonderfully legitimate excuse for not doing dishes.)

The yesterdays that I should have appreciated looked like this:

IMG_3199

IMG_3226

IMG_3614

 

And the today I knew would be better looks like this:

DSCN3252

DSCN3253

DSCN3254

DSCN3255

Oops.

Here’s the deal: Basing my happiness on a tomorrow I can not control is a recipe for failure every time. Everyone knows we are in a draught. I can either move on with what I have or lament that which I have no command over. The weather is a great example of something I have no influence on. I need to decide, do I want to show off my yard or connect with people? 

My Hubby’s business is not having a great year so far this year. This means that what is, is what I must deal with. If someone thinks less of me because my yard now crunches when they walk on it, that relationship would find an end anyway. And whether I like it or not, Jesus wants my pride to crunch under the weight of His sandals. He walked the earth so I could learn what really matters and live it out. The Word became flesh…

Not easy.

Over pastrami sandwiches or chef salads at a local restaurant each Tuesday Night, my Bible Study friends and I have been talking a lot about Romans 1:18-27. It is powerfully relevant to battles that rage in our culture and it offers us the chance to dig deep into application and discussion. Tucked in the middle, verse 21, is the pivot point where things begin to move in the wrong direction: “For even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God or give thanks…” 

The pivot point of my life rests there as well. How much of my life do I waste by not giving thanks? Do I realize that a lack of gratitude means I am not honoring Him as God?

The only way my todays will be what I long for, whether my tomorrows are better or not, is to marinade my thoughts in gratitude. The aroma of thankfulness can be what fills my senses if I will just. pay. attention.

It is my desire to thank Him for everything; to see Him around me; to obey Him purposefully, and the only way that will bring me joy is to do it now. Seeing the joy in hindsight is a waste of a life.

May His joy fill my life to overflowing…today, regardless of what may come tomorrow.

AMEN

Nervous Grace

Nervous Grace

“You’re making me a bit nervous,” my hubby said.

I got it. I totally did.

“There are others who are way more deserving,” said my good friend.

I understood that as well. Perhaps I even agreed, just a tad.

My adventure started when I was browsing through Facebook one Sunday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas. One of my favorite authors posted a picture showing bags her church had filled to give to prisoners for Christmas. 32,000 bags put together just to say, “We are thinking of you.”

The honest truth is this: I am the daughter of a judge. Prison ministry doesn’t compel me–even if I admire other people’s service.

It would never occur to me to judge or belittle the 32,000 bags, but many others did.

There were many, many voices who piped in claiming that those bags were an incredible waste of resources. Didn’t that congregation realize how many more deserving people would go without? Those men in prison were guilty and deserved exactly the life they were living.

On and on they went.

Somewhere, tucked in the back and forth banter of comments a woman’s voice stood out to me. “I suppose you think the strippers I take packages to are not deserving either, but what if I told you that when I was 19, that was me?”

And it struck me…I should do what that woman does. An hour away from my home, in a neighboring county, there is  a strip club. Everyone around knows the name of the place. What if this Christmas season I took gifts to the women who made their living stripping for men?

I know, I know, they make a lot of money. Some may even think they enjoy it. We live in a culture where sexiness is as powerful as gold, and in the basest, least-intmate version of the word, strippers can claim that label.

But at what cost to their souls?

I ran the idea past my little Bible Study group, and they jumped in…

DSCN1404

DSCN1324

DSCN1403

There were scarves, gift cards, books and baked goodies. The packages were prayed over and we included a note that said:

If you ever need prayer, we would love the privilege to pray for you.

I included my e-mail address.

Originally everyone who was at the Bible Study the night we discussed it was planning on coming. But life happens, and so it was just my friend Kathy and me.

This was hysterical because she and I are the staunchest, most-to-one-sidest, blackest and whitest thinking-est of the group. Clearly, God was moving…wanting, ever-gently, to knock hard edges off my personality and help fill my world with grace.

We got to the establishment and it had not yet opened. We knocked on the back door and the manager answered it. We explained who we were and what we wanted to do.

He was incredibly gracious.

He held the door open, and asked if we would be offended by coming in.

“If we were, it would certainly be our fault,” I said with a smile.

Kathy asked if there was anything we could pray for him. He said just his health. He gave us his name.

He was very kind, and it has been easy to pray blessings that are consistent with God’s character for him and his life.

DSCN1411

DSCN1412

We have begun to pray for every person that walks through this door. We pray for conviction. We pray for marriages. We pray for purity. I love my Tuesday Night Ladies.

I pray for purity in this nation and a sensitivity to effective ways to do my part in that quest.

I have also begun to pray that God would bless this business–the strip club in the neighboring county–in a way that is consistent with HIS character. I have no idea what that would look like, but HE does.

What a wonderful, stretching, learning, growing thing. Thank you, Lord.