Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Seven Steps to Obedience

Before you get all excited and think I'm going to tell you how, in seven simple steps, you can live an obedient lifestyle, I'm not. Besides, there is only one step anyway. Just do it. (Yeah, Nike had it first, I know.)

My son Connor was carrying the dog, something I've asked him repeatedly not to do. I told him to put her down, and it took him seven full steps across the living room to actually obey. I made him go back and recount his steps to illustrate just how long it took him to obey. We talked about the importance of doing what he is told when he is told to do it. If that had been a different situation, say, crossing a street, his disobedience could have had tragic consequences.

I know God teaches us through our kids, and this conversation has been rolling around in my brain for a week or so now. How many steps does it take us to walk in obedience to Him? More importantly, if we are not walking toward Him, we are walking away. How many steps in disobedience are you going to take?

In life there are often times that we think it is ok to take one step from where we know we are supposed to be. If you are dieting, just one snack size bag of chips...skipping the class just one time...just one extra bite when I'm done dishing everyone else up...before you know it you have taken a whole lot more than one step, but each one makes the successive step easier. And more justifiable...I've already screwed up.

Dieting is the easy example, but it covers everything. Fighting with your husband....the dad on the playground is kind of's just thing you know you are on a very slippery slope that you never intended to be on. Maybe not that quick or dramatic, but you see how one step in the wrong direction can lead to several more.

The world we live in makes it tricky to stay on that narrow path of obedience. You can hardly watch primetime tv without being hit in the face with so many things that are contrary to God's standard. But some things are just funny, so you laugh. Then you watch some more. And laugh some more. Soon it becomes funny to disrespect your husband and go for the easy laugh. Disobedient kids on sitcoms become the norm, and we wonder why our kids don't show us proper respect. We become culturally numb to all things biblical, and wonder what went wrong.

It takes discernment, courage, and character to live a life of obedience. It would be much easier to jump on the band wagon of what everyone else thinks and believes, but that is not what God has asked of us as believers. That is not why He gave His Son for us.

This is not meant to spur a debate on obedience vs. grace. None of us will ever measure up, and He has made provision for that. But, in the things that we know we are doing wrong, and justifying as acceptable, we need to do better. Not just shrug our shoulders and say "That's just the way I am", because it's not. God made you in His image. Challenge yourself, as I challenge myself, to confront disobedience on the first step. Don't wait until you find yourself in a pit to make some changes. The pit could be as few as seven steps away.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Walking the Talk

I have been challenged lately to live a little beyond myself, and my own circle of what works best for me. I have been reading a blog called Sit A Spell about a family who sold it all, put what was left in storage, and moved to Haiti for a year. The writing is raw but funny, truthfully painful but painfully truthful, not allowing the reader to glaze over what life is truly like in Haiti. Reading about two months worth of posts one night left me feeling like there really has to be something more to life, a way to live beyond myself right now, in this place.

It is easy to feel helpless, like whatever I do isn't enough, so I won't do anything at all. As one person, how much difference can I make? I changed my thoughts, though, to take the starfish approach. You've probably heard the story about the guy throwing starfish back into the water, one at a time, even though there are thousands of them on the beach. A man comes along and says "Really, what difference does it make to throw a few back into the ocean?" The guy throwing them back says "It matters to this one."

I, as one person, can make a difference in one other person's life. I can't change the world, but I can stop living just for myself. One simple thing that I have committed to change is how I spend money. We are going to try hard to have a "socially aware" Christmas. I checked out a local shop that features items made by craftsmen around the world, and found things that my kids would enjoy. I can live out God's command to love my neighbor by easy is that?

I have a friend that is using her gift of making jewelry to help a missionary she has never met. She is selling freshwater pearl necklaces to raise money for a plane ticket to a conference it would benefit him to attend. I bought a few as Christmas presents. I have this picture in my head of people wearing these necklaces someday meeting this man in Heaven, knowing that they helped him in sharing the gospel in Nepal where he lives. We are all connected in some way, little points of light all over the globe.

In the Haiti blog, the author highlights a ministry called Heartline Ministries that serves pregnant women until their babies reach six months of age, teaches them the gospel through weekly Bible study, and teaches them a trade. They make and sell purses with the money going back to the individual seamstress. I'll be co-hosting a purse party with a friend in October sometime. Think about the difference you could make in someone's life just by doing a little Christmas shopping.

Instead of living defeated in a world full of problems that are just too big for one person to solve, think about one thing you can do today to make someone's life just a little better. Just one thing. Of course your nice thing doesn't have to cost money, but I find that talk is cheap. Putting my money where my mouth is, and where I say my heart is, is the real challenge for me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Pleasures...Multiplied

Simple pleasures...I can think of a number of them. An Angel Whispers scented candle by Glade. A good bargain at a rummage sale or thrift shop. I don't know about you, but I always feel compelled to tell people where I got it when I receive a compliment.

I love the simple pleasure of a good night sleep, my dog Gracie sleeping with her head on my pillow right next to me. I love the snuffling noises I can hear from my boys' room while they are sleeping.

I recently have discovered the simple pleasure of exercise. I know...that sounds like an oxymoron. But, I love the wind in my face as I ride my bike, feeling my legs actually working for a change, instead of just walking back and forth. I love swimming laps, feeling my body slice through the water, my mind free, the water cool on my face after I come up for a breath. I love, love, the simple pleasure of spin class. There is something so challenging but so simple about just not stopping, even though the sweat is running into my eyes and I really want to quit. I think that all boils down to the simple pleasure of a hard-earned's cleansing and validating all at the same time.

I love the simple pleasure of helping another see the relevance of God's Word in their lives. If that happens at my kitchen table over coffee and banana bread...even better. That first hesitant understanding is like the dawn of a new day in someone's heart, and to witness that is a beautiful thing.

The simple pleasure of writing something that touches another is beyond simple...beyond pleasure, to my passion. To know that God used me to deliver His message to someone is just hard to fathom sometimes, but it really is so simple. It's not about me or any abilities I might have, it's all about Him and the gift He allows me to share in.

When we live life enjoying what God has created for us, we are in His will. In these uncertain economic times, times of suffering for some, we almost feel guilty having simple pleasures. It starts to feel disrespectful to have pleasure, but nothing could be further from the truth.
1 Timothy 6:17 reminds us that we are to set our hopes on God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. It is when the pursuit of pleasure replaces the pursuit of God that we get into trouble.

Take some time today to make a short list of a few things that bring you pleasure, maybe even for free. Invite a few friends to do the same, and take a peek at their list. I enjoy the simple pleasure of surprising someone with a treat, one of the things on their list. A friend saw my new Angel Whisper Glade scented candle on the shelf and commented that it was her favorite scent too. I slipped it into her diaper bag before she left for her to find later. It multiplies my own pleasure to know I gave someone a bright spot in their day.

I have to confess that sometimes I miss the details when I get excited about a simple pleasure, like writing. I missed the part of Rachel's directions that gave us the topic of Simple Pleasures, and wrote a different devo for today. It does speak to my deepest pleasure, being a voice of hope, and I hope you will be encouraged by it. It is the post right before this one.

Happy Monday, new friends! Thank you Rachel for allowing us to connect and be encouraged through your blog!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

One Writer's Mission

Hey there, bloggy friend! Welcome to my 300th post! It was nice of Rachel Olsen to host a carnival in honor of that...ok, she didn't probably didn't do it just for me...

Anyway, I'm glad you stopped by. It's Sunday night as I'm writing this, and I have this picture of all of us bloggers sitting at our computers, shining up our best stuff, trying to think of something catchy and smart to say. The trouble with writing is sometimes the words just flow, and your fingers can't keep up with your brain, and other times, well, there's just lots of deleting and backspacing going on. It reminds me of the verse about God's mercies being fresh every morning. While we don't get a complete do-over, we get a fresh start. We get a chance to try again.

What will you do with it? Will you allow all the yesterday's to stack up against you and keep you frozen on the same path? Or, will you allow the freshness of God's mercy, His grace, to lead you in a new way? I woke up one day about four years ago, suddenly aware that I had a new path to walk on. I had been living in the shadow of the old path for years, letting it contaminate each new day with it's lingering darkness.

In Luke 22:32, Jesus tells Peter that He has prayed that his faith will not fail him, and once he has turned back, to strengthen his brothers. My faith failed for awhile, but now that I have turned back, I am here to strengthen my sisters. To strengthen you, my friends and readers. God has given me a story to tell, and through it, a chance to encourage you to seek Him and the new day He offers in your lives. There is nothing that could keep Him from you.

Every day He offers you a fresh start, a spiritual backspace button. How would your day be different if you didn't look back at yesterday's mistakes and failures before beginning this one? If, just once, you focused entirely on Christ's perfection instead of your own imperfection? He isn't waiting for us to get it right, He is waiting for us, for you, to take His hand each day. To make the choice each day for Him, for life.

When you do take His hand, is there someone else's hand you could grab along the way? Someone who is still standing, frozen in her yesterday's, that you could strengthen and lift up with you? I picture one of those paper doll chains, hands united, glowing with the power and strength and love that is only found in Christ, encircling the earth. Notice that each hand is only holding two others, one on each side.

Sisters, as writers, we have a chance to hold a lot of hands; we will never meet most of them this side of heaven. It is my privilege to serve with you, to be a voice of hope, to share God's truth that
  • We are a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • His Word will lead us in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:24)
  • His mercies are fresh every morning. (Lamentations 3:23)

Tell the stories, hold the hands, and let God shine His light through your words. Together we punch a hole in the darkness.

Is It Bedtime Yet...?

It's one of those days that makes me wish bedtime immediately followed breakfast. Mine or the kids, it really doesn't matter. We had our first time out exactly 11 minutes after getting out of bed. I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of some of the conversations today, though.

After explaining to Connor that he hasn't been respectful, obedient, or really even nice, he looks at me and says "Can you buy me a toy at the store?"


I was serenaded by a chorus of "I hate my house. I hate this bathroom. I hate everything. But I don't hate God..."

At least they have their priorities in order. Sometimes you just have to laugh to drown out the screaming. And all of the mama's said...Amen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I watched a little girl on the school playground playing tag on the slide with a group of kids, curls bouncing, cheeks flushed, screaming and laughing at the same time. She made her way down the slide, jumping over the side to avoid being tagged by her pursuer. With great anticipation on her face, she turned around to see where he went, only to see that he had decided to chase another little girl. I watched as her face changed from anticipation, to confusion as she couldn't see him, to sadness as she left the group when she realized she was no longer the object of his attention. My heart broke for her, wishing I could hold her and tell her how beautiful and precious she is in the Lord's eyes.

I sat with a young mom once, tears streaming down her face, as she told me that her husband no longer finds her desirable. He has chosen companionship through the internet and photos of young girls. He is addicted to porn. She said that she knows she is no Miss America but she's not that bad. My heart broke for her as I told her how beautiful she is in the eyes of Christ, that she is prized above all others because she knows her Lord and Savior. I told her to remember that He is her portion, that He is her Rock, that He is her Shelter. She is the apple of His eye.

I was a young girl once, so lonely and unsure of her value, that I took what the neighborhood child molester had to offer. I settled for things I didn't understand but wished I didn't know about as a substitute for what I really be noticed,to feel loved. I did not know that I was the apple of the Lord's eye, that I was precious and beautiful in His sight. God's heart broke for that little girl, but knew at the same time that she would find Him someday.

The common thread in these lives is that we all want to feel special, to be pursued, to be loved and cherished. To know that when we look at someone with love, they are looking back at us. Only us. Sisters, I want you to know that this is the way the Lord loves you. He stands at the door and knocks, but only you can open it. He will never stop pursuing you, and when you open the door, He will fill you with a love and a peace that surpasses all understanding, and you will know in an instant that you will never be the same again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Travel Guide

Our family recently went to my husband's hometown to visit his family for the holiday weekend. His twin brother also came into town; so, in an effort to be a good wife, I encouraged my husband to go golfing with his brothers. I will keep the kids entertained, I said. No problem.

I sort of know how to get around in this town. The boys and I went to a park not too far from grandma's house, on a winding trek of a road that runs along the river. The temperature was warm, about 85 degrees and 85% humidity, so the sand that the boys started throwing at each other was able to really crust into their eyes and hair.

Ok. Enough of the park. Let's find our way to Dairy Queen. By following my gut instincts and the river road, we eventually found our way into town and to the DQ. Being really hot and sticky, I was ready to indulge in a small vanilla with chocolate dip. The boys had made their selections and we placed our order, the $4 in singles clutched in my gritty hands. It was then that I realized that $1.70 does not go into $4 three times. Since that was all the money I had on me and I couldn't justify putting an ice cream cone on the charge card, I cancelled my own order. So there we sat. Two sandy sticky boys eating their treats, all the while complaining that they really wanted what the other one ordered but not interested in switching, and one hot crabby mama without a treat wondering if she actually knew the way back. I was trying really hard to take the (figurative) high road, focusing on the scripture "I have learned to be content in all circumstances", with ice cream or without, hot and sweaty or cool and refreshed.

We eventually found our way back to Grandma's house. When my husband got back from his golf outing, I told him of our adventures. The trip to the park. My long-suffering trip to DQ. My eventual but questionable return trip to his mom's. I was one proud martyr, I tell you what.

He asked why I didn't use the money that he hides in the car for emergencies. I had forgotten about that.

He asked why I didn't use the GPS. I had forgotten about that, too.

He asked why I didn't just call him. I was trying not to bother him.

Everything I needed at my fingertips, and I was too wrapped up in the drama of the day to remember.

Life gets like that sometimes. We get so caught up in whatever drama is besetting us at the time that we forget that we have resources to fall back on. More than fall back be the first things we grab on to when the terrain gets rough.

God has not left us without means. "His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness." 2 Peter 1:3

God has not left us without direction. "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:105

God is waiting for us to call on Him. "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you." James 1:5

There is an independent streak in me that makes me want to do it myself, whatever it is, just to prove I can. But, there is a time and a place for that. The Bible reminds me that I will find rest when I come to Him. And that is way more refreshing than an ice cream cone, even on the hottest day.

"Come to me, all who are burdened and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls."
Matthew 11:28-29

Monday, September 13, 2010

Whose Dream Is it?

How do you decide if you are worthy of your dream? Here's a little probably aren't. Not that you probably aren't extremely bright and capable, but a dream that God plants in your heart is based on His worthiness, not your own.

I have a new friend who happens to be single, never married. It wasn't until she got to know who she is in Christ that she really became ok with being single, instead of waiting for her real life to start. (Personally, I think the grass is always greener because I am waiting for my kids to grow up so my real life can start. I could probably learn something from this new friend...)Anyway, she likes to write and was feeling like she should start a blog to share what she is learning. In her words, though, she is hardly an authority on being single, so she is hesitating.

I was thinking about her comment this morning. None of us are really authorities on anything, unless you have a bunch of letters after your name and a sizable student loan to pay off. But, we do all have something in our journey that can be used to encourage someone else. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says to comfort (encourage) others through the things that God has comforted us through. It might be singleness. It might be dealing with a particular illness or experience. If God has brought you on a journey of any sort, He didn't do it so it could sit on your shelf and collect dust. He did it so you could be His witness.

Just because I have five kids does not make me an authority on parenting. But, during the closest thing we have had to a serious illness in one of the kids, as I stood praying over my son's crib, God held me close and whispered "Do you trust Me?" I knew it wasn't a promise of a good turn-out, but a chance to get to know Him better. During a season of intense teen-age drama, I walked into church to hear the worship team singing Trading My Sorrows For the Joy of the Lord and knew that God could carry me through, and He did. More than once. So, I write about these things. I am His witness to what He has done in my life as a mom.

Just because I have been married twice does not make me an authority on marriage. Indeed, in my first marriage I went outside the bounds of matrimony to find what I needed. But, after seven years of feeling ashamed, I came back to the Lord, and He was waiting for me. Scripture tells us that when one sinner turns back in repentance, the angels are rejoicing. Let's just say that I gave them a lot to cheer about. In this marriage, God has been faithful to grow me as a wife. It doesn't make me an expert by any means, just teachable and willing to share the struggles and celebrations.

I'm never sure who will read my blog, but I can't write in hopes of a massive group of followers. I can write in the hope that someone will see themselves reflected somehow in my words, and be willing to hear what God might have for them. If someone reading can be comforted or encouraged through something I have dealt with, then God gets the glory for that.

In the Bible, He tells us to let our light shine before man, so they can see our good works and praise our Father in Heaven. Psalm 40 says that many will see and fear(respect) and put their trust in the Lord. The great commission tells us to go forth and make disciples of the world. Not a lot of us get to go on mission trips to the four corners, but we can tell what He has done in our lives. Nothing speaks louder to the power of God than a life transformed.

So, to my friend, tell your story. Share your journey. Take the journey that God still has before you. Share the life that He is His witness. God will bring the readers who need to be encouraged. Remember, it's not about us, but Him.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Building Plans



"MOM! Help me!"

As I heard my name bellowed with rising intensity from the living room, I came in to see what was going on. There was Justin, surrounded by all the dining room chairs, holding two blankets up over his head, waiting for a clip to secure the perfect fort. The two blankets for the perfect fort that I told him I would help him build after we took Connor to school. Not in the middle of the getting ready frenzy, but after. But there he was, in the middle of his creation, waiting for me to drop everything and come to his aid. Grabbing the chip clips out of the closet, I thought about all the times I went ahead with my own plans after being clearly told to wait.

How often do we make our plans without really wondering if the time is right?

Sometimes we just feel like life owes us, and we are going to get ours just because we deserve it. I have to be honest and say, there is very little that we actually deserve, and way more that we get that we are privileged to have, but that is a tough pill to swallow. It requires us to come face to face with our own smallness, and it begs the question why we have what we have in the first place. Not asking the question puts the control in our hands, instead of the Hand of a sovereign God. "There but for the grace of God go I."

I think if we could learn to live in the light of God's grace, we would be more grateful for what we have, and more willing to wait for what we want. It's the attitude of entitlement that throws us off, which is a fancy word for selfish. If we could remember that God has what's best for us, at the time that it is right for us to have, it would make the waiting more palatable. "Be still and know that I am God." (Psalm 46:10.)

"Be still". Stop trying to make things happen on your own. Stop arranging the dining room chairs in the perfect circle and struggling to hold the blankets up yourself. "Be still." I haven't forgotten about you.

"Know that I am God." And you are not. Until you cause a flower to bloom, or a sun to rise, you should probably remember that I am God. When the time is right, I will bless your house of cards, and with My blessing, it will stand.

The fort that Justin built collapsed under its own weight while we were dropping Connor off at school. I helped him build another one, one that is still standing in the living room waiting for him to get home this afternoon. He was able to watch a movie and eat lunch under it, all without it falling on his head. Our plans go better when we wait until the timing is right, instead of rushing headlong into our own dreams and yelling for help when they aren't working out.

I have to share with you, my friends, that as I sit and type these words, they practically spilled of their own will into the computer.The thoughts are a little hard core. I am wondering what efforts I am asking God to bless that He has asked me to what on Him for. Where have I started running ahead? He knows the plans He has for me, and you. Will you join me in seeking Him before setting out on your own? (Jeremiah 29:11-13)