Even if..

One of my favorite bands came out with a new song. It is based on the men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who refused to bow down to the idol made by King Nebuchadnezzar. Their consequence for this defiance was being thrown into a furnace of extreme fire. The response these men had to this painful and torturous threat is one of great beauty. In summary, they said, “We won’t bow down. Our God can save us. Even if He chooses to not save us, our hope is still in Him.”

You probably know the rest of the story. They were tied up and thrown in the fiery furnace, and a fourth man appeared, who looked like the Son of God. Then out of the furnace they came, not even the smell of smoke was on them.

It’s a popular Sunday school story, which you can read in Daniel 3, yet the lessons, like all Truth from God’s Word is continual. The part where they said, ‘even if’, that’s where our faith hits a reality, isn’t it?

My son, who is a U.S. Marine, is scheduled to be deployed. His first one. The fears that try to sweep over me at any given point of the day can be paralyzing. Tears find their way down my cheek within seconds of thinking about “what if”. Thoughts so heartbreaking, they can’t even be spoken. Then those words “even if” from the book of Daniel come to mind. Even if. Yes, Lord, even if You don’t choose to answer the way I hope You do, my Hope is still in You.

How can my hope still be in the Lord even if something bad happens? How can I know that everything will be okay?

I was asked a question that has become a great grounding tool for my faith and my emotions. The question was simply, “do you believe God is good?” It caught me off guard, because my first response was “of course, He is good”, but do my actions, my thoughts, and my feelings show that I believe God is good. I’m learning that the amount of peace and confidence I have in the midst of stressful times depends on my answer.

Do you believe God is good? If He is good, all the time, and He is so good that it defines Him as absolutely positively good, then He is a God you can bring your requests to and know that His answer will be good. It might not be what we want. I’m pretty sure our three teenage friends weren’t excited about taking that step into the furnace, but look what God had in store. It was better, more memorable, and more powerful than anything they could have dreamed.

That’s my declaratation. Even if the Lord chooses not to, my Hope is still in Him.

turn your back

A quarter of a century ago, a 14-year old girl sat in a lodge up in the mountains of Colorado and heard a message that would change her life.

Like every moment, it is the time, the days, months, years that lead up to it that makes it significant.  The years that led up to that moment in the lodge were filled with a collection of beauty and pain, truth and lies, health and poison.

I had grown up in a home where my mom loved and served God, taught in a Christian school, and was faithful in all she did.  My dad however was an abusive alcoholic causing deep rooted scars and pain to everyone in the home.  When I was twelve, my dad went to prison for what he did to me, and my mom filed for a divorce.  It was a very painful time, yet it was so important because the home was no longer a place of hurt.  It was a place to heal.  However, no one can heal properly without the power of God in their lives. The realization of how bad someone is hurting sometimes doesn’t compute until the pain has stopped being inflicted, that’s when the reality sets in of how bad it hurts, how scarred you are.  So once the abuse stopped, the anger and the pain started to reveal itself.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Growing up in church, but having an abusive home created this confusing catastrophe in my life.  I knew there was a God, and I knew He created and loved me.  Even with that knowledge, my heart was a mess that showed nothing but hurt and anger. This was who I was when I entered the lodge at camp to hear the message that would change my life.

It was a message of repentance.  The preacher told of the importance of not only believing there is a God who sent His Son to save us from our sins, but the value of turning your back on the sin and pain of your life. He taught us about the command to take a 180 degree turn from that behavior, addictions, and habits.  I realized at that moment that even though I had believed in God, I had never turned away from my sins and given my life to Him.  As the Pastor gave the invitation, I couldn’t get to the altar fast enough.  That night, I gave my heart and life to God, dedicating it to serving my Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I turned my back on my sin and my anger, God began a life-long process of healing and continued my story of making beauty from ashes.

introduction by numbers

 quick panoramic paint-by-number sketch of the life I live

a follower of Christ for 25 years

in the last year of  my 30’s

celebrating marriage of 20 years

mom of seven kids*, ages from 2-20 years old

*four pregancies; three adoptions
*two girls and five boys
*one Marine

caretaker of a 95-year old stranger

nine miles away from the nearest market

two dogs, two bunnies, a horse, two goats, six cats, two fish

Wednesday’s Word of Wisdom

I was at my baby shower for my first born, my Answer from God, my baby doll. Ladies in my family were going around the room sharing beautiful words of encouragement, along with hysterical forewarnings about what my life was about to look like. It came time for my husband’s Grandma to share. I leaned forward with anticipation, along with all the other ladies in the circle. We knew this was going to be good, and wanted to catch every word.
“When you are holding your new baby, singing to your baby, ‘Jesus Loves Me’, be sure to sing that truth to yourself as well.”

The fellow moms in rooms began to dab their eyes because they knew the importance of that truth. This advice pierced my soul. I wanted so badly for Jesus to love me again. After the poor choices, I had accepted God’s forgiveness and healing and blessings, but there wasn’t a day that went by where I questioned if He still loved me. Hearing my husband’s Grandma state the importance of reminding myself, and fellow moms, that in spite of wrong decisions of the past or present, exhaustion from a day filled with endless chores that seem to only be noticed by moms, time and energy that is demanded from us before our eyes open causing our time with God to feel rushed or non-existent, in spite of these things don’t forget that Jesus loves you.

“Jesus loves me” Such a simply saying, yet the power of His love can do more than we can ever imagine. Jesus wants you to remember that in the midst of your exhaustion, your survival, your chaos, He loves you.
Don’t forget that. Next time you are rocking your little one and singing ‘Jesus Loves Me’, take a minute and tell yourself, “Yes, Jesus loves me…the Bible tells me so”.

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Wednesday’s Word of Wisdom

I was a young bride, 18-years old to be exact, and a month after my 19th birthday I became a mom. (Yes, I wore the scarlet letter, but I’ll share God’s gift of grace and forgiveness another day.) During that year, I realized a lot things, one of which was I don’t know much about this marriage, family, and motherhood stuff. My husband’s Grandma took it upon herself to kindly share words of wisdom, practical tips, and unlimited prayers for me. Her words meant a lot to me, especially since she had been a bride at the age of 15-year, and she is now getting ready to celebrate 66 years of marriage with her husband. This Godly lady knows what she is talking about. She would call me throughout the week just to share stories as well as give me a priceless gift, homemaking advice. I’d like to devote my Wednesdays to sharing some of these with you, along with other homemaking lessons I’ve learned (usually the hard way) throughout my twenty years of being a bride.

Looking back over my two decades of marriage, I believe the most practical advice I was given was about keeping my house somewhat clean and in order.
My husband’s Grandma sat down with me and told me the routine she used in cleaning her house while they raised their five kids*  Here’s what I took from that conversation, and I have applied it regularly ever since:

Sunday – day of church and rest

**Monday – wash laundry (with nine of us, this now sometimes goes into the next day)

Tuesday – dust bedrooms, sweep/vacuum, wash our bedroom sheets

Wednesday – clean bathrooms and kitchen, wash towels

Thursday – wash laundry

Friday – dust living areas, sweep, vacuum, wash our kids’ sheets

Saturday – clean bathrooms and kitchen, wash towels

Sometimes this has been switched around, based on seasons of our life, but over all this has been the housekeeping standard for each week. The best part is, if you can’t get everything done you need to that day, you know you can get to it later that week.
*Introducing these routines to your kids even at a young age help give them a sense of belonging and responsibility. It also helps them understand that your days can include lots of play, but it is important to take care of the home God has given us, so we need to make time to do that as well.

**As a wife and mom, it can be difficult to remember that the most important thing God created was people. If your day is consumed with keeping your house clean, and you are not able to enjoy the people God has put into your life, or the “interruptions” God has for you, than you are missing out on God’s greatest earthly blessing. So please take this “schedule” with the reminder that time with your family and friends is much more important than an unswept floor. Besides, the dirt will always be there, but people have a tendency to go where they are wanted.

 

Titus 2:3-5
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the Word of God.

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My husband’s grandparents surprised our son as we celebrated his graduation from Marine boot camp. We were so honored to have them be a part of this wonderful day.

If we’re honest

A day in the life…
(I hope to do this regularly, sharing my struggles, my victories, in the hopes that it may encourage someone, reminding them that they aren’t alone.)

My Friday morning

6:30 am alarm goes off
6:30 am hit snooze
6:38 am alarm goes off
6:38 am hit snooze
6:46 am alarm goes off

6:46 am Roll my eyes at the fact the sun has arrived on time, as usual, and tell myself I am a pathetic loser who should have set her alarm for 6:00 am, had her time with God, worked out, and had a healthy breakfast made for all those who are needing to be out the door in twenty minutes. (Yes, most days I take off the warm covers of my bed and replace them with the heavy covers of guilt for not being what I think I should be.) I then attempt to spend the next four minutes trying to enjoy the quiet, laying next to my amazing husband, before the chaos starts.
6:50 am get dressed and start coffee, wake up whoever hasn’t responded well to their alarms. (I don’t know where they get that!)
7:00 am Pack lunches, unless they were packed the night before, but that only happens if we have leftovers and were easy to transfer to lunch box containers. Hand granola bar to my school-bound, eight year old son. Tell myself how pitiful I am to only have a granola bar ready for him. Begin to reminisce about his adoption, and how if the Judge could see me only handing him a granola bar, would he have still allowed the adoption? Or would he have said, “No! This boy needs a mom that will give him more than a granola bar! This boy needs yogurt and fruit to go along with it. This petition is denied!”?  Snap myself back into the present.
7:15 am Kiss my son good-bye, pray over him (most days unless the guilt has already won and I’ve convinced myself my prayers would do more damage than good.) Kiss my husband good-bye and tell myself he deserves better than the girl with hair in a messy bun, struggling with her weight that he is stuck with.
7:30 am Say good-bye to my 19-yr old as she drives to work, praying for her safety and God to use her in mighty way as she shares His love with so many people. She works at a small town grocery store, and her smile and kind heart bless more people than she will ever know.
7:35 am Try to have some quiet time with God, reading His Word, while in the background my 4-yr old who has special needs and my 2-yr old start calling my name. And by calling, I mean hollering, “MOM!! MOM!!!” I find myself praying softly, interrupting my conversation with yelling, “Just a minute!!!” “Be quiet!!!” Then I ask myself, “What kind of mother yells at her kids, and worse, yells while she is reading her Bible?” A comment about being a pathetic loser once again is whispered.
7:45 am Release this loud dynamic duo from their beds. Get them breakfast, also a granola bar or maybe it was dry cereal,  and take a deep breath. I’m already sick and tired of myself, exhausted of this battle playing out in my head, and trying not to cry at the fact that it’s not even 8am.

—-

Okay, I’m going to stop there because my attempt to be transparent has resulted in me realizing how much I still let shame and guilt define me. Grrr! Why do I let these insults and lies sneak in and ruin a perfectly good start to a beautiful day? I thought I was over this. I have applied Truth to much of my dialogue, and I no longer tell myself I’m the exception to every promise in God’s Word. I thought I was doing well, but looking at my morning, I am embarrassed to see how negative and pressure-filled my day began.

The burden of it all can paralyze me. The self-doubt, the panic attacks, the lies, it can quickly become the background noise in my head. Most days I can silence it with reminding myself of God’s Truth, and by simplifying my day so the pressure isn’t so great. Mainly, I can stop the train wreck by making the decision to call the lies what they are, lies of satan. That’s always what it comes back to. God’s Truth vs the lies of satan.

Let’s start with my first lie of the day. “I am a pathetic loser” What does the Bible say about that? I’ve read the Word a lot, and without Christ, I know this could be used to describe my destiny; lost,  living pathetically without hope.  But then God got a hold of me, and now I am His.  This changes everything.

My mom has a printout hanging in her home, in her bathroom to be specific, where she can see it as she gets ready for her day. This paper has been there since I was a teenager, and has seen many types of hair products and trends, but the Truth it reads is timeless. Here is what it says:

I Am…
a child of God (Romans 8:16)
forgiven (Colossians 1:13,14)
saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8)
justified (Romans 5:1)
a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17)
led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:14)
kept in safety wherever I go (Psalm 91:1)
casting all my cares on Jesus (1 Peter 5:7)
doing all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)
bringing every thought into captivity (2 Corinthians 10:5)
being transformed by a renewed mind (Romans 12:1,2)
the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21)
an imitator of Jesus (Ephesians 5:1)
filled with laughter and rejoicing (Job 8:21)

Did you catch that? The words: forgiven, grace, being transformed, righteousness. Those are not words used to describe a loser. Yet, those are words God uses to describe His children; words used to describe me. These are words that are offered not because of something I need to do, but because of Who God is. Oh, the thought of truly and continually grasping this reality! To be free from the guilt and shame, unable to even hear the lies of the evil one. To confidently and completely embrace the Truth each morning instead of allow my mind to be the host and entertainer of the lies that prevent me from living the life God has given me; I am overwhelmed at the thought.

 

This ‘if we’re honest’ post was inspired by the song “If We’re Honest” by Francesca Battistelli. Bringing my brokeness in the hopes of bringing others who are hurting to find mercy in the arms of our Beautiful Savior.

It’s still looking a lot like Christmas

It’s still looking a lot like Christmas,
even though it’s Valentines..
Take a look at the living room, stockings still hanging too,
with ornaments and pretty lights aglow….

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Yes, my Christmas tree is still up. Yes, it’s February, yet I can’t take it down. The simple thought of packing it up brings me to tears. I keep telling myself to put the Christmas stuff away, but my heart just breaks at the thought.
It sounds silly, I know, but for the first time ever, my family wasn’t able to be together for Christmas. My oldest son is now a Marine and wasn’t able to be home. So the thought of putting the decorations away confirms that we had Christmas without him, and my heart can hardly stand it.
Christmas is his favorite. He loves the movies, and even watches all the Christmas music specials with me. Last year, I sat annoyingly close to him while watching Country Music Christmas, and I looked at him and asked, “do you think this will be the last time we watch this together for awhile?” He laughed and said, “Mom, I don’t want to talk about that.” So we didn’t. We just sat on the couch, eating his favorite Christmas treats, watching Jennifer Nettles perform at the Grand Ole Opry House. I remember taking a deep breath, trying to pause or capture that moment. I am glad I did. It was during that moment, my heart was introduced to a new level of emotion. There isn’t a word for it, but it’s a mixture of every emotion created. Maybe it should be called ‘momtimental’ or ’emomtional’, or maybe it’s because there are no words to describe that emotion that it doesn’t have a name.
Whatever the feeling is, it has become very common part of my day. I know it is a part of parenthood. Raising kids to be kind and productive adults is a beautiful and painful process. The emotions that rise up in me me are so full that they spill out in the form of tears on a daily basis. Joy, sorrow, pride, gratitude, concern. Each one revealing itself throughout the 24 hours, each one is a part of being a parent. I’m learning that you have to let yourself go through these emotions. Give yourself permission to embrace not just the joy but also the sorrow. Embrace even the emotions that cannot be defined. It’s important.
So, when are we taking down the Christmas decorations? Yikes, I’m crying just from typing the thought of that.

Well, I think I saw some Valentine hearts on string lights that would look nice on a my tree. I think I’ll put those up.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

together for good

brownie-ingredients-recovered1Would you ever consider sitting down to the table, pulling up a chair, grabbing a spoon and digging into a handful of large raw eggs? How about chewing on a bar of unsweetened cocoa? Maybe you’d be okay with a teaspoon of salt or baking powder, but what about the cup and a half of flour, or the two sticks of butter? The vanilla, espresso, sugar, and chocolate may smell good and even taste good in moderation, but two cups of sugar would be difficult to eat.
These ingredients by themselves are very unique but not very appetizing. Some smell good while others will never be picked for scent of the month; but if you mix these ingredients together, put it in the oven for 30 minutes, you will have a pan of the most delicious brownies you’ve ever tasted.
That’s our lives. Different ingredients, some of which are sweet, others which are bitter, but if you love God and allow Him to mix it all up, He can make something amazing.

This is my story. Bitter ingredients combined with purposeful additives, mixed with sweet elements create who I am today, and may God be praised for being faithful and making it all work together for good.