Sunday, October 30, 2016


When you are down, what's it really about?


He is either accusing you...

Revelation 12:10 And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.

Zechariah 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.

...or enticing you to serve yourself. 

Luke 4:13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

When you succumb to temptation (to Satan) and you end up serving yourself, he's telling you how rotten you are, and how you better just give up this Christian thing you've got going on, because you're no good at it.

What is the message of the Gospel? What is the message of Grace? I can tell you what it's not, first of all. It's not about condemnation. It's not about dis-empowering you.

What the Gospel does is empower. 

As Christians, we have incredible power in this world. Satan is defeated every time we worship God, every time we share God, every time we love one another, every time we surrender our will to God. Satan loses every time we say thank you to God, for his never-ending grace.

The answer to our shortcomings is not despair. It's not shame. It's not agreeing with Satan that we're no good at Christianity.

The answer to our sin is...

Thank you. Thank you for Your blood, Jesus, that covers me now and forevermore.

Thank you is a loaded uttering here. It means we know that without God, we are nothing. We can do nothing. It is a surrendering of our will, of our desires, and a heartfelt wish that God would give us his eyes, his will, going forward. Thank you means we understand our position before our God. It means we love Him first and foremost, and we're willing to follow Him anywhere.

Such simple words...thank you...but so powerful beautiful.

The last thing Satan wants is for you to say thank you for the Cross. Because in that uttering, you have crushed the enemy.

Nothing can separate us from our God. Nothing can dis-empower us as His heirs.

Romans 8:35-39 

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For Your sake we face death all day long;

we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Appreciating Mom

I'm on my third day in bed with the flu.

Can you imagine what the house looks like?

Today I told the kids to catch up on the house first, and then do school with whatever time was left. I intuitively knew that if I didn't call a housekeeping day, then the house would be too far gone for me to clean up on Sunday night, ahead of the Monday daycare day. I'm sure my being off has incredibly inconvenienced the family I work for, but it couldn't be helped.

The boys made dinner the last two nights. Tacos by Paul, and gingerbread pancakes by Peter. They were delicious. I am not a failure as a mother; my children are doing alright with this sudden domestic nightmare. Our job is to work ourselves out of a job, and nothing tests that notion like consecutive sick days for Mom.

To save money, we don't buy many snacks. We bake our own, or make popcorn. There are no-bake cookies for afternoon snack, thanks to Paul. Peter is going to put a whole chicken in the oven at 4 PM, and four loads of laundry were folded and put away at Peter's direction to his siblings.

Peter rose to the occasion nicely. At first though, he knocked on my bedroom door and asked me to please give the kids jobs to do, because the cleaning wasn't getting done. I told him the first step is always the decluttering. An hour later he came and shared this with me:

"All I've been doing for an hour is walking around and putting a ton of little things away. I don't know how you do this everyday. Your job is a lot harder than I thought."

As much as I feel really lousy, and am shocked to have the flu in October--before we even got our flu shots--I can see the value in Mom being down for a week. Housekeeping is a thankless job. Rarely does anyone remember to say thank you for the many small acts of service we do.

And yet, so much of life rides on our shoulders. We're not engineering $25,000,000 stock deals, or meeting to discuss the next president's first 100 days in office, but we are the glue that holds it all together for the next generation. We're significant in immeasurable ways. Our contributions are astounding.

And you know what makes it beautiful, rather than just the work of cooks, maids, and executive secretaries?

It's the love. The self-sacrifice. Our services are free of charge, paid for with precious energy and time and heart. We could be doing so many wonderful things with our time, yet we choose to serve in lowly ways--to do the seemingly insignificant work of ensuring everyone has clean pants and shirts, and available Cheerios and oatmeal for breakfast. When it's time for a meal, the food is there. When it's time for a change, the fresh clothes are there. When it's time to be somewhere, Mom is on the case, five steps ahead of everyone.

When Mom is down, everything is down. When Mom can't go to the store, it's a crisis. When mom can't do the socks and underwear, all of life stops and there's scurrying around. Confused people wonder what to do first and next, because we make it look so easy.

It's beautiful what we do. We literally give our lives to serve others, with no promise of repayment, no promise of a nest egg waiting for us in retirement.

If you devalue what you do...if anyone devalues what you do, just wait. Your sick days will come too and you'll see the value of your contribution. You will be newly thankful that you have the energy and the love and the legacy-minded vision to get up and do the same thing every day, because you want to. Because you love to. Because you get to.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Real Reason for Discouragement

After a particularly hard week with too little sleep and too much turmoil, I had nothing left.

Just. nothing.

Most days I'd gone to bed utterly discouraged, feeling guilty that as a parent and wife, I was out of patience and ideas and grace. The stresses of my son's mental illness depleted my hope for the future, or even for the next day. Aggravating it was my sleep deprivation, hormones, and financial stress. Just like everyone else, I had multiple problems.

Pining for heaven, I understood once again what it meant to be broken. It's hard to grasp, isn't it, that the Lord wants us broken? Christianity can be a pretty hard sell.

Hey everyone...become a Christian so you can identify with Jesus' suffering in your daily life. Grace is a beautiful Christian word, but can suffering be beautiful? When witnessing to people we leave that detail out in favor of the enticing parts, like peace and joy and hope.

I became a Christian at age 31, but it wasn't until I lost my first child at 20 weeks gestation that brokenness entered my consciousness  I was 34 and it was the first time I'd wanted the Lord to take me home.

Three of my children tell me they don't want to go to heaven yet; they want to grow up and have families. Already they understand that the best part of an earthly life is loving and being loved, in the context of family. They know intellectually that heaven is better than marriage and kids, but they still can't imagine foregoing these perks of being human.

Peter alone perhaps, due to his OCD, knows what brokenness feels like. Inasmuch as his condition is a tragedy, understanding brokenness at an early age is a gift. It clarifies early that it's not about us. We aren't supposed to wake up each day expecting a smooth transition through the hours. We can't jump from one self-indulging ritual after another, expecting low resistance to our selfishness.

Instead, each day begs for self-denial. Joy does exist in self-denial, in following Christ, in embracing the messiness of life, but it's not a worldly joy.

John 14:27 tells us: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

I would have to describe the peace He gives as the best kind of fellowship we can ever experience. The peace He gives is a taste of heavenly joy. Peace is to be filled with His love. Family love is wholly insufficient for our souls. It will always leave us wanting, searching. Though beautiful and a gift from God, a healthy family can't be all that we hope for or pursue.

Our souls crave Him. He conceived and designed our souls and only He can fill them.

The Holy Spirit reminded me this week that my exhaustion and emptiness weren't actually because of OCD or ADHD or hormones or sleep deprivation or economic insufficiency, although they certainly made a compelling argument and defense.

The real source was too little time with Peace the Person...with the Lord my God, who promises to quiet me by his love.

I went to the Lord and read about his truth, his love, his faithfulness, his majesty, his grace, his love...and I was filled to overflowing, ready to dig deep for the patience, grace and love my family and community need from me. We give to others out of the abundance we receive from the Lord. If you're empty, it's because you're not filled. It's obvious, but also easy to forget.

These three gifts--peace, joy, hope--are not a mirage or a sham, but neither are they automatic.

Christ died for us so we could have life--so He could enjoy relationship with us. Believing on Him is our ticket to heaven, but not necessarily our ticket to peace, joy, and hope. Those come from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ--a relationship that is ongoing. They come from bathing in His Word, from crying out to Him in prayer, from worshiping him through song and from a quiet and receptive heart.

Proverbs 8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Quiet Spirit Talk...And What's Been Going On

Hello Internet of Long Lost Friends. I hope you have been well. Here's what's been going on...

~ We go to homeschool Co-op every Wednesday now. My four kids take 5 classes each (i.e. drama, choir, art, PE, Home Ec, Math is Fun, Creative Creations), while Chase (the 3-year-old boy I babysit) and me sit with other preschool moms and play and talk. I help in one class and will most likely be asked to teach something next semester. My kids are over the moon excited about Co-op, and Mary has made a precious friend already (a friend of every mother's dreams, literally. The young lady is a true treasure).

Most of the Co-Op families have 3 to 5 kids each, so it's quite a large group.

~ Yes, I still babysit. Chase will be four in November. We also had his 5-year-old sister until she started kindergarten last month. Things are a little easier around here with only one daycare child, but with Co-op and AWANA both on Wednesdays, the weeks can still feel like marathons.

~ I'm 50-and-a half-years old, and I hate being the oldest mom everywhere I go. Currently more women in their forties are having babies than women in their twenties, but that doesn't seem to be happening in my area.

Other yucky aging news...The hot flashes, which had only come and gone for short periods before, have now been with me about six weeks. Some days I'm intensely frustrated and I don't know how I'll handle the hotness for another day. I'm afraid winter won't make a difference with this kind of heat. About 85% of women get hot flashes in the year or so after menopause; only about 45% of women get them prior to menopause, in the period called perimenopause. I'm one of the lucky 45% getting them in perimenopause. Does this mean I'll have fewer of them later? Here's hoping.

I take two showers a day now, but the relief they provide is short-lived. Another hot flash (intense heat, not just a little warmth) inevitably comes within an hour of my last shower. I have to stop whatever I'm doing and go stand in front of a large fan for 3 minutes, 10 to 15 times a day. Sometimes I sleep on the couch with the fan next to me, although I have fewer hot flashes at night.

This has changed my life enough that thinking about blogging usually seems like too much trouble, even though I miss the intellectual part of it and the interacting part. I'm kicking around the idea of a Twitter account, because you write in smaller chunks and you can have private conversations, versus interacting through blog comments which are public. Anyone on Twitter that reads here?

~ Mary still has her anxiety about the weather, and Peter still has fairly serious OCD--the weight of which also make blogging seem like too much trouble. I feel like I have nothing positive to share, so why burden people with my whining? Some stages of life you have something to share, and other stages are for hankering down and trying to run the race with as much grace as you can muster.

1 Peter 3:4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight.

Our pastor is doing a serious on marriage and went over this passage last weekend. He reminded us women that this doesn't mean we have to refrain from talking much. We don't need to change our personality to live up to this. It isn't about whether we're shy or gregarious, whether we're witty or the life of the party, or quiet and mousy.

Rather, it's about an inner stillness--a lack of inner turmoil. It's a gentleness, and a sureness that everything is going to be okay. It's a calmness, more than a quietness, though it's true that if your inner spirit isn't ruffled, you won't shout or argue or complain or speak harshly. So, yes, maybe you'll talk less as your inner spirit quiets.

Our Bible time and prayer can accomplish this calming of spirit, but we can't forget taking the time to just be quiet before the Lord also. A busy mom may carve out 30 minutes a day a few times a week for devotions, but she'll probably find it isn't enough. Try turning off the radio, the TV, the devices, and go to a quiet room to just sit and listen to anything the Holy Spirit sends your way.

He'll say things put that pressure on wasn't from Me...focus on the Kingdom of God and all these things will be given to you as well...give your children's futures over to me...give the health of your marriage over to me...come to me all you women who are heavy laden...I will quiet you with my Love.

So, what do you think? Is your spirit ruffled? What are you doing to quiet it? What is the source of the ruffling?

Often, it's Satan, you know. He is our accuser. He is the master of distraction and confusion. Most ruffling comes directly from his playbook.

I am learning. Live one day at a time. Hardest. Life. Lesson. Ever.

My gracious Lord holds it all, and he wants me to rejoice in the day he has made. Today. He gives me today, with no guarantee of tomorrow. Therefore, I offer Him my day, my hours, my minutes, holding the outcome loosely, not questioning Him about tomorrow.

When I regard each day as an offering back to Him, suddenly, the hot flashes and the kids' anxiety and the burden of having to babysit (though I love little Chase dearly) all become insignificant. They only carry the weight I assign them. They feel heavy only when I make them my focus. It's like Peter walking on water brilliantly, until he took his eyes off the Prize. I'm not supposed to focus on the details of my life, except when I'm expressing gratitude for them.

The gentle and quiet spirit? It comes from shifting your focus, your gaze, onto the person of Jesus Christ.