Friday, July 27, 2012


Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12

I was reminded today that we are in the midst of a war.  The enemy, "who comes to steal, kill, and destroy," (John 10:10) is "filled with fury because he knows that his time is short." (Revelation 12:12).

A dear friend shared with me a few months ago that she found such peace each morning in reading this passage of scripture:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes... Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Ephesians 6:11, 13-17

We arm ourselves with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the word of God and our salvation in Jesus so that we can take a stand against the devil’s schemes, so that when the day of evil comes, we may stand our ground, and after we have done everything, we are called to stand… stand firm.

There is no question that we live in a dark world… a world where planes fly into buildings, mothers abandon babies, and innocent lives are taken for no reason at all.  But what lies beneath all of the evil acts we hear about on the evening news is the slow and gradual assault on our families.  The attack that happens while our eyes are wide open; the war that has been going on since the beginning of time.

I love how God’s word equips us with what we need in order to go to battle.  I can't help thinking, though, that so many of us, myself included, are suited up, covered in armor head to toe, yet we are not going to battle.  We are not standing.  We are not taking our stand, or standing our ground, fighting against what the enemy wants.  Nehemiah 4:14 says, “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”  Zephaniah 3:9 calls us to serve "shoulder to shoulder" with one another. When horrible, despicable acts of evil are committed, it is easy to question God.  It is easy to let fear and doubt creep their way into our hearts, instead of concentrating on who God is.   But Isaiah 28:16 refers to Jesus as “a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation,” and promises that “the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.” 

We need to constantly remind ourselves of who God is.  When we remember that He is with us, the God who "does no wrong," who "cannot fail," who each new day "dispenses his justice," (Zephaniah 3:3), our "Mighty Warrior who saves", (Zephaniah 3:17) we can stand up together and fight with confidence in knowing that the battle is already won.  1 Peter 3:15 instructs us, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”  Being ready and prepared begins with having the right mindset, with focusing on the truth.  In my Bible study this week, a group of about 40 women sat in a room and quietly spoke out one by one, testifying who God is.  After only a few minutes, this is the picture we saw at the front of the room- a dry erase board overflowing with words of comfort, restoration, peace, and refuge:

We could have sat there all day long, because this list does not even begin to describe who God is, how big, how mighty, how loving or how in control He is every second of every minute of every day. God does not cause evil; it's not who He is.  When things happen and there is no way to wrap our minds around the how and the why, we can trust that He will use it for His eternal purpose.

For God, who said, "Let there be light in the darkness," has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.  2 Corinthians 4:6 (NLT)

Saturday, July 21, 2012


For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. 1 Peter 1:18 (NLT)

Yesterday was a hard day.  Not because I faced major challenges or impossible circumstances.  It was hard just because. 

It’s hard being a mom.  It’s hard taking care of everybody all the time.  It’s hard being patient, when I feel as if every ounce of the patience I wake with gets sucked up before 8:00 am.  I love my kids so very much, but sometimes I have nothing left to give at the end of the day.  I know, I know.  It’s the age.  I know, I know.  It will get easier.  I know. 

But today I need to be able to say, “This is hard!”

When Cody walked in through the door after work, I know my eyes said it all.  I gave him a quick kiss and said, “I’ve got to catch my breath, so I’m leaving.”  I told him I was going to the bank, and my heart went out to him when he asked me in all honesty, “But you are coming back, right?”  I knew what that meant…. Are you leaving me to do dinner, baths, and bedtime all by myself?  I assured him that I just needed some quiet which I thought I could find inside the safety of the truck, with nothing but silence and lots and lots of deep breaths.

I decided to run by the bank before closing time, swing by the bookstore, then head home.  What I did not expect was all the traffic and the incredibly long line at the bank when I am used to driving right up.  Then there was my conversation with the girl at the checkout counter at the bookstore.

I love browsing through the bookstore, carefully making my selection, listening to the calming music playing in the background, but once I’ve committed to my purchase, I am ready to go.  I just wanted to pay for my book and drive home.  I know this girl was just doing her job, and she had no idea how exhausted I was from doing my job all day long.  I know, I know.  I know. 

When asked if I wanted to purchase a discount card, I politely said, “No, thanks.”  When asked again, in a second, more persuading attempt, I once more declined.  When asked for a reason, I simply shared that I had already purchased a card in the past and discovered I did not use it enough to cover the cost.  Then I was asked if I would like to pre-order a DVD set in order to save $10.  When I again declined, a second attempt was made.  Again, I said, “No, thank you.”  

After swiping my card, I was presented with an offer of my choice of a free magazine subscription.  At this point, I think I said something like, “I’m good.  Thanks.”  Just as we were wrapping up the transaction, and I was handed my receipt (which I honestly thought I’d never have my hands on), I was asked, very politely, to go online and fill out a survey so that I could earn more savings. Even if I had a spare moment to fill out a survey online, I promise you I would have to be honest about the migraine I left with after the twenty questions I was asked before swiping my credit card!  I managed to hold it together without letting my frustration explode, but I assure you this:  I walked out of that store without a scrap of patience left!  The very place that I was running to in an effort to regain sanity ended up sucking me completely dry.  As I walked back to the truck and thought about all the traffic I’d sit in on my way back home, I just wanted to cry! 

I called my mom on the way home, in an attempt to turn around my mood.  We visited for a bit, then all of a sudden, she started screaming.  I had no idea what was happening and neither did she, so I pulled the truck to the side of the road.  My heart was pounding as I considered what was taking place all those miles away.  An hour later, after several phone calls from me to my dad, then back to my mom, and one to the fire department, we learned that my parents’ house was struck by lightning.  My mom, standing twenty feet from where it hit, was halfway out the door, trying to get the dog to go outside, when the house started shaking and sparks started flying.  Relief ran over me when I was told that everybody was fine, there was no fire, and only major appliances were lost.  But when I got home, I was shaking.  I was frazzled.  I felt worse than when I left. 

* * * * *

This morning I was reminded of something so fresh.  While watching Jake and Lilly play at the kitchen table, God whispered into my soul, reminding me of the place I can run to when I’m empty. His arms.

One of Jake’s favorite toys is an empty apple juice bottle.  This morning he and Lilly sat next to each other at the table, sharing teacups full of pretend juice.  Lilly would say, “More, please,” holding out her cup, and Jake, over and over again, would fill it up.  She’d say, “Thank you,” in a sing-song way, take a big sip, and follow with a dramatic, “Mmmmmmmmm!”  This continued for the better part of half an hour.  I couldn’t get over how sweet they were being to each other, so I grabbed the camera, if for nothing else, to at least have some documentation of sibling love.  The background music of my life these days is filled with a chorus of ‘no-no’ and ‘mine,’ so the sound of laughter and kisses being exchanged is certainly a melody I tune in to.  

Somewhere in the middle of snapping these photos, I realized that I am that person, holding out my cup asking for more.  But so often, when I lift that cup to my mouth and drink, it’s empty.  I keep going back, over and over, asking for it again and again, but I am never satisfied.  I could sit there at that kitchen table all day saying, “More, please. More, please.”  And it would never be enough.  I may think I’m being filled, but at the end of the day, I’d still be empty.

Jesus replied, "If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water." John 4:10 (NLT)

Jesus is Living Water.  He can satisfy the thirst in me that will always remain as long as I try to quench it with something other than Him.  Last week, my husband prayed a prayer over me that reminded me of what it means to be filled. He asked God to take away from my heart fear, doubt, and uncertainty, but before ending that prayer, he asked that those empty places be filled with love, confidence, and strength.  Not only is God is able to take away all that is dragging me to the floor and causing me to grow weary, but, He also has what I want to be filed with instead: love, kindness, peace, and patience.  Oh, yes… patience! That is something I need a daily dose of at this stage of my life! 

I love the fact that in John chapter 7, Jesus speaks of rivers of living water that flow from the hearts of all who believe. (See John 7:38 NLT)  Living water, found in relationship with Him, is what our souls are really longing for, and the only thing that can truly satisfy.  If you picture a river, though, it is moving and flowing.  So what is poured into our hearts must make its way out in our words, actions, and relationships.  When there is nothing but emptiness inside, it is impossible for anything to flow out of that place.  Emptiness alone is useless.  But when we allow God to empty us of all that gets in the way, He is faithful to fill us with a life of abundance, with plenty of overflow that can’t help but pour out of our hearts. 

Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life. Revelation 22:17 (NIV)

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Day To Remember

 Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!  Psalm 126:3 (NLT)

We had Jake and Lilly's birthday party at the zoo this year.  Since both are into animals these days and I tend to feel like a zookeeper most days, it's a well-loved place for all of us.  The night before the big day, my entire family made the four hour trek to our house, some arriving before dinner and the last weary traveler joining us just before eleven o’clock.  The girls perfected the monkey, tiger, lion, and zebra cupcakes and we talked about how none of us can believe that Jake and Lilly are already turning two. 

We joked and laughed and teased…. That’s what families do.  Someone brought up last year’s party.  The party that we decided (foolishly) to have at 2:30 in the afternoon…. outside…. in July…. in Texas!  The same party to which I arrived fifteen minutes late with the cakes, balloons, decorations, etc.  I had no idea the freeway was going to be shut down, so when I left two hours before the party, there should have been plenty of time to pick up balloons then arrive at the party location early to set up.  But, it did not go that way.  Everything did not go as planned.  In fact, nothing went as planned.  As I sat in traffic hitting my steering wheel, thinking, “How could this happen?!” just like that, in an instant, I lost sight of it. 

The significance of my kids’ first birthday vanished from my mind, and I was instead too consumed with the decorations I spent months creating, the two cakes that I had embellished just so, and the balloons that were just the right color… all 35 of them.  Nothing about this party had been done without careful planning and decisiveness.  All except that freeway shutting down and the awful heat that melted the frosting right off of Jake’s cake.  I was frazzled and stressed and mad and frustrated, and I missed it.  I missed it.

So when the party planning began for Jake and Lilly’s second birthday, I made a vow not to ever again get so caught up in things out of my control that I forget what their birthday represents.  Yes, we celebrate another year with lots of milestones, progress, and many, many phases, both good and bad.  But the day those two entered this world was a day that forever changed me.  They are my living, breathing reminders that God is good.  When I look at their faces, I see evidence that God keeps His promises.  No, He never promised me children.  But He did promise me that He would always be enough for me.  That I would find joy in Him.  He knew I wanted children, and He wanted to give them to me, but only until I saw that nothing, not even these two who I love with all of my heart, could ever satisfy my soul like He can.  I do not ever want to look into their eyes and forget what He did for me. 

The party was a huge hit for both kids, which is a miracle in and of itself.  Animals are one of the few things they actually love with equal intensity.  I give all the credit to Cody who chose this party location very wisely!  With two toddlers, a party without a single temper tantrum is a home run! And popping cupcakes in the fridge overnight was just what these little critters needed to survive the summer heat!

We even had two animal friends attend the party.   Here is Millie, the three banded armadillo.
All of the kids got to touch Millie’s back with two fingers.  Jake and Lilly, who have been devotedly practicing holding those two fingers to show their age, knew exactly how to make their fingers fold in the perfect position.  At one point, Lilly took her left hand and held down the rest of her fingers on her right hand, so that only those two fingers touched Millie, just as the friendly zookeeper had instructed.

Charles, the lizard, also attended the party, and the kids were equally mesmerized by him. 

Birthdays are times when families gather.  In fact, my mom and my mother-in-law were discussing after the party that we had not all been together since Jake and Lilly's party one year ago.  As they exchanged hugs, they made plans to get together before the next birthday party.  I smiled to myself thinking how blessed we are to have such loving families who have been there for us through it all.  I have never been more convinced in the power of a mother's prayer than I am now that I am a mother.

When the party was over, we went home for naps, then hooked up some new water toys and ran through the backyard in swimsuits!  It was such a happy day!  Definitely a birthday to remember!

Acknowledging that God answers prayers is not just something that I do out of gratitude.  It’s so vital that I never lose sight of what God has done, because inevitably there will come a time in my life where I will start to feel overwhelmed, hopeless, and confused.  I’ll be standing in front of some huge mountain thinking there is no way around it.  It’s during those times, in tears, that I want to be able to look over my shoulder at how far we’ve come and know that if He was there with me back then, He is here with me now.  And if it seems as if there is no way, My God will make a way.  And when He does, He will amaze me.

But then I recall all you have done, O Lord; I remember your wonderful deeds of long ago.  They are constantly in my thoughts.  I cannot stop thinking about your mighty works. Psalm 77:11-12 (NLT)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jake & Lilly!

Cody and I keep saying to each other over and over how quickly two years can zoom by.  But saying it doesn't make it any easier to comprehend.  When I think about all of the challenges mixed in with all of the blessings, the milestones and the progress each year has proved, and the many, many smiles that have occurred in the blink of an eye, I can't help but think that it will only go by faster and faster!  How can the two tiny bundles we nervously took home from the hospital really be turning two?  How does that happen?  I guess it takes place day by day, moment by moment, one slobbery kiss at a time!