Wednesday, September 26, 2012


For God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.  Romans 11:29 (NIV)

Lilly and Jake love going to pre-school!  One of our favorite times of day is when I pick them up and they show me what they made.  Since they have different teachers, their artwork is always specific to what their class learned that day.  Occasionally, they will have something similar, but for the most part, they are proud to show off their own unique creation to Momma in the afternoons. 

I make a big deal about whatever craft they assembled, colored, or plastered with stickers.  The pleased looks on their little faces get me every time.  When we get home, we find a spot on the refrigerator, where the artwork hangs until Daddy gets home from work.  As soon as he steps in the house, they take off to greet him, then sprint to the kitchen to pluck their projects off the fridge to share with him.

This week, Lilly was extra proud of her work.  She had painted an oversized sheet of paper with an outline of a dog on it.  The color she chose: yellow or “wewwow,” as she says.  I’m not sure what it was about this yellow dog, but she would not let me to carry it to the car.  She had to carry it, knuckles white from the ironclad grasp she had on it, all the way through the parking lot and on her lap the whole way home. 

Jake was equally thrilled to show me his Noah’s Ark, complete with a couple dozen animal stickers stuck every which way.  The way he lit up when I took it out of his backpack was precious!

When we got unloaded, I hung Jake’s picture on the fridge, and asked Lilly to bring me hers.  As she looked me square in the eye and said, “uh-uh,” I sensed this would be a battle I’d never win.   I seriously could not have pried her fingers off of that painting if I tried.  She was determined to drag it around all afternoon long, so incredibly proud of what she had created.

Then about an hour later, it got really quiet, which is never, ever good.  As I realized that Lilly was not in the playroom with Jake, I began my search.  When I found her in front of the fridge, my heart sank.  Her yellow dog was laying on the floor in front of her as she stood there carefully plucking the stickers off of Jake’s artwork to add to her own. 

Thankfully, I caught her before all his hard work was mutilated. I wasn't sure why this struck such a chord with me, but a couple days later it hit me like a ton of bricks.  

Like my daughter, I get diverted by what I see God doing in other peoples' lives.  Instead of being encouraged, I can get distracted by focusing on the gifts He’s given them, while I should be concerned with what He’s given to me.  Sometimes, I wish He’d given me something different.  Sometimes, I want the gifts others have. 

When I saw Lilly trying to add some of Jake’s stickers to her artwork in an effort to make it better or more beautiful, it made my heart hurt.  Especially since she was so stinking proud of that dog.  But in her little mind, it just needed a little bit more.  A little bit more of what her brother had. 

Romans 12:6 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”  That part I get.  That makes sense to me.  But what I struggle with is thinking that the gifts God has given me are inferior to the gifts of another.  That my gift needs a “little sprucing up” to be deemed “good enough.”

Psalm 139:14 says, "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."  God made me Me, and gave me gifts that are unique and significant to my life's purpose, and He says that they will never be withdrawn. When I let the truth sink in, that God’s call on my life is irrevocable, my heart finds peace.  The Message translates this as under full warranty—never canceled, never rescinded.

But there's more.
Malachi 3:6 says, “I the LORD do not change.” 

Numbers 23:19 says, “God is not human that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind.  Does he speak and then not act?  Does he promise and not fulfill?”

There is something so very comforting about this truth- that God will not ever change.  Especially in a world of continuous change.  He is Constant.  He is the Same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  His Love is Unchanging.

Everything in my life, whether material things, gifts and talents, my time and relationships, are all given to me by Him so that with them I may bring glory to His name.  It’s not about me.  It’s all about Him. The purpose of my life is simply about making Him look good, not getting distracted and over concerned with trying to make myself look good.

So, today my heart acknowledges and cheerfully accepts that He has given me a specific purpose, a unique and perfect plan for my life that, if I am willing, may be used to bring Him much praise!

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36  (NIV)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lightning's Path

Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct?  Job 38:35 (NLT)

A couple days ago I got up early, and on the way to the coffee pot, I was distracted by a bright flashing light outside.  Curiosity sent me to the window near our front door.  Void of any sound, a spectacular display of light danced before my eyes.  The sky was clear except for a patch of clouds in the distance, and as if on musical cue, lightning darted across the horizon in absolute silence, illuminating the black sky. 

I wanted to wake everyone in my house to come witness this beautiful sight, yet I could not draw myself away from the window.   For the next ten minutes, I stood there watching, amazed.



Without the usual thunder claps that make me jump out of my skin, this early morning lightning show was breathtaking to say the least. 

Not too long ago, lightning struck my parents’ house.  I happened to be on the phone with my mom when it happened, and I will never forget the panic that came over me as I listened to her scream.  Later, she would describe a force so powerful –one that shook her to her core.

The firemen told us that the lightning struck the house and traveled down the chimney on a dangerous course, looking for something or someone to ground it.  My mom stood within ten feet of its path.  Almost two months later, my parents are still replacing stuff that was damaged by one bolt of lightning.Thankfully, it was only stuff. 

As I stood with my nose pressed up against the window, unable to pull my eyes away from this brilliant show of lights, I embraced a new perspective.  In that moment, I was overwhelmed by how incredibly big my Creator is, and I realized that there is so much about Him that I have yet to discover.  And with that realization came great peace.

Peace in knowing my God cannot do wrong.  
Peace in saying some things just don’t make sense.   
Peace in accepting that I will never know everything there is to know about Him while I am still on this Earth.
Peace in anticipating the day that I will see clearly. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (NLT)

Through my current lenses, I do not see God with perfect clarity, and I don't see myself clearly either.  But God knows me better than I know myself.  When He looks at me, He sees His workmanship.  The same God who is responsible for the mysterious path that lightning takes created and crafted me in His image.  He directs my path as well.  Psalm 139 says that "He goes before me and follows me" and that "His eyes see all my days before a single one of them begins." 

Just as there is so much more to learn about my Creator, there is also much to learn about who God created me to be.  When I start to think, God can’t really use me, or that will never change, or this is just too big, His Truth reminds me, that He is able,through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

Admitting that there is so much I don’t get brings me such relief.  I don’t ever want to find myself at a place in this life where I think I’ve got it all figured out.  When I am overwhelmed by my lack of understanding, I find freedom in saying, I don’t know.  I don’t understand. Because my life is hidden with Christ Who knows, Who understands, and Who loves me more than I could ever fathom.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Ephesians 4:19 (NLT)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Everything Needed

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. Psalm 23:1 (NLT)

Today was a first.  

First day of Pre-school, first day in separate classrooms, first five hour stretch of free time in which I missed my kids like crazy every single minute they were not here.

This day has been anticipated for months now.  Back in the spring, I picked out adorable owl and monkey lunch boxes to match the backpacks they received as Christmas presents from their auntie and uncle.  All summer long, at the pool and on various other outings, Jake and Lilly practiced eating their lunch with their new gear.  There were zippers and pouches and handles to discover.

For their birthdays in July, Grammy and Pop gave each of them their very own nap mat, which was an immediate hit for both.  All summer long, they’d unroll their mats, fluff up their pillows, and curl up under their blankets to watch their favorite show.  (Somehow Lilly was OK with this type of resting as long as it didn’t involve sleep!)

When today finally arrived, we were ready.  We had all of the required supplies and our Pre-school equipment was broken in.  With lots of confidence, we stepped out of the house in brand new tennis shoes, ready to embark upon this new journey.

We stopped at Lilly’s room first, and having met her teacher last Friday, she ran right into her classroom without a second glance.  When Jake realized what was going on, he went back and forth about whether or not he was really ready for this big adventure.  I quickly handed him off to his sweet teacher and kissed his tear streaked face, trying really hard to hold it together myself.  

By the time I left the building, a quick peek into their classroom windows proved that they had adjusted quite well to their new surroundings, and with a deep breath, I told myself it would all be OK.

I’ve thought and thought about all that went into getting prepared for this day.  The lunch boxes, the nap mats, the supplies, new shoes, the pep talks- all of it- and I’ve realized that I was probably more anxious about today than either of my kids.  It was my job to make sure they had everything they needed.  It was up to me to make sure they were ready when today came.  It was my responsibility to teach them how to use the equipment I’d provided. 

Our heavenly Father, who cares about every detail of our lives, has great adventures planned for us.  Some of us, like Lilly, can’t wait to jump in with reckless abandon to see what’s He’s got for us, while others, like my cautious Jake, are a little more hesitant and unsure.  I fall into that second category a bunch.  Sometimes, I doubt that God really can provide everything that I need.   

Part of the problem comes when I start looking at other pastures where the grass seems to be greener. But Psalm 23:2 says, He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. (NLT)  If I am following Him, then wherever He takes me is exactly where I am supposed to be. One thing that holds true for each and every one of us is the absolute delight God takes in providing all that we need for whatever circumstances we encounter.  We never face a season of life without everything we need. 

Sometimes, it is a new and exciting adventure that awaits us.  Other times, it may be a season of silence.  Often, God asks us to wait until He has fully developed our character and has taught us how to use the gifts He's given to us.  Sometimes, we find ourselves on a path that seems impossible to navigate.  But, never is there a time when He will not come through for us.  He gives us what we need to walk confidently, as we draw the strength for each step from Him.  

What gives me the most peace is the fact that it is not up to me to make sure I have everything I need.  That is God's job.  As long as I am keeping a check on my heart and I'm sure that where I am headed is actually where He is leading me, then I can find security in knowing that the rest is up to Him.  I used to think that giving up control would restrict me, but the opposite is true.  There is such freedom when I allow Him to take the reins, because all of sudden, having what I need becomes His responsibility, not mine.

Just as I took joy in giving my children all they would need to do well on their new journey, God does not overlook a single thing.  When I look back at certain times in my life, particularly the difficult seasons, I am amazed at just how much He did provide.  Everything from precious friendships to verses of scriptures whispered to my broken heart to the strength necessary to just keep going:  all were marked by His fingerprints. 

I had to leave my children this morning and wait until this afternoon to learn how they adjusted, how they interacted with their new classmates, and the final outcome of this “first day.”  I told Cody that I would have loved to be a fly on the wall today, watching their every move, and he replied, “You and every other mother.”

I didn’t get to go along with my children on their new adventure.  The fact that I am their Momma couldn't change that.  But our heavenly Father promises to never leave His children.  He walks beside me along every road I travel.  Because His Son lives inside of me, wherever I go, He’s going too.  He celebrates when I conquer fears, He rejoices over me when I make the tiniest bit of progress, He delights in watching me grow.  And on the days when I fail or I fall behind or I think I can’t possibly take it any longer, He lavishes me with His grace.  And that alone gives me faith to keep walking in the way He leads, looking to Him for everything I need.

And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (NLT)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sleepless Nights

Do everything without grumbling or arguing…  Philippians 2:14

We’re tired.  And by we, I mean all of us.  There has been no shortage of grumbling and arguing in our house lately.   It’s been more of a shortage of sleep.

First, it was the roosters behind the neighbors’ barn that would jolt us out of slumber long before dawn. 

Then, for three straight weeks, somebody in this house had something that kept all of us from sleeping well at night: stuffy noses and the snoring that often accompanies them, coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, ear infections, etc.

About a week after everybody started to recover, Lilly started waking up around midnight wanting to play.  She’d ask for a drink, a TV show, or whatever she could creatively come up with in an attempt to get out of bed. 

(Notice I used the word attempt.  We were onto her.  We were a united front that endorsed a firm, yet loving message: “Sweet Lilly-Girl, we love you, but no, you will not be getting out of bed.”  She has continued to give it her best effort, though, in spite of our unwavering stance.  I was convinced one night that she’d had a terrible nightmare, until we caught her right in the middle of her dramatic little act!  Apparently, it threw her off when Daddy went in to lay her back down instead of Momma.  As soon as Cody opened her door, the crying stopped and she said, “Dad?! Where’s Mom?”  That was the end of that.  Until….)

The latest interference with sleep in this house was the crib escapee we found at two in the morning screaming at the top of the stairs.  It wasn’t until that night that I wished we could go back to just screaming in bed.  We always knew Lilly would be the first to figure out how to climb out of her crib, since sleep is so not her thing.  But with a couple of modifications to her bedroom, we were soon feeling much better about her safety at night. 

While all of the above has been go on in the wee hours of the night, Lilly has also been waking up 1-2 hours early in the morning.  To this we have completely given in, allowing her watch TV in our bed while we doze. 

On one such morning, after very little sleep the night before, Cody was less than nice to me when I asked for help with the TV. He was mad that Lilly was in our bed and mad that he was awake at 5:30 on a weekend.  After exchanging harsh words, he returned to his snoring about five minutes later.  I, on the other hand, was fuming, so sleep eluded me.  Around 7:30, he woke up, very chipper, I might add, and asked if we could please have a do-over.  Since I wanted to remain angry at him all day for being so impolite, his first apology was not sufficient.

“I’m sorry for being cranky this morning,” he offered.

In my mind, cranky didn't quite cover it.  Looking over at him on his side of the bed, I hissed through clenched teeth, “Fine!  Are you sorry for being incredibly rude and obnoxious, too?”

Without any hesitation whatsoever, the little one that sat between us in the bed looked at me with a quivery lip and said, “Yesh.”

So much for staying mad.  We both laughed until we had tears gushing out of our bloodshot eyes!  I guess even Lilly recognizes that her shortage of sleep has been the primary source of all of the grumbling and arguing lately.  

The next day, after a comment I’m sure I took the wrong way, Cody and I started another sleep disagreement.  This time it was about who had lost more sleep, like it was some sort of “Sleep Deprivation Competition” and the winner received a prize of eight uninterrupted hours in a dark and quiet room.  It didn’t take long to realize that neither of us was going to win.

Round and round in circles we went until I choked out through tears, “I just need to be appreciated.  I just need to be reminded that this is all worth it.”  Silence filled the air between us.  Eventually, we decided to be grown-ups and make a plan.  The argument soon ended, and later that night we prayed and asked God to help us deal with the crazy hand we’d recently been dealt, and vowed to remember that we were on the same team.

I am sure I’m not the only mother out there that could use a little appreciation.  It’s not that my husband doesn’t do that for me.  He does.  I think it has more to do with the fact that a Momma’s role is so huge, that no one could ever truly appreciate and acknowledge every little thing that falls under that list of responsibilities. 

As this week has carried on, my grumbling has continued, I'll admit.  I’ve wanted someone (mainly my husband) to pat me on the back and tell me how wonderful I am for doing my job.  I love the rewards that come with being a mom, but who wants to get up in the middle of the night?  And if I do, I’d at least like my sacrifice to be noticed.

This morning, as I waited impatiently for my coffee to brew, my previous comment crept its way into my mind.   “I just need to be reminded that this is all worth it,” I had said to my husband just two days before.

And then, in the very, very quiet place of my heart, I was reminded of the sacrifice someone else made.  The most humble of all sacrifices made because Jesus decided that I was worth it.  He wasn’t encouraged; He was rejected.  He wasn’t applauded as He hung on the cross for all of my sins.  They spat on Him, called Him names, mocked Him, and yet, He decided that I was worth it.

As these thoughts were flooding the little pity party I was set on having over coffee, I found this verse:  

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  1 Corinthians 10:31

I’m guessing that everything probably includes instances of sleep deprivation.  Instead of grumbling and arguing, I was reminded that it’s in the little everyday things that I’m supposed to give God thanks and praise.  Even the parts that wear me out and threaten to steal my joy.

I checked both versions that I own and neither said anything like, “whatever energizing things you do,” or “whatever rewarding things you do,” or “whatever noticeable things you do…” Nope.  It clearly stated, “whatever you do.”

While nothing has changed for me on the outside, I’m making some changes this week on the inside.  I’m still tired, and I am in no way singing praise songs at 3:00 a.m.  But when that selfish part in me wants to gain some kind of recognition, I will do my best to remember who it is that I am called to serve. 

All the things I do and all the responsibilities I own as a mother, I do not only for my family, but most importantly, I do for the glory of God.  For the One who decided that I was worth it.  So when I am tempted to ask myself questions like, “Is this really worth it?” I’ll be able to certainly, positively, unequivocally say, “Yes.  Yes, this is worth it.”

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.      
1 Thessalonians 5:18