Not So New Resolution

It’s January. I love the New Year. Does anyone dislike the New Year? I mean who doesn’t love the idea of fresh, clean slates. New mercies. New season. I can’t explain why a simple change of date and month causes me to feel so invigorated but it does.

I don’t have a resolution…. I don’t even have a word this year (or last year apparently!) I do have scripture though. God plopped me down in Ephesians and for a little over a week has basically said, “Stay put.” It started with Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, that it may benefit those who listen.” I began refreshing my mind with this passage. Asking questions like “What IS unwholesome talk?” “What would or would not benefit those who listen?” And getting tough, convicting responses from the Lord.

One of the most memorable sermons I have ever listened to is one John Piper preached entitled, Make Your Mouth a Means of Grace. That pretty much sums it up. In any and every situation I want to ask myself “Is my mouth a means of grace?” “Am I imparting grace to the people around me?” It makes perfect sense for Paul to continue in that chapter with these words, verse 31 and 32 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Jesus taught that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart,….” Matthew‬ ‭15:18‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Whatever we are holding onto in our heart is going to determine whether our mouth can be an instrument of grace. So that got me thinking…. when my mouth is NOT being a means of grace, what is the sin I’m holding onto? Is it resentment, a sense of entitlement, impatience, or unforgiveness? When my words are tender, humble, and loving, it’s because my desire is to love and honor Jesus. And when my words are uplifting, beneficial, and gracious, you can trace it directly back to Who is on the throne of my heart. But when my words are ugly, negative, harsh, or sarcastic it’s not a reflection of my love for Jesus, it’s just me unyielded to the Holy Spirit. This has been a powerful time, meditating on Gods Word and doing my own heart check. God has made me keenly aware of how desensitized I can become to my own sin, justifying these “little” grievances that are detestable to him. Bitterness, greed, resentment, envy, slander, etc. can infiltrate our hearts slowly and subtly and really begin to wreak havoc on our spiritual life and relationships. As I began reading these verses, fully aware that I’m not immune against these sins, I asked God to bring it all to light. Sometimes we have to pray that so we can confess and repent and truly “rid” ourselves of it all.

Bring it to light, Lord.

This morning I honed in on the beginning of Ephesians 4, verses 2 and 3, “Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

Does that not just knock you out of your chair? Thats a pretty heavy commission for us! I mean, every day I have to fight the inclination to be the antithesis of that passage. I love the people in my life but the fact is relationships are hard. If we’re honest, people we love can be annoying and hard to love sometimes. I know I can be!! My sinful knee jerk reaction to frustrating situations is anger. I get hot, physically, and my chest gets tight with angry feelings. And then if it doesn’t get dealt with properly I might just get bitter or resentful. You can usually tell this by whatever comes out of my mouth and it’s not grace. But I want to speak grace and life. In joyous times, in the mundane times, and in the uncomfortable, hard confrontations I want my heart to be right with God and my words to “build others up, so it may benefit those who listen”.

God didn’t put all this in his Word to make us despairing, feeling as though we can not possibly do this. He put it there because through Christ we are more than conquerors. I have experienced how powerful it is to pray through these passages. I have felt a complete shift in my attitude, outlook, and speech when I apply these truths to whatever is going on in my day. Be humble. Be patient. Bear with one another. According to their needs. Keep the unity. Don’t grieve the Spirit of God. Filtering my thoughts through those truths is the key. It also takes a lot of diligence! But God is faithful when we actively put our trust and heart in his hands. And it is life giving when we live according to his Word!

I’ll close with this because our heart, mind, and mouth are all connected. What we put in our mind nourishes our heart and soul. This year, as every year, I pray I would put more and more of the precious, life giving Word of God before me.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians‬ ‭4:4-8 NIV‬‬


He Is Enough

“I was walking blindly into a new season, a place that didn’t line up with my plans and dreams for the coming new year. A place that I never would have chosen, never wished or asked for. But God’s promise to Abraham spoke to me. God wasn’t promising me ease. He wasn’t promising that things would go as planned. He wasn’t promising a world without trouble, without heartbreak along the way. He was promising me Himself.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

If you are looking for a good book I encourage you to read this one. It was appropriate timing that this book arrived in the mail for me today.

Today I recognized that I still have some grieving to do. I told my mom that I was having a strange urge to cry that I didn’t understand. I’ve been “fine”. When my miscarriage has come up I have felt “okay.” But today it was like the flood gates unexpectedly opened back up and my heart is aching like it did the day I learned of our loss. This is still all so foreign to me. I’m starting to learn that when you experience loss, it never stops resurfacing. And sometimes you can handle it emotionally and sometimes you just can’t.

I long for another child. I long for our family to continue growing. It also doesn’t help that Caleb asks me every other day, “When will we get a baby?” He tells me he wants a brother, after all “Micaila and Ryann have a little brother. I want one, too.” I mean who can argue with that? We pray for God to grow our family (however he chooses) and right now I’m struggling to be patient as I wait on his revealed plan. Before I found out I was pregnant we thought God was leading us to adoption but that door closed. Then we were having a baby naturally,…….then we weren’t. Now we are waiting for a placement. Which isn’t meant to be permanent but I certainly wouldn’t mind lavishing all this love on someone temporarily. And yet, here we wait. And the thing God whispers over and over and over is, “In your grief, in your waiting, you have Me.” Because so often when I want something, good somethings, I tend to start thinking Jesus + said thing will make everything better, whole, satisfied. And I have certainly searched my heart wondering, “Is Jesus enough for me?” I want to say whole heartedly “yes!” I guess maybe that’s the point of this season. Maybe God keeps us in these places so we will truly understand deep down that He is in fact enough. He is enough when we have and enough when we have not. He is always enough and He is always good.

“His desire is for us- that we would know His love in these unexpected broken places and that we would know the true hope found only in His Son Jesus, the Lamb, who never, ever stops reaching out for us, who cups our pain in His nail-scarred palms and cradles our hearts close to His. He wants to be our reward.” Katie Davis Majors, Daring to Hope

Coveting, comparing, and Christ

It’s been a LONG time since I have fought the sin of covetousness or have felt sucked in and drug down by comparing. I have other issues but those haven’t seemed to crop up in awhile. I figured I just didn’t struggle in that way, that I was simply “content” with the things God gave me. It’s hard not to be, he has given us so much.

And then it happened.

We were invited to a birthday party for my new friends daughter. And my new friend was a gracious host. She doesn’t live in a huge house but her home is very beautiful. Her decorating taste was very appealing to my eyes. Fresh paint, clean carpet, gleaming hardwoods, beautiful fabrics and accessories. Not over the top but tasteful. Everything was in its proper place, inside and out.

The order, cleanliness, and tastefulness of her home surfaced that old familiar temptation to covet and compare.

Our home is beautiful. I love our home and am so grateful God has entrusted it to us. It’s interesting though how something as simple as someone else’s clean, pretty home potentially can create feelings of inadequacy , or discontent, or wanting more in your own home. I found myself with this “decorating itch” that HAD to be scratched. And scratch I did! I started making a list of what we needed; new area rug, new bedding, more flowers, (because flowers are cheery and bright!) new paint, recover a few things, etc etc. I went to Hobby Lobby, TJmaxx, Walmart, and Home Depot. And then there was all the time spent online,….scrolling.

And more scrolling.

But I was struggling. Not only could I not justify spending the money, I was convicted over the amount of time the whole process of decorating was taking up. This itch was becoming an idol. And my gracious, glorious God will have none before Him.

In His mercy, the Lord kept putting truth before me.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” 1 Timothy‬ ‭6:6-8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew‬ ‭6:19-21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I know that a pristine house is not only unrealistic for our family (Today, thanks to Jake, we have dead animal limbs strewed about our yard) but it’s also not going to be the thing that makes me happy. I think that is the core lie that Satan wants us to believe. That this will bring forever happy feelings. This will satisfy me. This will be the thing that does the trick. But I know in my heart that’s not true. I know it is impossible for me to find true joy in the material earthly things. I may find temporary happiness but it’s just that. Temporary. Fleeting. Lasting joy is found in the Lord and being surrendered to Him. My deepest joys have been found in reading and obeying His Word, in honoring Him in my marriage and parenting, in gathering with the body of Christ, in serving children in foster care,…… but buying new throw pillows? No. That joy lasts all of 24 hours and then they become rocks to jump on to escape hot lava and I’m torn between wigging out on my kids and being caught up in the nostalgia.

Today we sang Forever Reign and I had to ask myself if I meant what I was singing.

“I’m running to Your love. The riches of Your love, will always be enough. Nothing compares to Your embrace. Light of the world forever reign….. my heart will sing, no other name, Jesus.”

If I’m honest, for the last week, that hasn’t been true for me. I have desired an immaculate and well decorated home over Jesus. This past week I have desired what the world deems rich over the riches of Christ love. But the conviction of those lyrics, confessing my misplaced worship, and the power of the Holy Spirit have rightly aligned my heart to His again. I know this is not the last time I’ll fight this battle. Fortunately, I only bought a few fake flowers that were on sale! :-/ But I truly am grateful that, even in my struggle, I’m aware of this truth. “And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” 1 John‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬ Christ and His Kingdom are the only lasting treasures.

“But seek first the Kingdom of God…” Matthew 6:33a ESV

Let Me Introduce You To My Framily

Katie (and baby due soon!!) Stephen, Addie, and Griffin.

Two years ago God brought the Sapp family into our life. I am not embellishing this story in the least. After the joys of Christmas and being with family and friends in Florida, we settled back into normal life in Lindale and I was overwhelmed with sadness. I missed my family and friends. I desired relationship specifically with my brothers and sisters in Christ. We have sacrificed that a little more each time we’ve moved, from Tampa to Dallas, and Dallas to Lindale. I believe whole heartedly that God has used isolation to draw me closer to Him and I’m grateful for it, but I also believe He absolutely desires us as Christians to live in community with the body of Christ.

On a Sunday in January of 2015 we were driving to a new church, that was very small, and I confessed to God and Jason how much I needed friendship. And SOON. “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬ On this same Sunday, for reasons only explained by God, the Sapps, Stephen and Katie, visited this church even though they lived 45 minutes away. When I saw this family come in I knew I had to meet them and apparently the feeling was mutual. We shook hands and made lunch plans all within the 60 seconds of greeting. To say we hit it off would be a complete understatement. There was an immediate connection on all accounts. We extended our lunch invitation to, “Hey we just had company leave and our house is a complete wreck but want to come over?!” On our second “date” Katie and Stephen came over and I had to run dinner to a friend and I left them alone in my house with my kids. It felt right and crazy all at once but I really had a high level of trust with them immediately into our friendship. As inseparable as adults with jobs and kids can possibly be, that was us for the next few weeks. Before we knew it Stephen and Jason were in business together. And it’s rare for that mixture to work but it did! Katie and I have a special bond as well, it’s always been easy, natural, like sisters. And our kids, well, they all adore each other. Even if we’ve gone a month with out seeing Addie and Griffin (which is simply dreadful!) my kids ask about them. Caleb had few things to say he was thankful for at Thanksgiving (he’s a 4 year old boy, I cut him some slack for now) but one thing he was explicit about, “I’m thankful for my best friends, Addie and Griffin.” Me too, buddy. 🙂

We all agree emphatically that God has brought our families together, maybe simply for the deep Christian friendship, maybe for future ministry endeavors. Hopefully one day he intends to get us in the same neck of the woods! 🙂 Outside of Jason’s cousins we haven’t had many friendships that have sharpened us quite like the Sapp’s. Is our friendship perfect? No. Do we love each other flaws and all? No doubt about it! I’m so grateful for a couple more friends that encourage us to pursue hard after Christ. Friends that cheer us on to do tough, or what the world might consider risky, things. I’m grateful for friends to confide in, confess to, and be held accountable by. I’m grateful for the body of Christ, for the unique connection Jesus’ sacrifice established for us. I’m grateful for God expressing his love to me through answering my prayers for friendship. And every time we get together with the Sapp’s, I’m reminded of Gods goodness and love and I’m awestruck again by this deeply personal relationship we get to have with our Father in Heaven. As Stephen affectionately dubbed us, we’re framily; friends that feel like family.

“Praise the LORD! I will thank the LORD with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the LORD! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our LORD!” Psalms‬ ‭111:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Caleb Post

Caleb, Caleb, Caleb. It’s been far too long since I have written a memory of the little man you are becoming. I missed your 4th birthday letter, but I figure, what the heck, that was only 2 months ago 😉 One of the things I love about writing these memory posts is when I go back and read through and see how much each of you kiddos stay the same. It is so cool how God makes you uniquely YOU from the very beginning.

See. Nothing’s changed. 😜

Caleb, you get sillier every day. You have comedic timing unlike any of our family members. You quote silly things from your favorite movies, like when mommy gives you a long hug, you often will say, “You can let go now.” (Finding Nemo) Or if we find ourselves in an intense situation like a thunderstorm or something, you might quote Ice Age “We’re gonna live! We’re gonna diiiiieeee.” The other part that makes your humor so entertaining is your many facial expressions.

You and Aunt Nikki at the beach. Graham Slam!

The Rock. 

“Seriously mommy?”  (You really say that, along with, “Are you kidding me?”)

Everyone say cheese!

Your humor is just one aspect of your personality that makes you special. You have big emotions like mommy, all or nothing. You can be very sweet, polite, or caring one minute and the next be a big scary mess. You thrive best with consistent daddy discipline and preferably a nap. Without these two you turn into the Incredible Hulk or a Werwolf after 6:00pm. Speaking of daddy, you love him so much. You want to do everything like and with him. Cut the lawn, go to work, play guitar, fix stuff around the house, ride in the truck, or just simply wear no shirt. You squeal and scream when he comes home and squeeze his legs while gritting your teeth with excited boyish aggression. (You always are in some sort of wrestling mode) You crawl into his lap every chance you get and you wish he never had to leave. At one time I was worried you’d be too much a mommas boy but you’ve balanced out and absolutely adore your daddy, too.

Caleb, you are smart! Your memory is like a steel trap. Like movie quotes you also remember songs well and like your sister Ryann you sing all the time. I love catching you singing your heart out in my rear view mirror while driving.

My dear son you have challenged mommy in a whole new way. Parenting a boy is just, well, different. It’s hard! You are strong willed and a fighter. You push mommy to her knees praying to God that he would equip us to raise you up into a strong godly man. I pray all those fighting qualities, all those big emotions of yours would get channeled into a fierce faith that cannot be shaken. I pray you would be like your daddy, a hard working man of integrity. A man who is loyal and loves his family. I pray you would become a man that passionately loves Jesus and all He stands for. I pray your strong will would bend to the Lords will and that you would let him have his way with you. I pray you would “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.”

I love you so much, Caleb. Happy 4 years, 1 month and 25 days, my handsome boy. 🙂

A Lesson In Judging

Dear Woman at Walmart,

I sensed your disapproving glares as I was checking out. I’m so sorry I was holding up the line. I thought I had all my ducks in a row, all the right WIC vouchers set out accordingly but I’m pretty new to using this program and well it was a mess. I had all the dates wrong, didn’t know you had to pay as you go and additionally I had a newbie cashier who was as confused as I was. I smiled politely and apologetically and yet that stare seemed to draw sweat beads out of my body and panic within my chest. Maybe you noticed by my lovely wedding ring that I’m married. Maybe you saw this nice coach wallet my mother bought me and yes I do have an iPhone. Maybe you were wondering why your tax dollars are paying for someone’s groceries who obviously can afford life’s luxuries. I get it. I’ve been there. And today was a great reminder for me about not being a person who judges others. It’s not my place and I simply can not even begin to know the extent of a strangers situation. You see while you frowned upon me you didn’t know that I’m a new foster mom. That my family just brought in two sweet babies that need a temporary loving home. And while we welcome these babies with all the emotional and physical challenges that naturally come with fostering, the state would like to alleviate us some by assisting us financially. It’s not much mind you, but it’s something. So while I fumble through my WIC folder looking for that precious check that will supply my foster baby with formula, I hope you will now understand that not everyone takes advantage of government assistance. Yes, there is fraudulent use of these programs but there are birth and foster parents alike who use the help of our government as its intended to be used. And at any rate it’s not our place to pass judgment on who we deem should be using it or not. Our glaring looks of disapproval have never changed anything have they? Today I was reminded of how important it is to extend patience and kindness even to strangers. And it occurs to me now that while I felt like you were disapproving of me, maybe you weren’t. Maybe you had a very traumatic day. Maybe your harsh expression had nothing to do with me. Maybe my overthinking is just my own conscience reminding me of my own sinful judgment of others. Maybe I was simply seeing a reflection of myself in years past. Maybe I am the one who needs to get over myself and extend compassion to you. 🙂

“Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke‬ ‭6:36-37‬ ‭

We are certain of God

Last night I sat around a table with my children, my husband and one of our closest friends. When we met this family a year and a half ago it was as if they were long lost friends. No, make that family. This friendship was orchestrated, no doubt, by God. We instantly formed a deep connection and knew that God united our families for His purposes. We all agreed that he didn’t just bring us together for friendship, though that is the icing on the cake, but that he had bigger plans beyond that. We just weren’t sure what. Jason and Stephen quickly went into business together, these two are like Peanut Butter and Jelly. They were meant to be partners. As far as the business world and making money goes the possibilities could be endless with this duo. So they began conspiring all the ways God could use their financial gain for His mission. Over the last year I have seen them work hard, make money, mentor employees and give when they’d rather keep. Being “bosses” has allowed our families to practice hospitality and love on individuals who work for us in unique ways. We constantly pray and point them to the God we serve, Who is gracious, and loving, and the reason we get to do what we do. But every time our families come together, we talk and wonder if God is calling us to do something else. There’s just this weight on our hearts for the scores of people, especially in our area, who have no relationship with Christ. We want to reach them! And while we know that God can continue to use us right where we are, we all have wondered if He is calling us to more. More risk, more generosity, more letting go, less safety, less convenience, less comfort. Last nights conversation was no different,….. Except that as we sat together, our families were suddenly hit, simultaneously yet unrelated, with the reality that everything you have can be taken from you in an instant.

A small storm came through yesterday with a trajectory, it seems, straight for Papa Johns. We had already been dealing with roof issues that the landlord neglected to take care of. Yesterday as the bottom fell out of the sky so did the roof inside Papa Johns. “Would you like your pizza soggy or soaked?” That was the joke cracking wit of my daughter Micaila. The store was floating and we’ll be shut down for I don’t even know how long. I’m thinking not only about our investment but our employees (and maybe how now I have to cook tonight :-/ ) And then I get a call from my friend asking for prayer because they are at risk of losing everything they own. Being a small business owner is no cake walk. Fortunately we do have insurance and lawyers and all sorts of things to protect us. But even greater, we reminded each other that we serve a God Who is the ultimate source of protection. As we sat together, what I was most encouraged by with these two men was how they acknowledged Gods sovereign hands in the midst of this. They weren’t scared, bitter, angry, or complaining. Neither men were worrying about the future except in the way that they don’t want to miss what God is trying to impress on them.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

We put a lot on the table last night. And I pray that our families would continue to walk in obedience and grace as God leads us each day. I’m so thankful for His provision, thankful for my husband and our friends who encourage my faith daily, and thankful for the security found in Him.

This couldn’t be more fitting. From Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest.

“……And what we will be has not yet been made known.” 1 John 3:2

Certainty is the mark of the commonsense life– gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, not knowing what tomorrow may bring. This is generally expressed with a sigh of sadness, but it should be an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. As soon as we abandon ourselves to God and do the task He has placed closest to us, He begins to fill our lives with surprises……….Leave everything to Him and it will be gloriously and graciously uncertain how He will come in– but you can be certain that He will come. Remain faithful to Him.

To read that devotional in its entirety click here, Gracious Uncertainty.