For My Mom on Her Birthday

Today is my mother’s birthday. I haven’t written in a while but today I felt impressed to honor my mom here. Something about this year,… Maybe it’s the loss we’ve experienced and watched others experience. Maybe it’s being on the heals of Christmas when we reflect on the greatest Gift ever given. I just want to express how grateful to God I am for my mom.

I have always gotten really choked up when I listen to Taylor Swift’s song Best Day. My secrets out, I do enjoy listening to Taylor from time to time. I was playing it this morning and even though her story and relationship with her mom is different than mine, in this song she encapsulates the mother/daughter bond in a really sweet way. She communicates how much she looks up to her mom, how her mom has always been there for her, and how beautiful and strong her mother is. I would say the same of my mom on all those points. I don’t know if Taylor’s mom knows Jesus but my mom does and that makes each of those points all the more meaningful and beautiful.

Being the only girl and the youngest my mom really doted on me. She might even say too much, but I’ve always felt loved, cherished and adored in healthy proportions. And now as an adult I’m very aware of my mother’s unconditional love for me. This year in particular, in the wake of losing our baby my mom has been there for me in all the ways I’ve needed and at times when no one else could know I was in need. The Holy Spirit works through her to lift my eyes to Him. She’s one of the very few that sees my deep, dark, ugly places and she graciously, tenderly, gets my gaze back on Christ. She doesn’t just tell me what I want to hear, or what will make me feel better. She is honest, she speaks Biblical truth when I need it,….which is all the time. Her love helps me understand Christ’s love.

I look up to my mom more than any other woman in the world. And I know that my even being able to say that is a gift from God; A great testimony of his goodness and graciousness in my life. I could probably write a book on all the ways her life has positively impacted mine but I want to hone in on one thing.

My mom loves Jesus SO much. We all know that there are, actually, a lot of people that say they love Jesus. But very few people love Jesus so much that it changes their whole life. Jesus has changed my mom’s life and she is unashamed to live it for Him and His glory alone. Her love for Christ affects her marriage. My mom has shown me that a deep, lasting, Christ exalting marriage comes from abiding in Christ. It comes from living out truths like 1 Corinthians 13 and Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition….in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” She’s shown me that the best thing we can give to our children is not only the knowledge of Gods great love for us but a life lived in response to God’s great love. My parents are 62 years old. To God be the glory, my dad has a thriving ministry at a local church and my mom recently “retired” from the orthodontics field. They could easily coast through the rest of their life as empty nesters, enjoying the fruit of their early labor. But instead of slowing down in this race they are picking up the pace, running harder. Recently they have responded to the call of caring for orphans and became foster parents. And it’s not duty for them, its delight. Of course it’s hard, but my mom shows me every day that even in the hard, when we obey God’s Word, and live sacrificially for others, we “count it all joy”. My mom’s joy and her example make me want to know and love Jesus even deeper. Oh how I pray my children say the same for me one day.

And this is the thing that makes my mom’s example so powerful, so Christ exalting. She doesn’t just talk about her love for Jesus, she lives it. When she’s encouraging me and speaking the truth of His Word, I don’t just acknowledge it and quickly forget it. I hear it and I want to live it, because she is living it. I see her joy in Christ and her joy in sacrificial love for others and I want to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” with her. My mom gets Hebrews 12….. “fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before him he endured the CROSS….”  She gets Philippians 3:8 “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And I am ETERNALLY grateful for this.

Mom, your godly example to me is truly priceless. There is nothing on earth that can measure the value of the spiritual inheritance that you have passed on to me. I love you so much, I still want to be you when I grow up 😉 and wish you the happiest birthday.

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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

Ultimate Satisfaction

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We just returned from our annual family beach trip. To call it anything less than wonderful would be wrong. The Grahams have enjoyed Gulf Shores white sandy beaches for over 30 years now. I’ve been privileged to participate in this tradition for the last 13. At this point we can’t all fit in the cozy beach house, so my father in law, Randy, puts us up in roomier accommodations. We’ve tried splitting up before and it just wasn’t the same. Randy has always been big on being together for this week and I have to say I am thrilled that he can afford this luxury for us. It’s a real treat waking up and being greeted by Jason’s sweet mother as she cooks bacon and serves up her delicious lemon pound cake. I love this woman. 🙂 Not only are my in laws lavish with their children but they also include my parents on this vacation. I find myself at a loss for words to express the delight this brings me. I’m very grateful that he is so generous with my family. I am so incredibly thankful for the grace of God and our parent’s friendship. While I know Randy’s intentions for inviting them have much to do with being a gift to me, it also helps that they all like each other’s company. 🙂

This year seemed to be extra exciting and fun. I don’t know if it’s the ages of our kids but I feel like I enjoyed playing with them more than ever. We snorkeled, kayaked, played ball, biked, fished and found many sea creatures and shells. I was definitely a lot more tired by the end of the week! beach1

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Look at these sweet cousins. Isn’t baby Michael getting so big and handsome?

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So what it’s like coming off this magnificent vacation? I have to say I am happy to be home. It is awesome getting away and I love being with family. I am grateful for the opportunity to rest, relax and have fun. However each year I am reminded that all the pleasure and luxuries this world offers are truly not as fulfilling as the sweet simplicity of daily life and consistently being with Jesus.

I strive to meet with Him each morning even when we are away from home. Unfortunately my social nature kicks in and by day 4 my quiet time takes a backseat to chatting with family. I know this is not sinful and my faith is much more than a formal devotional. God wants us to partake in the enjoyments of life. We can glorify him in everything we do. What I find happens is when I don’t begin my day centered on Christ the rest of my day follows suit. Just like any day, vacation can quickly become self-centered and I cease to intertwine my Creator with what He has afforded me. It’s easy to become distracted by pleasure and get caught up in over indulging not only my flesh but my kids too. And oh how rotten we become!

One thing that goes out the window for us is diet. I learned many years back that it truly is better to let it go rather than be the only one moderating everything tasty and sweet. Before I decided to embrace this laid back approach I struggled with resenting the ones who kept offering all the goods to my kids. So yeah in a case like this,…. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! 😉 The only problem with this line of defense…. You can’t be surprised when your kids whine about the size of their ice-cream even when IT IS THEIR 3rd serving for the day! (Because yes, popsicles are an acceptable breakfast item this week) :-/ Not to mention it’s 10pm, we’ve just finished a few rounds of putt putt golf and mommy risked her life (and yours!) riding the oldest most rickety wooden roller coaster known to man. All for you precious children. 🙂 By the time we were making the drive home I was practically throwing dunkin donuts at my kids and telling myself “Just a few more hours and it’ll alllll be back to normal.” You better believe our first dinner back was plain shredded chicken, smashed cauliflower and a salad! Time to retrain those pallets kiddos. And our manners!

But I won’t mislead you. They aren’t the only ones who need the grace of reality to set back in. I experience all sorts of BIG thoughts and emotions mixed with guilt and angst. One minute I feel bad for having such an awesome vacation. “Am I even allowed to have that much fun?” The next minute I feel convicted for feeling bad. Because I do believe we should enjoy what God provides us and be grateful. Sunday evening I sat on the front porch and pondered over why I felt so unsatisfied. For a whole week I didn’t have to think about anything other than being happy and having fun. Dreamy right? Yet ultimately I felt rather empty and needing something else. (eh hem, Jesus.) On one hand I am reminded of Paul. Who would tell me “I have learned to be content WHATEVER the circumstances.” Though I am certain Paul learned contentment not in the “what” or “where” but in WHOM. We were created to be satisfied by nothing less than the Holy Almighty God. And though I truly AM THANKFUL for our luxurious vacation it was a great reminder that my contentment and satisfaction will only and always be found in Christ Jesus. 🙂 Worldly pleasures really are “a chasing after the wind.” I’m not saying it’s sinful to have wealth and pleasures. Just when we over indulge and leave God on the back burner. Which by the end of the week I believe is what I was starting to sense.

Since I know we can learn from any and all experiences in life, here are some of my takeaways. 🙂 God does want us to enjoy those fun and rejuvenating moments with family, friends and HIM. So enJOY! 😉

Jesus IS better than all the money, food, drink, shopping, tans, youth and beauty you’ll be exposed to. Don’t get sucked in. Stay centered on Him! Pray without ceasing and always give thanks.

My kids are sinners just like me. Be gracious with them as God is with me.

Vacations are sweet but ultimately, wherever I am, what I need/want most is DEFINITELY Jesus. *Fades in theme song* “You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.”

 

 

Holy Week 2015: Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause I want Palm Sunday to ring bells of joy in my kids hearts. “It’s Holy Week!”

Because I want them to know what happened on Good Friday and grow deeper in their understanding of what this means for them as individuals.

Because I want Resurrection Sunday to be a huge deal in this house.

Because I want them to reflect on the days that led up to the biggest, best day, ever.

Because when Spring comes (and every day for that matter) I want our Savior to be the highlight.

Because if I there is an event that I invest my heart and soul into, this should be it!

Because I am in awe over what Christ has done for me and I want my kids to see that.

I want my kids to know Jesus, to encounter his love, to value what he did for them, for us all.

So we make crafts and visuals. We read. We talk. We pray. We eat. We sing. We mourn. And then…. we CELEBRATE.

He is Risen!

For ideas on how to make Holy Week even more meaningful in your home check out some of these sites. 🙂

A Holy Experience

Joyful Mama’s Place

Come to Jesus

I decided to read through the book of Matthew as a way to prepare for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. My attention was drawn to a well-known passage of scripture that I admittedly tend to gloss over because of its familiarity. I couldn’t gloss over it this time though. The Words of the Lord were penetrating me.

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your weary souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Often times I think I have read this verse from a somewhat self-centered place. “Yes Lord, I am weary, give me rest!” What struck me though was where he says “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble….” I’ve not taken seminary classes and I’m no theologian but I read that and thought “when I am weary and need rest the answer just may lie within my learning how to be gentle and humble in heart like Jesus.”

Ephesians 4:2 says “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

I love my big red dictionary. Humor me 😉
Humble: 1. Having or showing feelings of humility rather than of pride (an excessively high opinion of oneself; conceit; arrogance.); aware of ones shortcomings; modest; meek. 2. Showing deferential (courteous) respect. 3. Lacking high station; lowly; unpretentious.

It’s hard to admit but I acknowledge that pride runs deep. Sometimes I don’t even know it’s there but it is! It’s important for me as a woman, wife, and mother to intentionally cultivate a humble spirit. Jesus goes on to say “you will find rest for your weary souls.” I utilized my study Bibles notes and references 😉 and was lead to these passages.

Jeremiah 6:16 “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Psalm 119:165-166 “Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands.”

What I find interesting is that the solution to my weariness is not found by being taken out of my circumstance. Jesus is the solution. Me seeking him, his ways, his likeness, that is where I will find rest for my weary soul. Verse 30 Jesus says “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Again, my study Bible directs me to these two scriptures:

Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.”

1 John 5:3 “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome,…”

This is not about being legalistic. Genuine obedience brings freedom, not bondage. My notes indicate that the people’s “weariness” may have been the result of the Pharisees insisting on a strict adherence to the law. Galatians 5:4-6 “You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” Keeping a set of rules does not impress Jesus one bit. Trusting Him enough to love those with whom He has allowed us relationship is the pleasing thing to Jesus. Our obedience should be driven by “what is the loving thing to do?” Scripture tells us His commands are not burdensome. They are for our benefit! When we delight in and obey the Lords commands they have the ability to bring us rest.

A lot of times when I write a blog post I will ask a trusted outsider to read it beforehand. I want the accountability and I appreciate the honest feedback. I call them my “editors”. Of course they graciously do this pro bono for me. 😉

Often times in their proofing they will give me treasures of insight and wisdom. My dad was my editor on this particular post. “The people lived lives that wearied them for any number of reasons. The answer of the religious leaders was honor God by keeping the law. Jesus said, ‘come learn from me. Your release from the weariness and difficulty reside in the liberty found in the Law of Love.’ Obedience to Christ is release from bondage.”

We’re not so different than this people group. We get weary for many reasons. And I know I sometimes look to Jesus for complete relief of life’s heavy loads. I think more often than not Jesus wants us to look to him so he can reveal to us how we, through his power, can respond better to chaos. I think our relief and rest comes out of a heart of obedience. Obedience cultivates trusting in the Almighty God. Trust reduces our worrying over what we cannot control. And that is the yoke Jesus wants us to carry.

Come to Jesus.

As I finished up this post I felt prompted to attach a song to it because it was just so appropriate. So this is a Melodious Monday: Special Edition. 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r2zhf2mqEMI

Blessed Be Your Name

Matthew 6:32 & 33 NLT “Your Heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

Y’all I am short on time and words these days but certainly not on feelings and thoughts. I have been loooonging to write because I know there might be a handful of you out there wondering what’s going on and some of you may even have bits and pieces of the story. Right now I can’t sit to write much but I just have to share the song God brought me Sunday. I desperately needed to be reminded of this and I thank my gentle, kind, faithful God for speaking so directly to my heart and all my thoughts and feelings. This song was too familiar for too long but it broke through afresh Sunday morning with its powerful lyrics. So maybe one of y’all will have the same experience and declare with me “Blessed be the Name of The Lord!”

Blessed Be Your Name: Matt Redman

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name

Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

For the broken hearted

Praying for the broken hearts today.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (Psalms 34:18 NLT)

This morning I was getting situated to begin my quiet time. In my head I just began singing the lyrics to Hillsongs Cornerstone. You know how sometimes you will do something, think something, and it takes you a minute to realize what’s going on. Like at first you don’t realize your singing in your head…. It was like that.

Christ alone, cornerstone, weak made strong in the Saviors love. Through the storm He is Lord, Lord of all.

So than as soon as I recognized the song I was singing I was flooded with images of individuals I know who are just broken hearted right now. People who have experienced loss, or have someone in the hospital, or are struggling with the unknown, or just the general trials and adversity and suffering this broken world brings. Your faces and/or names came to my mind and I prayed for you. Some of you I don’t even know but I am aware of your hurting and I am lifting you up to the One that cares for you deeply.

When Darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil!

Gods ways are mysterious. He doesn’t always do things the way we would. (I often find myself thankful for this!) He has eyes that don’t see like we do. He has eyes that see everything and eternity. I’m constantly praying for eyes like his. To see and love like him. And to “rest on His unchanging grace”.

I read out of 1 Peter today. Chapter 1 is just so so good. Allow God’s Word to speak to you. I found myself once again so extremely thankful for His Word. What a gift.

God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and his Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see. So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls. This salvation was something even the prophets wanted to know more about when they prophesied about this gracious salvation prepared for you. They wondered what time or situation the Spirit of Christ within them was talking about when he told them in advance about Christ’s suffering and his great glory afterward. They were told that their messages were not for themselves, but for you. And now this Good News has been announced to you by those who preached in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. It is all so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching these things happen. So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” 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. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart. For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:2-25 NLT)