Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Grass is Dancing

"Look Mom, the grass is dancing across the field."

This is what my nine-year-old daughter said today as we were driving down the road.

It was terribly gusty here in Texas today. Not just windy. I mean the kind of wind that takes a Texas tumbleweed down the trail and on the way it just hangs in mid-air for a few minutes standing still in the midst of a never-ending-chilling-to-the-bone, blow-ya-to-death wind.

We'd been at the softball fields...blowing. The soccer fields...weighting ourselves down. Moving out of another office...holding onto furniture threatening to sail off into the way blue yonder.

We were on our way to lunch.

The "field" was the median to the highway.

I had secretly been un-enjoying the wind all day long.

Julia's statement made me stop and take in the beauty of the wind. The life and liveliness in movement. The realization that there is beauty in every kind of storm and hidden in each day's trials. We need but look.

It also convicted me.

I was so not crying out praises to my Creator this day...yet, even the rocks cry out...the grass dances before Him.

Lord, let me join all your creation in praising your mighty name.

"Sing to the LORD, all the earth. ...let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them." Psalm 96: 1&12

Friday, February 27, 2009

Power in the Blood

"for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the Lord. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible." Leviticus 17:11

Once again I am reminded of God's power. The need for a sacrifice of perfection to cover a multitude of sin. One who is perfect. He shed His blood. For you. For me.

He shed His perfect blood from His perfect body ending His perfect life.
Releasing His power.
For all to receive.
Sharing in His blessing.
The inheritance.
The blood that held the power, holds the power.
To give.
To forgive.
But that wasn't, isn't the end of the story.
To live.
He shed His blood and He died yet, He lives.

"But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." 1 John 1:9

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Angel of All Animals

My seven-year-old daughter is rightfully nicknamed the animal angel. It's been awhile since I wrote about my pet daughter.

She always corrects me when I talk about animals, saying, "Reptiles are animals too!" Her favorites are lizards, hedghogs and well, just pick a random animal and ask her if it's her favorite. She'll say no but tell you whichever other random one is at the moment. Seriously.

She knows more animal trivia and facts only seen on kid animal documentaries than anyone I have ever known. Seriously. She absolutely does not get this from me! I was afraid to pet a dog until I married Andrew and came home to a dog after my honeymoon. No matter how much you think about living with a dog, doing it is very, very different. Trust me.

Tonight in the car we were talking about school, reading biographies, the coming softball season, when the next soccer game happens, which outfit is warm enough to wear in the morning yet cool enough to survive in during recess, how many Awana bucks we still need to earn, what we were having for get the picture. Alyssa interjects matter of factly, "The two animals I am most like right now are a hound dog and a racoon."

Conversation ceases, I mean it comes to a record screaching halt. We've learned to just pause and look at each other when she says stuff about how she wishes she was an animal or become one when she grows up but tonight we all stopped talking and looked at her. A hound dog?!? What?

Well, when she chews on her lip, she frowns like a hound dog. Can't you see it in your mind's eye? I can. I did. So we just shrugged our shoulders. She was right. She does kinda look like a hound dog.

And, she can see in the dark well enough to use her hands. Just like a racoon. Who can argue with that?

"You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord..Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it" Psalm 139:4 & 14

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Never Make the Mistake

Never make the mistake of thinking you are safe. You see, we've had two different bugs floating around our house for the last two and a half weeks.

Some have had one, others have had both but two of my children have had neither. We went two days last week to work/school/practices and followed our schedule as well as any exhausted- tired-of-cleaning-germy-nasty-sick-stuff people can follow. I began to think I was home-free. Friday night I stayed awake until 1:30 just trying to get a handle on the accumulation of stuff on the kitchen counter/table/couch/laundry room floor. I didn't get much done but went to bed telling myself that if I slept a bit I'd wake up ready to tackle the germs and piles. As I was laying my head on my pillow thinking of how much I was going to enjoy this weekend with well, healthy, robust, rested people, I heard it.

The blood curdling cry that is reserved in our for only two things during the night...Blood and throw up.

My precious boy Hunter was so very sick. Sick was everywhere. Every room, every surface, other children. Sick had reappeared. Sick. Stink. Yuck.

We were up all night. He had the worst tummy cramps I've ever seen in a person. He was in agony. As I wiped his face with a washcloth, I prayed for him. When I was spent and he was spent, he sat down holding his stomach and crying out in pain. He was so tormented. One round after another of vomiting and sickness. He could barely talk and through his sobs and racks of pain he cried, "Mom.Please.Pray.Don't.Stop."

This, my six-year-old. How his determination blessed me. That he knew where to take his pain blessed me. His belief that Jesus heals blessed me. That he wanted to hear the sound of my voice talking to his God blessed me. He was so sick...and he blessed me.

That my children would walk with God is my deepest desire. What a blessing to experience it this night. What an encouragement this round of sickness was. Weird, but true.

Because lately I've been convicted. I want, need to pray more. Pray more in my house. Out loud. For my kids. I want them to hear me labor in prayer for their hearts, their lives, their futures, their callings, their mates, their choices. I just read recently that hearing your parents pray like that changes you. I want my children changed. Changed because I love their God enough to pray. There are many things I can't do. Many things I leave at the foot of the cross each day. But, pray? I can do that.

And, we know. Prayer changes things. Prayer moves the heart of God. Moving God's heart on behalf of my children. That's something I want. I need. I will fight for, sacrifice for, move for. I will.

I am starting by making a commitment to not be too tired to lay hands on each one at night. Yes, I try to but lately, in all the sickness and even in the busyness before, prayers were becoming short utterances, generic utterances. Let me be clear. Utterances God heard and used to touch my children. To answer deep cries of my heart that I cannot even utter yet because God has yet to reveal them to me. But utterances. Heartfelt but felt by a tired heart. This heart has been strengthened. I will start once again, holding them, praying specifically for them...while they are awake.

I will also listen more. Listen to God. Listen to them. When the Holy Spirit nudges me, I will stop and pray. I will ask for opportunities to take advantage of in the organized chaos of daily life. Today I'm stepping it up a notch. My children need me. God is calling me. My children are calling me too...

That night was a long night. Once it was over, the stomach bug landed on me. About lunch time on Saturday, Alyssa caught it. And, I'm remembering that taking a shower is a luxury. Just because the kids go to school doesn't mean it will happen. Just because I need it doesn't make it a reality. No, I'm not knee deep in dirty diapers but I am surrounded by this flurry of activity that never seems to stop. So I will look for quiet places in the busy times to grab a child and speak life-giving words over growing minds, growing bodies, growing relationships.

The stomach bug left me stronger this time. More thankful. Ready to take action. A better mom. The laundry is still everywhere and the piles are only slightly smaller but my heart has been stretched...and that 's a good thing.

We've all had the stomach bug now. I think Alyssa experienced the end of it when she had to come home from school sick yesterday and Hunter got well by sleeping on the couch all afternoon long. Except Andrew. He has not had the stomach stuff. Hopefully, he doesn't count. But only when it comes to bugs.

"Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour." 1 Peter 5:8

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Running Towards God

I wanted to piggy back on ...yesterday's post about running towards God. I am learning, very slowly, but I am learning.

When I was younger and very full of zeal for our Lord, I was harsher with my words. If I saw you "sinning" I would point it out...lovingly, but pointedly nonetheless. In pointing to sin I saw, my hope was that those I loved would turn...and run. Run as far away as they could from the sin that so easily entangles.

Let me first say, the sin that I so easily saw in others was often the sin that I had struggled with, become entangled with, fought over...and victoriously vacated. I was just too proud to share my story. So, if you are reading this and I have offended you at some point, please, accept my humble apology. I never wished to judge or offend anyone. I only pointed because I love you. Wanted you to get out before you got all messed me. It's so much easier just to share what I've done wrong and how I've been made right than to tell others what they are doing all wrong!

Now, today there are many, many people in my life. I walk a crowded race, thankfully. Recently, I no longer feel as compelled to point out the obvious...if they are running towards God. I do not wish to alienate any that I have relationship with because if we are speaking into one another's lives, that is good. Please hear me, if you give me permission to so speak, I will. Gently. If you share many things with me but not the elephant, I will pray until the Holy Spirit brings up the elephant. Then and only then, will I talk about it lovingly or otherwise. God has shown me there is a time to point and a time to cheer. Let me explain.

I have many friends who have walked closely with me at one time or another. I have done Bible studies with, mentored, shared and prayed over, with and for many of these. As I have walked closely with these friends, accountability was always a topic of conversation. Where we stumble, where we need a steady hand. Those little sins, I feel compelled to draw attention to, to question. I receive the invitation to speak knowing none are perfect.

Others are in close relationship with me, moving toward God but less than perfect...just like me. The Lord quite simply spoke to my heart the other day and said, "Cheer on those who are running towards Me."

Be a cheerleader. Be an encourager. Say positive things about the movement I see. Someone told me today that in regards to parenting I need to just pick my battles. Some things are worth the risk. Others will work themselves out in due time.

How do I know which battles to pick? I pray. I ask the Lord to reveal the heart motives. I ask the Lord to season my words. I ask the Lord to hold my tongue. I listen before I speak. Above all, I love.

There are so many lovely friends in my garden of life! I have learned something from every one of my friends who sit at the feet of God. Whether they've been sitting for years or are just beginning, each has made my life richer. Every one has made my life richer. Every single one. No matter where they are, or where I think they are, they have taught me.

Many years ago, I had trouble seeing for my pride. I wanted "sin" confronted, dealt with, confessed, lifestyles changed immediately. You know, sometimes God does this. We start the prayer one way and we are instantly changed at Amen. I've experienced it. I love instant freedom!
But many times, most times, it takes lots of prayers. It takes lots of someones willing to walk with us. Shoulder our burdens. Carry us, even, to make it to the next mile marker. I can look back at my journey and see where lots of people I love have been lost in the gaps where I thought a different response to sin was warranted. I'm living. I'm learning.

God's Word is a rulebook for life with a capital L and victorious living. Some follow it better than others. Some desire to follow it better than others. Some desire to follow it but don't quite understand it. Some are helpless to overcome their sin but are still crying out to God longing for change. That's movement.

My tendency is to deal with it immediately...or let it lurk. In my past, I wouldn't confess sin until I was ready to stop. Quite honestly, I mulled over how I would reform my life for weeks, months before I put the plan into action. Sadly, I lived in an isolated cocoon because I didn't want to be "found out" before I was ready. Weird, but true. I didn't hold on to lots of junk but there are a few times in my life I held a lit match in front of a stick of dynamite for way too long.

When I was in college, I began to ask the Lord to keep me on a short leash. Let me know early on when I wander too close to the border. As a parent, I see much more plainly the danger in playing with fire or sticking my fingers through the fence.

Praise God, He's brought me to a place where there is nothing. Nothing good. Nothing bad. Nothing I'd rather have than Him. Nothing. Without His presence, I have no reason to breathe!

Now, I loved Him like that all those years ago, I just showed Him by being a bit more methodical in confession and repentance. I took it seriously. I was probably a bit more concerned about others...and their actions' effects on me...than I was with my worship of Him. I was also caught up in crazy maze of not wanting to disappoint God by failing once I had repented. Silly me! Without Him, my life is nothing but one disappointment after another.

Like I said, these days it's just easier...and more loving, to share what God's doing in my life. To humbly make a fool out of me by exposing my own sins, shortcomings and failures than to point out those of anyone else.

Some have been walking with the Lord for longer than I've been alive. I need their wisdom. I need the experience that their lives offer me. Some are just a few steps ahead of me on the journey. I need them to turn their heads and cheer for me. I need to see their victories and their walk so I can imitate them. Some are a few steps behind me. I pray daily that my life, words and character would encourage them. Some are just starting on the path. Some running. Some walking. Movement. Toward God. That pleases Him. It makes me happy too.

I pray that none would give up the good fight and that all would run as if to win.

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize...Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." 1 Corinthians 9:24 & Hebrews 12:1

Monday, February 23, 2009

My Story Monday--Run Towards God

I'm back for My Story Monday. This in and of itself is a miracle. I'll explain in another post.

For those of you new to My Story Monday, click to get caught up story.

There seems to be a theme weaving in and around my life with stitches of boldness these last few months and in a more delicate pattern over many years. Have you ever pondered what would make God happy? I mean really questioned what it is you are supposed to do to honor Him above all else with your life? I don't mean reading the Bible and obeying His laws, although that pleases Him. He does desire obedience above sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22 "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.")

What I mean is do you long to honor Him with your whole life? I do. Very, very badly. So when I began to understand that I could hear his voice in college, I began to wander a little. Trusting in his sovereignty and yet, knowing that I chose Texas A&M to follow a boy are really hard to reconcile. Wanting so desperately to fit in with the crowd and yet, distinctly realizing I'd been called to live separately caused me great anxiety. I had not ever consulted God about my decisions. I had simply prayed that God would bless what I wanted.

Because I had not specifically, seriously consulted God about these decisions in my college, my major, my living arrangements, my friends, my activities, etc. I fell into a trap of thinking that God's plan was not being accomplished in my life.

I reverted. I wanted to go back and get a do-over. I did in many ways. I even left college for a semester to seek Him more clearly. Some of my friends and family thought I was having a nervous-breakdown. I had to know. Just had to know that it was God leading me. Not just me. Remember I am a recovering perfectionist.

"Knowing in part" was driving me crazy. (1 Corinthians 13:12 "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part...") Releasing control of anything is a very hard thing. Especially for most women. I am one of those. I wanted to control even hearing from God! When I didn't hear, I froze. I was convinced that if God didn't tell me exactly what to do that He would never bless me or worse punish me. I know this is foolish but it was at the root of what I thought.

My parents were extremely over-protective. I wasn't allowed to make very many choices on my own. I wasn't allowed to drive through stoplights on my way to school. Imagine. Looking back I think it was probably more dangerous to drive through all those neighborhood school zones than to speed down the highway! I had a 10:00 curfew that increased to 10:30 and stayed there throughout college.

I had to work to have spending money but then I was afraid to spend it because I didn't want to make a poor choice. I could choose one camp each summer. In my early years, it was always church camp. I am so thankful my church sent elementary schoolers to camp each summer! But in high school the choice wasn't as clear or as easy. I had to attend dance camp to be on the team all year so one week of church camp fell by the wayside. I began looking back and wondering why I made those decisions, regret and fear had such tight holds on me. It was so difficult to commit to anything...or anyone. Relationships ended, paths changed and the doubting hounded me. Although my parents loved me, I was terrified of losing their approval.

I can see now how their over-protectiveness did protect me in lots of ways but I can also see how it paralyzed me in many others. Making any decision was dreadfully hard. I doubted and second-guessed myself unceasingly. This transferred to how I heard God's voice. I heard it...or didn't I? This personal game of see-saw left me drained emotionally, physically and spiritually all the time.

I was exhausted all the time from fighting the inner battle of trying to win God's approval. I didn't just want to do the good thing, I wanted to do the best thing. I now know that this desire alone pleased God in a big way. I also know that trying to win something I already possessed was utter foolishness.

How I wish I'd been able to overcome my feelings with the truth of His Word. How I wish I'd realized that God is so much more interested in the state of my heart than my major. How I wish I'd know that God is happiest when we are just running toward Him.

I know now that God's way in my life cannot go unrealized. My purpose and calling are irrevocable. It may look way different than I think. It may happen way later than I think. It may take on a twisting and turning that surprises everyone...but God is not surprised. What God says, goes. It may come about the long way but His plans and purposes will not be thwarted. They will come to pass. Are you believing this today? I am.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future...Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 29:11 & 33:3

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Conversation Coffee

This week I have had the privilege of meeting friends at Starbucks three different times. Don't worry I didn't indulge all three times but only because they were very close together! I do luuuv me some Starbucks.

I had coffee with a special friend who has crossed my path many times over the last several years but we've never really had any opportunities to share our stories so sharing was super fun.
I am sure we'll do it again!
I met Annette in real life. Meeting her is a wonderful reason to blog and I know we'll meet in person more often. I'll be begging because I need the benefits of her life experiences!
I met some of my Bible study girlsat Starbucks and I met some old, loved and missed prayer partners for lunch (not at Starbucks).
In honor of all the coffee consumption of the last 48 hours, I thought I'd post a rerun from November of 2007:
What is it about a good cup of coffee and a nice long chat with a really good girlfriend?

My soul can get the endorphin fix it is craving simply by planning this time. How uplifting it feels to have those I love the most take time of out of their hectic, crazy, busy lives to sit and linger over a cup of coffee with me...with me.

My mom calls it coffee cup counseling. I've heard it called mentor meetings, coffee and accountability, girlfriend gab. I think the English even call it tea time. No matter what we call it, I love it. I'll take all I can get!

I can leave this scenario feeling more encouraged and connected than I have in a really long time. Especially if the friend is someone I care about deeply and don't see near enough of in my crazy life.

Things are really good in life right now. God is moving mightily. The kids are doing well. The marriage is going well. The business is booming. I feel in tune with God's purpose and voice.
But lately I've felt rather lonely. Not alone, not depressed, just apart from those who happen to know the deep parts of me really well. Disconnected from the ones who know my heart, hear my heart, feel my heart...a feeling that one cup of coffee and one glance into my soul can cure.

Thankfully, I am learning to recognize this feeling and reach out to connect to someone before I launch into a pity party, cry for no reason or just become plain old isolated.

My life is entering a phase where it's harder to find gobs of time to bond over coffee, corporately pray and worship on weekends or evenings outside of church or even sit on a park bench and watch kids ride bikes.

I became intentional in building intimacy with girlfriends in college. I needed the accountability, encouragement and support. With my older friends I needed wisdom, accountability and experience that their life had given them already.

Now my life is more full and more busy than it's ever been with my family's responsibilities. Sometimes this breeds loneliness. Not a bad loneliness, more like a purposeful loneliness. I know what God is calling me to do. It's just different. Wonderful. Wonderfully different. I love it. I miss my friends. Friends I used to see regularly.

However, I am involved with many people on a regular basis...I don't feel many are involved in my soul life. The deeper life. The place where God speaks.

One way to enter that place together where God speaks is to spend lots of time there...together. The ladies who have reached out to the Lord, responded to him with me and prayed me through many, many years of life...They get me. They know me.

It's not that any of my newer friends don't get me or know me in this way. It just takes time.

Just like our relationship with the Lord, our relationships with our friends and loved ones take cultivating. We spend huge amounts of time together. Great quantities of time are spent together when life is slower, easier, smoother. Then when we hit a bump in life, the relationship is in place, the trust is built and we have that to fall back on for help and support.

Quality time is born from quantity time.

We can't build quality.

We can invest quantity.

Thank you to everyone who has invested quantities of quality time in my life. I pray God will continue to grow us and connect and add to our numbers.

Thank you to all my girlfriends who touch my soul. Your prayers, love, concern and support carry me to the throne of God on a regular basis.

Whether it's been short or long since we shared that cup of coffee know that as I think of you and pray for you today I am encouraged. I hope you are too!

I love you!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Gift

"For I am the Lord your God. You must consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy...For I, the Lord, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy." Leviticus 11:44-45

Consecrate yourselves and be holy. My name, Lisa, means consecrated to God. Set apart for God.

Growing up I never felt like I fit in properly. I always felt separate from the crowd. I really wanted to be part of the crowd. I really wanted to be the one in the crowd that people wanted to befriend the most. I hated the feeling of being different.

Yet God not only called me to be different, He named me as one set apart for His purpose. He called me to live apart from the crowd and into Him.

As I have grown, I have come to see being set apart, consecrated as a blessing...not a curse. I've begun to see it as a privilege...not a burden. Being me is a freedom...not a punishment.

The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the land of slavery, so He could be their God. He has rescued me from "the crowd" so He can be my God. So the other competing gods in my life can give way to the One True God. So I can be free to be the me He created me to be instead of a slave to the me the world says I should be. He set me apart from my captivity so I could belong to Him. So I could worship Him. So I would be holy. So I would cry, "Holy, holy, holy!"

Today when I read these verses, I saw something a little differently. I saw the words "You must be holy..." I've always seen this as a command. The law. Today I received it as gift. God is giving us holiness because He is holy.

When we are plucked from the crowd and adopted into His family, we become holy simply because He is. When we choose to live a life set apart, we receive the gift of holiness. Belonging to God makes us holy. He changes who we are. In Him.

The Israelites had to perform rites, participate in purification and offer sacrifices to consecrate themselves. The entire book of Leviticus speaks of the process of atonement. Praise God for the free gift of atonement through Jesus' death and resurrection. All we have to do is choose.

The choice is in being set apart. The blessing is in being holy simply by being God's people.

The choice is mine. The choice is yours. Will you consecrate yourself today by receiving the gift of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Fire by Night

Whether the cloud stayed above the Tabernacle for two days, a month, or a year, the people of Israel stayed in camp and did not move on. But as soon as it lifted, they broke camp and moved on. Numbers 9:22
New Living Translation (NLT)

Two days, a month, or a year. The Israelites stayed put, camped in one spot, did not take another step toward the Promised Land until God's presence lifted and moved them forward.

Am I this patient? When God's presence is with me, teaching me, speaking to me yet, I am not moving any closer to a desired goal, do I grumble? Ummmmm...yeah.

I feel like I've been in the same spot for years. Literally. This little, bitty, crowded but in a joyful way, chaotic but in an organized way, home. I love my kids. I have loved, loved being home with them. More than I could ever express I have loved it. It never felt like moving forward but I did enjoy standing some ways. In many ways I longed to move forward to the type of ministry I thought was desirable. While serving them. Serving God. In the same place. In the same way. Servanthood. Loved it. Longed to move at the same time.

Now both could happen I am aware. I could be moving forward while caring for young children. That is not how it happened with me. I am now walking. Not staying home so much but walking in new realms of ministry. Still ministering at home. Adding new ministries to my horizons.

Walking toward goals other than becoming a mother. I like movement. I do.

Days, months and years that I am called to camp out, waiting on God to reveal my next step find me rather impatient. I ask God if I should send an email, make a phone call, do something. Do anything.

He has answered me on most occassions with a resounding, "Just wait."

I love this picture of the cloud lifting by day or the fire lifting by night to move the people forward. The Israelites must have wondered if God had a plan at all. No walking for an entire year and then day after day after day of moving, traveling and just when they set up camp for a good night's rest protected by God's fiery presence, it lifts and on they go. How many hours would they walk when all they wanted was to lie down for a good night's rest?
They must have been exhausted at times. They must have begged God to let them stop moving as vehemently as they had begged Him, just days before, to let them begin their journey again.
Sound familiar?

The struggle for contentment is as old as the world. The Cure for contentment is even older. He lasts from everlasting to everlasting. Only when our eyes are on the cloud by day and the fire by night will we ever stay truly content no matter if our feet are moving forward or serving in the same place.
Being led by fire at night walking through the wilderness creates a rather vivid and intense picture in my mind. In order to traverse the desert at night, following the pillar of fire would have been crucial. Walking forward, unseeing in total darkness except for the path that the fire of God's presence illuminated.
Sound familiar?
How often does God call me to walk forward to a place I cannot see? Many times all I can see is His face, His hand, His leading. Often I cannot see where He is taking me or even the path I will follow. Sometimes I just know He has said to go. Sometimes I just know He has said to stop.
I meditate on the feeling of traveling through the scorching heat. Sand burning their feet and their eyes and their faces. Mothers carrying babies on their hips and fathers carrying households on their shoulders. Did they ever forget to be thankful for the cloud? Did the cloud ever seem too small in the scorching sun? Did they get sunburned or dehydrated? Somehow I believe Our God was more than enough. Yet, do I remember that as I travel through the desert? In a hot, arid, desolate wilderness do I thank God for His presence? Even though a cloud is barely seen and often taken for granted, do I stop to notice? At all? Ever?
I love reading this verse. It reminds me that God is the same yesterday and today (and forever). He hasn't asked me to do anything He never asked others to do before me.
And, I am so grateful He has given me their example to follow. I know the eventual result is entering a land flowing with milk and honey! God does what He says He will do!

Lord, give me eyes to see the shade from the scorching heat by day and the feel the warmth of your presence by night. Give me grace to receive your comfort and your strength no matter where I am journeying to the Promised Land. Amen.

When the Cloud lifted above the Tent, the People of Israel marched out; and when the Cloud descended the people camped. The People of Israel marched at God's command and they camped at his command. As long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, they camped. Even when the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for many days, they honored God's command and wouldn't march. They stayed in camp, obedient to God's command, as long as the Cloud was over The Dwelling, but the moment God issued orders they marched. If the Cloud stayed only from sunset to daybreak and then lifted at daybreak, they marched. Night or day, it made no difference—when the Cloud lifted, they marched. It made no difference whether the Cloud hovered over The Dwelling for two days or a month or a year, as long as the Cloud was there, they were there. And when the Cloud went up, they got up and marched. They camped at God's command and they marched at God's command. They lived obediently by God's orders as delivered by Moses. Numbers 9:22
The Message (MSG)

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Due to two different bugs circulating in our house, a stomach bug and a fever plus cough bug, and the upper respiratory stuff going around plus Valentine's celebrations and a birthday bash, I woke up and realized that nobody in the house has clean clothes in their drawers and our cupboards are bare and the floor is sticky from having Tylenol spilled all over it last week and my bathroom is feast for germs and...So, needless to say My Story Monday post will be late.

I do have a some time tomorrow that I can actually sit and write while Palmer has his first speech lesson so it may get up late. But if I need that time for my brain to decompress or to take a little nap or to read my Bible(not necessarily in that order), I will be postponing Monday's post. Either way I will keep you posted!

Now if any of you would like to join me and tell me of the victories you have gained in Christ, this would be a good time for the encouragement! If you do post your story, leave a comment so I can read. I celebrate each and every bloggy friend. Grace to you as you begin this week!

"Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love." Ephesians 6:24

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Valentine

Having a Valentine's Day birthday is proving more difficult than I once thought. I'm having a difficult time getting this post up and I haven't said anything at all about my Valentine, the father of my Valentine baby. ***sigh*** So much to say, so little time...isn't that how the saying goes?

I do want to fill you all in on my little Palmer. He's three today! He's such a big boy. He loves all things sports and doesn't even wear shirts anymore. He only wears Jerseys! He also loves dinosaurs and wants to watch the thirty minutes of Jurassic Park where the dinosaurs totally tear up the whole entire park over and over and over and over...I thought it would terrify him. He just screams with delight, "That dinosaur has boo boos!!!" Scary, huh?

He's potty trained and after ten years of diaper bliss, I am no longer clipping Pampers coupons or trying to figure out which brand gives you more wipes for your money. Yaaay! It ceased to be fun changing diapers after I quit buying the teeny tiny ones with the belly button cut-out so I can say, "Yaaay! No more dirty diapers." Moving on...

All he wanted for his birthday was cake. "Take" he says.

But, for our most exciting news about how God has moved once again on behalf of our little boy, let me begin with last year. Around his second birthday, his teachers at our church's children's day out program became a little concerned because he had basically no words. An extremely limited vocabulary would keep him quiet all day long in his class. At home, there was no need to talk, his siblings would tell everyone what he needed. Hunter was still home all day and helped me anticipate Palmer's every need.

So, I asked the doctor and the doctor kind of said the same thing. Fourth child doesn't need to talk as much. I have another late talker and wasn't concerned yet. He could say names and ask for a few basic things.

When Hunter went to kindergarten this fall and he was the only child at home, I noticed a huge increase in words for Palmer. He talked more and more which was good but I was having a difficult time understanding him. Around mid-October I started to notice when he would try to string words together or use new words. I would get really excited. I realized that his speech was at the level of an eighteen-month-old toddler not an almost three-year-old preschooler. The first of November his teacher at our church's school said she was concerned he was not hearing. She said his speech was nowhere near where the other children's in his class was. There was no doubt he was behind in his development.

I, of course, did what any normal mother would do, panicked. I went through a million scenarios in my mind. Late walker, late talker, big problem. Hearing loss, no talking, can't hear at all. I freaked out because I thought I had totally missed something. The good news was I only freaked out for about an afternoon this time because I remembered what the Lord had showed me about his feet. I totally trusted God with his speech.

I called early childhood intervention. They scheduled an appointment. I called our doctor and scheduled an appointment.

ECI only works with children until their third birthday so we were in a rush to get Palmer's testing underway. The doctor rushed my referral to an ENT and he was able to get in for a hearing test fairly quickly. We found out he had a mild hearing loss due to fluid on his ears. This was surprising to me because he hasn't had many, if any, ear infections. However, I knew that children could have significant amounts of fluid on the ears without the infections. The ENT wanted to immediately take out his tonsils, adenoids and put tubes in his ears. We scheduled it for December 23. Crazy fast and over Christmas break but he needed to recover before his third birthday to test out of ECI and qualify for speech with our school district.

He had surgery, did remarkably well and recovered fast. Our school district was involved by this time and scheduled his testing for the first week the students were back at school in January. He was tested and admitted for speech therapy. He starts Monday. Praise God.

All along, we were working with different agencies. We were being told by some that we would never receive special services from our district. We were told over and over he was borderline and the "free" services were reserved for those with more critical needs.

I believed the whole time that God wanted him at our school in speech. He will go once a week until May for a thirty minute session one-on-one with the speech therapist. In the fall, he will start head start where he will be in school all day with my older children. While this saddens me in some ways, (The baby ***sniff sniff***) It will be so good for our family to be on one schedule, in one place for this one year. The Lord has been telling me all along He has a special plan for Palmer for next year. When his advocate told us he qualified for head start at our school I was excited, relieved and knew deep down that this was it. Let me back up for a minute.
In November, I called another local church who has a preschool program to put Palmer on the waiting list for next year. You see, in the fall we had two days of childcare but my two days of office work at our office was quickly turning into four. We were always scrambling for childcare. We have a wonderful local, drop-in babysitting place where Palmer goes occasionally but like any temporary setting, if it gets used too much the kids get bored. He needed a structured program where he had a schedule and liked to go. The teacher who answered the phone said that the program would change in the fall and they didn't have a waiting list at that time. She asked my child's age and the days I needed. I told her. She had one opening. Palmer's class on the two days we needed. So...he now has a crazy, God-ordained schedule this spring two days at one church and two at another. I knew it would change in the fall. God always gives us more than what we ask for, doesn't He?

This fact-filled post doesn't begin to describe the fears wrestled with in the dark nights over this little boys ears and mouth. It doesn't begin to detail the stress I would go through trying to communicate the extent of our concern to the speech evaluators and therapists. It doesn't begin to document the guilt I felt at not teaching him baby sign language or pursuing speech options earlier. It also doesn't give enough glory to our Father for putting him in the right place where he will get the services he needs against all odds!

We learned that Palmer is on track for 33 months but behind for 36 months. Basically, as his speech gets more complex, he gets pretty impossible to understand resulting in huge frustration for all of us. Praise God He has a plan for our little man! Praise God for His plan to use my baby's hands, feet, ears and mouth for His glory! Praise God we have all we need to fight the battle and we know that God has spoken on his behalf.

Happy Birthday, little guy!!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Meet Palmer

This is a preview of what's to come. Palmer's birthday is tomorrow and I wanted all you newcomers to meet my baby. So learn about his life and his name and his calling because I'll be sharing some awesome answers to prayer for his birthday post. Palmer Jett Smith is an amazing little guy.

From April 25, 2007: Beautiful Feet

Fourteen months ago, my son, Palmer, was born. He was a beautiful dark haired, blue eyed, chubby, cuddly baby. He was perfect in every way.

But, there was just something about his feet.

The doctors said he had probably just laid in a funny position in the womb and not to worry. By the time he was two-weeks-old, I was scared. I could not figure out why his feet looked so different to me, so unique and unlike my other babies' feet.

I casually asked the doctor. He casually answered me. This momentarily eased my fears.

After all, if something were horribly wrong, a doctor would notice it, right?

I prayed and asked God to allow others to see what it was I could see, to show me if I was being a weird, paranoid, freaky mom.

We continued to get check-ups and to get the okay.

Fourteen months passed. I did not consciously worry. He has been described as "pigeon-toed" and other such terms. I asked general questions to the doctor and to others. Again, slight reassurances were gained.

Subconsciously, I was terrified. I silently declared victory as each developmental phase was reached. He rolled over, stood in the exersaucer, bounced in the bouncy thing, crawled, stood and walked around furniture. I breathed a sigh of relief each time we put on tennis shoes and he attempted to take a step. Each time thinking that when he hit the next milestone I would believe nothing was wrong. No achievement eased my fear.

Then someone I love who is around Palmer regularly voiced concern over his foot turning. As she voiced her concern exhorting me to call the doctor, I silently vowed to race him to the emergency room if I needed to.

The truth is there is something unique about his special little feet that only his mother (and his Heavenly Father) can see. I believe God gives us the "mother alarm" to alert us to things with our children that no one else seems to notice. Whether the sounding of the alarm moves me to pray more fervently or to demand a diagnosis more quickly, I believe God truly helps us to parent our children. I had asked God to allow someone else to see what I had been seeing if I needed to pursue this matter.

Outwardly I calmly replied that he was due for a check up as I echoed my concern. Inwardly my mind raced through hair-raising possibilities beginning a downward spiral that would threaten to overwhelm me with fear...and (gulp) guilt.

As I visited each worst case scenario in my mind, I began to pray. I scheduled a doctor's appointment. I prayed some more.

The first thing God did was remind me that fear of any magnitude is sin. I repented.

He then showed me that any "concern" or preoccupation we have is darkness and sin until it can be uncovered and totally in the light. I was worried about Palmer's feet. I would talk it out, look for answers and ask for God's help. I had been telling myself that everything would be fine when...He crawled, stood, wore tennis shoes, walked, turned one, etc. The Lord reminded me that the only way to dispel darkness is by getting it into the light.

I told myself I had asked the doctor about it...Light.

The Lord reminded me of the difference between a cloudy, rainy, dark day and a clear, bright, sunny one. Both are day. Both are in the light. One is marvelous light.

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. " (I Peter 2:9)

I'll take the marvelous or wonderful light over dimness or dreary and gray any day!

As I rocked him that night and prayed for a quick diagnosis (or quick walking), an effective treatment (if necessary), a wise doctor whose heart would quicken in response to my pointing this "thing" out and relenting guilt for not strongly pursuing this issue earlier in his little life.

God asked me a series of questions beginning with the issue of His sovereignty. Do I really believe He is sovereign in all things? Did I entrust Palmer to Him even before he was born? Do I believe God is in control of Palmer's life? Do I believe He's sovereign in identifying any potential problems at just the right time? Do I believe He can lead us to just the right treatment or heal him instantly if He chooses? All of these I answered yes. Do I believe anything I did or did not do while earnestly seeking God in prayer could mess up His plans? No, I do not believe we can thwart God's plans no matter how many blunders we might make.

Then, I recited Palmer's life verse, his name verse, claiming it for his life once more.

"See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:16)

As I prayed I began to see and once more believe that God is totally sovereign, even in the small, personal details of our individual lives. As belief and trust and faith began to well up inside of me, I began to experience His peace. I began to once more focus on who God is and not what may or may not be wrong with my baby.

I saw the purpose of this from an eternal perspective. God wants glory. This is not my life; it is God's. This life is not about me; it is all about God. God wants to receive glory from everyone and everything even little Palmer's feet.

As I began to pray this way, the war was so clear to me. Whether my baby's feet are used to run track or to climb to mountain villages in faraway places to share the gospel, God wants to get glory from Palmer's feet. He wants my baby to live a life of service and worship that gives God glory using all of his gifts and talents...even his feet.

As I prayed for God to make his feet healthy, whole and beautiful, God spoke again.

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

God asked me, "How do I define "beautiful" feet?"

"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, 'Your God reigns!'" (Isaiah 52:7)

There is a spiritual battle taking place over my baby's feet, over my son's purpose in life, over how this child's life will glorify God, over how his feet will be used in Christian service to glorify God.

Please pray with us as we fight for him on our knees.

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes (whether they are sickness, fear or worry)." (Psalm 112:7-8)

P.S. We had our first doctor's appointment this week. Our regular doctor said he would like to see him regularly until he begins to walk or until he turns eighteen- months-old. He is considered a "late" walker. I had two other "late" walkers. He said his foot position could be a sign of a balance issue, neurological problems or a muscular issue. There are a number of things it could be that would resolve themselves as he grows, develops and walks. Then again, he may need help getting there. We are getting a second opinion. Pray for wisdom, direction, peace and protection for us during this time.

And from July 4, 2007: Happy Feet

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
The beautiful feet are now also happy, walking feet!!! Praises to God!!! It's hard to get a picture of Palmer walking because walking is such hard work. It makes him hungry and tired! He's such a laid back boy, he just walks a little at a time. He's so proud of himself he grins and claps after each step. He does a little dance before he takes a it's boogie...step...step...boogie...step... cute. We are all grinning and clapping too! It won't be too long before he's running circles all over the place with his brother and sisters. We are praising God for his happy, walking, beautiful feet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


The main thing in this week's reading that has captured me is the ark of the covenant.

This place made to contain God's presence.

As I was reading all the many, many, many specifications to building the Ark, the main feeling that engulfed me was gratitude.

I am so thankful that I do not have specifications to meet before I can prepare myself to be a vessel of God's presence. All I have to do is come as I am. He is there. Meeting me. Waiting to indwell me.

"And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him." Ephesians 1:13-14 NLT

The God of Moses. The God of the universe. The God of my life. Emmanuel. God with us. God in us. God in me. Ordinary, average me. Extraordinary, awesome God.

"If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst,
you're getting in on the best!" 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 The Message

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Great Intercession

Thoughts of Moses follow, which, due to the flu, I am just stating and leaving you to ponder for yourselves are these:

I absolutely love how Moses intercedes for the people in their sin by telling God to spare the people instead of making his(Moses') name great. God is going to destroy the people in their sin and Moses reminds God of his promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Exodus 32:9-14) Now that's boldness! Then God spares them because of Moses' pleas and they go worship that calf while Moses is on mountain taking up their cause! Then Moses goes on to intercede for them asking God to erase his own name from God's Book rather than to erase their names. (Exodus 32:30-33) That Moses would give up his own salvation, his life, for their lack thereof is awesome to me. Amazing, really. That's the making of one fine leader. I wonder if the Israelites ever really understood the protection that Moses' intercession brought about in their lives. This gives a whole new meaning to my prayer life! The first intercessor, Moses. The last intercessor, Jesus.

I meditate on the golden calf episode and how the people can so quickly take off their earrings and jewelry that God had just given them as plunder from their freedom from Egypt...they squander it. (Exodus 32:3-4) Amazing. I am sad. I can totally identify with the people over to themselves. Discipline is so tough! Then taking the easy way out by saying, "This calf just came out of the fire!" (Exodus 32:24)

But there are other things I love about Aaron. How he must have tired of the smell of blood and killing animals to sacrifice. He was probably stained with the blood and of their sin!
In spite of Aaron's shortcomings, in spite of the Israelites great sin, God spares them all because of Moses' plea and says they can continue to the Promised Land without His Presence. Moses balks. What?!? Without Your Presence?!? (Exodus 33:3) He goes on to state he'd rather die than live without God's presence. God's presence is what makes them a great people instead of just an ordinary people. (Exodus 33:12 & 16) Profound words. I love Moses. I love his character. I love his leadership. I love his relationship. I desperately love his God.

"...let me know your ways so I may understand you more fully and continue to enjoy your favor." (Exodus 33:13) I love his words. I borrow them today. I cry them out to my God.
These words. Perfect for yesterday. Perfect for today. A perfect prayer for a perfect God. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. and me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Flu-bug Flashback

In honor of the bug that decided to set up camp in my body and all the memories that being pent up in this wonderful house for the last few days has unleashed, I am reposting an oldie but goodie from the not-so-distant-yesteryear. Enjoy this Flu-bug Flashback!

The Day the Oatmeal Hit the Floor

How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity." Psalm 133:1 NLT

Some days I feel like there are the fights and arguments themselves and the times leading up to the fighting and quarreling among my children.

I have to remind myself that raising children requires training them in righteousness (II Timothy 3:16) and that if they exhibited the right behavior or followed the right path all the time--or even most of the time--we wouldn't have been given so much instruction in God's Word on training children.

Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it. Proverbs22:6 NLT

Webster's defines training as guiding the growth of mentally and morally and instructionally so as to make proficient. When I taught school, one key to mastery was, each day we set out to "Do everything without arguing..." (Philippians 2:14)

We practice over and over all day long, day after day.

My children hear my common refrain, " God gave you brothers and sisters to be your get to live with your best never have to be bored or play alone. Enjoy one another. Be kind to one another. Love one another."

Isn't that every mother's desire, that her children would love one another?

Then suddenly it comes...the moment...If I'm not paying attention I can miss it. They are playing a game--together...having fun--together...singing...talking... reading...cuddling...camping...coloring...running...jumping... racing...whatever... they're just doing it together--wonderfully, happily, joyfully--together!

These are the moments I pause to say a prayer of thanks that God's truth is sinking into their souls. I love to engrave these images on my heart holding fast to the children enjoying the fruits of loving one another...of the blessing of living in unity.

I've also noticed these times are coming more and more frequently and lasting longer in our home.

They're learning to pick up where they left off the evening before, to share, to take turns, to submit to one another; quite simply, they're learning to love

Then something happens to reinforce if I ever had any doubts.

It had been one of those days...the arguing kind.

I was tired. They were tired.

I was hungry. They were hungry.

It was almost dinnertime. Time to call day it and look forward to a beautiful, new tomorrow...a new beginning...a do-over.

I was feeding the baby. They were all in the kitchen.

Then I heard it...the commotion...the bickering...the rustling...the semi-explosion...the loud gasps...the snickering...the whispers...the quiet giggles...

As I carefully treaded my way to the kitchen, I saw it, an entire canister of oatmeal on the floor...on the the drawers...behind the refrigerator...everywhere.

The kids were all huddled together tightly holding hands staring at me wide-eyed. They weren't fighting or blaming or accusing or pointing any fingers. The oatmeal had hit the floor...this was serious!

The oldest spoke, "We all did it--together."

They stood silently slumped in the corner of the kitchen, waiting for me to lower the boom. I had to turn around to hide my smile...together--we did it--together...magical words...happy to my ears.

"As long as we're working together," I say, "let's clean up together." One got the broom, one got the dustpan and one got the vacuum.

We worked--together.

I felt reassured that when they need each other the most, the days the oatmeal hits the floor, my kids will pull together as a a brothers and sisters who love each other and will be able to see one another through any trial.

We got it...the reason God gave us brothers and sisters.

"A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need." Proverbs 17:17 NLT

Whether it be sickness, loss or conflict, my hope is that they will love each other through it, remain loyal, and hold each other up when one is weak.

I pray they will learn to love one another as brothers and as friends.

Monday, February 09, 2009

My Story Monday--He Said Yes

Today I continue My Story.
Because I lived my life in fear of further rejection, always asking the question, "Who will leave me today?" I became a master of disguises.

I was the perfect student, the fun friend and the polite neighbor. I excelled at school with grades and good citizenship but when I came home at night my attitude was filled with anger, bitterness and sarcasm. These things seemed only to grow and seep out onto my mother and brother at home. After all, I had to fight to hold them inside, keep it together all day long so when I got tired, I would explode. The anxiety and frustration resulting from the fight of pursuing perfectionism would just erupt in my household. Terrible but truthful. I think somewhere deep down, I knew my mom loved me and wouldn't stop, wouldn't leave, would always believe the best about me so she took the brunt of my emotional turmoil.

When I was at my dad's house, I was polite, perfect and quiet. So very quiet. If you haven't noticed, I am really anything but quiet. It would take me many years to trust my dad with my words again and come out of the shell that my parent's divorce placed around me.

I soon came to realize that if I were well-dressed with painted fingernails, brushed hair and displayed my most feminine manners, my dad would shower me with compliments and praise. I began to place lots of importance on my outer appearance. Too much. He wanted me to make straight A's so I did. I learned that how I looked and what I accomplished were very important.

I found other ways to grab attention too. I was loud, funny and cute with my peers. The focus was always on me. How could I belong. I wanted to find identity in a group, a uniform or a status. To be a cheerleader, to be in charge of the right club and to be "popular" were my intentions.

Soon I began to find that perfection is an unreachable goal. All of my efforts toward a happy life would fail me. My feelings would betray me. No amount of compromise or conformation can produce the sense of belonging that only Jesus can give. So while the world was not giving me the yeses I so desperately needed to hear. The One who fights for me was crying out, "Yes" to my unfulfilled sense of belonging. Although I was deaf to his cries, ultimately they would carry me home.

By day the social butterfly silenced the despairing soul. By night tears overtook me in a sea loneliness. Fear would engulf me in the darkness of night. "Things would never change," my soul despaired. This pattern would continue throughout my childhood and high school and on into college.

By this point, I'd tried to make myself over many times. You know I was the cheerleader type, the preppy type, the nerd, the cowboy type, the snob. The latest effort being as a freshman at Texas A&M. All of a sudden, my grades weren't very good, my social life was in ruins, I couldn't make my boyfriend love me or the right groups extend me invitations. I had run from the rules I'd always lived by in the Bible. I felt terrible knowing I'd failed and would eventually disappoint everyone, especially God and my mother, but had no idea how to release myself to start once again. I'd tried all the Christian groups, churches and Bible studies that college had to offer. I knew that others had found fulfillment and direction in trusting Christ but it appeared that he didn't want to use or bless someone as unwantable as me. For some reason it seemed my life was so much less than all those around me. Salvation was the only prayer Jesus had ever answered me with a yes. And, I'd reached a point where I needed survival and sanity in my everyday life. Salvation seemed so far away. I thanked God for saving me from hell but begged him to save me from daily life.

Decisions paralyzed me. The future scared me. Nothing was going according to my plan for a bright future. I felt awkward, unconfident and insecure when I was left to make my own choices. I didn't make very good ones my freshman year. Even though my ears were deaf to His cries, the One who fights for me was crying out "yes" over my life, protecting and not deserting, defending and not destroying. My eyes were blind to see it but as I look back I can see provision and sustenance in such color that only the hand of Providence could have painted it across my life.

With adulthood looming. I had absolutely no idea who I was currently, how could I be expected to decide what I wanted to become? The pressure was overwhelming to me. I couldn't stop the tears. Ever. I felt like giving up, throwing in the towel, quitting. But if I did, where would I go? For the summer I went home. This is where Jesus pierced my heart with the love and belonging I'd always desired.

Our youth minister was recruiting counselors for summer camp. He asked me. I said, "Yes." It would be the first yes of many that summer. The second was at midnight the night before the bus left. I had the first heart-to-heart I'd ever had with God. I was at the end of my rope. I told God that if there was anything inside of me that he saw useful to please use it that next week at camp. I confessed that I thought me teaching kids about his character was a joke. I wasn't even quite sure of his goodness myself. Beyond heaven, my life was in a broken mess. I asked God what good going to heaven was if I didn't know how to live on earth. I begged him to use my ruins. I invited him to change me.

Little did I know He'd already said yes. He'd said it from the beginning of my life when he was the One who fought for me, he'd said it when my daddy left as he became my Father who'd never leave, he'd said it while I cried myself to sleep every night as the Comforter of every sorrow. He was saying yes to me that night as Rescuer of the rejected. I had no idea I'd just prepared myself to experience one of the greatest moments of my life.

It was only an instant, really. During worship at that camp one night, I witnessed an amazing sight. One of my friends was worshipping God the way I dreamed I would love him. Eyes closed, face lifted in awe, oblivious to anyone or anything else. I felt His tug. I prayed,"Lord, I want that." I was desperate to love Him with the love I'd never felt before but never stopped longing for all my life. I was desperate to get, to live and to give the Love that was crying "yes" over my life.

That week he used me. He filled me. He changed me. He began calling me to a greater purpose with a voice I was beginning to recognize. Hearing that voice has given me strength. A strength that causes me to move. A strength that says no to paralyzing fear and yes to the Providence of God. Because He did and He does answer my prayers.

He taught me that week. He taught me how to ask for things in accordance with His will. He simply stepped into the world of a perfectionist and changed my desires. That's when I heard his yes. I saw his yes. I experienced his yes. His yes became mine.

"Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:24

And, the rest, as they say, is history...His me.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Gently Led

Today in response to Missy at It's Almost Naptime I am reflecting on the preschool years.

In letter form, but actually more of a rambling...hey, I'm at the end of the precious, hair-raising preschool days. My baby climbed to the top of the pantry today to eat gummy bears for breakfast (before I awoke) so cut me a little slack! Here goes.

Dear self of last decade,

My kids are 9, 7, 5 and 3(as of next week). Yes, number 4 is technically a preschooler. However, last year I had a revelatory moment where one thing became clear to me. No matter how many more babies joined our family, the days of being at home with preschoolers were over for me. Over. **sniff, sniff**

Yes, I am one of "those"mothers. The ones who from the tender age of 8 decided I would be a mommy when I grew up and carry babies all the time. There was only one thing that rocking Baby Tender Love and feeding Baby Alive failed to prepare me for. Real babies grow into school aged children. Children with opinions and emotions and habits and character.

I loved the days of waking up, donning sweats and never looking in the mirror. I loved the feeling that came when a touch of my hand or the sound of my voice stilled their every cry. I rocked babies a lot, sang and danced in the kitchen and desperately wanted my babies to feel loved and nurtured. I made it a point on days that I consciously made choices to rock, hold or cuddle a baby over mopping the floor or scrubbing the sink to write it in my journal. I want to look back and have as few regrets as possible.

Even with the no regrets motto, I still did plenty wrong. Many, many days and weeks and months were spent in "survival mode" because I was tired. Very tired.

It has taken me years to learn that putting my husband before my children's needs is actually allowing my children's needs to take top priority. When my husband feels as if he's being respected by my words and actions and that his goals are my own goals, everyone flourishes in our home. Still, easier said than done. I wish I would've taken the rubberband out of my hair and worn that cute skirt to our dinner table a little more in those days. My man thinks it's important.

I wish I would've really, really listened to him. I wish I would've held the same views on extra activities, play groups, clothes, pictures and discipline. I tend to be indulgent while he's not home. Obeying his rules when he's gone has made a huge difference. I am slowly learning that whatever Daddy's standard is, that's what I am to train my children to become. (See any spiritual truths there?)

I made naptime a huge goal. Getting all two or three or four children to sleep at the same time was paramount. That was "me" time. Time I planned for each day. Time to wash clothes, do dishes, read, write, study the Bible, shower. When it didn't happen, I became angry and frustrated.

I made a commitment to God about my time just this year. If any of the five other people in this house are awake, it is their time, not mine. If that happens before 10:00 at night or after 6:30 in the morning, it's a bonus. I wish I would've been more flexible with that when they were at home all day. When three slept, why didn't I read to the one or create a pretty picture with the other? Well, again, I was tired. So very tired.

I constantly reasoned with myself that if I only had one at home there would be more quality time. The reality is that I now have one at home, the battles are the same. This is where the shift happened. School-aged children have a different set of needs. The time is even more limited and the car happens to be our home on most days. **wink, wink**

I remember the day that God spoke several blessings to my heart about having my kids so close together in age. They don't fight much. They play lots. They rely on each other, often more than they rely on me. They challenge each other in ways I could never challenge them with their different personalities and their birth order. Choose the blessings over the harder to live with things and don't sweat what you can't change.

I always had a week long plan for a spotless house (Anybody heard of Fly Lady?). After number three it became a biweekly plan. After number four, I burned the plan. I let a "dirty" house keep me from entertaining and practicing hospitality far more than I should have.

I let "the way I always dreamed it would be" rule decisions that I made instead of asking God to reveal the way He says it should be and change the way of my heart.

I have realized that I had stretches that were good, easy, enjoyable, all by the grace of God and many Godly older women, and then there were the growing phases. The months that I had no playgroup, the months a certain child cried everyday...all day and all night...every night, the months that I couldn't hear God's voice in the midst of the child-filled chaos that was my home. That goes back to the issue of my time. I have come to a point now where I want to hear His voice more than I desire a good night's sleep or any night's sleep at all. I sleep less, much less. Yet, I hear Him more and I hear him consistently. I wish I would've read the Bible when I nursed each baby instead of watching the television. (I started this with #4)

Practically, I wish I would've been prepared for all the stuff. Mountains of stuff invaded my house. Then in just a few short weeks or months the baby would outgrow it. How I just wanted to be rid of the stuff. How I wanted space. Nothing touching me. Open places in an already cramped house (Okay, I still long for this but am repenting by the minute). I wish I would've had a storage system, filing system, any system for that matter, in place for all the stuff. Seriously. I didn't. Still don't know exactly how I would fix it, I just wish I had. Example, I got rid of my daughter's Polly Pockets. She didn't play with them and I kept sucking up their cute, little stylish shoes with the vacuum. Why didn't I store them in a plastic container until she was a little older? Because sure enough, she asked for them. And, the mother guilt appeared.

Here's a list of other mother guilt regrets (however, I know in heaven my memory will be perfect and there will be no need for a scrapbook): far too few home videos, no scrapbooks of babies 2 or 3, no photos of baby 3, throwing away Polly Pockets and other momentarily unwanted objects of desire, being too tired to read, pray, sing or cuddle to sleep babies, letting my survival (or lack thereof) affect my loved ones in any way, and there are more. So many more. And, about the mother guilt, don't. waste. the. time. or. energy. going. there.

Despite my many shortcomings, I clung to my mantra during this time. "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 40:11

Through it all, we managed to talk with our kids about Jesus every time we got a chance. Still do. We weren't perfect but we did make it a priority. Still do. We have managed to pray for them daily giving them over God on a regular basis and trusting He will use us, even in our weaknesses, to fulfill His grand purposes in their little lives. We take time regularly to monitor our progress. God is so faithful!

Really, it does go by so quickly. I never thought it would end but time is marching forward and this newer season is just as exciting, thrilling and challenging!

And, Missy, I'm giddy just thinking of all the treasures I'll glean from this too. Thanks!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Late Bloomer

I've always been a late bloomer. I just had to watch others experience things before I caught on myself.

I've never felt like God took me to any point in my life via the shortest route. Walking, reading, riding a bike, driving, college graduation, marriage, children and ministry have all happened later than I had imagined they would. Basically, milestones, in my life, are met in a roundabout sort of way even though I consider myself to be a very straight shooter.

I've never really appreciated this for what God is showing me it is. I've met the goals with lots of high fives and sighs of finallies but sometimes the long way just takes the wind out of your sails.
Today what I've always seen as deprivation became provision, rejection became protection and hesitation became preparation.

"When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land." Exodus 13:17a

Why did God lead the Israelites along a side road, the long way, to the Promised Land?
To protect them from going back to the lifestyle from which He had delivered them. To save them from being devastated by fighting a battle they were not ready to win.

"God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” Exodus 13:17b

I have never thought about His timing in my life in this way. I mean, I believe it's perfect, I think. I certainly believe God is sovereign. I know He has worked all these "late" timing issues together for His glory. But, I do think somewhere in my fragile heart I translated "late-blooming" into "forgotten."

I'm pretty sure this happened when most of my friends were married...and I wasn't. And, I think it was again reiterated when my younger friends started having babies...and I didn't. I felt passed over and denied.

Somehow just realizing this has birthed hope in my heart. The truth of being loved and chosen permeates my inner most feelings today.

Understanding that as I stood still, not knowing which way to go, My Rescuer was fighting for me...“Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today...The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:13-14 has brought gladness to a dark, sleepy place in my heart. A place long forgotten with the birth of many children and a tiredness that penetrates bone and soul.

The place in this weary heart that has always felt deserted feels loved, nurtured, protected and cared for today. New truth was born in my life today. Another pent up part of my soul that has been held hostage to darkness has become unbound today. I was never a late bloomer. I was right on time. God was always leading me. Going before me. Just as he led the Israelites. "The Lord went ahead of them. He guided them..." Exodus 13:21a

I realize that when I was not free to see, God was still moving in my life, still protecting me, still providing for me. And as the chains were broken allowing me to move, I turned my head and I found my God.

"Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them." Exodus 14:19
I was so busy straining to focus on all I wanted, to see forward, I forgot to look back. He has been there all along. Protecting me. I just couldn't see that until now.

“With your unfailing love you lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your might, you guide them
to your sacred home."
Exodus 15:13

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Night You Spoke

"Speak!" You spoke the word to my heart. I silenced the fear, quenched the questioning and willed the response. It took all the courage I could muster, "Okay..." I responded.

Then six days later the invitation came. You are so good.

Your command to speak has left me speechless.

A dream of seventeen years, a vision seen by a young college coed, a desire placed deep within is being born. A hard, winding and narrow road slowly yet steadily traveled to get to this point of complete surrender. I am finally in a place where for an instant, in the instant You spoke, the doubting ceased and my mouth moved without hesitation. I spoke. An answer. To You.

I wanted to shout from the rooftops, scream at the top of my lungs, "Yes, oh yes, my Lord!" But the word that took my everything to choke out was simply , "Okay."

Oh Lord, You know me. You have known all along that in Your time you would use me.

Yesterday I was just another girl with a dusty old dream. I was worn out, giving up and looking down when You rescued me. You have taken my old dream and crafted it for a new purpose. Rescued that dream from a deep, dark place in my soul and shed Your light on it. You have freed me to move at Your command, to demonstrate my love for You.

No, I'm not as free as I long to be. You see the me I see when I close my eyes. The me I see in my mind's eye worships freely, dances gracefully and lives largely. But today, You have freed me enough to utter one simple, willing word, "Okay."

I am so thankful You are not finished with me yet. Today I feel as if You are just beginning. Today I feel hope that You will use that dusty, old dream in a shiny, new way. Today I feel the life You have breathed into my destiny. Oh, how I have waited. Waited for Your arms to lift. Waited for Your voice to command. Waited. On You. My Lord.

You see, I had to become broken.

And very beautiful.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009

My Mother's Heart

I love the story of Moses' birth (Exodus 2:1-10). It's one of my favorites. It speaks to my mother's heart very tenderly.

Can you imagine having a baby, a Hebrew baby, a baby boy and knowing that if he was found he would be taken from you and put to death? Knowing that God had destined your child for greatness and trying to hide him? I can't imagine having a baby and fearing for his life. I can't begin to imagine trying to keep his cries silent. I can't begin to imagine how I would live life while trying to hide my newborn son.

"Seeing that Moses was special" (Exodus 2:1) implies that Jochebed had a special, deep relationship with God. She knew His voice and heard His calling on her son's life. Hearing God's voice made her brave enough to do what she had to do. She hid Moses for three months, probably never taking her hands off of him as she constantly silenced his cries and comforted him. Then she did what was probably the hardest thing she'd ever done. She took him from her hands and placed him in God's hands.

I can imagine Jochebed's shaky hands as she weaved a basket and lovingly placed her son inside. I see hot, silent tears coarse down her cheeks that turn to gut-wrenching sobs as she kisses her son goodbye and wipes his soft cheek tenderly. I see her wet lips kiss his silky, downy head. I imagine her knees knocking and buckling under the weight of her grief as she places Moses in the river. Maybe that's why Miriam stays to watch, Jochebed is unable to under the heaviness of her sacrifice.

I see my own young girl in Miriam as she watches through the grass, spying on the Egyptians. I hear a boldness that belies her years as she suggests finding a Hebrew nurse for the child. I wonder if Moses' cries stopped at the sound of Miriam's voice. Did Pharaoh's daughter suspect anything?

I love how Moses was separated from his mother for such a short time (I'm sure it seemed like an eternity to her) and then God reunited them...with pay, under royal protection.

I am so happy that Jochebed didn't ever have to forget what his hot, little head felt like under her arm as she nursed her baby. I am so thankful that this ordinary Hebrew family showed extraordinary courage, bravery and vision in saving this tiny baby. I am so thankful that this mother changed history and fulfilled a destiny much larger than herself by listening to the voice of the Almighty and daring to obey. Jochebed. A savior of Moses. The tiny baby that would one day deliver God's people. A deliverer that would foreshadow our Deliverer. Another tiny baby born in a different time to another young mother who would recognize and respond to God's voice. Who would go to great lengths to save her Son from death. Until...She would remove her hands and place Him in God's hands. Where He would die to deliver us.
Moses speaks to my mother's heart.