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Embracing the Uncomfortable

Posted by on Jul 14, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I hate being uncomfortable. I hate tension. I hate change. I want everyone to be happy and healthy and for life to go smoothly. I want disagreements to be limited to chocolate vs. vanilla or tea vs. coffee (the correct answers being chocolate and coffee, of course!)

But..life isn’t like that. There is discomfort and tension and change. There is unhappiness and sickness and disagreements that rip people apart.

Image result for embrace cactusIt’s not that some people enjoy the above-mentioned horrors. But some can manage them better. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. My husband jokes that, in difficult times, I am like a snapping turtle – I either sink into my “shell” and avoid everyone, or I come out snapping off fingers and toes!

Lately, I have bounced between both locations, I am ashamed to say. And the fact is, I don’t feel any better in the shell or out snapping. Those responses don’t make situations better. They don’t solve problems (in reality, they make the problems worse!).

I have come to the realization that I have to learn to embrace the uncomfortable. That doesn’t mean enjoying tough situations.  But it does mean that I keep my head outside of my “shell” – with my mouth closed – and that I keep moving.

The only way through difficult times is to go through them. Like it or not, comfortable or not, no matter how tough it is. God has called me to follow Him. Sometimes, He leads me beside still waters and other times, through the valley of the shadow of death. But no matter what, He is with me. I will trust in Him.

Hanging On

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

This morning, our family visited friends in the Imperial Valley, an agricultural area about two hours east of us. My husband, David, had the privilege of spending six years there as a pastor’s kid, and he maintains many of the relationships he forged there. One of those was the couple we visited today – David’s youth leaders!

Along with some great stories of pre-teen David, the kids got shooting lessons and sage advice. We also got to see several dozen date trees. I had never seen a date tree! Or maybe I had, but I just called it a palm tree and didn’t realize there was fruit beneath the fronds.

But there is fruit. A lot of fruit! As Gary picked one off the branch, he bit it to show us the inside – it looks a lot like an apple, but with a pit like a cherry. I asked if we could eat one. He laughed and said, “You don’t want to eat one yet! They aren’t ripe. They need another month or so before they are ready to be harvested.”

The he showed us one that had come loose from the vine. It was a putrid shade of greenish-brown and looked shriveled and sad. This one, Gary told us, broke away too soon. It’s not sweet enough to eat, and it can’t be placed back on the vine to receive the nutrients it needs. So it just has to be discarded. It’s no good.

I thought of the parable of the vine and the branches in John 15. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Jesus was speaking to folks who understood agriculture: they knew just how necessary the vine is – how absolutely impossible it is for fruit to develop apart from it. As I looked at those dates – the ones holding firm to their source – I understood this parable in a way I hadn’t before.

I began thinking, how often do I pull away from my source? How often do I try and look for solutions to a problem that can only be repaired by hanging on to the One from whom all strength resides?

Thankfully, our amazing heavenly Father doesn’t resign us to withering away and being tossed out when we pull away from Him. He grafts us back, if we are willing. Through His grace, He weaves us back into Himself, He pours life and hope into us, He matures and strengthens us.

I’ll be honest- some days, I just want to let go. Holding on seems hard. It seems pointless. It seems exhausting. I begin to wonder if life wouldn’t just be easier if I did it my way. But the reality is, when I do choose to let go, I shrivel up. I become sour and ugly and useless.

The reality is, I need the vine. I need Him because He has resources I don’t have and I can’t manufacture on my own. Through Him, I get strength to endure. Through Him, I get courage to face difficulties. Through Him, I grow.

Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

With Him, I can do all things.

You Can’t Do It All

Posted by on Jun 26, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

How am I? You ask.

Busy. I am busy. 

Like most people today, I have taken on more than I should, and I am constantly running behind, running late, running on too little sleep.

I should know better. I DO know better. A few years back, I got so busy, I was in almost-total burn-out. Months on end with no real rest took its toll on my body, my mind, and my soul. Not to mention my family!!

But that was a few years ago. Time has passed. I’ve forgotten what I learned in that season. I am not in the burn-out stage yet. But I am on that road.

So here is a list of reminders for me, as I seek to free myself from this “busyness” cycle. Feel free to add in any that you think I’ve missed…

  • Pick a God. A couple years ago, I read the book  gods at war by Kyle Idleman. It is convicting, but so good. In it, Idleman argues that we say God is “first” in our lives, but in reality, we are worshipping other gods. For me, the “gods” of Approval and Success are at the top of my list. I want people to like me and think I’m great, so I spend my days “sacrificing” to those gods. If God were really first, it would be HIS good opinion I craved, HIS kingdom I sought. And, in doing that, it would be HIS peace I’d have daily.
  • Prioritize. There are some things I HAVE to do. But there are a lot of things I just want to do. And there are things I think I should do. And, if I am worshipping the wrong god, I confuse the three and think they’re all “have to’s”. I burn myself out trying to get them all done. The truth is, though, there are really just a few things I HAVE to do. I need to determine what those “have to’s” are and let some of the others go – even if that means people don’t like me or consider me a failure.
  • Just Say No. It’s not just for drugs. It’s not even just for bad things. Sometimes, we need to say no to good things. Sometimes, I need to say I just can’t go to that game because my body needs rest. Or I can’t go to that retreat because I can’t fill one more weekend. Sometimes, I need to say that those papers won’t be graded for a few days because it isn’t fair to my family. For many of us, “no” is a difficult word to say. But it is necessary.
  • Say Yes. Too often, I skip the “have to’s” for the “want to’s” or “should’s”. I am up late because of a game or papers or a TV show, and I sleep in, forgoing my time with God. Or I spend all my energy on work and, when I get home, I have no energy left for my husband or my kids. When I have the right priorities, I make sure I get a good night’s sleep so I can get up and spend that time with God. I do just what I can at work, then leave, knowing my family is more important than my job. I say no to the less important so I can say yes to what really matters.
  • Start TODAY. I SO want to say, “And I will implement these AS SOON AS…” this project is over, this season ends, this crisis passes. I want to put it off because the gods of Approval and Success scream at me to worship them a little longer. But I can’t. They are false, and they are destructive. And I am tired. So I will start today.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Heb. 3:13

Not Surprised

Posted by on Jun 15, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 5 comments

In November 2000, I was 7 months  pregnant with my second child, Eliana. I had been going to a midwife, planning to deliver at a birthing center. Because my spine is fused, I can’t get an epidural. I chose a midwife because they offer some alternative pain management that doctors don’t. However, midwives don’t deliver babies that are in breech position – head up. And Eliana was in breech position. So, two months before my due date, I had to find a doctor. Who would take me at 7 months. With a fused spine. And a breech baby.

November 2000

But it “just so happened” that my Bible Study Fellowship small group leader was married to an Obstetrician. A Christian OB who specialized in high-risk pregnancies and who was willing to take a late term patient with a fused spine.

I went to this doctor – and I was pretty nervous. This was not my plan! The first thing Dr. Blair did was put a hand on my shoulder and say, “You know what, God isn’t looking down saying, ‘Oh no! That baby is breech? What do I do?’ No way. He already knows that baby, He knows you, and He’s going to tell us what to do.”

So we talked about plans – turning the baby (ouch!), delivering feet first (ouch, ouch!), C-Section (I’d be put completely to sleep and wake up with a baby…yes, please!!). We agreed to spend a week praying, and then make a decision at the next appointment.

When I went back the next week, Dr. Blair put a hand on my stomach and just laughed. Eliana had turned. And she wasn’t a small baby. At delivery (Jan. 8), she weighed almost 9 lbs. And I had no idea she turned a complete flip that week. It shouldn’t have happened…I was too late, she was too big, there was no room. But there it was.

I didn’t get to go to sleep and wake up with a baby. But I  did learn a great lesson: Nothing surprises God. I knew that, intellectually. But I didn’t know it, experientially.

God always has a plan. And it is rarely the same as mine.Image result for psalm 9:10

In the years since, I have learned this lesson in more ways. Sometimes – several times – the ending wasn’t nearly as happy as Eliana’s delivery. But every time, God got us through whatever unexpected situation occurred. And He taught us through it. He increased our faith and drew us closer to Him. In fact, “unhappy endings” were often the times that grew my faith the most.

God uses the unexpected events in our lives to remind us He is in control and He is never surprised. We can trust Him. No matter what.

Unfiltered

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I recently read that, prior to the 1920s, most women had mirrors that were tarnished.  The view they received in those mirrors, then, was fuzzy, imperfect. Like one of the distorted SnapChat filters. Image result for mirror tarnished

As mirrors improved, women were shocked at what they saw: blemishes, wrinkles, dark spots, under-eye bags, crow’s feet, red blotches – no more filter!

Beauty products suddenly became a booming business.

As I read this, I thought about these verses…

“Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:23-25)

James says the Word of God is a mirror – a clear mirror that shows us our imperfections. A mirror that, at times, can make us uncomfortable. But a mirror that reflects reality so we can know exactly what needs to be fixed. When we remember that image – those ugly imperfections – we can focus on asking for help to overcome them (info on that in James, too!).

But I think many of us today have the same problem women prior to the 1920s had: we’re not looking in good Image result for mirror god's wordmirrors. Instead of peering into the Word of God for our “how do I look?” check, we look at other people and other books, even blogs like mine. Nothing is wrong with reading this blog (I’m so glad you do!), but it is meant as an encouragement, not a replacement for time spent in God’s Word. Devotionals are great, Christian books are great, talks with other believers are great, but none of those are as beneficial to your “spiritual beauty” as DAILY time spent in the Word of God.

So maybe it’s time for a mirror check – where are you looking to determine how you truly look? If it’s been a while since you’ve looked in the mirror of God’s word, then open it up, dive back in. Don’t be content with a “filter” on your spiritual mirror.

A Pile of Crap

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 3 comments

We all have goals. For those of you still in school, it may be good grades, a date with that special guy/girl, acceptance to a certain college. For the rest of us, it may be getting a raise, having a family, going back to school.

None of these goals, in themselves, is bad.

But if they are “the” goal, then they’re not just bad.

They’re crap.

And I mean that in the most literal, biblical sense.

Image result for pile of dog dung

Check out these verses from Paul’s letter to the Philippians:

“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.” (Phil. 3:7-8, The Message)

Paul is saying that nothing – no science project, no research paper, no cute guy, no job, no diploma – nothing on earth compares to knowing Christ Jesus. Then Paul says that everything else he used to think was so important (and he had quite the list of accomplishments), was as insignificant as dog dung (the actual Greek word for “dog dung” is even more graphic than “crap”! Paul was serious about this topic.)

And yet, we spend most of our energy on the crap! We stress over it, gossip about it, spend time and money and brain cells on it. We are rolling around in poop, covering ourselves in it everyday. Parents, we push our kids into the poop. Teens, you let the media and your friends dump bucket loads of poop on your heads everyday.

Let’s get out of the waste. Let’s clean up, leave that crap behind, and seek Christ Jesus. Let’s do what we were created to do. Let’s fully embrace Christ and experience the pure joy of being embraced by Him.

 

Out of Time

Posted by on May 24, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 4 comments

My oldest daughter graduates from high school on Friday. This event has been looming in my my mind all year. It’ll hit at strange times, making me tear up, worry, and rejoice. It’s momentous, Graduation. It is both an ending and a beginning, a time to rejoice and a  time to mourn.

As a mom, graduation marks the end of an era. I have been, quite literally, very close to my kids all their lives: I stayed at home until they went to school, and then I went to school with them, teaching at K-12 Christian schools, where my classroom was on the same campus as theirs. It’s an end of an era for my kids, too – all three have been at the same schools all their lives, through all our moves. My younger two don’t know a world without Emma in it everyday.

That ends Friday. When Emma walks across the stage and receives her diploma, she steps out into the world – a world where I am not down the hall, where her siblings aren’t in her daily business. In August, she will be going away to college – 6 hours away. And, while I know she is a great kid and she is ready to leave the “nest”, I still grieve over that fact. I will miss her! We all will.

But then I think of something my mother-in-law used to say. Judy McGee was a godly woman who grieved the fact that all four of her kids lived far from her and her husband. Every time a visit came to an end, Judy would pull out her tissues and cry. She loved her family deeply. But then she’d remind us all, “One day, we’ll live together for eternity,” she’d say. “These momentary separations will seem like nothing compared to that.”

Judy is waiting for us there, experiencing the joy of that “forever togetherness” she always longed for. As I pull out my tissues and cry, preparing myself for this first high school graduation, knowing the other two will follow closely behind, I am reminded that all of this life is temporary. The moments – good and bad, painful and joyful – are fleeting. I am reminded to never lose focus on the eternal. I was created, not to live bound by time for however many years God gives me on this earth, but to live outside of time, to “graduate” to an eternity more amazing and fulfilling than I can possibly imagine.

Ready to Marry?

Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Marriage.

Almost everyone has an opinion about this institution. Some think it’s antiquated; others treat it like a terminal illness. Romantics see it as a lovely ending, and cynics see it as a trap.

Countless studies are done each year, seeking to determine the right age, the rig marriage mel brooks the princess bride GIFht living conditions, the right personality types…treating marriage like a math problem that simply needs the right formula. And yet, despite all these studies and all these experts, the divorce rate keeps rising.

As my kids get older, and we start talking about their futures, I am tempted to just go with the “wisdom of the age” – finish college, get a job, date around, enjoy life before “settling” down. But the truth is – that advice is simply not working.

The fact is that God established marriage. It is a good thing. But good doesn’t mean easy, and I think that’s where our generation has gotten messed up. So much in our lives is disposable or has a limited shelf life. We are constantly “upgrading” our technology or jobs or cars…or spouses.

Image result for christian pick up linesBut God created marriage to reflect His covenant with us: He doesn’t leave us when we frustrate Him. He doesn’t walk away when the “honeymoon period” wears off. He doesn’t give us limited forgiveness. He loves us – extravagantly and unconditionally.

I don’t believe that waiting to marry or dating around or using computer-generated algorithms is the answer to the marriage dilemma. I believe the problem is that individuals enter marriage self-focused rather than God-focused. And when we are self-focused, relationships fail. Every time.

So the question of “are you ready to marry?” has far less to do with age or education or compatibility than it does with each person’s relationship with God. If you are considering dating and marriage, make sure your relationship with God is your top priority. Then look for someone with the same focus. Ask God to help you seek, to help you find, and to help you wait. His plans are best and His ways are sure.

Unburden Yourself

Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

We are weighed down – by expectations, by situations, by attitudes, by guilt, by life. It can get overwhelming, all those burdens. Sometimes I feel suffocated by them all. I know I’m supposed to “cast my cares” on Jesus. But how does one do that? Image result for burdens

I have been thinking through this lately, and I have come up
with some ideas.

First, I have realized that we have to define our burdens. I think there are two basic types, and each needs to be dealt with in a different way.

Burdens others place on us. These are burdens we didn’t choose, burdens dumped on us by sinful people or tragic circumstances. We deal with these by daily surrendering these burdens to Jesus – laying them down at his feet and asking Him to carry them for us.

Burdens we place on ourselves.  These are sins that we are hanging on to – anger and bitterness or guilt and shame. They are feelings we allow to weigh us down and keep us from walking in the Spirit and living the abundant life God has for us. We deal with these by seeking forgiveness – from God and then from others, if necessary. Then we accept God’s forgiveness, fully and gratefully.

So once we’ve done that, once we’ve laid our burdens at Jesus’ feet, once we have sought forgiveness…is that all? Well, yes and no. Yes, that’s all it takes. Jesus doesn’t make us earn forgiveness or work to be relieved of our burdens. He takes them freely.Image result for renew our minds

But there is something we need to do – renew our minds. How much time do we spend thinking about how we’ve been burdened? I know I can spend countless hours thinking angrily about how others have hurt me. I can spend days worrying about circumstances that I have no control over. I don’t even know how much time I have spent justifying my sins. Far too much, that’s for sure! So, when I have laid my burdens at Jesus’ feet, I need to replace all that wrong thinking with right thinking. I need to meditate on God’s word, I need to pray, listen to praise music, anything that will remind me of who Jesus is and why He is far more worthy of my thoughts than my burdens are.

So if you are burdened – lay those burdens down! God isn’t asking you to carry them. If you feel like it’s impossible to lay them down, seek help from a godly man or woman in your life. There are people who can help you. You are not alone. You don’t have to live weighed down by your burdens. That is never what God intended for you.

Image result for come to me all who are weary niv

What the &%$@ Is Wrong With Cursing?

Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I get this question from teens all the time. Words are words, right? Why do people make such a big deal about certain ones?

Image result for what's the problem gifAnd, technically, yes, words are just words. A conglomeration of letters. There are plenty of words we can say in other languages that just sound funny to us, but would be offensive to someone who speaks that language. So why be so uptight about “curse” words in our own language? Why are they so taboo?

First, it’s because we as a society assign meaning to words. If we lived 400 years ago, the word “swive” would be highly offensive. Today, it means nothing. We don’t use that word anymore. Therefore, in our 21st century society, it is not offensive. But other words are offensive. Often because they represent acts that are not meant to be used as exclamations or curses that are intended to tear others down.

Second, as Christians, we are commanded to guard our mouths, to speak life, to use our words to build up and encourage. Paul says,“Let your speech always be  with grace, as though seasoned with  salt…” (Col. 4:6). I have never, in my lifetime, heard someone curse graciously.

Third, many curse words include the name of God. That name is holy. It should be used with the utmost respect. (Ex. 20:6-8) We should never treat His holy name with anything but reverence.

Finally, there are millions of words in the English language! We don’t need to resort to curse words to express ourselves. We should, instead, look for those words that best explaImage result for shakespearean cursesin what we are thinking and feeling.

So if you’re upset and feel like cursing, try saying this instead:

  • Your choleric outburst has left me perturbed
  • Cease your nugatory interactions
  • Your boorish behavior is bedeviling
  • I do not anticipate ever being required to utilize this information
  • I am distressed at your incongruous behavior
  • My penurious sibling has refused to compromise

What do you think? Let’s change the world, one big, unoffensive word at a time :)