11.29.2015

Quote.

I remember two things:
that I am a great sinner,
and that Christ is a great Savior.
~ John Newton, 1799

11.18.2015

Quote. God's presence.

"Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account!" Hebrews 4:13 

"The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good!" Proverbs 15:3


To walk with God is to live ever as in His presence! To realize His presence, to abide continually under His eye, to recognize our Father as close by our side - is the secret of much peace. We must ever regard Him, not as if He were far away in some inaccessible abode - but nearer to us than our nearest friend. In our chamber, by the wayside, at our work, in our recreation, when mingling with others, or all alone - we must see One whom the world sees not, we must hear a voice that the world hears not.

Whether beneath the eye of man or not, let all things be done under the eye of Him to whom . . . .
  all hearts are open,
  all desires known, and
  from whom no secrets are hidden!

A few plain principles have been given to assist us in carrying this out in daily practice:
Say nothing you would not like God to hear. 
Do nothing you would not like God to see.

Write nothing you would not like God to read.

Go to no place where you would not like God to find you.

Read no book of which you would not like God to say, "Show it to Me."

Never spend your time in such a way that you would not like God to say, "What are You doing?"
To consciously live in God's presence will aid us in cultivating through genuine piety and godly character. 

                                                                       ~ George Everard, "Daily Walking!" 1866

11.16.2015

Just come HOME.


I love this.
It is simple yet profound.
Sweet, yet deeply moving.
"Never mind what you've done.
Just
come
HOME."

“But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. Luke 15

John MacArthur's notes read:
"Clearly, the father had been waiting and looking for his son's return.The father's eagerness and joy at his son's return is unmistakable. This is the magnificent attribute of God that sets Him apart from all the false gods invented by men and demons. He is not indifferent or hostile, but a Savior by nature, longing to see sinners repent, and rejoicing when they do. 
From the fall to the consummation, God has been and will be seeking to save sinners, and rejoicing each time one repents and is converted.
Notice that the son did not get to finish his rehearsed words of repentance before the father interrupted to grant forgiveness. This picture's God's eagerness to forgive.
Without a single word of rebuke for the past, the father pours out his love for the son, and expresses his joy that what was lost had been found."

And the best part is ... 
not only does God bid us "Come just as you are," He doesn't leave us that way!
Day by day, year by year, He continues the work He began on the day of salvation. Smoothing, shaping, refining ... making us look more and more like His Son.
How great is our God.
Forgiving.
Gracious.
Merciful.

We do not need to get 'cleaned up' before we walk to the foot of the cross.
We just need to start moving.
And like the father with his prodigal son, God seeks us, and then welcomes us with open arms - 
because He loves us.
"Never mind what you've done.
Just
come
HOME."

So He told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luke 15

How blessed we are to be in the sweet and tender care of the Great Shepherd!

11.13.2015

Quote.

"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do - do it all for the glory of God!" 
I Corinthians 10:31

This same principle is applicable in all common actions and everyday affairs. No single moment of our lives, no single action - ought to be taken outside of the sphere of this rule.
Our rising up and lying down,
the disposal of our time,
the spending of our money,
our social gatherings,
our conversations,
our recreations,
the way of conducting the affairs of our household,
the books we read,
buying and selling,
business transactions of various kinds -
all these, and a multitude of other suchlike matters, are all to be ordered under the daily guidance of this same principle. We are to do all to glorify Him who is . . .
  our Creator,
  our Savior
  our Preserver,
  our most loving Father.

Reader, beware of neglecting to exercise this universal principle in little things. Great occasions for serving God occur but seldom; lesser ones arise every moment. Little things are not to be despised. "He who despises little things, shall fall little by little." Little omissions of duty, little acts of disobedience, as they may seem to us - may prove a great hindrance along our path. A few grains of dust, or a small insect in the eye, will often cause great pain and annoyance. A little stone in a horse's foot will make it stumble again and again.

The Christian will find much the same thing from the indulgence of apparently trivial sins. 
They will . . .
  harass the mind,
  destroy the peace and comfort which he might enjoy,
  prove a stumbling-block to him as he endeavors to run the heavenly race.


~ George Everard, "The Right Principle!" 1866

11.05.2015

God uses friends to remind us that He cares!

This has been a difficult week.
In all areas. Emotionally, physically, spiritually.
I slipped into "robot mode" on Monday so I could function, move, think, respond, and serve.
But as a dear friend says, "That shutting-off is the creation of an emotional grenade. All feelings that get buried get buried alive."
At some point, the emotions must be allowed to surface, and when they do, they need to be embraced, processed, and then filtered through the truths of Scripture.
I am almost ready to do that, but not quite.
I asked a friend to send me a selection of songs to push me into the process. Music is a powerful tool for me, and the Lord uses it to dig deep into the recesses of my heart to reveal all that is hidden therein. And I will admit, there is quite a bit waiting to be released.

I am not just a ninja master when it comes to 'shutting off.' I am also quite adept at doing so - in isolation.
There is no need to burden others with my problems, right? Why should they have to stop their lives to listen to me? They have their own struggles and sorrows, so there is no need to add mine to their pile.
Can anyone say "H Y P O C R I T E?"
I preach non-stop that we are to live out the One Another's of Scripture. I continually challenge women to share their trials so others know their needs and can serve them accordingly. I constantly quote Ephesians 6:2, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." I even rebuke women when they refuse to knock down their pride to say, "I need you."
And yet ... 
I have to force myself to do the same. A lesson that may, I fear, be life long.
Sigh.

But I am trying!
On Tuesday morning I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone and ask for prayer. I sent a note to a handful of faithful prayer warriors with a brief description of my current state, remembering the time I was rebuked for not letting others in. "Michelle, when you don't share your struggles with us, you rob us the JOY of serving and loving you." I will never forget it.

Praise the Lord for godly, mature, faithful friends who love me enough to speak truth and not just tell me what I want to hear. Their responses were exactly what I needed - biblical, thoughtful, honest, and challenging. No coddling or "poor you's," but simple reminders of God's own words recorded in Scripture. 
When emotion begins to take control, TRUTH must take it back. And Scripture is the only place to find real truth.
Thank You, Lord, for the blessing of friendship, Your Word, and the body of Christ!
                                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Oh, Michelle, that is a lot to handle all at once. I pray that you would be able to rest in the promises of God right now. He promises to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, Philippians 4:19. I pray God would grant you the patience you need for each of your children and every circumstance that comes your way. That you will have wisdom. That you will be slow to anger and rich in mercy. That God would give you rest in the midst of all the demands on you! 

Michelle, I am so sympathetic to how you're feeling! I think anyone would be battling the temptation to feel completely overwhelmed. And yes, having the correct perspective is so needed, but the trial IS a real trial no matter how small or large. The enemies focus is the same...to destroy! 
I will really be praying for you to continue to keep your mind renewed in truth! I am praying that you would look back over these days as bringing such glory to God because you walked faithfully and steadily despite how tired, alone, and overwhelmed you might feel. Praying that each time you are tempted to respond according to your flesh, you remember Jesus is advocating on your behalf and that through Christ you can make it through these days victoriously! 
“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31

I am so glad I texted you. You are right you can't do this. God didn't design you to. Holding thoughts captive and abiding in Him is where the battle is won.
The Lord will be strong today in your weakness, sister! He has promised to be your source of strength and arm you with exactly what you need. He has created today for you to draw near to Him. 
"Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:5-8
                                               ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Aren't those notes wonderful?
Nothing but God's word and a challenge to act and think faithfully and obediently.
I LOVE this!
Especially because of the way my mind works. I can justify bad attitudes and incorrect thoughts and unbiblical perspectives simply because I want my way. And this does not please God!

This afternoon I put on a movie for the littles out of sheer laziness and was surprised to hear a knock at the door. I opened it to find a sweet sister holding a vase of flowers and a tasty treat, but the best part was seeing her smiling face! She said, "I just wanted to stop by to give you a hug and tell you I love you." Okay!
We chatted for a few minutes, she encouraged me in the Lord, told me how she was specifically praying for me, and when we parted ways I felt lighter - encouraged - refreshed. Just as it should be after spending time with a sister in Christ!

Like this gift, the work of the Lord is beautiful and sweet.
He allows us to walk through trials so we can be strengthened and find a greater resolve to follow and trust Him - even when we don't like our circumstances and/or they don't make sense.
Our God is GOOD. He is faithful. He is loving. He is sovereign. Not one thing happens without His knowledge. He cares for the sparrows of the air and the grass of the field, and He cares - for US.

11.01.2015

Peace is what I crave!


I purchased these lovely "fruits of the spirit" watercolor cards some time ago simply because of their beauty. I was not sure what I would do with them at first, and then an idea came to me.
I purchased a small plate holder and place one of the cards on it each week so we can focus on that specific fruit.
I have not been able to walk through our family room without my eyes being drawn to the card, thereby forcing me to meditate on the fruit displayed and praying for the Lord to make it a tangible reality in our home.

This particular card will be staying in its place for another week. Or two. Or three.
Why?
Because we haven't acquired it yet.

I want peace to permeate our home. Not the peace that means 'quiet' but the peace that reflects contentment - stillness - gentleness - and joy.
I want peace to permeate our relationships. Those that are effortless and those that are difficult.
I want peace to permeate our hearts. A deep, satisfying inner joy that continually reminds us that "it is well with my soul."

Oh, Lord, may this desire become a reality!

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Romans 14

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalm 34:14

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:18

10.29.2015

We are blessed because of their obedience.

Dennis and I are filled to the brim with gratefulness to the Lord for providing two godly, mature, wise men to speak into the lives of our oldest sons.

As parents, we invest years of training, teaching, and discipleship into our children.
And then a time comes when they need to hear other voices.
Voices that speak the same truth we speak, but with a different perspective, tone, conviction, and passion.
Voices that sound familiar because the words are the same, but the delivery is changed.
Voices that repeat the words of God and make them sound fresh and exciting.
Simply stated: Our sons need to be discipled!

Micah and Luke love us. They respect us. They listen to us.
But we are only two people out of thousands who love the Lord and desire to be like Him.
Our perspective and life experience is limited to our personalities and our pasts.
We do not share all of the same interests or passions of our children, nor do we possess the same character strengths and weaknesses.
We are limited, Dennis and I. We have much to offer, we love our sons more than anyone else, and we know them better than anyone else. And yet, they need MORE than us.
Micah and Luke need to be sharpened by many strong, focused, godly men who love the Lord, love their families, and seek the Savior more than self. Men who are willing to speak truth - identify sin - correct and admonish - encourage - pray for - and love their brothers in Christ ... even when those brothers are teenagers.

I always wondered how I would feel about discipleship when Micah and Luke were still young. Would I be able to trust someone else to guide my sons in the paths of righteousness? Would I want them confessing sin to a 'stranger?' Share our personal family issues? Ask for advice and counsel?
I am finally able to answer that question now that I am sitting in the spectator seat of the discipleship relationship. And the answer is, "YES! Yes, Yes, YES!"
The impact these men have in the lives of our sons is eternal.
A word, a statement, a challenge, a rebuke ...
Prayer, encouragement, praise ...
Each one is welcome and appreciated!

Asking a man to sacrifice time for someone else's child is no small thing. He has a wife, children, a career, ministry, friendships, extended family, hobbies and interests, and needs to sleep on occasion. His time is valuable. It must not be taken for granted.
This is precisely why we are grateful for the men who willingly agreed to invest in the lives of our sons when asked. They did so with conviction and joy, and their impact is evident.
They are living out the "one another's of Scripture" and our family is being blessed because of their obedience.

How good it is to be part of the body of Christ!

But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
I Corinthians 12:24-26

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Colossians 3:16

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 
I Thessalonians 5:11

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. 
James 5:16

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. I Peter 4:8

10.27.2015

The Lord shows us how to walk with Him.

One of the beauties of living in a time when we have access to multiple Bibles is the ability to read passages of Scripture in different translations. Though the context is the same in each, the choice of words varies just enough to give a broader perspective to the meaning and drive home the purpose of the passage.

I read through the Psalms each month (a habit I started in college) and yesterday Psalm 26 wrapped itself around me and would not let me go. I must have read the first few verses half a dozen times just to grasp what David was saying, and even then I was not satisfied. I went and looked up more translations, and I was so glad I did!

Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.
For Your steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in Your faithfulness.  (ESV)

Vindicate me, Lord,
    for I have led a blameless life;
I have trusted in the Lord
    and have not faltered.
Test me, Lord, and try me,
    examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of Your unfailing love
    and have lived in reliance on Your faithfulness.  (NIV)

Vindicate me, O Lord,
For I have walked in my integrity.
I have also trusted in the Lord;
I shall not slip.
Examine me, O Lord, and prove me;
Try my mind and my heart.
For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes,
And I have walked in Your truth. (NKJV)

How I would love to be able to pen these words at the end of my life!
I cannot do so now.
I am not blameless.
My faith has wavered.
My eyes have looked away from His love.
I have not always walked in truth.

But God ... (one of the BEST word sequences in Scripture!)
But God is gracious and merciful and knew before He redeemed me that I could not live a blameless life. Not even with the Holy Spirit dwelling within me can I achieve perfection. He knew - and He had a remedy prepared.

Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He teaches sinners in the way.
The humble He guides in justice,
And the humble He teaches His way.
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth,
To such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name’s sake, O Lord,

Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. Psalm 25

How wonderful it is to belong to a God who equips those He calls and never stops working to make them look more like Him until the day they are called home to Glory.

Lord, I pray You will continue to refine me, no matter how uncomfortable, until I trust in You "without wavering" and am able to encourage others to do the same.
Make me like You, Lord. Make me like You.

10.23.2015

Dyslexia can be used for God's glory - and our good!

This morning I sat next to my oldest son in a room filled with 250 people who all had something in common. Dyslexia.
It was the first time I have ever been in 'community' with others who struggle with dyslexia or teach/care for/love someone who is dyslexic. And I was overwhelmed.
Overwhelmed by the comfort of being with people who "get it."
Overwhelmed by the testimonies of hardships and shame and misery experienced in the school setting when they were children.
Overwhelmed by the frustration of prejudice and misunderstanding and ignorance projected onto people who are dyslexic.

The seminar kicked off with the testimonies of three incredibly successful dyslexics who had to overcome tremendous odds to get where they are today. I was surprised by the emotion evoked by their stories. My eyes were wet with tears at least a dozen times, but I would not give in to the feelings bubbling under the surface. "This is not the time or the place, Michelle! Why are you so emotional anyway? Pull it together!" But it was difficult. Many of their statements struck a chord deep in my heart, and I found myself experiencing an empathy I didn't know was possible.

They made me laugh because they have learned the art of creating "a joke between us, not about us" and are brilliant at bringing comic relief into a serious topic.
Learning disabilities are not funny. They are real. They are painful. They change lives - and they ruin lives.
But it doesn't have to be that way.

Dyslexia is a GIFT.
The brain works differently in a dyslexic person which forces them to think differently. Creatively. Sometimes illogically. Because they have no choice. They can't do things 'like everybody else' so they forge a new path. They fail over and over when trying to accomplish things the traditional way, so they possess a resilience which enables them to push through difficulties until they find success.

Tears, frustration, anger, embarrassment, shame ... all of these accompany dyslexia in some form because it is almost impossible to hide. Even without a label there is a perceived difference and comments are made, judgments are formed, and prejudices are created.
Though these dyslexic adults have achieved great success (international fame), there is still a shadow that crosses the face and a quiver in the voice when they tell their stories ... when they tap into those dark days when they were told they were stupid, lazy, and not willing to apply themselves.
The wounds have healed, but the scars remain.

The beauty is - they did not let their dyslexia DEFINE them. They let it DRIVE them.
They played up their strengths, their gifting, and their brilliance in ways that were not conventional or understood. They pushed the boundaries. They ignored the rules. They convinced people their way was better.
And they were RIGHT!

I was captivated by their stories.
Encouraged.
Challenged.
And convicted.

Listening to them share with ears seeking information and knowledge was one thing.
Listening with the ears of a mother who is raising and educating four dyslexic children was quite another.
Certain words, specific phrases, and overall attitudes they expressed drew my mind to the ways I have addressed dyslexia in our family. I have done some things well, and I have failed in others.
Once again, I was overwhelmed.

We were given a 20-minute break, Micah stepped outside to stretch, and I stood quietly to the side watching the group interact with one another. (95% of the group were educators/therapists.) As I stood there, the emotions I had ignored for the last 90 minutes refused to be held back, and the tears began rolling down my cheeks.
I moved back to my chair, sat down, and cried.
Right in the middle of the George Bush Conference Room.
I cried for the mistakes I have made.
I cried for the ignorance I possessed in the early years, and the choices I made based on that ignorance.
I cried for the humiliating moments when people shined a spotlight on the seeming shortcomings and inabilities of my dyslexic children - when my children knew they were being mocked.
I cried for the children I don't even know who are treated like they are 'lesser' simply because they cannot do things like everybody else.
I cried for the adults who still carry the pain of decades of shame placed upon them by the parents and teachers in their lives who should have been protecting them.
I cried because I needed to find that place inside of me that could empathize with the pain a dyslexic person feels ... and feel with them.

Whether anyone noticed me sitting in the middle of the room wiping away tears, I don't know. But in those isolated minutes, I felt like I was living in their skin - for the first time.
I am not dyslexic. I cannot and will not try to pretend I understand their struggles, their battles, or the war that requires constant awareness, attention, emotion, and fight.
But I want to understand.

Micah returned from the break to discover my watery eyes and immediately asked, "Mom, what's wrong?"
"Nothing. I'm okay." (How does one explain to her firstborn dyslexic child that she did not know enough to DO enough for him? That she pushed him too hard in some areas and did not encourage enough in others?)
He didn't buy it.
"Mom. You are sitting in a seminar crying. Something is wrong."
I looked at him through my tears and said, "I am just mourning the lost opportunities and mistakes I made with you and Caleb and Josiah. I could have done so much more."
And that is when I saw it. A glimpse of the young man he is becoming.
He responded, "Mom, you haven't done anything wrong. You did the best you could with what you knew. It's just another chance for redemption. God knows. And He will take care of it."
That did it.
Truth trumped emotion.

None of my children are DEFINED by their dyslexia.
Their identity - their intelligence - their skills - their everything is defined by CHRIST!
God created each of my children in His image, and He knows the plans He has prepared for them to give them a future and a hope. Even with a learning disability.
He can break through any learning barrier - any physical, mental or emotional barrier - and His glory will be seen when they accomplish things DESPITE their dyslexia because they can do all things through HIM who gives them strength!

Imagine how thrilled I was to return home after the seminar to find a box waiting for me which contained a Bible for Josiah.
He has to fight so hard to read - to recall the sounds of letters - to remember a word he just figured out two minutes before.
If he can only learn to read one book I want it to be the Bible!
And today - he did. He read a sentence from the Bible for the first time.
He had to work through each word, but when he finished the sentence he looked up, an enormous smile on his face, and declared, "I read the Bible!"

The world thinks it decides intelligence - who, what, where, when, why, how. But it does not.
My children were formed in the secret places of the earth by a God who chose every detail of their mind and body, and He will use their strengths and their weaknesses for His glory. And for their good.

Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and His understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40

10.21.2015

The contrast of life and death make sense in the hands of a sovereign God.

What a week of contrasts.
News of births and pregnancies.
News of unexpected deaths.
How tightly they are woven together.

A baby draws his first breath while a woman draws her last.

My thoughts keep floating to Ecclesiastes 3 - remembering the truth that there is a time for everything.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

Life.
Death.

We must rejoice over the first, and trust the Lord in the second.
Both are from His hand, both are in His time, and both are for His purposes.
He gives and takes away ... BLESSED be the name of the Lord!

For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. Psalm 116:15

10.20.2015

Quotes to encourage-challenge-inspire us as we train our children in righteousness.

I wanted to record a handful of quotes that impacted me while reading this book. (Not one of the pages is void of highlights - and I am only halfway through!)

Getting to the hearts of our children takes much more time, energy, and effort than simply stopping a behavior - but the results are worth every discussion, every sleepless night, and every sacrifice made.

I trust the Lord will use these words to encourage and inspire other parents who need a little "pick me up" in this long race called Parenting.
We were not meant to run this race alone. We need each other!
We need to PRAY for each other.
Encourage one another.
Listen to one another.
And more than anything, we need to push each other back into Scripture so we can find the wisdom, the help, and the strength we need to be obedient to God's call to "train our children in righteousness."
                                  ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Training and shepherding are going on whenever you are with your children. Whether waking, walking, talking or resting, you must be involved in helping your child to understand life, himself and his needs from a biblical perspective (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)."

"All behavior is linked to an attitude of the heart. Therefore, discipline must address attitudes of the heart. Your concern is to unmask your child's sin, helping him to understand how it reflects a heart that has strayed. That leads to the cross of Christ. It underscores the need for a Savior."

"If correction orbits around the parents who has been offended, then the focus will be venting anger or, perhaps, taking vengeance. If, however, correction orbits around God as the one offended, then the focus is restoration. It is designed to move a child who has disobeyed God back to the path of obedience. It is corrective."

"The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever; therefore, your objective in every context must be to set a biblical world-view before your children. From their earliest days, they must be taught that they are creatures made in the image of God - made for God. They must learn that they will only "find themselves" as they find Him."

"It is our task to faithfully teach our children the ways of God. It is the Holy Spirit's task to work through the Word of God to change their hearts."

"If you address only behavior in your children, you never get to the cross of Christ. It is impossible to get from preoccupation with behavior to the gospel. The gospel is not a message about doing new things. It is a message about being a new creature. It speaks to people as broken, fallen sinners who are in need of a new heart. God has given His Son to make us new creatures. God does open-heart surgery, not a face-lift. He produces change from the inside out."

"Instead of talking to our children, we should seek to talk with our children. Communication is not a monologue. It is a dialogue."

"One of the most powerful ways we can warn our children is to fill their heads with the cautions of the Bible."

"Honest, thorough, truly biblical communication is expensive. Insightful and penetrating conversations take time. Children require both time and flexibility. Children do not pour out their hearts or open themselves up on a demand schedule. A wise parent talks when the kids are in the mood. In those times, when their conscience is stirred, you need to talk. This may require dropping everything else to seize a critical moment.
You must become a good listener. You will miss precious opportunities when you only half-listen to your children."

"You must regard parenting as one of your most important tasks while you have children at home. This is your calling. There is nothing more important. You have only a brief season of life to invest yourself in this task. You have only one opportunity to do it. You cannot go back and do it over."

Quote.

"The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another."

10.18.2015

Motherhood regrets and guilt - replaced with forgiveness.

I am now on my fourth read of this wonderful book. Four reads! 
Clearly, I am a slow learner because the wisdom and truth contained in the pages are smacking me between the eyes as though I've never read them before.
Sigh.
Fifteen years of parenting and I am still a novice.
Schedules, routines, time management, organization, chore lists, lesson plans, holidays ... no problem! Almost effortless.
Issues of the heart? Tremendous effort is required on my part, and my success to failure rate is 50-50. I could attribute the successes and failures to my personality, my past, and my perspective, but most of it? Sin. Age old, nothing-new-under-the-sun sin.
And I hate it!

The Lord is using this book to purge me. He is doing a work from the inside out - and it is difficult to bear.
Do I have regrets as a parent? Yes.
Do I feel guilt and shame about my thoughts/words/actions as a parent? Yes.
Do I wish I could turn back time and do things differently? Double YES!
But I cannot.
The past is past. It cannot be undone or changed.
What it can be, however, is RESTORED!

I have had to work through regret and guilt over the years, but if I am honest, really really honest, I never went the distance. I would satisfy myself with a "Forgive me for all of my sins as a parent, Lord," or "Forgive me for being impatient and angry." What I would not do is what we are commanded to do in Scripture - confess our sins - one by one - every day.
I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Psalm 32:5 Confession and repentance are not one-time when-I-got-saved actions. We are to continually confess our sins, and then exchange our sin for righteousness. "Put Off - Put On" as Ephesians commands.

And that is what the Lord has been showing me.
This book has brought up painful memories. Shameful words, embarrassing actions, ugly attitudes, and unbiblical responses toward my children.
One night I was so overcome with guilt and sorrow I actually prayed, "Lord? Why did You even give me children if You knew I couldn't handle it? Why did You trust me?!?"
Images washed over me like a flood. Things I remembered, things I had forgotten ... they all showed themselves with crystal clarity as I cringed under the covers. Everything in me wanted to scream, "STOP! I can't take anymore!" But I had to take it. I walked through each of those moments, confessing, begging the Lord to forgive me, to protect my children from my negative influence, and to "restore the years the locusts have eaten."
As the sins piled up and I imagined how differently I could have done so many things as a mother, I started to panic. "I can't go back!" "I can't go back!" I kept shouting that phrase in my mind over and over again feeling like I was fighting to stay afloat in an ocean of waves that kept crashing on top of me, forcing me forward when I wanted to go back. Even thinking about it now makes my breathing quicken as I remember that feeling of helplessness.
I hated it. I hated my sin. I hated the hurt and sorrow I have caused my children. I hated my inability to change the past. I hated myself.
And that is when the Lord stepped in.

He collected my thoughts and took them captive for me since I was unable to do so myself.
Though my sin was real, it hurt my children, it hurt the heart of God, and I was disobedient - my past sins do not DEFINE me.
As He is always to faithful to do, the Lord began pouring the TRUTH of Scripture into my mind to combat the accusations of the enemy.
Romans 8:1 is the verse I clung to in the darkness. "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation - no condemnation ... I kept repeating it to myself until I BELIEVED it.
I have sinned against my children, and in doing so I have sinned against God. And each one, every single one of my sins - was nailed to the cross when my Savior died.
God's wrath was poured out on the body of His Son, though I deserved His wrath myself, and my sins of scarlet became radiantly white because I was - FORGIVEN.

I was not expecting such a radical response to the words in this book. But the Lord knew what was coming! And He used it for His purposes. He needed to open my eyes to truth, push me through the process of confession and repentance, and then bind my wounds and sooth my grieving heart when it was all over.
Praise Him for such kindness and grace.

My ability to sin has not ended. I will offend and hurt my children again through action and word. But I am going to fight incredibly hard to confess my sin immediately to avoid a "record of wrongs," repent before my children and the Lord, and then bask in the beautiful gift of forgiveness because I am a daughter of a God who does not lie (Titus 1:2) and promises that He does not hold my sin against me but removes it as far as the east is from the west.
I do not have to live in regret, or guilt, or shame because of my failings as a mother. When I confess and repent, I am FORGIVEN by a gracious, merciful, and mighty God. My sin no longer has power because His love conquered sin - forever!
Thank You, Lord!

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:18-19

10.16.2015

If we need it we can be sure others need the same!

I am loving our II Corinthians study!
This week we read chapter two which boasts one of the best models of forgiveness in Scripture.
I have done several studies on forgiveness in my lifetime, but I noticed something different in this particular passage that gave me pause.
One word. Comfort. One word floating in the midst of dozens of others, yet the Lord fixed my mind on it so I would think about it, research it, and understand why it was there.
I love when He does that!

Below are the notes I sent to my girls in our weekly exchange, with a few additions weaved throughout after having more time to think and study.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. II Corinthians 2

This is a fantastic passage regarding forgiveness!
Paul is very clear that the one who made the offense should be forgiven - comforted - and affirmed with love.

Sometimes it is difficult to forgive someone - even after confession and repentance take place. We want to nurse our wounds, and if we are really honest, we do not always want them let off the hook so fast, or with too little discomfort. We feel justified in our anger and bitterness because, after all, we are the victims. We are the wounded, the hurting, the injured. And justice says someone must pay.

Scripture, however, leaves absolutely no margin for bitterness, anger, or an unforgiving spirit. All are considered sin, and none of them please God.  Jesus declared, For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6
In case there is still doubt we can look to these verses for affirmation:
~ Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32
~ Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Forgiveness is number one on Paul's list.
The second? Comfort.
Paul says, "... you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow."

This piece of instruction intrigued me. Why would Paul ask believers to comfort the offender? Shouldn't he be seeking comfort for the one who was wounded?
After reading these verses over and over and looking them up in different versions, it appears the issue has been discussed, prayed over, and dealt with. The offender was disciplined, and now it is time to restore him. And as we know, repentance and restoration are ALWAYS the goal when someone is in sin. Small or large, sin breaks the heart of God and breaks the unity in the church. We must never stop praying for holiness, maturity, and godliness in the life of believers!

Paul's compassion and empathy are palpable. He is asking the church to release the offending brother from his "excessive sorrow." Another version reads, "... lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow."
This may seem strange at first glance, until we remember our own sin. That one, those two, those hundreds that brought us such shame ... such regret.

A truly repentant sinner is miserable. He is excessively sorry for his sin and wants to make restitution for it. He wonders if forgiveness is possible. If relationships can be restored. If trust and respect will ever be earned again.
A believer in this state of sorrow, shame, guilt, and regret needs comfort! Heaps and heaps of comfort.
Saying, "I forgive you," and then walking away exhibits obedience - but lacks compassion.
In that critical moment we must throw our arms around our brother and offer words of hope, mercy, and grace. He needs to hear TRUTH to replace the lies the enemy is whispering in his ear.
He needs to be reminded he is FORGIVEN. Set FREE! And able to move forward with a clean slate and a clear conscience.

Sin is real. It is always crouching at our door, and the enemy is continually on the prowl seeking to devour us.
Sin is a choice. When we choose sin over the Savior - it destroys us. It may be quick, or a slow, painful demise, but sin always destroys.
Which is what makes repentance so REAL. So torturous.
We are 'swallowed up by sorrow' when we recognize we have grieved the heart of God..
~ Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4
~ For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. II Corinthians 7
When a brother in Christ is broken over his sin - he needs to be comforted! He needs to know he is not alone. He is understood. He is accepted, and forgiven.

The dictionary definition states:
Comfort
- a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint
- the easing or alleviation of a person's feelings of grief or distress
- ease the grief or distress of; console

What greater way to ease grief and distress than with the genuine forgiveness and sincere love of the body of Christ!

Forgiveness --> Comfort --> Affirmation with love
This is Paul's model for us to follow when wronged by a fellow believer.
Like all of Scripture, there is no clause in this command. "Comfort him, unless you really can't stand him." "Affirm you love for him, unless you are tired of extending forgiveness and grace to someone who was such a jerk." Nope! Paul may as well scream, "Do it whether you feel like it or not, or think he deserves it! Just OBEY!"

We all sin.
We all need grace. Mercy. Compassion and comfort.
We need forgiveness and love.
If we need it, we can be sure others - desire the same.

Lord, thank You, for bringing this little word before my eyes so I might be challenged and encouraged to act upon it. It can be difficult to comfort someone who has hurt us, but You are not concerned about our comfort in that moment, but care about the heart of our brother. You desire unity and peace within the body - not shame, regret, or excessive sorrow. Restoration and redemption - those are Your goals! So they should be ours.
Give us hearts ready to forgive. Give us hearts ready to comfort the one who is broken over his sin. Give us a godly love to pour over him so we might lead him back to the path of righteousness, for his healing, and Your glory.
Thank You for this model, Lord! How good You are to give us such direction.

10.02.2015

Lessons from a young sister in the Lord.

I recently enjoyed the privilege of spending three hours with a young woman whom I have known for eight years, but have never once engaged in private conversation. We knew a lot about each other, but we did not know each other.
We do now!
It was a delight to listen to her talk, sharing about everything and nothing as she swept through a myriad of topics like family dynamics, health issues, friendships, how she copes with stress, future plans, work, modesty, and personal struggles. (Yes, we covered a lot of ground in our three hour window of time! It's what girls do!)

As we took turns talking and listening to each other I was encouraged and challenged by my young sister in a few different ways.

~ It is refreshing to spend time with young people because they have energy and enthusiasm and a zest for life that is contagious. Though they are in school or working full time, their lives are carefree, unencumbered by mortgage payments, the trials and triumphs of marriage, and the intense responsibility of raising children. They have freedom to roam and travel and try new things. Their income is their own, time is theirs to spend as they wish, and no one is dependent upon their choices and decisions.
I remember those years! I enjoyed my freedom immensely, but I do not long to have it back. I long for moments/hours/a day of freedom, but in the end, I would rather spend my time serving, thinking, planning, and impacting the lives of others, rather than my own.
There is balance to be had on both sides of the freedom coin - and those who walk the wire with wisdom (and continual adjustment) are wholly satisfied and content.

~ While she was sharing about her family life she said something that struck me, and it has been replaying in my mind all day.
She was describing the differences between her and her siblings, how she has learned to accept them "as they are" and grown to appreciate their differences, and then she said this: At the end of the day none of that matters anyway. I have siblings who are saved and who love God - what else is there? That is EVERYthing!
What a fantastic perspective!
We have the privilege of choosing our friends - we do not get to choose our family. God does that for us in His sovereign will. He places us together, good, bad, ugly and beautiful - and then commands us to love, serve, and forgive one another. We will not always get along, we will lock horns, battle over the dumbest things and the important things, offend, hurt, accuse, and ignore each other. We are sinners trying to love other sinners.
But if we keep our eyes locked on the most important thing: salvation and eternal security for those we love, we will not be crushed by the pettiness and selfishness of family life because we know it doesn't matter. Do we have saved family members? Praise the Lord! May they continue to grow in obedience and grace. Do we have family members who want no part of God? Then we must pray for them! We must pray as if their lives depended on it - because they DO! We should be found banging on the gates of heaven with our requests, asking the Lord to open their eyes so they can see Him, and accept the free gift of salvation He so willingly offers.
It is not natural for us to focus on the big picture. Our flesh likes to pick out all of the flaws and mistakes we see in others. But if we can learn to look at each other through the lens of eternity - how differently we would perceive one another! Like the Lord, we would not look at the outward appearance, but only at the HEART.

~ We cannot assume that "what we see is what we get" when observing others from a distance.
We as women are guilty of this quite often.
We see a wealthy woman and think, "Her life is nothing but ease and comfort. She wants for nothing and struggles with little."
We see a beautiful and well-put-together woman and think, "She has no idea what it is like to be ignored and passed by."
We see a woman with well-behaved children and think, "Of course she loves being a mother and speaks gently to her children. She doesn't have to deal with defiance. I would be like that too if my kids obeyed!"
We see a woman whose husband seemingly adores her and serves her continually and think, "Must be nice. I would be content and joyful if MY husband treated me that way!"
And on it goes.
But all of these thoughts and assumptions are based on APPEARANCES - not on fact. Not on truth.
We can learn about people by observing their interactions and responses to others, but we are only seeing part of the story. Unless we are willing to sit down, get cozy, and do a little investigating, we will never know the whole truth.
The wealthy woman may desire to give everything up to have her husband home with the family instead of in the office 80 hours a week. She is lonely.
The beautiful woman may have been abused and struggles daily with bitterness, fear, and forgiveness.
The woman with well-behaved children has spent hours and hours of her life training her children, taking them to Scripture, crying over them, disciplining them, and wondering if they are ever going to "get it." What we see is just a snapshot of success after countless hours of frustration and consistency.
The woman with an adoring husband may have spent the first decade of her marriage in a prison of depression and despair because of poor choices and sin, but now they are RESTORED to one another and enjoying the fruits of forgiveness.

My young sister made me see this clearly last night.
Many of my assumptions about her personality and character were correct, but there was so much more waiting to be discovered, and how thankful I am she was willing to let me bring my pick!

~ The body of Christ is not meant to be made up of pockets of people who are exactly the same.
All the teenagers over here. All of the senior citizens over there. No, no, NO! We are a BODY! We are meant to work and move and interact with each other - without boundaries and without borders.
Old people need to hold babies.
Middle aged people need to read build Lego's with a 10-year-old.
Teenagers need to change diapers.
College students need to spend time with older people to gain wisdom and insight about life.

I would be incomplete and missing out on so much in life if I only spent time with other middle-aged women trying to keep body parts from sagging while driving SUV's full of children to basketball practice.
I need to hold a newborn baby, feed a college student, hug a senior, encourage a new mom, listen to children laughing loudly while chasing each other through a park, encourage a single person, be excited for a new bride, celebrate at a retirement party, and attend a very loud concert with young people.
I need them - and they need me.
We need EACH OTHER.
And that's exactly how God intended it to be.

Thank You, Lord, for last night! I needed the time away, but You gave me so much more. You gave me PERSPECTIVE. And I am thankful!
Continue to work in the heart of my young sister as she navigates through life unaware of Your plans for her future, but trusting You with everything. Give her an intense passion for Your Word and prayer, and make her more like You day by day.

9.28.2015

Quote. Faith.

A faith that can't be tested can't be trusted.

Quotes.

God's delays are not God's denials,
and waiting time is not wasted time.

The steps and the stops of man are ordered by the Lord.

9.23.2015

His hand is always waiting - to take ours.

About 15 years ago a family friend sent me a tape of his favorite songs. (Yes, I said TAPE!) We are both deeply moved, encouraged, and inspired by music, so he had fun putting it together, and I enjoyed learning a collection of new songs.
Take My Hand by The Kry was one of the songs, and I fell in love with it instantly.
The sound is simple and clean.
The lyrics are simple and true.
Pain and sorrow are part of life, but we are never alone. We have a Father who lovingly, willingly and continually offers to take our hand in His ... and lead us in the way of righteousness.
The road is not smooth, the waters are not still, but He is the Rock that is never shaken. We can put our trust in Him!

I pray this song will encourage you and remind you that you belong to a God who LOVES YOU and promises to never leave you.


Take My Hand - The Kry

I know there are times
your dreams turn to dust
you wonder as you cry
why it has to hurt so much
give Me all your sadness
someday you will know the reason why
with a child-like heart
simply put your trust in Me

Take My hand and walk where I lead
keep your eyes on Me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're scared of the unknown
take My hand and walk

Don't live in the past
cause yesterday's gone
wishing memories would last
you're afraid to carry on
you don't know what's comin'
but you know the one who holds tomorrow
I will be your guide
take you through the night
if you keep your eyes on Me

Take my hand and walk where I lead
Keep your eyes on me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're afraid of the unknown
take My hand and walk where I lead
you will never be alone
faith is to be sure of what you hope for
and the evidence of things unseen
so take My hand and walk

Just like a child
holdings daddy's hand
don't let go of Mine
you know you can't stand
on your own

Take My hand and walk where I lead
keep your eyes on Me alone
don't you say why were the old days better
just because you're scared of the unknown
take My hand and walk

Listen HERE.

9.22.2015

A concert - and a lesson.

Sunday night I joined these lovely ladies for a Mercy Me concert!
Two hours spent listening to music which reflected the heart of the writer and the glory of God.
What a wonderful way to spend an evening!
Thank you, Sara and Jen, for choosing to include me in this event. I left feeling strengthened and refreshed and ready to face a new week.
How thankful I am for the gift of music and the gift of friends!

I have never done this before, but I actually took notes during the entire concert! There is a reason. Bart Millard, the lead singer of Mercy Me, shared a piece of his testimony after each set of songs. And his testimony is authentic and powerful.
He is vulnerable and transparent, and He speaks the truth of Scripture to support what he believes or to squash the lies whispered by the enemy.
His words are simply stated - and delivered with conviction.
In a room full of 1,000+ people I felt like I was sitting on Bart's couch having a personal conversation with him and his family. The ability to draw people in so quickly and so effectively - is a gift.

As I listened to him share his personal walk with the Lord, I was struck by a few thoughts.

1. EVERYONE has a story!
And we cannot assume we know or understand the entirety of anyone's life.
There are so many details, people, interactions, and events that make up who we are. Good and bad. Everything and everyone affects us in some way ... and the Lord can use each detail for His glory if we will trust Him, obey Him, and fully surrender to Him.

We cannot judge a book by its cover.
When we see anger, pettiness, insecurity, fear, pride, contempt, rudeness ... we need to take a step back and ask, "What is the cause of this ugliness?" We must seek to understand.
Sometimes it may be flat out sin ... a complete lack of desire to show self-control or treat others with respect. But often - there is a reason behind the ugliness. Abandonment, abuse, neglect, criticism, lack of affection, belittling, broken promises ... there are so many ways we hurt each other. And we carry those hurts with us, things done to us, often assuming others will treat us the same way. We either build fantastically strong walls to hide behind to protect ourselves, or we become experts at playing defense because we have decided no one will EVER hurt us again.

But neither of those solutions are correct. Neither are helpful. They do not build confidence, humility, or relationships.
The only way we can be FREE of our past - able to forgive those who wronged us - and walk forward with confidence and joy - is to lay every hurt, every betrayal, and every attack at the feet of Jesus, and let Him begin to put the broken pieces of our lives back together again.
That is exactly what Bart did.
He suffered cruelly at the hands of his own father, and then the Lord SAVED his father.
Bart forgave.
They were restored.
But he still had bags of pain to unpack, and burn, before he could move forward as a mature, healed, free man.
He did the work. He walked through the pain. He struggled with the injustice. And now he is healed, and he is FREE!

Everyone has a story.
And it is our job to read it.
Authors tell their story for a reason - to be heard and/or to help others.
May each of us be people who always seek to listen, encourage, and support the one who is writing her story so she too can be free to live the abundant life Christ came to give.

2. We can never, ever, EVER underestimate the affect we have on others when we encourage them with the truths of Scripture.
It does not matter how it looks.
Weekly discipleship, an evening on a friend's couch, a hand-written letter, a word, or a text.
What we say MATTERS.

Bart shared that he had a faithful friend who texted him the same thing every. single. day. for two years when he was in one of the darkest places of his life.
"You are holy. You are righteous. You are redeemed. And I am for you."
Bart declared, "One day, I started believing it!"

A text!
The same text.
730 times.
If that friend had stopped encouraging him at day 143 or day 642, would the results have been the same? We will never know. But the Lord knew what Bart needed. He pressed these words into the heart of his friend, the friend responded in obedience, and Bart is a new man because of it.
Praise God for the faithful ones who never get tired of sitting in the hole with a hurting and wounded heart, but continually speak truth and life into that heart over and over again until they BELIEVE IT and start living and breathing on their own.
Thank You, Lord, for such as these!

3. When we enjoy a song, or are touched by a particular set of lyrics, we need to search for the story behind it. 
Some songs are written for the sake of writing - there is no private story or personal testimony hidden within the words.
But often, the artist writes for a purpose. There is a WHY.
Investigate!

Bart gave the "why" behind a handful of their songs, and I can honestly say I was surprised by each one. When he sang the song after explaining the story behind it, the words became precious and meaningful because they were more than just words - they were his heart.
                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Music.
Lights.
Sound.
Enthusiasm.
Talent.
Worship.
Testimonies.
Praise.
Conviction.
Tears.
Sisters in Christ.
It was a precious way to spend an evening ... and I am so thankful the Lord gave me the opportunity.

9.21.2015

Quote.

Obedience is the response of TRUST.
When we trust the Savior we need not question His ways. 
Even when they don't make sense.
"Not my will, but Thine be done."

9.17.2015

Miscarriage Ministry ... will you comfort others as you were once comforted?

My sweet sisters in the Lord who have walked through the hurt, sadness, and pain of miscarriage and stillbirth,

Do you remember the faces of those who ministered to you during the dark days surrounding the loss of your precious baby?
Do you remember the words, the letters, the visits and the gifts that brought glimpses of joy in the midst of your sorrow?
Did the Lord use a verse of Scripture or a song to comfort your heart when you thought you couldn't get through the day?
Was there someone who sat next to you, listening to you tell your story, express your pain, and your sorrow - without trying to "fix you?"
Did anyone love you with the Ministry of Presence - just "being" with you whether a word was spoken or not?
Do you remember the first day you did not wake up sad or depressed?
Do you remember feeling guilty because you didn't?
Do you remember the fear of thinking you would never have a baby?
Do you remember laughing again, looking to the future without fear, and slowly learning to trust God without knowing His plans for you?

Right now there is another woman walking, crying, and groping in the same darkness where you once lived.
She is broken, afraid, confused ... and wondering if any understands her pain.
She needs you.
She needs to hear your story.
She needs to hear about God's love. His compassion. His mercy and His grace.
She needs to experience the same comfort the Lord gave you.

Your stories may not be the same, but you understand.
Your responses may not look the same, but you understand.
You may have absolutely nothing in common, but you understand.
She needs you.

Both of you walked into a hospital with a baby in the womb.
Both of you left with empty arms.

Both of you envisioned an entire life with your child.
Both of you had to let go of that dream.

Excitement. Gender reveals. Nurseries. Baby clothes. Car seats. Baby books. Showers.
And then in one single moment, all of it comes crashing down around you, and you are left sitting on the edge of a hospital bed wondering what in the world just happened?

She needs you.

Will you reach out to her?
A verse, a word, a song ... anything that calmed and comforted your heart when it was broken like hers.
Will you shed the light of HOPE in the darkness that surrounds her?
Will you speak TRUTH to remind her how wonderful and amazing God is - even in the midst of her sorrow?
Will you take time to write a note of encouragement on pretty stationery, in your own hand, with a prayer of thanksgiving for what the Lord is going to do through your kindness and compassion?

Our Miscarriage Ministry, Joy Comes in the Morning offers something unique - something personal.
A woman, or someone who loves her, can request hand-written notes of encouragement from other women who have suffered as she is suffering.
We receive a request for letters about once a month, and register hundreds of clicks from people seeking comfort and empathy in a time of deep sorrow.
We send a note each month for the next six months.
The women often respond, sharing their gratefulness for those who reached out to them - even as strangers - because they understand their pain and know exactly what they need to hear.

We have a small team of women who willingly write and I am incredibly grateful for their desire to serve in this special way.
We need more!
At least ten.
Ten women who will prayerfully and joyfully share their hearts with the one who so desperately needs words of HOPE and a reminder that joy DOES come in the morning!

She needs you.
Will you respond?

9.16.2015

Quote.

“Our wants and our real needs are not always the same. We want pleasure, plenty, and prosperity - but perhaps we need pain, self-denial, the giving up of things that we greatly prize. We shrink from suffering, from sacrifice, from struggle—perhaps these are the very experiences which will do the most for us, which will bring out in us the best possibilities of our natures, which will fit us for the largest service to God and man.”  
~ J.R. Miller

9.14.2015

My children don't have to change. I do.

Our pastor has a terrific quote about Jesus to explain the fatigue He felt as a man, even though He was God.
"Jesus was weary IN the work, but not OF the work."

This simple phrase defines the current struggle of my heart.

I have been weary IN the work of motherhood many times. It is an exhausting and demanding role. Totally worth it, with countless joys, wonders, and blessings, but exhausting nonetheless.
And to be quite honest, sometimes I am weary OF the work.

After a restless night of sleep and choppy prayers like - "Help me!" "Show me what I am missing, Lord!" "What do I need to change as a mother?" "What is the root of the problem?" - He answered.
It wasn't pretty.

He made it abundantly clear that the frustration, insecurity, and failure I feel as a mother is a direct result of my own choices.
I keep waiting for my children to 'pull it together' and do everything they are supposed to do so I can then proceed with my plans/ideas/desires/dreams for our family, our schooling, and our home.
Do you see the flaw(s) here?

Instead of waking up each morning with an attitude of, "How can I serve my children today?" I wake up hoping they will behave, be kind, show respect, do chores/school without complaining, and so on. When they don't? I get mad. "How many times have I told you this?!?" "You KNOW better! Why are we having this conversation?!?" "Seriously? THAT is your choice? You have GOT to be kidding me!"

My thoughts look like this:
If Micah would just ...
If Luke would only ...
If Caleb would stop ...
If Josiah wouldn't ...
If Isaiah would ...
If Ellie just stopped ...
THEN my days would be peaceful and our family life would be harmonious.
If they change.

Um, Michelle?
What about YOU?
Have you read Scripture?
Do you know God's commands?
Let's start with this one:
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:16-21

If I were to read no other verses in the Bible, this one passage would be enough to convict me every day in my role as a mother. (and all relationships for that matter)
Why?
Because the Lord says that I am fully responsible for my actions. My attitude. My words. My behavior. As far it depends on me - I am to live at peace with everyone. And that includes my children.
If they never obey me, respect me, appreciate me, or thank me - it doesn't matter.
God commands me to love them with patience, kindness, and without keeping a record of wrongs.

I cannot keep living in an "if-->then" world.
IF my children do xyz THEN I can do lmnop.

I have to live in an "I WILL" world, in full obedience and surrender to the Father, and trust Him to work in the hearts and minds of my children so, like an unsaved husband, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives (mothers), when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. I Peter 3 (paraphrase mine)

The past months have left me feeling as if I am drowning as a mother. Powerless and out of control.
And it is ridiculous.
The Lord has a life ring of help continually bobbing in the waters of motherhood - and I have refused to grab hold.
Well, that is about to change!
From now on, you will find me with the life ring permanently attached to my waist, and will probably witness some awkward moments when I am yanked toward The Rock that holds the rope because I am starting to drift back into selfishness, and need to be set back on the course of righteousness.

Lord, Thank You! Thank You for resolving the inner turmoil that has held me captive far too long. I love my children and I want to give them my best. I have made mistakes, but You can restore the years the locusts have eaten, and provide a fresh start for each day that lies ahead. Forgive me for waiting for my children to be 'perfect' before I obey You. If I obey first - You will take care of the rest.
Thank You for opening my eyes to the truth, Lord, and I pray You will KEEP them open so I am always seeing life through Your perspective, instead of my own.

9.13.2015

Speaking truth - instead of hiding.

Yesterday was a hard day.
I am fighting a battle within ... a battle which appears to be unending.
And I am tired.
But I cannot give in, no matter how weary and worn I may be, because if I do - I lose the war.
And losing the war is not an option.

So I sit.
In the fatigue.
In the frustration.
In the faith-building hours, days, and weeks - of waiting.
Oh, the waiting.
So many unknowns. How long must I sit here? Will I have to wait alone, or will others come to comfort me? What is the Lord doing? What are His plans? How hot will the fire have to be to purge the dross from my flesh so I can look more like Him?
Funny how God doesn't answer any of these questions while we are IN the process, but reveals details when the work is complete.

Wait.
Be still.
Have faith in the unseen.
TRUST.
Control has no place in any of these ... only surrender. Surrender to a God who sees all things, including the hearts of those who belong to Him. He does what He will, and His ways are not our ways.
There is something both satisfying and terrifying in that statement, isn't there?
I WANT to belong to a God who is powerful, perfect, and fully in control.
I also want to know who, what, when, where, why and how.
But the two cannot co-exist.
Only one of us can be God.
It's not me.

So I continue to sit.
Wait.
Be still.
Exercise faith.
Trust.

But in His goodness the Lord does not leave me sitting alone.
First, because He promises NEVER to leave me or forsake me.
Second, He has provided a family - brothers and sisters in Christ - to speak words of truth and LIFE into a tired and burdened heart.
Today He sent me five siblings to do just that.
Even though I know how my God works, and how quickly He works, I was still amazed.

Yesterday, without thinking much about it, I posted a heartfelt thought/question/emotion on social media.
The gist was this: I want to be a godly wife and a godly mother, but I cannot do it by myself. Does anyone feel the same way? Does anyone else need encouragement? Accountability? Because I DO!
And then I signed off. To be honest, I could have ended my post with, "From a sister who feels like she is drowning and really doesn't want to, Michelle."

This morning I had just stepped inside the sanctuary door when a sweet woman looked me in the eye and said, "I want to talk to you about your post."
"Post?"
"Yes, the one about motherhood and needing help."
"Oh."
She talked. She listened. She understood. She 'got it.' Then she asked me to meet her for coffee.

As I was moving toward the youth room for second service, I said hello to a close brother who asked, "How are you?" Time froze for a second as I decided whether I would speak truth to him, or tighten my mask of "fine." I spoke truth.
He asked for more, and my eyes filled with tears as I shared a very brief, and incoherent, account of my current state of being. I thanked him for listening, he said he would pray for me - and then DID. Right there at the door.

After second service, a friend asked if anyone had responded to my post - because she DOES feel as I do. We talked about what "helping each other" would look like.

At home I decided to hop back on the social media site and found a heartfelt note waiting for me. A sister who also desires to be a godly wife and mother, and is willing to meet me where I am so we can mutually encourage one another. How her words refreshed my soul!

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

My brother and sisters lived out this passage for me today.
Willingly.
Joyfully.
Because they love me.
And because I was willing - to ask for help.

How easy it would have been to go to church, slap on a smile, pretend I was fine, and say nothing about the inner turmoil of my heart.
For what purpose?
I would have left feeling just as forlorn as when I arrived.
No, no, NO!
Vulnerability.
Transparency.
Authenticity.
TRUTH.
This is what I desire from others - so this is what I must offer.
Even when it would be easier to hide.

Thank You, Lord, for providing exactly what I needed before I even knew that I did.
You are so faithful. In all things. In all ways. Day after day.
Thank You.

9.10.2015

Why I write the way I write.

I am often asked, "How can you share such personal things on your blog?" And, "WHY do you share such personal things on your blog?"

It's a funny question to me because if I was making a living as a professional writer, putting my thoughts and convictions in print, no one would think twice about it. It would be my "job."
If I was a professional women's speaker traveling from church to church sharing my personal testimony and how the Lord is working my life, no one would question my vulnerability or honesty because it is expected from a speaker. The time spent writing and searching the Scriptures for Biblical support would not be considered. It would be deemed necessary.
But these sentiments do not translate to writing on a blog, for free, for anyone to see.
Strange, isn't it? The only thing that changes is the medium, yet it makes people uncomfortable and leery.
"Why would she confess sin on a blog?"
"Why would she share something personal about her marriage in a public setting?"
"Why would she admit her weaknesses and faults as a parent, wife, and friend to the world?"
"Why does she think anyone even cares about her personal life and thoughts?"

There is a simple answer.

I confess sin, share personal struggles, admit my failings and weaknesses, and discuss my thoughts and convictions because there is always someone who is experiencing the same thing - and I want her to know she is not alone.

God created us for relationship. First with Himself, and then with others.
He does not want us isolated and alone.
He wants us to be encouraged, challenged, loved, prayed for, corrected, admonished, forgiven, understood, and accepted.
That is why He created the Body of Christ.
Scripture is filled with "one anothers" that are commands - not options.

When someone is broken, scared, or afraid ... they do not always want to confide in family or friends. They want a 'safe place' where they can pour out everything - no matter how ugly it may be - knowing the person looking them in the eye is going to listen, seek to understand, empathize, and pray for them.
Sometimes, a stranger can be your best friend when you are stuck in the deepest and darkest hole.

I am willing to be that stranger.

I know nine out of ten people couldn't care less about the things I share or write.
And that's okay. I'm not writing for them.
Every word, every Scripture, every minute spent typing is for the one person who is searching for someone who "gets it" ... someone who has trudged through the same muck in which they currently find themselves ... someone who used to run like they are running now ... someone who has experienced their loss, their pain, their fears, their sorrows ... and - someone who has experienced victory, success, and healing because of a God who is eternally faithful and never leaves or forsakes those He loves.

I never know who will read one word I write. But the Lord does.
He is a God who knows our needs before we do, is always working, and uses his children to "encourage one another" "stir one another up to love and good deeds" and "comfort others with the comfort He once gave us."
I only write when He moves my hand to do so.
I have tried to write for the sake of writing, and I cannot do it. There is literally nothing that comes forth when I try to pull from the depths of myself.
But when the Lord says, "Write!" - I obey.

I have countless books, quotes, letters, and cards filled with words, thoughts, and ideas that inspire me, challenge me, convict me, thrill me, move me, and push me to want to know, understand, and love my God more.
They speak truth when I am listening to lies. They infuse life where despondency dwells. They whisper hope when fear creeps in. They convict when sin wants to reign. They recall God's goodness when emotion drowns memory. They encourage when hope seems lost. They comfort when hurt overwhelms.
Every word, every letter, every Scripture carefully strewn across those pages pushes me toward Christ.

And my greatest desire for my writing is to do the same, for someone else.