Where the heart is willing, it will find a thousand ways.
Where it is unwilling, it will find a thousand excuses.
                                                                               - Arlen Price


A wonderful and freeing perspective on motherhood.

One of my favorite parts of the baby shower I attended last week was the time we took to let each guest share a word of encouragement with the Mom-to-be while she opened her gifts.

Each woman spoke about her own personal experiences as a mother and/or a woman, both beautiful and painful, and challenged our sister to keep her eyes focused on the Lord during the good times and the bad.

I appreciated the vulnerability these women willingly showed because it would have been easy to give a simple and cheerful, "Enjoy them while they're young because the time goes so fast!" without exposing the depths of their own hearts.
They chose to be real - honest - thoughtful - and draw from their own personal knowledge, trials, hurts, and successes to encourage their sister as she prepares for the birth of her first baby. Her daughter.

Each testimony was intimately wonderful and touching, but there was one statement that buried itself into my mind more than the others.
The guest expressed moments of feeling like a failure because she could not meet the needs of her children, or worried that they might suffer later in life because of her choices. And then she revealed what the Lord had shown her through studying the Word and praying for wisdom - and she said this:
"God did not intend for you to be your child's EVERYthing."

I LOVE this statement!

It is absolutely TRUE.
And - it is completely freeing!

God is the only all-sufficient One.
He is the only One who can meet every need, fix every problem, heal a broken heart, enhance every strength, diminish every weakness, save a soul, defeat sin and increase holiness, and offer wisdom beyond what the world has to give,
No parent on earth can do the same.
We can try.
We can succeed in part.
But we cannot, nor should we try to be our child's EVERYTHING.

It is a futile, exhausting, and needless pursuit.
And this truth brings freedom.
We are not God.
We are not the Holy Spirit.
The Trinity is full, and not looking for candidates.

God did not intend for us to be our children's everything, because He is their everything!
He does not ask us to do it, and He knows it is impossible.
The pressure we feel to raise 'perfect children' does not come from the Lord.
It comes from within.
He knows our limits. He knows our weaknesses. He knows we are flawed.
He knows we need Him more than our next breath ... and so do our children.

What precious knowledge this is for the mother who feels like she cannot quite "keep up" and constantly observes holes and gaps when she looks into the hearts, minds, and needs of her children.
His grace is sufficient for us.
His mercies are new every morning.
His faithfulness is great.
He is the Alpha and Omega.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

He is God.
We are not.
And HE is the only One who will ever be everything to anyone.

For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen. 
Romans 11:36

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3


I will never throw away my running shoes!

I have written many times about my life as an ex "runner."
Not a marathon, sprint, or relay runner - but an emotional runner. Running from LIFE. The hurt, the pain, the sadness. The uncomfortable.

The thoughts of an emotional runner look like this:
I am scared/overwhelmed/worried.
I don't know how to deal with these emotions.
I don't WANT to deal with these emotions!
I have to get away.
If I can get out of here/away from this person then I won't have to feel the pain, the hurt, the awkwardness and embarrassment.
Everything will disappear and I won't have to deal with any of it.
I will be free - and I can start fresh without any of this "stuff" weighing me down.

The problem is ...
while we run, everything, and everyone, is left behind - just as they were. Nothing changes.
And - we are carrying the largest burden with us while we sprint to the furthest point from where we started ... OURSELVES!

Running solves nothing.
It only delays the inevitable.

All of the hurts, misunderstandings, offenses, rejection, pain, loss ... they run with us. Because they are part of us.
But - they do not have to DEFINE us!

It takes time, energy, difficult conversations, forgiveness, humility, digging deep into God's Word, and copious amounts of prayer - but we can break free from the burdens that weigh us down and push us into a place of sorrow, self-pity, dejection, and shame.
We can be free!

But freedom cannot be found when we are running away from the things that overpower us.
As believers we are called to run in only one direction - TOWARDS CHRIST!
Towards the very One who can heal our wounds, bind up our broken hearts, teach us how to take off the old self and put on the new, show us how to forgive, and teach us how to love.
It is not easy. Not even the least bit.
But guess what? He does not ask us to run alone!
He is right there, hustling down the sideline screaming, "You can do this! I am with you! I understand your hurt and your pain ... I felt it myself when the world despised and rejected me. I know you want to quit. I asked My Father to let the cup pass from Me when I prayed in the garden. I GET it! Don't you see? I have asked you to run a long race, and to run it with only one focus - finishing! Stop looking around. Stop looking at your circumstances. Stop waiting for others to change. Just LOOK AT ME - and keep running! You can do this! I will help you. Every step, every gasp for air, every cramp, every injury, every scream of irritation and frustration ... I will help you. And together - we will get you across the finish line."

It took me far too long to stop running.
Even when I knew I should stop and turn around, I would not.
There was something "safe" about creating distance.
Until I stopped running and found myself utterly - alone.
Physically exhausted, emotionally spent, spiritually depleted.

Praise the Lord for forcing me to STOP.
Praise Him for placing people in my life who were willing to chase me, corral me, and point me back in the direction of healing.
Praise Him for loving me enough to discipline me, showing me that what I was really doing was disobeying - and running from - Him.

Since the day I gave up my life as an emotional runner I have laced up my running shoes dozens of times. I have even made my way to the track. But I don't run.
I feel it.
I want to take off.
I want to put hundreds of yards between myself and the hurts that are swirling around me.
But He won't let me.
He makes me face it. ALL of it.
And then He tips my chin until I am looking Him in the eye and says, "Keep your focus, Michelle. Just look at ME. Run this way. Towards Me. Do not look back. Forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead ... the finish line! Just look at ME. And keep running the race I have set before you."

Interestingly, the Lord has dropped countless other runners at my feet since I stopped running myself. Women, and even some young men, have looked at me through swollen, tear-stained eyes asking me if they will ever be able to stop the relentless and pointless sprint to nowhere.
And every time, my answer is YES!
Not because they can quit running on their own, but because I know the One who can make their feet stand still.
And then I take the outstretched hand and run with all my might to the feet of the Savior, dropping the exhausted brother or sister before Him, letting Him do His work.

I always joked that one day I would "turn in my running shoes" - but I have never been able to do it.
At first I thought my refusal was a safety net, an "in case of emergency" if I felt the need to run again.
But now I know.
The Lord will not let me throw them away because I need them to run after the runners!
I can't very well chase them in high-heels or flip-flops!
I have to be as sure-footed and as fast as those who are desperate and hurting and don't see any other option except running.

I ran alone for far too long.
And because I did, lonely and afraid, I will never sit on the hill watching a sister or brother take off towards the hills without chasing after them.
Sometimes we need to know someone else is willing to run with us.
And sometimes - we need to know that someone will stop us, no matter what it takes, no matter how painful - and drag us back where we belong.
At the beautiful, solid, never-moving, secure feet of a God who loves us with an everlasting love.

And to do that - I need to keep my running shoes!

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1,2


The wisdom - and conviction - of Proverbs.

Dennis and I are working through Proverbs with one of our young couples, and we have both thoroughly enjoyed the study. Wisdom overflows from the pages, and practical insight for daily living can be found throughout.
All four of us read the current chapter every day for a week, and then we exchange our thoughts/convictions/encouragement/challenges with each other on Saturday.
Reading the Word together is a fantastic way to bond with others. You can have almost nothing in common and yet - you have everything in common because you share Jesus Christ. What a JOY!

Last week we worked through the 12th chapter of Proverbs and there were several verses that jumped out and grabbed hold of me.
I hope they will be a source of encouragement and a catalyst to drive you into the pages of Scripture to discover the rich treasures buried within!
Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.
Wow - if there was ever a verse written that leaves nothing to interpretation, this would be one of them!
Interesting how Scripture equates discipline (which we think of as negative) with WISDOM.
We are fools in our own right – blinded to truth and completely selfish. We need godly reproof to show us the right way. Our flesh is so good at justifying sin and foolishness ... but wisdom destroys foolishness every time!

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
Again, how much more clear could it possibly be?
Excellence is sought – learned – attained. It takes intentional effort to become excellent.
And a wife who pursues excellence is a JOY and HONOR to her husband.
One who shames him, however, is equated with rotting flesh. Yikes.
How can a woman shame her husband? Pettiness, negativity, discontentment, gossip, a foul mouth, argumentative, speaking rudely to him in public, putting him down … oh, how easily the flesh can pull us away from "what should be" and push us towards what should NOT be!
I want to be an excellent wife. I want Dennis to be proud to introduce me as his wife. I want to help him be/do/feel his BEST. And only the Lord can give me the selflessness, patience, discipline, and love to succeed.
I am willing. Help me, Lord!

A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised.
Reputation matters! Our choices - whether foolish or wise - are witnessed by others. They hear us proclaim the name of Christ, and then wait to see if our actions match our words.
"Act like what you do matters - because it does!" (One of D's mantras for his students.)

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
This is SO true!
We have all played the part of the fool, in our arrogance, believing we “know it all” and refusing to seek or listen to godly counsel. 
A fool always thinks his ways are the right ways.
But the wise realize and acknowledge their need to listen, learn, understand, and gain more wisdom - knowing it is an intentional pursuit. Wisdom does not just appear - it must be sought! And the Lord promises to give it to us in abundance when we ask.
Praise Him for such a gift!

The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
Amen - Amen!
"The anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.""It is a man's glory to overlook an offense."
"Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent."
Anyone can lose their temper and speak like a rude fool.
It takes humility and a great deal of self-control to hold our tongue!
Especially when we *think* we are right - or - feel entitled to get what we want when we want it.

There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
When we speak in the midst of emotion our words are often rash, harsh, hurtful, and cannot be UNsaid.
You can pull a sword out of a body after the thrust, but you cannot undo the damage.
The tongue can lacerate the heart of another with equal ferocity.
But -
The tongue of the person under control - who thinks before she speaks - who considers more important than herself - is WISE - and her words bring comfort and healing to those around her.
Wow. I want to be that woman!
Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
Great verse!
Again - reputation matters! And legacy is built upon reputation.
The truth is not always easy to hear, or speak, but "love rejoices in the truth" and people trust and respect a truth-teller.

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.
Burdens on the backs of our brothers and sisters will always be a reality. But we can bear those burdens with them - and help them get to the Savior so they can dump their sack of sorrows at His feet, and find rest.
Being the one to bring the perfect word - to offer encouragement and hope - to give a hug - pray for the hurting heart ... these things are a privilege and a joy, and it is an honor to be used by the Lord to bring light to the darkness.
How good He was to create the body of Christ!

Proverbs 12. What a wonderful passage of Scripture!


The Cross.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

~ Isaac Watts


We are His - forever!

Saturday morning I sat in my car waiting to join one of my girls for her Bridal Shower.
I had arrived a little early, so I turned up the music and leaned back in my seat to enjoy the few minutes of solitude.
Just as I relaxed, the song "Jesus Loves Me" by Chris Tomlin began to float through the car.
I have heard the song repeatedly, but this time I did not sing - I just listened.
When the refrain started, it was as if I was hearing the words for the first time.

I couldn't run, couldn't run from His presence
I couldn't run, couldn't run from His arms

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me
Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me

Simple lyrics.
Profound truth.

I cannot run away from the Lord.
I can sin.
I can neglect Him.
I can ignore Him.
But if I am truly His child, saved by grace, then I belong to a God who will never leave me or forsake me.
And if He will never leave me, it does not matter how many times I fail and fall or try to go my own way ... He is ALWAYS there ... patiently waiting for me to stop fighting ... and fully surrender ... to the One who loves me most.

Jesus loves me.
This I KNOW.
For the Bible tells me so.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so!

We cannot run from the presence of the Lord.
Once we are His, we belong to Him - FOREVER!

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one. John 10:27-30

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38,39

You can listen to the song here ...