Thursday, May 18, 2017

Holding on and Letting Go...



We spend a lot of time telling our children, "Don't let go!" As we were walking through Six Flags yesterday, I can't tell you how many times the question, "Does everyone have a hand?!" came out of my mouth.
Basically, everyone is supposed to be holding someone else's hand (or onto the stroller) as we maneuver through crowded areas. There is something about holding on to each other that makes us feel safer. It's easier to stay together and stay on task when we join hands and hold on tightly. (It's also comforting to have others at your side, like our amazing Mimi who came along with us yesterday to help with the kids.)

But with as many times as I told my kids to not let go yesterday, I also found myself telling them the exact opposite! Like the moment when I was trying to sit Evangeline onto the carousel horse, but she clung tightly to her momma out of fear of the unknown. She squealed in delight as she was in line watching each horse go round and round and up and down, but she cried in fear when she was given the opportunity to experience it firsthand. In those moments, all she wanted was for her momma to hold her closely so she could watch it all unfold from afar.

Lucy, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. There is no ride she doesn't want to try. She raises her arms in abandon as she screams in excitement through the unknown twists and turns of each roller coaster. She has excitement for the unknown, with an inner confidence that she is still safe in the hands of the operator of each ride.
And then there is my sweet Gabriel. I don't think I will ever forget how terrified he once was of everything about Six Flags. He wanted nothing to do with any of the rides or characters. He still wants nothing to do with the ginormous characters (notice his absence from the photo here with Tweety Bird--he was hiding behind my back and holding on tightly to my legs!), but he was eager to ride as many rides as he could. Slowly, but surely, he's learning to let go and experience things. 

And then there's my Annie Beth--so eager to go on all of the rides, but not quite big enough yet. She's still growing, and it is difficult to not grow impatient in the process. (Animal crackers help though;-) 

Lastly, there's the momma--me. I used to ride every single ride that I could get on! I loved the thrills and the excitement, but as I've gotten older, I've found that most of those circular motions just make me feel sick! Lucy told me yesterday, quite sincerely, "Momma, I feel bad that you don't get to ride very much because you have to stay with Evangeline." I responded, "It's okay, baby. This way, I get to watch all of your reactions as YOU are on the rides, and that's just as thrilling for me as if I were getting to ride it myself!"
You see, life is full of so many seasons. And with a large family full of kids at various ages, the Lord is really working on my heart on what it means to truly embrace each of those seasons...

My incredible "Tiny Toller" (Evangeline) is at the season of learning to let go. Yes, I want to hold her tightly and keep her safe, but I also know there are so many amazing things she can experience if she will just let go and try. Her fear often overtakes her willingness to try, but I continue to be patient with her, knowing that she will eventually learn. Our Heavenly Daddy does the same with us. He loves us and encourages us through our fears. God is so ever patient with us as we learn to trust Him, which is the place Lucy was at yesterday at the amusement park. She had confidence in who was in control, and she was simply there to "enjoy the ride." God so desires that for His children--for us to trust Him and let Him take control so that, like Gabriel is learning, we can experience all of the amazing things He has for us when we are willing to let go! But then there are seasons like my Annie Beth is in. Those are the seasons where we so desperately are ready to move on, but God is telling us "not yet." He is still molding us and growing us so that we can be prepared for exactly what that next step is that He has for us. He wants us to trust that HIS timing is always best, and if we will let Him, He will give us the grace to handle that time in the waiting room. 
Just like my kids had to be reminded yesterday to "hold on" AND to "let go," this roller coaster of life we are all on is much the same. Once we are finally willing to grab a hold of His goodness, we don't want to let go--it becomes comfortable and safe. But the Lord reminded me this morning that we aren't meant to hold on forever. Just like my kids find it hard at first to grab each other's hands, we often think that holding on for very long is the hard part. However, it's often the letting go that becomes the most difficult task. What will happen when we let go? Will we fall? Will we forget? Will our hands be filled with something uncomfortable? Or what if it's a season that our hands are going to be completely empty? Just as I ask my kids to trust that my requests of them are to keep them safe, God reminds me that I need to trust Him to do the same. Do I believe He is going to take care of me and that His best is truly THE best? 

The Truth is that He IS a good Father! He can do nothing less than what is the very best, and He invites us to experience that with Him, just like sweet Mimi accepted our invitation for a day of Six Flags fun.Whether we are waiting for our turn to come, nervously stepping out in faith to the unknown, cheering others on from the sidelines, or in the midst of enjoying the ride, God simply asks us to be willing to follow Him. We don't have to fear or hold tightly to the past--we can eagerly anticipate what He is doing now and wants to do in the future! (And I think it's okay to munch on a few animal crackers in the meantime;-)
"Do not be afraid, for I am with you...forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a NEW thing! Now it Springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:5a and 18-19)

Friday, February 3, 2017

Taste and See...

It's a common scene at our dinner table. I spend time trying to make something yummy for my family, but when I set it in front of everyone, I'm met with moans and groans from my picky, unadventurous eaters.

"I don't like that!"

"Ew!"

"I'm not eating that!"

It took me awhile to figure out that you simply cannot force a child to eat something. Yes, you can force the food into their mouth, but you can't make them digest it, because if they truly don't want it, while they may still swallow it, they're just going to throw it back up. This would be Lucy and chicken.

Yes. Chicken.

I don't understand how you can't like chicken, but it makes Lucy gag every.single.time!

We all have foods that we don't care for, but with children, they so often want to just stick to what they're used to. They'd prefer fish sticks and peanut butter and jelly (not together!) over some mysterious looking dish. And while some of us love experiencing new things, many of us prefer to stick with what is safe and known.

As I was perusing Facebook this morning, a friend of mine posted a verse I've heard many times:

"Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that takes refuge in Him." (Psalm 34:8)

Maybe it was because of the yummy mini bundt cakes leftover from our home group last night staring me down from the kitchen counter, but whatever the reason, when I saw that verse this morning, my mind immediately halted at that first word: taste.

We live in a society that has rejected God and His Truth in so many ways. When It is presented, it's met with responses similar to a child who gets broccoli on their plate. "I don't like that!" People reject It without ever tasting of It. You see, if we truly taste of the Lord, we will always find that He is GOOD, and it will only leave us hungering for more and more of Him. We can't MAKE anyone partake of His goodness though. Just like force-feeding a child, if we "shove Jesus down the throats" of others it's only going to come back up...and not in a pretty way! But perhaps, just like when introducing new foods to our kids, if we will repeatedly present Jesus to this hurting world, we can hope that one day, they will choose to give Him a try, filling their plates-their lives!-with the things of Him. I know if I will do that, I'll find myself going in for a second helping...and many more, because when we taste of Jesus, we will see that He truly is so very, very good! 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Clearing the Path...

Lucy had the opportunity to audition for a play this last month. She was beside herself with excitement over the thought of getting to portray one of her very favorite characters: Lucy, from "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." (I actually got the name for my Lucy from reading that book back in junior high. I love everything that her character represents!) She was constantly reading over the script and rehearsing lines; she was determined to get that part!
I had no idea how many other little girls felt the same way though. The amount of little girls with braided pigtails in their hair lined up for auditions was overwhelming! (My conservative guess would be at least 30.) I was SO proud of how Lucy bravely marched herself into that audition room and delivered her line boldly, passionately, and with excitement. She felt confident in her performance, and she was SO anxious to hear the results.
My view peeking into the audition room:)
So when I get the email the following day with the cast list not including her name, my heart didn't just sink down into my stomach--it felt like it hit the floor. My mind raced, wondering how on earth I was going to be able to deliver the news to her. I took a deep breath and asked her to come over to where I was. I grabbed her delicate hands and looked into her precious face and asked her, 

"Do you know that Jesus loves you, and that He has an amazing plan for you, even if it's not the one you want it to be?" 

I think she knew what was coming as she nodded and said "yes." I held her for a long time and found myself crying, knowing that my baby was hurting, yet also trusting that God had a plan and wouldn't waste this hurt. As I hugged Lucy tightly, I suddenly had an image of Jesus holding me close over a decade ago, when I would find myself almost unable to breathe through the tears after discovering, over and over again, that we weren't pregnant. He held each one of those tears, knowing He had something amazing in store while still hurting with His child. 

I believe with all my heart that God never wastes our pain. I know He hears our cries, and He longs to hold us through the hurt, assuring us of His love for us. I think we so often want to be told, "It's going to be okay."

But God didn't promise us that.

In fact, He told us we WOULD face trials in this life. ("In this world you WILL have trouble..." John 16:33) But He also told us that those trials produce "perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame..." (Romans 5:4-5a) In other words, our trials bring us closer to Him, and the closer we are to Him, the more we can feel Him embracing us. It's a mystery to those who do not know Him as their Father, but God blesses us with trials so that we can know His love more deeply. 

As a momma, I don't ever want to see my babies hurt. But as a child of God, my desire for my babies to know and love Christ trumps anything else. If we could see all of the fires we will be asked to walk through, I have a feeling we would never leave home without an extinguisher. We'd have our kids wrapped up in a plastic bubble to shield them from hurt and from harm...but it would also keep them from feeling love and experiencing blessings from others.  My heart so desires to say I can praise God through the storm. I want my kids to see that in me so that they can learn how to do the same. You see, while storms can do a lot of damage, God uses them to provide the Earth with
practicing for this weekend's audition
refreshment. So, when we go through trials, God is actually raining down His blessing upon us.

This weekend, Lucy has another opportunity to audition for a musical. It's an opportunity that she would not have been able to take had she gotten the role she auditioned for last month. This one is through an educational theatre run by a Christian woman who desires for children to learn all the wonderful aspects involved in theatre. I'm so excited that the Lord led us in this direction! And He did so by clearing a path that was only made visible after a storm...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Grace...

December 30, 2006...I remember pacing a small hallway of the hospital just outside of the large waiting room area. I was on the phone with a dear mentor-friend trying to make sense of things as my husband had been wheeled into emergency surgery moments before I was able to get to the hospital. I'll never forget the words on the other end of the receiver: "I'm praying for God to prepare your heart, whether that is to grieve or to rejoice." 

I remember the doctor coming to speak to me after the surgery. I think he could tell my fragile state of mind as he tried to speak somehow gently yet very bluntly to my 24 year old self. 

Cancer. 

A big dose of reality had just plummeted itself into my lap, and I felt buried underneath its weight. 

I had been struggling with contentment for quite some time. I was working a job that I wasn't very good at that was far from what I had dreamed of doing after graduating from college. Our dear friends had just given birth to a precious baby girl, and month after month my heart felt like it was being ripped out when I discovered, over and over, that we weren't pregnant, too. And yet, in an instant, none of that mattered, because all I wanted was for my husband to be okay. I remember feeling so guilty for not liking my job and for being so depressed about not having a baby. The Lord met me in that hallway and again in that waiting room as I struggled to lay it all at His feet. He met me again on old wooden floors of our guest room back in our house as I beat my fists on the ground and cried out in anguish before Him. He met me again on the rural roads in my silver mustang driving back and forth to work with my hopes feeling as bare as the corn fields in their off season. He would continue to meet me again and again, without fail, to catch every single tear that fell from my face as I cried out to Him in pain, in hurt, in confusion, in desperation...He met me there, at every single emotion, not to chastise me for forgetting about His faithfulness, goodness, and perfect plan. No, my Jesus simply met me there with grace. I wanted answers; He gave me grace. I wanted  healing; He gave me grace. I wanted the desires of my heart to be met in my way and my timing; He gave me grace. 

And it was enough. 

His grace would protect me through my work day. His grace would guard me through each visit with the oncologist. His grace would comfort me through each day that my arms remained empty. His grace covered me through my worry, my selfishness, my doubts...

As I sit here today, reflecting on a decade of life the Lord has gifted to DH and me, I realize how blessed I am to have the hindsight of what He was doing in so many situations I struggled deeply with. And I also realize how blessed I am to continue to face trials with unknown outcomes, because through them all, God is gifting me with the opportunity to draw closer to Him. When you face a mountain, you don't climb it carelessly; you grip firmly into the grooves of the rock and hold on tightly between each step. And that's exactly how God prepares our heart to grieve or to rejoice, because He uses the times of struggle to teach us how to cling firmly into His Truths. When we come to God out of desperation, He is able to teach us to be desperate for Him. 

As I sit here today, ten years later, I find days where I'm so exhausted that it seems I don't have the strength to stand securely on those stone grooves. And that's when I feel Him grasp securely on to my weak hands, because even in  my exhaustion, my struggles, my uncertainty, and my confusion, His grace still covers me, and it is still enough.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Gospel According to Peanut Butter and Jelly

I had surgery exactly three weeks ago to correct two different issues on my left arm/wrist. I knew the recovery would be difficult with four children, but I think I had been a bit in denial of how long it would be before I regained decent use of my hand. When they took the initial bandage off, I literally felt my head start to spin, and when I realized that my thumb and wrist wouldn't move at all, I started freaking out. This was all normal of course, but it was just a lot for me to take in at the moment. I actually almost passed out on my way out of the office, but was able to make good friends with the wall next to me as everything went from fuzzy white cotton balls to a black sheet. The splint that I once hated to wear has now become a comforted shield from my kicking baby girl and energetic toddler. Unfortunately, it didn't keep me from lifting myself off of the floor and breaking up a bunch of scar tissues in my wrist last weekend.

Ouch.

Needless to say, my doctor wasn't too happy about that, and my nerve is even less thrilled. So, with this setback in my recovery comes some medicine that makes me feel like life is floating around me in slow motion. I am feeling very much like a burden to my family, rather than the mommy and wife who tries to have it all together for her family. 

I SO do not have it all together.

Thee are 4 full baskets of clean laundry piled up in my bedroom. 

FOUR. 

I can't really fold and put away very easily. DH and my mom have been incredible with keeping everything going, but there's no way everything can be done with all of the other things they have on their plates, so that laundry just feels like it's mocking my inability right now.

Annie keeps asking for mommy to pick her up; I can't do that either. I technically shouldn't even be holding the baby...

The lack of motion in my wrist is frightening to me. How long will it take for me to be able to play again?

And while all of this was going on the other day, where I felt useless and impatient, I heard my daughter, my oldest, in the other room making lunch for herself and her siblings (I can't open jars and such) after she had helped me change Evangeline's diaper and then helped me get situated to feed baby sissy and rock her to sleep. She's doing what I can't, and she's doing it with such joy and pride. And it suddenly struck me why...because in serving her brother and sisters, she's actually serving her momma, and she wants to do that because she loves me. 

Then, that evening, I received a call from a friend who wanted to send her teenage daughter over to help our family during this time. I had texted my husband multiple times that day in desperation, unable to keep my eyes open, struggling to change a diaper, basically telling him I didn't know how I was going to make it. But God always provides. Always. And He was using this sweet friend to do...because she loves our family.


In the Bible, we read where Jesus told his disciples, those closest to him, "If you love me, you will keep my commands." (John 14:15) Does my love for Jesus compel me to action? Does it cause me to be a servant to others? Does it convict my heart? Does it factor in to every word I speak? Whether I'm leading worship, teaching piano, or serving my family, is my love for Jesus the root of it all? 

I think of all my precious friends who have made us meals these past three weeks and come and sat with me, changed diapers for me, and watched my kids for me. Thank you!

I think of my selfless momma who, in such a busy season, has willingly come back and forth to help us.

I think of my husband who, while working full time, has joyfully picked up the slack at home, too, while comforting me and encouraging me and not once complaining.

And I think of Lucy, so eager to make her siblings a pb&j.

Why? Because they want to express their love for me and our family, and in doing so, they have expressed their love for Jesus.

Never underestimate the power that is within you to show the love of Jesus! It may be something grand in the world's eyes, or it may be something as simple as making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich...

Friday, September 30, 2016

Don't Forget the Milk...

And these three things remain: trust steadily in God (faith), hope unswervingly (hope), and love extravagantly (love). But the best and GREATEST of these is LOVE. (1 Corinthians 13:13)                                                                                                  
My childhood years from around the time I was 7 until I was 11 are my fondest memories. We lived in California and I had two of the most precious neighborhood friends. We had such fun together riding bikes, playing various games in the park, playing tennis, going swimming, having picnics, playing baseball and street hockey, rollerskating on the volleyball court slab...we had lots of special games we would play, and we also enjoyed creating things together--especially cookies! One day, we decided to try a cookie recipe that was pretty involved, but it sounded really interesting and delicious.

We read the recipe and got out all of the ingredients, laying each of them out on the table. One by one, we measured, poured, and mixed. As we rolled out the dough, we noticed it wasn't sticking together very well, but since we had never made cookies like this before, we just assumed that it was normal. After all of our hard work, we pulled the cookies out of the oven, let them cool, and carefully removed them from the pan. With much excitement, we both took a big bite...only to want to spit it out immediately, because they did NOT taste good at ALL!

We were so confused! We had read the directions, we had laid the ingredients out, and we had spent so much time and energy preparing these. We sifted the flour, we cracked the eggs, we measured the sugar, we spooned out the vanilla, we poured the...MILK! We suddenly both realized that we had somehow failed to get the milk from the table into the actual bowl of cookie batter. We had all of the other ingredients there, but because of forgetting just one, all of our time and energy was wasted.

In 1 Corinthians, we read that there are three things that remain after everything else is said and done: faith, hope, and love, but that the GREATEST out of ALL of those things is love.

I can have faith in God, I can put my hope and trust in Him, and I can share who He is with others, but the Bible says that if my main motivation isn't love, then all of my efforts are in vain.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:7-11)

I feel like I fail at this a hundred times a day! When I get frustrated at my kids for not listening to me, when we're running late and I let my stress alter my mood, when I respond harshly to my husband, when my heart has been hurt by someone and I allow that to influence my speech about them...I could list so.many.examples of ways I extinguish the love from my actions. And could it be the reason it's difficult for me to find love for my actions is because I'm not spending time drawing it from Love itself--God? If I truly believe that Jesus loves me, then I can't help but share that and show that to others. This is something I so desire to work on, to pause before I respond and say, "Am I being patient? Is that kind? Am I looking out for myself or for others? Am I harboring bitterness towards that person?" And why? Because "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails..." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a)

I may fail at showing love, but He does not, because it's Who He is. May I be so consumed with my Jesus that I don't just set Him out and forget about Him amidst everything else, but truly pour Him out into all I do...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

wisdom...


sporting my overalls the night I met DH, 2000
I may have spent the majority of my life in Texas, but I never have considered myself a country girl...except when it comes to overalls! I have quite the collection of embarrassing junior high and high school (okay, and maybe college) photos of me sporting some overalls--khaki, denim, patched, etc. I was stylin'! Or so I thought;-) I was actually even wearing overalls when I met the love of my life...which, perhaps, is the reason why it wasn't exactly "love at first sight." Thankfully, DH's eyes went more than skin deep, and he was able to look past my fashion faux-pas. I eventually tossed my go-to 90's grunge, but not before a trip to "Saddle Ridge Ranch" in 2010.

All dressed up for Saddle Ridge Ranch, 2010
Shortly after moving to a small west Texas town when Lucy was just 2 and a half, I got to help lead the music for VBS at our church. The theme was "Saddle Ridge Ranch" that year, so it was the perfect excuse to dust off the old overalls! Lucy was like my little shadow back then--we did EVERYthing together! So, when Mommy was working on VBS music and motions, so was Lucy, meaning that Lucy knew the songs better than probably anyone else. Back then, they were really good about incorporating the entire memory verse for the week into the theme song. That particular week's focus was James 1:5:

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him.


It was also during that summer that we began trying to potty train Lucy. Seeing how Lucy was able to pick up on VBS songs so easily, and in an effort for me to not totally lose it temper-wise, Lucy and I used her potty breaks to work on scripture memorization, so James 1:5 was one of her very first scriptures to hide in her heart.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2016. Neither of us were sporting overalls, but we were sporting some confusion instead. I knew the Lord had called us to continue homeschooling Lucy, but every time I thought about ordering her curriculum for this school year, I felt like someone put their foot down on the brakes. If you know me even a little bit, you probably have picked up on my disdain for change. (Hence why I was still so willingly sporting 90's fashion in the 2000's!) I just assumed we would continue using the same curriculum we had used the year before. However, my heart was so unsettled. I had noticed some changes in Lucy over the summer, and I just felt so uneasy with what was going to be best for her for this coming school year. As I looked at different options, nothing gave me a peace. And as everyone else was gearing up for the first day of school, I was feeling the pressure that I hadn't even chosen her curriculum for the school year, and much more actually ordered it! That's when the Lord dug James 1:5 out of the depths of my heart. I sat before him one morning and boldly said, "Lord, I know that You've promised that if I lack wisdom that I should ask You and that you will give it to me freely. I don't know what to do with Lucy this year, but I know You know exactly what she needs. I need You to reveal whatever that is to me. You've promised to give me answers generously and without criticizing, so please do that." Just a few hours later, I felt compelled to do a google search for homeschool academies. The first place that popped up had exactly what I was looking for for Lucy, and when I e-mailed them, I received a response within moments. I immediately had a peace wash over me, and I just knew this was the Lord giving me the wisdom I had boldly asked Him for.

I'm not sure why I get so surprised when the Lord answers my prayers so quickly and clearly. I think my faith is often so small and hesitant, and yet the Lord doesn't criticize me--He loves me and He graciously responds.

I'm sure there will be many challenges this school year, but I want to hold tight to the Truth that God has directed our steps so clearly, so we can be confident that He will continue guiding us on this path.


When I picked Lucy up from her first day of classes, I asked her, "So, was it everything that you hoped it would be?" She paused and said, "Nope. It was MORE!" I think that pretty much sums up what our heavenly Daddy does for His precious children. He so desires to give His children good gifts, and they are always beyond what we could fathom. Big or small, God cares about every one of our concerns, and He has a plan laid out specifically for each of our lives. The journey may be full of twists and turns (and possibly some fashion mishaps), but He promises to give us the wisdom we need to travel to exactly where He would have us be.