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.

Sixteen years ago...

September 11, 2000, I was studying on the third floor of the music building. I'm not really sure why my friend and I chose the music building for the study session, because it was a test for a health and wellness course. But we did...

During that same time, a fellow music major I had never met was headed up to practice for his senior recital. It wasn't surprising that we hadn't met--he was an upperclassman and a vocal major, so our paths really had no reason to cross. Except they did...

Our first (of many) Chickfila lunch dates
You probably have guessed by now (or you've heard the story so many times that you could tell it yourself;-) that 9-11-00 was the night I met DH. It seems like forever ago, and yet if I shut my eyes right now, I can picture it all just as if I were still sitting on that bench on the third floor 16 years ago...

A year later, I found myself walking to that same building when a friend stopped me and shared what was all over the news. People who were heading in for just another day of work...people who were just taking a flight to get home...people who's plans changed last minute and placed them on one of those planes or in one of those buildings...I can't begin to fully imagine the horror felt by those closest to those people...

So what do those two years have in common, other than a date? When I think of what happened on 9-11-01, I think of total upheaval. I think of literal ashes...but then I also think of the strength and the beauty of the American people coming together to stand as one. And when I think of 9-11-00, I see the start of a journey filled with upheaval and ashes, yet a God who has made beauty and given strength through it all for these past sixteen years. We don't always have control over our circumstances, but we always have control over our response to them. Fifteen years ago, the American people chose to respond with a message of unity. And sixteen years ago, Michael and I began a journey that would test that very thing in us over and over again. 

In no way do I compare the struggles of my life to the struggles faced by others, but I can't help but reflect on these two dates in my own personal timeline and how they have impacted my life. 

sitting on the same bench I was sitting at when I met DH
God continually reminds me that He is ultimately in control. He is the one who directs our steps, and while man may try to alter the course, in the end, we know HE will conquer. We have to choose which side we are going to be on though. Will I let anger engulf me and fear cripple me, or will I stand on the Rock?

So today, I reflect on the past while I gaze toward the future, and I ask the Lord to help me stand firmly upon His truths. And oh, how I thank Him for placing such an incredible man in my life who shows Jesus to me every single day! As DH sang this morning while leading God's people in worship, I echo his heart's cry to not fear the war or the storm but be confident that God is always with us, no matter what. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Evangeline Hope...

One year ago yesterday, I went to Six Flags with some of my close friends and our kids. It was in the midst of one of the most difficult seasons of our family's life as we were processing some very deep hurt. Our life felt like it was entirely up in the air, so it was a needed breath of fresh air (literally and emotionally) to spend time with friends having fun and riding rollercoasters. Little did I know that the following day, July 29th, my stomach would jump out of my throat not from a roller coaster, but from the shock of my life!

Exactly one year ago, I found out that I would be the momma to FOUR. And yes, I kind of freaked out! You see, just two days before this discovery, my husband and our pastor had both resigned from our church. We were at a very low point emotionally, and while throwing a baby into the mix sounded like the most irresponsible thing ever, the Lord in His omnipotence knew this was exactly what our family needed at that exact moment.

The name Evangeline means "bringer of the Good News." I believe with all my heart that the Lord knew we needed some good news and something to look forward to this last year--to have some HOPE. The Lord also was reminding us, a couple who had struggled with infertility, that He was the One ultimately in control, even when our life felt so out of control. And I also believe the Lord was showing us His favor and His blessing by providing us with a child, for I truly believe one of God's most gracious blessings is the gift of a child. And so, out of a time of great hurt and sorrow and loss, the Lord was presenting us with tangible evidence of His hope and joy and abundant provision: Evangeline Hope.

My dear, precious girl--what a gift you are! You are a constant reminder to me of God's hand on my life. My prayer is that you will be a bringer of the ultimate "Good News" of our Lord Jesus Christ, sharing His great hope with a hurting world, just like you have brought and continue to bring hope to our family's hurting hearts. This past year has been filled with so much joyful anticipation because of you, and I am beyond grateful for the gift of being your momma!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Come...

Amidst the chaos and the cold coffee...the sink full of dirty dishes and the floor smeared with crumbs...the unmade beds and the unwashed laundry...the squeals and the screams and the sleepy-but-just-had-shots-baby...the trail of toys and the trash-sack full of dirty diapers...the missed phone calls and the unanswered text messages...the dirty kitchen table and the dusty ceiling fans...the chipped fingernail polish and the messy mom-bun...the kids still in their pjs and the momma wearing running shorts but not able to actually go running...amidst it all, my Jesus says, "Come."

"Come to me and I will give you rest."

Rest to the momma who just can't seem to get it all together...

Jesus doesn't come to my home to inspect all of the spills, to cringe at the noise, or to point out all of the piles in my far-from-put-together-surroundings. He simply wants to come and be with me in the midst of it all--with me.

I don't have to prepare a feast or clean up the mess (or try to stuff it all quickly in a closet!) He accepts me just as I am and invites me to rest in Him. To not just find rest from it all, but to find rest amidst all that demands my attention, having the confidence that He is with me through it all.

I think I often feel that rest means everything is put in place and everything on my to-do list is done. But maybe rest means I find peace in the midst of all of the things God has placed on my plate, knowing He's going to help me accomplish all of the things that will bring Him the most glory. So while I break up another fight and heat up my coffee in the microwave again, Jesus asks if I will simply come to Him in the midst of all...

"Come to Me...and I will give you REST..." Matthew 11:28

Sunday, July 17, 2016

for the JOY...

Do you see this sweet, super hero of a girl right here? She learned to ride her bike without training wheels this week! You may be thinking, "It's about time," but regardless of the world's typical timeline, we are celebrating this victory in our household, because it's so much more than just learning to ride her bike...

When I was pregnant with my Lucy, I was filled with a lot of fear. Actually, fear is something I struggled with a lot before having Lucy, but I discovered that motherhood will bring even more of it out of the depths. The Lord spoke very clearly to my heart during my pregnancy though, and He gave me a phrase that I have clung to ever since: 

Live in FAITH and not fear.

My fears throughout the years have been so many. Some of them may have seemed silly to most, other were common fears, and some were unique to me and probably considered valid. But God doesn't assign our fears to categories, and He simply asks that we choose to trust Him no matter what.

"Trust in Him at ALL times, O people;
Pour out your heart before Him;
God is a refuge for us." (Psalm 62:8)

In my life, I've worried about infertility and also the safety of my children. I've worried about rejection and finances. I'm currently struggling with the fear that my hand will not completely heal.
My worries are many and are born out of a lot of fear. But you know what? God has never ceased to provide for me in my time of need. All of those fears of mine? Most of them have actually become a reality that I have had to face, and through that I realized that it's not as much the actual fear that causes me anxiety, but it's the way that fear will make me feel. BUT GOD has been there every time to make a way out  for me, and that's because God always goes before us, so when He tells us not to fear or be dismayed, He's telling us that we don't need to feel disappointed or stressed, because He's got this!

"Do no be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He WILL be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." (Deuteronomy 31:8)

I suppose it's fitting that since the Lord spoke His truth over me while I was pregnant with Lucy, that Lucy, too, would need to learn this as well. She's a very cautious child and greatly impacted by her surroundings and happenings.

 When I asked her why she was so scared of learning to ride her bike, she kept saying she was afraid of falling, and I told her this: "Honey, the chances of you falling are pretty great, because you're learning. You probably ARE going to fall, but then you will just have to choose whether or not you're going to get back up and keep going."

The same thought process applies to my own fears. How did I respond when faced with infertility struggles? How do I respond when faced with my children's safety, rejection from others, financial stresses, etc.? Will I stay down for the count, or will I dust myself off, get back up, and keep going, while trusting FULLY in the One who has gone before me? 

Lucy could have let her fears hold her back, like we so often do in life. She could have just continued to ride with her training wheels on, but that was making bike riding more difficult for her. They kept coming loose and were slowing her down. Yet even when they were on the brink of falling off, she felt more secure--but it was a false security she discovered when, last week, they finally did fall off. But now, less than a week later, she's flying up and down the street, and she's having more fun than she ever did before because she can go faster and
further...because she chose to not let fear win. 
Hebrews 12:1-3 says this:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

We can't just bury our heads in the sand and pretend like difficulties aren't going to arise. The question when we learn to ride a bike isn't "what if I fall?" The real question I must ask myself is, "What am I going to do WHEN I fall?" Jesus knew He would face difficulty. He knew He would face rejection and betrayal and a cruel death on a cross. But in this scripture we see that He chose to endure them "for the joy that was set before Him..." How will I choose to praise my Jesus through the storms that I face? Will I choose to throw off the "training wheels" of fear that holds me back and then trust Him joyfully? It is my prayer that I will, and that my little Lucy can follow in my footsteps (or my bike riding;-) and also learn how to "live in faith and not fear," for the JOY...