Tuesday, April 1, 2014

what I love right now

Remember when I told you that if I find something that works I think I should share it because we should all be living this life thing together? Remember when I said if that particular something doesn't point to God then it's pointless? 

Well, here's something I just love. L-O-V-E. Loooooove. And it points to God! Eeeeek!! (I get excited easily.)

 It's been 36 days that I started this thing and I think that's long enough to establish a love relationship, no? So, without any further delay, here it is: it's called If Equip and the gist of it is this:

  • There is a daily online scripture that you read. (I also pray before I read b/c I want the Holy Spirit to help me see His Word clearly and not allow distractions to get in the way.)
  • After you read, you journal: if this scripture is true, then...what does this mean about God? What does this mean about me? What does this mean about the world?
  • There is a video at the end of each one where women discuss that scripture. (I admittedly forget to watch this on a regular basis, but they are soooo good...like this one.)
  • You have the option to connect with women online and share through comments what God has revealed to you during your time in His Word...but here's where some friends and I have changed it up a bit. 
The online community feels so...well, disconnected. And I like real people (a.k.a. people that I know) to discuss God's Word. So instead of reading a bunch of comments and writing my own, there are three of us that email our journaling to one other (happy face). And in our journaling are often questions...ways we want to understand God's Word on a deeper level (happy face with an exclamation mark!). And the questions, well, (now I'm just giddy) they make us search God's Word deeper. Understand His Word better. And then, of course, we share with each other what we've learned. 

Seriously, I can't recommend if equip enough. But if you do it, I really hope you gather a couple of girls to commit to doing this with you. You'll probably begin to appreciate each other more. Share life more. Pray for each other more. And then before you know it, they just become your girls. The girls you go to for fun and silly and hard and....just everyday life. Pinkie promise. 

You may even play an April Fools joke on them every once in a while, too. (I am not, I repeat, I am not pregnant with twins.)

So, what are you waiting on? Go to ifequip.com, sign up to get their reminder emails, find your girls, and get started today!

And while you're at it, look to see what the if table gathering is all about and gather your if table girls, too! Yep...those girls become your girls, too. 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

What if God really does want us to play small? Would we?

There's a popular quote that keeps popping up around me. And I'm sure there is more to the story than the quote itself, as you often have to be careful when you remove words from their entirety. So this quote may be of value in its place, but I'm seeing it repetitively by itself. And to be honest, the more I see it the more it just bugs me. You've probably heard or read it:

"Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us." 

While I think there is some ounce of truth here, I think there needs to be clarification of what "playing small" really looks like in the kingdom of God vs. the world around us. Because the truth of the matter is, the Lord of Lords humbled himself to humanity, was born in a stable, rode on a donkey, and died on a cross for me when I didn't deserve it. To the world, He never once walked on this earth and played big. He was and is and always will be the biggest deal the world has ever seen regardless of opinion, but play big by the world's standards? Never.

The truth of the matter is the people I know who best shine big for God, who bring glory to Him in the day to day, are the exact people who the world might would say are playing small. They are the ones who sacrificially come home each day caring for their elderly grandmother until she meets Jesus. They are the ones who should be living the good life at their age but instead are caring for the least of these. They are the moms who come over to clean and take care of grandchildren when their daughter is sick and pregnant (thanks, Mom). They are the ones who change diapers, serve dinner, color, dance, and sing with little ones while the world says they should be making a title for themselves. They are the ones who work full-time in ministry but get paid in ways that a volunteer does, through the occasional "good job" or "I appreciate you" (and we all know those aren't said enough). They are the ones who advocate for their special needs children and pray for God to work in big ways while they remain obedient in the small ways. They are the ones who show Jesus in classrooms and work late on papers and grading and educating themselves, knowing few accolades come in the end. The ones who see one child in need of their attention so they encourage and listen and miss lunch breaks to invest in them. They are the ones who work long hours and stressful jobs but still come home to give their attention, time, and affection to their wife and children (thanks, Honey). They are the ones serving in ministries that are overlooked and seen as less important. They are the ones whose hearts are working for the kingdom of God, not for a name for themselves. 

These are the people who are really playing it big in the kingdom of God.

See, I think the truth of the matter is this: for each of us, we really are meant to make a big impact. But the way that is lived out usually ISN'T the way the world perceives playing big, shining, or manifesting the glory of God within us. 

What if what He is really calling you to...those bigger things for Him...are lived out in the smallest of ways? Is that a game changer? Because I think the truth of the matter is that most of us want to do the bigger things...the things that will be noticed...but struggle with the obedience that others may never see...or maybe that's just me. 

What if what He is really calling you to are those things people may walk by and never notice directly? The ones that are quietly and gently unfolding His purposes for His glory, but they never bring you front and center.

See, I think the truth of the matter is this: we need more people willing to play big for God by working tirelessly in the small ways. We need more people who aren't striving for ways to play big but are rather searching for His plan for them...and choosing obedience with an audience of One. 

 "Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”~Mark 10:43-45

Monday, March 3, 2014

our little announcement

Yes, you read that right. The Lord has shocked us with delight in His plan over us! I was a tearful mess watching my baby's heartbeat through ultrasound on Friday. You see, it really is a miracle. With a history of fertility treatments in order to conceive Winkle, we just thought our family was complete...but God. But God gave us a heart for those in foster care. But then God gave us the heart for future adoption. But now God has blessed us with this little life inside me.

As good as the Lord has been to add to our family, His timing was-and always is-perfect. I was worried about Binkle. After all, he grew quiet after the news and he is a thinker. But I've been watching his little heart understand the truth that has needed to nestle deeper in his heart. The truth that we will always love him and that no one could ever replace him. The other day we talked about how we need a bigger truck now to go camping and he loved the idea knowing this little one's seat would never replace his. He loves to talk about how it may be a girl, which would make our family filled with "3 boys and 3 girls" (grown-ups included here:)).

But see, we are literally days away from his "gotchya day"...the one year anniversary where he stepped into our family. And to celebrate both the news of this little one and this special day has been so good for him. He goes to the calendar often just to look at his "gotchya day". He loves to talk about it and he beams with delight anytime anyone brings it up. This morning he came up to me and announced he had a dream that I erased his "gotchya day" from the calendar. It was more evidence that truth needed to seep deeper into his little heart and mind. And it is such a great delight to get to tell him what is now true in his life:

I love him forever.

He never has to fear me erasing that day because it is one of the most special days of my life.

And he has grown thrilled over the news. He now kisses and hugs my belly (he is the only one who has done this so far) and then kisses and hugs me.

As far as the other two, Tinkle is elated. I mean elated over this new little life growing inside me that will be coming in the fall. She is constantly checking on me and watching to see if I feel bad. She got to announce the news to the grandparents. She loves to talk about how she will be old enough to babysit this new one...we kind of love that, too. ;)

Winkle is excited and declares he wants a girl. In true Winkle fashion, he has asked many...MANY...questions. And to some we have responded, "don't you want to watch cartoons?"

So, what we want you to know is this: God has been so good to us. We are thrilled and feel abundantly blessed over what our Lord is doing in our life. "I've got more than I ever thought I would."  (click to hear)

Praise His name!!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

my past is overcast

I've been thinking about this post lately-how to word it, what to say and what to avoid saying. I want to honor all involved and I also crave authenticity. I want to bring honor and fame to God alone.

I'm learning lately that God can use any past...that isn't kept in secret...for His glory. Ultimately each past can be the start of where His grace has taken us and it can mark a new path where His love continually overflows and leads.

I want you to know why I am an advocate for hurting children. I want you to know because it really doesn't have anything to do with the fact of how well I can love or even that I chose it. I want you to know why He has given me a desire for children who need homes. Children who need families that scoop them up and show them His love. Children who have been forgotten or not loved well or had others' sin leaving their hearts bruised. Children who come from broken homes or missing daddies or drug-addicted mothers or mentally-ill family.

I have, in some ways, been that child. I have cried under a table longing for a daddy to choose me than the bars he ran to. I have visited my dad at the psychiatric floor of the hospital more times than I can think. I have stood between my parents and inside dared my father to even think of hurting my mom during those fights. I have been with my dad to those AA meetings, the ones that suffocate you in cigarette smoke because addiction runs deep. I have stories that aren't going to be mentioned because they don't need mentioning to mark the bigger picture.

But this is what I need to say more than I need to say anything else: please don't waste a second feeling sad for me. In fact, if you do, you will have missed the true depth of redemption I have experienced and long for you to see.

See, those childhood experiences were in many ways ordained by a Sovereign God and gifted to me. I have honestly come to a place in my life that I thank God for each of them. I know that may not make sense to you but it is as honest as I know to be. See, those experiences left me longing. They left me searching. They left me hurting.

And that is where God showed up.

I don't know your story and I don't know your relationship with God and I don't know the depth of how well you hold His Father love over you. But I can honestly say that I think His title as Father over me is the dearest thing I have ever experienced. His Fatherly love over me is something I hold truer and deeper because of my past. That's how redemption works. See, when Christ is involved, the past can't overtake you. When the presence of His love intervenes, He...

  • overwhelms 
  • overpowers 
  • overshadows
  • overspills
  • overcomes 

any past.

JI Packer says in his book Knowing God,

"What is a Christian? The question can be answered in many ways, but the richest answer I know is that a Christian is one who has God as Father...If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and  his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all."

So, I have to ask: what is the past He has taken you from? How has His Fatherly love captured you? Someone at If Gathering this weekend said that hurting people hurt and healed people heal. How has God taken your past of hurt and given others, because of that hurt, healing?

Despite any past or present situation, He wants to own your future. He is holding onto you. Click here to hear "I Am"

Thursday, February 6, 2014

how my heart chooses you

I wrote this for Tinkle forever ago but went back to read it today. It's sappy and silly and yet, it is still so true.

My heart chooses you

We walked in the room and who did I see?
The cutest little cheeks there ever could be.
Your fingers, then toes, I counted all 10,
And then, because I wanted, I counted again

Each time, my heart whispered:

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

I loved you for minutes, then hours, then days
I held you close in the best of ways
As years flew past, from now to start
I held you in my arms, but most in my heart.

And as time flew by, my heart whispered:

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

You loved to play games and you never cared
How you’d beat your poor mama at each game we shared
You laughed and you danced and you yelled, “play again!”
And you lit up the room from your forehead to chin

And each time we played, my heart whispered:

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

We went on adventures, wherever we went
The time spent together was always well spent
We giggled and cuddled and held hands most days
We treasured our time in the very best of ways

And as you grew, my heart whispered:

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

Each season with you got better than last
And each season I asked, “how has it already passed?”
Wasn’t it only yesterday
When I first felt my mama heart say:

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

One day you’ll be a parent, I pray
So one day you’ll know and hear your heart say
The things my heart sings and shouts out each day
For you and your brothers, even as you walk away

One by one
And two by two
I’ve been so blessed
How my heart chooses you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

what I want to say about this week

I'm not gonna lie: this week has been hard. With judicial loop holes and words that should never come out of a mother's mouth as this mama sits and has to listen quiet, parts of me just want to feel defeated.

And there are things I can't yet write out but those things aren't really necessary to write out anyway. Because what I want to say here, what I want you to know is this: my God is faithful. He delivers. He redeems. He fights on behalf of the weak. He sees and He hears. And while I can't have my say in any court room, I say this: I will keep fighting. But my fight? It looks different and it is the most powerful fight of all.

See, we go to Him. On our knees. Daily. Together. And we fight for him to Him. We fight with anguished prayers and tears and, make no mistake, we fight with belief. Because we have a big God.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the day I quit judging you as a mom

Technically, there's not a date written on my calendar of when it happened. Honestly, it is probably still more of a work in progress that has (& is) happening over time, but something in my brain & attitude has shifted: I quit judging you. You, parent. And the reasons that I did are honestly less about you and more about me.

See, I came to some realizations:

1) I don't have it all together. I realize I don't need to write that out in order for you to know it's true...only to point out that I know it's true. I have two 5 year old boys who remind me daily that parenting is a challenge. For example, I really did spend most of their last week of winter break sick and allowed them to play an insane amount of Wii time. I really do, for the most part, choose the easy quick-grab lunch choices instead of the thought out, perfectly balanced kind. I really do sometimes send them to bed a little early so I can have a break. I really do desire some days to be in a book for me instead of reading one to them. I really do forget this time is short and I need to be thankful for the little moments.

2) I remembered this verse: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve." ~Jeremiah 17:9-10

And when I think on that truth, how deceitful the heart of man is, I can't help but be confronted that this is pretty inclusive. I can't help but be reminded that apart from Christ, my heart is so sick-sinned that I don't even recognize it's fullest capability toward sin. I can't help but be convicted, yet freed, from the pride that wants to well in me when I see some other parent doing it wrong.

I realized the attitude of judging you is saying I have it more together than you do.

Pride. Which leads me to

3) When I do judge you in your parenting, it speaks more volumes about my heart than it does yours. And what it speaks isn't really pretty.

So, I just want to ask, wouldn't it be so much better...a relief even...if we all quit critiquing each other with puffed up opinions and began helping each other? What if we all recognize we are fallen people who are all in need of His wise counsel & we continuosly keep pointing each other to the One who does have it all together? What if we remember that the cross is a representation that none of us has it figured out and we just authentically do life together?

So, please listen closely to this mama's heart as I offer some information that has worked for me...I don't offer it as I sit in a lofty position because I think I know something you may not. I simply know Jesus, and if my information doesn't point to Him, it's pointless. I offer it as a mom who thinks if I find something that works, I should share it because we can all be in this thing together...to parent purposefully in hopes of building hearts to love Him and not just well-trained, disciplined kids.

So here it is, the thing I have found recently that has worked for us: something called "Wise Words for Moms". You can order it here: www.shepherdpress.com It is a cheat sheet (chart) that helps moms (or dads) know how to confront sinful behavior within their child.

Maybe you're not into cheat sheets. Maybe you were the one who studied thoroughly for weeks before the exam and read all the books for your report twice instead of using the cliff notes. Yeah. That wasn't me.

But for the rest of us, it helps us ask heart probing questions that point our children back to evaluating their own hearts and recognizing their sin for what it is. It also gives scriptures specific to their sinful behavior that not only reproof but also encourage.

I have to admit when I first received this from a friend I was convicted. I knew that if I was going to use this scripture in discipline, I needed to become disciplined enough to memorize the scripture myself. So, we are learning the verses that encourage (the "put on" verses) together. And it has made a difference in us all. I find myself asking things like "are you promoting peace?" (which is technically not a question they ask you but directly pulls from Prov. 12:20) instead of "stop..."

So there it is. Scripture that helps teach the heart. It's not a new concept but it's working great in our home!

What are some things that has worked for you lately?