The “No Thank You” Day

I think my mother-in-law uses this term, a “No Thank You” day, to refer to one of those days that for whatever reason, someone just isn’t happy. Someone else might describe it as waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but you get the idea. Today was that kind of day around my house.

I woke up before my preschooler. I got out of bed, was brushing my teeth in a pretty good mood. Then she woke up. And that was pretty much the end of that. After a “good morning, Mommy” full of the promise of sunshine, she pretty much rained on my parade the rest of the day.

She didn’t want to eat her yogurt. It was apparently gross, and by gross I mean absolutely nothing wrong with it, but she wasn’t allowed to watch Sesame Street until it was gone, so it became a battle.

Then she wanted a drink, but not any of the actual choices we had available, including water. Then she couldn’t remember how to make her bed. I know she is only four, but every day for the past couple of weeks, I walk her through how to do it, tell her just to do her best, and that it doesn’t have to be perfect. Today she refused to make the bed, like sat down in a huff and full on pitched a fit, a screaming crying jag because she didn’t know how to make her bed. I sat with her, talked her, and walked her through it again, but literally every second was a total battle. I was so tempted to do it for her.

But I knew if I let it go this one day for the sake of ease, she’d be ten before she ever made her bed again. Absolute consistency is key for my child. One moment of weakness and she’s on that like the lion on the weak gazelle, so I pressed onward, determined to hug her, smile and move past this momentary blip in our day. Ha ha, we call this irony ’round here, folks, because that was nothing compared to the rest of the day.

Then I asked her to get dressed. She is four. She’s been dressing herself for over a year (mostly). She still doesn’t do buttons, but she can put on her pants, shirts, and shoes (even if they’re on the wrong feet). She sat, in her panties, not the clean ones, screaming that she didn’t know how to put on her shirt.

1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

I stood staring at her in complete shock and frustration several times today. And I had to choose to handle her in the Godly way I am modeling. She deserved my anger, but not my sin. Her meltdowns were not my fault. She was making her own poor choices. My reactions to her were my responsibility. I had done all I knew how to do.

I fed her, got her something to drink, gave her a hug, checked her forehead. When there was nothing obviously wrong that I could correct, I had to let her suffer the consequences of her choices. She got harsh words and time outs, toys put up, and spent a lot of time being talked to today.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,”

I was waging war against Satan today, in my home, in my child, and in my heart. I had to choose to take control of my anger (even though justified) because in my anger I didn’t want to sin. A few times, I needed to apologize and ask her forgiveness for getting too loud, but I was able to mostly just let the day go. It wasn’t going well, but if all I could do was fix my reaction to it, then that is what I was going to do. I had the armor of God to take every thought captive.

The older of the children we babysat is very much like my child, so much so that they are either best friends or tattling and bossing each other around. The one time they did play nicely for an extended period of time, turns out they were dumping sand from the sandbox around the yard and throwing it at the dogs. And as I snagged my child, running with her alligator scooper full of sand toward our yellow lab, who was pretty sure this was the most amazing game ever, I noticed she had sand all over her face.

“What did you do?”

“I ate some, Mommy,” she beamed proudly.

“Why?”I asked incredulously.

“To try it.”

“And was it tasty?”

“Nope.”

I’m in hysterics now thinking about this. We watch a lot of cooking shows, and we encourage her to always try new things, so I guess I shouldn’t assume that she knows sand is gross, but we had another talk about how food is the only thing that goes into her mouth. Which we had again after she put Epsom salt crystals from a science experiment into her mouth. I think they are edible, but they are a laxative, so not recommended snacking.

I was trying to balance our checking account, watch a climbing one year old, supervise two energetic four-year-olds, and was dealing with all the intensity of their tattling, squabbling, or colluding against me, with the stress of a broken computer, shattered iPhone screen, a credit card bill that is higher than I’d hoped. I wanted to text my husband and complain. I wanted to be angry all over someone, darn it. I chose not to. I have no idea what kind of day he’d had, what mood he was in, and had a choice to suck it up and deal or make his whole drive home full of stress about what he was going to find when he got home, make him angry before he even walked in the door. That wasn’t the tone I wanted to set for our evening.

I was nearly in tears by the time her father got home. I spent some quiet time, just in thought and prayer to handle this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. All I could think was that I was just giving a friend advice about this kind of day last night. I need to practice what I preach. My daughter’s struggles were frustrating, and continued through dinner and bath time, but were not about me. My job was to maintain consistent rules and consequences and not bash my head against a wall.

Romans 5:3-5More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Ask most moms about praying for patience and they will look at you horrified – NEVER, I mean, never pray for patience. God doesn’t give you patience. He gives you the opportunity to practice it. Praying to be a good parent is kind of the same thing. Better be prepared to learn quickly.

My daughter is only 4. This day will be far from the last tough day or far from the worst day we will ever face. Today was part of giving us endurance, producing character, and giving us hope in that He will always provide the strength to avoid temptation and to persevere through the most difficult challenges using His divine armor, not our own strength.

At the end of this “No Thank You” day, she refused to pick up her toys in her bathtub because she was too tired. I said that was unfortunate, and she could just throw them in the trash so she would never have to pick them up again. When she saw I was holding a trash can next to the tub, she picked them up. Then she started dancing in the tub, and I reminded her that we don’t play in the tub because she could slip and fall. Then it was another round of I forgot how to brush my teeth, then her Fancy Nancy nightgown and stories. She picked a story about two best friends who don’t get along all the time because they have to share and are both bossy – PERFECT, used it as a teachable moment. Then we said her prayers and asked forgiveness for being naughty and thank you for friends coming to play, and for healing for a sick friend, and for the cat to close her eyes because we are praying, Amen.

A kiss, a hug, a goodnight, don’t let the bedbugs bite and today was over. I didn’t get it all right, but with God’s strength, nudges, and love, I got it a whole lot more right than I ever could have imagined a few years ago. Phew, gonna pray for coffee tomorrow, with a chance of grace – that couldn’t backfire, could it?

Be careful little tongue

Washing the dishes this morning, I accidentally sliced my finger on a rough edge of a pitcher lid. I groaned. Speaking from experience, a deep, bleeding gash on my fingers or hands is about the worst for a mom. For the next few days, I am going to have to think about every time I go to wash something or wash my hands. As a mom, this means pretty much every chore is going to require planning so I don’t use my weight in band-aids.

‘I am going to have to be intentional about how I use my hands,’ I thought. Then I felt that God-nudge, the way He usually puts a thought in my head. What if you had to be that intentional with your tongue? What if there were a cut on your tongue and every word had to be planned carefully? How would that change the way you talk all day long? Would it change the way you speak?

Does God ever convict you so hard you cringe?

If you’re like me, I can usually get a hold of myself before I DO something I’ll regret, but too often my mouth just keeps on trucking. Because we can’t see words, we sometimes mistakenly believe they do not have the power that they really do. I don’t know how I ever convinced myself to be less than perfectly careful with my words. I have lived most of my life with the scars of cruel and careless words.

I thought I was a smart, funny,  and basically valuable person until I started kindergarten. I distinctly remember not fitting in, kids teasing me, and calling me names. It was the first time I felt like there was something fundamentally wrong with me, but not the last. A devastating level of teasing continued until I was in high school, which was better because I could choose with whom to associate, but I still heard plenty of judgmental words defining me. I searched the truth of those definitions. I questioned who I thought I was. I rebelled against who they said I was. But I rarely just flat out ignored those words.

I should be the first person to know how powerful words can be, how especially the cruel ones can cut a heart to pieces, but I’ve lived in some sort of denial bubble about the way my words can affect my child, even though I’ve grown much more conscious of how my words and tone can affect my husband and friends.

I don’t think I’m overly cavalier about my words. I don’t run around swearing or insulting people, but if one negative comment can haunt me nearly 40 years later, am I being as cautious about my mouth as the rest of my home? I’ve got plastic covers on my plugs, safety door knobs, medicines put up, but certainly haven’t given as much thought to filtering my mouth as I should, as God calls us to do.

Proverbs 13:3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.”

Proverbs always does such a good job of getting right to the point. We are to guard our mouths. Guard means to watch over to protect or control. Instead when we say the wrong things, we say it ‘slipped’ out, as if by some magical accident. The reality is we got so caught up in our own emotions, usually anger, that we didn’t choose to censor ourselves.

James 1:19“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”

James makes our responsibilities pretty clear. We are to listen first. What we are feeling and what we have to say are deliberately supposed to follow listening to others. If nothing else, when I stop myself from saying something when frustrated or angry, I often decide that nothing needed to be said. Sometimes, it is my own issue, not the other person’s; sometimes I decide I didn’t have anything uplifting to offer; sometimes I decide the other person isn’t in a place to hear me in love.

Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

My husband and I were about to have an argument, in the car, in front of our daughter. We were ten minutes from home and ticked off. How we talk to each other in front of her will have long reaching consequences into her life. How I respond to my husband will affect our marriage. He was angry. I was angry. He told me to drop it. I didn’t want to drop it. I wanted to let him know how I felt; I wanted to solve it right that second. The unhappy feelings inside me begged for an instant solution. I prayed for God to give me strength to control myself, to know that it didn’t have to get resolved this second, to wait until I could choose the moment and my words carefully. I quickly felt peaceful about it. Once we were home and had both taken a breath, I was able to choose words that respected him and loved him and explained my feelings without criticizing him. No more argument.

Learning this lesson with our little ones is all the more crucial because they cannot stand up for themselves, won’t call us out on our destructive behavior. They will assume it is their fault. They will ingest our poison as a statement about them, not us.

Old school parenting tells us to count to ten when we get angry. Sounds like pretty good advice to me although I find that praying during that ten seconds is more productive. Even if you feel so upset or angry that you feel out of control, if someone important called or came by at that exact moment, most of us could summon enough self-control to speak kindly to that person. If we could summon the patience and control to speak kindly to our boss, pastor, or neighbor, shouldn’t we even more so find the energy to filter our mouths for our most important audience?

Our children are going to make us angry. We need to search our hearts for the source of that anger, if it is selfishness or righteous, but even in righteous anger, we should be mindful of our choices.

Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”

We quote this verse often as marriage advice, but in context is instructions for Christian living in general. If our closest neighbors are our family, our closest examples of Christian community are in our home.

We all fall down from time to time. We all need to seek forgiveness daily. But where we put our focus and heart is a big factor in determining where we let the rest of us go. The Bible even tells us that our mouth is a good gauge of our hearts.

Proverbs 15:28 “The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.”

James 1:26If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”

As one of the ladies in my Bible study group likes to say, BAM, in your face, convicted! If you’re really struggling with being careful with your tongue, words, tone, are you seeking the Lord with all your might? I find the more time I spend reading the Bible, praying, meditating on what is good and wholesome, the less I lose control of myself. If I spend a few days thinking, I’m good, I’ve got this . . . well, let’s just say, we all know pride goeth before the fall.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

God’s word has a lot to say about what we say. I can’t even do this subject justice, but the verse from Ephesians sums up the main ideas nicely. Depending on the translation, the verse instructs us not to use corrupting, foul, unwholesome, hateful, filthy, or hurtful words. We are to use words that build up others, perhaps this includes Godly conviction of sin, but only when as an extension of God’s grace, his loving, unwarranted forgiveness, so that we are ministering to those around us.

Have you tried and tried to control your mouth, to seemingly no avail?

James 3:8-10 “But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From IMG_3328 - Version 2the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

When James teaches that no one can tame the tongue, he is saying that we need to give it to God. We need to bring our entire selves to the feet of Christ and ask for the sinful parts of us to be buried with our sins. We need to ask God to give us the conviction and tools to be Godly.

Words like, “I’m sorry” and “Please forgive me” have power too, but they don’t erase what came before. Having the humility to apologize and ask forgiveness is important modeling for our children. It teaches them we’re human, how to be real about being flawed, but it doesn’t necessarily erase the harsh words that came before.

Do you remember the children’s song “be careful little tongue what you say, for the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little tongue what you say.” Right now, I’m hearing it in a child’s voice in my mind, conjuring the image of my daughter standing next to Jesus watching me.

Matthew 12:37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

God’s condemnation of me is scary enough by itself, but my witness will be a large factor in drawing my daughter to Christ or pushing her away. If we believe that Christ is truly our salvation from hell, our salvation from a Godless world, then I want that salvation for her. It is a pretty frightening image, but with all I know of psychology, sociology, and Christianity, my words may not only condemn me, but also my sweet daughter, if I do not make sure they are full of grace, so be careful little tongue what you say . . .

Be Careful Little Tongue Part 2

The Best Medicine

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If you’ve been reading my blog entries, you may have the impression that I am very serious, which is not the whole truth. I am very serious about being Godly. I take following God’s word very seriously. I seriously want to know what God’s word says about how I should think and live and be, and I seriously want people to know about Jesus, but I LOVE to laugh, which comes in handy as a mom.

God gave us the ability to laugh, to be full of joy. He even told us how to heal the wounds of a fallen world.

Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.”

Nowhere else in my life has the need for a joyful spirit and the desire to laugh been more important than in my parenting. I mean, let’s be real. Parenting, even for Jesus, is full of puke and poop, sharp as heck Legos, and spilled milk. We can choose to cry over it or laugh. While the mess is the hard part as parents, it is how we handle it that will give our children the tools to handle the messes in their lives. I would much rather my child laugh and smile and learn to do it better next time instead of be frightened to ever make a mistake.

If we face facts, little kids can be irritating. They don’t obey. They seemingly work in reverse to any actual goal you’ve asked of them. My child is up and awake and cheery, except any day I want to go anywhere or have anything I need to do. The absolute converse reaction to what needs to happen is so absolute that it defies the laws of physics.

Yesterday, my husband was taking her into the woods on a little excursion, and she had put on her own shoes, on the wrong feet, yet again.

Daddy, on correcting her shoes again, was getting a little frustrated, “What are you doing? It goes against the odds. You can’t possibly get this wrong 100% of the time.”

She piped up, “Yes, I can.”

Her answer was so genuine that we all just laughed. Instead of being stressed about getting her out of the door, we were all able to laugh and enjoy this incredibly brief moment in time. She is only going to be adorable and funny like this for a short time. And sometimes you have to just let her walk around with her shoes on the wrong feet and laugh about it.

Maybe not everyone’s child is like mine, but when I get frustrated or short tempered, it pretty much short circuits her completely. The harder and firmer I get with her, the more she is like a robot on repeat, “Does not compute.” I literally can get NOWHERE with her. But if I laugh, make her laugh, make it fun, celebrate the silliness instead of the reality of mushy cereal or goop in her hair, she is almost instantly back in the game, up and running. Everyday, I see how much a joyful spirit makes a difference in her, when I have one toward her, and when I see her have one toward life.

Just a couple of days ago, I was combing her hair to get out the door for the day. It was bath day, but we usually save bath time for right before bed, so her hair wasn’t as easy to comb as usual. If you’ve never tried to comb a 4 year old’s hair, I’m not sure I can describe the torture effectively, so bear with me. My child has straight hair, stick straight, so it really gets very small knots unless it has hung into her food. But the second I pick up her comb, she starts to snivel. “Be very careful,” she pleads. I grip her hair to cushion every stroke, but still she screams and cries and carries on as if I were murdering her. Yes, even after anti-tangle spray and starting gently at the ends, child protective services would seriously wonder about us if they were only listening to her cries. I have immense sympathy for any parent of a curly-headed child.

But this day, she was definitely playing it up, and out of exasperation, I cried, “Man, you have a lot of gunk in your hair! I don’t even know what that is,” mentally running down what she had eaten since her last bath less than 48 hours ago.

“Probably potatoes,” she chirped, and I chuckled because she answered a rhetorical question so matter-of-factly, plus, we hadn’t had any potatoes in weeks. Then she added, “or maybe chimpanzees.”

Hilarious! I couldn’t hold back the cackling laughter. Her eyes lit up. She laughed with me, instantly calmed, and we were able to finish combing her hair without any further drama. I was able to find the joy in this tiny human who sees the world so completely differently than I do, in such a magical way that chimpanzees in her hair was a completely reasonable explanation. And my whole day was brighter because I remembered to celebrate the joyful moment instead of get frustrated at the challenges.

Because really, parenting is challenge after challenge. Letting these momentary struggles frustrate me would just destroy my family and the haven I am trying to create for my children and hard-working husband. Plus getting angry and complaining all the time would certainly destroy any witness in my life.

It isn’t always easy. Bedtime is one of the hardest for me. I’ve been patient and kind and even-tempered all day, then it is 8 o’clock, and I’m struggling to get through the routine without crying myself.

About a year ago, I was tiredly dragging myself to put her to bed when she decided that she was afraid of all the dinosaurs in her room. I summoned all my patience to explain that dinosaurs are extinct, what extinction meant, how TV and movies make them seem alive, but they are just fancy drawings or computer images, etc. I was really sure I had helped her with all my logical reasoning to understand that there was simply no way dinosaurs could be in her room. I kissed her goodnight one more time and left the room. The second I shut the door, she shouted, “OK, dinosaurs, do not eat me!” We now have a water bottle we use as anti-dinosaur/monster/bear spray so she feels her room has been adequately cleansed. Plus when I ‘accidentally’ spray her, she laughs, diffusing her fears.

Ecclesiastes 3 is a good reference about the balance of life. We are going to experience joy and sorrow in turns.

Ecclesiastes 3:4   “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;”

After spending the last year mostly being unable to walk, I lost my ability to dance. Despite trying to have a brave face, I mourned my physical disability and its limitations a lot. So now that I’m finally healing, when she asks me to dance randomly, usually when I’m in the middle of something, I try to always say yes. We jump and jive, twirl and flop, and dance like no one is watching just for the joy of the music and being together. Laughing together. Never underestimate the power of being silly with your children! Even just 5 minutes can change the direction of the rest of the day.

I have days I watch the news and am legitimately frightened that I will very soon start sending her out into this broken, Godless world. I won’t be there to protect her, cushion every blow, guard her tender heart. Taking care that I laugh and dance with her when I can is important. The happiness and joy we can store up now may tide us through lean times. Plus, she is learning to laugh at the spilled milk of life which is a good lesson for us all about the God given, best medicine there is.

Master Weaver – trusting God’s plan in the chaos

Life is the beautiful rug hiding in the mess of our trials and struggles. Trusting the Master Weaver for the beautiful life He is weaving in me.

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I’ve had lots of messy, hurtful times in my life: my husband’s combat tours, gossiping neighbors, financial struggles, marital tensions, infertility, health crises, times that felt like they were breaking me apart.

During those moments that felt like my world was breaking in two, I’ve held tightly to this promise.

Romans 8:28 ESV  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Because sometimes in the middle of it, I couldn’t see how. I’ve sat in the mess holding my heart in my hands wondering how God could possibly being doing any good.

God promises He uses all things for our good, but sometimes, we can't see how. We have to trust our Master Weaver. Click To Tweet

And then I would start to see the hints of God’s hand using those messes, and I pictured the weaving of Persian carpets, some of the most intricate, most beautiful in the world, woven together with absolute precision.

But in the middle of weaving, it is a bit of a mess. Strings hanging in random directions, lots of white threads, etc. Only the master weaver knows what the finished product will become, while we only see how perfectly the pieces fit together once each part is completed.

Life is the beautiful rug hiding in the mess of our trials and struggles. Trusting the Master Weaver for the beautiful life He is weaving in me.

I can’t always easy to see how the messy parts fit, but they always do.

April 2013, I had an arthroscopic hip surgery that was supposed to “fix” my hip. Instead, my hip was completely destroyed. After a total hip replacement in January 2014, I was recovering nicely, then dislocated my new hip. I had to spend 6 1/2 weeks in an immobilizing brace. Unable to sit up, lay down, drive, shower, dress, live in any easy way in that thing, I was STUCK at home. Frustrated, I couldn’t see how all the injuries, surgeries and setbacks could be part of God’s plan.

I wasn’t able to do anything!

Exactly what God wanted. He wanted me to stop running, figuratively and literally. SIT DOWN. Be still. Wait on ME.

So I spent months just being home, spending time with my daughter, focusing on my relationship with my husband and with God. It became an amazing time of dedicating my life to God and His highest ministry for me, raising my daughter and serving my husband through what I could be, not do.

My perspective on my purpose and my value shifted tremendously.

I can't always see God's plan in the chaos, but I can trust Him through it. Click To Tweet

During the difficult years waiting to be a mother, I cried, I ached, I got bitter before I turned it over to God. But if you gave me a chance to change it, I wouldn’t. God used every minute of the waiting.

He used that time to introduce me to my husband, to move me around the country, meet new people, to become the woman who was ready finally to be a Godly mother, raising my child for Him, not myself.

God gave me the absolute right child for me at the perfect time. He was teaching me to be patient, have wisdom and strength, and definitely, to be selfless in an entirely new way. I couldn’t understand why He wanted me to wait, but He was preparing me to be this tiny tornado’s mother. This child is a force of nature, and I had to wait for her to exist. I couldn’t have known that then and wouldn’t have missed mothering her for the world!

My struggles with infertility and our journey through adoption has allowed me to witness, minister, and support many women in similar situations. What a gift to be able to be a friend and sister in Christ in this way!

I think of all the young mothers I would never have met if I’d been a mother earlier, young women I can walk beside and support now, facing the same challenges, but as a mentor in Christ.

God has used our seemingly random moves in the military, but each was part of God’s plan in many ways.

In Texas, I met some women who truly changed my life, becoming sisters in Christ.  I cannot understate how important they have been to my life. They befriended me, supported me, helped bring me to a deeper walk with God, helped love me out of my shell, changed my life.

Also, our daughter was born there. Her birth mother chose us because she could meet us in person. God didn’t waste even the tiniest ripples of His hand.

Despite our struggles, the tiny ripples of God's hands in my life were never wasted. Click To Tweet

Then, again the army sent us away from all we knew. But it was here that I got to stay home and raise my daughter, play Candy Land instead of grade essays. Here, we found a new friends and an amazing church. Being here has absolutely grown me spiritually.

Right now, my husband and I are dealing with an assignment that is 16-18 hour days, 6-7 days every week. It is daunting for him, for me, for our daddy’s girl who misses him so, but God has been ahead of us, guiding our paths all along.

I can’t see why this might be the right place for our family, but I can trust God that it is. Surviving the storm together binds our hearts together in a way ease never did.

Surviving the storms of life strengthens us in ways that ease never did. Click To Tweet

I can rest knowing that God has a plan for my life.

Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Many quote this verse from Jeremiah, but few put it into context.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.  .   .   . 10 This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 

God promises He has a plan, but it includes 70 years of exile.

Christians often cling to Jeremiah 29:11. We like to think it promises easy lives. However, God really promised that He was with them in exile. He had not forgotten them and had planned this for their redemption. He didn’t promise they wouldn’t suffer.

Can you look back at your life and see times the Master Weaver always had a plan? All the pieces in your life that seemed out-of-place but turned out to be part of the design all along. Maybe you’re in that period of difficulty right now and can’t see how all the pieces fit.

God doesn’t waste anything. Every struggle and joy are a part of His plan for your life, unique pieces of you He can use.

Remember, God sees the finished product, and He is making a beautiful and wondrous work of your life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

So Master Weaver, sweet Abba Father, my hope is in Your complete plan for my life.

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Old Man’s Rubble

Do you ever have a song from your childhood just echoing in your head? I had an old Imperials’ (lyrics here) song that came to mind today. I’m not completely sure I can explain why, but I feel like God put it on my heart. Reviewing the lyrics, thinking about the Biblical truths that surround them, felt like answers to some prayers I had for some dear friends of mine that I was preparing to fellowship with this evening.

Take a moment, picture your heart as a home. What does it look like as a home for Jesus?

Is it dark, dirty, cobwebs in the corners? When I close my eyes and pictured my heart, I pictured a small cabin like room, clean and bright in the center with the warm glow of a lamp on a table stretching out into most of the spaces, but darkness lurking in the corners, gathering around the edges. God is cleaning up my heart, has made a huge difference, but I’m still a work in progress. Not many of us would like to describe ourselves as an old man’s rubble (listen here), but the state of our hearts might be just that.

“Are you living in an old man’s rubble
Are you listenin’ to the father of lies”

Today these words came to my head when thinking about some of the people I see just held down by sin, struggling with life. I wondered why do they seem so stuck? We all have times of trials, difficulties that are part of being Christ-like in a sin drenched world, but the issues I’m talking about are like the sloppy mud that sticks to your boots, the dredge of sin being tracked into what should be the newness of your walk with Christ. If we’re caught up by Satan’s lies, our hearts are the rubble of a crumbling shack. We need to build our hearts on the foundation of Christ.

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Today, I’ve been thinking about the struggles of motherhood and how do I communicate God’s truths to my child in a clear, consistent, loving way. And I thought back to just a few years ago. I was raised in the church, a physical building and in our home, but had been living for myself most of my adult life. From the outside, worldly view, I looked normal, rebelling against my strict upbringing, or even looked like a Christian at times, but I didn’t get it. I used to read a friend’s Facebook posts about God, Christ, being saved and thought, “sheesh, would you give us all a break already?” “Does every post have to be about God?” I was so hardhearted that my darkness couldn’t stand the redemptive light of Christ shining through her.

“Are you trying to live by your emotions
Are you puttin’ your faith in what you feel and see
Then you’re living just to satisfy your passions
And you better be careful, ’cause you’re being deceived”

I was using my emotions as my yard stick for my decisions, trying to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart with partying, friends, men, fun, and just kept feeling emptier and emptier.

This weekend we did a disappearing experiment at my daughter’s science themed birthday party. A huge box of packing peanuts, a small bottle of acetone, a 15 oz. empty can. I put the acetone into the can (slyly) and began to stuff packing peanuts into the can. They almost instantly disappeared. We were all shoving handfuls into the can just as fast as we could and they were dissolving. The kids were amazed and it was lots of fun, but the image of that bottomless hole, the empty can that can never be filled feels a lot like what my life was like in my days of serving self.

I was listening to the Father of Lies, the darkness in me was definitely winning. Then one day, God reached into my heart, and I almost physically heard a click, like someone turning on the lights. The world changed for me in an instant. All of a sudden, I could see my husband struggling against his own demons instead of seeing him as the demon destroying what I wanted for my pretty little life. I ached with compassion for him instead of resentment and anger.

I saw everyone with new eyes, God’s eyes. I was able to offer love, encouragement, to serve strangers even in a way I’d never had the heart for before. I understood what Love God, love people meant. When we’re full of God’s love, we simply do for others, whether it be our friends, family, husbands, children or complete strangers.

1 John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

All of a sudden, I understood why I kept fighting the same battles and never getting anywhere. I was trying to do it with my own power, just by my own will.

“Are you puzzled by the way that you’re behavin’
Do you wonder why you do the things you do
Are you troubled by your lack of resistance
Do you feel that something’s got a hold on you”

I couldn’t. No amount of wishing to be nice, or kind, or gentle or good enough was making any difference. I would try so hard. I would be determined not to yell at the kids or nag my husband, but could barely make it a single day, if I even ever did. I felt like I was bloody from clawing and scraping to be a better person, but I could only hold out for so long before I was serving myself again. It all felt hopeless. I thought I was getting it, serving God, but I was following the external rules. I hadn’t let God just break into my heart and run away with me.

“Well deep within’ you there’s a spiritual battle
There’s a voice of the darkness and a voice of the light
And just by listening you’ve made a decision
‘Cause the voice you hear is gonna’ win the fight”

The difficulty here is Satan’s voice sounds a lot like our own, sounds reasonable, logical. In fact, the only way I know whose voice I’m listening to is when I am absolutely sure it is God’s voice. Reading and studying His word helps me know what He sounds like. And He is faithful to answer me when I ask for direction or clarity, or what do I need to see or learn. I almost always get a nearly immediate mental shift in perspective, a calming hand redirecting me.

If you are feeling stuck in the mud, are you standing your ground with Christ? Telling God, “I’m not going anywhere. I am going to follow you.” Beg Him to reveal Himself. He will. His timing is not ours, but He will. I definitely found I couldn’t unstick myself. I would get caught up in anger, telling myself I deserved better than whatever I was facing. That attitude got me nowhere, except nearly divorced, half crazed by the time I reached up for God’s grace and turned full force towards Him, refusing to listen to Satan’s pretty little lies anymore.

I’m not done healing yet, and I still have days or weeks that I slide back into old ways of thinking, but I feel God nudging me, reminding me that I don’t have to live in the muck anymore. I can usually climb out of it quickly, simply by remembering to turn my eyes and heart towards Him.

“If you’re living as a new creation
If you’re listening to the Father of light
Then you’re living in a mighty fortress
And you’re gonna’ be clothed in power and might.”

You may ask how is this entry about parenting? Because the first step I had to take toward truly parenting for God wasn’t about parenting at all. It was about refusing to live in the Old Man’s Rubble anymore. Until I could see that I needed to let the Holy Spirit batter my hard heart, break down my arrogant walls, and rebuild a humble heart, I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was living with a pretty face covering a roiling, fetid interior. I could be nice at the front door, but turn with rage onto my stepsons, daughter, or my husband in an instant.

Once the Holy Spirit began to convict me, piece by piece, of the hardness in me, of the sin in my life, I was able to change like shrugging off a lead coat because I wasn’t putting on a front, God’s grace and redemption was (IS) teaching me the truth about who I am in Christ. I am a prized child of God. Jesus paid my debt with his body and blood. I don’t have to be a slave to my sin anymore.

Colossians 3:9-10 Living Bible (TLB)

Don’t tell lies to each other; it was your old life with all its wickedness that did that sort of thing; now it is dead and gone. 10 You are living a brand new kind of life that is continually learning more and more of what is right, and trying constantly to be more and more like Christ who created this new life within you.

And I’m finding it easier and easier to shed the selfishness that bound me in sin; the great mystery of how the Holy Spirit works in us is that we’re whittled away, peeled like an onion, layers and layers get stripped away. Piece by piece, we change and yet also grow to see how far there is yet to go.

If you’re struggling, feeling at your end, reach for your Bible, seek God in everything you do, let Him come into the hidden places, let Him see the rubble you’ve been living in, let Him help you clean it up. It won’t be instantaneous, although the shift in your heart might be. It will take a lifetime of growing closer daily for His work to be complete in you, but those in your life will see the beautiful masterpiece. Because we can’t show our children how to have hearts that are palaces for Christ if we don’t first build a home for him in ourselves.