This, dear one, is for you

I thought the note was for some other mom.

Years ago, my daughter toted a note home from preschool.  Now that they had all learned their phone numbers, they were working on their address.  Could we please practice at home?

I reviewed our address with my four-year-old until she could rattle it off like a pro.

At the end of the month, we received a new note.  They’ll be studying spring,  plants, and working on their spring program and, by the way, some kids still didn’t know their address….could we please practice with them at home?

I asked my daughter to say her address.

She said it.

I nodded my head approvingly.

This note must be for some other mom.

In April, notes came home every few weeks…about spring break and final plans for the year and what they were learning now and preparations for Easter parties and the spring program and oh, one more thing, could the children who still didn’t know their addresses please make sure they learned them?

Tsk, tsk, tsk.  Some parents!  You know?

But then in May, I sat at the tiny table with my body squeezed into a preschooler-sized blue plastic chair and had a conference with my daughter’s teacher.  She hands me the assessment sheet with checkmarks everywhere.  Your child can do all of this….but she can’t say her address.

I’m sorry.  What?

Apparently, that note had been for me all along.  I called my daughter over to the table and she recited her address flawlessly in just over a second and then ran off to play.

I guess all along they’d been asking my daughter if she could say her address and she just told them, ‘no.’

So, the notes home could have had my name written all over them.  They were meant for me!  And I had moseyed along on my oblivious way thinking surely my child had gotten her little box checked off.

Sometimes, we need notes and faith and life to be monogrammed with our initials before we realize it’s for us.

We can look at the Bible, we can see what God did and what He’s doing and we can think He’s wonderfully compassionate, powerful and yet full of mercy, for the world and for everyone else in the world.

But then it gets personal.

The disciples tagged along after Jesus as He healed the crowds. Lepers and the lame, the demon-possessed and those wrecked with pain came to Him for rescue and He performed the miracles.

My Bible marks the book of Matthew with newspaper headlines:  Jesus Heals The Sick.  Jesus Heals Many.  Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand.

Jesus changed lives for lots of people.

But then it got personal for the 12 rag-tag followers.

When Jesus went off to pray, He sent them on ahead to cross the lake on their own.  In the middle of the night, he came out to them, walking on the water.

Peter jumped out of the boat and took steps out onto the sea….and then sank when he saw the wind and felt afraid.

But as soon as Jesus lifted Peter up and they slipped into the boat, the wind ceased.  The storm calmed.  The sea rested.

Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33).

Then…they worshiped.

Max Lucado writes:

They had never, as a group, done that before.  Never…….You won’t find them worshiping when he heals the leper.  Forgives the adulteress.  Preaches to the masses.  They were willing to follow.  Willing to leave family  Willing to cast out demons.  Willing to be in the army.  But only after the incident on the sea did they worship him.  Why?  Simple.  This time they were the ones who were saved.”  (In the Eye of the Storm)

FAITH HAS TO BE PERSONAL AND INTIMATE.

Sometimes, I confess it, I slip into the humdrum and the mundane and the complacency of religion.

But then God rescues me from the storm.  He comes close and draws near.  He whispers my name.

This is for you.

Not just everyone else.  Not just other moms, other wives, other women.

Not just for the whole world.  Not just for the crowd.

This, dear one, is for you.

And the worship that I’d been offering by rote and by habit transforms into heartfelt praise and all-out abandon.

Because, after all, I am the one who is saved.

Originally published February 25, 2015

May we learn to linger

I’m tempted to rush.

On a rare day when I have this time, the temptation is there to fill it right up with more activity, more going and more doing.

Most days, I don’t have this luxury, of course.  It’s the mad morning scramble of toothbrushes, hair brushes, ribbons, bows, socks, shoes, lunches and backpacks to send children out to the bus stop.

Then, zoom into the day with the preschooler and the errands or meetings or Bible studies or appointments or whatever busyness has etched itself onto the schedule.

But this day.  This one day.

After I watch my girls step onto that school bus, I return to my home and breathe in and out this uncertain freedom.  I don’t have to run out the door.  I don’t have to meet an external agenda or deadline right away.

So what to do?

Rush through my home, stuffing laundry into the washing machine and another load in the dryer?  Frantically move cereal bowls from sink to dishwasher and then grab the broom (maybe the mop if I’m inspired).  Respond to messages.  Catch up on the to-do list.  Fill out the forms.

So it goes, me filling up this one little space of time with too much, cramming in activity and sitting on the lid in hopes it will fit.

My tea, poured hot this morning turns cold.

My morning devotions, rushed through just to be done, leave me unfilled, uninspired, unopened to what God wants to say.

Too busy…too busy…just always too busy.

But today I consider Joshua.

Moses met with God face-to-face in a tent.  A pillar of cloud covered the entrance while the Israelites looked on from the flaps of their own tent dwellings, bowing in worship in the doorways.

When Moses finished talking with God, he returned to the camp to share the message with others.

Not Joshua, though.

“his assistant, the young man Joshua son of Nun, would not leave the inside of the tent” (Exodus 33:11 HCSB).

He wouldn’t budge from the glory and the presence, lingering there stubbornly while others moved along.

What if we chose to linger?

Chose to be Joshua refusing to leave the tent as long as God’s glory electrified the air….chose for this one day to be Mary at the feet of Jesus rather than Martha slamming pots in the kitchen?

Because serving perpetually means serving empty and that means dying of spiritual starvation and dehydration.

We need the Mary moments so we can re-enter the kitchen as Martha and care for others cheerfully and ably until we have that opportunity once again to lay down the dish towel and sit at Jesus’ feet.

It’s not practical, of course.

That crowd of more than 5000 who sat on the hillside listening to Jesus hour upon hour should have been watching the clock.  They should have known what time it was and how long they had to travel back for food.  They should have abandoned the sermon and packed up their blankets and lawn chairs at a reasonable time so they could eat dinner at a reasonable hour.

But Jesus rewarded their time in His presence.

Had they left early, they would have missed the miracle.

In order to witness God’s glory, they had to wait, they had to sit patiently and linger there until they received.

In Living Beyond Yourself , Beth Moore writes:

“He placed them in a posture to rest in His provision.  He commanded them to “sit down” and fed only those who were “seated” (vv. 10-11) . . .”Are you ‘sitting down’ in a posture of trust and sitting quietly to receive it?  If so, prepare the baskets!”

For me, it’s just this one day to breathe before a new wave of stress and busyness crashes down again.livingbeyond

For you, it may be a morning, a day….even a season of sitting and waiting on that hillside so you can see His glory, or a season at Jesus’ feet instead of in the kitchen, or a season of lingering in the tent.

Whatever the length of the wait and the stillness, it’s a discipline to rest rather than rush.

When we remain there, though, insistent on lingering where His presence is, we see His glory displayed and He fills us up with the sustenance of His presence and His Word.

Originally published 11/2014

My Lord and My God

“Where’s my girl?”

These are the first words my son speaks when he pads out of his bedroom after nap time.

His hair is a mess of bed-head and he’s rubbing his eyes with the blanket still in his fist, but he has one thought on his mind.  “My girl.”

“Your girl?” I ask.

“Where’s my girl?  Where’s Catherine?”

This is the nickname he has given his bigger sister these last few weeks: “My girl.”

“Can I go see my girl at the school?”

“Can I sit next to my girl in the van?”

“I want to paint a picture for my girl.”

He even went so far as to proclaim that Catherine is “My best girl ever in the world.”

Catherine, of course, loves all the affection.

I think it’s pretty cute myself, although I must say most other moms  of boys told me he would have his first crush on me and not his sister.

 

This week, though, as he stakes his little personal claim on his sister by calling her “my girl,” I keep feeling a nudge in my own heart.

What would it  look like for me to stake some claims of my own by getting possessive about my faith, my position in Christ and my relationship with Him?

I don’t mean claiming some exclusivity with Jesus that others can’t enjoy.   That’s not it.

I mean letting my faith seep down into the nittiest grittiest details of my every interaction and my every response and my every thought and feeling because it’s so deeply personal to me, it’s the very essence and core of who I am.

It reminds me of the disciple Thomas who stood in a room with the other apostles and announced he’d believe that Jesus raised from the dead when he saw it with his own two eyes.

And then he did see Jesus.  Not only that, Jesus invited him to touch the scars in his palms and feel the scar along his side.

Jesus said:

“Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28  ESV).

I love Thomas’s answer.

MY Lord and MY God.

In the Matthew Henry Commentary, it says,

He spoke with affection, as one that took hold of Christ with all his might; My Lord and my God.

And Matthew Poole’s Commentary says:

My Lord, to whom I wholly yield and give up my self; and my God, in whom I believe. It is observed, that this is the first time that in the Gospel the name of God is given to Christ.

This apostle we call “Doubting Thomas” was the very first one in the gospels to give Jesus the name of God.  This was a declaration of deity.  This was worship.

It was also Thomas’s personal statement of affection and personal confession of belief.

I want to be that personal.

I want to be that bold.

I want to “take hold of Christ with all my might.”

He isn’t just Lord and God, a deity over all, a divine overseer who loves all of humanity in one encompassing feeling of committed affection.

He is MY Lord and MY God.

He is this for you, also.

And that should change some things.

This week I’ve been swatting away worries like pesky flies.

I’ve been duking it out with that kind of tension that just eases down on your shoulders and won’t go away, the kind that wakes you up at 3 a.m. and doesn’t let you slip  back to sleep.

But Jesus is MY Lord and MY God.

I know He is able.  He is Mighty.  He can do the impossible.  He can overcome anything I face.

There is nothing that happens to me that surprises Him and nothing that interrupts or destroys His plans for me.

And He loves me.  It’s personal.  He has set His affection on me and He cares about what happens to me.  He doesn’t forget about my need or turn His back on me and let me down.

MY Lord and MY God is trustworthy and capable, compassionate and powerful, full of loyal love for me.

So slip your hand into His hand.  Save Him a seat next to you in the minivan.  Make Him the first person you seek when you wake up from naptime (if  you are blessed enough to have a naptime!).

Pour your affection on Jesus and put all your faith in Him.  Make it personal, deep-down real.  And let that wildly abandoned faith change everything.

We need lifting up

Today I received a mini-lecture from a random stranger in well-worn jeans and a baseball cap.

As I left the library with my three-year-old,my son danced over to the button for the automatic door and pressed it with a little bounce in his step and wiggle of his head.

He loves pressing these buttons.

When he was old enough to reach out of the stroller, he insisted on being the one to control the doors.

When he was two-years-old and leaving the library was always a fight, these buttons were a blessing.  He wanted to skip going home for lunch and naptime and just stay and play forever.  The massive terrible two’s tantrum hovered over us like a threatening storm cloud every single time we went to the library in those days.

So, I started giving him something to look forward to.  I’d say, “It’s time to go.  Would you like to be the one to press the button?”

Sometimes it failed.  He still had to be carried on out of there in a full-blown fit.

But on a lot of days, it worked.  He’d head out of the children’s section on a mission to be the one to open the doors on our way out.

Today was a good day at the library. We saw a friend.  My son played without fighting and even did some sharing, which is a new and still-developing skill.

When it was time to go, we grabbed our stuff and headed for the front without cajoling, threatening, or screaming.

So, when he pressed the button and did a little dance as the doors opened, I smiled.

Yes, this was a successful library day.  Thank goodness!

Then the stranger complained.

At first, I couldn’t tell he was picking at my son.  He said, “One day, those buttons might break.”

This was unexpected.  Mostly when people see my son so excited about pressing the buttons, they laugh or smile and it makes all of our days a little brighter.

Then this stranger said the mean words:  “Those buttons are for the handicapped.  Not for him.”

That’s when I realized he was complaining that my three-year-old likes to push these buttons—like probably every other three-year-old on the planet.

My son didn’t bang the button, hit the button, slam the button or in any way misuse the button.  He just pressed it.

He didn’t take up a handicap parking space without a handicap sticker or use a handicap bathroom when it wasn’t necessary and prevent others from using it as a result.

And I don’t ever use those automatic buttons myself since I can open the doors without difficulty.

But my son used this button to open a door that he can’t open any other way because it’s far too big and heavy for him.

And in the very moment he had joy,  we were criticized.

Sometimes this is exactly how it goes.

Just when you are having a good day, someone tries to bring you down.

Your child doesn’t have a tantrum, he uses the potty, and he doesn’t fight with the other kids, and you think, “Hurray!  Maybe I’m not failing completely as a mom.”  That’s when someone tells you how badly you’re doing.

Yesterday, I read something by Charles Spurgeon  that pinged again in my soul while standing a little tongue-tied in the library lobby:

“God’s people need lifting up. We are heavy by nature.  We have no wings…” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, April 15).

I don’t really need a stranger to tell me I don’t measure up, made a bad choice, or in any way am failing at motherhood.

I am heavy by nature.

Most of us as moms, as women, and as human beings are pretty adept at self-criticizing.

All day long, we’re generally just trying to do the best we can while others pile on their own opinions about how we’re falling short.

We need lifting up, above the tough circumstances, above the sin that weighs us down, above the criticism that tramples all over our joy.

And Jesus does this for us.

He is the lifter of our heads (Psalm 3:3).

David said,

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (Psalm 25:1).

And Psalm 146 tells us:

The Lord raises up those who are bowed down (Psalm 146:8 ESV).

In Psalm 28, it says God lifts us into His arms just as a shepherd cradles his sheep:

Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever  (Psalm 28:9 ESV).

I don’t  know what might weigh you down at the moment or what might be dragging your soul into a pit of discouragement.

Whatever it is, we can lift it up to Jesus.

Lift your soul right up to Him.

He will carry you.

What caterpillars remember and I sometimes forget

There’s always a rebel.

This cup of caterpillars arrives in the mailbox and I set it up high so we can watch them grow.

And do they ever grow.

Within a few days, they start scaling the walls of the plastic cup and demonstrate their acrobatics by clinging to the lid and hanging upside down.  First one caterpillar, then another.

Every year, this one lone caterpillar delays.  All four of his roommates hang over his head and tuck themselves right up into a chrysalis.

The rebel caterpillar enjoys the food down below, munching at leisure, no more competition for the bug buffet.

Sometimes we wonder if he’ll ever climb on up there already!!

But inevitably he does.  One morning, he pads his way up to the top and drops himself upside down just like the others.  He wraps himself in the brown chrysalis and waits for the change.

Now all five of them hang in their mesh butterfly house, waiting to emerge.  Mostly they rest there, perfectly and completely still.

They look dead.

Totally, completely devoid of all life.

But we move their home just slightly and we see one caterpillar wiggle and squirm inside the chrysalis.

A sign of life now and a sign of life to come.

Could it be these insects know more about hope than we do? 

That even in a season of waiting, a time of rest, a moment of seeming-death, still they cling.  They submit to the dormancy for the beauty that is to come.

Maybe they know there is something more.  That hope and future God promises us, that’s why they climb on up, that’s why they hang themselves right upside down.

Because of what is to come.

And in the middle of the death seasons, the long waits and the God-mandated resting, sometimes we forget this.  We can abandon all hope of future, of promise, of new life and the return of joy.

It’s Holy Week.  Last Sunday, we waved those Palms and we sang, “Hosanna!”  Today, I prepare my heart for Good Friday to come, for Communion and remembrance and meditation on the cross.

I read this morning:

Jesus “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” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).

Jesus knelt in that Garden and He prayed, “not my will, but Yours be done” despite the pain, and the humiliation, the torture, and the death because of the joy to come.

He submitted because of resurrection hope.

And we have this.  That empty tomb is our hope, too.  Our God, who defeated death and the grave, has a plan and a purpose, a hope, a future.  We are never alone.  We are fully loved and redeemed, forgiven and set free.

All that is dead can become life in His hands.  All that is broken can be beautiful.  All that is lost can be found.

He can make all things new.

Even the impossible becomes possible with Him.

That is resurrection joy.

Those caterpillars don’t abandon hope of life.  They don’t linger in that tomb of a chrysalis.  In due season, they push right on out and stretch and dry those wings so they can fly to freedom.

Jesus didn’t die on that cross hopelessly uncertain of the future.  He had his sights set on Sunday morning and the “joy set before Him.”  That’s why He endured that cross.

But we sometimes lose hope.

 

Just like the demon-possessed man who “for a long time …had not lived in a house but among the tombs” (Luke 8:27 ESV). 

He lived life in the tombs.  Maybe the sorrow felt more comfortable than the joy?  Maybe death felt less painful than life?

He preferred the grave.

And then there’s us

In seasons of waiting, maybe of sorrow, perhaps even of death, do we abandon ourselves to the bitterness and make ourselves cozy among the tombs?

Or do we cling to Christ because of resurrection hope? Do we hold on for dear life to the Savior who defeated death?

Do we hide away in the shadows and settle into the despair or do we run like crazy into His arms when He calls us out of darkness and into light?

So I remember what the caterpillars have known all along: even what seems like death is truly just waiting on new life.

Hold on tight, dear one.  He brings new life.  He brings beauty.  He brings you wings so you can soar.

Originally published April 14, 2014

Hang on to the Vine (and do not let go!)

It was an epic battle.

I still even bear the scars all the way down both of my arms and it’s been a week since the fighting ceased.

Vines!

Vines, I tell you!

My husband and I have been cleaning out the overgrown hedges beside our home and tangled in these branches beyond our wildest expectation were these pesky, stubborn, unbelievable vines.

Some of them were spindly and fairly easy to yank out.  Others had grown into monstrous, tree-trunk-sized plants that had to be sawed out of there.

We had to untwist each of the branches where they wound around the bushes.  Then we had to yank out the roots wherever they had clamped down into the earth.  They splayed off into every direction and created one gigantic tangled mess.

I started calling them demon vines.  They certainly felt possessed with evil.

But they have given me an entirely different perspective on Jesus’s teachings to abide in Him like branches attached to a vine.

He said:

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5 ESV).

Whenever I’ve heard people talk about “abiding in Christ,” it sounded so easy.

Worrying?

Just abide in Him.

Stressed out?

Just rest and abide in Him.

Struggling through a tough season?

Keep abiding and it’ll be fine.

It sounds like a fairly passive spiritual state.  Just hold on to Jesus and you’ll be just fine.

And I try to “abide,” I do.

But life has a way of stepping all  over peace and trampling over our joy.

There are these annoying stresses.  These unexpected pits that trip us up.  There are conflicts that derail our focus on Jesus and His love for us.

What if I re-consider what it takes to “abide?”

It’s not some relaxed, ideal state of non-worry and general passivity.

It’s active and full of effort.

After all, the branches on these vines in my yard are tenacious and unyielding.  They can endure fierce opposition without budging.

In order for me to get rid of these things, I’m having to hack at them with a machete and I’m digging down into the dirt and pulling them out by their roots.

So if I’m going to be like the branches on the Vine, I need to cling to Jesus for dear life, refusing to let go, making every effort to stick as closely to Him as possible.

I’ll put down shoots into the dirt to keep a solid foundation, so I can be fruitful and filled with life.

This is what Jesus said abiding looked like:

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love (John 15:10 NASB).

The abiding life means obeying what God says, following Him wholeheartedly and recognizing that He is my Strength and my Source.

Oh, how my heart so easily slips into  anxious fretting.

Oh, how easily I get caught up into wanting to defend myself or in efforts to do things my own way, to fix problems in my own strength, to provide, to make the good happen and fend off the bad.

So as soon as I start making plans for my own salvation, I need to stop and hang onto the Vine.

I can’t do this–all of this and any of this–apart from Him.

As soon as I find myself  turning circles of worry, I need to get hold of the Vine!  Meditate on Scripture.  Turn up the praise music.  Anything to keep from getting my focus yanked off Jesus.

This is what keeps me alive.

This is when He gives me abundant life and fruitfulness.

Abide.

7 Prayers for your Home and Family

Hello friends!  I’m hanging up  a little sign here on the blog for the next week:

I’m hoping to catch some rest and fun with my kids while we have a little break from school and some of our normal activities.  While I’m away, I’m sharing this prayer post from last year.

I’ll also be posting the Scriptures and prayers below as daily reminders to pray over on my Facebook author page all next week.  You can join me there and pray with me each day!


It’s usually when I watch my children sleep.

Or when my tired infant son finally relaxes his on-the-go muscles and snuggles into me as I sway next to his crib.

That’s when I pray it.  Like a whispered prayer, one you can’t find all the words for, not when your heart is so full (or you are so sleep-deprived).  But it’s passionate and desperate:

Help me do this, Lord!  Help me be the wife and mom You want me to be and that they need me to be.

I need some ways to cover our home and family in prayer so that I can commit this all to Him and seek His help every day.

So, here they are:  Seven Prayers for Your Home and Family.  These are the verses I pray and the requests I make.  What about you?  Please comment with your own verses and prayers.

  • SALVATION

    • Prayer:

      God, help us to keep this as our focus and never lose sight of the most important gift and responsibility you have given us—the salvation of our family.  It’s easy to get caught up in worldly standards of success and measures of our worth, especially as parents.  But honor rolls, scholarships, awards, and accolades don’t mean anything compared to salvation in Jesus Christ.  Our greatest joy would be to see our children ‘walking in the truth.’ We pray that every member of our family will choose a personal, real, abiding, and powerful relationship with our Savior and that we will ask Him to reign over our lives both as a family and as individuals.

    • Scripture verses:

 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord(Joshua 24:15 NIV).

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV)

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 1:4)

  • PEACE

    • Prayer:

      Lord, may our homes be havens of peace. The world around us can be stressful and high-pressured.  We may be surrounded by conflict, battles, and oppression outside this home, but we pray that inside these walls, You will bring peace.  Help us to rest in You.  Help us communicate with grace, offer love and support, and speak in love.  Even in the stressful rush of the mornings as we head out the door to school, work, church and other activities, may we breathe deeply and choose peace, gentleness, and kindness with one another.

    • Scripture Verses:

      Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27 NIV).

       “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV).

  • A GODLY LEGACY

    • Prayer:

      No matter what our faith background up to this point, we pray for a heritage of faith, godliness, righteousness, salvation, and a passion for Your Word and for the Gospel.  Help us to take the time to teach our children truth.  We don’t want to ever be so busy that we neglect to teach our children about You.  Give us the right words to say and guide our discussions with our children.  May our children choose to marry strong Christians and raise their own children in Your Word.  Where we have gone astray, we pray for grace and new opportunities.  For our adult children and our grandchildren, we ask that You will turn their hearts and minds to You even now.

    • Scripture Verses:

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it  (Proverbs 22:6 ESV).

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise (Deuteronomy 6:6-7 ESV)

  • UNITY AND LOVE

    • Prayer:

      Father, help us to remember that we are not just individuals out to achieve our own agendas.  You have joined us together as a family; unite our hearts in love.  Remind us that we are stronger together.  Show us how to love each other sacrificially, graciously, and generously every day.  May we serve each other, performing even the smallest acts of kindness for one another without complaint or score-keeping.  We ask that our love for one another reflect Christ’s sacrificial and unconditional love so that others will look at our home and our family, and see You.  Let our love for one another draw others to know your love for them.

    • Scripture Verses

      Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God (1 John 4:7 ESV). By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35 ESV).

      Two are better than one,
          because they have a good return for their labor:
      10 If either of them falls down,
          one can help the other up.
      But pity anyone who falls
          and has no one to help them up.
      11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
          But how can one keep warm alone?
      12 Though one may be overpowered,
          two can defend themselves.
      A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV).

  • STEWARDSHIP

    • Prayer:

      Father, You know our needs.  We lay them at Your feet and ask for Your provision.  We trust in You as our Provider.  Lord, we ask for blessing, not so that we can stash it away, or indulge our own material desires.  We don’t need the biggest house or the flashiest car or the most expensive clothes.  We ask for blessing so that we may bless others.  May we be good stewards of what You have given so that we can give it away to support missions and to care for others in need.  Please open our eyes to the needs of others around us and help us to give quickly and give generously.

    • Scripture Verses:

      And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19 ESV)

      The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor (Proverbs 22:9 NIV).

  • PURITY

    • Prayer:

      God, it is so easy to fall into the pitfalls and traps of sin and temptation.  We are surrounded by what is wrong.  Help us choose what is right.  Give us strength to be vigilant about protecting the influences inside of our home, and when possible, outside of it, as well.  Holy Spirit, prompt our hearts when we need to walk away, when we need to stop listening, stop reading, stop watching…..and help us fill our minds and hearts only with what is good, true, righteous, and pure.  May we be set apart for You, living in this world, but not of it.

    • Scripture Verses:

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8 ESV).

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:1-6 ESV).

  • LAUGHTER AND JOY

    • Prayer:

      Lord, we know that there will be hard times, but we pray that You will continually stir our hearts to joy.  Let our home be a place of laughter.  Open our eyes to see reasons to rejoice, stories to share, jokes to tell, and smiles to give one another.  Make our home a place of rejoicing.

    • Scripture Verses:


      A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22 ESV)

      Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them” (Psalm 125:2 ESV).

      Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart! (Psalm 32:11 ESV)

      IF YOU WOULD LIKE A PRINTOUT OF THESE PRAYERS TO PLACE IN YOUR BIBLE OR JOURNAL OR MAYBE ON YOUR FRIDGE OR BATHROOM MIRROR, YOU CAN CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE PRINTABLE!

      YOU CAN ALSO CHECK OUT 12 VERSES TO PRAY FOR YOUR HUSBAND AND 14 DAYS OF PRAYER FOR YOUR MARRIAGE WITH 1 CORINTHIANS 13 FOR OTHER WAYS TO BE IN PRAYER FOR YOUR FAMILY.

      Originally published february 17, 2016

Please join me over at (in)courage today!

 

Will you join me?

Today I’m posting in an amazing community for women called ‘(in)courage’  to remind us of this:

Beauty is what Christ brings us, right into the middle of our hardest days and saddest seasons.

And even though Christ’s work in our situations is not always resurrection in the present, it is always transformation: beauty for ashes, gladness for mourning, praise for despair.

I’m thrilled and honored to be sharing this message with the (in)courage community and I hope you’ll take a few minutes to click this link and join me over there today.  It would be a true joy to ‘see some familiar faces!’

You can click here to read the whole post over on the (in)courage page.  I’d be truly blessed if you’d leave me a comment on their site!  I’ll be popping in throughout the day to reply.

If you love the (in)courage site as much as I do, you can also sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

While I’d love for you to visit me over at (in)courage today, I ask for your prayers above all. May God be glorified and His people be encouraged by this message of hope in His faithfulness!

In My Alarm I Cried for Help

My daughter announced that she hates ‘drills.’

All kinds of drills, she says.

Fire drills, tornado drills, lock-down drills, bus evacuation drills.

 

My oldest daughter chimes in about ‘lock-down drills,’ and how her teacher last year was so funny but the one thing she is super serious about is anyone who dares to giggle, laugh or even squeak out a hint of noise during a lock-down drill.

“She’ll send you to the principal,” my daughter lowers her voice for added drama.

These older girls of mine try to reassure the youngest sister that drills are essential and meant to help and not really a big deal.

But the baby girl is testing out fear here.  I can see it on her face and I hear it in the way she keeps bringing these drills up.  When she gets home from school.  Over dinner.  In the minivan.  As she climbs into my lap for bedtime prayers.

“The drills…the drills….the drills…”

She’s been talking about these drills all week.

Clearly, they are on her mind.  And we older and wiser ones keep jumping in with confidence that everything is fine so she needn’t be afraid, but she’s just not convinced.

The fear is kind of leaking out of her heart and into our conversations.

Oh, I don’t blame the drills, of course.   I let her tell me about them all over again and then I look right into her two blue eyes and I even brush away her wild bangs so she can’t miss this reassurance:

Those drills are there to keep you safe.  So that if anything ever happens, you’re not too scared to do the right thing.  We drill now so we don’t have to be afraid later.

She nods knowingly, but I’m her mom and I know we’ll probably have this conversation again in a month when the alarm goes off at school and all the kids file outside for yet another fire drill. So we pray about it, every time it comes up, I pray peace for her.

It’d be nice, it’d be great, it’d be heaven really if we didn’t need drills, if we didn’t have to practice for fire or intruders or tornadoes or a world of harm and hurt.

But we live here, on a broken earth with sin and natural disasters and trouble.

And how we react in the crisis makes a difference.

I know this because haven’t I been alarmed and sent into a dizzying whirlpool of fear at the slightest provocation?

A phone call.

An email.

A Facebook post, for goodness’ sake.

Maybe you, too?  The doctor’s report, the bill in the mail, the late night call, the hurtful remark, the broken car (again), the sobbing friend?

Trouble storms into our lives and how we react in the crisis matters.

We’re tempted to freak out and run around like a wild woman with her hands flailing hysterically in the air.

We’re in crisis mode.  Making phone calls.  Feeling hopeless.  Crying desperately.  Feeling helpless.  Rallying the troops and sending out an SOS signal and doing anything possible to keep from drowning.

I’ll be honest, sometimes it doesn’t even take a crisis, it just takes one tiny bump into my plans for the day for me to settle into a funk of frantic activity and aggravated grumpiness.

The Psalmist said it just right:

In my alarm I said,
    “I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
    when I called to you for help (Psalm 31:22 NIV).

In our alarm, when the bad news comes and we haven’t had time for faith to kick in, we snap to the judgment that God has abandoned us.

He can’t see us.

We’re cut off from Him, alone, dependent on our own strength to get us out of this mess.

Our natural reaction to an alarm is haste and hysteria, foolishness and fear.

It’s unnatural to choose peace under pressure.

but THE HOLY SPIRIT OFFERS US JUST SUCH UNNATURAL, SUPERNATURAL PEACE.

When everything settled and the crisis passed, the Psalmist recognized the truth: “Yet you heard my cry….”

In the haste of the moment, he had rushed into fear.  But then he saw what was true, God had indeed heard His cry for help.

What about us?

Over time, after alarm and alarm and alarm have passed and the dust settles and we see Jesus right there with us, surely we’d know by now what to do in case of crisis:

Cry to God for help.

Trust Him to hear your call.

Rest in the assurance of His presence.

CHOOSE PEACE.

Not flaky peace, vague peace, warm-and-fuzzy-feeling peace, or the peace of blindness to our circumstances.

The peace that is the confident assurance of Christ’s presence right where we are.

Originally published 9/30/2015

Seeing the world from God’s shoulders

After having three girls, when I found out I was having a son, other moms chimed in with tons of wisdom.

They told me to be quick with the diaper changes or I’m bound to get peed on.  (I did.  At least twice.)

They told me to prepare for climbing, running, growling, and dirt (lots of it).

They told me no one would love me like a son, not ever.   “It’s different than with a girl,” they said.

One mom told me how her son would cradle her face in his tiny palms and say, “You’re bootiful, Mommy.”

And another mom told me her son announced he was going to marry Mommy when he grew up.   When she explained that Daddy had already married her, the little boy scowled and said “Dad is lucky.”

Mom after mom told me that no one treasured her as unconditionally or completely as her son had when he was little.

And then.

Then older moms started warning me.  They still occasionally offer forebodings of doom.

“When you have a daughter, you have a friend for life,” they say, “but a son ditches you as soon as he finds a wife.”

I get it.  “Leave and cleave.” I don’t want my son to be a stunted mama’s boy.  I don’t want to break up his marriage by pitting myself against his wife or refusing to let go.

But I wouldn’t mind if he chooses a wife I could get along with or if he calls me once in a while.  I wouldn’t mind a visit here and there and I’d hate it if he only hung out with ‘her’ family instead of sitting around our holiday table sometimes, too.

I’ve been enjoying this season with my son, loving and loving it.

I love train shirts and train toys and train books and conversations about trains.

I love airplanes and bulldozers and how we have to point out the fire trucks every time we walk past the fire station on Main Street.

I love making faces at him in the mirror and growling out funny voices.

I love toting along a few trucks everywhere we go.

I love superheroes.

This is my great joy.

But when other moms tell me to enjoy it now because I might as well kiss my son goodbye in a few years, I get more than a little sentimental and emotional.

 

Fearful even.

And then I read Jacob’s blessing for his son, Benjamin:

‘Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.”  Deut. 33:12 NIV

I don’t know what may have your heart turning somersaults of fear instead of clinging to hope this week, but worries over my kids’ future surely does that to me.

But this verse offers me security and peace.

This isn’t the season for me of farewells or parenting adult children and worrying over their not-so-adult decisions at times.

This is my season of early morning snuggles on the sofa before everyone else awakes and making pancakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse.

It’s my season of listening to all of their news about their day at school, laughing at funny lunch escapades and wiping away tears when another girl gets mean.

It’s my season of bedtime hugs and bedtime stories.

And it’s my season of lifting children up….up into my arms, snuggled into my chest….up onto my shoulders, high so they can see, high so they can be carried and so they can rest.

That’s what God does for His beloved.

He lifts us right up out of the mess and the weariness and sets us between His shoulders and tells us to ‘rest.’

Don’t strive.  Don’t fight.  Don’t wear yourself out trying to keep moving forward on your own.

Let Him carry you.

High up there on the shoulders of our God, our perspective shifts.

STOP FRETTING ABOUT THE FUTURE.

LIFE DOESN’T DEPEND ON US TO FIX IT AND MAKE IT HAPPEN; OUR FUTURE DEPENDS ONLY ON HIM AND HE IS SO DEPENDABLE.

When we’re on God’s shoulders, we are safe from danger.

We can cease striving.

We see the big picture.  All that trouble we were in below looks so small when He is lifting us up high.

So I choose to rest here with the Lord, enjoying safety, enjoying this season, enjoying His presence, enjoying being His beloved–handing over fear and holding on to hope.

Originally published October 28, 2015