Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Beautiful Mess

I am a do it myself kind of gal. In many parts of my life, I simply decide that God needs a little help and I opt to "give him a hand". Inevitably, that is precisely when life really starts to get messy.

With my limited perspective, things inevitably get tangled, and before long my situation look ugly. Discouraged and overwhelmed, I must then hand it all back to God and ask Him to fix my mess. Sometimes I picture God, shaking His holy head and saying to himself,  " That sweet child of mine. When will she ever learn? She is such a mess maker!"

Thankfully, my mess is nothing compared to the LORD's love for me.

He forgives my sin.

Comforts me in my pain.
Assures me all is well.
For He is not shaken by my mess.
In fact, one day this mess shall become beautiful.
Despite my mess, God sees the best in me. Where others see failure, the LORD sees potential. When He looks upon my mess, He sees His Son. Jesus took my mess to the Cross. And because of Christ's great sacrifice, I can boldly approach the throne and present myself to God. Mess and all.

Even though I will never be worthy, He draws me near with assurance. For "the Lord will work out his plans for my life—for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever." (Psalm 138:8 NIV) Since I am His child, the LORD willingly takes my mess. Then, God uses it for His glory.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A simple question...

“How are you?”

I get this question several times a day.  Some people know we are struggling when they ask it, and some don’t.  And I always reply with the same thing.  It seems to catch some people off guard.

“I can’t complain.  So much to be thankful for.  Life isn’t easy, but it is so good!”

You see…I like to be honest.  But, I also try to be positive.  Things really aren’t easy right now.  We are working through a lot with our son, Owen.  Josh just started a new job that keeps him away from home even more than usual (which is A LOT).  Our daughter, Gracie, is on antibiotics in combination with a medication that makes her health a sticky situation when the two are taken together.  And I am…well…desperate for a slower pace and some time alone. 
Still…I have a shower that sprays out warm, clean water.  Children who are somewhat healthy and not the REALLY scary kind of sick.  A husband who loves me and works hard for us.  I get to stay home with the kids and be present in their lives.  They love me. 
And then there is my savior…Jesus.  That one constant in my life.  The one who LOVES me so much I can feel it in the most inner parts of my soul.  The one who blessed me with everything I have that is good.  The one who sent His son to die so I could have eternity with Him. 
When I think of my life…all I see are things I should be thankful for.  It isn’t easy to actually BE THANKFUL for them though.  When things are all busy and hectic.  And I just don’t know how to keep up.  I know it is all good…but it is just so hard to remember that IN THE MOMENT.  In the day to day…the time to brush the teeth fighting, the missing the potty clean ups, the kids coughing (again), the dirty kitchen floor, and sibling rivalry.  This list could, of course, go on…and on…
So…when they ask how we are…I have to tell them AND remind myself. 


Perhaps I should ask others that question more.  How are you?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


I recently read Jen Hatmaker's book, Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess.  I hesitate to "go live" with the fact I read it because I'm still struggling with what it means for me and for my family.  

If you don't know anything about the book, here is a sentence from the book description on Amazon: 7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.  Somehow my guess is that this isn't a book that makes everyone think, "Oh, I want to read THAT!"  It's a tough (real) topic to say the least, but God brought it to my attention more than once, so I took the plunge and read it....and I'm glad I did.  Jen writes in such a way that you're laughing at the same time you're convicted.

And I definitely read it feeling convicted--and am still trying to figure it all out.  For me (at least as of today), I don't feel like I'm supposed to do the whole 7 month experiment, but I do feel that there are changes which need to be made and some areas that I want to work on.  If you live in America like me, then you are living in a world of wealth and excess.  It is difficult not to be consumed by consumerism.  All around us is stuff, and that stuff threatens to overtake us if we're not careful.

God is clear in the Word that we are not to love money (I Timothy 6:10, Hebrews 13:5), but it's easy for that to get a little gray when it comes to our stuff.  I mean honestly, it's hard (even for those of us who don't like to shop!) not to enjoy new stuff.  It's tempting to want the new shoes, the new bag, the new dress, the new whatever....And sometimes that's okay....And sometimes, in my opinion anyway, it's not.  God does not want us to be consumed with things.  He desires for us--commands us even--to love Him and to love each other.  He doesn't tell us to love the things that we will throw out next season.  He wants us to invest in things that are eternal.

So, how do we do that?  How do we keep from being consumed with all the excess?  How do we keep from loving money (and all the things that money can buy)?  I don't think there's a perfect answer.  But I know we have to give it to God.  We have to seek His Truth and His desire for us.  We have to be willing to lay it at His feet and listen to (and obey!) what He says.  And we have to be aware....We can't hide and pretend it isn't a problem.  Materialism is all around us, and we need to face it head on.  And maybe, if you're brave, you can pick up a copy of Seven for yourself and see if the Lord is calling you to take part in the experimental mutiny, too.

*And if you read it (or already have), I'd love to hear your thoughts on it as well....

Monday, April 16, 2012

All I can do

I have been burdened these last few weeks for a friend of mine and her family who received devastating news.  Their 4 year old daughter has been diagnosed with an aggressive, malignant, inoperable brain tumor.  And to add to that, just recently they found out that the only treatment the doctors have to offer will cause more damage than good.  I don't even know how to respond to news like that.  Since these friends are so far away, the only thing I have to offer them is my prayers.  To me, this doesn't seem like "enough."  But the Bibles tells us "the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:16)  So I know that my prayers are making a difference!
I recently read an entry this friend posted on their blog that really speaks to the power of prayer and I wanted to share that with you.

I am the mother of a daughter with a brain tumor. No one would raise an eyebrow to find me hiding under the covers with a box of Kleenex and a bag of Oreos. And the day may come! Let’s not go counting chickens here. But, it isn’t my present reality. I walk around most of the time with a mindset similar to Pollyanna. I have looked for reasons to explain this seeming contradiction. Truth be told, we have known that something is “wrong” with our daughter for more than a year now. But, I think I may have stumbled upon the answer last night.
Many people have offered and extended practical support during this time. One dear lady delivered us a meal last night. I mean a MEAL! The amount of food will feed us two or three times. Her daughter had included a handmade card that communicated how earnestly the family was holding us in their hearts and prayers. While we stood in the driveway, holding all of this generosity in our arms, the mother continued to ask with a pleading look if there was something more that she could DO. Her eyes were moist with care. She shared about the weight that she carries regarding Natalie. She lies awake at night, praying, burdened with the heart that a mother feels when she brings to mind the suffering of a four year old. And, out of nowhere, I knew exactly what she is doing for me. She is carrying my heavy.
I do not walk around with a heart of despair. The reality is that I have seldom shed tears. (And, let me tell you, I can cry like a baby.) My heart is full of hope, my mind alive with the many ways that healing might come to Natalie. I envision her as a grown woman, vibrant and beautiful. I believe that this is the gift that God has given me for this season. I believe that he has taken my lump of burden and cut it just like a piece of apple pie, distributing it to the masses. A mother. A friend. A father. A cousin. And yes, a stranger. I am overcome.
So, if you have been called to carry this weight with us, allow me to look you straight in the eye and say with all my heart, “We could not do this without you. Thank you.”

So, my friends, even though we may not have situations such as this in our lives, our prayers make a difference - for the little things and the big things!  Don't fret that "all you can do" is pray.  That is the most you can do.  Prayer accomplishes things that we cannot imagine.  Prayer gets us through situations that seem impossible.  Why?  Because we serve a God that is bigger than all these things!  He is bigger than financial situations.  He is bigger than medical problems.  He is bigger than our parenting skills.  He is bigger than our children's stubbornness. 

So I challenge you this week - who needs your prayers?  Will you spend some time carrying someone else's burden to the foot of the cross?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lost and Found

This week in the hometown where I grew up a two year old boy disappeared for over fifteen hours when he wandered off while his grandparents were unloading the car to get ready for a joyous Easter vacation with their grandson. He was lost and alone in the mountains of the Appalachians and no one could find him...

My mother, who still lives in my hometown, was very distraught over this missing little boy. Understandably so. She couldn't sleep after learning of his disappearance. She began to pray, along with many others, for this boy to be found. I want to share her story with you today as an example of God's faithfulness and love for each one of us. Below are her words....

My most recent testimony to the love of God. I woke up early this morning.. about 4:15. I started perusing facebook to keep up with family and Friends. I noticed some friends had posted that a little boy was missing.. 30 months old.. in the woods, since 6:00 last night. Things like this tear me up emotionally, so I started praying. I let my husband Dana and son Luke know, who got up ( dawn, now) and joined the search teams with our neighbors. I got ready for my day but I could not go to work. I prayed. The Lord reminded me of a house I was showing 2 days before in Rolling Oaks development. I was praying.. and was 'think praying..."are YOU telling me he is in Rolling Oaks? He said "He is in Rolling Oaks Development". I called Danielle at 8:59 as I was going down the road heading toward this house. I told her that I was compelled to go into Rolling Oaks by God. I drove in to the small development and slowly started through it. I did not know we were not supposed to call out, and I started hollering "Austin .. Austin" I only saw 2 other men in Rolling Oaks. As I rounded a corner , one of the men started whooping, jumping up and down, pointing and hollering. I called to him... Have you found him... He had an elated smile on his face.. and said YES!! HE is here. Being a person of solid rock composure... I BAWLED like a BABY. I called Danielle immediatly at 9:13... bawling... we found him, we found him. Then I said NOT ME, but I am here.. and he is found. I tried to reach Dana... could not. I called friends and coworkers at 9:15 and told them-- "He is found! I am here now, and he is found!" Reached my husband Dana finally at 9:26.. still bawling. People are showing up from search parties that were further down the road. A woman notices me crying , and asks me if I was Austin's Grandmother. I said " No... I am A GRANDMOTHER-- but I am crying because God told me he was here... and led me here to witness the exact second elated whoops and hollering went up!I got to hear, "There he is!" I had absolutely nothing to do with finding him. I was 20 yards from the man that jumped up and said" He is Here' So..WHY did God tell me where Austin was? In one minute of time God grew my faith in epic proportions! Austin did not need me --God led 2 other men to him. God knew I needed stronger faith in Him. ..
I GOT IT! This FAITH Is a GIFT to me straight from God.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

That One Easter

33 years as a Christian with a Christian family in a Christian home with Christian grandparents and now married to a Christian man with Christian kids that also have Christian grandparents... at this point, I have had my fair share of Easters.

We could usually squeeze in at least three egg hunts each year. Probably 2 to 3 dozen decorated eggs. At least one Good Friday service, and I'm sure there are lots and lots of springtime dresses piled up somewhere that were won after hours, and hours, and hourrrrrrs of shopping for the perfect one. And of course that doesn't even account for all the Easter services, all the times I was an angel coming out of the tomb or something. And let's not even get started trying to add up all the calories that I have consumed over the years at Easter brunch and the subsequent "dessert" of jelly beans and chocolate.

But all in all... out of all of those Easter celebrations... I remember one.

We went camping for the three day weekend when I was in college. It was at this really neat camp ground in Fort Richardson. I drove in from Hardin-Simmons (Get Your Guns Up!) and met my family when they drove in from Melissa. And we had a great time as a family... my brother and my dad went fishing at the little pond there. My mom and I both read our fair share of magazines and chatted until our mouths were dry. We all enjoyed the campfires at night (complete with smores, of course) and the smoky eggs and bacon in the mornings.

Honestly, I didn't even think about us going to church until later in the day on Saturday when one of the rangers dropped by to tell us that there would be a sunrise service on Sunday morning. Well, a sunrise service when you are at home in bed can sometimes be a true sacrifice to get up, get out of bed, get dressed in that cute dress that you spent hours shopping for that no one will notice because they are all still wiping the sleep out of their eyes too. But, when you are camping, well... you can't really sleep in anyway. You're already uncomfortable sleeping on the ground and once that sun starts to come up there is simply no fighting it.

So, we all agreed to go to the sunrise service.

Although I had been a Christian since I was eight, my discipleship in Christ really only began when we moved to Melissa and started going to First Baptist McKinney. I had never really read the Bible before Grant Byrd got a hold of me and set me going in the right direction... and wow, only then did I realize the joy. the direction. the blessing. that could come from the Word of God. But, I was still a little behind in reading through all of it. So, when the leader of the sunrise service said that he wasn't going to speak, he was just going to read through Isaiah 53... I totally remember thinking, "What? He's just gonna read some random chapter from the Old Testament? Jesus isn't even IN the Old Testament... this is so gonna be lame."

And then he read it... and I was changed forever... and I heard the life and death of Jesus prophesied 700 years before it even happened... and I saw Him in a whole new light... and I worshipped Jesus on that Easter morning like never before and never since. As the sun rose up and we sang "Jesus Gave It All" I experienced Easter in a way that they did on that glorious day of resurrection thousands of years ago... I saw Christ in life... Christ in death... and Christ ALIVE.

So, take a moment... even if you have read Isaiah 53 a gazillion times, take a moment and have your Easter right now. Read through Isaiah 53 and know that you are loved. you are redeemed. you are saved.

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him.

He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.

He was beaten so we could be whole.

He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream.

But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people.
He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

But it was the LORD’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the LORD’s good plan will prosper in his hands.
When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied.

And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins.
I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.