Being Thankful = Remembering

A few months ago, Jeremiah and I drove to Half Price books to purchase a very special book for our family. He’d been talking about getting a “Blessing Book” for a long time. So for $4.99, he picked out a brown and orange vintage floral journal.

We decided that we needed to start recording God’s faithfulness and his answers to our prayers over the years and that the Blessing Book would be the official landing place to write out those things simply because…

It’s easy to forget God’s work in the every day details of our lives.

Since then, we’ve recorded a lot of answers to prayers and twice now, we’ve gone through it so we can Remember.

Remembering God’s faithfulness and provision in the past has given me an overwhelming joy, thankfulness, and gratitude. It gives me great hope to face the uncertainties in the future.

There are all kinds of ways to reflect and remember. I stumbled upon Megan’s blog the other day and she’s created a Thankfulness Banner. I absolutely love this idea- especially as it really helps your kids tangibly see God’s goodness in their life.

One Thanksgiving when I was home from college, I printed out each of my family members’ names in big, bold writing on separate pieces of paper. All of us wrote a brief note saying how thankful we were for that person. It was a bonding time for our family and provided a ton of affirmation.

Well, I can’t wait when John can understand what our Blessing Book is all about so that he can share in what God has done and is doing in our family.

How do you remember God’s faithfulness and blessings during this time of year?

Dear John- 10/27/2009

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Your first haircut on your 1st birthday

Dear John,

On Friday you turned one! The sun was shining and the fall air was crisp just like on the Thursday morning you were born.

Your first breath of life changed your Daddy and I forever.  Your eyes were wide awake when you arrived and you even grabbed Daddy’s finger while the nurses were getting you ready for me to nurse you for the first time.

I couldn’t stop staring at you and giving you gentle kisses as you were tightly swaddled in your blanket.

You grew so fast during those first few weeks and months. Eventually you started to smile, laugh, and coo. Then you graduated from baby food and crawling to real food and walking, even before your one year old birthday. You are truly amazing.

I have taken you all kinds of places around Dallas and we’ve met all kinds of people. And one thing remains the same: People don’t leave unchanged when you’re around. I’ve seen smiles remain on their faces after we’ve walked away. We’ve actually stayed at the grocery store longer because of the old ladies who can’t stop getting enough of you.

God has given you quite the personality and you pick up on how to do things so fast! Lately, you like getting into Daddy and Mommy’s books, phones, and gadgets more than your brand new toys. You are saying “mama” the majority of the time then “dada”, “baby” and “oh?” We love your sweet words.

God has given you one year to live and we pray that many more are to come because this world needs you.

You’ll come to learn one day that your Daddy and Mommy aren’t perfect all the time, but we do serve a God who is perfect and will never let you down. We will still do our very best to love you with all that we have… because you are a gift from God and that is a serious thing.

I am proud that you are my son.

I love you,

Mommy

10/27/2009

Everything is God’s

10723_656785265458_55713931_38099891_4013055_nAre you like me, and sometimes forget that you don’t own anything?

I forget sometimes that everything I have is on loan and that God is the one who has given me good health, a beautiful family, genuine friendships, an apartment decked out with stuff, a car, his Word, the privilege of living in America, and the ability to use my gifts and talents every day.

It’s easy to be self-focused and think that I have what I own because of my own hands and abilities.

But God says that all I have is from his hand. James 1:17 says that Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Yesterday, I played with my son on the floor for an hour. I watched him carefully place his toys and various objects in the trash can. He would then look at me. One by one, he played this game by himself. He was serious and focused. I laughed over and over because it was so cute. I loved watching his expressions and movements as he learned a little bit more about life.

And it occurred to me once again, that his little life is a gift that I must continually give back to God…

If God is Sovereign, Why Pray?

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Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights.

Every night we put our son John down for bed, Jeremiah and I pray that he will come to know the Lord at an early age. We think about the responsibility that’s on our shoulders to raise him in a loving home, display a loving marriage, teach him God’s word, live a life that does not say “do as I say, not as I do…” And to do this by leaning on God’s grace and not our human effort.

A truth that we acknowledge is that we can’t force John to love God in the future. That’s a decision he must come to on his own. We also know that God is sovereign over his life. And sometimes it’s easy to say well, “Why pray for his salvation if God already knows?”

As you know, a question like this is a great debate in lots of hearts today. And it often keeps us from approaching God or even giving him the time of day.

I was encouraged to hear Matt Chandler hit on the topic of prayer yesterday. A few points he made out of Scripture have given me great hope today.

We know that God listens to his people and has changed his mind based on a request (Moses in Exodus). We know in Luke that we’re to ask, and it will be given to us. To seek and we will find.

But what we miss out on is the act of praying in faith.

Having the faith that he will do what we ask because we’re seeking him. Having faith to lean on his grace for every moment in our lives. We pray in faith because we’ve been commanded to and prayer is really for us, more than it is for God. It changes us and it’s about participating in what He is doing.

As Jeremiah and I continue to pray for John’s salvation, we’re praying in faith that God will answer our prayers. As imperfect parents, we’re trusting that God will use us as his  tool to help lead John to the cross.

When we believe that God will do something, I think that changes everything and gives us great hope in his future grace.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9).

What are you praying for today, hoping that God will answer? Do you have the faith that He will do it?

Why I’ll never be a member of ashleymadison.com

976672929_4d8cac191cA few weeks ago, my husband was driving down the road and saw a truck advertising AshleyMadison.com. The slogan “Life is Short. Have an Affair” was written across it in big letters. They were  taking a tour through several cities to market what they have to offer. Their site boasts over 4.5 million members.

Noel Biderman, President and CEO of AshleyMadison.com states, “I don’t think a billboard is going to convince you to commit adultery. It just makes you aware of our service. People come to us because we offer them a lack of judgment. Step back and look at marriage and divorce rates. Monogamy is obviously up for debate.”

My heart breaks that monogamy is up for debate. My heart breaks that there is a lie out there that says you’ll be happy if you just… have an affair.

I’m also reminded by the fact that I am by no means immune to an affair. No one is- No matter how wonderful your marriage is. The lie is out there and wants to choke the life and joy out of every marriage.

We all know the alarming divorce stats and have been impacted and devastated by divorce either directly or indirectly. We can’t hide under the sheets and pretend that divorce is “no big deal.”  I’d like to proclaim first of all that marriage is worth fighting for.

It is worth fighting for because God’s will is for marriage alone and not for adultery. In Exodus 24, God established a decree and said, “You shall not commit adultery.” This law was established out of love and protection- not to put binding shackles on our feet or to keep us from fun.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians: “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”

God has designed marriage so that my body doesn’t belong to me but to my husband. Therefore, the “owner” of my body is my husband and God.

There is a dark, subtle lie that is capturing the hearts of 4.5 million people and it might be capturing yours or already has- I don’t know. But God always offers forgiveness and is deeply concerned with the matters of your heart. He is always in the business of restoring what has been lost.

It’s no doubt that life is short… but it is not found in having an affair to satisfy a deeper need.

Have you seen the billboards and TV slots? What do you think?

Marriage: Built to Last #2

marriageI used to think I was perfect- until I got married. Okay so not perfect, but maybe close to perfect.

And it’s hard to believe in December we’ll be celebrating four years of marriage. It’s truly a gift from God and today, I respect and love my husband more than on the day I committed my life to his. He’s my best friend and soul-mate, and I couldn’t live with without him. But I’d be lying if I told you that our marriage isn’t hard work. And that it doesn’t require living intentionally and loving biblically.

Well for a while now, at Bluefish TV, we’ve been working on a small group bible study series called Marriage: Built to Last that I wrote about a few posts ago. We got the kit back from the manufacturer last week and I’m blown away by how well the stories, teaching, and spots have come together.

What I love most about what we’ve produced is the stories from real-life couples. They are transparent to the core and share about real life issues like expectations, communication, conflict, and sex and intimacy. I also say “to the core,” meaning that these couples get down to the dirty, ugly details of their marriage. Some of them expose their pride, anger, pornography, past baggage, affairs, control issues, spending habits, unhappiness and more.

I’ve never really seen such brutal honesty. But it’s so neat to see that through that authenticity, God can really work and it’s evident He has in their marriages. He can replace that pain and brokenness with joy and life and put couples on the path that leads to a marriage built to last.

Head on over to Bluefish TV and watch the trailer to get a sneak peak into the series. Thank you also to my friends Zech and Kim Lumpkin and Chase and Elizabeth Hammon for sharing your stories with couples across the country.

the best kept secret

2785596455_848c54e8beIt’s been cloudy and raining here in Dallas for four days now. By now, I’ve heard plenty of comments about the weather and I too, wish the sun would come out again.

Contentment. I’m learning a lot about its meaning lately. God is doing a lot in our life as a family. We’ll be moving in less than two weeks from our 1200 sq. ft. apartment to a 780 sq. ft. apartment! We are ending our 2 year commitment as a CARES Team serving the residents in our apartment community through meals and events. We’ll be entering a new season of living on campus at Jeremiah’s seminary, Dallas Theological. It’s really going to be a good move for our family and there will be lots of young families to interact with who are all pursuing full-time ministry.

A lot of change is happening really soon and the temptation can be to worry and not be present in the moment. But I really want to be content. To not compare myself to others with what they’re doing or where they’re at, to not wish I had more money or more things, to not wonder how great it would be to be somewhere else, or to not wish John was older or I was younger.

The apostle Paul said,

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (Phil. 4:11-13.)

Paul was no different than us. A lot of people put him on this huge pedestal, but he was simply a normal, imperfect man touched by a divine, perfect God. He allowed God to infuse his life.

So what exactly is Paul’s secret to contentment? He learned it. It didn’t happen in his sleep or in a few short days. God put circumstances in his life to teach him to trust and to depend on God. So whether he was rich or poor, well-fed or hungry, he gave glory to God because his joy and happiness didn’t depend on life’s happenings.

This gives me great hope today- that I can learn to be content too as God works in my heart.

Well on my way to work sitting at a stop sign, a car behind me laid on their horn for 10 whole seconds!  I was waiting for the right time to turn and I guess that wasn’t good enough. Maybe the rain and clouds were getting to that guy too. I couldn’t believe it.

Oh well. He probably needs to learn contentment too.

Fighting Complacency

If you’ve followed my blog for a little while, you know that I’m going through the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The last few chapters I’ve read have dealt with the lukewarm Christian and what God says about Christians who are lukewarm in their faith. I couldn’t believe some of the verses that Francis pointed out. They were convicting to say the least.

They have led me to search my heart deeper and to ask: Do I have lukewarm tendencies? Am I living in mediocrity anywhere or struggling with complacency? Do I sometimes take Jesus’ words half-hearted or even say “I’ll do that another day…”

In my relationship with Christ, just like in any marriage, I have to constantly fight against complacency. It’s so easy after the honeymoon stage, to just settle in and be comfortable. In following Christ, it’s easy to kick back, go on with the day, and lose sight of who He is. And then the relationship turns to legalistic rules and rituals (duty) instead of a wholehearted desire and delight to know and love Christ for who he is.

I don’t think Jeremiah would ever want me to respect and love him out of duty. He would never force me to love him either. So it is with God’s love. He wants me to choose to love him. And to me, this requires battling my laziness and complacent heart that I have at times.

This past weekend, we didn’t stay in our apartment but we went down to my Dad’s (he has a corporate apartment in our complex) and we just enjoyed the setting down there. We watched the Dallas Cowboys, cooked, talked, and had friends over for dinner. It was so relaxing and refreshing. Our relationship felt renewed.

Some things I’ve been doing lately in my relationship with Christ to revitalize it and stir up the passion is listening to podcasts of some really great pastors, praying on my way to work, going through old journal entries, starting a Bible study with some friends, reading blogs, and most of all revisiting God’s word- reading and meditating on it.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t leave us where we’re at. He is so patient and when we truly desire change (and we seek it), he will give it to us in the smallest ways… even if it’s just a different place to spend the night!

Question: What has helped you in times of feeling “stuck”? How are you currently fighting the war of mediocrity?

Remember the Past

1077990_memoriesThis past weekend, Jeremiah broke out some of his old CD’s he had stashed away. He played a CD that impacted him a lot during some really hard times growing up. He got so excited about it and shared with me a story related to that song. The crazy thing was that some of the same songs he loved, I loved too. Yet we were in two different places. I was in North Carolina and he was in Michigan and we knew nothing about each other.

Listening to the words of those songs brought back so many memories for me. It reminded me of where I’ve come from and where I am today. I was encouraged and actually strengthened by the lyrics just like I was several years ago. I was reminded of some of my frustrations, struggles, dreams, and even that longing to find “the one” some day. I think that’s what I always thought about in college at least.

Remembering the past really is critical for today. In marriage, it’s easy to just live life and forget your history together. To just be comfortable. To lose that spark. And sometimes not “feel” in love. But marriage must be based on truth and not on temporary feelings. After listening to Jeremiah’s CDs, I looked at some of our honeymoon photos and journal entries and reflected back to when we were dating. It made me excited and encouraged by all that we’ve gone through together and to see where we are today.

I’m starting to realize even more that in my relationship to Christ, it’s so important to remember the past to be encouraged today. Walking by faith with someone you’ve never seen can get hard. The fire that was once kindled so brightly can quickly burn out. Mediocrity can creep in. And it’s easy to forget God’s work and to quit on getting to know Him in his word. It’s easy to not let others into your world. All of the latter is something that I fear so much that I’m trying to do everything I can to “stay at it” and to persevere in my faith. But I think I make it much harder than it needs to be. I want my faith in Christ to be more of a delight in a person, and not a mere Christian duty.

Continuing to reflect on the past every once in a while in my marriage and relationship to Christ will hopefully carry me all the way through to finish strong… with few regrets.

Authentic Thoughts

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

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