Books, Blogs, or Both?

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Over the past few years, I’ve started reading a lot of blogs. I read blogs more than actual magazines or ezines. In the season of life being a wife, mommy of a toddler, and working part-time, I’m having a harder time finishing books. I managed to sneak in Chapter 1 of  Chris Tomlinson’s book, Crave, a few weeks ago and now I’m waiting for the next moment to get to Chapter 2. I absolutely love curling up in a chair with a blanket, opening the clean, crisp pages of a book and allowing my heart to soak up every single word.

I’ve heard it said that you are the same person today as you will be in five years from now, except for the books you read and the people you meet.

I believe that and I’d have to add God’s word in there. Nothing can replace a good book or even more so a book that’s been inspired by God. I have a long list of books that have transformed my thinking and helped make me a better person. My dream is to write a book of my own one day.

What I appreciate about blogs is the ability to access bits of content right away, interact with the writer and other readers, and keep in touch with what some of my favorite writers and leaders are doing. I’ve learned a lot about things I probably would never know because of the ability to access so many blogs.

I don’t think I’d ever say I love blogs more than books, but I definitely appreciate them in my life right now.

What about you- Do you read blogs more than you do books or have a little mix of both? What do you love about them?

Oh me of little faith

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Heart’s racing. Knees weak. Stuttered words. What will they think of me? Will I be rejected? Laughed at?

Sharing my faith with other people isn’t always easy.

I fear and worry still today even when the last time I tried to get things going spiritually, everything went fine. My waiter was receptive. It was an awesome conversation. The last time I had the opportunity at my eye doctor’s office, I didn’t take it. I had a hard time transitioning into spiritual matters. I think most of all, I feared what the admin. assistant would think of me.

I’ve been really thinking though- what is the worse thing that could happen when we share our faith? The worse thing that has happened to me so far is that my husband was fired for sharing his faith on the job three months into our marriage. You can hear more about our story in this 3 minute video.

I remember in high school being called “religious” at times. I’ve had people change a spiritual conversation on me really fast. I’m guessing I’ve been made fun of for my facebook status updates that are about God. And I’m guessing someone may have chosen not to be around me because I love and talk about Jesus. But I can’t pinpoint anything (as of yet) where people cussed me out or just hated me after loving on them and sharing my story of grace.

And even if they did, that’s okay. I’ve been commanded not to be silent. Heaven and hell are at stake. I know, no one talks about hell anymore. But it’s the hard truth. It’s okay if our heart races a little and we feel like we’re going to fall over and die! Because God is the one who cultivates. Convicts. Redeems. Restores. He is the only one with the ability to raise a life up from the dead.

He just chooses to use us in his plan. I’m so thankful he does despite all my crazy, ridiculous fears.

Starting Celebrate Recovery

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My pastor Todd speaks regularly from the stage about how the healthiest people in our church body are those who’ve gone through Celebrate Recovery and have dealt with their “hurts, habits, and hang-ups” in light of Scripture.

I’ve held back from going to CR for a long time because I didn’t struggle with alcohol addiction or drugs or anything like that. I struggled with other “minor” things you know and I didn’t need a silly program to help me out. God and his Word could help me fine.

Well last Monday, after a long three months of my husband and I deciding to commit, we went to our first meeting. The first part of the night included corporate worship, a personal testimony of someone who’s gone through the 12-18 month program, and a separate introduction for newcomers. One guy on stage introduced himself and said, “I’m a believer in Christ who struggles with pornography.”

My eyes grew wide and I looked at Jeremiah, whispering, “That was really awkward.”

The guy went on to share more about the program.

It was rare to see people so open about their struggles publicly in a safe environment, but I knew God had taken them through a process- the process I was there for.

When it was time to go to our open group consisting of about 15 or so women (they split up men and women), we went around in the circle of complete strangers and shared what we think we struggle with. I was nervous, but when some of the women began to share I realized that none of us were alone. I couldn’t believe some of the stories I was hearing. Then it was my turn. I got a little teary eyed and pushed these words out:

“I don’t want to be here. It’s my pride. But I’m a believer in Christ who struggles at times with anxiety, anger, and control.”

To my surprise, after I confessed those struggles I felt like a balloon that had been popped with a needle! There was such relief and I was one step closer to freedom.

Reflecting on my time that night, I realized that my thinking was so evil and carnal regarding the “bigger” sins. Who was I to think that my sins were less damaging? Or that I was “above” CR? The hard truth is that we all struggle with something and sin is sin no matter what. Perhaps the reason we are Christians is because we don’t have it all together. We must depend on God alone.

I admit, I still have pride in my heart that God is working on and I know it’s going to be a humbling process. I didn’t even want to write this post or really let you know that I’m going through the program. I fought hard at telling you the truth.

But I want to be as authentic as I can with you about my faith and where I’m at.

Well, I probably won’t always write official posts about what’s going on in my life through CR but I’m sure you’ll see glimpses of what I’m learning through my writing. And I hope that whatever God decides to teach me that it will encourage you in your struggles.

Tonight is my second week (taking a deep breath). Maybe it won’t feel as awkward?! Hmm. Probably. not. Yet. We’ll see.

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 2

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This is part two of the series, Being On Mission with Your Children. Part one consisted of Being a Mommy on Mission. This final part is about Being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage Mommy’s and Daddy’s (anyone) to read both.

In Being a Mommy on Mission, I addressed how the tiniest moments of slowing down will define the huge moments of how we meet our child’s physical and emotional needs. Slowing down is just one of the many ways that mommy’s can be on mission.

I appreciated Dan Browne’s comment from last week: “We made a decision to live each day with our child to the fullest. Even if that means Mickey Mouse Club House for a few hours because she wants to see the fish or dog or show us the flower on the screen, etc…”

Daddy’s don’t want to miss those moments either, and I’m convinced that Daddy’s role is equally important as Mommy’s, if not more important.

1 Corinthians 11:7 says that a man is the image and glory of God. I just love that. God has designed the man as the leader and head of the home. He has purposefully created men to cultivate and to build (Gen. 2:15), so I think the important issue with being a Daddy on Mission is that you have to fight in the Battle as you build.

God created Daddy’s to cultivate their children through discipline, love, encouragement, rebuke, and making sure there is steady progress in the family. But the reality is that since the fall where sin made its first ugly appearance, Daddy’s have to work hard at cultivating (Gen. 3:17-19). It doesn’t come natural and it doesn’t happen over night.

I sense the fight in our family. When my husband Jeremiah leads the three of us in prayer before bed time every night, searches out the deeper things in my heart, loves me and John well, and is being the spiritual leader he was created to be, there are all kinds of things that want to thwart that mission.

I can be a very difficult wife sometimes and an impatient mommy. John can be fussy, disobedient, and a handful. Jeremiah sometimes gives into his flesh and has a hard time leading. All of that coupled with the flesh, spiritual warfare, baggage, and Satan’s ultimate plan to destroy the family can’t be diminished.

But what I do see is that Jeremiah puts his armor on daily and is ready to fight back. He’s not perfect, but he works hard at loving us even when he doesn’t always get the response he wants. He strives to love me like Christ loved the church by being in the word, confessing sin, staying pure, and being held accountable to other guys. His love has encouraged me to be the person God created me to be. And honestly, I think he “gets” how to love much more than I do.

While he fights to cultivate well, I’m also learning that it’s my role to build him up and not tear him down when he has failed. I realize the implications of that are massive. Choosing to tear down could result in another casualty- a mere tragedy all together.

So why do you have to be in the war? How come it’s just so hard sometimes?

In our experience, we’re learning to expect the battle because we’re fallen. In our marriage and in raising John, we’re starting to appreciate the gospel even more. We treasure God’s constant grace on our failures and sin. We become more dependent on him to make it through each day because some days are just plain hard. We’re thankful he’s in the process of sanctifying us for his glory.

Daddy’s have such a high calling as cultivators of their marriage and their children and to love without conditions. And apart from the Holy Spirit’s transforming power in a man’s life, it’s impossible to be the cultivator God desires. But Daddy’s who are in Christ, have been given everything they need to stand strong and fight the battle against sin.

So build away, and continue to let God be your ultimate strength as you raise your family. We need you, Daddy, more than you could ever imagine!

Question: What challenges do you face in being on mission as a cultivator? What rewards? What do you want wives and mommy’s out there to know about “the fight”?

God’s Constant Pursuit

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I interviewed an extraordinary guy last night for a potential story in a project we’re doing with Max Lucado. Chris Skinner and his wife Suzie sat down with me for two hours sharing about God’s grace on Chris’ life. In college, after a night of partying with his frat brothers, Chris got in a severe car accident that left him with a broken neck, spinal chord injury, and in a coma for 13 days. He would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life.

There is no way to do justice to his story in this post, but I left last night amazed at God’s continuous pursuit of Chris. Chris grew up in a Baptist church, God had put several Christians in his path throughout the years, but he never really knew Jesus. Eventually one evening at church through hearing God’s word, he came to the end of himself. He felt a deep remorse for his sin and he repented. He surrendered his life to Christ.

He told his buddies he gave up drinking. One of his roommates, so infuriated, poured vodka down his head. They forsook him, but in the midst of the persecution and pain, he pressed on and followed after God. He started speaking all over the country and sharing his story to help other people. He even got married to a godly woman. Now, in and out of speaking, he’s at Dallas Theological Seminary studying God’s word and raising twins.

As I sat on their couch, I couldn’t help but think of the times in my life when I was in rebellion and sin, but God kept pursuing me. I would willfully disobey God’s word in the evening, and then in the morning I would “do my devotions.” I struggled to love God through obedience and not just words. But eventually, I too, came to the end of myself and surrendered everything to Christ. My struggles didn’t disappear, but I chose to make choices that would help me love God better.

Fast forward to today, and sometimes I take for granted his constant pursuit. While the sins I struggle with are different than what they were 10 years ago, I’m amazed that He has always been there, loving me as his child. Patient in my disobedience. I sense his love today greater than ever before and I just can’t escape it.

To be able to sit down with Chris and Suzie gave me a whole different perspective in how God works in the lives of other people. How he is always on the move to redeem and save what has been lost. My time with them has strengthened my faith and has given me a greater trust in the Lord.

I think when we experience times when our relationship with God is stagnant and we just don’t see him working in our own lives, he gives us the body of Christ to wake us up and to see that God is doing so much more than we could ever imagine.

In what ways do you feel God’s pursuit in your life? Has he used anyone lately to remind you of his love and faithfulness?

Being on Mission with Your Children- Part 1

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This is part one of a two-part series called “Being on Mission with Your Children.” Part one will consist of being a Mommy on Mission and part two will deal with being a Daddy on Mission. I encourage you to read both parts.

Kelly Sauer‘s Twitter bio caught my attention the other day. It read: I dream big and change diapers.

I just love that and it made me think of a little mission statement that’s been ringing in my head since I’ve been re-reading a book I had to read for my Child Developmental Psychology class in college called The Power of Mother Love.

My new-found mission is: I want to change the world, one diaper at a time.

To tell you the truth, however, I didn’t know this would be my desire until God gave me my son John.

I’m learning that he is my mission. He is 15 months old so of course he doesn’t know it yet, but how I give my love away to him now will profoundly influence and shape his life and character and ultimately, who he will become one day.

Many of you know that I’m fresh into being a mommy so I’m not a pro, but I’ve found a little secret that’s helping me to be “on mission” with him each day and to value, above anything else, the importance of who I am to my child.

This might seem way too obvious, but it starts with Slowing Down.

It requires a lot of intentionality on my part to see the world how John is seeing it, to get off my computer or i-Phone, to stop doing the dishes or the laundry, or worrying about this or that, but to really be all there with him. He invites me in to his world every time and his world is already at a much slower pace than mine. The choice is if I will choose to be still, within my own spirit, and embrace his world with him.

I’ve found that when I’m still and engage with him, I’m able to meet his deepest emotional needs by letting him know I hear his words and see each little step he makes. We’re able to capture moments together like when he first says “t-e-n-k you” or learns how to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on his own. Or when he’s offering to kiss me on the cheek or give me “that look” when he needs something. I can sense his needs easier and I’m there to nurture him whenever he needs it. And he always has a way of knowing whether I’m fully there or not.

My love is more available when I slow down.

Being on Mission as Mommy’s starts with slowing down, to where we are meeting our children’s deepest emotional needs, but that is not the end, it’s the means to the end where we’re slowing down so that we can best live out our faith and instill biblical truth into their lives.

In a hectic, over-worked, disorganized schedule it’s difficult to be all there and live out our faith in front of our children. Nine times out of ten, over commitment results in frustration, anger, restlessness, impatience, depleting quiet times and prayer and we end up not being who we want to be. I’ve been there and it has affected my home. I’m convinced that the tiniest moments of slowing down will help define the huge moments of how our children will grow and come to salvation in the Lord later on.

Of course, their salvation is an act only by God, but we have a huge part to play in how they view and love God for the rest of their lives. What a challenge and responsibility, but what a joy and privilege to help lead them to the cross and have them join us in God’s mission.

If you’re a mommy, and like me, have been wondering where your ministry is and how you can best serve God, remember that you are on mission right where you are, the best place you could ever be…

In your home.

The place where you were meant to help change the world, one diaper at a time.

Will you join me in this mission?

Question: What are some other ways you’re giving your love away and being “on mission” in your home?

My first white hair: thoughts on being 27

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This past weekend, while Jeremiah and I were talking in bed, I thought my life was just about over. As we were engaging in meaningful conversation, he blurts out and says, “Honey, you have a white hair!”

I look at him like he’s crazy. Why did he have to tell me that? My husband loves to play and joke and sometimes it’s just not funny.

“Oh, let me get it!” he says.

He pulls the white hair out and I look at it: “It’s blonde! Not white!”

“Look at it again. It’s not blonde,” he says.

I moved it around for the light to catch it at different angles. I studied it for a bit. “Okay… it is white. Ughh. I can’t believe how old I’m getting! That makes me so sad.”

“Oh everyone gets a white hair once in while no matter how old you are. It’s okay babe, you’re beautiful,” he says.
………..
Well I’m not sure it’s been “okay” with me lately. A lot of my friends and myself included are in the stage of growing our families. I think just about every facebook profile pic I see has a sonogram on it (and it’s awesome). I’ve been told by acquaintances that I look like I “have it all together” now that I have a child (really? Hmm). Jeremiah and I looked at some pictures when we were first dating and we look like babies (that was 6 years ago). Now, he’s 30 and I’m 27. And to top it off, my 10 year high school reunion is this year.

Everything is just happening so fast.Where does time go? And will it really be okay as I age?

I’ve had these thoughts way before the white hair episode and I’m still trying to figure out how I can best give God my worry about growing older. But I’ve been encouraged by these verses:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” – Matt. 6:25-26

There’s so much wisdom here because God knows the natural tendency for us is to worry… what’s for lunch, what to wear, where the money will come from, who we’ll marry, who our kids will marry… Things that are not even here yet.

Life itself, however, is more valuable than anything else. God sustains us and gives us the ability to experience life to its absolute fullest: to feel the sunshine, laugh over meals, write out words, engage in meaningful relationships, drink a warm cup coffee, share his truth with others, know him through his Word, and feel our very own breath. As his children, he cares deeply for us and for our concerns. And he wants us to depend on his daily provision, not what we plan for ourselves.

I think he understands my struggles in facing the fact that life just happens and we grow older. But I think he might also wants me to realize that the best is yet to come because he’s on my side and no matter if I grow weaker or my looks change a little, what ultimately matters is the life change that happens in my heart as the days get faster.

If I do end up finding a white hair again and I (or Jeremiah) probably will, I told God that I’m going to thank him that I even have a head of hair.

Church, Meth, & the Gospel

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“The church I grew up in was hypocritical,” my waiter said after I asked him about his church background.

“I’m from east Texas- you know the Meth capital of the world. So people would do Meth and then go to our Baptist church on Sunday,” he said with a somewhat frustrated voice. “They acted so religious too.”

Not being from Texas, I didn’t know east Texas was famous for that.

“Do you go to church anywhere now?” I asked.

“No, I work Sundays and everything… and… church just isn’t for me.”

“Yeah I understand,” I said.

Where’s the life and joy?

My husband chimed in and shared about the ugliness of hypocrisy he saw at times in his church growing up.

Our waiter listened, gazing at the glasses that needed to be filled in the distance. As they conversed, I took some bites out of my steak, completely annoyed at where we stand as “the church” today.

I remember times growing up in the church and putting on my Sunday best. Singing those hymns, smiling, and shaking hands with people, but feeling like I was swimming in a sea of dead people. All I wanted to see was life and joy. I didn’t want to see hypocrisy.

When I went to college, I began to see God’s love like never before through his people and his Word. I grew in intimacy with him as I was surrounded by other Christ-followers. I started to look to God, and not at other people. Since getting married and moving to Dallas several years ago, I’ve been learning a lot about true, biblical community at our church. I’ve experienced what it means to be authentic, confess sins, and share struggles and it’s been life-changing.

The Church isn’t a Building

It’s the gospel over and over again- broken people coming to Jesus. But how come the church is missing it- they’re not even on the map?

I think we all have to face the fact that there is nothing great in us apart from Christ. We are all, in a sense, hypocritical people. That’s why we need a Savior. We need him to help us navigate the rough waters of isolation and pretending.

We have to realize that the church is made up of real people who are supposed to love God and others. It’s not a building. It’s the bride of Christ, put here on earth to reflect his glory.

The Gospel’s Transforming Power

Well my husband wrapped up what he was saying to our waiter and then invited him to our church, handing him a card with info on it. I sensed that he thought we were a little weird (Okay, maybe foreign), but that somehow he appreciated us chatting with him.

It’s my prayer that one day he can step foot in the church again and see how the church was really meant to be. That he would see the power of the gospel transform all forms of hypocrisy.

Are you emotionally available?

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One of the greatest things I’m learning as a mom are the many things that try to compete with the time and attention I give to my almost 15 month old son.

This past Wednesday when we were at lunch at Panera, I held John in my arms while we ordered soup, salad, mac & cheese, and chocolate milk. The cashier ladies made faces at him and he smiled back so excited. I loved seeing his new teeth come through and how his light brown hair was getting a little longer. At the table, my mom and I talked about life while we tried to feed John the macaroni he didn’t want. He was always on my mind and he was right there with us, just speaking his own language.

When we came back for his nap, even though I had a little work to do from home, I kept thinking how grateful I was to be his Mommy. Even though he was a little grouchy when he woke up, I hugged him and rocked him whispering in his ear, “I was once a grouchy little girl too.” And it came to my realization that I wanted him to know that I was not only physically there for him, but I was there emotionally too. And that I would be as long as I was his mother.

Many of us play a lot of roles as Mommy, Dad, husband, wife, aunt, uncle, friend, sister, brother, etc. And I think it’s safe to say that sometimes we’re just not always there with the people we love. I’m not. But, I’ve been really challenged to make sure that I’m finding “quiet” in my mind so that I can be all there. For me, that means first caring for my soul spiritually. Then…

Nourishing my marriage.
Taking care of self.
Pursuing a simpler life.

I’m definitely not perfect at this and never will be, but I really want to strive for it. When John is old enough to understand, it will be so critical for those emotional needs of his to have been met and it’s amazing how it all starts with me.

Why Haiti hasn’t escaped my mind

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I sometimes wonder if I’m the only one feeling this certain tension.

Since the day we were awakened by the tragic news of Haiti, my heart has been burdened by its devastating horror, the countless babies, children, and people in distress, what our nation needs to offer in terms of aid, and what my family and friends can do to help. But it’s also been filled with something else.

If “Haiti”- all hell breaking loose, suffering, pain, and the deepest agonies ever imaginable, were to enter my life here in America, would I still trust God?

I have never known suffering like the Haitian people are experiencing at this moment. I want to trust that God is good all the time, but sometimes I just really fear suffering. I’d rather put my security in comfort.

Oh, but is that really all there is?

There is T E N S I O N because I know that as a follower of Christ, it won’t always be an easy road. I’m figuring that out as the hands on the clock get faster. I think we have to come to the point in our relationship with Christ that we will love him, trust him, serve him, and surrender to him regardless if we experience his blessings or not.

I don’t know if I can say that I’m there right now, but I want to be. And while I question God and wonder what in the world He’s doing at times (especially right now), I have to lean in on the truth that He is a good God and is worthy of my life in times of suffering and in times of joy.

He’s got the whole world in his hands, even Haiti.

Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:10

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