What to do With Miley

credit: eonline.com

photo credit: eonline.com

You’ve probably heard about Miley Cyrus’s performance last night at MTV’s VMAs. I didn’t watch the VMAs but I saw a clip on CNN and that was enough to know why everyone is shocked. My jaw definitely dropped. This morning I was debating about tweeting, “Mommas and Daddy’s: Don’t let your babies grow up to be like Miley.”

Then I thought long and hard about those words and I chose not to tweet them. I needed to shut my mouth and pray for her and really look beyond the show of it all and see the obvious brokenness. My heart grew sad for her because God wants so much more for her life.

Author and blogger Annie Downs wrote today:

While today’s headlines are tearing her [Miley] to shreds, we as Christians HAVE to sound different than the world. We HAVE to yell a different chant in her direction about how God made her on purpose and how she is valuable because of WHO she is, not WHAT she does. I’m not saying we ignore the influence she is having, but if we want to help her [and that is the question titling this post after all], then we have to look at her with eyes of compassion and have our words sound from there.

Eyes of compassion is definitely something I need because I’m initially judgmental and angry over things like this. I mean, rightfully so, right? But then I have to remember what God has saved me from and is saving me from. I’m no different than Miley, just a sinner saved by grace. And I sure need compassion from others every day.

My brokenness might not be manifested on a stage for all the world to see, but God sure knows my sins, struggles, and areas where I have yet to be Christ-like in. And the Lord knows that without him, I am a mess. I constantly need his forgiveness and grace.

I pray that Miley will come to know Jesus. I pray that Christians will extend unconditional love to her and help bring her to the One who can heal her brokenness.

When the Christian Life is Easier Said Than Done

photo: fancyfleamarket.typepad.com

Yesterday I went over to a friend’s place to visit. What I’ve always appreciated about this friend is her authenticity when it comes to her struggles in raising three children.

Her husband walked in the door as I was attempting to round up my kids. The three of us got into a good, unexpected conversation about hearing vs. actually doing God’s Word.

“We were inspired by our pastor’s sermon on Sunday. We were encouraged to do God’s will. We were convicted in areas that need change…” my friend said.

“Then we got home,” she sighed.

“The kids were horrible. Things felt chaotic. We exploded a lot and were so discouraged because just a few minutes ago we were so on fire to live for the Lord. It’s as if we forgot everything we’d just heard…”

I continued to listen to her story and couldn’t help but think how she was articulating exactly how I’d felt so many times. Especially on Sundays!

Just the other morning I got up early to read my Bible and journal while my husband did his quiet time. It had been well over a week or more since I had been in the Word. The kids weren’t up and I was savoring the alone time. I thought for sure it would be a good day but within the hour it was as if the house erupted. Or shall I say, Momma erupted.

If you took a peep into my window you wouldn’t have found a gentle, godly woman who had just been with Jesus. Anger exploded out of me toward my kids and I felt overwhelmed by all the change that’s happening with our move, graduation, and new baby. Sadly, I’d forgotten all that I had read.

Shortly after, I was reminded of the verses in James:

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it- not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it- they will be blessed in what they do. – James 1:23-25

That evening before bed, I prayed and begged God to help me in the areas of my life where I not only fail but fail big time. In that time of soul searching, He showed me how much I need His grace and that this Christian life is a process- a process of sanctification that doesn’t come over night.

And that “doing” the Christian life is pretty much impossible apart from His truth and guidance. Doing good-outward-acts can’t be mistaken for a heart that’s truly been changed by Christ.

His Word has been given to me as a gift so that I would know how to live, but I can’t be changed if I’m not “looking intently into the perfect law that gives freedom.”

I’m thankful that regardless of my imperfections and weaknesses, God is still at work in me. He’s always pursuing me to come back to Him for the healing I need so badly. He knows I’m a work in progress.

And I think more times than not, I need to celebrate and remember the times where He has allowed me to be victorious in the struggles against sin, rather than focusing so much on failures and falling short.

His divine power has given us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3)- even in the challenging times of raising little ones. So as for today, it’s time to shake the dust off, confess & repent of sin, accept His forgiveness & love, and continue living by faith in his son.

Finding Hope in the Valley

This past year, eternity has been on my mind a lot. A close friend of our family was diagnosed with breast cancer, tragedy struck with the loss of an old friend, and I’ve experienced hardships in motherhood and marriage and my own sinful nature.

While I often ask God to remove trials from me and to keep me from pain, I have been molded and shaped the most in the valleys of life.

The valleys are where fruit is produced- not on the mountaintops. God gives me mountaintops for a season to encourage me, but the real work of my faith happen in the valleys- in the everyday, mundane details of life.

Trials and suffering remind me that this earth is not my home, even though sometimes I’d really like for it to be. Trials bring me to my knees in humility. They cause me to confess that God is all I have when life lets me down and when hardships are just too heavy.

At the time, I often hate going through the valleys, but God has used them in my life to keep my focus and perspective on Christ. And somehow on down the road I end up being thankful for them. I’m thankful that God grew me and that I’m not the same person I was.

At the end of the day, none of us are alone in the struggles of life, whatever they might be. Our hope is in Jesus alone and one day, our pain and tears will be no more. We have a great hope awaiting us!

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things have passed away. – Revelation 21:4

The song You Hold Me Now has encouraged my faith in so many ways lately. I first heard it during worship at Watermark Church in Dallas and I fell in love with it. It is such a beautiful expression of Revelation 21:4. Here it is played at the gorgeous Hillsong Chapel in Australia.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y7vYqu_Y3VI]

Getting off the Island

If there is anything I’ve learned over the past few years in my journey of faith, it’s that knowing others and being known is absolutely essential as a follower of Christ.

Knowing others in the sense that I know what makes a person tick, their passions, hurts, habits, sin struggles, fears, joys, quirks, flaws, victories, achievements, and more.

Being known in the sense that those close to me know really know me- my insecurities, fears, sin struggles, passions, worries, victories, issues, dreams, and more. And they still accept, love, and spur me on without rejecting those weaknesses or rejecting me alltogether.

I’ve seen this lived out among my community group at church. My husband and I have done life with our group for four years now. The girls in our group- Julia, Jen, Ashley, and Ashley- have seen most of what there is to know about me. The good, bad, and ugly!

Over the years a trust has been built among us. Because authentic community is stressed so much at our church, we’ve been accountable to that and have lived by that standard even when it’s difficult. It’s been life-changing and life-giving for each of us.

John Donne penned the famous quote, “No man is an island.”

I know this, yet my pride often keeps me in isolation and from wanting to be fully known by others. I’d rather hide my weaknesses or do life on my own apart from anyone’s help. I’d prefer they not see any “yuckiness.” But God knows what happens when I’m left to deal with life by myself- it’s never good.

God created us to live in authentic community with other believers, where we are fully known and accepted. Yet where our friends won’t allow us to remain where we are.

We were created to step out of the shallow pool water and plunge into the depths of the ocean. There is no other way to do life.

Will you join me?

When You Struggle to See the Light

Yesterday while we were playing on the floor, I stood Rebekah up so she could grab on to the couch and balance herself. She had this big grin on her face as she stared at the wall. She was gazing at the painting we have above our couch of The Last Supper. The light from the sunset shined through our window reflecting on Jesus’ face- not any of the disciples sitting at the table, but just Jesus alone.

It was the sweetest thing. Rebekah looked up at the painting another time and smiled again. And it convicted me.

That beautiful moment reminded me how Jesus’ light shines among the darkness. His light shines into my sinful heart. The sinful heart I’ve had for what seems like… all week- unfortunately! I’d prefer not to have to admit that.

I’ve been angry, impatient, irritable, difficult to live with (just ask my husband), and unable to control my emotions with broken sleep. Did I mention I don’t do well off little sleep?! I’m in a season of struggle spiritually. My time in God’s word has been minimal due to laziness, exhaustion, and my own excuses. I’ve been struggling in this season of motherhood with the demands of a two-year-old and 7 month old, among other challenges.

I’ve felt like I’ve been stuck in a deep pit. And I’ve wanted out!

Well on Monday, I was able to get in the Word after the kids were down and read the first two chapters in James. And on Tuesday, I read the third chapter. And on Wednesday, I prayed that God would keep moving and give me the desire to be in His presence even when I don’t feel like it and even when I struggle.

It’s often that my pride says I need to be perfect and have it all together spiritually or else I can’t come to Jesus. But I’m realizing that’s a lie. The biggest lie there ever was.

We struggle and that’s why we need Jesus. We need him desperately and even when we’re ashamed and try to hide our own darkness, we need only to look to the Light. And to keep looking again, and again, and again so that He can do something great and life-changing within us that we can’t do on our own.

Thankfully, the last two days have been perfect nights of sleep for us. I’m starting to see hope again. I pray that whatever struggle or trial you’re facing (small or large), that you will run fast to the Light and cling to Jesus in your struggles.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. – 1 John 1:7

Life in the Formative Years

John

The formative years. I’ve been told they are the most critical years in a child’s life and I’m quickly learning that they are tough.

Time-outs, spankings, constantly on the go, changing diapers, saying “no”, reading books, cuddling throughout the day, praying for friends at bed-time, learning numbers and the alphabet, potty training, playing trains and trucks, filling up sippy cups, making meals right on the clock, learning new words, encouraging his right choices, watching Veggie Tales and Thomas together, helping him learn from wrong choices, steering him away from danger, playing horsy, singing songs about Jesus, playing with friends, wiping off mud and cleaning up crumbs…

This is a little glimpse of life with my two year old.

Teething, cooing, smiling, laughing, playing peek-a-boo, picking up toys, crawling attempts, feedings, napping, crying, changing more diapers, rolling on her back, cleaning up spit-up and blow-outs, talking and smiling into her big blue eyes, holding her tightly, kissing her cheeks all day long, letting her know I am there, taking naps in the big bed together, telling her how gorgeous and sweet she is, watching her admire Daddy and Mommy and her big brother…

This is a little glimpse of life with my 5 month old.

I confess that I am no super mom. In fact, I’ve learned even more about my depravity as a sinful human being. But on the days that have been so hard, I often go to sleep realizing how desperate I am for God’s help. Motherhood has shown me this dependance. And on the days I wish the two’s would just be done, I remember that it all happens in a blink.

That is the wisdom I’ve been told. And it really is flying by.

God gives me each day to glorify Him by investing in my children. I won’t get these days back and I will most likely look back on them one day and miss them tremendously.

The great investment that’s being poured into their lives is worth more than money can buy. They are the future. They will lead us one day and their eternal destiny has much to do with how I will choose to invest right now.

God, I pray for continued strength in these formative years and that the hard work now will be seen in years to come. Forgive me when I have failed. I pray I will cherish my children to the fullest, remembering that when I am weak, I can rest in You.


Rebekah

What You Really Have is Him

As I dragged myself out of bed onto the floor to respond to the cries of my newborn, I knew this particular day would be hard. The morning hours passed by and she continued to fuss and fuss and fuss and my toddler was at my ankles, whining constantly. I felt like being mean because I was so sleep deprived. And my husband was the first to hear all my complaints and how I wish I could hire out a Mommy for the day or go into work for him.

How am I supposed to get through another day? I asked God. How am I supposed to be the godly person I want to be when I’m absolutely spent?

And that’s when His gentle, quiet voice whispered: I am with you. And I started remembering that…

When we are weary and can’t move on, that is when God says He will give us strength and lift up our heads.

When we want to throw in the towel, that is when God wraps us in his steadfast love and renews us.

When we do not feel his presence, that is when God reminds us of the truth that He is here.

Because it is in the times where we feel like we are struggling to survive in a sun-scorched desert, that we start lifting our hands to heaven for help. We have no other choice but to rely on Christ because without him, we would die. However, we cannot be afraid to ask Him (regarding the big and little struggles of life) and tell him our concerns. He is always willing and ready to answer our prayers.

While I have felt sleep deprived again this week and have a sore throat and a cold (along with the rest of my family), I’ve been able to better lean on the truth that He really is with me. He is for me and understands what it’s like to be physically exhausted and what it’s like to struggle.

Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you. – Psalm 55:22

My legs hit the floor again at 4:00 AM this morning so I could care for my son who has a bad cough. While I reached over to give him water and tylenol, I trusted in the fact that a day is coming where I will have rest and that God is using my struggles and the gift of raising my children to teach me a greater dependence upon Him.

dwelling

This past Sunday, I struggled with anger. And it came out of nowhere.

Everything under the sun bothered me and I let it out on Jeremiah. I remembered a blog post I read a while back from a well-respected Christian man who discovered that his feelings of discouragement and depression at the end of the day were often just a result of being overtired.

I came to the conclusion that my anger must have been from being overtired. So I went to bed.

I woke up in a better mood, but I still had feelings of guilt from my behavior.

I sat down on our lazy boy and picked up my pen, journal, and leather-bound Bible. I begged God to show himself to me. That he would help me swallow my pride and confess my sin from the night before. That he would fill me and give me his grace in my weakness.

I read the words from my quiet time: “For in this tent, we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened- not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Cor. 5:2-4).

I was totally there. I felt myself groaning, longing to have a new, sinless body. I wanted to give up, but was so encouraged as I continued to read in verse 5: “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” His Spirit is within me as a seal to help me persevere when I’m not living how I should.

Knowing that my earthly body will one day be clothed in the perfection of Christ gives me so much hope. What a beautiful promise that is for each of us, especially on those days that are frustrating. Maybe for no reason.

That scripture was all I needed to be refreshed at the start of a new day. And by grace, Monday ended up being a great day!

How has God’s word encouraged you in your struggles?

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?

Community for the Soul

walk_with_flowersYesterday our best friends, Jay and Julia came over for a surprise visit. They brought John a Valentine’s gift- two really cute t-shirts for his little body. Julia and I catched up on life and the guys talked about finances and you know, guy stuff. Our relationship with them is so wonderful because we both get along so well as a couple and separately: me and Julia and Jeremiah and Jay. Through them and our community group at Watermark, we’ve learned so much about authentic community.

Being in real community where struggles are revealed, sin issues, hurts, habits, hang-ups and the like is a real rarity in our culture today and especially in the church. We’ve become more isolated. I think the Baptist church I went to as a teen meant well, but there were some issues when it came to being honest. I don’t remember feeling the freedom as a teen to share my problems for fear of rejection. That kind of fear is a tragedy in the church because real healing comes from being real and not pretending to have it all together.

What I also love about authentic community is that friendships are taken to a deeper level and accountability becomes a must. The meaning of unconditional love really becomes reality as well. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, you’re loved regardless and you’re spurred on by someone else who really cares.

When Jay and Julia left, Julia texted me and said “So good to see you. Those visits are SO good for the soul.” I couldn’t agree more.

So how has being in community been good for your soul?

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