What exactly is the good?

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As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

The Whisper From Within

I pulled my hair back into my usual low messy bun, removed my sunglasses, and peered into the opening of the cave. My hands tightly held my treasured designer sunglasses that hid tired eyes on my busiest days. I remembered the day I bought them and the false sense of accomplishment I felt wearing them. I wanted to rid myself of all of that and so I quickly tossed them into the tall grass behind me.

I stood staring into the never-ending darkness. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. A light sweeping breeze tickled my skin. I heard the whisper, the whisper from within, calling me to continue. It was the same whisper telling me to leave behind my fierce independent ways. It assured me perfection is a weak and fragile state. It reminded me real strength lies in the mess. It lies in being content with your mess and with your limitations.

I was frightened, yet determined. I thought of the steps that led me there. I was in my early twenties. The noise of busyness, the layers of self-made sludge, the wounds of days past had drowned out the whisper. I wanted nothing more than to listen and embrace it once again. I was never meant to live that life. I was meant to live my life. So, one day I stopped. I just stopped, pretty much dropped, and couldn’t move any further into the life I created. A life I worked so hard at maintaining the image of perfection and self-sufficiency. It was then I saw brave was not nonstop trying and doing and living the “good” life. Brave was standing where I was that moment. Brave was stepping inside my own cave.

I took another deep breath and didn’t look back. It felt like the first few moments after jumping into a pool. There was a shocking cold that quickly transformed into a refreshment for my weary soul. My eyes adapted and light appeared. The outside noises soon diminished. I began shoveling through the sludge. I came across my wounds, some I healed and some I simply acknowledged. There was nothing else between me and the whisper from within. It was like a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years. We embraced and cried and fell right back into the old rhythm of things. I fell back inline and freed myself from the pressures of this world.

There are times, will always be times, I wander outside the bounds of my life. I find my way back to my cave, I do the work all over again. I know that life isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, it isn’t mine. It is built on pressure and duty and pushing past limitations I was never meant to push past. No one is made to do it all, to try it all, to go and go and go until you drown out the voice from within. So just stop and go inside your cave. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.

Finding the Joy in Parenting


Choices. As a parent you are always making choices. Sometimes your brain is dizzy with all the things you need to decide. You want what is best for your kids and many times it is hard to measure the results. You make a choice. You hope and pray it was the right one. You wait. You breathe a sigh of relief when you find you did the right thing. You feel ill when you find you did the wrong thing. Sometimes you wait years to see if it was the right choice. Sometimes you will never know.

You have information thrown at you from all directions. It is as though everyone knows how to be the perfect parent. Well, until it is your own child that you are parenting. Because, once you look your child in the eye and feel the overwhelming love, you just know there is too much at stake to even try to pretend you know what to do all the time. Once you see your child struggle or mess up, you know there is no cookie cutter way to parent your imperfect and unique child…

How do you ease your weary mind and embrace the joy of parenting? The answer is a little different for everyone. Again, there is no cookie cutter way.

I feel like I do a decent job (most days) at enjoying this sometimes arduous journey. Here are some tips I have picked up along the way:

  1. If it isn’t broke, simply leave it alone. If something works for you and your family then screw what everyone else thinks.
  2. Do listen to advice, though. Some people know more than you. But don’t forget, it is your choice on what advice you follow.
  3. If you don’t follow someone’s advice, don’t feel guilty. Seriously, don’t. You know your child the best. You also know your own limits. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
  4. Honor your limits. Honor your spouse’s limits. Honor your kids limits. Enough said.
  5. Don’t judge other parents. You are not in their shoes. You do not know their child as they do.
  6. Don’t compare and don’t ever compete. No one enjoys being around those who try to compete or get their kids involved in such nonsense.
  7. Allow your child to be who they are, not who you think they should be. This may be hard, but, your kids know themselves better than you know them. (I have to thank my parents for doing a great job at this one.)
  8. Forget the rules sometimes. Just have fun. Sing loud, dance, and get a little goofy with them.
  9. Love them. Figure out how they feel loved. Give it to them unconditionally.
  10. Let them love you. Accept the way they show love and appreciate it.
  11. Most importantly, trust God and His will for your kids. God’s got this, guys. He really does.

Feel free to share any tips I may have missed.

 

This Thing Called Grace

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I think of the crushing weight that pressed on His beautiful soul. The beauty He held, I can never fully grasp. I try to comprehend. I close my eyes and picture the cross. I picture the events leading up, as well. My mind is too weak. I skim over the hard parts. My body clenches at the very thought of trying to endure even one lashing. The driven nails are pulled out by my selfish need to fend off pain before it ever really begins.

The purpose of His dying was so I could be free from the yoke. Yet, there are times I forfeit the lightness that was so freely given to me. Why do I trample on my clean soul? Why do I worry, I fear, and I forget?  I hold a beautiful opened gift and I sometimes wrap it back up and tuck it away for a rainy day. Maybe not always, maybe not as much as I used to, maybe not as much as others…but enough to feel the chains that bind.

Now here’s the thing that gets me every time. I do not need to shed any blood or endure any of what He did. I do not need to earn His love or His approval. All I need is faith. He sees me as me. Not as the world portrays me to be…not what I portray me to be either. He…loves…me.

Whenever I tuck this thing called grace away he gently helps me unwrap it. He reminds me of my worth. He places His finger under my chin and lifts my head up like no other. It is because of this I am led through the Holy Spirit’s power to never stop striving to love as He loves me.

Never Apart

bible-1031288_1920The Word was once just a book.

It contained truth and knowledge.

It told me how to live and love.

It was something to study and put to practice.

And it was good.

But that all changed.

The words began to stir and come to life.

One by one they sharpened.

One by one they pierced my soul.

No longer did I want to depict the world’s eye view of it.

I saw the significance of the Law.

I saw the significance of the Gospel.

I saw how they can never be torn apart.

Because one without the other is simply not enough.

You can be doing it all right and still be wrong.

It is only with Him, not on our own, that we realize…

The Word shows His love.

It is grace bestowed upon us through His blood.

Without it, there is no salvation.

Without it, there is no freedom.

It is what opens our hearts to the law and changes us from within.

See, the Gospel without the Law is just a pile of words.

You or me without both are just a pile of flesh and bones.

It is the Law together with the Gospel that sets us apart from the world.

It is both.

Death

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I’m dying.

The air doesn’t fill my lungs,

as it did in the past.

My body aches.

Every step I take is slower.

I hear a voice.

I reach out.

All I feel is empty space.

Empty promises.

I close my eyes and pray.

His Word fills the emptiness.

I let out my last breath.

I am free.

New air fills my lungs.

The pain is gone.

My path is clear.

My steps are boundless.

This truth is where,

my peace is found.

I no longer live,

it is He who lives in me.

Through the power,

through His endless love.

I am brought back to life,

time and time again.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
-Galatians 2:20

Unwrapped Present

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Have you ever had an idea, a great idea, maybe even a brilliant idea that just sits there?  You think about it and you may talk about it.  It feels right.  It feels straight from God.  It lines up with scripture. You know you have the spiritual gifts and passion for it, but it sits there on your shelf in a neatly wrapped package, untouched. Well I have. I actually do right now. When I think about reaching out to unwrap and use it something stops me.

I used to daydream about it. Then I would get impatient and disappointed in myself for not doing something. I was almost convinced it was fear stopping me, but when I would reach out to grab it that something that stopped me felt right too. Makes sense, right? It was like I knew this was something I truly need to do, but also I knew it something I was not ready to do.

I prayed, prayed, and prayed some more. I was reminded of God’s timing. God does not live through the restraints of time like we do. A day, a month, a year doesn’t mean much as far as eternity goes. He is patient, he properly prepares us, he knows the plan we need to follow. Trust Him and His timing…know there is a time for urgency and there is a time to wait. Waiting is not a bad thing.

Someone once told me something I really need to remember every day of my life. It was something like this: God first, then your family, then your ministry (or God’s work), then everything else. When you get these out of order you will see it in every aspect of your life. So, maybe the reason why I haven’t been able to unwrap my present is because I had these a little mixed up. And I didn’t fully realize it. You probably don’t fully realize it. You are doing the best you think you can, you are doing good things, and you are a good person. You are just doing things out of order.

Through the busyness of life, we get swept away and Satan loves it. It is his best attack against us faithful God-fearing ones. He knows we aren’t going to stop believing in God and trying to do His work, so he tries messing with the order in which we should follow. Next time you have that great idea and it seems to just sit there, try looking at the order in which you are following. Maybe all you need to do is move things around a bit and God will help unwrap your present when the time is right.