Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope many of you are able to celebrate this special holiday with family and close friends.  In America, I love that we take a day to just celebrate all that we have been given and the blessing we have in our lives.  So many of my friends have been posting on Facebook all the things they are thankful for in their life.  As I have read them, one thing I noticed is that many of the things that were mentioned do not come with a price tag.... family, friends, cherished moments, and our faith are truly what we hold dear when life is stripped down to core.

Last night, my mom and I tried to teach the boys how to play the game "42".  Now, this game is a southern tradition that is played with dominoes and I have dear memories of playing with my parents and grandparents.  They loved it!  The funny thing was that Kendall, the three year old, wanted to play.  His focus was often on building things out of his dominoes until he had to play one of them.  I watched and he had some incredible "hands", but his focus was on building his "house" out of the remaining dominoes in his possession. 

How many times is my focus on building my "house" not fully realizing the great blessings I have right within my reach?  My friend, on this day of thanksgiving, let us realize and truly see all the blessings we have been given in our hands.... Our treasure is not in the things we can buy or have in our possession.  Savor your memories being made today with your children, parents and grandparents as those are the real treasures in our life.... all too soon those moments will have passed to never return.

So, this morning I had an extra cup of coffee while I sat and visited with my parents.  There was no need to rush, but just sip and treasure those beautiful moments.  I am going to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade with my kids and just delight in the joy they find in it.  I want all the hugs and cuddles they will give.... and, I think we will have a huge game of 42 later! 

Those are my treasures!  How about you?

Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Boys Eat.

Boys eat.  I mean, really... boys EAT.  Some of you are laughing as I haven't even made it to the real impressive teen years of food consumption for my boys, but some days I just shake my head at it all.  Kendall, the toddler, will wake me up with the words, "Can I have (yogurt, pop-tart, banana, cereal)?  I haven't had any today!"  Not...Good morning!  Not.... I love you.  Not... You are an incredible, awesome mother to get up early with me every morning.  Nope.  Just a request for food.  The other day, Kendall had a banana, yogurt, bowl of cream of wheat, and a bowl of cereal for breakfast- and wanted a snack mid-morning!

This morning, the boys discovered that the new box of pop-tarts only had one single pop-tart remaining.  A battle ensued over who would get the remaining breakfast treat that could simply be compared to a world wide war.  How is a mother to handle such issues?  I hadn't even had my first cup of coffee yet!?!?  My response was calm and collected  (okay, slightly agitated) offer to eat the remaining pop-tart which would not allow them to have any at all or to cut it into three parts.  They chose the latter option.  Food.  It is very important to boys.... it may, in fact, be their love language.

So, here is the thought that hit me..... I want to hunger for God in the same way.  I want to long and crave Him as much as the food I partake of at least three times a day.  How does a longing like that grow?  Love.  When we fully grasp the depth and width of the love of God to send His only Son to take our place on the cross, a desperate, hungry love develops.  When we fully recognize that Christ could have taken himself off the cross at any point, but remained in tremendous pain and heartache because it was His love for US that pinned Him to the wooden beams that day.... how can we not cling to such a beautiful love?  It is a love so rich, so full, and so deep that there is nothing on this Earth to compare it to, and we struggle to understand it. 

"For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:14-21 NIV)

I want to grasp how wide and long and high and deep that love is for me.... and I want to know, to truly KNOW, this love.  I am going to pray this scripture for myself over the next several days and weeks asking God to help me grow in insight over this.  I want to be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God because, my friends, that is what life is truly about- isn't it?  Max Lucado stated in his book, Just Like Jesus, this, "Step away from the puny pursuits of possessions and positions, and seek your king.  Don't be satisfied with angels.  Don't be content with stars in the sky.  Seek him out as the shepherds did.  Long for him as Simeon did.  Worship him as the wise men did.  Do as John and Andrew did: ask for his address.  Do as Matthew: invite Jesus into your house.  Imitate Zacchaeus.  Risk whatever it takes to see Christ."

This is just my opinion, but I think our world has tried to find joy and fulfillment in everything but the One who can truly satisfy.  They long for Him, but seek filling in everything else.  If we live a life of mission revealing the depth of His love for us to them.... we couldn't keep them from wanting a relationship with Him.  This love, this grace-filled, passionate love is that addicting. 

"Only a love that has no regard for vessels and jars- appearances or image- only a love that will lavish its most treasured essence on the feet of Jesus can produce the kind of fragrance that draws cynics and believers alike into His presence." (Gloria Gaither)

Oh Father, I want THAT kind of love! How about you?  My friend, seeking the depth of His great love for us is a life-long pursuit.  It is one that has no end because His love for us as no end.  Why do we hold back from the One who loves us so much?  I want to hunger for the things of HIM........

My plate is empty, Father.  Fill it!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Trust the Cook

This morning the boys helped me make pancakes.  Carson took on the duties of mixing the batter while Caleb took charge of pouring the batter, cooking them, and flipping them.  I love that they are willing (Okay, I don't really make it an option, but they comply fairly quickly) to help in the kitchen.  I want my boys able to cook, clean and feed themselves when they move out of the house.  So, anyway, as we were working together in the kitchen, we began to play some praise music.  The time of praising Him while working together was so tender and sweet... it is those moments I will miss dearly when they grow too fast and leave my kitchen for their own. 

As Carson mixed the batter, I realized that the proportions of the mix and water were very specific- and needed to be if the pancakes were to turn out correctly.  It appeared that Carson may have added a little too much water and some additional mix had to be added.  As I helped him stir and make ready the batter, the Lord reminded me that He is the one who knows the perfect "mix" for my life.  The trials, challenges, victories, strengths, and weaknesses I have within my life and world are a perfectly designed mixture used to draw me closer to my Father.  It is no accident when I am draw to my knees by the difficulties in this life- it is meant to make my reflection more like His own.  He has the perfect recipe for each of our lives to grow and mature our faith.   Never question what he chooses to add or detract from our world - instead praise and keep your eyes on the cook.

As Caleb waited on one of the first pancakes, he could not wait to flip that pancake!  As a result, the pancake was not ready to be flipped.  I had to teach Him to watch the bubbles in the batter and explained that when most of the bubbles had formed and popped in the center, it was ready to flip.  He just had to watch for the signs that it was ready.  The Father whispered to my heart that I, too, have to wait for Him and His perfect timing.  How many times have I rushed things- in a panic- and made a mess of my life because I wanted to rush His timing?  Just like with the pancake, I have to watch for His timing and trust that the outcome will be so much better when I trust Him.  I just get so impatient with waiting.... but, when I rest in my trust and faith of Him, the outcome is always better.

My friend, trust the pancake cook, and the pancakes will turn out well.  Trust the Father and allow Him to create in you a well lived life!  Blessings!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For My Busy Mom Friends...

I enjoy coffee..... no, I love coffee.  I confess to you that some nights I go to bed with a smile on my face because I know in just a few hours I will wake up and have the pleasure of savoring a cup.  Yep, it is an addiction, my friends, an addiction.  Today, I have thought a lot about why I enjoy coffee so much.  As the weather becomes cooler,  I love the warmth of holding the hot mug in my hands as well as how it warms me from within as I sip it.  I also enjoy the flavors I tend to add to my coffee- while it might not be acceptable to eat an almond joy candy bar for breakfast, it is- in fact- perfectly acceptable to enjoy a cup of joe with almond joy creamer.... or hot chocolate chip cookie creamer, or crème brulee creamer, or cinnamon roll creamer..... I think you get the point.  I also confess that I really do not enjoy mornings and having a slight jolt of caffeine makes the process of getting up and dealing with the onslaught of morning demands easier.

But, there is another reason I love coffee....

I get to sit down when I drink coffee and do nothing.  Nothing.  For those brief moments of sipping my hot beverage I am not answering countless questions, tackling the long "To Do" list that grows daily, or cleaning our home that seems to never want to stay clean.... I get to sit. 

I believe that I am like most moms in our society.  We are so busy and rarely take the time to just sit and rest.  Now, so many of us have to even take our coffee on the go because we can't even stop for those brief moments to savor it.  So, we pick up our coffee through the drive up window and race through our "drive through" lives.... and we rush from one task to another. 

Working moms are constantly trying to balance the demands of work, being an active and involved parent, committed spouse to their husband, and maintaining the home..... plus, making sure meals are on the table and clean clothes are in the closet.  Working moms often struggle with guilt over how much time this all requires when they long to just spend some time with their kids and spouse.  Stay at home moms are constantly pushing themselves for validation- trying to be the "perfect" mom, cook, baker, house cleaner, and parent because that is our job.  So, we look for validation by staying over-committed and trying to maintain a level of perfection within our home that is never fully reached.  The crazy part is that this too comes at the sacrifice of time with the ones we love.

Here is the common thread.... we are tired.  Every... single... one... of ... us.  We constantly question ourselves and our decisions.  We give until our cup is empty.  We kiss "boo-boos" and wipe tears.  We love our kids and hate how fast they are growing.  We skip meals to finish projects and grab take out because we are too exhausted to cook.  We hug.  We cook.  We clean.   And, we are tired.

I don't want to rush through this life.  I want to savor the coffee in my cup and the fleeting moments of joy that life has to offer.  I want to watch a movie from start to finish and play a board game with my kids.  I want to have truly lived this life I have been given.  I think there are many others who know what I am talking about..... but, the question is how?  How do we make this happen?

It means saying one word that we often forget is effective.... "no".  No, to frivolous activities that have no purpose.  No, to having the perfect house with perfectly clean floors- no one eats off them really!  (and even if they do, will it kill them?)  No, to doing it all and having it all.  No, to tasks and jobs we do because we felt pressured to do them.  No, to making the best costume for our child's school program that will only last about 20 minutes.  No, to defining our purpose by the expectations of others.

We also need to say "yes"... yes, to taking time for ourselves.  Yes to take out meals when it is necessary- with no guilt- and yes, to sharing the workload.  Yes, to lowering our expectations of ourselves and realizing it is okay to not live in a Pinterest approved home.  Yes, to taking some time to read scriptures and pray.  Yes, to a long bubble bath or a pedicure.  Saying yes to yourself means you value the person God made you to be.  It means you recognize that you have value and are important to others in your life.

My friends, my fellow moms, today find one thing you love and give yourself permission to enjoy it.  Life will go on and you will be happier, rested and energized.  Value yourself- remembering the precious creation you are in Christ and take the time to rest....

My coffee pot is full and I am ready to share..... Have a blessed day!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Don't Hear It!

Naptime..... oh, the joys of that brief period of time when one or more of your precious children is tucked safely in their room sleeping and you are able to rest or catch up on all that still needs to be done.  I love my children- and I love the moments that I spend with them....but, I dearly love naptime too!

Recently, naptime had become a battle for our toddler.  My normal 'tactics' of calmly getting him to bed to rest were not as effective and I began some new things that have been working such as setting a timer and letting him know that when it went off, he would be going for a nap.  Initially, it worked so well as he would joyfully go and turn off the timer and head to bed.  Recently, however, when the timer would sound, he would loudly exclaim, "I can't hear it!"  In his toddler thinking, if he could not hear the timer, then he did not have to go to bed.  Well, that strategy has not worked for him! 

The thing is that the Father gently pricked my heart and said, "My child you sometimes do the same thing.  You know my leading, my instruction and my prompting, but you act as though you have not heard my will."  The truth hurts....

Our Father is so gracious to often make His will so clear in the scriptures, through the Holy Spirit, and through the confirmation of other believers and yet, so often I do not act on it.  Why? 

Fear.  So often I have fear of what others will think of me.  I am a people pleaser through and through which makes stepping out on a limb trusting God's leading hard.  I want others to like me and value me, but my allegiance should be to the Father first.  He is my Savior- the Lover of my Soul- and Redeemer.  Why do I fear man? 

Another fear I struggle with is that of the unknown.  So often, God's leading is down paths filled with questions and unknowns because that is where our faith grows best.  He wants us to follow when we do not know what is ahead because that reveals the level of trust we have in Him.  Yet, this is so hard because it goes against every fiber of human state.  Human reason says, "Look before you leap," and "Work everything out before you act."  God doesn't work in that way because He already knows all and has power over all.  He also works out everything for our good; so, when He leads us a certain direction, it is safe to take that step of faith.

What about the fear of being in want or need?  How about the fear of missing out on all the earthly things- material possessions and experiences?   I would be lying to you if I said that we were never tempted to do things differently- be a two income family with a bigger house and more "things" to fill it.  HOWEVER, I would rather strive for contentment in the will and blessing of Christ than to thirst continually after the things that will pass away.  Nothing of this earth is eternal- except what is done in and through Christ and our Father.  I want my efforts to have eternal value!

So, today, I want to unplug my ears and truly hear and heed the directive calling of my Father.  How about you?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Finding Sharky

This morning, in the middle of studying some scriptures and praying, my youngest came running into my room and exclaimed with great jubilation that, "We found Sharky!!!"

My first thought was that I didn't know "Sharky" was lost.  Sharky is one of Carson's favorite stuffed animals that we purchased years ago when on a trip to the coast of Texas.  Carson has loved Sharky dearly and we even had to rescue him from a fire one time when big brother overthrew Carson and he landed in the fireplace.  However, a few months ago, in an attempt to "fix" two problems, Carson stuffed several of his stuffed animals into his beanbag.  This, made his beanbag feel full while eliminating the mess of his stuffed animals being everywhere in his room. 

This morning, I guess Carson thought of Sharky and realized that he missed him and the search started.  How many times do I not see the hurt and "missing" people in my life?  They are all around me- the mother holding a baby while watching three other children sitting in the store parking lot holding a sign that expressed desperate need.  The friend, weighed down by grief, hurt and loss, who is too afraid to the vulnerability show.  The cashier who tries to wear a smile all the while dealing with the stinging words of previous customers.  Our world is full of people who are hurting or "missing" and yet they are not lost to the Father.  He always knows where His creation is.....

So, as I walked into the living room, I noticed the bean bag- open with small Styrofoam pellets all over my living room floor.  Finding the lost, hurting, and missing in this world is often a messy business.  It means going into the mess of their lives and loving them there first.  Ouch.  Love in action that is carried out in the midst of uncomfortable settings, situations and emotions is the most genuine.

Without my asking, the boys knew that a clean-up would have to take place.  They got the vacuum out of the closet and began to deal with the mess from which Sharky had been delivered.  My friend, we are often going to be called to walk alongside the hurting, lost, and missing as the mess is cleaned.  The Father never expects us or wants us to clean up our lives before coming to Him- mess cleaning is His job.  He redeems us, and then He walks and guides us through the process of cleaning up the life we left.  No doubt this process is always made easier by loving friends walking alongside you in the task.   I say again, loving people is a messy business.

Despite having to clean up the living room, my boys are full of such joy- Sharky is back in Carson's arms and all the work and effort was worth it.  He is home.  All the effort and work will be worth it when the lost cling to the Savior, the hurting find healing and the missing broken hearts are found and mended..... Our joy will be full. 

Seeking, loving in action, and showing them a real Savior is what He did for us..... let us do the same for them..... mess and all.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A New World

Our youngest has hit the stage where a whole new world full of letters has been opened to him.  Several times throughout the day I find him recognizing or identifying the letters he sees on signs, items, shirts and etc.  He has also began identifying the beginning sounds of words and often makes a game of it.  I love that stage- suddenly his eyes are open and able to see all the written world before him.  Saturday night, I took him with me on a quick trip to the grocery store and as we pulled up to the store, he screamed in delight- "K, Momma!  Just like my name!"  I chuckled at the precious delight he found in that discovery. 

Within minutes, the thought hit me.... am I that excited at the sight of God working in this world?  Do I have eyes to see all that He is doing in our world- recognizing that it is truly HIM at work?  Even more than that, do I take on His cause when I recognize His prompting?  You see, in the last few months, the Father has been teaching me about living a missional life where I look for opportunities to honor and bless Him with my service.  Not to make Him love me more or to earn His approval... nothing I can do will make Him love me any more than He already does and nothing I have done will make Him love me any less... but serving Him out of that great love He has bestowed on me.   I cannot "earn" the grace He extends to us all, but I serve out my love for my Savior.   This means getting in the thick of this messy life and being a loving, caring, and living church to this world that is weary of hypocrisy and the "come to my church" mentality.  He calls us to BE the church to this world- meeting people at their place of need, work, heartache, and mess.  It isn't always going to be easy, fun, or full of immediate results, but lives will be changed!

There is a ministry that our church supports that delivers food to those who are without in our area.  One Saturday, a friend of mine was assisting with it and knocked on the door of a single mother.  Upon hearing why they were there, she broke down into tears.  They were out of food and she had been praying for God to help them.  My friend has become her "mentor"..... delivering her additional food, praying daily for her and often calling to check on her.  The need is great- beyond even what my friend can offer- but our God is greater.  It means getting out of the safety of our pews or nice comfortable chairs to join this messy hurting world- loving people where they are in all areas (spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially) and then drawing them to the King of Kings who redeems!  For us it is living with total dependence and trust in our Savior living out the faith we profess....

It is being a living church to a dead world.......

Oh Father, give me eyes to see and faith to act..... Blessings!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Being Short

I have been reading through the gospels over the past several weeks.  It is has been such a good reminder of the great love that the Father lavished on us- a love so great that He sacrificed His one and only son for our sake.  It has also been interesting to me the number of passages that God has brought a deeper insight and understanding to me despite having read many of them countless times.  Today was one of those moments!  

Join me in Luke 19....

"Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10 NIV)

I have always loved the story about Zacchaeus.  Perhaps because he was so desperate to see Jesus- so much so that he was willing to climb a tree and face ridicule for it.  Am I that desperate to see the Savior?  Do I take desperate measures to "see" Him each day?  Perhaps it is because he was so repentant and genuinely convicted over his actions.  This I can easily identify with and Jesus' response to him brings such comfort and joy.  Our Savior always draws near to those who are genuinely repentant and convicted over their actions.  Perhaps and maybe my greatest attraction to the life of Zacchaeus, is that he was short..... like me.  I well know the frustration of not being able to see over a crowd and being able to reach things.  I have also walked the journey of being the mother of a shorter child and know how upsetting that can be.  Being short.... well, it can stink!

Today, as I read it the thought hit me that while Zacchaeus may have always viewed his shortness as a detriment to his life, it was the very thing that drew him to the Father.  Okay, follow me for a minute on this one.  Obviously, he was "drawn" to the crowds that day by all that he had heard about Jesus and he longed for a spiritual healing over a physical one, but it was his shortness that made him climb that sycamore tree in a desperation to see Jesus.  Jesus was drawn to this grown man to who was so desperate to see him that he would climb a tree to do so.  Jesus saw the heart of Zacchaeus and any man that desperate to see a glimpse of the Savior is absolutely ready for a heart change, but how many others in the crowd were in the same place spiritually?  Zacchaeus has been forever documented in the record of our Savior because he had a seemingly detrimental condition- shortness- that God used draw him closer to the Savior.

My friend, often times, it is those detrimental areas of our life- weaknesses, struggles, heartaches and so forth- that will be what draws us to the Savior in desperation.  Keep in mind Jesus came to heal brokenness and he is drawn to those who recognize their need for Him!  What area of your life have you viewed as a detriment?  Can or has God used that very area of your life to draw you closer to Him?  If so, have you praised Him for redeeming that area for you and how He can turn any struggle, heartache, and weakness into something that honors the Father?  Oh glory!

Take some time today to praise Him for all the redeemed "shortnesses" in your life! Blessings!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Taking Superman Off

 As a child, I loved fall - okay, I still love fall!  I love the cooler temperatures after the hot summer and the beauty of changing leaf colors as well as all the holidays!  From about mid-October until the end of December it seems like we are going from one celebration to another.  Our focus seems to change to more of our kids and spending time with them making memories. 

Last night, each of the boys picked out costumes and Kendall decided to be Superman.  He was dressed and ready to go hours before the time to leave.  He practiced what to say when he would arrive at a door... "Trick or Treat!!!..... Thank you!"  He even "coached" his older brothers on what to do and say at each house- much to their frustration- I mean, they are professional trick or treaters now!  When the time finally came to leave, he was ecstatic!

As the boys went to the first house, he laughed in giddy excitement.  However, Kendall added a new line to his door approach..... "Trick or Treat!!!  I am Superman!.... Thank you!"  It seemed, that he needed to make sure that they knew- undoubtedly- that he was special.... he WAS Superman.  Most of the people laughed and chuckled at his declaration and a few even gave him an extra piece of candy as a result!

This morning, he came in wearing his Superman costume for breakfast.  When I reminded him that we would have to wear "regular" clothes today, he was saddened.  "But,.... I am Superman...." was his reply.  Then God whispered to my heart.... "My child, don't you do the same thing?"  How many of us put on a costume each day that we present to the world.  One of our own choosing, it often "masks" the reality that is deep within.  Often my costume is reflective of a false self-sufficiency as I try to present myself as one who has it all together.  Truth is, none of us have it all together, right?  Why do we insist on wearing masks to hide our deficiencies.  In reality, it is our weaknesses that often draw us closer to each other. 

As believers, we are to encourage and build up each other - to be a support system as we all struggle and grow in our faith.  My strength as a believer may strengthen you in an area of weakness as you may do the same for me in an area of weakness.  It is realizing that NONE of us have it all together and are all still growing in our faith.... we are learners journeying through this life together in the assurance of an eternity together.

Today, as Kendall returns to life without his costume, I am taking mine off too.  How about you?