Tuesday, December 27, 2011

tradition, Tradition!

With the holidays rolling around I have been thinking about traditions a lot lately and how to make things more meaningful for our family, especially around Christmastime. Traditions can be such a powerful method of building family unity and story, building anticipation together, creating expectation, entering into the gospel story together, and really learning to celebrate (which, for my melancholic personality, is sometimes forgotten!).

So, more than anything I wanted to send a shout-out and ask for ideas for traditions from your family. Maybe I can compile comments (and links--hopefully you will send some over!) and re-post the ideas people send in so that we can help each other.

Here are some things that we have loved and are growing to love more...just some ideas to get you thinking about how you celebrate:

1. Celebrating Advent. The past few years we have done a Jesse Tree as a vehicle to share the gospel story with our kids. Its really helped us all to see the big picture of why it was so important that Jesus came.

2. Celebrating Lent. I don't know what we'll do this year, but we definitely went through some devotions leading up to Easter last year. Does anyone have any great ideas for helping kids enter in?

3. Doing a Passover meal. Our first was a little boring, I think, for the kids, but hopefully in the years to come it will be a lot more meaningful. We'll see how this develops.

4. Having special breakfast on each of the kids' birthdays (and celebrating Jesus' birthday with a special breakfast and birthday cake, too!).

Also, I was reading a book today (Hopefully I'll write a little ditty soon on what really impacted me from the book, but just take it from me and buy it. Its $3.99 on kindle now!) that suggested taking a closer look at the church calendar as a way each year to live the gospel story together, starting with Advent, then moving to Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Maunday Thursday, Good Friday, Paschal Vigil, Easter, Pentecost, and then taking the rest of the year to focus on the Gospels. Now, if you're like me, you don't know what these words all mean yet. Its ok...but what I am really asking its, "Do any of you do this?"

What other ideas do you have? Please send all the links you can muster! What did your parents do when you were younger that was really a treasured thing for you?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

little deaths that bring resurrection

Hey, this isn't more than just a thought, but I was thinking about how very few people come to the end of their life with hope. I mean, a lot of people older than me (and my age) are living jaded--with disappointments, fears, despair. Its so difficult not to want to give up along the way. Its easy to stop making the choices to get healing from the scarring that this world causes me. Sometimes it just seems so difficult to put down the anxiety and responsibility I feel. For some reason it just seems better to hold onto it--to the little deaths I feel inside--and never get healed.

I have blogged about this before, but I have more thoughts.

First, a song. Please listen. Its so life-giving.

Dress us Up
by John Mark McMillan
Dress us up in your righteousness
Bring us in with a ring and a kiss
When you walk into the room you know we can't resist
Every bottle of perfume always ends up on the floor in a mess

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we'll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They're coming out of their grave
And it's just for you

Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

Dress us up in the blood of a son
Who opened up his veins so that we would overcome
Hell and the grave in the power of his love
After three dark days he showed us how it's done
And he still does

You make us sparkle and you make us shine
Like the stars who sing on your chorus line
Through space and time we'll harmonize
Where deep meets deep like the ocean meets the sky

The sun and the moon
They come out of their grave just for you
The dead man and the cynical too
They're coming out of their grave
And it's just for you
Cause the love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
The love of God is stronger
Than the power of death

His love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger
His love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger, his love is stronger

I was really hit by the fact that God can resurrect even the most cynical of hearts. Whatever we feel—the death of hope, faith, a friend, an animal—God’s love is powerful enough to bring us through the death we’re facing, even if its only saying goodbye again.

Without death there can be no resurrection. No triumph. No victory.

He makes all things new.

Lord, renew us today.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Change is as Good as a Rest

I have heard that in the UK there's a common saying that goes like this: "A change is as good as a rest."

Today we're visiting friends who live half-a-day's drive from us. We've laughed and cried; we've been out all day with our crazy kids climbing mountains and playing in waterfalls; we've stayed up late catching up after the kids are all in bed and gotten up early to spend time with the Lord. All of that makes me really sleepy, but again I am reminded that sometimes what I need is not sleep, but rest.

Sometimes in the middle of parenting and work and relationships, we're so weary that doing anything that takes energy just seems not worth it. I'm tired and overwhelmed, but sometimes just getting out and getting some perspective is even more renewing than getting sleep.

What do you think? How do you find rest in the middle of parenting? Living overseas? Doing "ministry"?

Saturday, October 29, 2011


You know, I was thinking today about how I love my kids so much but sometimes I'm so serious that I forget to smile at them and laugh with them or just be silly with them. Sometimes I'm so interested in training them right that I forget that this is supposed to be fun!

So, what do you with your kids to make them feel loved and make memories? This melancholy woman needs help!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bible Memory

Here's a link to a great Bible memory system (with review included). We've been using this for the past month or two with the kids, and its been really great to help me not to have to think about what I am supposed to do each day!

Thanks Tara, for the idea!


Filling your tank

Hey, so if you've never read Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro, I highly recommend it, especially if you are weary or tired, your family is involved in ministry, or you are learning how to rest.

I had been hearing about this talk for a long time, but I could never find it. Usually they sell their talks, but they decided to allow this one to be a free download because of its popularity.

Here's a free download of a talk entitled "Dead Leader Running" he gave at a Willow Creek Leadership Summit that kind of summarizes the message of his book.

What he says has been hugely beneficial for us!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

a shadow of things to come.

This post was originally written sometime last month, but I didn't get around to posting it.

Silence for a while. Sorry about that, my 3 loyal followers ☺. Maybe I'll write about what I have been learning over the past month soon. Maybe not (stay tuned!).

Anyway, hubbie and I got to go see a movie today and I was crying before the thing even started.

1 reason (I was going to say two, but I couldn't find a youtube video of the second--e-mo-tion-al!):

First commercial begins with the frame of a young girl with a father who is dumb (can't speak). We see them in several scenes, of her not understanding him, of kids at school making fun of her, and then of him being angry at her. Not a happy relationship. Scene shift: father is downstairs with a cake when he feels the vibrations of a slammed door. Running upstairs, he only sees blood trickling from underneath. (here I am completely shocked and cannot believe they are using suicide to sell something).

Scene change: at the hospital, girl hooked up to machines (already crying).

Scene change: He’s giving blood to save her life, and we realize that he had carried her dying suicidal body to the emergency room (maybe a commercial for giving blood?—yeah, that’s it. Its gotta be blood).

When we see her waking up we realize he loves her very much even if she doesn’t understand him and is ashamed. The scenes that we only saw earlier are now translated (before, no voice), and the audience comes to understand that the father only wanted what was best, and that before the sound of the slamming door, he was sitting at the table with a cake with his with the words, “I love you, daughter.” She realizes something she never knew.

"Take all of my blood; just don’t let her die!"

All of that to get you to buy life insurance.

The point is, I live in a world that is hurting. And the media is sly. It’s a little bit easier to see as an outsider observing the culture. What an amazing demonstration of the great need here…Love. Blood. Sacrifice. Savior. King. Father.

Take all of my blood, just don't let them die. He's crying out for them.

Pray for the people here.

Here’s the video of the first commercial (and I even found it with subtitles for you!)

American Idols


You just thought I was going to write a blog bashing a TV show, right?


Really, I wanted to share something that has been one of those "just-in-time" Holy Spirit revelations for me. I am so thankful that God in his mercy has spoken and still speaks, or I would be woefully lost.

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking about idols.

I live in a nation that's fully given to them. I see them every day. I hear the stories of fear that motivate people to offer sacrifices to spirits because they're afraid. I have also heard of wonderful deliverance from these same spirits, and how God has shown them that with Jesus they don't have to fear.

For me, I am not tempted to carve an image and bow down to it like the Israelites did. So I have been thinking a lot about how this applies to me.

It hit me from another angle a few nights later. A political debate, of all things. I realized that trusting in the system would never bring me happiness, because its broken. Healthcare: broken, Insurance: broken, Justice: broken, Social net: broken. My government is powerless to give me everything I need. If I trust in it to bring me happiness, the only thing I can count on is disappointment and frustration.

Then I realized that trusting in something like insurance or social security to take care of me and provide for me would be foolish. Putting my hope, faith, and trust in a government would be, say, an idol. I can get angry at the system or be fearful of the lack of security it provides, but none of these things will help me.


“And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty.” (1 Sa 12:21)

A few days after that, my husband left on business. I started to wonder why I was so content when he was gone (though missing him), but sometimes less content when he's here. I knew there had to be a deeper answer than just grace (which I was definitely feeling at the time).

I saw how I have set him up to be the one who fulfills and provides for me, and when he’s here I am tempted to be angry at him when I am not happy or when he doesn’t do what I think is best for me. But God in his mercy has given me a glimpse what life is like without him. To reveal what its like not to depend on him. When I don’t depend on him, I am free to really enjoy him, and see what he does for me as a grace from God.

I see how its that way for a lot of things in my life—-things I put my trust in. My bank account, my kids, my parents, my friends, the American social net, other drivers, insurance, law, good looks, the words of others, my personality, even my reputation.

When these things fail, how come I am tempted to feel so betrayed?

My idol gave out on me.

Now, I should know better than to trust in things that are seen, but why is this such a big deal for me?

And in the midst of all of this I keep running across the scripture "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." (Jonah 2:8).

I lose the glimpses of grace when I chose to trust in anything but him.

I think from this I have developed an operating definition for myself (please comment below if you can help me refine it). An idol is something that I trust in to make me whole, happy, healthy, and ultimately to bring me salvation from the evils I face.

So again, this past week I was faced with a decision.

While we were doing school, my youngest learned how to climb out of his pack-n-play (first time ever) and joyfully used his freedom to make a run for it right into a room with newly-mopped floors. All my kids have stories of huge bumps on their heads or stitches from the unforgiving tile, but after his forehead hit, it was different.

He started acting really funny.

Sleepy. Out of it.

After about an hour and a half I started to think we should go to the hospital. I look in the rear-view mirror and I see him staring at seemingly nothing. I yell his name and he doesn’t move. I rush in, and as I was checking in, my son threw up all over me. At this point I didn’t know what was going to happen or if he was ok, and I was alone with my sweet little boy in the emergency room, who was barely conscious.

And He reminds me of what I have been learning. “Will you be ok if something is terribly wrong, even if death takes him?”

And from the depths of my soul, I thought, “I trust you Lord. You know what’s best for me. I will not cling to my children and forfeit your grace.”

It was powerful. And God set it all up. If I hadn’t been thinking about idol worship “randomly," hadn’t watched that political debate, if I hadn’t been reading through Jonah and 1 Samuel in my Bible reading plan, if my husband hadn’t gone out of town, I probably would have been a basketcase in the ER. But He knew what I needed.

He set me up to receive his grace and help in my time of need.

So, I leave that story with you. My American idols are very real, and very deceptive. Love can turn into entitlement, wealth turns to fear, preparation for the future turns to anxiety, and all in an instant.

I am having to continually ask myself, "What am I putting my trust in?"

And so for you, how have the things of this world failed you? And how do you fix your eyes on the unseen?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

links for this week

Periodically I'll try to post links to some things that have really spurred me on. Here's the first list of links. Enjoy!

Motherhood as a mission field (desiringgod.org)

Goals versus Habits (inspiredtoaction.com)

The most important thing to do for your faith (aholyexperience.com)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hitting a Wall

Last year, I learned about myself that I need exercise to live a life free of the blues. I have been faithful, realizing that it’s a necessary discipline for me. But what do I do when I am hurt and I can’t?

I tell you, I was fearful for a while. Fear of spiraling. Fear of tanking. Fear of hitting walls.

“Your walls are continually before me”, he says. “I have engraved your name on the palms of my hands.” He thinks of us as a nursing mother, who is continually reminded of her babe’s needs for sustenance. He brings it.

He climbs those walls. He comes for us. He rescues us from the dominion of darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of life.

He alone is our rescuer. Whatever our situation. He is enough. That there is good news.

How do I believe that?

I mean, how do I convince myself that this is true on a regular, regular basis? A lot of the time, I feel like I need rescuing. My life is far from perfect, I need healing in order to fully function. Lord, you know me, my inward being. You go before me. Before I was born, you knew all of my days and had them written in a book.

Whatever my situation, he knows it. Intimately. And uses it for my good.

“So to keep me me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” says Paul.

So I stop and think, how can I be thankful for this present thorn in the flesh? How can God use this particular weakness of mine to receive glory in himself? How can I delight in my seeming disability and trust that in my weakness he is strong? The weaker I am, the stronger He is through me. The less I can rely on myself, the more I have to rely on him. Another opportunity to put my full faith in him and not in myself.

In our deepest darkness, he’s the light coming at dawn.

In our weakness, he’s our strength.

In our mourning, he’s the dancing around the corner.

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

That’s all true. So today I’ll delight in this pain in my back that keeps me from the exercise I once thought so important to my emotional health. If all things are gifts, then I will choose to delight in this weakness as a gift of rest from God, and a gift of more time with him each day instead of exercise.

In his graciousness, he’s not given me another choice.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

thoughts on blogging.


I fear of being exposed and humiliated
I cringe at the thought of criticism
I am the wife of a WASP who feels like I have nothing new to say
I hate redundancy (see above)
I don’t like ridicule
I like not being able to be pinned down because I hate fights
I hate being wrong
I’ll be exposed in all my tyops and spelling folly by fellow English Majors (intentional, yet still embarrassing)
I know that sometimes pearls, like hearts, are fed upon by swine
I want to become a better writer
I find rest in being able to form a complete thought
I love passing on life to others
I struggle and need encouragement
I need sisters to link arms, not just websites, but life with me
I need you to warn me when you see my blind spots
I want to help whomever I can
I want to share the things I have learned and learn to communicate them in a better way
I want to be in a discussion with others on the same path
I want to develop a gift of teaching
I love to write
I love beauty and language
I want to possess nations and impact the world
I know I’ll probably gain a lot more from this than you
I want to use my talents to give glory to God

I blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Prodigal Me

I am fasting right now after not having fasted pretty much since I got pregnant with my first child. That was seven years ago.

And yesterday, I was faced with my depths of hideousness and more sin than I think I have ever been aware of in my life.

“If I just would have…it would have been perfect.”

Thoughts rolling through my mind.

Famous last words. Have been all my life.


I am just talented enough to fool everyone (including myself) that if I just gave more time, concentrated a little bit harder, listened a little longer, served a little better, woke up a little earlier, suffered more, exercised more regularly, made that right decision, given more things up, been more disciplined, that I could, in fact, be perfect. As if all those things were in my power and I just chose not to put my power of perfection to work. Its all up to me: the only thing standing in between me and perfection is my own laziness. Well, and other people too. Oh, those people. Without having to deal with them I could be perfect, too.


He fights dirty.


I have believed for way too long that perfection is mine to have. I am a good person. And I am shamed when I fall short. I don’t want to repent, I don’t want to look. I am not bad. I just want to hide so that I don’t have to be exposed.


Turns out I agree with the same lie that the first mother did--that somehow I could have been perfect, all-knowing, anticipating, just like God. When I fail, all I want to do is hide.


What I think I can do is impossible and he has sent me on a never-ending wheel, but spinning around and around again, I exhaust myself.

He’s sneaky: I agree with him and start to drown myself in the river guilt rather than Bethesda-water, thinking if I worked harder I could earn love, approval, and eventually win God’s heart, instead of being convinced that I will always be in need of grace no matter how hard I want to be able to do it on my own. Oh the thought of not having to be dependent. Dependence can’t be a good thing, right?


Pulled further down by shackles of it, I realize he’s winning and I never even fought back.

Then suddenly I see the Father who runs to me, pulls me out, accepts me, cleanses me off and gives me purpose. He’s seeking me out each day, one who gives good gifts to his children. And those gifts are grace. And as we share them with one another and our bodies—his body—is healed. People-salves of hospitality-healing loneliness; vision-eyes that open blinded eyes; hands of mercy sewing hearts broken by unwelcome squatters; pastor-hearts pumping life, sending it far and deep; carpenter-servant’s arms providing for needs; faith-full eye-crutches, giving us strength to step ahead once more.

And I am reminded of my need for others and the elusive striving for perfection. I need his touch.


I didn’t get the perfection gene from my parents. And they didn’t get it from theirs. Not in them.


Peeling off my soiled jeans, I dress again robes of righteousness. I don his yoke of ease guiding me in the next step, armored-all with my offense against lies, clothing myself with gifts of the spirit, passing them out to others; and as I do, He pulls back the veil of sadness and disgrace from my heart. And I receive him again, turning my face to him—falling into grace and forgetting what the blood has washed away. I take the cup and receive.

Deep communion. Community. His healing.


What if the path really could be lighter? Could it really be that easy? You mean I don’t have to do it all by myself?


In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. -Isaiah 30:15

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

the freedom of one word.

One of the most important lessons I have learned about child-training is that we have to teach our children to understand and respond to “No.” It’s the foundation of teaching them to obey.

Right now I am re-training and conditioning my children to understand this: no means no. And there are consequences if they don’t obey. After not obeying “no” the first time, they hear it again accompanied with pain, to teach them that lack of obedience brings consequences.

Its so important for them to be able to understand that one word. Its powerful. It protects them. When my kids understand what my “no” means, it brings them freedom to do things that would be dangerous for other kids. I don’t have to be afraid of meltdowns or accidents in public, because I can be confident that whatever I say, they will do.

Right now I am reading a book about hearing the voice of God, and in it the author makes the observation, if you cannot hear a ‘no,’ you will have a hard time hearing God at all or believing that what you think you heard is in fact from God. Without understanding God, you will never be confident that you heard when he tells you “yes.”

And I am reminded again that its just as important for me as an adult to understand and respond to “no.” Sometimes the “no” is more powerful than a “yes.”

When I am flooded with needs inside our house and requests from the outside of doing, serving, seeing, and visiting, its easy to be overwhelmed. My own desires and feelings of responsibility creep in and muddy the waters. I have to understand the language of God when he says, “No.” Otherwise, I get distracted and sunk by good things. Hurt. Or worse.

I never thought that a “No” would bring so much freedom, and now I have more vision than ever in training my children.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Its easy for me as I read about the Israelites in the Old Testament to think how stupid they were, how foolish for not being faithful to the One who not only led them out of slavery, but provided for their every need, took them to a fruitful land, and defeated their enemies at every turn. They listened to those around them more than the Faithful One, and they were distracted and led away from the path. Its easy to forget how swayed I am by the people around me. Even in my relationships with believers, I have to be wise. I have to depend on God to guide me. You never know what He's going to say. Sometimes He surprises.

Decisions are also scary, because, get this: we might do the wrong thing. So we are paralyzed, gathering information, trying to hear more from God, waiting for the dream, the writing on the wall, or the prophet to pick you out of the crowd.

But, whatever we do, we are making decisions. Savings, college funds, discipleship: one day we will reap the consequences of our decisions, good or bad. Our job is not to blindly go with the flow, but to continually keep our eyes open, and make those decisions in faith. Every decision has opportunity costs. We choose one thing, we opt out of something else. Every decision is an opportunity to draw into Him.

If we don't, then we tread a dangerous path of default. It doesn’t mean we trust God more, it just means we are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind and opinions of man.

Default is still a decision.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
-James 1: 5-8

Am I a doubter, Lord?

The path that God has for me is only for me (Thank you, Lord!). The freedom of knowing God is that out of relationship comes wisdom. He gives generously to all without finding fault. Even in your faults, he gives it generously. Lavishly. The wisdom of God. Its free to all who ask in faith. And when we walk in faith, we are free from the judgment of others.

You know what else is the wisdom of God? The Gospel. So, don’t be surprised if God asks you to do things that are foolish-sounding. We need ears and eyes to see the kingdom of another place, a heavenly one. We might not know all the implications of our decisions, but we know this: God works to the good of all who love him and are called together according to his purpose. He works all things to your good—-he can turn even poor decisions into grace.

Whatever decisions you have made, there is always redemption. There’s always a way back to the path. God loves you so much that he uses such discipline along the way to bring you closer to his heart.

Mercy is new every morning. Even for the exiled Israelites, there were new mercies every morning. Even in deep mourning, his mercies are new. He has mercy on us because he knows what we’re made of: dirt.

Today I am glad that all of this isn’t dependent on me. Today I remember how He's led me thus far, and in His loving-kindness he's always turned me back to the right path when I have strayed.

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you. -Psalm 116:7

Today, I will step out again in faith. I will make decisions, and I will commit to walking forward in all that God has for me.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

how to get booted from the pity party

Every once in a while, our family has to make difficult decisions, and they usually consist of two options: 1) a comfortable safe option or 2) a crazy scary option in which we have to step out in faith and be caught in his arms or we will die.

Invariably, we choose stepping out. Its just who we are.

So, the second I take my eyes of Jesus, I get discouraged. I start saying things to myself like:
“Why do other people get to do ….. while I have to….?”
“Why does God always tell us to do the difficult thing?”
“When am I going to just be comfortable?”

Literally, that happened to me this morning. The enemy frequently comes in this way to discourage me and tell me that I am not going to make it. Sometimes I believe it, though its less now than it used to be.

So, in honor of Him who makes all things possible, who holds us together by the power of his word, and who created the universe by speaking; to Him who is able to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine; its to his glory and to the shame of the enemy that I write today.

When I hear the voice of the enemy tempting me to worry or fear, here are my weapons:
1. I list the ways that he has been gracious to me and think about how the situation I am in can bring glory to him.
2. I thank him for his grace.
3. I remember the ways he has delivered me before.
4. I think about his character; namely, that he is good and has good plans for my life even if they seem difficult now. (Ok, these things are repetitive and could be written as thankfulness, but I need to think through everything!)
5. I read Hebrews 11.

I am always transformed when I meditate on the fact that I was made for another world, a heavenly country, a place where one day all will be right. With that in mind, I can gladly lay down my desires in life and take up his. He is coming back for me. He will rescue me and take me home with him, and my mission here in life is to help as many people to go with me as possible. I can gladly obey and spend myself for the joy set before me. I take up my weapons and fight for heavenly realities. The darkness clears. I can’t ever get there without faith. By faith I take on joy and thankfulness, and I move forward. I take courage that there have been many before me who have died in faith.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:13-16 (ESV)

Right now, I also have to give a shout out to Ann Voskamp and her book A Thousand Gifts.. The fight for joy is truly real, and a real weapon is thankfulness. Her book is definitely in my top ten books I have read. Maybe someday I will figure out what those books actually are.

In what ways does the try to discourage you? How do you fight back when you’re discouraged?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

accountability: not as scary as you think

We are all created with weaknesses, for in our weakness and need, we seek the Living Perfect one to inhabit our lives. To use us as his hands and feet, because we bungle when we use our own.

We’re also given gifts. When we believe, somehow the Holy Spirit entrusts to us gifts that we are able to develop here and one day lay at our Father’s feet as worship.

The thing is, the gifts are more like seeds. His Spirit sows those seeds into us, but we have to water it and develop it, and take care of it to make it grow.

I was an excellent student in school, partly because of my drive to be perfect, partly because of fear of not being perfect, and partly because learning brought me life. I loved to figure things out and create things.

After graduating and being a full-time mom, where there aren’t regular evaluations or tests to pass, I floundered for a bit, trying to figure out how to do things using self-imposed deadlines rather than meeting someone else’s deadlines.

I am still weak, and I still have gifts from God, but what do I do now, when no one is looking over my shoulder grading my progress and there’s no one who gives immediate feedback?

Here’s how you do it:

1. When you see a weakness or something you want to learn, tell someone. I find that this is very effective for me. I use my pride to help me here. Once I tell someone else, I don’t want to not follow through!

2. Do some research: try to find someone (a blog, a website, a book, a person you can talk with in person) who has expertise with whatever you’re wanting to learn. Really, classic books written by dead people can help you. No reason to reinvent the wheel. Stand on other’s shoulders.

3. Break your goal up into bite-sized chunks. Faithful in little, ruler over much. If you try to do too much at once you’ll be discouraged. Ask someone to help you break it up into chunks if you’re not sure how.

4. Put it in your schedule. A little bit at a time.

5. Be faithful. Don’t stop. Keep confessing and keeping your friends in the loop of your progress.

You know, accountability kind of gets a bad rap. When I think of that word I think of woodsheds, tears, and ultimatums. But if we use it to help us and we commit to really walking forward with people we love, then we are known more fully and people know better how to help us. If we think of accountability as our responsibility to expose our hearts to others around us, then we don't have to worry about being caught in sin. We tell others the the desires of our heart before they give birth to sin. When we expose ourselves to our friends, they can help us to move forward, even if the road seems rough. Each of us has a different road. But the body of Christ is there to help you.

Ok, enough with possibilities. I’ll give you an example.

Say I have a kid who won’t sit still during church (and there’s not an option of children’s church). What do I do?

1. Tell a friend. In this case I told my friend who has several children of her own and had dealt with the very same problem.

2. Research. She recommended a book to help me have more vision for church for my kids. I also got some good ideas for training my child how to sit still from another friend.

3. Chunk it up. I decided that I would have time set aside for this child to pretend that he was sitting during church. S/he would practice sitting in the chair alone starting for 5 minutes a day, and adding little by little until he could sit there for an hour by him/herself.

4. Schedule it. I decided that a great time during the day to do this would be while I was teaching math to some of my other kids. I had the timer and a chair ready right by the table I was teaching at.

5. Faithful. Child training, like anything else, requires faithfulness. Especially when training your children how to do something specific, if you’re not faithful, its confusing to the children, but if they know what the definition is and what the rules are, and even understand why they are doing something, you will both succeed!

Another random example:

Say I wanted to learn something new, like piano (you can put anything here). What do I do?

1. Tell a friend. I know that if I don’t tell someone, I won’t do it!
2. Research. What’s the best way to learn how to play the piano?
3. Chunk. How will I learn this? What steps am I going to take to get there? What is my goal for this week?
4. Schedule. When am I going to fit this in? How many minutes?
5. Faithful. It might take years, but if I practice 10 minutes a day, I’ll get there!

Here's my point: let other people help you! You can do a lot more when you share your needs with others and encourage each other to grow. Accountability isn't a check-off list or a scary thing: its a spring-board!

How do you learn to do new things? What are some things you’re wanting/needing to learn?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

...ruling over [too] much

I am an all or nothing type of person. I get obsessed, and when I get obsessed, its all I can think about.

I grew up not cleaning my room, not because I was irresponsible (ok, well, maybe that’s not totally true) or defiant, but because I couldn’t get myself to focus long enough. I mean, if I am going to do it, its going to be right, and who has the time to sort through all those papers on my desk and all those clothes in the closet? I obsessed over school, spending hours completing assignments perfectly, beautifully. Hours in ballet. Hours practicing violin. I would disappear until my task was finished.

Needless to say, the transition to motherhood was rough for me. In my head, being fully a mother meant dropping everything else. When I focus on something, I tune everything else out. Motherhood meant death for me in a lot of ways, because I didn’t know how to be who I was and pay attention to someone else’s needs as well. I lost my way, and had to totally refigure life. Time with God wasn’t “real” unless it was uninterrupted, if I had a creative project to work on, I couldn’t figure out how to arrange the time to get it done in a manic wave of a few hours. I slowly sunk under confusion. How could I still be me and be a mom, too?

I hit a low around #3 and #4, because packs of kids don’t really pack up and follow mom all that easily. I really had to learn to be content with being a mom, and only a mom, if that was what this life stage meant for me.

For about a year, I was just a mom (according to my definition of mom), and all the things that help me to thrive—creativity, learning, personal health—were cut out. I just couldn’t find a way to fit them in.

Until I hit bottom. I started having horrible migraine headaches, never had any energy, didn’t want to leave the house, and the gloomy cloud of depression was never far away. Through a friend’s recommendation and some self study, I started eating healthier, and the migraines went away, and because I didn’t want to take meds while breastfeeding, I started looking for other ways to fight and be more healthy.

I ate more healthy, I started to exercise (little by little), I spent more time outside, I started to read, and I started to get up before my children did, because I needed time to think.

And it occurred to me: faithful in little, ruler over much. The way to getting myself back was little by little. Not all or nothing. Simple things, like setting my alarm back 5 minutes at a time in order to wake up earlier. Permanently.

Manageable things, like doing 5 minutes of sit-ups, push ups, and lunges (click here to download the e-book that really helped me) as soon as I got out of bed, and taking back my life through exercise.

Small things, like planning ahead for meals, and having a plan for what to eat when I craved sugar.

Easy things, like cutting unhealthy things like sugar out of my diet.

Mundane things, like scheduling in time to learn and create.

Little things, like developing a schedule for my kids.

Accessible things, like being disciplined to go to bed earlier, so that I could really experience life in the mornings with my Lord and my kids.

These things are little, but I realized that if I was intentional, that they would bring me life.

Those small things turned into big things. They transformed me. They changed who I am. I learned that I can’t do projects all at once, but if I do a little bit each day and break it down into manageable chunks, it takes time, but the big task truly does get finished. I feel blah and weak right now, but if I am faithful at this 5 minutes of exercise this week, then I will be stronger next week to add more. I don’t feel it, but if I get out of bed right now, I will be prepared to welcome my kids as they wake up.

So my goal is to choose one thing this week to make me more successful in my role of [insert role here]. What is one small goal you can set this week?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

the midwife of true life

My first time giving birth I was green. I had read all the books, I had committed in my heart to give birth naturally. I mean, I was convinced that it was the ONLY way to go. But the time came, my water broke 4 weeks before my due date, I was caught offguard, I went to the hospital, and when I didn’t have “productive” enough contractions, they started me on a healthy dose of pitocin. A few hours later, body shaking, lips quivering, and two centimeters, I welcomed the epidural. I was really green by then. Discouragement. Within the hour I was giving birth. I just hadn’t been able to relax under the stress of the pitocin. And I didn’t have anyone with me who could help remind me—there was no midwife to help me through and to see the light on the other side.

Since then, I have given birth enough times to know the roadmap. Here it goes: Excitement, Pain, Discouragement… Then just when you feel like you can’t make it any longer, you know its close; the most pain you’ve ever felt, LIFE!

So it goes with all else. Sometimes the soil of my heart isn’t fertile to receive the life-giving seed he wants to birth in me.

I was reading this morning and thinking about the pain and death of the curse that Adam and Eve brought on us, “…in pain you shall bring forth children.” (Gen 3:16b).

Death: it begins. It wages war. The first couple agreed with Satan and so united with death and suffering himself: a congenital disease, it spread. And we feel it. It still stings us each day: loss, pain, tragedy. Through their sin, we were transferred to death, and the law of sin and death reigned over us all, our lives forfeit.

The enemy was convinced that in bringing death, he was triumphant.

Its spread to us and the symptom is our appetite for sin; we can’t control ourselves, it never stops. Its taken away our sight. We can’t see goodness.

Israel, sin-cinged off the map, their people are taken into captivity. Jerusalem lies burnt. Dead. But in those ashes, there’s a stump where that tree once stood. The forest burned, and the people whom God had chosen looked as though they were gone forever, and with them the promises of God revealing himself through his chosen people.

Only in pain and in hard labor would there be any fruit. And God, the God of the impossible, uses the pain as a midwife to bring in life: light from darkness, hope from despair, beauty for ashes.

The shoot. The same tree new with life. Only in Jesus can pain make sense, for without it there would never have been one who was without sin to be sin for us. No way back.

In pain, you shall bring forth life.
And He did. It’s the way its set up. Hope. The pain is for a reason: it leads to life. Its our midwife. God always uses death to bring about life: he’s in the business of resurrection. It’s the one thing the enemy didn’t expect.

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:21)

In death we take heart, for he has overcome. He works his grace in each circumstance, and through each little death we die, somehow if our response is right, then we overcome, too.

Even in the curse of death, God foreknew the way back to new life. If we know the roadmap, then its not scary, because we know that when death has fully worked its way in us, then we can truly live.

And in our pain, the great Physician can tell us that just when it seems too much to handle, just when its too hard, just when we can't make it, that's when there's life coming. He's birthing something from the inside of you and working it to its completion. And if we listen to his voice, he will help us to do it the best way, and he's with us. And its going to be beautiful.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

life in the blink.

Hi! I'm Joy.

I'm 28, married for eight years, have four who call me mama, and live in a Southeast Asian country as sharing the love of Jesus with those around us.

Our life is whirlwind, but I bet most people with small children would say that. The past few years I have had my share of groping, and coping, and seeking, but I have found that He is true, and there is LIFE to be found in this blink--this gathering of days that will one day turn into years.

Life in the blink--to taste and see in the midst of the mundane and cyclical redundancies of childrearing and keeping house, in the midst of teaching and giving, in the midst of friends and fears...in our midst is life, and life to the full. There is life to be had in this blink. And we can feast on it.

For one day we will blink and it will be gone. Empty nest. Chicks flown.

So, I share as a fellow sojourner living forward to the reality that I was made for another world, being carefully molded into a person I will need to be one day, but also living in the blink of now, straddling the time between worlds--not just a period of waiting or preparation, but there is life to be had in these moments, and one day we'll realize its been years. What will I have to show for it? A thriving relationship with God, children who know the grace of God and are confident in the love of their parents, or will there be chaff that is blown away?

And hopefully you'll join with me and share your thoughts, too. And together we'll grow until one day we'll release our little arrows to fly into all the things that God has for them. And we'll release them with no regrets, and we'll run joyfully together into the next stage of our lives.

No matter where I am, or you are, the boundary lines have truly been drawn for us in pleasant places...we have a beautiful inheritance! Won't you join with me in claiming it?

What makes this season beautiful for you?