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?