When time stands still

That moment you look over and see your three-year-old and one-year-old enjoying a silly game together, smiling, laughing, with zero yelling or hitting, time does seem to stop for a moment. Can’t they just stay this little and this sweet and in this moment for a lifetime? There is certainly an incredibly endearing aspect of capturing moments and time standing still.

But today, I realized there is also a frightening, maybe unhealthy view of time standing still. I looked at my husband and said, “If we really plan that trip in 2018, I will be 34 and you will be 35. I really thought I’d just stay 3o forever and the kids would stay 7, 5, 3, and 1 until Jesus comes back.” I mean really. And for all you mommas and daddies out there who know what it is like to have a 7-year-old or two little ones 3- and 1-year-old in the same house at the same time, you know the heaviness and the fatigue you feel at the end of each day.

Aren’t these kids going to stay in this season forever? Aren’t we always going to be changing a diaper while Legos fall onto the floor and a cup of juice spills and drips and sticks to the table for the 70th time? The monotonous requests and quarreling and squealing and laundry and tiny socks and goldfish and sippy cup parts and Barbie shoes – this is really our lot for the rest of our earthly existence, right?

When I get stuck (and I have been STUCK HERE many times, even today) and trapped into thinking that this season will never end, life seems harder, impossible, joyless. And when we are sucked into thinking that time is standing still in a miserable, tough, “I can’t see the light at the end” way, it can feel as if we are drowning.

But what an incredible encouragement we see in Scripture, that all things are from Him and for Him.

15  Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. 19 For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through Him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:15-19 (emphasis mine)

Trials, surprises, hardships, miracles… they are all things, and they are for our good. God made us, and He made us to need Him and to worship Him. IN the trials. IN the surprises. IN the hardships. IN the miracles.

Though we will not be here next year, doing all of these things, maybe that is your today. It’s my today. And my tomorrow. And it’s what God has given us as our today and our tomorrow. And His plan is SO GOOD. I love that the seasons of the weather change, and that is exactly the same as our family’s seasons ebbing and flowing and waxing and waning. There are so many sweet times and hard times in each season.The people in our lives, the messes that they make, the schedules we follow, the life we lead, it’s all from Him. It’s all for Him.

Time standing still. Oh, I am tempted to think this season will NEVER end. But what about next season? Isn’t it going to be full of roses and perfectly respectful children and a self-cleaning home? Right. That’s what I thought. PREACH IT TO MYSELF.

1 Thess. 5:16-18 Rejoice Always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.:

Always. Without ceasing. In Everything. God’s will. So, that means DO IT! Time is marching on, and I have a job to do. Enjoy it. Love it. Revel in it. Love God and love people. Don’t stand still, harboring on the hardness of the season. Thank God for it and keep running that marathon. God made it. God made you. He takes care of you and wants you to trust in Him in this season of impossible.

14 “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

 

 

 

He set His face like flint

Isaiah 50:4-7

“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples,
That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.
The Lord God has opened My ear;
And I was not disobedient
Nor did I turn back.
I gave My back to those who strike Me,
And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard;
I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.
For the Lord God helps Me,
Therefore, I am not disgraced;
Therefore, I have set My face like flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.” (NASB)

As Christmas drew near, I found myself in the Gospels reading about the birth of Jesus and marveling at all the beautiful, intricate details leading up to His coming. I fought to get out of bed to read before the kids got up. Not happening every morning, but I was sure trying!

One morning, I remembered that in Isaiah 53, there is a point by point, word by word picture painted of our Savior, many years before He was born. So, I turned there to begin reading. But as I scanned the phrases in the chapters before, I couldn’t just start at Isaiah 53. I began around Isaiah 46, and needless to stay, I have just now gotten to this passage.

But Isaiah 50:4-7 stopped me in my tracks, among others. Look at who Jesus is and Who gives Him such attributes. Jesus has the ability to speak, so as to comfort those in distress (verse 4). God gets Him up and helps Him listen and obey as a child and disciple. Jesus kept his focus on the cross, “Nor did I turn back,” verse 5. He willingly took the punishment that was meant for us. “I gave my back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.” Yet, with all the grueling beatings and lashings and dishonor, Jesus’s confidence was in the Lord God, and He knew He was not “disgraced.”

And here is a sweet, sweet phrase: “Therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” To set ones face like flint is to be firm in his decision to do something and not be deterred. Though Jesus endured persecution from the onset of His life, knowing the road He would walk in obedience to the Father, He did not shrink back. He knew God’s promise for Him. And He pressed on, knowing He would not be ashamed in the end.

“I have set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.” How can we be deterred from walking in obedience to what God has called us to? Other people’s opinions? The world’s “demands?” Our own selfishness? Sorrow and grief?

I am often deterred from reacting and speaking gently and in a way that really shows our children Jesus. Being with our children all day long, I often get weary. Yes, taking breaks throughout the week definitely helps and is a key to fighting exhaustion and being overwhelmed. But, what about in those moments when I have been interrupted for the umpteenth time and the messes keep happening and everyone is starving for lunch? Set my face like a flint. FIGHT. Stay the course. Never am I entitled to take out my frustrations on these kiddos. Nope. Remind myself of the goal in this. To be pleasing to the Father in all I do. ALL.

Set my face like flint. Set your face like flint. What has He called you to do? Do you know? Ask Him! Wait for Him. Live your life for Him and you “will not be put to shame.”

Plan interrupted

Oh, I had a plan. A great plan. One that involved reading and orderly going through our Advent calendar and singing and cooking and serving those in our community. A schedule for all of this. It was going to be fun and a time for our family to serve together. A time for us to give out of love for the One whom God sent to die for us. It was a plan that would lead us up to the birth of our Savior when we would remember the greatest gift we have ever received. I, me, us, we were going to do this. Yep. It was a plan.

Then. BAM! Life came trainwrecking in. In not too many details: I had my appendix out the day after Thanksgiving. Then every last one of these blessings got hand, foot, and mouth disease. And I caught a nasty cold. So, that is all we have been doing since November 26. We have been up to our ears with unplanned events!! And these crazy distractions were coming left and right. When would we make those cookies and bring to these people? When can I meet with this friend or that family? Why can’t we just get things together?

These questions kept coming. And the distractions continued to happen. The baby wanted to be held in the middle of sugar cookie making. The three-year-old needed assistance on the potty. And two 5- and 7-year-olds needed a real heart-to-heart.

And sometimes I had this OVERWHELMING temptation to get frustrated at my distractions. But then I look around the room at my distractions: they are PEOPLE, precious little wild children who are more important than cookies and checking the box I made for ourselves during this Advent season and singing every Christmas hymn we know and reading every story I had planned leading up to Christmas day.

YES! All these things are GOOD. So good. But maybe life isn’t about how well we crossed every plan off of our well-intended to-do list.

Maybe life on this earth is about taking every punch and doozie thrown at us and having joy amist the chaos. Joy in the middle of crazy and hard and wild and no order whatsoever? Yes. Because we can talk all about this wonderful reason of Christmas with our children even if it isn’t well-organized and in a pretty little bow. There will be seasons for that.

But if this Advent season has been laden with illness, traveling, unplanned events, or maybe sorrow, God has a plan. Maybe He is teaching us that all we must do is COME. Come to Him. Bring our children to Him. Speak of Him. Show Him to others. Serve and give when we can. Make a plan, but don’t be bound by it, gripping white knuckled as if it were our salvation. Because if a list and a plan and order are our only joy, we have a big problem. I had to check my self this season. Where does my joy lie? Really and truly only in the unchangeable Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Oh, come let us adore Him. Whatever that looks like for you or your family, do it. Get that Bible out. Read the accounts in the Gospels. Read Isaiah 9 and see the unbelievable prophetic word of the coming of Jesus. We NEED Him. He HAD to come. We were desperate, alone, drowning in our sin and shame without Him. God’s perfect rescue plan to save us is mind-blowing and worth talking about all year long. So, even if you haven’t started yet, tell your children the old, old story that ends in salvation for sinful rebels like me and you. Celebrate Him this year!

Real Life

Never again will we get to relive a day gone by. I will not have a real, live pack of wild animals to accompany me on every day excursions forever. They really are the cutest, most unique little boogers whom we love and are so thankful for. God uses them to shape and change us daily, even on Target runs.

I went to Target to return something and look for things for a baby shower later that weekend. We pull up in the goldfish-sanded minivan, and the two oldest pop out of their seat belts, eager to devour their treat from the bulls-eye place – $1 POPCORN.

The crew floats in, literally hanging from the red shopping cart. You see, I am so thankful for a mobile, belted seat for our 19 month old. Not only does it confine his busy, busy self, but it serves as a handle for the other three. Their knuckles are white from gripping the cart so tight because sometimes it’s easier to ride than to hold Mama’s hand.

We line up at the return counter, and the circus begins. “Can I go play on the computer over there?” And I have to say no because a while back a worker said they could mess up their Baby and Wedding Registry system if they played on it. So, the oldest commences to play limbo with the line dividers. Did you know they can be taken apart and configured to resemble a spider web? That’s not exactly what he did, but waiting in line often provides ample imagination-extending exercises.

Before getting the party started with shopping, we have our big time with snacks. Walking up to the Cafe our children go wild. “Can I have this juice box? “How about this cookie?” “What about this bag of chips?” “I want all the flavors of the ICEE!!” Unfortunately the ICEE machine was down. So we all split two bags of popcorn and settled for Nesquick and three figurine juice bottles.

I actually gave the baby, who is nestled into his red, larger-than-life stroller, a half a bag. The other three and I poured ours on a napkin. And this little three year old of ours was not in his chair. I look at his napkin and most of the popcorn is gone. He had knocked the popcorn off onto the floor and was so graciously on the floor, picking it up. I was so proud. But then I noticed instead of picking it up to either put back on the table or throw away, he ate EVERY SINGLE KERNEL! My thankfulness for his cleanliness (he gets it from his daddy) far outweighed my horror of him eating off the floor. Immunity from other germs is great, right?

We cleaned up and headed out to finish the job at Target. Walking the aisles and window shopping in the toy section was pretty uneventful which is always a real treat.

While checking out, Caroline signals a dire need to go to the restroom. I had unwisely let the baby out of the containment seat, and things were about to go wild really quick. Cole, of course, chimes in that he needs to go with Sister, too. So, since the restroom was about 20 feet from the check out, I let them both go. I finish the check out, and Caroline comes out without Cole, who found it the perfect time to go #2. I park the buggy directly beside the restroom door, put the baby back in, and ask Cole to hurry up through a cracked door to the restroom. I don’t know why I didn’t just take the rest of them inside with me to retrieve him, but we wouldn’t have had a heart-to-heart in the next 20 minutes.

A little girl was sitting in the Cafe, which is directly beside the restroom. She told Carter and Caroline that they needed to get back to their Mama. They both said, “You don’t tell me what to do” and probably a few other not-so-nice things. I found this out as we are all walking out. We have had such a hard time with being kind with our words with each of the older kids. I was so crushed and sad and upset to see again that both are still struggling and disobeying in this area.

At the car, we get Cole and the others buckled in, and I am standing, putting the baby in and hit my knee like something fierce. One of those you want to throw up because it hurt so bad. Then with the weight of the aforementioned situation, I began crying. Carter asks, “What’s wrong, Mama?” I wasn’t quite ready to speak, but I did anyway. I told both of them that they continue to hurt others with their words, that all I want for them on this earth was to love God and love people. My passion for this, coupled with my extremely painful hit to the knee, brought on a flood of tears and intense words. We all cried, we all asked forgiveness of each other, and I prayed. I mean I haven’t heaved and cried like that in a minute. But, God reminded me that training can’t stop, won’t stop because, just like me, these kids are still sinners in a fallen world. These kids of ours, they are a gift from God. They need salvation in Jesus.

Man, life is crazy. No matter if we have children or not or if we are married or not. Things are hard. God orchestrates our lives for us to wholly depend on Him. Whether we live in the mountains thousands of miles from our families or in a cozy home in a small town, we are there to live and love those people and neighbors and strangers and church members and family.

Titus 2:12-14 says

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.”

Jesus came to make us like Himself. He came to make us a people who LOVE OTHERS, who are zealous for good works. We must work. We must not get tired of repeating the same lesson over and over to our children (oh don’t we grow weary of this oftentimes)? Do not give up! Be zealous for good works! Love that neighbor. Encourage that missionary. Train those children in love. Thank that police officer. Bring a meal to that discouraged momma. Love. Do. Trust. All because He came and died and lives forever. We are cleansed from our sin, and we are oh so loved. Pour out daily what we have had lavished on us.

Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile Logo

Guys! My super duper technologically savvy friend just introduced me to Amazon Smile. Located at smile.amazon.com, Amazon Smile is Amazon.com amped up to help consumers support their favorite charities and ministries. With every purchase that is eligible for the Amazon Smile donation, Amazon will donate 0.5% of the total purchase, before tax and shipping, to one of over a million registered charities.

The International Mission Board is one of the charities among the multitude available to donate to through Amazon Smile! Also included are the Wounded Warrior Project, New Tribes Missions, North American Mission Board, Reaching and Teaching International Ministries, Desiring God, Ligonier Ministries, and Memphis Union Mission.

... smile.amazon.com/ and search for the International Mission Board of

If you use Amazon.com to shop for gifts, please consider going instead to smile.amazon.com and purchase through that site. Your sign-in and wish list are exactly the same as on Amazon; the bonus to using Amazon Smile is that your favorite charity or ministry benefits while you shop! Upon your first visit to smile.amazon.com, you can select to which ministry or charity Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% of your purchase. You can change the charity at any time.

Tiny little side note: While this is a very sweet opportunity where our online shopping can impact our favorite charity or ministry, it is important to note that we shouldn’t allow this to substitute regular donations to charities and mission offerings throughout the year. But go and shop – don’t wait! smile.amazon.com.  It’s such a cool thing.

Praying and Giving

We mustn’t turn a deaf ear to the needs of Believers and non-Believers needing physical aid and the Gospel of Jesus proclaimed. When we hear Ann Voskamp urging Believers to pray and give to the refugees in Syria, we must pray and ask the Lord how we might give. When a missionary comes to church to speak of his or her calling to international or local missions, we must pray. Maybe he or she is from Wycliffe, Reaching and Teaching, New Tribes, the North American Mission Board, or the International Mission Board. Whatever his or her affiliation, the need for support is urgent and real. When the International Mission Board’s president speaks humbly and boldly about the dire need for funding for the advancement of the Gospel, we cannot look away.

My family and I fully encourage anyone contemplating supporting a missionary from ANY missions organization to pray and ask God to give him or her direction. It is far better to give than to receive. Millions still must hear the Gospel. God has chosen many from the foundation of the earth to be His children. Believers must go and spread the Good News of new life in Jesus Christ. They also must be supported by us through ongoing prayer and monetary giving.

With that being said, I am a bit torn in my passion for the International Mission Board because I have immediate family in Papua New Guinea through New Tribes Missions and a church family headed to Ecuador through Reaching and Teaching. Both families are or will be fully funded through one local church, individual donors from various churches, and other local churches across the U.S. Missionaries, like my family and friends, in other mission organizations have spent months and months traveling from church to church spreading their message and sharing their God-given calling. And God has been so kind to fully fund one family (and on-going funding for another) to go to the farthest reached places in the world.

So, I am not completely sure why God has laid it on my heart to advocate for the IMB and their Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, but I said yes and will obey! By God’s design, I am at home with these four crazy, beautiful children. My mission field is right here in Fayette County and in this home. But, our bestest of best friends are in Germany with the IMB. Of course, there is nothing superior about the IMB above any mission organization in regards to who should be supported over another, but the funding it receives comes DIRECTLY through ONE offering which is collected every winter in Southern Baptist Churches across the United States. This offering is called the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.

Missionaries with the IMB are called, trained, and sent, just like any other missionary in any other missions organization. However, their salary, house or apartment note, car note, school supplies and fees, travel expenses, medical expenses, and more are funded and supplied by the Board which receives its monies mainly from LOTTIE MOON CHRISTMAS OFFERING. Check out this video below to learn a little more about the offering.

Because of Who He Is

If there is a question of whether one SHOULD give to missions, the answer is always PRAY and then a big fat YES! To support missionaries sent through the IMB, visit their website at http://www.imb.org. There are links embedded in the first part of this post for Wycliffe Bible Translators, New Tribes Missions, Reaching and Teaching, and the North American Mission Board.

CLEAR

By God’s sweet kindness, Carter’s test yesterday was clear of anything abnormal. His doctor said that his brain looked perfect. We all know Who did that!! We are praising God and thanking those who were so kind to pray with us and for us.

Anesthesia is a bit scary to me, but Carter handled it well. A little grouchy upon waking, Carter calmed down a bit during his four hour recovery at LeBonheur with the help of some good medicine. It was really enjoyable and interesting to watch Brandon, who was once the patient, take care of Carter while he got his blood drawn and recovered from the test.

Brandon’s mom was there with us when Carter woke up, and she and I were trying to make sure Carter was comfortable. Standing by his side, we were talking to Brandon who was sitting beside Carter in a chair. Brandon said, “Just leave him alone; he’s fine.” I said, “We’re just trying to make sure he’s good. We’re not bothering him.” And Carter looked at Brandon and said, “They are bothering me!” We just laughed and realized he was still waking up from the anesthesia and was pretty upset his legs were restrained a little to keep them straight for his four hour recovery.

The patient turned caregiver has been a precious story to watch unfold. Just seeing Brandon comfort and sympathize with Carter made me love that man more. I laughed just watching Brandon calmly look on and KNOW that Carter was okay and know when he needed a little extra pain reliever. Not really ever seeing a father figure tend to a sick or recovering child, I was extremely encouraged and taken aback watching my husband love and care for his son.

Learning that little ones are very fearful of things unknown has helped us see how we must not let these times pass in frustration or hastiness. But we must be diligent to speak of who God is in the pain, joy, and mundane and read His Word and trust in Him who created all things and holds all things together. It was a sweet and hard time all at once. Precious Words that keep our minds in check is from Colossians 1:15-17

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities, all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”

Thanks for praying, again!