Grit: Part II

Last week I wrote about grit, how it is a determiner between success and failure. Grit is a real deal characteristic we can instill in our children with help from the Lord. There is one thing grit is and there is another thing that it isn’t. Grit is strong-mindedness and purpose-driven excelling through difficulties and affliction. Grit isn’t pulling yourself up by your boot straps. Nothing in the Christian life gets accomplished by doing anything on your own and with your own will power. And that is why I cling to and adore this passage in Jeremiah 17.

“Thus says the Lord:
‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.'” Jeremiah 17:5-8 (emphasis mine)

 

When, when, when the heat comes. Not if the heat comes. Not if – when. When trouble, affliction, pain, heartache, trial, job loss, infertility, sickness, life, heat come the person who trusts in the Lord will not fear.

If the person whose trust is the Lord is compared to a tree whose leaves remain green in the time of drought, how is that? The current circumstances have no affect on this tree. Its roots are deep, drinking up that water it is planted near, and that tree remains unaffected by the drought. This translates into the hope of the Believer in Jesus Christ who never changes though all around him gives way. Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The source of nourishment (the stream) for the tree remains and never wavers, just like the Source of our faith and hope is in a Person, our God who forgives and loves and takes care of and protects His children.

Because the tree was carefully planted by a stream of water, it doesn’t fear when the heat comes because it can continue to grow and remain healthy due to the stream as its life-giving helper. That tree is tethered to the stream, with direct access to its refreshment. We all have direct access to the Life Giver if we remain and abide with Him. When we abide with Jesus we will not cease to bear fruit, just like the tree planted by the stream of water survives the terrible drought.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. John 15:4-11 (emphasis mine)

That tree is neither fearful nor anxious. God’s word says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Then the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:6-7. Life is SCARY, and we never know what curve ball will be thrown to us next. But knowing that our source of life is our God who never changes and He holds our hand in the mundane and in the tragedies, our hearts can be comforted.

After becoming a believer, I learned a lot about reading the Word in context. So look what comes directly after Philippians 4:7 in verses 8-9:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

All of that: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praise-worthy is Jesus … It’s HIM. Remain in Him, keep our eyes on Him. How? Pray, read, talk about Him, encourage your heart with memorizing Scripture, talk about Jesus with your children and friends and spouse and family. Keep Jesus on the tip of your tongue and the forefront of your mind.

When that drought comes, when that heat comes, and I am telling you, it is coming, you will be “like a tree planted by water that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17)

 

christian quotes | Charles Spurgeon quotes | suffering | affliction

 

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Grit

I watched as my husband sat on the end of the bed and looked at him. His ole fuzzy head and dimpled face hasn’t changed much in 9 years. He’s just so cute. Brandon began to talk to him about his experiences with school and sports. “Bud, I wasn’t that good at sports at your age. And I wasn’t good at math in the third grade, either,” he said. Carter’s eyes widened. The look of surprise was evident. His dad, the warrior in Carter’s eyes, the guy that doesn’t give up, that pushes his mid-30 body to limits many don’t… he struggled?

“That’s why you have to keep working, keep pushing, have grit, son,” he went on. Grit. It’s a new word to our family. “Firmness of character,” “resolution,” “fortitude,” “courage,” “firmness of purpose,” “mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously.”

It’s a mental toughness. And my husband possesses it. I think it’s because those words he told Carter were true: he was pushed as a young kid to plow through his struggles and not make excuses. Brandon’s mom didn’t shy away from any sport that Brandon wasn’t the best at nor did she make excuses for his difficulties in math. Granted, they cried together as he pulled himself up (and his momma pulled him up) each time he wanted to quit. But that momma of his didn’t give up on him.

Ease of learning or ease in extracurricular activities isn’t all where it’s at. The mountains our children must climb are storing up for their future selves grit and determination to conquer life’s mountains or challenges they set out to accomplish for themselves. If our children want to try something that we think may be a bust because we don’t think they will succeed, we need to weigh our response. Oftentimes saying no will only handicap our children’s storehouse of grit if our “no” is in a false sense of protection.

“We are parenting for a day we won’t see.” Author unknown.

I love that quotation. I don’t know where my husband and I read it, but it’s the absolute truth. May we raise a generation of gritty children who are firm in who they are and have strength in all circumstances, especially the tough ones they will face day in and day out year after year. And we can pray for grit, because God can give it.

I think of our dearest friends whose four children are overseas alongside them in temporary housing and in a school that isn’t ideal. Grit that God has given them helps them wake up each morning and get things done. They have longed for three months to be firmly planted in the community God has for them, but God has them set as nomads for the time being. They are weary, but, oh they are gritty, too, by God’s grace! Firm in their purpose in that big city to raise those kids to know and love Jesus and proclaim His name among the lost there.

Be gritty. Have grit. Encourage your kids to be gritty. It’s the difference between success and failure.

Grit. Get you some!

 

 

 

Arrival

Arrival. The dictionary defines arrive as to reach or attain an object or condition. If we are seeking to arrive somewhere or to something there must be a journey, a trip, a going. Arrival denotes the reality that there isn’t quite a teleportation that automatically gets us somewhere. We have to experience the in-between of packing up, traveling, and then getting there. Beginning, middle, and end.

Traveling on an airplane is a trip, a journey. There are things we experience on the airplane between point A to point B. You know… those magical Biscoff cookies on Delta and the amazingly cold Ginger Ale that you don’t order any where else. Maybe as much as we would like to skip the whole 6-8 hour car ride to the beach, it is necessary to get us to that sandy, sunny, salty destination. It’s long. The kids gotta stop and use the restroom every 50 miles. It’s tough and long. But the journey is necessary in order to arrive.

This is exactly the same with our lives on this earth. The reality of our existence is that we are born and we live and we die and we will spend eternity somewhere. Our souls will live forever. The Bible says in Daniel 12:2-3, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” And also in Matthew 25:46, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” We will either live forever with Jesus in heaven (everlasting life, eternal life) after we die on this earth, or we will live forever in the absence of God’s presence in hell (eternal punishment, everlasting contempt).

Where am I going with this? In 1 and 2 Corinthians, Paul uses the term “being saved” on several occasions (1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:2, 2 Corinthians 2:15). “Being saved” as in it isn’t final yet, today, at this moment, at the time of the prayer you prayed, on the day you committed your life to Jesus, on your spiritual birthday, on the day you know God got you and saved you and forgave you of your sins. Like, “being saved” is an on-going process and journey, something we look forward to God finishing. “Being saved” is all at once final and continuous until God calls us home to eternity with Him, all the while knowing we are His even on this side of eternity on this earth looking forward to either his return or our final day. “Being saved” means that on the day of our salvation we haven’t yet arrived and we can’t stop striving to grow and read the Bible and pray and learn about God.

“Being saved” is a journey. And it is hard. The paradox between being a sinner and God’s child literally blows my mind several times a week. How can I need to go to God and ask forgiveness because of this sin or that sin yet still be His? Because I am being saved. I am on this mind-boggling journey of sanctification which is a really fancy word for being made more like Jesus until His return or my final day. Christians, as they are sanctified, desire to sin less, become more quickly convicted of their faults and sins, and walk closer to God in His word and in prayer.

“Being saved” means one isn’t saved on August 29, 2006 ,and continues living in sin, for herself, demanding her own way, and not seeking to please God in all she does. Being saved means you do an about face, an 180 degree turn from your life full of sin to walk away from sin and toward God. As we are being saved, we are repenting repenters. We keep on asking God to forgive us of our daily sins. We keep on praying this

“Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)

Show me, Lord, where I have sinned and need to confess! Show me, Lord. Show me, Lord.

“Being saved” is a glorious journey from God making you His child until our final day on this earth. It is a joy, it is hard, and in it is a promise that  “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” Philippians 1:6. So live! So love! So obey! Go on this journey working toward living for Him and for His honor. He is worthy because Jesus came down and lived a perfect life, died on a cross and took all of our sin and shame on Himself for us. God poured out all His wrath on Jesus for our sake on that cross, because of our sin. Jesus died that day on the cross. But He didn’t stay dead. Sin and death did not gain the victory. Because three days later, Jesus rose up from the grave and now He is seated at the right hand of God. Our Savior, Jesus.

We will fall. We will mess up. We will say the wrong thing. We will lose the fight some days. But we gotta continue fighting the good fight of faith and keep on. Get up! Keep going. Don’t stop praying. Don’t stop trusting. If you don’t know if you are His child, ask Him to save you. Pray. Read. To Him belongs salvation. Keep seeking and reading God’s Word. He truly is enough.

A Battle for Glory

This fight we are in on this earth is for God’s glory – not for ourselves. Maybe to outsiders this battle looks selfish. Maybe to onlookers the sides we choose seem petty and judgemental and self-serving.  Oh, I am a fallen mortal. But, the same power that rose Jesus from the grave lives in me. And as a child of God, I am called to stand for one thing and one thing only – Him.

“But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans‬ ‭8:11‬ ‭

Tonight I am pleading with the Father to fill our children up with the Holy Spirit and to grant them eternal salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Savior. They are lifeless without eternal life. Our children are without life and without hope apart from Jesus. May God give life to our children’s mortal bodies through the Holy Spirit that He will grant them upon the day of salvation. 

And our precious friends and fellow believers in Christ who are about to awaken across the sea in a land that is not their birth home for the sake of Jesus and lost souls… you are prayed for. May you represent the King in love and deed and truth and action. You are not forgotten. Your work is not in vain. Your toil does not go unnoticed. May the peoples in your sphere of influence taste and see that the Lord is good. Praying to that end for the peoples of Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Germany. 

Keep fighting and battling for truth and righteousness. May we keep striving with the help of the Holy Spirit to represent the King well in all we say and do. 

July 18

This big brother was once in the hospital bed, sleeping 23 of the 24 hours in a day with a baseball-sized bleed on his brain. There was swelling of his brain, and he couldn’t walk or use his left arm. His eye would wander and couldn’t focus. It was an unbelievably scary time. 

But God.

He held CB in His hands. Kept him breathing. Kept the ventilator way away from him. Kept his vitals perfect – and I mean perfect. 

There was imminent discharge with a swelled brain and a seizure on the verge.

But God. 

There was a nurse practitioner who rounded whom we hadn’t seen in 10 days of being in the hospital. She called the best neurologist in Memphis, and within hours a helicopter had landed to take CB to LeBonheur.

Days later he had his first brain surgery and 24 hours in ICU. Three days later was his last brain surgery, and he recovered in his regular room. We rolled out of the hospital three days after that. He couldn’t walk when we got home, but he walked again by his 2nd birthday three weeks later.


Upon every passing day in the month of July, there are so many memories of what we were doing on that particular day in 2009 and 2010. Seven and eight years have passed since God walked us through some of the most challenging days of our lives. 

But God. 

Oh, He always has a plan. What’s the plan for this dude? I cannot wait to find out. He is quick to stand up for truth, and it is one of the most incredible things I have seen. As a momma, coming out of the ferocious 2s, 3s, and 4s with “one of the most strong-willed children God ever created,” to see our 8-year-old stand for what is good – oh wow, what a gift. Sure he’s a brother who falls down to temptation in a real way daily. But God is so kind to show us glimpses of His work in a young heart.

Affliction and trials are sometimes blinding and seem oppressive and make one unable to see the big picture. But once God lifts that particular time up and allows you to see some of the why’s, it is breathtaking. We still await God’s revealing of what CB is called to do with his life for God’s glory, but we are crazy thankful for His walking us through heavy affliction for our good and His glory. 

Sometimes God doesn’t plan for a redemption in affliction, and for that I cannot even fathom the heartache so many families and friends experience. I will tell you it doesn’t fall on blind eyes. We have been near losing both CB and my husband. But in all God’s ways, there is His gentle hand, His comforting grace, His beautiful carrying of His children. Fall hard on Him. He is enough. He sees you and hears you and wants you to come to Him. May we find comfort in Him in all our days.

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.”