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.

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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.”

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.