At the beginning of the year, instead of a new year’s resolution, I prayed for God to give me one word to guide me throughout this year. After days of prayer, my word was clearly…REST.
Ok, sure God. I have a husband, triplets, a foreign exchange student, and a full-time job—I’ll work in some rest when I have time.
March came along and I found out that I needed major ankle/foot surgery. I would be forced to “rest” for three weeks until I could go back to work. During the rest time in April, I was able to make serious progress with the prayer journal, which enabled it to be published in June.
I didn’t choose rest, so God chose it for me.
Summer consisted of a cruise, church camp, family vacation to Universal Studios, my parents moving to town, all topped off by a few weekend trips.
No rest there.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about rest once school starts, because it just doesn’t happen! Sports practices, school work, packing lunches, piano practice….The whirlwind of life just continues to gain momentum.
And the very thing that happens after this much going, happened last weekend. I crashed. I crashed hard.
Friday I could barely keep my eyes open to function.
Saturday we practiced golf with the kids and I could barely swing a club.
I cried over stupid stuff.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I knew my body couldn’t do another day. My husband had been fighting a sinus infection for weeks, and I think he hit bottom too.
“I don’t think I can go to church…” I started. Before I could finish my sentence, he responded, “We need to stay home.” We both fell back to sleep.
I fixed our family a big breakfast, ate, and went back to sleep again. I thanked God when our church leadership meeting was cancelled, because I was still in bed. We would get up to eat, then fall back asleep. I did manage to squeeze in a few loads of laundry, and talk to the kids.
You know, it’s okay for you you to do too…sometimes you just don’t have to get up. Sometimes it’s okay to not leave the house. Sometimes you need to stay in your pajamas for the whole day. Some days the kids will survive on sandwiches and cereal for a whole day. Or peanut butter crackers. Or fruit bars.
The real problem is we just don’t rest enough. Even God rested after creating our universe!
Exodus 20:8-10 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, not any foreigner residing in your towns.”
Exodus 23:12, “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.”
Many dismiss the idea of resting on the Sabbath as an “Old Testament command.” God continues to convict me of it, however. How much better off would we all be if we just took the time to rest and focus on Him?
Have you ever read something in the Bible and felt like someone was looking into a crystal ball, and then writing about what our world looks like today?
Almost 2,000 years ago, Paul wrote amazing letters to young Timothy. As I read these words a few days ago, my heart ached because it was like I was watching a news story about what our world has become.
Listen to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God–having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
Ugh. It looks and sounds familiar.
And what is Timothy (and us) to do? Paul continues in 2 Timothy 4:2-5
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not up up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
After reading these verses, I’ve been in prayer all week asking God to guide me through these uncertain times like He did Timothy. I want Him to teach me to respond in a way that is honoring, and that will show what Jesus expects a Christian to do.
(I really debated with whether or not I would write about another experience I had on vacation. So, let me preempt this whole story: This is not about my actions or what I did. This is clearly about how God can work through us if we listen to Him.)
I like doing laundry. I like the smell of clean clothes, and the warm feeling of towels just pulled out of the dryer. I like for the laundry basket to be empty, and I feel a little stressed when the clothes almost reach the top. (I don’t, however, like putting the laundry away. That’s where the kids come in!)
When I’m frustrated, I’ll go start a load of laundry. When I need a few minutes alone, I’ll fold clothes. After a few days of traveling with the family this summer, imagine my excitement that our hotel had a laundromat! Ahh…The smell, the steady hum of the dryer, the time alone. I definitely needed this.
I hauled all of our dirty clothes down the elevator and sorted them into two washing machines. I sat down for a few minutes to soak in the smell of Tide and the rhythm of the dryers. I noticed that the six dryers were all full of clothes, and there was one with 20 minutes left on it. Perfect. My two loads would be finished washing around that same time, and I could put all the clothes in one dryer.
I came down about 45 minutes later, and that one dryer had stopped, but the clothes were in it. What to do? What to do? Laundromat etiquette dictates you don’t pull another person’s clothes out of the dryer and replace them with yours. That’s rude. But…it was already 9:00 at night, and I really needed this dryer. So, with my heart racing like I was committing a felony, I pulled the clothes out and put mine in.
There was a folding bench, so I very neatly folded the small load of clothes. I folded two size small ladies t-shirts, a pair of size 5 denim shorts, a baby blanket, two onesies, and some baby socks. My mind began to picture a young mom. She probably threw the clothes in the wash because her baby son had spit up all over them. Now it was late, and she was probably desperately trying to get him to sleep. Maybe she wanted to come get the clothes, but there was no way she would leave him in order to do so.
Oddly, my heart began aching for her. I prayed over each piece of clothing. I prayed for the sweet boy whose tiny toes filled those socks. I prayed that God give the mom patience and peace. I remember those hard, baby days. I also prayed that God would give her strength.
I put our clothes on to dry, went back upstairs, and came down an hour later to get them. The small pile of clothes was still where I had left them. When I laid down that night, I couldn’t get her out of my mind. I prayed for her again before dozing off.
When I woke up, she was the first thing on my mind. I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me–prompting me to let her know about God. I felt it so strongly. I knew God wanted me to write something to her.
I grabbed the hotel notepad and wrote:
“God sees you and He loves you. He knows you are going through a hard time
right now, but He is there for you. Just turn to Him. I am praying for you.”
John asked what I was doing.
“I just really feel like God is wanting this lady to know He hasn’t left her. I’m writing her a note, and if the clothes are still there, I’m supposed to leave it on them,” I responded.
“You think the clothes are still there?” he responded. I just shrugged my shoulders.
We gathered all of our bags and headed downstairs to load the car and eat breakfast. My heart began to race as I opened the door to the laundry room. I paused and turned to face the folding table. There lay the small pile of clothes. Yep…God for sure wanted her to have this note. So, I placed it halfway in the shirt on top, said another prayer, and left.
Although I wish I could have been a fly on the wall to see her response, that part wasn’t for me. I did my part. God wanted to speak to her, so I did.
The deeper my relationship grows with God, the more I am obedient to Him. And the more obedient I am, the deeper my relationship grows. Two years ago I never would have written a note, and I don’t know that I would have felt the Holy Spirit nudging me. Spending time in God’s word has changed me. Are you ready for it to change you too?
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.” Romans 8:14
I don’t know about you, but I’ve probably spent too many free moments scrolling through my Facebook feed over the past week. The news and images from Hurricane Harvey have put me on an ever-changing emotional rollercoaster. My range of emotions have gone from utter disbelief, to pride in my fellow Texans, to anguish…and everything in between. I’ve been in a constant dialogue with God as I pray for others, and ask Him to guide our family in what we can do to help.
Several days ago, however, I was struck by a new emotion to this situation…disappointment. Disappointed in how quickly the truth seems to disappear in an effort to get “Likes” or attention. It all started with a picture someone posted of a shark in the flood waters on a highway in Houston. I couldn’t imagine that the picture was real, but I honestly did not think much else of it except to notice that it had been shared dozens of times. Then, I saw a video of horses being rescued from rising water in Houston. The person shared it as if it was just happening, but the date on the video showed it was over a year ago. Then there’s the whole controversy over the truth about Joel Osteen’s church. It all finally struck me solidly last night when I read a post about how to determine if photos from the hurricane are real or have been fabricated. (BTW, the shark picture is a fake!)
Unfortunately, the truth is being lost.
I felt disappointment because I realized that I couldn’t really count on anything I’ve read (or seen) in my news feed to be fully the truth.
I do know this, however, there is one place I can always go to find the whole truth–to our Almighty Father. The Bible is full of verses about truth, but these are two of my favorites.
“The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Psalm 119:160
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, You would have known my Father also. From now on you know him and have seen him.” John 14: 6-7.
In these times of great uncertainty, let’s focus on and cling to the truth that we find in the Lord, and in His words.
My kids make it look so easy. So effortless. So black and white.
If the Bible says it, then they totally believe it to be true….100% of the time. There is no cynicism, second-guessing, questioning, worry, or fear in the faith of our nine year old kids. Everything is matter-of-fact, and clearly stated in the Bible.
Take yesterday, for example. In preparation for the release of my first book, I’ve had to do a whole bunch of things that are completely out of my comfort zone: establish a business, get a tax ID number, set up a business banking account, talk to an attorney…and the list goes on. I returned from a trip to the bank with a stack of papers in my hand, and an overwhelming feeling of doubt.
I plopped down in my recliner, as a few tears seeped out of my eyes. “Mom, why are you crying?” our daughter asked.
“I just feel so overwhelmed and worried. There are so many things that I’m having to do that are new and different for me. I’m worried that I’m not doing things correctly.”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” she answered in a compassion-filled voice. “God has gotten you through writing the book. He will walk you through all of this too. Just do one thing at a time. You know He won’t leave you now that everything is almost finished.”
And there it was…the wisdom and truth I needed to hear. And all from a nine year-old child.
The Bible addresses this kind of faith in Matthew 18:3. “And he (Jesus) said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
Yesterday was a blinding reminder that I need to remember the promises God makes in the Bible, and that I need the faith of my children. I’m so thankful our daughter was there for me, and reminded me that God is too.
I’m not a control-freak. I don’t go around trying to control the actions of others. I don’t manipulate people to get what I want. BUT, I do like to be in complete control of what happens to me.
As the daughter of an alcoholic, abusive father, so many things happened to me as a child that were completely out of control. Thanks to a counseling session in college, I learned that as I matured, I subconsciously tried to control everything I thought I could. For me, it was my planner. I carried a planning calendar around every second from high school through the year the triplets were born. I would add notes, plan, circle dates. Heaven forbid something change that would cause me to erase. And you better not get in the way of my plan!
I planned on going to college. Check!
I planned on getting married. Check!
I planned on getting my Master’s Degree. Check!
I planned on being a principal. Check!
I planned on having a family.
Oh, wait. I can’t get pregnant. We have to do In-Vitro Fertilization to have a child? That’s not in my plan.
I’m having triplets? That’s not in my plan either.
You want me to write, God? Ok, I guess I can do that.
You want me to start a blog and reach out to your girls? OK, I’ll do that too.
I see that His plan is always better than mine, and yet I still crave control.
My desire to control indicates a lack of Trust in God.
Our God is faithful, and He has sent me a message. His message came through the words of the Bethel song, “No Longer a Slave.” The majority of the song is about not being a slave to fear. However, that’s not what got me—fear doesn’t rule me. Control does.
I’m singing along and I get to these words,
“You split the sea so I could walk right through it.”
I sing it again… “YOU split the sea so I could walk right through it.”
Wait, I don’t split the sea. I don’t make the path. I don’t make the plan.
God does. God makes the way.
God requires me to be obedient, to follow where He leads, and to walk through when He splits the sea.
My grandfather was a very wise man. I remember clearly, through the tears of preteen drama, he said to me:
“A rich man can count his close friends on one hand.”
“Surely not,” I retorted. “The more friends the better.”
“Having more friends does not make you wealthy. Having real friends does.”
The Bible contains many verses about the importance of friendship. Some of my favorites are:
*Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
*John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this; to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
*Proverbs 18:24 One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
During a recent sermon, I was reminded of an excellent story in the Bible about friendship. In Mark 2, Jesus returned to Capernaum after performing miracles throughout Galilee. Of course word had spread quickly, and everyone wanted to see Jesus. He was preaching in a home (possibly the home of Peter) and there were so many people gathered that there wasn’t even room around the door to see Him.
Then they came, bringing a paralytic to Him, who had been picked up and was being carried by four men. And when they could not get him to a place in front of Jesus because of the throng, they dug through the roof above Him; and when they had scooped out an opening, they let down the quilt or mat upon which the paralyzed man lay. And when Jesus saw their faith [their confidence in God through Him], He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven and put away.”
And later in verse 11 (after the scribes were giving Jesus a hard time–Who is this man to say He can forgive sins?), Jesus says “I say to you, arise, pick up and carry your sleeping pad or mat, and be going home.” The paralyzed man was healed and they all praised God!
Now, I’m telling you, that’s real friendship!
As I examine the story, here’s what I see about friendship:
There were four friends. Sure, I know you would need four people to carry someone on a mat. But, it makes me know my grandfather was very wise. In this case, four real friends changed a man’s life.
The friends acted. They didn’t just take their friend out to the street in hopes that Jesus would walk by. They took him on top of a house, dug a hole in the roof, and dropped him down!
The friends brought the man right to Jesus. There was no “I”ll pray for you,” and then a meager prayer given. Oh no. Instead, it was “Jesus, our friend is paralyzed, and we will lay him at your feet. We know you can heal him.”
The friends had real faith, and the man was healed because of it. The Bible says, “And when Jesus saw their faith [their confidence in God through Him]…”
They were thankful. “And he arose at once and picked up the sleeping pad or mat and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and recognized and praised and thanked God saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this before!’”
Those are the kinds of friends we all need, and the kind of friends we need to be.
A few, really close friends.
Friends that act. Friends that see a need, and then do something to help.
Friends that genuinely pray for you. Friends that will take you straight to the feet of Jesus.
Friends that have a real faith in God.
Friends that worship and praise God for His amazing glory.
Are you that kind of friend? If not, what do you need to change in order to get there?
Are you surrounding yourself with these kind of friends, or do you have vampire friends (that suck the life right out of you!) ?
If you do have these kind of friends, thank God for them! True friends really are a blessing from above!
My son, Aaron, and I were sitting on the back porch today enjoying all of the smells of a summer morning. I had the Bible in my lap, so I asked Aaron if I could read something to him.
“Mom, read to me about Moses and the Red Sea,” he said.
“Sure,” I said. “I love that story.”
I’ve heard the story a million times, and I’ve watched it almost every year at Easter in “The Ten Commandments.”
Today, however, something was different.
Today the story was fresh.
Today the message was clear…
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14 NIV.
Be still. It is a theme with the Lord, isn’t it?
Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10.
After escaping the Egyptians, the Israelites had to trust that God would continue to take care of them. (Of course He did by providing manna from heaven!)
Exodus contains such amazing lessons of faith. We don’t need to worry. We don’t need to try to put all of the pieces together the way they should fit. We need to trust that God is in control, and we need to be still and let Him work.
I love the commentary in my Bible by Beth Moore: “Trust requires that we have unanswered questions. God’s ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best. Trust God and learn to live one day at a time. As you do , you will enjoy life more than ever before.”
In 1 Peter 4:10, the Bible says “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace.”
My gift is teaching.
I have taught in one capacity or another for over 29 years. My first teaching experience was leading my fellow high school students in Bible study. I’ve taught 1st grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade. I’ve taught teachers, and when I was a principal, I taught fellow principals.
The most important teaching assignment has been teaching my children: teaching them about God, and teaching them about life.
My scariest teaching assignment, well, I’m in the middle of that! It’s teaching through my writing. Several years ago, God laid it on my heart to reach others for Him through my writing. He guided me one small step at a time. First, devotionals for church. Then, I started a blog. I wrote a book proposal, and attended a writing conference for Christian women. Now, I stand at the threshold of even more:
I am about to self-publish my first book, a prayer journal.
I’m amazed at everything that is involved! I need a company name, and a tax ID number. I’ve had to talk to an accountant and an attorney. I’ve hired a marketing team. Friends…I’m completely out of my comfort zone!
But, I know this…God is directing my steps, and it’s up to me to walk in obedience. And it’s scary.
What are your gifts from God? A friend of mine once said, “When you say you don’t have any gifts from God, it’s like you are calling Him a liar.”
Pray about your gifts, and be willing to use them to glorify God and His kingdom. It’s not always going to be easy, but it’s totally worth it!
For many women, Mother’s Day is a celebration of their motherhood. A time for homemade gifts from kids, breakfast in bed, and if you are lucky, a day off from doing laundry. For many other women, however, Mother’s Day is truly one of the most painful days of the year. For many years, I was one of those women.
When my husband and I decided it was time to have kids, I remember clearly it was a January, I figured I would probably be pregnant by Mother’s Day. My cycles were charted, I knew my fertile days, this should be easy. Every month would start with excitement, and it would end in tears. An every 28-day reminder that I still wasn’t going to be a mom.
The months turned into a year, and the fertility tests began. “Relax,” people would say. “You’ll get pregnant if you don’t stress about it.” Don’t stress about it–are you kidding me? Everywhere I turned, someone else was pregnant. I began to wonder, “Why not me, God?”
After another year of tests, we were told the only way we would ever get pregnant is through IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). I gave myself so many daily injections that I felt more like a pin-cushion than a woman. But, guess what? It worked! I was pregnant after the very first cycle! It was October, and my due date was June. I would be pregnant during Mother’s Day!
A regular sonogram four weeks later revealed the opposite–I had miscarried. The day after Thanksgiving, I sat in an exam room sobbing while John held my hand. No baby. And thus began some of the lowest days of my adult life. I felt empty and incompetent. I cried out to the Lord, and He answered me through scripture.
The beginning of 1 Samuel tells the story of Hannah. Although married, and adored by her husband, Hannah had no children. She was distraught. 1 Samuel 1:8 “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?” V.10 “And she, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly.” Yep…I did too. I am physically ill just thinking back to it. My heart hurts and my stomach twists. It was awful.
I encourage you to read the rest of 1 Samuel to find out what happens to Hannah. As for me, well, God blessed us with triplets in 2007.
PLEASE, PLEASE pray for those beautiful women who will be suffering this Sunday: those who never had children, those who lost children, and those whose Mother’s are no longer here on this Earth. While there is so much to celebrate on Mother’s Day, I cry out for those who are hurting. May God’s peace be with you.