Some Good News for Struggling Hearts

It really doesn’t matter the exact circumstances. We all have hard things in our lives; we are in limbo about this or that, we are all waiting for something. We all have people in our lives that we pray for; we watch them bobbing out there on the waves that only Jesus can calm.

And sometimes WE are those people bobbing out there on the waves that only Jesus can calm.

That has been me for a while. I’ve been feeling a little untethered from the boat, a little unglued.  It’s exactly what I fear: That when especially hard times come, I will not be able to keep it together. So, I’m coming to this blog today with such honesty…and with some good news as well!

  1. John 15. Jesus says, “Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself…” Let me just stop there. I’m a branch. I can’t bear my own fruit. Right now, the fruit I want to bear is: a steady heart, believing God is good, simple trust, patience, joy. But “it must remain in the Vine. You cannot bear fruit unless you remain in the Vine. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” The whole chapter goes on to explain this thought: “remain in my love and your joy will be complete”. My heart has sort of been in shut down mode with others and a little with God, too. I don’t want to “Be still and know that He is God!” (Ps. 46:10) But until I do, there will be chaos in my soul and the fruit that I long to bear and benefit from will not be there.
  2. Psalm 51. David says, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” When you’ve been under stress or grieving or just having to surrender again and again (and of course I’ve just described life here), it does not take long for a spirit of disappointment, bitterness, and distrust to sneak in. We begin to see life from a defensive position, trying not to be hurt again. But the pure heart I long for would be void of that response…where there is now disappointment, bitterness, and distrust, this bold and honest prayer asks for a pure heart. Think white, clean, open…pure. We’re asking in this prayer for a steadfast spirit, a spirit that doesn’t go up with the good news and down with the bad, but is set on something, Someone, that keeps it steady. When we ask for the joy of our salvation to be restored we are really saying, “Lord, all these other wants and hopes have taken precedence over the gift of your salvation. Help me remember again, in awe and wonder, that my greatest need has already been met thru Jesus.”
  3. Luke 8:22-25, the story of Jesus and His disciples in a boat when a big storm came up. Jesus was sleeping through it. (Gosh, that feels familiar…”God, are you asleep? Don’t you SEE what’s going on down here? You could do something and You’re not!”) The boys say: “Jesus, we’re going to drown!” Like, “Hello!? Don’t you care?” And Jesus wakes up, meets their need, and says, “Where is your faith?” I kinda wish Jesus had done a “re-do” with them at that moment, so we could know exactly what response to the wind and the waves they should have had. Were they not supposed to wake him? Were they supposed to rebuke the storm themselves? Were they supposed to get tossed overboard and at the bottom of the ocean still be hanging onto stubborn faith that He would take care of them? I’m not going to pretend to know the step by step process of what to do when you’re scared and wondering what God is planning. But I do know this: Jesus was in the boat with them. And He is in my boat with me, too. When I say I’m going to drown under all this, He says, “Where is your faith? Don’t you think that me (the Master, the great I AM) being with you is worth something?” We are going to rock on these waves awhile. This is life. But He’s holding us while we rock; He’s that close, and He’s whispering in our ear that He knows we’re afraid but that learning to trust Him, learning to relax into His chest and hear His heartbeat, is worth something…may be worth everything…may be the very reason we’re here. Perhaps if the boys were to do a re-do they would wake Jesus and say something a little more like this: “Jesus, we hate storms. It feels like it’s going to hurt us more than we can bear. Please make it stop, but until You do, can we lay down there with You?”

No Longer Orphans…but Daughters

One of the most wonderful things God has shown me this year is the peace enveloped in the privilege of being His daughter.

 

If I had to say what I long for the very most as a mother it would be that my daughters would have victory over any barriers that would keep them from reveling in the love and protection their family and their Heavenly Father provides them. I know that was a mouthful of a sentence there, but the reality is that adopted children often have a very hard time truly relaxing in the simple gift of love. Their hard past makes it a little (or even a lot) complicated to enjoy all that they now have.

 

And doesn’t that sound a little like me and you, too?

 

This summer the Lord allowed me to swallow a seed and it’s been growing…the seed of confidence that what He says about my being related to Him really is true! Let me share an excerpt from my journal…I’ve been waiting for just the right time.

 

(I wrote the following on June 26, 2015, in Haiti, after listening to Melissa’s Story, a podcast from Jonathan and Melissa Helser)

 

“This is the day God delivered me from a spirit of fear and made me to really understand what was standing in the way of my joy and peace. I was living from an orphan’s heart, a heart full of disappointments and fear of more, a heart of distrust. I was a daughter of the King I just wasn’t letting my heart feel and my mind think from that status. I thought and felt and acted like an orphan just not quite believing God was good. It’s the great lie whispered in every tragedy: God is not good.
When a child doesn’t trust their parent, all kinds of mental and emotional problems happen, and when that parent is actually wonderful, what a sad story that the child would miss out on enjoying that stability they could have had.
 I decided I would not waste another minute of my life consciously doubting whether or not God was good.
If He loved me, and adopted me, it was time to let that carry its full weight and set me free. No more saying I believe it but it having no real effect on my feelings of dread.
This is the happiness of the believer–to let go of how your life has to be and ENJOY being His beloved, highly favored, cherished child, whatever He decides that should look like!
I’m ALL IN. I’m tired of being a worry wart. I’m tired of wondering if He’s good or if He makes mistakes. I need my Abba and I’m choosing to trust Him and know I’m not forgotten…know He is coming back for me, know He never stops thinking about me, know He weeps when I weep and rejoices when I rejoice, know He can see and orchestrate things in the future that I can’t comprehend, know He really is good and He really does love me, know I can be little me because He is Who He Is. If I know all of that, and I can honestly say that I do, then regardless of what He allows me to face, I really do not have anything to fear because He is the One Thing I must not–but could never–lose.
And every single sentence I just said about ME choosing to dwell with God AS A DAUGHTER NOT AN ORPHAN is happening before my very eyes in the seen realm…what will it take for these little girls to know they are no longer orphans? That there’s a room prepared for them like they’ve never imagined? That everyday half a dozen grandparents are whispering their names to the God they entrust their beloveds to? That their place at the table sits open and ready and no one else can fill it but them? That I dream of snuggling under covers and eating ice cream and helping them find their callings and really knowing them like only family does?
They don’t know these things…yet. It’s just words to them right now. And it really will take faith for them to believe it. And it really will take faith for me to believe He is speaking these same beautiful thoughts over me. I’m no longer an orphan; I’m in. Not even as a slave or a worker bee, but a precious child. There’s a room prepared, and a life to live until then carefully planned as well. In Heaven, the cloud of witnesses spur me on, the Holy Spirit intercedes with groans words cannot express on my behalf, and Jesus Himself, my dearest brother, goes to the Father for me and pray God’s will over my life. He says my name to the Father daily! I’ve a place at that table and His banner over me is love. He loves the story of my life, and revels in knowing me, behind the eyes.
My ability to speak it and write it is sadly inadequate, but just like with me and my Abba, my girls can either trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. They’re not gonna get everything they want or always be happy with us, but they can trust us and have a happy childhood…or not. There will be a huge transition of going from a disappointed, distrusting orphan to a content, relaxed DAUGHTER, but this is my prayer for us both. Healing matters, but you know what it really requires is faith. I’m choosing to accept that seed of daughtership, that seed of confidence to believe He is good, perfect in all of His ways, and worthy of my trust.
I pray that I will never be the same and that I will enjoy and relax and sink deeply into being my Daddy’s girl, and let Him fight my battles, write my story, and meet my needs. I pray I can LIVE that trust, seeing the fruits of joy, peace, security in who I am, and be that example by God’s grace to these girls, until they relax in our arms without a care in the world as all children should.”
I can honestly say in the months since I have truly been changed. Active petition and thanksgiving, with true surrender and excitement about what my Abba will do in His great love for me and others I am praying for, is the scene of my prayer life now. Worry is displaced by the choice to trust Him, and He makes me carefree when I come to Him and am renewed by His Word and truth. Trust has led to surrender, which has led to peace, which has led to joy, which has led to thanksgiving, which has led to having light even on the dark nights. And when I get lost again, it’s trust that I have to go back to. It’s square one.
That seed is the beginning and as Matthew 13 describes, the smallest of seeds can become strong arms, a plentiful home for the birds of the air to find refuge. May it be so in our lives, because the world is full of sparrows, looking to know their worth.

These Days…

One of my best friends came over the other day to sing and record (a cover), and after telling her what a beautiful voice she has (REALLY, I enjoy listening to her more than the original singer any day), she said, “I just have to sing.” I totally feel the same way. I just have to sing. But maybe even more so, believe it or not, I just have to write. And as I had that thought, my next thought was, “Oh yeah, right, there’s this thing called a blog and I think I actually have one of those, thanks to my awesome husband who knows I just have to write.” 🙂

I tend to only write when I have majorly serious things to say. I want to stop that. I want to believe that my normal might be encouraging or relevant to you, it may make someone laugh or think or be in their moment a little more and even if no one reads, well, that’s actually okay, too, because it did that for me.

So here’s what is on my mind these days…

I wonder if I’m the only one who loves their to-do list but also despises their to-do list. Now I don’t mean the kind of to-do list that is random and temporary, like make a dentist appointment, pick up someone at the airport, etc. I mean the list that is an almost every day kind of list, the necessities. Okay, here’s mine:

*Spend time with the Lord, having my heart and mind renewed in worship, the Word, and prayer (While it’s a discipline that I can’t live without and wouldn’t want to live without, it is still a discipline to settle down my soul with Him.)

*Spend time interceding for whoever He puts on my heart, especially and usually adopting families, countries, people with cancer, marriages, and missionaries (I’m totally fired up about this one…except when I’m not.)

*Study Haitian Creole (I LOVE THIS! I am on Lesson Nine, and I’m just so excited to get to speak with my girls in December!!!)

*Exercise (15 minutes, tops. Don’t be impressed)

*Teach music lessons here at home (Loving my students like crazy by the way)

*Study TBRI/The Connected Child & resources to prepare us for adopting older children

*Tidy the house (And if tidying was all that was necessary I’d be golden, but quite frankly that theory has led me to a very dirty house. This place needs some major elbow grease, but there’s no time for that with all my other daily necessities!)

*Make sure I take my supplements, eat the right foods, stay away from the wrong foods, rest when I’m tired, journal when I’m overwhelmed (Recovering from adrenal fatigue is a life-long process, and I’d rather stay in the aftermath than the math if you know what I mean)

*Somedays, like maybe just a few a month: Blog & song write (& decide if I want to share it on social media or not)

*Oh and I can’t forget a weekly trip to the grocery & hopefully seeing a friend or two for a cup of coffee or better yet some fro-yo

This is all before 2:30.

 

I love all of these things…

but somedays I want to stay in bed and watch Netflix instead.

There, I said it!

But for the most part, this is where you can find me these days. This is a major time of preparation for me. Some of what I’m doing in this season I will not be doing one year from now at all when my girls are here. I am convinced that my daily stuff (even if I do spend a day here and there in bed watching Netflix) is adding up to making me who I am called to be for such a time as this. I feel so blessed to be a homemaker and a stay at home mom (even though I know a lot of working moms who do all this PLUS a 40 hour work week or homeschool and when they come around, I hear angels sing, let us give them a moment of silence…because they need it…okay, carry on now) because it just feels like somebody needs to keep everybody on an even keel and how can I do that if I myself am not on one most of the time?

Opening the doors to myself–emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually, creatively, and socially– with this to-do list shows me and my kids that we have a lot of power to bring into our every day. We aren’t slaves to the way we feel when we wake up. We can inch by inch work toward big things that will bless others and help us reach our potential.

Amen to that!

(And amen to at least one day a week of forgetting about most of this and staying in pajamas all day with your people!)

 

 

 

A Little Look

I don’t really know where to begin. I am choosing to restrain myself from writing about everything all at once…in fact, I have a new goal in blogging that some of you will be really happy about! 500 word cut-off! Whoo!

That was 40 right there. Wow.

So, Jack and I went to Haiti this summer & spent two weeks getting to know the girls that will someday be our daughters. It was wonderful & weird, precious & difficult, all at the same time. Once that trip was completed, other pieces of the process could begin, so we were thrilled to finally be at that point.

We came home to a whirlwind of summer plans with our girls here (ages 7 & 10), and then they began school just a couple of weeks ago. I quickly dove into beginning and updating lifebooks for my girls, studying Haitian Creole, taking care of my inner life, and teaching music lessons while they are gone during the day.

One thing that has made all the difference in the world to me is my daily prayer time. I’ve been using the resources The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of a Praying Wife to pray specifically for the people under my care. I genuinely feel like I am living out Philippians 4 that tells us the peace of Christ will guard our hearts and minds as we present our needs to Him, with thanksgiving. I’m thankful that every need I bring to the Lord He knew about, and my prayers are more about me reminding myself of His awareness, power, and love than anything else! It’s a truly remarkable difference. I am not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid of not praying enough or not remembering to say exactly the thing I’m asking for in exactly the right way. Oh, how small in my eyes that makes my God and how big in my eyes it makes me! The truth is my Father has got “my people” in the palm of His hand, and that absolutely includes my girls in Haiti and my girls in public school. He has so much restoration and solace for their souls, and my prayers are simply in agreement with & gratitude for His already-great plans for them.

We are currently waiting for our Authorization of Adoption, which usually takes 4-6 months, which means we should get ours between the end of October and the end of December. We’re praying that God will spur people in Haiti to make this process happen in a more reasonable time period. After that Authorization comes, there is another 6-8 months of the process.

Proverbs 21:30 tells us (and this is no isolated verse here!): “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.”

I don’t know what God wants to do in the seen realm about this adoption process, but I have no doubt in my mind (and am seeing with my own eyes) that He is the One in control & that He is providing for every need.

Take joy, little children, we have a good Father!!!!!

 

#HowToBuild: Why We Fast

A couple of months ago, I wrote a short blog series called #HowToBuild, about building ourselves up in our most holy faith. I wrote about being in the Word, prayer, worship, and about the enemy. I cannot even tell you how attacked I was after writing that blog about the enemy! The Lord really did allow Satan to sift me, like I wrote in the most recent blog, about Jesus and Peter. I felt dazed and confused for awhile, knocked down and not knowing what hit me. I came to the Lord and His Word but in every way I just felt unable to concentrate and get anywhere. And because I saw how valuable fasting can be in times like this, when things in the physical realm are unbearable and life in the spiritual realm doesn’t feel like it’s going to be enough, I want to tag on another blog to that series…

Why We Fast.

I went through a time where I didn’t fast often at all, because I couldn’t really remember why it mattered. Honestly! I had this idea in my head that fasting was pretty much like holding my breath until God gave me what I was asking for, like “I’m not going to eat until that person is healed!” Um…I didn’t think that was quite right.

But in the sifting, in the disappointment and fear, it began to be really clear to me by God’s grace that I had to find a way to get more of His truth and power in me. Not only could I not be the wife and mom and witness I wanted to be if I did not have more of His Word and truth and love in me, but I could not survive on the inside, in the place where joy and peace was so desperately needed.

It’s clear to me now that when I am inconsistent in patience and love with my family, really the problem behind this is my inconsistency of coming and being filled by the living Lord Jesus and all His goodness.

That requires time. That requires attention. That requires setting aside escapes. That requires setting aside distractions. So for me, that requires fasting, and personally I fast from things like social media and Netflix because I know that’s where I go when I can’t handle things going on in my life. But what do I really need when I can’t handle things going on in my life, when I’m really hurting? I need Jesus, the same Jesus Mary and Martha cried to when their brother died, the same Jesus who looked with compassion on the masses. I need fellowship with Him and understanding of His parables. I need to know what I can expect from God, what happens when I pray, how to pray! I need to know He loves me, that others have suffered and made it through, and what faith really is! Sure, I’ve heard a lot of it before, but yesterday’s manna is stale. I have to gather, today, my portion.

Fasting is not about getting what we want in our prayer life.

Fasting is not about holding our breath, thinking if we take this drastic measure, He will do what we ask. He’s going to do what we ask if He wants to, I don’t think we have to fast to make it happen. (Maybe I’m wrong?)

Fasting is about prioritizing our spiritual nourishment for the marathon we are in, with great expectation that our inner and outer man will reflect the strength, wisdom, and peace we gain from Him.

Fasting is about feeding the spirit, which sometimes requires starving the flesh. It’s about focusing on the invisible, when we would normally choose the easier route: focusing on what we can see and touch and be quickly comforted by.

I’m at a place in my walk with God where I don’t have exact time frames of fasting, exact goals or beginning or ends, because then it becomes about the outer man, and my own self control. I want fasting to be about gaining a heart of wisdom, a life that chooses Him because I see the bounty there as opposed to what I would end up with if I spent that free time in another way. He wants to set our feet on higher ground, to look at our problems from a platform set up outside of the situation, rather than drowning in waves we can’t get our heads above.

Whatever it takes to get to that place, and stay at that place, oh, Jesus, give us grace to do it!

That Our Faith Would Not Fail

Jesus told Peter that Satan had asked permission to sift him like wheat but that He was going to be praying for him, that his faith would not fail. (Luke 22:31-32) Then Jesus gave Peter a picture of what it would look like to follow Him. He said: You’ll be taken places you do not want to go. You’ll have zero control. When Peter asked if the others would have it that bad, Jesus answered: None of your business and not your problem! You must follow Me. (John 21:18-22) Whew. Those must have been some life altering moments for Peter. And like a few other life altering moments for Peter that I can call to mind from Scripture, I fit in his shoes quite well. Stepping out, sinking. Demanding, head lowering. Zealous, unfaithful.

What can we take from these encounters of Jesus with Peter when we ourselves have a crisis of faith, a mountain ahead we just don’t want to have to climb?

1) We can take from these conversations a realization that we ourselves may be in the process of being “sifted”, meaning when it’s over (this particular circumstance and this earthly life), some of who we are will be left and some of who we are will be gone, thrown out, dead. Satan intends the sifting for our pain, in hopes our faith will fail, but Jesus intends the sifting for our benefit, so that we are refined like gold. It hurts. There are cancers being cut out of us. He sees what we cannot, and if we are to be His vessels here to show His Kingdom to the world, there are things in us that simply cannot remain.

2) We can see this unbelievable truth right along with the first: Jesus Himself is interceding for us. And He is interceding to the Father on our behalf, praying that our faith would not fail. He is the leader of that great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! Is He praying we will get everything we’re wanting? Is He praying our answers would come quickly and easily? I don’t see that here. I see His concern is our perseverance and character. I see His concern is our encouragement and an ability to keep going even when our plans fail and our hearts break.

3) We can see while our relationship with the Lord is incredibly enriched by community, there is an element of this relationship that is naked, alone, face to face, “just you and me here now”. We can’t worry about the size of other people’s mountains, callings, or pain. We can’t worry about the magnitude of other people’s success, riches, or ease. If we have given our lives to the Lord, they are just that: His.

It’s a death, a real death, to realize these things. We’re dying to self, to immaturity, to trying to make things true just because we want them to be true, not because they’re scripturally sound. It’s not taking on bitterness or apathy, it’s taking on the yoke that we chose in accepting Christ, the yoke that is only easy and light once we lose our strong opinions and absolute need to be in charge.

By His Spirit, we have joy in the journey, yes, even this leg of the journey. By His Blood, we have peace and friendship with God. By His dwelling in us, we have resurrection life that is the very breath in our lungs. Friends, in whatever mountain you’re climbing, whether you chose that mountain and now see how impossible it is to climb, or whether you are going through a trial you did not choose at all, I want to tell you this:

Whatever you have lost and whatever you feel you lack, you do have what you need to make it through.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, angels nor demons, present nor the future, any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in ALL creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD THAT IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD.” (Romans 8:35-39)

#HowToBuild: Standing Your Ground

One of my favorite shows used to be ALIAS! Awesome music, Jennifer Garner kicking butt and saving the world, and of course I can’t leave out it was one of the first shows where the writers decided it’s not really necessary to leave a dead person dead! So an important character dies, but somehow they are back in Season 4. Love it! But anyway…

On that show, there was an evil man named Alvin Sloane. Time after time, he was always showing up with manipulation and just enough truth to get his lies accepted by his co-workers. Mr. Sloane wasn’t genuinely trusted by the third season or so, but there were times the CIA needed to use his expertise anyway and he would be in the brainstorming room giving suggestions. In one particular scene, they were discussing a problem and he piped in with his suggestion rather strongly, and the heroine, Sydney Bristow, who especially was aware of his ability to trick people, said: “Excuse me, you have no authority in this room.”

Remember that.

We are waking up every morning to an opportunity to walk in the flesh or walk in the Spirit, right? Like it or not, and actually even believe it or not, we are also waking up to the presence of both light and darkness, Jesus and the enemy of our souls. If we are in Christ, we have His presence around us and His Spirit within us. We can awaken to it and acknowledge it, by worshipping, digesting His Word, praying…or we can do nothing and sink deeper into the flesh, which is more Satan’s playground than we like to think.

He’s having a blast wreaking havoc in us and around us when we have chosen to stay in the flesh, yet he never actually had the authority to do that. He does it simply because we didn’t tell him not to. We have to stand our ground.

It may look like a sudden sense of confusion, or a sudden line of thinking that brings you back to an old habit or addiction. It may be frustration and anger that just takes you by surprise, and you can’t believe you’re feeling and acting so ugly. It may be a habitual thing or an acute thing, but it’s negative, harsh, unforgiving, or fear-filled.

In those moments, I don’t always realize it is the enemy. And of course, sometimes it isn’t directly the enemy. Sometimes we have a process to work through to get where we need to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. But thank God, it’s not always a big long process! Sometimes it’s just as simple as recognizing what is going on. Whether someone is coming at us with one of these negative, irrational, overreacting emotions or we feel it rise up in ourselves, we are the ones with the authority in the situation, not the enemy. The name of Jesus makes the enemy flee! He can’t fill us, he can’t control us, and he knows it. He can only make suggestions that turn to thoughts that turn to feelings that turn to words and actions and habits and sin!!! We must know his schemes but also his gaping weaknesses.

Speaking, singing, and praising the name of Jesus makes the grip of the spirit of fear, confusion, bitterness, unforgiveness, laziness, lust, and anger loosen. We don’t have to stay in that place, abused and oppressed. With the knowledge that “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4) and the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18) we can know our place of authority over the enemy.

Here are some further scriptures on this, and just in writing this, I am so spurred on to ask the Holy Spirit to help me be aware when evil, un-peaceful, and divisive spirits are at work so that I can choose to not go along with them. We need a new normal, brothers and sisters in Christ, and that new normal is recognizing what is going on in the unseen and standing our God-given ground!

Ephesians 4:17-5:21

Colossians 2:13-15

James 4:7-8

1 Peter 5:6-11

Matthew 4:1-11

 

Our Words

So…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a sports person. I don’t play, I don’t watch, I don’t care! I don’t understand the rules, and if I was on the field or court, I would be the one who gets hit in the head with the ball or runs the wrong direction. I was lucky enough to marry a non-sports person as well, so we’re just blissfully ignorant together. But something we didn’t think about was that we would have offspring, and those offspring might actually want to play sports.

Enter 9 year old, 4 ft. 10 in., sweet and sparkly Selah Taylor, playing basketball for the first time ever.

After the first couple of practices, I knew it wasn’t going to be the experience I had hoped for her. I had hoped she would get on a team of kids who wanted to just have fun playing, learning the game, taking turns in the different positions, etc. I’m such a girl, I guess? I don’t know…I still don’t think I was entirely crazy with those hopes! What she ended up with instead was a team of very close friends, all guys, who had known each other forever and apparently had been playing basketball forever as well. Then there were three beginners tagged onto the group. Two of them were girls, and the other was a shy boy. You can imagine how this has played out. They have equal playing time, and that’s about the only positive thing I can say! The crowd goes wild when the same boys play after play after play drive the ball down the court single-handedly for a lay-up, or maybe a pass to their friend. Maybe once a game, a newbie will accidentally get the ball. Usually, they don’t know exactly what to do with it, they may dribble a little too high and lose control of it, they may break a rule, they may run to the opposite goal. It’s like they’re thinking, “Oh, wow, this is what a basketball feels like!” and by the time they’re done with that thought, someone has stolen it. And the worst thing that I sensed from the beginning is some of the adults who are “encouraging” their children from the sidelines or even the bench. This “encouragement” comes in the form of belittlement and phrases like, “What were you thinking?” My sensitive heart beats out of my chest. The kid’s face is red and he’s trying not to cry. No one does anything.

Okay, so all of that was to set up the story. This blog isn’t going to just be a bunch of complaining. I know God is doing something in me, God is always doing something on a deeper level and as I dig, there it is! I needed these truths and reminders, and this lovely basketball season was just the way for God to show me.

1. Sometimes our kids will do embarrassing things. Maybe its a sin they commit, bad behavior in a public place, or maybe their skill level in a certain area will be low! We’re watching them, we’re seeing the disappointment others may have in them, and it hurts. We don’t want them to feel ashamed, and quite frankly, we don’t want to feel ashamed. But I think God is saying to parents, to me, that if my self-confidence is so low as to care what others think of my child, I need to spend some time with Him remembering what matters, remembering my identity and who I am is wrapped up in who I am in Christ, not what I do or have to show for myself here on earth. Only when we remember that, and nail that down, can we teach our kids to do the same. We need to be bold and extravagant in our encouragement to our kids so they can hear what God wants to say to them about who they are! Also, they can accomplish great things, but they are also going to fail… a lot! We need to show them how to do that gracefully, with a firm grip on how much they are still loved and exquisitely designed for great purpose. So there’s a pit in my stomach on that basketball court. I don’t know that I want my daughter to get the ball. Who will be mad at her when she messes up? Maybe some parents, maybe some kids? Well, who cares? I love my daughter and I’m proud of her for trying. Anyone who thinks we are silly for still being happy after a mistake is missing out on some very good living.

2. If that embarrassment or frustration at our children leads to saying belittling things to them like: “What were you thinking?”, “What’s wrong with you?”, “Are you ever going to get this?” or “You drive me nuts”, we are flat out bullies. We’re standing over these little people and saying in essence the most ridiculous thing in the world: “Why aren’t you as good at this as I am?” We have 30 extra years on this earth! We may have gotten better at cracking eggs and solving math facts, but apparently we haven’t matured in character in all that time if this is how we’re acting. I am so convicted about this! That father at the basketball game made my heart hurt, and while I’m very sorry for the little boy, I am glad I could see my own wrong so clearly.  I’ve asked forgiveness and God is giving new phrases that are kind and patient: “It was so cool how you learned that concept, I know you’ll be able to get this one, too!”, “One day, we’ll look at this book and it’ll seem so easy!”,  or “Let’s dig deep and do our best, but if we don’t get it today, it’s ok!” Again, sometimes our frustration toward our kids isn’t even about them and our hopes for their improvement, it’s about us. I’m not any better than that dad. And we all have the daily moment-by-moment choice to be who God is calling us to be in the relationships we have with others, especially these little people.

We have the power to change the atmosphere and the atmosphere for future generations. We will either pass on the ability to gracefully make mistakes or pass on a policy of being harsh or ignoring failure completely. We will either pass on self-confidence and a deep sense of significance given to every creation of God or perpetuate the belief that we “are” as good as we “do.” We will either pass down kindness, security, and patience which sure does go a long way in helping a person of any age learn anything, or pass on the nerve-wracking demands that never gave anyone character or quality of life.

For anyone who is learning this and wants to pray with me…

Lord Jesus, You always spoke with kindness and love. Even when you corrected people, You spoke to their heart in a way that still cherished them as a creation of God and always let them know they had a safe place in You if they would be willing to leave their sin behind. You do not look at us as we deserve. After all of our sins, but also failures and things we aren’t good at, You look at us directly, in the eye, and just love us so much. Thank You! Help us receive this love and acceptance so that we can easily and freely give it to others!  I acknowledge my behavior as sin and I ask Your forgiveness for the times I have said things and acted in ways that were not loving and accepting. I have been frustrated, embarrassed, and at my wit’s end over this particular person and situation… Please forgive me. I will go to this person and ask their forgiveness… Holy Spirit, will You be like an alarm clock in my heart, warning me when I am beginning to think and feel in an ungodly way so that I will stop and not allow myself to do any more damage. Lord, I seek complete and total freedom forever from this attitude and way of interacting with this person/these people. Give me a new way to think of them and speak to them, in Jesus’ Name. You are so powerful and the only way I can be changed, and I praise You!

Amen.

 

 

 

 

#HowToBuild: Intro to New Blog Series

Some time ago I wrote a blog that mentioned how I’m re-learning this truth: “Build yourself up in your most holy faith…” Jude :20

How often I forget that just like my physical being needs continuous nutrients, my spiritual being needs continuous nutrients as well! So, what are those nutrients? How does one get to a deeper level, a more life-giving place, with God? And the even bigger question: How does one continue with that growth in a steadfast way, rather than the roller coaster ride most of us are accustomed to?

There’s a lot to explore here, but I do know this: It comes down to a daily decision. A daily choice. And that’s no one’s choice but our own.

For today…will we choose to turn our faces toward the Lord and do the work necessary to abide in Him?

A couple of weeks ago, I had a dream that spoke exactly to this and it really amazed me! I dreamt I woke up and the very first thing I did was go into a garage that was connected to my house (I don’t really have a garage but in my dream, I did.) I opened the door and saw two cars. One car was already warmed up for me. The engine was already purring. It looked like I wouldn’t have to think about it, do a single thing for it, in fact it seemed as if I wouldn’t even have to drive it but that it would drive me!  The other car was cold. It was on E. The battery was barely hanging on and would need a jump. Which did I have time for? Which seemed the most attractive? Which was easier to hop in and start my day with?

I woke up knowing exactly what the Spirit of God was saying to me, and oh how I needed to hear it. I could choose to walk in the flesh all day, which is always warmed up and ready to go, and let my natural (read: ungodly) responses to people and life rule my mind, mouth, attitude, and actions…or I could choose to pause for a little while and let my heart and mind be renewed and transformed in the presence of my Savior, a work that is His work but that I have to ask for and acknowledge my need of.

So this is just a picture of our choice. It’s just spelling out the simple truth that loving God, embracing His love for us (being changed by this gift), and being able to show His love to others don’t just happen spontaneously. No, we shed the garments of the flesh, and we put on the garments of righteousness. Not just on the day of salvation, but everyday, through confession of sin, prayer, worship, being in the Word of God, putting on our spiritual armor, being in fellowship with other believers, obeying, using our spiritual gifts, and many more practices that refresh, remind, and revive. I used to be so aggravated that I would wake up to a battle every morning. I would go to bed peaceful and in love with Jesus and wake up as fleshly as flesh can be. I still do. The difference is that now I expect this! Take that, Satan! Now I know that battle will be there, and it stands as my opportunity to consciously choose to walk in the Spirit instead. Amen!

For the next month or two, I want to write a series of blogs talking about how to “build yourself up in your most holy faith.” I have been the victim of the enemy for so long, in emotional and mental battles, in morning misery, in thinking I should be better, be stronger, live closer to the Lord…But now I know the truth. #1, it’s not just me!! #2, the Word of God clearly details how we can be strengthened for those battles, no longer a victim, no longer caught off guard. So, what I’m writing about is elementary, the blog titles will not wow anybody, but still, many of us including myself need to hear these truths and walk in them in a consistent manner in order to see the victory we long for, to be the people who will bring His Kingdom ways into this day, and to have the joy that should characterize a child of God!

Today’s blog is the introduction to the series, and we’ll jump into specifics, in no particular order, soon! I also have some songs I’m writing that I would like to include in these series, so I pray that the Lord will speak these magnificent truths through my very small offering of words.  The first song I want to share to go with this series is We Come Out Shining. This is on the CD Who We Are While We Wait available at: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/lyndsaytaylor3 or iTunes.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3-6

Finding Peace and Purpose in Our Battles

I have been really silent for over a month. Not just on the blog, but in my home and my relationships. I’ve texted with some friends but have had days where I only said a few sentences. I just feel quiet, and my mind and heart are full of pause. They are also full of prayers.

Some friends I know and love have had loved ones pass onto eternity, as always, in a quick and shocking way.

Some other friends have had little ones in the hospital, hurting and scared.

Some have had surgeries, new medications, life on hold and upside down.

I have had an extremely hard time with fatigue through the summer, then the whole month of September was on the couch or bed due to an urgent health matter (which is healing and going to be fine).

Battles both literal and figurative raging around the world.

You can see why the pause, and why the prayers.

Here are some of my thoughts in the silence:

*There is peace in surrendering what we wanted the journey and outcome to be. If we can bow to Him, there is peace there in that humility.

In this wellness battle, I have peace because I know that I know that I know that God gives both the sunshine and the rain. He is sovereign over my life, every single aspect of it, from how I feel to the day I die. To me, any thing less than this would mean God is less powerful than the enemy, than the world, than me. I feel safe in God’s hands, and if He is not freaked out by the difficulties in our lives and the limits those difficulties put on us, then I won’t be either. I gave Him my life. This is where my talk meets my walk.

*He isn’t asking more of us than we can give.

In this past month, I also came to grips with the fact (again) that if God actually wants something out of me, He’s going to supply everything I need for that task or I am in no way required to do it. I tend to fill up my calendar with good things as soon as I feel well, then the sickness comes and I feel terrible in more than just physical ways…guilt, confusion, weariness, stress. The Lord is freeing me (again) to only serve with the strength He provides and take joy that my life and accomplishments belong to Him, not me, so how much or what I do isn’t really “mine” to worry about. It’s His. He’s slowing down the pace for me because I needed intervention in that! 

*Where do I place my trust? In my supplements and self-discipline?

Number One, I trust Jesus for my righteousness. I say that because I sometimes think, “If I was more perfect, if I was more disciplined, if God didn’t have to ‘teach me a lesson’ (I don’t believe that by the way)”, then I wouldn’t have this recurring health condition that seems to hinder my life.  False. Jesus alone covers me with righteousness and right standing with God. I don’t have to do extra, in fact, doing extra would nullify my faith in the work of Grace! May that never be so! I’m on God’s “good side” because of Jesus, period. Number Two, I trust the Holy Spirit for my power to produce fruit, because any good that comes from my life (sick OR well) is from Him. And Number Three, I trust my Father for my safety. In the palm of His hand, I can know nothing comes my way that He did not allow, and because He is good, I want what He wants. I’m all in with Him, all in. If I trust Him with my children, my future, my home in Heaven, I must trust that if He wanted things to be different in my body and life right here and now He would bring that desire to fruition! He’s my Abba.

*When I’ve done all that is in my power to do for wellness- in wisdom and knowledge, prayer and praise- I can rest and enjoy the life that has been given to me.

In our wellness battles, we always have things to be thankful for. Personally, I’m thankful I don’t have to work a full time job. I’m thankful I have a husband, precious and somewhat self-sufficient daughters ;),  a great church, and so many friends that I keep leaving people out accidentally when I’m asking for prayer support! I’m thankful I have a quiet home and a fairly simple life. I’m thankful that the ministries I’m involved in are not overwhelming but peaceful and completely powered by the Lord. Not being able or allowed to do the many other things I am saying no to actually open the door to things I forget are so important. Right now, that’s relationships. Sitting down for more than 5 minutes with people. Hearing God’s heart in prayer instead of running down a quick list. Do you know how hard it is for me to just sit still and snuggle with my kids? It’s a challenge, and I think that’s sad! While God allows this trial in my life, I pray that I learn how to do that and not let a day go by where I refuse that gift.

Someday the Lord will deliver us from our battles, in one way or another. That relief will be sweet. But until then, I want to make sure that I realize there is no waiting to live. His Presence, His will, His relationship with us, His daily mercies, the things and people He has put in our laps…that’s all NOW regardless of our various trials. There is no waiting to be in His will, waiting to be thankful, waiting to be free, waiting to live. It’s now or never!