Thursday, January 15, 2015

Dust It Off

Every now and then, God gives us a chance to really take a good, long, objective look at ourselves... and sometimes, it's just plain ugly.

But sometimes, He allows us to see some beauty we normally wouldn't have seen.

I was scrolling through facebook today when I saw these words pop up on a status for Intentionally Yours ( a marriage ministry I follow):

So, today, you have a choice to make. Are you going to let the dark threads of your life weave themselves into a portrait of hopelessness and devastation? OR, are you going to, with determination and intentionality, grab hold of your Savior and weave a beautiful portrait of a life lived in His presence - light complimented by dark, vivid colors made all the more beautiful alongside the black and gray?
I glanced over it really quickly and thought, WOW. Those are beautiful words.

Then I looked again, a little harder this time.

Wait a second, I said to myself. Those are MY words.

I wrote a post recently about what I would say to women about being Intentionally and Wonderfully Made (you can read that here) because Destiny and I were going to a women's conference by that name. After the conference, I sent a link for the post to my friend, Sherry Jennings, who is one of the event's main organizers, as well as one of the founders of Intentionally Yours.

She told me she was posting the link. I had even visited the page. But still...

For some reason, I just didn't expect a quote from ME to go rolling by on my facebook feed. And more than that, I didn't expect to see anything I wrote touch me the way those words did.

When I realized those pretty words were mine...I cried. I laughed, and I cried.

I'm not saying I'm a brilliant writer. I'm not even saying I'm remarkably good. What I am saying, however, is maybe, just maybe, God has blessed me with more talent than I've been giving Him credit for.

And maybe, just maybe, I should dust off that talent I've shoved on the shelf and make better use of it.

How about you? What talent or gift have you been hiding away?

God gave us these gifts for a reason, and I'm positive it wasn't so we can hide them away or disgrace them by comparing them to what He's given others.

So grab your gift from the shelf, dust it off, and USE it. We're all waiting to see what you'll do...the Giver of the gift most of all.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

An Entirely Different Kind of Dream Speech

Here's a little embarrassing revelation about me, one that I don't even think Josiah knows about: since I was little, I have played little fantasy scenarios out in my head (minds out of the gutter please).

I guess it's daydreaming. Maybe everyone does it...but I'm going to be the crazy one letting it all hang out today. 

When I was little, I would look out the bus window and imagine a movie producer or modeling agent seeing my face through the glass. He would stop the bus or follow it to the next stop and insist I was his next big star.

I was kind of a goofy kid.

Over the years, as I've changed, my daydreams have changed. Since my "calling" episode a couple years ago (which you can read about here), I've imagined myself speaking to large groups of people. I tend to write sermons and speeches in my head and envision myself speaking to rapt audiences.

I'm kind of a goofy adult, too.

This weekend, Josiah, Destiny, and I are going to Raleigh to visit friends. On Saturday, she and I are going to a women's event in Princeton: Intentionally and Wonderfully Made 2015.

I've met a couple of the main organizers/speakers for the event. They know Josiah and I are planning to start Seeking the Symphony (God's time, not ours), and they've also given us advice and direction for our church's new marriage ministry, Compass

I'm sure you know what's coming next - many times I've envisioned I'd be asked to speak at the event. In fact, I had to do an assignment for a class last year, and for it, I wrote a mock proposal asking them to allow me to speak.

NOT happening.

Let me be clear, I'm aware these are just fantasies at this point. I feel God has called me to speak, but let's face it: they have an ACTUAL author speaking at this event. At this point, I'm a stay-at-home-mom who writes a blog...on occasion. the last few days I've thought to myself, What would you say if they DID ask you to speak? What do you have to say about being "Intentionally and Wonderfully Made?

And the rest of this post, my dear friends, is the result of that question. It's my fantasy speech, but it's also my heart and my testimony. (And it's long. Super long. Get a snack and be ready to hang out for a while).

Alissa's Intentionally and Wonderfully Made Fantasy Speech

When Sherry and Beverly called and asked me to speak at this event, I did what any professional author and speaker does when they're booked for an event: the happy dance in my living room. That's not what they do? Huh...maybe that's because I'm NOT a professional author and speaker. 

So...after my very dignified end-zone-like celebration, I did the next non-professional thing: I screamed in panic. "What in the world am I going to talk about in front of these women?!"

I'm not a Bible scholar or Christian therapist. Heck, I'm a relatively new blogger and ministry leader. I'm just a woman!!

But then I realized, we're all just women. Each women in this room is weaving a tapestry, full of light dark, vivid and grim. We each have a story, struggles and victories, and God is present and active in each one of them. So, I'll just start with my story.

I'm a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of 5 beautiful children, ages 16, 12 (as of Sunday), 7, 1, and 3 months. The oldest three children are from my previous marriage. My husband, Josiah, and I have only been married for just over 2 1/2 years...and we've had two kids in that time. It's been a busy couple of years!!

I'm totally in love with my husband and kids, but I'm actually more grateful to say I'm in love with my Savior, Jesus. 

I haven't always been able to say that.

I've known Jesus as long as I can remember...sort of. I asked him into my heart at a very young age, and I was 14 when I was baptized. But...for a long time I didn't understand how to have a relationship with him. I didn't understand that God had a plan for my life...or how to consult him regarding that plan.

I was always the bubbly girl...I still am. obviously. If you tied my hands behind my back I might not be able to talk, and I wear my heart on my sleeve...which is then ALWAYS faithfully communicated by my face. I can't control it. If I'm confused or happy or upset or just think you're crazy, you'll probably be able to tell...immediately.

 I graduated from high school at 17 at the top of my class with a Presidential Scholarship to Christopher Newport University. I just knew I was going places...and I was...just the wrong places. 

A month after graduation I met my ex-husband and the father of my first three children. He was a dreamer, a risk-taker, an artist. 

But like a lot of artists, he also had a very dark side. 

He's a lot different now. People grow and they change. We were a toxic combination. That actually makes all of this harder to share. I feel like I'm slandering someone. However, no matter how hard I try, I can't remove this part from my story. It's my testimony, my life. 

Abuse just isn't always what it is in movies. It doesn't always happen non-stop. It can start very gradually and be very sporadic. He could go a year without an incident and then...then they would start again. Something I did would set him off, and once again, the beast would raise its ugly head. Sometimes he would only yell. Sometimes he would get in my face. Sometimes it was Hell on Earth. 

One time he choked me until I passed out and he thought he killed me. He was more scared than I was...and he didn't touch me for a long while after that.

Physical abuse is very ugly, but in my case, I'm thoroughly convinced the verbal abuse left the deepest scars. I was ugly and fat. My stomach was the most disgusting thing he'd ever seen, and no one would ever have me. I was worthless. I thought they were just words...and words can't really hurt you, right?

Through it all I smiled and laughed. I made friends just as easily as I always had. I went to bbq's and served on the PTA. I just didn't always disclose what went on behind closed doors. Some people knew, but most people had no clue. I left him multiple times, or I was the one that was left...but we always wanted to try to make it right.

Old habits die hard.

In September of 2007, we had a particularly ugly battle. The night ended with an arm I thought might be broken (it wasn't); a picture of my five year old on her knees, crying and  begging her dad not to kill himself permanently seared into my memory; and the deeply held conviction that it was finally time for me to leave for good. 

I secured a full-time job, and five months later the kids and I moved out.

As a small aside, I'm not here advocating divorce. Sherry and Beverly would string me up. However, after over a decade of abuse, adultery, and addictions, I made the only choice I thought I could make at the time. That doesn't make divorce NOT a sin. However, since then, I've asked God to forgive me for that sin, and He's chosen to bless me because of HIS grace and mercy.

It's part of my story.

A couple years after that horrible September night, I met my Josiah. He was and IS truly an answer to prayer: a partner, a lover, a best friend. It was he and his family who showed me how to really love Jesus, how to follow His plan for my life. 

A lot of people have asked me how I broke the pattern. Many women who have been in unhealthy or abusive relationships continue to repeat the cycle.

Wanna know?

I had to let go of the title "victim." What happened wasn't my fault, but in my situation, I continued to allow the behavior. I did that thinking I was doing what God wanted me to do, but I still did it. It was my decision to stay. I had a choice.

I had to realize that point in my life was part of my testimony, but it was not ME. I could choose to allow abuse and bad decisions to define me OR I could choose to be defined by who GOD says I am: HIS child, adopted through the blood of His son, Jesus Christ; loved and cherished, the masterpiece of an Almighty God. 

We all have a choice to make.

Maybe you're here today and you've got a lot of dark in your tapestry, too.

Maybe things have happened in your life that you really have no control over: abuse, death, devastation. 

Maybe you know where you're at, but it's been so long since you've seen the light that you've abandoned yourself to the dark. What are your names? Adulteress? Liar? Addict? Abuser?

I'm here today to tell you, You have a choice! You can choose to be defined by the things that have happened to you and the things you've done OR you can decide today to be defined by how God sees you, and - pay attention this is the important part - start acting like it.

Start acting like you believe what you say you believe.

If you believe the Bible is God's word, then you're saying you believe what's in it. God says you're loved. God says you're valued. God says 
He knows everything about you, from the beginning of time He knew you and knew His plan for your life. He knit you together in your mother's womb for a purpose! He knows everything about you from your best achievement to your darkest sin...and He still loves you and wants you!!

He wants YOU. He loves YOU.

If you don't believe God's word or you're not sure what you believe, you can make a different choice about that, too. And if you need to talk to someone about that, there are plenty of women here who are ready, willing, and able to help you and answer your questions. I'm one of them.

So, today, you have a choice to make. Are you going to let the dark threads of your life weave themselves into a portrait of hopelessness and devastation? OR, are you going to, with determination and intentionality, grab hold of your Savior and weave a beautiful portrait of a life lived in His presence - light complimented by dark, vivid colors made all the more beautiful alongside the black and gray?

It's your choice. Today's the day. What's it gonna be?

*Those of you who go to Menchville Baptist know I stole the idea of the tapestry metaphor from Pastor Jim's sermon on Sunday. This is me giving him credit for that. :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Let There Be Peace

Zut alors! She has emerged!

After a long writing hiatus, the junk in my brain is finally making it onto the written page...or screen, I suppose.

One Bible verse keeps popping into my head and assaulting me during my devotions:

What causes fights and quarrels among you?
Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?
You desire, but you do not have, so you kill.
You covet, but cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God.
When you ask, you do not receive,
because you ask with wrong motives,
that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3

In the past, I've thought of this verse as it applies to my children. I remind them of it sometimes (at least paraphrased, I try not to throw the Bible at them all the time) when they spat with one another.

But I'm seeing it in a different light.

I've been thinking about a lot of the fights we often have with our spouses, over big things and little, and it seems to come to this: our own selfish desires cause quarrels between husband and wife, but one desire more than any other...the desire to be right.

Don't believe me? Think about your last fight with your husband or wife. Whether it was about the kids, the bills, or dinner, you probably knew your spouse was wrong and you were absolutely right.

You were right, your spouse was wrong, and you were determined to prove it.

How'd that work out for you? Did you win? If turned your spouse into a loser. How's that feel? You may have won your fight, but when there's a winner, there's a loser. 

You've turned your home into a battlefield. 

Let me tell you, if this is the way your house is running, you're destroying your marriage, and there's really only one winner: Satan.

Be sober-minded; be watchful.
Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8

You are intended prey, and you can stand around completely oblivious to that and get eaten up by sin and your own prideful desire, or you can flee with "gazelle intensity" (a term I borrowed from Dave Ramsey, but it fits).

Josiah said it really well tonight: some people want to be right way more than they want to be happy.

Yup. That's truth.

But it's so much more than that, they want to be right more than they want God. Our selfish desire to be right is our idol.

Yes. You read that right. Don't believe me again? Chew on this verse for a bit:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to your own interests,
but also to the interest of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

God, in His Word, says we are to consider others more significant, more important, than ourselves. If we can't put our spouses' feelings above our own because we'd rather prove how much better we are, then we are placing that desire above our desire for God. It is an idol, and we worship it.

In their book You and Me Forever, Lisa and Francis Chan made a point that blew my mind.

If you are fight tooth an nail to prove how right you are, and in doing so acting in direct opposition to God's word, you have a pride problem.

Now, we also know that God opposes the proud, right (Proverbs 3:34)?

So, if you've chosen pride to be your idol, and God opposes the proud, you've chosen a different enemy: GOD.

Good luck with that.

You've chosen to take on the Creator of the Universe, the one and only omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent being as your opponent. 

You. Can't. Win.

And so, your marriage will suffer. You will suffer. Your children will suffer, all to feed your insatiable desire to prove how right you are. How much smarter you are. How much holier you are.

Okay, I think I've made my point there, but what does the opposite side look like? I mean, there will be times when you will actually be right, right? There will be times when you actually know better than your spouse. What happens then?

You loving present your point, and if that doesn't work, you pray and seek God's wisdom.

Pray for you and your spouse to meet eye to eye. Pray for love and understanding.

Seek God's wisdom in His Word and in others who are faithful to Him. Ask him to give you the answer. Ask Him to uncover and rip away any pride that may be residing in your heart.

God promises when we do this, when we seek Him, when we ask for wisdom with faith that He will provide, He will do just that.

So I say to you, ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
Luke 11:9

But you need to know He will provide, and you must have faith in His promise. Otherwise, you are no more than a wave being tossed by the sea; you are unstable and you can't expect that He will deliver what you ask (James 1:6-8).

In the short-term, let's just focus on this week. This week we celebrate the coming of our Savior, the Messiah, God incarnate who humbled Himself so that we would be saved. We celebrate Jesus's birth because he came as a servant. He was born to die...for you...for me.

He was the only man ever born on Earth that had every right to stand higher than everyone else, but instead, he came as a servant, to teach and then to serve as a sacrifice for our sins.

Even the verse from Philippians above, in context, is asking us to put others above ourselves as Christ did for us. It asks us to follow his example. 

A popular song this time of year says, "Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me."

Let's start small. Let's change that to, "Let there be peace in my house, and let it begin with me."

This week, wake up every day with an intentional focus on seeking God's help to serve your spouse. What would make him happy? How could I make her smile? What has he been asking me to do? What has she been hinting that she needs?

But here's the catch: you must do all these things without expectation of return. Do these things not just because you may make him/her happy, but as an act of worship to the Savior whose birth we celebrate this week.

Merry Christmas to you all,
and a happy and peaceful New Year!!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Can you take it?

Ya'll ready for some truth real quick? 

Here it is: sometimes, I don't like the lessons God has for me to learn.

Yup. You heard me.

Sometimes, I am much happier being plain, old, sinful "me" than I am being the me He's calling me to be. 

Well...let me adjust that...sometimes, I THINK I'm happier that way.

Last night was a wonderful example of that. I didn't get much sleep the night before last (not exactly a rare occurrence lately). So yesterday, I was really tired and whiny most of the day. I knew it was going to be a pretty busy afternoon/evening, but I didn't really want to think about it.

As the morning crept into afternoon and then the afternoon got a bit of age on it, too, I realized I had far more on my plate than I thought I did. I'll spare you the list, but just know there was a lot to juggle. I'd also forgotten that Josiah told me he had plans with a friend which would make the evening even busier.

So - there you have it. I was a bit of a mess yesterday afternoon...and that didn't go unnoticed by my husband.

I had already admitted to him that I hadn't planned the day well...and he heartily agreed.

He was upset and frustrated and very lovingly and clearly expressed that to me - I had all day to make sure at least one of these things went more smoothly, but none of it did.

Now, here's where we get to the "me not wanting to be who He's calling me to be" part: I do not take criticism well.

In my last post, I talked about how we should and shouldn't present constructive criticism to our husbands. Let me tell ya, I can dish criticism with love and respect and concern...I am a diplomat!

But wheeeeeeew, girl, let me tell you about someone who does NOT take criticism at all well., even when it's expressed with love and respect.

My first reaction is to DEFEND. I want to make excuses and give reasons, and THEN, quite frequently, I also want to tell you why it's partially your fault, too. After all, why should I take all the blame? Why should I shoulder ALL the responsibility?

Because I'm not going to learn anything if I handle criticism that way.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, 
so that you may we wise later in life.
Proverbs 19:20

Honestly, I wish I had known that verse yesterday. I didn't. I just now googled it.

However, God gave me a different reminder of how to accept rebuke: my husband's example.

Josiah is always so good at accepting correction from me. He does it with humility and concern. He honestly wants to know how he's offended me, and he wants to fix it. 

Did you catch that? Because it's really important: he honestly wants to know how he's offended me, and he wants to fix it.

Yes, I just typed the same sentence twice because I think it's that critical.

Josiah is not my enemy, nor am I his. He understands that I am not someone against whom he must defend himself and views my correction as a way to make our marriage stronger. I am his ally, his partner.

If both of us are constantly battling correction from the other, then neither of us is improving and we're pushing one another farther apart. In order for us to grow closer, we must learn to correct with grace and accept correction gracefully, as well.

So, by the grace of God - not me but HIM in me - I was able to do something last night I've never been able to do before: suck it up and take it...and then sincerely apologize for it.

I still battled within myself some. I still had the urge to share how I thought HE could have made the situation better, too. But I prayed my way right on through that.

In the end, yesterday was my responsibility. I hadn't planned well. I hadn't prepared well. I was tired and lazy and whiny, and that wound up causing a man who is working 48-50 hours this week far more frustration than he needed. He had to step in where I failed.

And he did...because I am his ally, his partner. We graciously make up for the weaknesses of the other and take the wheel when the other is too tired or frustrated to drive.

The evening came and went, and all was well by the time our heads hit the pillows - and I learned a valuable lesson in humility and accepting correction.

I guess we can call that a successful day, after all.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

When your husband hits the "mute" button...

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins
in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens,
the spirit now working in the disobedient.
Ephesians 2:1-2

Ya'll, seriously, how long do you think it's going to take us to figure out that if we're doing something the way the rest of the world is doing it, then we're probably doing it wrong?

Last week, I wrote a blog post about women thinking their husbands need to earn their respect...and of course, about why that's an inaccurate perspective.

In Sunday School this week (where we're currently discussing communication in our marriages), the guys were saying that, at times, their wives' persistent attempts to guide their husbands to be the spouses and leaders they (the wives) think they should be has quite the opposite effect. 

Instead, these men stated, it made them feel like they could do nothing right, and they, effectively, stopped listening. They hit the mute button.

In the realm of marital communication, it's easy for us, as women (the grand communicators that we are), to say that putting up a barriers and turning us "off" are not good communication skills.

But here's the deal ladies...who made you the Holy Spirit?

D'OH! That's a sucker punch, right there, I know. It's a little strongly worded, but I hope you'll bear with me.

In my quiet time this morning, I was reading through 1 Peter, and I came to a very familiar verse:

Wives, in the same way, submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the [Christian] message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live, when they observe your pure, reverent lives. Your beauty should not consist of outward things [like] elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes; instead, it should consist of the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God's eyes. 1 Peter 3:1-4 (emphasis added)

It never ceases to amaze me how God can keep peeling back His word and revealing different layers to us.

Today's message to me through 1 Peter: SHUT UP.

Peter didn't say, "Wives, if your husbands are not living according to the word of God, then you should make sure you tell him because it's your job to let that man know!!"

Nope. He said if our husbands are not living according to the word of God, then we should bury ourselves in His word for them. We should be paying attention to our own walk, making sure we are living pure and reverent lives so our husbands may be won over WITHOUT WORDS

Oh my goodness, that is so contradictory to what the world tells us we should do and be it's almost ridiculous. 

It's tough, right ladies? It's so hard to just trust the Holy Spirit to do it's job in our husbands' hearts while we bury ourselves in HIM. We relinquish the ever-present illusion of control, and turn our hearts and our husbands' hearts over to God.

What makes us think that we, with our mouths, are capable of doing a better work in our husbands' lives than the Holy Spirit? Just a little presumptuous right?

However, you may make the same point Josiah did in Sunday School: what if the Holy Spirit is using a man's wife bring something to the his attention?

That's totally likely, right? (And ladies, can I just tell you how mushy it makes me feel inside that it was my husband who made that point? Whooo, I love that man!)

It can be. There are times when the Holy Spirit speaks to us and may use us to bring something to our husbands' attention.

BUT...there's a huge BUT here...

Peter kind of set out a precondition here: are you living a pure and reverent life and seeking to be beautiful to your husband with a gentle and quiet spirit?

See, it's very possible for God to use you to speak to your husband, but before you remove that speck from his eye, you better make sure you've removed your own logs, Sister (Luke 6:42).

Are you seeking God's face daily? Have you sought the wisdom of God down on your knees (James 1:5)? Are you hiding the word of God in your heart so that you might not sin (Psalm 119:11)? 

Let's face it, if we're NOT doing these things - if our husbands don't see us living pure and reverent lives - why should they listen?

However, if we ARE doing those things, and THEN the Holy Spirit leads us to talk to our husbands, I can almost guarantee you the way we do it will be different...our manner and hearts will be different. If we have paved the way with prayer and submission to God, then the Holy Spirit may help us make inroads to our husbands' hearts...

not by our strength and might, but by HIS.

It's a hard truth, sisters. It's counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. It makes us feel ugly and raw and guilty, and after all, how much easier is it to give advice and fix others than it is to examine and correct ourselves?

Way easier. This stuff is hard.

However, I've said it before and I'll say it again, if it was easy, we wouldn't need Jesus for it, but we do - desperately - and that, my friends, is the power of the gospel in action.

Praise be to God!!

Friday, August 1, 2014

"You gotta earn my R-E-S-P-E-C-T!"

Let me ask you a very serious question: do you always deserve your children's respect?

Got a picture in your head? If you're like me, you're thinking of all the ways you've blown it in the past: the times you've blown up, the times you've acted in a disrespectful manner...the many, many "mommy fails" on the bumpy road of parenthood.


Now, let me ask you this: do you always demand respect from your children?

For most of us, this is a resounding YES! Most of us understand that, despite the fact that we don't act in a manner that deserves respect 24-7 (we are human, after all), we certainly have to demand respect from our children simply because we have a position of authority over them.

We have to teach our children that, even though we, as parents, are not perfect, they still have to respect our authority.

After all, if we don't teach them that now, then how will they ever hold down jobs or become respectable citizens?!

Furthermore, let's face it: households run in chaos, with the kids only respecting parents when and if  they deserve it, are a recipe for disaster. God's word says:
Children, obey your parents as you would the Lord, because this is right.Honor your father and mother,which is the first commandment with a promise,so that it may go well with youand you may have a long life in the land.Ephesians 6:1-3 (emphasis added)
The Bible goes on to command parents not to stir up anger in children, but to bring them up in the instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). However, God was wise enough not to make their obedience to us and their respect toward us conditional upon our own behavior. THANK YOU, LORD!

So, let me ask you another question: are you a wife that is denying your husband the respect the Bible says he deserves by virtue of HIS position of authority because you don't feel he deserves it?

BAM...that hits hard, right? I'm going to let that sink in for a second.

I had two posts a couple weeks ago (here and here) that discussed a wife's duty, according to scripture, to submit to her own husband (Ephesians 5:22-24). Afterward, I had a few wives comment to me that they really struggled with biblical submission toward their husbands for various reasons, but it basically amounted to the fact that they didn't feel like their husbands deserved their submission...their respect.

Here's the deal, ladies. Submission isn't blindly and silently following the leader. You are your husband's partner!! You advise and make decisions together, consult and discuss...but all with a manner that belies your respect for his God-given authority to make the final decision.

If you're still having difficulty with this, let me re-frame it for you. Ephesians 5:25-31 speaks to husbands, and tells them to love their wives as Christ loved the church: sacrificially. The word for love in that passage is agape, and as we've all been taught, that represents a divine love: a love that comes through grace, not because we deserve it, but in spite of the fact that we don't.

As wives, our hearts scream this to our husbands even when our mouths don't: you're called to LOVE me! The Bible tells me so!!

But you feel like you have to earn his love? Do you always act in a manner that is deserving of that holy, sacrificial love? The same love Christ gave when he died on the cross for you?

We could never earn that?!?! We don't have to earn love from our husbands! 

We don't have to earn our children's respect! We should get both just by nature of our position in the family, right?!

Why, then, are you making your husband earn YOUR respect, despite HIS God-given position in your family?

Ladies, don't get me wrong: this is hard. If it wasn't hard, we wouldn't need Jesus to accomplish it. We wouldn't need to die to ourselves each and every day and take up our cross and follow him if it was easy. 

Furthermore, let me be clear, I'm no better at this than you. I am not on a mountaintop looking down at your struggle, but alongside you, climbing the mountain, saying I know it's hard, sisters, but we have to forge ahead, trusting in God to get us to the top!!

If you're wrestling with this (the same as all the rest of us), I'd strongly recommend reading Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. That's what I've been reading, and it's challenging, but in such a good way. I can't say that I haven't been wanting to write this blog post for a long time, since long before I picked up his book, but reading his words did give me some inspiration and got the cogs of my brain turning in the right direction.

Pray about this, sisters. If you feel conviction in this area, please don't harden your hearts to the calling of the Spirit within you or let this be just one more thing that makes you feel guilt and shame because you just don't think you can change. 

Circumcise your hearts, call out to God in your pain and confusion, and ask him for wisdom and strength, but do so with faith that He will answer because He is a God who gives to the faithful generously and without criticism (James 1:5-8).

I love you all, my sisters in Christ, and I'm praying God will help us on our quest to mature and grown in Him!!

**Disclaimer: I know someone is going to say, "but what if authority is telling you to do something wrong?!" I'm just going to ask for a general application of common sense and submission to God's word here. Obviously, God is our ultimate authority and we are responsible to him first. No one can overrule His authority. This post assumes the demands placed by authority are in alignment with God's word.**

Friday, July 18, 2014

Grace in a Glob of Whipped Cream

I looked over to see little, 7 year-old fingers scraping whipped cream off the top of the just opened lid.


But the little fingers decide to make another round before succumbing to mom's demand.

"WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! I told you to stop, and you didn't even listen! I shouldn't even have to tell you to stop because I've told you not to do that a million times!! Go to your room! NO FAMILY BREAKFAST FOR YOU!! You can come to the table when everyone else is finished."

To which Josiah added, "and no whipped cream for you this morning."

And that's how "family breakfast" started yesterday...with tears and mommy guilt.

Since we started homeschooling last year, it's been a huge blessing to be able to share breakfast with Josiah on his days off, which are often in the middle of the week. When I was working and the kids were in school, we missed that time with him. Not anymore!

Now there's "family breakfast." Even if he has other things to accomplish on his days off, as he often does, we all look forward to sitting down to a special breakfast with Josiah on his days off.

But not little Ryan...not yesterday. He got sent to his room RIGHT before family breakfast started because he couldn't control the impulse we all have to scrape the whipped cream from the lid.

However, this was just the most recent in a long stream of disobedient offenses lately. He just doesn't wanna listen. And it's driving mommy nuts.

Of course, I see small disobedience now, and my heart fears BIG disobedience later.

How will you ever obey laws and stay out of jail if you can't control your urge to get the whipped cream!!!!!

Okay, so my thoughts aren't just like that, but they're close enough.

Pretty ridiculous right? Meh...maybe. Like all moms, I think I'm just terrified of screwing up. Too much discipline? Too little discipline? Did I point you to God enough today? Did I talk to you enough? Did you play enough? may be time to do another blog post on fear soon, but for now, I'll finish this story.

I felt completely guilty for making him miss family breakfast. Josiah completely agreed with my decision because his behavior has been in decline as of late, but sadness still tugged at my mama heart.

We prayed over our chocolate chip waffles, with the strawberries and whipped cream that were Ryan's idea, but before I could eat, I had to sneak away to talk with my boy. (FYI, this is a "meal" - aka "sugar feast" - that is special even for family once a year...mommy guilt multiplied).

He laid on the bed with tears running down his little face, and we had a talk about obedience and discipline and love. I hugged him and told him I loved him, and then went back to breakfast with tears in my eyes.

Oh, my heart.

When everyone else was pretty much done, I had Ryan come back to the table. There, waiting for him on the table, was a chocolate chip waffle with strawberries, syrup, and a large glob of whipped cream.

His little blue eyes started welling up with fresh tears as he looked at the plate sitting at his normal place at the table. "That can't be mine," he said. "It has whipped cream." His lip started to quiver.

I sat him down, and with my own lip quivering and tears running down my face, I explained to him the concept of grace: gifts we're given that we can never deserve.

I explained to him that God gave us salvation and Jesus, even though we're all sinners, and in this instance, mommy was choosing to give him grace...grace in whipped cream.

It sounds silly when I type it out, but it was a moment I don't think I'll ever forget, and I am so thankful to God for putting it on my heart. 

I hope Ryan remembers it, too. I hope he remembers the beautiful gift we've been given in Christ, and how sometimes even the simplest things can mirror grace in a glob of whipped cream.

Happy Friday, friends. May you go into this weekend thinking of the many times God has given you grace.

I know I will.

But God proves His own love for us
in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! 
Romans 5:8