Tag Archives: jesus

We serve a loving God.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

Kids these days, am I right?

We’re expecting them to do more than they ever would have needed to ten years ago. We’ve been pushing them harder to act older, testing them more often than ever before, and exposing them to more than they should see or know about, years before they’re probably ready.

Recently, my kindergartener came home to tell me a girl in her class (who she’s buddies with, by the way) had a mom who just went to jail. At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond. When I didn’t say anything, she continued on to tell me that it was because the mom had talked to bad guys, and bad guys were sneaky. I could hardly disagree. She also said that the girl would be coming to school with her grandma from now on.

What conversation could I have with my kindergartener about jail? About why people went, how long they stayed, and what would happen after they got out? How could I ever explain to her that this could alter her little friend’s life? Did I keep my daughter on a “need-to-know basis”, and not discuss it further, since she clearly didn’t need to know? Or did I use it as an opportunity to enlighten her on a subject she shouldn’t have to know about at age five? I couldn’t protect her from what she’d already heard; I didn’t want to lie to her, either.

What I ended up saying was that she might take this time to be extra kind to her friend. The girl might not talk about her mom, and that was okay. She might talk about her, and my daughter could just try to be a good listener. She might try to be a really good friend, because the girl might be sad. But most of all, I reassured her that sometimes bad things happen, and we talk to Jesus about them. We asked Jesus to be with the girl more tangibly, and asked Him to tell us what we could do to help her in her hard season. Paul’s letter to the Colossians reminds us to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience”. More and more, I find that children possess those qualities already, and we just need to help them develop. We can call it “character building”. We can call it “education” or “challenging” them. But what it really is is showing them that we live in a broken world, and teaching them to lean on Jesus while they’re here. It’s showing them that bad things do really happen, but that we serve a loving God, who will take care of us, even in the mess.

Holy Week

It’s Holy Week. Passion Week. A week full of preparations, where all the believers are preparing their hearts, homes, churches, and communities for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For someone who works in a church, it means a lot of extra hours on the clock, organizing, preparing, checking and double-checking. But after a wonderful Palm Sunday service this morning, I was obviously exhausted (because Sunday) and sat down to pray about the week ahead.

You might think I was praying that I wouldn’t be stressed out or that I’d keep my eyes on the prize of a gorgeous Easter Sunday together with the congregations of our church. But no. What I was led to pray was this: I ask not for help with earthly preparations, though they are certainly important, but instead for a heightened awareness of You.

A heightened awareness of a God who has drawn near, a Jesus who has taken away my sins, and a Holy Spirit who leads me and nourishes me in my day-to-day. I prayed to be floored, taken aback, mystified again by the willingly-given sacrifice. I prayed to be constantly reminded of why we celebrate this week, going through our motions of beautifying and preparing the way of the Lord in our own church buildings and services.

He has indeed given us more than we deserve – a holiness we could never achieve, but one we have been granted through Jesus. Any praises we bring to the table this week could never be enough to truly merit what should be given – and yet! AND YET, the beautiful conundrum is this: they are absolutely, entirely, perfectly enough because we have been predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:30) by a Savior who was all of those things in our place! Bring your tired, weary, unworthy selves to the altar on Sunday morning with CONFIDENCE because He will be there as He is each and every moment, doling out grace and mercy with LOVE (Heb. 4:16) and without requiring anything of us but faith in Him.

May we go through this week with a heightened awareness of the God who sees us as holy – as holy as His Son, Jesus, who rode on the donkey through a crowd singing, “Hosanna in the highest!” As holy as Jesus who healed the blind and the sick, pardoned promiscuous women, and opened his heart and his lap to the meek little children. As holy as Jesus who hung there, on a terrible cross, proclaiming that He would do the Father’s will, no matter how much he suffered, and still asked for our forgiveness.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, who has given much and loved much.

 

 

If you’re local (to central NC) and you need a place to be on Easter Sunday, feel free to comment or email me! I’d love to have you at my worship service.

The Father’s Love

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

The other night, as I was spending some one-on-one time with my daughter, who is five, she caught me off guard with a question.

“Mama, what’s the thing you love most about me?”

I paused to think for a moment. That’s a weighty question. Would a pause any longer than a second be interpreted as not being able to think of anything? Would a simple answer like “Everything!” be too flippant? Even if it’s true that I love everything about her (except the obscene amount of laundry she generates) it seems like a silly answer to give when she’s clearly asking me for specifics.

“Your smile!” I say. “And I love that you’re kind, and a great big sister.”

“What else?” she asks.

Here goes. “I love how excited you are to read! And I love watching you dance.”

It went on like this for a few more minutes, me naming things I love about her. Even as it became harder to pinpoint specific things that I knew she’d like to hear me say, I could that my words were bolstering her, giving her what she needed in the way of affirmation. Who doesn’t sometimes long to climb into the lap of a loving parent and hear the things about themselves that are good?

The idea of a loving Heavenly Father is in the forefront of my mind as a parent. While I know I could never measure up to His perfect and unconditional love, He presents Himself as a good model for me to follow. He knows what we need before we ask (Matthew 6:8) and He is even a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). His love has been compared to storms, ocean waves, mighty winds and raging seas. His love for us, weak and weary sinners, is the greatest example of sacrificing for the good of someone you love.

So come like a child, and ask Him to exult over you with loud singing (Zephaniah 3:17). He loves you and rejoices over you! He wants us to come close to Him (“like a little child” we’re told in Matthew) and allow Him to speak life and blessings into our lives. All we have to do is draw near. Like my daughter, who knows that if she comes to me, and asks for compliments and showers of love, I’m always happy to oblige.

Silence Is a Virtue

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles. I’m now on the other side of this struggle, but it’s no less real and difficult because it’s already happened.

Let me set the stage. I’m a mom of three kids five and under. I’m a worship leader by trade, meaning, so to speak, that I sing for my supper. I taught music before that, and studied vocal music in school prior to that. I have been singing by trade for as long as I can remember. When I was a senior in college, my voice teacher noticed I struggled with something she herself had dealt with, and sent me to an Otolaryngologist (that’s a fancy name for an ENT) in town. He hooked me up with a little medicine and a slightly altered diet, and I’ve been seeing him once or twice a year ever since. However, I just began seeing a voice therapist to try to solve my ongoing problem of vocal fatigue (basically I’m hoarse after limited vocal use) once and for all. Fast forward to this week: I go into my therapy appointment very optimistic. I’ve been working my butt off to “relearn how to speak” so that I am using my voice to its fullest potential and not incorrectly (and thereby causing fatigue). I’ve finally started to feel like it’s sinking in, and I’m getting magical results. I get in there, she’s happy, I’m happy, and she says, “Let’s do a scope before we discharge you from treatment.”

A scope. Okay. I’ve had those. (It involves sticking a tiny camera through your nose or in the back of your mouth to see your larynx and vocal folds/chords. Ew. Not comfortable.)

She proceeds to tell me the therapy is working. (YAY!) Then she says I have a hemorrhage (that’s a scary word in ANY situation) on one of my vocal folds and I need 7 days of total vocal rest.

Total. Vocal. Rest.

Do y’all know that means I can’t talk… OR SING… or whisper or laugh or cough or chat on the phone with my bestie or read books to my kids. Or say anything. Period.

I began this stint of vocal rest by crying in the doctor’s office. Selfishly, I’m sure, because I’m a loud, outspoken extrovert (often to a fault) and it sounded like pure torture, but also because if the hemorrhage becomes a recurring problem, then I have to have a laser (!!!) procedure to make it stop. More stuff? More work, time, money, effort, and heartache put into this issue that hinders me from doing what I love most?

Let’s pause here, because this next part is what’s important. I believe my voice is a gift that the Lord gave me. I use it to glorify His name whenever possible, and now I do that professionally – which was/is my life goal. Boom. But having my voice taken away from me? I’m like Ariel – “but how will I communicate?!” (Ursula would say, “You’ve got your looks, your pretty face… and don’t underestimate the importance of body language – HA!”) That isn’t going to work so well. An extroverted singer doesn’t have time for not using her voice.

But what I’ve realized is that not speaking has given me a freedom to stay silent when I don’t know what to say. It gives me reason to think before I speak (or write something down, since speaking isn’t an option). It gives me extra margin to think, to pray, to consider what I’m ingesting from all the outside influences (good and bad) without needing to respond to them immediately, or at all.

It’s also given me cause and time to ask the Lord for healing, for strength for the next few days, for a blessing of quiet joy as I learn things about my personality I hadn’t known before – such as how often I interrupt people, which is impossible to do when you’re writing things down – the topic of conversation has already changed by the time I have written my quip. This silence has forced me to pause and appreciate being home (since going out and extroverting means using my voice more) and staying and resting in the stillness whenever possible. These things are hard for me, y’all, but I know that He provides strength. I’m crying even as I write this, because it’s a battle for me to know that in all things, He is working for my good (Romans 8:28) but I also know that we are sometimes grieved by various trials so that our tested and genuine faith results in praise (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Currently: 2018!

Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s already 2018! My ten year college reunion is in April, our 9 year wedding anniversary will be in June, and our kids are all getting so big!! Goodbye, 2017! You were good to ya, but we’re excited about 2018!img_0358

Linking up with Anne in Residence for our first Currently of the year! Here’s what I’m up to:

Starting || the year off with my eyes in the Word (more than I ever have!) and my heart listening for Jesus. Instead of making resolutions and setting goals that I probably would never follow through with, I’m trying to go wherever God leads me. It’s a perspective shift I’m excited about!

Hoping || for as successful a year as we had in 2017! We started off by getting rid of the crib (!!!) and hopefully we’ll ditch the changing table soon! We also switched our health insurance away from a private BCBS plan to Samaritan Ministries, and we are SO excited. Hoping it’s as awesome as we have heard it is!

Scheduling || an already busy January. Well visits at the doctor, church activities, a wedding, a couple of birthday parties… we’ve already got a full month! Hopefully we’ll be able to keep up with it all and enjoy ourselves, too!

Reading || a few goodies to begin the year. I’m on a podcast (more info to come!) about the Chronicles of Narnia, so I’ll be reading through those as we record. I’m reading Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly with a friend (so convicting, in a good way!) and I just began Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. When I found it on the shelf, I was actually looking for Catcher in the Rye (another book of his) but when I found this one, I figured, “Why not?!” When I finish it, I’m planning to reread A Wrinkle In Time (I LOVE Madeleine L’Engle). My only resolution/goal last year was to read for pleasure every day and not push myself through any book I wasn’t enjoying. While I didn’t quite make that (I doubt I read every day) I read a whole LOT of books (around 20, I think, which is a lot for me as a mom) and that doesn’t count books I read to the kids! Yay! So I’m thinking that I’ll just try to do that again this year, and maybe increase my number a little. I truly love reading, so it’s a self-care thing for me. It definitely lets my brain relax!

Playing || with all our new Christmas toys and games. We haven’t broken out Guess Who? yet, but that’s next on my list! School started back today, and so I bet I’ll have a little more margin for planned play with my kids. I was getting burned out because I couldn’t get anything done… drowning in Christmas leftovers (of the trash, toy, and decor variety) I could barely keep my head above the housework. Here’s hoping I’m a more patient, fun mom now that I have a couple of hours in the day to get my productivity in without feeling like I have to tell them, “No, I can’t play with you right now.”

Well here’s hoping for a wonderful 2018! Tell me all about what you’re up to currently!!!

A Year of Being Thankful

Last night, on New Year’s Eve, just before my children woke up from their naps, I sat down with my journal and silent but bubbling glass of prosecco. I had seen a few people on Instagram talk about how they made lists of things they were thankful for and ways that God had shown up over the past year. Naturally, I latched onto that idea immediately; how better to be in a positive mindset and a thankful posture to begin a new year?!

So I sat, pen in hand, and wrote down twenty ways God had blessed me, our family, and worked things out for His glory and my good. I hadn’t predetermined twenty as the number, but it just worked out that way. The things are quite varied: some about our family, some about me personally, some about the kids individually. There were big things (my eldest starting – and loving – kindergarten) and small things (learning about the Enneagram). There were specific things (successfully transitioning our youngest to a “big boy bed”) and more general things (how often we were able to host our beloved friends and family in our home last year).

But what it did, even more than just posture my heart toward thankfulness, was make me SO. DARN. EXCITED. for what He could do in our lives in 2018. Lots of people are saying that 2017 was a dumpster fire, and in some ways it was. But I’d be willing to bet that at the end of every year, if you sat down and listed the crummy things that had happened, and the things that went wrong, that only thing you’d accomplish is a horrible mood at the end of it. But when I sat down to think of things that were successes, heartwarming memories, and things I was joyful about, I got a glimpse into God’s heart towards my family, His love for us, His protection over us, and His desire to build us up, not tear us down.

In this same vein, I just saw (again) a post by a fellow writer friend (check out the original here!) about how to daily shift the perspective from one of worry or stress to one of thankfulness. Cliff notes: each morning, she and her kids think of a thing or two – however small – that they’re looking forward to that day, and then she asks how she can be praying for them while they’re at school. Just a little shift to positive thinking, and a covering by mom of prayer over things they might not be as excited about. I love this idea so much, and I think that you can take that idea on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis, and totally run with it. God blesses us with so much; we can bless Him with our gratitude and prayers! When we do those things first, before asking for stuff or airing our concerns and “needs”, our hearts begin to change, ever so slightly each time, to become more like Jesus’s.

Let’s Memorize More Scripture.

Recently, I’ve been trying to memorize more Scripture. I know, 31 years old is probably pretty late to that game right? I grew up in the church, and I’ve always known a few verses, but hey, I didn’t do Bible Drill like some other people I know. I’ve never been very good at memorizing anything at all, but I’ve been trying. And guess what? It’s been working. Think you can’t do it? Keep reading.

There are many places in the Bible that suggest we learn His Word, hide it in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16), and meditate on it day and night (Josh. 1:8). I don’t know about you, but I can’t meditate on something day and night unless it’s already in my head. I mean, my Bible’s a little too heavy to have in my hand all day.

I actually started memorizing Scripture because I’d read an article by a woman who’d been having trouble sleeping. Her insomnia was awful, and so she took to memorizing Psalms when she couldn’t sleep. She started one at a time, and when she couldn’t sleep, she’d recite the Psalm. At the time that I happened upon the article, I was having some of the same issues. Okay, God. I see You leading me toward this. SO, I began memorizing a Psalm. Which one did I start with? The one I already knew best, obviously. Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want….

You know at least some of this one, I’m sure. So that was my starting place. I began reading it daily, taking it apart, piece by piece. There are many songs about it, which unfortunately (and surprisingly) made it more difficult to learn. The songs don’t usually go word for word, ya know? But I began to meditate on it, day, and mostly at night. I also began to use an app called Verses, suggested to me by one of the pastors at my church. It’s a free, user-friendly app specifically for memorizing more Scripture. (Disclaimer: it comes with the KJV as the default translation, and you have to pay for the other translations. Sorry.) There are several different methods (I like to call them levels.) to go through as you learn a verse or a passage, and there’s even an option to start with one verse, and keep adding to it. It’s an extremely helpful tool, simple to use, and a good place to start if you’re new to memorizing Scripture.

I also took to copying the more difficult verses (read: ones I was stuck on) down in my journal, reciting them out loud, and listening to my Bible app read them aloud to me. If that’s not meditating on it day and night, I don’t know what is. But as I learned it more and more of Psalm 23, I began to say it to myself when I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I took to going through the entire Psalm when I lay awake in the night, and it quieted my buzzing brain to do so. I found it calming, and the more I used it to lull me back to sleep, the more I couldn’t remember even getting to the last verse of the Psalm, because I’d fallen back to sleep.

I’m not saying that memorizing Scripture is so boring that you’ll fall asleep.

What I’m saying is it can change you. Psalm 23 is all about the Lord leading us into stillness with His comforting presence, and providing for our every need. What I needed was sleep, and He was providing it, even as I spoke those words over myself. Isn’t that beautiful?

When He asks us to let His Word dwell in us richly, that’s what He means! His Word is living and active, and it is possible to let it transform us through the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). That is GOOD NEWS! We don’t have to conform to the patterns of this world – Praise Jesus! – because He has better things ahead for us than what this world has become.