Real Talk, Mom Talk

I want to get serious with the moms out there for a minute. I want to start by saying that I understand the struggle that being a mother is. We work so incredibly hard and have very few tangible thing to show for our work. We don’t have a paycheck to look at and see how much we’ve accomplished in a firm, obvious way. We don’t have a “product” we can pull out to show others how we spend our time. Let’s face it, kids are not a product. Just when you want them to be ready to “show off,” they’ll make sure you know that they are not to be predicted or anticipated in any way.

Because we lack concrete “proof” in the simplest of definitions of what we “do” with our lives as mothers, I think we tend to overcompensate in other areas and tell of our accomplishments, particularly, for some reason, to other women. My problem with this is that I’ve seen women become discouraged and degraded because of the loud boasting of other women in their accomplishments, especially in their choices as mothers.

Ladies, what good comes from tearing down another woman? We have an amazing opportunity to build other women up in a way that is comforting, freeing, and understanding. When we do the opposite, we not only create and foster insecurity, but we certainly displease the heart of God. There is something so positive and freeing when we can look a mom in the eye who is struggling and tell her that it is going to get better and that we have been where they are now.

Instead of using your words to brag about your choices and actions as a mother, why not stop and listen to another mom’s struggles and help her find confidence and acceptance in her own role as caregiver? At the end of the day, we’re all just figuring this mother thing out as we go along, and it is only arrogance that would boast in the face of someone else’s struggle. Don’t tear down, build up! Let’s help each other out. Together, we may just be able to breakthrough in areas of insecurity and get a little bit closer to being okay with being the mom that we are.

All of Me

There is a popular John Legend song dominating the radio right now that says “I give you all of me and you give me all of you.” It’s a beautiful sentiment when shared between a husband and wife. When you find someone you can be open and honest with and submit to one another in mutual love, it’s just lovely. But the song prompted another thought in my mind that I couldn’t shake.

God gave us all of Himself. Does He have all of me?

God held nothing back when showing us the depths of His great love. He sacrificed His own Son in the pursuit of reconciliation with humanity. It’s a mind-blowing and humbling thought, isn’t it? And what have I given Him in return? I’m not speaking about things I can do for Him. It’s never been about works or what I can bring to the table. But does God have all of me?

How do you know if God has all of you? Well, look at your choices for one thing. Do you give God your first in all areas of your life – your money, your time, your thoughts, your energy? It’s easy to see what a person values based on the way they choose to spend their time on this earth. Is God the first thing on my mind in the morning? Is He the one I think of immediately when I come into troubles? Do I think about ways to serve Him and show Him love when I have time to spare?

He’s given us all of Himself. Now, let’s work on giving all of ourselves, as well.

Taking Up My Cross

During this Easter season, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the sacrifice that our Heavenly Father made for me when He sent Jesus to this Earth to be the payment for my sins. It’s led me to think about my own life and how I endeavor to serve the Lord. When I read the words of Christ Himself, it’s incredibly challenging to realize what it is exactly that He is seeking from me.

 

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’.”


 - Matthew 16:24

 

I think a lot of us are angry, disappointed, and downright confused when we see any suffering in our lives. It leads us to question what we are doing wrong and how God could allow these things to happen to us. But suffering is a part of our journey with Christ. He never promised a pain-free road. He simply promised never to leave us on that road, and that is all the difference in the world.

What does it mean to you to take up your cross? In light of the upcoming Easter holiday, maybe a little reflection is due. What can we do to take up our cross today and everyday?

The Easter Invite

The week leading up to Easter is exciting for so many reasons. There is always an electricity in the air in the church world. You can feel how people are starting to catch the anticipation of the upcoming Easter services and how they can invite someone to church who may actually agree to attend! The kids are, of course, hopped up on sugar, but if you have kids who are old enough to start to understand the reason for Easter, it’s incredibly moving to see them come to realize God’s great sacrifice for them.

I love how excited everyone gets about inviting people to church on Easter. It’s absolutely infectious! To see people’s eyes light up when they realize that someone who is not currently attending church at all may come to a service because of their invite is nothing short of inspiring. It’s like we suddenly realize that there is nothing holding us back from sharing Christ with others and actually seeing life change in those around us.

But why stop or start on Easter? Invite (no better yet, bring!) people to church for Easter, but also, invite people to church the week after Easter, and the week before Easter, and the week before a random Sunday in July, as well. The point is that while people may be more apt to accept an invitation to church on Easter, there are also those who will accept an invitation on any Sunday of the year. Some people are truly just waiting for an invitation from a truly invested person before they decide to take that step of going to church. It would be a shame if we allowed our own fears or complacencies to keep us from seeing results all year-long.

So don’t wait until Easter and don’t let the after-Easter season suddenly stifle your excitement and urgency to bring others to church with you. Let’s make this year one for the record books where bringing new people to church is concerned!

Disbelief and Proof: Fact + Faith

It seems there’s been a recent resurgence of a movement in which people dismiss Christianity based on a lack of “fact.” Intellectualism is not a new thing, nor is the sudden idea that we must factually prove the Bible in order to confirm its validity. For some reason, however, it seems to be coming across my life’s path a lot more recently. The truth is that the Bible is a historical book filled with many historically proven events and foretellings. I will not, however, be the one to educate you on those claims. There are many far more educated and qualified than me who can take that task.

What I can say, however, is that I believe to throw away Christianity or the Bible based solely on lack of “fact” is missing the whole point of Christianity altogether.

The problem with accepting Christ based solely on fact is that it completely excludes the faith portion of the salvation equation. Scripture is clear and repetitive that we come to Christ by faith and that it is our faith that saves us.

And what is faith?

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

- Hebrews 11:1

Faith…is the evidence.

My faith may not seem factually provable on paper, and yet, for me, it is half of the faith/fact equation that makes up my unshakable, complete belief in Jesus Christ as the living Son of God. My faith is a huge part of my evidence. Part, but not the whole. Just as much as trying to “prove” Christianity through fact can be exhausting and narrow-minded, so can basing the whole of your faith on experience. Emotions are deceiving, and what may feel like concrete proof one day could feel like a distant memory the next.

And that is why it has to be a combination of faith and fact that we rest our hope and certainty upon. If you try to take one from the other, you will understandably wind up with some holes that may leave you unsatisfied. But the beauty of Christianity is that it is equal parts stunning truth and revelation and personal faith and experience.

Today, think about what you believe and why you believe. I believe that, like so many things in life, balance is key to realizing the surety of our salvation. We need to know the facts, and experience the faith. One without the other simply won’t hold up.

LMKTM: The Craving for Control

Sometimes my kids wind up teaching me lessons that leave me smiling and thinking about how great it is to be a mom. But sometimes my kids teach me lessons that make me cry and humble me and have me thanking God for grace. This past Friday was one of the latter situations. My older son was having “a day.” If you’ve been a parent for any length of time, you’ll immediately know what this is, but just in case, I’ll clarify. To have “a day” means that any and everything is a potential trigger for tears, tantrums, or tumult.

On this particular day, it seemed like nothing I said could smooth over my son’s mood. In fact, everything I said or did just seemed to be making things worse. We were at that point in his crying where he was doing the often non-recoverable from hiccup slurping. It was just bad.

I dropped him off at school feeling every bit the world’s worst mom. I kept thinking, “I hope I didn’t say or do something that will really impact his future negatively.” Right after leaving him, it was (ironically) time for a parent prayer gathering that I lead at my children’s school. I went in with glassy eyes and sort of exploded to them about how I felt like I was going to do something to really “mess up” my poor, sweet child. One of the other mom’s there looked at me and said, “You know, I think we take too much credit for the good our kids do, and, in turn, place too much blame on ourselves when we feel they have messed up.”

Whoa. That was kind of a freeing, life-changing thought for me. It’s all too true that I cling to my children’s good behavior as some sort of validation for or result of my great parenting. Meanwhile, it all comes back to control. I fear the things in life that I cannot control, so I cling to those (in this case, the fallacy is my parenting) that I think I do have a level of control over.

So the combo of one of my “controllable” factors suddenly acting out and showing me just how little control I really do have over them (in this case, my inability to fix my son’s “day”), really left me feeling weak and vulnerable.

If you are a parent, take heart! Our kids are not meant to be little beings created for our control that showcase our exceptional skills and parenting decisions. Rather, they are mini individuals who will eventually become full-sized individuals, and, as such, they are often unpredictable. Our best path would be to remember that we are the temporary guardians for these God’s children, and to live accordingly. Release them each day to the Lord and ask for His guidance to help us be the best parents we can be. Then, when they have good days, we can simply thank God. And, in turn, if they have bad days, we can ask God to help us with the care of His children, and trust that He will carry them on His great love and plan for their lives.

The Imagniary Conversations I Have with People

Confession time: I have walked away from many a conversation and yet somehow the conversation has not ended with the loss of one half of it’s participants. That’s right, I have often continued conversations long after parting from my conversation partner, filling in for them in my mind with what I assume they would say. Sound presumptuous? No way! Of course I know what you must have been thinking after we leave a conversation. Therefore it’s no problem for me to fill both sides of the conversation even after you’ve gone.

Okay, okay. I’ll admit: the above line of thinking is just flat-out wrong. It can not only be harmful to keep up an inner-dialogue with someone who is not there to actually defend their own views, but it’s also downright dangerous. Why? Because we create drama that isn’t even real. And let me tell you, the real world carries enough drama with it. Why let paranoia or bitterness create fake drama that takes even more of my energy?

It’s not fair for someone to be the aggressor or loser in a mind conversations that they are not even there to represent themselves in. Let your conversations and your words stand on their own. If you have more to say, say it to that person, but don’t say it to them in your mind and then not give them the space to respond. Let’s let our words be meaningful and truthful when we say them, and then not allow second guessing to come back and make us feel insecure about what could have or should have been said.

Bible Study Wrap-Up: Unglued

177350Just this week we wrapped up the “Unglued” study by Lysa Terkeurst. It is a 6-week workbook and video series that correlates to Lysa’s best-selling book of the same title. I had known it would be one of those “God experiences” for me: you know, the kind that is staring you in the face with bold, flashing lights seemingly from Heaven? Before I had ever heard of this book, it was recommended to me by no less than three different people. Coincidence? Never.

If the recommendations of three different friends didn’t get my attention, the front caption of the book sure did:

“Making wise choices in the midst of raw emotions.”

There’s something about the term “raw emotions” that just grips me and resonates with me. I think because “raw” is the precise word I would probably use to describe my own emotional state many times during my day. I’m a mom, a wife, a pastor’s wife, a teacher, and a million other things, and all of those hats can leave my emotions feeling a tad bit “raw.”

I will take so many important lessons from this book, but the biggest one is probably the fact that I changed my goal from perfect execution of my emotions to “imperfect progress” that I can celebrate daily. When my goal is too high (for example, wanting to never again become unglued), I get discouraged and fear I’ll never get anywhere with this particular struggle. When I set my goal to “imperfect progress,” however, I start to see little victories and I celebrate those as they come, rejoicing that I do have the capacity for change.

I highly recommend this book and study. It is relevant to so much of what we encounter as women, and I am leaving it’s pages forever changed for the better.

 

Honoring the Honorable: Part IV

Honor week continues today with two very special people: my beloved in-laws!

Billy and Vickie Burns accepted me into their family with no reservations, no hesitations, and no complications. They were warm and loving and treated me like a member of their family from the beginning. A mere six months after I officially became their daughter, I was diagnosed with cancer. I watched as my in-laws actually became parents to me. Vickie would come and stay with me when my own mom couldn’t get down to Florida from New York. She’d keep me company during those many boring hospital hours. We even colored together and made Christmas ornaments when the days got really long. Billy stepped in for Jason when he was scheduled to minister out of state. Within days he took over for Jason so that my husband could be by my side when I started chemotherapy.

My in-laws have been in children’s ministry for over three decades, and yet, their hearts are still just as full with the desire to see children come to know the power of God for themselves. They work harder than almost anyone else I know. They serve God with passion and integrity and you never hear them complain. They are examples to all of us in how to live a life of sacrifice, service, and honor.

My mother and father-in-law are truly worthy of honor.

Honoring the Honorable: Part III

Welcome to Day 3 of “Honor” week!

Today’s honorees may seem a funny choice. It makes more sense for children to honor their parents than the reverse, right? Well, I have two boys that are pretty incredible, and I find it my honor to be their mom, so why not honor them a little?

Joey is my firstborn, and he is all things kindness, goodness, and honesty. He is so gracious with those around him. He cares for others and has a heart of compassion for the poor.

Gavin is a live wire! His joy is infectious. It is rare to see Gavin without a smile on his handsome face. He has always made me laugh. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when Gavin is around.

Joey and Gavin are amongst God’s greatest gifts to me. I often feel undeserving of such little treasures, but I thank God regardless that I get to be their mom.

Joey and Gavin are truly worthy of honor.

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