Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why are you here?

He is the image of the invisible God; 
the firstborn of all creation.
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth
visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities-
all things were created through him and for him.
And he is before all things, 
and in him all things hold together.
Col. 1:15-17

This morning, when I read this passage, my heart was drawn to the last part of verse 17...in him all things hold together.  I shared what the Lord showed me on my Facebook page and mulled it over as I prepared breakfast.  In HIM all things hold together, including me.  
When the time came to begin our school day we settled into the comfort of our family room, little hands busy and blankets draped around chilly shoulders.  I read this passage aloud, intending to focus on that point, that Jesus holds us together, but my second time through was different.  There is something about reading aloud that brings to light parts of a story that might have otherwise been skimmed over or overlooked completely.

"All things were created through him and for him," I read.  "Guys, what does 'all things' mean?"

"Us?" said my 9 year old.

"Yes!  Us!  YOU were created through Jesus, FOR JESUS!
Not for fun or happiness, not for doing your own thing your way.  You were created FOR HIM.  That means that there is something He made YOU, specifically, to do.  "

Eyes were on me, sort of understanding but not really seeing why this is earth-shattering news.  They are, after all, in Sunday school each week.  They've heard this.

"Think about it.  If you wanted to be a doctor you would go to medical school, right?  Would you go to medical school to be a gymnast?  Of course not!  It would be a huge waste of time and money!  Doctors spend years training to do their job, and no one would go to all that trouble and then do something completely unrelated.  When they finish their training they look for jobs that will allow them to use their skills.

That is how we are.  We were created with a purpose.  If we look at decisions, like what classes to take or who to choose as friends, through the lens of WHY we were created then it will make our decisions so much easier.

You can look at the choice ahead of you and ask yourself if this lines up with the purpose for which you were created."

If only I had known that when I was young.  What heartache and confusion I might have been spared!  But what joy I have now to have the opportunity to instill this truth into my children...that they were made BY JESUS, FOR JESUS.  Oh, how I pray they get this.  I pray this truth penetrates their hearts and gives them a burning desire to seek their God-given destiny and settle for nothing less than God's perfect path for their lives.  Whether they end up as plumbers or professors, missionaries or mamas, I pray they realize why they are here.  Whether God's call brings adventure and intrigue or load-upon-load of laundry I hope they do it all as unto Him and find deep satisfaction in walking out His purpose for them in such a time as this.

tree lined path road pink buds spring
Photo Credit
Yes, Lord, that is my prayer.  For them...and for me.

Especially when I backtrack just a few verses, to the context from which this truth emerges:  

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, 
asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will 
in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,  
so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, 
fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work
 and increasing in the knowledge of God.  
May you be strengthened with all power, 
according to his glorious might, 
for all endurance and patience with joy,  
giving thanks to the Father, 
who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  
Col. 1:9-12

And it all boils down to this:  
May we...His Bride, His beloved...walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him because we are keenly aware in the deepest parts of our hearts of why we are here.  May we be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light!  This, my friends, this inheritance...we can look at it as a spiritual doctorate.  We are qualified...so let's seek "employment" that fully uses the skills and gifts that God has given us!  We are here to bring hope and light to an ever-darkening world.  We are here for Jesus.  Period.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Magnifying the Song

The wind howls through the winter-bare trees on an unusually warm February night.  Rockers creak on the old wood as little girls nervously push back on the balls of their feet, trying to be excited like mama but really a bit afraid.  The forecaster barks warnings, impending danger from the East and my heart oddly leaps.

I love thunderstorms.

The tall trees sway and whisper of its coming.  My littlest girl starts banging chairs impatiently and I advise her to relax, to listen.   Listen to the wind and hear the beautiful song being sung.  Feel the power contained in the roar and don't rush it.  Just sit back, close your eyes and listen, sweet girl.  Thunderstorms are powerful.  If you listen, you will hear it.  Just be still.

Just be still.

Creation declares the glory of God.  Whether in the clear blue of summer sky, the majesty of snow-capped mountains, or in the menacing arrival of a thunderstorm God is proclaimed.  Storms like this make me feel like the throne room of God has descended to hover near.

  "From the throne came flashes of lightning and rumbles and peals of thunder..."  Rev. 4:5

"Is that rain?" asks my middle girl.  The last stubborn leaves break loose in the gust of wind and hit the ground.  I can smell the rain on the wind.  

"Not yet."

She loses patience and skips into the house.

Suddenly I am alone on the porch and I hear Him whisper to my heart.  I can almost hear the angels crying, "Holy, holy, holy."  He is near.  

Such power and majesty is displayed by our God.  Often we hide in fear, running for shelter and worrying about the safety of those we love.  Often we ask Him to show Himself in the midst of our suffering, then shy away when He does just that because sometimes He shows Himself in ways that do not make sense

Sometimes He allows things to get worse before they get better in order to open our ears fully to what He is saying.  

He brings us to the point of desperation where we are forced to stop because we have nothing more we can do.  We are brought to our knees and can only be still before Him.  But then...

Stillness magnifies the natural, like a phonograph pumping music from a scratchy record into a grand ballroom.  The record spins but the horn never moves.  It hovers at the point of contact, picking up the vibrations in the needle and magnifying them.  When we are still before the Lord, stopping in the midst of crazy and choosing to listen, we become like that horn that is so simple yet so vital to the performance of the machine.  We tune our ear to the One thing as the world spins wildly around us, and He calls forth the beautiful through us and puts it on display.   Focused listening chooses to drown out the noise and magnify the music.
phonograph victor vintage antique record horn music
Collection of John Lampert-Hopkins

If you are in the path of a storm, stop for a moment and listen.  In the midst of the swirling chaos there is likely a song.  He is near.  Always near.  He wants to sing to you, over you, and through you.  He wants you in the place where you have stopped chasing and learned to trust Him to create the song.  His yoke is easy.  His burden is light.  

"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."  (Matt. 11:28)

He doesn't say he "might" give you rest.  He doesn't say he will think about it.  He certainly doesn't say He'd like to but, "Sorry, I'm all out of rest today. " He will.  He WILL.

He WILL give you rest.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Seeking the High Places

Have you ever read a book (not including the Bible) that affected you so profoundly that your life was never the same?  A book that changed your vocabulary and became the standard by which you compared all others?

For me, that book is Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard.  It was written in 1955, then gifted to me...42
years later in  1997...by a friend who saw the struggle in me.  I was in the throes of infertility, battling for hope, desperately trying to trust God and not doubt His goodness as I waited for the fulfillment of all I knew I had been destined to be...motherhood.

I have been revisiting the book for a few weeks now.  The truths contained are absolutely timeless and so appropriate for the calling on my heart to encourage you, as a mom, that God uses brokenness to bring about beauty.  To remind you that He is good even when pain sears your heart and doubt threatens your faith.

A few months ago I was asked to speak at a conference for adoptive moms that is coming up in April. Besides being nervous I have also been trying to narrow down what God wants me to share with the women who will be there.  I keep coming back to this book, to the girl named Much Afraid who sees only her weakness and cannot imagine how the Shepherd could possibly use her, much less make her fit to live in and belong the High Places.  She falls and she falters and yet He is there, always, to pick her up and remind her that the struggle and suffering of her journey is what will transform her into a creature fitted perfectly for life in the High Places.

Much Afraid discovers that life is not easy because if it was, we would be lame.  It is in the struggle that we become strong.  It is in the place of fear and doubt that He shows Himself faithful.  It is in the desert that we learn to crave and only be satisfied with Living Water.  It is in the Valley of Loss that we surrender our will to His, dying to ourselves and choosing to love Him above all...even our children.

How easily I forget.  How easily I grasp onto the wrong thing and make an idol of His gifts.  He continues to reveal the self-interest infecting my heart, the desire to build my little bubble and make everything work "just so."  He extracts the ugly pride that dims His reflection and brings me back into that place where I can get just a glimpse of His perspective.  He is doing so much more under the surface than I often realize and I have to let go of my stubborn will in order to step away and see what He is trying to show me.

Again and again He shows Himself faithful.  A recurring theme in my walk with Him over the past few years has been one of gathering stones of remembrance...mementos that serve as reminders when I doubt that He was faithful in the past, therefore I can be sure He will be faithful now.  In the book, Much Afraid collects literal stones that become and altar for the Shepherd.  Such a beautiful picture.

My mementos are sometimes objects, often journal entries, or occasionally a photo.  With just a glance I can be taken back to that moment of time and reassured in this moment that my Shepherd is near and using the present suffering and sorrow to make me into a woman who reflects Christ, who is able to leap the crags and rocky cliffs with joy and grace.

So along with the book recommendation I would also ask you to pray for me.  The retreat is in April and I am praying fervently for wisdom and truth to share with these precious women.  I would love some backup :)

If you have read Hinds Feet on High Places I would enjoy hearing your thoughts and what you took away from the book.  Feel free to share!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Lessons Learned, Toes Bruised {Created for Care 2014}

How do you put into words something that has spoken so deeply into the recesses of your heart?  How do you describe the Sword of the Spirit as it cuts marrow and bone and the pain is somehow sweet?  How do you do justice to women who were simply obeying God's calling upon their lives yet stood directly on your toes as they spoke truth to a room full of tired mamas?

You don't.

So I will not even attempt to try.  I will simply share snippets of the teaching we received last weekend at the Created for Care conference in Atlanta, GA.

{And I will also pause to tell you my hubby, who single-handedly parented 5 kids while I was gone, is a total Rock Star.  :)  He took 4 of the 5 to see Frozen (for the 2nd time) and, apparently, our Ethiopian laughed hysterically at the most inappropriate part of the movie.  You know, the part where everyone thinks the sister is frozen to death?  Oh my word.  If only I had a photo of his face!}

Back on topic...I am barely scratching the surface here.  This weekend was deep waters for my soul.

Snippet #1:  Taught by Susan Hillis, who I'm pretty sure doesn't know that I want to be her when I grow up. She exudes JOY from every pore because she knows God is FAITHFUL.  She has raised her kids and seen the darkest of dark places in her family, yet she smiles and loves with abandon.  And she is brilliant...more brains in her pinky than I have in my whole body!  She led an optional devotional on Saturday morning and I am so glad that I got up (despite the screaming, shrieking, happy mamas next door who apparently did NOT come to rest...but I digress.)

Here is what still swirls around and is working its way into my heart as I process the weekend...

With every storm that arises, Jesus arises HIGHER.
He will be faithful to my children just as He has been faithful to me.
Orphans cannot raise sons and daughters.  I must live as a daughter of the King, letting him carry me across the raging rivers of life.
I am a daughter of the King FIRST, before I am a wife and mother.  I just hold on to HIM as I cross the river, NOT MY CHILDREN.  Holding on to anyone else is idolatry.

Susan Hillis is a treasure in a tiny package.  What a precious woman of God.

Snippet #2:  Taught by Beth Guckenberger who is a missionary in Mexico.  What an incredibly gifted speaker and storyteller she is!   I bought 4 of her books (because, you know, I don't have a stack of unread books waiting for me...ahem.) and was amazed at her willingness to "go there" with us, to tell us the hard stuff we needed to hear.

From Beth I learned...

The Story is not over yet.  There is a lie we are told by the enemy...that maybe God doesn't always come through.  But He does.  Even if things don't turn out the way I hope, God is faithful and I must be ready to praise Him!  I may not know when, where, why, or how things will work out but I DO know WHO.  I need to be like Miriam, with tambourine in hand, prepared to praise Him at any moment as He shows Himself faithful in the hard places.

Snippet #3:  Another incredible lesson from Beth Guckenberger.  She shared this on Sunday morning and I kind of got my toes stepped on here.  It seems I have control issues.  Who knew?  Oh yeah, Jesus.

Beth talked about our marriages and the effects of how we deal with attitude problems in our kids.  She gave an illustration to explain what "co-laboring" looks like, which you would probably have to see to understand. But the point I took away is that God wants me to get to the point where I am so tuned in to my husband that I am wholly focused and committed to his success.  Self preservation will cause those around me to lose their balance and fall.  If I am focused on his success, and he on mine, we will effectively co-labor and hold each other up.  Makes so. much. sense.

She also talked about looking at our kids' attitudes and realizing they are the fruit of a good or bad self-image that is based on their knowledge (or lack thereof) of God's truth of who they are.  If I pour into my kids, teaching them the truth of what God thinks of them, then their self-image will become healthier and their attitudes and actions will follow.  Again, this makes sense when you think of the scripture that says "out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks."  How often do I harp on the external when the internal is crying out for love and acceptance through a storm of confusion and doubt?  Too often, I'm sure.

There was more...so much more.  But I don't want to share too much because you might plan on going in March and I don't want this to be a spoiler!  Suffice it to say, though that I have been given much to chew on.

Then, on top of all of this, was the fellowship with sweet friends (old and new) and the FOOD.  Y'all, it was like being on a cruise.  Food everywhere, all day, and I may or may not have fallen off the gluten-free wagon.  (There were CUPCAKES for crying out loud!)  Chocolate, new PJ's, and endless coffee helped me survive too-little sleep and a cold that threatened to steal my joy.  It was wonderful.  I am thankful.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Mothering with the END in mind

Ooh, this is a big topic.

How do you prepare your children for the return of Jesus?

As the world winds down and we see Biblical prophecies being fulfilled right and left, I have been keenly aware of the possibility that our King could return in my lifetime.  I certainly hope He does.  I've about had it with the madness and misery that are rampant in this broken world.

I remember being a little girl and terrified of "the end of the world."  I would stay up late hoping to see the clock tick over to the next day.  I had no idea what the Rapture was and I certainly had no understanding of Scripture.  I was scared to death of not growing up and everything ending in awfulness.

I don't want that for my kids.

So we talk, a lot, about Heaven.  We talk about the coming persecution...what it means to stand for Jesus and be willing to be the only one doing so.  We talk about brothers and sisters around the world who die for Him, about the special reward that awaits them when they are in His presence.  When they have hard questions, "what-if's", I remind them that NO MATTER WHAT...when we get to Heaven it will be worth it. That if we die, we are in Heaven with Jesus and we won't want to be anywhere else.  If we live, God will walk beside us and give us strength to obey Him even when it is hard.  We have to practice, now, obeying God while it is not so hard.

Because if we can't obey Him in little things, we will surely not obey Him in big things.

We talk about why obedience is important, how His boundaries are there out of love.  How walking with Him is truly the safest place to be.  How Satan wants to fool us, so we must fill our minds with the Truth of His Word so we will recognize lies when we hear them.

Does this sound morbid?  It really is such a joyful conversation.  I love when Gracie sinks onto the couch next to me and sighs, saying "Mom, I just can't wait to go to Heaven."

Or when Drew sings worship songs loudly from the back seat and we imagine what it will be like when we are singing face-to-face with Jesus.

Or when one of my older kids struggles in their tween relationships and all the drama that is present at this age...we talk about how, one day, everyone will get along and love each other well.  This life is practice...and these hard relationships are opportunities to set the bar and be a good example of a godly friend.

When we see a glorious sunset, I tell them that God painted that for us...so that we would notice and think of Him.  And if that is one of the most beautiful things we see on this earth, can we even begin to imagine how beautiful HEAVEN will be?

To see my children look forward to the Day that all will be made right?  Is there anything more grounding for the spirit of a Believer than to know where you are going and why you are here?  That is my goal as a mother.

How about you?  How do you help your children keep eternity in mind?