Wednesday, November 24, 2021

No More Houseplants!

 “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself, it can only do so if it remains in the vine. In the same way, you cannot bear fruit unless you remain in me.” 



The purpose of any vine is to bear fruit! And if we are growing from the vine that is Christ, we should all be bearing similar fruits as we walk with Jesus. Are you a picture of “love, joy, & peace?” When people think of you, do they think of Jesus also?


We know a pumpkin is a pumpkin by some of its basic characteristics… round, orange, segmented with a stem on top… unless you go into Hobby Lobby and they are all mint green this year.  But like a pumpkin, we should know a Christ-follower when we see one. Is she loving? Is her speech pleasing to the ears? Does she show patience to her friends and family? 


If you will, picture a two-story house with green branches bursting out the doors and all the windows. They are spiraling and leafy and full.  The front door is pushed wide open to make way for the vining branches to spill out into the yard. The house cannot contain them anymore and they spiral out any openings they can to the outside.  


In this way, our growing life in Christ is this picture!


 We cannot contain the fruits we are bearing, for Jesus said, “ My Father’s glory is shown by you bearing much fruit, and in this way, you become my disciples.” We are an extension of Him to this world. John 13:35 says, “if you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”


To contrast, many Christ-followers are a similar 2-story house. The difference is that their vines might only look like house plants. They remain inside on the window sill, and the front door is tightly shut.  They walk with Jesus privately, but others may not even know it.  Their speech, behavior, and habits do not always point to Christ. There aren’t any overwhelming character traits that show they are connected to the vine. A passerby may notice a silhouette of a vine from one angle, but not enough to make an impression.


In time, I hope you are more like that first house. Others know you love Jesus because of the outpouring of gifts and deeds in your life.  Your positive qualities reflect those of your Maker. All of our journeys are on different paths but I hope you find that as time marches on, the deepening of your walk with God, opens every window and door of your self, to allow a vine of abundant fruits to come bursting out….remember  “A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; it can do so only if it remains in the vine.”


So, Remain in Jesus! Move closer to Him! Walk daily, hourly, and momentarily with Him. Be a practitioner of His presence. 


No more house plants! Grow them into vines, so that others know who He is, because of knowing you!

Friday, September 17, 2021

40




 I am 40. 

When my parents were this age, they seemed ancient to me. This one hurts a little more than any other birthday. It signifies the passing of some eras that were sweet & sentimental. 


Nope- I don’t need to rewind to my 20’s… I’m good. But, my 30’s, they were wonderful, and so formative to who I am today.


Something about this aging process has brought out the real in me. Oh yes, I have some strong sentiments that I can boldly say at 40, that I would not have uttered at 30. You ready? It’s going to be a fun list:


Hummus- ew. I just can’t. I used to pretend I could just because it’s healthy… I used to buy it just to let it take residency on the second shelf of my fridge.


Washcloths & underwear, you know what they have in common? They are not worth folding. Drawers and baskets contain them just fine.


Top 40 radio- it’s mostly gone by the wayside… we may try the Kidzbop versions from time to time,  but as for me and my house, we shall not be well-versed in the slang and nuances of twenty-something writers. 


I can live without my phone… It makes me its slave so easily some days. 


The older I have gotten, the better my relationship has gotten with dessert. Amen! The temptation just isn’t there anymore! 


There’s nothing like being with my kids… there’s also nothing like being without them——even if just to drive thru Dunkin Donuts alone πŸ˜„.


There is no person who is too scary or intimidating to chat with.


My house is cluttered. I am not Joanna Gaines.


I am a better wife at 40 than ever before. Forgiveness, kindness, even “no commenting” go a LONG way. 


Opinions- this one is a BIGGIE. I am learning that the opinion of others is worth less than what I originally thought. I used to thrive in my youth on the opinions of others. Now? My audience has 1. The One who is sovereign, Creator, and over all. I need no applause or criticism if it’s not found in Him.


There’s my list… a little older and bolder, but I pray wiser by the day!  Thanking God today for all His blessings in my life, which unfold continually. Love to you all πŸ₯°





Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Love Beyond Comprehension




”The Lord is merciful and loving, slow to become angry and full of constant love.” Psalms 103:8 


This verse was in my morning devotions, and it got me thinking...


Most humans could not be described this way. Instead we can insert any name and also the opposite of each adjective, and here is how we could describe many people- “ ____________ is bitter and rude, quick-tempered and filled with constant annoyance.”  (Yes, this could be me, and this could be you...depending on the day.)


Take the slowest grandpa driver and put him in front of you as you are on your way to work. What’s your reaction? 


Your toddler misplaced your wallet... how do you feel now?


Someone you love dearly just shattered your kitchen window, your feelings, or your plans. We react negatively, naturally.


But God, He reacts supernaturally, in all circumstances!


His love knows no bounds. He doesn’t get too tussled by your or my missteps.  He doesn’t want the mistakes of our yesterdays to be defining all of our tomorrows. 


In the Old Testament’s book of Exodus, he hand-picked the Israelites as His chosen people, and in my best attempt at a quick recap, He delivers them from slavery in Egypt, gives them protection through their desert journey (like splitting the Red Sea so they could walk on dry land & then allowing it to crash down upon the Egyptians pursuing them), and allows them to eventually arrive into a Promised Land where they could be a free people. He provided food and water in this hot and dry countryside. Yet, all was not well with these people.  They grumbled and complained in the desert and a journey of 11 days turned into 40 years!


Their people began a movement of unbelief. God was angered but still chose love. God provided some guidance in the form of the 10 Commandments, as a way of showing how much he wanted them to succeed. The mistrust of God brought on new worship of false gods, and in time, God chose to give the Promised Land to a generation of younger, believing Israelites.


We are not THAT different than these wanderers of the desert. We can be stubborn, unbelieving, and way too proud of ourselves. We tend to take credit, take advantage, and D-I-Y our way through life without often consulting the One who brings forth the sunrise of our days. We grumble and complain when things aren’t just right, even though we have been provided for time and time again. We, humans, so easily forget His faithfulness.



And God? He shows us mercy every time. He is the standard by which we should live. 


Aren’t we glad He is not thrown this way and that by emotions? 


Aren’t we blessed to be loved constantly, and not just when we behave?


Isn’t it amazing He is ready to hear us when we are ready to chat with Him?


Now, obviously, we are not Him, but in the best of my days, I would love to think that my children, husband, friends, or family would describe me with the attributes of Psalm 103:8...... I desire to be merciful and loving, slow to anger, and full of constant love. My guess is that you would, too.


If I could draw one analogy from this passage in Exodus, I would liken the desert of the Israelites’ wandering to the hardest times in your own personal journey.... but may God’s qualities and displays of love inspire you to live out the same in your life!


While everyone else is choosing to grumble may you not. While the rest of your family is easily angered, may your temper not sway! While others have difficulty showing compassion, may you overflow with it. 


Folks, may these qualities be what set us apart from the rest of the world! May we be so genuine in our character that it is unmistakable that we could be believers of God.


Lastly, may you know the love of our good God. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). May you cling to Him, run to Him, seek Him daily. You will find yourself set apart and ready for any of your personal “desert days”.  Allow your faith to make a tangible difference in your life and the lives of others.


The verses below are a collection that all describe God’s goodness. May they share the truths that God is for you, loves you, and wants to be in fellowship with you, in ALL of your days in this journey.




For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love: neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers, neither the present nor the future, neither the world above nor the world below — there is nothing in all creation that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭



LORD, your constant love reaches the heavens; your faithfulness extends to the skies. Your righteousness is towering like the mountains; your justice is like the depths of the sea. People and animals are in your care.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭36:5-6‬ ‭



Every good gift and every perfect present comes from heaven; it comes down from God, the Creator of the heavenly lights, who does not change or cause darkness by turning.”

‭‭James‬ ‭1:17‬ 



He is good to everyone and has compassion on all he made.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭145:9‬ ‭



So that you, together with all God's people, may have the power to understand how broad and long, how high and deep, is Christ's love. Yes, may you come to know his love — although it can never be fully known — and so be completely filled with the very nature of God.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:18-19‬ ‭

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Control Freak

The following is a short collection of reminders about our power to control...


I cannot control others- their feelings, their responses, their actions.


I cannot control disparaging circumstances like sickness, injustice, poverty, accidents, or death.


I cannot control the weather.


I cannot control the government.


I cannot control the sin of the world.


I cannot control changes in life, stages of growth, the ever-ticking clock.




Most of life is really beyond my control, and if I am not careful, I can start to think that there is something I should be able to do, or manipulate, or remedy every situation...be the fixer of all.  


We love the modern conveniences of swift service, curbside pickup, instant gratification. Perhaps more than any other era of humans, we struggle the most with the things we cannot control because we know very few limits to our precious realm of power. Recently, I marveled at the fact that I ordered my coffee and breakfast items on my Dunkin Donuts app from my driveway, and then while I waited in that drive-thru, I finalized my grocery order online as well. (I should remind you I am a child of the 80’s and late to all the techie parties.)


There is so much readily available to us, that when the solution is beyond our grasp, we are at a loss, a REAL loss.... this is a rarity to us. It is unbelievable and unthinkable that we can’t just solve it or make it go away.


In the true depths, though,  the valleys of this life, where the hurt is bottomless and hope feels non-existent, where you have NO POWER  or ability to control the outcome—— this the battleground at which you are held, as God is working. And as you trust in Him, the Bible promises that, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)


The moments at which you can no longer flex a physical, emotional, spiritual, relational muscle, then you are at your strongest place- because the Maker of the Earth is fighting on your behalf. You have never been stronger than in this place- for God is in the pit with you, and you are not in control, but He is! Amen!!


Paul says it this way, “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest on me... That is why, for the sake of Christ, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  for when I am weak, then I am strong. “ 2 Corinthians 12:10


For all the things we cannot control, abide every second with the One who can. Remind yourself again and again of His goodness, mercy, & sovereignty. Walk closely, walk wisely with God, who never runs out of power. 


For certain, babies will cry at night. Bad drivers will be in front of you. Loved ones will get sick. A President will irk you. You will be offended by words carelessly spoken.... battles will come, some large and some small.  


To remain immovable and strong throughout the suffering is only possible when you are leaning upon the mighty power of God. He supports you. He gives you the daily strength. He supplies your portion when you cannot. 


Read this: You are strongest when you are LEANING.


For the things you can’t control in this life, your posture is one of yielding, bowing, and surrendering the fight to the only One who can work out the solution. It will be His timing and in His way, but the peace He can afford you is far greater than your power to control any situation.


Philippians 4:6-7-   “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Saturday, May 8, 2021

To Be a Mother of a Daughter




Taking time to think of all of what it means to have a daughter in my life. 



I realize I have only just begun to know my Hope. She is 3, and a second child.  I only wish I could pour into her life as I did when I had only 1 kid. 


Here’s what I do know

She is girly to the max. 

She craves my attention always.  

She loves music and puppies and babies.

More often than not, she is in the playroom, and asking me to join. 

Sometimes, I stop my progress in cleaning, cooking, or reading to just BE with her. 

She loves quality time with her mama.


When I am getting myself ready, there is a good chance that she is up in our bedroom as well, rummaging through the treasure trove of my nightstand drawer. There, she finds my bracelets and necklaces to layer on. 


She can’t help herself ☺️.


I look at the way she carries a load of jewelry in her hand and the thought has occurred to me that I relish the idea that she may one day, search the treasure trove of qualities that God’s spirit has formed inside of me. Maybe along with reaching for my bracelets and necklaces, she will look to my spirit of compassion or peacemaking or patience to don on herself.  


Although she does not have a perfect mom, she has a mom who loves Jesus and has tried to clothe herself in the fruits of the Spirit regularly. Galatians 5:22 says, “The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.”  Maybe you hope this for your children, too. We all want them to take after our better attributes after all... 


May she also know she is prayed for daily. What a blessing to be able to give our children the safety net of prayer for all the big and little things in their lives.  Every morning, I reassure my kids that I have already prayed for them, or I pray aloud in the car as we drive.  The chance to make prayer and faith as accessible and easy as possible seems to me, the most authentic way to live out our relationship with God. Kids don’t know what they don’t see or talk about. And, if we can be anything, we need to be intentional in our faith-building.


Moms, we need to speak of Jesus on their level. We need to thank God on their level. Eventually, they will see that God meets them where they are, and will hear them when they pray, no matter what the issue or what their age may be.  They will get to know a personal God who loves them because you were the conduit of His love.



John Piper, American pastor and author, spoke of parenting in faith, and his words are so simple and profound (and, I adore all of his writing).



1) In general, bringing up children God’s way will lead them to eternal life. In general, that is true.

2)This reality would include putting our hope in God and praying earnestly for our wisdom and for their salvation all the way to the grave. Don’t just pray until they get converted at age 6. Pray all the way to the grave for your children’s conversions and for the perseverance of their apparent conversions.

3) Saturate them with the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).

4) Be radically consistent and authentic in your own faith — not just in behavior, but in affections. Kids need to see how precious Jesus is to mom and dad, not just how he is obeyed or how they get to church or how they read devotions or how they do duty, duty, duty. They need to see the joy and the satisfaction in mom and dad’s heart that Jesus is the greatest friend in the world.

5) Model the preciousness of the gospel. As we parents confess our own sins and depend on grace, our kids will say, “Oh, you don’t have to be perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. They love grace. They love the gospel because Jesus forgives their sins. And I will know then he can forgive my sins.”

6) Be part of a Bible-saturated, loving church. Kids need to be surrounded by other believers and not just mom and dad.

7) Require obedience. Do not be lazy. There are so many young parents today that appear so lazy. They are not willing to get up and do what needs to be done to bring this kid into line. So we should follow through on our punishments and follow through especially on all of our promises of good things that we say we are going to do for them.

8) God saves children out of failed and unbelieving parenting. God is sovereign. We aren’t the ones, finally, who save our kids. God saves kids and there would hardly be any Christians in the world if he didn’t save them out of failed families.

9) Rest in the sovereignty of God over your children. We cannot bear the weight of their eternity. That is God’s business and we must roll all of that onto him.



Being a mom is no easy task. Being a Mom who is a Christ-follower, is even harder. It takes intention. It takes devotion. But it doesn’t mean perfection. The key is to allow our little girls (and boys) to see a pursuit. 


May your children know the love of a mom with authentic faith, and the joy of the Lord. May they bless their own children someday with the same because of what you have modeled at home... I know my mom was that model for me. Thanks, Mom. ❤️


Happy Mother’s Day, all! πŸŒΈπŸŒ·

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Almost 40




In a few months from now, I will be rounding the corner to my 40’s. 


My 40’s! 


As I sit poised at the edge of 39, I am given some clarity and thoughts that might speak to you as well,  no matter your age.


I had a surgery yesterday, and as I recoup on the couch, I reflect on what my 30’s have brought me....two children, another dog, many sweet memories and triumphs with my husband & family, a few grade changes as a teacher, new friends, and discovery of some God-given gifts that are still unfolding. It also brought a plethora of gray hairs, extra pounds, stressful stages with toddlers, and life lessons.


Immersed in my reflection, a somber thought occurred to me as I recognized that every day, we die a little.... nobody wants to think of it that way, but if you and I were to compare a snapshot from 20 years ago to one taken today, our faces tell that same truth. Humanly speaking, we lose a little of our physical being daily! You might also attest to the fact that a surgery here or injury there proves our mortal status. All the face creams and vitamins in the world will not. stop. that. clock.


In lighter news, here is another zinger—— daily, I am renewed in Christ. 


Every day that I choose to spend time focused on Him, I am being made new.  The Bible reveals this truth in a few ways:


“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 

2 Corinthians 5:17


“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2


He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:30



Ladies & Gentlemen, if those verses don’t bring you hope, read them again and again! Stick one on your bathroom mirror. Write them in your journal. Tattoo one on your bicep.


God wants to make you new. God wants to use you for His purposes. Don’t be so impressed with what you see in the mirror ... for as time goes by, we all become less physically appealing. What will matter at the end of your days and mine is what God can glean from your life.  How did His love transform you to transform this world?


Listen, we will all arrive to the end a bit scarred, embattled, weakened, and aged. But by then, will you be able to say that your soul is lighter, mightier, stronger, faith-filled, and wiser? 


What a tragedy it would be to make it to a ripe, old age and never be renewed with the love of Jesus... to never choose to open God’s Word and be filled....to never know the love of a Savior... to never fully forgive someone.... to never step out in faith... to never utter a prayer to the only One who can answer... 


No pursuit of perfection, but pursuit of God.  Choosing His presence over all distractions. Choosing His ways over all of the solutions this world has to offer.  If you don’t know where to start, please ask me.


My goal is to walk a bit more closely with God each day.... by my life’s end, I hope to see His handprints all over my life. Not my wisdom, but His. Not my strength, but His. Not my plans, but His.


So for now, I will be gradually beginning to cover the grays, and getting back to physically working out my aging body after healing from this surgery.


And Though our physical beings will wear out, may our spiritual beings shine brighter than ever from one decade to the next... ❤️πŸ™ŒπŸ»



One of my favorite Casting Crowns songs perfectly sums up the brevity of this life and the God that holds us all:



I am a flower quickly fading

Here today and gone tomorrow

A wave tossed in the ocean

A vapor in the wind

Still You hear me when I'm calling

Lord, You catch me when I'm falling

And You've told me who I am...

I am Yours, I am Yours.




Sending much love to you all today! 

Saturday, February 6, 2021

The Crib

 



The crib pictured above has served as the sleeping quarters for two of the dearest souls on Earth. Soon, it won’t be needed any longer. Admittedly, we have kept our daughter there longer than we planned.


As emotional as it makes me to admit that babyhood is now in our past, I have made a certain peace with it (only slightly weepy as I type this).   For I do know, its passing has meant no more diapers or nightly wakings. My own body is certainly thankful we are “done.”


In some moments of clarity recently, I can surely say that most of life is passed in eras just like this. We bid goodbye to yesterday and step into a new tomorrow constantly. No matter if the crib is in your past, present, or future, you can still relate to the idea that in good times or hard times, no matter how long a season seems to endure, “this too shall pass.”


This too shall pass, or “TTSP” as I have heard it quoted, is a mantra worth holding onto these days.  For the tougher moments, it is a way to cope and see light ahead. 


Are your mornings rushed and hectic with the loading of kids and backpacks into the car?  If so, TTSP...


Has the pandemic stretched you so thin at work that you are a shell of yourself by the time you get home?  If so, TTSP...



For the sweeter times, it is a valid reminder to hold onto the present moment.


Does your little girl ask to paint your nails weekly? 

Does your son still enjoy a bedtime story?  

Are the kids still thrilled to run in the sprinkler?  To all of these, TTSP...


You and I both know that time marches on, no matter what stage we find ourselves. 


Let’s praise God for that.  I, personally, have to be careful not put myself in a cycle of mourning every time we approach a “last” in any given era.


God’s desire could not be stagnancy. One just needs to remember the swirling ocean currents, the moon phases, seasons, births, deaths, dawns , and dusks to know that His design is always of renewal. And in each phase, there is good and there is purpose—- even when it is painful.


Ecclesiastes 3 states it perfectly:


“Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses. 


He sets the time for birth and the time for death, the time for planting and the time for pulling up, the time for killing and the time for healing, the time for tearing down and the time for building. 


He sets the time for sorrow and the time for joy, the time for mourning and the time for dancing, the time for making love and the time for not making love, the time for kissing and the time for not kissing. 


He sets the time for finding and the time for losing, the time for saving and the time for throwing away, the time for tearing and the time for mending, the time for silence and the time for talk. 


He sets the time for love and the time for hate, the time for war and the time for peace.”

‭‭

And you know what these verses do for me? 


  • They bring to light that I am not the orchestrator of it all. What a relief!


  • Although each special moment with my family or work is valuable, it is not the BIG picture—- just like each difficult moment with my family or work is taxing, it is not the BIG picture. Again, what a relief!


The truth is: the difficulties and joys of every era can and should bring us closer to the Creator of our days.  Wherever you find yourself today, I pray the hope of a loving God holds you, and His presence ushers you into whatever is next.


The challenge in every new day, and eventual era, is to accept it ALL with the help of God.  To faithfully invite Him into it, and with all you have, avoid the distractions that lead us into the holding too closely to the things of this world.


Bring on the big girl bed. ☺️