Parents: A Glimpse of God

My kids were playing outside as a storm rolled in. I saw a flash and heard a boom. So, I called them inside. My youngest daughter was apparently really scared when I called them in. I gave her a hug, told her she was safe, and sent her to play with her siblings.

About 15 minutes later, she came to me and said, “I safe cause I got God and dad.”

It was adorable. She is right. She is safe because she has God and her dad.

I love that she put God and dad in the same category. Yes, dad is human. But sometimes I think parents forget that children are shaping their view of God based on your words, actions, and character. You are the most important person in their world. You are teaching them about God. Though they can’t see God, they see you. Thus, they are connecting your qualities to God’s qualities.

My daughter sees her dad as a protector and defender. Dad is strong and fierce. No one and no thing will hurt his baby girl, if he can prevent it.

God is also our protector and defender. “But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you, and protect you from the evil one (2 Thessalonians 3:3).”

I’m not sure that she sees that parallel at the age of 3, but I hope one day she will. 

parents a glimpse of God

 

Parents, we are giving our children a glimpse of God through the way we parent them.

As Christians, we should want our children to know the all-knowing, ever-present, consistent, loving, just God we serve. Our young children will not be able to wrap their developing minds around the character and nature of God, but the way we treat them and others around us shows them a glimpse of God. 

If your discipline is inconsistent and based on feelings, they will not understand God’s discipline.

If you say one thing and mean something different, they will not value God’s word. They will not understand the concept of a never-changing God.

If you are constantly manipulating situations to get your child to do what you want them to do, they too will see God as a manipulator in the sky who gave free will as a joke. God can just make you do whatever he wants by changing your circumstances.

If you live one way in public and another way at home, they will think all Christians do the same. Therefore, they just need to put on a good front, wear a good mask. Sin all they want behind closed doors.

But all of these are the furthest thing from the truth. Our God is a good, just, and consistent God who loves us so much that he gave us the choice to love him back. He knows we cannot do it on our own. He’s not asking us to. He does not want you to pretend to be holy in public. He wants you to admit you are weak, so that you can be given a strength only he can provide.  

Our parents are our first teachers in every aspect of the world. They teach us how to love. They teach us how to interact with others. 

The way we respond to situations becomes the way they respond. 

The way we talk to them becomes the way they talk to themselves.

And until they are really old enough to own their faith, the way we live our faith is the way they too will live their faith. 

It’s a big responsibility. But I truly want everything I say and do to point to our Heavenly Father. 

I know some people are reading this, and it’s striking a nerve. Maybe you are the parent of a prodigal and you are thinking, “I tried.” Please hear me, that’s ok. A relationship with God has to be personal choice. You can plant seeds all day long, but you cannot force faith. Only God can make that seed grow. Some people just take longer to reach that point. Some people have to hit rock bottom before they recognize their need for a Savior. Don’t stop praying for your child. 

 Maybe you didn’t have parents who pointed you to a loving God. Maybe your parents were like the ones I previously described. Or maybe you know someone who did not grow up knowing the true love of a Father. That’s ok. Talk to God about it. Trust me when I say, He knows. He was there. And He will use that pain to help you grow, witness, and further the Kingdom, if you let Him. 

The sad truth is, we are all sinful. We all fall short. And even the best parents, will still miss the mark. This is why it is so important for the body to represent Christ. 

Everyone needs Jesus, but not everyone knows that. We must share this good news. We must witness to the lost and hurting. And sometimes those people are in our congregation, friend groups, family… Don’t assume everyone who claims to be Christian has a true understanding of God. 

We must come alongside of the prodigal, hurt child, and confused to point them to the loving Father who desires a relationship with them. Share the good news of Jesus. Share the character and nature of God. Share how God is working in your life. It matters!  Keep planting seeds!

Cleaning Out the Closet

So, I’m not exactly a perfectionist. I’m the kind of girl who will purposely hang something up crooked so that I don’t have to worry about it looking level.

My husband…Not that way at all. He’s the type of person who will bring out the level and pencils while carefully drawing lines and hanging the picture up perfectly.

They say opposites attract. Well, that’s a good thing. We are very different in many areas.

Another thing we are the exact opposite on is clutter verses decluttering.  Now I wouldn’t say I am a hoarder by any stretch of the imagination. But compared to him, I am.

About a year after we got married, Ben went through his closet and quite literally pulled out every shirt he owned and threw them on the bed.

“What are you doing with all those?” I asked.

“Throwing them away. It’s time to get new ones,” he responded.

“What’s wrong with them?”

He starts pointing out all the flaws- This one is faded. This one has a tear. This one has a paint spot. That one doesn’t fit right.

I glanced in my jammed-packed side of the closet… well, there’s an extremely worn T-shirt from high school. There’s one that I’m pretty sure I’ll never fit in again, but it’s the shirt I wore when he proposed. There’s one that my best friend from college brought me while on a trip…and I have never worn.

So many clothes… I couldn’t even fathom just throwing any of it away. But here he is just throwing them all away.

He picked up his pile, threw them in a trash bag, and asked if I wanted to go shopping?

Fast-forward a few years…

I now have three kids and a closet stuffed full of maternity clothes, pre-pregnancy clothes, in-between clothes, clothes that are 10 years out of style… you get the picture-my closet just got fuller and fuller. Until one day, I was so mad that I had nothing to wear.

So, I did it. I caved. I cleaned out my closet. I threw out every single item that didn’t fit or hadn’t  been worn in at least a year. Then I tried on what was left. Will I wear it?

I had almost everything cleared out. It came time to get to the dresses. I am not a dress girl, but I still had a pretty nice stash of dresses in my closet. Most were fairly easy to throw out due to the fit, but there were a couple I could still hold onto.  I had to ask myself an honest question. If I have to go to an event calling for a dress, is this the dress I want to wear, or would I rather go buy one.

If I held onto the dress, I would not have room for a new one.

That moment. That thought. It was freeing.

I can always go buy new clothes. Why hold onto something you will not use?

I realized this concept was not just literal to the clothing in my closet but in every area of my life.

cleaning out the closet

If I hold onto ___, there’s no room for new ___.

If I hold onto the past, I cannot be led in the present. I cannot move to the future.

If I hold onto worry, I cannot live at peace.

If I hold onto busyness, I cannot live in peace.

If I hold onto that sin, I cannot experience God’s peace.

There seemed to be a theme. If I want to experience God’s peace, I need to clean out the closet of my heart.

My heart was so full. Full of good and bad.  Full of love and full of hurts. Filled with expectations and disappointments.  Filled with joys and filled with suffering. It all needed exposed.

Part of the cleaning out of my heart included opening up past hurts. As I stuffed those hurts further and further into my heart, nothing changed except that I couldn’t see them. They had to come out. They had to be acknowledged. Then there was room for something beautiful to replace it. I had to forgive.

Holding onto pain others caused me… Holding onto the hurt… Holding onto the pain I caused…It all took up a lot of space in my heart, and it was stuffed into the back of the closet. Once I exposed it, I could give it up to God and let him do what only he can do. It literally freed me. It lifted the weights of regret, shame, guilt, and all those other stuffed emotions that kept me in chains, holding me back from experiencing God’s peace, His love, His comfort, His wisdom.

I also needed to get rid of worldly desires.  My need to be in control. My secret envy and pride. My need for other people’s approval. My desire to be liked by sharing gossip disguised as truths. As long as I was letting my flesh consume my heart, I gave God no room to move.

During this time, I felt a huge conviction to guard my heart. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Proverbs 4:23).”  I didn’t realize just how much my heart was influenced. Just how much someone making a sny remark could cause me to stumble. How easily I got sucked into drama. How hearing one word would suddenly have me divulging into other people’s personal information.

I had to distance myself from all that. “Do not be misled: `Bad company corrupts good character.” (1 Corinthians 15:33)

I had to learn to fill my heart with God centered stuff. Music, TV, books, even the groups I chose to play online games with. I needed my outside influences to point me to Christ.

I had to lose my heart of stone to be given a heart for Christ.

This is no task any human can do on their own. It takes discipline. It takes practice.  But more importantly, it takes God. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, an open heart, and a prayer, “Create in me a pure heart Lord.”

 

Love Song from China

Every morning at 5 am, I wake up to teach kids in China online. I love my job! I really do! It honestly amazes me the relationships you can build with kids across the world using a pre-planned 25-minute lesson. That’s not the point of this post, though.

Yesterday morning, I entered the classroom a couple minutes early as normal. The student was also already in the classroom. However, we don’t start class until the count-down timer is close to zero. Basically, we both just sit there with our cameras off and watch the timer. Sometimes I can hear the student’s background noise, sometimes I can’t.

This morning I could. He was listening to music. Though I had no idea what the words to the song were (they were in Mandarin), I could tell it was a love song. The tone, the melody, the music arrangement.

We live in two completely different cultures on opposite sides of the world. We speak different languages. We have completely different traditions. Yet, both cultures are in love with the idea of being in love.

All across the world, we, as a human race, literally worship romantic love. Movies. Books. Music. Almost any form of entertainment… it’s all saturated with this idea of romantic love. 

We expect it to complete us. We expect it to make us happy.

And it’s not just part of our culture. It’s part of every culture. It’s part of our DNA.

We long for it. We sense that need for completion.

love song from china

I was telling my husband about this love song from China and my thoughts pertaining to the worship of romantic love. He said, “Isn’t it funny the one thing we are all looking for and expecting out of a relationship is the one thing we were created for… To be in relationship, communion, with our Lord.”

I wish I had more to add. But that pretty much sums it up. We were created to be in relationship with God. But due to the Fall, our desires have become twisted. Sin took everything that was good and tainted it.

Adam and Eve no longer walked with God. Their work became toilsome. Their relationships became infected. Life got hard.

Everything that was once good, now became a struggle with the flesh. Work. Food. Sex. Relationships.

And we feel that. No matter where you are from. You know that something is missing, and you go looking for it in all the wrong places… substances, food, success, relationships, wealth, power…  

But that something is God. There is only one thing that can fill that hole in your heart.

Since walking with Christ, I have said so many times, “I wish I had chased God the way I used to chase boys.”

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties it was like my mission. I needed a boyfriend, or at least a love interest. If I didn’t have one, I spent my weekends looking for one. It was a game. It was fun. It also consumed my life.

I was looking for something that was missing in my life. I was expecting that relationship to complete me.

Then I got married to a wonderful man. But guess what! He is not God. He did not complete me. There was still something missing.

This is probably a large part of the reason our first years of marriage were not a honeymoon. I expected him to fulfill me. I expected him to make me happy. I expected him to be my god.

When we put our faith in people, they will let us down. All people, no matter how good they are, are flawed sinful humans.

But God knew our nature. He knew we would mess up. He knew we needed someone to save us. So, He sent His Son to be the greatest love story ever told. He came down from His throne in Heaven to a world full of sin. He lived as a poor humble human. Preached the Good News of God’s Kingdom. Though He never sinned, took the punishment of death we deserve. But it doesn’t end there. He defeated the enemy. He conquered death by rising from the dead! 

Why? So that we could be part of His Kingdom. So that we could have eternal life! But not just eternal life, we now can bring His Kingdom to Earth! We also now have ability to be in communion with God again- through the Holy Spirit. This is the greatest love story ever told! And it’s true. 

We have to put our faith in God. This is the love story our hearts need. This is the love that will change you and fulfill you.

That sense of completion comes from a relationship with Him!  When God is your number one relationship, you can take all your relationships to Him. He will guide you, lead you, and help you flourish in all areas, including earthly relationships. But He has to be that number one relationship, not just a random thought occasionally throughout your life when things get hard. He alone is the only thing that can satisfy that longing in your heart. Chasing anything else is like chasing the wind.

 

 

God is Faithful!

I’m getting published!!! I’m so excited to share this news. However, it doesn’t seem right to share this news without sharing how AMAZING our God is! So, let me tell you the whole story!

The Call

In April of 2017, I felt this stir in my heart to write a book. It really didn’t make a lot of sense. I have never been the best writer or even really cared to write much at all. But this was a feeling a couldn’t shake. I told my husband about it, and he said, “So, do it.”

Recognizing this was a call from God, I thought, “If God wants me to write a book, obviously He would want me to share my testimony.” I sat at the computer and began to type. However, the words just did not come out. God has done some amazing and wonderful things in my life. He took me from a life of complete chaos to peace, yet I barely had 200 words on this page.

I closed my word document, shut off the computer, and said out-loud, “God, if you want me to write a book, you are going to have to give me something.”

The next day… I took my children to the library for story time. Grace was three at the time. She picked up a whole bunch of princess books and was excited to bring them home to read. As I read the first book, I grew angry with the message this book was giving my young daughter. Grace, she only cared about the pretty dresses and glitter on the pages. But me, I was mad!

I stewed on it. I vented about it to anyone who would listen- these princess books were horrible! Then I was texting my mother-in-law about these books. She sent a simple response, “Renee, it’s just the storyline.”

In that second it all clicked- It’s just the storyline! Renee, change the storyline!!! You were called to write a book, maybe this is the book.

In no time at all, I typed out three princess stories with a message I want my daughter to hear. You are a princess because you are the daughter of a Heavenly King.

Ideas were still flooding my mind and more stories quickly followed.

As I was reading the stories to my kids, I noticed my boys were hanging onto every word. They loved the biblical application to the stories. “Mom, we want to be in the stories.”

This one I had to think about. Boys don’t really want to be a prince. Boys want to be warriors. Boys want to be knights. Thus, another series was developed that I was calling Knight Tales.

 What Next?

So, I did it. I wrote the book. Now what? I reached out to my cousin who is an author’s assistant. She told me to start querying agents, ten at a time. And as I got a rejection letter, send out another.  

So, I started with Google. But I quickly learned being in such a specific genre meant there was a short list of agents. Finding an agent who represents Christian children’s picture books was hard.

I found an upcoming Christian Writers’ Conference and decided to query the agents that were going to be at it. One of them had a very long submission guideline. But I followed it and submitted.

It wasn’t until she responded that I realized I submitted to a small publisher. This was the very first response I received, and she said yes! Yes, but… because she was such a small publisher, I would need to have the book illustrated.

An Illustrator?

I was so excited. I immediately reached out to someone I knew was talented and wanted to illustrate children’s books. However, as much as she wanted to, it just was not realistic for her to do so.

So, I asked the publisher to put me in contact with one of her illustrators. Everything was all set up, until the illustrator realized there was no contract yet… then another illustrator fell through.

I decided, maybe… just maybe, this wasn’t meant to be.

But if one publisher said yes, maybe another would too.

So, I bought the Christian Writer’s Market guide and highlighted every single publisher that accepted unsolicited manuscripts and children’s books.

I submitted.

And I waited.

Rejection

Two weeks later, I got my first rejection letter. It hurt. It hurt deep. I was so defeated. I went to church for a Wednesday Night Prayer Service. As the pastor opened with prayer, he asked, “Is there anyone in here feeling defeated?”

I raised my hand and tears just started flowing as he prayed. Then a girl came up to me with a note. She said, “I hope I don’t sound dumb, but God told me to give this to you.”

 She had written on prayer card, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippian 1:6 The Lord is not finished with you. Keep seeking Him.”  

phil 1 6 God is faithful.jpg

More tears.

Then the pastor preached on this verse. Clearly this was a message perfectly timed for me. God knew I was defeated, but he was not finished.

As the years would go on with this project, I would continue to look at the verse. Often, I would wonder if that good work was the book or if it was referring to the sanctification process. Was it talking about the work God called me to do, or the process of becoming more like Christ? In my heart, I knew it didn’t really matter,  because God was using that verse to comfort and reassure me.

More Rejection, Some Hope

The publishers started responding. This publishing world was completely foreign to me. It amazed me how everyone genuinely wanted to help, they just couldn’t be the one to give me that start. I heard a lot of no’s, but I also heard some hope. Most of the publishers offered some guidance, advice on revisions, or suggestions for my next steps. I ended up having five publishing companies offer me hybrid contracts. This basically means, I pay for the publication. I definitely could not do that.

During this time, I had one agent respond to my query. She told me to self-publish my first book and if it sells 5,000 copies, she would represent me on my next book. Being completely naive, I responded that I had already had interested publishers. I then asked if I could sell 5,000 on my own, why would I need you.

This woman- thank God for her! I’m not even sure why she responded, but she did. She explained to me that in the publishing world it doesn’t matter how good your content is. What they care about is whether or not you can sell your work. You need a platform.

I didn’t like what she told me, but it was the truth. I needed a platform.

Blog

So, I started a blog. It was quite the roller-coaster. There were so many times I wanted to quit. So many times, I wondered if it was even worth it.

One specific time, I even wrote about it.  (Frustrated)

My husband read that post. Then he had a heart-to-heart with me. He told me that if God called me to this blog, I could not quit it without consulting him. I needed to steady the course. And maybe it was time to start looking for that illustrator again.

Illustrator…again

I really did not want to do this again. Last time this did not pan out too well. But I knew my husband was right.

I felt heavy on my heart I needed to ask my friend Anna. Now Anna is an extremely artistic and talented person, but it still felt weird asking her. I didn’t do it. I didn’t want another illustrator to fall through. But this feeling didn’t go away. I told Ben. He said, “So, ask her.”

Anna responded that she was flattered that I asked, but her sister, Connie, is really the person I want to illustrate for me. She sent me a link to her page.

I took one look at Connie’s work and knew that she would be a good fit. So, I reached out to her. Before I knew it, a beautifully illustrated book was coming together.

As she sent me illustrations I was just in awe. She did such an awesome job!

Time to Submit

We finished the project the day before baby #6 was born. I submitted to the interested publisher. She loved it! She said she would be delighted to offer us a contract… but it was contingent on an agent picking up the project…

I was back at square one.

So, I started reaching back out to every agent who I had any contact with. I queried and queried away.

Losing Hope

I started to lose hope.

I worried.

 I wondered. Is this my will or God’s will?

How much of me is in this project? I wrestled with my pride so much. It just didn’t settle well. I looked into self-publishing.  I felt very uneasy about it.

I started telling my husband about the lack of progress and my lack of hope and he said, “Maybe you should be praying that God will allow you to be ok with the answer wait.”

I didn’t want to hear that.

But I did. I prayed that God would allow me to be ok with the answer wait. And almost immediately I realized I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My kids. My family. The blog. I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. I just needed to be still and trust Him and His timing.

Things seemed to pretty much be on hold for the book progress. And I was ok with that… kinda…

A Storm

So, as life would happen- a storm came. My health appeared to be not so great. My doctor thought I had Lupus. I was in the middle of a bunch of testing. And at the same time, I felt this huge conviction to allow God to be my comforter and put down my cell phone. I wrote about this in a recent blog. (My Comforter) I was struggling… a lot… but in a weird way- it was awesome. I so strongly felt God’s hand during this time. But I also realized just how confused I was.

I just couldn’t understand. Why does my health have to go down the drain? I have six kids God entrusted me with…

Why would God call me to write a book and never see it through?

I struggled. I know we cannot understand God’s ways. I know that His will is on His time. But knowing that in your head and trusting that in your heart don’t always go together.

During this storm, Connie reached out to me and told me I had been on her heart.

I told her about the Lupus and how I wasn’t handling it so well…

Turning Point

Then… test results came back- No Lupus! What! How amazing is our God! Comforted and healed!

And suddenly I felt this kick in the bottom to start submitting manuscripts again.

It just so happens that I am part of a group on Facebook for aspiring children’s book authors. One of the authors posted that her publisher was actively seeking submissions. So, I checked out their page.

Then I emailed the editor. He was interested in the entire series!

Then I submitted our work.

It all happened so smoothly.

Well… kinda… but even the little bumps, God directed the path.

I just signed a contract! With the potential to get all of the princess books published!

How great is our God! I can’t wait to see what God does next!

 In Conclusion 

God is faithful! He called me into a completely foreign world. He inspired the work and guided my fingers as they typed. He walked alongside me every step of the way, guiding my feet and the people who I came into contact with. He comforted me when I was down. Though I gave up, He continued to lead.

Every single feeling that I couldn’t shake- was a prompting from the Holy Spirit. Every single person who gave me advice was strategically placed there for guidance. This process has been a rollercoaster, but I am so glad to have been part of it. 

Thank you God for starting a good work in me and seeing it out to completion!

 

 

 

 

Just Don’t Get Caught

I was reclining in a chair, watching as my children played “Red Light, Green Light.”

Sometimes I sit and watch them play and just marvel at how awesome it is to have such great kids who enjoy playing together. Today was not that day. 

Today I was focused on something else.  See, the person who won the round of “Red Light, Green Light” got to call the next round. So obviously, all my children wanted to be the caller. Well, the caller was purposely trying to get them to mess up, so that they would have to go back to the start line… I noticed that often they would mess up by going when red light was called or running when yellow light was called.

But all my children would only admit they messed up if they knew they had been caught. One of my children gave a certain facial expression every time she knew that she messed up…But she only went back when someone called her out on it.

She only admitted to being wrong when she was caught.

 don't get caught

Ok, I can relate to that. Especially when I compare my life before I started walking with Christ to now.

Growing up I got this subtle message that it was ok to do “bad” things as long as you didn’t get caught.

Drinking- The legal age for drinking alcohol is 21. BUT if you are going to drink, don’t drink and drive.

Sex- Sex is meant for marriage. BUT if you are going to have sex, use protection. You don’t want an STD or unplanned pregnancy.

I know the adults in my life meant well. I know they were just being realistic about the culture I lived in. But I really felt like they were telling me, “Here’s what I am supposed to tell you… But if you are going to do it, don’t get caught.”

This concept flooded into so many areas in my life. The moral line became so blurred. I know I am not supposed to do this. But…as long as I don’t get caught, it’s ok.

It really piled up when I started giving myself permission to just tell a little lie. Then I would have to tell another lie to cover that one up. Then I would have to exaggerate a story and add details so people would believe me. I would get so caught up in defending my little lie with more lies, that soon I didn’t even really remember what happened. I would get so worried about getting caught, that I didn’t even know what the truth was. This is an exhausting way to live.

If you are only worried about getting caught, all you care about is not being found out.

I’m so glad the Holy Spirit came into my life and started showing me a better way. Not long after I met Jesus in my backyard, I learned a really important lesson. The reason you don’t do those bad things is not because of others, but because you want to grow in relationship with God.

For example, alcohol restrictions are in place to protect young people from the negative effects of drinking. God told us to obey the law of the land. Also, his word tells us not to get drunk on wine.  It never says don’t drink. You can do that. But responsibly and within the limits of the law. Make sure you are in control of your actions and emotions when you do. Those boundaries are there to help you and guide you.

The reason you shouldn’t have sex before marriage is so much more. God put a boundary on sex because sex was meant to be a good thing. It was meant to show a union between two married people and yoke them together. By choosing to wait until marriage, you are respecting God’s boundary. You are growing in relationship with the Father. And as you grow closer to God, you are preparing your heart for a marriage that will glorify God.

See, I missed all that, when I was focused on me. When I was focused on not getting caught, I had no clue that the first part of that message was about a relationship with Christ.  The adults in my life knew that the world would tell us otherwise, so they were trying to keep us safe.

Truthfully those truths were easy to see as they were spelled out to me. However, the ones I am still learning have a deep and meaningful impact on me.  For example, the Holy Spirit really got a hold of me when it came to lying and gossiping (as you can probably tell by the topics of most of my blogs.)

See prior to walking with Christ, I had a really bad problem with stretching the truth. I had a horrible issue with gossiping. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I just wanted people to see why I felt the way I did. So, I told the story with colorful glasses on. I left out parts that made me look bad. I added details to make the other person look like a monster. Before I knew it, the story I told only shared a thread of truth. I was not a good person before I meet Jesus.

But a lesson I have learned through this sanctification process is that the truth frees you. If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.

Tell the truth. The truth frees you. It frees you from the worry of being found out. It frees you from the tornado you create to cover up your “bad” actions.

When you walk the way God calls you to walk, you don’t have to put on a show, fake the funk, wear a mask, or pretend to be anything other than what you are. You don’t have to worry about being caught.

You are exactly who you are.  A flawed sinful human trying her best to be the woman God has called you to be.

So, if you are worried about getting caught, I challenge you to pray about that situation. Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you, lead you, and help you overcome that area. It won’t be easy, but I promise it will be freeing.

You were not meant to carry the weight of your sin on your shoulders. Walk in peace. Go and sin no more.

Just a Little…

Last week my children and I were in a little fender bender. We were traveling on the interstate and switching highways during rush hour. While we were stopped on the exit ramp, a lady rear-ended us.

As I sat in my van waiting on the police officers to show up, I was annoyed. Annoyed that I had to sit on the side of the highway while I watch the traffic get thicker. Annoyed that now my van has a dent in the bumper. Annoyed that now my children have officially been in an accident. Annoyed that my husband insisted that the EMTs check us all out. Annoyed that I was supposed to have an extra hour and a half to get to my location, and now I was going to be late. It was just a little fender bender. We are fine.

So, after almost two hours, we were finally on our way to our chosen location.

But guess what? We weren’t fine. That little annoying back ache I told the EMTs about started to be a much bigger pain. The pain slowly crept down my back, into my bottom, and shot down my leg. So, I went to the hospital.

I was officially diagnosed with a sprained shoulder and back pain due to an irritated sciatic nerve.

It still all seemed annoying. It was just a little fender bender!!! How can it cause such a big impact?

Even if it’s just a little bit… it’s still enough. Enough to cause pain. Enough to cause trouble. Enough to throw you off completely.

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Just a little…

That’s all it takes.

Just a little gossip.

Let me just vent this one frustration.

Next thing I know I am swirling in a tornado looking for more juicy details to justify my stance.

Now, I am separating myself. Of course, I am separating myself from the person who has wronged me. But I am also separating myself from God.

I am not acting the way a Christian should act. I am misrepresenting that person. I am causing others to think poorly of that person- why? Because I let my emotions control me and gave into that sin God has been convicting me of.

But it was just a little.

And I was right…

Well, at least I thought I was right…

Now, I’m not so sure… But everyone else thinks I am right, so I dig my heels in.

I backslide just a little.

But just a little is enough.

Now my peace is disrupted.

Now my personal time with God is a checklist.

Now I am living for myself.

It was just a little gossip, God. Why does it have to have such an impact?

Because when I give into the temptation to gossip, I have put other people’s opinions above God’s. I have started looking for satisfaction from other’s opinions and misfortune, while looking to others who have negative opinions. I have lost sight of God, because I have put too much focus on others.

When I was under the strong conviction to stop gossiping and to only talk positively of others, I realized just how hard that was. But I also realized this desire to gossip came from an unhealthy value of other people’s opinions. I wanted them to like me. I wanted them to care about what I said. So, what if I said she looks like she’s trying too hard to dress nice. It’s the truth. But whose truth is it? My truth or God’s truth?

Ladies let me tell you, we all want to be accepted. We all want to be loved. But when we are looking to others to accept us and love us, we fall victim to the trap of sin. We allow ourselves to think and act negatively. So, instead of tearing someone down to feel good, try building her up so you can both feel good.

Gossip is a much bigger deal than our culture wants us to believe. It’s everywhere!!! I mean just checking out at the store you see magazines filled with gossip. Watching television, you rarely see people talking well of another person unless it makes them look good. Kid shows are teaching young girls its ok to be frenemies. (A person you call your friend but really dislike.)

We have to shine a light into this darkness! We cannot allow our daughters to think its ok to be frenemies with anyone. We are called to love others above ourselves. When we give into the temptation to sin, we are loving ourselves about all. We must show others the love of Christ, and that starts with our hearts.

Create in me a clean heart O’ Lord. We have to train ourselves to think positively. To think the way God calls us to live. Only then can our action be true and sincere. It must be an overflow from our hearts.

It’s not an option. We must teach our children to live the way God calls us to live. And we must teach them by modeling proper behavior. We are called to live counter-culturally. 

Our culture doesn’t care about your well-being. Everyone who lives in the world cares about themselves. Which is why the world drives you to be selfish. It temps you to fall back into that trap of sin.

Even if it’s just a little bit.

It’s enough.

God’s not trying to be a “mean dad” by withholding something from you. He’s trying to free you from the weight of that sin. Only then can you draw closer to Him and continue to be transformed into the image of Christ.

Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on me. Thank you for your convictions that free me from the weight of my sins. Thank you for the peace you have filled my life with! Thank you for walking with me as I go through this process. Thank you for being the awesome and amazing God you are!

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.”

Ephesians 4:31 (NLT)

My Comforter

A  few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take my youngest two children to the park without older siblings. After my 2-year-old ran all over the playground equipment, she settled into the swings.

She asked me to push her high. So, I obliged. Then she told me, “I do it by my own-self.”

So, I walked away and sat on a swing next to her.

She smiled ear to ear as she went back and forth on the swing.

But then the swing started slowing down.

“Mom, will you push me high?” she asked.

I got up from my swing,  stood behind her, and gave her a push. Then I went to push her again, but she told me, “No, mom. I do it by my own-self.”

Sure enough, this repeated a few times. Eventually, I was tired of the get-up, push, sit-down dance, so I told her to find something else to do.

Of course, my two-year-old was not happy to hear this, but she did as she was told.

What a perfect picture of how I tend to treat God.

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I recognize the need for Him. I ask him to give me that first push.

But then as life gets going, I get prideful. I start thinking I can do this by myself.

I forget the momentum that started the whole thing was God. And I cannot keep going without Him.

Yet, I let my pride tell me I am responsible for the movement. I am the reason I am doing so well.

Then that swing starts to slow down. Things are out of my control… again. I recognize I need help.

I recognize my pride. I ask for forgiveness, ask for help, and then start the whole thing all over again.

Sometimes, I honestly sit and wonder why I suck so much!

I am currently under a huge conviction to put down my phone. I’ve had this conviction before. I’ve walked this same walk before. Yet, I fell right back into the trap.

Since I’ve had this conviction before, I thought I knew how to handle it. I will just stay off social media.

Well, social media was only part of the problem. Mindless scrolling through articles online. Mindlessly checking my email… which still only has junk in it… mindlessly checking work related stuff…

I let my pride tell me I knew what to do… only to have it revealed to me, that social media was not the main source of my struggle- I turned my phone into my comforter.

When I am bored… I go to my phone. When I am overwhelmed… I go to my phone. When I just need some me time… I go to my phone.

The problem is not my phone. The problem is how I am treating my phone. I’ve turned it into a mini-idol. It has become my source of comfort. Ouch!

If I am constantly going to my phone to numb my feelings, I give God no room to move. (Don’t get me wrong, He’s moving… I am just missing out.)

If I am overwhelmed and mindlessly start scrolling through my phone, I have missed the opportunity to hand my frustrations to God. Those feelings haven’t gone away, they are just placed aside while my mind goes elsewhere. Now I am holding onto those feelings instead of laying them at the foot of the cross.  I have missed the opportunity to grow in relationship with him.

When I’m upset by bad news and I turn to Google for answers, I missed the opportunity to go to the only one with answers. Google may have facts, but Google cannot offer me comfort. Google cannot give me any peace. Google is not my God.  

So here I sit again, on a swing slowing down in momentum. Asking the wrong thing to give me that comfort. Looking to be numbed rather than given life…I’m slowing to a stop, rather than looking to the only One who can make me move.

 

Praise God for His mercy. Praise God that He is still completing that good work in me. He knows I need a Savior, and His blood already covers me.

If you are in a similar situation, trust me when I say- I get it. But this conviction is straight from the Holy Spirit, don’t miss out on the opportunity to grow closer to God. God is the only one who can truly comfort. God is the only one who can give you what you need. 

Lord, I don’t want to ever think I can do this on my own. Yet, often my actions reveal otherwise.  I’m sorry God that I have let yet another thing take your place in my heart. I am sorry Lord, that I sin. But God, I am so grateful that you already knew I couldn’t do it on my own. You already knew I would fail. You already sent your Son to die for me, so that His blood already covers my sin. Thank you for refining me. Thank you for showing me the errors in my way. Help me stay on the straight and narrow path. Help me avoid the traps of this sin. Let me find rest in you and you alone.