Thursday, June 21, 2018

Twice a Mother

Isaiah 26:3
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You; because He trusts in You.” (American Standard Version with thee's replaced.)

Motherhood seems to be a journey of navigating changes. Just about the time you figure out one phase, you’re on to the next… at different times, with different personalities, that require different techniques. If you aren’t already comfortable with change — God is going to work on that. :)

As a christian wife and mother, our first ministry is to our family; I have found it so easy to get caught up in the doing: change her diaper, nurse her, feed him, clean poop (whether his or hers), nurse her, pick up at least some portion of the house, change his diaper - oh, drink your water! - nurse her - wait, when am I going to eat? - keep things civil between the siblings, sleep when the baby… wait, how do I get them to sleep at the same time? 

I get so focused on the urgency of the doing. Knowing it’s a fulfillment of my ministry to the Lord, my doing becomes the gauge on which I judge my walk with God… and I start to judge my worth by my walk, which puts my worth in constant flux based on my performance. Yet neither my worth, nor my relationship with God are based on my doing, but on the unchanging God, and what He has done, and is doing in my life. He always remains constant. He is the Rock to which we cling in the shifting circumstances of this crazy, beautiful, temporary life. He has poured out His grace on us through His only Son to credit us with His righteousness. And that never changes. My performance - or even how well I’m doing in my walk with God - has no bearing on my worth.

When I focus on Him - stay my mind on Him - I don’t see what I can or cannot do; I begin to see what He can do. I start to realize no matter what I do or don’t get done, His grace is greater. No matter how I mess up with my kids, His grace is greater. No matter what this world throws at us mothers - or throws at our kids - God’s grace is always greater.

When I stay my mind on Him, my perspective begins to change. My goals become less important - and I begin to compare my goals with His goals. My goals often have way more doing than His. But really, His main goal is defined in Romans 8:28-29: to make us more like Christ, which benefits us and brings Him glory.

The following passage is often split into many different sections, but I think it’s also important to consider it all together. 

Romans 8:28-39
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘For your sake we are being put to death all day we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Concentrating on doing brings us joy or guilt based on our performance. Concentrating on Christ and the far-reaching effects of what He has done for us brings us joy in every circumstance. I don’t mean you’ll be happy when grieving; I mean you’ll have the peace of knowing God is using this for the good of His children and for His glory.

Trust Him and what He has promised. Lean not on your own understanding. Meditate on His ways in the watches of the night. Dwell on His goodness, His mercy, His love so great that He’s willing to do the hard things. Then make it real to yourself by purposefully being thankful for it. “You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Psalm 16:11

Now I chose Isaiah 26:3, because I think it describes the idea most succinctly. But there's a similar verse in Psalm 1:2-3:

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

I love this passage as a reminder. God and His Word is the root which can grow us into beautiful trees. This doesn’t mean the tree won’t need pruning. And neither is the tree expected to produce fruit out of season, but in its own time, according to the Lord’s direction.

It’s important to note this passage is also a Psalm, and while it gives impeccable advice, it is not a promise. As a general rule, when we follow God’s Word, we do well. Yet God also teaches us through trials with the aim of perfecting us; it’s often how we learn best. This may look like failure to us… yet our inability to get everything done on our list is not the measure of our success. In fact, God uses that inability to teach us how to prioritize, to ask for help, to keep us humble and reliant on Him - and a myriad other custom-tailored lessons His Holy Spirit teaches us. Each and every circumstance is not a measure of our worth, but of His grace. He always has the victory.

One other example of His victory and grace is when I mess up with my kids. When I let my temper flare and I snap at them… despite my failure, God turns it into a success. It gives me the opportunity to apologize to my kiddos, and to teach them how to deal with their own failures. To show them what I should have done, and where I should have turned. God’s grace is not shown in our supposed perfection, but in our weakness. God always has the victory.

Nothing has taught me this so well and clearly, as being a mother - especially twice a mother, with a little boy and girl! I thank and praise the Lord for this gracious gift, and pray for His help to stay my mind on Christ - and smile at the future. What trial has God used to teach you something you might not have learned any other way?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Fear of the Lord

Job 28:28
"And to man He said, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.'"

I think you’ll agree when I say motherhood is a beautiful gift of the Lord - but we don’t always feel that way. Motherhood as a christian demands a diligent, patient, and joyful self-sacrifice day in and day out. When the hundredth question has passed their lips for the third time, while you’re trying to remember: how much flour did I just put in? - and also just remembered you forgot to turn the timer on for something else, and then you hear a crash in the other room from another child… it can get pretty difficult to focus on the hope and grace of an eternal God rather than the circumstances of the present.

And then there are the things we want to do and accomplish. The gifts we want to use, but don’t really have time for. Or the goals and dreams we want to work toward, but end up working toward others’ goals instead. We often mention the rewards of motherhood: the snuggles and smiles, belly laughs and eureka moments, and the times when God has brought about understanding of a key spiritual concept (which we often want at least a little credit for). Yet, in the face of the things I want, and the goals I have, I often struggle with those rewards being enough. Yes, that little hug brings a smile to my face, but what I REALLY want is… fill in the blank. My focus shifts, and I lose my joy.

But that’s the beauty of God’s grace. He knows exactly where we are, and exactly what we need - whether or not that matches up with what we think. He loves us too much to let us have our own way, if it isn’t best. To be completely honest, had it been entirely up to me, I would not have chosen motherhood. Kids never have been my thing. But God doesn’t call the equipped… He equips the called. He has called me to be a mother… and not just for my husband, or my children. He has also called me to be a mother for me. Much as I may not want to admit it sometimes, I need motherhood.

God has been working on me a lot in this - especially in the past couple of weeks. In fact, He’s torn my building from its foundations, shaken it around a bit to get out some of the rotten boards, and then held it midair with me still in it while He’s ripped out and repoured some of my foundations. I might be just to the point where He’s set me back down and begun replacing the missing boards on the new foundation. It’s not the first time He’s done this, and it won’t be the last; I’m sure some of you can relate.

I’m going to share with you a conversation I had with my husband via text. I was brutally honest with him, so it shows exactly what I - and what I think many of us - struggle with, and also shows the truths I need to combat them with.

Me: Sooo… I’m fighting depression and anxiety. Do you know of another Scripture about parenthood/kids being a blessing? I think I don’t believe I’m a good mother, and that I can get better. I’m scared I’m going to screw up my kids. I get overwhelmed by all the things the kids need - mostly for school. I feel like I’m the only driving force behind James getting any work done. And it’s another thing on my plate. I’m a little confused because I think I have the time, but emotionally it’s hard. 

Husband: Don’t forget that it doesn’t all rely on you. All you can do is your best and that’s not enough on its own. Trust that God is the one working in the lives of our kids and that He will accomplish His purpose in them. God doesn’t need you to be a great mother. He wants you to trust and obey Him. He will be the one to work in the kids’ lives. 
Me: How do I deal with not wanting to be a mother?

Husband: Focus on wanting to honor God and bring Him glory through your life. You are serving Him when you are caring for the needs of the kids. 

Me: I’ve been having a hard time with that. I’m being really selfish. Right now I just want to do what I want to do. I know God’s way is better, but I don’t see it. 

Husband: Then you need to ask God to help you repent. Ask Him to help you see how you are idolizing your desires over worshipping him. 

Me: I know I’m idolizing myself - I’m not seeing why He’s better. 

Husband: Then go back to the end of the book of Job. That’s a good reminder that he is God and you are not. 

Me: But that only holds fear, not joy. 

Husband: You need some fear right now. If you don’t see why God is better than you you won’t be able to enjoy him. You can’t have joy without humility.”

As you can see, God used my husband to throw out a number of nuggets, but that last one really hit me. Even in those moments, I understood. I needed to fear God - not the kind that feared punishment, but the kind that recognized His awesome power and might, so I could “Humble [myself] under the mighty hand of God… casting all my anxiety on Him, because He cares for [me].” 1 Peter 5:6-7 

So I did - I opened the book of Job and started reading from chapter 38 through 41. It was a great blessing! It’s not like everything was peaches and cream after that, but it really helped ground me and my emotions. Part of me really wants to quote you the whole passage, because it took reading the entire thing to really drive home how great God is during those moments. However, for the sake of time, I’ll give you a couple highlights that seemed to convey the core of the ideas I needed.

Job 40:8-14 ~ God is speaking and says, “Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified? Or do you have an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity, and clothe yourself with honor and majesty. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud, and make him low. Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him, and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them in the dust together; bind them in the hidden place. Then I will also confess to you, that your own right hand can save you.”

Job 41:10-11 ~ God just finished describing the might of Leviathan and says, “No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him; who then is he that can stand before Me? Who has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine.”

How’s that for humbling?

So… when I’m struggling with not wanting motherhood because I’m focused on what I’d rather be doing - whether it be using talents or getting rest - my focus needs to shift to recognize how big and great God is. When I bring my focus to bear on the fact that, “the earth is the Lord’s and all it contains…” (Psalm 24:1a), I’m reminded that He’s given me everything I have - including those talents I’m wanting to use. And that rest that I can’t seem to get? Does God not have sovereign control over my circumstances? Does He not know best and cause “all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose”? Romans 8:28

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” Psalm 111:10

The fear of the Lord is to focus on Him and all that He is, and to then realize who we are. We have nothing to offer Him, but He has made us His children. Praise God and obey His calling, and He will see to the rest.

A small side note: once I was able to shift my focus to humility, thankfulness, and praise, God showed me something else. He wouldn’t give me talents I couldn’t use in His calling of me to be a mother. So instead of focusing on how much I wanted to use my gifts the way I understood - outside my calling, I need to continue to spend my time considering how I can put my gifts to use within my calling. 

So I leave you with this: motherhood is humbling, and we need to be humbled. Remember that while God called us to this, He doesn’t expect us to do the whole job - He’s working, too. In fact, He’s the driving force enabling our work. He calls us to trust and obey Him - He’ll take care of the rest. 

The snuggles and hugs, and ability to watch them grow are rewarding - but so are the trials for those who choose to follow God, because once God has brought you to the other side, you’ll be stronger, wiser, and more like Christ.

I thank the Lord for the "fear of the Lord," and how He has revealed more to me of how the concept applies to the Christian life. Praise the Lord for His goodness and grace! How can you turn to the fear of the Lord in your circumstances?

Thursday, November 2, 2017


2 Peter 1:2-3
"Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence."

If there is anything that has taught me to rely on His divine power, it's motherhood. I'm not saying other things didn't teach me, but motherhood does throw quite a bit at a woman. Motherhood persists... children's needs often won't wait for a mother's own. While we can sometimes allow a way to take a break, vomit won't clean itself. Cuts won't bandage themselves. Panic attacks over a stuffy nose because he or she has been crying over "the worst birthday ever" because he or she was disciplined for using too much toilet paper and clogging the toilet when he or she knows how much to use... need a steadying rock through the storm.

Understanding the grace it takes to rear a child engenders a whole new respect for our loving Father and the amount of patience and grace He extends to us. Motherhood is a demanding job, and God knows exactly how hard it is. Trying to help a child change their focus through the whining, the know-it-all pride, the drama, and the outright fear when all they can focus on is what they don't have, is wearing. The interesting thing seems to be, after I work through it with my child, I find myself warring precisely the same battle... and by that time doing just about as poorly as they did.  

So here I am, after everyone else is asleep, writing a thankful thing. Not because you need it, not because I have a goal I need to keep, but because it is one of the few ways I can keep my focus on the truth of Christ, without wandering off. God grants us everything we need to live a godly life through the true knowledge of Him. Whatever it takes to keep your focus on "the true knowledge of Him" - it's worth it. That's when true change happens, and when Christ can begin to work through you. Whether by prayer, reading the Bible, writing, or color journaling, whatever you have to do to get your focus back on Christ is your lifeline. So often I don't want to use it - but I am rendered useless (and usually crying) without it!

What is the truth I need to dwell on tonight? God has granted us everything we need to follow Him. The grace I am to extend to my children has already been given to me. I'm not perfect, and He doesn't expect me to be. Otherwise, He wouldn't have gone through the suffering on the cross. My mistakes are the perfect example to my children of why we need Christ! This doesn't grant me license to not try to live a godly life - especially since He's granted us everything we need to live it - though it is a reason why it's so important to ask our children's forgiveness. In so doing, I model asking forgiveness of God as His child, and relying upon His grace.

I need His grace. Every moment. Even when things are going "right." Motherhood has a tendency to throw that need in my face... in a good way, even if I don't always take it as such, which is why I'm thankful for it. It isn't my job to make my children more like Christ... that's God's job. My job is to point my children to Christ, ask their forgiveness when I mess up, and be a witness of His love, grace, and mercy. 

He never runs out of patience with me. His tactics may change according to my attitude, but His love, grace, and patience are applied consistently throughout. He is always working all things to make us more like Christ, and motherhood is no exception!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A "Perfect" Day

Ecclesiastes 8:15
"So I commended pleasure, for there is nothing good for a man under the sun than to eat and to drink and to be merry, and this will stand by him in his toils throughout the days of his life which God has given him under the sun."

This last day, my husband and I celebrated our twelfth anniversary. We did several of our favorite things: ate breakfast at our favorite breakfast place; listened to our audiobook while watching the waves and (I) knitted; window shopped along the Embarcadero in Morro Bay; ate dinner at our favorite restaurant in San Luis; stayed at our favorite hotel and soaked in the mineral hot tub; watched a movie; and ate my favorite dessert (brought from that favorite restaurant). I can't help but feel so thankful for all of this, and so blessed by God's grace. To have the time, childcare, and financial provision to make this happen is no small feat, and to top it off, I've barely felt any pain today!

I cannot describe how wonderful and satisfying it feels to enjoy all these things knowing it is at the behest of my Creator, who owes me nothing. Much as I have admittedly been stressing out lately in the trenches of daily life, it almost feels too good to be true to have had this "perfect" day. Yet here His gift stands. I appreciate these things all the more because of my recent trials... which makes me thankful for not only for the "perfect" day, but for the trials, too.

The verse above puts a more eternal perspective on things for me. This recent "eating, drinking, and being merry" can serve as a great reminder of God's grace during the coming toils... and it can also serve as a reminder that the good things of this earth pale in comparison to what it will be like with our Heavenly Father after His return.

Until then, we have an even greater joy than in the eating and drinking and making merry in a "perfect" day. Psalm 16:11: "You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever." Even a "perfect" day is enhanced by the joy of the Lord!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Sovereignty and Free Will

As a parent, would you rather your child followed your every whim, or was free to make their own choices? True love wants them to make their own choices… and this is God’s desire for His children. I will never be able to fully reconcile the two inherent truths of our free will and His sovereignty, but God has shown me an inkling in the following perspective.

We as human beings cannot control everything. It’s a basic fact of life and one of the main reasons many of us struggle with anxiety. In many cases, “life” throws us many circumstances that play a huge role in charting our course. Now consider… if God is truly sovereign, then He has control over all things, including those circumstances. One thing that must be understood before we move on is that “…God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” (James 1:13b) God may allow circumstances caused by sin and evil intent, but He Himself hasn’t a shadow of evil in Him. (“…God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5b The context being darkness is sin.) So, if He is sovereign and good, then why does He allow circumstances caused by evil?

Enter the beautiful truth of Romans 8:28-29: “And we know that God causes all thing to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren[.]

Paul is giving us a rare peek behind the curtain of God’s will, here - and not just any peek, but a look at what lays the foundation for all of God’s will! According to this passage, God’s purpose is that His children would be “conformed to the image of His Son,” or, in other words, that we would think and act like His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is part of the Triune God, and as such, lived the example of how we should act and think like Him. (Just like we want our children to be like us!) So if the beginning of that quoted passage is true, then God is using His sovereignty (His power over everything) to work everything to teach us to be more like Christ (please note the distinction to being like Christ rather than being like God; they had very different roles). Even our trials. Even our joys. And make no mistake - Job 42:2 says, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

Just as we don’t control every little thing our child does (and even less as they get older), God does not control us (unless, of course, we engage in the joy of offering ourselves to be used by Him), but rather lets us make our own choices. This is how we learn and grow. And just like our children often make wrong choices, so do God’s children (us). While we may regret a poor choice, God, in His sovereignty, uses it to make us more like Christ! We as parents can sometimes do this, but God, per Romans 8:28, uses all things toward this end. This is another piece of the joy of following Christ: even our failures don’t make us less, but instead God, in His grace, uses them to teach us. God does not want to force us into the image of His Son, He wants us to choose to be like His Son. 

God’s sovereignty enables our free will.

As I said before, this doesn’t fully explain how free will and God’s sovereignty coexist, but it satisfies me enough that I can look at Job 40:2 and 40:8 and bow humbly before His will. God addresses Job in both verses:

Job 40:2
‘Will the faultfinder [that would be me, too] contend with the Almighty? Let Him who reproves God answer it.’

Job 40:8
‘Will you [again… me!] really annul My judgment? Will You condemn Me that you may be justified?’

Who am I to reprove God and question His judgment? Did I create the earth and its workings? Did I create man and know his very thoughts? Do I really want to serve a God I can fully understand? Would He be God if I could fully understand Him?

I am insignificant and yet, God, in His amazing grace, chooses to work all things for the good of His children (of whom I am one!), and for His glory! These two goals never part. Our good gives Him glory! This isn’t to make it all about us - it’s all about Him! - but to show you the value God has given you as His child. In this lies our worth - not in what we can do for Him. This granted value never changes. It is not raised or lowered by anything you do, and God Himself does not raise or lower it. God loves you with a love so pure, it brought Him to death on a cross. God is so pure, that He rose again, freeing us from the penalty of our sin.

Praise God for His sovereignty! And praise God for granting us free will!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Better Than I Deserve

2 Corinthians 4:16-17
"Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison."

One question has been at the forefront of my mind lately: what gives saints (and by saints, I mean followers of Christ) joy through physical suffering? I have seen saints with such perseverance in Christ that joy pervades their being in a powerful and brazen witness to those around them. Yet I have feel as though I have barely persevered in this fight against chronic pain, and also keenly feel my own general lack of joy through it. So I keep returning to God with that question. What am I missing?

My last post (God's Gift) was a partial answer to this question, and today's post may make more sense if you've read it first. God revealed this second crucial piece to me today: I deserve eternal death. I deserve worse than anything this life can throw at me (which, it actually can't do apart from my Father allowing it for our good and His glory). This pain is better than I deserve.

I've known this before, but He had to remind me, and once I did, such joy flooded me! This life is better than eternal death, and when I do finally die, I get to enjoy eternal life with Christ! Pain itself is the opposite of enjoyable, but it is better than I deserve, and it has no real power, but instead serves God as He works all things together for our good and His glory. According to God's grace, Christ has redeemed me, and what I deserve no longer matters, except to remind me of my joy in Him!

In that lies the victory, the power, and the JOY of the God I serve. I fervently pray for that joy to fill me so intensely that those around me can't miss it! May Jesus Christ be praised!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

God's Gift

1 Peter 1:13
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ."

Chronic pain has been God's learning tool of choice for me, lately. I don't claim it's my favorite tool, but I am learning (again) to be thankful for it as He uses it to teach me. I have struggled lately with the concept of God's protection - not only in my situation, but in regard to those suffering persecution to the point of torture, slavery, and death. (I like to dwell on the light subjects...) 

God may choose to protect his saints' physical safety, but God promises to protect our souls. While it's comforting to know He'll protect my soul, I sometimes find it a difficult pill to swallow that He won't always protect my body. It is during these times that I must remember His goodness and His purpose: to make us more like Christ, and to bring Him glory. There are moments when I'm all too happy to face affliction for His glory and my benefit... but what about those times when I just don't want to hurt anymore?

I love something my husband said, paraphrased: "Our hope in Christ isn't a perspective that diminishes our present affliction, but that recognizes how much greater is the prize of eternity with Christ. Our present affliction pales in comparison." 

It's like the parable Christ tells in Matthew 13:44: "The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

I want to be so excited about the treasure God has given me that my present afflictions pale in comparison. My focus has fallen from that treasure, and consequently, so has my joy. Thank God for His grace, to continue His work in me and remind me of who He is and what He has done. 

What has He done?

I highly suggest reading 1 Peter 1 and dwelling on each concept he states. There's a lot there! God chose us - not because of who we are, but who He is. His grace to us is rife throughout. He set us apart, sacrificed His Son to take our penalty, raised Him again to conquer death for us, and gave us an eternal inheritance we had no claim upon. I might add He also gave His Holy Spirit to enable us to conquer our spiritual battles on earth.

God is good! I am not forgotten, but rather He is walking these trenches with me. 

I stumble over this "need" to do something, to prove my worth to myself and to Him. But it isn't about what I can do, it is about what He has done, and the work He is doing in me now. The victory is His, not mine, and when I try to snatch that away, everything falls apart. Of course the path grows difficult when my focus draws inward: I have no power

If you're like me, you may want to dwell on that for a minute, because it takes a bit to sink into my brain. Then when it does, I'm disgruntled, because I mistake my powerlessness for worthlessness, which isn't true. God didn't choose me because of what I could do for Him. Realistically, there is nothing I can do that the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Creator of the Universe can't. 

Isn't it amazing, then, that while He doesn't need me, He still chooses to use me? How privileged are we?

"[F]ix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" and remember the joy of His gift! Purposefully meditate on it and let it permeate your thoughts and actions. Then watch your affliction begin to pale in comparison!