Thursday, December 10, 2015

Truth beyond the Tinsel

Good December morning! This time of year has always had such a "magical" sensation to it. It intrigues me, that even still to this day, there is something different about this season in our culture. Why is that? Why does our focus change? Why are people more willing to give? Why, in general, are people more selfless during this holiday season?

Track with me for a minute as I unpack some thoughts floating around in my head :) The general consensus and motivation behind this holiday season is giving. We give gifts and focus on family and others this time of year. A lot of people would point it to the man behind the secular screen of the holidays- Santa Clause. He gives to those who are "nice". As children, we're indoctrinated that our behavior will affect how our Christmas turns out. I think, to some degree, that same line of thinking trickles into our adult view of Christmas. People are so quick to be politically correct these days and use "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". They want to remove any "religious" connotations to this season and simply put the focus on being kind to one another- being a modern day Santa (no religious strings attached). But allow me to enlighten you a little bit.

Where did Santa Clause originate? Do you know?

He wasn't always the jolly, big-bellied, white bearded giver of gifts that we see today. No. Over the years he has morphed into that. But the original "Santa", St. Nicholas, was a skinny, dark-bearded bishop that got his reputation from helping out a family with a dowry that they couldn't afford for their daughters. Over time, people have changed him into what he is today. The story of our modern day Santa is a far cry from the original one. Interesting. Even the motivation behind the character has changed. The original Santa loved God and gave because he saw a need- not because anyone had "earned" it. Our modern day Santa gives only to those who meet his standards of being "good". But yet people still look to him as the "savior" of this time of year- the motivation behind the actions.

Now let's compare that radically different story to the actual reason we celebrate this time of year. It's a story that is over 2000 years old (MUCH older than the story of Santa by the way) and has stayed consistently the same for that amount of time. Interesting. It's the story of the Creator of the world, humbling himself into human form to pay an enormous price- in order to rescue the creation that He loves so very much. He was FULLY God and FULLY man. He took on the most humbling form a human can have- a helpless baby. He lived and faced every type of struggle and hardship that a human can face. He spent his life teaching us how to live life the best way- the way it was created to be:

With Him.

He then, WILLINGLY took on the punishment that WE deserved and paid the price to bring us back to a union with Him for eternity. He paid that even for those He KNEW would reject it. Because He loves us all that much. Wow. Simply....astounding. And THAT story hasn't changed a lick since it happened.


I believe it's because it is absolute truth. Although the original "Santa" is a true story, he is not a savior. People are looking for a savior and therefore have morphed him over time into something he isn't. That can be said about a lot of different "characters" and people over time- changing to fit needs. But the ONE TRUE Savior hasn't changed since the beginning of time. He IS the answer for all of our needs and desires. All we have to do is surrender to Him. It's amazing that once you do, your desires fade and you are filled with His desires, peace, joy, and hope. It's absolutely transforming and the MOST precious and beautiful thing you will ever experience! So....where are you looking for truth? In a constantly-changing story of Santa? Or in the consistently same absolute truth of the Gospel?

Jesus really IS the answer to everything and the absolute reason to celebrate :)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Redeeming Christmas

This year is different. My heart is heavy coming into this holiday season. I'm struggling to find joy in all of the upcoming gatherings and festivities. I find myself actually even dreading some of them. (Gasp!) I'm disgusted at the thought of things like Santa Clause, Elf on the Shelf, and other silly holiday traditions. I know that sounds horrible, but it's the truth. Why the 180 degree attitude change you ask? Well after some thought and processing, I think I know why.

It's not "Christmas".

It's our culture's version of a holiday season. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the real reason there was a celebration to begin with during this time of year. Nothing. At. All.

These things aren't inherently bad! In fact, a lot of things that are done this time of year can produce unity, fun traditions, and happy memories. But the unity fades, traditions are put away until next year, and the memories are stored away for another time and sometimes even lost. Then it's back to life as usual. Tell me, where is the true lasting joy in that?? Where is the Gospel?? Is the purpose of this time of year just for that?? That seems....empty. We've lost sight of why we celebrate during this season.

So I'm fighting back. I'm redeeming Christmas. I'm not saying we won't do our own traditions and even participate in holiday things, but the real emphasis will be put on the Advent season in our household. When I ponder about what God must think of how we celebrate this time of year, that makes me rethink things.

Christmas & Advent are about Christ.

Maybe it's because our world is at a state of unrest. Or maybe it's because God is really pressing this on my heart. Whatever the reason is, I feel the need to change things. As Christians, EVERYTHING we do should point back to Christ. He is THE reason we exist and have any reason at all to hope! The work on the cross should COMPEL us to do things that bring Him glory! ESPECIALLY when we gather as a church body, our intentions should be to unite together in Him and to remind each other of the incredible gift we've been given. Always.

I'm disappointed to see the lack of Advent celebration in our churches and homes. This is supposed to be a time dedicated to celebrating the birth of Christ AND looking forward to His return. When I think about that, it makes me rethink how we do things around here.

Now I'm not saying that we won't watch the fun movies, drink hot cocoa, and do some of our "secular" traditions. We will do that :) But, this year, our biggest focus is our Jesse tree, Advent celebration, and pointing it all back to Christ. I want my children to immediately think of the real reason for this season whenever they hear anything referring to it. I'm not being Scrooge, nor am I being judgmental about what anyone else chooses to do at their home. Please don't misunderstand. This "rant" was simply a depiction of my own "wake-up call" for our family. God is molding and teaching my heart to live a gospel-centered life (and it's often an ugly realization of self but also a transforming realization of grace!). This is just to share what He's been pressing on me. Will I do this perfectly? Definitely not. But that doesn't discourage me. It's simply an opportunity to receive God's grace and show it to others.

I hope and pray that this Christmas season will point your heart to the real reason we celebrate. And it's a year-round celebration! Christ isn't just for Christmas. He's for eternity! May your hearts be full of true joy from the only one who can give it! Blessings :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Waiting stinks....but it doesn't have to

I hate waiting. I've never been good at it. It definitely doesn't help that in our culture, you usually don't have to wait for anything. We get irritated when we have to wait more than 2 full seconds for a web page to load! Our fast-paced, instant gratification society just feeds our lack of patience. I'm guilty of falling into that trap more times than I would care to admit. You know how people say not to pray for patience because you will end up getting opportunities to build that characteristic up? Yeah....I definitely don't pray for that yet still find myself meeting those opportunities. And I fail every...single...time. What's even more difficult, is when I feel that God has called me to something or has ignited my passion/excitement for something- only to say "wait". AHHH!!!!! It's kind of like reaching the top of a massive roller coaster and waiting for that "the bottom's dropped out", gut-wrenching sensation in anticipation......only for the coaster to stop. (For those of you that hate roller coasters, you probably relate to that analogy a bit differently!) "Let's go....let's go...let's go!!" is what you're wanting to say to the operator of the coaster. (Or not if you're in the other category.) But instead you sit....and wait. I'm facing that battle right now. I felt a clear calling on my life and even though I knew this would be something that would take time to unfold, here I am- impatiently and anxiously waiting. Once the frustration builds against the waiting, doubt creeps in.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this...

Maybe I heard wrong....

Will this ever happen?!?

If I'm not careful, these doubts and frustrations can lead to bitterness and to me turning my back on something I KNOW has been made clear to me. It's in those moments that I HAVE to turn to Jesus! That is not some Sunday school cliche answer either. It's truth. And it's really that simple. God would not call me to something that He wouldn't equip me to do. And His timing is not mine. Preparation takes time. Molding takes time.

Just for kicks, I looked up the definition of "wait". One particular definition stuck out to me:

-remain in readiness for some purpose

The example that was given with it was one of a train waiting at a platform. That train has a purpose and a scheduled time of departure. The train doesn't know the time it's supposed to leave....but the conductor does. The train remains prepped and ready for the moment when the conductor says it's time to go! That may be a poor example, but it struck a chord with me. I need to be prepped and ready to go. I don't know when this particular train will move, but when the conductor says it's go time I need to be ready. So I will use this "waiting" time to prepare. God wants me to be content where I am. And right now I'm in a waiting period. And that's ok. There's so much I can learn during this time. THAT is exciting! I need to use this time wisely and draw closer to Jesus in a way that only this season can bring.

Are you in a season of waiting? If so, don't let frustration win. Use this time to prep! Jesus is always trying to teach you something and refine your heart so that His reflection can be seen in it. :) Enjoy the wait!

Isaiah 40:31 "but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To the weary woman....

Weariness. It seems like that is becoming so prevalent in our culture. Everywhere I turn I see a post dedicated to the "weary (fill-in the blank). I myself battle weariness. I wear so many hats (wife, mom, teacher, maid, cook, chauffeur, friend, sister, daughter, etc. etc. etc....). Sometimes the weight of the hats gets to be more than I can bear. Add to that then, the trials and difficulties I take on and feel deeply for those that I love around me. The load is almost unbearable at times. There are days when I'm ready to throw in the towel before I even get out of bed! Weariness leads to frustration, which leads to bitterness, which leads to one unhappy mama. But I've realized something about those moments. When I let weariness creep in and win, I've shifted my focus. It's not "weariness's"'s mine. I have a choice on how I will chose to handle what I've been given. I can choose to wallow in weariness and self-pity, which will only lead down a dark and dreary path- void of any true joy and fulfillment. OR I can choose to shift my focus back onto the source of all joy and fulfillment! THAT path always leads to satisfaction and rest. Even though the first choice may be what I want to do, since I don't feel like "adulting" or dealing with my circumstances, the latter choice is always the best one. JESUS is that source. When I shift my focus back onto the cross, and allow Him to fill me, I CAN face what has been placed in front of me. The Bible says in Psalm 46:10 to "Be still and know that I am God.". When weariness or frustration is welling up, I simply need to be still before the foot of the cross, refocus, and soak up the joy that only can come from there. THAT will fight the weariness and help me to push forward. So whatever circumstances you are facing still before God and soak up only what He can offer you. Allow that to refuel you and keep you going! I'd love to hear your thoughts or needs regarding this. How can I pray for you? Feel free to comment or message me! I'd love to share with you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

To the weary mama...

I recently started using "Periscope" to share things placed upon my heart. I hope that this brings you some encouragement today! Feel free to share if you think someone you know could use it too! :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Some days...

There are days that I just want to throw up my hands in defeat as a mom. Sometimes I just sit back and listen to them go at each other and wonder "where did I go wrong?!?". Now don't get me wrong, they can make this mama's heart soar as well! I love nothing more than hearing them put the other's needs before theirs, tell each other how much they love them, and just play nicely together! Oh how I treasure those sweet moments!! I need those moments quickly accessible in my mind during the ugly ones! However, there are some days it seems as if the ugly moments outweigh the beautiful ones. And that wounds this mama's heart. I feel like I have failed in teaching them how to love each other with Christ-like love and grace. I bury my head in my hands in resignation and frustration. What did I do wrong? Do I not model grace well? What can I do to teach them better? But then I stop. And I am reminded that, although it IS my responsibility to teach and model these things, it's not my responsibility to change their hearts. I CANNOT do that, no matter how much I try. THAT is the work that only the Holy Spirit can do. And ultimately it IS a heart issue. We are born with a heart condition that can only be cured/healed by the Master Healer. My beautiful precious babies are just as much of a wandering, heart-sick, sinner as I am. Yes, we are teaching them to know and love Jesus- but true heart change (and understanding) can take time. Transformation is a process- and a slow one at that. It's in those ugly moments that I need to remember that I have ugly moments too. I HAVE been transformed by the incredible grace of the cross but that does not mean I have achieved perfection. And I won't- this side of heaven. In those difficult moments, instead of looking at my children through the world's eyes- I need to look at them through the lens that Jesus uses. Because it's then that I recognize my own shortcomings, and can see all more clearly the beauty that is in the cross. :)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hey ya'll! So I know it's only been a few days since I had my "Jonah moment" revelation. But I just had to share how incredibly FREEING that has been! I almost don't believe it myself! Ha! It struck me how easily it is to miss what God may be telling you. We can become so lost in the "noise" of life that we don't hear the Shepard calling. And the crazy thing is, is that I THOUGHT I was listening to what He was telling me! And maybe all of those steps were necessary ones in order for me to get here. Maybe not. But I do know that I took those steps, and now here I am. It's also amazing to me how once I committed to this path, how quickly the enemy snuck in and tried to distract me again. I was allowing other areas of service to cloud the path that He had chosen for me. I told my husband that I literally feel like a fog has lifted! It has affected every area of my life too! I know this is just the beginning, and I'm sure I have challenges ahead. But it's SO incredibly comforting to know that I am walking the path that I'm supposed to be on.

Some of the best advice my husband and I ever received was during a really dark time in our lives. We had literally been hit with everything under the sun- all within a few months. Death, job loss, sickness, financial trouble, etc. Ya'll, that takes a toll on you- especially when you are trying to figure out what God is telling you and you're not hearing anything! We sought the counsel of a pastor at our church and he gave us some advice that has stuck with me ever since. He said, "Sometimes God gives you a very clear and distinct answer or path that He wants you to follow. But sometimes, He gives you the freedom to choose- as long as you are doing it for His glory.". I think the latter is the case most of the time, personally. But in this case, I think the former is true. It makes me laugh to think of how free I feel, when the thing that He is calling me to do terrifies me! It's a very strange mix of emotions! But, if it's His path then I have nothing to fear! :) I would love for you to join me on this journey! I need prayer the most! If you think of it, would you pray for me? Pray that God will use me for His glory, the right doors will be opened and closed, and that distractions would not deter me from this path. I don't know what this all looks like yet- but that's part of the fun, right? ;) So if you are wrestling with something or unsure of what God has for you, seek counsel, PRAY that He will make it clear if He has something specific, and let yourself be open to what He has to say to you! Thanks friends and may God bless you as you seek Him! :)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

My "Jonah" story

So it has been made very apparent to me that I'm no good at this consistent blogging thing lol! I WANT to be, so I will keep trying! Thank you for your patience!

Life is interesting, isn't it? There are so many ups and downs, curves and twists, highs and lows. There seem to be a lot of learning seasons too. I'm in one of those seasons currently. (When are we not, really?) God has been been dropping blatant hints at me, that my thick head is finally starting to comprehend. It's always amazing to me how "blaze orange" these hints are when I finally realize they are there! Ha! So let me back up and give you some history behind these recent revelations.

8 years ago I began to have a reoccurring dream that terrified me. I dreamt that I was speaking in front of a huge group of women. Now that may not sound all that terrifying to you, but when the class you HATED the most in school was public speaking, and the thought of speaking in front of people made you want to wet yourself, then that kind of dream IS terrifying- especially when your spirit tells you that it's not just a figment of your own imagination. It becomes even MORE terrifying when random people start asking you (who don't know about the dream) "Have you ever thought of speaking?"! The color drains from you face, you become sick to your stomach, and you begin to realize that God may be trying to tell you something. It was then that I felt something stirring in my soul- that God had some bigger plans for the story that He had given me. After many conversations of me telling God that He had the wrong person for THAT job, I finally surrendered to it. It was then that I finally became excited about sharing my story! (That HAD to be God :) ) I began to pursue different avenues of starting this journey. I spoke a couple times, but it seemed that every time I got fired up about it life, fear, or doubt crept in and I pushed it to the back-burner once again. I tried to fill that void with other areas of service. I tried to serve the Lord in other areas that I thought He was guiding me into. And I learned from all of those experiences. I now realize that I learned that I may have been pulling a "Jonah". I was running from what God wanted me to do and replacing it with things I thought God would want me to do. Wrong. It was just in the last couple of days that I came to the realization of all of this. Crazy how things hit you like a freight train in what seems to be out of the blue! Through close friends, an introspective sermon, and the gentle whisper of the Spirit I have finally realized that I've been running from the very thing that God wants me to do. So....I'm making this commitment public so that I really can't back down from it now! You all are witness to it and I'd love your encouragement and accountability!

I am committing to sharing my story in whatever way, shape, or form God would have me do it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE sharing about Jesus! That was the clincher for me. When I finally realized that talking about Jesus is the thing that brings me the most joy, that sealed the deal for me. I am no great teacher by any means- nor do I even feel qualified to label myself as such- but I have been wrecked by the gospel of Jesus Christ and I want to use that for His glory. So if you know of anyone that is in need of a speaker and if I fit the bill for it, please let me know! (That was really hard for me to write. I'm literally having sweaty palms right now lol!) But in all seriousness, may God be glorified no matter what! Thanks friends for embarking on this journey with me! And if you think of it, please pray for me as I surrender to this call- whatever it looks like! God bless :)