Tuesday, December 27, 2016

When the "Why" Seems Unfair

As we come to the close of another year, it's natural to ponder and reflect.

This year, however, is throwing in some curve balls that have forced some painful and difficult reflections and questions.

I have the honor of being a part of an incredible church family here in our neck of the woods. It's a close-knit group of about 120-130 people. God has been moving in some absolutely amazing ways as well. It has been so awesome to watch Him move. Because of that closeness, when one member of our body aches...we all ache. And we have been aching a lot lately...

We've had blow after blow this year and even more so in the last month. And today we got word that a sweet sister in Christ is now literally at the feet of Jesus.

When tragedy strikes....particularly death, it's natural to begin asking questions.


What now?

What's next?....

It's also natural and very easy to begin to question God during these times.

"Why would God allow this?"

"What is the purpose in this?"

"How can this possibly be good?"

These are questions that we all ask at some point in our lives- especially when things seem to slip out of our facade of control. It can be unsettling....the unknown. We don't have control over anything, even though we fool ourselves into thinking we do. And when these reminders hit us square in the face, it jolts us back into reality and reminds us that we are simply a vapor here in the grand scheme of things. And that can cause these questions to come reeling into our purview.

But you see, these questions that I listed earlier....they are the wrong questions to ask.

We have a skewed view of...well everything really. Our view is broken. It broke that day, many years ago, in the garden when Eve believed the lie of the serpent. And it's been broken ever since. We can't understand the tough questions. It isn't possible. Why?? Because we too are broken.

You see, God is perfection personified. He is the definition of good. He is the standard. All things perfect and good are measured on His scale. He defines it.

But our world is so blinded and broken by sin, so it distorts our view and causes us to ask the wrong questions. Instead of asking "why....what now....what's next.....why would God allow this??", we need to be asking this:

"How will God be glorified through this?"

"How can this point someone to Him?"

"How can He use this for His glory?"

I once heard someone say "We are basically immortal until God's part of His plan for us is through.". That is SO comforting to me. It removes the illusion of my control and places it back where it belongs- in the perfect, good, just, merciful, and grace-filled hands of my Savior. His plans are always
for good because He is good.....even though my definition of good isn't always the same as His. So I'm here as long as He needs me to be. When my part has been played out, I get to join Him face-to-face. When He removes us from this world, our hope and prayer is that it's because He will use it to bring someone to Him. When we begin to view things this way and ask the right questions, it gives Him the glory He deserves. We were created for His glory to begin with. So when we enter into tragedy with a cross-focused view, it gives Him the glory and it also brings comfort to us as well.

Even with the right view, it doesn't necessarily dull the pain. But we serve a God who has suffered more than we could ever imagine. He understands...He cares....He heals.

Lean into Jesus. Press into our Savior who is good. Allow Him to restore and heal you. And rest in His promise that He has come to seek and to save.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Grace in parenting...but not for who you would assume....

Life has a way of allowing us to develop character traits that we'd like to have but really don't want to gain by practicing. Patience comes to mind when I think of this. I refuse to pray for patience anymore because God always seems to bring me opportunities to "practice" and develop it....opportunities I'd rather not have honestly. I mean, can't I just have a supernatural dose of patience instead of answering my 5 year old's incessant "why" questions??? Sigh....

Another trait that comes to mind is grace. Grace is difficult to give at times. We are called to extend grace to others because the ultimate act of grace was extended to us through Jesus. I mean, who can argue that really?

Yes, it's tempting to want to scream and yell at the person who just cut you off in traffic (but really all that will do is scare your kiddos to death in the backseat as the person goes on their merry way). But we should extend grace. It's more appealing to want fairness and justice to always win out, but we should extend grace. And honestly, giving grace is better for all involved. It points to Christ and gives Him glory, it affects the other person and may encourage them to extend grace as well, and it stretches your own heart in a good way.

Ok. I can be on board with all that. But if we're getting down to the nitty gritty raw honest truth (which I'm intent on doing ever since I boarded on the #honestymovement train), the person I struggle to extend grace too the most is....myself.

If you're a mom, I'm willing to bet you are tracking with me. We are bombarded everyday with expectations and standards as to what a "good" mom is. And we fail...Every. Single. Time. (At least I do...maybe you're better at this "mom" thing than I am. Kudos.)

Seriously though. These expectations are rough. I'm always left feeling like I missed the mark.

As their mother I'm responsible for their:
-character building
-becoming a respectable human

Just looking at that list and really thinking about it makes me want to throw up. You really can't grasp the full responsibility of parenting until you're in the thick of it. And when you do....you realize it's really a true miracle that we all survive even a single day throughout it.

The weight of that responsibility, and the fact that I feel like I do it so poorly, inevitably causes me to allow the hopelessness and failure set it instead of extending myself grace.

I often lay awake at night and allow the despair to overtake me, as I emotionally flog myself.

But you know what?

It's in those moments that I've taken my eyes off of Christ and am trying to do an impossible job all on my own strength.

It's similar to "the Law" that is given in Scripture.

You see, the Law was given- not foremost as instructions but rather to force the people to recognize that they couldn't live a holy and righteous life on their own strength. It's impossible. It was given to accentuate our desperate and incredible need for a Savior.

I think the standards for parenting/life- even the ones we give ourselves- do the same thing. They are impossible to do on our own. Therefore, they point to an utter need for our merciful Savior.

So when the despair begins to creep in...instead of allowing it to consume me, I need to allow it to remind me of my need for Christ. I need to allow it to catapult my heart into His loving arms and rely on His strength to get me through. It's only then will I find peace and the gumption to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Praise God for His incredible grace and mercy and may I extend it to others, as well as myself.

Do you struggle with grace? Do you feel like you're failing as a parent? You're not alone sweet friend. Rest in His grace and allow THAT to guide your parenting. It's only by this that we can move forward and it's only because of His grace that we all will survive it! So be encouraged and don't allow the standards to consume you. Allow His grace to surround you!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Two Sides of a Coin


This simple word can bring a many number of different emotions that come flooding in when spoken.

For many, this is a season of absolute joy! Family, traditions, shopping, gift-giving & receiving, lights, movies, hot cocoa, fires in the fireplace are just some of the many beloved things that are a part of this cheerful time of year.

For others though, this time of year brings the opposite. Sadness, loss, reminders, financial issues, loneliness, hurt, increased work schedule are just some of the things that come with this season.

But regardless of what side of the coin you are on, there is something that we should be able to be joyful about no matter our circumstances...

It doesn't come wrapped in pretty paper with a bow.
It doesn't come under the tree.
It isn't something we can give.
We aren't worthy of it at all.
We can't earn it.
But it's the absolute ultimate gift you could ever receive.


Yes, that may be the obvious answer to those of you that are churched. But even though it may be the "sunday school response", it doesn't change the fact that it's true. Or that it's hard to remember. Yes...we all know that is true. It's hard to keep Christ at the center of Christmas. We are bombarded by cultural things -which aren't necessarily bad. But they can distract us. In fact, any of the things I listed in the two sides of the coin categories can take our eyes off of the reason we celebrate....especially the difficult ones.

I know that I struggle. You see, I'm a UPS wife. For those of you that work (or have spouses that work) at UPS/FedEx/etc. enough said, right?? For those of you that don't, allow me to explain. This time of year is what they refer to as "peak". From Thanksgiving (although it's WAY earlier now) until Christmas (and then into February b/c of returns!) they work countless hours, in every weather condition, and even on Christmas Eve if it falls during the week. Basically, we don't see my hubs during this season and when we do, he's completely exhausted- both physically and mentally. He's a mechanic for UPS, which may be even more difficult than the drivers. Any position with these companies is rough during this season.

Because of that, I often lose sight of the meaning of this time of year. It's so easy for me to wallow in the self-pity of "why us" and "this is so hard". Everyone in our household tends to get crabby this time of year, and that often causes me to become bitter.

But you know what? I don't have to be. No, there is a better way. Not necessarily easier....but definitely better.

I need to get my eyes off of myself.

That goes COMPLETELY against my human nature, but it's the only way to change my perspective of this season.

I have to die to self.

Christ calls us to do that at all times actually.

Galatians 2:20 (ESV) says: "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."

Luke 9:23 (ESV) says: "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'"


I must take up my cross daily.
I must surrender to Christ at all times.
I must look to Him for my joy.
I must rest in the promise that He has a plan for me.
I must rest in the joy of the cross.

THAT is how I will make it through this season. THAT is how I will make it through every season. He truly is the reason for the season, and for every season.  I need to take my eyes off of myself and place them on the cross.

How about you? Where are your eyes fixed? Are they on the glimmering glow of the lights of this holiday season? Or are they on Christ? One will only bring temporary happiness. The other will bring everlasting joy. It's a no-brainer really ;) Let's focus on Christ and gently remind one another to do the same when the world's glam begins to tear away their gaze. That's what the Church is for, right? I pray you have a Christ-centered Christmas every day of the year. He truly is the reason to celebrate every moment of every day. Merry Christmas :)

*I'm honored to be featured over at Blogs by Christian Women today on their Christmas Blog Tour. You can check out the tour at: http://wp.me/p4YjKM-MX . They are also having a couple giveaways over there too! Go check it out!