Death of Perfection

Perfection is a cruel and ruthless taskmaster. Once enslaved to her whims and desires, few things can wrestle you from her grasp.
Great failure is one effective but painful emancipator. Though freedom is gained, often the great gap between enormous attempts and wretched failure is a dark one, and leaves us dangling in depression. That we have reached the end of ourselves is a very painful realization. having spent so much time trying, only to find out that we cannot reach the mark, simply cannot, no matter how strong, brave, wise, bold and self-denying we thought we were, it is still beyond our grasp.

We find that our attempts are nothing, or rather, worse than nothing, rags so deplorable and repulsive that they are something to be hidden and discarded.

but

this place
the bottom of the well
this dead end
this pit of despair

is

the beginning of hope
the glimmer of light
the start of a journey

where we
are
nothing
and He
He is everything

It is a bridge
in the dark
Our first trembling step
and every step that follows
every cautious
step in the dark
is a step of faith

Faith

Depending on only one thing

Grace

Undeserved favor
not deserved
not earned
not gained by perfection
but
given to the imperfect.
to the sinful.
to those who tried and failed
to those who failed and never really tried
but who turned, enough to get
that they cannot be good enough
Those who know they have missed the mark
but
who open their empty hands to receive
an undeserved gift

Not because they reached perfection
but because Someone Else did
Someone paid
Then, He offered them the winner’s robe
freely
by grace

the open hand receives through that step in the dark
of faith
in One Living Person
Jesus the Christ

“God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

– Ephesians 2:8-10

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We Will Reap…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:9 (NIV)

The place I have felt the most responsibility to plant good seed is in my children’s lives. The deliberate focus of my life has been on my calling as a wife and mother. Since this is my focus, I’m also keenly aware of my failures and faults in this area.

Each time we look at how inadequate we are in any area, it opens the door for us to either give up, and spiral into a dark place or look up and realize that our trust has to be in God, and only through Him can we fulfill our purpose there.

I love my children. I love being with them. I love their smiles, their laughs, their sweet words to me, and their hugs. I love when I see their hearts tender toward each other and others, and especially toward God.

But, they are children, with sin natures, with the usual susceptibility we all have to this consumerist society we live in.  When the commercials come on TV, I hear little voices saying “Mom, I want that!” My usual response is “Well, get a job, and save up for it!”

I grew up with hardly anything materially. Yet, I had all I needed. I never went without food (much of the time it was rice & onions with soy sauce, which I still actually like). We lived in the woods on a river in a cabin with holes in it that the wind came through in winter. The roof leaked for a long time, until we were able to get it fixed. I didn’t have a piece of clothing that wasn’t passed down until I was 16. But, I wouldn’t trade a moment of my childhood for that of another child’s who “had everything.” I took away a sense of gratitude for so many things that many take for granted.

That’s why, when I see my children with all the “things” they have, it makes me sad for them. Because gratitude might be very, very expensive. It might cost almost everything.

Comparing is not always good. But, on the other hand, it gives us perspective. We so quickly sink into a rut of self pity. We can easily become bottomless pits of “neediness” if we aren’t vigilant to keep our perspective.

There’s another side; diligence and wisdom in how we steward our resources. Foolish choices and laziness lead to sure poverty. Hard work doesn’t always lead to wealth, but how we manage our resources can make all the difference in the world, and willingness to work hard can lead to opportunity.

So, what did Proverbs 28:27 mean when it says “Whoever gives to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to poverty will be cursed.“? Define poor. I know a lot of people who think they are poor. Are you poor? Or is your life just a test of trust? Do you have the Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills? The Father who who knows the state of everything down to the tiniest sparrow; the One whose name is “Provider.”

I want my children to have a heart that sees things from a perspective of eternity. So many temporal things call our names. I fall prey to them all the time. “I want_____” fill in the blank with a thing. Any thing. Is it worth it? Should we enjoy things? I think we should. Having things isn’t wrong. Any thing can be redeemed to use for God’s glory.

But, when He calls us to give up our things, for whatever reason, when we know it’s from Him, we need to obey. I recently had a heart check on this.

My 11 year old daughter Jessica hasn’t been 11 for very long. We had her birthday party here a couple weeks ago, and she has been wanting an iPod Touch for quite a while. It’s “the thing” you know? They’re very useful and very fun. Most of her friends have one. For her birthday, instead of gifts, she asked for money, so she could save up for this thing she’s been wanting. She got gifts of money from some of her friends. After her birthday, she had $70. saved up; quite a chunk in this household. She knew more time would pass for her to earn more money to add to this so she could buy the iPod.

She came to me a few days ago and asked to talk to me. “Mom, I don’t want to use my money to buy the iPod” she told me “I want to use it to buy blankets for the homeless.” I asked her how this came about “I had a moment with God” she said. We continued the conversation, and I could tell she meant it.

Children often change their mind from one day to the next. I told her that was very good. But I waited a few days before I helped her act on it. Still, I knew if she believed that’s what God wanted her to do, I wasn’t about to stop her.

Here’s where my heart check came in. Remember when Mary poured perfume that cost a year’s wages on Jesus’ feet, and Judas (you know Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus) said “This perfume could’ve been sold and the money given to the poor!” Well, my heart is so ugly, these are the thoughts I had; ‘We told everyone that she was going to use this money for an iPod. What will they think when we didn’t do what we said we would with it?’ It was like the flipside of what Judas said! (oh, my ugly heart!)

Sunday night, at our weekly leaders discipleship huddle, our pastor asked us each to share something we were grateful for, and something we were hopeful for. My husband shared my daughter’s decision about how to use her money. It was what he was grateful for. His hope, he said, is that our other children would have the same heart and “get it.”

Monday, we went to the store to buy the blankets my friend Michele (who works with homeless people) said were a good choice. While we were getting ready to go, my 8 year old son Joshua said “I want to use my money to buy blankets for homeless people, too.” He had $15. saved up.

Just like that, the very next day, God answered my husband’s hope.

Joshua asked me if he could put one of his dollars into the Salvation Army bucket at the door. Then, together, with $84. and some change, they got 8 blankets.

Tomorrow, we will meet Michele with the blankets at the place they keep items needed to help care for homeless people in Greensboro.

There are so many things in which I know we have a long way to go. But, I am so grateful for a God with a generous heart, and I am so grateful my children are beginning to learn his generosity.

My hope is that they will keep this heart, coupled with God’s wisdom as they grow. “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing…

“Don’t grow weary in doing good…we will reap. ”

Posted in Children, Faith, Family, gratitude, Inspiration | 1 Comment

The Evidence of Things Unseen

When I began this post, I was 5 weeks pregnant. I won’t post it until we announce to our family and friends that we are expecting a baby.

Faith is the substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen. Nearly every step we take is either taken in faith, or in fear. We shield and hedge carefully around our hearts, our homes and the people we love. If things are going “well” our natural instincts are not to mess with a good thing. Or if they’re not going well, we try not to take a step that could cause things to become worse than they already are.

We all look at life differently. Pessimists, optimists; you know which you are. You either live in fear of the future, or with a sense of hopefulness. Life can beat us up pretty badly. If that’s happened to us, we respond by either enjoying the moment well, or just embracing the misery and taking everyone else down with us.

If you know Christ, there’s good reason to hope. Solid hope founded on something true. Not just transient, fluffy, possibility hope, but something to look forward to no matter how every day here on earth goes! “They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. Instead, these men were longing for a better country-a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:14 & 16). This earth is no permanent dwelling, and thank God! Look around once with open eyes, and you will see good reason to cherish this hope!

We have three children already. Actually we have another in heaven. I carried her for 8 months. They are dear, precious children, with their own set of challenges, but each a sweet and unique blessing. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

This story starts in October of 2010. Actually, months before that. We had considered having another child before the economy went all to…well, that hot place. Then my husband lost his job, and we decided we’d better put the stops back in place. Then, he got a job. Then he lost that job along with 30 others. Then they hired him back. It’s been a wild ride the past year and half. So, there wasn’t any baby talk. Time was passing, and neither of us are babies ourselves, by normal standards. So, the hope dwindled down to an invisible and occasional leap in my heart, and I chose contentment with God’s will, and my husband’s choice, no matter what it would be. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the challenges of having another child; in all realms of life.

My faith was to be content in the state I was in, with the children, home and husband I have. I am no saint for trusting; I am blessed with a wonderful husband and children. yet, there was a little nagging desire…for a baby. It was twinged when my son (7) would say “I want a baby brother.” Many parents don’t realize, but one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is a sibling. I know all the arguments otherwise, but God says “Children are a blessing/inheritance/reward from the Lord” and He never lies.

He also says to honor and obey your husband. If you know our family, you know I am not some oppressed, mousy, opinion-less wife. I do know that God places umbrellas of authority over our lives for protection not for oppression. The authorities He’s given us are for our blessing. I don’t want to step outside of that blessing. I knew, that if He wanted this for our family, He would reveal it to my husband. My husband loves me enough that he will make every effort to give me what he knows I want. Even when the desires arose, I would often not even mention it, because I knew that I could influence him inadvertently to make a decision, and if it wasn’t from God, it wouldn’t be right.

One October night, I met him at a restaurant for dinner after he had a work event. The night before, I’d had a very low, low that I hadn’t told him about, because I didn’t want to bring him down. It wasn’t only baby related, but that was part of it (a women never wastes her tears on only one issue). In the night, I had a dream. I was holding a baby. It was someone else’s baby, but Greg was with me, and it was a moment of sweet contentment. Then in my dream he said. “We can have another one”. I was so full of joy and peace. I woke up in the morning with a renewed peace, and looked forward to my date with him that evening. So, there we were at the restaurant. He brought it up; “I keep asking myself if we should have another one” he said “I do too” I said calmly

“If it keeps coming up, it’s not been put to rest, and there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t make sense.” he said (he’s a very sensible person) “I ask myself is it a lack of trust in God on my part? Is it something we should put in His hands again?”

I have a friend who had her tubes tied. She said it was an act of faith. If God wanted her to have another child, nothing would stop it from happening. I have friends who believe birth control is sin, because it’s “wresting control” from the hands of God. I am not ignorant of the opinions on every realm of the spectrum, but I choose my point of view in light of God’s Word, and what I believe He has uniquely purposed for me. He didn’t make us from a cookie cutter form, and neither is the blueprint for each of our lives. He is a God of order, and balance. He hung the world in space and knew the future of every human who would exist; before time even began. I know He is worthy of my faith and trust. Yet, seeking, knowing and understanding His will is not always a simple thing.

My sensible husband looked across the restaurant table into my eyes, and took my hands. “I’ll be honest, I’m scared to death, but if you want, we can try” he said.

Kairos – Time. Stood. Still.

I usually keep my emotions under wraps, like an orderly, obedient army. But, I cried a little and said “Really!? You’re not just saying that to make me happy, are you?” He reiterated that it was a decision made with trepidation and far from being in his comfort zone. Yet, he believed if God purposed another child for our family, it would happen.

God is able to give a peace beyond understanding. A peace that allows you to endure and even thrive while uncertain about what may or may not happen. It is because He holds us in the palm of His hand, and knows our name. Every time my heart beats, He knows. And I believe when it skips a beat with excitement, He is usually the cause.

It was October 26th when we had that date. On January 4th, I took my first pregnancy test. Two tentative lines showed up, but my heart was leaping for joy. Greg was at work and I couldn’t tell him over the phone.  My 3 year old Grace came in. I couldn’t tell her, because it wasn’t time to share yet, but I said to her; “Grace, do you love babies?” (she adores them).  “I want to have a real baby that we can keep forever and ever.” Good thing she didn’t have a feather to push me over with! I told her if she wanted one, she would need to pray and ask God for one. She did and I prayed with her. “from the mouths of babes, you have ordained praise…”

Well, I accidentally left the bag with 2 unused tests in the box in the bathroom, and my 10 year old found them. I was in my room, putting on makeup. She walked in and casually said; “I wish you would have a baby.” I nearly poked my eye out with the mascara. “WHAT?!!! Where did that come from?” I asked. She finally admitted that she’d seen the tests on the counter. Chalk one up to pregnancy brain! Once she said that, I couldn’t deny it, and so she was in on the secret even before her daddy found out. It has been precious and joyful to share it with her, and teach her about pregnancy health and diet, as well as the science behind it.

Tonight, January 10th, Greg and I were sitting at the table after playing Yahtzee as a family. The kids were getting ready for bed. My 7 year old son stuck his head around the doorway and said “I want a baby brother.” It’s been months since he’s said that. Greg just shook his head and laughed. “Where did that come from?” he asked. Then he said “It’s from God.”

It is March 12th. We have made the news public. Each day is a chance to trust God. he has never failed us, and we know He walks before us and makes the path of our future straight as we trust Him.

Thank you for reading this story. I so long for each one to know God and have the joy of never being alone. It is a precious gift!

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Thankitude!

Nothing makes you appreciate a hot shower like a cold shower! I re-learned this the other day when I was a little behind in the family line and the hot water heater wasn’t up to it! I got the job done, but it was a quick one. Moms know that shower time is sometimes your only time alone in a day, so it’s pretty valuable.

It got me thinking though. I have a lot to be grateful for. Every day I do things that millions of people don’t get to do; like eat three meals. I was talking to my 7 year old son about electricity and how it affects us each day. “You mean we wouldn’t have any heat?” I went on to list all the things it allows. “I couldn’t cook, there would be no TV, no hot showers, no computer…” It was a good lesson for him, but it reminded me too about all the wonderful luxuries in my life that I forget to be thankful for sometimes; a very comfortable bed, clean water, plenty of clothes (I could go weeks without having to do laundry!), cars, my husband has a job.

Even more than these temporal things, there are precious gifts that I want to appreciate; a loving husband, dear children God has placed in my care, a very supportive family and group of friends. Sunsets, flowers, trees, mountains, oceans, and all the magnificent beauty of nature.

Most of us are either experiencing some difficulty in life or have friends who are. In the hard times it’s especially important to remember the good gifts we enjoy.

With God as our Father, there’s never reason to despair. If we have accepted His gift of eternal life through Jesus, there is always a rich peace available to us beyond our circumstances. We are never without hope!

What about you? How is your thankitude? We are here to encourage each other along the way. I need reminders now and then, and that cold shower got it started!

Posted in hope. | 2 Comments

Inadequate?

If you are a believer in Jesus, when you received Him, you were given one or more spiritual gifts. The purpose of the gifts are not for self-fulfillment, but to be a blessing in the body of Christ to others. Most of us want to be a blessing. We want to use our gifts to help others, but we often feel inadequate for the task. I know I do.

One of my gifts is exhortation/encouragement. I love to encourage people to look at things from God’s perspective. I want them to gain hope, strength, and courage for their situation. I think the hardest time to encourage someone is when they are a mature believer. I start to second guess their thoughts and the despair they feel. I’ve been there. I know they know what the Bible says about their circumstances. So, for me to say it to them feels like I am either hitting them over the head in their pain with scripture, or sounds condescending. I hate to be/do either.

Sometimes they just need someone to love them, and pray with them. Or even just for them.

When I need encouragement, it depends on how well I know a person, how much I respect them, like them, and how comfortable I feel with them as to what level of encouragement or truth I can receive from them.

Our responsibilities and abilities to use our gifts increase with the depth of relationship we have with people. That’s why relationship building is so critical. The little, daily things that create trust and allow people to get close enough to us to see our true motives. I’m learning that great influence comes most easily with great love.

Next time you feel inadequate to use your spiritual gift with someone. First remember; you are inadequate (don’t you feel better, now?)! It’s called a spiritual gift, and it can only be used effectively, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly, assess what you need to do. Do they just need a friend to listen to them? Love covers a multitude of sin. Be a friend. Do what you would want them to do to you. Have compassion, knowing you can’t see or understand all of what they may be going through. But never allow your compassion to outweigh the truth of how God sees their situation. There are answers in his Word. When I’m physically sick, hugs are okay, but I need to be reminded to take Vitamin C.

We can only be set free from the burden of our trouble by looking at it from God’s view. He is our Savior. He is full of compassion. He hears the cry of the oppressed and the discouraged. He rescues those who look to Him from all their troubles. The truth shall set you free (but you have to know it!).

He also said He would give us wisdom if we asked Him for it in faith. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Posted in Faith, Inspiration, Love, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Clothesline

The Clothesline

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the incredible amount of information your mind is given each day? The increase of information in the last 100 year is mind blowing!
Apparently, we only use less than 10% of our brains. I have a theory that much of what we don’t use is for the purpose of perception and intuition rather than all information storage.
Though we are constantly bombarded with information, our minds are less at ease. Rather than making us more confident, it can make us more confused and uncertain. We hardly have time to process what we do, hear, see, read, and say each day.
There are so few quiet moments where we can really contemplate and process the things we have heard.
What would your ideal processing time look like? One for me would be a walk in the woods. It is in quiet nature that I most easily connect with my Creator.
Also, I know it seems strange, but maybe it’s not so strange, because I was talking with a friend the other day and she longed for the same thing. While we both agreed it probably wouldn’t be looked upon favorably in the suburbs, we still wished for it; a clothesline. When I was growing up, we had a washing machine, but not a dryer. We hung all of our clothes on the clothesline, and took them down when they were dry. It’s a soothing, therapeutic activity. Work that doesn’t take your mind; so that, while your hands are busy, your mind can contemplate beauty and process the happenings of the day and the information it has been fed.
I wonder what price our minds and bodies and relationships pay for not having  many of these moments during the day.
Our dishwasher broke a year or so ago, and washing dishes by hand was also strangely therapeutic! I know I have that choice even when my dishwasher is working, but I am compelled to finish the work the quickest way possible, because there is so much more work to be done.
Maybe we should be more deliberate and feel less guilty about taking our time to do “mindless” work, so that we can give out minds quiet moments to heal and to breathe. After all, our Father says; “Be still, (desist, cease striving, let go [of your concern]) and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10

Will you try to carve out some more of these moments along with me this year of 2011? I would love to hear how you want to do that, and memories of times you have done so, and enjoyed the peaceful reward.

Posted in Beauty, Faith, Inspiration, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Simple Advice

amy carmichaelWhen I was staying in England at Labri, there was an old lady who lived across the street from the Manor House named Phil Matthews (I don’t know how she got a boys name). She had been a friend and fellow missionary associate of Amy Carmichael. I knew of Amy Carmichael because in addition to daily Bible reading, my mother often encouraged me to read biographies of great Christians and learn their stories. Amy was a women who was completely devoted to the Lord. She had learned to “Crucify her flesh” and give up her own desires for God’s desires. I had read the story of her journey. She was a very strong willed and creative girl and woman and this was not an easy road for her to take. However, she gained for more in eternal things as she daily gave her life for Christ. There is much to be learned from her life.
Phil Matthews was less known, but I believe as fully devoted to Christ. Through both of them, God brought many to Himself. When I knew her in England, it was clear she was weary of life. She was very old, her mobility was limited, and I could tell she longed to go be with her Lord. I visited her sometimes and sat with her and talked as we had tea together. I longed to gain some wisdom from her years of experience and devotion to God. Surely she could help me grow in my walk with Christ.
One day I asked her to tell me about prayer. i hoped for some gems of wisdom that would rejuvenate my prayer life and teach me much. But I was initially disappointed in the advice she gave me “Just do it” she said. ‘What! Just do it?’ I thought. But it is a lesson I have not forgotten. Many times when we want some deep mysterious secret to success in an area, we simply need to do the next thing. The thing we know is right to do. It is the law of sowing and reaping. Planting, watering, weeding, waiting are the things that yield the results. Growth takes time and God is patient with us as we grow to be more like Him. I often want results NOW. There are dozens of scriptures about waiting on the Lord, my favorite is Isaiah 40:31 “Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in the LORD will be renewed. They will soar on wings like eagles. They will run and won’t become weary. They will walk and won’t grow tired.”

My sister has a similar experience when she asked someone “What is the secret to a good marriage?” again, hoping for some great secret advice. The woman had been through a difficult marriage, her first husband had died, and she remarried and had a good marriage. The lady answered her “Just be good to one another.” Simple advice that encompasses the world!

Proverbs 30:11-12

The heart of her husband trusts in her,
And he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil
All the days of her life.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment