A Four-Letter Word

Are you guilty of saying this four-letter word?  We have all said it.  The next question is have you acted it out?  I will admit that I have, but thankfully over the years, as I’ve grown in Christ, He has begun a work in me that allows me to walk in love, His love.  I don’t succeed all the time; however, He is constantly and meticulously working on me just as an artist works on his masterpiece.  So, what is this four-letter word?  It is HATE.

Considering the upcoming events this weekend in Murfreesboro, this four-letter word has been heavy on my heart.  On Saturday, hate is going to try and take over our town.  I am praying along with countless others that in hate’s place another four-letter word prevails…LOVE!  Not just any love but the love of Christ.  No one life matters more than another.  No skin color is more important than another.  Jesus died on the cross to pay the wages of sin and death for every life, every nationality, and every skin color.  He rose again on the third day because He conquered death and hell for each one of us, no matter where we come from and no matter what we look like.    

At our church this past Sunday, our Pastor spoke on relationships.  He discussed the world’s view compared to God’s view.  One of the things he said and had us repeat after each reference of God’s commitment to us was, “HE did, so I can!”  I want to remind myself and everyone else of this fact.  The following are just a few of His wonderful attributes that come to mind:

He loves everyone, so I can love everyone.

He forgives, so I can forgive others and myself.

He is merciful, so I can show mercy to others.

He is full of grace, so I can give grace to others.

He is full of compassion, so I can be compassionate to others.

He is generous, so I can be generous.

He is good, so I can show goodness to others.

He is just, so I can be fair and just to others.

He is wise, so I can draw from His wisdom.

He is strong, so I can find strength through Him.

lightThe list could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.  Since we are each created in His image, then each one of us is capable of being like Him if we allow Him to work through us.  My prayer is to be the light that cast out darkness, destroys hate, and instead brings glory to God.  I hope you will make this your prayer as well.  Much love!

 

Balancing Act

elephant balanceI’ve not written on my blog for a few weeks and that is because I’ve allowed myself to get out of balance.  Whether you are a stay-at-home mom or a work-away-from-home mom, motherhood is a balancing act.  I find it difficult to balance all my responsibilities AND keep my sanity.  At times I feel myself teetering between super hero status and falling to pieces – where there’s not enough super glue in the world to put everything back together.  I know these are extremes on both sides of the spectrum, but I constantly face the challenge to find balance between all my responsibilities.  I’m sure all of us can relate in some way.

I look at my precious boys and think how could God deem me able to raise and protect these little miracles.  Then I recognize, He never thought I was able by myself.  He knew I would need others to help me, but most importantly, I would need Him.   This is the problem we face at times, we feel we must balance all our duties in our own strength, but we can’t and God never intended for us to.

There are so many areas we are responsible for:  jobs, meals, house work, yard work, time with God, time with spouse, time with other family and friends, church, school activities, errands, volunteering, hobbies, pets, and the list goes on and on.  Even with all these things to focus on, we need time for ourselves and we need to know it’s okay to have this time.  Jesus took time to be by Himself and instructed His disciples to do the same, so I’m certain in an appropriate way this is the right thing to do.

As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer. Luke 5:16 (MSG)

The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.  Mark 6:30-32 (NIV)

There are times when I must force myself to take time away from home and family and just be by myself or with friends, because I feel guilty for doing so.  Not everyone struggles with this, but I know many of us do.  If anyone can secure a ticket for a guilt trip with my name on it, it’s me – when I allow the enemy to invade my thoughts.  So, how do I accomplish this without feeling guilty?  I must confine those notions and conform them into views reflecting God’s Word.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

Maneuvering through this maze we call life is not easy, but God knows this.  That is why He has provided us with His Word containing instructions and encouragement.  He also gave us each other to confide in and build one another up.  It is very important that we have a good support group to lean on.  If you are not already a part of one, start your own.  Ask God to give you divine appointments that will flourish into healthy friendships.  If you ask Him, He will do it; however, a lot of times He will require us to step out of our comfort zones to obtain it.  When He asks you to step out, do it!  Even if you have to do it afraid.

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.  Proverbs 27:17 (NLT)

How do we learn balance when we feel like we are walking on a high wire?  How do we keep it together when we feel like we are falling to pieces?  I don’t know all the answers, and I certainly won’t pretend to.  However, I do know the One who does, and I do have the How-To Book He has provided.  I’m asking God to show me how to balance all areas of my life in a healthy manner.  Join me, and let’s seek Him together for His guidance in finding balance.

Next Steps

My boys are starting 1st grade today.  One day last week, we had been talking about school starting back and they had gotten excited about it.  However, later that evening, Joshua called me into his room.  Through tears, he said, “Mom I’m not ready for 1st grade.”  I assured him he was more than ready.  I began to encourage him by recalling all the things he had learned in kindergarten and how he had passed with very good grades.  I also reminded him he was my brave little boy and he could do anything with Jesus by his side.

After a bit, it seemed to make him feel better and he stopped crying.  In my mind, I tried to figure out what had brought that on.  Then I attempted to see this big transition through his little eyes.  God reminded me of times when He had asked me to move up to a different level, make a change that took me out of my comfort zone, or take a step of faith out into the unknown.  During many of those transitions, I realized I had been that scared little child crying and saying, “I’m not ready for this.”  However, my loving Father would not have instructed me to do any of these things if He had not first prepared me for the next leg of the journey. 

stepsSometimes it’s hard for us to see what big plans God has in store for us using our small vision.  There will be times when the direction may not even make sense in our minds.  However, it should be comforting to know our Heavenly Father has gone before us and made a way.  He knows what lies ahead even when we can’t see it.  He cares for us and would never send us into something without preparing us beforehand.  I am thankful for the times I stepped out in faith, even when I had to do it afraid.  I can look back now and see how far God has brought me, and I realize His mercy and grace carried me when I couldn’t see the next step. 

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him.  Psalm 37:23 (NIV)

I would like to encourage you to hold on to this promise for yourself and your children.  Teach them about how God orders our steps but more importantly teach them how to delight in Him.  Help them to always remember He provides the strength we need to continue our journey.

 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)

Love Never Fails

I don’t like to talk politics and I’m not going to start now.  However, I do like to talk about God and His Word.  Considering recent events, I decided to take a hard look at what I’m teaching my children regarding how they treat other people.  They know the song, Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.  They know that God loves each of us, no matter where we live or what we look like.  But, have I been teaching them enough about how THEY should love others? 

I decided to dig into God’s Word for guidance.  What I rediscovered is this, God’s Word is full of direction about how we should love others.  The following are just a few scriptures I’d like to share on the topic:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.  John 13:34-35

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

 Love your neighbor, owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  Romans 13:8

 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.  I Peter 3:8

 And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.  I Peter 4:8

 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.  I John 3:11

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  I John 4:11

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  I John 4:20

 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Galatians 5:14

My God is a God of love, mercy, compassion, and grace.  My God is a God who fights injustices and wrongs – for those are the things He hates.  Not a person or a group of people…maybe their actions but never them, for we are all created in His image.

The main take away is this:  Love others just like God loves you!  So, how does God love us?  For starters, He gave His only Son, who committed no wrong, to die on the cross for our sins.  What greater example of love could there be?  He loved us, even when we didn’t love Him.  He loves us no matter where we were born, no matter the color of our skin, no matter what we look like, no matter what we know or don’t know, no matter what we can or cannot do.  There is nothing and no one that can separate us from His love.  I Corinthians 13:4-8, 14 gives us a very detailed description of what love truly is.

 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.  And now abide faith, hope, and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So, back to the question I originally asked myself.  Am I teaching my children how to truly love others the way God has commanded us to?  At six years of age, I watch how they interact with other people, especially other children, and they don’t care what their abilities or disabilities are, what they look like or the color of their skin.  They see them as friends and playmates.  Their sweet tender hearts have not been contaminated by the ugliness in this world.  They see others as being just like them.  Oh God, help me to always see others as my children do right now.  

hqdefaultI know as parents, we can’t protect them from everything, but I will be vigilant in monitoring what they see and hear as long as I can.  I am not naive in thinking that I can protect them forever, but I am confident they will have a good foundation upon which to form their own opinions and beliefs.  Let us earnestly search our hearts to discover if we are truly loving others as God has commanded us to.  We will most likely find an area that could be improved upon.  I’m sure of that in my life.  Make a commitment today to join me in loving others the way God does and in teaching our children how to do the same because love never fails.

Dear Lord,

Thank You for Your unwavering love in our lives and the lives of our children.  Thank You for forgiving us when we fall short and instead of condemning us, wrapping us in your mercy and grace.

 Help us to see ALL others through Your eyes of love and understanding.  Give us each the desire to treat others with respect and to seek out the best in them.  Make us a people who are generous with kindness and overflowing with compassion.  Help us to love others the way You love us.

In Jesus’ Name ~ Amen

 

Be a Sunflower

There is a family farm in town called Batey Farms (BateyFarms.com).  They also offer a beautiful venue nearby called The Grove (@Williamsongrove), where there are two fields of sunflowers.  Last week, those sunflowers were in full bloom and the fields were open to the public.  Everyone was invited to come and admire them, take pictures, and even pick a bouquet. 

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My family along with some good friends of ours decided to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  We walked through the fields enjoying all the beautiful sunflowers and took lots of great pictures.  The boys and I also picked three gorgeous sunflowers to take home and enjoy.  Once we got them home, we trimmed the ends and placed them in a vase of water on the kitchen table.  They lasted for a few days but then began to lose their petals and droop.

I so enjoyed having them on our table and really hated to see them fade away.  Not knowing much about sunflowers, except for their beauty, I decided to do a little research on them.  I found out some very interesting facts that I’d like to share with you:

  • When the sunflowers are growing, the flower buds and young blossoms will face east in the morning and follow the sun as the earth moves during the day. This is a behavior called heliotropism.  Essentially, they turn their face to the sun in order to grow to their full potential.
  • A sunflower head is made up of 1000 to 2000 individual flowers which are joined at the base. A single sunflower can have up to 2000 seeds.
  • Sunflowers can remove toxins such as lead, arsenic and uranium from contaminated soil. They are a natural decontaminator of soils, and have been used to clean up soil at some of the world’s biggest environmental disasters including Chernobyl and Fukushima.

This really got me to thinking, and I realized as Christians we can be a lot like sunflowers.  To grow strong, we must look to the Son, Jesus Christ.  To mature and reach our full potential, we must follow Him wherever He moves.  Even one person can have multiple seeds of greatness inside them.  As we grow and mature, we can plant those seeds  producing an exceptional harvest for the Kingdom of God.  Through Christ, we have the potential to bring life and healing to others who have been contaminated by the sin of this world.

So, go out and be a sunflower!  Seek the Son and keep your eyes on Jesus.  Allow the seeds of greatness God has placed inside you to grow and spread to countless others who need His touch.  Show love, mercy, and grace to those who have been poisoned by the lies of the enemy.  And finally, let us teach our children to do the same.

Scars

Today, I heard a crash in the kitchen.  I immediately ran in there to find my son standing next to a broken bowl.  Not just any bowl but my favorite blue bowl that I keep on the counter to hold fruit and snacks.  It is not one that can be easily replaced, and I’m not completely sure it can be replaced at all.  Nevertheless, I had a choice to make.  I could get angry and upset, or I could rescue my son.  I looked at his little face and saw fear in his eyes.  He was uncertain if I was mad and probably unsure if there would be punishment.  I walked over to him and first removed him from the situation and then checked for broken glass laying around.  I proceeded to pick up the broken pieces and lay them on the counter.  Fortunately, the pieces were large enough they could be glued back together.  Will the bowl still look the same?  No, it has a “scar” now.  Will it still have the same value?  Maybe not to someone else, but it does to me.  Can it still serve its purpose?  Yes, it still holds our fruit and snacks.

I think we would be hard pressed to find a person without at least one “life scar”.  I’m certain that each of us have been broken at some point in our lives.  I have been broken many times and bear several of life’s scars.  However, I have been put back together many times by the One who cherishes me.  Am I the same as I was before?  No, I am very different now.  Do I still have value?  Yes, to the One who paid the ultimate price for me, I am priceless.  Can I still fulfill my purpose in this life?  Yes, and some of the brokenness and scars have led me to that purpose.

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I can remember many times in my life where I messed up and found myself in pieces.  Jesus stepped in and saw me in the mess I had made, but He didn’t yell at me or punish me.  Instead, He lovingly scooped me up from the shards of my sin.  He then carefully collected the pieces and lovingly put them back together.  He held me in His arms and with His nail scarred hands wiped away the tears.  I was then reassured of my value in His eyes as He guided me in the direction of my next assignment.  Sometimes my scars remind me of my mess, but at the same time they give me strength for my message.  

What I’m Thankful For

A few years ago, God placed a desire in my heart to bring encouragement to other moms by sharing my “mom” stories and poetry.  It was a long pregnancy, but my book was finally birthed last month. “Seasons of a Mom’s Life, is now available and I’ve been very excited to share it with everyone!

In my book, I thanked God, my family, and my publisher.  Today, I would like to publicly thank my friends, who have prayed for me, encouraged me, and cheered me on. Not just through the writing process but through many different seasons of my life.  God has blessed me with an amazing Mom, but I am also blessed to have so many other incredible women in my life.  Some of you I have known for as long as I can remember and some I’ve only known for a short time.  Each of you add something wonderful and unique to my life, and I am forever thankful for your friendship.  I cannot imagine doing life without you, my friends. 

As women, it is so important we have those in our lives that we can trust and confide in.  Those we can call at any time, who will be there with a listening ear and open arms.  Sometimes we just need to talk it out and sometimes we just need to cry it out.  There are times we need to pray together and then times we need to be prayed for because we can’t find the strength to do it ourselves.  At times, we need to seek reassurance from each other that we are okay and we’ll make it through whatever storm is raging.  Then sometimes we just need to be in each other’s presence, without even a word spoken.  There are times when just the company of the other makes everything okay (and sometimes adding in some coffee or chocolate helps too).

My FriendsAs moms, we need those women in our lives, who are more experienced and wiser, to encourage us and give us guidance because they’ve been where we are right now.  Sometimes we need to be that mom, who has been there, and give support and reassurance to the other because we’ve already weathered that storm.  We don’t know all the answers, but we do know the One who does.  If we seek Him, He will be found.

I cannot even begin to put into words how immensely blessed I am to have a magnificent group of women in my life.  Each one of my friends have a special place in my heart.  God knew that we would need each other on this journey.  I am forever thankful He made our paths cross and tie into a beautiful bow of friendship.