#navbar-iframe {display: none !important;}

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Kids, Moms, and Families

I was thinking today as I was blog prepping: I have a lot to write about! Just watched The King's Speech (amazing movie) and am reading "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancy (expect a blog series).. but I've settled on writing about my babysitting beach week.

I just spent the past week with 2 families, 8 kids, 1 beach house. What an amazing time! I played hard, loved well, and learned much. Each day was full, exhausting, fun, challenging, rewarding, adventurous. Built "car mountains" in the sand with a 2yr old and rode waves with a 8yr old. Rocked a 4 month old to sleep and played tag with a 5yr old. Did you know there's such a thing as an albino alligator? Yep, we saw one at the aquarium.

It melts my heart watching the most rascally little 5yr boy run around and be crazy and tough all day.. and then want you to sing him to sleep. Or when a 4yr girl looks at me walking down the beach and tells me we're going to be friends forever. Makes me smile when an 8yr old tells me I could be famous for fashion (girl doesn't know I live in jersey dresses all summer). Makes me laugh when I'm asked to explain what words like 'remember' mean ("remember means to.. not forget. forget? that means.. to.. not remember?").

I treasure the conversations. Have you ever sat down and just talked to a child? Asked them questions? Answered theirs? If you can get them to sit down long enough, it's really a cool experience. You get a glimpse into what they think about, what matters to them, what hurts their feelings, what makes them happy. It really is remarkable. The way kids react: think: respond: act are different and unique to each child. Their little personalities are formed and shaped and are evident from such a young age. It's so cool to watch complexities and uniqueness and observe the way they handle different situations. You can see sin natures, but you can also see love rise up.

It's been quite an adventure and journey and such a fun season in my life being a learner and observer of families. I'm learning something new everyday about families and parenthood and what kind of calling it is. I'm unraveling a whole new level of respect for mothers and fathers and what they do everyday. I'm observing and taking mental notes and shaping what I want my family to look like one day.

Reflecting on it now, I think one of the biggest things I've learned is respect. I have seen the most incredible mothers work up close and personal AND THEY WORK SO HARD. There are no breaks, no days off, no pay. But what a job. Their kids are AMAZING. I watch their actions, the way they respond, how deep they love, how they discipline, and it moves me. It's humbling. They remind me of Christ from the Gospels. I wake up feeling grateful for the women in my life who have little ones and who are influencing me for mine someday (you know who you are: thank you!!).

When I get to spend time with children, it really is a favor to me. When I get to spend time with a mother, it really is a joy to me.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Crazy Love

I have an awesome journal that my friend Marri gave me. It's full of interesting prompts and fun pages: things to get you writing. Today I landed on a page that said "I Want To..." at the top with space to write fifteen things. In the midst of my current wrestlings, I stopped and made a list.

I want to..
1. Accept forgiveness: Live forgiven: Move on in forgiveness.
2. Love as Christ each day.
3. Be still and know.
4. Know I can make: be a good wife: employee.
5. Pray each day.
6. Live: Believe: Memorize Romans 8.
7. Equip others to Christ.
8. Remember the Gospel daily.
9. Give the grace I've been given.
10. Walk by the Spirit.
11. See the beautiful things He is making.
12. Be forever grateful for what Jesus did.
13. Remember that His Word is continuously speaking.
14. Know that I have been specially equipped.
15. Remember that I am a new creation singing my new song.

(What would you have on your list?)

And as I was making my list, I thought about how crazy God's love is. It doesn't make any sense, if you really think about it. Francis Chan in Crazy Love says it best: "The very fact that a holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, merciful, fair, and just God loves you and me is nothing short of astonishing."

So tell your sin and shame that

His voice is louder.
His calling is clearer.
His goodness and kindness reign higher.
His grace is deeper.
His mercy is wider.
His cross is stronger.
He is the Giver of life.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In Jesus' Name

I've been reading through the Psalms am blown away by them. I am struck by the different characteristics of God. David doesn't always seem to stress who we are in God, but WHO GOD IS. And what He does. He knows the way of the righteous (1:6), He is a shield (3:3), a sustainer (3:5), hears us when we call (4:3), safety (4:8), a refuge (5:11), deliverer (6:4), a stronghold (9:9). My favorite (so far) is Psalm 8, which says, "O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your NAME in all the earth!"

I'm simultaneously reading through Acts and it is this NAME that Peter speaks so much about. When he and John are taken in front of the rulers and elders and questioned about who Jesus is, Peter says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (4:12). He heals a lame man in chapter 3 and says "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk" (3:6).
In Jesus' name.

I spent a lot of time in college building my own name up. I found a lot of power in my name. I took Jesus' name out of the place where it should have been glorified. I ran my life and would stop just long enough to remind people that I was awesome and in control.

I'm struggling a lot with influence. What kind of influence am I? I know I have been a poor influence in my past. I've made poor, awful choices that I'm not proud of. I put those at the center of my being and think "no one should ever look up to me." I hear an encouraging word, someone comes to me with a question, I'm in a situation to share Jesus with someone, and I want to scream at the top of my lungs PEOPLE DON'T YOU KNOW I'M A MESS.

A friend told me recently that everyone is an influence. Everyone. We all influence the people around us. With every action, every word, we must choose to acknowledge that truth. And the question then becomes
Who are we influencing people to become?
Whose name are we influencing people to be?
Whose NAME are we glorifying?

Which should lead us to humility. Not to pride, not to despair, but to humility. We realize that we are broken sinners in lead of a Savior and that we are called to lead others to Him too. We remember what was done for us: where we came from, who was in our corner leading us there, the truth we were told: and we point others there too.

So I think back to that person that I was and remember that she's not there anymore. I remember that in Christ I'm a new creation. I remember (oh so thankfully) that it's not my name I point people to. I'm not a savior, a stronghold, a deliverer, or a redeemer.. but I can show you Someone who is. Through my failures and falls and despair and recognition of grace, I worship a God who redeems the brokenness. I know I don't always do it right (hardly), but Christ who lives in me always does.

We influence others for Christ because He died on the cross for our sin and shame.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My Story.. with a Little Help from My Friends

I went out to lunch with my friend Loren last week: she's such an amazing strong woman! Conversation centered around Christ, how we have seen Him work, how we have been touched by other believers, and how life is with new baby daughter Jael.

And then she asked me what my story is.

First of all, I love that question! I think people need to ask it more often. I think if we aren't reminded of our stories, if we don't practice telling them, we lose sight of the changes we have gone through and how far we've come. But sometimes I don't know how to answer it. There are parts I don't want to talk about, there are parts that are so good, there are parts that are so ugly, there are parts that will make me cry tears of joy, there's a lot there.

Here's what I've learned that's been the most important to me and that has equipped me the most.
And here's to you, Loren, for asking the question!

1. The Reason for God. Timothy Keller brought my little world crashing in. He not only reinvented my love for reading (reading in a whole new way), but he showed me the Gospel. If you haven't read anything by him, I challenge you to do it. HE RELATES EVERYTHING BACK TO THE CROSS AND THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. Everything. Nothing is significant and important without knowing that Christ died for you. It's amazing.

2. My New Song. I went through a very challenging experience this past year that really shaped my faith and showed me who God was. That's putting it lightly: it COMPLETELY changed my life. It produced forgiveness, joy, peace, freedom: I can even give specific dates when I felt those emotions! My friend Abbey pointed me to Psalm 40, which says, "I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. HE PUT A NEW SONG IN MY MOUTH, a song of praise to our God."

And that's the essence of my story. He heard me, delivered me, set me on a rock, and let me sing a new song. A song of GRACE, peace, joy, and freedom (yes, this inspired my blog title). When you are rescued, you sing something new. You rejoice in what has been done to you and you start to live a life of gratitude. It is for freedom Christ set us free.

And isn't that what the Gospel is? Jesus Christ delivering us from pits of destruction, setting us free, changing us, in order that we may live lives that worship Him and glorify Him through the fruits we produce. We sing a song of praise to our God because He died for us.

3. Choices. Everything is a choice. We have a choice in how we respond: we have a choice in even acknowledging that there is a choice. People are going to act in ways that are going to make you want to scream and get angry and frustrated and lose it. People are people: it's a part of our humanity. BUT what then? What will you do then? When faced with someone that isn't acting Godly, someone that hurts you and disappoints you, with a situation that baffles you, with people that judge, what choice are you going to make? You can't change what people have done, but you can change what you will do (oohh that little bit of truth sets me free). You can turn to Jesus in dependency and cry out for His Help. I'm thankful for French Pressed Fridays for revealing that truth:

We have an abundance of options when ___________ happens but they all narrow down into two choices:

1. Turn towards God in dependence.

2. Turn away from God in rejection.

When your world falls apart. When everything is overturned. When you’re afraid. When your feelings are hurt. When you lose your job. When your heart is broken. When you’re offended. When there’s no water. When division occurs. When nothing makes sense. When people disappoint us. When picture perfect becomes the perfect nightmare. When you don’t know which way is up. When there’s no easy way out. When the hero disappears. When you’re trapped between a bunch of chariots and a large body of water. When ______________ happens.

Turn towards God in dependency and cry out for His help."

4. A Process. I am one of the most impatient people I know. I haattee a process: I want immediate results (how my sin nature gets creative). My friend Andy wrote a blog post on process and has drilled the idea that time in prayer and time with God is what is essential: TIME. He compares his anger to kudzu, an annoying nuisance that infests. The illusion is there that he has the kudzu under control and he gets trapped in it. Reflecting, he realizes there is hope when he lets God take over (amen!). For me, the freedom comes in his last paragraph:

No happy endings. My friends are still hurting. I still hurt for my friends. I am still angry. It has still been a long day. I was lost in the weeds most of the afternoon. The resolution to it all is that I can rest, knowing there is one who never tires in his effort to complete what he started, trimming the Kudzu.

What a freedom, huh? Sometimes God works instantly and sometimes He doesn't. We come to the conclusion there is hope in Christ and we know we've been set free.. but why are we still angry!? Why are we still hurt and struggling? That's okay. That's a call to throw yourself in His Word and in prayer and to act on what you've found your revelation to be. That's a call to be proactive. That's a call to surrender and remember who's in control.

5. Writing. Writing has been one of my saving graces. Writing reminds me. Writing is a source of healing for me. Writing gets my unwanted thoughts out on paper and writing laughs at the lies.

I was watching Dora the Explorer the other day (toddlers present: yes) and I was reminded of what our disciplines do. Dora and Boots were running away from a storm cloud and that storm cloud was taunting them and telling them he was going to drop that rain. And Dora and Boots were running and running and fretting and wondering how far shelter was.. until.. Dora said "hey! I know a song that will make the storm cloud go away." So her and Boots STOPPED RUNNING. They TURNED AROUND and faced the cloud. And sang to it. And it went away. Of course they sang "Rain, Rain, Go Away," but I think they did what we are all supposed to do. What writing does for me. STOP RUNNING. Turn and face those lies, temptations, sins, and satan with the songs and prayers and truth of God.

6. An Asset. Someone told me once that what we go through becomes an ASSET to us. I had never heard that before. I always knew our painful experiences helped us grow and that we would owe our growth to the harsh times we went through. But I thought we would gently and intentionally avoid those times in our memory and just chalk them up as pathways to maturity and happier times.
It rocks my world. I look back and remember my trials FIRST. They have been so key in me understanding the Gospel: in understanding what brokenness and death are and feeling the joys of resurrection and redemption. And we hold Jesus' death on the cross as our most valuable asset.

7. God is Bigger. God is so much bigger than we think. God is bigger, God is bigger, God is bigger. He reigns, He reigns, He reigns. My friend Marri has always driven that point home for me: that at the end of the day, GOD IS ALWAYS BIGGER. No matter what happened, no matter what life threw at me, no matter how ugly my sin is. He reigns over this world and He is bigger than your today, yesterday, and tomorrow. His plan is bigger and He is bigger. He BECAME SIN who knew no sin. He is our Creator, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the Restorer, Redeemer, and Father.
Take that control out of your hands and pass it on to the One who has your life in His!

There's my story. Oh Christ is so good. There's still a lot more to go, isn't there?