Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Hiding God's Word in My Heart

Well, I wanted to write this last week, but life got in the way.  I know I had beautiful words ready to fill this page then.  I hope they come back to me as I type.

I think anyone who loves the Lord and offers any advice whatsoever about how to grow in your relationship with God will tell you how important that reading God's Word is daily.  They will tell you that the more you spend time studying His Word, the more like Jesus you will become.  I'm not refuting that one bit.  Totally agree.  One important aspect of this process is taking the time to memorize Scripture.  Psalm 119:11 says,

"Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You."  NKJV

Why does hiding God's Word in our hearts keep us from sinning?  Well, lots of good reasons.  Most people will say that sin is doing something wrong.  The Bible will give us clear direction as to what is "wrong."  It offers a whole lot of things to do that are "right" as well.  What new Christians may not know is that James 4:17 says, 

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin."

Wow.  Maybe you haven't heard that before.  It's pretty heavy.  It takes following Christ to a new level.  No longer are you just supposed to NOT do bad things...you are supposed to do the good things you know to do as well.  Here it is.  This is the part that usually gets even the people who think they are righteous in their own eyes because generally they are good people.  I know we are all guilty of having moments though where we know we should do something good but find plenty of reasons not to do it.  As I type, I know I need to fix supper soon.  I guess in writing this, I will get up and cook when I'm finished.  There have been plenty of times when I have been lazy and just refused to get up.  It generally results in my family eating food that isn't as nutritious for us.  There have been times that God has nudged me to do something...write a letter, make a phone call, go talk to someone...and I've totally chickened out.  Yeah.  Sin.  Comes in lots of disguises.  Really makes me appreciate that Jesus lived 33 years on this earth without committing even one sin despite fully being man.  

Hiding God's Word in our hearts helps us to battle temptation.  The Bible is our guide...like an instruction manual...like this acrostic says:


Memorizing specific Scripture for encouragement in hard times is key to the Christian life.  The Holy Spirit is our helper...He is part of the Trinity (God the Father, Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit).  Jesus tells us in Scripture that when we accept His free gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit comes into our lives to be our helper.  He is bigger than our conscience.  He is a living, guiding force that works to help us out.  When we memorize Scripture, the Holy Spirit can recall what we have studied to our minds at the perfect times.  Whatever situation we are in, He can call back to our memories a passage of Scripture or a Bible verse that will help us through it.  He can't recall for us something we haven't put in though.  We have to put forth the effort.  Maybe you think you don't have enough brain cells left to memorize.  (Oh friend, I can relate now!)  Ask God to help you retain what you are studying.  It is perfectly OK to call for supernatural help!  God wants us to learn His Word, so He is faithful to help us memorize!  

OK...now on to the point of my post...what happens when life feels like it is swallowing you whole?  For me, this was reaching a point of exhaustion with an 8 year old, a strong willed 2 year old, and a newborn.  Good golly, I was a mess!  I longed for God's Word in my life...I longed for even 5 minutes of quiet where I could focus and dig deeper into the Bible.  It rarely came for days at a time.  When it did, it was way too short.  Everything within me cried out for more.  I battled feeling guilty for not being able to accomplish a true quiet time.  Yet, at the same time, God would call Scripture to my mind and comfort me that I was OK with it.  If only I could have accepted His gracious view of myself, I would have been better off.  We put way too much pressure on ourselves to be all we can be.  I like Laura Story's new song called "I Can Just Be Me."  Here is the verse that are words I needed to hear in the trenches:

"I've been doing all that I can
To hold it all together
Piece by piece.
I've been feeling like a failure,
Trying to be braver
Than I could ever be.
It's just not me.

So be my healer, be my comfort, be my peace.
Cause I can be broken, I can be needy,
Lord I need You now to be,
Be my God, so I can just be me."

The truth is, God was telling me this very thing as I was struggling under the guilt of thinking I should be more.  One of these days, I'm going to learn to trust the Holy Spirit's voice in my life more than my own or even other Christians trying to take His place in my life.  Well meaning Christians can make me feel guilty like no one else.  There's a warning to heed...make sure when we speak into the lives of others that it is a word from God...not just our own thoughts from our soapbox.  

Here is what I do know.  As I was driving with screaming toddlers to pick up in afternoon car rider line, I would try to remember any Scripture I could conjure up.  God would always send something comforting to my mind.  As I was filling sippy cups and cleaning up messes, God would send comforting Scripture to my mind.  In the mundane, routine, exhausting days of my life, God and I would talk.  About His Word.  About my life.  About my friends' and family's prayer requests.  In fact, in some ways, I grew closer to God in a new way than I had ever been before.  I was dependent on Him to survive.  Being a Christian isn't always sunshine and rainbows.  I would love to say that I persevered under those mundane trials with a smile remaining positive.  But I didn't.  I was a mess.  Because when I lose sleep, even going back to my childhood, I get whiny and cranky.  I was losing more sleep than ever in my life with a medical condition that made it worse (I plan to blog about that soon too), and I just couldn't muster up the sunshine and rainbows.  That did not mean that God was not there though.  That did not mean that I wasn't in constant fellowship with Him.  God was real and in the mess with me.  He never left nor forsook me.  He met me right where I was.  In His time, He has pulled me out of that place of exhausted despair, and He has restored my sunshine and rainbows.  

The key though was that I had put in the time.  I had memorized Scripture when life was NOT a blessed mess, and I depended on it daily when life was.  Many days, the Bible I "read" was the Scripture called to my mind.  While I long to open up the beautiful pages of my Bible and soak up the blessed words on each page in quiet bliss, there are just days that doesn't happen.  And I'm OK with that.  Meditating on God's Word just looks differently some days than others.  God is faithful to meet me for them all.  Faithfulness is what I long for...where I want to be.  I look forward to the days of hours spent in God's Word diving in deep again.  I'm not gonna sweat the days until then though.  

I love how God puts His Word that I need to hear in front of me when I need it.  A divine Word for my situation.  Saturday morning, I was feeling a little uneasy about heading out to help the homeless with my oldest son with me because of a post I saw about this other homeless man that was assaulting volunteers and others.  He had put a different homeless man in the hospital.  Now, the normal crowd we see are very nice and appreciative.  Some of them smell of fresh alcohol, but in general, they are not too threatening.  Not to say there haven't been encounters...just that it is generally safe at the time of day we go.  I was feeling anxious and a little fearful Saturday morning.  God put the verse from Hebrews 13:6  in front of me that says,

"So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

Talk about a timely word!  Proverbs 25:11 says, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver."  Yes!  Love it!  Love it even more when the word comes directly from God to my soul!  

I encourage you to memorize God's Word.  Write it on notecards and carry it with you to read in traffic or while waiting in line.  I love window markers and writing on my bathroom mirrors.  I decided a long time ago to buy decorations and shower curtains and wall hangings and on and on with Bible verses on them.  I want my kids to absorb as much of God's Word as I can.  Put God's Word in front of you.  It will stick!  Blessings sweet friends!  I'm off to "do good" and make some chili for my family!

Friday, January 10, 2014

It's Just a Stage

I am so far behind on blogging.  I have wanted to blog like a zillion times since last time, and I haven't had time to bang anything out on this computer.  I decided I just need to pick a topic on my mind and get one done.  So, here goes.

I was talking with the Lord this morning about life.  You know, big picture version this time instead of specific trials.  One thing He impressed upon me lately is that as moms, we need to encourage each other more that sometimes, "it is just a stage."  You know, a short amount of time that children adopt a new quirk or irritating habit or bad attitude that may feel like an eternity...but it's just a stage they are going through.  It is not the end of the precious child we once knew or the beginning of their road toward delinquency.  Just a stage.  I remember hearing that phrase used much more often when I was growing up than it is now.  I don't know if people think it is old fashioned or untrue now or what.  I just think we could take a lot of encouragement by keeping that in mind.  That is not to excuse parents from dealing with their children's new bad habits or disciplining them when they are wrong.  I'm talking about when your kid is pushing your buttons about something that is driving you crazy, and you have done and are doing everything in your power to set him/her on the correct course when the kid is hell bent on doing his/her own thing.  I think I got really discouraged during the baby fog years because I was tired from the baby yet dealing with a strong willed toddler while living in a world of people convinced that if I read the book and fixed my parenting that I would truly have a new kid by Friday.  Well, I read that book and realized I had already tried most of those methods.  I tried again anyway.  I tried the new concepts too.  None worked.  Friday came around, and my kid had not made the promised progress.  So I must have been doing something wrong.  My best efforts to be a mother must not have been as good as other mothers whose children were different by Friday.  One thing I've found is that the older I get and further along my walk with the Lord I get, the more creative Satan gets at the ways he tries to derail me.  I don't always notice his new disguises and tricks.  His lies are the same though.  I read a post this week by Ann Voskamp that said, "The enemy of your soul only has two battle plans for this year: 1. Blind you to who God is. 2. And blind you to who you are."  That's so true.  He is full of lies, and he dresses them up in new ways to attack us to accomplish one of those two purposes.

One thing that is ever so present when I have babies is how big God is.  My view of how awesome God is is magnified as I look at these tiny precious creatures who are totally dependent on me for everything to live.  How He created these bundle of joy and allowed them to grow inside of me and got them out and in my arms...miracle.  So, it's hard for Satan to mess with my view of God in those times.  I ought to expect him to mess with the way I see myself, but the fog numbs the mind so that I guess I just forget how he works.

I was still in fellowship with the Lord and having time with Him (albeit not quiet...2 full years of not quiet), but that baby fog really takes a toll on me.  I lose my ability to process and apply what I know the way I can at other times.  It is much like being totally frustrated looking for glasses when the whole time they are on your head.  You've got everything you need, yet you just can't have it together. I'm so glad God is patient with me and He gently loves me through the times that I'm not functioning as well as I need to be.

I desperately needed to hear somebody say, "it's just a stage."  My baby fog had me discouraged and thinking my strong willed child would remain rebellious and even mean at times forever and it was totally my fault.  I thought I was raising a hellion.  This beautiful creature that God gave me would no longer be all I had dreamed he would be.  Satan gets in there and whispers all sorts of fears and insecurities in us as parents.  When I'm not in baby fog, I can see how he messes with other moms...he just attacks them differently than he does me because he knows what gets them in a tizzy too.

The joy of "it's just a stage" is that when that stage is over, you can see clearly.  "I can see clearly now the rain is gone...."  Yeah.  Now, that precious child that I was afraid would be warped forever on his way to juvenile delinquency has moved on from that stage.  You heard me.  He left it behind.  Did I magically do anything as a parent that made it stop?  No.  It was just a stage.  Did I try everything in my power and rack my brain for anything else I could have done differently to change him?  You bet I did. I spent close to 2 years tied up in knots feeling like a failure as a mother over a stage.  You'd think this was my first time around the block.  This was my 2nd kid though!  Not even my first!  I've got to get this phrase planted in my mind and keep it in mind parenting this third child and getting ready for the next hard stages with all 3 of them.

My now 4 1/2 year old strong willed little boy has matured in leaps and bounds in the last few months.  Where I was afraid he was behind, he has finally hit his maturity growth spurt and left the stage of meanness and mischievousness behind.  He now laughs more and is funny and is very caring towards all of us the way I wanted him to be 2 years ago.  He got there in his own time.  I don't want to say we had nothing to do with it.  We did do our best to discipline him and use every opportunity to tell him how Jesus wants us to act and treat others.  I'm just here to say to any weary moms that there is hope!  It may just be a stage!  Keep doing what you know to do to train your child, but rest in the fact that it may just take time and maturity for your kid to do any better!  Pray for them, and have faith that God will do the good work in your child that He promises!

My sweet middle child has become less obstinate and more considerate.  And, breakthrough of all breakthroughs, he even is starting to get his need for a Savior!  At bedtime the other night, his little brother was being loud and ugly during storytime and prayer time.  Middle child joined in (that was a big part of the problem so long...he would act as his little brother all the time instead of his age).  Daddy got on to both of them.  Middle child burst into tears.  Now, tears up to this point have been because of getting in trouble.  This time, he told his Daddy that he was sad he did wrong.  What?  We've been trying to get him to realize this for over 2 years!  He was sad over his behavior instead of being caught for it!  Yay!  We are praying that it won't be long before he accepts Jesus as his Savior.  The first step is realizing he's a sinner.  He is on his way.

This precious child is voluntarily going to bed at night when he always fought it before.  He is consoling his little brother when he is upset instead of trying to cry louder to get attention himself.  He is excited about going to Kindergarten next year and doing everything we ask of him to be ready.  Our consistency (even when we thought it was doing zero good) and prayers are producing results.  We could not force him to leave his bad behavior behind (despite any punishments or rewards systems), but he is growing out of it.  It was just a stage.  Whew!

Seriously, you just can't believe the joy in my heart over the last month or so seeing this change in my child.  It is a relief that I just cannot find words to explain.  Maybe I'm not the worst mother on the planet after all.  Maybe I was doing everything right.  (Probably not, but at least more right than wrong I know).  I look back and I see that God was trying to get me to realize this all along the way, but the baby fog had me believing Satan's lies more than the tender voice of God.  I believed God...don't get me wrong.  I just was too tired physically and mentally to put much faith into claiming what God was telling me.

Here is my point of this blog...what I want you to take away from this.  If you are a weary mother trying to do everything right by God's Word for your kids and you see no fruit, don't lose heart.  It may just be a stage.  Do what you know to do...what God leads you to do...and accept that that is all that is expected of you.  Your situation does not have to look like that of your friend's who seems to be the perfect parent.  They have their own battles they are facing that look nothing like yours.  What works for one may not work for another.  You need to embrace the words that it is only a stage.  It is not the end of the world as you know it.  You may feel like you are losing the battle.  You are NOT losing the war though.  Kids are different and respond to life differently from one another.  It broke my heart that my sweet child that I managed to sandwich in between two brothers as the notoriously pegged middle child spent two years seemingly mad at the world 75% of the time.  He is happy 95% of the time now.  He is not scarred for life.  He is past whatever horrible stage he was stuck in for so long, and life is good.  My heart is full from thankfulness to the Lord for being out of that stage and into this new wonderful life!  Just in time for child #3 to pick up where he left off.  Oh joy.  But my heart is not burdened this time...I know it is just a stage.  I am not looking forward to the battles ahead with another stubborn and mean toddler, but I am giving more grace and responding patiently.  It is just a stage.  He is gonna get in trouble for being mean and acting ugly, but if he is anything like his brother, it will not phase him one bit.  In fact, he just came up and pinched me for no reason.  Yep.  Instigator of meanness.  I have confidence this time around though that we will survive this stage.  It will try us.  It will frustrate us.  However, I am embracing those words.  It is just a stage.  So, judge us if you see us if you choose.  That is on you.  I'm not gonna let it bother me.

Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Constant Change

Today's blog is more of a time for me to just throw some thoughts out there.  I realize that I have a very analytical mind, and everyone does not have that.  I think it can frustrate those who don't just as much as it frustrates me that I do.  I analyze everything in life whether I mean to or not.  In fact, Eric probably has said, "quit analyzing it," so much that he probably "needs a record on repeat" for me.  Please don't read here that I'm judgmental.  I really try hard not to be.  I really strive to show grace.  I'm not perfect, but they really are different in my mind.  There again, if you aren't wired like me, you probably don't see a difference.  I can analyze a situation without interjecting my personal feelings about the players involved.  I try to season my words with love so that my analytical thoughts don't come out sounding judgmental.  I need more work on that though.

For instance, you may have read my statuses last weekend that I went with some ladies down to tour some homeless camps.  There were 4 of us that went together as a team, and I guarantee you all four of us walked away with different thoughts and feelings on the matter.  I have a calling on my life from God to take care of the homeless, and I surrendered to that call before my college church, Stevens Street Baptist Church, a few months before I got married in 1998.  At that time, I was heartbroken over the homeless.  I think that is where a couple of my team were on Saturday.  Over the last 15 years though, I have learned and seen so many different sides of the coin on the homeless though.  Now, as I walked through the camps on Saturday and listened to stories of their lives, I am past feeling sorry for these people.  I have a desire to help them, but few stories move me to tears anymore...at least in the areas we were in.  These are the people who are choosing to live in rebellion to society.  Most we talked to have families they could be with or could live at the Downtown Rescue Mission (which I LOVE the ministry they have!  Check it out!).  What I "heard" as I analyzed what they said is that they don't want to live by rules and would rather live outside than have to be submissive.  Now.  Wait.  Don't think I'm not on board with helping them.  Because I am.  Here is where I come from though...I think it is a balance.  I do not want to enable people to live in rebellion to God or society.  However, these people obviously need Jesus, and they are not going to want my Jesus if I don't establish a relationship with them.  How do you establish relationships and trust?  Meet peoples' needs.  So, I am searching to find the balance of meeting their needs so that they will trust me to accept my Jesus.  That is a process.  That is not one weekend of handing out some food and feeling good about yourself for doing your part.  That is my answer to "you know there are other organizations out there doing the same thing."  Yes.  I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday.  What I want to find out is how many of those organizations are seeking to truly give Jesus WITH their handouts.  I think it is easy for that to start as your goal but get lost along the path when dealing with hungover people on a regular basis.  So, we are on a scouting mission to figure out what needs to be done.  We will hand out food and blankets and such to get a chance to glimpse into their world.  After all, we are walking into peoples' "homes" even though they have no house.  The song on my heart Saturday morning...the specific line was..."And we'll save each man's dignity and save each man's pride...and they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love.  Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love."  Hard to walk side by side with people who don't want you there, but we are looking for a way.  On that note, that is EXACTLY what the Downtown Rescue Mission does.  They are in it for the long haul of rehabilitation with the folks who are willing to change.  Back to my blog point though...Constant Change.  Some people just refuse it entirely like those living under the bridges.  Lord, may I not be like them in my heart!

Back to constant change.  My head is spinning this morning thinking about the last year of my life.  While I am so glad the baby fog days are over, I'm not sure I fully understood what was following those.  With three boys spread out in age (10, 4, 2), I feel like I'm all over the place.  I have been inwardly searching for a routine...searching for the new normal.  I'm trying to accept that the new normal is really just constant change.  I'm such a creature of habit.  I want my routines in place and feel peace from structure.  Yet, I have had very few days in 2013 look the same.  Just when I think things are leveling out, something else jumps in and disturbs my new routine.  Example:  cold weather.  I thought I had a handle on laundry.  I was finally on a good schedule, and it was getting almost all put away for a few weeks there.  Now, with added sleeves and pant legs, sweatshirts and jackets, I right now have 5 baskets of clean clothes waiting to be put away, and 4 baskets of dirty that are gathered that need to be washed.  I don't even want to think about what may be lurking under beds or scattered about.  I try to stay up on that, but it's 3 against 1 here.  So much for a good routine.

In the midst of a new routine, I have finally added back in some activities *I* want to be involved in outside my kids.  Like choir.  Loving it.  Still not able to be as committed as I prefer to be because I am *Mom* first.  I really feel like being more involved with the homeless is needed now.  God opened that door.  I told our faithful leader that I am completely able to be a leader...I just don't think I'm a self-starter.  She got this rolling, and I jumped on board without taking no for an answer.  I think God has something for me to lead in this to take something off her plate, but I needed that help getting started.  Praying about where to go next with this within the plan God is giving her too.  This is what I love about God.  He can take two separate people who are praying and give them the same vision and make it happen.  In adding these activities though, even more change has entered my life.  My weekends used to be to unwind and spend family time.  My goal is to establish a family oriented outreach to the homeless...one we can all do together.  Until then though, I have to use some weekend family time to go figure this out.  Definitely a change from mom always being the one here.

Then there is spiritual change too...in a desire to always grow closer to the Lord and more like Christ, change has to happen.  I am certainly not perfect the way I am, and God has to smooth off the rough edges constantly.  One of the first songs I remember singing as a solo in church (I think my first was "I am a Promise") was "He's Still Working on Me."  I didn't realize then that I would hear God whisper that in my life all along the way.  I am a work in progress.  Change is constant.  People have to bear with me.  I need a sign to always wear saying "under construction."  Some days I need a sign that says, "bridge out...find alternate route!"  ;D

Anyway, I'm out of time, but I'm always analyzing.  I just needed to get some of this out there.  Sorry to not say anything particularly inspiring or encouraging.  Here is something though:  remember to go be a blessing to someone today on purpose!  Much love from the crazy house!  Renee :)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Little Things Scream Big

Anyone who has ever been in the house with a new baby knows this to be true...little things scream big!  Even as my little guys have grown into toddlers now, they still can scream big to be so little.  Screaming over being annoyed by a brother, not getting their way, or getting hurt despite all warnings it was gonna happen.  What about tiny fingernails on a chalkboard?  That's a big scream from a small occurrence.  The last two weeks, I've had little things scream big...last week, I cut my pointer finger at the bend while prepping food.  OW!  That one little cut screamed big for a few days.  It still isn't completely healed, but it is not screaming anymore.  This week?  Broke a nail below the quick.  Too far down to trim it off.  That little boo boo sure is screaming big every single time I touch anything.  It feels like I'm gonna rip that nail right off every single time.  It's amazing to me how such a little thing can send pain in a giant way through my body.  I finally wrapped my Ferb bandaid around it to quit hanging it on everything.  That's when I was inspired to write this post.

How many times do we let the little things in life scream big and distract us from our purpose?  I feel guilty of this far too often.  The traffic jams, drivers who must have gotten their license on clearance at Walmart, the checkout line that seemed the shortest until the cashier flips that "need help" light on....you know.  Stuff.  Everyday stuff that gets in our way of our best laid plans to just plain irritate the snot out of us.  Kids who refuse to go potty when you sit them on it before leaving to go somewhere when you know it will be awhile till they can go again, but then as soon as you are in the car, "Mommy, I have to go potty!"  Sure you do.  Of course.  We had a chance to be on time to ONE thing this month.  Why ruin our late streak now?  Still not sure what we forgot last Sunday morning, but I told my SS class to be ready for the Lord to come back because we were in class ON TIME...even so much so to get to poke fun at ourselves for the fact it never happens!  Anyway, there are so many little things that are screaming at us so loud that we have to learn to quieten in order to accomplish our purpose.

There was a time when my boys were babies (I define baby as two and under) that it only took one or two little things screaming big to render me useless for the rest of the day.  I was tired, worn completely out, lacking sleep, physically unhealthy (I have thyroid issues that get really bad after having babies), and completely overwhelmed with two boys 2 years old and under plus one in elementary school.  One blowout diaper, and my day was shot.  Emotionally & physically it was just too much.  God, in His infinite grace, has thankfully pulled me out of those baby fog years now.  It took so much grace though.  Grace was the theme of my quiet times (well, quiet was relative, but you know what I mean) and everything having to do with my spiritual life for almost 2 years.  It had to be.  I was a mess.  I am incredibly thankful the Lord chose to give me 3 sweet babies.  I wish He would have sent a nanny for the baby years though because I'm pretty sure those are my worst mothering years.  I know you folks who have older kids say just wait until they are teenagers.  I don't know.  I think the way I'm wired, I will be able to deal with that so much better than babies.  Babies just aren't (and never have been) "my thing."  I loved my boys as babies for sure.  Don't get me wrong. I'm just saying that I have very little ability to not let the little things scream big and win when babies are in my house.  I am praising Jesus that I now have some mornings when I can get out of bed without every little eye in the house popping open as soon as my feet hit the floor.

Getting a little better quality of sleep now most nights combined with boys who can do more on their own has helped me get back to a place where I can deal with the little things that scream big.  Now, there are certainly BIG things in our lives that scream big that need our full attention.  Health issues, big projects at work, God-sized tasks He's called us to...all big things that have the right to scream big.  But what about those hang nail issues?  You know, the things that are stressing us out but in the big scheme of things just don't matter.  We have GOT to learn to discern if it is just a little thing screaming big.  Like traffic...when you have somewhere you REALLY needed to be to stay on schedule for the day...that happened to me Tuesday.  It was traffic, and then a hold up at the register because the clerk couldn't find the gift card I had bought that should have been in the drawer.  (I'm Christmas shopping already.)  I had a list of things I wanted to get accomplished in my 4 glorious hours kid-free, and these little things were throwing me completely off schedule.  I decided to just thank God that He knows what is best for me and resolved that He must have been protecting me from something.  A wreck maybe?  Buying something I didn't need at the store I never got to?  I don't know.  I'm just quite sure that when I stopped stressing about it, it didn't seem to matter anymore.  That little thing that was screaming big ended up having no sound at all.

I think of sayings such as "don't sweat the small stuff" or "his bark is worse than his bite."  Yeah.  All good stuff.  Little things scream big, but overall, they just need to be told to hush.  After all, we have a purpose to accomplish.  God gave us all 24 hours in a day to manage for His glory.  I don't want to spend them all in a tizzy.  I'm tired of being frazzled.  I don't like the stressed out version of myself, and I'm pretty sure no one else does either.

We also have to learn to say "no" to things that steal time away from the big things.  I've threatened to tattoo one of my best friend's hand with the word NO on it so that she can be reminded to say no to the little things that take time away from the important things she wants to do.  It's great to be sweet and kind and helpful to others.  I'm even in a big "Be a Blessing" push right now that I need to blog about too.  I do think sometimes we sign on for things that God never intended to be on our agendas.  Just because it needs doing by someone doesn't mean it has to be you.  If God calls you to it, go.  If not, don't get in the way of who He is calling.  Because they may need to see the need and hear the plea in order to get out of their comfort zone and answer God's call.  Taking on things never meant to be yours distracts you from the God-sized tasks He has for you.  Our churches have so many wonderful things going on these days...ministries in all shapes and sizes for every member of the family.  I even saw a local church that had a pet blessing day where they brought their pets to a service for them.  (Not expressing any opinions here on that, and not looking for any....just an observation).  Even within the church, we can get spread so thin that we are no longer accomplishing what God had for us to do.  I personally struggle with guilt over not being at every single thing or opportunity.  I grew up in a small church where I was there every time the doors were open.  However, there weren't the exhaustive list of opportunities that there is now either.  So, I do only what I'm called to in HIS timing...not anyone else's.  Guilt is not a proper motivator.  Guilt is from the father of lies.  Conviction is from the Holy Spirit.  There is a difference, and you need to know it.

I don't know about you, but I need less screaming in my life and more calmness.  I want to keep striving to keep the little things from screaming big and distracting me from God's purpose for me at that moment.  Sometimes, the fix is a simple as putting this band aid on my hang nail was earlier.  I'm still dealing with the little thing...it hasn't gone away...but it is no longer screaming.  It now has proper place in my attention instead of demanding it all and zapping my energy.  What truths from God's Word do you need to be reminded of today to quieten the little things in your life that are screaming big?  The Bible verse on the boys' mirror this week is Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."  God laid it on my heart earlier this week.  Normally, I put their AWANA verses up there, but I decided this was one I want them to know now too.  It has been essential to my life as a student, as a wife, and as a mother.  When the little things are screaming big, stop and pray.  Ask God to help you see them in proper perspective, and listen for His answer.  I love the verses that the Holy Spirit will call to my mind in those times...always just what I need.  I can hear God speak those words directly to me.  I hope you will too!  Have a blessed day!  

Monday, September 30, 2013

Sunday Thoughts

Well,  I didn't have time to write yesterday, so I will throw out some thoughts from yesterday for today's post.  We had a great morning worshipping the Lord at our church.  I'm really enjoying singing in the choir.  I missed that during my "fog" years of raising babies.  I still feel like I miss way too many Sundays and way too much of practice to be considered a part of the choir, but they seem to be willing to take me as I am.  I don't like being late or leaving early or missing altogether when I'm committed to something.  However, I have 3 little fellas that just make all three of those things more frequent than I'd like.  My only dislike about choir is that we went back to robes after Labor Day.  I really have no strong opinion in the robes vs no robes debate that goes on in churches.  I just wish they would crank down the A/C if we're gonna wear them!  lol  I am looking to find a strap on cold pack like you would use for an injury to see if that will help.  My sweet friend at church last night suggested maybe a portable fan.  I have a clip on stroller fan, so I may try putting it under my choir chair to blow up my robe.  It doesn't make too much noise, but I just wonder if it would seem like it during the sermon.  I may have to do a test run in practice one night.

Our pastor is preaching through the Ten Commandments, and he was talking about the modern day "idols" we put before God.  He gave a wonderful sermon on making sure symbols and blessings don't become a substitute for God Himself.  As he was talking, God brought to my mind a saying Eric used frequently back when we taught youth.  "How much hell are we willing to allow into our lives and still think we are OK as a Christian?"  You can ask a person, especially youth, all day long about how much they love the Lord and are committed to Him, and you will get an answer similar to Peter's in the "breakfast by the sea" scene.  "Of course I love You Lord!  Of course I'm committed to You Lord!"  Probably everyone that reads this post would respond the same way.  However, if you ask the other question, our defenses go up.  Certainly that is NOT a question you're asking me!  We all have things in our lives that have most likely crept in, although some may have swung the front door wide open for, that are not glorifying to God.  A favorite song with just a "few" questionable lyrics...a TV show that overall is OK but sometimes go past the edge...an indulgence of shopping, eating, or something worse.  Maybe there are secret sins you struggle with that would make your neighbor at church blush.  Maybe these are things that aren't necessarily idols in your life yet, but they are in the works.  You're on that slippery slope that looks more like hell than heaven.  Instead of striving each day to live each moment for Jesus, we are really trying to see how much we can get away with and still feel OK.  So, I ask you, how much hell are you letting in your life?  We obviously are gonna be tempted and tried as the Bible tells us that the devil is like a lion seeking whom he may devour.  We do not have to invite him in though...not through the front door nor the doggy gate nor the mail slot.  It is hard enough to walk in the Spirit, but we can do ourselves a favor by taking inventory of what may need to get the boot in our lives.  I know that I want to strive to grow closer to the Lord each day.

We had a special missions service last night at church, and the President of the NAMB, Dr. Ezell, was our guest speaker.  He told a great story of adopting his son from a foreign country and the conversations that happened in the first few days.  As he tucked his son in the first night in the hotel, the boy got his face and looked him in the eye and said, "Daddy, I want to be a good son for you."  He said it upon waking each morning and at night going to bed for days.  He finally realized and reassured his son that he was a part of their forever family, and they would love him whether he was good or bad (but preferred good...the guy was a really funny story teller).  I love the message of grace here...the picture of the way God loves us.  He loves us even when we mess up...which is every single day.  He does prefer the good though!  I'm thankful that we don't have to work to "be good" all the time because that won't get us saved anyway.  Jesus saves us, and that is that.  We serve him and do good works because we love Him.  We can't earn salvation.  I do think though that we can get stuck in a spiritual rut  from having let a little hell into our lives...maybe simply because we are too busy otherwise to notice.  Maybe it would do us some good to wake up each day and tell God we want to be a good son or daughter that day for Him.  Maybe we thank Him that we don't have to be perfect, but we tell Him we desire to be more like Christ that day.  Maybe if we mindfully said these prayers every single day it would naturally start weeding out the hell in our lives allowing more room for God's blessings.

Our SS teacher encouraged us for months and months about grace.  He said that before our feet hit the ground in the morning, just think "grace."  You may have noticed my Facebook posts for a long time that just said, "Grace."  I tell you, that had a huge impact on me.  That may have been the preparation I needed for that fog of raising babies to lift.  If you contemplate grace, especially God's grace, you can feel God telling you who you are in Him.  I was called upon to show grace to my children too.  I found that that simple word was transforming my mind, heart, and actions.  When you start to see things in the light of grace, you can't help but be changed.

G od's
R iches
A t
C hrist's
E xpense

Grace is getting what we don't deserve.  Mercy is not getting what we do deserve.  We deserve hell, and by God's mercy, we can accept Jesus' free gift of salvation.  We also get grace by getting the blessings of God that we don't deserve.  I loved when friends would posts comments on my "Grace." posts.  I loved seeing how God brought things to their minds and led them to share.  Definitely a practice I want to continue....pondering grace.

Today's family mission project involves taking food to two families tonight.  I better get off here and get to cooking so that I have something to take.  I have been involved for a long time with our church's Feed the Flock ministry started by "The Chicken Lady" aka Theresa Wilson.  God put a burden on her heart to minister to people through food, one chicken at a time.  It has grown and expanded into so many different facets.  I love being a part of a hands on mission project.  I love that my boys know that once every two weeks or so (sometimes more often), we pile in the van with hot food and deliver it to some incredibly sweet and grateful people.  Shut ins, surgery recovery, even just blessed but stressed folk that need loving on and encouraging are stops we make.  One older couple we take to pulls out the toy basket and wants my boys to come play awhile when we visit.  Even during the fog of raising babies years, this was one ministry I was able to do.  I'm so thankful.  I get WAY more of a blessing by giving than they get from receiving.

My oldest was singing a song he's working on for the Christmas play at church this morning before school.  It's a jazzed up version of Matthew 25, and he was shocked to realize I "knew the words."  ha ha  He was happily surprised to know that he was singing straight Scripture (well, modernized a bit).  It made me think about taking food tonight.  "When did we see you hungry?"  Jesus replied, "What you did for the least of these you did unto Me."  Yes, Lord.  May we always be ministering to You by loving on others!  Have a blessed day folks.  Be a blessing!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Easiest Ministry Opportunity Without Advance Planning

Looking at the calendar, I quickly could see that if I wanted to get started doing family missions, my opportunities were limited in the coming weeks.  I needed to get something under our belt quickly, squeezed into the little free time we had today.  I have a short list of people on my mind with ideas of what I want to do for them.  You know, the people when you’re sitting in prayer meeting that somehow jump off the page to you out of the list of literally a hundred names in need of prayer.  I have to think that God makes different names pop to different people so that we accomplish His purposes.  I don’t want to just minister to the popular shut in.  I want to see those that no one else seems to know too. 

If you are looking for a blessing and to be a blessing, the easiest ministry opportunity that requires no advanced planning is available to you anywhere you live…the nursing home.  Seriously, even if you are in a brand new place where you know no one, you can go in nursing homes and tell them you just want to visit with some patients.  Ask for who never has family to come see them.  Start there. 

We had two names in two different facilities on my heart to visit today.  Now, as you can imagine, our visits only lasted around 10 or 15 minutes each due to taking my ten, four, and two year olds.  We told them up front that we wouldn’t stay long because of the toddlers, but we just wanted to stop by a few minutes.  One gentleman we visited used to work at one of our favorite restaurant stops.  We went to see him first.  I had asked his son (who works there too) if it was OK to visit sometime.  He said sure.  He works so much that it is hard for him to spend as much time with his dad as he would like.  So, I knocked on the father’s door and reminded him that we were faithful patrons that were missing having him around when we ate there.   My boys carefully gave him hugs (he has fallen several times and broken hips and such), and we chatted about his new “home” away from home.  We asked if we could pray with him before we left, and he said yes.  I got to lead us in prayer for his continued healing and adjustment to the new situation.  This was huge to me because I have been eating at this restaurant for years.  At least 7.  Maybe more.  We are so frequent that they know my order and start preparing it when they see my van pull in.  I have spent time trying to befriend the staff there, and I routinely ask them about their lives and pray for them.  I am uncertain of the spiritual condition of these sweet people, but I was greatly encouraged that this gentleman allowed me to pray for him and said “Amen” after I finished.  I continually pray for salvation for the staff there if they don’t know Jesus.  I pray for opportunity to share if God opens the door while I’m there.  (It’s easy to remember to pray because I’m also praying my kids don’t tear the place apart during our feeding session.  Lol)  Even during my “fog” years of raising babies, I’ve tried to be mindful of the opportunities that I do have to be Jesus to other people.  My realm of influence was limited since my contact with people was limited, but you just gotta do the best you can with what you’re given.

Our second stop was to see a sweet family friend that goes to our church.  This lady went to church with us years ago at another place as well.  She’s had a hard time recovering from knee surgery on her second knee and is stuck in rehab again.  She greatly enjoyed seeing my boys in all their rambunctiousness, as her grandchildren are all older now.   Eric led us in prayer with her as well.  I told him before we ever got out at the first visit to not let me forget for us all to pray over the people we visit.  If you want to make a huge difference to people, offer to pray over them.  This may be out of your comfort zone, but you will be surprised at how doing this quick act of service for someone will impact their day and their life.  It’s one thing to say, “I’m praying for you!”  It is another to actually do it.  Right there.  On the spot.  I try to do this on Facebook posts too, but I don’t always have time to type it out.  You may not realize it, but there are people in this world that have never had anyone pray specifically for them in their presence.  Makes an impact.  When God answers that prayer, that person’s faith is strengthened…faith in the Lord and faith in the power of prayer.  Try it.  You’ll be amazed at what you find. 

Well, I better wrap this up.  I’m excited to head to celebrate the 18th birthday of my best friend’s daughter.  I cannot believe she is 18.  She is an amazing young woman of God, and I can’t wait to see her day totally rock celebrating her!  I’m so encouraged by her love and dedication to the Lord.  She so deserves this neat party.  They are incorporating something from each of her former birthdays.  It’s a 6 hour party, so I’m only taking my crazies for a little while.  ;)  I hope you all have a blessed day!  Remember, be kinder than necessary.  People ultimately just need Jesus. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Introduction to My Purpose Part Two: Radical and Life Changing

Glorious Friday!  I haven’t wished my week away, but I’m glad Friday has arrived.  As I told you yesterday, I went to the Women’s “dotMom Conference” this past weekend put on by Lifeway, so I got behind around the house.  I’m thankful for a half day of school today for my oldest, and a weekend ahead full of fun and rest.

I always know that I have to keep pressing on despite the obstacles because something better is around the corner.  The spiritual warfare started a full week before I left for the conference, and Satan pulled out his best weapons against me along the way.  However, I dragged my tired and stressed out self on anyway.  Before the point in the weekend that really was pivotal in my life, I was on the phone telling Eric I would just as soon curl up in a chair and sleep in the lobby as go to the breakout session.  I am thankful at times like these that I have a deeply engrained sense not only of right and wrong but also of getting my value out of my dollars spent.  So, I found a chair by myself near the back at the end of the row to see if this guy, David Thomas, had anything good to teach me about “Understanding the Emotional Development of Young Children.”  I had never heard of him, but apparently he is an accomplished author and counselor in Nashville.  I sat through two of his sessions…the second called “Wild Things…The Art of Nurturing Boys.”  Little did I realize what was happening then would result in having a renewed sense of purpose and a desire to do something radical in my life.  This was the beginning of a long fog of raising babies lifting to reveal what is next in my life. 

As I sat and listened to this guy talk, I had a huge realization hit me.  I already knew most of what he was saying.  I already was doing some of what he recommended and had just forgotten about a few golden nuggets of which he reminded me.  I don’t add this to say I know it all or what I’m doing.  Not at all.  I add this because it was at that point that I realized that I am indeed NOT a failure as a mother.  I realized that somewhere in the drudgery of changing diapers and cleaning up spills and wiping noses and saying “NO!” for the millionth time in the 4 years it took to get Mark to 4 and Nathaniel to 2, I lost my confidence.  It was so gradual that I didn’t know it happened.  Like the frog in the boiling pot, my circumstances had chipped away at my confidence for so long that I was left defeated.  Add in mommy guilt, comparison to other moms, and the emotional issues of just simply being a woman, and I was just a mess.  Now, God has been trying to get this through to me for a very long time.  I’m unfortunately just as stubborn as my children are at times, and I had gotten comfortable with my pity party condition of “woe is me.”  Sometimes, change and good requires some work and effort, and I had just been too tired and worn out to even embrace them when they were presented.   I think the big difference this time was a simple prayer I prayed during one of the large group sessions.  The music leader was talking about not being spiritually asleep.  I thought to myself…”I don’t think I’m spiritually asleep.  I try to get listen for what God has to say through His Word, through other people, through sermons and lessons, etc.  I certainly haven’t had my head stuck in the sand…I’ve felt God’s presence and seen Him moving in my life.  So, surely I’m not spiritually asleep.  But I’ll pray anyway.”  So, I prayed that if somehow I was indeed spiritually asleep (cause, I mean, I WANTED to be physically asleep for sure), I wanted God to awaken me so that I wouldn’t miss anything.  I believe He answered this prayer by helping me process better what I had heard all weekend.  There did seem to be a fog that lifted that brought clarity to all I had heard.  It started the process that took several days to show me that I want to make some radical changes in my life.

I got to hear Jen Hatmaker in her breakout session “Parenting the Kids You Have, Not the Kid You Were” as well as in the large group setting.  Now, I love her.  I think I love the way she writes because I tend to write/think that way myself.  Adding a little humor to the drudgery of life makes it more bearable to endure the hard times.  She was just incredible, and I took 4 pages of notes as hurriedly as possible and still didn’t get everything down.  I left her session feeling a little offended, a little uncomfortable, and a lot convinced I need a radical change in my life.  She doesn’t beat around the bush about loving Jesus and trying to imitate Him.  She calls it like it is, and that is the way I roll.  I’m sure she has plenty of critics (cause I find that I do!), but she is incredibly effective to those who can get over themselves and see the point she’s trying to make.  I was quite surprised that Lifeway would even put her on the platform to speak.  I think her message is really a threat to traditional church the way we’ve come to know it.  I think she is dead on though in her point.  We spend way too much time entertaining ourselves as Christians and blessing each other than reaching the poor, hopeless, and lost with the love of Christ.  I loved hearing her personal story of changing the way they did things in their home, and that flowing forward into starting a new church because of their radical changes.  Hearing her say that she WANTS the riff raff and homeless eating dinner around her table in her home honestly offended me.  You mean I’m supposed to expose my family to potential danger in the name of Jesus to reach them?  Can’t we just go to them?  You know, it seems obvious that we should be willing to invite the hurting into our homes.  But to hear her say she WANTS that.  That was offensive.  I might have to let go of some sense of control I think I have over the safety of my family for that to happen.  She’s sharing her life with those who need Christ, and I’m still sitting there thinking…well, we could hide the TVs in a locked bedroom while the riff raff are visiting.  What?!?!  I’m so stubborn.  God really has to drill down deep sometimes to get past my craziness to get His point across.  I’m thankful His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me.  BTW, that was a song we sang all weekend.  I sat through worship singing the songs and not feeling particularly moved by them at the time.  BUT, God has put those songs in my heart and head and on the radio at crucial times since the weekend and gotten His point across so very well.  I love how He gives me things I will need for the future.  I even made it through a scream crying fit session of the boys by singing that song out loud and keeping a smile on my face.  YES!  Again….not failure as a mother!  Success!  God is gracious and loving toward all He has made.  He might make something of me yet. 

What she did say that all sunk in combined with what the guy was saying about raising my boys was that my boys are going to learn to love and serve Jesus by example and example only.  I can talk at them all I want (which so worked with me as a kid), but they aren’t going to embrace the Jesus that I know so well the way I did.  They need to see His love at work.  So, she said grab a loaf of bread and make some sandwiches and go looking for the homeless as a place to start.  Don’t leave the kids in the car to protect them.  Let them lead the way.  Throw them right out there in the middle of the ministry putting my own faith to the test that He will protect them and use them the way He desires.  Only by modeling this and making this happen will my boys turn into true disciples.  Jen even went a step further…any of you that are pastors hold on to your hats…she even gave us mommas permission to skip a church program to model Jesus to our kids if there was no other time in our schedule to do so!  Radical I tell you.  Radical.  And that is why I love her. 

I’m ready to experience something real and relevant and radical and life changing.  I got Jesus myself a long time ago, so that is settled.  I invite people to church that never come.  I see churches all over doing these big events to draw in the masses.  I see a lot of work and prayer and money put into things that I am just not seeing fruit from.  Yes, it is all worth it if even just one person comes to know Christ.  But is there a better way?  Is there something more worthy of my time that would make more of an impact on eternity than what I’m doing…seeing tens, hundreds, or thousands saved instead of just 1?  The truth is, I feel most like a servant and disciple of Christ when I am taking food to shut ins, mowing a widow’s yard (well, volunteering Eric & Camden and then supervising it), counseling a friend privately on Facebook, gathering donations for someone who’s house burned down, buying items for backpacks for poor children, working Christmas parties for underprivileged children, etc.  I do feel encouraged when I go to church and fellowship with other believers.  I’m just afraid that we have created so many programs that should be making disciples of Christ but aren’t because we’ve not changed as the culture has changed.  I’m not talking about compromising our beliefs or changing the Gospel message.  I just think the days of the lost coming in the doors of the church to find Jesus are over.  I think we need to gather at the church long enough to get a game plan and then go find the lost where they are, prepared to show them the Jesus we talk about.  Talking about Jesus is no longer gonna cut it.  We’ve got to be Jesus with skin on and do His work.  We’ve got to go where he went and not be afraid it will rub off on us and tarnish the glow of our halos.  This goes beyond mission trips.  This is living a missional life.  Jen talked about how her kids changed when they started going and hanging out with homeless people.  Her kids now search for the lonely kid at school or the one causing trouble and try to befriend them to introduce them to Jesus.  I want my kids to want the hassle of dealing with difficult people because the people that are the hardest to love need it the most. 

So, this modeling Jesus business.  How does that work?  How does this translate into my life here everyday.  What can we do differently that is radical and life changing?  Only God knows.  So I’m asking Him.  And I’m waiting for His answer.  I already have a ton of ideas flowing for the summer when I can have all my kids home to do things together.  I have a hard time with just me and the little boys doing things.  It would have to be something that we could do together that they can handle at 4 and 2.  We will find it though.  Our family is going on mission together IN our community.  We invite our family and friends to go with us.  The Bible has a lot to say about taking care of widows, orphans, and the poor.  That has been our focus as a family from the beginning of our marriage…that is where we put our offerings even when we’ve been going through these seasons unable to put a great deal of our time.  The fog is lifting though, and it’s time to reach these people by being the hands and feet of Jesus.  Maybe we will be backing out of some programs to be more involved in other areas our church offers with missions.  I’m looking for something the “Renner, party of 5” can do together.  I look forward to the doors God opens in this radical change. 

I am praying about being strong when this means we have to quit something we are already doing to have time to do this.  My family time is already so guarded.  We are not the family that passes each other on the road while shuffling everyone where they need to be.  We just finished a weird season of a little bit of that due to Eric’s work schedule, and I did not like it in the least bit.  I like my family around the dinner table at night together.  I want my boys to have time every day unscheduled to be kids.  We limit activities and sports, and I just said no to another activity that secretly I had hoped my oldest would be able to do this year.  I just refuse to teach him to be so busy that he has no family life.  I want my three boys to become strong men of Christ who WANT to come home at night from work to kiss their wives, have their kids run up to hug them, sit around the dinner table discussing the day, and still have time to play outside with the kids before bed.  Just like my Eric.  He’s a jewel, and he’s a perfect role model of a great husband and father.  So, we will see how this works.  I do know that one of the speakers (probably Jen H) said that instead of living our lives with a little Jesus sprinkled into our world, we need to live out Jesus in everything we do.  I feel like we try to do that daily already.  I just need to be brave enough to accept the new challenges God sets before us.  Like inviting homeless people to dinner.  Can’t do that until we go meet some.  So, in the coming weeks, I have lots of calls to make to find out what we can do to meet some homeless people as a family.  Eric is big on the Experiencing God theory of joining in on something God is already doing.  So, I’ll be calling up some sweet friends who run rescue missions and see what can be done.  I’ll be marking our calendar to try to make events at Lighthouse Christian Camp (really our heartbeat mission project).  Whatever it is, I want hands on service to become second nature to my children.  Not the once or twice a year big project for Jesus.  

(I cannot hit the publish button without putting a note here about grammar and mechanics.  Gosh.  A red ink pen would bleed all over this thing.  I just tend to write how I think.  One day, I may polish all this stuff up.  It drives me crazy to leave it this way, but I will never, ever get blogging every day if I don't let that go.  Forgive me English teachers!)