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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will You Stand In The Gap?

The title is in honor of the sermon my pastor preached one Sunday. He covered Ezekiel 22:30. In it, God says:

"I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect this land so I wouldn’t have to destroy it. I couldn’t find anyone. Not one. So I’ll empty out my wrath on them, burn them to a crisp with my hot anger, serve them with the consequences of all they’ve done. Decree of God, the Master."

Tell me that's not convicting! 

My head is so full right now. I wish we really were across from each other, sipping on coffee or drinking a Diet Coke (Chai Tea Latte?) and talking about this stuff. 

I am so absolutely convicted right now and I want to try to share this burning in my heart. 

Forgive me for being dramatic. I have a flair for the dramatic in some things, but seeing as how I spend most of my days wiping butts and cleaning boogery faces, I feel like my feet are usually firmly planted in the un-dramatic. 

Sometimes the Old Testament can be "boring" and bog us down. 

Sometimes it's hard to understand how things written thousands of years ago can pertain to us now in the 21st century. 

Sometimes we read the same things in the Bible so often that they lose their flavor, their salt.

But these verses in Ezekiel have rung a bell in me. 

I think that if I am going to believe in a God who created the earth and heavenlies, who created humans, animals, bugs, birds and reptiles in all their intricacies...

Who parted the red sea, raised people from the dead, and created the perfect sacrifice in Jesus...

He can certainly create Word that is living and active and speaks to us the same now (and years from now) and be pertinent for us just as it was back then. 

This post isn't for those who are comfortable with the status quo.

If you're humming along nicely and all feels good, this isn't for you.

But...

If you feel there is more.

If you feel there is more than this life with its creature comforts and the task of to-dos that we tack on the fridge or into our smartphones every day...

If you feel a burning to be more and do more...

If you think this place isn't our home and we're just passing through...

Then this post, is for you.

I feel it. I have been bothered with it for a while, but just recently I have felt a greater sense of urgency. 

An urgency beyond attending church on Sunday, singing songs and maybe even raising my hands.

An urgency beyond blogging and making videos.

An urgency beyond reading my Bible every day. 

It's an urgency to want nothing more than to plant myself and read this Book from cover to cover: to get to know Him as closely as I possibly can.

I feel this uncomfortable-ness when I start really believing that my time on earth is short and that this life is not all that there is. 

It's an agitation--a realization--that if I truly believe that--I am called on the carpet to make some changes.

If I really believe that my purpose, my calling on this planet is to teach others about the love of Jesus and prepare myself to serve Him for an eternity in Heaven, that changes some things. 

That changes everything.

Being a follower of Jesus is more than attending church, singing praise music, and putting money in the collection plate.

It goes beyond leading a ministry, attending or leading Bible studies, writing a blog, and even preaching.

It's deeper and longer and far more intimate.

It is ingrained, intertwined, and interwoven so deeply with the very center of who I am.

So deeply, in fact, that it becomes almost humanly impossible not to change.

And there I am, looking in the mirror and faced with some difficult decisions. 

Am I willing to look wide-eyed at the changes needed or will I continue to squint at myself?

I'm terrified to give myself an honest answer. Either way, I am acknowledging some heavy Truth and I must live with myself for my choice.

If I throw my head back, open my eyes wide and embrace the reality of who I am and who I should be, I have some work to do and a long road ahead of me. 

If I look away or peer at myself through the slits in my fingers, I will be living a lie. 

And worse? I don't know yet which path I'm taking. 

I know the path I should take and I know the path I want to take...

But do I have the courage to follow it through, to make the hard choices, and to really live a life worthy of the calling of Christ?

What about you?

Have you ever been at this cross-roads? Have you stood before the mirror and had to make a decision like this?

What did you do?



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Friday, June 20, 2014

Where The Rubber Hits The Road-Addressing Fear Head On

Pardon any typos. I'm typing with tears in my eyes and a Texas-sized knot in my stomach.

What is causing me to weep uncontrollably and to cry out to Jesus for His protection?

My kids are going to a party with my neighbor and her 5 kids.

At her church. 

Unthinkable, right?

In case you're waiting for me to reveal why I'm nearly fetal in my kitchen, desperately texting a friend for support, read the third and fourth lines again. 

Yep, I think I've officially lost it (not that there was much left to "lose" anyway.)

I wrote a series on Anxiety called The Anxious Mom that explores my fears surrounding my kids and dives into scripture to combat this gut-wrenching affliction. 

I have been doing pretty well since writing those posts and really understanding what my anxiety and fear are all about: not trusting God. 

And then today, during the course of a perfectly innocent day when my kids went to the neighbor's house to play, it came down on me like a ton of bricks. 

It was a casual call from my neighbor, asking if the kids could stay for lunch.

I answered with a hearty "SURE!", happy for them to have a break from the everyday.

And then she asked if she could take them to her church for a Frozen party, where they will be watching the movie and having snacks. 

Here is where my enthusiasm waned a bit, but I'm happy to report that my initial thought was "Oh that will be fun! They'll love that!"

It was as I was texting my husband to tell him about the invitation that I felt like 1,000 lbs of weight was added to my stomach.

I immediately went into panic mode and had an anxiety attack. I went from "Won't that be fun!" to "Oh my gosh they can't go or something terrible will happen and I'll never see them again!" in 3.2 seconds flat. It was a record for me, I'm sure.

I texted my husband back that I couldn't send them. I told him "my gut says no."

He supported me, of course, but I'm sure he was disappointed for them and a little baffled at my sudden change of opinion. 

I even called my neighbor to explain that I just couldn't let them go. She is familiar with my anxiety and I was very honest about why I was saying no.

Unfortunately, one of her kids had accidentally let it slip to my kids about the party and they were all very excited. 

I was torn in two trying to decide the best course of action: say no and disappoint everyone involved at the expense of kids, just so that I would know they'd be "safe" with me or say yes and put my trust where it really belongs: with God. 

Here is one of those (sometimes) rare opportunities where I get to walk my faith.

And I am hating every minute of it.

Growing in our faith requires that we live it out, not just talk about it. 
We must take a step...and that step is often very hard, but God is with us every moment. 

Truthfully, I would much rather write or talk about walking a life of bold faith than to actually live it!

I felt God saying, "You know how you've been telling people you're doing well with anxiety since doing the study and writing all those posts? Here's your chance to put into practice all the things I taught you during that journey."

And I was filled with dread.

What? Put my trust in God to protect my babies? Let them go with my neighbor to a place filled with people I don't know and participate in activities I haven't approved?

Can't I just continue writing about how well I'm doing and how You have delivered me from the battle with anxiety? Can't I just keep posting encouraging verses and Pins to Facebook about how we trust in You?

Are you kidding me, God?

Sadly, He wasn't.

I  knew exactly what I was experiencing.

Anxiety is a feeling of dread over an irrational fear. 

Could something happen to my children while they are with my neighbor.

Absolutely.

That terrifies me, yes, but the real root of my fear was that I would have to suffer losing them.

If I am completely transparent here, I will admit that my fears usually revolve around me having to suffer in some way. 

I fear for my children because I love them with every single fiber of my being. 

I ache for them, I love them so much.

I don't ever want anything to happen to them because I don't want them to experience pain and I don't want  to have to experience pain either.

So, when I look the real reason for my fear in the eye, I see that it's doubt that God has me and my kids in His hands.

And the hard reality of that is that believing that He has us in His hands does not equate safety.

Bad things happen all the time.

Truly believing that God has us means that I know no matter what happens, He will take care of me and my kids. Even if tragedy strikes.

That's the hard Truth that takes my breath away. 

And I so desperately want to be one of those people who actually believe what they preach and whose faith is evident. 

And--perhaps most importantly--I want to be an example of living, active, sold-out faith to my kids.

My oldest, who's 9, didn't want to go because he was nervous to go without me (and just maybe him seeing me sobbing in the kitchen, worried about them going had a tiny part in his feeling that way), so I sat him down after praying for the Holy Spirit to take over my fearful heart and put my faith in action. 

I explained to him that he and I are a lot alike. 

I told him that my mom worried a lot when I was growing up and she didn't like me to do things without her. As a result, I missed out on a lot of fun activities and probably some amazing experiences.

Now, of course, I understand that gut-wrenching fear that mandates I keep my children close for fear of the unknown. 

I told him that I didn't want to see him grow up always afraid of what he doesn't know or what he's afraid might happen. I explained that I realize that God is ultimately the One who really protects us and that I want him to experience things in life without fear. 

And I am simultaneously thrilled and heart broken to report that he decided to go with the others. 

So, today was a step in breaking the cycle of allowing fear to dictate our lives. 

One step of a bazillion, perhaps, but a step nonetheless. 

I hate it with everything in me, but I am so pleased to be living a life of faith in God with purpose and diligence (like the tagline for Deliberate Women's website.)

And now, with only 2 of the 6 kids home, I am realizing that this is actually something I have written about and begged for for some time: peace and quiet. 

Funny how it is sometimes, isn't it? We pray for things and then when God presents us with the opportunity to have them, we often don't recognize it for what it is.

May I never stop learning from and leaning into my Savior. 



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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Coffee Time: Iron Sharpening Iron-Be Careful Who You Have In Your Life


Hey! I've been on a little unplanned hiatus. How have you all been? I've missed you. 

Since I showered today Since I have had something on my mind lately, I decided to make a video. 

I blogged about this at Deliberate Women this week, so you can read a much more in-depth version of these thoughts if you'd like, but for now, in these 5 minutes dedicated solely to blogging here, I'd like to encourage you  to be very careful who you put in your life and who you have influencing you on a regular basis. 

Proverbs 27:17 says:
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another."

Who is the iron in your life? Do the people surrounding you breathe life and encouragement into you or is there tension and back-biting? 

Do your friends and family--the ones you confide in--inspire you  to live your life with purpose and diligence as you pursue a life of faith in God? Or do they promote activities and thoughts that are outside of what God would want?

It's  tough and sometimes we have to have a purge in our lives.

I've had to do it and it isn't all that fun sometimes, but if the end result is that I am stronger and more focused to put my energies where they belong: on serving God whole-heartedly and being who I need to be for my family, then it's totally worth it.

And even if it's difficult, God will give me the strength to step back from those relationships that aren't what they should be and to draw closer to those I should be building relationship with.

Here is the link to the Deliberate Women post. I hope you will head over that way and take a look around. Click the "Meet Our Team" tab and get to know these awesome ladies I get to be in ministry with and who I am so lucky to call friends.

Until next time...

XOXO


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Monday, June 2, 2014

Team Us: Marriage Together-A Review & Giveaway!

I "met" Ashleigh several months ago through a mutual friend on Facebook and immediately knew I liked her. Even though we have never met in person, I have found so much that I admire about her: she was homeschooled as a child, she now homeschools her 4 children, she's a writer, and she is as sweet as can be. When she contacted me about reading and reviewing her new book Team Us: Marriage Together, I jumped at the opportunity!

Ashleigh's book is amazing. I have reviewed several marriage books in the past year, and they were all outstanding, but there is something different about Ashleigh's delivery and perspective that made it hard for me to put it down!

First off, Ashleigh's husband Ted interjects in a unique and humorous way throughout the book, so it's interesting to get a two-sided perspective on their marriage and its ups and downs. Ashleigh is well-read and she is able to effortlessly interject concepts from classic literature, but I especially enjoyed when she wove modern-day cult classics into her writing. It's not everyday that you can seamlessly slip in lines from The Princess Bride in reference to the challenges of marriage. But Ashleigh did it--and did it well!

Another aspect of this book that drew me in was how Ashleigh opened up about herself and allowed me to get to know her better. She was vulnerable and real. I could totally relate to her as she shared some of the heartaches she and Ted faced with loss, separation, struggles and cross-country moves. 

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I am no stranger to marriage struggles. I am a two-time divorcee, so I would be an expert at telling you what not to do. Reading Team Us: Marriage Together was so encouraging because Ashleigh and Ted are still deep in the trenches of a fairly young marriage, raising small children, and navigating this crazy thing called commitment. I am a billboard representation of giving up,offering criticism, and demanding things be done my way. Ashleigh beautifully paints the picture of marriage the way Christ intends it: with grace and love at the center. 

In addition to hearing from Ashleigh and Ted, I really enjoyed the other real-life scenarios presented by friends of the author. I found myself shaking my head and laughing out loud at some of the tongue-in-cheek stories and wiping away a tear at others. Team Us: Marriage Together is real stuff! This isn't the run-of-the-mill, seasoned married veteran looking back on their marriage after kids are grown (which is still invaluable insight), rather these are two people, knee-deep on the front-lines of the precarious balance of marriage and parenthood, trying to make sense of it all and honor each other the way Christ honors the church. 

Marriage is frustrating, tough, grueling, arduous, back-breaking work at times. But it is also enormously rewarding, fulfilling, and a beautiful picture of the way Christ loves us. Ashleigh beautifully expresses that in her book. 

After finishing Team Us: Marriage Together, I felt like I knew Ashleigh even better. I felt like she is someone who gets it and who I could easily sit cross-legged across from on a comfy couch at Starbucks, chatting about marriage and all its splendor and madness. And even though the book does not shy away from sharing Ashleigh and Ted's struggles and triumphs in boldness, it was a huge source of encouragement for me in my own marriage. 

I recommend this book for anyone: Single, considering marriage, not considering marriage, newly married, empty-nester, etc.

There is something in it for everyone.

And, excitedly, I have the opportunity for one of you to win a copy!

Contest begins today, June 2, 2014 and ends at 12:00 A.M. June 10, 2014. Must be 18 or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Winner will be selected and notified via email. Winner will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be selected. 

*I was provided an advanced-copy PDF version of Team Us: Marriage Toegther by Ashleigh Slater in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. 


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