I’m feeling 22.

This actually happened. I knew it would happen, and I couldn’t wait to see when and where it would happen. Here’s why:

I love the number twenty two.

When I played volleyball in high school I choose the number 22. Or maybe it chose me. Kidding.
But seriously. Maybe.
That was the beginning.

I had my 22nd birthday in Germany, away from all my family and friends, while listening to Switchfoot sing these words in my headphones:

“It’s my birthday tomorrow
No one here could know
I was born this Thursday
22 years ago”

When I met Paul, he was 22.
We were married in ’02, on the 22nd of March. ( We wanted the 15th, but it was booked.)
Our flight number for our honeymoon- 222
First child, also, ’02.
The building number of our first home? #2
Our mortgage used to have  2222 in it.
Debit card # had 2222 in it.

It happens so often, yet it’s always kind of shocking. For instance, one day, on our way to our homeschool group we were mulling over what to say as it was our turn to take the stage at chapel to introduce our family. Deciding what to share about myself for the 5th year in a row, I decided to go for quirky, and share my affinity for the number 2. Moments later we pulled behind a car with a license plate that made everyone in the car break out in disbelieving laughter. Smack in the middle of the plate read the numbers 222.

I can’t make this stuff up!

Then there was the time our family of seven was taking the trip of a lifetime across the country from Florida to Cali to visit my old college roomie. Of course we hit a few bumps in the road, and I was stressed about getting to her house “on time.” So I plugged in her address to map quest to see when we would get there and couldn’t believe what I saw…..Arrival time? 2:22

And I can’t leave out the book, “The More of Less,” by Joshua Becker that changed our lives in such a beautiful and profound way. I write about it here. . Wanna guess how many pages are in the book?

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So as the odometer on our old faithful Toyota Sienna turned closer and closer to those fateful numbers, I asked (read harassed) Paul daily….did you miss it??? I need a picture!!! This is more rare than a blood moon people!

And then it happened.

The last number turned. 222,222. And because he loves his crazy wife, he pulled over to take the picture.
So where was he?

He was on his way from Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale to our new church home, Calvary Chapel Midtown, on his first day of work as a Pastor there fulfilling a dream and calling that has been on his life for as long as I have known him.

And it couldn’t be more perfect, because I serve such a personal God.

He made me a weird math nerd. And so he humors me. And He does things for me that are special even though they seem silly to some. It is the big things and the small that make me say with Peter in John 6-

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Running for my life- Why accountability matters.

I have 5 children. Have I mentioned that before? They are the joy of my life. And I don’t mean that in a cliché way, but in the truest sense of the words. No matter how bad of a mood I am in, when my 4 year old boy tells me I am “Super super duper PWETTY!!” everything is ok. Or when I watch my 11 year old girl turning into a young lady right before my eyes, my heart is glad!
However….
Our children also provide me with the most challenges. Raising children is nothing if not a roller-coaster of emotions. It is for that reason my favorite thing to do at the end of the day is go for a run…….by myself. When I time it right, dinner is almost ready and can be kept warm, daddy comes home, we kiss, I pass the baton, and run out the door- literally. My run takes me west, so if I am especially lucky I run right off into the sunset. Endorphins start pumping and the stress/joys of the day get all worked out in 2.12 miles. But sometimes I don’t plan so well, and I get to day 5 with no running and start to feel the need, although not necessarily the “want.”
Like today.
It’s Saturday morning and I would much rather make some tea and sit on my rocking chair on the front porch. But my body is singing another song. I know I need a work out so I call to the kids, “Get your bikes ready, we are going for a run/bike ride!”
This is the first layer of accountability.
1. Tell Someone.
I really didn’t want to run, but I knew if I told them, their excitement and drive would keep me on track. (Read: If I changed my mind I would have to endure 5 children wining!)
Normally taking the kids means I go slower. (Picture herding cats.) Recently, however, the littlest one got a bigger bike which helps him go faster. On the down side, however, he barely fits on it which makes dismounting a little tricky. Basically I have to be right next to him when he stops or he freaks out. Usually this is not a problem speed wise as I am the one cheering him a long.
”C’mon William, you can do it! A little faster 🙂 Mommy needs a good work out!” However the last time we went I noticed his tires were a little flat. Apparently that was the problem because after pumping them up this morning, he rode like the wind!
To add to the intrigue I brought the dog. Apparently I am crazy.
This provided the second layer of accountability. 
2. Choose someone faster than you.
I didn’t realize I had done this. I thought I was safe with William. But his newly pumped up tires actually made him faster than me! I found myself running for my life, or his, realizing I had to catch up with him before his next stop! All the while I had a crazy boxer puppy trying to kill me by criss-crossing in front of me. I was so tempted to stop the whole thing. I was tired. This was not the run I had planned. I did not want to run this hard and I had not anticipated the obstacles. Then I remembered my goal. I wanted a good work out and actually thought my kids were going to slow me down. Yet here they were, charging me forward, providing the training that I thought I wanted, and all I wanted to do was yell “STOP!!”
But I didn’t. I remembered the goal. Get in shape. I remembered the means. Running hard. And I relinquished control. Somehow we think that we can cruise through life and still become who God wants us to be. We read about a refining fire, clay that needs to be heated, a race that needs to be run with endurance, and yet we despair when the obstacles come. This is the only way to the heart of God, to join in the fellowship of His sufferings.
When we finally crossed the finish line into the driveway, I felt so good. Knowing I had run faster than I had anticipated, I couldn’t wait to check my “Run Keeper.”
This brings us to the third layer of accountability.

3. Keep Track.

When I checked the running app I found out I had cut 23 seconds off my 2 mile run. I had zero expectations of improving my time while wrangling 5 kids and a dog. But God knew. And now I knew because I had been keeping track. This running app has been the best thing for my running. So many times in our lives we think we are doing better, eating better, working out better, loving better. But without some type of assessment, the reality is that we normally give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. If you asked me how many times a week I run, I would probably tell you about 3. But when I check my app the results don’t tell the same story. The app encourages me when I make progress, and gives me a check when I miss the mark.
As a math teacher another example comes to mind. How many times do math students say they understood the material, until they took the test?
Right after I finished typing that last sentence one of my blessings came up to me with a math test she had taken. She missed a few. She had no idea she didn’t understand the math. Isn’t God funny? His timing always amazes me.
“I hate tests!” she let me know. And I can relate. It can be really painful when we find out that we weren’t quite as right as we thought we were. Sometimes we feel like a child or situation “makes” us impatient. Or a coworker “makes” us lose our temper. But the reality is those feelings were there all the time. What if I didn’t keep track of my children’s test scores? How would I measure progress?
Growth is not easy. Making yourself vulnerable to another person is hard. Continuing on when you want to give up is not the norm. But God never intended for us to go it alone. In fact He said it was not good for man to be alone.
Ecclesiastes 4:10 For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.
    Pray that the Lord would give you a trusted friend. And then take the plunge. Confide in them. Allow them to pull you up. Choose someone who isn’t afraid to tell you the truth in love. You don’t need a venting partner. You need someone who loves you enough to tell you hard things, but won’t heap judgment on you either. And write it down. A journal. A blog. A chart. On your phone. Anything. This allows you to see God working. Over and over the Israelites were told to write it down and remember! We are so forgetful.
    God is so good. He knows just what we need! He knew I needed a run. But you may have needed some time on the couch!! And that is ok too! I am praying for you today, that God would send you that person to hold you up and bring you closer to the finish line!

A Critical Critique of Criticism- I Samuel 31

So the craziest thing happened this week. I was being critical of my husband.
I wish I could say that was the unusual part, but sadly it was not. I’ll get to the crazy part in a minute.
But first, confession time.
More often than not, my problem solving, black and white, over analyzing brain comes in handy. However, on the “not” side I struggle with being critical. The strange thing is I am more critical of my own self than I am of anyone else. God is freeing me, little by little.
Being critical is obviously wrong. Except when it’s not so obvious. For instance, often times we may have good motives. Take my beloved, late, great-aunt. Truly, her motives were good. She legitimately wanted to help. But her methods could appear critical. Here’s an example. Just today my mom and I were remembering how I finally got braces. My teeth weren’t awful. They were mostly straight, but I had this one tooth that did not quite fit. One tooth. Of course that was enough for which the boys to tease me.
Sabe. Short for sabor, as in the tiger, with the teeth.
Nice nickname huh? I like to believe the teasing I received during those years taught me grace and compassion. But as a middle-schooler, it just really stunk. Anyway, my sweet, well intentioned aunt would ask me weekly if that tooth had settled in. After the 36th time, during my senior year, I finally smiled and said, “I think this is as good as it gets. But if you would like to sponsor some braces, I will gladly make an appointment.”
“Make the appointment.”she declared without hesitation. “ I’ll take care of it.” And that was it. I got braces.
Was she critical? Yes, but her motives were true, and she was willing to help.
So I guess I come by it honestly. Critiquing. It’s human nature. Monday morning quarter backs. Blogs criticizing any and everything. Editorials. It’s what we do. But it can kill any marriage, any relationship, or any church, and on the grand scale, make this bride of Christ look less than bridely.
And I was doing it.
Again.
“Lord,” I thought. “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
Knowing my strength comes from God’s word,  I decided  to grab my Bible.
What are the chances that in I Samuel 31, my next chapter, God would have a lesson for me? I remembered reading about being an armor bearer  earlier this year and wondered, would that concept be revisited.
A little discouraged, but mostly determined, I picked up my Bible and read. Tears in my eyes, and an overwhelming feeling of being loved in my heart, I could not believe what I was reading. How, over and over, does this keep happening? God’s word. My daily bread. Just what I need.
This is what I read. This is the crazy part.
 The Philistines fought against Israel, and Israel’s men fled from them. Many were killed on Mount Gilboa. 2 The Philistines overtook Saul and his sons and killed his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua. 3 When the battle intensified against Saul, the archers caught up with him and severely wounded him.[a] 4 Then Saul said to his ARMOUR_BEARER. “Draw your sword and run me through with it, or these uncircumcised men will come and run me through and torture me.” But his armor-bearer WOULD NOT DO IT ….
Saul had an armor-bearer. He was trained to do whatever Saul commanded. And in his moment of utter despair Saul asked his armor-bearer to take his life. But he couldn’t. In this moment,when it came to choosing between following orders, or preserving his master’s life, Saul’s armor-bearer chose the latter.
He would not and could not take part in destroying the man to whom he had committed to serve.
Even if it made sense. Even if his motives would have been right.
And this is the power of God’s Word. I started writing this a week ago and have been meditating on it ever since. If you only knew the number of times it has come to mind, how many times God reminded me of what I had read, and how many times these words stopped me in my tracks, well, it would be embarrassing.
But the point is not my weak nature, the point is the power of His Word to change.
It’s easy to say, “Don’t be critical.” But there is no power in my words. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to depend on my words. You have better than that. You have God’s word. And it does not return void.
The next time you are tempted to be critical of anyone, yourself included, take it to God first. What is the point of your criticism? To make yourself feel better? Going to God will solve that! Is it to “help” a person or situation? Going to God will solve that too!! Of course there is a time and a place to step into someones life and lovingly address an area that in so doing would bring them closer to God. But that never looks like harsh or angry criticism.
I want to be a true armor-bearer.
For my husband, my children, my friends and family. I pray that we would go to our knees when our reaction is critical. I pray that we would take our concerns, our burdens, our plans to Him first. And that we would go to God’s word which is active and living and sharper than any two edged sword. Always. And watch the light of the Lord dispel the darkness of sin every time.

Mama said there’d be days like these…. I Samuel 30

I Samuel 30-Friday, October 3
I have been having a week.  I am pretty sure you understand because I have seen you at the store, and you look as tired as me. And when I ask how you are doing, you tell me the truth. Life is not easy. There are many blessings. Many. And I try to squeeze the guts out of all of them. But in this world you will have troubles. That was a promise. From God made flesh. I don’t always ask God why. In fact, I hardly do. But today I did.
What is going on, Lord? What do you want me to do?
Oh, right. I know the answer to that one. It is the same answer He has graciously, lovingly, generously pointed me to over and over, especially this last year.
Go to the Word.
And I know. I know that an answer awaits.
So I open the next chapter. Chapter 30 and read this:
 David and his men arrived in Ziklag on the third day. The Amalekites had raided the Negev and attacked and burned down Ziklag. 2 They also had kidnapped the women and everyone in it from the youngest to the oldest. They had killed no one but had carried them off as they went on their way.
3 When David and his men arrived at the town, they found it burned down. Their wives, sons, and daughters had been kidnapped. 4 David and the troops with him wept loudly until they had no strength left to weep. 5 David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had also been kidnapped. 6 David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters.
That is a bad week. Awful. David was kicked out of Philistia into the fire.
Ready or not.
And just as he feared, everything was heading south.
Family? Gone.
Belongings? Gone.
Friends? Ready to stone him.
Yet how did he respond?
But David found strength in the Lord his God.
Yes. David. Of course you did. Of course I can. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to agree. I don’t have to know how on earth I am going to do this. But I can stop. And find strength in the Lord. I can. I will. But how?
7 David said to Abiathar the priest, son of Ahimelech, “Bring me the ephod.” So Abiathar brought it to him, 8 and David asked the Lord: “Should I pursue these raiders? Will I overtake them?”

The Lord replied to him, “Pursue them, for you will certainly overtake them and rescue the people.”

As I keep seeing this “Ephod” in scripture, I realized I didn’t quite understand the significance/symbolism and how it relates to us today. This is what I found out.

The Ephod was a garment the high priest put on before going to the altar.
David saying “Bring me the Ephod” is like me saying, “Someone go get my guitar!!!! We need to worship, people!”
More importantly, we know Christ is our great High Priest (Hebrews 8:1-6). The ephod is symbolic of Him. The colors point to His deity, the blood He shed, and His royalty.
When the priests put on their ephods, they were putting on Christ! And Jesus made the Way to the Father possible for all men. We can therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, to obtain mercy and find grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Here is where God blows my mind once again.
Three days earlier, I was distracted, annoyed, fighting bitterness in my heart. And I felt the Lord telling me to get my guitar. Fine. But I don’t know where any of my sheet music is, or my ipad. What am I going to play? Reluctantly, I grabbed my guitar off the hook on the wall and walked into my bedroom. And stood there. Staring. Waiting. And then. Just like that, a song started playing in my head. A Bible verse I had put to music months ago,playing clear as day in my head. You might recognize the words:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

I must have sang and played it ten times that night. My bitterness gone. My spirit lifted. My soul strengthened. In the Lord.
My mom is always right. “Turn on your praise music,” she says. “A garment of praise casts off a spirit of heaviness,” she says. And it turns out, she was right. 
Here is the song that was in my head so now it can be in yours! 🙂
 *****EDITED Saturday, October 4th TO ADD…..
 Jesus wasn’t done. Every once and a while I feel compelled to write. Sometimes I find out why, mostly I don’t. Last night was one of those nights when I.had.to.type.

 Worship. 

This was God’s word for me. He whispered to me in my spirit a week ago as He led me to sing a song in the privacy of my bedroom erasing anxiety, pain, and the sadness that can sometimes be contained in the everyday trials of life.  Then a few days ago He showed me through the life of David as he put on his Ephod, his garment of praise, strengthening his spirit and finding direction. I heard the words of my mom (yes moms, your words have life way beyond the moment) telling me that “Praise stills the avenger.”  So I wrote. I wrote to cement these lessons into my brain. I wrote to organize my thoughts, and I wrote to declare His glory, because He is so full of Glory. I marveled at how He had been weaving my circumstances together as He laid out this tapestry of grace before my eyes. I thought He was done. I loved my lesson. 

But today. 

Today was a memorial service for a very special lady. She lived out the Gospel in joy and with purpose. Her faith. Her faith was as limitless as her God. Her outer beauty was documented regularly all over the world, but it didn’t hold a candle to the beauty of Jesus love lived out in her. The light in her smile was lit with the power of the Holy Spirit, and every moment was a moment to shine for Christ. Even in her last months, weeks, and days, through years of incredible pain and suffering, there was one thing that every person who spoke of Ashleigh today referred to. 

Her love for worship.

 The intricacy of God’s design is sometimes easily missed. But not today. Today I marvel at the twists and turns. I take note of His awesome glory as He tells His story of redemption and Sovereignty.

 You see it was years ago that I heard Ashleigh teach a lesson I never forgot. She spoke on the power of a purposed devotional life. 
Every day she would pour into scripture and write down 3 things. 
1) God’s character displayed
2) An area in her life that needed to be molded in to that character trait
3) what she was going to do to be transformed into His image. An action plan.

 She shared countless stories of how God took those daily lessons and brought constant opportunities to minister to others through the power of his word. It was this small teaching that comes to mind every time I sit down at God’s feet to meditate on His word. Her faithful example has so impacted me and changed me through the cleaning power of Scripture.  Every devo blog I have written has been influenced by those powerful words I took to heart all those years ago. 

This can’t be missed.

All week God has been teaching me about the power of worship.

Sunday night He quietly led me to my guitar to show me in tangible way the power of worship in my own life. 

Wednesday-Friday He shows me in scripture the power of worship in David’s life.

Then today, He displays to me and hundreds with me, the power of worship in the life and death of one of his saints. But not just any life. The very woman who God used to influence the way I study the Bible, the way I just blogged about worship. 

The title of this blog, Apologista, exemplifies my goal for it. To persuade and prove to all the reality of Christ’s deity. However, I have come to understand that the real proof happens in our hearts when we watch Him move, and love, and orchestrate experiences that we could not have imagined. Yes, Ashleigh is in heaven now. Her healing took place there. But you could not speak with her for one moment without knowing that every day of her life was filled with miracles proclaiming the power of the gospel and as I learned today, the power of worship. 

I have seen God today in a manner I will never forget. I have experienced His presence in the most undeniable ways. I pray that you too will dig into His word. Look for His character. Watch Him radically change you and your world around you. And live a life of worship that could never be denied.