Announcing Friday Friend-Day

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We have a lot of kids. So I’ve been told. A lot. And I agree. But I know exactly why God gave me so many.   That reason can best be summed up with a monologue from comedian Jim Gaffigan. In a profession where most of his colleagues are single, he is married……..with 5 children. Being asked the same question day after day he gives this hilarious answer:

“Why so many?! Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on ? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty four kids to be a pretty decent guy.”

I could not agree with Mr. Gaffigan more! Truly with each of my children God has revealed more of his character to me, and for that I feel blessed beyond what I deserve. But I was a very dumb teenager and a slightly less dumb 20 something, so God knew I was going to need more than just my children to show me who He wanted me to be. Without a doubt, His word, and fellowship with Him is my primary source of revelation, but as I am a visual person, and highly relationship oriented, God has placed in my life an incredibly diverse array of friends each with strengths and weaknesses vastly different than my own, but all distinctly common in their love for God and profound way of displaying His character to me. Another commonality between these friendships was that at some point the intensity of their personality  and/or their display of God’s image became too much for me, and I either walked away, or heavily considered it. And it wasn’t till these last few years that I began to see the sovereignty in it all.

You see, opposites attract. And I never understood the beauty of that as much as I have lately. The secret is to focus on  each others strengths. Glory in them. Emulate them. Praise them. At the very least acknowledge them. However, more often then not we focus on their weaknesses instead. I have almost lost friendships because of this human tendency. But God had bigger plans for me. Bigger than my pride. Bigger than my opinion. Bigger than my hurt feelings. And I am so grateful that His love never gives up on me!

These friends in my life were being used by God in a way that neither of us could have understood in the moment. It was in such a deeply intricate, almost covert way. Yes, God knows exactly how to mold us into his masterpiece without us even knowing! So with their permission, I have decided to share with you,one by one, some of the friends I have learned from and how I nearly missed out on the whole thing! Stay tuned next week for the very first Friday Friend Day.

How the Ashley Madison Hackers answered my prayer.

FearGod

Have you ever been shocked by an answered prayer? I have. I guess that shows a lack of faith, but it’s true. For instance when I told my son to pray for a dog, my motivation was selfish. I just wanted him to stop asking me, I didn’t actually want a dog. I mean, if I really believed in the power of prayer like I say I do, maybe I would have thought twice about my suggestion, especially since we are now the proud owners of a happy healthy boxer! Yes, God has a sense of humor!

A year and a half ago, however, I prayed a much more solemn prayer. After my pastor was caught in an affair(s), I made a very specific and desperate request to God.

“Please Lord, expose all that is hidden. Bring light to any other adulterous affairs, so that the body of Christ will grow. Remove the leaven.”

Three days later my prayer was answered with another affair exposed, and once again the answered prayer surprised me. It was not only fast but sadly personal. Nevertheless, I accepted the answer and even asked for more. I knew it was for the good of the body.  Since that day my prayer has been answered over and over. Yet every time I have been shocked and heart broken. Every time.

However we all know that  hypocritical living is not limited to Christians, right? Just today I got news about my beloved eye doctor, the man who had asked me “Which one is better? Is it one or two?” for the last 26 years.  The quirky guy with the high-waisted pants that made me laugh every visit. I found out that He was forced to retire. Forced? The assistant that delivered this news to me hinted at serious wrong doing. But how serious? I have to know. Who was this man? Was he merely being stubborn in his older age? Or was it financial? Or worse. Was it abuse? I guess you never really know someone do you? Another person I trusted. Another person I looked up to. Another liar?

At this point I had all but forgotten the prayer I lifted to heaven that day a year and a half ago. I just knew I had enough revelations for a while. Is anybody who they say there are?

“No more!!” I begged God.  I need a week, but would settle for just a days reprieve from finding out about one more person living a double life. My heart is tired.

Moments later I get a text about Josh Duggar. Seriously?

When I looked online I saw the unbelievable. 32 Million different adulterers exposed by a hero hacker.

Today I thought back to that prayer.

Honestly, I had no idea this prayer would even be answered once, never mind 32 Million times.

Although my first response was anger, my next was hope.

You see, yesterday I was sharing with my class of 10 homeschoolers the absolute need for the fear of God as stated in Proverbs 1.

As a child I could never get away with anything, I explained to a room of 12 year old tweens. Regularly I would hear about other kids deceiving their parents, and think, “man! I would totally get caught if I did that!” Because I did. Every time. My mom had a direct link to God, and it kept me in check. Getting caught so frequently sure instilled the fear of God  in my heart.  Just the other day I was faced with a decision to tell a “white lie” or tell the truth which in turn would lead to a  really difficult conversation. And the reality was that I wasn’t tempted for one second. This is not because I have such high moral character, but simply because I just know God. And I know I will get caught and have to face the consequences which would likely be more uncomfortable then just obeying.

As Christians, we need a renewed fear of God.  Is it possible that we have tried to focus so much on the grace of God that we have forgotten about the righteousness of God?

I have renewed hope, because maybe, just maybe, with this huge exposure, people will think twice before clicking on an adulterous website, whether actual or virtual. Maybe people will remember the verse, “Surely your sin will find you out,” instead of being fooled by the devil’s age old lies of “No, your marriage will not die,” or “No, your job will not die” or “No, your reputation will not die” because it will. Every time. And yes, our God does bring the dead back to life, but death causes a lot of pain. So why put your family/friends/coworkers through that? No instead, remember that God sees, and He will not be mocked. Step away from the temptation. Literally. Take drastic measures and honor God. Do the right thing because the wrong thing has consequences. And you will face them.

We all have hidden sin, stuff we would rather people not know about us. Whether it is “big” or “small” we do not have to be slaves to sin. Jesus wants to set us free! So take these warnings. Take these admonitions. Fear the Lord. And confess your sin one to another. Find a trusted friend. Open your heart and be vulnerable. Ask for accountability. And feel the freedom of obedience! Right now. Don’t let the moment pass you by. Wisdom is crying in the streets. Answer today.You will never regret the moment that you chose life over death. So choose life. For the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. 

Amen

What My Son Has Taught me about my Husband.

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Some of the most powerful lessons I have learned as an adult have come straight from the mouths of babes, as they say. They have revealed parts of my character both good and not so good. Seeing your sin acted out in front of you can be eye opening and truly humbling. (and not humbling in the “I am so humbled to accept this award” kind of way AT ALL) Not only do they act like me, for better or worse, but with brown hair and brown eyes, most people tend to say they also look a lot like me too.

Enter the fifth child. Having light eyes at birth, that slowly darkened, still to the lightest of the browns, he had the best chance of looking like his father. What I didn’t know at that time was how much he would act like him too.

Listening to the radio one day I heard a program discussing the personality types of your children. “Your introvert child will be the first one to say ‘Can we go home now?” Stopping in my tracks, I immediately thought of our little 2 year old who would utter some form of that phrase anytime we went anywhere. I have an introvert?? I wondered. How was this possible! His four older siblings, along with myself, are always looking for the next party! Typically, when we pick up the kids from the grandparents after a date night, Paul and I are met with moans and requests to “come back later!” from 4/5 of our brood, but not #5. He is typically waiting by the door with his backpack ready to get back home. Knowing that my husband and my littlest are so similar I started to work backwards and concluded to my more intuitive friend “I think Paul’s an introvert!” To which she responded, “Ya think??” Right. That only took me 12 years!

To say our fifth child also loves to cuddle is quite an understatement. Most of our kids, and even our dog, are very cuddly. But the littlest takes it to a new level. More often than not, before the morning comes, he will have sneaked into our queen sized bed, draping his arm around my neck and/or trapping my legs under his. Then when I wake up he looks me right in the eyes and tells me “I love you. And your pwetty.” Swoon.

William also has a tender heart. He feels things deeply. If he gets hurt and you try to tell him, “your fine, honey” he will not accept it. “I am not fine because it hurts!” he will correct you. He loves deeply and shares his heart freely.

One day I was thinking about my little boy’s future, and praying that he would have a wife that appreciated his cuddles, his need for an escape from the crowd, his tender heart and his encouraging words. I want a wife for him that loves him as God designed him, someone that can see who God is shaping him to be while encouraging him as he works out his own salvation. I prayed for someone who would love him and give herself for him, looking to serve more than to be served. And as I prayed for the wife I wanted for him, and knowing how what a clone he is of his father, I couldn’t help but reflect on whether or not I was the kind of wife for which I prayed. To be sober-minded would be to admit that in some ways I am, but in some ways I am not.

Taking my husbands strengths for granted and harping on his weaknesses is a trap I have fallen into more than once. And sometimes it is just easier to believe it when a 4 year old says you’re pretty than a grown man who is well acquainted with all of your imperfections.

But because of that moment, because of my son(s), I am learning more and more to see my husband in light of who God has designed him to be. I am beginning to accept the fact that it’s possible for Paul to see me at my worst, and still see beauty because of his love for me. I am seeing the importance of being the wife to my husband that I dream of for my boys. Not perfect, but walking together towards the Lord with humility and love, knowing that He who began a good work in each of us will be faithful to complete it!

And because any good blog about marriage needs some good Tim Keller quotes, here are 2 of my favs from “The Meaning of Marriage.”

“When over the years someone has seen you at your worst, and knows you with all your strengths and flaws, yet commits him- or herself to you wholly, it is a consummate experience. To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

“Within this Christian vision of marriage, here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of what God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to his throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!”

The Pentalito Burrito

The McSorley Burritos

Dianna, Jenn Penn, and me -circa 1999 (cue Prince song)

Whenever people nervously tell me about their wayward teenager, I try to offer them hope by letting them know what a dumb teenager I was. There was no massive “moral failing” to speak of, just a consistent inability to think of anyone other than myself combined with a lot of dumb choices.  But *that* is the topic of another blog. This is not confession time. 🙂 Having a mother that prayed incessantly for me inevitably drew me out of *some* of my stupidity. However, God knew I was going to need more tangible help.

So what did He do? For 3 out of my 4 years in college, He gave me a roommate that was studying psychology.  Three different years. Three entirely different sets of roommates. Yet every year at least one of them was a psych major. And boy did they have a case study in me!

The resident psychologist for my junior year was none other than Jenn Pentalow, now known as Jennifer McSorley. I don’t know how she endured me. She was just few years older, but worlds away in life experience and perspective. She was my prayer partner, my advice giver, my clothes sharer, and tear wiper. And, as it turned out, the absolute best burrito maker! There isn’t a whole lot I remember from college, because, ya know, I have “mom-nesia.”  I barely remember what I ate yesterday! But those burritos. They left an indelible mark on my soul. And so easy!! And healthy…..ish. They have spinach people. That should count for something!

The Jenn Penn Burrito (Makes about 9-10 burritos)

1.5- pounds of ground beef (or ground turkey)

1- 10 oz block of frozen chopped spinach

1.5- cups of mexican or cheddar cheese

1- 8 oz jar of salsa

1 tsp -chili powder

1 tsp -cumin

.5 tsp -salt

10 Burrito sized tortillas

Defrost and squeeze out the the spinach while browning the beef.

wrap the stack of torillas in aluminum foil and throw in the oven at 350 degrees.

Add spices (chili powder, cumin, salt), add spinach, salsa, and cheese to the ground beef.

When it is all mixed together, scoop 1/3 cup of the mixture into a warmed tortilla. Fold two sides in, then fold the other two sides for a perfect square! Hooray! Math!

Why I Want my Children to Judge.

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Judging has gotten a bad rap these days. Don’t judge! Judge not! Jesus said so. Our society has so fully bought into this mantra that we have people walking around that literally do not know right from wrong in any capacity. They would even argue that there is no right or wrong. There is only “right for you.” However, there clearly is a time where we need to exercise good judgment and make judgment calls. This begs the questions how and when.

As a child, I remember making two specific judgments. One turned out to be right and one was woefully wrong. One had to do with an action, and one had to do with a person.

My first judgment was that smoking stunk. Literally. You see, my dad was part of a generation that believed smoking was a rite of passage. He started this nasty habit at the ripe ol’ age of 12. And it turned out to be a hard…habit to break, as Chicago would put it. Going to sleepovers meant enduring the “Ewws” and “Your pillow stinks” comments from my friends. Going out to dinner meant riding in a car filled with smoke which rendered my perfume application a useless ritual.

Smoking stinks, I observed.

I don’t want to stink, I realized.

I will never smoke, I concluded.

At that age and stage I made another judgment, but this one was about the smoker. You see, the older I got the more I learned about this thing called second-hand smoke. From what I understood, the people that lived with a smoker were in as much danger or more than the person actually lighting up.

Breathing second hand smoke hurts your body, I understood.

If you love someone you don’t hurt them, I knew.

My dad doesn’t love me, I concluded.

I struggled with this conclusion. On an emotional level I knew it couldn’t be true. But logically, I knew it had to be.

As a child, I made the same mistake many adults are making today. I equated a person with their actions.

The one that is pointing their finger too often says, “You are making bad choices, therefore you are bad.”

To make themselves feel better the moralist declares, “I am not making that bad choice, and you are, therefore you are bad and I am good. Ahhhh.”

However the one making wrong choices can be equally guilty of this same faulty connection. They say “If you call my choices bad, then you are saying I am a bad person. Therefore you cannot call my choices bad.”

The liberal denies the distinction between an action and a person with the goal of removing all moral boundaries.

“…… judging other individuals, is, as we all know, dangerous and forbidden by Christ Himself because judging persons as distinct from actions is God’s prerogative. Of course that does not forbid us to judge actions, for to do that would undermine all morality.” (Peter Kreeft)
As a child, I didn’t understand the science behind a smoking addiction whether psychologically or physically. If I did, I would have realized that my second judgment wasn’t entirely fair. There were too many factors to dare assume that because my dad smoked, he didn’t really love me. However, it would be equally wrong to abstain from making the judgment that the act of smoking was wrong. Maybe that’s why we are told to judge rightly, but not to judge (condemn) people (Luke 12:57)

If I had never judged the action, I would have likely become a smoker myself, perpetuating the same sin and harmful consequences as my dad. Even though he did eventually have the strength and resolve to quit smoking, he is now missing half a lung as one of the few lung cancer survivors. On the other hand, if I would have continued to judge the person, I would have missed out on the relationship I now have with my father that is the source of so much joy. Whether you are the one judging an action or the one whose actions are being judged, it would behoove you to remember this truth. The worth of a person is not equivalent to the quality of their actions. We are allowed to disagree with an action, and even distance ourselves from the person sinning. But we are also encouraged to remember that we are all created in the Imago Dei, the image of God, and remember that there but for the grace of God go I. It is my true hope that my children will judge rightly in accordance with the Word of God so that they will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.