Burning Down the House.

Time after time, the Lord has used the words that I preach to my children, to pierce my own heart. Today it happened again, but this time, the urgency behind His message stopped me in my tracks.  And in that moment, I could hardly breath at the thought of how great His love is for me.
It’s Monday. I knew that going into today. So I even took some steps to curb the Mondayness of the day, like extra cuddling, and an extra cup of tea.  However, there is no completely erasing the power of Monday. Consequently, as I rotated another laundry load I heard more fighting, more whining, more bickering coming from the kitchen. As my temper rose, I forged into their midst only to see them fighting and pushing and pulling IN FRONT OF A HOT STOVE. Dear Lord. That is it. What on earth could be that important?
After separating and assessing , I launched into the following lecture:

Do you have any idea how dangerous that was?

Do you know how bad a burn hurts?
You think that scratch hurt yesterday? That’s nothing. A burn doesn’t stop hurting. It burns and burns and burns.
What could be that important?
(And then the finale…)
It is amazing what you will sacrifice to get your own way!
Walking away after I doled out the consequences, I was still irritated, still frustrated, still discouraged. However, it doesn’t take long for my mind to wander. With the idea of pain still thick in the air, my mind landed upon a different type of pain. My thoughts went to all the pain around me stemming from divorce. My heart breaks for the women that gave all they could. My soul mourns for the men that were betrayed and left broken. But mostly my mind turns to the children, some that are too young to understand. They only know that it hurts, some just old enough to blame themselves, but all forever impacted.

So what? What can be done? How does this change? It seems impossible. I pray, nearly every day for miracles in those homes already divided. I have seen God do the impossible. Over and over. So I don’t give up hope. I regularly beg God for a miracle. Yet divorce after divorce is the modern day reality.  And while some are caused by dramatic one time events that destroy their union, most divorces? The cause? Irreconcilable differences. One difference after another. Little and big. Daily. Moment by moment. Differences. Little foxes that spoil the vine. The straw, a tiny straw that finally broke the camels back after hundreds of tiny, stupid, little straws. Then I think of my own marriage. Even with a man as wonderful as my own, we are different. So almost constantly we see things differently. And yes, way too often, I want my own way. For what?

And in my spirit I hear the Lord say:
Do you know how dangerous that is?
Do you have any idea how bad divorce hurts?
Do you think not getting your way is painful? That is nothing. Divorce doesn’t stop hurting. It hurts and hurts and hurts.
What could be that important?
And then, the final blow…
It is amazing what you will sacrifice to get your own way.
Divorce starts at every disagreement. Ever selfish insistence. Every disrespectful comment. Every unloving gesture. All those little tiny seemingly insignificant straws. Until, it breaks the marriage in two.
DISCLAIMER: I am not talking about Abuse, Addiction, or Adultery. Those are not little straws by any means. But I am talking about the little things I hear ladies complain about. Personality differences, temperament differences, perspective differences.
So my challenge to myself and everyone is this. Stop. Stop being offended. Remember why you chose your spouse. Choose to love. Choose to respect. Let go of control. Give it to God. Every moment. Every decision. Speak in love. Treat kindly. And remember what you are risking, when you insist on getting your own way. 
 “Be completely humble and gentle; Be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”- Ephesians 4:2-3

Since you asked…….

Everywhere we go we are asked the same questions about our large family. So one year as a Christmas letter I decided to answer the top ten. Ya know, like “Are they all yours?”…. “Are you Catholic?”….  “What kind of car do you drive?” But the number one question we get asked hands down is “How do you do it?”

The answer to that for us is simple. God.  However, when I expressed that answer to a woman at the library the other day, she didn’t stop there like most. She went further. “How exactly does God come into play?” she asked maybe a little, doubtful, but genuine.
“Well,” I answered,  “He gives us peace when it’s crazy, patience, when we have had enough, and wisdom, when we don’t know what to do.” She seemed slightly, like, “ok, maybe.” and started to walk away, but not before I slipped her a little folded up piece of paper.

When I was little, my mom used to hand out Bible tracts. She gave them to waitresses and bag boys with a nice tip. She gave them to the cashier to read on her break. Just about anyone, was someone, with whom my mom wanted to share Jesus. You see,  my mom was that person once. She was seeking. And one day, a woman, who also wanted to share Jesus, picked my mom’s name out of the phone book and offered her a free hair cut. My mom has never been one to turn down a free anything so she went, and got her free hair cut. but also got freedom from sin. My mom was seeking. And just like that, because someone else was willing to share, she found Peace.

A few months after Christmas I got the idea to turn our Christmas letter into a tract. I was so excited. I ran it by my editor, (Paul) and my campus pastor and got the thumbs up. Now, when people ask us these questions, instead of worrying about the negative way they sometimes refer to my blessings, it has become fun way for us to turn the tables. Instead of bracing for the questions, or the stares, or even just the curious onlooker, we are now looking for them!! Who will ask one of the questions! We fold them up like a little card and on the front it says “Since you asked…..”

The reason this is so exciting for me is that if you hand someone a regular tract, they might read it, but they might not. However, in our case, if these people are already curious enough to ask a stranger in the middle of the grocery store questions about her personal life, then they are going to be curious enough (read nosy) to read the whole darn thing! Right down to all the good stuff about Jesus!

So why am I sharing this with you? Well, despite the dangerously declining birthrate in America (topic for another blog!) I have SO MANY FRIENDS with big (3 or more kids ) families. Truly, if you have 3 kids, you have been asked most of these questions! And a lot of these same friends also love sharing about Jesus. So I wanted to make this available to you, big family people out there, so that you could adapt it, make it your own, and also start sharing with people the truth of how we do it!! Since they asked! Seriously, think about how many times a week you get asked these question and all those opportunities to share the gospel? Let’s do it!  (A google document is at the bottom. Email me if it doesn’t work or if you have a more efficient way of sharing. I am no techie, that is for sure!)

p.s. There are so many ways to adapt this. Even as Christians we can get tired of answering the same questions about  a certain part of our lives.  Consider how you can instead use that to share what makes you who you are in Christ, even if it is not in writing like this.

1 Peter 3:15

15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 

****For best results click  on the link below, then click on File > Download As > Word doc, or whatever format you choose.****


Finding true value at Publix

We finished checking out at Publix the other day, me and my traveling party, and an older man decided to give me all his best one liners, and I have heard them all. First he did the standard count with the face of disbelief….”One, two, THREE, FOUR, FIVE???” Then the predictable “ARE THEY ALL YOURS?” with the bewildered head shake. But he ended with a snide sounding (to me) “Well, that must be expensive.” And for some reason that one bothered me. Not a lot of comments bother me. I know that most people are just curious, and have to say *something*. We are an anomaly, and I get it. I welcome it. I am proud of my family and grateful beyond words. But this one got under my skin. Maybe I was just tired, no, actually I am always tired. Maybe it’s hormonal. But maybe… just maybe it was because I know what they are worth. I mean, for Pete’s sake, did he say that to the woman in front of him, with $50,000 of plastic surgery? Or the woman behind him, with a bazillion dollar purse?? So immediately there I was, walking out the door, annoyed at myself for not thinking quicker on my feet with a smart response. So I pushed that basket, covered in children, out to the parking lot, trying to think of “comebacks” for the next time…I hate being unprepared 😉 I came up with this one…….”It is expensive, but we are really rich, so its fine” (fyi, this is untrue, as if you needed that disclaimer) But no, I hate to be that way. If I really am blessed beyond measure, then I am the one that should be extending grace to those that are frankly just clueless. And that’s when it happened..I got it!! I had the perfect retort, which pretty much insured no one would ever say it to me again! But ….as God would have it, just after I had the last child seat-belted into our vehicle, who should be strolling by us in the parking lot, but that man!!! So I sweetly got his attention and smiling from ear to ear I said “They are not ‘expensive’, they are *valuable* and not only that, but they produce a much greater return then what most people invest in.” Tadaaaa!!! Nice huh?? But yeah, this guy totally wasn’t even listening to me, ha! I think he was still counting! He looked right passed me and my sage-like comment, into the car. “They are SO CUTE!” he said and we struck up a friendly conversation. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed that my brilliant one liner, I was so proud of, pretty much hit the pavement flat. And it wasn’t till today that I realized that the reminder….. of their worth….and how important our investment is….that reminder was for me.
8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Galatians 6:8-10

Are you ready for a fight?

  So much sadness in this world is brought on simply because we are not fighting.
I heard this verse at a Bible study the other night and I wanted to jump up and scream YES!!! AMEN!!! PREACH IT!!  but it wasn’t that type of study. I might have been hauled out of the room. Here is the verse:
Nehemiah 4:14
After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “DON’T be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is GREAT and AWESOMEand FIGHT for your FAMILIES, your SONS and your DAUGHTERS, your WIVES and your HOMES.”
Think for a second about the things for which we fight. 
We fight through hoards of people on Black Friday for a deal. 
We fight through lines at Disney World to put temporary smiles on our children’s faces. 
We fight through a work day to earn money to get stuff. 
We fight with customer service people because our computer/phone/car needs to be fixed now. 
We fight with loved ones to get our way. 
We fight.
But sometimes, we forget what it is for which we should really be fighting until it is too late and we have lost everything that matters most without even realizing we were at war.
Some things make me feel old, like….well…people younger than me. But the reality is I am young. Very young. And my children are still little. So one might think it is easy for me to say the things I am going to say while I don’t yet have a teenager under my roof or a wayward son whom I raised to make better choices than he is making. Please know that I know this. But…. God’s word is true, no matter the age of the person proclaiming it. I mean, Jeremiah, was like 20. And we Christians sure love us some Jeremiah 29:11!
So here goes.
 It seems to me that very few people are fighting for their families anymore. And from what I have seen,there is one major, glaring reason why…..
They don’t know they are supposed to be fighting!
Naive newlyweds promise things that simply won’t happen spontaneously.
Misguided parents expect unspeakable joy without hair pulling hard times.
And even adult children (hand raised) expect parental approval with no judgement.
But none of these things are going to just….. happen. None.
A good marriage is hard work, and quite often one person works harder than the other.
Raising children is not for the faint at heart. Those kids are miniature copies of us, for better or worse, and often magnify the very things about ourselves with which we struggle.
So what is the solution? Well, this is not a self help book, but I do have 2 suggestions.
1. Don’t expect easy. Expectations can be our biggest enemy.
2. FIGHT!!! Starting now. The battle rages daily. Seen and unseen. If you wait for an apparent attack to start fighting, you have an uphill battle on your hands.
Ok, fine, I’ll fight, you concede,  But how?
While there are many great books on their on raising a godly family. The most important step is also the most ignored and underrated.
Example: My mother.
Some of you know her, and just nodded your head and thought, “yup. enough said.” But for those that don’t have the pleasure of her acquaintance, allow me to explain.
I hated going to bed as a child, and yes, I still do.
Nearly every night, at the regular time I would stumble out of my room, look down into the living room and see my mother, in her lavender robe ( satin in the summer, fleece in the winter) knitting and praying. This is what she does. Pray and knit. She has given out more “prayer blankets” to new babies than I could begin to count.
If they updated the Bible with pictures, hers would be next to James 5:18, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man (woman) availeth much”
That woman has moved mountains. I have stories. I have seen it with my own eyes. She has always known there was a war raging. Always.
Pray with your husband, or trusted friends, or family. Pray by yourself. Just pray.

The full battle plan is found in Ephesians 6. Read it. I know, you have read it before, read it again. Print it out. Stick it on your fridge. Memorize it. Live it!! Remember the Lord, who is GREATand AWESOME and FIGHT for your FAMILIES!

10Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.13Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
14Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

No offense but……

Love takes no offense…….

Wow, isn’t that the opposite of what actually happens? Love and offense seem to go hand and hand.  I mean no one can offend me like the people that I love the most. . Any passing comment has a history behind it.  Any small gesture can feel like a pointed criticism. Any thoughtless act seems like a premeditated act of terror. Sad but true. 

Love takes no offense.

Yet offenses happen all the time.  What is our reaction if someone were to bad mouth a loved one,  spouse, or family member? The gloves would come off and we would fight to defend them….but…. Those same gloves can be used to hurt the person we would fight to the death defending. Why?

The devil is like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

My friend’s mom is a renown photographer and recently told me of her trip to Africa. They were hidden from sight when all of a sudden there was absolutely no movement across the plain. No sounds. Nothing. And she knew a lion was in their midst. No sooner had she uttered that thought then a lion burst onto the scene chasing a herd of zebras. Those poor zebras, she lamented. They can never let their guard down.  No, I thought, those smart zebras. Smarter than the average…Christian. 

Yes, we have a very real adversary, with very old tricks. Yet they are so effective because unlike those zebras, we forget. We relax. We let our guard down and think life is just happening to us.  

This past week Paul and I got into one of the biggest…..ahem…disagreements in years, and the frustration in the room was palpable. Over what? What could cause such marital discord? Dishes. Of course. And 11 years of “life” piggybacking onto one offhanded comment. Why this week? I wondered. And then I saw an email that Paul was scheduled to teach a class on Biblical servant hood. Oh yeah, and we had a meeting on Friday to pray with other couples in preparing for the upcoming marriage retreat with our church. Of course. I have heard teacher after teacher in sermons confirm that whatever they are about to teach on is almost guaranteed to be tested. Yet where was my readiness? I took offense. Instead of going on the offense spiritually against the real enemy. (read: not my husband)

Why does the devil want to divide us? Maybe it has something to do with Jesus prayer in John 17

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

This is so powerful…..Our unity proclaims Christ’s Deity….

The devil is always out to prove God’s word is invalid and outdated. We need to remember that. Daily. And cling even more to His Word. Read it. Meditate on it. Talk about it.  There is no greater strategy.

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.

Love takes no offense

Washing dishes for Jesus

Colossians 3:17
And whatever you do in word or in deed, do it all in the name of The Lord Jesus giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
I am used to the pressure from the world. I am actually quite immune to most of it. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am right where I am supposed to be. I feel no guilt when I pass the high school where I used to teach. Ten years ago I walked out door of my classroom. That night my water broke, and my life began. I have never looked back! Although difficult, I know that God has called me to this 24 hour job and its countless blessings.
Church pressure, however, is a different matter. There are so many verses that can feel pointed at me to make me feel guilty. So many needs in the world and in the body of Christ. And who will fill them if not me?
This past few months I have been made increasingly aware of my inability to meet these needs. With five children ages 10,8,6,4,2 we have been battling a cold, or a stomach funk, or a nasty cough the last 3 months without much relenting.

I have had 5 close friends give birth without be being able to bless them with a meal.

I haven’t served in the nursery once during this forced sabbatical.

Not to mention the women’s Bible studies I haven’t been able to attend.
I am just just trying to catch my breath all the while feeling guilty for breathing. One second I feel relief to be chipping away at Mount Laundrymore, and cleaning those breakfast dishes, but not for long. Within seconds I am reminded how I never made those meals for my friends and now there is another dear friend who could use a meal.
So I breathe. And try to remember my Lord. My savior.

What was his ministry? Discipling.

How many disciples did he have? 12.

Emmanuel had 12, and has entrusted me with 5.

That is a pretty tall order in my book. In theory, we know that Jesus left the 99 to reach the one. We have heard the story of the man throwing starfish back in the sea. “It matters to that one” he famously opines. Yet at the same time we are so focused on quantity. How many are in your church? How many in your Bible study? How many souls have you won? Meals have you cooked? Flyers have you passed out? Studies are you teaching? Work days attended? Aaaaaaaahhhhh!
Isaiah 40:11 says that the shepherd gathers his sheep into His bosom. Sigh. That sounds nice. But it gets better. It goes on to say that “he gently leads those that have young.” That’s me. I have young. And if he is gentle with me, than who am I to be so hard on myself. I am making disciples, I am feeding the hungry, I am caring for the wounded and broken-hearted, times 5, around the clock. And I am doing it in the name of The Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Don’t get me wrong, part of my discipleship program includes visiting the elderly in nursing homes, bringing the love of Jesus through cookies and smiles to our neighbors, loading up the disciples in the van to bring a meal to a family in need, or just showing them how to tell someone about Jesus in the grocery line. But when my discipleship program takes an unexpected turn, I will rest in the one that controls my path. I will rejoice in the mundane, and be content pouring love into my five. Guilt free!