Pouring Out for the Sake of Their Souls

“Do you know what?” The 8 year old starts all her conversations like this. She says it at least 100 times a day. She blushes and apologizes for talking as much as Anne Shirley, who she is completely embarrassed by when we read her nonstop words. I say “No girl, tell me all the words, all the time.” My ears get tired but I want her to always talk too much to me. More than anything I want that. When she is 30 I want her calling me like I do my mom and telling me random information about some funny thing she or her kids did that day, because I wanted all the words all the time for as long as she remembers.

The 3 year old begins to crawl over my back as she tries to find a place to sit in the small chair that I just sat down in to read. . . alone. She always finds me. She asks “Where can I sit??” in the all too familiar whine tone that has become so common in the last few months of her 3rd year. I begin to get frustrated (and sometimes give in to this frustration) but I just sigh and place her on my lap as she wriggles around. I want her to always know I want her around. I want her to know that my frustrations and hard tones are not the sum of how I truly feel for her. I want to be needed and then sometimes I don’t. But I know there will be plenty of the “uneeded” moments when they are older. . so I keep her near. (She is now crying as I type this because her dad is making her clean up her room. . ah the trauma we inflict on these little lazy but sweet hearts we have).

These are my moments and days. Frustratingly beautiful and I just want to soak it in but also be alone at times. I see all the memes and the blog posts about “don’t feel guilty if you need a break” and “take time out for yourself” and I get it. I’m all for breaks and refreshers. . . but what if we had a different mindset. What if we brought about our death by LIVING. . living with our people when we want to run away. A quote from a book….. “Our heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Our lives and bodies are meant to be spent.” I ran across Paul’s words and they will now be my life slogan. . my mom slogan. . .my wife slogan.. . . “I will spend and be spent for the sake of your souls.” (2 Cor. 12:15)

And so I open my eyes in the morning and plan to be spent and poured out and pray my sin doesn’t get in the way of my desire to lay down myself for these momentary times of need. They are already slipping so quickly away. I pray I smile when my daughter says “Do you know what?” for the 1,000th time so I can remind her that I want all the words. . like our Father in heaven wants us to speak with him about everything. . pray about everything without ceasing. I want to be able to place the grumbling 3 year old on my lap when I really just want to be quite. . and share with her how forbearing and long suffering and loving Christ is with His children. That when we were the ugliest toward him, while we were still sinners, he acted in the ultimate loving fashion. . . of pouring himself out on the cross for us.

My prayer is that, even in our failures, we are encouraged with the circles of people the Lord has placed around us. Not just moms but ANYONE with souls around them that need the good news of the Gospel poured out for them. I pray we quite the world of self love and look beyond our needs to the souls that we should spend and be spent for. The Lord fills us up when we need it most, through his Word and through others being his hands and feet. And much like the widow with no oil left, we lift up ourselves and pour our empty vessels in faith that something will always flow out. So, today, I encourage you. . . in all the times. . . especially the times you want a break and would rather just be alone. . . remember Paul’s words and make them your banner as well. . ” I will spend and be spent for the sake of your souls.” This life is so short. . . might as well pour into that which will count for eternity.

 

-W

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Dear Joy: A letter to an almost bride and myself as well.

It seems I only ever sit down to write when a deadline is looming over my head. I wrote this charge for a sweet sister in Christ who is to be married in just a few short weeks. As I looked over my previous bridal shower charges I realized that so many of them were full of your typical marriage practicalities and after almost 10 years of marriage myself, I had realized that that was just not enough. I would not count myself amongst the wise, or truly refined wives. I am just sitting here struggling to grasp my marriage and squeeze out all of the glory and lessons that I can. I hope that this little glimpse of the big picture of marriage can help all those sweet practical things come about a bit more easily. May we all continue to seek grace and not miss the sweet moments to give glory back to the Lord.

 

Dear Joy,

I could say so much today about showing Joey honor, respecting Him with joy, submitting to Him with grace and kindness, or holding your tongue with humility (I could personally write a whole book  on how to ruin your marriage with your tongue), but really and truly I feel you have had such great examples of all of this. I praise the Lord that you and Joey have grown up in households where the marriage convent has been protected and fought for and honored. I am so thankful that I have your parents and the Moore’s examples in my own life as well!  Yet, Today I simply wanted to encourage you, remind you, and possibly shout from the rooftops, that marriage being a shadow of the gospel is not just a “cute truth”, but a lifesaving, soul satisfying and radically thought changing truth.  Such a truth however, can easily be forgotten when you’re in the valleys of marriage, and even on its mountain tops. Your specific marriage has been perfectly crafted with you and Joey as one, to make you both more like Christ, and to grow you in your love for the Gospel as you preach it to each other and the world until death do you part. So, this is my meager attempt and please know, I still have so much more to learn.

 

Recently I was discussing our upcoming 10-year anniversary with Zachary, and I nonchalantly said, as I was walking out to the garage, “Man, I love you a lot more than I did when we first got married.” It sounded so much more heartfelt in my head than out of my mouth and I laughed at my lack of eloquence when conveying my feelings, but when I looked at him, I realized he understood my words as the encouragement they were meant to be. He has, in fact, learned how to decipher my awkward kindness over the years. I of course loved Zach on our wedding day. . . but I didn’t KNOW Zach the way I do today. I didn’t know the care he would show me in all my ugly moments over the years and how quickly he would forgive me. I didn’t know the biblical council he would share with me during my own personal trials, or the way we would grip each other and remind ourselves in unison of the Truth of the Gospel during some dark days.  I didn’t know the man he would grow to be, or the way he would love Christ, or the way he would fail with such humility and seek to make it right, or the way he would biblically lead with such resolve in times when I needed him to. I have to say though, I did not love Zachary then just because he was so awesome (which he was) nor do I love Zachary now just because of his growth as a man and husband. . . I loved, am loving and will love him because of his ever-growing Christlikeness. I love him because he continues to look more like my Savior, and I have come to love Christ more through my marriage because I have seen His beauty ever clearer and more personal through my relationship with my husband. This, Joy, is what you are about to encounter, and I hope that that fills you with such joy, comfort and anticipation. You are about to fall more in love with Joey in the best of times and the worst of times, but more importantly, you are about to fall in love with Christ more through this momentary glimpse in marriage, which was made completely to show and magnify the very Gospel that has saved you.

 

If marriage is a shadow of the gospel, then those who enter it obtain an up-close seat to the terrible beauty that is found in our redemption. You will constantly be facing your and Joey’s sin, asking and receiving forgiveness and experiencing the sweet peace of reconciliation, because this will be the pattern of your marriage, sin, repentance, reconciliation, peace. . . over and over again. This is not only for the outside world to see, but for your own heart to see as well. You will be living out the redemption story every moment you are together. THIS will be the beauty of your marriage. It is the every day reminder of the loving grace shown to us by our Father. I love how Piper explained it when he states that “[marriage] is the experience of God’s vertical forgiving, justifying grace bent out horizontally to each other and [then] displayed to the world”.  As believers we are called to live out grace and forgiveness in all of our relationships, “As the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” But our marriages are unique and intimate because we are bound by covenant into the closest possible relationship for life!  When we sin against God and are grieved and repent and we know he has promised to forgive us because of Christ’s work on the cross, this fills us with ultimate joy. That a holy God can look upon us with love and forgiveness is a humbling experience. I think that’s why, when talking of marriage, forgiveness and forbearance are so central to the discussion. We know it is good to adore and enjoy your spouse (even most of the unbelieving world would agree) but it is in our forgiveness and longsuffering that “God gets glory [because] two very imperfect people forge a life of faithfulness in the furnace of affliction by relying on Christ.”  (Piper) When you do something cute, and Joey affectionately laughs and hugs you, his love is to be greatly treasured, yes, but when you have sinned against him and you come to him in repentance and he pulls you to him and forgives you, well that is to be marveled at. It is not Joey’s natural inclination to forgive a wrong (nor is yours), he forgives you, and bears with you, because Christ has forgiven him of much first. Do not let these moments pass without you both marveling at the Gospel of reconciliation through Christ.

 

Your and Joey’s marriage will be a journey, sometimes delightfully easy, sometimes treacherous, sometimes mundane. . .yet you will have promised to walk it together, to remain in covenant always, to grow in sanctification and to present each other as holy and living sacrifices. We, the church, place all our faith and trust in Christ’s unfailing love for us. It is that unfailing love displayed in your marriage that will give you and Joey such freedom and peace in a covenant that cannot and will not be broken. I once knew an unbelieving married couple in school that were very kind, and seemed to have a sweet relationship, however one thing that the husband once said was quite shocking. He said that he and his wife had a mutual understanding, they loved each other enough that if at anytime one became unhappy in their marriage, that they had the right to leave. To them, this was a kindness, happiness became the primary goal. Yet their kindness created fragility. . . and ultimately a source of fear. This is how hearts unchanged by Christ would function.  Hearts that do not know the love and forgiveness of a perfect savior, would never be able to be longsuffering or be able to look past their own happiness to the greater purpose of glorifying God in their continued care and sacrifice for another. When glorifying God is our ultimate goal, self-sacrifice and humbly placing another’s happiness before our own for the sake of our union, will flow naturally from us. It is only sin that upsets this flow.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it beautifully when he says

 

“God makes your marriage indissoluble and protects it from every danger that may threaten it from within and without; he will be the guarantor of its indissolubility.  It is a blessed thing to know that no power on earth, no temptation, no human frailty can dissolve what God holds together; indeed, anyone who knows that may say confidently: What God has joined together, can no man put asunder.  Free from all anxiety that is always a characteristic of love, you can now say to each other with complete and confident assurance; We can never lose each other now; by the will of God we belong to each other till death.”

 

What a grace that is to us! There will be days when romantic love will not be able to carry you. So, don’t put your faith in that. Our hearts are so very fickle that there may even be simple actions, or words that cause your romantic love to waver. Yet you both are not to hold fast to a romantic fickle love, based on feelings and worldly moment to moment happiness, you instead,will be holding on to a union forged by God himself. . . a union that is showing the world how firm the covenant we have with God is in salvation, and therefore you can remain unwavering in your devotion to one another. Once married “no longer will love sustain the marriage, but from now on, your marriage [will] sustain your love.” (Bonhoeffer) Do not fear or be anxious. This covenantal love truly will cover a multitude of sins.

 

Really this whole charge could have been summed up in the statement “Be like Christ, marvel at His forgiveness while extending it to each other, and fearlessly enjoy your marriage.” But we all know, I‘m a bit wordy. 😊  Now, I will leave you with a few quick tid bits of wisdom that I’ve learned from much trial and error:

 

-If you feel like you have been sinned against, ask yourself “What sin has really been committed?”. . . many times you will realize they just did something you didn’t like, and not necessarily sinned against you. “Strangness” (as Piper puts it) is not sin. In those times, check your own motivations and prayerfully repent. This simple question will save many an afternoon of mulling over useless anger or irritation. Forbearing “strangeness” with love is just as important as forgiving sin. (especially when you both may not agree on which is which)

-Boys are not mind readers. They just aren’t. You may think you already know this and that you’re above this line of thinking, but there will be days you think Joey “should” know or do something without you having to ask. Just because you have to ask doesn’t make his willingness null and void. If you ask and he joyfully reacts then be thankful. No other words are necessary. *And just a side note in this same vein: Be sure that your “should” is good and kind. We never want to place a burden or responsibility on our husbands that the Lord himself has not.

-If you see something he is struggling with spiritually or just in his role as husband, simply pray for him. The Spirit resides in him as well and your prayers will not go unheard. If it comes up in conversation, its always better to ask kind questions then to make statements and sling accusations.

-Giving your husband the silent treatment is never acceptable. Swallow your pride and just tell him you are working through either your personal sin or confusing thoughts. Simply let him know that you would like to talk with him when you can do it in a kind manner.  Be straightforward.

-You will never realize what encouraging words will do for your husband. Be an encourager always, even when its hard, especially when its hard.

-Practice a good pause before reacting to a hurtful word or comment. Its better to look strange and suffer an awkward pause than let your tongue cause wounds that would lead to an even worse silence. And if your husband says something foolish to you (or you to him) reacting in sin to foolishness only makes you a fool as well.

-When you seem to fail, always remember that who we are in Christ is what will make us the crown of our husbands, not the immaculate house, or the gourmet meal but simply the sitting at Christ’s feet, laying down our failures from the day and looking to Him as our source of beauty and forgiveness.  It is when your identity and your hope is in Christ that your home will be a place of peace, your meals will be served with love, your words will be filled with grace, and your love for Joey will be sweet.

 

Joy, may your love for the gospel grow as you enjoy the person God has given you and may you both find your ultimate joy in seeking Christ and glorifying God in all you do.

 

-W

Dear Sister: What I Saw Through Your Adoption Journey

When we have any baby/wedding showers in our church, we always have something called a “charge” for the new mom/wife. This “charge” is simply meant to be a word of encouragement for the person of honor and just a time to praise the Lord for His goodness in the upcoming event. We recently had a baby shower for my sister, Jill and my sweet nephew Banner.  My sister’s family began their adoption journey in April of last year, and we got to celebrate a completed adoption last month. I got the honor of writing Jill’s charge. I barely ever find time to write on here anymore, but because I know so many people who have, or are going through adoption I wanted to put this out here as an encouragement to all of you as well or really anyone facing a tough task ahead. Adoption is a whirlwind, as anyone who has been touched by it can attest to. I hope that in this letter you see yourself in some way and that the Lords glory is made that much more beautiful to you. We serve a great God, a very present help in trouble. He is worthy of all praise, even when our plans fall through and the outcomes seem to be ones we felt were not in our best interest. Although we truly did get to celebrate at the end of this journey, that does not mean that this journey was not wrought with some hard and steep twists and turns. So I hope this is relevant to your heart today. I hope you see your self being burned away and Christ coming all the more clearer because of it. I hope that in the midst of your trials that you don’t forget, that a child of God never suffers or struggles in vain. That there is goodness in the storm if we only seek to find it. May you continue to become more like Christ, and with every unexpected turn, may you praise God, come what may.

 

Dear Jill,

As I was teaching the Associative Law of addition and multiplication in class the other day, I looked at it and thought, well that kinda reminds me of Jill. The Associative Law is orderly, pretty symmetrical (at least for the parenthesis), predictable, and pretty fun to work out. It touches us deeply (well some of us) in a place of, if I do this this way I can trust completely that the outcome will be what is promised. Now, why am I talking about math, you may ask. Well, one reason is because you, Jill, enjoy crazy nerdy things like that! You grow, thrive, and delight in order, predictably, symmetry and the thrill of working out a really good life problem. Yet another reason is, adoption, at first glance, holds absolutely none of these characteristics that your personality is so comfortably attuned to. And yet years ago, the Lord placed the desire of adoption inside your head, a desire that went against all your comforts and somewhat against how he specifically made you. He placed that desire inside of you with Banner already thought of and planned out. It really is magnificently mind numbing if you really think about it. Before time began, Banner was already yours.

Adoption, we know, is a beautiful depiction of the gospel. A visual of how the Lord grafts us into His family. Depicting how He transforms sinners, who are His enemies, into daughters and sons! Yet also, much like salvation, adoption depicts the complete lack of control we have and the complete power that God has to wield to accomplish His good works. Adoption is not necessarily orderly, it can be messy, heart wrenching, and confusing. It lacks symmetry, you could put in hours of phone conversations and effort into building re pour with women in need, trying to comfort them, encourage them and share the gospel with them with the full knowledge that your input may very well not yield an equal output. And, if the lack of symmetry in effort was not enough to cause someone to quit all together, adoption could look like it is sorely lacking in the predictability department as well, for plans fall through, birth moms stop calling, and birth dad’s names show up on registries. However, as believers, we know that God providentially works throughout every moment of our lives, that he is in control, that He will bring about his promise in His own orderly way, and that His people are to “be still” and know that He is God. The adoption process is truly and somewhat simply a walk of faith, and we know that through trials and tribulations our faith only grows.

As we talked on the phone during this entire process, the key theme of our conversations was the idea of control, more specifically the lack of control you had over the situation at any given moment. The greatest of this testing of faith was the last few weeks. It was in these last months that there were no more forms to fill out, actions to take or knowledge to be learned to further the outcome you desired. You were in a place that your orderly and predictable personality could hardly bear, with a treasure that now made that need to have a promised outcome an extreme necessity. You had to quietly wait for the unknown outcome with this sweet baby strapped to you.  It is in these dark moments where your faith is tested and all those bible verses about anxiety become truly real and hard but thankfully soul satisfying. You were called to the painful and chaotic act of truly being still. I was encouraged by your response when others simply said “don’t worry, it will all work out fine” you were quick to point out that we were never promised “fine”, Banner truly could have been taken back. You knew, biblically, our “fine” could possibly not be what God considered “fine”. We all held on to the truth that “God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Yet, we did not cling to this as a promise of Banner staying, but as a promise that an all wise God would do what he knew was best for Banner and for us.

It was in this time that the struggle seemed most crushing, that the Lord was conditioning your heart to look at something so very precious and simply become like Christ, taking on his heart’s desire, “Not my will, but yours be done.” I believe that a heart that truly utters and surrenders to this desire is one that has been most refined by the hottest of fires. The truth that our sanctification is key, shines the brightest when God reminds us what all these refining moments are for when he says “for those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son”, your mindset was being conformed to Christ’s and that miraculous knowledge is why James can truly state that we should “Consider it pure joy , whenever we face trails of many kinds because we know that the testing of our faith produces perseverance”….and that we should “Let perseverance finish its work so that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Obviously, this journey was filling in something you were lacking, you are in some areas, more mature and complete than you were before any of this started. You are more like Christ today than you were in April when this all began. What a gift you have been given!

I know you would be humble enough to admit that in the quite moments of fear and anxiety, God was having to transform your heart to be quick to surrender to His will, in an unflinching trust. I love how John Bloom puts it when he says “Just like Christ in the garden, our spiritual desire should be that our human desire be submitted to God’s desire, for Jesus trusted that the Father’s desire would result in the greatest good for the greatest glory of the triune God and the greatest joy possible for all Saints.” This Adoption was not just at times a seemingly disorderly and unpredictable journey to meet the son created for you from the beginning of time, but it was most importantly a vehicle for God to receive the greatest glory! We will never know the amount of work God was doing outside our own circles for His glory, we may never know until eternity. But we do know that  He took your heart, that thrives on rhythms and the joy of knowing how to work out the problem to its completion, and He submitted it to His unknown will, come what may. Your display of submission and surrender highlighted the power of the Spirit that resides within you, the magnificence of the change that Christ’s sacrifice has wrought in you, and the love of a Father who ordained it all. What a call to worship!  This adoption has made us all come to a posture of worship. . . grande and pure and lovely worship of an all knowing, all wise and unchanging God. When we look at Banner today and rejoice that our desires were also God’s desires, we are utterly thankful, which is so weak an expression but true none the less. We look at that little sweet face and are given a call to exalt God. Not just because in his providence he seemed to move mountains to accomplish his will, but that he also was so mindful of us to want to refine His people to look more like His son in the process.

As you enter into another glorious season of diapers, bottles, first words and first steps, my prayer for you (and for all of us) is that you will not forget who ultimately controls the outcomes of your life. That in your obedience, you continue to submit your heart to the will of God, as Christ did for us, so that His glory will be of utmost importance. Banner’s life should always be a celebration of the fact that our hearts may plan our ways, but the Lord (graciously) directs our steps. His Will will be done, and we know that beautiful saying that you love to quote from A. W. Tozer which is “Outside the will of God there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God, there’s nothing I fear.” May we all go forth, with submitted hearts, and unflinching desires to praise God’s goodness come what may.

 

-W

I’m Still Not There Yet: lessons from a wrecked car.

It was like a perfect storm. . . . almost like the Lord pretty much set me up, of course in a very loving way, but nonetheless, a complete set up.

My husband recently got a big promotion at work, a promotion that he had been working towards for almost 4 years now. . . it is such a blessing and with it brings new goals and opportunities. Last Saturday, Zachary and I were discussing said goals and opportunities. . .  creating a new budget, discussing paying off loans early, saving for a down payment, house repairs. . . etc. We had all these plans, all these hopes. . . all this trust in our savvy budgeting skills. That was Saturday night. Come Sunday night I was sitting in my van, staring at the scene in front of me: a cop, my husband, and a totaled car. I was a mess. . . . but even worse. . . I was mad.

One hour earlier I was sitting at church. . . not even 5 min before I got the fateful call, I jotted down a hurried note from our lesson:

Idols of Believers 1. Economic Security 2. Materialistic Comforts 3. Social Acceptance

I jotted this little tidbit of wisdom down and had a little moment in my head of “yeah girl, you have been through so much, you know all you need is Jesus and these things don’t really matter!” (patting myself on the back, while pushing away my piece of humble pie). You know that moment, the moment when you think you got it, the moment where you look at yourself and all that wisdom of yours and take your eyes off Christ? Yeah. . . your butt falls right into that water, am I right? Well not 1 minute after my pride-filled head session, my phone rings with a little test. “Can you step outside?” “I am fine but I just got into a wreck and the car is totaled.”

Now guys. . . during our Saturday savvy budget session this car was going to last us at least 5 more years. . . and I mean, we had JUST spent almost $1,000 in repairs to keep it up to par, so of course it was going to be around for a good long while because what else could happen to it? Right? I would love to say that I asked my husband again if he was alright, I would love to say I told him that it was okay, it was just a car and it was just money, as long as he was okay. I would love to tell you I didn’t cry and I didn’t bang the steering wheel and I didn’t have to pray for kindness. . but that would all be a lie.  I gathered up my purse, stuffed my little jotted down wisdom into it and started crying, thinking about how this was not in the plan, thinking about how we were going to  have to find another car, how we didn’t budget for car payments, how I had so many plans. . . so many plans that the Lord was just really throwing off track. O yea, no idols here guys, just literally losing it over a busted budget and a crumpled car. . . . . . When my economic security and my materialistic comforts were threatened I learned just how much I cared about them. . . . too much guys, I cared about them too much.

My sister handed Zachary an excerpt from a book that she had printed out before all this happened, she handed it to him as we were pulling out of the church parking lot probably because she saw that I was literally breaking down and because God is so good to us, even when we are ugly, he plans ahead of time to comfort us in our dark moments. This is part of what it said,

“…. but he will use no painful remedy that can be avoided.  Remember that it  is His will that you should be sanctified and that the work of making you holy is His, not yours.  At the same time you are not to sit with folded hands,  waiting for His blessing.  You are to avoid laying hindrances in His way, and  you are to exercise faith in Him as just as able and just as willing give you  sanctification as He was to give you redemption.  And now if you ask how you may know that you have truly consecrated yourself to Him, I reply, observe every indication of his will concerning you, no matter how trivial, and see  whether you at once close in with that will.  Lay down this principle as law— God does nothing arbitrary.  If He takes away your health, for instance, it is because He has some reason for doing so; and this is true of everything you value; and if you have real faith in Him, you will not insist on knowing the reason.  If you find in the course of daily events that your self-consecration was not perfect— that is that your will revolts at His will— do not be discouraged but fly to your Savior and stay in His presence till you obtain the spirit in which He cried in His hour of anguish, “Father, if Thou be willing,  remove  this cup from me; nevertheless not my will but Thine be done.: (Luke 22:42).  Every time you do this it will be easier to do it; every such consent to suffer will bring you nearer and nearer to Him; and in this nearness to Him you will find such peace such blessed, sweet peace as will make your life infinitely happy, no matter what may be its mere outside condition.”

(Stepping Heavenward, pg 87-88)

See. . He is good, He is kind, He gently speaks to us through his Word and through the mouths of writers who love his Word. I read this in my unhinged state once I was home and just lost it again. O how much my heart loved my precious savior at this very moment. . .when he was saying to me. . “until you stop crying and learn to trust me. . I will keep letting you practice trusting not in earthly things, but me. I will keep taking away your securities until you realize your only security is in me. I will keep taking away the things you hold up as more important than me until there is none left but me. I will keep causing you discomfort, daughter, until you are complete and at peace with ME alone, because I love you and I am the only one that you can place all your trust in.”

I still have so much to learn. My holiness and sanctification is an ongoing, painfully beautiful journey. I keep holding my plans too tightly and in turn sometimes revolt against the Lord’s perfect will when it does not line up with mine. After the car was wrecked I woke up to a water leak in the kitchen and a baby with a high fever.  .  practice guys. . . the Lord gives me lots of practice in not freaking out over the small things, the trivial things, so as to build me up when big things might come my way but really ultimately to be able to look at this life, this world, the sin, the trials the hard stuff and simply whisper in complete surrender. . not my will but Yours be done. I’m praying for you, reader. . that this will be our chorus in the days to come. . come what may.

 

 

-W

 

 

Dirt Cookies and crying in the drive thru: Cultivating a thankful heart

When my sister and brother-in-law first got married. . .they were financially poor.  She once told me that in those first years of marriage, although so very happy, they struggled and once, while taking some kids that she babysat for through the drive-thru to grab dinner, she hoped that one day, when she had kids, she would be financially able to treat them every once in awhile with a special meal out.  For some reason, this prayer of hers popped into my head while I was sitting in the Chick-Fil-A drive thru, asking my excited little girl what she wanted for breakfast. I think it was a mix of the memory and the fact that we had just watched a piece on the Haitian people and how they painstakingly make and sell dirt cookies to provide for themselves and simply fill their children’s bellies, but as I looked at my sweet daughter who had never known hunger in her entire 6 years of life I just started crying. How many times do we do things that , to us, seem simple, but to others would have been such a longed for experience?

Have you ever been knocked down by the everyday things that we have forgotten really are extreme and extravagant gifts, but we have wrapped them with simple and ordinary paper? 

I know I’m not the only one who cries in the drive thru, or when I am putting up the groceries and my child yells, we are so rich! O man little one. . . we are rich indeed. Do you realize that every time we hear “mom, I’m thirsty,” that our biggest problem is getting them to say please, and not, “I’m sorry honey, we don’t have any clean water right now.” I am understanding more and more about how we can really and truly do everything to the glory of God. From a cup of water to the soft bed with the comfy pillow. . . we really should be breathing out thankfulness at every moment. I mean, even our breaths are given to us. . . they are not promised or earned. . .they are simply given. . . gifts every second that we are sometimes not even aware of.

I love the idea of Ann Voskamp. . her One Thousand Gifts book has been quite the treasure. I have read many excerpts from her book and frequent her blog often over at A Holy Experience. She speaks of a simple exercise but one we do so infrequently. .  . counting our gifts. Thankfulness and discontentment can not be in the same heart, so we have to fight those discontent feelings, when they start to well up inside, by looking at all the gifts we DO have. When my family got sick a little while ago it went through every one of us. It was a long 4 or 5 days. .  a long, yuck, germ filled 4 or 5 days. I was tired and eventually succumbed to the sickness myself, but as I was up in the dark of night holding my daughters hair back as she cried in the bathroom I began to fret, to get upset at the situation I found  myself in, to feel sorry for myself that we were not well, that I was tired. I started fighting it by thanking the Lord for all the things I had right then. I whispered in my desperation thankfulness for an inside bathroom (can you imagine??? whew), for a husband that I knew could help me when I grew tired, for a washer and dryer, for a baby that was sleeping through the night, for clean water to wash my daughter’s sick face with and for a comfy place to lay her when she was ready to rest. I have to admit, however, this is not the norm most days.  I am very good at giving thanks when the situation is peaceful, happy, warm and fuzzy. . but when the situation grows wearisome, uncomfortable, bothersome, irritating. . . my heart is not as quick to stop and burst thankfulness towards the Lord.

Anyone can be thankful in the good times, but it takes a heart, a heart that knows their father. . a heart that knows that all we really need is Christ and everything else is filler, to truly be thankful in all seasons. We can give thanks in all circumstances because we, as Christians, already have all we will ever need for eternity. We can give thanks and have joy in all things . . . even in our trials, simply because we have the greatest treasure of all. . .Christ.

So I leave you with this, from a girl who does not say thank you enough, from a girl who gets overwhelmed when all those blessings just hit me all at once and I realize I just need to come undone so that the Lord can build me up more beautiful, more thankful, then when I started. My grumbling heart really can change and so can yours. . . it is my greatest hope. Our grumblings can turn into thanksgivings if we just simply let the blessings wash over us and speak them back to the one that we owe all of them to.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

-W

You are not failing at motherhood.

I would just like to tell you that you are not failing. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us that we are doing a good job, that they see the hard work it takes to wrangle kids, work a job, cook, clean, take care of yourself and everyone else. I am thankful for you. I am with you in the trenches daily and I am giving you a big ol ciber hug right now! These are for my people, my mom peeps who are going to bed frustrated, tired, happy, or all of the above!

To the mom who fed her family a homecooked meal tonight, GREAT JOB! That is really hard work!

To the mom who popped in a frozen pizza for her family, GREAT JOB! That is so fun and my daughter would have been so excited about that dinner.

To the mom who loaded up her clan and went through a drive thru, GREAT JOB! I’m sure your kids were super pumped and man o man if I were financially rich the first thing I would do is eat out for every meal. It is such a special thing.

So all you moms, whoever you were, the cassarrole queen, the drive thru sue, the awesome pizza lover. . . .you did an awesome job because

you fed your kids, you filled their bellies, and you kept them growing. That is all that matters. That makes you a great mom.

To the mom who dropped their kids off at school today, or watched them catch the bus, way to go!

To the mom who got her kids up and sat down at the dining room table to start a day of school together, I am loving you, I AM you. . . you are doing great and you are so very appreciated!

To the mom who got up with littles and dropped them off at daycare to go to a job, thank you for providing for your family that you love so much or thank you for helping your husband provide, that is so hard and you are rocking it out. Your kids love you, and no one can ever replace you as mom!

To the mom who got up this morning with a little in toe for a day at home, you are so incredibly wonderful! It is not easy talking to a child all day, it is not easy loving all the little years in the midst of messes and bad attitudes, but you are doing it with such grace. You are loving on your littles with everything within you. You are succeeding.

You moms are my heros! No one can do what you do for your kids and all of you deserve a thank you because…..

you care about the well being and education of your kiddos! You care about how they are cared for. . . and that makes you a great mom.

To the mom who was completely loving and peaceful with her kids today, I applaud you and I cherish you and your sweet spirit. Please come over and hug me really tight so that some of your sweet grace will rub off on this young, inexperienced mom that has so much still to learn. You are your kids’ rock, and they will find peace in you.

To the  mom who yelled today. . . can you come over so we can lament together? Your mothering is not the sum of ONE moment. . it is the sum of many, and if you are feeling bad about a bad attitude you had, you more than likely are not like that all the time. If you cared enough to feel bad, then you are doing great, mom. Because you love your littles enough to want the best for them! Tomorrow is a new day. PRAISE THE LORD! His mercy is new each morning. Keep going mom, pray for patience. . . pray for mine too while you’re at it. We are going to be ok.

To the mom who hugged her kids a lot. Bless you and bless those sweet kids who know their mother loves them. You are wonderful.

To the mom who felt like she did not hug her kids enough. Bless you and bless those sweet kids who know their mother loves them. 🙂 And if you really want to make it up to them, go right now and give them the biggest squeeze!

All you moms, the patient ones, the impatient ones, the huggers and the ones who just had a hard time feeling today. . . you are doing great because

you care enough to show love to your kids, the love that they need and desire. You care enough to right wrongs and hug it out. That makes you a great mom.

To the mom who is tired. You have not slept in quite a while and you are beginning to forget what the difference between AM and PM are and what your bed looks like. This too shall pass. Grab some coffee, crack open your bible and drink it in. This is just a season. Grab a friend, ASK FOR HELP, most people really are not just saying, if you need anything call me, for kicks. Let people help you and be blessed and let them be blessed and let your littles be blessed. You are giving it your all and I commend you for your selflessness.

To the mom who is totally getting all that sleep and feeling energetic and chipper. Go to the above mom’s house and lend a hand!! Because, chances are, you have been there and your understand. Or take that time to pour all this new found energy into those kids!! You are, after all, probably the one person they always want to be with! You are awesome! You are who I will one day be again! I can not wait to be with you in the happy land of wide awake! Thanks for showing us that the seasons do end.

you both are giving of yourselves! You both are sacrificing your days to care for others. Thank you. Thank you for being there for your kids. That makes you a great mom. 

To the mom that is lacking in joy for this crazy mothering job or simply in life. Run to the one that can give you water that will never run dry! Christ is our joy and in him it is everlasting. Grab a friend. . .talk it out, look at your children and pull them close when you want them the farthest away. You WILL get there. Love sometimes is a choice, even for our little ones. . . its ok if you are having to make that choice. . the fact that you care enough to be concerned means you are already there. You are a good mom.

To the mom that finds her greatest joy and calling in her mothering. . . thank you!! We need moms like you, reminding us in our dark moments that these little hearts are worth it! That mothering is an eternal calling! We are building soldiers for Christ!! Thank you for showing us that our joy is found in Christ and that our gifts are from HIM. I NEED you, I NEED you reminding me of this when my mind and my heart begins to forget. You are a good mom!

you are both trying to love your kids the best you can! You WANT to love your kids as much as they deserve. That makes you a great mom!

So to you moms, young and old. Thank you. You are not failing at everything. All of us are in different seasons, that’s why we all need each other. Encourage a mom today! Go to the mom with the screaming children and look her in the eyes and tell her that she is not failing, that she is hanging in there and you admire her for loving her kids when the world now a days says that they are just bothers. Go to the mom that others do not see and tell her that you see her! You see her and how hard she is working for her kiddos hearts! Just go and be encouragers, not judging one another but joining hands because we should all know, this mother thing is hard. Gosh, this life thing is hard. So lets make a PACT right here and now. If you are a mother, if you love your child, if your hearts desire is to get this mother thing right, then I will stand beside you. I will not push my habits onto you. I will offer help when ASKED and not think you need to hear something just because. I will sit with you and cry. I will pray for your child. I will love you. I will not let you think that you are failing, because you are NOT failing. If you are worried, well the fact that you care so much. . .makes you a great mom.

-W

O for grace, to trust you more.

oforgrace

Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,

just to take him at his word,

just to rest upon his promise

just to know; thus saith the Lord

 I really like this song. Mostly the words, not so much the music part. Maybe Cody and Melody Curtis can one day work their magical music chops and re-do this. (side note: you should go here if you want to see what magical music chops I am referring to) 😉 But, music aside, have you ever really listened to these words? It really is the sweetest most peaceful thing to simply rest and trust in ChristHe is, after all, the only one that knows all of our struggles. . .the one that came against everything we will ever go through and did not sin. He is the only one who knows how to have complete victory in this world. I would think we would trust in nothing else but him.

Then why do we have such a problem with trusting him. every. single. day?

What does it even look like when we are not trusting in Christ? Well it looks a lot like, fear, anxiety, grumbling, anger, frustration. . . you know. . . all those not so sweet things. If Paul can refer to himself as the chief of sinners I’m just going to be as honest as he and say I am the chief of grumblers and probably even worriers. . yea Ill take head spot in BOTH camps. I would probably even add anger. . . but I don’t want to be greedy. . . maybe someone else wants to be real and claim that one. Have you realized that when we practice these things. . . when we become anxious, fearful, unrighteously angry. . all of those things. . . we are actually NOT trusting Christ, we are NOT thinking he is for us, we are actually thinking he is not enough? Ugh. . . I write this for my heart  more than anyone else’s. Some days I practice NOT trusting in Christ more than I practice resting in him. How horrible, how humbling, how regrettable that is! So many moments, so many moments of growth, so many moments of praise to God for refining me . . . I have wasted on grumbling, frustration, anger. . .I have robbed myself of experiencing joy and  I have been robbing Christ of his praise…….. It hurts to even write that. . . to even think that I do this every day. 

I once read a devotion from She Reads Truth (I highly recommend this) and it was discussing the Bayeux Tapestry. It is a 230 ft long embroidered cloth depicting a rich history over many years. In the devotion it discussed how we are like people looking up from beneath the tapestry. . . we see all the knots, the seemingly unrelated lines, crisscrossing in a pattern that looks like it only creates discord and ugliness, but the Lord, he is creating the tapestry from the top. He is carefully placing each line, each knot, making a beautiful, glorious picture. We see glimpses of the masterpiece, but many times we just see the chaos. Do you see the connection? This picture has stuck in my head since the first time I read about it.  When I see a knot in my life or a line that seems out of place I get frustrated. . . I start fearfully trying to figure out how to fix it all, how to make it look more beautiful, more organized, more correct, instead of trusting that the Lord is intentional and wise and that he does not make mistakes.

Can we really say that we trust in God’s promises so much that everything we face, we look at and with all our hearts say this is for my good? Not in some churchy, this is what we are supposed to say, way, but a true whole hearted, no matter what happens, kind of way? If we truly saw all things through this truth, we would rest in him, right? When we fear the future we are saying, this will not be good for me. When we get angry at a messed up situation we are saying, another way would have been better. When we get frustrated when things do not turn out how we had planned, when people do not do what we think they should, we are saying, I know what is best and this is not it.  The word says And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,h for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom. 8:28) We hear this ALL THE TIME! But its true even if it has somehow lost its meaning, its truth for you. The verses before it are even sweeter still.

For in this [hope in Christ] we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, becauseg the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:24-27

Did you catch it? Did you see how sweet the Lord is to us. . . In Romans 8 Paul speaks of how we are no longer condemned because of Christ, how we will be heirs with Christ, then he says we hope in a future glory that is going to be incomparable to the small sufferings we may face here on earth (even death), how we and all of creation are groaning for his return, and then finally in vs. 24 how we should hope in things we don’t see with patience. . .and then he says the sweetness. . .GOD KNEW we were going to not be able to do this. . that we would be weak. . . so he sends the Spirit to help us in our weakness. . . to help us speak what we do not even understand and to realize the next verse , that  all things work together for our good. If he sent his own son to die in our stead while we were still sinners, then why do we not trust God’s goodness in everything else? Why do we not lift every single thing that happens to the Lord, with thanksgiving on our lips? He has given us every tool we need to find joy in Christ! He has given us the Spirit to help us communicate with Him, to help us trust in him. . . even in our weaknesses. He is so very kind to us!

I know there are horrible atrocities that happen and “where is God?” is uttered a lot in those times. But if we are to be radical Christians, with a no holds bar, I will trust, mentality. . . then for those who love Christ. . . we are to always be able to whisper in those dark moments. . .with no question, that He is here. 

Even in the darkest moments, in the midst of great grief, the Lord is doing something so intentional. . . so good.  I’m not saying that every hard thing will automatically give birth to something good. . . we may not see the good until we are face to face with Christ in eternity. . when we are finally above the beautiful tapestry of history, but I am saying. . . nothing happens without a purpose. . . every moment for the believer is a thread meant to spur on the kingdom.

Trust is hard in those really dark moments, but it is sometimes just as hard  in the seemingly small moments too. Home schooling is my battle right now. There are days when I do not see it as for my good. I see it as a burden, as a time that upset my child, as a time of tears and great frustration, as a time to doubt myself, doubt God’s good plan for me. BUT he is there too. Just like God is in the midst of the horrible, he is in the midst of the ordinary. He is burning away at my impatience, he is making me love my daughter more and draw near to her when I want to run away from her. He is also speaking to my daughter’s heart. When I have to apologize to her she sees my sin, and then her sin. . .and sees why we NEED Christ. When she cries, I cry and daydream about a different path, but I have to trust that we are where we need to be. . . that I am being made more like Christ through my battle, and that my daughter may come to know Christ through these hard and sweet days. I have to trust that the ordinary day to day responsibilities are being  used for our good as well. He is still creating the beautiful story of his great redemption, no matter how insignificant we think the simple daily thread is and so we still need to practice trust. We need to trust that He is wiser then us.

Our jobs, our interactions with people, with our children, our simple decisions we are making every day, our current economic situation, our current world situation. From the small to the big. . . are we trusting God. . . are we saying that we are going to praise and trust him come what may?  Are we placing our trust in governments, houses, bank accounts, knowledge, ourselves. . .or in Christ? Only one of those will never fail you. Are we going to shout in our strength and whisper in our dark weaknesses that he is here. . . he is for us. . . we will trust in him?  

I leave you with a simple statement of radical faith that leads to the sweet peace that is found in trusting in Christ.

I can not remember if I read this in the book Slowly by Slowly or heard it at one of IOI’s (Indigenous Outreach International) banquets. It was a story of one of the missionaries that is a part of the ministry. In the face of not having food to eat for a few days, he was asked about it and he simply stated that on the days there was no food for him, he took that as a time that the Lord simply wanted him to fast.     Think about that for a minute. Let the full weight of that sink in. How would you react to days without food for yourself or your family? He took a time of no food, of hunger, to trust in God and to give praise to him. Does that turn your heart the way it did mine? The simplicity of his radical faith, the radical trust that he had for our great God? He had every opportunity to grumble, to fear for his lack of food, to get angry that God seemed to not be providing for him in the way he needed, but instead he showed great faith. . .great trust. He trusted that the Lord was doing something for his good, so he would be faithful and fast.

He used his time of need to run to the only one that could fulfill every need.

Do we see our trials, our battles, our weaknesses, the scary stuff, as opportunities to become ever more intimate with God? Do we see the ugly times as just moments that the Lord is using to create a full, beautiful history of redemption that he so graciously lets us be a part of? Are you so caught up in the knots (that you think are mistakes to begin with but really are so intentionally and intricately placed)  that you miss the beautiful, rich picture that the Lord is stitching for himself and his people? O friends! How I want that radical, trusting heart! A heart, that in the midst of hard times, does not shout “why God!” or “Where is God?” but what do you want to teach me?, how can I glorify you through this?, how can I be made more like Christ?.  

How embarrassing that I am so caught up in my own discomfort that I am forgetting that its not all about my comfort, that glorifying God through my actions is my first duty as a believer! That loving God and enjoying him forever is our greatest end? How I need to cling to the promises of God and know that what he says is enough for all situations. The big and the small. What are you not trusting God with? How are you not walking in obedience to him? What is stealing your joy? Don’t worry, I will be right there beside you, repenting with you, friend.

After all, this life is for our good, but ultimately for God’s glory. Lets glorify God together today, choosing joy, by simply trusting that in every moment he is making us more like Christ. Lets stop fighting and rest,  trusting that God is faithful.

O for grace, to trust you more. 

-W