Beauty in a Fallen Leaf

I have seen death’s merciless determination three times in my life. The first was when it 20171013_133140chased after my best friend’s mom, then it went after my Grandma, and finally it took my first child, whose face I never saw.

Death appeared to have won all three times, but I know, as a follower of Christ, that this is not the case.

God says He has conquered all death, and surely this must be true for death was left utterly immobilized when faced with the Savior of the world (2 Timothy 1:10).

We clearly see in the Bible that Jesus did not fear death, and was even able to reverse it in the case of Lazarus. However encouraging this reality is, death still has a powerful sting for those of us left behind. It is a great comfort to know that our loved ones are spending eternity in a painless and perfect Heaven, but we are left to face unbearable pain after they are gone.

20171013_132941Unfortunately, this earthly life is full of innumerable painful experiences, even when death is not involved.

However, if we were to see past our grief I think we would find something quite pristine in our pain. For as I sit here on this breezy October afternoon and gaze out my window to find the trees wrapped in the most vivid and electrifying colors, I am reminded that God creates beauty out of the most brutal of circumstances because, you see, these stunning leaves are, in fact, in the throes of death.

This is when I hear God whisper, “You see, my child, some of My most striking work is found in the midst of pain.”

Whether it is death or an ache less permanent, I rely upon God’s promise that He works for my good (Romans 8:28). Because He leaves me completely in awe of the death of a leaf, I know He sends even more beauty to surround me amid any turmoil.

So take James’ advice, rejoice in your trials and watch God transform your hurt into something spectacular (James 1:2).

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An Unlikely Calling

Following God is hard. Just plain hard.

My pride often tricks me into believing I want to follow Christ, until I am asked to do something rather uncomfortable, then I am able to talk myself out of it with minimal effort.

walk-2635038_1280Until I receive a direct call, text, or email from the Man himself, there is no way to know for sure that I am hearing His requests accurately. Right?

I like to believe the heroes of the Bible had it easier. Even though they were asked to do some rather unlikely things, God always sent His own voice, or at least an angel, to encourage His followers. If an angel appeared before me right now, I guarantee you I would jump out of my chair and immediately do whatever is asked of me. Right?

But alas, I am reminded of Philip. Even though he did encounter an angel, this angel’s request was so far-fetched, so out of left field, it would have been wildly difficult to obey.

Philip does not get a whole lot of credit for spreading the news of Christ, but he deserves abundant recognition. Peter is usually the one credited for starting the Christian church, but the facts are pretty clear: Peter was a racist. Yes, you heard me correctly. You see, in Acts, Philip was the first evangelist to spread the news of Jesus’ salvation to the Gentiles. Philip was the one who revealed to the rest of the apostles that the Holy Spirit was for all people, not just for the Jews. He did this by visiting one of the most condemned and filthy cities of his day, where Jews and Gentiles created a vile mixed race of humans, Samaria.

Philip had a shockingly successful ministry among the Samaritans. It says in Acts 8:6, “And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.”

It would appear to the modern-day reader, and no doubt also appeared to Philip, that he had found his place. The success he was having in Samaria would certainly cause any believer to assume that this was God’s will for him, this was where he belonged.

Not likely.

Just a few verses after Philip arrives in Samaria an angel appears to him and commands him to leave Samaria and walk along a desert road.monks-1077839_1280

Hold up. Philip is converting Samaritans to Christianity left and right and God decides he needs to go walk on a desert road, instead? That can’t be right.

Despite God’s unlikely calling, Philip goes immediately. On this road he finds an Ethiopian eunuch, shows him Jesus, and baptizes him. Because Philip did not hesitate to follow God’s call, Christianity was spread to a new continent, a new government, and a new people who would have been otherwise kept in the dark about the Good News.

Let us never hesitate to follow the Lord to the ends of the earth. For sometimes it is at the end of the earth that we will find His miracles.

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A Lesson in the Leaves

My son and I went on a Fall walk today and tried to find as many of God’s colors in the leaves as we could.

Leaves2Every leaf a different shape, a different color. Some turn from the outside in and some from the inside out. Some trees consist of one Fall color and some seem to incorporate every shade into its foliage. Some leaves are already brown and shriveled being taken by the wind, while others hang on to their dark green pigment well into November.

The beauties and intricacies of Fall are all the evidence this world needs that we are indeed made by a mighty, omniscient Creator. The love and devotion with which He turns each leaf are just mere traces of the immense love and devotion with which He approaches us.

When this world is being shaken by the hatred and suppression of God that runs rampant through humanity, I am reminded of God’s eternal power and incorruptible love. In the same way the leaves obey Him, we too are created to obey Him. Disobedience only breeds disorder and horror.20171002_172735

My two-year old is left breathless by God’s exquisiteness all around him. This leaves no excuse for the rest of us who have gone on without the Artist of an idyllic October day and the Giver of each of our breaths.

May God continue to pursue our hearts the way He so lovingly chases after my son’s until every man recognizes whom it is we should be worshiping.

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A Gift from the King

I remember when I was a kid, and it was the night before my birthday or Christmas or Pajama Day, I would lie awake, smiling at the ceiling, with just the slightest trace of nervousness fluttering around in my chest–as if the air I was breathing had been charged with a startling energy. The notion of sleep was such an impossibility that I didn’t even attempt to close my eyes. I just lied there, thinking about how perfect my life was.

It’s not like my life was perfect. It’s just that none of the crap mattered because I knew tomorrow was going to be awesome. It’s as though, while I lied there dreaming of tomorrow, I could already experience the joy that I would encounter the next day. Now that is childlike faith.Person, Human, Female, Girl, Cap, Winter, Snow, Gloves

Things aren’t like that anymore.

I still have joy, but my life is so far from perfect that the word actually makes me grin more than anything. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time I stared at the ceiling in the middle of the night with an unmistakable giddiness in my heart. I do, however, recall staring at the ceiling on several occasions with worry swirling through my mind.

It is difficult to obtain a childlike faith when you are smack in the middle of adulthood.

Even though these moments of inexpressible joy are fewer than they used to be, they certainly still happen, and my adulthood has made me more aware of who deserves credit for these blissful moments.

It is the moments where your problems have not gone from your life, but they’ve gone from your thoughts. In these moments, you recognize what life is truly about. It is not worry. It is not finances. It is not career. It is not simply surviving from one moment to the next, fighting to enjoy a life of chaos.

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No. It is in these moments where God decides to stand up and command your mind to be still.

These moments, where childlike faith actually seems within reach, are the most unlikely of gifts. For these moments are utterly contrary to our earthly reality but undeniably in harmony with a Heavenly truth. For in these moments, you get to see a King bring a gift to His servant.

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Raising a Warrior

I recognized the panicked shriek the moment I was startled awake. When my eyes opened, my 2-year old was standing at the side of my bed, arms out, eyes filled with tears. I thought a brief cuddle was all he would need, then I would guide him back to his bedroom for the last three hours of the night.

His eyes were still wide as I scooped him up and headed toward his room, “No.” He said this with an unfamiliar obstinacy for that hour of the night.20170901_153149

“Honey, what’s wrong.”

A definitive answer that I was not expecting, “It’s dangerous.”

The next morning my husband and I listened as our son wove us in and out of the tale of his nightmare. As I listened to my little talker, I attempted and failed over and over to convince him the scary was not real, though he insisted the scary was only sleeping since the sun had come up. He seemed so young to be personifying fear in such a real way, so sure of himself that he was willing to argue with me. In one short night, a place that was once a refuge for my son had become something to dread—his bed, where the scary lived.

Throughout the day, I struggled to distract him, since his tendency to obsess inevitably brought him back to his nightmare, like a song on repeat. The same thought kept creeping its way back into my day, gnawing at me, since I had no answer: How do I show him there is nothing to fear?

eclipseFor a while, his fears will involve toothy monsters and darkness, but someday his monsters will grow to include rejection, failure, and loneliness—these beasts are not as easy to dispel.

How do I show him there is nothing to fear?

I am no stranger to fear, panic, and anxiety, but it is my deepest desire and my frequent prayer, that by watching me, my children will learn to give fear no foothold, to dismiss it before it is nurtured within them. I have learned that to succumb to fear is to allow Satan to dictate my decisions, to steal my joy. In my weakness, my children will find strength.  

So, when the scary inevitably awakens tonight, I will fight for my son, the way I have fought off my own fear so many times. I will keep searching for a tool that dispels his fear until we find the most effective one. I will teach him that we are not to succumb to fear, but are to submit to our Father, who will be our refuge from every monster we could encounter or even imagine.

armorI will tell my sweet boy not to fear, for his mom has learned how to fight, and the weapon in her arsenal is guaranteed to defeat even the toothiest “scaries.” I cannot keep my boy from being afraid, but I can teach him how to use fear to bring him closer to his Father.

So tonight, I will lie beside him until the scary ebbs away as a restful sleep flows freely. I will sing to him, pray with him, and cuddle with him—no matter how long it takes to convince him he is safe. I will use whatever weapon I need to use to assure him there is nothing to fear, to assure him the “scaries” are not sleeping, are not hiding, but are in fact, not real.

More importantly, I will show him and teach him what it means to rest with the Father until every fear is swept away by His overwhelming peace. I will show him and teach him how to trust in a God you cannot see, how to dwell in his arms–the personification of safety. Because I have become a warrior against the most real of fears, I will raise my own army, my own warriors, and we will all be trained by the One who does not fear at all.

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Choose Peace

When it comes to the safety of my children, there are two dangers that I’m a bit of a freak about: choking and drowning. My two-year old gets so tired of me telling him to chew his food completely and sit down when he eats and take smaller bites that I’m probably going to give him a complex. I didn’t realize water made me nervous, until this summer. Every time my son has his face in the water, blowing bubbles, my heart stops beating until he is breathing air again.

These are the things that I admit without hesitation, I tend towards the freaky, psycho mom inside of me.

However, I am so laid back when it comes to my son’s daredevil antics, I will probably find him on top of our roof one day, and do nothing more than say, “Be careful.”

So, there you have it: drowning and choking are my biggest concerns. Despite the fact that my son moves toward danger like the sun to the horizon. I’ve caught him in midair more times than I care to admit. If we get through the day without a serious head bump, I fear we have offset the universe. He runs toward heavy machinery like it’s his best friend coming home from war, and my husband’s power tools have (in my son’s mind) morphed into his toys, no matter how many times his parents remind him they are indeed not toys. He also prefers hanging out with strangers over his loving and safe parents.20170720_161725

Speaking of having a complex…I’m getting anxious just thinking about it…

From sun up to sun down, I work tirelessly to keep my hoodlum safe, but most of the time I catch him doing something dangerous and mutter, “Well, I didn’t see that coming.”

I’m not overly involved with social media. I probably spend a total of 20 minutes a day cruising my newsfeed. I also have made it a point to avoid the news, and yes, I have no idea what is going on and I’m pretty proud of it. Since the media decided to make President Trump the devil, I’ve decided to live a life of bliss: in other words, a news-free life. I feel like Russia is sorta an important news story right now? I could be wrong.

However, with the limited influence I allow media to have in my life, in the past week, I have seen the following warnings to parents: Wal-Mart jelly shoes contain disturbing amounts of lead, Johnson & Johnson soap contains formaldehyde, dry drowning should be a concern to all parents, fidget spinners are a choking hazard, and baby cheese puffs need more warning labels to combat choking.

20170719_181000Really? This world needs more warnings labels? Is that for real?…

Wow. We have a problem. I never venture into an article on social media that claims to have a warning for parents—in fact, my motto is DO NOT CLICK–so these topics are simply those that I could not avoid. If I was actually searching for warnings, I could probably get you a list of about 100 in two days.

I’ve written about this before and talk about it with numerous parents, but it’s important. The media does not help, but clearly parents are responding to these kinds of stories, which are often not even 100% factual. These stories get shared repeatedly on social media, and the TODAY Show, with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie, has an entire segment devoted to revealing the hidden dangers of this world.

It’s disgusting, and we feed on it like a people with no hope.

I strive for peace in my journey of motherhood nearly every day. I fight for it. I pray for it. And for the most part, God has granted me a peace that allows me to understand and accept that I am not able, in my own power, to keep my children safe. We cannot and should not be expected to anticipate every danger. This world is dangerous and our children are fragile, but going through life like the world is literally out to get our children is no way to live.IMG_20170712_160310_516

Those who pass along unnecessary warnings and rules for parents seem to have forgotten that God grants us wisdom and instincts as mothers and fathers. We are born to nurture and raise up children, and it is our decision and only our decision what is and what is not safe. If we succumb to the fear that so easily entraps parents, we will learn that nothing is safe, and we will have no choice but to lead a very sad life indeed, and so will our children.

This is not how God calls us to live. God knows how much we love our children, and we can let them rest in His hands; He is a trustworthy Father to us all.

There is a disease amongst parents today: fear, and the fear of losing a child can quickly gain enough momentum to rip any parent from the Lord. Satan sees this constant circle of fear wearing on parents, and he will not fail to take advantage of it. He will use it to teach us that we must rely upon ourselves, instead of our trusted Father, to protect our children. This is a lie. You could anticipate every danger from New York to California and still be blindsided by something you did not see.

20170712_154828It should not be a secret why anxiety and depression are such powerful forces in our society today. I don’t see optimism and hope take a front seat to negativity and fear very often. But today, and every day, I wake up and choose peace. Some days I fail miserably and catch myself worrying for my sons’ futures, their health, their safety, but then I rely upon my heavenly Father to pull me back toward Him, for he is peace personified.

I belong to Him. My husband belongs to Him. My children belong to Him.

“In peace I lie down to sleep, for in you, O Lord, I dwell in safety.” ~Psalm 4:8

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Indifference and the Holy Bible

I think the only reasonable explanation is that I simply have not been paying attention. Since I was a teenager, I have tried to consistently read my Bible, and since I was a teenager, I have failed after a few short weeks of relative success. My husband has opened my eyes to the innumerable advantages of knowing one’s Bible; he knows the Bible so well, it tends to annoy me more than anything else. My husband seems to have a verse in his arsenal for every complaint I have, which results in a much less satisfying venting session.

Don’t get me wrong: there have been plenty of times in my life where I have relied upon the Bible as it is supposed to be used, a weapon against the enemy and a teaching tool for every situation I could possibly encounter. However, probably even more frequently than loving the Bible, I have simply been indifferent to it, either picking it up out of obligation or leaving it to collect dust on my nightstand. As if a Bible’s purpose is to only catch one’s eye as they roll over to switch off the lamp for the evening, like it was nothing more than an inanimate knick-knack.20160405_092719

Inanimate? The Bible? That’s the biggest piece of nonsense any of us are going to face today. The Bible, according to (yep you guessed it) the Bible, is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Hear that with me one more time: The Bible is GOD-BREATHED. Period. Need I say more? It is more alive than me or you, because it has always been and it will always be. In the 2000 years since we heard God’s word come out of the mouth of the Savior, much has changed. Heck, everything has changed, but the word has not; God’s promises have not; the life within God’s words has not.

I have diligently sought a personal relationship with Jesus Christ all my life. I have been on a mountaintop following a valley and I have been in the valley following a mountaintop. Jesus has been so close I could almost touch Him, and so far that I was fairly certain He never existed in the first place. Paul says in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” In order to have faith in Jesus Christ, I must hear and apply His word to my life. I must treat it like it is more important than my lunch, because it is. And anyone who knows me will testify without hesitation, my lunch is of pivotal importance to my sanity and my humanness.

cropped-images.jpgIn John 4, Jesus tells His disciples, when they are concerned He has not eaten, that his food comes from doing His Father’s will. He goes on to urge His followers (that’s us!) not to hesitate to harvest more believers, to evangelize the world. Where do we find the strength, as well as the ammunition, to bring more people to Christ? The Bible! We are to devour God’s words because they are life. We cannot walk a Christian life without them.

In recent weeks, I have finally begun to treat the Bible like my very life depends upon it, and something amazing has happened: my very life has started to depend upon it. I read each word carefully, always aware that God is love and God cannot break promises. Therefore, everything He promises me through His word is a guarantee. I just need to accept it without hesitation.

In 2 Timothy 1:7 God tells me that “I have not been given a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of sound mind.” This is an irrefutable truth, and I will approach each day with a fresh and powerful mind.

In 2 Corinthians 12:9 God tells Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” This is an irrefutable truth, and I will not only accept my weaknesses, but delight in them.

In John 1:5 God says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” This is an irrefutable truth, and I will never fear the night.

In Philippians 4:8 it is said, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This is an irrefutable truth, and I will reject all thoughts that are not from God, every thought that is not worthy of praise.bible

You see, Christians, if we approach each day as if all His words are true, we will have no choice but to feast on them—through memorization and meditation—each and every day. This will be required for us to sustain any sort of purpose, any sort of direction.

The Bible will become an essential appendage, and we will begin to wonder how we ever treated it like it was optional. So, let’s open the Bible, and let God’s truths wash over us and fill us up, so we will never again be thirsty.

His words are life. Without them, there is no life at all.

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