Authenticity in the Christian Life

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A lot of people think I have it all together.

They say I am mature for my age, or I carry myself well, or they would have never guessed I’m only 28.

20181117_160554My husband gets irritated with me because I never take these comments as complimentary, which I know is how they are meant.

Other times, the comments are not intended to be complimentary and are dripping with sarcasm: Well, of course, your house is always clean. Not all of us can have good babies. Well you are just perfect, aren’t you? 

When I hear any of these comments, I often wonder how authentic I am being when I am outside the walls of my home.

The way I am perceived is certainly not the way that I am feeling.

I am an honest person. If you ask me a direct question about myself or my sins, I will be very forthcoming about my weaknesses. In fact, my brutal honesty has been a problem for me in the past.

Those who truly know me, who show a genuine interest in who I am, know that many areas of my life are messy, despite the fact that I work on them.

However, in my acquaintances and even in closer relationships with young women, I often discover that I am not portraying my real self to them.

When I am outside in the world, I strive to display a respectful and honoring wife, a patient and devoted mother–basically the me I wish I was.20181116_132355

When I am safely inside the walls of my home, I lose patience with my children, verbally poke at my husband, and struggle excessively with my favorite sin of all — gossip.

Unfortunately, my family gets the worst of me while the world sees my polished life.

I have struggled with how God would have me reconcile these two pieces of my life. I don’t believe He intends for me to air my dirty laundry — to make sure everyone knows just what kind of sinner I really am. However, I don’t want to be a discouragement to those with a younger faith, who view my polished life as unattainable.

The thing is that I don’t have it all together. My life is messy, my home is messy, my faith is messy. I mess up with my kids, my husband, and other important relationships every day.

So what does true authenticity mean to the Christian life?

Of course, we are to model ourselves after Jesus for He was the most authentic of all, but Jesus didn’t have any sins to cover, or dirty laundry shoved in the closet.

I think it is a matter of the heart. The fact is that it does not matter how others perceive me. It is my heart that matters. Am I polishing my life before I step out the door to impress others or to further the Gospel by representing the Christian life? 

Airing my dirty laundry will not attract others to the Christian life, however, pretending to be above the mess won’t either. If I am pretending to be free of problems I will certainly not draw someone to Christ who is heavily burdened. However, I am Christ’s ambassador and am to reflect a transformed life, even when I don’t feel transformed.

In 1 Peter 3:15, God says,

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…

20181015_152240I have no better testimony to the living work of Christ than my own transformed life. Therefore, this life should always be on display. So I pray that people will see my polished life and wonder how I achieved it; I pray they will come to me to find out more; and I pray that I will be ready to share with them that I am nothing but a filthy failure, that it is the Father who lives in me, the Father who I reflect in my daily life, the Father who is perfect.

Unfortunately, these things are out of my control. There is nothing I can do for those who believe I have everything together, other than pray that someday they will come to me to find out the real truth of my “togetherness” — and that truth is Christ. You see, perhaps I do polish my life before I leave my house, but it is Christ who makes me shine. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~1 Peter 2:9

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Not Today, Satan

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Exhausted from playing “the shark game” with my boys this afternoon at the park, I decided to sit out for awhile and watch them race down the double red slides.

As I smiled at their smiles, my eyes wandered over to a big blue van that had just pulled into the handicap spot. Later, I watched this young mom push her disabled son on the zipline, happy to observe that he did not seem to take notice of the able-bodied children running around him, and they took no notice of him. A feeling of immense gratitude washed over me as I yelled at my oldest for heading down a particularly dangerous slide head first. He squealed, “Okay, mom!” as he ran around the equipment for another try at the monkey bars.20181022_204232

As I thanked God for my three healthy children, an uninvited, but not all that surprising, thought entered my mind:

What if all of it is taken away from you?

A thought like that could not have come from anywhere, but the one and only, the giver of crap, the father of lies, good ol’ Satan. Attacking a young mom’s blissful moment with her children has Satan written all over it.

It shouldn’t be a secret that I, as a young mom, often push away illogical fears of sick children, injured children, kidnapped children, and the list goes on. I know I’m not alone, either. The constant bombardment of media telling parents what we should and should not fear guarantees we will never feel completely free from worry.

Of course, Satan has seen my weakness (my unrelenting love for my children) and my strength (my complete dependence on God to raise them in a way that honors Him); so what better way to attack a perfect moment than to remind me I could lose it?

Satan wants to steal our joy; in fact, I think it may be his greatest weapon against us. In 1 Peter, he is described as a lion, and lions are excellent hunters. Then in John, we are reminded that he does nothing but steal, kill, and destroy. Since my joy in the life the Lord has blessed me with is something that draws me near to Him, it is also something Satan has on his radar to steal from me.

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On many occasions, I have had a thought like this and allowed it to get a foothold on my heart, with absolutely no resistance. Gosh, that’s a good point, I should probably be afraid of that. However, these are the moments that Satan has caught me unaware, usually when I am weak in my prayer life. Satan’s lies are so deceiving they cause us to believe perhaps our logic and intellect brought such a thought to the surface. Just as Eve engaged in conversation with the serpent, I often allow one of these lies to fester within me, until it becomes truth.

Today, however, he had no power over me. Possible pain in the future will have no control over my joy in the present. Today I have three healthy kids, and God willing I will have this for the rest of my life. I am the child of a God who is infinitely more powerful than any lie Satan can feed me.

Let him never catch us unaware.

To the Mother of the Boy at the Park

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Today at the park your son annoyed and frustrated me.

He begged me to play with him.

He threw sand at my children.

He hovered over our snack.

He dug in my purse.

He followed me to my car.

barefoot-3569057_1920He picked at every single fiber of my patience, while my son grappled to understand why he was behaving the way that he was.

This boy had a daycare provider who wouldn’t have noticed if he had crawled into my car, something he desperately wanted to do.

You see, this boy could sense that my children were loved, well cared for, and happy, and he was desperate for the same stability.

Despite the selfishness I had to shake off each time he approached me, I attempted to love him the best that I could–to show him a piece of the Jesus that he will search for until he finds.

I don’t know who you are. In fact the only thing I do know about you is that you’re this boy’s mother. I don’t know what kind of difficulties you’ve overcome or how many jobs you work or how hard it is for you to afford groceries, but I do know that your son needs you.

His desperation for my attention told me as much. You gave up the right to settle for a less than stellar lifestyle when you brought him into the world — his beautiful curly hair and deep brown eyes.child-817373_1920

You gave up the right to ignore him, to leave him in the care of someone who ignores him– he is yours, and he is perhaps the one perfect and marvelous thing that you have gotten right. You need to treat him like he is the greatest gift you will ever receive, because he is.

I know that perhaps your life has been hard. I know I may speak of things that I just don’t understand. The only thing about you that I do understand is that your son does not have everything he needs, and this is not okay with me. It is not okay with me that he is growing up in a place where he feels as though he lacks an unconditional love. The unconditional love he saw me offer my children while they played carefree at the park.

swing-846077_1920You see, no matter where you come from or the difficulties you face each day, everything your son needs from you is free. He needs your attention and your love. He needs to know that he is the most important thing in your life. He needs you to step forward and accept the incredible and unique task of raising a boy into a man. There is perhaps no greater calling.

I wish I knew you, and I wish I had the opportunity to help you, to show you some compassion. I do promise you that I’ll lift you up to God in prayer each time your son crosses my mind, which so far has been very frequently, and I will pray that someday you do meet someone that is able to help you rise above your circumstances and show your son how to rise above his.

The Small Heart of a Big Sinner

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My toddler’s defiance is not about me. This is some of the best parenting advice I have ever received.

20180817_063923It is so difficult to avoid viewing my son’s misbehavior as an attack against me. When a child rebels, it is natural for a parent to feel offended, hurt, angry–and dare I say, inconvenienced. However, a child does not rebel to hurt his parents, he rebels because of his sinful nature. When I remember my son’s misbehavior is a product of his human sinfulness, instead of a personal attack on me, it is so much easier to keep my cool and discipline him appropriately.

This was something I had to remind myself of repeatedly yesterday. My three-year-old woke up with one goal in mind: do not listen to a single word mom says for the entire day.

He succeeded.20180817_064021

At 39 weeks pregnant, I did not want to spend my day punishing, disciplining, detaining, and bargaining with my son, but this is what he needed from me. He needs me to mold his heart and his character into the heart and character of a man of God– a man who recognizes and repents of his sinfulness, and rests comfortably in the forgiveness of his Savior.

Teaching him to respect our home is the beginning of how we will teach him to respect others, himself, and someday, his wife.

Making him clean up his mess is the beginning of how we will teach him to correct bigger wrongs in his life, to own up to his more destructive mistakes.

Setting him in timeout while he thinks about what he has done will prepare his heart for when he must sit before the Lord and repent.

20180810_143041Parenting is not about me. My son did not draw on the wall yesterday to make me mad. He did not throw rocks at his brother to emphasize my bad parenting skills. He did not destroy his bedroom to give me even more to do.

My son is a sinner. He did these things because he is a victim of the evils in this world, just as I am. Christ died for for my son’s defiance and refusal to stop arguing with his parents, just as He died for my quick anger, harsh tongue, and love of the world.

For a little while, God has entrusted me with his small heart, and I will not let my selfishness get in the way of this profoundly important task.

Enough is Enough

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I know the answer to all of my problems.

I know that the answer is Christ.

I know Jesus is the answer to my impatience.

I know Jesus is the answer to my anxiety.

I know Jesus is the answer to my love of gossip.

I know Jesus is the answer to my toddler’s attitude.

sunset-174276_1920I have shared these thoughts with friends of mine, and I have had a few reply, “It’s not that easy.”

Oh yes. It is.

It is that easy.

Jesus is the answer to the skyrocketing suicide rate in this country.

Jesus is the answer to the dangerous drug use among our teenagers.

Jesus is the answer to the gender dysphoria that so many suffer.

Jesus is the answer. Period.

Since God has blessed me with a faith that believes these statements without hesitation, I wonder then why I hesitate to develop my relationship with Him.

I wonder why I press snooze instead of getting up to read my Bible.

I wonder why I ask a friend to help me, long before I get on my knees.

I wonder why I trust my plan, my ideas, and my desires more than His.

I wonder why I turn on Netflix to find my peace after a long day with my children instead of spending time in the presence of a Savior who heals and restores all things.

Of course I know why I do or don’t do these things. I’m a lot like Paul when he says in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”

Amen, Paul! I hear you loud and clear!tree-736875_1280

You see, I love the world more than Christ. And sure, I could just chalk it up to the idea that I’m only human, but that excuse just shouldn’t be enough for me.

Enough is enough.

I want everything the Bible has promised me.

I want peace. I want unwavering strength. I want freedom. I want every single one of my prayers answered because every single one of my desires aligns with the King of the Universe.

I want to throw away the things of this world, those things that lie to me and promise peace, and I want to grab hold of an everlasting, all-powerful, indescribable love and devotion for the One who made me.

This is the only answer for me, for you, for any of us.

More than Failure

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I wasn’t a very good mom yesterday.

I lost patience. I yelled. I bribed. I begged.

I wasn’t a very good mom.

Years ago, my vision for my life as a stay-at-home mom did not involve losing patience and yelling. When I dreamed of my years at home with my kids, I unrealistically imagined a woman who effortlessly poured life into her family each day, floating around the house with an angelic glow, as I spread Christ’s love like glitter. I never lost my patience, and I most certainly never yelled.

20180730_120402My visions of my future often display a more perfect, more put-together, more Christ-like woman than the authentic me–the me who feels like at least one wheel is always falling off, the me who is often scrambling, often frazzled, and literally never has any clue what she is going to feed her family at suppertime.

When I sat down with my Bible today, I read about Jephthah, the son of a harlot who was cast out of Israel. Years later, after living as an outcast, he was used in unimaginable ways by the Lord. God has a way of doing that–using the most imperfect people for His perfect plan.

As I read about Jephthah, I realized that like him, I am only human. I do not have an endless supply of patience, nor do I have an endless supply of flawless parenting strategies. Sometimes I just run out of ideas for how to make my toddler behave, and the irony is that my toddler never runs out of ideas for how to pick at my patience.

What bothered me about the way I behaved toward my children yesterday was that I was far from displaying to them the love of Christ. I was short with them. I ignored their requests to play. I begged them to be quiet so I could rest. Christ was no more in me yesterday than was Santa Claus.

I just simply failed. I failed my children, therefore failing my husband–but most of all– I failed God.

Wrong.

It is this guilt that Satan would like me to grab hold of and believe. It is this kind of guilt that I believe the mainstream media refers to as “mom guilt.”20180724_161607

God does not expect me to be a perfect mom, nor does my husband, nor do my kids. As I fought to maintain some level of humanness on a particularly long and tiresome day yesterday, God saw me. He saw me fight to remain calm while my toddler refused to nap. He saw me sigh in desperation as I pulled out nearly every snack from the pantry, just trying to find one that might appease my 18-month old. He saw me throw up my hands and walk away from two little boys who may as well have had their ears removed, due to their complete lack of listening skills.

God always sees me. He saw my desperation yesterday, my frustration, and my sin.

On these days, when I crawl into bed at night feeling like an utter failure, one word is on my heart: grace.

God extended an abundant amount of grace to me yesterday. He showered me with His love, despite my failures. It is this grace that allowed me to begin a new day today, with yesterday far from my mind. It is this grace that allows me to shower my children with love, despite their failures.

As a mom who strives to invite Christ into her home on a daily basis, I know that I can trust God to find a way in, even when I don’t feel like I “impressed” Him. Even on the most difficult days, I can trust that Jesus is still very much present within me. It may not have been quite as obvious to me yesterday, but Jesus has a way of getting around our guilt and our sin and shining out of us anyway.

20180629_142702It is an unbelievable weight off my shoulders when I realize the love of Christ undoes all my sin. In the many areas that I fall short as a mother, He fills the void. On the days I feel more like a tyrant than a mother, He offers me grace so that I may begin another day, and displays His love to my children anyway.

Yesterday I was tired, but Jesus was still my Savior, and His forgiveness is still mine to take. What an relief!

God does not command us to be Christ-like so we can feel guilty when we fail. Even on my best and brightest days, when I feel like my best self, when I feel like I conquered motherhood perfectly, I am still light years away from reflecting the perfection that is Jesus. And so I will view my failures yesterday as a blessing, for they humbled me and again reminded me of my inescapable need for the love and grace of my Savior.  

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Jesus and my Toddler

My suburban is always parked in my driveway. It usually has too many bug guts splattered on the windshield and too little gas in the tank. The #momlife sticker on the back window suggests to all other drivers how I spend most of my time and where my priorities lie. It also may explain why I am so distracted when I’m on the road, often driving with one hand reached in the backseat doesn’t make for a lot of awareness.

20180624_132711I am not a great car owner. Whenever my husband mentions that we should take it to the shop, my first reaction is to question whether that’s necessary and then procrastinate on making the appointment. I depend upon my car everyday, multiple times a day, but I don’t like to fill it with gas, spend money on it, or care for it in any way. In fact, I really only recognize my immense need for my car when it breaks down, usually due to my own procrastination to take care of it in the first place.

God commands us to have childlike faith, and since I have been a Christian all my life, this can be hard to achieve. My dependence on God often looks more like the way I depend upon my car, only appreciating His constant presence in my life when something breaks down.

After my car spends time in the shop, I usually go through a period of gratefulness that it is still in my driveway and hyper-sensitivity to all of its needs. But a few months down the road, I go back to taking it for granted and neglecting the blinking light by my speedometer. My walk with God often looks a lot like this. Whenever He sees me through a major change in my life, I praise Him and pray to Him constantly, fervently living to serve Him. When a few months have passed, I go back to weak prayers, obligatory Bible reading, and overlooking His many blessings.

Since entering motherhood, my inconsistent and noncommittal walk with God has changed. Someday, when my hair is gray and my son is grown, I am going to thank him for the many ways he taught me about authentic faith in Christ.20180611_191035

At three-years-old, his honest love for Jesus convicts me nearly every day, and motivates me to grow still closer to Him. His fascination with the most simplistic aspects of God’s creation convicts me that no matter how many times I see a bird in flight, it should still cause me to recognize God’s true character–a God of abundant love, sovereign over every detail.

His innocent questions about where Jesus lives convict me that perhaps my knowledge of the Lord has grown weary, and I no longer see Him as a constant companion. His profound connection and concern for a hurting acquaintance convicts me that I too should have compassion for all God’s people, following Jesus’ own example. 

His childlike faith has allowed me to see God through the eyes of a child–the way I used to see Him when I slept on princess sheets under a white-lace canopy.

My son weakly walked up to me last week and said, “Mommy, my tummy hurts.”

Since I’ve learned not to put a lot of stock into my toddler’s complaints, I aloofly said, “What do you want to do about that, bud?”

Completely unaware that I was about to experience one of those lasting moments, a moment I will look back on when he is well grown, he surprised me when he whispered, “I want to ask Jesus to come help me.”

And with that, he began to pray.

“Do you feel better now, bud?” I asked after he’d said amen.

With a grin, he looked at me and shouted, “I feel great!” and ran off to play with his brother.

20180701_131620It occurred to me in this intimate moment with my son that as an adult, my knowledge that the very presence of Jesus will not only diminish my pain but completely cancel it out has grown weak. I often find myself praying fervently to Him, yet feeling no change whatsoever after I say amen. This absence of answered prayer is not from a lack of God’s presence, but from a lack of childlike faith.

When I bow my head to pray, I must believe with as much passion as my toddler, that Jesus is ready, willing, and waiting to give me all that I desire.

This is authentic faith.