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.

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An Unlikely Victory

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The gentle flutter within her was the reminder she needed that life would go on, even after this day. Her hand instinctively went to her abdomen, as if the small life within her held the strength she needed to keep moving, to keep walking.

nature-3244120_1920A smile wearied itself on her face, but not one of happiness, realizing then that she was a walking oxymoron–an equal blend of life and death. Her eyes flickered to what had been a shrub next to the cracked front step, the leaves dried and shriveled, but still clinging to the once strong branches. The vivid teal and red welcome mat was another blinding oxymoron.

She took one last deep breath, a vain attempt to steady herself, and walked across the threshold.

Her eyes instinctively searched for her brother. She knew he would be the voice of reason–the calm one– he was always the calm one. She had no desire to look into her mom’s eyes, or worse, her dad’s, but they were both rushing toward her now, desperate to hear what she had to tell them.

She continued looking at the floor as if the answers to their questions had fallen at her feet.

Breathe, Claire. Just breathe.

“Okay, guys. I really need you to back off a little and have a seat. I will tell you everything if you just give me some space,” she struggled to keep her voice from quivering.

When she did finally look up from the floor, her mom’s deep green eyes were imploring her so profoundly, Claire was sure she was staring through her, instead of at her.

That’s when her brother walked into the room.

“Claire! Did you find anything out?” he asked as he sat down next to their parents, taking his mom’s hand.

“Yes,” her gaze immediately hit the floor again. “It’s…not good news.”hallway-867226_1920

Her mom was already sobbing and her dad began to visibly tremble.

Now she was speaking like a computer program, like the information she received from the doctor had been programmed into her, so she could spout it off with the press of a button. It is stage 4. Inoperable. Begin first round of chemo early next week. Three rounds to start with. Probably more. Side effects would be very damaging. Hoping to stop the spread, to extend life, but unlikely it will ever go away.

Except for her mother’s hysterical sobs, a suffocating silence enveloped the room.

Claire felt the room begin to move, the ground heaved beneath her, and then her brother’s arms were around her, leading her decaying body to the couch.  

As Claire’s parents collected themselves in the kitchen, Grant sat with Claire, holding her hand, saying nothing.

“Claire, you need to tell mom and dad about the baby. What did the doctor say to do about the baby?”

She tried to speak, but nothing would come. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. This fact was the only one she could comprehend, the only one that currently mattered.

“Claire. I will support any decision you make. You know that.”

She did know that. You are dying. You are dying. You are dying.

After an hour of this oppressive silence, Claire’s parents finally came into the room. Her dad knelt in front of her, while her mom stood motionless behind him.

“Claire, we are going to fight this. We are going to trust God’s plan. This is not going to defeat you, do you understand me?” Claire found it ironic that her dad’s words were so confident, when his voice sounded like that of a little boy’s.flower-316437_1280

Claire raised her eyes to his. The words she said next came from a different atmosphere; they were heavy and felt strange inside her throat, “Dad. I am not going to do treatment. I am pregnant, and I am going to let this baby live. After I am gone, he will still be here. My baby.”

You are dying. You are dying. You are dying. After these words were out of Claire’s mouth, she finally had the power to answer this torturous voice within her. But the life inside me is not.

Claire hardly noticed her mother fall to the floor, or her dad begin to curse into the air as he crawled from the room.

Grant just sat there; his facial expression impossible to read.

The strength that flooded into Claire after she pronounced her decision left her feeling a strange sense calm, a peace she had never experienced.

Grant knelt down to help their mother into a chair, where she sat motionless for many minutes, no doubt wrestling with losing her daughter and becoming a grandmother in the same day.

“Grant,” Claire still didn’t recognize her own voice, “I need you to be behind me on this. I need you to tell me this is the right thing.”

That’s when the expression on his face changed, becoming one of unmistakable admiration, similar to the look he had when his little sister hit her first home run, but that was when life was simpler. 

“I have never been more proud of you in my life. We were raised to believe that life always defeats death, and I don’t think there is a better way to tell death to screw itself than to continue to allow that baby inside of you to grow,” tears were streaming down his face now, “and besides, I am gonna be the world’s coolest uncle!”

When Claire left her parents’ house that evening, neither of them had spoken to her. She didn’t know if they were angry, confused, or grief-stricken. Grant had begged her to stay, trying to convince her she shouldn’t be alone.

beach-1822598_1920What Grant hadn’t realized, however, is that Claire was not alone. Her child grew within her, and her Lord walked beside her. She did not know what the future held, and when she allowed her mind to think on it, it was nearly unbearable–fear viciously stopping her breath inside her chest. The only thing that Claire knew for sure is that she’d made the right decision–she had chosen life, when death threatened to consume every corner of her existence.

Now she knew that what she’d learned in church all these years was true: death never wins.

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Thanks so much for stopping by Pursue Peace!

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A Warrior of Feeble Faith

His fear had faded into a weak and desperate voice deep within, but he knew better than to pay it any mind. As he gazed down to the valley, the weary sun was just beginning to find rest on the west side of the hill of Moreh. The commotion from the enemy camp that could have been heard just a few minutes ago had now quieted to muted conversations and hushed whispers, another sign that the men were not anticipating an attack.

desert-1270345_1920A light breeze had picked up, common for this region, and had awakened the sand around his feet, still hot from the sun. He breathed long and deep as he felt his soul settle even more peacefully into what he knew was to come: victory. He knew now what he had to do, and as he headed back into his own camp to rally his men, he thanked God once more for His boundless favor.

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This fearless fighter would soon accomplish a seemingly impossible task by defeating the Midianite army with just 300 men. God had already ordained that Gideon and the Israelites would be successful, and at this point in his story, Gideon is confident of this victory. However, it was only weeks before this courageous moment that Gideon was not valiant, nor confident, nor a warrior.

In fact, he was a member of the weakest clan in Manasseh, as well as the weakest member of this clan. Surprisingly when the Lord first addressed Gideon, he called him a “mighty man of valor.” Clearly God saw what no one else could.

Not only was Gideon physically weak, he displayed fragile faith when God revealed Himself. He questioned God’s motives, as well as His entire plan for the nation of Israel: “O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about? (Judges 6:13).” He goes on to claim that the Lord has forsaken the Israelites and has delivered them into the hands of the Midianites.

When he is finally able to accept that it is in fact God’s will for him to conquer the death-valley-89261_1920Midianites, he questions that it is God speaking to him at all, and asks God for a sign that it is really Him. This is not the only moment on Gideon’s journey that He asks God for a sign.

In fact, it takes Gideon a couple face to face encounters with God to truly find peace in His will. I like to think if God showed up on my doorstep and insisted that I was a mighty warrior, I would nod my head in agreement and follow Him to the ends of the earth, but I know this isn’t true.

Gideon’s story resonates so much with the way I have approached God over and over and over again. No matter how many times God proves himself faithful, I still question His motives, His presence, and His ultimate goodness. How do I know this is really Your will? If you’re really with me, why has all this happened to me? Where are your miracles? How could I possibly do what you’re asking of me? Give me a sign.

Just as Gideon wondered all these things, so do I, and I have a feeling I’m not alone. The comfort we are to find in Gideon’s story is that despite his complete lack of faith and qualification, God still worked through Him to accomplish one of the most unlikely victories in history. God saw something in Gideon, and not only did He see it, He turned Gideon inside out to reveal that part of his character.

When we follow the will of God, our victory is secure, just like Gideon’s. This means that our fear should be conquered and our doubt, crushed. Even in our faith’s weakest moments, we have something that Gideon lacked: the Word of God. God’s word shows us the improbable and phenomenal victories God has achieved for others, and we can be entirely confident that our own battles already belong to Him.

When God Asks you a Question

My kid was sick today.

I haaaaaattttteeeeeee when my kids are sick.

Since I suffer quite considerably from emetophobia, I try desperately to avoid all types of sickness. Fevers-yuck. Coughs-yuck. Sniffles-yuck. Sore throats-yuck. Vomit-double yuck.

20180625_195043Today was no different. Since my little one was suffering from a fever, I had a pretty serious case of the yucks. I didn’t realize until the sun was setting that I spent my entire day sulking about because my plans went on the fritz.

It’s summer. No one should be sick in the summer. Ever. This should really be written somewhere in the Bible. I seem to have spent last winter dealing with a sick kid at least every other week, so I firmly believe I should get to take the summer off.

On my way home from McDonald’s today (this is our go-to meal when mom’s day goes on the fritz) I am pretty sure I audibly heard God say, “Why aren’t you talking to me?”

And that’s when it hit me…

Despite my bad attitude, I had not spoken to God the entire day. In my weak defense, my little one was fussing all day long: It doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for in-depth Bible reading. However, talking to my Father about my frustrating day is the best antidote for a frustrating day, and yet, I avoided Him.

His question didn’t exactly melt away my bad mood:20180624_132711 (1)

“Gee God, I don’t know. Maybe I’m not talking to you because I got nothing done today, or I spent money I didn’t want to spend on fast food I don’t want to eat, or my little boy is hurting and there’s nothing I can do. Or maybe I’m simply not talking to you because you have allowed sickness into this world, and that is not cool.”

I wish I could say that an unexpected sickness puts me in a bad mood because I struggle to see my kids suffering. Although that is a huge part of it, that is not the main reason I sulked around today.

I really just cannot handle when I am not in control, when the day I had planned becomes the day God planned instead. It’s selfishness: nothing more.

Uffda. That is not easy to admit.

I also have dealt with sick children so often in my 3 years of motherhood that I have decided to grit my teeth and just get through it, instead of falling to my knees and asking God to walk with me.

When one of our boys spikes a fever, I often say something like this to my husband: “I just wish I knew how sick he was going to get and what kind of sickness it is and how long it is going to last.”

It is so much easier for me to turn to the Lord when I have some measure of what I am dealing with. It is when I am left in the dark with a day I do not want to face that I suffer from the temptation to deal with it on my own. I will turn to God when it’s all over and offer Him a polite “thank you” for carrying me through until the sickness was over.

20180620_143347I don’t see this kind of weak faith very often in other areas of my life. When our finances explode and I end up shuffling money so we can eat, I have no trouble turning to the Lord. When I am at a loss for how to help my child overcome his fear and anxiety at swimming lessons, I seek help and guidance from God. It is only when sickness hits my house that I decide to muddle it out on my own.

Tonight I am humbled because I serve a God who fiercely loves me–a God who will chase after me on a day like today, and reveal my sin so that I might be transformed by it. I am a sinner. He knows it; I know it. It is when I am faced with my most difficult challenge, like a sick child, that I can truly become eternally grateful for His grace and mercy.

So tonight, despite having a difficult day and being faced with an even tougher night with my feverish little boy, I get to go to bed in peace, because I know that God goes before me–even when I am trying to shove Him out of the way.

All I Want

As I rush out the door, I don’t even notice the scowl that has formed harshly on my face. My diaper bag hangs haphazardly over my shoulder and my two boys are more interested in the ant hill by the car than actually getting into the car. Once again, the house I leave behind is in absolute chaos.

20180716_143811The day has not gone exactly as planned. My husband is late. Again. The lunch dishes are still piled in the sink, even though lunch was over hours ago; the living room looks like I run a daycare of fifty children; and my bed is still unmade: the knowledge of this is reason enough to crawl back into it and try again tomorrow.

The really shocking part about this particular day is that all I wanted when I woke up this morning was to get my house clean. That’s it. That’s the only real plan I had. Now, rushing out the door for the third time, I am painfully aware that I have failed, and I am fuming.

With my kids finally strapped in the back, I cry out to God as I head down the street, “God, all I wanted today was to get my house clean. Is that too much to ask? That’s all I wanted.”

20180622_140112As soon as these words are out, I remember the last moment I spoke like this. It was the night before and they were directed at my husband. As I stood in front of my closet, frustration building, I was trying desperately to find something to wear at a church picnic. Being eight months pregnant in the heat of the summer doesn’t exactly make a girl feel glamorous.

“All I want is to feel human again. I want to wear something that will make me feel more human and less whale. That’s all I want,” I whined to my husband.

Now, as I hit every red light and shuffle through these frustrations, I am completely overlooking what is happening in my backseat. Hair ruffled by the open windows, oblivious to their mom’s bad mood, my boys are wildly singing along to a country song: my son calls it “jamming.” If you have never witnessed two toddlers “jam”, it can melt away a bad mood quicker than a bowl of ice cream.

In that small, seemingly unimportant moment, God let me see my unmanageable day through His eyes instead of my own. His grace seamlessly found its way into my hardened perspective, and with that, I hear Him whisper, “My child, you have all you ever wanted.”

I have no clothes that make me look good this summer because I have been wildly blessed by the Father to carry another one of His children.20180702_164129

My husband often misjudges when he will get home because he is busy blessing others with the business God led us to start, a business that has been an answer to many of our prayers.

My house is never clean because I have two boys whose zest for life has renewed my own.

Stopping at yet another red light, barely able to think because my oldest has asked me to crank up the radio for a third time, I smile at all this chaos. For because of the Lord’s guidance, this maddening life is all I ever wanted.

The Dreaded Mom Motto

Every mom experiences it: One minute she is living the high life as a cool, hip and happening, young mom, and the next minute, her own mother tumbles right out of her mouth.

Three years into motherhood, I wish I could say that this experience just happened to me, but alas, I have been sounding more and more like my mother with each passing day since Week 1 of motherhood.20180706_215053

I am not talking about those endearing qualities in my mom. I am referring to those mom cliches that I grew up hearing, and yet had no response to whatsoever because I heard the same cliches 67 times a week.

Allow me to demonstrate:

The other day my son was ignoring my 900th request for him to pick up his cars. Now, since I am raising two boys and zero girls, our car situation has become sort of dire in our living room. Of course I have a box, devoted entirely to vehicles of all kinds (Hotwheels, monster trucks, wood cars, dump trucks, tractors, pick-ups, jeeps, and on….and on… and on…). Despite my efforts to keep each one of these vehicles safely entrapped in the box, I still end up finding them in every nook and cranny of my home: behind the toilet, tied up in a curtain, shoved in the couch cushions, in a flower pot, and in my own bed. To date, keeping the vehicles organized is my most exhausting motherhood chore.

So, as I asked my son for the 901st time to pick up his cars, my mom came out:

“Young man, I am not going to ask you again. Pick up your cars.”

Oh my… did I actually just say, “I’m not going to ask you again”?

(This is not entirely pertinent to my story, but I did finally get my son–who suffers from a chronic case of selective hearing–to put all his wheelie things into the wheelie thing box).

20180704_205222I call them mom mottos: these fantastically frequent sayings that can be heard coming from any mother in any situation at any time. Most of them don’t really mean anything, and it doesn’t take our kids long to figure that out. If I pull out a mom motto, my children are guaranteed not to react.

My most used mom mottos include:

  1. “We’ll see.” As a kid, I wondered if my mom knew “we’ll see” is really not an answer to a question. Now as a mom, I know what it means. It means “no” but it is a soft “no” in an attempt to avoid an immediate tantrum. Much of the time, it works for my three-year-old, although I doubt it will have the same effect with my future teenagers.
  2. “If you keep crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.” This must be the single emptiest threat a mom can dole out to her children. I am quite certain that even my 18-month old is confident I’m not going to wallop him in order to give him a reason to cry. It is impossible to follow through with this mom motto, and yet, I say it.
  3. “Because I said so.” I never understood this one as a child either, however, when my three-year-old will not stop asking the question “why”–even if the house were on fire he would continue to ask “why”–my only other option is to throw this mom motto out there, in desperate fashion.
  4. “We do not live in a barn.” When I found myself yelling this one out the garage door toward children who were already out of sight, it broke my heart. I cannot believe I actually say this. Even though I have heard this one from other moms, I am pretty certain my mom wrote it herself.
  5. “I am at my wit’s end.” As if my very small, very self-absorbed toddlers care where my wit is and how far away I am from getting to the end, I still attempt to earn myself the slightest bit of compassion by feeding them this line. Guess what? It never works. In fact, one time my toddler asked me, “Mom, what’s a wit?” That’s when I realized I may as well be trying to get compassion from my plants.

It’s unavoidable. Sooner or later, we all morph into a stereotype. And becoming a stereotypical parent means becoming those cliche throwing, don’t-make-me-come-back-there saying humans who raised you.

Excellence

Humility is a slippery little thing.

I guess I’m like a lot of people. Most of us struggle with pride. We love praise and we want people to know how important we are.

I haven’t quite conquered the humility portion of life yet. Although, I pray that God will help me as He says in Proverbs 3:34, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

I want His grace, and I sure as heck do not want Him opposing me.

20180618_100121As a stay-at-home mom, 99.9999 percent of what I do is done in the privacy of my home or the aisle of a grocery store. Because of this, I have been able to realize just how prideful I really am–just how badly I want the world to notice how well-behaved my kids are, or how delicious my baked goods are, or how clean my home is, or how down-right fantastic my canned salsa is–but no one ever notices. Frankly, no one really cares.

My husband used to notice and comment on my mad homemaking skills, but even he has grown used to the things I do.

When I attended my 10-year reunion last week (yes, I am a whopping 28-years-old and have quite the pile of gray hair atop my head, much to my dismay), I noticed how little people asked me about my life. Once the brief discussion about how many children and their names was covered, discussion naturally fell to career. Where are you working now? Do you like it? How long have you been there?

To the world, I am a dangerously unsuccessful person. I had an English degree and was a career woman who was going somewhere, now I stay home, day after day, cooking, cleaning, and teaching. That’s what I do. That’s where it ends.20180612_161243

Surrounded by the people I grew up with, I was desperate for them to know what I actually do with my time. I wanted them to know that each day I focus on the needs of my family by baking, cleaning, teaching, crafting, reading, scrubbing, sweeping, soaking, concocting, juggling, sprucing, inventing, driving, soothing….. And the list goes on….

I wanted them to know I was still worth something.

Even though my boss never praises me, and my coworkers never commend me, and the only thing in my email is a reminder to sign my kid up for some day camp, I am still worth something.

Even though I’ve tossed out my high heels and never set my alarm and have no need for makeup, I am still worth something.

Even though the world does not see what I do like it used to when I stood before hundreds of kids, God sees it. He sees that all I do I do for Him. He sees my commitment to him, and even in the chaos of my thousandth load of laundry, I strive to do it with excellence because excellence is what He commands from His servants. This is not perfection, but excellence.

20180605_153222God asks us to perform the most mundane tasks for His glory alone. This means I don’t do it for my own glory, but only for Him. When I am tired of playing dinosaurs with my boys, I think of Him and how satisfied He is with the work I do. When I am dreading the thought of cooking yet another dinner that my kids won’t even eat, I cook for the Lord. When I have been cleaning all day and my house is still a catastrophe, I remember that I clean for the Lord. When I feel a little less important because I have no career, I remember that I live for the Lord.

Whether we are accountants, business owners, teachers, or just moms, we must always remember that we work for One, and the world will never appreciate how great we are.

It is when we finally recognize our own nothingness apart from the Father that we truly become extraordinary.