Seasons Change

When I was 20, I lived in Southern California for about 4 years.  It was a different world.  Warm and sunny almost every day.  It's something I dream about now.  I remember when I moved back, I would have the same conversation with pretty much every person.  "You lived in  southern California? And you moved back here? WHY?" I had to admit, even though I loved the consistency and predictability of the weather, I missed the seasons.  I missed the changing of the leaves, the vibrant colors and smell of fall.  I missed sitting inside on a snowy day or driving through a snowstorm and finally making it home to sit in front of a warm fire. I missed summer and the trees and the lakes and the sunsets.  I missed all of it. 

When you live in Michigan, you become very in tune with the seasons.  You begin to read nature and recognize the signs of what's ahead and what's behind. Our senses welcome the sounds of Canadian geese flying south for the winter and then returning in the spring, how the snow feels falling on our face, the beauty of the lakes transforming to their liquid form and the robins bustling around the ground in search of new life. These are all signs that change is coming and we anticipate it.  We wait for it.  We hope for it. 

Ecclesiastes 3 says "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven". It's so important to remember that just like nature beholds the seasons, so do our lives. There have been so many times when I have been in a winter season and it felt like it would never end. There was no sign of spring, no sun or thaw. But then, something would break and I would see my season changing, just like they always do. It's so easy to want to cut some seasons short and prolong others.  But without seasons, we wouldn't anticipate what's to come.  Without the sweltering heat I wouldn't embrace the winter snow.  Without the withering of leaves I wouldn't appreciate the vibrant new life bursting forth in spring. The contrast between seasons is what makes them valuable and necessary. 

One of the most interesting things to me when it comes to the seasons are how the animals and the plants all know it's coming.  They know how to prepare for it and exactly what is going to be needed in order to make it through. John 16:13 says "when the spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into the full truth. He won't speak on His own. He will speak what He hears and will tell you about things to come."  I believe, if we listen, that the Holy Spirit will tell us of what is to come and how to prepare for it, just like nature. And just as we recognize the signs of spring, we will learn to recognize His signs as well. 

 

Digging Deeper:

-Are you in a season that seems like it won't end? Speak Ecclesiastes 3 over your situation and know that in God's timing the season will change. 

-What are some ways the Holy Spirit communicates with you?  

-Are you setting aside time during prayer to listen?

I would love to hear how the Holy Spirit has been leading you through your life seasons in the comments below!

"As Is"

I always love looking at houses online. Even when I'm not in the market I love looking at the architectural and interior design of homes.  I also love imagining all the time and effort that is put into "staging" these homes.  I remember back a couple of years ago to when our home was on the market.  At the time our kids were 5, 7 and 9, just old enough to really do some damage and young enough to not take responsibility for it.  I remember the hours we would spend before a showing getting everything just right.  We would throw the kids outside and lock the doors... and windows until we could load everyone up in the van to leave, only to realize that we had shoved so much of our mess into our car that there wasn't room for the kids.  Not kidding. The realtors would always say how well our house showed. It was impeccable.  But no one would buy it.  It was on the market for two years.  Every time the same thing, "just wasn't quite what they were looking for".  After a while you start to think there is something wrong with your house. That maybe we should change something in it to make people want to buy it. You begin doing ridiculous things like buying refrigerated cookie dough and baking them right before the showing and then throwing the cookies away because you just needed that enticing smell.  That would sell the house for sure! Or "maybe we should put that third bathroom in the basement, I knew we should have done that. I'm sure that's why it's not selling."  You just don't understand why people aren't seeing the value in your home and begin questioning if it even is valuable. 

And as I write this, I had planned to relate this all back to the fact that Jesus receives us "just as we are". And although this would make a really good blog and relate to everyone, I couldn't help feeling an overwhelming aching and sadness as I re-read the first paragraph and thought "this is the preparation and heartbreak that young girls go through everyday." Now more than ever they are bombarded with images on social media of what they are supposed to look like.  So they spend hours upon hours of time and thousands upon thousands of dollars trying to make it all look right in hopes of finding someone who sees them as valuable.  The devastating thing is that these girls already are valued.  Jesus bought and paid for each one of them.  That was the agreement made between Jesus and His father. I want all of them. Even the ones that crucify me.  I want them too. A love that sees beyond appearances.  A love that speaks to the potential in each human being. A love that isn't based on merit or appearance or status. A price was paid for them "as is".  AS IS. That means they are wanted just the way they are. No need to fix, change or add anything.

I'm not sure how many young, single women/girls will read this, as that is not the audience I tend to draw, but if you are reading this and either have a daughter or are influencing young girls in any way, please remind them today that they are loved "as is".  In fact, remind them every day.

Weighing In

I've been doing an eating cleanse for the past 18 days...I'm over it.  Although I didn't do it to lose weight there is always that hidden motive in the back of my mind. With that said, I hopped on the scale this morning.  Weigh in is quite an ordeal when you are a woman.  You want to get on the scale right away in the morning and take every ounce of anything off so there is no unnecessary weight that might cause an inaccurate reading.  You know, the kind of stuff that could really skew the numbers, like earrings, wedding rings, bobby pins.  With that, you have to set the scale in the exact right spot on the floor to make sure you have a level surface.  You then have to make sure you step on the scale right in the middle because if you were to be off a little it might throw the reading a few pounds. Finally, you totally exhale because oxygen weighs a lot. Then, the moment of truth.

 When I looked down this morning, mind you after not having eaten anything but vegetables for the past 2 days, it said I had gained three pounds.  Rage.  So I threw everything back on and as I was getting ready to put the scale away I heard that familiar voice say, "what if it's wrong". See, usually I just take the assault and wear sweatpants and a hoodie for the rest of the day but today I decided to trust that voice and go in for the second reading. I stepped on the scale, this time with all of my trappings (including my shoes), and "voila!', I had mysteriously lost three pounds.  Weird.  I kind of felt like Ralphie from A Christmas Story when he realizes that his secret decoder pen was a total scam.  The scale was wrong!  For the past 6 months I was allowing my emotions and self image to fluctuate based on my weight and the scale was broken! 

What if this were true in life as well? What if some of the things we had always thought about ourselves really weren't true, we were just measuring ourselves with a faulty scale. I started thinking about how often we allow the lies of the enemy to dictate who we are.  As we scroll through social media comparing ourselves to others.  "You don't have friends like she does", "you don't love God as much as she does", "you aren't as pretty as she is", "your kids aren't as talented as hers are".  We allow all of these lies to give us a false reading on not only who we are but who others are as well.  Psalm 139:14 says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.  The word "wonderfully" in greek actually means to be set apart or different.  What a lie to think that we have to be like everyone else.  What a lie to think that being different is unattractive.  What a lie to think that we have to "fit in". God individually created each one of us on purpose.  Psalm 139:13 says that He saw you even before you were born, He knit you together. 

Today, be aware of the thoughts that you entertain in regards to who you are. If you find that the scale you have been using to measure yourself with is broken, maybe it's time to get a new scale,  one that gives you a true reflection of who you are.

 

Digging Deeper:

Read:

Psalm 139

-What does these verses mean to you?

-What are some areas that God wants to renew your thinking in regards to who HE says you are?

Hate

Oliviah, my oldest is entering the age of giggling girls, hormones, peer pressure and the one I hate the most "mean girls".  I think this adjustment has been harder on me than it has been on her as I watch girls deliberately sneer, mock and ignore her.  It enrages me as a mother but I also know that it is part of this life.  

The other day I witnessed another episode with Oliviah and a "mean girl".  When I asked her about it she shrugged it off and commented "I'm just going to spread kindness mom".  As my blood pressure slowly began to rise and I pictured my little girl being picked last in gym class and walking around with signs on her back saying "kick me" (non of which ever have happened by the way), I thought, no way, this girl deserves to be put in her place.  How can you just keep being nice to her? She doesn't deserve your kindness!  You need to say something back, you need to be mean back, you need to, you need to.......hate her. You need to hate her. The words bounced around in my head like a racquetball trapped in a court. Although I didn't verbalize this, it was my heart. I was siding with the ways of hate and was about to teach my daughter to do the same.  Because somehow hate makes us feel better. It makes what happened to us feel a little less painful.   I saw my daughter as a victim but in her eyes, she wasn't a victim.  She was willing to put her heart out there over and over again no matter the risk, no matter the rejection because that's all she knew how to do.  And this rejection that she was buffering wasn't effecting her.  It wasn't causing her to go into depression or question who she was. God was teaching her how to love the way that He loves; unconditionally with abandonment of self. Not worrying about running out of love to give but knowing that the well would never run dry.  

I think of the cross and the ridicule and abuse that Christ took as He walked up that hill. He came and loved and died for the very ones that spit in His face and nailed Him to the cross. He came to show us a better way. The way of love. How many times have I contradicted Him with my actions, with my words. The difference between my little girl and I is that I am broken where love is concerned,  she is not. 

My Inner Batman

I'm a pretty happy person... as long as I'm fed, the sun is shining, I'm getting my way, and the scale reads 118 lbs. But to be honest, most days it's a struggle. I find that my moods are constantly being dictated by the alignment of the stars or some other completely intangible whim. The Bible says that the fruits of the spirit are love, joy,  peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). I know I am filled with the spirit, so why is it that I'm having such a hard time seeing the fruit? 

Romans 7 says this: v21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  SO basically I house the superpowers of Batman but at the same time I house the evil undoing of the Joker (aka my "flesh"). I see this struggle constantly at work in my life. I picture my husband walking through the door and I'm smiling and I run to embrace him. The kids see us and they run over and we have a big family group hug. In reality, he opens up the front door and all of my good feelings are gone when I remember that he left his wet towel on the bed again and the remnants of his egg flipping culinary skills are still dried to the front of the oven.  Here's another example; I'm driving my kids to school listening to Christian radio, singing along, talking about how great life is and all of a sudden my speed is cut in half by some cute old man driving 20 in a 55. I want to love him and be understanding that he's probably scared out on the road as he's nearing 85, but all of a sudden I hear the words "are you kidding me?? come on idiot!!" erupt from my mouth. Ok, ok, one more, because I am all too familiar with this struggle. I decide I'm going to start eating healthy and I'm doing great all day until I realize there's a half gallon of ice cream and left over cupcakes in the house. So I use my ninja skills to down three bowls without the kids knowing.... in the pantry with the door closed of course. While I  can sit here and laugh at this from a distance, my husband isn't laughing, the old man in the car isn't laughing and my health isn't laughing.  It says that we've been given the keys to the kingdom but in these moments, I feel as though I've been locked out.

So how do I fix this? How do I get "Batman" to win more? How do I drown out the defenning laughter of the Joker and utilize the power that I have? A friend of mine put it this way; when you go to the gym, you exercise different muscle groups.  If you work your legs, they build muscle and get stronger.  If you work your arms and ignore your legs, your arms get stronger and your legs start to disappear. Such is the case with the two parts of you that war with each other.  If you exercise (or listen to) the hero that's in you (your spirit/Batman), that part of you will get stronger.  But if you let your nemesis (your flesh/Joker) win all the time then that part will become stronger.  

I know we all subscribe to the "10 minute" ab buster that guarantees a six pack in two weeks, so I thought I'd put together a "10 minute" Spirit builder to help us bulk up!

+1 minute warm-up: breathe. seriously. Take a few deep breaths. Accept the fact that you have 9 more minutes of exercise. 

+3 minutes: Acknowledge the power of God's spirit in you. speak Galatians 5: 22-23 over yourself a few times and believe that it is true of you regardless of your past. Replace "but the fruit of the spirit is" with "I am strong in".

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Just like an apple tree that produces fruit, this isn't something you have to try to be, it's something that you are. 

+3 minutes: Identify your triggers.  What situations or people trigger you to respond in a "flesh" way. 

+3 minutes: Pray. If you struggle with what to pray, here's one to get you started, but ultimately, God will help you with what and how to pray. Don't forget to listen as well.  We can't listen to God if we are always talking.

God, I need your help.  Without you intervening here, I am likely to be mean, selfish and lacking compassion. Remind me of your word and who I am in your eyes throughout the day. When I do encounter my "triggers" help me to not default, but to choose to exercise my spirit. I will choose love, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, goodness and self-control today.

 

 

 

Growing Pains

Many of us have that one child or know of someone who has that one child, who really gives them a run for their money.  Many times it's the first born and many times it's the child who has the potential to become an incredible leader.  This is the child that when told to hold a quarter to the wall with their nose for a minute for timeout, drops the quarter "accidentally" while wiping snot all over your bedroom wall.  They then proceed to tell you that you are going to have to wipe all of it up. This is also the child that insists that you don't know anything about doing homework even though you were a classroom teacher for ten years.   They are not only sassy, they are smart and sassy.  The hardest kind. But despite all of this, they are the ones that your heart aches for when they encounter hardships.  They are the ones that you love so much you just want to pull them out of any situation that would cause them pain or sadness....but at the same time, you see a need for the struggle.  You see something in them that starts to change, that starts to soften, that starts to mature as they deal with this new sensation of convergence. 

The way we feel about our own children, is the way God feels about us.  He is aware of all of our successes and is also very aware of all of our sorrows.  In fact, Psalm 56:8 says "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book." He knows all of it and He cares enough to keep record of it. You are His child. In that, there are times when He tells us to press on, to, as James puts it "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." Just like we are with our own children, He sees need for troubles.  As much as His heart aches to pull us out of our uncomfortability, He sees it necessary for producing in us what we need to be complete. He sees you from beginning to end, and as a parent, He won't let you fall short of your potential.  

Have you found yourself in situations lately that are uncomfortable?  Situations that test and try who you are at your core? Let God your Father speak in to those trials. Hear what He has to say.  Let His word drown out all of the others competing for your attention, because He is the one who knows your soul inside and out.  And I can promise you 100%, that if you allow Him to walk with you through the fire you will be amazed at how He will use it for your good and the benefit of those around you! (Romans 8:28, Daniel 3:1-3:30)

Going Deeper

-What trial have you encountered this week/month/year?  Ask the Holy Spirit how He wants to use this to mature you. 

-Read Daniel 3:1-3:30, how did Daniel respond to his trial and what was the outcome?

 

No Apologies Necessary

 I have a pink, fluffy bathrobe that I wear around my house all day.  Even if I am fully dressed, I wear my bathrobe and slippers.... all day.  So when someone stops by my house, the conversation goes something like this : "Oh gosh, you'll have to excuse my appearance.  I just haven't gotten around to getting out of my bathrobe yet today."  The problem comes in when these visitors come back two or three more times and I'm still in my bathrobe. By the third time, I answer the door saying something like this, "yup, I'm in my bathrobe again as you can see.  I'm not sure why I apologized for it the first time you came because in all reality, this is how I look all the time unless I'm taking the kids to school. And even then I may stay in the car with my pink bathrobe and glasses on." They end up laughing and commenting that they wish they could do the same.  

So why is it that I feel I need to apologize?  Why is an apology needed when I feel like I'm doing something that doesn't fit in with the social norm but it fits in with my norm? Ever since I was a young girl I've struggled with self esteem. I found that if I looked good on the outside,  I was admired and accepted.  I played this game for a long time, and the world played back, complementing my external graces. I don't say this in boasting, I say this because I am coming to a knowledge that beauty is fleeting. (Proverbs 31:30). I see myself even now with my daughters, constantly building them up in regards to the way they look, doting over their outfit or their hair, but leaving little said about their character. 

About three years ago, when I noticed my first wrinkle (joke), I had somewhat of a mid-life crisis.  The overwhelming fear that my youth and beauty were disappearing really jolted me. All I could think of were the magazines that showed all of these famous actresses with no make up on demonizing them for getting old.  I faced the fact that I was getting older, and unless I intervened with medical procedures, gravity was going to have it's way eventually.  It may sound shallow, but...well....it is shallow.  It's shallow in the sense that God created me with so much depth that I never really gave consideration to because I thought the most I had to offer was the way I looked. Now that my external was deteriorating, what really did I have left? 2 Corinthians 4:16 says this: Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
 Valuing and discovering who God had created on the inside was just as important as who He created on the outside. 

1st Samuel 16:7 says:  The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

What is at the heart of who I am? What does God see when He looks at me? He tells us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). It says He rejoices over us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). What is found on the inside is eternal.  What we create from the inside is eternal.

Going Deeper:

-What identifies you in life?  For me it was my appearance but it could be a job, being a mom, a wife, etc...  If this identity was taken away, would you still have something left?

-Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you areas where you may value the external over the internal.

-List 3 things that are valuable about you that have nothing to do with your appearance but rather your character.

 

 

What's Wrong With a Size 10?

What's Wrong With a Size 10?

Psalm 139:14-16New International Version (NIV)

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

 

Jeremiah 29:11New International Version (NIV)

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.