Living With Holy Grit

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It’s finally summer here in the Midwest, and all God’s people said AMEN.

I welcome the warmth and the sunshine and the wildflowers by the side of the road. But one thing makes me wish it was still cooler…  I came home the other week after shopping for my husband’s Father’s Day gift. One of my littles was refusing to come inside the house, so I scooped him up (*tantrum and all*) and stepped inside, dropping my diaper bag right on the foyer floor. I glanced down to make sure I didn’t smash anything when I saw THEM.

Ants. Swarming. Scurrying. Roaming around my home like it was their own.

It was an invasion, but this girl wasn’t having it. They had made their way into my babies’ playroom, crawling on their toys, devouring leftover goldfish crackers. A few minutes later one of them bit my youngest son’s foot and that settled it. IT WAS WAR.

If I’ve written about my annual ant massacre before, I apologize. It’s a condition, and I know I’m probably a little more crazy about these stinkers than the rest of humanity. But that afternoon I spent TWO HOURS killing as many ants as I could. I moved the boys’ toys around, found their secret hiding spots and used my stellar detective skills to stalk them back to their places of entry. I used disinfectant, essential oils, ant traps and 6,000 rolls of toilet paper. I was determined to get rid of them and flush as many invaders down the toilet as I could. Meanwhile, my children stared, wondering what was wrong with their mother.

But in the midst of my madness, I realized something about ants. Are they annoying? Heck yes. Do they gross me out? For sure. Are they resilient? Without a doubt. They kept moving forward towards their goal, collecting as much food as they could, even when they saw other friends disappearing to the left and right. They didn’t care. They kept pushing on. They kept going.

These little buggers were the essence of resolve. So much so, I actually found myself wishing my grit was as strong as theirs… especially in the face of danger. You heard that right. I wished I was more like an ant. Like the ones I was trying to snuff out. The ones whose stubbornness made my job a lot more difficult. I was frustrated, but I was also impressed.

And while I am semi-embarrassed to claim ants as my teachers, God does say He uses ALL things to for the good of those who love Him and that includes my insect wars. My mind began to remember all the stories in the Bible where people were given the power to stay the course and trust God for His good promises. And then I began to think of my family and friends, how they have endured so much pain and hardships, and yet, they keep walking forward in faith. Maybe God made me the same way. Maybe He made us all with His holy grit.

God’s kids have always been persevering people.

Time and time again, we overcome obstacles and jump through rings of fire. We don’t give up without a fight and with God we never give up. When Satan throws attacks our way, we push past his aggravating antics and point him back towards the Cross. We make him remember the place of his well-deserved fall and public defeat. Jesus died to reconcile God’s children to Himself, but He also died in order to make something very clear to His enemies. He wanted to show them that nothing, not even a tombstone covering a manmade grave, could keep the Kingdom of God from prevailing. He died to show them His resurrection power and highlight all the glory that would be given to the King. He died for us, but He also died for them. He died to show them WE WIN.

In the face of fear… we win.

In the middle of chaos… we win.

In the darkness and storm… we win.

In every situation and trial, no matter how our current circumstances appear, WE WILL ALWAYS WIN. This gives us the ability to put one foot in front of the other. This gives us the opportunity to turn to God when we feel downcast or weary or scared and say, “I may not see it right now, but I know WE WIN.” His promise helps us persevere and His Spirit sustains our hearts, but His love has already made a way. Our path may not be easy, but the road is paved in sacred stone. We are walking out our victory, my friends. We are God’s triumphant… reigning… completely persevering people.

May every creature, both big and small, know who we are. May the forces of hell see what happens when the Sons and Daughters of God set their sights on heaven and claim what is rightfully ours. May our determination make the enemy’s job difficult and our resilience change the world. May we do life with purpose. May we live with holy grit.

And all God’s people said AMEN.


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When God Opens the Floodgates

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Our basement flooded last week, which was both surprising and confusing. It really shouldn’t have happened. Our home is in its preschool stage, coming in at less than 5 years old. We thought important things like sump pumps were supposed to last longer. It’s even hidden in the dark corner of our basement, far away from the little hands that have put holes in my walls and ripped apart my nice window blinds. #boymomlife

But alas, while we were gone on vacation it apparently rained 5 million inches. Our plumber laughed when we told him where we lived and informed us that the company who built our home with “integrity” and “efficiency” was also crazy cheap. So, there’s that.

For three hours my husband and I took turns sweeping water into the emergency drain on our basement floor. If you’ve ever wanted to know what a seemingly pointless job looks like, I’d suggest grabbing a broom and going at it. More and more water kept pouring in, and there was no sign of it stopping. We continued to redirect it towards a small hole in the ground instead of the (now smaller) remnant of our undamaged baby gear. The flood was definitely winning. As I stood there counting our losses, my writer brain started turning… Water is powerful thing.

Storms. Tidal waves. Hurricanes. The way of the ocean and rivers. So much capacity to wreck and weaken. God Himself hit the restart button on earth with fierce rain and surging seas. (Side note: I NEED to write a post on what I’m learning about the great flood because it’s mind blowing. But we’ll save that for another day.)

The thing is, besides praying to our Creator, nature is out of our control. We can’t physically stop it from raining. We can’t redirect the weather. We can predict and prepare and possibly prevent. But even then, sump pumps fail. Basements are filled. Possessions get ruined. 

But you know what… Our God isn’t afraid of life’s floods. 

He doesn’t shy away from the storm or avoid the sudden surge. When Jesus walked on earth He also walked on water. He calmed the raging waves and stilled the mighty winds. Instead of fearing the downpour, He decided to pour out more of Him. Jesus promised an abundance of LIVING WATER for all of God’s children… Water that would revive and empower and, ironically, set their souls on fire. In a glorious turn of events, God chose to unlock Hisfloodgates and let heaven’s riches shower upon His kids. They wouldn’t understand just yet, but soon the power of the resurrection would reside in their own hearts. Soon they would experience “immeasurably more than all they could ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within them.” (Ephesians 3:20 NIV) And this same truth extends to us today.

Dear friends, when God opens His floodgates, nothing is held back. He opens His arms and welcomes us in. He puts His full character on public display. Nothing can redirect His mission and nothing can stop His passion. He shows us more grace than we deserve, more peace than we can hold and more love than we can comprehend. This is the power of the gospel. This is the beauty of the BEST news that’s ever been. It washes away our stains and removes our deepest sins. There is nothing God’s kindness cannot touch. There is nothing God’s forgiveness cannot make pure. And we get to be the recipients! We receive the glory of heaven when we open our hearts to Him.

That wet afternoon God shifted my eyes from our basement floor towards heaven’s throne so I could truly see Him. As I stood watching the water press in, all I saw was grace. We were back from vacation and not out of town. We caught the flooding before everything was lost. My husband heard the words ‘sump pump’ while praying the night before. I had moved a good chunk of boxes from the flooded corner two months prior. My husband’s work gave out a bonus that covered the cost of our new sump pump. A sweet neighbor let us borrow their dehumidifier and blessed us with pizza for dinner as well.

Our God was there. He showed up in the storm and was pouring out His love. And it was all grace.

Grace like rain.


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For The Days You Feel Left Behind…

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Yesterday I was doing puzzles with my youngest two boys. As in true toddler fashion, we got to the very end and realized one puzzle piece was missing. Emotions started to rise, cries started emerge and then there were tears. I tried to console my littlest as I grazed about the table. I was completely confused.

If we were doing an old, worn-down puzzle, I would have left it at that. But we weren’t. This was a brand, spanking new one, never out of the box. The kids hadn’t gotten their mess-making hands on it yet, so logically this was going to be the one puzzle in our house that could have a satisfying resolution. But here we were again. Staring at another unfinished task. Focusing on the hole. Wishing Chase’s face would magically appear in its Paw Patrol place.

It felt a whole lot like my life. Like all of the pieces were floating around me, never able to find their final landing spot. Everything I’d been trying to do lately was adding up to incomplete. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how many cups of coffee I drank, I could never keep up. Not with the house. Not with my writing. Not with my relationships and work. I felt like I was missing it. Missing the mark. Missing the opportunities. Missing the people. And I found myself wanting to sit on the floor and cry with my toddler.

There’s really so much going on in our culture. At least, that’s what they try to make us believe. There’s always something more we can do. There’s always something else to pursue. Things rarely feel truly complete. Most days I feel desperately behind, like I’m stumbling forward trying to find the right path to take. Trying to find the best next step. And sometimes when I finally decide, it seems like it’s too little too late. Instead of experiencing new ventures or finalizing plans, I’m met with closed doors and ‘try agains.’

And I’m starting to feel exhausted.

Because who has time to keep up with all the things? Who has time to do everything wonderfully well and find all the missing puzzle pieces? I don’t. They don’t. And if we are honest with ourselves, I’m pretty sure all of us feel like we are behind in some areas that require serious crushing. Slay all day, right?

But what it we are looking at the puzzle wrong? What if the pieces aren’t together for a purpose? What if the process is more important than the product. I’m not sure when I started believing incomplete projects meant I was incomplete too, but I did. I’ve assigned my own worth according to how much I can get done, how much I can please people, how much I can do for my family and even God. And it’s incredibly inaccurate.

My Creator knows me. He sees my days and understands my struggles. He doesn’t want me to feel like I have to prove myself to Him or anyone else just because I check off a box on a checklist. Sure, it feels fantastic to finish things and finish them well, but it becomes dangerous when we start to define ourselves by our successes instead of our Savior. We are worthy of His lavish love regardless of our performance. We remain His precious children even when we feel like failures. We are held together even when we feel like we are falling apart.

And maybe… just maybe, our good God sees our lack as an opportunity to fill us with more of Him. Maybe our missteps make room for Him to step in. Maybe when we feel left behind or the unfinished pile looms overhead, that’s when we can turn to Him and ask Him what He sees. Because His wisdom knows no end, and His judgment is true. If He allows for things to be imperfect, it’s because He understands the beauty of redemption. He understands how growth can lead to greater gain, more than instant gratification could ever generate. He wants to give us His best. And He knows exactly how He is going to get us there.

So, next time we see life’s holes, let’s choose to walk in the footprints of our gracious God. We aren’t behind, lovely friends. As long as we are standing with our Jesus, we will always be right where we need to be.

When New Years Freaks You Out…

 

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Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

It’s here. The time of well-intentioned resolutions and goals.

It’s the season of change and pursuing dreams.

And while I’m all for living with purpose and determination, this time of the year also stresses me the heck out!  Should we make lists and step boldly forward? Totally. Should we dream big and hope for abundant futures? For sure. But things start to get murky when we look around, get freaked out and proceed to haul loads we were never meant to carry. Let me explain.

I was on Instagram on January 1st, and I was stalking hard. I fixed my sight on my Instafriends, and I was amazed at their gumption. Their goals were dead set, with clear direction and drive. Meanwhile, I stared at my computer screen and could barely muster up enough energy to make breakfast (aka: pouring cereal in a bowl). I immediately started to heap on the guilt, so I made a brilliant decision. I was going to copy their lists.

So, let’s see: I’ll add 20 min of Bible reading each morning with a dash of Weight Watchers and then some 30 minute daily exercises because why not. And while I’m at, let’s throw writing goals and speaking engagements and building an author platform into the mix. Wait. I forgot about purging my home and reorganizing all of my dreaded ‘dear-God-don’t-open-that-door’ closets! Oh, what about the kids and husband? I forgot to put them at the top of the list… well right under God because He comes first… wait, hold on… I totally spaced on my friends! I need to invest in these sweet relationships more too. That will be my third priority, I mean fourth… Agh! I don’t remember the order. Did I get enough sleep? Shoot. I need more sleep. Add it to the list.

After almost inducing a panic attack, I made another decision. A better one. I decided to ask God what He thought. What did He think of all these resolutions and resolved minds? Was He the author behind these grandiose lists and longings? He answered me with a single sentence. “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.” (Romans 12:6 NLT). As I read these words, I felt my spirit sigh with relief. Different gifts for different people. Unique callings for certain things. All done with one purpose: to do it lovingly well. How kind of our King? How thoughtful of Him, to let us know He does not expect us to do it all. We don’t have to imitate one another’s aspirations. In fact, it has never been His plan to do so.

Our Creator is generous in His giving. He created the universe in all its spectacular glory, while forming His Daughters and Sons with distinct and directed precision. He placed talents and desires in our hearts that are meant to showcase His love, and no two hearts are the same. Our lives reflect His beauty in varying ways, which means our goals are going to look different as well. Really now. We can stop trying to copy and paste. Instead, how about we focus on following His lead and listening for His Voice whenever we encounter life’s opportunities and questions.

What does He wants for our days? What greatness does He have in store when we allow Him to be our guide? Because He’s got this. He has the giftings covered.

In His grace, all of our precious callings have been combined and connected in order to compliment one another… not stir up comparison.

Together, as the Body of Christ, we can show the world the diverse aspects of God’s character. And when we hone in on what He has called us to do, we can do it abundantly well.

So, this year I’m choosing the better way. I’m choosing to listen instead of list. I’m choosing to ask my Father what is needed, and let go of all the extra expectations I am tempted to lug along. He wants us to set our eyes on His good leading. He wants us to experience His gracious best.

May we feel lighter, Dear Reader.

May we fill our lives with Him.

Embracing Silent Night

milky-way-984050_960_720I checked my email again this morning, and there was nothing.

No word. No perceived movement. No answers. I wanted a response before Christmas, but instead I’ve found myself dwelling in this silent space for months… An in-between standing where one foot is in the desert, while the other rests in the Promised Land. I’m holding on to hope, waiting for the invitation to come and join the world of published authors. And it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

Sometimes I wonder if Jesus picked the wrong girl to be a writer. Did He accidentally call my name when He meant to call my neighbor’s? Because my struggle with rejection has always been real, a fact that doesn’t jive well when hearing no’s or nothings. I’ve always wanted to be received and welcomed and chosen. The people-pleaser in me often assigns my worth according to accolades of others. But this publishing process is a whole new world, one with navigations and rules I never knew existed. It’s a slow-moving machine that often leaves me sitting in silence, wondering if I have what it takes. Wondering if it will ever happen. And as the voices begin to creep in, I try to drown them out before my heart begins to sink…

Maybe you should just turn back.

Maybe you are dreaming too big.

Maybe you are not that good.

Maybe it is not meant for you.

Maybe your God won’t come through… 

 It’s such an easy slope to slide down, especially when I’m prone to making myself feel low. As women, I think we tend to be experts at tearing ourselves apart, even if others can see our beauty and brightness in full. We look at our perceived flaws and forget our glory. We choose to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. We look for affirmation and confirmation from different people, places and things, hoping they will tell us what our hearts need to hear… Are we loved just as we are, even with our broken and tattered parts? We pray so. We pray we don’t give in. Because when the feedback is negative or we hear nothing at all, we begin to believe the lies whispered to our souls in the silence.

But our mighty God is known for birthing miracles in the dead of the night.

In Bethlehem. In Judea. In our own homes…. A few evenings ago, I was rushing around, trying to get my oldest son in bed. I noticed he had ripped down his window curtains again, and in a flurry of frustration, I snapped at him and asked why on earth he kept doing it. He shot me a sideways grin and said, “Can you see the stars? I see new ones today.” His answer stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t remember the last time I simply paused and looked at the stars. So there, in the stillness of my boy’s room, I stopped what I was doing, walked to the window and decided to stargaze. It was breathtaking. Twinkling lights shimmered above the neighboring houses, reminding me that silent nights can highlight unnoticed beauty in our lives. Even when things seem dark and voids of unanswered prayers exist, God’s promises will continue to shine through. These quiet moments calm our hearts and help us listen as our kind Creator speaks. He longs to show us what is true. He longs to show us who He is. He longs to tell us who we are.

Even though I wish my email box had plentiful replies from publishers and agents, I am grateful for the unknown void. Because this is where He has shown me. This is where He tells me I am worthy of His goodness, regardless of anyone else’s approval or acceptance. This is where He calls me His pride and joy. This is where His mercies are never-failing and His faithfulness reigns. Here, He holds my identity in the palms of His love-scarred hands, and nothing else can take that away from me. Book contracts do not define me. Social media doesn’t have a say. I am His Daughter and delight. I am His friend.

Dear Reader, this stillness is not only needed, it is sacred.

Without the pause we wouldn’t have the chance to reflect and receive. We wouldn’t have the opportunity to trust Him for His best. As we enjoy His presence, He welcomes us into His peace, and He blesses our hearts with real rest. So why should we rush it? Why worry or fret? Let’s linger in this holy place a little longer.

Let’s embrace our silent nights.

And choose to be with Him.

Five Things You’ll Never Hear Me Say

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The more I do this adulthood thing, the more I realize few things in life are ever really certain.  Jobs switch, moves happen, people come and go.  We are in a constant state of motion, moving forward, stepping backward or swaying somewhere in-between.  Few things remain the same.  But if we are lucky, we can stop and think about our hopeful handful of certainties.  These are the aspects in our lives that stick with us through thick and thin, in seasons of triumph and trials.  Their truths are engraved so deeply in our hearts, we can confidently say that if they changed, it would change who we are.

So, I decided to do it.  I sat down and wrote my top five you will never hear me say.  And even though it’s been said that we should never say never, these realities are my exceptions.  And it makes me wonder, Dear Reader… what would be on your list?  What would be your handful?  If you are feeling daring, I would love to know 🙂

1.)  I hate chocolate.  I mean, let’s start this off light, but completely serious.  I will never betray chocolate.  I believe God made this manna from heaven because He knew we would need phyiscal proof that He is good.  For real.  When I need a pick me up… chocolate.  When I need to reward myself… chocolate.  When I need something to bribe my kids with… chocolate.  When my husband wants to show me he loves me… chocolate.  It really is the answer to almost any problem, and it is the taste I just couldn’t live without.  Chocolate and I are here to stay.

2.)  I can go it alone.  There are times I like to pretend I can do things without the support and encouragement of others, including God, but who am I kidding?!  I need my people.  I can’t do life without others by my side, something our Creator knew full well… He knew we needed relationships with other humans.  He knew we needed authenticity with those we trust and fellowship with people we enjoy. God, Himself, is extremely relational.  He could have made the universe and left it at that, but His heart craved closeness with His children.  Our Father moved heaven and earth just to be with us.  Jesus left His throne room in order to walk by our side.  His love is no joke.  It is infinite and true and full of grace.  And as He walked with God’s Sons and Daughters, He called them by name.  He called them His dearest friends.  If God chose to never go it alone, I figure it’s okay for me to never do it either.

3.)  Family isn’t important.  Kind of piggy-backing off of the previous point, I could never NOT put my family first.  Sure I have passions and dreams and work that I want to pursue.  But in the end, if I pursue those things harder than the people God has given to me, a part of my soul will feel it.  My husband and boys are my world.  My parents, grandparents, siblings and their families help make me who I am.  No family is perfect and relationship strains happen, but nonetheless, every relationship within my family is important.  They help me grow and give and love, and I am so blessed to experience those things in return.  Even if we experience pain and heartache within our earthly families, God extends a royal invitation to His children… an invitation to sit at the table and dine with the King of Kings in His Kingdom.  We are part of a holy family that will never fade, a kinship that is eternal and powerful.  We can never remove ourselves from this family, and our Father can never remove His love from us.  It’s the deepest part of who we are, and it always comes first.

4.)  There’s nothing for me to do.  Sure, I have a house full of boys, with chaos and clutter following me wherever I go.  There is never dull moment, and I never get to the end of my to-do lists.  Still, as I push past the surface level mess, I realize God has called me to do great and glorious things.  Sometimes I forget who I am, and I forget my role on the is earth.  But when Jesus gently reminds my heart of the truth, I can’t help but stand a little taller.  I am His.  I am important.  And I am going to change the world.  As long as I am breathing there will always be something for me to do, but I want to make sure I’m doing the right things.  Things that make a difference and reflect His ultimate purpose… loving others well and loving Him.  As long as everything I’m doing points to those two imperatives, all other things will fall into place.  The white noise in our culture is at an all-time high, but God’s voice will always break through.  As He speaks His life into my heart, He wants me to share this life with the world.  He wants me to know my worth and embrace my identity.  And I pray I get to be a part of others discovering theirs.

5.)  God is not real.  I’m sorry, but God has just done too much in my life to deny His existence.  He’s changed me in ways I never thought possible, and He’s saved me from things I never could escape on my own.  And it’s not just me… I’ve seen countless lives transformed by the power of His love.  Relationships restored.  Pasts redeemed.  Hearts healed.  There’s just too much evidence pointing to the truth of His personhood and character.  His beauty is part of my soul.  His Spirit is part of my life.  His goodness defines who I am.  He knows me and loves me and has changed everything I am.  Many other religions have gods and goddesses that require sacrifice and service and perfection in order to gain acceptance.  But the God of the Bible is the only God who did the opposite.  He sacrificed everything so we could be with Him.  Jesus’ life was laid down in order to make the unseen seen.  It was a tangible expression of His faithful promise to make all things new and brings us back to Him.  There’s no other love like His out there.  Not in any religion or any church or any relationship.  His grace is perfect, so we don’t have to be.  If that’s not real love folks, I don’t know what is.

Dear friends, we need to know what we know for sure.  It’s worth the time and energy to write these things down in our hearts.  Because yes, few things in life are truly certain.   But it’s the precious few that make life worth living.