Tuesday, October 25, 2011


"Oh, my word, I could HUG YOU!" I said to my friend Angie when she brought me a Coke in the hospital after I'd had my son. I'd had this insatiable craving for soda, and once I had delivered, I was so ready to have an ice cold bubbly Coke.

Well, guess what a nursing mother should most certainly NOT drink, unless she wants her newborn to get all hopped up on caffeine? Let's just say that Night Two of my son's life was a little rough.

It didn't even occur to me that what I was guzzling down was going to affect my child. And that it wasn't gonna be pretty.

When one of my children was still quite young, I used to watch old episodes of "Friends," without concern that they would pick up on anything. At that young age, surely everything would go right over their heads, right? Nope. My child heard--and learned--an unsavory word (a word my husband and I do not say, thank you, Joey and Rachel), and then proceeded to say this unsavory word at a birthday party with a lot of my husband's co-workers within earshot. Good times.

What I was taking in was affecting my children more than I realized.

But then just yesterday as we were driving, I overheard my child singing quietly in the back of the car, "My one defense, my righteousness--Oh God, how I need You." I didn't set out for my child to necessarily learn that song, but it's been what I've been listening to the car.

And what I was taking in was affecting my children more than I realized.

The conversations we have.
The shows we watch.
The music we play.
The things we read.
The places we go.
The things we do.

What we say/watch/hear/read/do will affect our children more than we realize. Maybe they're right there alongside us, seeing and hearing as we see and hear. But even if they aren't right there, the things we take in will either tender or harden us--and our sons and daughters will most certainly be affected by the overflow of our hearts.

* When you think about your children being affected by what you take in, does that make you happy...or concerned?


Monday, October 24, 2011


"When you become a mom one day, be sure to say YES when you can. And, believe me, you'll be able to say yes more than you'll realize--or sometimes more than you'll want."

I was only in high school when my mom's friend said this to me--a full 10 years before I would become a mother myself. But there was something about these words that always stuck with me.

My son's birthday was this week. One of his presents was a really cute book I found at a book fair called Yes Day. It's about a young boy who gets one "Yes" Day a year. He asks for pizza for breakfast; The answer is yes. He asks to use hair gel for spiky hair; It's a yes. He asks for a piggy-back ride, to clean his room tomorrow, to stay up late. Yes, yes, yes.

We read the book together, giggling at the fun pictures, smiling at the sweetness. And then we told our son that, on his birthday, he could have his own "Yes" Day.

I braced to have to say "No" on at least something. But you know what? I didn't have to. He didn't ask to drive the car, get a pet tarantula, or inquire about selling his sister for a Nintendo DS.

He just asked to go get frozen yogurt. He asked to follow a train that went by when we were out driving around. He asked to stop and play on the old caboose downtown. He asked to ride his bike. He even asked for some Cheese Puffs (Huh? How does he even know what those are??).

So we went for frozen yogurt. We followed the train. We got out and played on the old caboose downtown. He rode his bike. And yes, I stopped and got him some Cheese Puffs.

We didn't say "Not this time, we need to get home" when he asked to follow the train. Which is something I've totally said before, even though I had nowhere else I really had to be. I didn't say "No, buddy--maybe we'll play on the caboose later this week" like I've done in the past, simply in an effort to put him off. And when he asked for Cheese Puffs, I didn't go into some long tirade about the empty calories and chemically-processed electric-orange cheese like I totally ordinarily would have. I bought him a bag and listened to him happily crunch away in the back of the car on the way home.

It was freeing. And I think it meant more to me than it did to him.

I say NO too often--and for no good reason. "I can't sit on the floor and do a puzzle because I'll be in a world of pain if I do." Well, I did just that yesterday. Yes, it hurt (Thank you, sciatica and broken tailbone). But it also felt wonderfully right to plunk down and work on a puzzle with my kids. "No, you can't eat that. No, we can't do that. No, I'm too tired to read another book." Often my NO is spoken out of my own exhaustion or inattention, rather than a legitimate need to say no. Saying no is sometimes the easier answer--not necessarily the right answer.

My heart hurts just thinking of all the NO. Now, I'm certainly not saying I regret responding with a Necessary NO when I've had to. God has placed us over these children to give parameters and guardrails. A kindergartener has no business choosing their own diet, their own bedtime, nor their own rules on a day-to-day basis. God gives us wisdom to raise them up with boundaries for their own blessing and protection. There's a reason YES Day can't be the norm. And I can tell you that although he didn't grow an extra head from eating those Cheese Puffs, they probably won't be on next week's shopping list!

Sometimes the answer really needs to be NO. But it's the too-often-Unnecessary NO that grieves me.

Why not a YES when they want to read a fifth book? Why not a YES to stop and play on the playground when you know time will allow for it? Why not something that might make a bit of a mess, but will create a beautiful lasting memory in their minds?

I wanted to be a mom for the books and the puzzles and the painting, and to every "Can we?" to which I could say YES. Yes isn't the right answer every time, but perhaps it is more often than we may think.

And when we don't always make NO our Go-To answer without cause, it just might make our NO carry a little more weight when it has to get said.


Sunday, October 23, 2011


I think $1 million is just crazy money. If my husband and I worked for 23 years and didn't spend a dime, we could finally bank $1 million.

But not Bill Gates. He's worth $56 billion. That's 56,000-millions of dollars.
Beyond crazy money! That guy could buy his own football team with the change he finds in his couch cushions. He could do a crazy spending spree, and it would hardly make a dent.

But he COULD run out of money. He could spend every penny. He could exhaust it all. It would take a lot, for sure--but it could happen.

I think sometimes we view Christ's love like Bill Gates' net worth. Yes, His love is crazy plentiful--we'll readily accept that. But as much as we know in our heads that there's no limit to His love, I think there's something in me and maybe in you that wrestles with the lie that I can somehow exhaust it.

Yes, His love is huge and vast. But what if I manage to selfish-and-stupid my way to the end of His love for me?

Yes, His love surpasses any love we know here on this earth. But what if there's just enough of His love for a million of my failures--but I somehow reach a million and one?

It's true--God's love is huge and vast and all-surpassing.

But it is also inexhaustible.



If we sin a million times, His love is available for the next million. He meets us in our shattered state, binds up our brokenness, and keeps on loving out of His unending love for us.

"His love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me."

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him."
Psalm 103:8,11

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor demons, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation is able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:28-29

LYRICS: "One Thing Remains" by Jesus Culture

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Children selling cigarettes. Yep.

When I was in fourth grade, a group of my classmates decided to make fake cigarettes and cigarette boxes out of paper and tape. Then they sold these "cigarette boxes" to other classmates for 25 cents.

When our teacher found out,
she was LIVID at them! But not for the reason you'd think.

You see, she wasn't too ruffled over the idea of 8-year olds making and selling fake cigarettes and pretending to smoke. But she was
extremely upset that they were using her supply of paper and tape to do it.

Somehow it seemed that her concern was a bit...
misplaced. In all her huff about the students using her paper and tape, she missed the most important element of the situation.

The Pharisees too were notorious for getting riled up about the wrong thing and missing the bigger picture. There was a man with a shriveled hand who sought healing from Jesus. The Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus would break the rules by healing this man on the Sabbath--and if He dared to healed the man's hand, they were ready to be all over that like white on rice, shaking their fingers and accusing him of wrongdoing!

Jesus called them out for worrying about the wrong thing.
"Which is lawful to do on the Sabbath--" He asked those ready to accuse Him--"to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed by their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." The man stretched out his hand and it was completely restored (Mark 3:1-6). And ooh, were the Pharisees riled up! Enough so to get the ball rolling on a plot to have Jesus killed.

The Pharisees weren't itching to
praise God for the healing of this man--they were ready to judge Him for ministering to someone on the Sabbath. And as tireless lovers of the law, they would not stand for such a thing. They couldn't see that a man's hand was restored after years of uselessness. They just saw that it had been done on the Sabbath, and were none too pleased about it.

How are we too focused on the wrong thing? Do we get nit-picky and legalistic over the details, sometimes totally missing the miracles of what God is doing?

* In what ways are we like the Pharisees--loving laws and rules more than the work of God?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Picture a muzzle. Think of what it's for. It's a tool of submission and silence.

Jesus used a "muzzle" once. He was in Capernaum, teaching with great authority in the synagogue. Just then a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began crying out, asking if Jesus had come to destroy them.

"Jesus cut him short. 'Be quiet!' He said sternly. 'Come out of this man,' He ordered. The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek (Mark 1:21-26).

Jesus didn't let this evil spirit continue to have the floor--he cut him off. The Greek word for what Jesus did in telling the spirit within the man to be quiet was *phimoo* which means to muzzle. He basically silenced and subdued that evil spirit with His words.

I believe that, in Christ, we have the same authority to cut the enemy off when he begins speaking. Who says we have to sit and listen to the father of lies? Do I really have to listen to him spew belittling and venomous words? And do you really have to give ear to his deceptive whispers about who you are and what you should do? Should he continue to find an audience with you and me?


In the authority that comes through the blood of Jesus Christ, I believe we can--and should--cut Satan short. Stop him mid-sentence. Silence him with the Word of truth. The moment he begins to taunt or tempt or torment, we can come at the evil one with Scripture--and muzzle him.

When the enemy opens his mouth, feel free to interrupt. It's the one time it's okay to cut someone off.


Friday, October 14, 2011


Just in the past few weeks I keep hearing the first half of James 1:27 quoted. Like, I've heard/read it a number of times. But not one of those times was the second half of the verse included. And I think it's because James 1:27B can be a harder pill to swallow than James 1:27A.

Here's the whole verse:

(A) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: To look after the fatherless and the widow in their distress (B) and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
James 1:27

And then when I looked it up in my own Bible, I noticed that at some point I had underlined the first half of the verse at some point--but not the second half! "What's the deal with the second part of this verse?" I wondered. It just kept getting left out every time the verse was mentioned.

Since we're reading James in our small group, I brought this up for discussion: Is it perhaps easier for us to look after the fatherless and the widow in their distress than to do what it takes to keep oneself from being polluted by the world?

"I think so," said someone in the group. "Because I can write a check to give money to some people in need somewhere, but that doesn't mean I have to personally change how I'm living."


And it's true--somehow I do find it easier to do things like visit those in affliction or minister to the devastated than to personally refrain from what will stain me. Because what that looks like in your life and mine is:

*Skipping certain television shows and movies that are hilarious--but inappropriate for us who are called to keep ourselves unpolluted by the world. This one's not easy! We like our entertainment and can really let our guard down in this area. I know it's a frequent battle for me.

*Deciding it's not an option to be involved in salacious conversations. And while I may not be a big gossip girl, I know it's broader than that. It means not being sucked into the tabloids in the checkout line, or desiring to read about celeb scandals on the internet. This can be a tough one for me. But there's no other way to say it than this: Getting pulled into those is like taking part in a slanderous conversation, because even though we may not be the ones doing the talking, we're still choosing to listen to the words.

*Setting up parameters WAY far back from the line when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. Adultery is rampant. Rampant! And the pull to it is strong, yet subtle. And sometimes this "WAY far back" thing is inconvenient. But it's part of keeping unpolluted by something that is prevalent in the world (not to mention well-worth whatever inconvenience is suffered in choosing this route).

*Not allowing money--or the seemed security of "enough" money (whatever dollar amount that might be!) to become our pursuit. Money itself is not the problem--but the love of money corrupts and pollutes. And refusing God a portion of what is His anyway is part of this. Holding "our" money in our tightly-clenched fists is a sign that the world has managed to pollute our thinking about money, and whose it really is.

Somehow it is easier to write a check, or make a meal, or pay a visit to the hurting than it is to NOT become like this world. Yes, we are to minister to the fatherless and widows in their suffering. Of course.

"But undefiled worship is (also) this: To keep oneself from being unstained by the world" (James 1:27B).

Yep, seems to me that if God included part B, then it's worth a mention and an underline.

Not to mention the action it requires of you and me so that it may be true of us.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011


"There you go!" my tiny little girl said proudly as she "pushed" open the door at church for me.

Only she didn't push it open for me. I pushed it open for her.

There is no way she has in her what it takes to open those heavy glass doors on her own. But when she pressed her hands against the door and pushed, I was right behind her putting my hands on the door and pushing it open. In her mind, though, she was the one who had done it.

As this scenario was unfolding, it felt familiar. Perhaps because it wasn't the first time someone has said "I did it!" without cause. Scripture is full of people who did not recognize God's hand in their circumstances. Even in this day and age, this world echoes the words spoken in Deuteronomy 32: "Our hand has triumphed--the Lord has not done all of this" (v.27).

Even my own mirror shows the face of someone who is not always aware of God's hand just plain accomplishing. Working. Fulfilling. I start thinking it's my doing. This must've all been the works of my hands, right? After all, those are the hands I can actually see pushing against the doors.

But let's be clear: I am not making a way for God. He is making a way for His will to be done. And in doing so, He is making a way for me.

Mighty God, thank You for this picture. I can see my own hands on a door that I couldn't possibly open on my own. And should it open and the only hands I see are mine, help me to perceive that Your strong and able hands were over mine, doing what I could not do on my own!


Saturday, October 8, 2011


"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen,
slow to speak, and slow to become angry."

James 1:19

I've read and heard this passage plenty of times, but this morning it came to life in a new way. I looked up the Greek word for "listen," and found that one of the meanings of the Greek word AKOUO is *to be in the audience.*

To be in the audience. I know I'm going to be chewing on that one for awhile.

Because--and especially for those who feel comfortable on a stage--center stage can have much more of a pull on us than an audience chair. The former holds the possibility of being heard and understood--and the latter, listening and learning.

But there's something in you and me that is drawn toward being heard and understood more than listening and learning.

We want the spotlight! Whether it's in a discussion or an argument, we may interrupt or even raise our voices, all in our desperate attempts to be heard and understood. I know I've been guilty of that.

But what if we were so desperate to listen and learn?
What if we were so hungry to hear what others have to say than to have the chance to say what we think?

What if we didn't clamor for center stage?

And what if you and I were willing to choose the audience seat?


Thursday, October 6, 2011


Last year I was at a yard sale with tables full of children's clothes. As I was looking through what they had, I overheard the homeowner's mother telling a shopper, "My daughter-in-law passed away two years ago. She worked all the time because it was always really important to afford cute clothes for her kids."

I turned around to see the woman smiling as she said these words. I thought she was saying them with sadness, but when I saw her face I realized she'd spoken them with a great sense of pride and joy.

I cringed inside. Now, I truly mean no dishonor to a woman who has passed on or to her family, but to be honest, I could not possibly care less if anyone says of me when I die that it was super important to me to have my kids well-dressed, or that I spent a lot of time ensuring it would be so. Sure, it's fun to get kids dressed up. But boy, do I ever hope other things than that spring to mind when my life is summarized in words.

But it got me thinking--what WILL people say of me when I die? What will they say mattered to me? How will they say I spent my time? What will they say burdened me? Broke my heart? Brought me joy?

When I'm remembered, will I be connected with trivial things? Maybe. Gosh, I hope not. But yes--maybe.

I wondered--If the people who know me best are to one day speak to my life and have to capture my life in only a few sentences, what will be said?

I'd be most interested in what Justin, my kids, my family, and my closest friends would have to say. I wish I could hear their unfiltered perceptions of what they perceived to matter to me. And it's not because I think it would all be glowing. It wouldn't! Those closest to me know that, really, truly, the only good in me is God within me, willing me to act according to His good purposes. Apart from His love and mercy, I am one broken girl.

There's just something in me that wishes I could hear it all now, when there's still time to change some things.

If there was time I was spending on something unimportant, I'd want to hear it. And stop.

If there were things I was called to do but never got around to it, I'd want to hear it. And start.

If my words weren't loving enough, I'd want to hear it. And change them.

If my actions didn't line up with what I said was true, I'd want to hear it. And get busy living like I say I believe.

If there were wrongs I didn't make right, I'd want to hear it. And right them.

If my priorities were out of whack, I'd want to hear it. And reevaluate them.

My Grandpa Tom died a year ago today. And I still say that he lived on purpose with his eyes on Heaven more than almost anyone else I've ever known. Do I say it to be nice--even respectful? No. I say it because of all the things I could say about him, it's the thing that jumps out the most about him as the mark of his life. So to sum up the 85-year life span of my grandfather in a nutshell, he loved Jesus and knew he was just passing through this life on his way home to be with Him.

It doesn't matter to me if anyone ever says I dressed cute (Uh, they won't, I promise!) or that I was brilliant or successful (Again, they won't--my SAT score would convince you). I hope I'm remembered to be a loving wife and a mom who cared desperately about leaving a legacy. And in time, give it maybe 50 years after I'm gone, my name won't be remembered anyway. And I'm okay with that. I want this life I've been given to be about lifting up His name. And I hope the Kingdom of God will be advanced in small part through the life He gave me.

When the music fades into the past
When my days of life are through
What will be remembered from where I've come
When all is said and done?

Will they say I loved my family,
That I was a faithful friend?
That I lived to tell of God's own Son
When all is said and done?

Of how I longed to see the hour
When I would hear that trumpet sound
And rise to see my Savior's face,
See Him smile and say, "Well done."

You can forget my name
and the songs I've sung

Every rhyme and every tune
But remember the truth of Jesus' love
When all is said and done.

-GEOFF MOORE - "When All is Said and Done"

* Would you want to pre-hear what will one day be said about you? If you could hear people's unfiltered perceptions of what they believe mattered to you in your life, do you think it would change anything about the way you live?

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we might gain a heart of wisdom.
May the favor of the LORD our God
rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us,
yes, establish the work of our hands.

Psalm 90:12, 17


Sunday, October 2, 2011


Ongoing gratitude.

It's easy to be thankful once. Like, right when something wonderful happens. Right when the vows are being said. Right when the baby lets out its first cry. It's easy to give thanks in those moments.

But then there's ongoing gratitude. The kind of thankfulness that doesn't let up. The kind of gratitude that is just as present on Day 100 as it is on Day One. Rare, perhaps. But really, really important.

I keep thinking about this lately because my daughter is so good at ongoing gratitude, and I want to learn from her. Often when she gets dressed she pauses and says, "Thank you for buying this shirt for me, Mommy. And thank you for getting me these pants." She thanks me for the toys I've given her and the food I've made her. And not just the first time, but often thereafter.

Maybe it's excessive, perhaps it's unnecessary. But it keeps gratitude fresh in her heart, and that's never a bad thing.

Because it's not too difficult to be grateful on your wedding day. That isn't much of a stretch. It's easy to acknowledge the blessing of your spouse when everyone's dressed up in tuxedos and satin. But perhaps it's a lack of ongoing gratitude for one's spouse that is at the root of many a divorce.

And it's easy to be grateful for a newborn child. Before the 1,200th diaper has been changed or the temper tantrums kick in, it's really not too bad! But an absence of ongoing gratitude for our children is what leads us to believe our children are burdens rather than blessings. We begin to forget that we've been entrusted with God-made, glorious people to raise up, and rather we begin seeing them as the ones who stand in the way of _______________ (fill in the blank--More sleep? Fewer stresses? More ME time? 80% less laundry?)

And last but not least, what about an ongoing gratitude that Jesus did for us what we couldn't possibly do for ourselves? How would your day or mine unfold differently if at the front of our minds was the cross of Christ? I can tell you that this very day of mine might have gone differently if my mind was saturated with thoughts of ongoing gratitude for the fact that I have been shown unfathomable mercy and grace. But nope--I was thinking of a million other things today--the least of them, gratitude. And it showed. But after a time of worship, of reminders of what my God has done when I deserved it least, there was gratitude once again. And my mind was clear to know how to rightly act and react once gratitude was restored.

Ongoing gratitude.
For our jobs. For our homes. For our food. For our churches. For our families. For our friends. It's ridiculously important. And yes, I am trying my best to learn that from my 3-year old who seems to get it much more readily than I.

Be joyful always, pray continually.
Give thanks in all circumstances,
for this is God's will for you
in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18