Faith · Family · Gifts · Real Christianity · Woman of Promise

For God So Loved Michelle, My Sister

michelleannacatToday is my sister Michelle’s 32nd birthday. But she’s not here. She left her earthly life for an eternal one on February 19th.

In the past six months, many people have said, “Wow, that’s terrible? May I ask how she died? Was she ill? Did she have an accident?”

At first, I thought people were considering the bad types of death – drug overdose or even suicide. And at first blush, it’s easy to react to that. But then I saw the question for what it is.

When a person hears of death at 31, when we should be at the very beginning of our lives, it shakes us. It hits a little too close to home. It’s how our finite minds operate. We don’t have a reference point for that early death. We don’t actually have a reference point for death at all.

I’m one of the people who can’t place death. I saw on Facebook that a girl I didn’t know lost her young husband today. I thought about her and how much her life will change.

Today is a turning point for this young mother. A line in the sand was drawn for her. The world will call this a blow. The faithful will call this her testimony.

The world says she’s not going to make it without him. I say that she’s going to make her life and her children’s life better because God so loved him. God so loved her. I prayed that that’s what she knows in the days to come.

A sudden death or a death too soon shakes us because it reminds us that all of us are only here for a dash between two dates. That number is significant, but whose we are is even more significant.

God so loved Michelle from the moment he thought her up. He so loved her from the moment she accepted his free gift. She was the first of all 10 of us kids to do this. She was the first called home to peace and eternity. She’s not sad. She’s living in pure joy.

I believe that death shakes us to a soul level. It’s because we weren’t designed for death. It’s because we were designed for life – eternal life. And that’s why it shakes us. It’s not our true nature.

Someone said this past weekend that we’re supposed to hear God in nature as we walk along. However, sin has deafened us. I believe that when people get that bewildered look and shock from simply stating that “My sister died at 31,” they are hearing the voice of God loud and clear. They are hearing Him say, “You aren’t supposed to die. I made you to be eternal with me. Won’t you join me?”

The darkness sin casts over us pulls away for a moment and we realize we were made for something more. No matter who we’re with, our souls connect in that moment over the loss. We know life is precious. The most precious of gifts. That’s why God gave His life to save ours.

michellequote

In my Bible study this morning, I was challenged to memorize I Corinthians 6:20, “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

God made us for Him. And when we fell, which He knew would happen, He still loved us. He gave His Son to us as a sacrifice to call us back to Him – to call us back to life.

And the more I study His word, I think that’s the most important truth. Our life is meaningful to the One who created us. “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,” John 3:16 (NIV).

I’m so thankful Michelle knew Jesus loved her. I’m celebrating her birthday today because it was the beginning of an eternal friendship. God so loved her and I that he made us sisters. I can’t think of a better gift for her than to praise Him for what He has done and to live my life according to the plan He made for me. I only wish she were still here to comment on this post.

If you don’t know this love I’ve spoken of today, please reach out – Use my contact page or leave a comment. I would love to talk to you about why God so loved you. Praying for each of you, my dear readers.

 

Faith · Gifts · Motherhood · Real Christianity · Woman of Promise

Why I’m Never Going to Be Enough

Jesus-is-enough_webI’m so excited to be a part of Brooke McGlothlin’s Gospel Centered Mom blog tour! I read her Praying for Boys a couple years ago when being a boy mom was the most foreign thing in the world for me. And I loved it.

I realized how important prayer is to the mission of motherhood. I realized how much prayer changes my perspective on these souls He trusted ME to shepherd. What an honor. What a privilege.

And today I’m sharing a little bit of why I need to be a gospel-centered mom. I’m never going to be enough for them. There’s never going to be enough of me to go around. I can’t erase their heartbreaks. I can’t keep them from acting out. I can’t save their souls.

And you know what? That’s ok. I’m not supposed to be enough. I’ve been chasing that title my whole life – “enough.”

But when I look at my life, I’m not supposed to be “enough.” I’m supposed to be seeking His power, His will, His way. And I can’t ever do that “enough.”

Brooke writes in Chapter 1 of Gospel-Centered Mom:

“God is no doubt perfect, and He is more than enough to make up for our lack. “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3), but that “divine power” still comes from Him, not from somewhere inside us that is independent of Him. We clearly need God—not just once for salvation, but constantly and continually and in more ways than we can count. Whatever enough He gives us access to still comes from Him; He is its source. If we were enough on our own, we wouldn’t need Jesus, and, friend, we all desperately need Jesus.”

When I first became a believer, I was convinced I was doing it wrong. I was supposed to have this amazing conversion and life was supposed to be simpler, better and forever changed.

I was supposed to take it all to the cross and leave it there – anger, struggle, unforgiveness, not liking myself and every other sin I’d ever committed. And I did that, but then the bubble popped.

The night I gave it all up, I felt lighter than I’d ever felt in my life. I had hope and light. But soon sin entered my life again. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I felt like I wasn’t really forgiven. I’d go back to that cross and wonder, “Did I really come to Jesus?”

I’d question alter calls pretty harshly. Why are they always asking us to come forward? Why am I not secure that I’m saved? Then I recognized that I was making this about me and not about Him.

The truth is – I invited Christ into my life. I just didn’t fully understand that this was a more than a one-time act. I wasn’t just making a declaration. I was letting light into my darkness. And you know what? Letting the light in is beautiful. But it’s also a lot like letting the light into a room with black out shades. It can overwhelm you. It can hurt. Letting go of me was (is) the most painful experience of my life.

But letting go of me brings a freedom that you don’t ever fully comprehend. You don’t have to keep trying to be “enough” or “better.” You are His. You live in His strength. His light. His shadow.

At that moment in time, you are forever changed. You are forever forgiven. God promises that to you when you go to that cross. But the part a lot of us miss is that we have to own that identity. We have to own our forgiveness.

We have to believe the Gospel over and over and over again. We have to dwell on it. We have to seek it. We have to depend on it.

We have to take the sin to the cross over and over and over again. And when we trace the thread of grace, we see our Savior strengthening us, growing us and changing us. But we’re not supposed to do it alone.

what-we-believe_webAs David writes in Psalm 116:1-2, “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice, heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”

David’s saying this is a forever call. Not a one-time answer to an invitation.

The process of sanctification is not to be taken lightly. It’s hard. It’s humbling. It takes saying, “Not my will, but yours.”

And our children need to see that in us. Our children need to see us devoting our lives to that truth – “Not my will, but yours.” Every.single.day.

Our children need to see us repenting, resetting, rejoicing in the mercy of the Savior who gave it all up for us. Every.single.day.

Brooke writes, “Your children are the story God has given you to live so others can see Him in you. How will you live it?”

When I think of the day I go before that judgment seat to answer for what I did with the grace I was given, I don’t want to be unprepared.

I want to walk in knowing that I gave as much grace as I received. I want to say that my story was His story for my life. I want my children to see that I lived in His grace because I’m never going to be enough. But He is.

When we embrace that identity – a Gospel-centered mom identity, we can find greater freedom, purpose, and joy in motherhood. Get Brooke McGlothlin’s new book at www.gospelcenteredmombook.com.

Family · Gifts · Motherhood · Real Christianity · Uncategorized

A Mother of Promise

gift from lordA couple of years ago, I felt the compression of too much mommying on my shoulders and realized that I didn’t have much of a plan for my days. I realized I was surviving and not thriving. I realized that we can go through hard seasons, but we don’t have to get stuck in the muck of “gotta get through this day.”

To borrow a verse from one of my favorite songs by Tonic – “I wanted more. More than I was giving. More than was handling. More than I was bearing. More than I was offering.” This chorus closes with “For a love that isn’t there.”

A Mother of Promise Cleans the Lens

The love was there, but it was just covered up by a lot of scattered needs, toys, frustrations, emotions, unmet expectations and heart clutter.

I didn’t have a good grasp on how to be the best of me for my kids or my husband. So, I did something that helps me think and helps me focus.

I made a list of the needs of each person in my immediate family. I spent some time in prayer over how I could deliver the best of me to my promises. It was such a simple exercise, but it was powerful. When you understand what’s expected of you, you can more forward in focus and grow.

I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted to do things, but not a lot of focus on those core needs..png

Sally Clarkson calls the way we approach our people our “grid” or “filter.” I discovered through this exercise that my grid was a little dirty. I had a lot of ideas of how I wanted to do things, but not a lot of focus on those core needs.

For instance, my son needs A LOT of connection with me to feel secure. I love holding my children. I love to read to them and talk to them, but this one stretches me beyond my limits of connection.

I get a bit “touched out” with the constant need to be held. So, I’ve approached this two ways – by getting frustrated with him and making him more insecure and through being proactive and intentional and gentle with limits.

Which approach do you think works best? Proactive and intentional always win him over. I’m just not always that patient. So, I have to go back to the promise he is in my life.

Prayers and Promises Help Us Skirt the Pit

I really do have to go back and look at baby pictures and remember that my son’s presence in my life is a part of the blessing of healing.

God doesn’t want to just give us our blessings; he wants us to use our blessings for good.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I can influence a young man to stand firm on the promise of his eternal life or I can get frustrated with his constant whining and yell at him and open the entrance to the pit of insecurity, anxiety, overwhelm. Man Cub is a lot like me. These snares can get him by the throat. And they can spend a day for us. A day that’s anything but promising.

Or I can show him the way out of the pit for good. I can be a woman who stands on the promise Elihu gave to Job when he approached him about the problem of “pit living.”

“Yet if there is an angel at their side, a messenger, one out of a thousand, sent to tell them how to be upright, and he is gracious to that person and says to God, ‘Spare them from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom for them—let their flesh be renewed like a child’s; let them be restored as in the days of their youth’—then that person can pray to God and find favor with him, they will see God’s face and shout for joy; he will restore them to full well-being. And they will go to others and say, ‘I have sinned, I have perverted what is right, but I did not get what I deserved. God has delivered me from going down to the pit, and I shall live to enjoy the light of life.’” Job 33:23-28

I can be a living, breathing mother of promise to show my son (and the rest of my people and others I encounter) how prayer changes everything. I can help them skirt the pit and get out of it when they stumble.

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Psalm 40 seems so fitting to the relationship I have with my son’s promise:

I waited patiently for the Lord and he turned to me and heard my cry. It was almost a year between my miscarriage and the news of Man Cub. 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. I was lost and didn’t feel much like praying during that dark time, but I did it anyway.

I spent a lot of time in that pit questioning my marriage, my worth and my faith. But I know those prayers and looking for the promises are what got me out of that pit. The firm place to stand was my purpose – to love my husband and my first child and to hope for more to love. His mercy is true.

firm place

He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Depending on the Lord for my light gave me strength and a heart turned toward gratitude and he gave me a great blessing in my son.

Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him. That’s what I hope my children will see in me.

He was someone I asked for and when I go before that throne one day, I have to answer for what I did with that promise.

That’s why I want to be a mother of promise. I want to be a woman of my word.

My prayer with this post is that you are encouraged to walk in the light of Jesus and promise your children bring into your life.

Faith · Gifts · Marriage · Real Christianity · Woman of Promise

Becoming a Woman of Promise

woman of promise

Someone said something of a promise to me a few days ago – “If you keep bumping into a situation or hearing a phrase, it might be God talking to you.”

Amen.

Here are a couple of examples of how that works.

I walked into Sunday School (late!) a couple of weeks ago to a guest teacher speaking on Psalm 78. That’s a pretty tough piece of Scripture, but as with all tough Scripture, there’s hope. His message was “remember the promises.”

A guest preacher also gave us a night of encouragement a couple of weeks ago. He spoke about how we don’t understand the power of prayer. He was frank and honest about his inability to fully understand prayer. But that didn’t stop him from doing it. It didn’t stop him from tapping into its power.

There’s a reason we equate power with prayer. We don’t understand power, but we want it, especially the kind that’s provided by the Holy Spirit.

Here’s the chill-bump part; he spoke about praying the promises of God. He gave many examples of how people in the Bible – including Jesus – prayed the promises back to God.

That impacted me. I don’t understand it, but I know when we recognize the promises and have faith in them, we gain access to their power.

Becoming Means Owning An Identity

So, I thought long and hard about this message that’s been following me around – a woman of promise. I want to be one. I want to become a woman of promise. The path is simple – all I have to do is own that identity.

In the book of promise, we have the promise of love, the promise of protection, the promise of eternal life (that starts the moment you believe by the way) and the ultimate promise – hope.

When I can trust in these promises, I am a woman of promise. I am a woman who takes a look at this world and straightens the crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4) given to her by the King of Kings.

To own this identity, I have to trust the promises. It’s that simple. But no one said simple was easy. Simple takes intention. Simple takes slowing down and resting in the promises. Praying them. Savoring them. Believing them. Remembering them.

Remember the Promises

One of my tactics for getting my faith life back on track when it takes a back road to darkness is to trace the path of the promises God’s delivered to me as a result of prayer.

“Let us examine and probe our ways, And let us return to the LORD.” Lamentations 3:40

It’s breathtaking to see the threads of grace and promise move through my life, especially when life gets messy, circumstantial, hard or overwhelming.

It's breathtaking to see that thread of grace and promise move through my life, especially when life gets messy, circumstantial, hard and overwhelming

One of the key areas of promise for me is my people. I prayed big, bold prayers for every single one of them:

  • My hubby – He is the answer to a prayer for the man I needed, not the man I wanted.
  • My big girl – She is the promise of prayer for a purpose that was bigger than myself. She is also the helper I need to ground me.
  • My son – He is a promise of a prayer for deliverance from the devastation of losing a child to miscarriage. The light of his little heartbeat brought me back from some of my darkest days. He is also the gift of patience and perseverance. (I already have another post about him ready.)
  • My little one – She was a promise of a prayer for direction. I think it’s a bit funny that the direction came in the form of a baby just 16 months younger than her brother. She is also a gift of grace and delight.

These bold prayers were answered in the form of relationships I needed to steady me, to stretch me (yes, I’m speaking of Man Cub here) and to grow me.

Stand on the Promises

My favorite promise has been through a really rough patch lately. He’s been stressed, sullen and defeated. I can take a lot, but this puts me at my end.

We’ve both had a tough year. Death, business struggles, figuring out a hard patch with a child and long stretches of being apart have put us in the shadows much of this year. But these are the days of which promises stand true. And days for which remembering the promises brings us strength.

Praying the prayers of promise back to the Promised One brings us new hope, a new perspective, and a new provision for the valleys and shadows we must all walk through.

The Promise I Made Myself: To Live in the Light

Six years ago, I walked into a hospital to have a health-saving procedure. Two actually. I had to end a pregnancy. And I had to have my gallbladder removed.

The gallbladder was a given. But when I got my usual late summer cold, I knew something else was wrong. I couldn’t shake a bad cough. I felt incredibly nauseous. I knew I was pregnant.

But what I didn’t know was that I was about to walk a very lonely, very soul bearing road. I was about to be cracked into hundreds of tiny shards.

I had recently asked God to make one of his big promises to me come true. I asked him to take my husband and make him into His man. I asked Him to refine him and give him His purpose. We were so close to the end of everything financially and I was really broken. My strength was gone. My hope was fading. I wanted to give up.

Not on life, but the hard stuff. I was no stranger to hard stuff. Hard stuff is kind of my hallmark. When I open my mouth to share a story from my life, hard stuff just spills out. Very matter-of-factly. Hard stuff is what refines us.

But I was over it. I didn’t think I could take one more thing. And then this happens.

I had a molar pregnancy and the simple explanation is there’s a problem with fertilization. The baby doesn’t form right but instead of a miscarriage, all that should have been my baby turns into a tumor of sorts. It grows very rapidly and starts to invade your body. If it’s not removed, there’s a good chance of cancer.

There we were at the end of it all (or so it felt) and separated by a heavy shadow of grief, financial insecurity and depression. That’s when I wanted to quit. I wanted to quit my marriage, but instead I decided to quit being a woman who lived in darkness.

woman of promise light.png

I was tired of living in pain and projecting it on to my promise.

I also had a 3-year-old gift from the Lord who has the chance to grow up without darkness. I knew my influence would affect the woman she would become.

So, I began a journey. A long, hard journey that’s still in progress. A journey to find light to fill in my darkness.

I began with praying the promise of Philippians 2:1-5 over my marriage.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:1-5

I’ve had to come back to that promise so many times. I think I get to a place of full trust and full promise and then circumstances and frustration seek to rob me of joy and progress.

But I know the redemptive promise of a changed attitude and perspective have been working on me. I know the process of walking out of the darkness and into wholeness is working. I know the more I trust the promises and the more I reflect on them and ask the Promise to fill me, the more my soul changes. The more I live in this identity of a woman of promise, the less I get knocked down.

I saw the fruit yesterday in a hard conversation I had with my favorite promise. I wanted so badly to go to my dark place, but we busted through the frustration and told each other what we needed to get through a hard week. We met each other in a mutual place of our portion of hardship. We strategized how we could circumvent the hardships and the conversation left me with a list of ways I could encourage hm and an affirmation I very much needed.

A woman of promise doesn’t back down when things get hard. She remembers the promises etched in her life. She stands on the hope that is in her.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.  – Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Faith · Family · Motherhood · Real Christianity

What to Do When Your Child Loses

whenyourchildlosesI awoke Tuesday unsettled. Short-tempered. Kind of like a second Monday after a bad case of food poisoning over the weekend (This really happened.) Yeah, that was my Tuesday this week.

And then I remembered that I had to get something in the mail that morning before the mailman came. I decided to do what any good homeschooling mother would do.

I divided and conquered.

I asked my very capable 8-year-old to take her bike to the end of the driveway to put my letter in the mailbox. The events of the next hour were none I could have foreseen. But they can’t be unseen and I can’t take them away from my child.

Before I tell you this story, I think that’s the hardest part of being a parent. You can’t take away their pain. You can bear it with them, but you can’t ever erase it.

I thought toddlerhood was hard, but the journey into my child being affected by this world has brought me to a place of repentance and helplessness, but ultimately it’s brought me into the grace and hope of God our Father. I’m so thankful for my faith and protection even when the world comes crashing down around us.

So back to my Tuesday morning. I was inspecting an infected bug bite on my 2-year-old when I heard an otherworldly screech from the driveway. I thought my daughter was hurt. Really hurt.

But she wasn’t. She was just terrified. Her dog was hit by a car when she was at the mailbox. The person took off and did not stop. She witnessed a tragedy alone.

That five-letter word kills me to type. Alone. My baby had to go through that alone.

Don’t blame yourself. Be strong for your child.

I had a choice to make when this first hit me. I can feel guilty or I can move on and help her overcome this. I chose the latter.

Because she’s so much like me. She was already doing enough of the guilt trip to herself.

She loved this dog with every breath of her being and when we found him, she was certain that he would live. And he tried. He desperately tried to get up to comfort her. But he was hurt very badly.

A lovely neighbor came and helped me gather him up to see if we could get some emergency care. She took my children to her home and comforted them.

I drove all over the county trying to find her dog some help. It was an unfortunate circumstance that the vets we chose were closed that day. We found one, but he was already gone when I got there.

Fight for them before the Lord.

I fought for my child to not lose this pet in prayer. I begged God to not let this happen.

But the answer was no. That’s still hard to write. It happened. And I think it was actually fortunate that the dog was quick to go. He was badly hurt. Very badly hurt.

But he tried to hang on for my baby. He loved her so well.

I had to go through the options with the vet of what to do for him as a final tribute. That was horrible. But they were graceful and even kept him until my husband could get back from out of town.

Get your mind in order first. Or get some help.

Then I had to go tell my baby he didn’t make it. I called two women who’ve been there and done this. They told me to just hold her and tell her.

I decided that my very verbal, extroverted girl did not need to handle grief like her mama. I decided that we would seek people for her to talk to. It’s unconventional. But so is she. She needs to breathe and talk and cry and be big and bold.

So, I went home from the vet and cleaned myself up. I gathered clothes for all the kids and walked out the door.

Make your child your priority. Don’t get stuck in retribution.

As I was getting in the car, a car approached. It was the man who hit her dog.

My first reaction was, “Where were you in my hour of hell?” (I didn’t say this BTW.)

He walked up and tried to explain what happened. I shushed him because I was too angry to talk. He asked me about the dog. I told him that he didn’t make it and that I was about to share that news with my child. But I appreciated him stopping by.

Some men were installing rails on my porch and saw this exchange. They felt like he was trying to cover his tracks. He had a marked car and they thought he was trying to avoid trouble. Probably so. But I don’t care. I care about my girl.

Do what your child needs; not what you need.

When I got to the neighbor’s house, my big girl saw it all over my face. She broke down. She was in true despair and there was not a single thing I could do to stop it, but I had gotten over the worst of my pain in all my driving.

And I was present for her. I listened and held her.

I gathered her up and took her to Chik-fil-a. She walked in the restaurant in tears. She hugged the staff. They hugged her back. They fed us for free. (And whoever said Chik-fil-a is to be boycotted can well, you know.)

My dear friend held my baby and encouraged her. She encouraged me. She watched the littles when the big girl and I walked outside.

Let your child contribute to the decision-making.

We decided that our Marmaduke would want her to continue her life and not shut down. She decided to go to her dance practice, but we had some time before dance. So, we went for haircuts.

Another dear friend joined us and encouraged her. She got a sassy new bob from the hairstylist who only works on Tuesdays.

She went to dance and talked with a girl who is becoming a real friend. She was encouraged and lightened.

I knew she needed this because we were about to have a funeral. Her daddy had been home preparing a final resting place for her puppy. I know that’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done as a parent.

We had our neighbors join us for the funeral. We told funny stories about this goofy dog. She talked the most. Because that’s what she needed.

Be prepared for huge emotions. Don’t try to fix them.

When we walked back inside, she fell apart. We snuggled and let her cry it all out. She tried to bargain with herself to have changed the situation. Because she’s big on control. But I kindly shared that she was not at fault. That she was the best thing that ever happened to her puppy. He truly loved her more than I’ve ever seen any dog love a child.

Know that you aren’t to protect your child from pain. You are to bear it with them.

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2

And I sensed a change in her life. She’s growing up. She’s not quite so innocent anymore.

That’s hard for me to face, but it’s something I’ve already faced. I faced the death of a sibling when I was not much older than she is. And I can use that experience to guide her.

Know we have to go to battle with our children as we enter this world. But we have the protection and provision of the LORD.

Just that morning she and I’d read about what it meant to stand in the fire and stand on what we believe even when it’s hard. I’m standing on what I believe. God placed that specific Bible study in our morning so that she and I could connect.

Before I read her the story, I had a conversation with her about how she would hear some things she’d not heard before about the world. Things that are dark and ugly and things that would strip her of the protection I’d placed on her for the past eight years.

I told her I knew she was ready and that I would be by her side as we learned about this world and how to live in it.

I now know that was the Holy Spirit talking to me and my girl. We were about to embark on a turning point in her life and He prepared us for it. I’m so thankful I pulled out that book.

Always look for the thread of grace. The hope.

I’m so thankful for the thread of grace that was woven through that day with people and situations that were exactly what we needed to move forward.

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11

So the five word answer to how to help your child when they lose is to “Look for the hope always.” It’s my life motto.

I pray that you have the hope that can be found in Jesus Christ. It’s available to you. Contact me if you need help finding it.