His Own Little Man


child of God
Zaiah just turned five.  And my parents took everyone out to dinner at Texas Roadhouse.

Zaiah ordered his own food.  And reminded every waiter  that  passed our  table that he needed his  Mac ‘n Cheese and applesauce.  And as the birthday boy, he got to ride the saddle and ye-haw.  All while throwing his napkin through air in true cowboy  style.

When we go out as a family, I am always reminded of the stark difference between his personality and the rest of our children.  Abby is painfully quiet, Eli is reserved, and Leesy is very adaptable – but she won’t speak  until you earn her trust.   And they all get that quiet spirit very honestly from their Mama.

But not Zaiah.

No, he is his own little man.  I never  know what he will announce to the grocery clerk.  Or say as we walk into a friend’s house.

I don’t worry about the others talking too much or trusting the wrong people.  In fact, Abby got terribly embarrassed at the restaurant because she voluntarily spoke to the waiter.  Then, she buried her face and burst into tears.

Too much attention in a loud, crowded restaurant.

But in those moments, I feel her pain.  She deals with it as a child.  But I deal with it as an adult.

We recently visited a small group at church.  Even though they were at the end of a study, I downloaded the book onto my phone.  It was definitely a God thing.  This book, Telling Yourself the Truth, spoke straight to my heart.   The whole book attacks common lies that we tell ourselves.  We then believe, feel, and act as if those lies are true.

Here are some of those lies that were deeply convicting:

I am a failure.  I am a rejected castaway, useless, unlovable,ugly, and hopeless.  My best isn’t good enough for anyone.  I am worthless and inadequate.  I will never be anything.  I am uninteresting.  People don’t like me.  I’m  always nervous.

And as I thought about it, this isn’t the first time that I have been caught off guard and convicted by these very lies.  It’s crazy how Satan can slowly sink his lies back into my heart as I let down my guard.  It’s so easy to fall back into familiarity.

 Just this evening, Mike was leading our family devotion.  He was telling each of our kids how special and loved they are simply because God made them.   And then, he went  on to tell me the same thing.  My first impulse was to argue with him.

And that hurts my  heart.  I want God’s love, His truth, His grace – to wrap around me and  around the hearts of my children.   And I think it has  to start with me.  And so, I have rewritten those lies:

Sometimes, I fail.  But I am an overcomer.  Not because of what I have done, but  because of what He has done.

I feel like a rejected castaway, useless, unlovable,ugly, and hopeless.  But I am not.  God loves and treasures me.  I am His.

My best may not be good enough for others.  But my confidence rests in God.  Not in the approval of others.

I am not worthless and inadequate.  God created me for His special purpose.

I do not need to amount to anything in the eyes of the world.  My worth is in God.  Not what I can do or be.

I am not uninteresting.  God has a unique plan for my life.

It feels like people don’t like me.    But my worth depends on God – not on anyone else.

I am not ALWAYS nervous.  God has released me from so much anxiety.  But when I feel those nerves resurface, I will remember to depend on  Him for deliverance.

 

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Isaiah 36:3 NIV

A Terrible Concoction, Part 2

See A Terrible Concoction, Part 1.

When Mike and I were still dating, it was easy enough to be all fun.   That’s what teenagers are  suppose  to do. We went skating.  I giggled.   We ate dinner.   I giggled.   He showed off his flashy violin skills.  I giggled. He called me.  I giggled.   He tickled me.   I giggled.

Simple.  Normal teenage stuff.

Fast forward fifteen years….. stress, babies, work, financial strain…. it isn’t  quite the same rosy picture anymore.

Recently, we visited alot of churches-  but one pastor said something that stung my heart a little.

He said that the church would be helping with a community event.  And he encouraged people to wear their church t- shirts.  Why?  Not as a plug for the church or to identify helpers.  But to let people see Christians having fun.  So that others could see the joy that we have out of God’s blessing.  Life is to be enjoyed.  God is to be enjoyed.

Hmmm.  It’s not anything I haven’t heard before.    John Pipers words have followed me around.  The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

But that’s not the picture of God in my head.

Imagine that traditional portrait of Jesus.   You know the one. I think the intention is to portray  a Savior worthy of respect. But it also  looks so sad,  serious, worn….  and completely bored.

And for a long time, I didn’t even realize that was how I pictured God.

I guess I was just ready to hear it that Sunday morning at church.  And I was convicted… In my heart, joy is practically sinful.  Especially if I happen to be happy, too.   I guess that’s what a lifetime of an internal war against panic and anxiety will do to a person.  It slowly eroded the joy out of me.

But praise God – He doesn’t leave me there.  As I slowly discover my completely depraved spirit, I also uncover more and more of God’s grace, love, and joy.

And it is wonderful.

                        My joy is beyond myself.

 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.  Psalms 16:11 NKJV

 

A Terrible Concoction, Part 1

This is probably the most serious I have ever  seen him!

This is probably the most serious I have ever seen him!

Before I share what I did to my husband, you must know that he is the humor in my  life.  We have dumped buckets of ice on each other, set pops  to go off  in the bathroom, and yes, I have painted his nails in his sleep.   So, before you judge my little prank, just know he is an ornery husband and he had it a long time coming.

Recently, Mike has  been on a bacon spree.  And I have, too often, found myself cooking up some greasy bacon.  So,  I decided to give him a good taste of bacon.  Before he came home from work, I cooked the bacon and poured the bacon grease into his glass. When he settled into his recliner, I brought him a glass of “juice.”

I enjoyed the way he scrunched up his face  in reaction to that grease.  He had no idea what concoction I had just given him!  It was an enjoyable moment.

My practical jokes are his fault.  He IS the fun in our marriage.   He has taught me that God wants joy in our life.  And it IS good.   Very good.

For some reason,  I always viewed having fun  as bad.  Wasted time.  Why should I enjoy my family if there are little kids on the other side of the world eating mud cookies, drinking dirty water, and cold with out appropriate clothing and shoes.   How can I know that exists and still enjoy anything?  For every ounce of my fun comes two ounces of guilt.

There is no reason my childhood should have ingrained those principles in me.  I  grew up  in a solid Christian family.  My family laughs.  Especially my  Dad.  He has spent so many  years   fighting serious illness – feeling awful – but he always finds a way to laugh.   The most hilarious story I have heard was when he ate a blue Popsicle and then told the nurse he had something wrong with his tongue.

And we spent lots of family time together.   Our  family camping trips are my very best childhood memories.  I loved the summers we  spent on Petite Jean Mountain running through the trails, playing basketball, and enjoying visits with cousins.

When Mike and I were still dating, it was easy enough to be all fun.   That’s what teenagers are  suppose  to do. We went skating.  I giggled.   We ate dinner.   I giggled.   He showed off his flashy violin skills.  I giggled. He called me.  I giggled.   He tickled me.   I giggled.

Simple.  Normal teenage stuff.

 

COME BACK FRIDAY FOR PART II OF A TERRIBLE CONCOCTION.

 

 

 

Abide in Him

It’s not really unusual to find Zaiah wearing underwear on his head.  Or dismantling  a calculator.

And then there was the sink incident.

Zaiah decided to wash Eli’s hair with bubbles he made  in the sink.  However, I didn’t catch him in the act the second time.   He left the water running. The sink plugged up.  And after he was sound asleep, I found a flood  that went through our cabinets and walls into the laundry room, living room, and bedroom.

What  a mess.

But with four children, I have come to expect lots of chaos.  I have very low expectations when I make plans.  I  know that there WILL be a poopy diaper, spilled juice,  stained carpet,  a runaway dog…… or even a flood.  At  exactly the wrong time. But it is a new concept for me to realize that my house, my kids, my day – it can all be in chaos.  But I don’t have to be in chaos.

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That heart struggle began when I lived in the busyness of a husband working and earning a second degree while we parented two babies and a four year old.   Even if my words didn’t reflect it, I often felt like exploding            

 

I write as if these internal struggles are in past tense.  They aren’t.   I am especially tempted when I am tired or overwhelmed.  Sometimes I fall flat on my face as I  impatiently rush my little treasures out the  door or nag my husband about moving the laundry I folded.  And I begin to feel that old discontent, selfish boil race to my heart.

But I know a truth now that I did not know then.

Despite my circumstances, my heart can rest in peace. But only if my heart is fully surrendered  to Christ.  Because, ultimately, it’s not even about me.   It’s all about Him.  

                    His love.

                            His mercy.

                                    His Joy.

                                           His peace.

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.”

                                                                       John 15:4 NIV

 

 

Really Nervous

Because of sickness, the  kids and I stayed home from church today.  And  so, we watched the service on our computer.  As Kevin  (the pastor) walked up front, Eli exclaimed, “Hey!  That’s the guy that stands in the middle of all the people and talks.  He must be REALLY nervous!!”

Eli would have been nervous.  He  isn’t unbearably shy – but he doesn’t care too much for  large groups.

In fact, we dedicated Leesy a couple weeks ago.  We wanted the kids to be part of that commitment, and so, our family stood in front of the church together (instead of sending the kids to Kid’s church ). I tried to grab a couple of little hands as we stepped up front.  But this was one time that Eli, and the other kids, quickly threw me over to crowd into the security and confidence of their Daddy.

As much as my heart has changed over the last two years, my kids can still see through me.  They know when I am uncomfortable.  They read my body language.   If I am stressed, they sense it and react according to my emotions.

But not wanting to stand up in front of a crowd is so vastly different from some of issues I previously dealt with….  My muscles didn’t spasm, my heart didn’t race, and I didn’t panic as hyperventilation sucked the air out of my body.

At the same time, I can still feel my fall from that initial change in faith that propelled my heart to fall in  love, all over again, with my Savior, my God… my love.

That  initial adrenaline from a drastically changed heart gave me lots of energy, enthusiasm, and hope for change.    As some of my physical problems eroded and settled into issues that are more manageable – I have lost some of that hope and initial dependency on God that I quickly acquired when my life seemed to come to a screeching halt.

Two years later, I have lots of days that I physically feel really good.  I have a husband who has fiercely loved me through everything.  But even now, he communicates that love so much clearer to my heart.   I have close friends whom I love and trust.  Life is good.  But in all those huge blessings from God, my heart easily wonders from the very source of those gifts.

And without my heart closely woven in His, sometimes I simply don’t feel like trying.  I would rather check out and do nothing rather than put some effort into my spiritual and physical health.

However,  I am reminded in this new year that it isn’t really about that outward change.  Hope, enthusiasm, and energy don’t come from trying to change.  I spent years determined to make a career out of music simply to prove I could rise above my personality.  And I have attended countless meetings, bible studies, and small groups just TRYING to make things different.

As if a new goal would break the ice and cause a lifetime of panic attacks and other stress related health issues go away.

As if I could suddenly love the company of strangers and become totally at ease when I am far, far away from my comfort  zone.

It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.

I cannot change from the outside if God doesn’t change me from the inside.

It’s all  Him.

Only Him.

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh  Ezekiel 7:19

A Treasure

The past few years, I have learned a lot about my own lack of confidence, awkwardness, panic attacks….. and just general anxiety.   I used to think that because I struggle – that I am the worse teacher for my kids.  Especially, for  my daughter – who takes those issues to a whole other level.

But, actually, because I struggle, I am the best teacher.

With panic attacks, with a relentless anxiety, with depression haunting me  from the shadows – I know that practice does NOT make perfect.  In fact, in can make worse.  Fail, fail, and fail again.   That does not produce confidence.

But failure is precisely where my life changed. I realized that, yes, it is true that I am horribly inadequate.  A failure.  Maybe a little lonely at times.  And yes, I can be very easily insulted.  I know it at the very depths of my heart.  I have no doubt about my own inadequacy.

But at the heart of failure, God placed His confidence in my heart..

His adequacy.  His success.  His truth.

That never changes.   It never depends on me.  I can remain the most quiet person in the room.  I can feel trapped.  I can feel rejected.

And yet,  I am accepted in Christ.  Glorified in Christ.  Lifted up in Him.

So, yes, it is true.  I don’t have it all together.  I am probably not the best teacher of social graces.   I can’t teach them how to earn the love and respect of their peers. Or how to develop unshakable self confidence.

But God has placed a treasure in my heart worth far more.   My struggle brings me to my knees.  And it frustrates me.  And sometimes I feel utterly broken.  But in that brokeness,  my life is a testimony of God’s love and grace.  And that’s what I want to teach my children.

My dearly loved children of God.

 

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  1 John 3:1  NIV

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unpredictable

DSCN7626

 As I was pulling out of Walmart tonight, I spotted new parents.  It was obvious….They were parked back away from the other cars.  And two adults pulled out the stroller and couldn’t figure out how to get the stroller set up and locked.

I remember those days.

It never dawned on me until we took Abby home from the hospital that I had to actually take care of that little life.  I didn’t know when to feed her, how to get her to sleep, how to change her clothes, or buckle a seatbelt, give a bath or clip her nails….  It was all new.

I don’t exactly like “new.”  I like predictable.  But UNpredictable  exploded with a growing family.

                                         But, maybe, unpredictable isn’t so bad.

I spend so much time trying to control the details of my life.  Only to succumb to the reality that I am NOT in control.  And despite my scheduling and routines, the unpredictables will happen.

Such as Leesy refusing to nap.  Or kids getting sick.  Or supper burning.

Of course, at this point, I don’t know why I would even expect ANYTHING to go smoothly.  There are always bumps in the road.  But the more stressed I get, the more I cling to a hope for the familiar.

But my hope is in the wrong place.  It’s easy to place it in the familiar.  The schedule.  The plan.

But if all my hope was fully in God, and his plans, my plans would be obsolete.  With Him in complete control, I simply don’t need any hope in my schedules, plans, or goals.

Eli was dancing around the living room a little earlier today. I had a mess in the living room, dishes in the sink, lunch to make, and an overtired Leesy.  I was starting to lose my patience.  But then I listened to the words of my sweet boy.   He was saying, over and over, “ 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 NIV)

Big words for such a little guy.  But it was just what I needed to hear.

A reminder that God is so good.  I may not see the lesson in the messy living room right now.  But I can have faith that God is working for my good.

Always.

And with that knowledge, God’s peace saturates my soul.

             Calms my mind.

                          And softens my heart.

Mandarin Oranges

DSCN7698-001Leesy had been angling to eat  Mandarin oranges all afternoon but I was saving them for dinner.  She had gone outside to play with the boys.  And in the meantime, I had loaded everyone’s plate for dinner.

Including the oranges.

Before she saw that dinner was on the table, I picked her up and she peeked into the can of oranges.  Empty.

She had been waiting for hours.

Those beautiful brown eyes got big, her lip started to quiver, and she began her infamous scowl.  She thought she had been cheated out of her oranges.

Personally, mandarin oranges don’t carry much importance.  I think most canned fruit is mushy and loaded with unnecessary sugar.  But I know they are important to my little Leesy.  And so they are, at least somewhat, important to me.  I buy them for her every week.  Knowing that she will devour them.

I have to wonder.  What good things does God bless me with – just because He knows me and loves me?  What are my mandarin oranges?  Those sweet little blessings….

I can think of a few.

I hate peeling potatoes.  But my kids love it.   I love chocolate chip cookies.  My husband knows how to cook them just perfect.  That is certainly a sweet little blessing.  We don’t need our walls painted.  But it is such a delight to add some character as we paint a red play room and a green girls room.  We don’t need a backyard.  But God blessed us with a great space – and a fence.   It is a great joy to watch our kids run and play.

In fact, yesterday the boys spent hours outside driving trucks, digging holes, and enjoying the beautiful weather.  And as I watched them learn and play, tears came to my eyes.  And then God gave me an added bonus.

A brother hug.

It just doesn’t get any better.   God has so abundantly blessed me.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,  Ephesians 3:20 NIV

Squooshing the Roaches

Roaches make me paranoid.

A few years ago, we lived in a rental house that turned out to be infested  by roaches.  After a year of spraying for those disgusting little creatures, we surrendered most of our belongings and started from scratch in a new, uninfested, house.  When we moved into the house, we had a bug guy spray and search our new house for any stragglers.  And, of course, there was a few strays that managed to hitchhike into our new house. Unfortunately, once a female roach becomes impregnated – she is forever pregnant.  Making it more difficult to slow down their mass reproduction.

However, we hired a bug terminator who more aggressively treated for roaches.  And we also were living a new home that didn’t have water leakage like our previous residence.

After a month, we were free of the little creatures.

After such a disaster, there are certain freedoms that I no longer take for granted, such as:

  • Going to sleep without being afraid of waking up with a roach crawling across your covers or into your mouth
  • Eating without prewashing dishes because roaches have been crawling on them
  • Sitting on real furniture (we had to throw out our furniture and sit on lawn chairs for a month)
  • Turning on the lights before entering a room (light scares roaches away)

I am blessed to be past that stage in our life.  But my husband and I still squirm at bugs.  Anything that remotely resembles a roach gets vigorously smooshed and flushed down the toilet.

Our roaches remind me alot of struggling with a false perception of God’s love.  At first, I believed the lie that I wasn’t personally loved.  Not cherished.  Not really treasured.

Soon that lie became a serious infestation.  I could no longer ignore it.  That lie eventually multiplied into doubt, turmoil – and eventually – emotional and physical struggles with anxiety and depression.

But I would never take that back.  In that process, I had to surrender to God’s love.

But sometimes, I see a remnant of my old self.  And I squoosh it.

But it’s not really me squooshing it.

It’s God.

 His love.

His truth.