December 30, 2015

Goodbye 2015, Hello 2016

I don't think I've ever been more happy to say goodbye to a year than I am right now. I am ready for 2015 to be a thing of the past. I'm not so sure I am ready for 2016, but 2015 has felt like a long, hard winter and I am ready for spring! I still feel pretty numb-passionless and directionless-but I pray that 2016 will bring the thaw my heart so desperately needs. Andrew Peterson's song The Rain Keeps Falling is pretty much a perfect description of what 2015 was like for our family. The phrase "I'm dying to live but I'm learning to wait..." is a perfect description of the last year. It's been hard, lonely, scary, confusing, eye opening, full of tears, and a reminder of what the true Church is really supposed to be. There were times when I just wanted to pick up and move and never look back (Hawaii would be nice, right!?!?) There were times when I could barely breathe through the tears and pain. Thankfully, there were more times when I felt the arms of God around me through the smiles, love, food, gifts, and encouragement of my brothers and sisters in Christ who truly understand that the only way to live this Christian life is to love God and love others. And they loved our family well. They continue to love our family well.

For about the last month I have been reading and praying through the Psalms. This morning as I was reading the Lord gave me a prayer for our household for 2016. It's found in Psalm 90:12-17:

Teach us to number our days,

    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Relent, Lord! How long will it be?

    Have compassion on your servants.
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendor to their children.

May the favor[a] of the Lord our God rest on us;

    establish the work of our hands for us—
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

December 20, 2015

2016 is Just Around the Corner

If you've been reading my blog for very long, then you know that each year for the last few years I've chosen a word that I want to be the theme for the coming year. I can't believe it's that time again! It seems like just yesterday I was writing about choosing the word "content." (You can read that post HERE.)

Boy, did the Lord teach me about being in content, regardless of circumstance, last year. If I am going to really be honest, I'd say I would have preferred not to learn that lesson. Or, at least to have learned it in some other way. An easier way. A faster way. A way with less tears, frustration, confusion, grief, and suffering. But, also being honest, without those things I don't think I would have learned the lesson at all.

As I look ahead to 2016 I am hesitant to even ask God what word I need to focus on for the year because I am not sure I can handle any more lessons and changes in my life. Yet, I still feel the pull to ask Him what my word is for 2016. As I have been praying and thinking about it, three words keep popping into my mind: brave, joy, present. I want all three of these things for my life. I want the bravery to follow Christ in all things at all times no matter the cost (and for this to be seen by my children and used to draw them to Christ.) I want the joy that only Christ can offer, regardless of the circumstance. I want to be more present at all times-with my husband, my children, my family, my friends. But, three words just seemed like too much. It was overwhelming to me. Then I read the book Just Show Up: The Dance of Walking Through Suffering Together. I loved this book and I now had a phrase that put my three words together: JUST SHOW UP.

So, my phrase for 2016 is JUST SHOW UP.  

For my family: I want to spend more time laughing, playing, learning, read the Word, serving, serving alongside my husband and my children than I do checking Facebook and Instagram. This will require me setting aside my selfishness, my wants, my desires in order to spend more time with them. In order to love and serve them as Christ loves and serves me.

For my friends/church family: This is the part that take bravery for me. I was so convicted, yet also encouraged, by the part of the book that stated we can't do it all. We aren't all great cooks, fabulous letter writers, or natural encouragers. But, God has made all of us good at something. I'm not that great at making dinner, but I can pick up some one's favorite lunch, have their kids over for a play date, swing by the store and pick up what they need. I can do all of those things, yet I haven't been doing them. These are simple actions that take little time and cost me very little. There's no reason I can't show up and do them.

For me:  I know this sounds selfish, and it was hard to type because it felt selfish, but this one is much needed in order for the other two to be accomplished. I want to be intentional about showing up every day for time in prayer and the Word. Not just a few thoughtless minutes here and there, but for true, deep time in each of those. At the beginning of the day. Before the worries and schedule and to do list take over my day. This allows me to focus on Him at the start of it all, hand it all over to Him, and go about my day with peace and trust in God alone.

Lord, lead and guide me as I head into 2016. Give me the courage and strength to see You first in all things. Lord, help me to JUST SHOW UP, for You, for others, for this amazing life You've given me.

December 07, 2015

Something I've never done....

So, I feel like I should make this post, yet I feel totally awkward making it, all at the same time. So, bear with me.

From the very first time I heard the Natalie Grant song "Clean" I could not get it out of my head. It brings me to tears and brings joy and laughter at the same time. The truth is so needed, in my life and the lives of so many I know. I actually broke down and bought the accompaniment track to this because, well, there's just something about singing such powerful words and hearing your own voice louder than anything else. Hearing yourself preaching truth to yourself can be so powerful. And it's just what my weary soul needed. I needed the reminder that it didn't matter what I have done, what I do tomorrow, or what I do ten years from now, Christ's blood makes me clean when I turn that wrong choice, those harsh words, that rebellion, that sin over to Him. And there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING that can separate you from His love when you are His child. If you aren't His child, there is NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING that you've ever done that would keep Him from offering His grace, mercy, love, and salvation to you every day. And trust me, no matter what sin you have committed, no matter how big or horrible it is in your eyes, you are not alone. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Everyone has been where you've been. Even those who are His children now. We didn't start out that way! The joy of John 3:16-17 as it declares "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." That's the joy of what we celebrate at Christmas: that Jesus, the God-Man, came to earth in a lowly manger, but didn't stay in that manger. He grew to be the One and Only sacrifice for every sin we ever commit in our entire lives! One sacrifice for all.

If you're drowning in sin, don't know where to turn, and feel like you wandered too far for God to ever rescue you, I promise, He loves you and He's got His hand out ready to pull you to safety and salvation. Call His name. He will answer! Oh Christian, have you strayed? Has the world gotten the better of you? Have you forgotten the One whose name you bear in the midst of the hustle and bustle? Call His name. He will answer. No matter who you are, where you're from, or what you've done, His blood has paid the price for your every sin. When you ask His forgiveness, He'll wipe every stain away. He trades our dirty, filthy rags for His righteousness and glorious robes. He took our sin on that old Roman cross and gave us His heavenly garments. Amen! It's not too late. While you have breath in your lungs, it's not too late. Call His name. Shout it with all your might. Whisper it with what little strength you have left after a long, hard battle. Cry it out like you have been every day for the last year. He hears. He sees. He knows. He washes clean.

So, I want to share this song, "Clean", with you in my own voice so you can hear the truth from my lips. This song is true of my life and the life of every person who has given their lives over to Christ. The details may be different for each person, but the outline of the story is the same: we sinned, He paid the price, He offers His blood in the place of our sins, we receive forgiveness and eternal life. I don't have the best voice for this song and I definitely hit a few sour notes here and there (it was hard to sing without blubbering like an idiot. Crying is my gift, after all!) I know you can look up Natalie Grant's version or hear it in any church done much more beautifully, but I am leaving this here in hopes that someone who needs this truth will hear it and turn their lives over to God to be Lord and Master of their life. It doesn't matter what walk of life you are in, how much or little money you have, how many times you've been married, how many times you've been in jail, how jealous you are of your next door neighbor, how many of His gifts you overlooked today, or how much time you spent gossiping about others this week. He offers His gift of salvation, His cleansing blood, for every stain, every sin, every person. I pray that you will be flooded with joy as you realize what Christ has done on your behalf!