My daughter is not what you would call a “natural swimmer”. She loves the water but attaining the skill of not sinking to the bottom has been something we have really had to work on. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of pools or the ocean. It stirs my anxiety… “Hey let’s all hang out around a giant potential death pool!” Not my idea of fun. One day when my kids are pro-swimmers, I might be able to relax and read a book while they swim… maybe.
So we are working with our girl. She is getting better. The other day, she wanted to swim to the deep end of the pool. Reluctantly I let her do it, while I swam right beside her. About half way to the edge she got tired. She lifted her head and restlessly flapped around in the middle of the deep in. Although I wanted to swoop in, grab her and convince her it was time to get out of the pool, I didn’t. Instead I started yelling, “Swim baby girl! Swim!”. Something clicked in her. She ducked her head underwater and swam like a pro to the edge of the pool. She was so proud and I was too.
This morning in church the pastor spoke on a passage in Luke. He talked about Simon (later Peter) making the decision to lay down his nets and follow Jesus. The pastor’s main point was “getting in the deep end” with our faith – really trusting God and letting go of control.
The water/ocean analogy hit a cord with me. My husband and I have made the decision to “get in the deep end” with God and really trust Him. Since that time we have faced financial pit falls, failed ministry, depression, mysterious illnesses, broken relationships, painful moves, failed adoption, challenging parenting situations and more. I can not tell you how many times in the past 10 years I have said, “Lord, I feel like I’m sinking! I just need to catch my breath!” There has been so much good and blessing through the years but there has also been debilitating pain and struggle. So the whole idea “leaving the shore” and “diving deep” into following Christ, resonated. The longer I listened, bitterness began to turn. I thought, “Sure this sounds good from the “shore” but when you are being tossed by the waves with sea water going up your ears and nose, things get really confusing! “.
I remember feeling so lonely, confused and afraid… like I was drowning. I could almost see it – blankets of ocean, me struggling to get through, flailing around restlessly in the middle of the deep. But as we prayed, God gave me a different picture.
I could see Jesus swimming next to me saying “Swim baby girl! Swim!”. I fought to get through. I ducked my head under water and swam. And as clear as day, I heard Him whisper in my spirit, “And you are now a great swimmer”.
All figurative analogies aside, an easy and calm life makes for a weak person. Through each trial and struggle, God has built strength. There is pain. There is confusion. But God draws me closer with each one. He builds endurance and stregnth through Him. To keep swimming (obviously I resisted the urge to name this blog “just keep swimming”) is to get up everyday and do that day for Jesus. Maybe it is big, maybe small but you do it all for the Lord with purpose and peace. It doing the ordinary things well. Its not complaining. Its loving unlovable ones. Its speaking up when you would rather keep quiet. Its working hard. Its obedience.
Today was a sad, sad day for our country. We are in turbulent times. We need to be strong not flabby and weak.
So, yes! Leave the shore, get in the deep end! Be “submerged” in the will of God! It is going to be hard and it is going to hurt at times. But, you will be with your God. You will know Him more deeply and You will become a great swimmer!
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4
I haven’t blogged in years, but today I read someone else’s story and it healed me in ways I didn’t know I needed healing. Sharing is vulnerable and uncomfortable but a necessary sacrifice in this life.
So I thought I would share a segment of our story…
Adoption has always been “in the picture” for us. During the year of our engagement, we went to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. He talked about adoption and as cliche’ as it might be, we walked out of there knowing we going to adopt one day.
We have moved and changed jobs many times in our 11 years of marriage but one goal has remained the same: adoption. In 2012, we were living in an apartment in Atlanta (a far cry from the house we had imagined) but we felt God tugging on our hearts to start the adoption process. Our two babies were 3 and 2, why not add to the family via adoption?
After starting the classes and paperwork, a friend found out about our endeavor. She worked for the State and had connections in the foster-world. She knew of a little boy who would soon be up for adoption. I won’t divulge too many details but we were in. We expedited the process, pushing the “pedal to the metal” to be ready for this boy – mountains of paperwork, classes, and interviews.
I wish I could say I was hopeful and excited but I wasn’t. See Eddie came right after a hard and disappointing season. A season of “no” and a season of struggle. A few years prior, we had been on staff with a church plant. We gave it 100% but after 2 years in, our family had to leave because we could not make ends meet. It was hard to leave when our heart was there. It was hard to recover and come “home”. It was hard to give up so much for the Lord for what felt like “nothing”.
But God was restoring. And then Eddie came in the picture. My heart said “no, don’t do this to yourself again”. I held this all with open hands. For a few months, I was not that emotionally attached. If God took this all away, I could easily walk away with no major pain. But somewhere in the process, I started to fall for him. I only had one picture and little knowledge of this boy. One day, however, while driving my babies around town I looked in the rear view mirror. I don’t know how or why but I could just see him sitting right there in the back seat. It was perfect. I loved it. And I cried. I cried because I had tried so hard to not get attached but here I was. I was attached and in love with this boy and the whole thing. I wanted him.
We prayed and wept allowing God to let us hope again.
Months went by and I’ll speed up the story; we didn’t get to adopt our third child. His foster parents decided to keep him.
More fast-forwarding, we moved. A year or so later, we started the long process of several medical issues with my son & husband. My husband faced some mysterious illness where his joints swelled up. At times he could not walk. I had to do everything around the house and with the kids. The illness mysterious came and then about 6 months later just went away with no real medical answers.
In the midst of all this, one well-meaning person said, “can you imagine having 3 kids right now? Aren’t you glad that whole adoption thing didn’t work out?!”
I know I nodded and agreed politely. But the truth is, no! I mean if we are going with the easy logic it would have been easier to not have had any kids at all. Maybe I should have gotten rid of them… and much easier if I didn’t have a crippled husband walking with a cane! I loved that boy and he was “with us” for about 6 months. Much like a miscarriage, you don’t just brush it off and think, “man, my life is easier without a baby. I’m glad that didn’t work out.”
I grieved this boy for years later. I still struggle at Christmas-time.
And you know what, its okay.
I do have two wonderful, healthy children. But, I still grieve the one lost (in our hearts).
I do have so much to be thankful for. But I still mourn. And its okay.
It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to grieve. I learned this and I learned to let go. I let go of being in control of the out come.
I know God is good and I know God in control but I don’t have a pretty bow to put on this story. Sandwiched in the middle of struggle and disappointment, God allowed a “no”. It hurt and we were so sad. It’s okay to hurt, its okay to not understand.
We are trying to work on getting better about reading the Bible as a family. Congrats to those who have this figured out! We are not that family… but we are working on it.
Our church has been using The Gospel Project in Sunday School for the past few years. I can not commend this program enough! It is awesome! My kids know the Word! They are in Exodus right now. We decided to read Exodus 13, right before where the Israelites cross the Red Sea.
I love the Word of God. I have read this account many, many times. Tonight this part stood out to me for the first time:
When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them along the road to the land of the Philistines, even though it was nearby; for God said, “The people will change their minds and return to Egypt if they face war. So He led the people around toward the Red Sea along the road of the wilderness. And the Israelites left the land of Egypt in battle formation.” Exodus 13:17-18
Here is why this spoke to me:
- God knows the hearts of His people! I can’t, not put an exclamation mark there! The God of the Universe knows the hearts of His people. He knew they would be tempted to go back to slavery if they were led via the road nearby. I am wrestling with a decision right now. To be completely honest, I myself do not even know which option I want. The good news is that God knows my heart. He knows what is best for His glory and my good (Romans 8:28).
- God was setting them up to see a miracle. My son is a thinker. When I brought this up with them he said, “Yeah but God could have done a miracle on the road nearby too if He wanted to…. That’s right mom I know you have been at work all day but let’s see how well your brain works tonight” Okay, maybe he didn’t say that last part. The parting of the Red Sea was an awesome miracle! The Isrealites were privileged to be on the front row of this spectacular display of God’s power. The Isrealites had long road ahead of them. They needed to see this miracle. God knows the hearts of His people to led them away from temptation and give them the (massive) encouragement they needed.
- They knew Him more because of the harder road. If you have studied the Bible for any length of time, you know the Isrealites struggled. They loved God and served Him one day and were stripping off their jewelry the next day to make an idol. And yet, God’s covenant remained. They are still His people. This part of the journey was difficult but through it they knew God more.
I take comfort in that. I am in a season that (more times than not), I think “God, why didn’t you fix this another way? Why didn’t you make that other job available or never have allowed me to do make that one decision? You could have kept me from this frustration. You could have prevented this pain. You could have kept me from this hard road.”
A year or so ago, Comcast had these commercials the sequenced these crazy events all because of one decision to not “choose Comcast”. I do this with almost every life decision…. and even not so life decisions like where to go grocery shopping. If I pick the wrong grocery store and don’t save as much money…. this could obviously led to my family living in a cardboard box next month. I struggle with even doubting decisions that I know God has called me do. I weekly have to ask, “You did tell me to do this right?”
Why do I do this?
Because that decision, that path, that “road” that God told me to take gets HARD! And somewhere in my Christian brain I have been programmed to think that, that is not how it is supposed to work!
Instead, somewhat of the opposite is true. God calls us take the “hard” road sometimes. He calls us to take that road because He knows us, and He wants us to know Him more.
So chin up my friends. Brush off the dirt and keep walking. There is a miracle ahead.
I enjoy reading the account of Peter walking on water in Matthew 14. I love Peter. He is tenacious and bold. He is zealous.
I married a man who is a lot like Peter. My husband would follow God to the ends of the earth. It doesn’t matter how crazy or “foolish” it might look. My husband will do if he feels the Spirit leading. “Peter’s” have little caution to them. They just go for it. That is why I love my husband and that is also why it is a good thing God paired him with someone like me. I remind him of the need for grocery money and little things like that.
Anyway, I always had this image of a night sky, a boat full of disciples, Peter standing and calling out to Jesus who was not far from the boat. All while the water lay quietly beneath them. Scripture doesn’t support that though. Look up at verse 24, “But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary“. Contrary defined in the Greek Lexicon means “that which is over or against” (blueletterbible).
Instead there is a storm. The disciples are working together to keep the boat on track. Across the waves, wind and (maybe) rain, they see a glimpse of what looks like a man or a ghost walking on water. Peter being seemingly nuts, calls out to this man. And not only does he call but he decides to get out of the boat and go to him.
And as most church-going folks may remember. It doesn’t go so well from here. Peter begins to sink and cries out to the Lord.
We like to preach the “get out of the boat” sermon or in a Sunday School lesson. But what happens when you get out of the boat with a burst of zeal and step out on to the water? There is a good chance, like Peter, you will realize:
“I just stepped out of a boat into be a hurricane!!!”
I’ll give you a real life example. Several years ago, Mark and I felt led to go with some friends and plant a church in another city. After looking for work in the church plant city for about 9 months to no avail, my husband was able to work out a “deal” with his current employer in our hometown. He was to work a 3/12 schedule (3 days 12 hours). He would live there 3 days and with us 4. We decided to pull the trigger, make the jump, and move. We left our home, family and jobs (our “boat”). As we are unloading the moving truck, however, Mark gets a call. His boss said, “the deal is off. I’ll see you at 8am on Monday (‘if you want to still have a job’ was implied).
That was a big real-life gust of “wind”. It knocked us out a bit. It shock our faith.
We ended up living apart for about 4 months until he took another “step out of the boat” and quit his job. He took a job cutting grass and moved to our church plant city with us.
Peter took a big step of faith only to find himself drowning and trying to survive. Knowing “my Peter”, I imagine he did not even consider the wind and waves before getting out of the boat. Maybe he thought Jesus would calm the storm immediately. Who knows? I imagine he just wanted to be with Him and be apart of His work.
Jesus did eventually stop the storm. But it was after they got back in the boat.
“When they got back in the boat, the wind stopped“. Matthew 14:32
Huh? So obviously Jesus has the power to stop the storm. Why did he wait? Throw poor Peter a bone! He had the faith to get out. Why let him almost drown? (the Lord is good to me to allow openness and honesty. I mean no disrespect in the wisdom of His ways).
I know first hand what it feels like to be battered by those kinds of waves. I know what it feels like to be pumped and full of faith only to then feel the ground from under us give way. When you are gasping for air and struggling to survive, you feel sucker punched. It hurts. And I would be lying if I said I didn’t say, “Hello? Lord are you there? You said “Come!”… didn’t you?” (All while everybody else sits securely in a boat).
I don’t know why he waited. I don’t have that answer. But a couple of things stood out to me as I read this familiar story.
1. Jesus didn’t get mad at Peter – The story doesn’t wrap up with Jesus lecturing Peter about what is wise and responsible, but yet that Peter lacked faith.
2. Jesus reached out his hand and took hold of him – The image of that is just so beautiful. And He does it still today. When you step out on faith, you get to be rescued and touched by the hand of God.
3. Everyone worshiped Jesus – Others, not just Peter, saw the work of God and were led to worship Him. Everybody else was scared. They cried out in fear. Peter took a step of faith, took a risk and got out of the boat. In return everyone – not just Peter – everyone worshiped Jesus.
So, I don’t know friends. When you “get out of the boat”, you will probably walk into a hurricane. But faith is more than taking one big step out of the boat. You have to keep walking, keep going. The wind is going to come. You are not alone. Jesus is there. He was there the whole time.
I’ve seen lots posts on why people choose to homeschool, so I thought I would throw in my two cents on public school.
1. My husband and I had fairly positive experiences growing up in the public school system.
2. My kids are very social creatures. We are excited for them to have the opportunity to meet other kids.
3. We want our kids to be in an environment that encourages awareness of others. I think one benefit that is not acknowledged as much in the whole “school” discussion is this. My son is in a class of 18 kids. They all have different learning styles, different preferences, different personality types, different needs and different strengths. Although this presents a challenges, I think this is a good thing. He is learning how to work with others. He is learning to submit to the needs of others sometimes. He is learning how to handle the challenges of being in a community of different people.
4. There is opportunity for other people to mold and shape their life. My husband and I are pretty awesome but it takes a lot of people to shape someone’s life. I think back to the teachers I had over the years. Some were not so good and had a negative affect on my life but some were great! I had an English teacher in high school that completely changed the way I thought about teaching. I had always wanted to be a teacher but she was just remarkable! I could go on… these teachers were very different from my parents and touched my life in a way that they couldn’t.
5. School Fun! School plays, class parties, talent shows, Field Day, and all that fun… we are excited about these things for our kids!
6. I am not the best teacher for my kids. I went (and am currently going) to school for to be an educator. I have an extensive knowledge in this area. But I am a terrible match for my son as a teacher. He loves rules, schedule, routine. (My daughter is like me and is very much more of a free spirit!) It is one thing to have a “bad match” as a teacher for a year but for 13…. either me or my son is not making it! Now, I am the best momma for them – I know that for a fact because God’s gave them to me. But it doesn’t mean I’m the best option as their teacher.
7. My husband said “no!” to homeschool. I gotta throw this in there. Just because the whole school issue is more of a “mom” conversation doesn’t mean it is outside of the realm of submission. There is a reason God put my husband and I together. There is a reason he has such strong convictions and opinions. I have to respect that and ultimately submit to it. Now, I didn’t have any dying conviction to homeschool or I would have handled it differently. I just have trust and control issues – I’m just being honest. That’s the appeal of homeschool for me.
8. Deepening my trust in God! My prayer life has increased 10 fold since sending my baby boy to kindergarten and my baby girl to preschool. When they were with me 24/7 it was very different. I was mostly in control of everything they did. It is different now but I do have the peace and confidence that this is where they should be and that God is in control.
9. Another ministry door opened- I love meeting new people. There is vast ministry opportunity for my kids and I in the schools. My son is such a light. I pray every day that his light shines for his teachers and friends. There is a lot of opportunity to minister to the teachers, administration and other parents and students also.
10. God said to do it! You could really just draw a virtual “X” over the first “9” reasons. Because they are just observations and opinions. I’m sure there are 20 better reasons for us to send our kids to private school or 30 reasons we should homeschool! I have read many compelling blogs and books about homeschooling, “unschooling” and everything in between. But the bottom line is that I am a human. I have human perspective. God is infinitely wise and sees all. He loves my son and daughter more than I do (which is sometimes hard for me to believe). He know what is best for my kids. He understands and sees their heart. My job as their momma is to seek the One who is infinitely wiser than me. I can’t see past my feelings or past hurts or fears. It’s easier to make wise decisions about other things but when my kids are concerned my heart is consumed with icky-sticky, insane, consuming love for them. My vision gets blurry! The most loving thing I can do for them is trust them to God and trust His way is best. My husband and I have agreed to take each year one step at a time. Maybe next year we will homeschool… I doubt it but we will always seek God. Each child is different. Each year is different. I am thankful I can trust a God who never changes and who knows what is best for my kids k – 12!
Mom guilt: you know that haunting feeling you get. To me it is “that darned if you do, darned if you don’t” feeling that never seems to leave. It comes after dinner because dinner included too many carbs and a processed box of mac & cheese (the horror!). It comes after you loose your temper and yell for the third time… today… It comes because you have to work to help make ends meet with your family’s budget. It’s there after you tell you daughter that you can’t read that book right now because you are busy (and you really are). It comes because you have to say “no” to doing that really cool thing because you don’t have the money. It’s present when your kid’s birthday party doesn’t turn out nearly as cute as you envisioned in your Pinterest-crazy mind. It is there when you finally get a break, get out of the house and do something for yourself.
Some of you mommas may have no idea what I’m talking about. You are blessed.
The rest of you needed no definition. You know “mom guilt”. You know no matter how hard you try to be a ‘good mom’, its there.
As my friends can tell you, I struggle with this area more than most. But, as God is good about doing, He got in my face on this issue the other day.
I was writing in my prayer journal. It was the middle of the day and my kids were playing outside. I rarely have “quiet time” in the afternoon but on this day it worked. I watched my kids play and as soon as my soul felt the slightest hinge of joy, guilt choked it out! I’ll let you into my crazy brain, “I should be outside playing with them. But I am so tired. Maybe if I didn’t work, I would have more energy. Maybe if I’d let the house go more… ugh I am a terrible mom.”
I started to write this out on paper. As I was writing, I realized the unrealistic picture I had in my brain. Smiling kids, skipping, butterflies, blue skies…. okay not exactly but you know that ‘perfect/peaceful’ picture whatever that might be, was going on in my head. And it hit me: its a LIE! They are KIDS!
Kids are unreasonable & irrational! They test me on purpose! They are loud. They are messy. They have melt downs and cry. They are kids!
My little perfect scenario in my head, is ridiculous. And constantly beating myself up for not having this “opening scene of Cinderella”, day to day motherhood is ridiculous too! Because I’m parenting kids… children…. who lack maturity, wisdom, discipline and reason.
So this realization opened the door of my heart… In Isaiah 44 there is a visual picture painted of an ignorant idol worshiper:
“No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make rest of it an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood! He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, Is this not a lie in my right hand?” – Isaiah 44:20
This “worshiper” looks like a fool and is doing these crazy things because his heart is deceived. He can hold this idol in his hand yet, this is what he choses to worship?!
This bolded part of this verse kept coming to my mind, through out the day. “…Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
See, you know what? I am not a perfect mom. The “best parent” boat has long since sailed for me and my oldest is only 5. Yet I have this fantasy in my head of the “perfect mom scenario”. It is partly composed of blog posts I have read over the years, a few facebook statuses and Instagram photos but it is mostly a fabricated from my own ridiculously high expectations of myself. But the bottom line is …. its a LIE. Like this ‘worshiper’ in Isaiah though, I hold it in my right hand. If I’m honest I worship this image. I make choices around it, think and dwell on it, and most of all allow the guilt of NOT being this ‘image’ destroy me!
In Kelly Minter’s devotional ‘No Other Gods’ (which is an awesome study! btw), she quotes Ken Sande saying this about idols, “Most of us think of an idol as statue or wood, stone or metal…. In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on that motivates us, that masters us and rules us, or that we trust, fear or serve.”
Ouch! We can make light of “mom guilt” thing, but if you are like me and have let it control you, it is serious stuff. My mom guilt has elevated to idol status. It steals my joy. It robs my peace. It demands action and perfection. None of these things are true of God.
The next verse in Isaiah 44 says,
Remember these things, O Jacob, And Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant, O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. I have wiped out your transgression like a thick cloud And your sins like a heavy mist. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.” – Isaiah 44:21-22
Practically for me, I think this means cutting out some facebook and Pinterest time and spending more time in the Word (predictable – yes, but necessary). I want to turn my attentions, heart and worship toward my Redeemer. If my motherhood flows through Him and to Him, there is not guilt. There is grace. And hopefully I can see the beauty in how He made me perfectly to be the mom of my two crazy kiddos.
What is in your right hand?
The last 5 years of our family’s life has been pretty crazy. They have involved church planting, two babies, a lot of moving, 8 jobs between the two of us, the beginning of adoption work, a lot of change, and (literally) following God all over the place. I’ve been blogging the whole time. So if you are really bored, feel free to read back.
We haven’t lived anywhere longer than a year. We are approaching our “6 month anniversary” here at our new house (which is obviously a big deal) and I find myself getting antsy. I am wanting to start the adoption paperwork up again. I’m wanting to even consider letting someone live with us or maybe we need to move again. I’m like my ADD 4 year old spiritually trying to get my hands on anything and everything I can “do” for God. I find it hard to sit in the middle of God’s blessings and just…. be still.
Why am I like this? Am I super spiritual? Do I just have an extreme servant’s heart? Ha, ha, ha. I wish what the Lord unearthed in my heart.
I have friends adopting (yay!). I have friends serving in missions in other countries and friends who are serving beautifully in ministry. Although, I share in their joy, I am jealous. They really have something to offer God. Missions surely counts double or triple on the whole Christian score card right?! I know our family is obeying as far as the Lord has led but it sure isn’t flashy or exciting or even in my eyes worthy.
But when I pour my options before the Lord, He just says, “Be…. Just Be and feast on Me”(and yes that does rhyme).
“Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice and to listen than fat rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22
Obedience is obedience friends. We have to be careful to compare our walks with others (no matter how noble that walk may be). In fact, I think at times we can get so caught up in comparing and trying to simulate someone else’s walk that we can totally miss God’s voice and call to of obedience in our own lives. Or in the other extreme we could be living lives of routine & comfort that we can’t even remember what His voice sounds like. Both are sin. Both are not desired offerings before our worthy Lord.
He desires our obedience.
My poor son is just like me. He has a problem with parenting his sister and thinking he’s the adult (typical first born). He can’t just play and obey. He has to debate me and ask “why?”. This drives me crazy (because we hate our sin the most when we see it in others right?!)! I lost it the other day. I said, “Son! You have such a simple life. You wake up in the morning and all you have to do is play, enjoy the day and obey me. That’s it! Just stop it!!”
As the words poured out of my mouth, I knew it. God could speak the same words over my life. All I have to do is work, enjoy Him and OBEY. He is God enough to handle the next step. He is God enough to handle His own glory. He is God enough to handle the how of whatever call on my life. I just need to “stop it!”
“Be still and know that I am God. I will exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah.”