Welcome To The World, 2020!

January has come, and people have made (and likely broken), their resolutions for 2020.

I have seen on social media many people posting about how terrible 2019 was and how much they are looking forward to it being over. I’ve seen the hype over how bad the old year was and how great the next year is going to be.

That is what I see every year. People decrying the travesty of the year leaving and hoping that somehow, by the mere change of a calendar, the turning of a page, the new year will bring all of the good things. As if by magic, things are expected to change. Sure, we plan to change. We are going to eat better. Exercise more. Spend more time with family. Whatever it is. We plan to be better.

But then December rolls around and we find ourselves joining the social media hype about how awful this year was and how ready we are for the next.

I, for one, am exhausted by the circle of excitement, failure and giving up only to start all over next year.

So I began thinking back about last year. Was it really so bad, for me?

It certainly was a year. One I hope never to repeat.

As 2019 began, we took our annual mission trip to Mexico, again taking along our two oldest children. It was a good trip. As always, I grew a lot as a person just from the experience. It was really a good year. They all are. How can it not be good when you are sharing the love of Christ with people who are so kind and giving and hopeful and glad to see you?

But spring hit my world like a tornado. It was devastating in it’s destruction. Months of rumors and bad will, truths, half-truths and untruths shared about people I care about, by people I care about. Satan doing his thing trying to destroy the anointed of God. When will he ever learn? He can taunt us. He can cause us great pain. But he can never destroy us. When will we ever learn that?

As the tornadic storm ripped apart my church, scattering hearts like debris, two other heart tearing events pulled at my family.

The month of May opened with the destruction of the only church my kids (and I) had ever known, the devastation of their youth group. The spattering and scattering of their friends. And mine. And the night before the fatal blow was dealt to our hurting hearts, overwhelmed from months of anger and hurt that lead up to that final, fate-filled and fatal morning, we lost the patriarch of my husband’s family. His grandfather suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. As we sat in the hospital with his family, grieving and laughing over the good years and the memories and rejoicing over his reunion with his wife and other loved ones, the fateful morning drew ever closer. We dragged our exhausted, emotionally over done bodies out of bed after a couple hours of fitful sleep, knowing that this morning, just as we had said goodbye to our beloved Pappy the night before, we would be saying goodbye to our beloved church in just a few hours.

And as the fallout fell as fallout does, ash on the innocent, we finalized our preparations for the graduation party of not one, but two of our children. Our first two children to graduate and prepare to leave the nest lost their entire youth group support when their lives were changing in the biggest way of their young lives. Amidst the excitement and joy of their graduation (and my daughter’s 18th birthday) was the sad reality that they would not be sharing this moment with so many of the people who had shared all of their other moments.

But graduate they did!

Zack and allison graduation

And this momma almost made it through the ceremony without crying. Not really. But I sure did better than I thought I might!

Summer brought with it the excitement and adventure that comes with a trip you have planned for 5 years. Yes, after 5 years of trying to orchestrate and organize, our family finally had our vacation to The Badlands, Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park! It was such an amazing trip. I mean we did drive 12 people in a 12 person van for 2 weeks covering around 4000 miles and a lot of bathrooms. And not to brag too much, but none of the siblings came to blows, neither the ones I gave birth to nor the ones my Mother-In-Law gave birth to. Even the four year-old managed not to melt too much after 4 straight days in the car… Miracles do still happen. kids at badlands

Fall brought with it the second part of the big changes to my family as first my oldest daughter then my oldest son left home to start school. As homeschoolers, they had never spend much time away from me. Other than summer camp, they were with me for most hours of most days for their entire life. The youngest sister took it (almost) as hard as mommy. And just like that, I was no longer responsible for 7 children all day. Five seems like such a small number of children.

And as my oldest two children left for college, my youngest started Kindergarten, my third started high school and my fifth started junior high and youth group.

Winter saw the first signs of stability as 2019 settled its creaking bones by the fire, amply supplied with firewood from a summer and fall spent preparing for the inevitability of winter. The big kids settled into school and life away from home. The middles took up the slack of the two older kids, helping more around the house and with the littles. The littles got into the routine of their school and began to settle into the oddness of only having 5 kids at home.

The year ended better than it began, with all my babies and my sweetheart in my nest for nearly 3 weeks together, enjoying a slower pace and more restful Christmas season than we had in, well ever. Kids at Christmas 2019

So as I reflected upon 2019 and wondered, was it really that bad? I answered myself with, “no”.

It was heart wrenching. Heart breaking. It was probably quite high on the list of “Hardest Years I’ve Ever Endured”. So many people I love suffered such great losses, my family included. It was a hard, hard year.

And yet I looked at the fruit around me as we watched movies and enjoyed each other’s company.

My kids are strong, man. They are strong. They are tough. They have grown. They were devastated by the loss of their youth group. And without an ounce of encouragement from me (because I honestly had none to give) they stepped out and stepped up. The two who graduated took initiative to help restore and rebuild their youth group in the short months they had left. My son organized a worship team for the youth. And continued, as always, to faithfully show up and serve on Sunday mornings. He was even offered an opportunity he had been patiently awaiting, to practice and eventually play with the worship team on Sunday mornings. He was thrown into an opportunity to lead and encourage and facilitate and he stepped up. My daughter. Oh that girl, she has a heart to love people. She loves the broken, hurt and unusual. She took this opportunity to love on and encourage new friends, and existing friends with a new closeness and acceptance. She jumped in to serve in the nursery and love on babies and give mommas a chance to worship. My middle kids? Yeah, they are strong, too. The jumped in to serve in nursery and preschool classes and boldly continued to go to their youth group, despite most of their friends leaving. Given a choice they even agreed that, though they missed their friends, this was their youth group and they would stay and help new kids feel welcomed. There were times that they were sad, but they took on the attitude of rebuilding and growing.

I wish I could say my children’s parents fared as well. The children were really a role model for us. We were both tired and hurt. Old wounds were freshly opened along with the new gashes. Perhaps our children were able to remember the strength with which we carried on years ago, when so much turmoil struck our church before. Perhaps that helped them hold on this time. Perhaps it weakened us and made the holding on that much harder and more painful.

But at the end of the year, looking back, I saw the strength my kids had gained. I saw that my husband and I had survived, battered and bruised. I saw new people stepping into my children’s lives and pouring love and encouragement out on them, often in ways never experienced before. I still grieved the lost. But the lost is not to be returned. But hope is to be restored.

So, while I know for some 2019 really was just a devastating year, I want to encourage us all to look at it afresh. Rather than jump on the annual bandwagon of decrying the old year and hoping that somehow the new one will be better, let’s look at what we have gained in this year of hurt and loss. What growth have we experienced? What sprouts do we see for the spring ahead that were planted by the scattered debris of the tornadoes of life?

As Christ followers, we know that though God does not send the storms of life to make us stronger, but He certainly does use all the enemies best efforts at destruction to make us more, better and bolder than ever before.

This pruning and growing is hard and painful and we never want to endure it. But perhaps, for just a few moments, we can each take a moment to look back at what things we are glad to put behind us and ask ourselves how we are using that, how God is using that, to prepare this year, this 2020 year, to be our best yet. So that as we end 2020, maybe we aren’t joining the social media hype about how bad the year was, because we aren’t relying on resolutions of improvement but rather are learning to look to God’s merciful and graceful improvements in our lives.

Advertisement

Abounding Grace

Ah, Grace. Isn’t it a splendiferous thing? Lately God has been sending the message of grace everywhere. 

This weekend, our pastor preached (another) really good message on Grace. I won’t try to summarize it here, as I will undoubtedly mangle it instead, but I will gladly share the link with anyone who is interested. 

During his message, he was discussing the difference between being condemned/convicted of our sin (as a person who doesn’t know Christ would be) and being convinced of the truth (as we who know Christ as our Savior will be). In the past when hearing this discussion, I have thought it largely an issue of semantics. Because I heard the issue being “of our sin”. So whether we are being “convicted” of our sin or “convinced” of our sin, really didn’t seem that big of a difference. I mean, yes, I did think, “Ok. I see. I’m not convicted because I do not owe a penalty, but I still shouldn’t wander around sinning so God convinces me of the sins in my life so that I can fix them.” Seemed reasonable. And logical. 

And entirely wrong. 

Because God doesn’t show us our sin so that we can fix it. How could He? He remembers it no more (Hebrews 8:12). So how could a God who looks at us and does not see our sin convince us of the sin in our lives in an effort to teach us the right way? Even this thought, with all my learning to love an accept grace, has caused me to feel as though my sin was the point

But here is the truth. 

My sin isn’t the point. I’m saved. I’m redeemed. I’m paid for. I am free. My sin has no bearing on anything. It is not the point. 

The point, my friends, is The Way. 

The only point is Christ. His way. His path. His plan. 

As long as the enemy can keep me looking at my sin, even though I know it is paid for, He has me looking at my sin and not at The Point. 

When my eyes are on my sin, they are clearly not on The Point. They are not on The Way. They are not on Christ. 

So then, of what does Christ convince us? If not our sin? 

We are convinced of the way. 

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21

I have pondered this verse for many years. Wondering how I apply it to my life. But until I finally understood the reality, the truth that my sin is irrelevant, I didn’t fully understand that this verse is what it’s all about. 

We don’t need God, or anyone else really, pointing out our sin. We can figure that out pretty easily. And if we can’t, it doesn’t really matter (I know, heresy, but hear me out). Why doesn’t it matter? 

Because, and here is the real point of this whole post, if we focus first and foremost on Isaiah 30:21, asking God for direction and walking to the right or to the left as He directs, we will walk out of and away from anything in our lives that doesn’t bring the hope, wholeness and healing He offers. We will walk away from the sin we don’t see as well as the sin we do. 

When we stop making sin the point, and start making The Way the point, we no longer have to struggle and wrestle with the law and “is this sin or is that sin”. And, now this is going to hurt, we don’t have to worry about sins in the lives of all the other people in the world. 

Maybe instead of trying to convince the Christian world of their sins, maybe we should be putting our energy into convincing the Christian world to look to Christ, and truly follow His call and lead on your life. Maybe we can trust God to lead them. Not trust God to deal with their sin, which is what we want, right?  No. We can  trust God to guide them to His Path.

I’m not suggesting we go around celebrating sin. As Paul says in Romans 6:1-2” What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”

I’m not suggesting that we don’t love on people and help guide them to a better path for their lives. I’m suggesting that, maybe for just a minute, we take the focus off our sin and off their sin and put that focus on The Point. The Way. The Christ. 

When I spend my day trying not to sin, I spend my day looking away from Christ, at my sin (like a scary bug we are trying to avoid but are afraid to take our eyes off, for fear it might pounce) we can’t listen to His voice whispering the way. 

When I spend my day trying to ask Jesus what to do with this issue, that need in my life, I spend my day looking at The Point and walking toward the life He has created for me and called me to. 

If that is true, maybe the same is true for our friends. Maybe we should stop looking for the sin in our friends lives (so we can help them do better), and start directing our friends to The Point. The One who can best guide them. 

God does not condemn the saved. And He does not point out our sin so that we can grow. He points out the way to the growth. And our job is to be willing to let go of the sin we want to turn and stare at, and to instead walk straight, headlong into the plan, the perfect plan He has for our lives. 

 

 

The New Family

There was once a young couple who were in search of a house. A home to call their own. Their friend invited them to an open house of a house he especially liked. Though this was the first house they visited, they instantly knew it was home. 

The young couple moved into this lovely house and began to work to make it the home they knew it could be. They quickly realized that the house wasn’t perfect, but they still loved the little home and began to do what they could to improve it. They each had skills and talents that allowed them to, bit by bit, make meaningful improvements to the house, meanwhile trusting professionals and other talented friends with many tasks that the young couple themselves could not do. 

Over the years the house grew more and more comfortable, homey. But like any structure, it needed occasional repairs and preventative maintenance. Unfortunately, some of these repairs and maintenance did not happen as often and as well as they should. Sometimes this oversight was the fault of the couple. Sometimes it was negligence on the part of the professionals charged with care and maintenance. Never-the-less, the couple loved their home as their family grew in it and into it. 

One morning, the (not as young as they once were) couple awoke to a strange happening. They walked into their kitchen and saw people they did not know, making coffee in their coffee maker. 

“What? Who are you? Why are you in my house?” the wife stammered.

“Hi, we are John and Lisa. We just moved in.” 

“Where?” the husband replied, confused and disoriented.

“Well, here, of course.” Came the reply. “The property managers said there were some problems that needed fixed. We are here to help with the repairs.”

“Oh. Ok…” the wife reluctantly muttered. 

“Just wait until you meet Fred and Stacey, and Sally and George. Can you move over, I need to get to the fridge,” Lisa continued, reaching for the creamer. 

“Who?” 

“Oh, they are also moving in. You know, to help fix this mess.”

Mess? The couple looked around their home. There were certainly things that needed repaired. The drafty window that the carpenter put in but never finished installing properly. The dripping sink that the plumber promised he would come back to and repair.  Eventually. But mess? For every broken item, the couple could still see hours of joy and happiness, laughter and love. Memories of children and friends laughing and crying. Mess? They didn’t see a mess. They saw a home in need of some professional repair, being neglected by those entrusted with those repairs, but not without hope. 

Trying to do what was best, the couple moved over and made room for the new inhabitants, hoping that their help in improving the home would take away the sense of dread they felt at having their home invaded, their memories trampled. 

John, Lisa, Fred, Stacey, Sally and George were all nice people. They came into the couple’s home and tried to fix what they could. But like the couple themselves, none of the newcomers were carpenters or plumbers. So while they managed to tighten the faucet, the drip was only diminished, not stopped. And some cleverly tucked blankets improved the drafty window, but did not fully fix the installation problems. And still the professional carpenter and plumber who had been entrusted with the repair continued to promise a solution and assured the couple that the newcomers were capable of solving the issues. 

With each passing day, more of the couples furniture was moved aside to make room for things the newcomers wanted in the home. Pictures removed. Memories banished. The newcomers talked joyfully of the plans and hopes they had for their new home, meanwhile ignoring the couple who had resided in this home for so many years. Most days the newcomers would prepare dinner or lunch and look up in surprise from their dinner table as the couple entered the room, almost as though they had forgotten the couple lived there, too. Or perhaps as if they wished the couple didn’t. 

The couple tried to make friends and become involved in the repairs going on in the home. Each time they were met with half smiles and the kind of look a mom gives a 4 year old who wants to help fry bacon, the look that says, “Aw, you are cute and it’s sweet of you to want to help, but you really can’t so how about you go play.” 

After many months of trying and failing, sadness and disappointment, the couple discussed their options. 

“It has become clear,” the husband admitted to the wife “that we are no longer welcome here. We need to figure out what we should do.”

“But, this is our home. We didn’t ask anyone to come in and change everything.”

“True, but clearly some changes needed to be made. And there is less cold air pouring in the window and less water dripping from the faucet. They have made things better.”

“Better. But for whom? For us? We who toiled so long for so much?” the wife inquired, face in her hands.

“No. Maybe we just need to try harder to create a new life with the newcomers.”

“I will,” the wife promised. “I will.”

And the couple redoubled their efforts, some days met with success, and other days failure. But they continued to work toward the group goal. 

Many months later, they again discussed the situation. 

“Sweetheart, I have tried to make them my friends, to help with the repairs. They are happy in their world and not interested in letting me in,” the wife sadly informed her husband.

“Yes. Unfortunately that is the same situation I am finding. It is time to face the truth. This is no longer our home. We can stay, but we will never be included in this new version of family life.  Can we live with that? Or do we move?” The husband inquired of his wife. 

“I don’t want to go house hunting. It is no fun and it is frustrating trying to find a house that meets all your needs, is not too big or too small, is in the neighborhood you want it to be in and is comfortable for the whole family with space for the kids and places for us to work and craft. I just want to stay here,” the wife moaned and whined. 

“But, this house no longer has the space we need, the room we need.”

“Yeah, but the kids are happy. They don’t mind the changes. They still have places to play.” The unhappy wife shared her thoughts. 

“Yes. That is true. This is the only home they have ever known. So our options remain before us. Do we stay, unhappy and hope eventually our efforts will be rewarded? Or do we leave our home in hopes of finding something better?” 

And that, is the real question of life.

 

No Victory

There is no victory.

There is no victory in hurt. In pain. In destruction.

There is no victory in family fighting family.

There is only victory in love, hope and restoration.

There is no victory in the heart of man.

There is only victory in the heart of Jesus.

I have, like many I love, have suffered great heart ache and loss in the past week.

In some instances you can say, our loss is Heaven’s gain. Such is the case in the loss of my husband’s grandfather. We loved him. We grieved his loss. And we rejoiced in Heaven’s gain. Because it was a great reunion in Heaven as he joined not only the God who made him, the Savior who saved him, but the wife who loved him and the friends and family preceded him in Glory. Heaven really did gain. And because of that knowledge, our loss is made more bearable, our spirits made lighter. We grieve as we rejoice.

Sadly, there are some instances of loss that are no gain for Heaven. There are battles fought and hearts broken that spread destruction and devastation on earth and seem to have no Heavenly gain. Such is the case in the other great loss suffered by myself and my loved ones this week. Many people I love came to a place where they were unable to reconcile past hurts and distrusts and a divorce of sorts became inevitable. The ensuing custody battle is likely to be as painful and hurtful as the divorce itself. When you love people, you stand the risk of being hurt by them. And of hurting them. When people you love must part ways, the wave of devastation can’t help but engulf you.

My parents divorced when I was very young. While I don’t remember their marriage nor their divorce, I remember several recurring, nasty custody battles that always left me feeling like I was going to hurt one parent regardless of my choice. Happily, after many years, my parents came to a place of peace and, if not friendship, relationship. They came to a place where they could have a pleasant time in each other’s company and show care and concern for one another. Despite all the years of hurt, I know my father was saddened when my mom passed away. Their relationship finally got to a place where he could grieve the loss of the woman who had been his wife, who had shared in the making of a family, rather than just be angry at the years of hurt and accusations.

I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity as an adult to walk with two friends through the pain of divorce. In each case it meant the inevitable separation of my friendship from their spouse as well. And while I supported the friends and their decision, and I knew which party had my sympathy, it did mean an end to some relationships I had enjoyed. The “exes” will never be my close friends again, this was a sad reality. It was a decision I was forced to make because the parties involved had reached a level of no reconciliation. And again, I wholly supported both friends, agreeing that this was the now inevitable outcome but my point is that the lack of ability to reconcile (no matter how real) left others in a position of decision making that they never wanted to have to make. For some it was an easy decision. For others it was more difficult. But for all it was hurtful and painful.

This is the reality for many in my circle this week. Our “parents” are getting divorced and some of our siblings are choosing to live with one parent while others are choosing the other parent. Some are simply choosing to “stay home” regardless of which parent stays in that house. Some of the “kids” feel strongly as to which “parent” was wrong. Others feel more confused than convicted while others still feel pretty certain that the blame is evenly spread. As usual in divorce, the kids will never know all of the facts. Which is likely best.

But in all of the choosing, we must remember that one thing doesn’t change in divorce.

Family.

We are family.

We may be hurting now. We may be hurting each other now. We may be hurting ourselves now. Blaming, name calling, throwing stones. Probably it is inevitable. One can only hope that it isn’t forever.

It is possible, once the hurt begins to heal and once the custody battles end, to create a relationship with each other that is based upon a shared past, a shared hope and faith in our Savior and a shared believe in love.

Today, as I write this, I know there is hope in the hurt. Peace after the pain. Health in the healing. I know any of us who choose hope, peace, and healing can move forward and continue to love one another. Any who choose victory, gloating, defeat, anger won’t be able to move forward toward a future relationship with our “siblings”.

We will forever perpetuate the pain if we choose to look for the victory over the healing.

And though there may not be “heavenly gain” in this current loss, God is filled with Grace and Love for us, His children.  And He will still work for His Glory, and for our good. He will bring victory to all his children, not because we are good, but because He is Good.

How grateful we can be for Victory in the heart of Jesus.

May we love one another well in our grief and our hope.

May we love each other like Jesus loves us.

On My “Soap”box

Today I want to talk about hand sanitizer. I know it is the best thing to happen to hygiene and health care since the tooth brush.

But let’s back up.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard adults complain about other adults not washing their hands after going to the bathroom. I hear lots of comments about how gross that is. But I see, somewhat regularly, adults walking out of a bathroom stall, bypassing the sinks and soap and squirting some hand sanitizer on their hands and walking out the door.

Folks. Stop.

Just STOP!

Ok. I get it. “Hand Sanitizer kills 99.9% of bacteria” blah blah blah.

Great. I’m so happy for you. Wonderful. But let’s take a moment to engage our brains, shall we?

First I’m going to tell you why I rarely use hand sanitizer at all. I truly believe that we are killing off the much needed good bacteria in and around our bodies with this little gem while simultaneously making the bad bacteria stronger and harder to kill. This is why I also try to avoid all “anti-bacterial” soaps. Because, believe it or not, most of the bacteria you come into contact with isn’t the harmful stuff. And it all pretty much washes away in the water when you allow hot water and soap to do it’s job and wash away the bad guys.

Also, for those of you terrified of the flu out there, I shall remind you that the flu is a VIRUS. You can get sick with a bacteria, which they treat with antibiotics, or you can get sick with a virus which they treat by telling you to suck it up until it has run it’s course. Which does anti-bacterial stuff kill? Right. Bacteria. Not virus.

So yeah, I really don’t use the stuff much. Occasionally it is what you have and you do what you have to do.

But why do I care about whether you use hand sanitzer instead of washing your hands after you go to the bathroom?

The truth is, I would rather see someone not wash their hands than choose sanitizer over hand washing. “What? Why? Surely something is better than nothing?! You are crazy!”

Yup. On all accounts. Something IS better than nothing. And I am nuts.

But I would rather people make a bad health decision than think they are making a good health decision, think they are doing the best thing and really be doing the less desirable thing. Because you can teach someone to make better choices. It is really hard to convince someone who has bought a line of baloney that their choices are less than desirable. And honestly, thinking you are doing something to protect yourself that won’t protect you is harmful because it prevents you from doing the other, easy, and actually helpful things.

And, frankly, if you use that bathroom, you need to wash your hands because of the possibility of having come into contact with feces or urine. When you slather on some sanitizer and wave your hands around letting them dry, you MIGHT be killing some germs you don’t want. But you haven’t removed anything from your hands. If you unwittingly got some urine or feces on your hands, you might have killed associated germs, but you didn’t even wipe it off!

GROSS!!!

There you have it. The biggest beef I have about hand sanitizer. All the germs, dirt, bacteria and whatever you have on your hands just stay there! Dead or not, gross! Really. That’s nasty folks.

So, if you love yourself some sanitizer, and you understand that it really isn’t as effective at preventing flu as handwashing, you realize you are killing the good bacteria with the bad, please, please, please! For the love of all things holy, please wash your hands with some nice warm soap and water BEFORE slathering that hand sanitizer all over your hands. Or at least wipe the dead germs and stuff off on a paper towel.

Because, really.

Gross.

I Am The Reason Church Is Hard

I’ve seen a couple of things going around the internet lately about how church is hard. I’ve shared a beautifully written post to that end. Because church is hard. And I know why.

I am the reason church is hard. I am a walking, talking ball of hurt, heart break and, if I’m being totally honest, unforgiveness.

The church is full of me. People walking around hurting, angry, trying, failing, wanting to do better. Be better. Wanting, trying, praying to forgive. And the moment we think we have succeeded. We’ve grown. We’ve healed – BAM! A new “offense” returns us to that place of pain we thought we had left behind.

Much like the smell of baking cookies can take you suddenly back to your grandma’s kitchen, a new church hurt can send you reeling, sliding back into that pit of hurt you thought you’d climbed out of.

As I stood last night sharing my frustrations and angers and hurts with perhaps one of the most bluntly honest friends I know, I really realized, maybe not for the first time but certainly more fully than before, how much these old hurts drag us around, through the mud and muck and leave us unfit for ministry.

Or do they?

Perhaps they leave us unduly fit for ministry. Perhaps it is only through our hurts that we can finally begin to minister. I don’t know. I’m honestly trying to figure this out.

A little over a decade and a half ago I started this journey of “ministry”.  I told the women mentoring me at the time that I was pretty sure I didn’t want to get to be too useful to the Kingdom because I didn’t want the attacks from the enemy.

I didn’t listen to me. I ended up diving headlong into one of the messiest ministries in the known world. No, not Children’s Ministry. That is just the cover for what we really do. Family Ministry. Momma ministry. Ministering to the mom who knows she’s blown her relationship with her daughter because of her life choices, and the daughter whose heart aches for a mom who is present. Ministering to a wife trying to save her marriage and a wife trying to leave an unhealthy one. Ministering to a friend who is heartbroken because she just can’t seem to find her way along God’s path for her.

I didn’t listen to me. I poured my heart into my church. My family. And my heart was trampled.

I didn’t listen to me. And I’m so glad I didn’t. I honestly don’t think I would choose to avoid the heartbreak by avoiding the moments I’ve been privileged enough to show the love of Christ to a child, a momma, a friend.

No. I wouldn’t.

But I’m still hurt.

And that brings us back to the problem. Me. I am the problem. I have been ignored, scolded, placated, slandered. I have had my heart broken. I have also ignored, placated, slandered and broken hearts.

Because churches are full of people. The non church going world sees the church as full of hypocrites and maybe we are. What we in the church know is that we aren’t perfect. We are loved and saved by grace. Saved by a grace-filled God who died simply so that we might live. But perhaps we forget that we are all, ALL, imperfect creatures. Whether we’ve been saved a day or a decade, have attended seminary or a few sermons, none of us are perfect. We hurt each other intentionally and unintentionally.

We forget. But you see, the enemy, he doesn’t forget. And he doesn’t want us to forget. He doesn’t want us to forget the times we’ve been hurt. He doesn’t want us to forget what that other pastor did to us. He doesn’t want us to forget that we are sinners and undeserving. He wants to bring up every moment that hurts our hearts and smear our faces in it. Make us taste and smell the foul stench of our brokenness. Of the brokenness of those around us.

He wants us to walk away, hoping that leaving the scene of the crime will wash away our guilt or hide us from our shame. So we go to other churches. And, surprisingly we find it is also full of sinners. Hurt, broken people fill those pews as well. And in time we begin to find new offenses that bring up our old broken heart.

I am the reason church is hard. I am.

God is here and He’s offering us all a clean slate, a blank ledger, a new start. And time after time I think I’ve taken the clean slate, but it turns out I’ve picked up my old dirty one and I begin to see the faded lines of the past mistakes. And I decide it’ll always be this way.

I honestly don’t know how to stop the cycle. I do know Who. I am certain that God has the clean slate and is handing them out to anyone who is willing to pick it up. But I think the key is whether we are willing to throw away the old one so that we can never again pick it up.

I know the church is full of people like me. Hurt. Tired. Weighing the options. Is it worth it? Do I step up again and get smacked again? Do I open my heart? Throw away the slate with the faded marks of my past? Never again look at how I was hurt? Do I stand and say “send me”?

Or do I stand and complain about all the past mistakes of others, hoping their mistakes will somehow hide my own,

I See You

Shared grief is not lessened. It doesn’t take away your hurt and pain when others know of it, care about it and carry it with you.
Shared grief is not lessened. But sharing your grief does allow some comfort to a hurting heart.

When we lose a loved one, it doesn’t take away the pain when others express to you their heartfelt sympathies. But somehow it does help, it makes you feel loved and less alone.

Secret grief. Secret pain. Unknown hurt. Those. Those are harder to carry.

There are times in life when you are so hurt, hurting so much, that you desire nothing more than to tell the world of your grief. Or at least those around you. You want others to know, to understand, to sympathize with your hurt, your pain, your grief.

Sometimes you cannot share your hurt. Your pain is yours alone to feel and carry because the story of your hurt is not yours alone.

When you cannot share your hurt, your heartache, your despair. When you walk alone in your grief, your pain. When you cannot tell those close to you of your sorrow because the story is not yours alone. When your sorrow is tied closely to that of others and your pain is mingled with theirs, you do not get to decide who or when or how your pain is shared.

It’s hard to walk through the hard things of life when others don’t know you are hurting. It is hard to be silent and alone and plaster a smile on your face when no one knows you are crying inside.

Friends, I write this not to encourage you that it is all going to be ok.

I’m write this only to tell you one thing.

You are not invisible.
You are seen.
Your hurt is known.
Your grief is shared.

Perhaps not by the people around you. But by the God who made you, loves you and knows you.

Maybe it seems like a small consolation now. But take heart, dear friend. God sees you. He loves you.

On Sacred Ground

Once upon a time, I read a book.

It left me undone. Redone.

It left me wanting more.

In Stolen Jesus,  Jami Amerine shares a message of finding the Real Jesus who loves me wholly, unconditionally, and with unmerited favor and adoration.

I read this book. And I wanted more. More Jesus. More understanding of grace. More application of grace in my life.

Jami knew. I’m sure she did. I know that she wrote this second book just for me. Because she knew I needed more grace. Grace in my parenting. Grace from my Jesus. And Grace from myself.

Enter Sacred Ground Sticky Floors: How Less-Than-Perfect Parents Can Raise (Kind of) Great Kids

sticky-floors-book-two

Too many times when I have read Christian Inspiration books, I have walked away half inspired to do better, be better. And half dejected, knowing I could never be as good as those Christian “experts” and would therefore almost certainly never be able to succeed at being a better Christian.

I never could quite get the hang of it. Being a “Good Christian“. I tried. But I always fell flat on my hiney bottom into a big ole vat of Christian Guilt.

But Jami sailed into my life with her stained blouse and Starbucks cup, wrangling a couple of tiny Vandals and juggling a handful of grown-up (and nearly grown-up) babies and tells me the truth.

Loving Jesus doesn’t always look like a perfectly coiffed lineup of your children posing for the church directory. It doesn’t always smell like brownies baking in your oven. And it certainly doesn’t always sound like a chorus of pious children singing in the church choir.

No. Jami shows us that Loving Jesus looks like a mom with black circles under her eyes, smells like toast burning in the toaster and sounds a bit like muttering through clenched teeth “… or so help me!” at a child who seems to have forgotten, yet again, that markers are made for paper not walls.

Loving Jesus isn’t about the perfection of ourselves. It is about accepting the perfect love of the Perfect Jesus and letting him work His perfection in our hearts and lives.

The truth of our relationship with Jesus is that He loves us. Wholly. Unconditionally. Sticky floors and all.

And that is how I want to love Him. And the people He has put in my life.

**Disclaimer – I have no affiliate links. All the links here are for your information only, I receive no gain from them.

 

So I Bought a Firetruck

We are quickly coming up on the two year anniversary of one of the coolest things God has ever done for us. And I realized I hadn’t blogged it. Insane!

There are posts on here about the continuing saga of the water issues we’ve had. But I will summarize thus:

  • The day we moved in to this house, 11 years ago, the water went out. If we had known then…
  • It took a week to get it figured out, but the well was not dry, as we feared, it was merely a slow well and required the water being drawn to be set at a much slower rate than “normal”.
  • Once the water worked we discovered that the homeowner had gone to great lengths to hide how orange the water was. I’m not talking regular orange well water, I’m talking my ankles were turning orange. After one shower, the ceiling would have orange spots from the condensation. Like a gallon of water standing on the counter looked like a rather weak tea/koolaid solution.  It was really orange. Almost the worst the guy who sold us our softener and rust filter have ever seen. But I digress, as usual.
  • Once the house was fitted with a rust filter and water softner, life went on for a good while as a mostly “normal” life.
  • Until the well leaked into the crawlspace. Apparently though the rest of Indiana was experiencing a drought, I had standing water and mud puddles. Eventually, my hubby and I realized something was off and discovered that there was a leak in our crawlspace, which had filled with THOUSANDS of gallons of water. My rough estimate is that somewhere around 1000 cubic feet of water had filled my crawl space and we had no idea it had been leaking. Apparently that slow well was capable of a lot of water output over time.

So it would appear that we would be abundantly blessed with water, being as our well could make so much water. The fact is we would be abundantly blessed with water struggles.  Because, guess what happened a year later.

  • No water. None. Well was dry. Not from the leak. It had recovered just fine. No problem. It just mysteriously stopped producing water. Ironically, the neighboring county drilled a series of wells about a mile north of my house at this same time. Ironic. But they won’t let us use their water from their wells drilled a mile from my house coincidentally at the same time that my well stopped producing water.
  • So we drilled a new well. It had no water.
  • So we cleaned the well. The well guy said after cleaning it, it would be as good as it ever was, would produce as well (ha!) as it ever had. So he cleaned it. And said he couldn’t figure out how on earth we had ever gotten any water out of that well, it simply would not produce enough water to maintain.

This is the short version, so I’ll wrap it up.

  • Basically we spent the next several years (5) with a variety of methods of hauling water.  From a very rough pick up truck with a 400 Gallon tank to using a friend’s flat bed “log truck” and two tanks to haul 1000 gallons of water.

Water hauling in 0 degrees is beyond sucky. You can’t imagine how fast water freezes…

Then my husband saw a firetruck for sale. And I got the information. They were asking more than we really had the money to spend. So my husband asked me if I was really interested, he had a message and was going to call the guy. I told him “Look, unless the guy says ‘We’ll take a thousand dollars’, I don’t think we can afford it.” This was less than half the asking price so I went on about my business.

Then my husband calls. “Um, so I asked how much they wanted to get from it and he said ‘How about a thousand’ so…” So, yeah, I bought a Firetruck.

And it is a super cool Firetruck. It turns out that when it was brand new it was purchased by my Uncle’s fire department, my uncle himself being part of the process of acquiring it. Years later it was sold to the fire department where my sister volunteered. And then we bought it.

So yeah, God gave us a fire truck. It make the process of hauling water a one hour job instead of three and it makes hauling water in 0 degrees go from miserable and sucky to just not fun.

And, it’s just fun to own a firetruck.

The Mysterious Case of the Stolen Identity – I am not who I think I am

Warning: I’m about to get preachy here. You might want to turn the page. Er, um, click to a different tab. But don’t worry, I’m preaching to me here. The only toes I’m looking to step on here are my own. 

I woke up this morning pretty much the same as every day, unwillingly. I dragged myself out of bed and began my morning process. As I stood there packing my husband’s lunch I heard these words, “You have let your identity get stolen.”

God made it pretty clear that this was what I have been waiting to hear and what I’ve been needing to write.

I’ve been letting my identity get stolen.

We live in a world of identity theft. It is rampant. As such we also live in a world full of warnings and tips on how to prevent identity theft.

We know how to check gas pumps for card skimmers, position our bodies so people can’t see our PIN, and to check our bank accounts and credit scores frequently in order to monitor them for identity theft.

We try to prevent identity theft because once your identity is stolen it is such a pain to get it back. Proving who you are, removing unwanted charges against your credit, notifying all the people with whom you do regular business and having them change their records of you. It is a hassle. And once you have done it all, you have to periodically recheck to make sure your identity is still protected against unwanted assault.

Years ago my Mother-In-Law had her wallet stolen. It was a hassle to fill out a police report, fix all the unwanted charges, change all the information that was no longer correct, and in general return to normal life. During the course of the investigation, video footage was found of the person claiming to be my MIL checking out at a store. Viewing the video, one was able to easily say, “That isn’t her.”

Friends, that is Jesus. When our identity is stolen by satan, Jesus looks at the footage of our life and says, “That’s not her.” The problem is, we don’t always hear Him. Because we don’t listen.

Do not misunderstand. Your identity can never really be stolen. Not from Jesus who knows who we really are. But it can be stolen from us. We can begin to soak in the lies and forget all the Truths we have known until we believe the lies against our identity and begin to question who we truly are.

Satan is such a dirty rotten liar and thief. He is out to steal our identity. He wants to steal our joy and lie to us about who we are. He doesn’t want us to remember who we are. He wants to steal that identity so that we wander around wondering who we really are. And he distracts us long enough that we begin to question who we used to be. Were really ever who we thought we were?

Let’s take a moment and remember who we are and Whose we are.

I am the daughter of the King. I am the heir. I belong to the Holy King of Kings. I am all the things that He says that I am.

And no amount of lies from the pit of hell will change who I am.

But if I don’t monitor the statements of who I am, monitor my identity, the lies will change who I think I am. They will allow me to wallow in the stains and blemishes on my credit made by the thief.

When your identity is stolen, you are not liable for the dings on your credit made by the thief. But when we allow satan to steal our identity from us, to convince us we are not who we thought we were, we allow him to stain our credit with Christ. Or to think he has (or we have). Truthfully, Christ is watching the footage and saying, “That’s not her” and instantly cleaning our credit, removing the charges against our credit made by satan. But we let the filthy liar make those charges, unchecked. We, maybe it’s just me, I stand there and look at the charges to my credit, my character and I begin to believe they must be true. There are so many. They must be real.

And somewhere in the back of my mind I remember all the lessons on how to protect my identity, the steps to take to regain my identity once it has been stolen, and I ignore them, feeling somehow like I deserve the punishment for allowing the situation to happen. I didn’t safeguard my identity well enough so I deserve the punishment.

I think maybe I want the punishment.

I think maybe I am more comfortable with punishment than Grace because I understand it. It makes sense. And I have some control. Punishment puts me in control because I can choose to avoid punishment with my behaviors. (Not that I am any good at that, mind you.) Grace puts me out of control because God’s love for me is all His to give and not mine to earn.

Which is delightful.

And terrifying.

You mean, God just loves me? Just because? Just because He chooses to? Not because I earn it? Deserve it? But because of who He is? Man, that gives all the control to God. All the power and control of loving me is God’s. I’d like to say I’m happy with that. But I’m not really.

I mean I love Grace. I love that God loves me even when I am so unlovable. And I’m glad that I can’t earn it, because I can’t lose it either.

But if I’m being honest here, and why not be, I’m rather terrified of it. If God loves me wholly by choice, then will He choose to stop loving me? I’m so wholly unlovable. Maybe that is what terrifies me. But God. Oh, He is so Good. You know He even understands that fear because He tells us in Romans 8:38-39:

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

These words are of great comfort. Because they remind me that I can’t really separate myself from the love of God. And He won’t choose to be separated. Grace is hard and messy. But Grace is what I really, really need.

So today I realized that I have let my identity be stolen. From me. But not from Christ. He has always known who I am and He still knows who I am. I may have a bit of an earthly mess to clean up, may have to reestablish credit with people who came into contact with the satan-stolen version of my identity. But my Creator knows me. He believes me. He knows which purchases toward my character were made by me and which were made by satan.

The key is to stay in connection and communication with the issuer of our credit, to stay connected to God so that He can help us clear the charges as satan makes them before we become so buried under the pile of charges that we can’t hear Jesus saying, “That’s not you.”