Monday, November 25, 2013

I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord!

I had the privilege of publicly offering thanks to God at our church on November 17, 2013.

Here is what I am thankful for this year (and much much more):

What has God done for me this year?

He has saved my life and filled me with His praises.

For the past three years I have struggled with depression. It has many causes and may be something I struggle with all my life.

But this is my year of joy.

The joy of the Gospel.

God has enlivened my spirit and helped me understand the Gospel more deeply and fully.

In my darkest days depression, I felt Psalm 42 deeply.

David wrote,

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

The enemy taunted me, accusing me of my sin and telling me that God did not love me. I felt weighed down by guilt. I was not the mother, wife, Christian, friend, housekeeper that I “should” be.

I couldn't see or feel God. But that didn't mean He wasn't there, and it did not mean He didn't love me. Our emotions lie to us. Satan lies to us. The world lies to us. But God's Word is truth. He is the covenant keeper who seals His oath with His own blood.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says:
We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ...

God's Word says:

Romans 8:1 says
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When I have bad days, reading God's Word gives me hope and reminds me that what I feel isn't always true.

These promises are my only comfort in the dark moments. The more I read, the more I discover the beauty of the Gospel.

It doesn't matter if I feel like (or indeed am!) a failure.

Galatians 2:16 says
Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Psalm 43:4 says
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

To the altar! The symbol of Christ's great atonement.

I did come to the altar. And there I found joy in despair.

I received a number of unexpected gifts from this season of depression, in addition to a greater hunger for and faith in God's word, and a deeper understanding of the Good News. In the Bible we can find new purpose, identity, hope, and freedom. That's where joy is.

Just as Paul says in Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Even depression. Even injustice. Even crucifixion.

If you are going through a trial or wilderness in your life, know this: God will bring beauty from ashes. He will give you a testimony of His glory and grace. He will fill your mouth with His praise. He will strip of you of sin and make you dissatisfied you with the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Praise His holy name. I am so deeply thankful for His Word, His love, and His good news!

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Kissing my to-do list goodbye.

As moms do we believe in a false gospel? A gospel of "shoulds"?

Do we think that our worth as women is tied to how clean our house is, how obedient are children are, or anything other than Christ and His perfection?

Are we driving ourselves to meet some inner standard or to avoid the disdain of certain other women we know?

Are we at the brink of exhaustion, collapse, and despair because we can't keep up with a perceived standard?

Jesus says His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Friends, I have lived for years trying to be the perfect wife, mother, friend, and Christian. I never reached that goal. All I found was guilt, shame, and brokenness. I didn't understand why the "gospel" didn't seem like good news anymore.

My husband and I are studying Galatians together and we read this recently:

" I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed." Galatians 1:6-9

Tim Keller writes: "If you add anything to Christ as a requirement  for acceptance with God-- if you start to say : To be saved I need the grace of Christ plus something else-- you completely reverse the gospel and make it null and void." (Galatians For You)

Now I know that I had perverted the Gospel! It was not good news at all. It was a long list of things I needed to to do to prove my worth-- to God, to my husband, to myself, and to others.

I was trapped in a bog of pride, envy, comparison, and judgement.

When you live according to a set of standards you measure yourself and others against that standard. I compared myself to other women, judging and condemning those who weren't conforming to my arbitrary, unspoken standard and feeling envy and despair when I observed women who were doing better than I was.

It was no gospel at all.

Instead of living to bask in and share God's love and grace I was living to try to justify myself. But it was so insidious I couldn't even see it. I would have told you everything I was doing was to serve God. But the heart is deceitful above all things. My husband asked me a very important question: WHY do you need to do x, y, and z? Do you think that is what gives you worth?

"..[T]o alter the gospel the gospel is to play with eternal life and death... "

"....[F]ear,  anxiety, and guilt (the sense of condemnation and curse) will always be attached to different 'gospels'." 

 "....[E]ven Christians sometimes experience a sense of condemnation. When they do it is because, functionally, they are trusting in different 'gospels', different ways to earn salvation.

 (Tim Keller, Galatians For You)

It is easy to point out certain idols- money, power, fame, drugs, sex, etc. But many of the idols Christian women have are good things-- even things commanded by the Bible! (The Pharisees were experts in the law and in obeying God's commands, but they still missed the boat completely. They were trusting in their works and when God revealed His true plan of salvation to them, they rejected it, clinging to their own capabilities.)

Do you have a Jesus + mentality?

I need to believe in the work of Jesus and....

make nutritious, organic, whole food, homemade meals nightly.

homeschool my kids using the right curriculum and methodology.

volunteer at my child's school to make Pinterest worthy snacks.

have beautiful dinner parties. 

always say the right thing.

sew my children elaborate costumes.

be slim, fit and sexually engaged with my husband.

have a coordinated nursery, video baby monitor, and high quality rear-facing car seat, properly installed.

make my children obey me the first time with a cheerful attitude.

be smart and funny.

plan many enrichment activities for my children.

have no debt, pay cash, and coupon faithfully.

cloth-diaper my babies.

teach Sunday School or work in the nursery.

bake my own whole-grain bread.

run a clean and tastefully appointed home. 

own a successful home business.

create the perfectly coordinated birthday party.

be nice.

use only green, sustainable fair-trade products. 

have organized closets and drawers.

juggle it all and work outside the home.

stay at home with my children.

breastfeed for a year. 

be a Proverbs 31 woman.

engage in weekly hospitality.

make it to library story time every week.

never make mistakes.

do family worship every night.

run a marathon or a 10K.

elegantly handcraft all my Christmas gifts.

always answer my children calmly and patiently.

garden and can every year.

take gorgeous photographs of my children, beautiful home, and my amazing meals.

always submit to my husband. 

have a stockpile of food and household supplies. 

give my children adorable, brand-name clothing with matching hair bows. 

be a successful mommy blogger.

look beautiful.

Do you feel a sense of guilt or shame as you read that list?  Did anything jump out at you? Is it possible that there is something you are turning to other than Jesus to find your identity, security or worth? 

Is their something you are so driven to accomplish that there will be no peace if it doesn't happen?

These good things can actually become damnable. We can create an idolatrous, false gospel in the name of self-sacrifice. Our family will not benefit from all our striving for them if we are doing it as idolatry.

Jesus' work is sufficient.

"Christ's death was not just a general sacrifice, but a substitutionary one. He did not merely buy us a "second chance" giving us another opportunity to get life right and stay right with God. He did all we needed to do, but cannot do. If Jesus' death really paid for our sins on our behalf, we can never fall back into condemnation. Why? Because God would then be two getting payments for the same sin, which is unjust! Jesus did all we should have done, in our place, so that when He becomes our Savior, we are absolutely free from penalty or condemnation." (Keller)

It is SO freeing to throw all of that away! I feel happy because I know that when I mess up, it is OK. It frees me to actually do what GOD has called me to do that day instead of worrying about everything I "should" be accomplishing or how I will be perceived or how is it all going to turn out.

Just love God. Receive your identity from Him. Believe what he says about who you are: a new creation, a beautiful bride, a beloved child. Trust in Christ's work on the cross and know that your failures don't matter anymore. We don't need to be hung up on the wrong the we did last week-- punishing ourselves for it, covering it up, agonizing over it. It is paid for.

We don't need to prove that we are better than anybody else. We are same. Lost in sin, until the Savior saved us. Jesus paid for their sin too.

We just need to lift up our eyes and say "Ready for orders, Lord!"

What is your mommy idol? Lay aside your agenda today and rejoice in who you are in Christ.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Psalter for Mothers

Psalm 34

A Psalm for those who are anxious about going to the grocery store. :)

I will bless the Lord at all times;
    his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the Lord;
    let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the Lord with me,
    and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the Lord, and he answered me
    and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him
    and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the Lord encamps
    around those who fear him, and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
    Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints,
    for those who fear him have no lack!
10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;
    but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, O children, listen to me;
    I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 What man is there who desires life
    and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil
    and your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Turn away from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous
    and his ears toward their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
    to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
17 When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
    and delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
    but the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He keeps all his bones;
    not one of them is broken.
21 Affliction will slay the wicked,
    and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the life of his servants;
    none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

 I found this psalm this morning after searching for verses containing the words "praise" and "mouth" hoping to combat my urge to grumble about going to the store. It's the second week of the paycheck, I have a set amount of cash in pocket which seems woefully small to me. I am tired after a long and busy week. And the last time I went to the store was a really bad trip-- my sweet baby, Mila, cried unconsolably (and loudly) for the last 20 minutes we were in the store. That may not sound so bad, but 20 minutes is LONG time in a public place with a distraught baby. I still cringe when I think of it. Anyway, it may not seem bad to you, but God knows how hard it was for me.

How readily Psalm 34 answers all my issues! Fear of not having enough, worry that God doesn't see me-- that He doesn't really care that things are tight and stressful. Fear that He won't answer me. Fear of how difficult or unpleasant it may be.

Oh my goodness, how He answers! He reminds me of Who this psalm is about. Him Whose bones were not broken, but Whose body was broken for me. Jesus! Jesus purchased my redemption. Jesus suffered for me, far greater things than fatigue or stress or crying babies. God conquered death! I have nothing left to fear. He is good and I can trust Him. None who take refuge in Him will condemned. He saves the crushed in spirit. He delivers the righteous (in Christ) out of their troubles!

I'm not saying that I expect a perfect grocery store trip, but I know that my Redeemer lives and that He will stand upon the earth. I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed to Him against that Day. 

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?" (Or bills? Or grocery stores? Or crying babies?) Romans 8: 31-35


NOTHING can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Now that is some good news for grocery store day.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Lifting up my eyes

I never make New Year's resolutions. I guess I figure I'm not gonna keep 'em. If I am going to set goals, there is nothing magical about a new calendar year that will  somehow wipe away the past failures or give me a better chance of success.

That said, I've changed my mind this year. While it is an arbitrary time, it is good to have some time to look back, evaluate, and set goals.

I tend to be a lot better at the looking back part. "I should have..." "Why didn't I...?" and all the glorious, jagged agony of regret.

This shame-based exercise is not godly. It is self-focused, not God-focused.

It assumes god-like traits on my part; the ability to know everything, including the future, the ability to be sinless, the ability to always execute my will perfectly. It is not noble, excellent, praiseworthy, lovely or admirable.

It doesn't lead to repentance and a closer relationship with the Lord. It leads to shame and a wrong understanding of who I am before the throne of God.

I am not defined by my failures or successes, but by who I am in God's eyes.

I am His bride.

 He died for me.

I am His heir.

I am His worshipper.

I am His child.

I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus.

I want to look back in a godly way, seeing the imperfect progress I am making, the slow restoration of soul, that God is working in me. I want to thank Him for never leaving me. I want to revel in His forgiveness and mercy. I want to bask in His perfection, instead of trying to achieve my own. I want this reflection to draw me closer to Him.

Last night we sat down and thought about what God taught us this year, the trials He has walked us through.

We prayed about concerns for the New Year. We prayed with the kids and wrote our prayer requests down so that we can see how God answers them.

I am setting my sights on 2013. Ann Voskamp mentioned that she names her year. I've been pondering this, not sure if it would work for me. Isn't that a little bold, naming a whole year before I have any idea of what happens in it? I can grasp the concept of naming it after it is over and known. Maybe 2012 was the year of hidden hope, the year of the sprained ankle, the year I-almost-lost-it-all.

Yet the idea of naming the year beforehand won't quite let go of me. The idea of looking through all the events that happen with a certain filter, seems so hopeful and reorienting. It seems like it would be a way of truth-telling to yourself. Hey, don't forget, this is the year you have named Hope, Joy, Peace...! It seems like a guard-rail or a treasure hunt. Maybe it is a bit like naming your child-- choosing a name in the face of the unknown, hoping to call out and cultivate goodness and blessing.

Maybe it is ok to set goals. Maybe it is ok to hope. Maybe it is ok to name a year before the first day has ended. Maybe when I stumble and fall this naming will call me onward and upward.

So what I am calling 2013?

The year of Seeking His Face.

This year I want to lift up my eyes to the glorious eternal truths, instead of my circumstances. I want to value what God values, not what my flesh says I need to chase. I want to have eyes only for my Savior. I want savor His presence. He is the sweet husband who gently lifts my head when I became ashamed or engulfed in sin. He is my shield and my very great reward. 

You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” Psalm 27:8

I hope to live 2013 with head tilted up, my heart singing His praise, my mind filled with His Word, thinking His thoughts after Him. I want to live every day with this reminder to turn my my face towards His, to hear Him in word, to draw near to my heavenly Father. Your face, Lord, do I seek.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The God Who Sees

Today is just one of those days when raw emotion teeters on a knife blade in my heart. Everyone I see and touch has felt pain and it slices through me with every greeting.

It is one of those days when I am exceptionally aware of the brokenness of the world. Disease, pain, death stalking every life. Like broken china, the sharp edges of life leave me gasping in pain and marveling that something so beautiful can be so sharp.

Maranatha, Lord Jesus. Come and heal us. We need you so. Come for the young moms with cancer, the children who are stunted, those locked in the isolation of their minds wondering why everyone else relates so easily.

Come for those agonizing with slow death. Slow enough that life must go on, but sure enough that any day may be the last.

Come for the girl that can't trust her Daddy and come for the girl who lost hers long ago. Come for the woman who has been oppressed by hopelessness for so long that the doctors have all but given up up hope too.

Come for the broken who fill their bodies with destructive substances to make today bearable. Come for those who have screwed everything up beyond earthly help and hope.

Come for the widow who wonders how to fill the empty nights and cries over each milestone of a person who has been obliterated from this earth.

Come for the mothers with empty arms and the dads who write songs about empty backseats. Maranatha. We are hopeless and helpless without you.

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb,  in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.


He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.  

--  Revelation 22:1-5, 20

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Kicking Against the Pricks

As I wander through the kitchen for a drink, I'm drawn to the window by the sound of shrieking. Not a pain cry, but one of sheer frustration. My two year daughter is sitting on a chair in the back yard, her feet danging bare in 40 degree weather. "Put your shoes on!" my husband calls over the roar of the lawn mower. More sobs. No movement to obey. The sharpness of the cold matched by the hardness of a heart.

As I watched this scene of pathos, the Lord spoke into my heart. Daughter, you are often the same way, He said. You resist my loving commands as though what I want for you isn't the best for you.

My heart and lips twisting in conviction and sadness, I reflected on this. How often I choose pain and grief instead of wholeness and wisdom just because I am so set on doing my will, instead of His. I'm beginning to see that this is the most dangerous, silly, and heart-breaking posture I can ever assume. That self-sufficiency is literally diabolical, an alignment with Satan. That dependence and submission exercise trust and faith.

This is so uncomfortable. The world, the flesh, and the Devil rush to whisper doubt into my heart. Who will take care of me if I don't take care of myself? You'll be exploited, taken advantage of, victimized.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging Him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.”  But He said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples were saying to one another, “No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?”  Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.   --John 4:31-34

Jesus was not primarily concerned with seeing that His needs were met. The thing of first importance to Him was to do the will of the Father. 

I don't need to be scared of my Father. He loves me. He cares for me. 

 Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. --Romans 10:11  

He is honored when I just say "Ok, Daddy. I will obey." But He still loves me, even when I persist in my own foolishness. Because He loves me, He corrects me and does not allow me to come to harm. 

Dear Heavenly Father, 
Help me to trust you completely. Help me to remember who You are. Help me to trust in the God never breaks His promises and who sacrificed His life to restore mine, instead of listening to the father of lies, who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. Thank you Lord for speaking to me and holding me close to Your heart. Thank you for being so patient with me and teaching me. Help me trust my Daddy more and more as time goes on. I love you Lord.  
In Jesus' loving name, Amen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some of Our Favorite Children's Books

I was inspired by a recent post on the Gospel Coalition Blog to make a list of some of our favorite children's books. Some of these are currently falling apart on our bookshelves and others are joys from my childhood that I can't wait to share when my little ones get a bit bigger. 

1. I'll Always Love You

2. The Jesus Storybook Bible

3. Blue Hat, Green Hat

4. The Little Red Train Series

5. The Boxcar Children

6. The Wind in the Willows

7. See Inside Your Body Book

8. Caps For Sale

9. Hippos Go Berserk!

10. Baby Shoes

11. Tikki Tikki Tembo

12. Winnie the Pooh

13. The Way Things Work

14. Dear Zoo

15. The Chronicles of Narnia

16. The Princess & The Goblin

17. A Little Princess

18. I Love You Through & Through

19. Curious George

20. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

21. The Carrot Seed

22. Swimmy

23. If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

24. Happy Birthday Moon

25. Inch by Inch

26. Goodnight Moon

27. Guess How Much I Love You

28. Richard Scarry's Busytown Books

29. Frog & Toad Are Friends

30. Ed Emberly's Make a World

There are so many great books to read-- though sometimes they get lost in the sea of derivative, tv branded tie-ins. Tolle lege!