Faith…

What is Faith?

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1

As I look back over this journey, I am constantly amazed at how much my faith has grown through the trials and tribulations of this life. Recently, however, I have found myself contemplating the question, “What is faith?”

I looked up the definition of faith to see what other sources say. My web search turned up a definition of “belief or trust: belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.”

My faith in God is far stronger than it ever has been before. My deep and sincere trust that He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do is at an unprecedented level in my life. I have a deep inner peace that He is in control and that He has great things planned for my life. Even when I can’t see Him at work, I trust that He is doing something behind the scenes. I suppose that’s faith.

But…

Is there more to faith? Is a deep-seated conviction or belief the only thing that God requires of us? Or is there more to our faith?

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6

We know that faith is a requirement for pleasing God. But, right there, we see a key: those who have faith must not only believe, but they must also earnestly seek.

I have come to the conclusion that faith requires action.

This concept has been stuck in my mind for weeks. I can’t seem to escape it. As I mull scripture, I can’t find a single biblical character whose faith did not express itself through action. As you walk through the Great Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11), you see it repeatedly.

It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God… (v 4)

It was by faith that Noah built a large boat…(v 7)

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him… (v 8)

It was by faith that even Sarah … believed that God would keep his promise… (v 11)

It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac… (v 17)

On and on it goes, through Isaac and Jacob, Joseph and Moses. The chapter walks through the Old Testament, showing repeatedly the actions that the great heroes took as a result of their faith. They stood firm in the face of unbelievably difficult circumstances. They chose to look like fools who had lost their mind to the unbelievers around them—all because their faith drove them to walk obediently, to take action.

Let’s cross into the New Testament. There was Peter who chose to take that first step out of the boat as the waves pounded around him (Matthew 14). Consider the woman who was healed because she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe (Mark 5). How about the group that brought their friend and lowered him through the roof so that Jesus could heal him (Mark 2).

Throughout scripture, faith leads to action, faith expresses itself through action.

For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Even this famous passage tells us that we walk by faith. Walk…Action…Movement.

Let’s look at the book of James.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? … In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself….Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works… Wasn’t Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was active together with his works, and by works, faith was perfected….You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…. For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (James 2:14-26)

I find myself trusting God for a variety of things, things that I know beyond a doubt He has promised me. Sometimes I feel like a complete fool.

“Really, God?” I ask. “There is no way that is going to happen. I can’t see how that could ever be. Yet, I have come to know your voice, and I know I hear you. Ok. If you say so, I will believe.”

I’ve had that conversation with God repeatedly in the last few years. And, I’m learning that my faith is backed up by my actions. The more I act on what God has told me, the more my faith grows, the more confident I become. When my faith is finally strong enough in what He has told me that I take that first step that shows my faith, He grabs me and carries me through the rest.

For example, I know that God has promised that He is preparing an amazing man for my future. So, I began journaling. I pick up that journal and tell my future husband what is happening in my life. I tell him how I am praying for him, how God is working in my life. I tell him how much I love him and how I can’t wait until I can walk hand-in-hand with him. I tell him about the hopes and dreams I have for our future. One day, I will present these journals to this man who I already love so dearly. One day, he will read about my journey, how I chose to prepare myself for him. One day, it will be as obvious to him as it is to me that our relationship was created in heaven, ordained by our Savior, long before we met.

Other times the action might be more subtle. I’ve written recently about the struggles with anger and bitterness that I still have toward my ex-husband. Even through admitting these struggles, I find an absolute breakthrough. As God showed me my absolute exhaustion, I made a commitment to rest—and I felt instant peace. As God revealed the ugly bitterness still in my heart, I committed to pray—and His peace flooded my soul. As I struggle with the injustice of the situation, I admit it to God and ask for Him to handle it—and I find my bitterness fading away.

Taking a step of faith—or obedience—does not have to be huge. Sometimes it’s small—admitting you are powerless, asking for His help. Sometimes it is a willingness to not do anything—a decision to wait for God to act. Sometimes it may require you to step far away from your comfort zone, to risk looking like a fool to others.

I don’t know what you are dealing with today, but God says that faith pleases Him. Faith also requires action of some type. Ask God to strengthen your faith today—and then be willing to act. Your actions will serve to strengthen your faith—and allow you to be pleasing to Him.

 

Single…And Hating It!

I am single…and hating it!

I’m sure there are many singles who would say they hate it. They would tell about the loneliness. They might tell you how they long to have someone with whom to share their hopes and dreams. Or, maybe they would talk about the longing for a companion, someone with whom they can share their hobbies. Maybe they miss the affection, having someone to curl up next to on a cold night and watch their favorite movie together.

While I miss all of those things, I have discovered that there’s one reason I hate being single:

I AM TOO STINKIN’ NICE!!

What does that have to do with hating the single life? A whole lot for me!

Some would say that being too nice is a sign of an approval addiction. There may be some truth to that, but honestly it goes a lot deeper. If there was one thing I could say that I did wrong in my marriage, it is probably that I was too nice. I allowed myself to be stepped on many times over. Being too nice in my marriage was an effort to be compassionate, understanding, and supportive. It was also a necessary tool to avoid angry outbursts.

When I think of myself, I know that God created me to be a helpmate. I thrive on coming alongside another and offering a word of encouragement. I am never happier than when I am serving others, reaching out and offering a helping hand. God created me with a very trusting nature and a laid back spirit that just doesn’t get bent out of shape too easily.

I have always tried to live by the saying, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” When my kids argue, I always remind them that we are to speak words of encouragement. If they say something ugly, I remind them that our words come from the overflow of our hearts—and I encourage them to ask what is flowing from their hearts. I am simply a firm believer in genuine kindness, compassion, love.

But, as a single, that can get me into some serious trouble.

Have you ever been to a singles get-together? The only ones I have attended are church-related, but I have to tell you that they felt more like a meat market. As the newbie, I found men immediately introducing themselves. I’ve seen small groups that seem to be more of a hook-up club than a place to nurture a relationship with Christ. While I long for God to bring along that special person, I find myself fleeing these situations. They just make me uncomfortable deep within my spirit.

Let me share a few of my single experiences.

Shortly after my divorce was finalized, I was asked out by a friend who was also recently divorced. I had come alongside him when he discovered his wife was cheating on him, and I began to simply offer a quick word of encouragement. I understood his pain, and I truly longed to share what I had learned in an effort to help him through the pain. My motives were pure, but I found myself developing an emotional attachment. We were both hurting too much to see what was happening.

I went out with this friend, and we enjoyed one another. Fortunately, I was strong enough to tell him that I wanted to maintain my purity. I am so thankful that I made that statement upfront, because I’m not sure I would have been able to tell him if I found myself in a compromising situation. To his credit, he walked away from me. I am very thankful that God saved me.

But, it wasn’t long before another man came along. This man seemed great on the surface—he knew all of the Christian lingo and was a great salesman. It didn’t take me long, however, to begin to question his sincerity. By the end of the first date, I had serious questions.

And that’s when things got scary. The next day, he came to the hospital where I worked and left a dozen roses and a gift card at my vehicle. He searched the parking lot until he found my car! The texts were incessant. He began to infiltrate every aspect of my life. He invited me out of town overnight. I tried to spurn every advance, but of course I couldn’t be rude or come right out and say, “Go away.”

One day, he told me that he had decided to dump the woman he had been seeing so he could pursue me. Whoa! Wait a minute! You are telling me—the woman whose marriage ended because of adultery—that you have been pursuing me WHILE DATING SOMEONE ELSE?!?! You just lumped yourself in the category of CHEATER, and I have NO NEED for you!

As if that wasn’t bad enough, he began to hang out around my house. One night, the kids and I were so freaked out that we left to stay with my parents—and called my brother-in-law (a sheriff’s deputy) to patrol by my house that night. Finally, I had had enough. I reluctantly, fearfully, with trembling hands, sent him a text and asked him to go away. Why did it take me so long? Why was I so upset about telling this stalker to go away? Because I am too stinkin’ nice!

As if one stalker wasn’t enough, I managed to get entangled with yet another. I was working as the charge nurse on the stroke floor of our hospital. Because we were short-staffed, we frequently had agency nurses filling holes in our schedule. One day, a male nurse was sent to our floor. I happened to walk in the med room during his personal phone conversation.

When he hung up, he exclaimed, “How do you like that? I pay for her to get her degree, and she runs off with a doctor!”

Bleeding heart…

Yep, you guessed it. My tough exterior melted, and I began to minister to this poor soul who was experiencing the same pain I had walked through. I began to offer words of hope and encouragement, and I began to tell my story and how God can get him through it. The next thing I knew, he seemed to be working the floor every time I was scheduled to work. When I put in my two weeks’ notice, he was there my final day. As we walked out to our cars at the end of a grueling 12-hour shift, he asked for my number. And I was too stinki’n nice to say no!

The text messages and phone calls began. One day, I was watching a movie with my kids and I had left my phone in the other room. After the movie, I retrieved my phone to find repeated messages from him. The final message said, “Well, it’s obvious you aren’t ready to be in any type of relationship.”

Now, this message really left me scratching my head. Somehow, I was not even aware I was in a relationship. He had my phone number, but we had never even seen each other outside of work. And, to my knowledge, he was still married! I later discovered that he had told the entire hospital that he was dating me!

I began to find myself looking around every corner, praying I wouldn’t meet him at the hospital. It was a game of duck and hide, see him and run the other direction. However, I never stepped up and simply said, “Go away!” After a few angry outbursts from him and my failure to respond, he eventually went away. But I never stepped up and told him to go away.

There are other hair-raising stories. There was the man who couldn’t send a text without a sexual innuendo. I finally got the courage to tell him that I didn’t find his attempts at humor the least bit funny. I am not an object to gratify his lusts, and I had no interest in someone like him.

There was the man that I went out with once only to have him interpret it as we were officially “dating.” He got mad when I was always busy. (Really? I am a single mom of three kids. I had two jobs at the time. Yes, I am always busy!)

Then there are the mamas…

If you are single, you probably know the mamas. “I need to introduce you to my son. I know he’s been married five times and has kids with two other women he’s never been married to, but they were all losers. You would be perfect for him!”

No thanks. But, before you know it, Johnny Boy has your phone number and is calling you.

And, I’m too stinkin’ nice to tell them I’m not interested.

I guess I’m just not cut out for the single life. My standards are so high that I find myself running from most men. There’s not an ounce of interest in them. Unless you have an unparalleled passion for the Savior, a burning desire to be a light to a dark world, an addiction to the things of God, don’t even bother trying to pursue me. I will be repulsed, uninterested. But, I probably won’t tell you to go away because I am too stinkin’ nice!

I am so thankful that God has honored my request that He not allow any man to come into my life unless it is the one He has for me forever and always. Yes, men—like the ones above— have come along, but I usually manage to avoid them until they go away. My stance on dating is that I’m not interested—until I know without a doubt that God has ordained this relationship to last until death do we part.

 

 

In Over My Head

One thing has become abundantly clear to me in the last few weeks: I am totally and completely unequipped to raise teenage boys.

I find myself questioning if God knew what He was doing when He allowed me to become a solo-parent to two boys. I don’t understand all these boy things, and I am definitely in over my head!

Let’s start with one thing: I am nice.

I’m not talking about your normal nice person. I’m talking about the too nice person—the one who is voted “brown-nose pledge” in her sorority. I’m talking about the person who smiles when someone berates her because her mind doesn’t know how to say mean words. I’m talking about the super naïve and trusting person that just can’t see that others are using her.

My teenage son recently informed me that I am too trusting, that I really need to stop looking at the best in people and sometimes I need to see reality. While those qualities are great in moderation, they can get me into trouble. I really need someone to balance me out—to exercise some discernment and help me remain grounded. Right now, however, I do not have that person to balance me out so our home tends toward the super nice, naively trusting side.

But, why my inability to raise boys has really come to the forefront lately is because I read a book by Craig Groeschel called Fight. The book points out that God created men with the heart of a warrior. Every man needs to know when to fight and how to fight. Every man needs to know how to take the inner passion that God placed within him and channel it into the right fights.

For example, a man needs to fight for his family. He needs to fight for his purity in an impure world. He needs to fight for righteous causes. He was created with a heart that is full of passion, passion that must be controlled and directed, passion that must be poured out as God would have him fight.

What? My boys need to fight? But, I want my boys to be kind and compassionate, respectful and considerate of others. I want them to be forgiving and to offer second chances. I want them to open doors for women and the elderly. I want them to be the epitome of gentlemen. Yes, that’s what I’ve taught my boys from a very young age. They are amazing young men, but God very clearly revealed to me that it’s time they learn to stand up and fight!

You see, when I offered my ex-husband forgiveness, I begged him to fight for me. He looked at me with a blank stare and asked, “What do you mean?” I want my boys to know what it means to fight for someone! I want them to know what it means to pour every ounce of energy and passion into winning their wife’s heart. I want them to know what it looks like to fight to keep a faltering family together. I want them to be men who fight for the love and respect of their children. I want them to stand out as warriors for Christ in a culture that has created wimps of men.

But, I don’t know how to teach my boys to fight. I was not created to be a warrior; I was created to be a friend, a helpmate, a nurturer. And here I stand, trying to be both mom and dad. And I am a miserable failure at being dad.

Oh, I am blessed. You see, I have a wonderful dad who takes his grandsons out to the farm to sit in the cold deer stand, holding the gun, waiting for the helpless Bambi to walk by—something you couldn’t pay me to do. I have an amazing brother who connects with them through basketball and weight lifting. My dad works with them on skills such as lawn care. I am blessed to have men in my family who give of themselves to be that example to my boys.

But, there are limits to what my boys want to share with these men. And, they certainly don’t want to talk to mom about things like sexual purity—an area where I desperately want them to fight!

What’s a single mom to do when she is completely incapable of meeting her boys’ needs?

Pray. Over a year ago, I began setting timers on my phone for random times throughout my day. Whenever a timer goes off, it is a reminder to pray for my children. I keep Stormie O’Martian’s book The Power of a Praying Parent in my car, and every time I get into my car, I pray one of the prayers for my children. I have been absolutely amazed to see the changes in my children—their spiritual appetites, their attitudes, their questions—since I began praying fervently.

My oldest has really been stirred in recent months. The boy who didn’t ever talk about spiritual matters has really been hearing God speak to him. He has come to me repeatedly, talking to me about what God is telling him. He seeks my wisdom and guidance on spiritual matters. He won’t leave the house or go to bed without me praying for him. He is especially intent on learning to be the husband and father that God created him to be.

While I will not even pretend to understand how prayer moves God’s hand, I know that it does.

Surrender. I have begun each day for the last year by praying Galatians 2:20: I am crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. Each day I admit to God that this task of child-rearing is too difficult for me. I beg Him to raise my children through me.

I have found that God will quicken my spirit to know when something is important. Maybe it is simply putting aside the housework to toss a basketball to my son. Maybe it is a willingness to stay up late to talk to the child who enters my room after everyone else is in bed. Maybe it is setting aside my plans to write for the child who just needs a few minutes alone with Mom. I have learned that when God quickens my spirit, I must pay attention because something big is about to happen.

Yesterday, I had made plans to spend the afternoon writing when my oldest came into my room. I immediately sensed that something was up, that this was one of those moments when he needed my undivided attention. Over an hour later, after listening to talk about basketball and school and friends, he finally got to the point. He had a confession to make to me, and he had been trying to work up the courage. In the moment, I knew that God had appointed this time for the two of us—and my response could forever determine his openness with me. Ultimately, I am so proud of my son for coming to me—but I might have missed this tender moment if I were not trying to surrender every single day.

Trust the Father. My boys long to have a real dad—one who will model when and how to fight, one who will flee sexual immorality, one who will model how to be a godly husband and father. Sometimes that is what makes this wait for “the one” so hard—not my own desire for a companion, but the pain my children experience in waiting for the dad they desire. I have to remember and remind them that they are not fatherless; God is the father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). God has them firmly in the palm of His hand, molding them through all of the difficult days.

My boys have expressed fear that they will repeat the same mistakes their earthly father has made. I am thankful they have that fear because I know it will cause them to think long and hard before they wander from the straight and narrow. But, they fear growing up without a proper example. I simply remind them to look to the Heavenly Father, to spend time getting to know Him. He is the only one who can truly show them how to walk this journey called life.

God recently spoke to me as I was reading Jeremiah 33. He simply said that the days are coming when He will fulfill the promises He has spoken to me. I know that the time of having that earthly example is near. Until then, we will press into our Heavenly Father—because He’s the REAL DEAL.

Lord Jesus, my children—especially my boys—are in your hands. I am so thankful that you love them even more than I do! It has been so much fun the last few days to see how your hand has moved in response to my prayers, to see the hedge of protection that you are lifting up around my children. It is exciting to see the spiritual hunger and growth that is blossoming right before my eyes. It is wonderful to see the struggle for purity because I know that you are working in their hearts. For every fear and hurt and pain, I can see your hand moving and molding and shaping. I give my children to you and pray that you would be their example, that they would turn to you before they turn to any man. Establish their relationship with you in such a way that the one you have for us will be a blessing, but only a secondary example. I release my boys to you and pray that you would raise them through me. Amen.

The Never-Ending Roller Coaster

Do you like roller coasters?

My kids LOVE roller coasters! Three years ago when my daughter was only six, we went to Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. We stood in line waiting for the Powder Keg. As we got closer, my daughter decided she didn’t want to ride. I coaxed her onto the ride, assuring her that she had ridden rides much more exteme than this one. She reluctantly got on. What I did not know was that this particular ride goes from 0 to 55 mph…in about three seconds!

As we shot away from the gate and began to twist and loop, I just knew I had scarred my daughter for life! I instinctively reached over and grabbed her leg. The look of sheer terror on her face told the entire story.

Then, something happened. A smile began to form on her face, and the laughter erupted from deep within her. By the end of the ride, she was yelling, “YEAH! Let’s go again!! That was AWESOME!”

And that’s how an adrenaline junkie was born.

It’s true. I have taught my children to love roller coasters. It started as a way to encourage them to face their fears—to feel that sense of turmoil in their stomachs and yet still be willing to act. I never want them paralyzed by fear. So, if roller coasters will teach my children to face their fears in a small way, then I am all for allowing them to ride.

I must admit, though, that I—personally—am not a huge fan of roller coasters. I have a bad neck (convenient excuse, eh?), so I often stand on the ground and watch. I also pray while my kids are on the coasters—pray without ceasing that nothing will go wrong with the ride. Ultimately, my kids are in God’s hands, and He is more than able to protect them while they take this calculated risk.

There’s one roller coaster ride that sticks out in my mind, however. It started in 2008 and, to some extent, continues today. The loops and twists and turns are less violent, but the ride continues nonetheless. You see, in the early days of my separation and divorce, I was strapped into a roller coaster that I never asked to ride—much like I put my daughter on that day in 2011.

The ride shot out of the gate with my husband’s confession of infidelity. I was immediately catapulted into a twisting and tearing of my inner soul as the anger and fear rose up within me. Within days, I felt my Savior’s hand reach out and grab my leg, reassuring me that He was with me on the ride. I allowed God to soften my spirit, to determine that forgiveness would be extended. Day by day, I was jolted by deep-seated grief and resentment. I began to doubt myself and my value.

It was almost a year after the initial revelation of adultery that I finally made the decision to walk away from my marriage. It was then that I discovered he had not only continued his affair, but he was also actively dating women he was meeting on an online dating site. As I filed for divorce and asked him to leave, I found myself sitting in my front yard laughing hysterically! I was free! God had chosen to set me free from my prison!

The exhilaration was short-lived, however. As divorce proceedings began, I found myself alternating between so many emotions: anger, excitement, fear, grief, anxiety. I tried to cling to the Father, but I was all over the place, twisting and turning, flipping and flying. I begged God daily to stop the ride—to let me off this never-ending roller coaster.

While the roller coaster didn’t stop—even when the divorce was final—God continued to hold onto my leg, giving me the calm reassurance that He was with me through every drop and loop. As the years have passed, I’ve even found myself laughing and enjoying the ride! I’ve seen how God has used this ride to make me stronger, to teach me to face my fears. I’ve become a fan of the trials of this life because of how they have refined me into Christ’s image. I no longer fear trials because I know that God will be with me to see me through.

Over the past five years as a single mom, I’ve been blessed to participate in the Single Mom Survive and Thrive Conference in Oklahoma City. Pam Kanaly, co-founder of Arise Ministries, has a heart for single moms. She and her team always put together an amazing two-day event where we single moms are loved on, encouraged, and reminded that we are not alone. We have the opportunity to attend sessions where we can learn more about raising godly children, managing our finances, walking in forgiveness. Pam knows exactly what topics single moms need.

How does Pam know? Because Pam rode the never-ending roller coaster of single-motherhood, too. She has walked in my shoes. She knows the hurt and the pain, the fear and the exhaustion. She knows what it’s like to feel as if you can’t possibly make it on your own for another day. She knows what it’s like to face the bitterness of betrayal. She knows what it’s like to wonder if your kids will be ok.

Even better, Pam knows that when we surrender to God, He will take the most bitter of trials and create a ministry bigger than our wildest imagination! She knows that God delights in taking our brokenness and using it for His glory!

Pam has now taken her experiences and wisdom and put it into a book, The Single Mom and her Roller Coaster Emotions. If you are single mom or know a single mom, I encourage you to pick up Pam’s book and draw from her experiences, her wisdom, her heart, and her passion. It really is possible to get off the roller coaster of emotions—or even learn to enjoy the ride!

And remember, God is always in the car with you!

Little Critters, Big Damage

A couple of weeks ago, I was cleaning out a closet when I found a large area of mold in my drywall. What’s a single mom to do? Of course, I called my daddy.

Within 48 hours, we had a plumber at the house to take a look at what we assumed was a leak from the shower. As he began to poke around, his finger went right through the wall! He began to cut out an area of drywall only to find dirt packed in my walls, completely surrounding the tub.

In the dirt, we saw tunnels…

Tunnels created by small critters burrowing under my house. Tunnels created by moles that found an opening around my pipes. Tunnels from critters that have created a huge mess and caused damage to my house.

The dirt was packed so tightly around the entire tub area that it has taken nearly two weeks to clean out the mess. I have had a thick layer of dust all through my house from the process. My allergies have been bugging me from all of the dirt in the air.

We have used a dandelion picker (that’s what my dad calls it), buckets, shovels, and a shop vac. We still need to buy concrete to fill in the area around the pipes. We still have to replace the damaged sheetrock and make sure all of the mold is gone. We have quite a little clean-up project all because a very small critter found a very small opening into our home.

As I reflected on this mess, I began to think about our hearts. My verse for this year is from Joshua 3:5:

Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, because the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow.”

I have been contemplating this verse, knowing that God has amazing plans for me. But, the word that has jumped out at me is consecrate. I’ve asked God repeatedly what the word means, what I need to do to consecrate and prepare myself for the coming blessings.

The word consecrate itself means to set aside as holy or sacred. I think it carries with it the thought of preparing. How do we prepare for God’s blessings? The only answer I know is to examine our hearts, to look at what is buried deep inside and to reach a place of purity and holiness. I have been asking God to clean out anything in my heart that should not be there, anything that is not pleasing to Him.

As I contemplated the mess in my home, I began to think about our hearts. Don’t those pesky little moles remind you of the way sin seeps in undetected?

Let’s start with the entrance. You see, I have a solid foundation in my home. However, as I now know, there are small areas that are left open so that the plumbing can be connected to the drains in the tubs. Because they must be maneuvered to fit precisely, the builders cannot put concrete all the way up to the pipes. That one small opening is all these creatures need. With just a small opening in the foundation, they burrow up through the drain area and completely fill the walls.

It’s the same with sin. If we are not carefully guarding our heart, constantly surrendering our will and hearts to Him, we may find that there’s a crack—perhaps small. Unless we find a way to close that opening, we have left a small opening for sin to seep in. The sins don’t have to be “big” sins like addiction and adultery. It might be failing to care for our body properly. Or a temper problem. Or a profanity problem. Or (in my case) a Diet Coke addiction. Perhaps it’s not even technically a sin (like Diet Coke). But, if God has brought it to your mind and is asking you to deal with it, it may be the crack in your foundation.

The first sign that I had a problem was overlooked. I had found some small piles of dirt in the corners of my bathroom on a number of occasions. However, I simply blamed the dirty bathroom on my teenage boys! I ignored the signs that there was something bigger hidden deep behind my walls. I tried to just clean up the mess when I found it, and then I brushed it off. It wasn’t until I sensed a major problem (mold) that I was willing to look deep within the walls to find the problem.

Perhaps you are seeing small signs from the cracks in your foundation. Maybe you find that you are turning to your crutch (Diet Coke) when you get stressed instead of running to your prayer closet. Maybe you just sense that you could be healthier than you are. Maybe you just have a gnawing that something isn’t quite right. Maybe, like me, you continue to just try to clean up the little piles of dirt that keep appearing instead of digging deep to find out what the root of the problem is. Or, maybe you have discovered a major problem (Diet Coke cause hypoglycemia for me). Maybe you know that you have no choice now but to do some serious digging to find out what sin is buried deep within your heart.

The clean-up from these little creatures has been daunting. It had to get a lot worse, a lot uglier, before it can get better. The damage is done. Now, I have to find a way to block the opening so that the moles no longer have access to my home. I have to clean up the mold. I have to replace sheetrock. I have to paint my walls. And, I have had to haul multiple loads of dirt out of our home! All four of us have taken turns lying on our stomach, poking and prodding with the dandelion picker, sucking up dirt with the shop vac.

It’s the same with our hearts and sin. Once we have allowed sin to have a hold on our hearts, there is damage. Maybe it’s damage to relationships. Maybe it’s damage to our health. Maybe it’s damage to our witness to others. No matter what the sin, there has been damage—and it must be dealt with. You can’t continue to let it hide behind the walls of your heart; you have to get it out and deal with it. You may need to find a counselor who can walk you through the process. Maybe you need a 12 step program that will arm you with the information needed to overcome. No matter what, you need a circle of strong, believing friends who will love you and support you as you clean up the mess.

I don’t know what’s lurking within your heart. Maybe you don’t know either. But, I guarantee that God will always answer a humble prayer to open your eyes to the true condition of your heart. He will always answer a prayer to purify, to consecrate. He will always answer the prayer of one who truly desires to clean up the brokenness of life.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
Psalm 139:23-24

Start the clean-up of your heart before major damage is done. God will faithfully walk through the process with you.

Happy Birthday to Me!!

Today is my 36th birthday!!

If you are doing the math, you might find that a little difficult to believe. After all, I’ve been divorced for four years (anniversary this week) and I was married for nearly 17 years. That means I got married around the age of 15.

Let’s add another interesting thought: I remember the day of my birthday as if it were yesterday. Yes. I remember the moment I came into this world, a wonderful new creation. I remember the arms of my dad wrapped around me. I remember working in the garden with my family that very day. It was an amazing day—the most significant day of my life!

Today is my spiritual birthday. Today marks the 36th anniversary of the day I gave my heart to Jesus Christ. Today is the day that I was born of the Spirit. Today is the day I confessed Jesus as Lord and followed Him in believers’ baptism. Today is the day of my second birth. Today is the day I was born again.

Jesus replied, “I assure you: Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

“But how can anyone be born when he is old?” Nicodemus asked Him. “Can he enter his mother’s womb a second time and be born?”

 Jesus answered, “I assure you: Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God. Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I told you that you must be born again. John 3:3-7

These last 36 years have been an adventure, and the adventure just keeps getting better. The longer I walk with my Savior, the more I realize how much I need Him. Life hasn’t been perfect—especially the last five years—but it has been blessed. As I reflect today on my journey with my Savior, three words come to mind to describe my life.

Faithfulness. I have always been able to see God’s hand faithfully surrounding me. I have been blessed to experience answered prayers from the time I was very young. When I was going through the pain of adultery and divorce, I actually felt abandoned. But, as I look back and take a new perspective, I actually see His hands faithfully surrounding me through the most difficult days of my life. You see, He knew that my husband would betray me and that I would find my perfect life crumbling. But, how many ways did He prepare me? How many doors did He faithfully guide me through? While I was oblivious to the coming storm, He was not. And, He was faithfully preparing me.

Why did I start nursing school when I did—so that I would graduate just two short months after the divorce was final and have a job to step into immediately? How did my measly $600/month paycheck stretch to pay a mortgage until I could get on my feet financially? Why did I have a car accident that ironically ended in a settlement that gave me a financial cushion when I needed it? Why did I have visions of a new ministry long before I thought I would need it? Why—years before—did God put us on staff with a pastor who had an affair, showing us what could become if we weren’t faithful to follow Him? Why did my precious 98-year-old grandfather insist on buying a brand-new house next door to my parents shortly before he passed away?

I could truly go on and on about God’s faithful hand preparing the way for me to walk through the darkness. At the time, I was blinded to His faithfulness. Today, however, I look back in amazement at the way He faithfully walked before me, preparing me and providing for me on the most painful and unexpected journey of my life.

Peace. Last night, I attended an overcomers group at our church. Many of the people in the group have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. They all talk about the lack of peace that drove them to seek relief—using anything that would placate the pain and fear in their lives. I’ve had glimpses of what life is like without peace—primarily during those early days of divorce. But, I’ve been blessed to have a solid walk with my Savior that has provided tremendous peace even in the midst of the storms. Sure, there have been—and continue to be—moments of fear and anxiety, but I can truly say that peace is the pervading emotion of my life.

As I reflected on why I have peace, I can only venture to say that it’s because I have spent 36 years attempting to live in relationship with my Savior. Two of my favorite verses clearly tell us how we can have peace.

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

I love that Paul describes God’s peace as surpassing our understanding! It makes no sense how we can be caught in the greatest storm of our lives and yet experience peace. That is the peace that comes from our Savior! And, He tells us how to find it: through prayer.

You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.
Isaiah 26:3

Here, God’s peace is described as perfect—without flaw. Again, we are told that we can gain this peace through being dependent on Him. In other versions, we read that if we keep our mind focused on Him, He will give us peace.

It really is that simple: Focus on the Savior. Surrender to His plan. Throw up your hands and tell Him, “I can’t do this!” After all, He doesn’t want us to handle it; He wants to take that burden and carry it for us.

Hope. In my darkest days, I found hope: Hope for better days ahead. Hope that He would do a great work in me and through me. Hope that my life would be better than ever, richer and more abundant (John 10:10).

Scripture is full of verses that offer hope. Look at Jeremiah 29:11. 1 Peter 5:10 was a foundation for me. Psalm 37:4-7 reminded me that He knew my heart’s desires and wanted to bless me. James 1:1-5 reminded me to count my trials as joy because He is working great things in me through the trials. As I read in Isaiah, I found promises that He was doing new things—to put the old behind me (43:18-19). Joel reminded me that He would repay the years the locusts had eaten. Over and over, as I scoured the scriptures I found promises of brighter days ahead. There were days—even months—when I couldn’t even open the Word because I was so angry with God. It was then that the Holy Spirit reminded me of scriptures I had hidden in my heart from the time I was a small child.

Perhaps you weren’t blessed with the amazing childhood I was. I wish that everyone had the opportunity to grow up in a home where God was the center, where the emphasis was on developing that relationship with our Savior. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. However, start where you are! Some of the most amazing children of God have come through horrible abuse and dysfunction. They have leveraged those awful experiences for God’s glory.

And, perhaps you are reading this post and still trying to understand how I can say that today is my birthday. Perhaps you don’t understand the terms born again or spiritual birthday. If I could sum it up, I would possibly use part of the 12-step program. 1. Admit that you are powerless over your circumstances. 2. Admit that there is a God who wants to carry your burden. 3. Surrender to Him.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation….  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:9-10, 13

It’s really that simple. Admit that your life is messed up and you can’t handle the pain and the burden any more. Ask Him to step in and carry that burden, to fix the mess that you’ve made—or someone else has caused. Believe that He wants to give you an abundant life. Through faith, take a step toward the Savior—the One who came to this earth and gave His life as a sacrifice for you. He loves you more than you could ever possibly imagine!

Scripture clearly says that if you call on Him, you will be saved. And, you will be made new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

Today, my friend, is a great day to give it all to Him!!

 

 

 

 

The REAL Supermom

Last week, I wrote about Supermom—the Proverbs 31 woman. While it is noble for us as women to aspire to the example in Proverbs, many of us find ourselves crippled because we don’t measure up (at least in our own eyes). It is a daunting description of the ultimate multi-tasker; she seems to bear all of the weight of her family on her own shoulders.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.

“At last!” the man exclaimed.
“This one is bone from my bone,

and flesh from my flesh!
She will be called ‘woman,’
because she was taken from ‘man.’”

We women were created to be helpers, to give of ourselves for others. We were created to love and nurture, to come alongside and support. For me personally, few things fulfill me like helping others. But, how often do we fail to realize that the helper role is only one part of who we are.

In addition to a helper, God created us as His daughter, a Princess, a royal-heir of the kingdom of God. He created us to build up and encourage the body of Christ. He created us to nurture our children and lead them into a deeper faith. He created us to fulfill our specific role in the Body of Christ, to use our spiritual gifts for the good of the Church. He created us to be fully devoted followers of Christ.

Too often, we lose ourselves in the role of helper. I know I did. In my years as pastor’s wife and stay-at-home mom, every moment of my time was spent helping others. I poured myself into helping my husband with church work. I poured myself into caring for my kids. I poured myself into leading children’s and women’s ministries at the church. And I neglected every other part of who God created me to be.

You see, I was so busy doing that I failed to focus on being.

I did great things! I began an AWANA program that reached half the kids in our small Texas town. I stepped in and taught Wednesday night services when my husband was out of town. I was even known to take the pulpit a couple of times on Sunday mornings (shhh… Good Southern Baptist girls aren’t supposed to do that!).

But, when did I learn who I was? When did I step out and use the gifts God gave me beyond my husband’s ministry? When did I use the gift of writing that I always knew God had planted within me? When did I allow God to mold me into the vessel that He could use?

Not until everything was stripped away from me.

When I lost my ministry, I was still. When I lost my marriage, I had nothing but Jesus. When I lost my financial security, I had to be dependent upon God to provide.

I had been so busy doing good things that I had missed the most important things.

So, where does the Proverbs 31 woman fit into our lives? After the most important things.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42

Martha may have been the perfect Proverbs 31 woman. Perhaps she had studied the passage and sought to emulate it to perfection. But, Jesus told Martha that Mary had chosen what was best: sitting at His feet, listening to His voice, resting in His presence. All the doing in the world was just a distraction to being what Jesus wants us to be.

I so often get caught up in the cares of this world that I become distracted from what is really important. My relationship with my Savior must be my priority at the expense of everything else on my to-do list. If I am not taking the time to be in my Savior’s presence, my life will be chaotic.

In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over by observing your pure and reverent lives.

Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted God and accepted the authority of their husbands. 1 Peter 3:1-5

These words may strike outrage in today’s society! After all, why are men to be the authority? For me, the words bring comfort. As a single mom, I bear the weight of making all the decisions for myself and my children. I may get the glory when things go well, but I get to bear the responsibility when things don’t turn out the way I hoped. I am responsible for determining the direction of my family, and I don’t have anyone else to guide me. I, personally, long for the day when I no longer bear the entire burden on my own shoulders.

I would love to be able to look at my husband—a man that I know has the best interest of our family in mind, a man who is seeking God’s will, a man who loves me and protects me—and be able to say, “Honey, I trust you to hear God’s voice and be obedient.” I long to have a man who desires to lead me and our children into a deeper relationship with God. I long to have a man who exercises loving, respectful authority over me.

While every woman was created to enjoy beauty, God tells us that it is inner beauty that He values. He values a quiet and gentle spirit. He values pure and reverent lives. He values our faith in Him and our submission to authority. How can we cultivate these values if we are so busy in our daily lives?

Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that’s in you, love him with all you’ve got!

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

God wants us to love Him so much, to be so lost in Him, that His words simply fall from our lips. He wants us to get His words inside of us, because we can’t get them inside of our children unless they are inside of us. He wants us to talk about His word, His commands all the time—while we are driving the kids to activities, while we are hanging out in the front yard shooting hoops, while we are eating dinner. He wants us to talk about His word as we tuck them in at night, when they get up in the morning.

Have you ever been dry spiritually? You know, you can’t seem to have a conversation with God or a conversation with your kids about God? Is it possible that you’ve been so busy doing that you’ve failed to focus on getting the word into your heart? Luke 6:45 tells us that our mouths speak from the overflow of our heart. If your heart isn’t filled with God’s word, you won’t be able to speak it.

This season as a single mom is incredibly busy. However, I am learning to let go of some of the Proverbs 31 expectations in favor of time with my Savior. Will it really count that I had homemade meals on the table seven days a week? Will it matter that my house was perfectly clean every time someone stopped by? Will my children remember that the toilets were always sparkling clean?

I’m learning that it’s much more fun to have the house where all the kids want to hang out. I’m learning that sitting at Jesus’ feet frees me to focus on being a better mom. I’m learning that my beauty is from the inside. I’m learning that my children will rise up and call me blessed because of who I am—not just what I do.