Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Brave Confessions Over Play-doh

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness" Psalm 103:8
"If you're going to continue screaming at me, then go to your room. You will be welcome to come play Play-doh with us when you aren't yelling at me."

That's how I left it. My almost five year old daughter was spent, and Play-doh put her over the edge. Normally, playing with Play-doh makes her world brighter, but today, there she was on edge and needed some room to just vent.

Upon re-entry from her vent-break in her room, my daughter sheepishly approached the kitchen table where her brothers and I were forming squishy turtles and multi-colored snakes.

"What's the matter, Izzie?"

"Mom, I'm afraid to tell you."

"Why, sweetheart? What's the matter?"

"I'm afraid you'll get angry."

"What happened? I promise I will do my best not to get angry."

Still breathing erratically from her crying fit, she sucked in a breath and spewed her confession like a vile and inedible thing: "I said a bad word!"
How could I be angry? Here was my five year old confessing a secret sin to me. Oh, to have such a tender heart as this one.

I drew her close, kissed her, and let out a loving sigh that only mommies make when their babies are close to the breast.

"Izzie, can I pray with you?"

And so we prayed. We thanked the Lord that Izzie was brave enough to confess her sin--her spoken bad word. That Jesus would comfort her heart. And that His Spirit would help her not to say any more bad words.

As it is with the Lord, isn't it? He is compassionate. He is gracious. His anger is slow toward us, especially when we are quick to acknowledge our sin to Him. And His lovingkindness abounds and abounds and abounds. In fact, it's new every morning.

Lord Jesus, Thank you for revealing this moment of growth both for Izzie and for mommy. I give you praise and thanks that you are doing a great work in Izzie's heart and making her more and more aware of her actions and thoughts and words. I give you praise and thanks that you, too, are doing a great work in this mommy's heart--making me more like you, even if it's one moment at a time. Holy Spirit help me be brave to confess my sin and walk in Your strength. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Motherhood and the Office of Priesthood: When the Hoods Collide.

Overwhelming tearsfor shed blood
The constant reminder of sin within the sacrificial dutiesof the High Priest during the Day of Atonement brought me to tears the otherday.

“…You also, as living stones, are being built up as aspiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrificesacceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (Emphasis mine; 1 Peter 2:5).

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s ownpossession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called youout of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, butnow you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you havereceived mercy” (Emphasis mine; 1Peter 2.9, 10).

I am a Rock
The metaphor of being a living stone being built up into aspiritual house for a holy office—the priesthood—is an image that makes senseto me. I can visualize that I am a rock of the structure that God is and willuse through which He will offer up spiritual sacrifices.

After all, He’s the High Priest, who performed the dualoffice of sacrificer and sacrifice on the cross for my—and your—sins. I am one partof the vehicle through which God uses to do a holy work in and through me—as acorporate, spiritual house. I’m a rock. I get it.

What makes me fidget in my understanding is the next layerof priestly identity that’s revealed just a few verses beyond; I am a royal priesthood.

Maybe that doesn’tstop you in your tracks, but it sure stops me.

See, on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest makes twosacrifices: one of a bull and one of a goat.

Scripture does not ask the High Priest to bring a pre-packaged, commercially processed bull, but a strong bull. Without blemish. Perfect in every regard. Who was then beheaded, skinned, gutted, de-hooved and processed outside the camp by hand.

I imagine that preparing the bull for the altar of sacrificewas much more labor intensive than slapping a boneless, skinless chicken breastin the skillet after a quick shopping trip to the market. And I imagine that that bull sensed the fear of death andfought the levitical priest as the prepared knife punctured the flesh, surging forth blood, life. I imagine that the priest labored and dripped withsweat and had muscles that burned and ached as he performed these priestlyrites, which God had so perfectly instructed.

I imagine that the blood’s splatter wasn’t just limited to the altar or to his clothes, but covered his face, hands, hair. That it embeddeditself in the creases of his hands, under his nails, and stained his clothes.

The High Priest did this not just with the bull, but alsowith the goat.

Sacrifice is bloody business.
Yesterday afternoon I was reflecting on how I am likened to theroyal priesthood and trying to make a connection to the exhortation in Romans“to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God which isyour spiritual service of worship” (12.1). I was stretched out on my bed,trying to catch a much-needed nap, when my mind was alerted to my attire.

I was not freshly showered. My jeans, I’ve had on for nearlytwo weeks straight; and they show physical signs of the two-week, work-wearstint: baby cereal back splash near the pockets; very berry smoothie splattereddown the outside leg; dusty knees; dirty, curled up leg hole bottoms fromdragging the floor. 

My teeth were still fuzzy from the day before, and, I’m notsure, but I think I located food particles in my hair earlier in the morningafter breakfast. Motherhood is messy business.

A mother’s bull
Recounting some of the debris evidenced on my jeans, Iremembered strong-arming my thirty-five pound son to bed in order to preventhim from hurting himself as he fought me at nap time.

Shall I compare the struggle with my son to the struggle of one of the bulls at its death?

Shall I liken the baby splatter to the bloody spray of thosesacrifices so long ago?

I think so.

Motherhood’s dailysacrifice
In my limited understanding of the mysteries and symbolic nature of what Christ carried out and finished upon the cross, Ido know this. I know that as a mom—in this holy, royal, priestly calling—I offer upspiritual sacrifices in an effort to proclaim—to my children—the excellencies of Jesus, who called me out of thedarkness and into His wonderful light.

Sin atoned
Daily, I relinquish my desire for a perfectly ordered and clean home; I leave a dusty mountain of projects that my heart yearns to complete; I forfeit time to don a strong, slim, tidy appearance; and I give up my expectation of being a perfect mom, one who can do it all.

And there it is: my sin of perfectionism.

He died, once for all: a perfect, unblemished life in exchange for my nasty, self-centered life. 

It's a messy business to humble one's heart and desires to the calling of God upon one's life. It's even messier to acknowledge and repent of the sin that so easily entangles.

But, oh! the joy. The joy of being At-one-ment with the Lamb. The joy of glorifying His Majesty through tired eyes, soiled clothes, and untidy messes. And the joy of yielding to the needs of my little lambs.

Lord Jesus, Enable meto experience the joy You’ve promised me when I live within the truth of mypriestly role and function offering daily sacrifices to You, as powered by YourHoly Spirit. Let my children see, firsthand, the humble, tender, fearful heartof their mother as she yields her desires, agendas, time, energies whilewillingly and quietly she climbs upon the altar of sacrifice. May they knowthat the life I live, I live by Your strength alone. Amen.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Wrestling for Transformation

Shortly after publishing Trusting God for a New Voice, I wrestled with the meaning of Romans 12:1, 2.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.   (Emphasis mine.)
Depression rests mainly in the mind, impacting the emotions. So what does it mean to "be transformed," and how does one "renew" the mind while trying to throw off depression? As I prayed through these questions and thoughts, I felt like the answer was to get at the root of the sadness and face it.

The wrestling match
I went about my day, had coffee with a friend, supped with my family, but still I was not able to shrug the clinging nature of an UN-renewed mind. I wanted transformation. I wanted renewal. But how?

On my pillow, my mind raced with thoughts--fully strung out from the caffeine--and I cried out to the Lord.

What is it that I have been believing? What is the pestering message I hear that hinders me from transformation? Show me how to be renewed, and remove false beliefs from me!

Then He answered.

As soon as the false belief was brought to mind, I literally said aloud, "That's not true!"

Getting the pin
Maybe it sounds hokey-pokey, but I can't explain what happened next any other way. I had felt like there was something pressing or pushing against my body as I stretched out in my bed, and, instantly, as I professed the false nature of the lie, the physical pressure was gone! There was relief. My body felt light, and my heart jumped with joy.

In that moment, I knew that renewal was taking place. Transformation is and will take place in me; the Lord has promised that.
Therefore if any person is [ingrafted] in Christ (the Messiah) he is a new creation (a new creature altogether); the old [previous moral and spiritual condition] has passed away. Behold, the fresh and new has come! 2 Cor. 5.17 (AMP)
Since that moment, the Lord has allowed me to walk afresh in peace and untangled thought. O, what joy unspeakable swells within when the Holy One answers the heart.

 Lord Jesus, Your word promises to the weary and the heavy-laden that You will give them rest. Thank you for allowing me to rest in Your care for me. Continue to transform my heart, my mind, my body, and my love to be more like yours. Amen.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Party at the Funeral

I've never had so much fun at a funeral before!

You may find those words hard to believe, but they are the ones that keep leaping out of my mouth each time I talk about the funeral of Miss H. She had lived a long and full ninety years for Christ.

One significant take-away from her memorial service is intentionality.

Miss H, at a young age, had been given two years to live due to a serious medical condition. For the the next fifty-five years--through countless surgeries, through endless pain and discomfort--Miss H planned her memorial service.

Thinking about our mortality, our final days, our life's brevity seems unnatural and even a bit counter-intuitive to living a life of vitality and vigor and joy.

"I want to be missed, but this is to be a day of celebration." These were Miss H's own words at her memorial service. An appropriate message for a woman whose trust was in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of her sins. Miss H is rubbing noses with Jesus, face-to-face in heaven. Eternal life in glory is a great reason to celebrate.

It's also a great reason to live well.

Through all of Miss H's struggles, she held onto the truth of the Bible, God's promises--irrevocable words of truth and grace and mercy and peace and healing and joy. Her physical body was not healed until death, but the joy and the laughter that bubbled up out of her was unmistakably divine.

Like Paul's words to the Philippians, I think of Miss H in these words:
Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain Phil. 1.18b-21 

Miss H, you've been delivered and have gained your eternal inheritance. And I, I rejoice in the legacy that you have left and choose to press on.

Lord Jesus, with full courage, may You enable me, with eager expectation and hope, to live intentionally in Your strength. Hide in my heart the living and active Word. Let me not forget there is a finish line to this life where the party will be just beginning. Amen.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Anger Management: 101


On the way home from a MOPS pajama party, I chatted with a mommy-friend who was following me home. It was late, my children had played hard and well, and now that we were all trapped in the van together, they worked very hard at annoying each other. 

I chose to actively ignore them and stay calm while chatting with my friend.

Izzie and Isaac continued to get noisier and noisier. Isaac was singing a song, topping the song on the radio; Isabelle was in a full-on tirade, screaming at the top of her lungs demanding that Isaac stop singing and pleading that I make him stop--at once! 

the drama

Looking back in my rear view mirror, it looked like Izzie was about to come out of her car seat to throttle her brother. I muted Stephanie, and proceeded to hear Izzie scream: "Mommy! I threw up in the van!!!"

Yep. You can't make this stuff up.

She was so angry at Isaac that she literally made herself vomit.

Thankfully, I was able to remain calm on this one.

I pointed out her physical aches (headache, tummy ache, taste of vomit in her mouth) and I asked her if getting angry like that felt good to her. We talked about how anger can hurt us and it can hurt others. She apologized numerous times and then asked us to forgive her.

In the end, it was a tender moment—learning about the destructive nature of anger first-hand at the age of four must be exhausting. I know it was for me.


Steve tucked the kids in bed, while I humbly took cleaning supplies out to the van to clean up the mess. Afterword, Steve gently pointed out that Izzie had been doing what we have been asking her to do when she's angry: to ask a parent or an adult for help.
I blew it! Here I thought I was being slick by actively ignoring my daughter and maintaining my motherly state of calm. 

What I originally thought was a good decision and a life lesson about the destructive nature of anger, actually morphed into the reality that my availability is an essential offensive weapon for my little one.  

Lord Jesus, thank you for making a way to boldly enter the throne room; so that whenever I have need, I can call the Father's name and know with assurance that He hears me because of your perfect life, death, and resurrection. As I trust in You--in my oh-so-imperfect life--give me the grace and strength and wisdom to know when intercede on behalf of my children without hovering them and robbing them of a powerful lesson. Amen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Seeing Jesus Face-to-face

Mid-afternoon last Saturday, I found myself alone with Izzie on a long car ride to a five-year old birthday party. It was just the time I needed to connect one-on-one with her, but I was taken back by the depth of conversation I was able to have with her.

My eyes were heavy, and I let out a sigh. 

"Mommy, are you tired?" 

"Yes, sweetie. Mommy went to a funeral this morning, and so I feel a little tired."

I explained to her what what happens at a funeral, who the woman was that had passed, how people tend to feel many different emotions when someone dies, and why all of this can make a person feel very sleepy in such a short time.

"So where is she now?"

"Izzie, you know how you and mommy rub noses together sometimes, and we look at each other face-to-face? And we tell each other how much we love each other?"


"Well, right now, Miss H is in heaven rubbing her nose with Jesus in heaven and looking at him face-to-face because she asked Jesus into her heart."

"Well, I want to go RIGHT NOW! Jesus is always in my heart and I want to see Him face-to-face."

Oh, thank you, Izzie for getting it right. Yes, the innocence of your heart and the depth of your love for Jesus and your curiosity for heaven! May you never become jaded by this world and forget that longing you have to rub noses with Jesus and see Him face-to-face.

"Izzie, God has given each of us a job to do here on earth. Look around, Izzie. He made this place for us, and our job is to figure out what it is that He has created us for and then to do it. When God decides that we have completed our work here on earth, He will call us home--just like he did for Miss H. THEN we will see Jesus face-to-face."

Well done, Miss H. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Lord Jesus, You give sweet moments of clarity even in the most painful times. Continue to reveal to me and to my family and to your body how very much we long to be in your presence, to rub noses, and to see you face-to-face. Amen.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Pass the popcorn; this might take her a while. ;)


Popcorn is a major food group in my world.

I joke about having been reared on popcorn and red pop. It comes as no great surprise that my first job was working at a Karmelkorn shop in the mall.

After two years of popping corn and cooking caramel, I can still make a mean batch of caramel corn. The recipe is simple: brown sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and Karo syrup.

What stays behind after the corn is gone
Remains. After all the mixing, this is what's left of the caramel corn.

The tricky part is the timing.

If you cook it too long, the batch is dark, smoky, and tastes something like licking a sweetened boot sole. If you quick-trigger the cooking and don’t allow the sugar to fully process, the flavor is decent, but the batch's texture is grainy, chewy, and dangerous; it just might loosen a tooth.

Timing it right.

I’m an introvert and a self-proclaimed wordsmith. When conversing about deep-felt heart issues, I tend to pause, hesitate, stumble as I look for just the right word.

To me, communication is like making caramel corn. The first word that pops up doesn’t necessarily merit the thought and may lack digestible qualities; timing makes all the difference.

And so I am thankful for friends who know me and wait out my articulating stammers, who allow me to practice filling in the blanks, and who rejoice with me as I voice thought and exhale relief after having gotten it right.

Thankful: because sometimes I’m dark and smoky. 

Tireless friendships hold out for the me that God is making me to be, batch by imperfect batch.

“Congenial conversation—what a pleasure!
    The right word at the right time—beautiful!”
                                           Proverbs 15:23, MSG

 Lord Jesus, thank you for the promise that You are making all things new. What a blessing you have given us in friendships, and what a blessing it is to find the right word. Amen