Wednesday, December 17, 2014


Did you know that there are 365 verses in the Bible that tell us not to be afraid?  One verse for every day of the year...except Leap year, of course.

have learned this fact recently from my kids' Christmas program "Fact or Fiction: The Christmas Edition." (Super cute and well-done by the CWKids, by the way.)  Actually, I have learned it more than five times a week over the last two months!  Call me a slow learner, but I think I needed to hear that.  I am not sure it would have sunk in if I had only heard it once or twice.

I am just intrigued by this.  I can't stop thinking about it.   One Scripture every day that says do not be afraid.  I am amazed about what that says about our God.  He knew.  He knew we would be prone to fear and worry, and He planned for that.  It just blows me away that his level of detail-planning includes telling us not to fear.  I think He knew that this would be something people struggle with on a daily basis.  So He provided words for us to turn to, words of comfort, that tell us not to be afraid.

Joshua 1:9 tells us not to be afraid or discouraged; be strong and courageous.  God is with us wherever we go.  It is one thing to tell somebody not to be afraid.  It is another thing entirely to tell them  not to be afraid because they are not alone.  God is with us wherever we go.  He had already paved the way.  He is by our side.  

Thinking about the 365 verses makes me want to go look them all up.  (Putting that on the "someday" list...can't quite get that done right now.). But even if I don't know all of them, or even some of them, I know they are there, and I find that comforting.  I CAN go find them if I need them.

Not if I need them.  When I need them.  I will need them.  Just today I have had the fears that an inattentive driver was going to hit me in the school parking lot.  That I would not know how to help a new student I am tutoring.  That my kids are a little short on gratitude and a bit big on self-centeredness lately.  That Todd's cancer might come back someday and we won't be on top of it as we were the first time.  That I won't get all of my stuff done before Christmas.  

Big fears, little fears, medium fears.  There are things that I fear every single day.  Some of them are irrational; some are a little more understandable.  Either way, when the fear starts to take over,  I have to remind myself to turn back to the Word.  Some days that is easier than others.  When I am really feeling anxious, I can only come up with two or three verses.  It is the same ones all the time, but they soothe me.  They speak to me.  Psalm 23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 29:11, Philippians 4:7. And 1 Peter 5:7 are my "go to" verses.  No matter how many times I hear those, they still help calm a restless and worried spirit.

When I am too worked up to be able to do this for myself, I have learned to reach out to certain people.  "Pray for me.  I am struggling."  Those words never fail to elicit a response.  Just a simple text and I can set my personal team of prayer warriors into action.  I receive responses back that let me know that it will be okay.  When I can't think straight enough to put two thoughts together because I am gripped with fear or anxiety, my "people" point me back with a hug, a word of encouragement, or a well-timed verse.

God does not want us to be afraid.  He wants us to be joyful.  He wants us to trust in Him.  He already has it all figured out.  First John 4:18 tell us that perfect love casts out fear.  When I am afraid, I need to realign myself with the One who is Perfect Love.  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Prepare

I have been intrigued by Five Minute Friday for a while, and I credit my dear friend, Jennifer Frisbie and her blog for getting me started.

The idea is to free-write on a given prompt for five minutes without editing or revising.  Then you link your blog up with other people who are doing the same thing.  It is fun and different, and I thought I would give it a try.  Check out this link for more info:    Five Minute Friday

I confess:  I cheated.  I did not change any of the ideas or words that came out in the five minutes, but I did go back and fix all the typos.  Just couldn't stand it...



This is the first time I have done Five Minute Friday.  And can I just say that I don't feel like I am prepared? It is a bit scary to free write and publish without editing or revising.

Like a lot of things lately, I am pushing through, even though I don't feel all the way prepared.  I am learning to just go and just do, despite my feelings of hesitation.

Since I started my blog in August, I feel like God keeps pushing me along.  Telling me to jump in, that he has already made the preparations.  That it will be okay.  I often don't want to write about the topics that are in my head, but I am really trying to be faithful and obedient.  Less self-reliant, and more God-called.

I think the thing is that I am never fully prepared for life.  No matter what I try to control or hold on to- I am not in charge.  He is.  He prepares a path for me.  He leads me to the green pastures, to the still waters, to restoration.  

He has prepared the way for me.  All I have to do is follow.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Do It For Me

A few years ago when I was home by myself, I was working on laundry.  I did not like doing laundry, and I had a particularly bad attitude about it that day.  As I took clothes out of the dryer, I was grumbling and complaining that I did not want to do this, and I hated laundry.  I was the only one home so no one could hear all my negativity.  No one except God, that is.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart; do it for Me and not for men."

I heard these words very plainly and very clearly.  I don't know how to explain it.  It was not an audible sound, but I heard it all the same.   It was definitely a voice, and it was not my own.

Three things about this really jumped out at me.  The first thing is that I am never alone.  God is always with me. Even though I cannot see him,  He is always with me.  Even as I do laundry.  I remember having the thought that if these were Jesus's pants, I probably wouldn't mind so much.

The other thing that really struck me was the actual verse.  Although I had heard this verse before, it was definitely NOT one I had committed to memory.  What I heard was Scripture.  Word for word Scripture.  I had to look it up to know where to find it.  I had a hard time finding it at first.  I had looked up the phrase "Do it for me."  My search came back with no results.  When I found it, I smiled.  Colossians 3:23 says " it as for the LORD."  But what I had heard was "Do it for me." (I know some of you Bibilical scholars caught that the first time!)

Does this mean it wasn't really Scripture?  Quite the opposite in my opinion.  When God speaks, He can refer to himself in the first person.  It would be pretty stilted and awkward if He used anything other than that.  Also, I noticed that He doesn't have to cite chapter and verse when He speaks; they are His words, after all.

The last thing I took away from this experience is how this verse was used.  I had always heard it in reference to careers.  It doesn't matter if you are a minister, a teacher, a carpenter, or a truck driver as long as you represent God well through your work.  I had never thought before that "whatever you do" meant laundry too.  Everything we do, even laundry and other mundane chores, is to be done for the LORD.  Everything.

I still don't love doing laundry.  But when I catch myself starting to grumble about it, I remind myself that I was doing laundry the first time I ever heard God speak to me.  And I can do this too in service to Him.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

40 things I love about this man

40. He doesn't like to see me upset and tries to make me feel better.
39. He adjusts his schedule to work from home when the kids are sick or I have a professional development day.  (And occasionally, he will do this just so I can go scrapbook!)
38. He wants to run away with me-preferably somewhere tropical with fruity drinks.
37.  He buys me ice cream on dates.  Sometimes he buys me ice cream for no reason at all.
36.  Whenever we are near each other, he reaches for my hand when someone starts to pray.  It is a small but significant way to show we are united in Christ.
35.  He kills spiders and other creepy-crawly things that find their way into the house.
34.  He is awesome at woodworking, and he makes me cool things.
33.  He checks the air in my tires and fixes them to keep me safe.
32.  He is really good at fixing all kinds of things.
31.  He changes light bulbs.  (That may not be a big deal to some, but it is to someone of my height!)
30.  He starts and ends EVERY SINGLE DAY by reading his Bible.
29.  He helps the kids get ready every morning.
28.  He tells me I am beautiful, smart, and more.  (Things I definitely don't feel on my own.)
27.  He prays for me.
26.  He cooks a steak better than most restaurants.
25.  Inside jokes.
24.  He spoils me rotten on birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, and other occasions for gift giving.
23.  We have history together--great times, tough times, and many other times in between. 
22.  He inspires me to be a better person.
21.  He works hard.  Really hard.  Super hard.  In everything he does.
20.  His relationship with God is a priority in his life.
19.  We make a great team.
18.  We balance each other out.
17.  He wrestles the kids, which they LOVE!  I believe this is special gift that God bestows upon Daddies. 
16.  He understands the importance of having a little time to myself.  Whether it be hanging out with friends or letting me scrapbook or just needing to be myself for a bit, he never makes me feel guilty about that.
15.  He fell in love with me when I was still broken from my first marriage.  He loved me enough to work through a lot of that pain and sorrow with me.  Even when he got blamed for things that were clearly not his fault, he stuck by me and helped me deal with it.
14.  He says what he thinks.  Although sometimes I don't want to hear what he thinks (particularly when his opinion might be completely opposite of mine), I never have to guess where he stands.
13.  He can talk about God to others in ways that I could never dream of.
12.  He gives the best hugs.
11.  He is fiercely loyal to his family and friends.
10.  He makes me laugh.
9.  He stands up for me when he sees me being treated unfairly.
8.  He supports me in big and small ways.
7.  He reads my blog whenever I ask him to, even though reading is not his thing.
6.  He is a financial wizard. A few years ago our church offered the Financial Peace classes.  Several people asked me if we were going to do it.  I was able to tell them, "I don't really see the point of doing the class.  I'm already married to Dave Ramsey."
5. He sees the good in me, when I can't see it in myself.
4.  He is a terrific father.
3.  He is generous with his time.
2.  He loves me.  All of me.
1.  He loves God.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Be Still and Know That I Am God.

Be still and know that I am God.  

I have the second part of this down.  I know my God.  I know who He is.  I know His power.  I know He can and does perform miracles.  I know He is my comforter, my peace, my protection.   I don't have much trouble with this part.

Be still.  That is the part I have trouble with.  Be still.  I am never still.  From the moment I get up to the last minute before I crash back into bed, I am busy.  I am not saying I am anymore busy than anyone else.  I just know that I am busy.  

Be still.  As I am rushing from one thing to the next, I hear it.  Be still.

As I am trying to make lunches and shove a load of laundry in before I head to work, I hear it again.

I eat lunch at my desk almost every day while I try to make lesson plans, score assessments, answer emails, and whatever other sixteen things need to be done, it is there again.  Be still.

After school is a whirlwind of getting everything ready for the next day, checking homework, signing reading logs, and now walking a mile or more.

At home the pace' activities, make dinner, more laundry, dishes, baths and bedtime routines for kids, finish a crochet project or two.  (Even my "relaxing" time is spent with my hands busily in motion.)

Be still.

Each morning I set aside each day to spend with God.  It too is filled with activity.  I read my daily passages; I journal; I blog; I work through different studies.  I tell God my prayer requests and my praises.  But seldom, if ever, do I just sit and listen to what He might want to tell me.

These are all good things that I am doing, but God keeps whispering to me, "Be still and know that I am God.  Be still and know that I am with you."  

I hear it.  I just haven't figured out how to do it yet.  So for now, I am thinking about Being Still.  

That's all I have time for.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Praying Over My Stapler

Tired.  Exhausted.  Overwhelmed.  Overworked.  Anxious.  Irritable.  Annoyed.  Overly sensitive.  Stressed.  Frantic.  Even a bit feverish and nauseous.

These are all things that describe me today.  Not loving those descriptions, but I think they are accurate.  So, at least, I can say that I am being honest about where I am in this particular moment.
I am feeling like even the smallest thing could put me over the edge right now.

With that being said, I just found myself in a battle with my long-arm stapler as I tried to put some books together.  This is not the first time I have done battle with this device.  I staple one time, and then I have to spend at least a minute and a fair amount of strength wrestling it back to where it can function to get one more staple out of it.  Repeat this about thirty-five times, and you can probably see my frustration.  I do not have the time, energy, or patience to deal with this today.  The stapler is winning.  

Just seconds before I went into a sobbing mess that would potentially lead me to a nervous breakdown, I actually had the wisdom to stop.  I took a deep breath.  And another one.  And one more for good measure.  Then I prayed over my stapler.  Yes, you read that right.  I prayed over my stapler.  "Please, God, would you fix my stapler?  I know this seems silly, but I just can't deal with this right this minute.  I know you have the power.  Would you please, please just fix this stupid thing for me?"

Does my God care about my stapler?  I think He does.  The stapler crisis was important to me, and He cares about me.  So, the stapler is important to Him too, because He loves me.  Why should I bother my great big God with something so small as a stapler?  After all, doesn't He have bigger problems to be taking care of than that?  Shouldn't I just deal with it?

The point is this: I wasn't dealing with it.  I was in a tailspin, a whirlwind of negative emotions.  Everything was crashing in on me.  I was in a place of desperation.  (Yes, I do recognize that a stapler should not be the source of so much desperation.)

God cares about me.  He doesn't want me to be desperate and in a tizzy over the things in my life that seek to control me.  He is the Prince of Peace, peace which I so needed.

God could have chosen to fix my stapler.  He didn't.  After I prayed over my stapler, it didn't work any better than before.  Disappointing, huh?  Not really.  Because He chose to change me.  That was the answer to my prayer today.  As I continued to wrestle with my stapler, He changed my heart.  I recited the 23rd Psalm.  Then there were praise songs in my head that just had to be sung out loud.  

I finished stapling those books and went to do something else.  I almost giggled when my other stapler didn't work any better than the first one.

"Cast all your anxieties (even pesky staplers) on Him because He cares for you." 
1 Peter 5:7

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thank You, Veterans!

I just wanted to extend my personal heartfelt gratitude to all of the men and women who have served in the armed forces for our country.  Thank you, thank you, a thousand thank yous for all that you did in the name of securing our freedom and protecting our liberties.

I especially wanted to take a moment to honor the ones who are the most near and dear to my heart.

My dad, David Taylor (Marine Corps)
Uncle Bill Twitchel (Air Force)
Uncle Ben Twitchel (Marine Corps)
Uncle Curtis Twitchel (Navy), Grandpa Tom Twitchel (Marine Corps)

Uncle Francis Twitchel

Brother Jon Taylor (Marine Corps)
Cousin Scott Taylor (Army)
Cousin Byron King
Uncle Finis King

My handsome husband Todd Tellman (National Guard)

I would also like to honor the ones for whom I do not have pictures:  Russell "Butch" Tellman, Don Tellman, and Guy Howard.

Thank you, Veterans!  Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.  God Bless You and God Bless America!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Team Spirit

During the last three or four weeks, I have watched more baseball than I have in the last twenty-nine years combined.  I was definitely caught up in watching the boys in blue give it their all in the playoffs  and the World Series.  It stirred something inside me to watch my hometown boys doing so well, especially after so many years of not doing well.  Of course, I would have loved to watch them win Game 7, but it was fun to watch either way.

So how do you choose a team?  I seem to have chosen my favorite teams by location.  I enjoy watching the Kansas City Royals and the Kansas City Chiefs because that's where I grew up.  I also will root for the Missouri Tigers since that is where I went to college.  Of course, I am still loyal to the Lee's Summit High School Tigers too.  (The original Lee's Summit High School, that is.)

My husband is a Green Bay Packers fan.  He chose them because it was different.  They are a good team, and not many people in central Missouri follow them.  He is not a bandwagon kind of guy; he follows his own path.

It was interesting to watch the kids choose their teams during the World Series.  Hannah decided by watching me.  She chose her team as the Royals because she could tell it was important to me.  Love that about her.  Seth chose his team because San Francisco starts with "S," the same letter as his first name.  He has his own way of thinking about things.  Love that about him.

Last week we had a day where we got to wear our "team colors" to school.  I was agonizing over what to wear.  I just wasn't feeling the Chiefs jersey or the Mizzou black-and-gold that day.  I was lamenting that my new Royals shirt hadn't arrived in the mail yet.  Finally, I decided that I would wear a shirt from a teacher skit a couple of years ago.  I know it's cheesy, but that shirt represents my favorite team.  I love the group of teachers I get to work with on a daily basis.  I am happy there.  I am accepted and respected.  They are friends that are there for me. They make me laugh.  They support me.  They encourage me.  It is a great team to be on!

When Hannah saw my shirt, she wanted to know why I was wearing it.  I explained how it was my favorite team.  After I said all that, she just shrugged and said, "I'm on God's team."  Then she walked out of the room.

I'm on God's team.  Four little words, and she nailed this team thing better than I ever could.  God's team.  Makes me wish I had a T-shirt for that one.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

While sitting at a banquet for our church's stewardship campaign, I was overwhelmed.  This is the place where my husband and I got married.  This is the place where we stood up twice in front of the congregation and promised to raise our babies to know God.  This is the place where my husband was baptized and publicly proclaimed that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  This is the place where I feel loved every time I walk in the door:  from the first time Todd and I ever came more than twelve years ago to today when people are lining up to give me hugs.  (Okay, there was not actually a line, but I still got several awesome hugs tonight from people who are just genuinely glad to see me.)  This is the place where our kids have learned more about God's love than most people I know.

This is the place where I have really learned about God.  Whether it be through Ken's sermon on Sunday mornings or Bible fellowship with any number of quality teachers or other in-depth studies, I love that I am always pointed back to my Bible.  These people explain things to me and help me understand what the Word of God says, but they are quick to have me check it out for myself.  

This is the place where we have developed countless relationships.  People who enjoy hanging out with us. People who love our kids.  People who guide us and teach us with their wisdom.  People who challenge us to grow and become more like Christ.  People who  I know I could count on in the toughest of times.

I am overwhelmed with the blessings we receive from being part of this awesome church.  Even now, I have tears in my eyes as I think about it.

Now, it is our turn.   We have been asked to invest in the kingdom of God here on earth so that He can further expand what He is already doing through our church.  And I have to think, "Why wouldn't we?" When I look at what He has done for our family, I want that for other people in our community as well.  I want people who don't know God, or who don't know Him well, to have that same opportunity that we have had.

Todd and I prayed about this opportunity separately for quite a while before we discussed it together.  When we did talk about it, God had clearly heard our prayers.  We each had a number in mind that was almost identical to the other.  It is not an easy or safe number.  It is one where we are going to have to stretch to make it, but we are convinced that this campaign is that important.  

Right after we made our decision, we found out that Todd's insurance is going up quite a bit.  The same amount as the part of our commitment that was already coming from faith alone.  I know the thought crossed both of our minds that we could cover the insurance by backing off the commitment, but we are not going to do that.  God will provide.

God is working on me even more.  He is challenging me alone to give beyond the number that Todd and I agreed on.  With the way we budget our money, we each get a bit of discretionary money every month.  With that, as well as extra things I do like tutoring or crocheting, God is challenging me to give an additional "unsafe" amount to the campaign above and beyond what Todd and I are giving together.  God will bless the work of my hands.  I know He will.

I hear Him calling, "Trust me, trust me, trust me."  I don't know how it will work, or what it will look like, or what sacrifices we will have to make along the way.  But, then again, if I knew all that, it wouldn't really be trust at all.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Counting My Blessings

"Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your blessings, see what God hath done." 

 Last week I celebrated my birthday.  That is always a great reminder of how blessed I am.  All week long I was reminded that people love me and care about me.

It started with an email a couple days before my birthday.  A friend sent me a message that said she wanted to wish me a happy birthday, even though she couldn't remember the exact date.  All she could remember was "October" so she just went ahead and sent it.  I thought that was a nice gesture.  

I also got a phone call that day from someone who knew what day my birthday is, but she knew she was going to be super busy on my actual day.  She didn't want to miss it so she called early.

As the week progressed,  I got to celebrate at school.  More than one person brought treats to celebrate, and there was a birthday banner hanging on my door.

On the actual day,  I was inundated with texts and Facebook messages.  I appreciate people taking a minute out of their busy lives to a send me a message.  I tried to acknowledge each and everyone with a return message of thanks.  Honestly, it was a bit overwhelming and hard to keep up with.  (If I missed you, please know that I didn't mean to.)

A special friend asked Hannah and me to tea that day.  I so enjoyed that time with her and her daughter.  My daughter insisted that we dress up:  "It's your birthday so you have to look pretty, Mama."   How do you argue with that kind of logic?  It was so much fun to drink tea from real china teacups and eat dainty little sandwiches and other goodies.  When we got there, I felt extra special because the tea room had a sign acknowledging my birthday.  I even had a cookie with my name on it.  It was almost too cute to eat.  (I did say almost; after all, what am I going to do with an uneaten cookie?)   Not only did I get invited to tea, but my friend had gone the extra mile to let them know ahead of time that it was my birthday.  All in all, it was a great experience for me and one that I won't soon forget.

I also got to go out to eat with my family and be appropriately spoiled by them all day long.  My children told me happy birthday every time we were in the same room together!  Although hearing it that many times is not really necessary, it was just a little thing they could do that made me feel special.

The thing about birthdays for me is this:  I feel so blessed and so humbled.  When I look at how many people went out of their way to do something (big or small) to help me feel special, I am overwhelmed. People reach out to me because in some way, some how, I have influenced their lives.  It is always a great reminder to me how are lives are woven together, each one affecting another.  We may not know the impact or influence we have on someone else, but our actions matter.  

God uses my birthday each year to remind me that I am loved-not just by my family, but by people all around me.  I am blessed.  I am humbled at the impact my life has on others.  I am grateful.  I am honored. Thank you.

Surely you have granted him unending blessings
 and made him glad with the joy of your presence.
Psalm 21:6

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Just Me and God

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Psalm 34:18

After two years of fighting, screaming, sulking, pouting, and manipulation, my first marriage ended.  I had become a just a shell of a person, not much of the real me was left at that point.  Although there certainly were plenty of things I did wrong, I felt like I had done all I could do.  I had told myself over and over as kind of a personal mantra, "I married for better or worse.  This is 'worse'; it has to get better."

I don't think I would have ever left on my own.  I had made a promise, and this is what I had to deal with.  I don't think a person can understand this unless they've been through it, but there were times when I made situations worse-trying to get him to hit me.  If he hit me, that was a very definite line to cross, and  I knew it would be okay to leave.  Emotional abuse is murky and hard to define.  The bruising is just as bad, but nobody can see it.

So anyway, the fighting had gotten really bad by our second anniversary.  On that very day, he told me he wanted a divorce.  That was all I needed.  It was like he gave me permission to leave.  

Now during the next year when we were separated but not yet divorced is when my relationship with God really truly began. I was broken.  I felt like a total failure because I hadn't been able to make it all work.  I was so ashamed and full of guilt.  I often felt like I had nobody to talk to--nobody except God, that was.  This is where He really began to teach me who He is and how He could fulfill the parts in me that I had wanted another person to fill. That poem about "Footprints in the Sand" has always touched me, and I can look at this period of my life and know that He carried me through.  I always think of this period of my life as "Just Me and God."

God used those circumstances where I was broken and felt so alone to mold my heart.  To make it more like His.  It was in that time that I realized how far off track I had gotten.  He showed me how choices that I made over time led me to a place where I never thought I would be--divorced at the age of twenty-three.  He showed me how the very thing I had been seeking all along was Him.  I sought His forgiveness, and  He gave it to me.  

Now I do not know your circumstances.  Maybe you are in a bad place; maybe you are thinking that divorce would be easier at this point than whatever you are dealing with.  I don't know where you are, but I do know my own experiences.  Divorce is not an easy path.  It left me scarred, damaged, broken, and ashamed.   It was a long, difficult road to forgive that person who caused me such pain.  It was even more difficult to forgive myself and to know who I am again.  Every time I think I am completely past it, something comes up where I have to deal with it again.   As recently as yesterday, there was an issue that was directly tied to my first marriage.

Maybe it just seems impossible.  Maybe you have already been through a divorce.  Maybe you are facing something else that is completely unsurmountable from where you stand.  Give it over to God.  The same God who spoke the universe into being, who parted the Red Sea, who rained down manna from Heaven, who brought the walls of Jericho down, who raised His one and only Son from the dead.  This God can handle your pain and heartbreak and deliver you in a way that you could never dream.  "For with God, nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:76)."  He can breathe new life into your marriage where it seems dead.  He can resurrect something out of nothing. Give yourself and your situation over to Him, and let Him do the rest.

There is a song called "Come However You are" by City Harbor.  This song really speaks to me.  It reminds me that there is nothing too big for Him to handle, and that we are never too broken or scarred to be fixed by His healing hands.

"Come however you are
Come with all your heart heartbreaks
Come with all the mistakes you made
Lay them down at the cross
Give them to the God who loves you
Hurt scarred falling apart
Come however you are
Come with your regrets
Come with the things you can't change
Come with all your fear and all your shame with everything
Come with the pieces of your bruised and broken heart
Don't wait"

 Come However You Are-City Harbor

(click the link to listen to the whole song)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Not Raising Robots

My husband and I have two perfect, custom-made perfectly functioning robots.  We have a male model and a female model.  They function according to specification and never veer from the pre-determined programming.  They are polite and well-mannered and respectful.

Our little robots

Except when they are not.  Their favorite pastimes these days seem to be burping and seeing how many times they can use the word "poop" in any given sentence.  

Wait.  What?  Who programmed them to do that?

The other day in church while someone was praying, the male model initiated a wrestling sequence which in turn caused the female model to squeal and protest rather loudly.  As I was shushing them and untangling appendages, it occurred to me that we are not raising robots.  We are raising people.  Little people with big ideas.  Little people with big feelings.  Little people with big opinions.  Oh boy, do we have big opinions.  

Opinions about what they wear, what they eat, what toys they need to take in the van, what toys they need to sleep with, whether it is worthwhile or not to actually brush their teeth....  I could go on, but I think my point is clear.  They have opinions-strong opinions-about EVERYTHING!

It is not that I ever really thought I was raising a robot, but sometimes I think I forget that they are children.  They aren't perfect.  They make mistakes.  They like to burp and say "poop" or "poopy" or "poopity doopity" or "pooperson"  (Believe me, the female model enjoys that every bit as much as the male model!)  They fight, they wrestle, they pester, they backtalk, they throw fits.  They challenge us every step of the way, and they wear us out.

Sometimes I feel like a failure.  I feel like I must be doing it all wrong, or they would not be so challenging.  I often feel like I am too hard on them, like I expect too much.  But there are other days when I feel like they get by with too much, like they walk all over me.  And some days I feel like I am too hard and too soft all at the same time.  (I don't even know how that is possible.)  Am I too much?  Am I too little?  Do I rescue them too much, or do I let them flounder when they really do need help?  

I used to think that good parents had easy children.  (I would like to take this minute to apologize to my former self for that bit of insanity.)

Not only did God make my children, but He made me.  He made me to be their mother and gifted me with all the qualities I need to do that job.

If I were the one to program "robots", I think I would leave out the mechanism that causes burping. Especially at the dinner table.  Or in restaurants.  I might omit the part that initiates the
whiny/arguing/backtalk stage.  But if I left those out, maybe I would miss something big.

Would I have thought to program the male model to come running at me from across the room and do a flying attack leap into my arms?  No, probably not.  And I would have missed out on all those wonderful boy hugs.  That boy can hug like nobody's business, but he does it in his own way and in his own time.  Also, his brain works so much differently than mine--no way could I have thought that up on my own.

Would I have put in the code for the girl that makes her whisper secrets like, "You are my best mama ever."  Nope.  Nor the part where she plays with my hair during Bible time, showering me with her affection.  How about when she spontaneously gives me a shoulder rub?  (Her little hands have magical powers when it comes to massage!)

So the thing is this:  I am not a robot, either.  Sometimes I mess up.  Sometimes I mess up more than others.  The words "losing my cool" have described me far too off recenntly.  I get angry and frustrated.  But I keep trying to get it right.  I know we have terrific kids, but some days it is more difficult to remember that than other days.  I need God's grace.  Every day, every hour, sometimes even more.  His grace is sufficient for me; his power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).  Sometimes I just need to remember that they might need a little bit of grace too.

Some days I just don't have it in me to correct them one more time, to tell them no and initiate an argument, to stand my ground.  Some days all I have to give is a good example.  Since they are not robots, after all, we have to let them choose.  They choose their behaviors, just like we do.  Sometimes they make choices we are proud of.  Sometimes they make choices that we find aggravating or embarrassing.  As it turns out, they might be in need of a little grace themselves. 

What really matters in the end is that we keep pointing them back to a relationship with Christ.  If they see that in us and want it for themselves, then we have been successful (even if they let out a belch in the middle of communion meditation).

As for me and my house, we will choose the LORD.

Joshua 24:15

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Reality Check

      Recently I received an email from a friend.  Among other things, she revealed some struggles and difficulties from her life.  Her words were honest and heartfelt and very personal.  Her words were not accusatory or casting blame on me in any way.  In fact, I wasn't even mentioned.  And yet, the words reached through the screen and smacked me in the face anyway.  I was struck by her words.  I read them several times and was overcome with conviction.


       I can see now, looking back, how actions I took may have affected the trajectory of her life.  Actions that did not involve her directly.  Actions that were incredibly selfish and thoughtless and hurtful.  Actions that she may not even know happened.  I don't know for sure if what I did played any role in her life or not, but I'm guessing it doesn't help.

       In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tell us, "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift" (5:23-24).   This means I need to make amends the best way possible.  Sure, it would have been easier to ignore it or rationalize my position, but that is not the right thing to do.
     It was painful and difficult for me, but I wrote a lengthy letter to my friend.  I came clean and admitted everything I had done back then.  I explained the place where I was in my life at that time, apologized wholeheartedly, and asked for forgiveness.  I don't know if she will be able to forgive me, but I am praying that she does.  Only time will tell, but I feel like I have done what I could to make it right.


     These are not recent events.  These things took place a LONG time ago.  It was even before I became a Christian.    I had never given much thought to this situation before and how my actions could have affected anyone else.  I see it now though for what it was:  SIN.  Let's face it--even though I wasn't a Christian yet, I still knew better than to act like that.  But when I became a Christian, I was covered under the big umbrella of God's grace, right?
      Right.  I am absolutely, totally, and completely covered by the blood of Jesus.  Christ died on that cross for me.  "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8-9)  I am so thankful that He knew we would mess up over and over and over, and He loved His people enough to die for us anyway.  Even the sins we haven't acknowledged or even recognized are still covered with our acceptance of Jesus into our heart.
     Now that I am aware of the magnitude of my behaviors, I have repented.  I have cried out to God for forgiveness.  I have prayed over it.  My God is a loving and forgiving God; he will remember my sins no more.  (Isaiah 43:25).  He has cast my sins as far as the East is from the West.  (Psalm 103:12).

    One thing that keeps ringing in my head over and over is how my actions matter.  They affect other people in ways that I don't even begin to notice or comprehend.  Every little thing--even things I thought no one knew about--still matter. 

     I am a new creation in Christ; the old has been made new. (2 Corinthians 5:17). I have done my best to make things right; I have admitted my transgressions; and I have been forgiven by God.  I am at peace with this situation now.


    God has used circumstances from long ago to bring me to a new place in my relationship with Him.  
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).   Not only did I need to deal with my past in a private way, but I feel like God needed me to acknowledge this in a public forum as well.  It has been challenging for me to find the right words here.  I have intentionally left out the nitty-gritty details because I don't feel like anything positive would come from that.  I have tried to be honest and forthright, albeit vague.  I don't know if this post will have any impact on anyone else, but God has used these words to chisel away a piece of me that was old and broken to draw me closer to Him.


     Not every story has a happy ending.  I was prepared to publish this post knowing that my friend might never forgive me, that she would close the door and walk away.  I didn't like it, but I knew that was a very real possibility.

And yet...

I received an email just a bit ago.  The past is, well, the past.  The old friendship is dead and gone.  But we are starting a NEW friendship today.  To my sister in Christ.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Call Me Jonah

I have a confession.  I have been in the belly of a whale for the last three years.  I was told to go to Nineveh, and I went running the other way all the way to Tarsus.  I did not want to go to Nineveh.  I wanted to follow my own path and do my own thing.

Well, actually,  I don't know where Nineveh is or Tarsus either.   And there are no whales in this part of Missouri.

You see, this is not the first time that God told me to start a blog.  He told me that three years ago.      I set up an account, and I froze.  I never wrote anything.

Sort of.

I began a journal where I wrote down times I could remember God working in my life.  I made a list of all the things that I wanted to write about.  The list was pretty long.  I thought I would start posting them once I had them all on paper, once I was caught up.  (That sounds so ridiculous to me now; how could I ever be caught up on God working in my life?  Wouldn't that mean He was no longer at work?) I wrote in my journal pretty faithfully for a while, and then it became sporadically, and eventually, it was not at all.  I, more or less, forgot about it.

It wasn't until I was trying to came up with a name for my blog the other day that I remembered.  I was desperately trying to come up with something catchy, some clever use of words, names, and truth.  I was not coming up anything.  All of a sudden, I realized that I already had my title.  God gave it to me when He first asked me to do this.  I dug out my journal, and there was the title neatly written on the first page: When God Calls My Name.

God called my name three years ago.  Three. Years. Ago.  Almost to the day exactly.  Since I realized that, it keeps ringing in my head.  Three years.  It has taken me three years to be faithful and obedient to what I have been called to do.  Can I just tell you the heartbreak and sadness that I am feeling that it has been that long? It only took Jonah three days in the belly of the whale to figure out that there was no escaping God's call, but it has taken me three years.  Ouch!

Since posting my first entry earlier this week,  I have felt enormously blessed.  There have been a number of people who not only read it but encouraged me to keep going.  A friend shared with me her plans to answer God's call.  The words I wrote touched hearts.  There is joy in that.  More than that, though, is the joy and deep satisfaction I am feeling at doing what God asked me to do.  It took me a while to get started, but it feels good.  I am excited now, and I want that feeling to continue.

Today, I am leaving for Nineveh.  I'll see you there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So I'm a blogger...

Recently at church, a friend of mine, Nathan Tuley, shared a message about what God has been teaching him and challenging him with in the last two years.  At the end, he challenged the congregation to commit to something new for God.  He said that the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable is probably the very thing that God is asking you to do.

When I began to pray, I felt like I already knew what it was.  I had already been praying about starting a blog for a couple of days.  I asked God to reveal what He wanted me to do.  As soon as I thought that, I said, "It's the blog, isn't it?"  I felt a warmth spread over me in that moment that seemed to be confirmation.  So, I guess I am a blogger now...

To borrow the words of Jennifer Frisbie, "It makes me want to vomit...but in a good way."  Although I don't do it often, I have always enjoyed writing.  There is something cathartic about pouring myself out onto a piece of paper (or a screen).  But doing it for the whole world to see is something different entirely.  It makes me feel vulnerable--and a little afraid--to share my writing online.

My first hesitation stems from insecurity.  It is hard for me to believe that my thoughts and ideas would be valuable to anyone else.  I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); I know that God does not make mistakes.  But I still really struggle with being me and not comparing myself to other people.

My second hesitation is one of follow through.  I usually start projects well, especially ones that were my idea.  (I will admit that I am a bit more reluctant when starting something that was not my idea.). I am already afraid of not being able to keep up with it.  It is overwhelming to be starting a new journey like this at the same time that I am starting a new school year.  I am praying that this will be something I want to do as time passes, not just another thing to check off of a very long list.  I am also praying that this would be something I could do without taking time away from my family.

Lastly, I am concerned about myself getting in the way.  If I am going to put myself out there and share my stories, I want it to be all for God.  I want people to see a glimpse of Him through things I share.  I pray that He will show me what would impact other people.  I do not want this to become something where I am seeking approval from my readers.  I want to do this to please my God, not because someone might say "Good job" (although it would still be okay if you want to say it.)

So those things all speak to the "makes me want to vomit" aspect.  The good is that I am excited about how God might use me and a blog to reach someone for His kingdom.  Do I have anything good to share?  Maybe, maybe not.  But does my LORD and King have something to say?  I know that He does, and that is the exciting part.