Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Word As A Weapon

Having kids has done something to my brain. I often find myself yelling things as I drive down the road. Random things like, "Oooh, look at those horses!" Or "Hey, I see a fire truck!" And the sad thing is - I do this even when there aren't any kids in my car. It's like an involuntary reflex. Anybody with me?

A few weeks ago, we were visiting family back in Louisiana. I was driving to my grandparents' house,  and all of a sudden, I spotted a Volkswagen Bug, so I shouted, "Punch buggy, no punch-backs!" Brienne and I had been playing this game - you know the one where whoever spots the VW bug first gets to punch the other person. But this time, Brienne wasn't with me. Yep, that's right. She wasn't even in the car. Just the babies, Peter, and my sweet, young, cool, newly-married sister-in-law. It was slightly embarrassing. But honestly, those words just flew out of my mouth before I could stop them. It was just a reflex. An impulse. There was nothing I could do to prevent it.

What if we were like that with God's Word? What if we knew the Bible so well that whenever we opened our mouths, His words came out instead of our own? What if we impulsively shouted, "He is good and His love endures forever!" Or "The Almighty God is with me and His Spirit gives me breath!" Don't you want to know Christ in such a way that He becomes our every breath?

I've recently been studying Psalm 84, particularly verses 1-2, and 4.

"How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God... Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you."

I want to love God like this! I want to yearn for Christ each and every day. I want my heart and flesh to cry out to the Holy One, the Living God. But how is this possible? I think verse 4 is the key: those who dwell in the house of the Lord are constantly praising Him. "They are ever praising" God.

But what does this mean, exactly? How can we constantly praise the Lord? I know for me, as a busy wife and mother, it is so easy to get distracted. Case in point: Yesterday I picked up Brie from school, quizzed her for two tests, cooked supper, and attempted to keep Vivienne out of the dog bowl. I was so busy with those things that I completely forgot to put Jonah on the potty, and the next thing I knew, Peter came home and stepped in a puddle of pee. (Welcome home, honey.) But if it's so easy to forget about something or someone who is right in front of me, how much easier is it to forget about the Lord?

Here are some things I've found to be helpful as I strive to continuously praise the Lord:
1) Play praise and worship music throughout the house (I can't resist singing along)
2) When doing laundry or making lunches, I pray for my family, and thank God for them
3) When browsing Facebook, I pray for my friends
4) Memorize scripture so that the words of Christ are constantly on my tongue
5) When I glimpse a photo of my family, I say a quick prayer

The Bible says that we should always be ready to give an explanation for the hope we have in Jesus. In order to "be ready," we must know what we believe and we must know God's Word so well that it rolls off our tongues.

We also have to be ready to use God's Word as a weapon against Satan. There have been times in my life where I have encountered such immense darkness that the only thing I could say was, "Jesus, Jesus." I know that at the name of Jesus, darkness flees. (Hallelujah!)

Often throughout my day, however, I won't necessarily feel a dark presence but I will find myself being tempted. Maybe it's a temptation to overreact to something in anger, a temptation to gossip,  a temptation to watch something that would not be pleasing to the Lord,  a temptation to overeat, or a temptation to be prideful. I have to be ready to counteract those temptations with the Word of God because I know I can't resist the devil by myself. I need Holy back-up. And I want to ensure that my reactions to temptations and difficult situations reflect Christ. Especially in front of my kids.

I am extremely grateful that God's Word is "sharper than any two-edged sword." So - how about we wield that sword? Let's dig into scripture, memorize it, talk about it with our kids. And then it will come out of our mouths involuntarily whenever we need it. (And hopefully it will replace the dreaded "Punch buggy no punch backs." Ugh...)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Soul Longing For More

In her book, What Happens When Women Say Yes To God, Lysa Terkeurst writes that we have become "so familiar with God yet so unaware." I have definitely found this to be true in my own life.

I know the Lord and I rely on Him for lots of things. I love to read and study His Word, and I've seen Him work huge miracles in my life and in the lives of my friends and family. But it can often be difficult to find God in the monotonous activities that comprise our everyday lives. I mean, let's be real for a second. I'm not usually praising Jesus while chasing a two-year old who is screaming at the top of his lungs because he doesn't want to sit on the potty. Twenty times a day. I would like to think that I'm one of those people who is always smiling and thanking God for every single thing that happens, but really, who are we kidding?

God, however, sees our circumstances, and because He loves us, He meets us where we are. A few weeks ago, He met me on our playroom floor just when I needed Him most.

Peter was out of town. (I'm sure he was competing in a triathlon, sleeping in a hotel room, getting a full night's sleep, eating in actual restaurants. You know - living the good life.) Brienne was also out of town, visiting her grandparents for a couple weeks, so it was just me and the two little ones. This is usually no big deal. I'm at home by myself every day with Jonah and Vivienne so the fact that Peter and Brienne were out of town wasn't really a huge thing.

This particular weekend I was scheduled to work in the baby room at church. I love holding and loving on those babies, and usually when I'm working, Vivienne is perfectly content to sit beside me and play. But not this time.

After dropping Jonah in his classroom, Vivi and I went to the nursery and almost immediately, she started screaming her little head off. To give her a little credit, her tummy was hurting so she wasn't just screaming for the heck of it. But still, I was unable to put her down. For the entire hour and a half. Needless to say, I wasn't a very big help to the other nursery workers, and frankly, when it was time to leave, I just wanted to get the heck out of there and get my screaming baby home.

So, I went to pick up Jonah from his classroom and, lo and behold, he had the biggest meltdown I've ever seen! It was awful! And the reason for this monumental tantrum, you ask? Instead of Peter, I was the one who came to his class to get him. You see, Peter is ALWAYS the one who gets Jonah from his classroom while I go get both girls from their classes. And Jonah is such a creature of habit that, when he saw me instead of Peter, he screamed and cried, threw himself on the ground, kicking and flailing.

It. Was. Lovely. 

I was wearing Vivienne on my hip in a sling and I tried to grab Jonah with the other hand. But he wasn't having any of that. Finally, one of the ladies who had just worked in the nursery with me (and had listened to Vivi scream for almost 2 hours) took pity on me and helped me carry Jonah to the car. It was embarrassing and I was absolutely mortified.

As soon as I got the babies strapped into their carseats, I got in the van and cried. And I don't mean just a few tears. I mean, ugly-crying, body-wracking, drippy-nose sobbing. I was exhausted and embarrassed and wondered why God was allowing these frustrating circumstances in my life. "I need You to show up and help me," I cried out. "I have nothing left to give. Nothing."

I finally dried it up enough to safely drive us home and get the kids into the house. We went into the playroom and Jonah asked me to read him a book. I looked over and his children's Bible was lying on the floor, open to the loaves and fishes story. As I read this story to my precious little ones, I felt the Lord speak to my spirit. "You're always looking for the big miracles. Look for Me in the small things."

Jesus was able to multiply the young boy's lunch of bread and fish. And He can multiply what little we have, too; all we have to do is offer it. If I have nothing left, I will give that to Him. He can give me what I need; He can use me even when I feel empty. Christ moves in huge ways, of course. But He also moves in small ways every day. We just have to be tuned in to Him.

I need to be intentional in my pursuit of Christ in the everyday mundane activities of life. First, it's important to spend time in His Word and in prayer. And then once the day begins, I need to remind myself that God is in control and nothing surprises Him.

When Jonah yells at me, I can take a breath and silently thank God that Jonah is now able to express himself. For so long, his language skills were delayed, but hearing him speak, even in anger, is something to celebrate.

When Vivienne throws all her food on the floor (again), I can be thankful that she is becoming more independent and less dependent on me for her every need.

When Brienne argues with me over homework assignments, I can thank the Lord for her intelligence and for the Christian education that she is receiving.

When I lose my cool with Peter, I can remind myself that we are doing the best we can as parents and spouses. We are striving to follow Christ and need to extend grace to each other just as the Lord extends grace to us.

Romans 12:12 says this: "Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying." We must have a continuous attitude of prayer each and every moment of each and every day. Only then will we be able to catch glimpses of God at work in the mundane.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Will This Be The Year?

Tomorrow I will officially be the mother of a fifth grader, and Brienne will walk down the school hallway for the first day of her last year as an elementary student.

In my mind, I still see a tiny red-head in her uniform shirt and skirt heading off to kindergarten, fearful of the unknown but excited all the same. Then, through tear-filled eyes, I see her sitting in her first grade classroom just a few weeks after moving to Tennessee. She didn't know a soul, yet she couldn't wait to meet new friends. And now, as I look at her, I see how much she has grown and changed over the years. I am proud of who she is becoming, but at the same time, I yearn for the precious innocence of her younger years.

Will this be the year when her friends replace me as her closest confidante and she stops telling me all of her secrets?

Will this be the year when she stops talking nonstop and asking a million questions a day?

Will this be the year when she stops saying "I love you" six times before she leaves the house each morning?

Will this be the year when she no longer wants to snuggle at bedtime and doesn't want us to tuck her in or check on her during the night?

Will this be the year when our sweet Brienne grows up?

Will I even notice the subtle changes that take place this year? Or, somewhere in the future, will I look back on this time and be astonished at how she has changed?

Some of you may be sending a precious child off to kindergarten this year, and you may be thinking that fifth grade sounds so far away. Trust me - it's not. It's just around the corner.

Others of you may be saying, "Fifth grade is nothing! Wait till your baby is a senior in high school." And I know that moment will be here all too quickly.

But fifth grade is not "nothing." In fact, every milestone is something to celebrate.

Tonight I am praying that Peter and I have given Brienne a good foundation as she ventures into this next phase of growing up. Scripture tells us that we should raise our children in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. But have we taught Brie the things she needs to know? Does she understand the importance of  being a reliable friend? Does she have the wisdom to make smart choices? Can she exercise self-control? Is she secure enough in who she is as a daughter of Christ to stand up for what she believes in? Does she even know the difference between right and wrong in this ever-increasingly-gray world?

I want Brienne to know that she is God's masterpiece. That He has created her as a new person  in Christ Jesus, so that she can do the good things He planned for her long ago. (Eph 2:10) I want her to truly believe that she is a masterpiece. Can she grasp that? How can she, I wonder, if I can't fully grasp it myself.

I want her to remember that God has a good plan for her life. That He loves her and is constantly drawing her near. But will she hear His still, small voice? Or will she miss it amidst the chaos and noise of the world?

As I reflect and pray over all of these things, the Lord gently reminds me that He is in control. He knows the fears that I keep buried deep in my heart. And although we are far from perfect parents, Christ can use our imperfections and turn them into something good.

I am thankful that He holds my children in His hands.

He is with Brienne and will show her His ways.

He delights in her.

Thank you, Jesus.