What About Them?

In Matthew 23, Jesus warns the Pharisees about focusing on rules over the love and mercy of God. How do we treat people? When you reach out in compassion towards someone, anyone…we are treating them as Jesus would. One of my dear friends just hugged and hugged me last night, until the tears flowed….In that moment, she was the arms of Jesus to me.

This post is about how we treat people. How did Jesus treat people? Back then, probably everyone came to church (synagogue) in sandals. But, these days when someone walks into church in  flip flops or torn jeans, how do you feel? Their clothes, hairstyle, or jewelry may displease your eyes, but how’s your heart? Are you glad they’re there? Jesus is. On the flipside, if someone is wearing a suit, do you immediately assume they are looking down on you for not?

What if they smell like smoke? What if they are ashamed? Embarrassed? Guilty? Hurt? Can we be the hands and feet of Jesus? Can we not only make room on our faithful pew, but smile and welcome them? Because, guess what, we all are. They have come to the right place, not the wrong one.

It hurts my heart so badly when I hear the stories of church people against church people or just as much church people against other church people. We are all people. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), so it’s been like this for ages and it will continue to. But, I’d still like to point out that although we will never be Jesus, we can ask Him for help to love and view others as He does.

As a married woman and a single mom, I’ve walked into church countless times alone. I look for friends, but I still usually sit alone, sometimes I slip out the back early. I come for Jesus and fellowship with loving, accepting, warm believers, but I leave before I get it for fear that I won’t. As have many. And some never return because of it…

I’ve been seen with a few different guys at church over the past few years. I’ll be honest, it’s hard and embarrassing. When you’re married and alone, people wonder where your spouse is. When you’re single, they wonder why, when you’re with someone new, they wonder who, why, and how long. And, truth of the matter, even if people aren’t thinking this, we think they are. This is just a personal example. There are so many other concerns that people walk into church with, are self conscious about, or feel different because of. Think about the courage it takes…

This happens everywhere people are because we are just that….people. All churches, at family reunions, in the grocery store, on the highway, at our workplace, on social media, at Christmas dinner….It’s the way Christians (enter your denomination here) treat other people (especially other Christians (enter your denomination here) that turn people away. As much as this hurts my heart, I cannot imagine how much it hurts God’s.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-45 (ESV)

When we wonder whether or not to reach out, I think we need to remember and focus on how far God reached for us. With arms stretched as far as He possibly could, nailed to that wooden cross, Jesus reached, stretched, gasped, and died for me. Maybe someone else needs this reminder today.

He didn’t just do this for me, He did it for all of you. Everyone. So, my desire is to treat people in this way. All people. Like a person He died for, because He did. Regardless of what your scared to share or who you voted for, whether you’ve served time or should, whether you live on a golf course or in your back seat…Regardless of how you eat, keep the Sabbath, or dress. Regardless of what church you attend or school your kids go to.

May we love like Jesus does. When I die, this is the legacy I would most like to leave.

I pray forgiveness for when I’ve failed, I know that I have. Where does our help come from? Our help comes from the Lord. (Psalm 121:2)

 

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In Your Heart

It’s not in your day job or side gig. Your credentials or diplomas. It’s not in your trophies or alma maters. It’s not in your bank account or retirement account. It’s not in your likes or followers. It’s not in the concerts you attend or the books that you read. It’s not in the movies that you watch or the instruments that you play. It’s not in the spouse that you have or the child that you raise. It’s not in the school you attend or choir you join. It’s not in your social status or relationship status. It’s not in the car you drive or the boat you own…

It’s not in your parents choices or your grandparents wishes. It’s not in your past heartaches or future concerns.  It’s not in your mistakes, accomplishments, regrets, or failures. It’s not in your report cards or paychecks.

It’s in your heart.

The decision each one of us makes day after day as to whom we will serve, lean on, and trust is our own. Your spouse can’t make it. Your parents can’t make it. They may try, but they can’t. As a parent myself now, this is terrifying, but I turn this over. Over and over. My kids will make their own choices. As will I. As will you.

To love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, and soul may look different to people. It may lead to choices others may not make. He gives us different gifts, passions, and paths. When we ask Him to lead, our lives may take directions we’d never choose on our own. But, the beauty before us is a life lived trusting Him. Let God be your guide.

We find Him in our trials, we help others with what we’ve learned, and we choose Him day after day. In the ups and the downs, we have faith He is with us. And, it’s in THIS faith, that our strength is found. Our callings may be every bit as different as the circumstances we face. But, pointing to the same God, brings us together in one accord.

Brothers and sisters. Hearts to hearts. Trials to trials. Victories to victories. Peace and strength abounds. In one name. The name of Jesus.

 

When Following Him Looks Different…

Over the years, I’ve heard so many heartbreaking stories of people who were shunned for their marriage issues, the smell of smoke, food choices, Sabbath activities, church attire, accidents, and cover-ups never to return again. From a church, a Bible study, a family get together, a school. Feeling unloved, judged, unacceptable, rejected….the polar opposite of how Jesus would have treated them.

Here are a few questions that come to mind…How do you love your neighbor? What about the one who believes differently than you? Do you believe Jesus died for them? Do you believe your rules will save you? Do you believe Jesus wants you both? Do you think your actions or lack thereof will save you? Are you leaning into Jesus and His love for others?

In our church, when we hear the word “obedience” we (I) tend to immediately think of the Sabbath. Like anyone who is not honoring the seventh day Sabbath is being disobedient to God. What if they find Jesus elsewhere? What about judging that person? Isn’t that disobedient? What if God is calling you to forgive and you just refuse? What if you covet someone’s marriage or singleness? Or He’s calling you to love your enemies and you just can’t go there…Isn’t that disobedient? We ALL fall short (Romans 3:23), and there’s no shortage of ways to do it.

Just like we may judge someone by the color of their skin, clothes, neighborhood, food choices, jewelry, or even hairstyle, we judge by the church they attend. I met the love of Jesus outside of my home church and have returned to share what I learned from those who do not go there. Praise His name, since I’ve returned, I’ve found more and more people hungry for this love.

We all need more Jesus.

I love the Sabbath, I came back for it. But, do we worship the Sabbath or do we worship Him? As humans, we tend to worship creations over the Creator. We want something tangible to hang on to. Like our children, marriages, friends, careers, accomplishments, even doctrine. Anything to feel like we’ve got what we need. I have been guilty of this for sure. What we need most is Jesus. The rest are gifts given BY Him to raise, enjoy, love, and study, but not to exalt higher than their Creator.

Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath day was made for man. Man was not made for the Sabbath day. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” Mark 2:27-28 (NIRV)

I feel like if He was sitting in my living room, He would say “following Me doesn’t mean doing things the way they’ve always been done, just because”. There are so many Adventists who worship the day that sets us apart over the One who died to do so. I think this hurts His heart. I can also hear Him saying, “I don’t want you worshipping the day I made any more than the animals I made. Worship the One who made them.” When Jesus comes first, how we treat and love others (all others) is evident. I mean, how would Jesus treat that particular person?

Would you flat refuse to set foot in church on a Sunday to worship our God in heaven with others? If so, what does that mean? Who are YOU worshipping? Do you think Jesus would be more likely to flip tables over in a church of people worshipping on the “wrong day” or people worshipping the day over Him? He knows our hearts and why we do what we do. Think about how public worship is an honor and a privilege that many in this world aren’t allowed to do on ANY day…

On my death bed, as much as I hope my girls are ingrained with a reverence and knowledge of the Sabbath, my ultimate goal is that they find and cling to Jesus for themselves. No matter how, why, or where they find Him, my deepest desire is that they do. God works in mysterious ways. His thoughts and ways are not ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). He is bigger.

May they sense the joy, freedom, and strength in Christ over the shame, fear, and insecurity of ANY religion that lacks unconditional love. Because, God IS love. In the last days, God will call His people out. Leave conviction to the One they have a relationship with. If that relationship is solid, they will hear His voice.

John 10:27-30 says  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.The Father and I are one.”

I claim this! I pray personal relationship into my girls’ lives, that is my deepest desire, because when that’s in place, they WILL hear His voice and no one can snatch them from His hand. No one. Nothing.

Search my heart, Lord. Correct me where I’m wrong and may my heart be and stay ever closer to You.

 

Disclaimer

Since this is a public blog, I feel a disclaimer is warranted. A few things I want out there. Regardless of whether they are believed or not, this is my heart behind a few things.

  • I write because God asked me to share my heart
  • I have to be and get okay with being misunderstood
  • I also need to be aware and okay with the fact that not everyone likes me, knows me, or approves of what I do
  • I write to help girls with decisions before they marry, work on their marriages, and to share the struggles of divorce and sharing kids.
  • I write to let other women know they are not alone
  • I write to share the love of Jesus
  • My ex husband is a great dad
  • I’ve grown to love their stepmom and at this point wouldn’t want anyone else in her place. She loves the girls, what else could I ask for?
  • I am beyond thankful that our girls have two sets of parents who love them enough to want them all the time. Praise God for that!
  • I share struggles associated with co-parenting to highlight the grace of God, encourage others to work on their marriages, and to be aware of what they will face if it falls apart.
  • Some marriages need to fall apart
  • I have made many mistakes in marriage and mothering too. I admit to each and every one and ask forgiveness
  • The thoughts expressed in this blog are my own. You are 100% entitled to your own and welcome to share as well
  • There are absolutely two sides to every story, I can only share my own. I only know my own
  • My intent is never to hurt anyone, but to extend grace to those who have hurt me and I can only pray for the same for those I have hurt
  • My purpose for this blog is an eternal one. To point to Jesus, to share how He alone shares in our struggles and loves each one of us with an incomprehensible love regardless of our failures, mess-ups, and weaknesses….and we all have them. I am no different.

I Hope You Dance….

This is how Mama dances…

Co-parenting is hard. When both parents want the kids all the time. When both parents want to be involved and at every milestone. Switching weekends and sharing holidays, scheduling trips, and forgetting clothes. When one parent doesn’t like the school choice of a parent or the new relationship of the other. When both parents want their kids in different activities. When both parents have different priorities and dreams for their children. When they attend different churches or one stops going altogether. When both parents care deeply for the kids but one couldn’t care less about the other parents feelings. When both parents….tug of war.

Parenting is hard enough….

My girls dad and stepmom have a more flexible work schedule than I do. Girls asked, so they signed them up for dance lessons. Not just dance class, but multiple classes, even elite companies and competitions. Lots of money and lots of time go into this.  A lot of “my time” with the girls is affected by their dance schedules now. But, theirs is too. Lord, help me. They pay for it and they make sure they get there (since I’m working when most of the classes start).

I can’t help but feel out of the loop, it’s more their thing than our thing. For me to nix it altogether just because I could or because I want them in different activities doesn’t seem fair either. Girls would wonder why?? So, I do my best to support, but it’s hard and it hurts.

Their dance schedules have taken over our lives. Four nights a week and weekends. It just feels like too much. I don’t like it when they miss church for it, I don’t like it when they miss school functions for it, and I don’t like that they aren’t on school teams because of it.

Once again, I feel held hostage by what he wants to do. I also feel like they’re missing out on other things and overextended. But, then I go and I watch them dance. I see the passion in my oldest’s eyes when she does. I see the improvement, confidence, posture, and elegance. She prays about dance. She wants to go to class, she wants to succeed, she wants to keep dancing. How could I deny that? So, I will say “thank you”. Thank you that they even have the opportunity. Because if it were just me, they wouldn’t. This isn’t easy, ya’ll.

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure co-parenting lately. It’s stressful. Honestly, I have felt more pushed around than primary custodian because of all this. I feel like if this were my idea, I would get an earth shattering “No” from him. But, because it’s his or hers, it’s expected for me to go along with it. I’m not telling them what’s happening, they are telling me. None of this is easy.

I’m sure many of my issues with dance go back to my childhood. Dance was a “no no” growing up, in all forms. Of course, I wanted to. I think about how I have always loved to dance with a pure heart. I think about how beautiful a first dance is and how sweet a father/daughter dance would have been. I also think about how David danced before the Lord. I think about the athleticism involved, the artistry, creativity, and the outlet for expressing emotion. I think about the good things…but still worry about so much.

Once again, I struggle with what people will think and which battles to pick. But, Jesus says, “Look at Me”. In all things, all these hard and new things, I will look to Him and ask Him to calm my anxious mind and thoughts and trust that He is working. I think I will look back one day and say “Thank the Lord they danced.” May they never feel the shame associated with it that I did.

I pray for protection for my babies, their dreams, and their hearts for Him. That they flourish and that they dance to His glory. Meanwhile, I will go to every competition, recital, and performance I possibly can. The alternative would be to miss out on something they’ve grown to love, are talented at, and have a heart for. I thank God for their health and legs that can leap and plié and point. I pray that His will be done in their lives and that His grace abounds in mine. Because, I need it. Lots of it.

He knows my heart. He alone knows and holds theirs….

To my girls, I’d like to finish this by sharing a song that has always brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat, because it’s beautiful and true. I mean this from the bottom of my heart…. Whether it’s writing, drawing, singing, playing, going on that adventure, staying close to home, or twirling in your tutu….I hope in whatever form it comes, when you get the chance to sit it out or dance….please dance.

“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance….” — Lee Ann Womack

When All Else Fails….

When the phone call is not returned. When you’ve reached out multiple times. When your plans fail. Whatever it may be. When you’ve done all that you can do…

We blame ourselves, take criticism to heart, seek to please the unappeasable, wear ourselves thin, burn candles at all ends, over plan, over apologize, overwhelm, and over think. We fear rejection and seek comfort. We wonder why we’re left out and then isolate because of it. We filter our words for fear of abandonment. We worry about the future and squirm over the past.

Can we seek God’s love in the midst? Can we share openly when each one of these come to knock on the door of our hearts and ask Him to answer it? Can we ask Him to usher it out when, even thought we hate to, we swing the door wide open. In our humanness and struggles is where we discover and swim in God’s grace the best.

Maybe it’s not a habit that holds you captive, but a deep sadness. A relentless fear. An insatiable need for control or perfection. An insecurity from childhood. A difficult parent or the loss of a child. A regret. Maybe it’s not what you’ve done, but what you’re scared you may do. Let God in and share. Let THIS be the gateway for relationship. Let THIS be where your intimacy grows with your personal Savior. Let THIS hard painful thorn usher in the beauty of Jesus. Not my Jesus, but yours.

And each time it rears its ugly head, claim His precious Name. He died for this. He died for you. And He died to bring you an eternity of peace from it soon and very soon. Let THIS keep you homesick for heaven. Let THIS be used to the glory of God in your life. Let THIS be what brings you closer than you’ve ever been to the One who made you, claims you, and redeemed you.

If THIS is what brings you to your knees (emotionally, physically, mentally), let it be in front of the cross. Because THIS is why He did what He did…for you.

Because when all else fails…Love never will. (1 Corinthians 13:8)

Faith of a Child…

Last night I was feeling crummy, really all day. I worked all day, picked up my girls and let them know early on that dinner would be easy and I needed to go to bed early. Allergies, exhaustion, pre-flu, I wasn’t sure, I just knew I wasn’t myself.

They were helpful and understanding. It was the second time that I can ever remember going to bed before them. They are 11 and 6 and I left them on the couch, blew a kiss, closed my door and went to sleep. Having no idea if they would sleep there all night, brush their teeth, change their clothes, anything. I decided they would survive, no matter what, and crashed.

I woke up at 5am feeling much better and stumbled out to the living room to see what the sleeping arrangements ended up being. I found neither one on the couch, but both of them asleep in my oldest’s bed, PJs on, sound asleep, their heads at opposite ends of the bed. Warmed my heart so…

When they woke, I shared how much better I was feeling, completely unsurprised and unphased, my oldest said “Well, we prayed for you, so….” Like there was no other option except for Mom to feel better this morning. Thank you, Lord, for her faith and Your answer to that prayer. We all know it could have gone either way and does often.

Not only did they change their clothes, they brushed their teeth (I could tell by the leftover toothpaste in the sink), she said they also read a book and prayed before bed. Like I always do with them. With me completely dead to the world, my girls connected and shared their typical bedtime routine. And prayed for Mama! All the feels this morning…Lord, I thank you.

Sometimes His answer is “Yes”, sometimes it is “No”. Sometimes it’s “Not Yet”, but He is always faithful. He loves us and hears us. Garth Brooks has a song that says “Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers” when he runs into an ex girlfriend after years with his current wife. Truth is, God answered that prayer. His answer was “No”. A no from a loving God is a blessing that we can only see in hindsight and may never understand this side of heaven. Most of our prayers that receive a “No” feel like rejection at the time. But, lean on the truth that God loves you. Lean towards Him rather than away and trust His answers in your life.

Seeing how my girls took care of themselves and each other last night made me proud. Hearing they prayed for me last night was humbling. Seeing and feeling it answered encourages my faith. Thank you, Lord, for Your faithfulness! And for my precious girls that prayed for me without me last night, together. ❤