A Different Way to Pray…

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Did you know that when Paul was beaten, chained, and imprisoned, that his prayer was not necessarily to be released? His prayer was not “Lord, could You get me out of here?”, or “Could you relieve my pain or bring Your wrath against those who did this to me?” His prayer was that the grace of Jesus Christ would fall on everyone. Everyone. That their love would abound. That all hearts would surrender to the one and only Lord Jesus Christ. That all would feel His affection towards them. That eyes and hearts would be opened to Jesus’s love for them. Everyone.

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.  And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:7-11 (NIV)

Paul longed for them. He loved them still. Paul’s eager heart for others convicts me and the type of prayers I’ve been praying lately. If true peace comes from surrendering our hearts and lives to Jesus, shouldn’t that be our prayer? Lord, I really WANT this other stuff, but what I really NEED is to be surrendered to you. And what I really WANT is for those who I love, those who have hurt me, those whom I have hurt, and even those I don’t know to love You too. I can’t make this happen, but I can pray for it. Will you take over my life and do with it as You please? Will you humble me to pray the same for others? Will you invade my loved ones and penetrate their hearts to the point that they can no longer deny Your love for them? That they will feel it just as they are?

Lately my prayers have been revolved around others beliefs versus my own beliefs and finances. Lord, will you forgive me for my attempts to control? I want my prayers to be more like Paul’s. Not for worldly security in whatever form that may be for me. Money, approval, tradition. But, fully surrendered to You. And, for those I pray for to desire the same. That our love for You and each other will abound more and more. That our love for You will be so strong that it changes how we treat each other. That our love will be so strong, that it throws comparison out the window. Irritation and differences out the window. Because when we KNOW that we are fully surrendered to Jesus, that’s all that matters. And, that may look differently for all of us. Let it be, Lord. Let it be.

Jesus taught us how to pray….His example is: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done. On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 (NKJV)

Teach us to pray Your heart, Jesus. To place our Father’s name and kingdom above all else. For our daily necessities, for forgiveness, for a heart to forgive others, for deliverance from our enemy, and God’s Glory forever. For a pure heart before You. I lay it down.

A Few of My Favorite Things…

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I just spent the day at the river and had the best chile relleno ever for dinner. Today was a great day filled with so many of my favorite things that I thought I’d finish it off with another……writing.

These are a few of my favorite things:

  • sunshine
  • thunderstorms
  • clouds
  • bedtime
  • my morning quiet time
  • a good devotional
  • chile rellenos
  • freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
  • vanilla lattes
  • cuddles on the couch
  • my toes in the sand
  • this blog
  • a man who worships
  • a man who prays
  • honest conversation
  • a pedicure
  • belly laughs
  • empathy
  • children laughing
  • praise music

When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply need to remember these things. And, these days. ❤

 

Create in Me….

pure heart

A pure heart is a surrendered heart. A heart that is willing to be honest about its own shortcomings and give praise for its victories. A pure heart relates with the pain of others and shares in their joys. It views others as a fellow child of God. It respects other cultures, races, sexes, humans just as they are. Humans who were born with an inherent need for love and nurturing.

If I could have and keep one thing in this world, it would be a pure heart. A pure heart for God and for others. This is a rich heart. This is a priceless heart. This is a heart that leaves a positive impression and a lasting legacy. Pure heart.

A pure heart is like a child’s heart. A heart that sees the best in people. A heart that is naïve to the competition, jealousy, deception, and hatred of others. A pure heart trusts. A pure heart feels conviction when it’s wrong and sadness when someone is hurting. A pure heart thinks of the other’s heart even in the midst of a disagreement. A pure heart relates. A pure heart cares. A pure heart mourns. A pure heart comforts.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8 (NIV)

A pure heart is beautifully open and transparent. A pure heart is priceless. A brain full of knowledge is not nearly as attractive to me as a heart full of care. A bank account full of money is not nearly as attractive as a heart full of patience and kindness.

Jesus had the purest heart. Pure for His Father. Pure for others. Did He have pain because of it? Yes. His tender heart broke from the separation from His Father and the ridicule and betrayal of those He dearly loved. Although, He suffered tremendous physical pain, the drops of blood he sweat in the garden were from emotional pain. He relates.

The enemy starts early trying to steal and harden our hearts. He wants them dark, dingy, heavy, hard, and cold. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Through circumstances out of our control and by people already hardened, he hopes to change our hearts towards God and others. This is why a pure heart in an adult is such a rare find these days. Because, our circumstances change us. They scare us. They hurt us. They shock us. A pure heart is not a perfect heart, only fully surrendered to and reliant on the Perfect One.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

When we see Him face to face we will be changed. Our minds, bodies, and hearts will be made perfect. Then and only then. But, here on earth, our hearts and minds can be renewed. Our emotions and mentalities can be rewired. Our lives can be reshaped and made fresh and clean. Jesus purifies our hearts.

He still loves us with a pure heart. I want a heart like His….

 

 

This Mama’s Prayer…

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6/4/16

To my Abby,

You have no idea how much this day means to me. I know you’re young. I also know that your decision to be baptized is as clear as it can possibly be at the ripe age of 10 years old.

You’ve told me that today means washing away your sins. That’s true. You’ve also told me that today means that you and Jesus will get closer and closer. That is also true. But, like we’ve also discussed, we need to do our part to continue to foster that relationship.

Just like you, I was baptized while attending the same school you do, in this same church. In this very same baptistery. I also believe I made the decision as clearly as I possibly could at the time. Then, life happened.

I need you to know that you are the reason I got rebaptized. When I held you in my arms and stared at you in your crib, I knew I needed God more than ever in my life. How on earth would I be able to raise you to love, lean on, and honor God if I wasn’t? I knew, in that moment, that I had allowed our relationship to wither. It was you that made me a mom and it was you that brought my heart back to Jesus. For you, I am forever grateful.

I know God never left me, but I went about my life not checking in with Him, not growing with Him, not seeking Him. You, Abby, changed all that for me. The love I have for you opened my heart to God’s unfathomable love for me and put me back on the path of relentless pursuit with my Jesus.

I pray there are many big events I’ll get to witness in your life. Graduations, first cars, jobs, moves, boyfriends, possibly a wedding, and maybe even children of your own. I’m sure I’ll cry at each one. But, one thing I can say about today is that this relationship that you are allowing in your heart and declaring as your own can, will, and should affect them all. This is my prayer as your mom.

I pray that your relationship with God trumps all others. He wants to lead you. My prayer is that you let Him. I pray that each decision you make in your life reflects the one you’re making today. I know how hard that is. And, if one blessed day we do this again, I will be right here crying tears of joy like I am today that you are choosing and walking with the Lord. As a parent now, I realize that there truly is no greater joy…..

This is huge baby girl. For you, for me, and for Jesus. He is here, He loves you, and He will never leave you. I am praising God for this day!

My life changer. My Abby.

Missing Pieces…

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I was raised in the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church. I’m a product of SDA schools. Elementary, high school, and even colleges….I was raised a certain way and no other way.

I’ve struggled. I struggled with the legalism that I felt was an inherent part of our faith. I still do. It hurts my heart like I think it does God’s. The unconditional love and grace of God was missing for me. As my personal relationship with God grows and I get to know Him better, I see how legalism breaks His heart every bit as much as refusal to obey.

Legalism will leave you scratching your head thinking “well if not this, what about that?” “If this isn’t okay, why is that?” It’s a never ending cycle of hypocrisy and confusion.

Keeping the Sabbath growing up wasn’t a heart thing for me, it was required, plain and simple. We had very specific rules that we had to follow that felt like nothing short of ridiculousness to me. They literally did not make sense to me and I knew I couldn’t justify raising my kids that way…So, I don’t. But, they do know about the Sabbath. They know it matters to me. Because I do believe it matters to God. I think it’s a special day set aside by Him, for us.

Seventh-day Adventists get accused of harping on the seventh day Sabbath. In my personal journey, I’ve come to realize that what feels like harping to others, is just them not ignoring it. They recognize it, acknowledge it. Strive to honor all ten commandments, instead of just the nine. This is different from most other churches, so they find themselves having to explain it quite a bit which sounds like harping to those who don’t agree.

They REMEMBER the seventh day to keep it holy just like it says to in the 4th commandment. And, yes, this is different. But, if “Thou shalt not lie” was ignored by most and one denomination decided to take it under their wing, they’d be accused of harping on that. Those “Sabbath keepers” would turn into those “Not liars”. Doesn’t make sense.

Most people don’t argue that the other nine should be honored as the Word of God. But because they do still find it relevant and just as important as the other nine, they strive to keep it as well.

It makes sense to me and although I know I could never do it perfectly, that’s why Jesus came. It’s a heart thing, not an outward actions thing.

“Keeping it” looks different to everyone. There seems to be quite a bit of hostility over this belief because it’s different and challenges how life is set up for most people these days. I understand the challenge. But, what I don’t understand is how it can be dismissed and shrugged off as unimportant so easily and completely. It’s neatly tucked right in the middle of all the other commandments that are collectively agreed upon as important. Why is it left out? Why has it been disregarded?

Will I keep any of the commandments perfectly? No. Have I? No. That’s why Jesus sent His Son to die for us because we are UNABLE to keep God’s law perfectly. He knew we needed a sacrifice. The ultimate sacrifice. This is why we don’t sacrifice animals anymore to atone for our sins. He satisfied that. The perfect Lamb fulfilled the law. He did not abolish the law. Nowhere in the Bible does it say, please keep all the commandments, except the 4th (now that Jesus has died).

What broke Jesus’s heart and caused Him anger was how the Pharisees “kept” it. Looking to accuse Jesus of anything, they got angry when He healed someone on the Sabbath day (Mark 3:1-6). Are you kidding me?? They couldn’t heal anyone on any day of the week! Their hearts were in the wrong place. Jesus lived without sin and died for ours, so that we can be found blameless in the eyes of our Father. In light of this truth, I will still attempt to obey.

If you obey my commandments, you will live in my love. I have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and in that way I live in His love. I have told you this so that you will be as joyful as I am, and your joy will be complete. John 15:10-11 (GW)

True love WANTS to honor. I am fully convinced of the Seventh day Sabbath. I am not fully convinced on how to keep it. I think that’s personal between you and God. What brings you peace and alignment with Him. I do think it’s a special day and a gift, just like all of God’s commands are.

I am aware that Jesus says “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” in Mark 2:27.  He said this when he was, once again, extremely irritated with the Pharisees for calling Him out for picking grain to eat on the Sabbath! Beyond frustrating because their hearts were all wrong. This is how I felt growing up, beyond frustrated. The Sabbath felt like an idol, and sometimes still does. More important than Jesus Himself. I imagined Jesus scratching His head as we followed the rules we were told we had to. Wondering why we focused so much more on that than on Him and His love and sacrifice for us.

God rested on the seventh day of creation, blessed it, and made it holy (Genesis 2:2). He asks us to rest on the seventh day and remember it (Exodus 20:8). Who doesn’t want a rest? A spiritually appointed rest? A divine excuse to stop what you’re doing, reflect on Him, spend time with your loved ones, relax, help and love on others, and trust God to provide. That sounds amazing! Not at all like a burden or an obligation. A requirement that I WANT to sign up for! Like the naps we despised as children and beg for as adults.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’ll happily go to church any day of the week. I love church. I love church service. I love praise music. I love being with other believers who love Jesus. I have no fundamental issue going to church on a Sunday, but because of my own personal conviction, I do have a fundamental reason for remembering the seventh day as special and set aside. I believe it’s mentioned over and over again for a reason. In others churches, I found the love and grace, but the 4th commandment was missing….Something was always missing.

I think God knew this commandment in particular would be forgotten or done away with. I think that’s exactly why He started this particular commandment with “Remember” as opposed to “Thou shalt not”. Do you think it would make a difference? Do you think if He had put “Thou shalt not forget the Sabbath day” like the others that more people would take note? Interesting thought.

Nonetheless, He put “Remember”. So, I will do just that. Humbly attempt to keep His Word and fully rely on His grace in my weakness is all I can do with a love like this.

Something was always missing in the puzzle to me….What’s your missing piece?

If this article leads to anything on your part, I pray it’s to study for yourself. Ask Him for yourself. Follow His leading. What does the Bible say? All of it. New and old testament. Pray about it. Ask God if it matters. In my opinion, if anything matters to God, it should matter to us. If it doesn’t, it shouldn’t.

Christmas Wreath

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This has always been my personal favorite Christmas decoration. It hangs on my laundry room door.

I pull it out in late November and it grows over time. The pictures come in slowly so I wonder if it will actually fill up and it always has, always does. This year there are fewer cards than in years past. I am well aware that that is not at all for lack of love or friends, only a surplus of technology. We all see most of each other’s faces and children on social media these days. So much so, that cards may see pointless. I know they are an added stress this time of year, I didn’t send them out last year in attempts to cut myself some slack.

I appreciate them, I know the sacrifice, the struggle for the right picture, the hassle of accumulating addresses, the foreign trip to the post office for stamps, the mad rush of the Christmas to-do list. I know this all very well. But, still, it’s my favorite decoration. I’m admiring it this morning and cherishing it. I know each year in this technology age it will get sparser and sparser. But, I’ll continue to put it up each November, watch, and wait.

My Christmas wreath may not grow over the years anymore, but I am thankful. I am thankful for the friends that do. I think of you all. I pray for you all. I love you. From my heart to yours…

Dating?!?!

beauty from ashes

I’ve never been a good dater. And, I’ve never been interested in “playing the field”. My “dating” past before marriage consisted of about 4 long term boyfriends. I must be more of a relationship person than a dater because dating does not come naturally to me whatsoever.

Nonetheless, it’s been three years since my divorce and  I do have the desire to remarry one day, so dating has to happen, right? Once again, God tells me to trust that He is working and that He will teach me along the way.

One thing I’ve learned through my dating experiences is that I’d rather hear crickets than be with the wrong guy after what I’ve been through. Maybe one day I’ll expound on this story, but in short, I’ll just add that I never knew the extent of what human beings are capable of until I went through my divorce and started dating again. It has literally pried my eyes open. Which was shocking, scary, and painful, but God knew I needed to know.

Dating is tough personally for multiple reasons. I’m a mom and I work full time, therefore I have limited free time. I want to be an example to my girls. I want to protect my girls. I want to honor God. I want to grow together in a healthy way. I don’t want to get hurt…..who does?  I don’t want to hurt others. I also don’t want to settle for anything less than real love. The counterfeit comes off pretty perfect at times. And, I have been fooled before, hook, line and sinker.

Because of all this, I pray for discernment and God’s will every single day. I ask Him to expose and remove the deceptions and distractions. I ask Him to cover me in His grace and wisdom and help me to enjoy the process, which is so difficult for me. I ask Him to help me!

Another thing I’ve learned is that the perfect man for us will not be perfect, and I can’t expect him to be because I’m not. He’ll have flaws, struggles, and baggage just like I do. But, we will be able to share these struggles with each other because……he’ll be a communicator.

We’ll connect. He’ll be a listener. He’ll make me laugh and smile. He’ll be strong enough to handle my sadness and fear when it flares up because…..he’ll be my friend.

He’ll love me in spite of my insecurities and my past. He’ll hold me just because he wants to. He’ll encourage my passions and love my love for Jesus. He won’t push me, he’ll relax me. He won’t rush me, but walk alongside me. He’ll know that love is sacrificial. He’ll pursue me. He’ll understand me and appreciate my personal weirdness.

He’ll pray for me. He’ll be proud of me and my story. He’ll love the Lord and want to follow Him all the days of his life. He’ll love us so gently and consistently that trust and peace will follow.

This may sound like a lot of pressure to put on a man, but I yearn to do the same things for him. To love him well and to love him anyway.

Blending two people and two families isn’t easy and I don’t expect it to be. But, I also believe that with the right partner, it can be beneficial and beautiful. And that’s what God specializes in: Beauty from ashes.

Hashing Out the Holidays

holidays

After living through it as a child and as an adult, I have no doubt why God hates divorce. And, it becomes all the more evident over the holidays when sentimentality and family time is planned around, planned for, and deemed most precious. That being said, I also know God hates abuse and infidelity. God hates selfishness and pride. And, because of these traits, divorce is imminent in this fallen world.

Hashing out the holidays with my ex is always painful. Who wants to share kids on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, or Christmas morning? No one!

Being a child of divorce, I’m well aware of the scheduling that goes into seeing everyone. We have multiple homes to visit and presents to open, along with mass quantities of food to consume. All blessings! I’m the type who wants to be everywhere with everyone I love….all the time. But, the schedule can get tight at times. And, we still want to make time for the personal Christmas with our spouse and kids. That’s hard enough married, but throw my own divorce in the mix and I just can’t do it. Well I can, but not with my kids. It’s painful and, no doubt, the hardest time of the year for most divorced parents. We want to celebrate the season, but without our children, there is a fog that’s hard to lift. There is definitely something (someone) missing.

Thank God for family to celebrate with. Thank God for children to buy for. Thank God for a family who understands my situation. Thank God for places to be. Help me, Lord, with patience and the aching heart that comes along with absent children at each and every event where I crave their presence. So much more than their presents.

This year, I want to focus more on the time we get together than the time we have to be apart. And how thankful I am that they are loved at both homes. I’d rather forego family traditions on my end than stubbornly fight to uphold them if all it causes is chaos and stress. We’ll make new ones. New ones full of peace, love, and sacrifice. And, I’ll also stand by the fact that it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

I will once again grieve the old and embrace the new. I will choose peace. Isn’t that why Jesus came as a baby anyway? Peace. I choose to lay it down and let it go…

If this post leaves you with anything, I hope it emphasizes the importance of presence over presents. When you are loved and not present, you are gravely missed. Once again, looking forward to the day we can all be together…..all the time. Happy, healthy, and whole.

A Time for Everything…

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I woke up with a beautiful breakthrough from God this morning. There is a time for everything under heaven. There is a time to struggle and a time rest. A time to share and a time to keep. A time to give and a time to receive. A time to sleep and a time to wake. There is a time for change and a time to accept our humanness. A time to teach and a time to learn. A time to seek approval and a time to act. A time to hold on and a time to let go. A time for spiritual warfare and a time to just be held in God’s arms of grace. A time for strength and a time for weakness. His grace is sufficient.

Jesus died for us because He knew we couldn’t live a perfect life like He did. He knew our limitations. He knows every struggle and temptation we face, and knew we would fall short. We all fall short. He died to cover us. His love is enough. His love allows us to admit failure, weakness, and imperfection. We are all saved by the grace of God alone. We have never been nor will ever be perfect, only perfectly loved. In our struggle to be obedient, we can lose sight of His grace and why He died for us to begin with.

When I find myself struggling with imperfection and worry, I need to remember this. I am perfectly loved by my Heavenly Father exactly as I am today, tomorrow, and I always have been. Weaknesses and all.

This morning I have a smile on my face and peace in my heart because of His sacrifice, not my own. Not because of what I’ve done or will do, but because of what He’s already done for me. Because He knows my struggles, desires, and needs even more than I do. Because I’m loved no matter what. This is not my war to win. He’s already won it.

There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance with joy. There is a time to throw weapons down and a time to pick them up. There is a time to hug someone and a time to stop holding so tightly. There is a time to look for something and a time to consider it lost. There is a time to keep things and a time to throw things away. There is a time to tear cloth and a time to sew it. There is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time to love and a time to hate. There is a time for war and a time for peace. Ecclesiastes 3:4-8 (ERV)

Amidst all our seasons in life, it is ALWAYS a good time to rest in God’s love and grace. We can’t earn it, only receive and be thankful for it. Thank God for such a time as this….

Far From Perfect…

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I’m far from perfect, but I am forgiven and deeply loved.

Being a mom reminds me of this when my kids get in trouble. My oldest daughter got in trouble last week and is grounded this weekend because of it. Downside of having a grounded kid and being a single mom, other than the obvious disappointment in her behavior, is that all our plans were cancelled. This weekend we are all kind of grounded. Upside is that now all our closets are organized!

Her dad and I discussed her punishment with each other and with her. We are standing firm and united in dealing with this situation and taking it seriously. Which is good….and hard! Even though discipline doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work on it and remain firm because her behavior made me very sad. The nurturing part of parenting comes a lot easier to me. Regardless, this needs to be addressed and followed through with. And we are…

When our kids get in trouble it reminds me of how much God loves us regardless of our behavior. He forgives us and loves us no matter what, but there are still consequences for our choices. Our God is a God of so much grace and love that He does discipline us. His discipline is why so many turn away, but it is because He loves us that He does so. A parent who disciplines their child, loves their child and wants them to learn from it. Discipline isn’t easy! Parenting isn’t easy! It’s hard on us all. But, worth it. Just like God’s discipline. He disciplines us because He loves us enough to. And wants to teach us through it.

My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. Proverbs 3:11-12 (NLT)

Being a parent opens our eyes to many acts of love. Providing, comforting, teaching, nurturing, playing, laughing, listening, forgiving, reminding, transporting, helping, clothing, feeding, AND disciplining are all ways we show love to our children. As does God, only better. He is the perfect Parent. And, because He is perfect and I am far from it, I am forever thankful that He is helping me raise my girls. I need Him every day.

Just like my love hasn’t changed for my daughter because of what she did, His love never wavers for us. He loves us before, after, and during our mess ups. Our behavior doesn’t dictate God’s love for us. His love changes our behavior. When we KNOW He loves us, we don’t want to hurt Him. The more we know Him, the more we are aware of what hurts His heart. We don’t like to hurt those who love us and He loves us the most. This is what changes our behavior. His forgiveness. His grace. His love.