Help Me Walk….

We are studying the armor of God in our women’s Bible study this fall. Each piece of armor correlates with protective and offensive maneuvers we can use against our enemy. We all have One Savior and we all have one enemy who likes to disguise himself and his ways as the angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He entices us and ultimately deceives us. That’s his thing, his m.o.

This week we’ve been learning about the shoes of peace…For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. Ephesians 6:15 (NLT)

When I think of peace personally, I tend to think of rest, calmness, stillness, less movement. While this is true and ever so necessary in this chaotic world we live in, peace is also what it takes for us to move forward. We need the peace of God to take chances, to share, to reach out, to move forward, to take that step, to ask that person, to try something new, to try again, to walk out our callings.

We need the assurance and peace that He IS with us (this is the Good News/Gospel of peace) to rest physically and mentally, but we also need it to walk forward after disappointments, in the midst of fear, and resistance.

The roman soldiers back in Paul’s day had stakes in the bottom of their sandals that helped them to walk on uneasy terrain. Muddy, mountainous, rocky, wet, these stakes helped them move forward.

Just like it takes strength to step out, peace is also required. The peace that God is with us allows us to jump in. The peace that, successful or not, we have asked God to lead in our endeavors and He has promised to never leave us high and dry. Even if that person says “No”, even if that business or relationship tanks, even if that idea was not welcomed, even if the one person you’re hoping responds, grabs on, or validates you, never does, God is with you. And, He is proud of the faith you put in Him.

So, let’s walk. Let’s ask God for His peace to do so. When you feel stuck in the mud or see no way across that raging river, remember the shoes of peace described in the armor that God has provided us with. Ask Him for these shoes of peace. These aren’t high heels, these aren’t platforms, or flip flops, these are the shoes we need to climb rocky terrain, to walk through the mud and the muck, these are the shoes that will get us there…with HIM. In Christ alone….

 

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Peace, Be Still.

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In the midst of the storm……Jesus was in the back, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him up. They said, “Teacher! Don’t you care if we drown?” He got up and ordered the wind to stop. He said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down. And it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you have any faith at all yet?” They were terrified. They asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:38-41 (NIRV)

Do you ever wonder why He was sleeping? Me too. Didn’t He know they were scared? Why didn’t He come to their rescue before they cried out? I’d be frustrated too! Jesus, You KNEW! Yet, You slept……until I woke You. As a human, He slept. As our Savior, He never does. He slept in peace. He woke in peace. He calmed in peace. He spoke peace. He IS Peace.

I have no idea how many times Jesus has come to my rescue before I even knew I needed Him to, but I have no doubt that He has. I have also cried out to Him many times wondering why He won’t come or “wake up” (like I want Him to). Now, I trust He hears me each time I cry out, but His answer will come when and how He says it will.

In financial storms, can He calm? In relational storms, can He calm? When a friendship falls apart, can He calm? Yes. He is our calm before, during, and after the storm. Cry out and trust that He hears. That is faith. Only through Jesus can we sense peace in the midst of a storm…..and maybe even get some sleep like Jesus did.

Let’s remember that in His humanness, He may have slept, but in our humanness we may not. Let the sleepless nights and anxious days be a powerful and prayerful reunion with Him. May His Presence alone bring you the peace you crave. He is mighty. He is personal. He is with you.

Sweet Smell of Rain

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My oldest daughter just started taking Bible studies at school with a few of her classmates. On our way  to school one rainy morning, we were discussing what she was learning and why. She shared a few verses and we talked about why it’s so important to know the Word of God. This led to a conversation about how God and the devil both speak to us and how it takes scriptural knowledge to be able to tell the difference. If we don’t know and cherish God’s Word in our hearts, we will very likely listen and live by the lies satan persistently and repetitively speaks to us. We need to know God’s truth to distinguish His voice.

As we were discussing this, my youngest daughter pipes in with “Mommy, Jesus is like the rain on our windshield and satan is like the wipers trying to wipe it away.” Brilliant! She’s four years old and gets it clear as a bell. I was so blessed by her words. She recognizes that Satan’s big plan is to wipe Jesus and His love for us off the map of our minds and hearts. Truly out of the mouths of babes. Oh, to have the faith and understanding of a loving, receptive, trusting child.

Satan can “wipe” as much as he wants, as fast as he wants, but he can’t stop the Rain. He wipes by telling us we’re not loved enough or good enough. He wipes with condemnation and guilt. He wipes by convincing us that what we did was unforgiveable or that we’ll never get it right, so what’s the use in trying? He wipes by distracting and enticing us to look elsewhere for comfort and popularity. He wipes by validating our revenge on those who have hurt us. He wipes by getting us to compare and compete with each causing jealousy and mayhem. He wipes.

Jesus rains. He rains down love and speaks to us through His Word. His Word is always there like a beacon in the fog. Look, listen, and feel. If we don’t read and learn, we won’t know who we’re hearing. In my personal experience, the devil speaks louder, so it’s taken a lot of prayer and seeking to hear God’s voice. So, I pray to hear Him. I read to hear Him. I strain to hear Him. He’s all I want to hear.

Leaning on Jesus for our past, present, future is the only way to get it “right”. Only through Him and by Him can we get “right” with our Father in Heaven. As much chaos and pain as Satan causes in our lives by trying to “wipe” Him away, Jesus’s love overcomes. He loves us and the devil hates it, therefore he wipes…..incessantly. It’s all he can do.

So, let him “wipe”. Let him discourage. Let him confuse and berate. Jesus brings clarity, love, peace, victory.

Let’s consider the blessing that rain is to us and how badly we need it when our ground is parched. Let’s consider the oceans and lakes we enjoy the sites and experiences of so much. Let’s consider the sweet smell of rain on a hot summer day. Let’s consider the powerlessness we feel when our plans are rained out or made better because of it. Rain comes when the rains come. There’s nothing we can say or do to predict when it will come or how long it will stay. No amount of disappointment will change the rain. Let us also consider a childlike faith and innocence when it rains and dance in it like children do. Thank you, Lord, for the rain. You do truly reign.

I say: “You keep wiping Satan, all that will accomplish is very tired arms on your part, because you can’t stop the Rain (Love of Jesus for me).”

Because….

 I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 (NLT)

 

Twisted

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Don’t get it twisted. Each one of us are here because of sexual intercourse. As much as we may not like thinking about our parents in that way, it’s the truth. God designed each of us (the apples of His eyes, the ones He died for) to develop and be brought into this world through the act of sex. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalms 139:13 (NIV)

We forget that it is a Godly design, a gift. Not only for procreation, but for pleasure. God is not a prude, sex was His idea.

The enemy twists our sexuality in different ways. One way is to make us think it’s okay whenever we feel like it with whomever also happens to feel like it at the time. Two consenting adults with a physical need that needs quenched. This cheapens it. It may feel good in the moment, but that is not His design. We really do give a part of ourselves away each and every time. The more you give it away, the less it will mean to you. And, that’s just sad. Sex is not just a natural act, there is much more to it. Why else would infidelity hurt so much? Why else do we withhold when we are upset or hurt? Sex matters. You matter.

Another way it gets twisted is we think we need to have sex in order to feel loved or show love. This can definitely help in marriage, but outside marriage, we run the risk of falling for someone who’s just dating us for physical pleasure with no intention of permanency. This one’s very tricky, because we think we need to have sex in order for love to grow. We wonder if a man can really fall in love, or if we can, without it. When you’re used to it as part of a relationship, it’s very difficult to imagine one without it. You wonder how on earth a bond can develop and grow without this aspect, but God can and will send someone who agrees with this viewpoint if you have it. Pray for that.

As far as what’s okay and what’s not, communication and peace are key. Talk about it. Yes, it’s a hard conversation to have. But, if you have this conviction, ignoring or denying it will not lead to peace. Share what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not. This should be respected by both parties. It either works for them or it doesn’t. This is why it’s so helpful to date someone with similar convictions so you don’t always have to be the “strong one”. It’s already agreed upon. Set your boundaries and follow your peace. If you mess up, talk about it and regroup. Pray some more and show yourself and each other grace.

Another way the enemy twists our sexuality is with shame. He wants us to think that we’ve messed up too many times, are used goods, and/or our desires are bad. Nope, like I said, we are the apple of His eyes. “Whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” Zechariah 2:8b (GW) The (NLT) version says “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession.”

He made us sexual human beings. Our sexual desires are not from the enemy, they are from God. He made us to desire it and enjoy it….at the right time, with the person we love and who loves us, for a lifetime. I wouldn’t want my daughters to think their desires are wrong or shameful. They need to be addressed and brought to the light as normal, healthy, and God given. It tends to get watered down too much or used as a personal shame sledge hammer in our minds by the enemy. He wants us to stay twisted, suffer, and question in silence. I share because I’ve been personally twisted.

Let’s iron it out and bring it to the light. God is good. The enemy is not. Sex is good. The enemy is not. God loves us. The enemy does not. Don’t let complacency or condemnation keep you twisted.

How Will You Know??

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When the relationship feels comfortable. When there is peace. When I feel confirmation from the Holy Spirit that I can believe the words that come out of his mouth. I have been sweet talked and pursued before, but this time it will be different.

We’ll have similar beliefs. Similar passions for honoring and seeking God in our present and our futures. He’ll understand my pain because he will have lived through his own. He’ll be tender and understanding. He’ll love my smile, understand my tears, and appreciate my heart. He’ll look for hobbies we can enjoy together. He’ll want to know and love my kids.

He’ll be intentional, but not pushy. He’ll encourage me to follow my peace and convictions. We’ll study and worship together.

He’ll be clear about his plans and want me in them. He’ll be generous with his time, money, and attention. He’ll be a giver.

He’ll have nothing to hide from me. We’ll both be open books. We’ll share our struggles and lessons learned. Our friendship will be our foundation. Oh, how sweet that will be.

I’ve shared before that I’m not a fan of dating. It’s so hard, especially with kids watching. But, this relationship? I’ll be a fan. And, it will be fun.

I trust that God is leading and, if it ends, I will still know that He is leading and be proud of the courage it takes to put my true self out there…

 

 

Master Plan

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Don’t we all have a master plan?? A plan for our career, an age we’d like to be married or remarried by, a plan of when and how to raise kids, a plan for the perfect wedding or perfect vacation? The perfect Christmas card, birthday party, or neighborhood to live in? One thing I’ve clearly noticed is that our master plan may have nothing to do with the Master’s plan for our lives.

Our plans feel very similar to a “some assembly required” list of instructions that can drive us crazy. We start out with great intentions and expectations and then end up inevitably missing a part, can’t make sense of the verbiage, or lack the skills to build it at all, much less easily. I’m in awe of people who can whip out the instructions and build a dollhouse or easy bake oven from scratch, no biggie. They make it look so simple! That’s, not me.

One of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes is: “You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.”

To untangle or not, that is the question. I’m not typically much of an untangler. I’d rather someone untangle them for me or just buy new ones. But, I’m learning that wisdom is determining whether it’s worth putting the time and effort in to untangle the lights you already have or let them go and start new. I think both are wise depending on the circumstance. I’m also finding that if God is at the center, it makes sense to put the work in.

Untangling may make you appreciate the final product more while buying new feels exciting and easier, but can also be scary. With new, you never know what you’re gonna get. Kind of like a box of chocolates. It may be the sweetest thing you’ve ever tasted, but you have to try to know. It takes endurance and commitment to untangle. It takes tremendous faith to start new. Both necessary at times, and both part of the Master’s plan for our lives.

Sitting down with someone to help me untangle lights sounds a lot more inviting than doing it alone. Find people who help you. Find people who love you for you. Find people who have marriages, relationships, and friendships like you desire and learn from them. Ask them questions. Read their books. They will help you discern if it’s wiser to untangle or start new. So many of our life situations are similar to tangled Christmas lights and sometimes there’s only so much we can do.

Sometimes, we need to put the work in and sometimes we need to let go. Sometimes we are missing a crucial part. Sometimes we need to work on our verbiage and communicate better. Sometimes we need to be patient and sometimes we need to work on our own personal skills. It may never construct easily, and that’s okay. As long as we are building what we desire most to build and to the glory of God, He will step in where we can’t. Follow your peace, His peace.

Our Master’s Plan will lead us in directions we never thought we’d take through situations we never thought we’d face. Knowing He’s walking alongside us, turns it into an adventure of a lifetime.

We make our own plans, but the Lord decides where we will go. Proverbs 16:9 (CEV)

I’m not much of builder, but I’m learning. I’m learning not to be afraid to build. I’m also learning that if it all crashes down, then the Master has a different plan for me. I’m learning that His plan requires a lot of patience because it has a lot of moving parts. I’m learning that His plan touches other people through our own personal journeys. I’m learning that His plan beckons us closer to Him and leads us to an eternity with Him. I’m learning that His plan brings purpose from our pain. I’m learning that His plan provides peace, even in the midst of the unknown. I’m learning that our Master’s plan will simply amaze us.

I’m learning every day that His plan is, hands down, better than my plan ever was or ever will be.

 

 

Hashing Out the Holidays

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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 peace than fighting. I’d rather give too much than fight one more day. I’d rather know my kids are loved at both homes and give up time if necessary, than argue over going back and forth. I’d rather forego family traditions on my end than stubbornly fight to uphold them if all it causes is chaos and stress. I’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.