The Deep (poem 2006)

“Busted!!”

Years ago, when I was smack dab in the middle of the years, I spent homeschooling my four kids, we started our day with a daily devotion. I would read a story or two from the “Egermeiers Bible Story Book” then we would talk about it. One day I was describing to the best of my finite capabilities the Greatness of God. I told my kids; God is like an ocean you can explore. You think you have seen it all and there is soooo much more out there of Him.” As soon as I spoke those words, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “Yes, and you are content to just dip your toes while sitting on the edge of the shoreline of ME”. “Busted!!”

This morning as I have been praying and reading my Bible the Song “Rest on Us” by Maverick City Music has been going through my mind. Actually, this started yesterday in my living room, while cleaning. This song came on and I was captivated by its words. (Gotta love a time of living room worship 😉)

Rest on Us
"Come down
Spirit, when You move, You make my heart pound
When You fill the room
You're here and I know You are moving
I'm here and I know You will fill me
'Cause You love to meet us here
He-hey, baptize us afresh tonight
Baptize us afresh tonight"

God is an experiencial God. He wants us to feel Him. Case in Point: Thomas and Jesus after the resurrection. “Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27. Acts 2 is definitely an account of the disciples experiencing God. The Holy Spirit comes, people hear the sound of a “mighty rushing wind”, the disciples feel joy, so much so that the people around think they are drunk. Acts 2:15. God talks about in His word that we are to “TASTE and SEE that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8. Sounds like an experience to me… The cool thing about God is that He’s not about just one good experience of Him, then endure til Heaven. He desires a vibrant, living relationship with us on the daily! BUT so often I find myself like I was telling my kids that school day long ago, “Dangling my toes on the edge of the ocean of God’s Goodness!” AND He is inviting me to SOOOOO much more!

His desire is for us to dive in and to explore the depths of HIs love, His Joy, His Peace, His Patience, His Kindness, His Goodness, His Self-Control! The question is “Will I dive in?” “Will I explore the depths of His love and His wisdom in HIs Word?” The invitation has been sent out. His depths are calling out to the deep.

"Deep calls to deep
  in the roar of your waterfalls;
  all your waves and breakers
  have swept over me."
  Psalm 42:7 NIV 

Proof that this pursuit is not a onetime occurrence, but a lifetime endeavor of seeking Him, searching out His word, communion/ experiencing His Spirit’s presence.

Years ago, February 4, 2006, to be exact I was contemplating all this and I wrote a Poem

The Deep (written 2/4/2006) 
I can't go deep enough when i dive into You.
I think I arrive, but the hunger returns. 
Your deep calls to deep and I am moved. 
I follow You on and chase after You. 

My heart cries out. "How long until I am consumed?" 
You alone I desire. You alone satisfy. 
"Fill me with you:" Is my hearts Cry. 

Just one taste will NEVER satisfy! More of Jesus! More of the Holy Spirit filling us to the overflowing!

Held

My favorite picture of my dad and me.

Psalm 27:10 “… the Lord will hold me close.”

I was most definitely a daddy’s girl. I held the title of baby of the family for the first 9 years of my life, until our family became a Foster Family, and my little sister, who my family adopted later, came to live with us. Up until that point it was my two older brothers and me, and you better believe that I milked my youngest and only girl for all that it was worth. Probably my earliest memories of my dad were being held by him. I can remember sitting in the wooden pews of church during service, trying very hard to not to get in trouble with my older brother Joe on one side of dad, me on the other, and our little hands going behind dad’s waist against the pew trying to reach each other. After a little bit of that, my dad would cross his leg and there would suddenly appear the perfect little seat in the bend of his knee and the place where his ankle met his other leg’s thigh. I just had to crawl up and sit. It wouldn’t be long I would rest my head on his chest. Awww… that was comfy. Then there was the weekly trip to my grandparent’s house in the country. After an evening of cracking peanut shells and eating them with my grandpa and walking around looking at my grandma’s iris beds along her fence row, I would be pretty tired. So, I begged for my dad to pick me up and carry me to the car. I can almost hear my Grandma’s voice saying to my dad, “I believe you will have to carry that girl down the aisle to the altar when she gets married. She needs you to carry her all the time.”

I loved to be held.

This morning as I spent time praying and listening to God, I thought about how much I love to be held still. I’m probably about 130 more pounds than I was back when I was constantly looking for a way to be held by my Dad, so he probably would not appreciate it today as much as he did 48 years ago. And him carrying me is, shall we say… “Out”. Not gonna happen… However, NOTHING can compare to the warmth of being up close to the chest of someone stronger than you, listening to their heartbeat, feeling safe and secure. I may have outgrown my earthly Daddy, but my Heavenly Daddy is impossible to outgrow. So, back to this morning, I found myself telling God how much I wanted to be held by Him. Just to be so close, I could nestle up against Him and listen to His heartbeat and truly realize the reality of His love that wraps around me and holds me.

There are a lot of things in life that try to separate me from knowing I am held by God. It’s 6:52 in the morning here, and my busy day is already trying to whisk me away from the time I am able to spend with God, close to Him. That is just part of being on planet earth. But today as I have been reflecting on how I can take this short time of devotion in the morning when I feel so close to God and make that my entire day, I am reminded that my Heavenly Daddy has no limits of “just this time, just this place is the only way to be held by me.” He is always there. I am always “the apple of His eye”. I may not fully grasp the reality of just how Big He is and how Strong He is. But He never puts me down. I am always carried by Him, I am always Held. God give me eyes to see and a heart to understand how treasured I am.

Held!

1 John 3:1 "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..." 
Psalm 27:10 "... the Lord will hold me close." 
Psalm 17:8 AMP  "Keep me [in Your affectionate care, protect me] a the apple of Your eye; Hide me in the [protective] shadow of Your wings." 
Deuteronomy 7:6 "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession."

Be Content- The Antidote for Disappointment

“I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.(Jesus)”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13 MSG

Life seldom goes the way we have it planned. That is something I should get used to. I can’t count how many times when my kids were growing up that my husband and I would plan the perfect camping trip. Hours of packing, preparing, and then driving, only to find the first night is a night when one of the kids came down with the croup, or threw up all over our pop up camper. There was the first trip to the ocean, only to discover it was jelly fish mating season and several jelly fish stings to be dealt with in the hotel, or we also had the long planned trip to Disney World that was interrupted with a short lived bout of head lice. That was a real treat… I should not be surprised when circumstances are not the glorious picture I had weeks before the actual experience.

I guess I had it in my mind that since our kids are all adults, I would be immune to the disappointment of a planned getaway going south. But here I sit in the most perfect March weather literally yards from one of my favorite trout fishing parks with a sick husband. (The stomach bug had to be going around). Bummer… disappointment.

This disappointment is minor in the scheme of things. Lay around, eat junk food, watch Westerns on the cabin’s tv, and play the occasional game of solitaire. I’ve weathered far worse.

As I’ve sat here this evening on our front porch watching the cars go by our cabin, I thought about Paul saying “I have learned the secret of being content” in Philippians 4. Contentment is not easy to gain. It requires a focus on Jesus and a trust in His plan. Both of which are hard to come by if you’ve lived an anxious life. Self-focus and self preserving protection are what seems right in our world, but it is far from God’s greater plan of our total trust(dependence), total submission, and total obedience as He provides all we need for our life and directs us in His good plan for us.

Corrie Ten Boom

There’s a lot of things in my world that are disappointing right now. There are the global things, the National things, the local, and the personal. Plus this minor fishing trip thing. There are a lot of things that beg for me to pay attention to them and live in discouragement, apprehension, and fear. Not to mention the temptation to walk in distrust, unforgiveness, etc. The list could go on and on. But God knew there would be times like this- the one we live in. He also knew there would be months like this, weeks like this and days like this one. Whether the situation is a minor disappointment or a large earth shaking one, He tells me how to be content. I am to hang as close to Jesus as I possibly can. Listen to His voice alone, and be faithful to what I know He has told me to be obedient in.

The old Hymn I sang as a girl in the small country church I grew up in says it best,”Trust and Obey. There is no other way to be Happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

His Joy conquers all disappointment. Gigantic ones or small ones like a sick hubby on a get away. My God is good! All the time!

Teatime With Satan

The Tea- “Gossip or personal information belonging to someone else; the scoop, the news …” -Urban Dictionary

Conversations with my 21-year-old daughter tend to prove to me just how old I am getting:

  • Faith: “Here’s the tea Mom…”
  • ME: “The what?”
  • Faith: “The tea… Gosh MOM! The tea, It means, the scoop on, what’s up with so and so, the…” and on and on…
  • My mind goes to “I am getting old.” But I assure you the next conversation I was asking, “What’s the tea on…?”

“The Tea” that was probably started due to tea parties or teatime where people sat together and talked about other people and all kinds of subjects.

It’s taken me awhile, but I am learning. We need to be careful of what voices we allow ourselves to listen to. This morning my Bible reading was in John 10. Jesus is describing the Good Shepherd and His relationship with His sheep. One thing that has been sticking out to me more and more lately is how the sheep know the Good Shepherd’s voice, and how they listen to it. They won’t follow another voice. In John 3:5 Jesus says, ” they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” It occurred to me that not only do I not run away at times, there are times I sit down and have a regular old “Tea Party with Satan” where I listen to him fill me “Spill the tea” on others around me with accusations and assumptions. Or I listen to him give me “the tea” on myself: What I am, What I am not, what I’ve done or did not do. He is a very chatty “Tea Party” host if I allow him to be. Unfortunately, I had been attending Tea Parties with him, frequently. Here is where I make a very bold statement… I’m pretty sure the source of much of the anxiety and depression I have suffered is my frequent attendance to “ALL DAY LONG Tea Parties with Satan.” That he throws. He pulls out a chair, whispers a juicy lie, and offers me a seat to a morning, noon, and night, sometimes all night Spilling of the Tea. It usually starts with, “You know you are not enough for X,Y,Z you face.” “You know so and so doesn’t really like you, they tolerate you…” “You know, If your friends only knew this and such about you…” On and on and on…If I accept his invitation, and sit down for a listen, I find myself drowning in all the fear, anxiety, anger, jealousy, etc. That he wants me to be overcome with. His Tea Party is a success.

Jesus said, “His Sheep run away from a strangers voice.” This has been resounding in my soul today. It is time to not only decline an initiation to Satan’s Tea Party, but to run. I must run away from his voice and run straight to Jesus’ voice. Jesus declares the truth. He declares the truth about who I am and who He and the Father are. His voice is there calling out. It truly is a question of “Who will I listen to?” and to “Who’s table will I run?” Jesus offers me a banqueting table, full of delights, that the Word says has “Banner of me of Love”. It is there that I find myself fulfilled, at peace, and with joy. But it requires that I decline my invitation to Teatime with Satan, that comes frequently throughout my day. And that I run from the tantalizing whisper of the lies he spews. Focusing instead on the feast of the truth and promises in God’s word regarding who He is and who I am. Positioning myself close to His heart. Where I can clearly hear Jesus. It is there that I am safe from the tea of anxiety and depression, and whatever other flavors of his deadly teas, Satan wants to serve.

Invitation to Teatime with Satan Declined!

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” James 4:7-8

Too Many Voices

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say…?”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:1‬ NIV

We all hear “voices”. Before you think I’ve jumped off the deep end, let me clarify that statement. We are surrounded/ bombarded by so many opinions, statements, ideas every day. These are the voices that shout at us from the moment our eyes open until we close them in sleep, and if we are lucky, they don’t come to us at night in our dreams as well… nightmares. These voices are liars. They want to get us off course from the only way to get them to shut up, the Peace found only in Jesus.

Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook, something I do way too much of… But I happened upon a post a friend had reposted of someone who is struggling with Anxiety. As I read it, it was like looking of a reflection of something I was a few months ago. Statements like: “I need a break from my mind itself which isn’t possible.” “My mind is traumatized my memory is foggy and absolutely full of triggers” “I am actually just busy trying to hold it together in my safe box.” Stuck out to me. I’ve been blogging for quite a while. This all started because writing has been an outlet for me, a stuffer of emotions… Anxiety has been one of the hot topics for my blog. I have several entries if you go back and look at the history of what I have written. It has been a lifelong struggle, but I would say the most intense battles have been the past 4 years. But God has worked a miracle in my life since around September/ October. It’s one of those kinds of miracles that it sometimes seems like it is too good to be true. You know, “pinch me” so I can make sure this is real kind of deals. With each passing day, I am convinced all the more of how real it is. I am walking free! So when I read the post like I saw yesterday, or I hear of someone who is struggling with anxiety, my heart aches. Because I know just how many voices I listened to and how many lies I believed.

Satan is deliberate in his onslaught of anxiety that he has unleashed in my generation and the generations after me. From the first twinge of it until you find yourself being squeezed to death by it, he has a purpose and a lie that is not new at all that is the root of all anxiety. “Did God really say…?” I believe anxiety is satan’s way of getting us to doubt God, His goodness, His provision, His Love. I would not be surprised if it is the very force driving the “deconstruction of Christian faith” movement we hear about frequently in the news. If anxiety is ruling in your head and your heart, doubts begin.

Deconstruction Christianity is a false religion. You cannot have Jesus and not have the truth of the Bible. There is no me making a “better version of myself”

Then begins all the futile attempts to “fix ourselves”. Believe me, I tried them. Self help books galore, Headspace meditation app- started by a Buddhist monk, trying new hobbies (not a bad thing as long as it isn’t a replacement for crying out to Jesus), numbing it all with medicine, etc. The truth of it all is “I CANNOT FIX MYSELF!!!” All my attempts to fix my anxiety, outside of getting my eyes off of me and onto Jesus, only served to dig me deeper into a pit, a very ugly pit… The truth in the lyrics of the Switchfoot song “Mess of Me” rings truer to me every day.

“I am my own affliction
I am my own disease
There ain’t no drug that they could sell
Ah there ain’t no drugs to make me well
There ain’t no drug
It’s not enough
There ain’t no drug
The sickness is myself
I made a mess of me I wanna get back the rest of me
I’ve made a mess of me I wanna spend the rest of my life alive”

About a year ago, I made contact with an old friend from my college days. We began talking about some mutual experiences of abuse that opened us up to lies. One thing stuck out to me that she said in the beginning of our weekly conversations. “Janet, you have the Holy Spirit within you. You can hear the truth. You know the truth.” She had hit the nail on the head. I have been listening to WAY TOO MANY VOICES! (ME, a seasoned Christian of 39 years…”) Whether it was the lies of “what you have been will never change”, the lies of “You call yourself a Christian, yet you think these horrible things”, “try to find your ZEN”, “make a better version of yourself each day”, “the Bible does not hold the answer to what you are struggling with”, etc. Those voices only lead to one thing “DESTRUCTION”. Let me be so bold as to say that “Deconstruction of faith” is not a brave move. It is an opening to the very “destruction of ourselves”.

Here’s the deal. I cannot say do x,y,and z and you will find yourself free. I’m not 100% sure how I have ended up in this place of peace I am in today. The one thing I did do was I decided my listening to “too many voices” was not working. I needed to listen to ONE voice, JESUS. Tune yourself daily into that voice and refuse to allow even the hint of a whisper of the lying voice of anxiety to enter your ears. Let desperation for freedom cause you to RUN as hard as you can into your Heavenly Father’s arms. It is only there that refuge is found from all the voices that come against you. God is no respecter of persons, granting freedom to one and then not to another. If He has answered the cry for freedom that I uttered, He will answer you! He is just that Good!

The only WAY of Peace, Love and Wholeness- JESUS!!

The God of a Billion Snowflakes

View off my front porch this morning.

The summer before my 8th grade year my mom talked me into going to church camp. She must have known it was exactly what I needed. Things weren’t easy for me my 7th grade year. There were the typical things: becoming a teenager, first year of junior high, trying to navigate all the changes of growing up. There were the hard things I went through too. The kind of stuff that sent me out for long bike rides on the regular each day after school. Blasting rock music into my ears as loud as I could to try to shut off my brain and deaden the feelings inside. I wanted to wear black all the time leaning toward going “Goth” when I didn’t even know Goth was a thing. Anyway, Mom convinced me to go to camp, though I protested much.

Camp Sharon held its evening worship services in what they called a tabernacle. It was a large open sided building with sawdust floors and rustic wooden pews for seats. I remember sitting through the first night of service feeling like God wanted me to come forward and pray during the altar call/ prayer time, but I was determined I would not go. The second night I sat there determined not to yield again, until they said service was over. Then I could take it no more. I went up to the front knelt in the saw dust and cried so hard I could not talk. The only thing I can remember thinking is, “God, IF you want me, you can have me.”

“IF”, I don’t know if you have ever approached God with the feeling of “If you want me” before, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that have. I believe one of satan’s biggest lies he spews to try to get us to not turn to God in our time of need is the lie of, “God does not want you.” “You’ve fallen too far. You’re not good enough. God tolerates your existence. God doesn’t see you or care about you. etc. ” If satan can get you thinking about God in “if you want me…” terms, he has succeeded in propagating one of his biggest lies. Thankfully, God has His way of tearing down that lie and breaking through.

As I sit here this morning with my heated throw blanket, cup of coffee, and laptop on my lap, I am watching it snow. We’re getting quite a lot of it for my neck of the woods. It is beautiful. A few days ago, when the forecast started talking snow, I started thinking about snowflakes. When my kids were little, we would take a black piece of construction paper out on a snowy day and catch snowflakes so we could see the individual detail of each one. Each one was unique. I remember us talking about the God of details. Then it hit me, this current snowstorm has millions, maybe billions of flakes, much more than I can count. And God has given each tiny flake an individual identity. He knows their shape. He knows their size. He knows the moment they will form and the moment they will melt. God cares that much about detail, and all this fuss over a tiny snowflake. Yet He never took the time to send His one and only Son, Jesus to earth so the snowflake could experience Him and His goodness. Not so with us, You and I are exactly the reason Jesus came. How much more then does this God of a billion snowflakes, actually care about me. To say He wants me is an understatement. The God of that much detail, took the time to zero in on a 13 year old Missouri girl out of the billions of people on this planet, to draw me to a place that I could say, “If You want me, You can have me.” It was there at that point that the layers of lies began to peel off. Some of them still slowly being removed some 38 years later. The God of a billion snowflakes wanted the heart of this one Missouri Girl. That is good news! He not only wanted me, but He wanted to have me, to hold me, and to show me what a Good, Good Heavenly Father He is to me. You and I can both be assured if the God who takes the time to design a billion snowflakes can step into my, one in the billions of people, world, He can take the time to step into yours. He’s just that Big and yet He comes to us individually in just that small of a way! He not only Loves us, He wants us! He is good!

The God of a Billion Snowflakes, made me.

Sunrise and Sunset Experiencing Him

“You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” – Angel “Redeeming Love” The Movie.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8

The second house my husband and I owned was an earth contact (basement house). It was surrounded on three sides with dirt. It is super energy efficient, but if you’re a fan of having sunlight shining in your house, the lack of windows would not be your thing. This basement house was located in the middle of the woods with lots of trees around it. it was so shaded that we literally had no grass. It just would not grow. I have several happy memories in that house. It is where we lived when my kids were little before their teens. I would back the suburban out of the garage, crank the stereo in the living room and we had an instant roller-skating rink. We did nature walks in the woods identifying the trees that surrounded it, and probably one of the funniest memories was the deer running across our roof. An earth contact in the woods… makes perfect sense. Happy memories are a plus, but I really didn’t like that house. No windows in the bedrooms worked on my fear of house fires (my grandparent’s house burned to the ground when I was 11). And only 3 windows that were 2 sliding glass doors in the living room area and a kitchen sink window. This caused serious issues with my needing all the lights in the house turned on from the moment I woke up until I went to bed at night. Words could not express how happy I was when we moved to our current house, grass in the yard, windows everywhere. Since we live out in the middle of 23 acres, my first act as an official homeowner was to strip every curtain and shade off of every window with the exception of the bedrooms. I told my husband, “I don’t want any curtains. I haven’t seen outside for the past 7 years.” I didn’t put curtains up for 11 years. Three years ago, I put up some decorative ones much to my husband’s surprise, but they are never closed…

The two things that I had missed in the 7 years of living in our earth contact was sunrise and sunset. Quite honestly, I don’t remember watching a sunrise or sunset before that either. I just never noticed them. Maybe I was young, maybe I was busy, maybe I just didn’t care. I’m not really sure why I don’t remember really paying attention to them until I moved here. The view out of my dining room and also over my kitchen sink looks over our back field and faces west. It didn’t take too many evenings here to realize I had suddenly been given the most perfect premium seats for watching the sunset EVERY night. Then there is the front upstairs deck. It faces east. I quickly figured out I could put a chair out there, take a cup of coffee with me and enjoy God’s artistry of the sunrise EVERY morning too. The more I watched the sunrises and the sunsets, the more I began to appreciate how God made each one different and unique. I would contemplate how awesome it would be if I could paint such beauty. I’ve tried my hand at painting before, I’m pretty sure this is out of my expertise.

I’ve blogged quite a bit lately about the women’s Bible study I have been attending, WOW (Women on Wednesday). Today’s discussion in the class I am in got me to thinking about all this. We were talking about “Knowing God”. One of the aspects of knowing God was to “Experience Him”. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in my life thinking that experiencing God was always related to a “Goosebump” moment. It was something very emotional. I am not opposed to the emotional/ goosebump experiences of God that do occur occasionally. However, some of my sweetest experiences with God have not involved goosebumps or exciting emotions. They have occurred when I have paused and looked at the sunrise or the sunset. It occurred to me back when I started pausing to gaze that God truly is an artist. He paints scenery that cannot be recreated by human hands. But more than that, when I pause and look at what He has made, I realize that very moment, that very combinations of colors and shades were placed in the sky for me to look at and to stand in awe and wonder of God, who wanted me to enjoy what He made for me. God orchestrated it right then just for me. I whispered, “Thank you God”. Right then I experienced God. It was beautiful and it was simple. For me, a person who tends to overcomplicate things when it comes to my relationship with God, experiencing Him is an area that I easily overcomplicate. Pausing to simply enjoy His blessing and thank Him has been a source of experiencing Him like none other. It is beautiful!

This past weekend I went to watch the new movie “Redeeming Love” at the movie theater twice. One of the scenes involves Angel, a prostitute that had endured horrendous abuse at the hands of men from a young age, and Michael Hosea, a farmer who loves Angel with a pure love as they watch a sunrise over the mountains near their home. Angel recalls that moment and the tenderness of sharing something so beautiful with someone who loved her. “You know, I never paid attention to sunrises and sunsets, until you brought me here.” It was the first experience she shared with the first person who loved her with a pure love. It hit me, that is me and God. I never paid attention to sunrises or sunsets either, until God blessed me with the home I now have that has windows facing east and west. It was then, I stopped for a moment to watch the beauty of them, and I experienced God’s tenderness with me. He did all this so I could know Him better and get another glimpse of His great love and I respond with “Thank you my heavenly Daddy, I worship you”.

Amazing Sunset not far from my home. God is Awesome!

Teenage Insecurity, The Brady Bunch, and Me

My 3 oldest leading worship as teens at youth group.

Awww the teen years, for a parent on the edge of their oldest child jumping into the dreaded unknown of hormones, the opposite sex, driving, moodiness, etc. It can be oh so intimidating. I can honestly say that for the most part I enjoyed my kid’s teen years. Even the year I had three teens at home:18, 15, 13, and another kid just itching to be one at the age of 9. I remember telling a friend that I felt like I was living an episode of “The Brady Bunch” all the time. Especially the one where Peter’s voice changed when they had a band. We could have had our very own “Johnny Bravo” here since we pretty well had a band when they all played their instruments together. Fun times… Most of the time… I’m down to one teen now, everyone’s moved on to their 20’s. So now I’m left to reminisce.

How it felt sometimes to raise my teens. 😂

Probably the one thing that I found the hardest to deal with when my kids were teens was their occasional broken heart. I’m not one to do well with any of my kids crying. Especially, if it’s something I can easily see is just one of the perceptions warped by hormones, lack of development of their brain, and no experience to temper them. My kids never knew how much I hurt for them when they hurt, and they probably never knew how much it bothered me when I would see them thinking that they were less than what I could easily see them as being. I could see how beautiful, talented, and smart they were, but most of the time they could not see it. Insecurity kept blinders tight on them so doubts abounded.

A perfect day to drum on the front porch

I was struck the other morning by my memories of their teen year’s insecurities and self-doubt, but this time it was kind of with the tables turned and the spot light blaring at me. I’ve mentioned several times in the past few months about my involvement in a Bible study on Wednesday mornings, and us discussing the Kendrick Brother’s book “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. It’s been a healthy dose of truth about just how valued I am by my Heavenly Abba -Daddy. The last chapter we went through talked about how God values us enough that He has sealed us with the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 4:30) They compared the Holy Spirit living in us to an engagement ring, a promise of the future and what is to come when we reach our Heavenly reward. There’s a lot of mind-blowing stuff there. Especially if you suffer from what my teenage kids occasionally did, low self-esteem- not always seeing just how valued by God you are.

I was reminded of the struggles one of my kids had had. This kid was so insecure about themself that they would say things like, “I’m stupid”. “I’m not good looking”. Etc. I would listen to that kid and my heart would be grieved by how wrong they were when they looked at themself. I would try so hard to convince them of just how wonderful they were. Then it hit me… “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with who you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30. All my life I’ve thought of this verse in terms of willfully sinning and making the Holy Spirit angry at me for choosing to do wrong. But what if it was something more than just that… So I looked the verse up in my handy dandy Blue Letter Bible App where I can see the Greek definitions from the Strong’s concordance (a must for a Bible Nerd). Then I looked up the word “grieve” in the Webster’s 1828 Dictionary App I have on my phone. (another must for a Bible Nerd). Low and behold there is another possibility to what the word “grieve” can mean in that particular place in scripture… “to make sorrowful”. Boom! One of those “I’m dropping something in your heart to really think about” moments. What if my inability to see myself as highly valued and treasured by God the Lover of my Soul could possibly “grieve- make sad” the Holy Spirit, who pours God’s love abroad into my heart? What if I am like that teenage kid of mine, unable to see just who I really am, and breaking the heart of the One who loves me most when He sees me struggle. God Help Me… Just like my teenage kids had so many voices shouting lies about their significance, I have listened to voices that have made me believe I am “less than”. Time to tune in to the right voice.

There’s a wonderful statement that Jesus made in John 10:27 “My sheep know my voice.” Or to put it into the whole “living with teens theme” of this blog, “my Kids know my voice too.” I’m fairly certain that if you blind folded one of them and had a hundred people say their name they would recognize when their mom called out to them. It’s just a matter of rejecting all the other noise and focusing in on the One Voice that matters. I’m fairly certain I am not the only one who has got caught up listening to all the accusing voices shouting lies at themselves. It’s time to refuse to listen to those liars anymore. The Holy Spirit wants for us to hear the truth. He’s the one who is to “guide us into all truth”. John 16:13. Far be it from us to “grieve Him- make Him sad” by refusing to listen to His still small voice whispering how loved and valued we are to the One who gave everything so we could be His beloved/ most treasured one.

Me

Social Deterioration: Our Time to Shine!

My husband and I lived in a suburb of St. Louis for the first 4 years of our marriage. That was enough time for me to come to the full assurance that a boy from the country and a girl from a small town (less than 5000 people) needed to not live in suburbia. Thankfully the Lord heard our cry and my husband ended up with a good job in his home town. So we moved.

The first few months we were stunned by the difference of the more rural news outlets evening news and the evening news we were used to in St. Louis. Rarely was there a murder or any violent crime. Things that were reported was more about the crowds at pumpkin festivals, local high school football rivalries, and if the Farmers Almanac would be accurate in it’s weather predictions for the winter. MUCH more our speed!

Ecclesiastes talks about how there is nothing new under the sun. I agree with it. The heart and intent of the human race has been what it has been since the first sin in the Garden. Thank you Adam and Eve. But it’s not hard to notice the social deterioration. This week has been a prime example of it to me. First there was the trip to a local Walmart, where I was approached 3 times in the parking lot for a hand out of money by people that looked pretty desperate. I’m not thinking getting money for gas was their real agenda. Then there was waiting in line to pay for gas at our local gas station. A young man stood next to me, sores on his face, hyped up and aggressively licking a tootsie pop he had bought. He was jittery and his eyes were crazy looking. He started telling me about how delicious the tootsie pop was and how I needed to try the new flavors. I listened to him while we waited in line thinking to myself, “you have got to be on Meth” , “you’re probably my son’s age” , “God, is there anything I can say to him to help him see your love?” Then that evening, a group of men that my husband goes to Bible study with put together another time of “Praise in the Park”. The idea behind the gathering is to unite fellow believers to spend time in worship, sharing the word, and individuals giving testimony of what Jesus has done in their lives, open air, in the park, in the middle of town. While setting up, a couple ,who apparently spent a lot of time in the park, possibly homeless, started to argue loudly, and the man became aggressive to the woman. One of the guys from the Bible study went over and offered the woman a ride somewhere and tried to diffuse the situation. Then last but not least, my husband and I get up this morning, hop in our truck and head out for Sunday School at our church. Since we live in the country, we drive a stretch of highway that is rural before we arrive at our church that is in a local small city. As we drive along admiring the blue skies and sunshine, my husband points out a large presence of sheriffs department vehicles, highway patrol, and some ambulances, and a fire truck. I turn my head to momentarily see an arrest going down on the side of the road. Four officers, subduing and handcuffing another desperate looking man. All this going on in my quiet country community in the Midwest. Oh yeah and I forgot to mention a significant drug bust this week within a couple of mile radius of my home. Crazy stuff!

A few years ago my husband and I worked with a ministry that had as its goal to reach those who were bound up with addictions, struggling in broken marriages, and hurting from the lifestyle of sin they had been held captive to. For 4 years we ran an accountability group/ Bible study for this ministry. We also worked in a local youth group that bussed in kids from a high school that lived in desperate situations, kids of addicts, prisoners, and other sad situations. Since I follow the local Sheriff’s Facebook page I see their mugshots they release. On more than one occasion I’ve seen someone from youth group, someone from the Bible study has been arrested. That happened this week too. So really all this stuff has been running through my mind. It would be easy to get discouraged, roll up in a ball, and shut ourselves off to the world. Because as I’ve heard it said more than once lately, “It is really getting bad out there…” But for some strange reason, when I run into the Young man strung out on Meth with the lolly pop, the woman asking for $3 for gas in the Walmart parking lot, and some homeless/ addicts hanging out in a gazebo at a local park, I can’t help but think, “What can a middle aged wife, mother, and granny do or say that might help these broken people for one moment to come to their senses and see the Love God offers them?” and “What can be done to make that change lasting?” Then I go back to a quote from the book of Esther when she faced a challenge in the darkest of times for her world. “…Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 NKJV

Now is not the time to cower. It is the time to shine! It is the time to “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15. I’ve said it before and it’s worth saying again, we who are in Christ have the remedy! We have the answer! We must not hold back!

Results of our efforts may not always show up where we see them right then and there, but that is not our responsibility. Ours is obedience to whatever the Holy Spirit prompts us to do or say as we do our daily life and to keep doing it, over and over until our work here is done. Keeping our eyes on Jesus, not the depth of depravity we see around us.

In short, Go where Jesus would go, Do what Jesus would do, Be what Jesus would have us to be. SHINE!

This!!!

Jellyfish, Riptides, and a Heart Adrift

First time to see the ocean

Early in our marriage my husband and I were rich in love but POOR in possessions. However, we decided early on that we wanted to take a literal “vacation” each year. We would scrape around and save enough to go to Missouri’s vacation Meca, Branson, rent a cheap hotel room, and hit Lamberts cafe on the way home for some of their hand thrown rolls, a must if you’ve never been to one. About 15 years ago we agreed we were a little tired of the whole “Wake Up To Missouri” tourism motto and we wanted to venture out. My husband had never seen the ocean in any way, shape, or form. So we did a little research. Packed up our suite cases, Buckled in 4 little kids into the Suburban. and headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama for a chance to see the Gulf/ ocean.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

We arrived after a 13 hour trip, probably more than that with all the potty breaks we had to take. And rushed out of our Suburban to see the vastness of the ocean. It was awesome. It didn’t take long for us to discover we needed some boogie boards to play in the water with. So we went to a local surf shop and bought 4 of them. One for each kid.

As a small group of Missourians we had a small problem, Ignorance of the ocean. It just so happened that we arrived in the midst of Jellyfish mating season. Our hotel displayed flags for ocean condition in it’s lobby, and happened to have the “dangerous animal” flag on display. That did not deter us. We had come to play. So out into the ocean we went, and we got stung. Several times… The other thing we had not thought about is an ocean is not like the Lake of the Ozark. It has currents… So my, at that time 8 year old daughter, who could barely swim, and I decided to hang out together on a boogie board together. She had no life vest on and I’m not a strong swimmer. As we were floating around she asked me, “Uh mom… can you touch?” I put my foot down toward the bottom and low and behold I could not. So in my usual “I will not panic” voice I said “Laura, let’s swim back toward the shore. Hang on tight to this board.” As we headed back toward shore, I could hear a roar behind me… a WAVE! I held on tight to her, the boogie board, and prayed. It slammed into us hard, but we kept kicking and making our way back to shore. Thankfully we did, and the rest of my stay at the ocean I decided I would rather hang out in the hotel’s pool and observe the beauty of the ocean from the shore. Maybe occasionally wading up to my knees in the waves.

Later I learned there’s this thing called a “riptide”. It’s like a river in the ocean, a current. I also found out that people like me from the Midwest can end up in one of these and not realize they are quickly being swept away from the shore by a current much stronger than we are. The thought of the possibility of me and my daughter ending up on a boogie board in a riptide makes me shutter to this day. God protected me in my ignorance from both the riptides and the jellyfish. But I learned a very helpful lesson. “I am from Missouri. I need to respect the ocean, and stay close to shore.”

Siren of Greek Mythology

I’ve been writing a lot about how God has been overhauling my spiritual life, a very good thing. One of the things He has been pointing out to me is all the voices I have been listening to. Voices have their way of distracting us from the one true voice, God’s word. The voices are like the Sirens of Greek mythology, they lure us away from where God has called us to sail, in the depths of His Truth, enchanting us to go closer and closer to the rocky shore of torment on their island of lies. Kind of like me in my ignorance out on a boogie board with my 8 year old daughter in the Gulf. We think we’re all good and wake up realizing we’ve not been paying attention to what the Bible really says or justifying what we want to believe, and “we can’t touch” because we have become a “Heart adrift”. The voices can also be haunting voices of the past: condemnation, guilt, shame, etc. They play over and over as loudly as they can so you can’t hear the gentle voice of the Shepherd, Jesus, who has assured us that His sheep know His voice and they won’t follow another. Yes there are a lot of voices. BUT GOD!

What voice will you listen to?

I find myself parked in Psalm 18 lately. A very good read for a heart that needs to get back to the basics of hanging close to my Shepherd, Jesus. Listening to His voice speaking truth. Verse 16 -19 says “He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

How good it is to know that God sees us! He sees us when our hearts begin to drift. He reminds us, like my daughter did that day, “Uh mom… can you touch?” His desire for us is to be safely on the shore of HIs love with Him. He hears our faintest cry and pulls us out of the “deep waters” that are too much for us.

So much in this analogy of our trip to the Gulf. I haven’t even touched us ignoring the “Dangerous Animal” flag, stinging Jelly Fish, and paying attention to the things we have heard or read from God’s truth. God’s life lessons really are like the ocean in many ways. I’m pretty sure He delighted to watch our young family on the beach that day so many years ago saying, “She doesn’t even know how I’m going to bring this memory back of some family fun. In about 15 years, when she needs to remember how I had her on that Boogie board with her small child, I’ll remind her. I had her then and I have had her these past few years as she struggled to keep herself close to me. I never did take my eye or my hand off of her either time. She’s my girl.”

Flags do mean something. Jellyfish stings are not fun…