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…

Consider it Pure Joy… Anxiety

My husband and I have been doing the church thing for 29 years. We met in church, got married in one, and have attended one on the weekly for the most part of our 28 years of marriage. In all of that 29 years we’ve not really done “Sunday School”. Mainly because the churches we attended didn’t offer one. They offered “Home Fellowships” and “Sunday School” seemed a little “Old School” to me. Around two years ago we began attending a different church that offered Sunday School, and to be honest, I thought, “That’s nice. Not for me.” But a few months ago we decided to attend one. It’s been good for us even if we have to drag our butts in on occasion.(Mainly because we want to be lazy or flat out the enemy of our souls has been working overtime to keep us away from the Family God wants to give us in a church fellowship). This morning was another one of those “drag our butts” in occurrence. Because if I’m honest, of our 29 years of church attendance, there have been ALOT of times we had to make ourselves go, but once we are there and feel God’s presence and the encouragement of those around us it becomes more than worthwhile and we usually leave with the saying out of Psalms 122:1 ringing true, ” I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” (You’re not alone if you suffer from “I must Drag my Butt to church syndrome”)

Anyway, back to dragging myself into class, the Bible book of study for awhile in our class is James. Not really a favorite of mine. Mainly because there is a lot of hard stuff in it about controlling your tongue, being patient in suffering, and showing our faith by our deeds. It’s not exactly a “feel good all the time” kind of book. And today’s verse that we discussed would be another not so “Feel good all the time” kind of verses. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish it’s work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 But today it hit me. I need to reconsider my aversion to the book of James. It’s in the Bible you know so it’s gotta be GOOD!

I’d say the past week has been kind of tough. Not because of anything in particular, just mainly I have issues with anxiety, and I’ve been getting tired of having that issue. I can’t think of how many times I’ve asked God to take it away from me. I’d say it’s been an issue of mine most of my life. I have had times I’ve thought, “you’re finally getting somewhere” only to find myself sitting for a few days with my throat and chest feeling tight, for really no real good reason. It’s more than aggravating. Especially when as a believer in Jesus I believe what He did on the Cross paid for my healing not only physically, but emotionally as well. And my inheritance as a child of God does not include in any way shape or form anxiety, fear, or depression. So I bounce back and forth between I should be walking in victory over this, and I know I need to take my medicine or it won’t be pretty… Not to mention the counseling I’ve been going to for the past 3 years. It kind of shrinks you down to feeling like you’re far from a spiritual giant in the kingdom. More like a someone who struggles and struggles, and then struggles some more. Then enters James 1:2-4. Anxiety has been a trial for me, and if I’m honest my husband too. He probably at times wonders what to do with his wife. We pray, we talk, we try to distract, and we keep plugging along. Anxiety has been a test of my faith. Because to be honest, admitting that you have an area of struggle, a weakness, is not fun. It doesn’t seem very victorious or overcoming. However, that testing of my faith, when the feelings arise, is working something in me that I told my husband just this week, “If this is the only way I can get it worked into me, then so be it.” It has produced in me a longing to be closer to God. The only way to experience the peace and the joy that God intended for me to walk in is to be in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says “…in your presence there is the fulness of Joy.” The only place I can find wholeness is in Him, so I have got to be closer and closer to Jesus so His peace and His presence are what I live in. Hanging tight with Jesus is the only way to make me “complete and not lacking anything.” I was thinking about it last night. If I never had experienced the painful things that I have walked through, I would not have reason to look for healing that can only be found in Jesus. If I never had experienced loneliness, I would never had known the need for His ever abiding close friendship. And if I never had known the torments of anxiety and fear, I would never have cried out for the Prince of Peace to rescue me and pull me out of a circumstances that were greater than me. So these light and momentary afflictions, that I hate to feel, are working something in me. In them, I know I need God more and more. He is the only answer and it is only in me totally surrendering to Him and His ways, and hanging as close to Him as I can, will I walk in His paths of freedom and experience the abundant life He promised me as I keep my eyes on Him. (John 10:10)

Maybe James isn’t so bad…. “Consider it pure Joy…”

Moses and Me – “Love Broke Through”

My senior year of high school I got a job as a volunteer DJ at a small Christian radio station. Friday nights were my nights. Being a child of the 80’s- Rock and Roller, I was less than thrilled with the approved music for the evening, with exception of the 10 pm-12 pm time slot. It was then I could break out all the Stryper, Rez Band, and Petra a girl could play. The rest of the time the rule was two Contemporary Christian music songs to one Southern Gospel (my least favorite type of music). Most of the slower CCM music didn’t particularly excite me, but at least it didn’t repulse me. For some reason, one of the songs that I played during the before 10pm slot was a song that was released in 1977 by Keith Green, “Love Broke Through” has been going through my head lately along with my record spinning nights at KMMC – Mid Missouri Christian FM 96. Here are the Lyrics:

Like a foolish dreamer, trying to build a highway to the sky
All my hopes would come tumbling down, and I never knew just why
Until today, when you pulled away the clouds that hung like curtains on my eyes
Well I've been blind all these wasted years and I thought I was so wise
But then you took me by surprise

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love broke through

All my life I've been searching for that crazy missing part
And with one touch, you just rolled away the stone that held my heart
And now I see that the answer was as easy, as just asking you in
And I am so sure I could never doubt your gentle touch again
It's like the power of the wind

Like waking up from the longest dream, how real it seemed
Until your love broke through
I've been lost in a fantasy, that blinded me
Until your love, until your love, broke through

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I’ve joined a local Bible study that is using the book by the Kendrick Brothers “Defined- What God Says You Are”. In the 3rd chapter they talk about Moses in the Bible and his encounter with the burning bush. This paragraph stood out to me. “Moses was a man who struggled with identity issues. Born to Hebrew parents, who was given an Egyptian name and then raised by Pharaoh’s daughter as her adopted son. After secretly murdering a man in defense of his own people, Moses was questioned by his Hebrew brethren: “Who made you a prince or a judge over us?” (Exodus 2:14) Fearful for his life, he fled Egypt while Pharaoh tried to kill him for what he had done. Now a fugitive alien in the foreign land of Midian, he embraced the low-key life of a wandering shepherd for forty years.” It wraps up with this observation that “then one day God came down to meet him and speak directly to him.” It was at that exact moment that God’s “Love broke through” for Moses.
It’s funny how I’ve viewed this story for most of my life. I grew up in church so I heard the story of Moses and the burning bush over and over in my childhood Sunday School classes, but until this week I’ve always looked at it as a scary/ terrifying encounter with an unapproachable God- thus the need for Moses to take off his shoes. But finally I’ve seen something new. God wasn’t trying to prove how unapproachable He was. He, in fact, was proving quite the opposite. As the Kendrick brothers point out, “God called him by name, spoke his language, was fully aware of his past ancestors and his present siblings, and informed him He created him and was calling him” Hardly a “Don’t you come near me” approach from God. Much more of a “Moses come over here and look at this… don’t forget to take off your shoes. You are in my presence, Holy Ground.” As Keith Green’s song puts it. God’s love broke through. Moses could hide all he wanted on the back side of a desert and try to get away from who he had been and who he was, but God wasn’t content with leaving him there like that. God loved Moses, in fact later on Moses and He talked face to face as a man talks to a friend. (Exodus 33:11) Hardly a God who just wanted to come down rebuke Moses, scare him into submission, and send him out to do a burdensome job.

I’ve had several times in my life that Moses and Me have could have been best buddies. You know the drill. You get hurt. You want to get away. You try to hide from who you were and who you are on a back side of a desert. But then God’s love Breaks through. The thing is that God’s plan all along was for close, intimate relationship, and having His kid hiding away from Him and His plans won’t do. God has a way of putting a “burning bush” of sorts in front of you from time to time to get you to come closer out of curiosity just to see what is up so He can speak to you and remind you that He never left you. You are standing in His presence you better take off your shoes. That’s exactly when His love breaks through.

“Who Do You Say That I Am?”

I had the privilege of babysitting my 19 month old grandson last night so mom and dad could have a break. It was a much needed respite for a mind that has been contemplating some pretty heavy stuff as of late. I made him waffles on my animal shaped waffle maker, much to his delight. We played toy guitar solos together, put together a puzzle, rode stick horses, and read the favorite Dr. Seuss book “Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?”Then Pop Pop got the idea of building a fire in our fire pit on the back patio as the sun was setting. Such a beautiful night in the late summer of my neck in the woods. After a good 2 hours of chasing my sweet little man, I held him by the fire with his blanket and tried to get his mind off of running all over the yard. I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “I’m Trying to Catch a Baby Bumblebee”, and any other kiddie song I could think of. If I took a break, he would promptly tell me “Again”. So singing it again was at hand. We ended up on the song “Jesus Loves Me” and I was reminded of an early toddler theology lesson I used to teach my kids when they were his age. “Hey Ben, look at the moon. Do you see the moon?” He’s quite the talker, “Yes”, he replied. “Hey Ben, do you see the star over there?” “Yes”. “Do you know who made the moon?” a pause… “God did can you say God?” He’s quite the little parrot, “God”. “What about the star? Who made the star?… That’s right God did. Can you say God did” Ben “God did”. Then it hit me the final part of the theology for toddlers lesson I taught my own babies, “Ben, do you know who made Ben?… God did. Just like the moon and stars that are so special. So are you. You are so special to Grandma and to God.” Lesson over, he says “Grass” pointing to our yard a few feet away, and a squirm, That boy wants to run in the grass. No time for this watching a fire, stars, moon, and toddler theology with Grandma. Time to GO!

I’ve started up a Bible study with a group of ladies called WOW- Women on Wednesdays. We are going through a book by The Kendrick Brothers called, “Defined- Who God Says You Are”. I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years, just haven’t had the time. A few years ago I did the video/ Bible study series so I kind of know what it’s about, a topic that is vital, especially to me. “Who God says I am.”

I grew up in church. I’m thankful for that. My parents did their best and I know they loved me greatly, but things were very hard for a lot of my first 21 years. As some would say, “There’s a lot of water under that bridge”. Mistakes were made and lessons were learned the hard way. But in the middle of all that, I believed things about God and myself that have been incorrect, and I’ve had to learn both from my own relationship with God, friends encouragement, and professional counseling for the past 4 years that I have viewed my world through distorted lenses for a very long time. Thus the need for daily reaffirmation of who I really am, who I am in Jesus.

This morning as I opened my “Defined” book it referenced a verse from the Bible that I looked up. Matthew 16:15-18. I have read that verse several times and in my Bible I had a note that I liked it in the Message version. So I looked it up there.

“He pressed them, “And how about you? Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter said, “You’re the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus came back, “God bless you, Simon, son of Jonah! You didn’t get that answer out of books or from teachers. My Father in heaven, God himself, let you in on this secret of who I really am. And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out.”

A few words jumped off the page at me. “And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.” The accounts of Peter’s life before Jesus rose again and the day of Pentecost were anything, but a steady rock. He seemed to be a jump before you think, speak with out contemplating, impulsive kind of guy. And Jesus defines him at that moment in that conversation with a definition that I’m sure puzzled him. “Peter, You are a rock. You are stable, steadfast, impenetrable, solid… ROCK. That is who you really are.” And just like I explained to Ben last night that God made the moon, the stars, and Ben all with a word. When Jesus speaks who you are, that is who you are.

I have let so much define me for so many years, but really what matters is not what my experiences have said I am. It’s not what my own feelings about myself say I am. It is what God says that I am. That is what He spoke and created in me from the moment He told me who I am, who I really am, when He created me years ago. At times I understand what this means, other times I do not. Just like my little man probably didn’t get the depth of Grandma’s toddler theology time last night. But that’s ok. He and I both have a lifetime to learn these things and an eternity to experience the truth of what God has spoken about us when He said that we are “Chosen and dearly loved” by Him.

My Next Fifty Years

Oh the joys of social media… Probably one of the main reasons I haven’t dumped Facebook and went back to a flip phone is the Birthday reminders. I am notorious for forgetting birthdays. Ask my husband. His is just two days after mine and I forgot it the first year we were married. Notorious… Anyway, the daily reminders of Birthdays of friends and family has been one of the little gems for my life that Facebook has given me. It also provides opportunity for me to mark my birthday each year. I’m not sure if that’s a little gem or not lol. Each year for as long as I can remember having Facebook, my status on my birthday has been “half way to…”. At 45 I was “Half way to 90”. At 47 I was “Half way to 94”. Well this year I have arrived. I will be “Half Way to 100”. This is probably the best year to stop that practice. My grandpa made it to just a few days shy of 101 and I’m pretty sure 100 years is about as far as I want to go.

Me almost 50 years ago. Lol
Just gotta be me.

All this reflecting on being “Halfway to 100” in a few weeks, has had me thinking about an old Tim McGraw song, “My Next 30 Years”. Here’s a little sample of the lyrics to refresh your memory:

“Oh, my next 30 years I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers, huh
Maybe, I’ll remember my next 30 years”

I’m not a beer drinker, but this song has been rolling around in my head for about a month. It’s a summary of all the things he would do different his next 30 years to get more out of his life. It’s got me thinking… “What would I want to do in my next 50 years?”

Where it all started in my first 20 years .

A majority of my first 50 years have been spent being married and raising a family. Married won’t change but raising a family already has. I’m down to one kid out of 4 that isn’t an adult yet and he’s just one year away from turning into one. So for my next 50 years life is going to be a lot more different than the first 50. My first 50 years I spent a lot of time preoccupied with things that just didn’t matter. Though I tried my hardest, I let the worries and cares around me squeeze out a lot of the daily joys. It’s funny how the little things like time spent playing at the park with my kids really did become the big things. Being busy with silly stuff made me miss some of the most important things during my first 50 years. My next 50 years I want to enjoy the gifts God has given me in my life: my husband, my kids, and my grandkid (grandkids to come). Being present, here and now each day with them… I want to soak up every ounce of joy God gives me with them for my next 50 years.

Somewhere in time during my first 30- 40 years.

It’s funny how my first 50 years I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix me. I think my next 50 I’ll try to just let it be and leave that to God. A good place to start is just accepting that I’m not perfect, but dearly loved by God, His grace really is Amazing and His forgiveness is Free. My next 50 years I am going to believe that when God calls me “Holy and Dearly Loved by Him” Colossians 3:12. He means it. It’s not just words on a page, and He wants me to know Him, not just work at crossing off another item from a religious “to do” list to make Him happy with me. Maybe a little less religiousness and a lot more relationship with Him my next 50 years.

For my next 50 years I want my theme song to be “This Little Light of Mine”. Instead of trying to figure out how to be God’s bullhorn, I want to shine. My daily interactions with family, friends, and acquaintances would be marked by this. Not some bold in your face intimidation, but a taste of God’s goodness just seeping off of my life. Get close enough and you’ll smell it, see it, taste it and want more of Him. I want to be a reflection of Him in everything I do for my next 50 years.

The more I think about it, the more I believe my next 50 years will be the best 50 of my life. Thanks to all the things I’ve learned the last 50. I guess they call that perspective, another Gift God has given to me. May I really take hold of it these Next 50 years.

The family. My “Opus Magnum” and The joyful gift God’s granted me my first 50 years

Considering the Cost- The Spiritual Heart Check Luke 14

Discipleship has been on my heart a lot the past year. What does it mean to be a disciple? What does it mean to make disciples as Jesus commanded us to in the “Great Commission” of the church? Exploration of this topic has brought me to a Bible study workbook called “Discipleship The Growing Christian’s Lifestyle” by James and Martha Reapsom. It’s a pretty straight forward type of study: Look up verses, think about them, answer questions. I enjoy taking time to think about and “chew” on portions of scripture. This study, however, has led me to some of the hardest verses in the Bible for me to wrap my mind around. Luke 14:25-35. They’re all about what it costs to follow Jesus. Modern Christianity, especially American Christianity, seems to focus on all the good stuff we get when we follow Jesus: He wants a relationship with us, He loves us unconditionally, He chases after us and woos us to yield to Him, He heals our hearts, He blesses our lives, etc. All these things are so very true of Jesus and His love for us, but He also says some very hard things in these verses. Things like, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yet even their own life- such a person cannot be my disciple.” or “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Those are both bars set very high by Jesus, Himself, and they aren’t exactly what I would call “Feel Good” quotes.

I think looking at these verses in the light of the Apostle Peter’s life has helped me understand them better. Peter was there when Jesus said these words, and It is recorded that Peter had a mother in law, so this meant he was a married man. Jesus wasn’t speaking of Peter hating his wife. He was setting a comparison of our commitment to Him over the other relationships we have. The Greek for the word “hate” in verse 25 means “to esteem less”. Jesus is first. His direction for our lives and His will comes before any other endeavor. Another thing that strikes me about Peter being a disciple is that when the rubber hit the road and Jesus was crucified, he bailed. Jesus had told the crowds the day He taught on the cost for being a disciple that they would need to “Consider the Cost” of following Him. Peter considered and when the threat was there the first time around, he denied Jesus and ran away. But Jesus doesn’t leave Peter there in his mess. He meets him on a beach days after the resurrection, with a fish breakfast for Peter, who had given up the whole disciple thing and decided to go back to what he knew before, fishing. Jesus didn’t meet him with an “I told you you’ve got to hate your family and give up everything quote.” Instead He asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” Jesus knew Peter’s heart was desiring to follow Him. It was just a case of the “spirit being willing, but the flesh being weak.” Then Jesus’s promise of the Holy Spirit empowered Peter in his human frailty to be the disciple that Jesus wanted him to be all along.

It seems to me that every time I come across the words of Luke 14 I do a little self examination. Do I love Jesus more? more than my own family, my things, my hobbies, my life… Do I have what it takes to “Consider the cost” and give up everything I have? For someone who struggles with feelings of insufficiency on the regular, these verses rattle something inside of me. I probably feel like Peter did on that beach when Jesus asked him three times, “Peter do you love Me?”. Peter replied, “Lord You know all things, You know that I love You.”

Peter was the fireball preacher on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. He was a major leader in the early church, and he died a martyr’s death. He fulfilled the call that Jesus gave to him despite his internal struggles of his younger years. He literally “took up his cross” to follow Jesus as he was crucified himself, upside down as he requested because he was, “not worthy to be crucified in the same manor of his Lord” But all these things weren’t because Peter was some spectacular guy who could do anything Jesus wanted him to on his own. It was the power of the Holy Spirit inside of him that gave him the power to be Jesus’s “witness/ martyr”.

So back to me and my spiritual heart check. God knows me. He sees inside. My spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. I need the power of the Holy Spirit, just like Peter did so I can have the power to be a witness as well, and I too can follow Him wherever He leads because Jesus sees deep inside of my heart as well. I love Him and want to be whatever He wants me to be. The Spirit will help me in my weakness just as He helped Peter. So Be it! Amen

Life on this Potter’s Wheel (April 2011)

Sunshine today!! Finally! I can’t express how happy that made me feel. I went out to my place of contemplation, my driveway. My drive is 1/8 of a mile long. I can’t tell you how many trips up and down my drive I’ve made in the 12 years we’ve lived here. It’s been a place of solace when I’ve faced some of my toughest challenges. I’ve walked, thought, and prayed a lot on that stretch of gravel.

Today I was reflecting on just that. As I prayed, I thought about all the things that I’ve prayed about as I’ve walked up and down that drive: sanity to survive head lice on my tween daughter’s heads, grief overwhelming in the days following my father in law and nephew’s deaths 14 days apart, struggles of my adult kids in recent years, my family, my mind…

I remembered a poem I wrote in 2011 during the height of my father in laws struggle with cancer. It was a reflection on how our world spins round and round day after day, and here I sit on it. I am like a lump of clay on a spinning wheel. The pressures of life, unpleasant as they are at times, are shaping me and making me to the very thing I am supposed to be.

This whole Covid-19 thing wears on me at times. I’m probably watching the news a little too much. I’m not a fan of the changes to my life and schedule. Honestly the changes I feel are mild compared to the others in our world and nation that are suffering much worse than my mere inconveniences. My prayers ended on this note: “I’m not sure what you’re doing, and I’m not sure I like it. What exactly are you doing to me?” And like I always seem to conclude I came up with, “I don’t understand You or Your ways, but I know You are good. I will trust You.”

Life on this Potter’s Wheel – originally written April 2011

Life on the Potter’s Wheel

Is sometimes not fun at all

The tools You use to shape me

Dig deep as unholy falls.

You mold me and shape me

As I am sitting very still

My world seems unsettled

As I am turning on this Potter’s Wheel

Trusting and accepting

What You are making me to be

Is the crux of the battle

As I sit here while You’re molding me.

In the Hands of the Potter

Is the safest place I can be

He knows what He’s doing

Even when I can barely see.

Your strength and Your wisdom

Is making me what I should be.

I am thankful and comforted

As Your hands are molding me.

High Maintenance Me

Looking back at my younger life I believe I lived in survival mode. In my early 30’s, I found myself a stay at home mom with four kids and homeschooling them on top of that. I remember looking at the cluttered mess of my house, toys, dirty clothes, clean clothes, books, etc. Thinking to myself, “I am going to have to conquer them or they will conquer me.” So the battle began. I am not naturally an organizer, but I knew I would have to become one. I knew it would take long hours, less sleep, and hard work to wage the war. But I was an accomplice in making these children so I would have to be a warrior to survive them. The problem is when all your energy is spent on survival you barely have time to refuel. After the birth of my fourth kid, I found myself around 220 lbs with knee problems, back problems, emotional stress, etc. And I then figured out that I was going to have to take care of me too.

Taking care of me is not an easy business. First of all “me” is not the first person I think to take care of. I’ve awaken to this reality more than once in my life. Whether it was “you need to walk daily for 30 minutes.” Or “ you need to eat right”. Or “you’re going to have to take some time to pray and read your Bible to recharge your spirit.” I can get in the habit. Start feeling better then lay off of it. Next quit. Then I wake up feeling like I did before I started.

A couple of years ago as I was running through my morning routine: Bible time, walk, bath, lotion on my drying out body (thank you hormones), brushing, flossing, and mouthwash (I’m tired of having cavities), speaking my daily who I am in Christ confessions, etc. I looked in the mirror and thought, “You know what… you’re high maintenance.” There’s a lot that goes into just maintaining me.

I don’t want to do maintenance. I would rather wake up and instantly have a great body, perfect hair, teeth, clean house, awesome kids, etc. It would be so much easier that way. But alas, “High Maintenance” is my destiny until I see Jesus face to face.

Lately, among all the physical and spiritual things I do to promote my maintenance, I’ve had to develop some “mental maintenance” practices. Thankfully some of the physical i.e walking, and spiritual i.e. daily Biblical meditation and confession of scripture can cross over. But other things like setting an hourly Thankfulness reminder, planning out hobbies, and keeping a watch out for what I’m thinking have become a necessity on my “High Maintenance Me” list. Unfortunately I get lazy at times and stop doing them. It’s probably the equivalent of stopping taking a daily medicine or brushing my teeth. If you need to do it and quit you’re going to feel bad in a matter of a few days or the people around you will wish you had (bad breath).

This morning I was talking on the phone to my bestie. We were discussing the survival of my younger years as a young mom. I was telling her about my desperate attempts to take a not so organized personality and organize. Daily lists of cleaning areas, menus, schedules, and a calendar. It really was what helped me survive. I told her that although I hated it I have had to fight. That means get up, show up, do what I need to do, and keep doing it. It occurred to me as I was saying it that nothing has really changed. I may not be folding baby clothes and washing bottles and sippy cups, but I am still doing maintenance/ fighting. There are things I have to do both spiritually and mentally on the daily if not the hourly to keep up with life. I told her I would rather not have to make all the effort, but she quickly pointed out the Bible verse about how we are to “renew our minds” Romans 12:1-2. Just like I can’t expect my house to clean itself, my car to run without being refilled by gas and oil changes, my body to do fine without regular sleep, food, and exercise, I can’t expect my thought life to be perfect without working on it.

High maintenance has its perks. If I’m in the business of taking care of myself, all those around me benefit from a well groomed, spiritually attuned, more joyful version of me. Not a bad exchange for the energy and effort. Keeping that in the forefront of my mind when I want to slack off should be a priority. There is a promise for the person with a “renewed mind”. I can test and approve God’s “good, perfect, and pleasing will.”

Maintenance of the mind and spirit insures that I will walk closer to my creator and in doing that I will find exactly what He had in mind for me, His High Maintenance Girl that He dearly loves and wants the best for.