How God Wants Me To Radically Celebrate My 40th Birthday

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My 40th birthday is around the corner. We talked as a family about how to celebrate. Nothing seemed to feel right to me. We have lots of trips planned around my birthday, so that was out. I’m not a big party person, so that is out. Dinner with friends? Yes, but we do that regularly. We tabled it for the day.

In the Bible 40 often signifies a time of testing or trial. A time of probation.

A few days prior to the 40th celebration discussion, Jacob asked me a question that continued stirring in me for days.

“Mom, if you knew Jesus was coming back in 2 days, what would you do?” He looked at me with inquisitive eyes as if testing me to see if I held the right answer.
“I’d begin telling everyone I know about Jesus.”
“I know. Me too. But we don’t know when He is coming. So we should be telling people all the time.”

He’s right. So why don’t we? For fear of offending? For fear of rejection? It really makes no sense though. It’s the greatest gift ever given to humanity. A hurting world that can’t seem to get along, that slays each other, that devours each other, that spews hate. We are holding the answer and we hold back.

I pondered his question. The thing is it wasn’t the first time he’s made me think in the last couple of weeks.

He sat in a church service recently and a verse entered his mind. Matthew 4:19. He didn’t know the verse but looked it up at his first opportunity.

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

I see God moving him to share the gospel. It was because of this same child that Steve and I ended up in Haiti where we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and watched a woman surrender her life to Christ as He led us to her in order to share the gospel.

When we heard the news of Jose Fernandez, his first comment was, “I hope he knew Jesus.” And a heavy weight descended on his heart. A burden and a hurt for the lost. Because we’ve all been lost. None of us were born Christians. He can’t remember a time of not “knowing” Jesus, but there came a time where he surrendered his life to Jesus and knowing about Jesus turned to a personal relationship with His Savior.

Since God impressed Matthew 4:19 on him, God’s been tossing it around in my own heart too. I am feeling the burden I am watching my son experience.

We’ve been reading Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom. The boys now say things like, “I want a faith like that.” Or “I want to experience the same miracles she experienced.” (Side note- this is a great family read aloud after you’ve read The Hiding Place. There is a young reader’s edition.)

Corrie said yes to God at every turn. If I’m honest, I am selective with my yes’s. I’ll say yes as long as it doesn’t infringe on my comfort zone. As long as I don’t have to sacrifice too greatly.

I shared recently about what God showed me in the pit. He’s been refining me, killing off my self-sins. The process is painful. I had no idea how full of self I was until He began showing me the depths of my heart I’d never seen.

The day following our family discussion about how to mark my 40th, God spoke to me about what to do. “Give your birthday away. To me. Selflessly.”

What does that look like? In a split second, He made it very clear it was not to do a list of good deeds. My first thought went to how I could do 40 acts of kindness or 40 good things for God. He said no. That would be too self-promoting, too easy to grow self-righteous. Too close to all those self-sins He’s working out of me ever so painfully.

I knew why He told me no. He’s teaching me that if I want to really love Him more, then I will love His people. And if I love His people, I will begin telling His people who He is. To do that, I must put myself away. Get myself out of the picture. My “self” stands in the way and cares about what people may say or think. And He says, “Lay down your self.”

So that afternoon I sat with my family on the porch and told them that God showed me how I am to celebrate my 40th birthday. It’s by giving away 40 gifts. Giving away the message of the hope I have to 40 people. I wasn’t exactly sure except that somehow or in some way I was to mark 40 by sharing the gospel. Not sharing good deeds, but sharing the good news.

As Steve and the other boys nodded along, Jacob’s eyes lit up. “Mom, I love that idea!”

The next morning I began to sense God telling me not to wait for my birthday. To begin to mark my 40th birthday now. We are a little less than 40 days away, and He said go. God confirmed through Jacob when he said, “Why don’t we just start now instead of waiting. For the next 40 days, let’s share Jesus everywhere we go.”

When God says move, He means move. When God places a desire in your heart, He won’t let it die. When the desire makes you squirm with discomfort because your pride is being poked, you can be sure God won’t stop until you learn that humility is the true seat of honor.

If I’m honest, it’s my pride that seals my lips from shouting the gospel message everywhere I go. I justify by saying that I live the gospel out for others to see. And while this is true at times, He also said “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” And “Go make disciples.”

So Jacob nudged because God bumped.

This goes right along with what He’s been showing me for the last year. No platform must be built to make Him known. We can make Him known with no stage, platform, or audience. We make Him known to the very next person we encounter.

Join me for the follow up to this post (hopefully tomorrow??). Jacob and I decided that if God said start celebrating 40 now, we must obey. I’ve walked in disobedience when God asked me to follow Him, and it’s not pretty. We are choosing obedience and sharing with you here for two reasons. 1- I am now accountable to you. 2- To encourage you to let God poke you to share with the very next person the hope you have….in front of your kids.

While 40 signifies a time of testing and trial, I’ve also seen how powerful developing habits that turn into lifestyle can shape in 40 days. Day 1-10 are pretty tough. As you edge closer to 40, the discomfort is gone and it’s simply part of your life. Maybe that is why God is asking me to celebrate my 40th birthday for 40 days by giving it away. So that every day of my life becomes less about me and more about Him. Not just here where it’s comfortable, but out there in the world.

What God Showed Me When I Lay in the Pit

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I am not a private person. I am an open book, completely transparent and energized by friends and people who are real. Who are willing to say, “I struggle with this. I need help here. Can you pray about this.” Because we know anyway, so why fake it? What’s the point?

The last 4 weeks I’ve not been myself. I shared a little in my last post. Honestly, I would’ve shared more if I had more time to write.

It slithered from the shadows and descended upon me in the dark of night, and when I woke, the world looked different.

A sadness lay over me like a weighted blanket. The sadness would lift ever so slightly and with no warning would swoop back with an agenda. To hold me captive. To torment and taunt.

Initially, I battled in my own strength. Nothing had happened in my life to cause this. Nothing had changed. I’m not currently experiencing grief or trauma. I had no “reason” to live in this soul darkness. I spoke reason and logic to my mind. It didn’t help.

I tried to push it into the depths of my heart, away from the world. If I pushed hard enough, surely it would disappear into some soul abyss. Then I would feel “normal” again.

I felt far from God. So very far. I know truth. I know He didn’t leave me. My prayers became breath prayers. “Lord, help!”

My perspective was gone. My passion. Gone. Desires. Gone. Motivation. Gone. I didn’t recognize me anymore, and I began to panic. The black would come in hurricane sized waves.

I tried to talk about it but had zero words. Nothing made sense. How could I explain this to anyone when I didn’t understand it myself. But I tried to explain to Steve. He listened without trying to fix me or solve my problems.

It simply felt like an attack from satan. One unlike any I’d ever experienced before.

I told Steve I know truth. I know I have a million reasons to feel joy, to be thankful, to praise God. But I couldn’t do it. I know scripture. I know the lies that are being whispered to me by satan. I know I am hearing the lies louder than truth. I’m fighting it, but it’s so hard to fight in the dark. Every move feels labored.

Steve asked me who I had praying for me. I said no one specifically about this because I don’t even know what to ask for. And I feel ridiculous because I have not one single, microscopic reason to feel this way. My friends are dealing with real problems, real issues, real grief. How can I ask them to pray for something so ridiculous? However, I know many who pray for me regularly as the Spirit leads.

It’s what satan wanted. He wanted me to isolate myself from the fellowship of believers. Because he knows they would battle for me with the sword of truth, they would hold the shield of faith on my behalf.

Steve took my phone in his hand and told me if I didn’t reach out to my dear friend and mentor immediately, he would call her for me. So I did. Then I ran into a friend at church. I tried to get in and out. I can’t fake it. What you see is what you get with me. There is no happy face when I’m not happy. She stopped me and said I didn’t seem myself. My eyes welled up, and I blurted it all over her. Steve began asking people to pray for me. And I know many of you prayed for me after my last post.

The thing is on the outside, no one could really tell what was happening in my heart and mind. Though I’m not a fake it person, I swallowed hard to appear “normal”, to go through the motions, to keep taking steps forward.

Several weeks ago I wrote this in my journal:

I don’t feel like myself anymore. Or am I more myself than I’ve ever been? I’m confused. That’s what I feel. And lonely, which is weird because I’m never alone these days. The boys are with me around the clock. I’ve lost the time I used to have to reflect. Yet I stand inside the greater gift. That of constant experience. I know God’s still here, but I used to sense His Presence so powerfully. Now, I pray desperate breath prayers.

No more simmering of Him in my soul. My pride and self-sufficiency are being burned in the Refiner’s fire. I must surrender it all to Him. To let go and be still. To open my hands. To breathe.

After writing that in my journal a friend sent me a message about how something I posted encouraged her. I shared how it had spoken to me because I feel I’m in a dark place away from God. She responded to me by sharing a story about Mother Theresa being certain God had called her to ministry in India. As years passed she began to feel she couldn’t “hear” God anymore and couldn’t feel His Presence. Yet she remained obedient. After 19 years the Holy Spirit revealed to her that how could she minister to “abandoned” people if she herself never experienced what it felt like to be “abandoned”. And possibly in my ministry to women, God is allowing me go into the dark pit so that I can empathize with my sweet sisters in the Lord in a deeper, more intimate way.

Over the course of days which turned into weeks, God began to show me that He wants my whole heart. It’s what He spoke to me last year. Wholehearted woman.

To get my whole heart, I had to remove the sins of my self-sufficiency first. I had to realize that though I don’t recognize it, I need Him in a desperate way every breathing moment of my life.

He began to show me sins that were not sins I commit (as A.W Tozer puts it) but sins that are part of who I am. As they began to crawl out of me, it was disgusting. And the more disgusted I became with myself over sins that I never named as sins, I wanted to turn my face from God. I wanted to run and hide from Him.

But He wouldn’t let me. Instead, He let me sit in the dark of the pit, seeing the depth of sin and depravity that reside inside the human heart. My own heart. But then.

Cracks of light emerged. In the still of the dark, I began to hear His whispers. His truths. His Word.

Keep praying. Keep serving my people. Keep loving. I love you.

I’ve been tucked in His wings the entire time. Covered by His feathers.

More light entered. But my vision was still blurry for me eyes had been in the dark. I could see shadows now. He is here.

Our ENTIRE life is spiritual. Every second of the physical is spiritual. There are forces of darkness that seek to destroy. My life is held in the Father’s hand and nothing can snatch me out of His hand. But the enemy will use his demonic forces to cover us with the dark in order to hide the light.

His Word tells me that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world. I claim that truth.

I began praying His Word.

Psalm 17:6-9

I call on you, my God, for you will answer me;
    turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show me the wonders of your great love,
    you who save by your right hand
    those who take refuge in you from their foes.
Keep me as the apple of your eye;
    hide me in the shadow of your wings
from the wicked who are out to destroy me,

Within 2 days of asking for prayers, I was overwhelmed by God. Friends began sending encouragement around the clock. Articles were slipped into my inbox that seemed like words from God meant for my heart alone. 36 hours after frantic calls for prayer, the deep, dark, wet blanket lifted.

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

He lifted me from the slimy pit. Praise God.

The day He pulled me from the pit, I opened my eyes and the world looked familiar again. Nothing like it had looked for weeks.

I was afraid to claim victory yet. So I hesitantly moved through the days. Five days later, I spoke it out loud to Steve and my friend and mentor. “I’m back.”

Four terrifying and dark weeks, and I see God differently now. I love Him in a new way. He’s still refining me in His fire. He’s still pulling yuck out of me so I can be a vessel for Him. But. He’s answered a prayer that I’ve been praying for a year. “Lord, let me love you more.”

I love Him more. My passion is reignited.

Satan hopes my pride and claim to “privacy” will prevent me from sharing any of this with you. But I must share with you where I’ve been the last month because I’m convinced many reading this know exactly what I’m writing about. I’m convinced that many live in a dark place and are desperate for the light.

Prior to this experience I couldn’t relate to many of my sisters who struggle silently in the pit. Now, you will be in my prayers.

If you are in the pit, if you feel abandoned, keep speaking truth to the lies. Don’t stop praying. Claim victory in Christ. Share with a friend even if you feel ridiculous or misunderstood. Keep speaking truth and moving forward.

The pit feels as far as we can be from God, but I now believe it might be the closest we ever are to Him.

 

 

 

What If He Answers That Prayer With A Yes? Can You Handle It?

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I pulled his storybook Bible onto my lap, the spine nearly falling apart. Each page worn and tired, but not giving out on drawing him in night after night. He pulled the book towards himself, “Can I choose the story?”

“Sure.”

He began thumbing through the crinkled pages. “I bet you know which one.”

“Jericho,” I laughed.

“No. One from last night.”

“Oh! Revelation. John’s vision.”

That is the direction he moved. However, he stopped on another story. John still, but John’s preparing the way for Jesus.

These stories I could nearly recite by heart. Lord, let these words penetrate the deepest places of His heart. He lay tucked in tight. I sat as close to him as my body allowed, one hand holding the book in my lap, the other gently caressing his cheeks.

I finished the story, closed the book, prayed with him, kissed his head, and began to move to the door. Our nights have been so routine since birth. As I walked to the door, I hit play on the CD player. He listens to Dave Ramsey’s kids books on cd each night.

“Hey, mom, if you don’t mind could you put a different Junior story in for me?”

“Sure, which one?”

“Can you bring them to me?”

“No, can I just call them out and you choose?”

“Please can you just show them to me? I’m not the best understander.”

My heart squeezed. Tell him, he might not understand the first time. Show him, he understands.

I left the room pondering his words. They continued playing. God is walking me through the showing process of something. How often does He tell me and I don’t understand, but if He shows me, I get it.

Over the last year, I’ve prayed a simple prayer. “God make me love you more. Make my heart yearn for you above anything else.”

While God has spoken His Word to me many times to tell me how to love Him more, He is beginning to show me. Like Andrew, I may not be the best “understander”.

I’m reading A.W Tozer’s The Pursuit of God right now. God is using this book to tell me the things He is currently showing me. What a challenge and comfort.

I’m in a huge transitional stage right now. Through glimpses on Instagram, Facebook, and here on the blog, you see the most beautiful moments. Not because that is only what I want you to see, but simply because these are the places I focus my heart. I want to see God’s goodness.

The part of this transition in homeschooling I’ve been struggling with most is the giving up of what I love and the loss of what once was. The lack of time to write, the turning down of speaking engagements, the loss of quiet reflection, the loss of time to study. In my heart I’ve struggled with moments of feeling a lack of joy that made no sense because I’m walking in God’s Will, I’ve obeyed what He asked, I’m beyond blessed and grateful for the gift of this season. So why this turmoil in my heart?

In Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie, this line struck me, “This is the first lesson for the christian wife and mother today: to let go of what may once have been – and under other circumstances might now be – a recollected self, and take on, with both hands, the plan of God.”

So much self I must release to Him.

I’m struggling to hear God. Why is it so noisy? I can’t hear well through the static. It feels foreign and frightening. And dark. Yet, I know He is here.

I sat down with Tozer’s book. Sentence by sentence, I began to hear Him speaking. What He spoke to my heart was that He is showing me now rather than simply telling me. We are in a season that He is showing me how to love Him more. And the process begins by removing things from my heart that have taken root which cause me to love them more than Him. Good things even.

In the second chapter of Tozer’s book he shows a perspective I’ve never considered from the story of Abraham. God told Abraham to take his son Isaac and offer him to the Lord (Gen 22:2).

Page 26 “God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch He now says in effect, “It’s all right, Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that I might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love.”

In effect He says to me, “It’s all right, Renee. I only want to remove from the temple of your heart all those things that have taken residence so that I might reign unchallenged there. I want to correct the perversion that exists in your love. I’m answering your prayer to let you love me more.”

Tozer goes on to say about Abraham, “He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret.” That’s it!!! The things Abraham had didn’t have him.

I’m mourning what feels like a loss of my gifts and talents. Writing and speaking. I’m grieving because on one hand I feel I don’t have time to use them, on the other when I try to use them I feel they’ve disappeared. Where did the gifts go?

Tozer answered this cry of my heart as well. “We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety.” “Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to Him.”

Have I loved my gifts more than I’ve loved my God? Have I found my identity in my work, my family, my ministry before I’ve found it in my Lord?

Tozer continues on page 30, “And if we are set upon the pursuit of God, He will sooner or later bring us to this test. Abraham’s testing was, at the time, not known to him as such, yet if he had taken some course other than the one he did, the whole history of the Old Testament would have been different.”

“At that testing place there will be no dozen possible choices for us- just one and an alternative – but our whole future will be conditioned by the choice we make.”

I’m at a testing place. I’ve asked Him to make me love Him more. He is doing what I’ve asked. Little by little. He is pulling me out and away from the things I love in efforts to direct my love properly. Those good things He desires for me to have. He just doesn’t want them to have me. When He can show me this through the testing times, I will be possessed by nothing because I will be so madly in love with Him.

Maybe His plan is to answer my prayer to love Him more with a resounding yes. The process to answer that prayer feels highly uncomfortable, painful even. But praise God for His yes.

 

 

I’ve Found the Secret To Abundant Joy- Now What?

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There is an irony in today’s post and title. I began writing this post last week. A post takes me about 30 minutes to write. But I simply don’t have 30 minutes right now. So I pecked away at words here and there, piecing together fragmented thoughts. I hit save thinking I’d come back to it eventually.

Then Monday arrived, and a spiritual funk fell upon me. It began in the middle of a sleepless night over the weekend when my mind raced and pushed sleep far away. I reached for my phone and sent a desperate 3:00 am email to my mentor and friend.

I don’t even know what I said to her, but basically along the lines of HELP! Something about how I can’t balance it all, lead women’s ministry, homeschool, I miss writing, I miss quiet times of reflection, I feel I’m failing everywhere. Aghhhhh!!

Like a good mentor, she sent me a response to slap me back into clear thinking and basically said maybe I need to learn to trust God more and stop clinging to my control. Sigh. I love her. I read her email three times in a row soaking in every word. One sentence struck me in particular. ‘Maybe one reason I’m homeschooling is to learn that I won’t have peace until God is the one with total control. Not Renee.’

Everyone needs a mentor who isn’t afraid to speak what needs to be spoken.

Monday arrived and I felt like a black cloud hung over me. A deep oppressive feeling I couldn’t shake. I tried to run away from it, but it chased me wherever I went. I pushed and pushed, plastered a smile on my face to begin the morning with my boys. Things began to fall apart quickly. One tiny incident after another.

We needed to leave to get Andrew to a therapy, so the older boys packed up backpacks so we could take school to the park while Andrew worked with his educational therapist. Andrew’s attitude spiraled down an ugly path. Somewhere along that path his nasty attitude found mine and they challenged each other to a dual. The details are for another post.

I warned his therapist that his session could go poorly and to let me know if he was disrespectful. When I picked him up she told me he was a model student. I silently thanked God, and precisely 37 seconds later as I stood talking to the therapist, I heard screaming from my car and saw Andrew lurching over the front seat in full attack of Jacob.

The black cloud opened up a flood at that point. The details and story within this story will have to be for another day. But let’s just say I struggled in a bad way all day. I struggled to even smile. Within the walls of my home it was one issue after another. One argument after another. One discipline after another. I was spent and I could not find a smile anywhere. I wanted to sulk in my rotten mood.

During all of this, I texted several friends asking for prayer. My husband called and prayed with me. What plagued me I couldn’t fight in my own strength. It could only be demolished by the power of prayer.

Over the course of many hours, I felt the black cloud lifting. I cleaned up the kitchen and thought how nice it be would be to sit and write. How I miss writing. I opened up my computer and found a post I’d drafted titled “I’ve Found The Secret To Abundant Joy”. Then I laughed.

There’s that smile I’ve been looking for. God always goes about things in a way I’d never imagine.

The post was laughable. Not because I didn’t believe what I’d attempted to write, but the fact that I looked and felt anything but joyful. At the point I stopped writing that post, I’d only written what the secret was and how I stumbled on it through homeschooling. There had been no time to write out anything beyond this…

“I’ve discovered a secret many of us spend our lives searching for. The secret to abundant joy. I stumbled on it in the last place I expected to find it. Homeschooling. And not for the reasons you may think. Not because homeschooling is a better option than public or private school. Not because I’ve found the “thing” I was missing. Because of one reason. I obeyed God in this one area that made little sense to me. I said yes when I wanted to say no.

The path to abundant joy is marked by obedience.

This is the second time in less than a year I’ve learned this lesson. Last fall God told me to put down the book I was working on. It made no sense to me. I was then asked to lead women’s ministry at my church. I’d have to slow down on the ministries I currently served which seemed to be thriving. It made no sense. I’d planned to say no. God ordered circumstances so that a yes became my answer.

Weeks into serving in that role, I said to Steve that I felt like I was right in the center of God’s will for that season and space of my life.

We are in our second week of homeschooling right now….”

Do you see why I laughed now? Yes, I do believe the secret to deep, abiding, abundant joy is found in a life marked by obeying the Father. Submitting to His Will. Following Him no matter where He leads. Dying to self in order to live in Him and for Him.

Oh friends, the first two weeks of homeschool, I was floating on air not because everything was so perfect in our world, but because despite the fact that things felt bumpy and off-centered, I felt totally centered in His Will. I KNEW I had obeyed Him in this one thing. And in this one thing, I felt His pleasure. I felt joy that seemed to bubble up from within.

And then. I forgot that He was in control and I was not. I took my eyes off Him and placed them on me and everything around me. Panic set in and the black cloud descended. And I stopped obeying in the moment by moments. Yes, I still obeyed in the one thing. But I stopped obeying in the littles.

When scripture would pop in my head to guide me, I pushed it away. I chose to walk in my flesh and gratify my sin nature instead. Disobeyed. When my kids angered me and I heard Him whispering to me to respond with gentleness and lovingkindness, I hushed His voice by snapping louder than my kids. Disobeyed. When I heard His instruction to take every thought captive, I said, “No, I don’t feel like it. I want to wallow in self-pity a bit longer.” Disobeyed.

With each act of disobedience, the weight of oppression increased.

So, yes, after the power of prayer released me from myself, I sat to write and laughed at the words blinking at me from the screen. I don’t know of much I’ve written that God doesn’t take me through immediately after writing it to be sure I grasped what He wanted me to grasp.

I re-titled the post, adding a Now What? to the end. I need to remember that I found this secret, but what am I going to do with it? It’s a choice I make moment by moment. Will I obey Him even in the most uncomfortable spaces and places I want to say no? Or will I disobey? If I obey Him, I know I will walk in peace experiencing a deep joy no matter what circumstances I walk in. If I disobey, I invite the work of the enemy. I think I’ll choose joy, which comes along the path of obedience. Not only obedience to the big things, but obedience to the very small things that make up the hours of our days.

” ‘For sometimes my old bitterness returns. Now I shall just stand my ground, claim the victory of Jesus over fear and resentment, and love even when I don’t want to.’ My friend had learned well the secret of victory. It comes through obedience.”  Tramp for the Lord, Corrie Ten Boom

Unbridle my love, Lord

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To listen to an audio recording of this post, click here.

“Mom, you have to pause right now. You have to come outside and see God’s beautiful world. There is a yellow and black butterfly flying back and forth between the trees. And everything is just. so. beautiful.”

I swiveled my cracked leather chair away from the computer screen and looked into his eyes wide with excitement. His little hands clenched tight to the mason jar holding one tiny rock.

“I found this rock when I was digging. I saved it in this glass jar so you could always think of me. I want you to remember me.”

“Andrew, I will never forget you.” I smiled, closed my computer, and followed him outside. For the first time in days, the humidity wasn’t 95%. The sky was overcast. It was lovely.

“I see the butterfly, Andrew!”

“See, I told you, Mom, it’s just beautiful out here.”

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He led me to the spot where he had been digging. He found bird netting that had grown into the ground and a rock. “Mom, I’m trying to make a hot tub. I decided I would help dig so if we ever get a pool, we will have a hot tub, and you won’t have to hire so many workers.”

I smiled back at him, nodding my affirmation of his plan. He stood up, brushed the dust off his shorts, and held his garden shovel high. “It’s not impossible for a little man with a little shovel to do that kind of job.”

Not with faith and belief like that. For the one who believes that with God all things are possible, then all things simply become possible.

After a few minutes exploring outside, we made our way back inside. We grabbed the book he and I are reading aloud, Misty of Chincoteague. We snuggled close on my bed. The dogs took their spots, one as a pillow behind my head, the other sprawled at our feet. The dialect when the grandfather speaks is tough for me to read and even more difficult for Andrew to follow. Every few sentences, I would stop and explain in plain English what the grandfather was saying to his grandchildren. The grandfather in the story referenced “gentling” a horse. I explained this would be taming a wild horse.

His eyes widened again. “I could do that. I could totally do that.”

“Andrew, honestly, I believe you could. I can absolutely see you having the ability to tame a wild horse.”

A few minutes later, he shared his newly discovered dream with Jacob. “Hey, Jacob, I’m going to calm a wild horse. I’ll just get the strongest rope in the world and bring him to me. Then I’ll get a brush and brush him softly because that will calm him like it calms our dogs.”

Jacob listened as he faked slam dunks on Andrew’s closet basketball goal. “Cool, Andrew, that’s neat.”

Andrew leaned back in his bed with his arms behind his head. He was in deep thoughts of taming wild horses. I softly closed his door for our daily “quiet” time.

An hour later quiet time ended and the boys transitioned to their daily movie or Wii time for 30 minutes. Andrew had lost his screen time because of an earlier in the day episode of disrespect, disobedience, and some serious outbursts of anger.

I sat on my bed writing during that time. He climbed on my bed with me. “Mom, I am just so sad. They are watching a show, and I wish I didn’t have to lose mine. I’m ashamed of myself.”

I put my computer down again. “Andrew, can I tell you a story?”

“Is it a true story?”

“Well, it’s a story from my heart.”
He shrugged his shoulders, crawled closer to me on the bed, and ran his fingers over threads hanging from the comforter.

“Imagine you see a wild horse. Of course, you would want it since you want a horse so badly. And you would love it immediately. In your heart you would promise to love it, protect it, and take good care of it. You would do for it what was best. But that wild horse doesn’t trust you, so it doesn’t know that you will only do what is good for it.”

He looked up from the threads and met my eyes. “Andrew, sometimes you are like that wild horse. You think you know best and forget that I love you and know what is best for you, so you forget to trust me.”

“That makes sense, actually.”

“It really does. We are all like that wild horse at times with God too. God has promised to never leave us and never foresake us. He will always take care of us and always love us. But sometimes we buck and run and He is whispering to us. He is saying, ‘Just trust me. I know what is best for you. Just obey me and love me.’ ”

He nodded as he began to play with the loose threads again. I pulled him tight to my side, kissing his cheek. “Do you know how much I love you?”

He rolled his eyes, “Yes, mom.”

“Do you know how much God loves you?”

His automatic answer, “Yes.” Then he switched his answer, “No.”

“He loves you so much He sent His One and only Son to die for you. That is how much. He loves you way more than I love you!”

His smile broke across his face as he pulled out of my embrace, skipping out of my room. We all like to be reminded that we are loved with a ridiculously wild, indulgent love.

His plans are good, His will is perfect. He asks us to trust and follow. And in response I ask Him to make me love Him wildly. With a love that is unbridled.

Lord, let me trust you with my whole heart. When I’m scared, let me run to you, not away. When I think I know what is best, remind me that you know my heart better than I know myself. Unbridle my heart to love you wildly.

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When I Watched the Gospel Wear Skin

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I sat in the corner of the waiting room where Andrew attends Interactive Metronome therapy twice a week. Jacob stood at the door leading from the waiting room to the hallway. “Oh my gosh, Mom, come here! Andrew is out in the hallway.” The laugh in Jacob’s eyes told me I didn’t want to miss this.

I placed my book on the seat and joined Jacob at the door. Peering around the doorframe, I gasped. Jacob doubled over gripping his stomach through his fits of laughter. From the end of the hall, Andrew shouts back, “What? Stop it, Jacob!” Jacob couldn’t stop laughing.

“Jacob, please go back in the waiting room,” I whispered. Just then Andrew’s therapist emerged from the bathroom holding the shirt Andrew had been wearing. It was soaked.

“Andrew had a little accident on his shirt when he went to the bathroom. I tried to rinse it off and accidentally got his shirt wetter than I meant to and now it’s too wet for him to wear.”

I laughed. He laughed. Then I realized, we really did have a bit of an issue. Therapy time ticked away. Valuable time. It’s been years since I’ve kept extra clothes on hand. He could go shirtless, which would be fine with him, maybe not with the other children. I saw no solution.

I wore a cardigan over my shirt. I took it off to offer it to Andrew. His always over-expressive eyes widened, “Mom! I cannot wear girl clothes! I’ll look ridiculous!”

He pushed his arms in anyway. We rolled the sleeves up, buttoned the bottom buttons, hoping he would roll with it.

“No. No way. Take this off me now. I can not wear this!”

“Do you think one of his brothers would loan him their shirt?”

“Ha! I highly doubt it, but I’ll ask.”

I thought to myself, “There is no way they will give up their shirt, sit shirtless in a waiting room so Andrew can continue therapy.” Having no other options, I entered the waiting room to ask so I could say I’d given it my best.

“Ok, boys, Andrew had a little accident on his shirt, his therapist tried to help him out and ended up soaking the shirt. In order for him to finish therapy, he needs a shirt to wear. I tried to give him my cardigan but he won’t wear it. Is there any way one of you would be willing to loan him the shirt off your back so he can finish therapy?”

Before I completed my sentence, Jacob shot up from his seat. “I’ll do it, Mom. He can wear my shirt.”

Before he could change his mind, I whisked him out of the waiting room back to Andrew standing shirtless in the hallway.

They locked eyes and both burst out laughing. Through his laughter, Andrew said, “Stop it, Jacob.” Jacob couldn’t help himself.

“Jacob, quickly take off your shirt and give it to him so he can get back to work.” Jacob pulled his shirt off, Andrew slipped it on his head. And I watched it dawn on Jacob what he had just done.

Jacob stood exposed.

Andrew looked down at his new shirt. “This fits perfect. Thanks!” And off he and his therapist went. Meanwhile, I handed Jacob my favorite white cardigan.

He looked at it as if it were poison. “Mom, I can’t believe I just gave him my shirt. I don’t know what I was thinking! I am so embarrassed right now.”

I let it all out. Every ounce of laughter I’d been holding in. Watching Jacob put his arms into that cardigan, button up the buttons which went to about his belly button, and looking at his bare chest. Well, it was about the funniest thing I’d seen in awhile.

After I gathered myself, I stood back looking at him. “Jacob, that is the most beautiful picture of sacrifice I’ve seen. You didn’t think, you didn’t weigh the options, you didn’t count the cost to you. You gave to your brother what he didn’t have, you suffered humiliation and embarrassment for his sake. And you did it out of love.”

A blush covered his face, as he gently nodded, eyes cast to the floor. “It was weird, Mom, because I didn’t even think about it until after I’d given him my shirt. It just happened. I really can’t believe I said yes.”

“It’s the absolute perfect picture of sacrifice. When we sacrifice something from our hearts, we often don’t think about it. It comes naturally.”

A soldier who gives his life for a brother isn’t weighing his options and what he will give up. There is no time. A mother who runs into the road to save her child crossing the street isn’t thinking. She is simply acting. Often what we call a sacrifice is simply an act of love to the nth degree.

“Jacob, you had what Andrew didn’t and out of your love for him, you sacrificed. You are embarrassed, you are humiliated. Jesus did for us what we couldn’t do for ourselves. He hung on a cross in complete humiliation. Willingly. It was the ultimate sacrifice.”

I watched the thought wash over him. It transformed his face, and I pray it transforms his heart. I know it will. Because the gospels transforms us. Not just the first time we get it, but every moment we live it.
When we truly get the gospel is when the gospel gets us. And we will never, ever be the same. It’s impossible.

Jacob showed me gospel living. The gospel is meant to be tasted, felt, experienced. The gospel is radical. Extreme. Unnatural. It’s wild abandonment of self and pride. It’s humbling.

The gospel isn’t meant to be boiled down to a Sunday School lesson leading to a sinner’s prayer. It’s so much more. It’s beautifully complex wearing the clothes of simplicity. It’s a simple message meant to be breathed in and out.

With each breath of the gospel, we come alive, and out of the life He gave for us, we can give. We can stand humiliated yet unashamed.

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How To Live Fearless In A Scary World

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For the audio recording of this post click here to listen.

I sat straight up in my bed, my heart racing as my eyes desperately tried to focus. Light filtered in through the blinds as I reached for my watch and tried to understand why I felt terrified. My immediate thought went to Andrew. Did he sleepwalk out of the beach house we are renting? The pond steps from our place has several alligators cruising its waters. Did Andrew wander into the waters? What if he’s gone?

Initially, I tried to talk myself calm. I tried to prove to God I trusted in Him by praying and laying still in my bed. But I couldn’t. I bolted out of the bed and ran to the front door. I checked the deadbolt. Twice. I went to Andrew’s bed. Everyone was safely sleeping.

I returned to my bed and prayed myself back to sleep. I wish I could say this is the first time that has happened. It’s not and it seems to be happening more frequently.

Our first day at the beach the wind was fierce, so loud you had to yell to hear each other. The sand blew so hard it pelted our skin with little stings. The boys and I used different words to describe the waves. To me they were violent. To the boys they were adventure.

Steve and I watched the boys jumping in the waves while the sand stung our skin and all we could hear were shouts of kids carried intermittently by the wind.

“Steve, it’s too dangerous for them to be out there. Those waves are rough.” I immediately thought back to a conversation we had on the way to the beach. One I initiated about fear and how I refused to become a person directed by fear. While I wouldn’t jump from a plane, I wouldn’t stop living life because of the what if’s of freak accidents either. That would simply be life not lived, rather life controlled by fear.

But in that moment fear held me by the neck against a wall.

“Steve, I feel terrified right now.”

“Renee, you need to send that fear away.”

I began talking to God with my eyes lasered at my kids. In that moment it hit me. He commands those waves and winds. He quieted the waves and winds with two words. Be still.

Be still.

I’ve written talks around this. I’ve spoken on this topic multiple times. And here I am again. Reminding myself that the One Who holds the world, is the One who commands the waves, is the One Who has numbered my days. So why do we fear?

We are a scared bunch of people. Anxiety plagues our world. The world is scary.

We are surrounded by terrifying reports. Within days we read about the Orlando massacre, the tragic death of a 2-year-old in Disney, a missing 14-year-old who was swimming in the ocean, a 13-year-old almost kidnapped right from her mother’s side. I am debating getting off of Facebook for good because I walk away scared, or mad, or nervous, or something that is not good for me.

Here’s the deal. I hate when satan attacks us and we let him. There is something so deep inside me that begins to boil over when I see his schemes. I’m dropping the gloves with him. I’m tired of watching him seek to destroy us through fear tactics. It’s his age old trick. He’s not very creative. We are simply not seeing what he is doing. And we aren’t putting on our armor.

I will not live scared in this world.

How often does God instruct us not to fear? Throughout the Bible God tells His people not to fear. Trust Him.

But we read these words then we turn to the news and immediately forget God’s instruction to us.

The weeks before Steve and I left for Haiti, I battled fear in a big way. This is nothing new for me. Fear I battle regularly. Last fall I had an intense fear war going on as God revealed many things to me. His intent was not for me to fear, yet I went first to fear.

Prior to our Haiti trip, Jacob expressed his own fear about our trip. What if we died while there and he was left with no parents? It’s a valid fear. It was my biggest fear as a child. I shared his fear with a friend who instantly reminded me of the truth.

Job 14:15 You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.

Jacob and I read this verse together. I said, “Jacob, God has appointed a time for me to die. He knows the exact hour. Whether my plane crashes over the ocean or I’m sitting in my house and my heart simply stops beating, God knows the day I will go home to Him.”

I watched as the moment of understanding transformed his face. That’s why we can’t let the what if’s of life plague us.

Psalm 56:3 “When I’m afraid I will trust in you.”

Psalm 139:16 “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”

The day we depart this earth is no surprise to God. He has numbered our days. He knows the very moment we will enter into eternity. So why should I waste one second on fear? Why should I allow satan to steal my joy and my moments because I’m pondering the what-if’s?

We have two choices in where we allow our mind to go. On Him or on the fears of this world.

Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

To live fearless in a scary world takes us making the choice to live fearless. The choice is ours. The moment fear creeps in, we take charge by breaking down the stronghold.

2 Cor 10:4-5 “since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly,[a] but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments 5 and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Either we take fear captive….or it takes us hostage. All we have to do is take those fear thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ. God is not the author of fear. Fear is from satan. Because we are under the lordship of Christ, we have the power of the Holy Spirit to take every thought captive and make it obey Him.

Our fear thoughts only torment us if we allow them to. Battle with His Word.