Do You Believe God Speaks Through Dreams?

Do you believe God speaks through dreams? I began to see God speaking to me through dreams 2 years ago, and I’ve come to treasure the messages He gives me. Many people think this is a far out there kind of thing. Like the God of today doesn’t do that. I’ve learned this as I’ve shared what God shows me and people look at me like I’ve lost my head.

The God of today is the same God of the Bible. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The Bible is filled with examples of Him speaking to His people through dreams (Genesis 37:5-10; 1 Kings 3:5-15; Daniel, chapters 2 and 7; Matthew 1:20; 2:13,19; and Acts 10:9-16; 16:9). I don’t know why we don’t quickly believe He can or would speak to us this way.

Is every dream a message from God? Absolutely not. Some are simply formed from something we saw before going to bed, something we ate, something on our minds.

Great caution must be taken before we decide if a dream or vision is from God or not. If it contradicts scripture, it is not from God. If it is opposed to the will of God, it’s not from Him. Before making determinations, we must take the dream to God and ask Him to speak to us. He will confirm through His Word His message to us.

The dreams I know are from God always line up with scripture. They often are tied directly to a passage of scripture. Often as I pray about a dream or vision, God will lead me directly to the scripture He wants me to see.

I had a dream this week that I know was a message from God to me. I can’t explain how I know when my dreams are from God except to say that when I wake up, there is this sense of knowing. A confidence. Not a fear. It’s like I simply wake and He is the first thing on my mind. The dream is vivid and I know it’s from Him. Then it lines up with scripture.

The dream this week was me sitting and watching something play out beside me. There were no surrounding images in this dream.  It was simple and clear.

A snake was coiled up near me. Jacob and Andrew approached the snake with caution and lightly placed a belt on top of the snake to secure him in place while they reached for a pantyhose type of net to scoop the snake and discard of him away from us. This exact scenario kept playing on repeat throughout the dream.

I would watch and think that the snake should easily be able to slither out from under that belt, but he didn’t. I couldn’t believe that a belt resting lightly on the snake could hold him back from striking me.

But on the last snake, the image was different. This snake looked scarier than the others. I thought that my children were lacking in power and authority in approaching that snake. Why were they coming at this one with such a casual demeanor? Why were they allowing so much time between placing the belt on it, and trapping and throwing it out. In fact, they were allowing the snake time to get mad and strike back. In this part of the dream, they placed the belt on the snake and seemed to move slower to get the net to trap the snake. I said to them, “Hurry up before he gets mad and away.”

Just as I said this, the snake hissed, it’s face flared like that of a cobra. It turned it’s body under the weight of the belt in an attempt to get out from under the belt and come with its bite towards me.

And I woke up. Sat straight up.

As I prayed and pondered the dream, God brought to mind several scriptures. The first was Ephesians 6: 10-18

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

The belt held that snake down in my dream. We are told to stand firm with the belt of truth on our waist. It’s the first piece of armor we are instructed to put on. In Roman warfare days, the belt held together the armor. Without the belt, the rest of the armor couldn’t do what it was intended to do. (Side note, I highly recommend The Armor of God study).

In my dream the belt held the snake down while the boys came to destroy the snake. For us to defeat the attacks of the enemy, truth is essential. Without truth, we have nothing, no armor. We must utilize all pieces of the armor.

How do we get truth? Only one way. Read. The. Bible. Read the Bible. That is truth. It will shape us, form our minds, guide us. Most importantly it reveals who God is. When we know who He is, we know we can trust Him.

When we have truth firmly around our waist, we can buckle our breastplate of righteousness securely to our belt of truth. We have a place to store our sword, which is our weapon to defeat the enemy. It’s offense and defense. We slay the enemy by using the very words of God. With our belt of truth on, we can gird up our loins. Imagine Roman soldiers, when advancing into battle, they tucked their cloth into the belt so their feet could move freely in battle.

It’s essential to remember that our entire life is a spiritual battle. But we aren’t victims. We are conquerors because Jesus won the ultimate war. We need to walk in the authority and power He has given us. We need not approach the enemy carelessly, lacking our authority. We approach like David approached Goliath. We come against our enemy in the name of the God Most High!!

Today I feel reminded by God that He has given me authority and power in His name. I will wage war through the power of prayer. All kinds of prayers. For all God’s people. Each day is one day closer to the return of Christ.

War on! In truth and love!

 

 

Believer, Stop Living Like a Victim and Live Like Who You Really Are

As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, a picture grabbed my attention. She wore a weighted vest through an obstacle race challenge. I thought about how difficult that must have been. I know when I wear weighted gloves during a kickboxing class, I feel such relief when I take the gloves off at the end. A world of difference with weights off. In fact, I often think if I’d done the class without those weighted gloves, I could’ve gone much longer.

In our physical world, we add weights to add challenge to our workouts. But the minute we take the weights off, we sense the endurance available free of the weights.

Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”

Obviously, weights slow us down. They slow our pace, and they shorten the distance we can go. The writer of Hebrews makes the comparison of sin to weights. This life is a long distance race. To keep going, we have to maintain our focus on the end goal. We have to run with endurance.

What sins are you wearing daily that slow down your race? What is keeping you from running with endurance?

I’ve caught myself praying before asking God to take away this sin, or give me this fruit of the Spirit. I’ve found myself frustrated when I repeat the same patterns of sin over and over again. I’ve found myself praying that familiar prayer. “Give me more patience. Help me to be slow to anger.” Those prayers.

If I’m completely honest with you, I’ve found myself playing the victim or martyr role in my life as it relates to sins I allow in my life.

As I read my Bible, several verses began to call out for my attention. Key words demanded I pay close attention.

In the Hebrews passage above, I noticed that we are encouraged to lay aside the weight of sin that entangles us. How often am I taking an active role in taking this weight off? Or am I putting it on and simply asking God to take it off me?

It reminds me of my youngest son, who out of habit calls out to me to do things for him I’ve trained him to do himself. Sometimes I have to kneel down and remind him that I’ve taught him to do these things so that he can grow into a man one day. I’ve passed onto him the responsibility that lies with him now. I’m here to encourage him that he can do these things because I’ve shown him how. God’s Word has shown us how to run this race with endurance. He gives us the power to run the race, but He gives us the choice in how we run it.

Our life is full of choice. I have a choice to allow myself to become offended. I have a choice to allow myself to become irritated or frustrated. I have a choice if I scream out of anger. I have a choice to look on a friend with envy over a life that appears perfect. I am not a victim of life. I am not a victim of sin.

Christ defeated sin. As a believer, I live empowered by the Holy Spirit. I live with Christ in me, the hope of glory. I’m not a victim, I’m a conqueror because the One who conquered death lives in me.

So I have a choice. I don’t need to take on the victim role. That too is a choice.

Back to Hebrews. Lay aside the sin. Take it off. Choose to run life free of weights.

But there is a part 2 of equal importance. If we don’t pay attention to the next part, then we will inevitably pick the weights back up and put them on without realizing it.

When we remove something from our lives, we must replace it with something else. Something better. If we leave the space empty, something will move in eventually. When a smoker stops smoking, they typically replace the cigarette with something else. Often gum or food. When someone who spends hours a day watching television decides to end the habit, they have to fill that time with something else. If they don’t, they will fall right back into their tv watching habits.

Habits removed need to be replaced with better choices.

So when we decide to take off the weights of sin that easily ensnare us, we have to put something in place of those weights. Something better than weights. Something that won’t make it harder to run, but something that will actually increase our endurance and strength without causing stumbles, falls, bumps, and bruises.

Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans to satisfy the fleshly desire.”

Pay attention to the choice we are to make. We don’t sit back and say, “Oh, well, God, I can’t do it. Do it for me. Make me stop speaking words of anger to my friends and family. Make me stop harboring jealously in my heart toward this person. Make me stop spending money on things I know I don’t need.” No, we aren’t victims. As believers we’ve been delivered and transferred from darkness into light.

Key words in this verse are ‘put on’. Put on the Lord Jesus. We do that. We choose to put on Christ when we choose to lay aside those weights. We put Jesus in place of the weights. We make the choice to not make plans to satisfy the fleshly desires.

Just like we have free will to choose Christ as our Savior. We have that same free will to choose to live in the Spirit.

What does it mean to satisfy the fleshly desires? Well, when you think someone has intentionally hurt you and you want to hurt them back, you may choose to vent all your hurt and anger at them. That satisfies the fleshly desire. You can “defend” yourself. You can prove your case. But often what happens is wounds are inflicted and scars form that may remain for life. Relationships are ruined through words. Instead, if we had taken it to God first, prayed and received His perspective, we may have handled it differently. Our hearts may have changed. We may have saved relationships rather than ruining them.

When we live in a victim mentality that life is unfair and hard and we are victims, we tend to act out of this place. We place the weighted vest of sin on and we run. Then we fall under the weight of sin.

The fact is, life can be harshly cruel. People hurt us. Things happen in this fallen world that we wish we could undo. While I can’t control what happens to me on a daily basis, I can control how I choose to respond to situations and people.

Colossians 3:12-15 “Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love-the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.”

This verse starts out by reminding who we are first. This is key. Don’t miss it. When we know who we are, we know how to act. We remember. When we are saved, we are called God’s chosen ones. We are holy. We are loved. Because of this and this alone, we have the power to choose to put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We can forgive because of who we are because of what He did for us.

Do you notice all the choice in scipture that is in our hands. Not only is it our choice to put on these these attributes, but we have the choice to be controlled by Christ not ourselves. The end of that verse says “let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful.”

Do we want peace and not strife in our life. Well, we have the choice to put off the sin of strife. We have the choice to put on Jesus Christ. To put on kindness and patience and gentleness. We have the choice to let the peace of Christ control us instead of letting ourselves be controlled by our fleshly desires.

One way or another, we are going to be controlled by something. But scripture shows us that when we are in Christ, we have a choice to let ourselves be controlled by Him. We aren’t victims. Don’t play that game. It’s the game the enemy wants you deeply invested in. In this game, he will use shame, manipulation, guilt, fear, all kinds of weapons to hold you in the game.

Choose wisely.

Remember who God says you are. Lay aside the weights of sin. Put on Christ. Put on the fruits of the Spirit. Surrender to His Ways and say, “I’m fully yours, God. Let Your peace control me.”

Be a victim to grace. Be a victim to peace. Be a victim to goodness, kindness, compassion.

We can’t do it in our own strength. We must turn into Christ, ask Him to strengthen us, then we make the choice to walk in His ways not in the ways of our flesh. He gives us power, but He gives us the choice with what we do and how we act.

What a different place the world would be if we lived and walked in the power we’ve been given.

 

Want to experience miracles? Try this.

A portion of The Hiding Place is forever cemented in my brain. Before I share what God has been showing me, let’s start here. Corrie Ten Boom, along with her sister and other family members,  were christians hiding Jews during WWII. They were discovered and imprisoned.

Excerpt from The Hiding Place.

“‘Fleas!’ I cried. ‘Betsie, the place is swarming with them!’

“We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle and hedged our way to a patch of light.

“‘Here! And here another one!’ I wailed. ‘Betsie, how can we live in such a place!’

“‘Show us. Show us how.’ It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie.

“‘Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…“Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“‘Such as?’ I said.

“‘Such as being assigned here together.’

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“‘Such as what you’re holding in your hands.’ I looked down at the Bible.

“‘Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.’

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“‘Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.’

“‘Thank You,’ Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for–‘

“The fleas! This was too much. ‘Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.’

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

“And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.”

*****For the sake of moving the story along, I’ll skip forward to the passage I want you to see. They obediently gave thanks for something as miserable as fleas. They gave thanks in ALL circumstances. Now watch for the miracle.********

“Back at the barracks we formed yet another line–would there never be an end to columns and waits?–to receive our ladle of turnip soup in the center room. Then, as quickly as we could for the press of people, Betsie and I made our way to the rear of the dormitory room where we held our worship “service.” Around our own platform area there was not enough light to read the Bible, but back here a small light bulb cast a wan yellow circle on the wall, and here an ever larger group of women gathered.

“They were services like no others, these times in Barracks 28.

“At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder. So many now wanted to join us that we held a second service after evening roll call. There on the Lagerstrasse we were under rigid surveillance, guards in their warm wool capes marching constantly up and down. It was the same in the center room of the barracks: half a dozen guards or camp police always present. Yet in the large dormitory room there was almost no supervision at all. We did not understand it.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

AMAZING. MIRACULOUS.

How many miracles are we missing because we fail to consider His ways are not our ways? Or we are so focused on ourselves, we can’t see up? Or….we fail to offer thanks?

Now let me share how God has been teaching me this.  In church a few weeks ago, the pastor pointed out something I’ve never noticed in 16 years of Bible reading. 2 small words.

Sacrificial thanks.

Psalm 116:17 “I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the Lord.”

Psalm 50:14-15 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High; call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

A sacrifice costs something. It’s easy to thank God when life is going our way. But when it’s not, thanking Him becomes a sacrificial offering. Whoa.

Ya’ll I can’t move past this one.

Now it’s about obedience. I must offer thanks, sacrificially, as an act of obedience.

While sitting on the beach, it’s easy to whisper thanks to God. But when hunkered down by pelting rain and high winds? I typically thank God for the things I like. What I FEEL thankful for. The good things.

Or when life feels difficult, I find everything except the difficult thing and thank Him for those good things. I look for the good outside the bad. But what about the bad things?

I attended a women’s event this week that again had me hearing this idea of sacrificial thanks. It was explained that we aren’t saying this thing is good. Instead we are agreeing that God is good and Sovereign. We are aligning with His will.

Some of the “bad” things in my life have produced fruit that could only come from the difficult. I’ve paid attention to my thoughts. My quickness to complain when I dislike something.

Our new house has a ridiculous amount of light switches. We’ve lived here 3 months, and I still find myself hitting 10 switches before I find the right one. “I hate hitting 10 switches to find the light.”

Steve glanced my way, “How about being thankful you have 10 switches to hit.”

Well, that’ll stop the complaining. You see, God continues to show me how I’m prone to complain. How I want life to be my way. I want peace in my home. I want my kids to stop fighting for the love of all things holy. I want my kids to be kinder, and I’m mad they aren’t and I can’t make them. I want. I want. I want.

But this sacrificial thanks thing. It’s pretty much a wrecking ball right now. Knocking down habits and patterns of destruction in my life.

I woke today planning a glorious surprise for my boys. As I finished my coffee, I slipped quietly to the laundry room to throw a load of towels in. A smile dawned as I thought how perfect the morning would be. I envisioned excited and thankful boys who would be delighted to partake in my plans.

Then God said, “Let go of your expectations.”

I heard it ya’ll. In my spirit. I heard God speak. Clearly.

I set down the laundry basket. The smile slowly faded. And I said quietly, “Ok, Lord.”

The boys awoke. I shared bits of my plan. Life began to happen. I don’t know what mornings look like in your home. But we have 3 boys and 2 aren’t morning people. Things can get ugly fast. Like spinning out of control, and the control freak in me goes into overdrive and God is whispering…. Stop. Stop. Let me.

So I stopped. I ran to my bathroom. My hideaway. And I prayed. God, I need you. In the name of Jesus I cast out pride in the hearts inside this home. Give us new hearts. Plant kindness and patience inside each of us. Help me to not parent out of anger or impatience. Amen.

I had about 20 seconds for a help me prayer.

I walked back to the battle zone. Nothing had changed immediately after praying. Except my heart. I was submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to the fact that I’m not God. I can’t make these young men into any image I want. Praise God for that!

My boys loaded into the car. I listened to the words exchanged among them I wanted to erase. I wanted to get in there and shush them up right then. Stop them from warring with words. But I’ve tried that, and it doesn’t change their hearts. So before I entered the car, I prayed. “Thank you God for bickering kids that exhaust me. Thank you for unkind words thrown carelessly around. Thank you for disappointed expectations. Thank you for every bit of all of this.”

The miracles began to happen. For the sake of privacy I will not share the details. But I will say what happened in the minutes and hours after in the hearts of these children and me was miraculous.

I remember reading One Thousand Gifts many years ago and a line has remained with me. Ann Voskamp wrote “Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.”

I guess I’m a slow learner. I agree with Ann now. More importantly, I agree with God. He is good. I will obey because I trust Him. If He sacrificed His own son for me, can I not sacrifice an offering of thanks to Him?

Miracles do happen. The greatest miracles happen when the Holy Spirit gets a hold of a heart and massages it, shapes it, forms it. When we obediently thank Him for the things that aren’t lovely, we lay down our expectations at the foot of the cross. We lay down our need to control. We lay down our pride that thinks we know best. We lay it all down and simply say, “Thank you, Lord.”

Open your hands in surrender. Keep them open to receive the miracles that can only come from a place of obedient surrender.

Thank you, God for your Word. Thank you for the Holy Spirit who brings us revelation. Thank you for who you are. Thank you for loving us relentlessly.

 

What You Can’t See On Social Media

Most of us are on social media to some extent. Some of us share much of our life there, some offer little. No matter how much is shared in the course of a day, it is only a mere snapshot. We all know that, but I think we forget.

After receiving many messages from friends, family, and readers that it appeared we were adjusting well to our recent move, I felt the need to address that what you see online is the tiniest, tiniest glimpse into our lives.

I’m transparent, a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of gal. But as my kids have gotten older, I’ve needed to guard their lives and our moments tighter in what I share. My writing isn’t the same as it was a few short years ago. When they were little, I shared the sweet, or not so sweet, things they said to me- how these impacted my life. I shared the moments God used parenting to refine all of us. But now- not as much.

First, their lives are their stories primarily. Yes, our lives are intertwined. But do I have the right to post about a child’s heart struggle? Do I have a right to share the things he might write or whisper to me in the secret spaces? When he leaves me a tender message, my heart swells and the moment is beautiful, but shouldn’t I keep that moment between us? When he lashes out in a moment of weakness only to come back repentant as we watch restoration give birth- as much as that could possibly encourage another parent, do I have a right to post that? When my kids lose it (and I want to), do I have a right to vent online about how they wear me out? Would my sons be ok with it at this stage of life?

At this age, the answer is no. No they are not ok with it. Even if they were ok with me sharing more of our stories, their online image will follow them for life, far beyond the age they are right now. What I share could be used against them by ones who mean harm.

This is THE reason I’ve shared little about our move.

If Steve and I didn’t have children, the transition would be hard, but not this hard. We love change, we love adventure. And in our past moves, our kids were so young, it barely impacted them. Plus we were still close enough to family and friends that our move didn’t significantly alter our lives.

But this move has taken us 15-17 hours away from friends and family. That isn’t a car ride many are willing to make or a plane ride that some could make.

God is good. His hand has been on us, and we have seen miracle after miracle. Everything in me wants to shout from the rooftops what we’ve seen God do. But there is another part of me that is cautious right now. Mainly because our family has been in an intense spiritual battle since arriving in Omaha.

Something amazing is happening in this city. A revival happening and more on the horizon. Churches in Omaha have locked arms and are operating in unity for one purpose- to make the gospel known. The churches aren’t boasting in their numbers and programs. Pastors are coming together to pray for this city. It’s amazing.

For reasons I don’t know, I believe with everything in me, God sent us to Omaha. Not long after arrival, the enemy’s darts began. How I wish I could share with you some of the battles we’ve faced. No matter how fiery the arrows have been, God is our shield and our strength. He is strengthening us in the battle. He’s teaching us how to war with love and grace.

We’ve faced attacks on our health. We’ve faced attacks of the heart. We’ve faced bizarre attacks sent straight from the pit of hell. We’ve had attacks on many fronts. But we stand on solid rock. We know who we are in Christ. We are children of God. Nothing can pluck us from His hand. We are covered by the blood of Jesus.

I have felt the presence of evil, and I do not fear because God, who is in me, is greater than the one in the world. Satan is a liar, accuser, and a thief.

Since moving, God has taught us how to pray in a way to shatter enemy strongholds and to stand firm in the stronghold of God. How to use praise as a secret weapon the enemy can’t stand against.

We know a little about why these attacks have been what they’ve been. I can’t share for the sake of the privacy of others. But what I can say is God revealed to us something unknown and hidden to us that opened up eternity in Heaven for a soul. That stronghold came crashing down. Then God revealed something to Steve and I that needed to come into the light. That stronghold came crashing down. Then we saw another soul go from bondage of sin to freedom in Christ. Praise God! That stronghold came crashing down. Our lives, mixed with the lives of others, through prayer, petition, and praise have been riding the ups and downs from storm to calm waters, storm to calm waters. But God is faithful. He is true. He is love.

One day I may be granted permission to share the beautiful stories of God’s miraculous power. But for now I wanted to simply update you all and thank you for your prayers. Our family feels so loved and covered by the prayers you are praying for us.

What you see online is the beauty I see in my day. Or it’s a joyous moment, something funny or unique about my kids, something God has shown me in my day, something I’ve read that I want to pass along. When you put these snapshots together, it appears my life is beating to nothing but beauty. But the truth is we struggle just like you do.

I’m not attempting to portray a life that is not genuine or authentic. I’m simply sharing the moments of my day that are beautiful, joyful, restful, peaceful, encouraging, or humorous.

We have homesick hearts. We miss relationships deeply. We miss our ministries. We are still grieving what we left. BUT. God is good and faithful. We are not discouraged. We know with no doubt that God will bless us with deep and lasting relationships again. He is a relational God and desires us to come together with others in ways that glorify Him. Of course, He will do this.

If you are in a season of pain, struggle, or heartache, and scrolling social media is painful, maybe it’s time to retreat away from the online world and hide under His wings. Maybe it’s time to curl into Him and let Him tenderly care for you quietly, secretly. It’s beautiful in His shadow and under His wings.  Tuck in, hold fast and tight to Him alone. He will never leave you. He is the giver of good gifts, but sometimes His best gifts come packaged in a way we don’t expect. Be open to Him in new ways. He’s surprising and delightful.

 

 

Do Not Worry- But How Can I Not?

He sat across the table sipping his orange juice. He ordered a man-sized breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes, eggs, and bacon. I patiently awaited my whole wheat toast, sipping water, while dying at the smell of coffee all around me.

The night before I’d spent in the emergency room. The verdict? A stomach ulcer. My medical diet became no citrus, coffee, alcohol, high fat or fried foods, no chocolate, no tomato based anything, nothing spicy. Basically they said eat small and bland. This was meal one on medicine to help with the symptoms while I await further tests and begin the process of healing.

“Mom, wanna play tic-tac-toe?”

“Yep, but I’m hard to beat.”

He grinned at the challenge. A boy is competitive by nature.

He placed the X. I placed the O while planning out my next O marking. I was strategizing 2 possibilities as he placed his next X. I went with my initial strategy to secure myself a sure win. The smirk began to give birth on my face as his 3rd X came down forming a 3 in a row. Smirk gone. Disbelief moved in its place.

He looked up at me incredulously. “Mom, what were you thinking?”

“Oh my goodness. I have never lost to one of y’all like this. I really can’t believe that happened.”

It was 3 across the top. Plain as day. Not many X’s and O’s to crowd the board. Simply that I wasn’t focused on the step right in front of me. I was laser-visioned steps ahead- planning, plotting, and thinking so far out that I failed to see the very next move to keep me in the game.

Our walk of faith is a moment by moment game. One that requires our eyes set on the next step set before us. No need to worry and fret when our Savior simply says, “Take my hand and walk with me. Let me guide you, strengthen you, provide for you, protect you, pick you up when you stumble, comfort you when the aches and pains overwhelm you.”

Matthew 6:25-34

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

You see. I do worry though. I’m constantly thinking not only steps ahead, but weeks, months, and years. Maybe the reason I now have an ulcer?

The ER sent me home with two medications. Day one and two I still had pain but less intense. I found myself all day those first two days fearing the next bout of pain. Finding myself scared to go exercise or plan anything for fear the pain would hit when I was away from home unable to curl up and stare at the walls until the pain passed.

At the end of the 2nd day, I began thinking about a dinner invitation we received for one week away. I felt the anxiety over the what-if’s of pain striking while we were at a new friend’s house. Could I manage to get through an evening?

That’s when I heard God’s soft whisper. Do not worry.

How can I not worry? This hurts intensely. I can’t function through the pain when it hits. There is no rhyme or reason to when it comes.

But worry doesn’t change anything. I can’t figure this out. I can’t heal this. I’ve been praying. I have lots of people praying. So why am I worrying about something 7 days away?

God brought to mind the Israelites in the desert. How He brought them daily manna. He didn’t provide a week at a time. He was teaching them to rely on Him day by day, moment by moment. One meal to the next.

I needed to rely on Him for this moment only. This day only. One meal at a time.

My mentor always reminds me that God’s grace is for right now in this very moment. She says, “Christmas grace arrives on Christmas morning. Grace to handle the next thing doesn’t arrive ahead of time, it arrives the day you need it.”

I was attempting to think 7 days away in fear and near panic but God hasn’t given me the grace for that day yet. My daily grace for 7 days away arrives in 7 days. Worrying about the future is me relying on my own strength and not God’s strength.

I went back to God’s whispering and listened closely. He was speaking. In my spirit I heard Him. Trust me. Let me care for your daily needs. Bring them to me. Cast your cares on me because I care for you.

A friend sent me a text in response to my prayer request for healing that read, “I stand in agreement with you that you are being healed. He paid too high of a price for you to be anything but totally restored, whole and without pain. I command the pain to leave in Jesus’ name.”

A key in her text that struck me was “you are being healed.” Not that healing would come instantaneously. All at one time in a miraculous kind of  ‘it’s gone in an instant’. It could because God is God. However, healing could take time and likely would. I couldn’t lose faith. I couldn’t let fear grow.

The next morning I didn’t think about my ulcer the same way. I didn’t think about pain that may come down the road. Instead I prayed, “Lord, I trust you. I’m healed by Your stripes. By my faith, I am healed. You are good, faithful, true, kind, loving, and compassionate. You tenderly take care of me. You love me to the point of death and back. I pray for healing and will trust you moment by moment while it comes.”

Then at each step of my day, I asked Him for what I needed. I wanted to go exercise. I didn’t stay home (which I had planned to do for fear of pain hitting in the middle of the class). I asked Him to strengthen me to exercise. I told the teacher I would be modifying my exercise while my ulcer is being healed. I thanked God when I left having completed the class.

The next meal I asked God to help me through it. He did. And the next and the next. I wanted a date night with my husband, but for the last several weeks I’d spent every evening on the couch or in bed in pain. On this new day of asking God step by step, I asked Him to keep me pain free for a date night. He did.

This ulcer is teaching me how to hold His hand step by step. How to place my worries on Him and keep my eyes on the step right in front of me. I won’t look at 2 moves ahead. Eyes right here. On my Savior, then my next step. On my Savior, then my next step.

God is good and works all things for His glory and our good. He takes the schemes of the enemy against us and turns them into something beautiful.

 

 

 

On Raising Teens & Some Great Resources

 

 

I’ve never bought into the world’s view of parenting through the teenage years. I cringe when I hear people say, “Just wait til they’re teens.” Or worse, “When they are teens, they won’t want to be with you.” I don’t like generalizations.

I’m careful the words I speak aloud. Words can bring life or death. Words are powerful. Words are like seeds looking for a place to grow and bear fruit. If I speak words of doom over my family in any season of life, I am planting and preparing for exactly that.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Proverbs 18:21

I also want to protect my kids from believing lies. Kids tend to live up to what people believe of them. If a teen begins to feel that everyone thinks he will or should rebel, maybe he will. If he thinks that all adults think his opinions mean nothing, maybe he will believe it himself and look elsewhere to be heard. If a teen feels that adults think all teens are lazy, maybe he will start living into that belief.

I want my teens and soon-to-be-teens to know that I value them as a person and soon-to-be-adult. I want to speak into their potential, growth, and gifts. I want them to stand taller because they believe the ones around them see the best in them and believe in them. More than anything I want them to begin to learn who they really are in Christ. Not who their friends think they are, but who God says they are.

We are in the very beginning of a new and beautiful stage of life. A season I’m excited to enter and desire to treasure every bit as much as the baby, toddler, and elementary ages. Each stage of life, Steve and I have believed it to be the best. We’ve told each other it doesn’t get better than this. Then it does.

It keeps getting better. Not easier. But better. Fuller, richer, deeper, closer. Hard? Yes. Heart wrenching at times? Yes. More to come? You bet. Is Christ at the center still? Yes. Each new season we enter finds us pressing in closer to Christ. Leaning in and clinging. And I can’t think of a better place to be than right here with my Savior.

I’ve written and spoken over the last several years that life is a journey.  We are heading towards destination Eternity. The moment by moments of life matter. They are creating something. A look-back. When I look back over my parenting years, what will I remember? What will they remember? Have you ever noticed that in the middle of a family vacation or outing, it might not seem spectacular. But when you look back on pictures or spend time thinking over the memories, this is the point when you fully appreciate that time spent together. The memories and experiences seem to sweeten with time and space. I try to remember that when the days feel monotonous or unbearably difficult.

Just like these kids are constantly changing, so am I. Or at least I should be. And because of this need to change with my kids, I’m back to reading a new supply of parenting books. I’ve shared a few of these on Instagram and want to share here for you.

The two I just completed listening to and can’t recommend enough are Parenting and 5 Love Languages of Teenagers. Please put these on the top of your summer reading list. Parenting is for all stages of parenting. Read it and allow your perspective to be radically transformed and wait for the freedom to wash over your daily interactions. I am not typically a non-practical book lover. This book does not give you practical strategies, but you need this message! And 5 Love Languages of Teenagers is excellent. Fast read! I listened in the crevices of my days.

Parenting : 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family by Paul David Tripp

( I listened to the Audible version of Parenting)

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers : The Secret To Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman

(Audible version here)

 

On my “To read next” list:

Have a New Teenager by Friday : From Mouthy and Moody to Respectful and Responsible in 5 Days by Kevin Lehman

(If you want the Audible version here you go)

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide To Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

Parenting Teens With Love and Logic: Preparing Adolescents For Responsible Adulthood

Middle School: The Inside Story by Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna

I love Kevin Lehman’s books. His humor and practical, no-nonsense approach to parenting have helped me tremendously. I love everything Paul David Tripp writes and I’ve never read a Cynthia Tobias book I didn’t like. I am confident these will all be worth the time and money spent soaking in the wisdom, guidance, and encouragement.

While I’m filling my mind with encouragement and excitement for these years, I’m keenly aware how fast they will flee. My oldest will be 14 in the fall. We are entering the 4th quarter of the years we have with him, Lord willing. 13 1/2 years have zipped by despite every effort to make the most of it all. Despite the fact that we are all in, making memories, shepherding hearts, loving hard and loud, time refuses to slow down.

Our desire is to end well. End the season, the race, the game of the parenting years under our roof well. Even if you didn’t start well, each day is a fresh start. End better than you started. The end of one thing is always the beginning of something else on the horizon.

Thank you, God, for the gift and calling of parenting. Make us wise for the task you’ve called us to. Strengthen us to do the hard work. Soften hearts. Break down walls and pride. Grow love in new spaces of our hearts. Create in us a pure heart. Give us a vision to parent with the gospel at the center.

 

*******This post contains affiliate links**********

 

Love without hypocrisy

Nothing gets to me more than a hypocrite. Hypocrisy ruins a testimony. It’s a tool of the enemy to attempt to destroy the church. I struggle to be in relationship with people who are not authentic, who will say one thing yet live another. For this reason one small verse recently took my breath away.

Romans 12:9 “Love must be without hypocrisy.”

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that love is the theme God is working on in my heart right now. Every verse I’m drawn to, the sermons I’m hearing, my quiet time readings. It’s all about love right now.

Our family is one month into a cross country move. Months of busyness and activity, stress, changes, sadness, new beginnings. At the end of my limit last week, it struck me that in our home, we were struggling to love each other well.

When God brought me to Romans 12:9, I couldn’t move past it. All day this verse ran through my mind. It’s one thing to say we love, it’s another to act on it despite our feelings. But to read that our love must be without hypocrisy, I realized that the work was a deeper work. One that needed to get to the roots in my heart.

To love without hypocrisy, I first must deny myself. A hypocritical love has self at the center. A love without hypocrisy, is a love that flows from the Holy Spirit through us creating in us the power to deny ourselves and pick up our cross and follow Him. Follow His leading of love, His sacrificial love.

Selfishness puts my needs first. My desires. My thoughts and ideas. Everything I encounter will begin to feel like a disruption, irritation, or inconvenience. That’s because everything is competing against me. It’s a ruthless battle determined to get its way no matter what.

Until we determine that love will win no matter what.

To love without hypocrisy is to love wildly free.

I heard the pounding of footsteps before I heard my son’s voice crying out, “They need your help. They are stuck in the mud with their bikes.”

“I hope you are kidding.”

“I’m not.”

“Why were they riding through the mud?”

“I don’t know, but they need you.”

I walked to the soon to be construction area that is nothing but dirt mounds, to find two of my boys covered in mud. Their bikes were literally stuck. Their feet stuck.

My reaction wasn’t pretty, and I often pray that my children not develop a picture of God based on my parenting.

“You got yourself into this, now you have to figure a way out.”

And I walked back home. Time passed and I made another visit to the mud. This time I coached them out of the mud and waited back at the house with clear instructions for beginning the clean up. I watched as they hosed the mud off their bodies, clothes, bikes. I berated them on why they would have done something like that.

The answer. It looked fun. We thought it was dry.

Of course, they were simply being boys. Adventurous. Carefree. Risk-taking. All I saw was the mess left to clean up and the damage done to bikes and clothes.

Carrying the weight of ourselves and our selfishness is like riding our bike through the mud. It appears dry. It promises to offer you a ride you won’t forget. It entices you in by appealing to your sense of desire. Once in, you begin to see the trap. Before long, you are stuck and crying out for help.

When you are deep in the mud, which quickly begins to feel like cement, you can think only of yourself. How to get out. You cry for help and have no capacity to think of anything but yourself.

When the mud begins to harden, and you feel yourself sinking, this is the point that anger, rage, despair, discouragement, bitterness, and regret begin to ooze.

When we reign, we think we are free, but we are walking through mud. The cleanup and recovery is a process. But love washes it clean.

“Love must be without hypocrisy. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence; be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer.” Romans 12:9-12

So this is what God is showing me. Love comes from Him. God is love. To love without hypocrisy, to outdo one another in showing honor, I have to put off my own selfishness in order to put on love.

To put off self is to kill my pride. When my pride rules my heart, I develop a critical spirit. I see the flaws of everyone around me. I am quick to see how I am right and they are wrong. Pride is the ultimate love slayer. Pride never puts another before itself. Therefore, love isn’t free to love. It’s put in chains.

My heart’s cry right now is to let love reign in my heart. To let Christ have His way in me. To allow me to think so little of myself that I allow myself room to think of serving Him only. With love.