A Not So Merry Christmas


I’ve always loved Christmas.  It’s my favorite time of year.  I love decorating my house, making Christmas gifts and goodies, listening to Christmas music starting at Thanksgiving, spending time with family and Christmas traditions.  I love the lights and the beauty of the season.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year…at least it used to be.  Things have changed in my little world, and I know there are others just like me.  This year Christmas has been hard…really hard.  As a person who has struggled with severe depression in the past, it has really taken me by surprise this holiday season that it has reared its ugly head again.  If you have depression, you know it’s not something that ever goes away.  It may subside for a while, but it can show up at the most unexpected times.

 

For me, it shows up when I’m very busy, stressed, unable to fix something, or when I’m feeling unloved or unappreciated.  This Christmas was the perfect storm of all of these.  Some of it was self-inflicted, but a good majority was brought on by other people and situations.  It’s been a hard season, to say the least.  I know I’m not alone.  I’ve talked to so many who feel the same way or I’ve seen their posts on Facebook that allude to the same feelings.

 

Christmas comes with certain feelings, expectations, and traditions.  When those get messed with, it’s not easy to deal with.  For some it’s the loss of a loved one, a divorce, a diagnosis, a rift in the family, or a myriad of other possible scenarios.  There is a certain peace and comfort that comes in the way things have always been.  There’s a certain expectation that it’s the way things will always be.  Change is hard, especially when it is forced upon you with little regard to your feelings.  It comes through the natural progression of life, but it also comes through the selfish actions of others.  No matter how it is brought about, it is painful.

 

I don’t really have any answers for you.  I just wanted you to know that if you are feeling that loss this year, if the tears have been flowing a little more freely than usual, or if you have that heavy feeling in your chest…me too.  As, I sit here now typing this message to you, my heart hurts, my chest is heavy, and the tears are brimming in my eyes.  The feelings are real and raw.  Life can be a cruel beast!  The circumstances may vary, but the feelings can be the same.  Unfortunately, this time of year seems to exacerbate them.  I can swing from pure joy to extreme sadness.  One small thing can flip the switch.  You’re not alone.  I feel your pain.

 

This I do know…this is a season.  This too shall pass.  I will learn some valuable lessons during this tough time and will hopefully set different expectations for next year.  God is still good and I can still find comfort in knowing that this season is about His birth.  No matter what expectations have not been met this Christmas, it does not change the fact that I am truly and fully loved by Him. If I had been the only one on earth, He still would have come for me, and He loves you just the same.  The King of Kings, Lord of Lords, creator of the world and all of the universe, loves us!  He gave up all of His majesty to become one of the least of us.  God came down here for us.  People will always fail us or leave us, but He never will.

 

I have felt unloved, but He says, “I have loved you with an everlasting love.”  I’ve felt unappreciated, but He says “I have seen the time, effort and love you’ve put forth to others. Well done, you’ve loved well.”  I’ve felt stressed, busy, and out of control, but He says, “I’ve got this.”  He has seen my tears and says, “One day, I will wipe away all of your tears.”

 

His message is the same to you.  “I see you.  I feel your pain.  I save your tears and I hear your prayers.”

 

So…Merry Christmas, dear friends.  When joy seems to be just out of reach this season, no matter how hard you try…me too!  Know you are loved!  Prayers for you, that joy will show up in some amazingly unexpected ways!

The Pregnant Bride

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This is Why I Run!

  • me at statehouse

Several months ago, I wrote a blog post Battle Cry “It’s Time Christians”.  I wrote of an experience I had with God.  It was a message He gave me during a time of prayer.  After months of wrestling with all He told me that night, some of which was too personal and frankly scary at the time to share, I have been moved into obedience.  It’s taken months for me to come to grips with what He has called me to do.  Honestly, it was a calling I did not want.  As I wrestled though, I went to scripture and found that person after person in the Bible were given assignments they did not want.  Each person dealt with those assignments in different ways, but I did notice a pattern.  Most of them when given the assignment were not eager to be obedient.  It also took them some time wrestling with God and coming to grips with what He was asking them to do.  Moses made excuses, Sarah laughed, Jonah ran, Elijah hid, Peter denied…and I argued.

I’ve had many “conversations” with God over these last few months.  Let me just tell you, we serve a very patient and compassionate God.  He knows our hearts and He knew mine.  He knows my weaknesses and insecurities.  He knows my doubts and graciously walked through them with me.  I still have some to be honest, but I am confident that He is in this with me and will be by my side the whole way.  It is amazing how connected you can be to God when you truly seek Him.  These last few months have been like a roller coaster and I keep leaning in and holding on.  No matter the twists and turns that have come my way, He is keeping me on track.  There have been moments of apprehension, anticipation, thrills and excitement and I know the ride is just beginning.  There’s a long way to go, but I’m resting in the fact that I’m just along for the ride and He is the one in control.

If you didn’t read my previous blog post that I mentioned above, let me give a brief recap.  I watched a movie with my husband called “Fury.”  It was a WWII movie about and American tank crew in Nazi Germany.  The depravity of the human race weighed heavy on my heart long after the movie was over.  As I went to bed, I cried out to God in the heaviness of my heart.  As I poured out my questions to Him and tried to understand, I finally asked, “What can I do about all this?”  (Just FYI-Don’t ask God this question, unless you are truly prepared for the answer!)  In the stillness of my heart I heard, “Politics.”

Let the argument begin… “But I don’t know anything about politics.”

“I will teach you.”

“I don’t know anyone in politics.”

“I will introduce you.”

“But, what about my family?”

“I will take care of them.”

“I don’t want them to get hurt.  Politics can be brutal.”

“I love them even more than you do. I will protect them”

Every question, every concern was lovingly answered, but I still wasn’t convinced.  I shared my experience with my husband and with a friend.  Both were very encouraging to me, but also had lots of questions.  As the next few weeks and months went by and the questions and seeking continued, God began to change my heart and my perspective.  I made a deal with God.  I’m not sure if this is allowed…non-the-less, I did.  Here was the deal…If you open the doors, I will walk through them, but if you close the doors, I will stop.  And He did.  The doors that have opened and the people that I have met has been, well…life changing.  I never would have guessed I would be on the path that God has placed me.  The doors continue to open and I continue to go through.  I am walking in obedience; one day at a time and one door at a time.  I don’t know where this will end up honestly, but with God at the helm of this ship, it’s bound to be an adventure.

Me and Amy in Senate Chambers

Over the last few months I’ve spent multiple days at the State House, a building I had never stepped foot in before.  I’ve stood in assemblies of people praying, singing and standing for religious freedom in the atrium of that great building.  I’ve walked the halls, sat in committee meetings, sat on the floor of the House of Representatives during session and learned the ropes of a representative spending the day with my Representative.  I sat in the seat of a Senator in Senate Chambers, as I witnessed the proceedings of the first reading of SB344 and SB100 and prayed for the preservation of religious freedom.  I’ve walked alongside my friend Amy as she has fought tirelessly and lobbied for the Heartbeat Bill in Indiana.  I’ve sat and talked with representatives, senators, councilmen and other candidates not only voicing my opinion about certain bills and issues, but most importantly listening, learning and getting advice.  God has certainly been opening doors and so I keep walking through.    People have even been contacting me and offering to help.  God is good and faithful, there is no doubt about it!

filing papers

So, what does all of this look like for me right now?  I am currently running for a Wabash County Council, At Large seat.  There are three seats coming up for election.  I am one of five Republicans running and there is one Democrat.  Three are current councilmen.  I know I have my work cut out for me.  It’s going to take a lot of time, resources and commitment, but with God on my side I can’t lose.  I don’t mean that I know I will win the election.  What I mean is…if He has called me to this and I am obedient in answering the call, no matter the results of the election, I win!  Will it be easy? No!  Will I get a little stressed out at times?  I imagine I will, because I already have.  The good news is…no matter the outcome, I am walking in confidence that this is the path to which He has called me.  God willing, if I win this election, I will serve for Him.  I will do my best to represent Him in the halls of government locally and who knows, maybe at the State House someday?

As I look into the eyes of my children and all the kids that I influence in my everyday life, I can say with confidence, “ I am doing all I can to preserve the future of this county, state, and great nation for you and future generations.”  I may be but one small cog in a great machine, but I will do my part.  I will fight for my values which are my faith, my family, and my freedom.  If we can preserve our right to live out our faith in all areas of life, promote traditional family values, and protect our constitutional and God given freedoms, then we have done well for future generations.  They deserve to enjoy those freedoms as we have and I want that for them.

girls at state house

Teaching, mentoring and growing the next generation is intertwined in all aspects of my life.  It’s who I am and what I’m called to do.  The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize it until I started examining this new path.  I’m a mom of two girls who are almost twelve and fourteen.  I have been and am currently a host mom of two exchange daughters from Germany.  In my seven years of owning my own business, I have employed and invested in seven girls ranging from Jr. High to college students.  I’ve been involved in our church’s youth group as a leader and helper for the last four years.  Serving on Faith Quest, which is a teen spiritual retreat weekend for the last eight years has given me the opportunity to speak into the lives of countless teens and watch them grow into adults, marry, and have kids of their own.  I can’t think of anything more rewarding that investing in the lives of the next generation.  Now I have the opportunity, God willing, to help preserve their futures in the halls of government and will be able to say with confidence and sincerity, “I did all I could to preserve a good future for you and generations to come.”

So when people ask me “Why are you running for office?” this is my answer.  I am running for office because God called me to do it.  One day in the future I will stand before Him.  When He asks me what I have done with the gifts and abilities He has given me, I want to be able to say, “I was obedient in the tasks You gave me and completed them for Your glory.”  My greatest desire in all that I do here on earth is to one day hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”  And this is why I run!

 

In His Service!

Where Were You When They Took Our Freedom?

Where were you

Are you a Christian?  I don’t mean the “Ya, I believe in God” or the “Ya, I go to church” Christian.  I mean a true, Bible believing, I live my life for Christ and I stand on His promises-type Christian.  I want to know…where are the Christians?  If you are a true Christian, do you feel it?  Do you feel the shift in the atmosphere?   Do you feel the shift in society, our state, our nation and our world?  Do you feel the great divide that is happening?  I do!  With all of my being I feel it!  And as I talk to other true believers, they feel it too.  It’s scary and it’s invigorating.  Some days it’s downright discouraging and other days it fills me with hope and expectation.

In Matthew 25:31-46, it talks about the final judgment when the Son of Man comes to judge the inhabitants of this world.

Verses 32 and 33 say, “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on his left.”

I know these verses are talking about the end of times, but I’m seeing evidence of this happening right now.  All you have to do is look around, pay attention and you can see that our world is spinning out of control.  The news is filled with stories of wars both abroad and at home.  Some of those wars are taking place right in our homes.  Especially here in America, this once great nation, founded on the principles of the Bible, is crumbling at the foundation.  Where once the Bible was the ultimate authority on everything; laws, rulings, marriage, and life; now it’s the voice that screams the loudest, no matter how wrong they are.  It is these things that are being debated that are now separating the sheep from the goats.

It is not my place to judge how you stand on the issue of religious freedom, marriage, abortion, refugees, war, education, taxes, and the list goes on.  It is God’s place to judge where you stand on them.  His Word is very clear.  There are no mistakes, it is infallible.  There is no room for new translations that skew the Truth to be what you want it to be.  Personally, this is where I base my judgment.  It’s not my opinion, it’s God’s Truth, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the final Word.  There’s no room for compromise.  And here is where we separate the sheep from the goats.

Again, I ask…where are the Christians?  There is a remnant.  I talk to some of them almost daily.  There are still those who see the crisis of this world and are willing to stand against the tide and not just apathetically sit in the church pews on Sunday.  I think people have the wrong view of Christ in the Bible.  I think they see Him as passive and weak.  He was anything but!  If you look real closely, Jesus picked His battles.  The only battles He backed away from were personal attacks.  He did not feel the need to defend Who He was, but what He did defend was His Father, the principles for which the Father sent Him to earth and the people who could not defend themselves.  Therefore, I believe we must do the same.  We must fight for the things of the Father, which are written in His Word and for those who can’t defend themselves.  It’s not a fight of hate.  Jesus offended a lot of people, not out of hate, but out of love.

My daughter asked me the other day, “My friend wants to know, if we are Christians, aren’t we supposed to love everyone.  And if so, what’s the big deal about baking a cake?”  I love that she is asking that question.  Jesus often answered questions with a question, so I did the same.  “If you were doing something that was wrong, bad for you, or was causing you injury, would you want me to support you in doing that and or help you stop?  For instance, if I knew you were having sex with your boyfriend (which we do not support, based on our Biblical beliefs), would it be right for me to invite him over and send you both to your bedroom?”  Of course her answer was, “NO!”  This is my point exactly.  We continued to talk about how I give her limits and step in and say “no” when she is doing things she shouldn’t because I love her.

We love people, therefore we don’t participate in things that support or condone destructive, sinful behavior.  It’s really that simple.

A time has come where the sheep and goats are being separated.  There’s no longer time for lukewarm Christianity.  There’s no longer time for pew sitting when the doors are open at the church and living as the world the rest of the week.  There used to be a saying, “Get off the porch or stay home.”  My sentiment is “get out of the pew or stay home!”  I’m not saying that going to church is bad, please hear me.  We need to continue to gather together for love and support and to hear the Word of God.  What I’m saying is… if that is all you are doing, what good are you for the Kingdom?  Maybe that sounds harsh, but the lost are not coming into the church buildings.  The battles for the foundations of our nation, built on the Word of God are not being fought in the pews.  The battle for the lives of the unborn and now the incapacitated won’t be won by sitting in the four walls of a church.

It’s time for Christians to go to the battle front.  The time for apathy and ignorance is over.  It is far too costly.  It’s cost us prayer in schools, it’s cost the lives of millions of unborn babies, it has cost the sanctity of marriage, it has cost the Word of God being taken from the halls of government.  Should I go on?  Right now, it’s costing us religious freedom.  What does that look like?  It means that Christian business owners lose their businesses, our daughters are subjected to boys in their locker room showers and bathrooms, Christians in political offices are removed from their positions or arrested, Christian agencies are forced to go against their Christian beliefs or close, and again, the list goes on.  We can’t fight these battles from the pews.

God has given us the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions(Luke 10:19), not hide in the pews.  Why are we not using it???

“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” -Romans 8:31

Please Christians…wake up!  Stand up!  Suit up with the armor of God!  The battle is raging on all fronts.  The battle cry has been sounded!  Where are the Christian soldiers?  Where are the prayer warriors?  Where are the children of God who are willing to stand on the Word of God and not back down?  We need YOU!  I need YOU!  There is power in unity of the body.  This battle is not about you and me.  It’s about the generation we are raising and the generations to come.  If we lose these battles, these children will grow up in a very different world than we did.  They will not be able to live out their faith in the public square, they will not be able to stand up for their faith without persecution, and their rights will be stripped before they ever even had them.

When they ask, “Where were you when they took our freedom?” what will you say?

I see evidence daily that Christ is coming soon.  My very being longs for His return, but if He should tarry, my heart breaks for the world that will be left, if we don’t act now.  Souls are at stake.  Our time is short; we must be living out our faith in real practical ways, not cowering in the pews until His return.  How will He find you?  If you say you are a Christian, yet you don’t see the urgency, might I suggest you may be a sheep following the wrong shepherd?  If that’s not the case…you may just be a goat!

Following His Lead,

5 Reasons Having Kids in 4-H is Like Childbirth

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted a blog.  The last few weeks have been pretty busy.  Continue reading to see why.  Friday was the last day of the 2015 4-H Fair for our county.  For any of you 4-H parents maybe you can relate when I say that having kids in 4-H is like childbirth.  It’s not very pretty, but worth it in the end.  Here are 5 reasons why…

1.  It sounds like a good idea at the time.  Just like deciding to have a baby, signing your kids up for 4-H sounds like a good idea.  Lots of people do it.  How hard can it be?  “It will be a great experience,” they say.  It teaches responsibility and new skills.

When we started the 4-H adventure five years ago, it seemed like a good idea.  I had been in 4-H a few years and my husband was a 9 year member.  It only seemed natural that our kids would be in 4-H as well.  We signed up for several livestock and non-livestock projects.  It presented itself as a great way to teach responsibility and for our daughters to learn some new skills.  Little did I know that there was way more to it than that.  4-H Fair isn’t just a week in July, it’s a way of life.

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2.  No matter how prepared you think you are, you have no idea what you are getting yourself into.  You must learn to expect the unexpected and know that no matter how well you think you have prepared, you are never really prepared for what’s to come.  There’s so much more to it than you could ever imagine.

I had no idea that I was not just signing my child up for a few projects, but was signing away a good portion of our lives.  It was so much more time consuming than I had imagined, not just for my kids, but for me as well.  There were forms on top of forms, papers, log books, registrations, meetings, picture taking, receipt collecting, supply buying, pre-fair judging, and a week off of work to attend all of the shows they were involved in.  It was six months of prep for one week of shows and a whole lot more work than I had planned.

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3.  It brings out homicidal tendencies that aren’t usually present.  As in childbirth, anyone and everyone who has a part in the process is fair game for your psychotic behavior.  The desire to hurt anyone in your path is extremely high, including the child and the husband.  Somehow, all rational thinking goes out the window.

Oh how I hate to admit it, but the fair brings out the worst in me.  Keeping track of multiple deadlines, staying on the kids to complete their books, turning in their paperwork, registering online, working with their animals, and packing everything for fair is a daunting task.  Then there is fair week…being at the fair early to feed all the animals, getting ready for shows, staying late to get feeding done, loading and unloading animals, and attending the extra events makes for really long days, even shorter nights, and very short fuses.  Come show day, it’s all I can do not to completely lose it on my children.  I can never find them when it’s time to get ready for the show.  They always seem to forget something they need.  The animals seem to realize it is show day and choose to act up, just for fun.  Emotions run high and my children get the brunt of my stress overload.  At the end of the day, I regret how I acted, but unfortunately it’s too late to undo the mess I made, let alone the impression I made on everyone who witnessed my psychotic breakdowns.  Ugh!!!  You think I would learn!

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4.  You have forgotten since the last time just how painful the process is.  Even though in the midst of the process you swear you will never do it again, somehow you forget by the next time around and find yourself in the same predicament all over again.

Every year, in the midst of the 4-H process, I swear that the next year we will not do it again.  I tell the girls they can’t do X,Y, and Z projects because I am tired of having to stay on them to get things done.  They procrastinate every year and there is always last minute running around trying to get things done and turned in on time.  I get beyond frustrated after constant reminding that things need to be done and their broken promises that this year will be different and they will get things done early.  It never happens, but somehow, the next year, registration rolls around and here we are again signing up for multiple projects.  I must be a glutton for punishment!

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5.  In the end, you find it was all worth it when you look into the face of your child.  Just as you looked into that newborn baby’s face, you look into the face of your child who just finished well in a 4-H project and know that you would do it all over again just to see that face and feel that pride.  There’s something about the love of a parent for their child that makes all of it worth it.

At then end of the day, when my kids have done their best and they smile with pride at a job well done, I can’t help but be glad that I went through all of that mess, just to see them smile.  I beam with pride at my child, knowing all that went into getting them to that point.  The ribbons and plaques are great, but the, “Thanks Mom!” is the best prize ever!

So when registration rolls around next year, I wonder what we will sign up for?  It’s always an adventure.  Hopefully, I will learn from all the years before and just try to relax and enjoy the ride.  In the end, it’s my kids that matter.  It’s about encouraging them to do their best and supporting them as they work to achieve it.  When my kids are grown and gone, I will look back on these years and I don’t want to look back with regret, but with fond memories.  So if you see me at the fair next year, hopefully I’ll be smiling, if not, tell me to, “Relax and enjoy the ride.”  I may want to knock your head off, but at least it will make me stop and think! 🙂

 

DISCLAIMER:  Sorry there is no spiritual content to this post.  It was meant to be a humorous look at the life of a fair mom.  No children, animals, or others were hurt during this week at the fair. 🙂

Lessons from a Loyal Companion

Last Sunday morning, we laid to rest our beloved family guardian, our dog, Tessa.  “Tess the Mess,” as we lovingly called her,  came to us as an 8 week old puppy.  We had spent many months researching her breed, locating breeders, going to visit her parents, and then finally choosing her from the litter.  Both my husband and I are dog lovers.  As a matter of fact, I cannot remember a time in my life that I have not had a dog.  Even all of my jobs since high school have included working with “man’s best friend.”  All that to say, we take owning a dog very seriously.  To us, a dog is not just a pet, but a member of the family, so for our family, this was a major loss.  As we stood around her freshly dug grave, we laughed, we cried and we remembered her attributes.  As each person named the qualities that made Tessa so special, I paused to think…I wish more humans were that way.

I have a sign that hangs by my grooming tub that says, “The more I get to know some people, the more I like dogs.”  Being a dog groomer, I spend many hours with only canine companions.  This suits me well.  It gives me lots of time to think, and God often speaks to me as I work. As funny as it may seem, all week long, I’ve been thinking about those things that we talked about standing around our dog’s grave that day, and it has challenged me to be a better person.  So, I wanted to share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the life of a loyal dog.  If you’ve ever had a faithful, four legged companion, you might recognize some of these characteristics.  We may have taught her how to sit, down, shake and rollover, but what she taught us was so much more.

When I think about my Tessa, the first thing that comes to mind is her unconditional love.  From the moment she entered our home, she was ours and we were hers.  Nothing made her happier than spending time with her family.  She was always very repentant when she did wrong.  The look on her face always gave her away when she was guilty.  If you have a dog, you know this look-the head down, eyes looking up and then turning away in shame.  How can you not forgive that look?  On the other hand, she was always quick to forgive.  She never held a grudge.  It didn’t matter how long you had been gone, a few minutes or several days, she was always there to great you with a wagging tail and wiggling body.  She loved unconditionally.

Another thing that stood out was her fierce loyalty.  By her breed nature, she was a guard dog, but she was more than that.  She was loyal to a fault to her people.  She was a good judge of character.  If someone was a friend to us, then she knew they were a friend to her.  Even if they didn’t want to be her friend, she did her very best to win them over.  She could be quite intimidating to non-dog lovers.  When someone came to our home, it was her job to protect us and our property and she took her job seriously.  At first, she thought it was effective to run into the garage and bark from inside where no one could get her and if anyone approached her, she would squat and pee all over herself. (Sorry for being graphic, but it’s the truth.) This was really not effective in scaring people that did not belong, or anyone else for that matter. It took her a few years to figure out how to most effectively do her job, but eventually she got the hang of it.  By the end of her life, I could confidently say that she would have protected us with her life.  She would boldly put herself between us and anyone or anything that meant to cause us harm.  She loved loyally.

Finally, she was a faithful companion.  Wherever we were, she was happiest to be with us.  She loved to spend time with us and because she did, I’m pretty sure she got to know us pretty well.  Dogs have feelings too.  If you spend enough time with them, you will see.  When we were down, she would come lay her head on our lap and look at us with those sad puppy eyes.  It was like she knew we just needed a friend and she understood.  She would listen when we talked and acted like she knew exactly what we were saying.  When we were happy and enjoying life, she would wiggle all over and be happy with us.  She only had a two inch tail, therefore wiggling was much more effective than wagging.  Whether we were working, playing or lounging around, she was always by our side. And we were happiest, when she was by our side.  She loved faithfully.

She loved unconditionally. 

She loved loyally.

She loved faithfully.

And so I think…Do I love like thatCan I love like that?

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Tessa loved like this.  I get this.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would lay down my own life for the life of my husband or the life of my children, but I think God intended a little more.  He gave His life for all who would believe, even while we were still sinners.  That one is a little harder to swallow, but challenges me non the less.

But…am I first to say, “I’m sorry?”  Am I quick to forgive?  Do I get excited to see my family and always greet them when they come home?  Do I listen well and sit with those who just need someone by their side?  Do I mourn with those who mourn and laugh with those who laugh?  Do I protect those I love with a fierce loyalty?  Sadly, my answers to these questions are often times, “No.” 

If we loved her so much for loving us like that, then why should we not love others like that as well? 

So, as I remember you Tessa, I want to say… Thank you my loyal companion for teaching me through how you loved.  I don’t know if dogs go to heaven, but if they do, I know God would say, “Well done, good and faithful companion.  You loved well and you were loved in return.”  I no longer mourn the days to come without you here, but instead celebrate the time I had with you and the life you lived.  You were so loved and I miss you dear friend.  Thanks for teaching me how to love.

Loved Well,

Lorissa

Find me linked up at http://www.w2wministries.org/.

“No, Because I Love You.”

NO.  It’s one of the shortest words in the English language.  It can be one of the hardest words to say and it can be one of the hardest words to hear.  As a parent of a toddler, this can be one of the most used words in your vocabulary.  It can also be one of the most frustrating words to hear as your child learns to say it back to you as a response to almost EVERYTHING!  As the parent of a teenager, the word “No” can make you one of the most disliked people on the planet.  There is just something about that small, two letter word that stirs up some strong emotions in a person.

As I’ve told you in a previous post, in parenting my own children, I’ve come to learn a lot about God and why He does some of the things that He does.  You see, as a parent there are times when it is absolutely necessary to say, “No.”  For instance, I will tell my children, “No,” when whatever they are wanting or attempting to do will cause them or someone else harm.  If I can see something they are going to do will cause imminent danger, then as a parent it is my duty to tell them, “No.”  There are other times I tell my children, “No,” because what they want is not the best choice and I know there is a better option.  Like when my child wants to sit down with a bag of chips five minutes before supper is ready, I know she will ruin her appetite with junk and not eat the healthier choice of a home cooked meal.  Other times I have to say, “No,” because they have broken a rule and I have to follow through on a consequence.  (That’s a tough one and makes me very unpopular.)  And finally, there’s other times I say, “No,” because I know something that they don’t know and by saying, “No,” I am setting them up for something way better.  One time my daughter wanted to have a friend spend the night.  I said, “No,” because I knew that the following day we were having a surprise birthday party for her.  If I would have said, “Yes,” it would have messed up the plans we had for her prior to the party, which was a special daddy/daughter date where my husband presented her with her purity ring. She was quite upset when I told her, “No,” but said, “It was so worth it,” when she found out the reason why.

On the flip side, hearing the word “No” is pretty hard to swallow sometimes too.  My husband tends to be very frugal with our money.  I, on the other hand, tend to be a free spender.  Over the last several years, I’ve become a little more respectful of his wishes on how we spend our money.  I will ask him before making larger purchases and I must say,  I still get a little miffed when he tells me, “No.”  And don’t even get me started when I tell one of my children to do something and she tells me, “No.”  Even if she doesn’t verbalize the word, but in action says it loud and clear, this momma gets mad!  Then there’s times when someone else tells me, “No,” and it just causes disappointment, like when I ask a friend to do something and they can’t.  It may be for a good reason, but it’s disappointing just the same.  “No” is just not a fun word!

So where am I going with this?  Well, when I think about God and His Word, there are many times He tells us, “No.”  And as I listed above, there are so many different reasons for saying, “No.”  The difference between me as a parent and God, besides the obvious, is that God is always good and He’s always just.  There are times I will simply say, “No,” because I’m in a bad mood.  It may have nothing to do with what I’m being asked, but in my selfishness I will say, “No.”  God is not like that.  In every situation and in every response, He is totally good and totally righteous.  His response is always for our good and His glory.  It’s never just because that’s what He feels like at that moment.  In my good moments, even when it’s hard, I will say, “No,” because I love my children and I know that it is best for them.  God’s response is always because He loves us and wants the best for us.  Many times I think we forget that.  We start to think that God just doesn’t want us to have any fun or that He’s punishing us, but that’s just not the case.

The problem is, we are human and we are sinful-each and every one of us.  There are no exceptions.  In the beginning when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He only had one “No.” “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17.  Now God was doing this not because He was holding out on them, but because He was looking out for them.  It was not only for their safety, but because He wanted something better for them.  He loved them.  They were His children and He wanted the best for them.  But, because they sinned and chose to disobey, we too are now sinful and often choose to disobey.  His love for them did not change in their disobedience, but with their disobedience came consequence.  Their consequence was removal from the garden and their ability to walk daily in His presence without shame and ultimately death.

God has not changed.  His love for us has not changed.  He is still the same God that walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  The difference is the sin in us.  In the garden there was only need for one “No,” but once sin entered in, there was need for more “No’s.”  Once the untainted bond between God and man was broken, the Bible became the most effective way for God to communicate His love to all the generations that have followed.  It isn’t merely a history book or a book of rules, but a comprehensive way for us to learn how God loves us and how we should love Him. 

There are people who claim that “their God” is a god of love and acceptance, and that we must be reading the Bible wrong if we disagree with their interpretation of what is right or wrong.  They can’t comprehend that a “good and loving” God would tell them, “No.”  They can’t believe that a “good and loving” God would have consequences for behaviors that He says are not acceptable.  And don’t even mention that this same God will send people to Hell for not accepting His Son.  Its seems inconceivable to them that a God that says, “No,” could possibly be loving, so they choose to omit the “No’s” they don’t agree with and only focus on the parts of the Bible that fit with what they consider loving.  This is what I must challenge, because I am a flawed human being and I love my children.  I absolutely want the best for them in their lives and because of that, I must at times tell them, “No,” set boundaries, and give consequences.  If I chose to be completely tolerant of any and all behaviors that they chose to participate in, I would be neglectful.  It is not loving to allow my children to play with a loaded gun just because they want to.  It is not loving for me to say, “Yes,” to every request they make just because I don’t want them to get angry with me.  And it is not loving of me to not have consequences for breaking rules, therefore teaching them that they are the most important thing in the universe and they don’t have to respect authority.  So why do we believe the only way that God could be loving and good is by never telling us, “No,” and never having consequences when we disobey His rules?

So when the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” God is still loving.  Just because we don’t like the message, does not make it less true.  Because God loves us, He says, “No.”  He accepts us right where we are, but loves us enough to not let us stay there.  Verse 11 goes on to say, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Romans 5:8 also says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the price that we deserve to pay for our disobedience.  His only requirement is that we turn from disobedience and accept His free gift of forgiveness.  It’s like He’s saying, “I love you enough to say, ‘No.’  I have something so much better for you, if you will just trust me.  Do you trust me enough to obey?”

As Christians, it’s sometimes hard to address sin in those around us, be it in other Christians or non-Christians.  We can come off as judgmental and intolerant, but I don’t think that is the case with most Christians.  Maybe we just need to change our approach.  Most of us know first hand what it’s like to disobey God’s “No’s” and then experience the freedom of living in obedience.  I used to be some of those things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6, but thank God for verse 11. Now I know first hand that what God had to offer was so much better.  It wasn’t about Him telling me, “No.”  It was about Him telling me, “Yes.”  “Yes, I love you.  Yes, I accept you.  Yes, I forgive you and yes, now you are free.”  If you are a Christian, you should have had a similar experience.  So maybe we need to talk more about that.  I think it’s ok to say, “No, I don’t condone what you are doing, but I love you.  No, God doesn’t condone what you are doing, but He loves you.  Let me tell you what He offered me in place of those things and how it changed my life.  He is offering it to you too.”  On the flip side, if we choose not to address these things, is it possible that we will “love” people straight into hell in the name of acceptance and tolerance?

There are still times in my life when God tells me, “No.” I still don’t like it, but because I know He is faithful, He is good, and He is just, I will trust Him.  I will trust that His “No” is what’s best for me.  It will keep me safe or it will give me the opportunity to experience something even better.  Do you trust His “No’s?”  If so, share your story.  You never know who may end up saying, “Yes!” to Christ.

Because I’m Forgiven,
Lorissa

Why I’m Married with Children

Growing up, I was never one of those girls who had dreams of getting married, settling down and having a house full of children.  I did not enjoy babysitting and to be truthful, I really didn’t enjoy being around children.  As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure that I never wanted to have children.  Even when I thought of my life plan in high school and college it never really include a husband or children.  But…I’ve learned that God has a sense of humor and He knows better than I. His plans are always better than mine.

So, how did it happen that I am now married with children?  Let me tell you a little story.

I met my husband between my junior and senior year of college.  I had come home for the summer and was living with my parents.  Though I had stopped attending church in high school, my parents had recently started attending a new church, so I thought I would go check it out.  Non of my friends were home for the summer, so honestly, I had nothing better to do.  As I was sitting in the pew, I noticed what seemed to be a pretty good looking guy sitting in front of me.  It kept me pretty distracted during the sermon and I was quite excited when after the service he turned around to introduce himself.  Much to my surprise, he had a mouth full of braces and I was sure he was jail bait!  Come to find out, he was a year older than I and single…sort of.  I didn’t find out about the other girl until later.

I was kind of crushing on him, but he was shy and so was I.  Either way, it got me to church every Sunday.  I became friends with his cousin who was in my Sunday School class.  I had invited her to go out one night for pizza and to hang out.  She called me back and asked if Jeremy could come along.  Needless to say, I said “sure” and was pretty excited to get to know him.  However, my hopes of a perfect match were dashed after an evening of hanging out chatting over pizza.  He was nothing that I was looking for and like no one I had ever dated.  I had no intention of living close to home for the rest of my life and he was a farmer on his families farm and wasn’t going anywhere.  He never went to college and he mumbled, so I could hardly understand anything he said.  When my mom asked, “So how did it go?”  I responded, “He’s a nice guy, but I’d never date him.” (Insert God’s humor here, since we’ve now been married nearly 14 years and he was God’s perfect match for me.) My idea of the perfect man at the time was someone who was educated, had a good career plan, was willing to go with me wherever I landed and would allow me to follow my dreams.  If I could find that man, I would consider getting married, but I figured the chances were slim and besides, I was sure I didn’t need a man to make me happy.

Jeremy had one redeeming quality.  He was interested and he rode a Harley.  I guess I should have mentioned that in my criteria above.  Since high school, I was obsessed with motor cycles.  I would jump on the back of any bike I could get a ride on, but my heart belonged on a Harley Davidson.  I had no friends at home, therefore I had no social life.  So, being bored and having a chance to ride on the back of a Harley was enough to spark a friendship.  As the summer went on, things progressed from friends to dating.  I had been in three serious relationships before him.  I wasn’t one to really date around much, but I had crossed lines in those relationships that I didn’t want to repeat.  We had talked about setting boundaries, but pushed them to the limit.  When I returned to college, we continued to date.  We would see each other on the weekends and talk on the phone.  One weekend I was home for a extended weekend and things went too far.  We both regretted it and vowed not to let it happen again.

A few weeks later, I had been invited to a Greek IV conference.  It was a Christian conference for the Greek community and I was in a sorority.  I had not been involved in any Christian organizations or a church on campus, but some of the girls in my sorority were going and asked me if I’d like to come along.  It sounded like fun and the guilt of what I had done helped me to decide to go.  That weekend, I rededicated my life to Christ.  I had walked away from God in high school, but had felt Him pursuing me even in the midst of my rebellion.  I was so broken and sorry for the way I had been living.  God forgave me and I felt free.  I was so excited to start all over as a new creation. 

A week later two lines on a pregnancy test told me I was pregnant.  Honestly, I must say that at the time, I did not think that God was very funny or that He had any idea what He was doing.  This was not the way my life was supposed to go.  This was not my plan!  How could God do this to me?  I just rededicated my life to Him and He lets me be pregnant!  It seemed like a pretty sick joke and not funny at all.

Needless to say, my life changed dramatically that day and everyday after.  Life between then and now has not been easy, but that’s a post for another day.  But, God had a plan.  Oh, it was a marvelous plan.  Some days, I still don’t think He’s very funny, but other days, I can’t help but laugh.  He’s so very faithful.  He’s sovereign.  He’s good.  He knew what He was doing.  He knew that giving me a husband and children was the only way that I could ever truly know Him.  It’s in loving my children that I can even slightly grasp His love for me.  It’s in disciplining my children that I see the need for me to be disciplined.  It’s in setting boundaries for my children that I see why He gave us His Word to live by.  There are days when I am in the middle of saying something to my children and I feel the gentle nudge from God saying, “Now you know how I feel,” or “I think I’ve told you the same thing.”  It’s in those moments I know why God gave me children.  It is in being a mother that He gives me glimpses of the Father’s love for me.  It’s in being a wife that He refines me, corrects me, and humbles me.  It is teaching me how to submit to my Heavenly Father and show Him honor.  I’m still a work in progress and I still need daily reminders, but God’s Word assures me in Philippians 1:6, “He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God knows best.  He has a plan for my life. He does have a sense of humor and children truly are a gift from God.  My life verse is Jeremiah 29:11-14.  It really couldn’t be more fitting.  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring you back from captivity.”  His plan was and is so much better than my plan ever was.  I can’t even imagine the mess I would have made of my life had I not turned it over to my Heavenly Father.  And there are still days when I mess it up something terrible and on those days more often than not, He uses my husband and children to remind me of His love, the value of discipline, and that His grace is sufficient.

 Just like Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  My firstborn was not a mistake!  But God was able to use my mistakes for my good! And for that, I am so thankful!

In His Hands,

Lorissa