Caution: Contents May Be HOT

Caution: Contents May Be HOT

(Photo credit: Alisa Anton)

I know the Bible talks about milk and honey being pretty great, but have you ever finished a hot coffee before your kids woke up for the day?

(Yeah- me neither! But a girl can dream!)

Coffee is one of the first things on my mind in the morning, and I like it a certain way: spoon full of sugar, enough creamer to make it just the right color, and piping hot. More often than not however, the day pulls me in different directions before making it too far into my favorite mug, and it ends up reaching room temperature before I can satisfy my caffeine craving. I end up popping it in the microwave once or twice (or five times) before I finally finish my cup and go about my day. But I always heat it up. There is just something about sipping lukewarm coffee that furrows my brow and turns me away.

My morning ritual seems to have something in common with scripture:

“I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭3:15-16‬ ‭NLT

Lukewarm just isn’t enough. It isn’t enough for me in the mornings, and it isn’t enough for God.

Have you ever felt lukewarm?

A need arises within your small group from church, and you fill it. But you catch your older child disobeying and you snap at him. You volunteer in the children’s ministries on Sunday morning. But you indulge in trashy TV on Monday night.

It’s easy to do- to see our good deeds and believe it’s enough, or that it justifies the decisions we make that don’t quite line up with scripture. God created us and knows our humanness. He doesn’t expect perfection, but I do believe He intends for our motives to matter as we strive to live a God-filled life.

See, being a lukewarm Christian doesn’t just turn away opportunities for us to grow closer to God. Being lukewarm can turn others away from us, or worse yet, away from the Lord. Keeping alive that fire in your heart for Christ matters! Your temperature affects everything you touch.

There’s no room in our lives to hear and believe everything God says but then live how we lived before we knew His truth. If God’s way is hot and our old ways are cold, then guess what that would make us? Lukewarm.

Sometimes intentional sin can cause us to become that way- like dropping ice cubes in your hot coffee. But sometimes it’s not always willful acts that put the chill on our souls. Sometimes it’s just leaving our mug on the counter and getting distracted.

Whether you’re putting ice cubes in your “spiritual” coffee, getting distracted from that coffee, or just plain getting your real life coffee dumped on you by your wild little toddler, I have no doubt that God is working in you. As you gauge whether your motives and your soul are cold, or hot, or somewhere in between, know what God desires of you: He wants to be your priority, and for your soul to be on fire for Him and Him alone!

“Never let the fire in your heart go out. Keep it alive. Serve the Lord.” -Romans 12:11-13 NIRV

I know our days are busy, friends! But instead of opening the next app or tab on your browser, try instead to take a moment and ask yourself:

1. What in my life is putting the chill on my soul and my desire for God?

  • Is it a social media addiction?
  • A difficult child or relationship that is stealing your peace or focus?
  • A friend that encourages ungodly talk or behavior?
  • Your choice in indulgences (TV, movies, books)?
  • Gossip?
  • Excessive worry?
  • Comparison and jealousy?
  • Lust?

2. What sets my soul on fire and nurtures my relationship with God?

  • Regular Bible time, or regular time in prayer?
  • Reprogramming every car preset to Christian radio?
  • Building a relationship with a Christian friend?
  • Joining a small Bible study group?
  • Praying about what worries you rather than just talking about it?
  • Deleting an app that distracts you from spending time in prayer or has ungodly content?

The lists are personal and go on for each of us. Wherever you’re at in your walk with God, I hope you will be encouraged and hold on to this truth today:

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.”

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

P.S. Is there anything you can add to the lists above? Share your thoughts!

I’m THAT Neighbor….

I’m THAT Neighbor….

The outside of my house, if you can see it, gives the impression that we grabbed only our most precious belongings and fled in a hurry with no intention to ever return.

See, since the birth of my tiny princess last summer, some things have been neglected around here. Landscaping is a pretty easy thing to put off to the back of your mind. It doesn’t fall out of the cabinets when you open them. It doesn’t clutter your countertops when you’re trying to work. You don’t trip over it when you’re trying to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. There are just other things that come before getting to it, and by the time I get to those other things I have one of two kids making a bee line for me, and alas! The landscaping waits.

Photo by Quanzhao “Ari” He

As the state of things has gotten unruly enough to catch my attention, I decided to enlist the help of a green thumbed friend of mine. She asked for pictures so I went around the house snapping away, surprised at every turn just how wild it had really become. It became apparent that when I let this task get away from me it didn’t just affect the things that were already planted- but new, unwanted things had begun to grow.

Photo by Kelli Tungay

Tangled. Messy. Wild. Out of control. All words I’d use to describe the overgrown mess just beyond my front door. There are plants growing from between the branches of other plants; the wanted and the unwanted twisting around each other until the untrained eye is unable to decipher where one begins and the other ends. Complicated.

The truth is though, if I look behind my front door and in the mirror, sometimes things look messy there, too. When I neglect my time with God and am not careful where my thoughts are running off to I get twisted up, tangled, complicated. Negative thoughts sprout from the good and take on new life. The good and the kinda/sorta bad things that I start letting my guard down to get intertwined. Half truths I start to tell myself become whole lies. And before you know it, I’m struggling to feel connected to the One I can’t live without.

Our thought life, which directly affects our behaviors, seems to be its own living thing. The tasks and ‘To Do’s’ we chase after often keep us distracted from seeing that it requires care and continual maintenance, too. 2 Corinthians stresses the importance of keeping an eye on this:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10:5‬ ‭NIV‬‬

We can take down the obstacles that keep us from connecting with God by taking captive every thought and making it obedient to Christ. From good thoughts flow good actions, right? So that means that from bad thoughts…. You get it.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking “is this really that bad? There are worse things….” and talking myself into the gray area of sin. But when I catch my thoughts and hold them up to the Truth to compare, right and wrong become more apparent. The thing is- I can only do this by knowing- REALLY knowing- God’s word. And that can only be accomplished by dedicating time to be spent with God and His Word on a regular basis. Maintenance. Pruning. Trimming away the unwanted, making room for the good to grow.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.”

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s a snowball effect- a tower of building blocks. When you add perseverance, godliness grows, and mutual affection, and the golden virtue- love. It doesn’t work the other way around. You can’t get caught in the thinking that you can control your thoughts or actions without laying down the groundwork of faith, goodness, and knowledge first.

It’s a lot to realize there are other factors that control our actions behind the scenes. But knowing how to get to the root of these things makes it possible to part the messy vines and start to see what’s growing underneath. It makes it possible to see how the Holy Spirit can work within us when we cling to our connection with God regularly– and it can lead us toward squashing bad habits and changing behaviors. We can’t do it alone, and we can’t do it casually- it takes perseverance.

So before my neighbors try to machete their way to my house to check on us, I’m going to go and get on the landscaping. And while I’m at it, I’m going to work on a little mind and soul maintenance, too- trimming away, and making room for the good to grow.

Minivan Rebel

Minivan Rebel

“Well, I can add changing a diaper in a princess castle to my list of things I never thought I’d do,” I thought.

I looked around at the flower-clad walls and down the purple tunnel. I looked behind me at the demolished bag of chips my toddler had stolen from the pantry, with its thin plastic folded and wrinkled every which way. I mentally accepted all these things as normal and thought briefly about scanning the classifieds for a nice used minivan. “I will not do the stick figure family stickers on the back though….. or maybe. Whatever, I won’t rule it out,” I thought.

There are a lot of normal things in my life these days I never thought I’d find myself doing.

I never thought I’d go from listening to angry hard rock bands to having K-Love as my go-to commute music (all whilst transporting sticky-fingered, Hot Wheel throwing sleep stealers from A to B.)

I couldn’t have imagined laying in bed on Saturday night (at a reasonable hour no less) looking forward to church service the next morning (and even driving almost 40 minutes to get there.)

And I certainly never thought I would be writing a faith based blog.

But here I am. And in some remote corner of the world I imagine pigs are probably coming in for a landing.

So today, know this: God changes things. He changes the hearts of His people.

I fully admire people who were raised in the faith and never strayed from it but I openly admit that I am not one of those people. Although I was raised with a strong religious background, I’ve always had a restless and rebellious spirit. I believed in God but didn’t feel like I could relate to the life of Jesus. That is, until I came across this one single verse:

“He was counted among the rebels.” -Isaiah 53:12

We always think of Jesus as being perfect- and he was– but have you ever stopped to realize that he was so radically different from the norm of his day that he was actually considered a “rebel”?

Needless to say, the first time I came across this line, I connected. If Jesus was a rebel, he could know and understand my own rebellious heart. If he could navigate life as an outsider, he could teach me how to walk the less traveled path I’m meant to walk.

And if Jesus was a rebel, he could show me how to be rebellious in a different way.

These days my idea of rebellion comes largely in the form of saying no to friends, situations, and world views that are widely accepted but are misaligned with God’s truth. Rebellion doesn’t always have to be loud and intrusive. Sometimes rebellion looks like teaching Sunday school, or packing your husband’s lunch. Sometimes it’s zipping the lip instead of sharing the details of someone else’s personal business, or offering to help even when it doesn’t fit into your schedule. Sometimes rebellion looks like scattered Lego’s, purple princess castles, and a quiet life- lived well in the light of God’s grace.

Be rebels, my friends. ❤️

Changed

Changed

My prayer for today:

Lord, I want to be changed! I don’t want to live like this world lives, but I want to live like Jesus did. I invite your Holy Spirit to dwell and work within me, and change me from the inside out.

Please don’t let me cave into the pressure to be a woman of this world. Don’t allow me to think it’s OK to listen to certain music, watch certain movies, use inappropriate language, or develop habits that do not align with the principles you call us to live out just because that’s what others are doing.

Help me to be encouraged by the friends I trust who are also seeking to live a life led by you, but ultimately, let your words be the words I live by, and not the words of others.

I don’t want to look, walk, talk, or act like the norm in this world. I want my words and actions to set me apart and point the world to You.

I love you and thank you for this beautiful life! Amen.

Inspired by the song Different by Micah Tyler

Even Jesus Took Naps

Even Jesus Took Naps

Jesus healed, traveled, served, and performed countless miracles in his lifetime- and he still took naps.

Grab your favorite blanket and that cute sleep mask you’ve never taken out of the package because you know I’m going somewhere with this….

The passage from Mark chapter 4 (verses 35-41) tells the story of Jesus stepping away from the crowds and seeking rest in the back of a boat, even in the the midst of a raging storm. It brought a very realistic image of motherhood to mind:

It’s after 3 P.M. Loud and overwhelming ‘To Do’s” loom in the evening busyness of my household. Ready or not, the after work and school hours have begun, bringing on more demands than downtime. My husband asks where to find an obscure item which has faded from the landscape of a cluttered countertop over time, and has suddenly regained an urgent purpose. My 7.5-year-old son finds new sources of energy just as mine seem to be dwindling. I end up chasing him from room to room reminding him that socks don’t belong in couch cushions, and the dog needs to be fed. My 11 month daughter crawls and climbs the terrain of the living room and squeals for my full attention. Dinner needs cooked, pajamas need tiny people sprawled out within them, and after long days, a mama’s mind needs to be quieted.

Now. What happens in the midst of all this?

Is my response to,

A. Stand up, and use my calm presence to quiet the storm, or

B. Panic, lose my peace, and let my outward expression be determined by my inward unresolved struggle and weariness?

I’d love to tell you that I’m an option A mom, but I don’t always have it so together. As it turns out though, I’d be in good company because the disciples didn’t have it all together that day on the boat with Jesus either. When the storm threatened to sink their boat it says,

“Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:38‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It sounds like they had the tendency to stress, just like this mama does.

But not Jesus. In the raging storm he calmly stood and dealt.

“When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭4:39-41‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Now where do you think Jesus found that incredible calm? He was rested. His faith was in God, his unfailing Father, with whom he’d built a strong relationship. And so, even in the face of looming disaster and other priorities on the shore that begged for his time and attention, he protected his time alone and his time spent in prayer. Though it doesn’t specify, I can just imagine Jesus praying as he laid down, falling asleep while talking to his Father in Heaven. The Bible gives examples of his time away:

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” – Mark 1:35 NLT

“But Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” -Luke 5:16

So friends I have to ask- how often are we withdrawing to the wilderness?

Whether that wilderness is a Pinterest-worthy nook in your home complete with a plush designer chair and a built-in bookcase, or it’s the driver seat of your car because your kids finally fell asleep in the back, it’s calling for you. And it also requires something of you- the ability to say “wait” or even to say “no” altogether to certain things.

See, it wasn’t that Jesus had free time on his hands- but that he did what he had to in order to protect his time alone to rest and to protect his time in prayer, even when it meant stepping away from other things temporarily. (Kind of like trying to sneak off to use the bathroom even though tiny fingers will undoubtedly slither under the door within seconds. Hey, it’s a priority- you’ve just gotta do it.)

Jesus fully saw the need for his service out in the world, but he also recognized his inner need to recharge and speak with God.

Now here’s where I stumbled all over myself when I started considering this whole thing:

How important do I think I am that I can’t (won’t) take time out for God, when even JESUS HIMSELF made it a priority?

Do I not have faith that He will help to accomplish what’s asked of me in His perfect timing?

(If you’re slipping on your sunnies and sliding down in your seat right now, I’m going to guess you can relate to the grounds for those questions.)

As moms and wives it seems as if we are often the most in demand people on the planet. There is constantly someone calling our names, or something needing done that others think only we can do.

“Mom, I need toilet paper!”

“Honey, there’s toothpaste on the ceiling.”

“Mom, sissy’s diaper smells terrible!”

Oh, the demands of the job. How easily, then, can we relate to Jesus? He was highly sought after and often surrounded by great crowds of people seeking his attention. (In my mind, the equivalent must have been like having thousands of kids…. 😳) And yet, he understood the importance of rest and of his own personal time with the Lord.

I’m not suggesting we abandon our responsibilities to squander our time. Instead, let us prioritize where we will carefully place our attention before our attention is stolen away. We live out crazed days and we need rest, too. The best rest, I find, always comes after I give God some prime real estate in my daily schedule. If I want to be able to take a nap in my boat, I’ve got to make sure I’ve spent time in prayer in the wilderness first. That’s when I find the strength to remain calm in the storm. That’s when the sweet, restful moments come and are more fulfilling than ever before.

What’s your “wilderness” like? Where do you run off to when you need to spend quality time with God?

Keep Your Eye On The Couch Pillows

Keep Your Eye On The Couch Pillows

“DON’T EAT THE CARPET!” I yelled, as I dove over the kitchen chair barrier I’d created to keep my now-crawling daughter within the confines of the living room.

I pried her mouth open as she flailed her extremities in every direction. In one fluid swipe my glasses were removed from my face and landed just out of reach. “Blind your opponent- impressive strategy for a 10-month-old,” I thought. Nevertheless I was able to reach into her tiny little chipmunk-like cheeks between blows and retrieve the stray strand of carpet.

Our living room is currently its own special work of art. With an open concept floorplan there is little to keep my curious baby herded within the pasture of our living space. So, from necessity, I’ve designed a very chic arrangement consisting of a side-lying kitchen chair, furniture pressed up against each other, a laundry basket filled with hopeless, matchless socks, and a portable playpen.

I’m not sure why I haven’t been contacted by Better Homes and Gardens yet, really. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Now while much of our home boasts newer flooring thanks to the previous owner, our living room carpet has certainly seen its better days in the decades since our house was built. Charlie, our lazy yellow lab, must agree. Wherever he decides to lay, he paws at the carpet to make for a softer napping spot, and occasionally strands from the carpet are pulled loose. My eagle-eyed munchkin sometimes finds these small pieces before I do.

Feeling the frustration, I thought, “I’ll get ahead of this.” I grabbed a pair of scissors and went around extracting any little strand that looked as if it may come loose at Charlie’s pawing. Then, feeling accomplished, I returned my daughter to her designer play area.

A short time later I made a quick trip to the next room, only to return to find her squirreling away couch pillow stuffings in her tiny baby cheeks.

(Friends. Remember me in your prayers.)

As moms we know that we can’t take our eyes off of these sweet little sneaks for a second. The moment we start patting ourselves on the back for conquering the trials of one milestone, they’re already onto the next. In the midst of trying to keep up with my daughter this week, I came across a verse that pointedly reminded me that we can’t take our eyes off of our enemy either:

“When the devil had finished tempting Jesus, he left him until the next opportunity came.” -Luke 4:13 NLT

That’s right- He. Never. Stops.

Even as we celebrate the moments when we find the strength to walk away from a carefully crafted temptation, or choose differently rather than going back to a bad habit, he is already scouting out the next opportunity to knock us down. He is constantly working- so that means that we need to be, too.

In light of this, I’ve got to ask you what I’ve been asking myself this week: How can you be more persistent? 

Is it waking up earlier to get into the Word before your day sets your priorities for you? Grabbing your Bible or devotional as soon as the kids go to sleep instead of the remote? Deleting an app off your phone that- let’s be real here- the enemy is using to distract you from devoting more time to God?

The bottom line is this: our purpose in life is to love God and love people. It’s so simple, but the enemy is persistent and effective in making it complicated. We have to hold onto the truths of the Word in order to be prepared for every opportunity to love, so that there is less opportunity for the enemy to take the lead.

The 5 Stages of Sleep Deprivation (& Keeping the Faith)

The 5 Stages of Sleep Deprivation (& Keeping the Faith)

It recently occurred to me in the late hours of the night that sleep deprivation is very closely related to the 5 Stages of Grief.

I know. It sounds pretty dramatic. But have you ever tried to wrestle an alligator at 4 A.M.?

Well it goes like this:

  1. DENIAL. There’s a screech coming from the room where your baby sleeps. Your eyes pop open. It’s been approximately 27 minutes since you laid down your head on that fancy memory foam pillow you were sure would help you sleep. “You’ve got to be kidding me.” You think to yourself. “She can’t seriously be awake right now. Maybe she’ll fall back asleep on her own…” But alas! She does not, in fact, (ever) fall back asleep on her own.
  2. ANGER. I can’t function on 27 minutes of sleep!” You lament to your helpless baby. “Are you a robot?! Who replaced my tiny precious baby with a battery operated robot?!” You begin to furiously unwind government baby swapping conspiracy theories in your head.
  3. BARGAINING. “If you just go to sleep I will make Daddy buy you a pony,” you coo in your sweetest mommy voice. “Yes I will, you tiny princess, you can have WHATEVER you want- we will have chocolate cake for breakfast!” You rock and cuddle and negotiate, but nevertheless your tactics prove futile.
  4. DEPRESSION. Now here’s where things really take a turn. It’s around that 2-3:00 A.M. hour and you start getting philosophical. You begin to ask yourself… “What is sleep? On what plane of existence can it really even be found, and how does one get there? Why was I made a mother, and how can I ever reach my full child rearing potential if I am devoid of any source of energy?” All hope seems lost. And then, finally…….
  5. ACCEPTANCE.“Okay,” you declare to yourself, mustering what little strength you’ve gathered from your second wind. “I can do this. I’ll just bump up my caffeine intake tomorrow, it’s fine. I’ll be done with coffee by 3 P.M. so it won’t affect bedtime milk. I don’t need sleep. Sleep is for the weak! It’s 4:00am let’s just start the day!”

We’ve all been there. I certainly cycle through these stages in my mom life during seasons when my 10-month-old decides she’s got no need for a full night of sleep. But if I’m being honest, there are times I cycle through these stages in my Christian life as well.

Sometimes DENIAL comes in the form of a pursuit for control over my circumstances, convincing myself that I can take on a situation by myself without needing to seek counsel with my Father first.

Sometimes ANGER comes when the illusion of control slips away and I realize things aren’t going the way I’d planned.

Sometimes I experience the temptation to BARGAIN– to say “God if you get me through this I’m going to do it differently next time- I promise I’ve learned..”

Sometimes DEPRESSION strikes when I lose my focus on things above and get too fixated with the priorities of this world.

But after it all, when God picks me up to dust me off and make me better than he found me, I step into ACCEPTANCE and realize that I need him. I desperately, honestly, truly need him.

I don’t know where you are in the stages of your walk with God, (or the stages of sleep deprivation thanks to those little energy-depleting miracles we love so much.) But rest assured- you’re certainly not the only one there. Just as we enter into a sisterhood when we become mothers, we do the same when we accept God into our lives. We become a part of a whole big family of people who are living the same triumphs and trials that we are.

So in case you need to hear it from a sister today, it’s okay to be in that cycle.

But wherever you are, whether you’re pouring that second cup of coffee and happily declaring your need for your Father, or you’re bargaining with a toddler over mismatching socks at 3 o’clock in the morning, know that you can find your strength in the One who has already overcome the world! Don’t be afraid to share your struggle with your Father in Heaven and with your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to seek encouragement through it all. In all circumstances, you have an awesome support system!

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).