God’s Table as Omaha Gives

I was driving to see my grandma in the hospital, praying for everything and lost in emotion this past January. Somewhere in my prayer I told God to use me. I asked Him what He wanted me to do, thinking it would have something to do with my grandma. But into my heart once again popped up, “Call Restored Hope.”

I didn’t know why God was so insistent that I call this place. I had never volunteered at refuge for women before and I was already tapped out from grieving the soon loss of my grandma. Why would God want me to give more of my time and more of myself when I felt broken already??

The answer is because He knew I needed them and they needed me. We needed to start a journey together of lending faith, and sharing Jesus with each other to strengthen the weakest parts of ourselves.

To me, that’s what Restored Hope is. If you go on their website, http://restoredhopeomaha.org, you will find that they “provide sanctuary, advancement, and community to single mothers and their children in abusive environments. We provide them a safe place to live, assist them in finding work and transportation, and present them a reason to live out their new future.”

But more than that, they provide Jesus. Through counseling, bible studies, cooking classes…Jesus is there bringing back life, confidence, love, and passion in these ladies’ lives and in the lives of the volunteers who serve at Restored Hope.

As I think of my people at Restored Hope I have come to love so dearly, Matthew 12-48-50  is all I need to say.  “(Jesus) replied to him, “who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

As I lost my grandma, God filled my emptiness as He raised up a whole new family for me here in Omaha. I’m learning that God’s table is filled with family who don’t look like me, talk like me, come from the same place as me. These women are now part of my family. They are my sisters and I love them dearly. 

I am so grateful that I was invited into the Restored Hope family. So on this Omaha Gives day I want to invite you to become part of Restored Hope’s family with me by giving, praying, or joining in action.

Fighting Fear

I’ve seen it a few times now. The most recent was while walking my dog early in the morning. A huge ugly hawk floating through the air looking for something to eat. Then out of nowhere, a little bird climbs high. She gets above the menacing hawk, looks down, and dives straight into it– pecking at the hawk’s back. She does it again and again as many times as it takes to drive the predator away.

I stand there in the middle of the street looking up and silently rooting for the little bird– marveling at her courage to take on a beast five times her size. And I smile when the hawk gives up and flies away.

I want to be that little bird.

There have been times in my life that I was simply unprepared for scary events. I felt completely out of control and afraid. The threat was real. The fear was justified.

But that’s not how God wants us to live.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power of love and of self-discipline,” 2 Timothy 1:7.

As we face the unknown we have to face it knowing that we are not alone in it. We have His Spirit. You have the strength of GOD in you! And that means that we do not have to be afraid.

We may be small, but there is nothing that can scare our God. 

Sometimes we let fear feel more real than God’s power. Alone, we see the scary hawk and size it up. We know it’s bigger than us, so we assume it will overtake us. That it’s too big for us to conquer. But that is a lie.

As we climb higher and see the situation through God’s power we can see the truth. There is no health problem too big, no person too messed up, and no situation too far gone with the help of God. Our God is not afraid of the things we see as five times bigger than us. And so with His help, we climb high through prayer and attack fear. 

With God we see the scary hawk’s weak spot. We start pecking from above at the enemy’s fear tactics with truth.

We pray. We tell God the truth that we are scared. We tell Him every fear, every what if, every possible troubling thought.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

We ask Him to remind us of His truths. That He loves us and we are His. (Ephesians 1:4-5) That He is with us no matter the outcome. That we have His power and strength within us through His Spirit to conquer anything. Anything. Because nothing can undo the love of God. Nothing. (Romans 8:18-37)

Peck. Peck. Peck.

We ask for His wisdom and power and help and ask Him to be with us– no matter what. And we believe in the truth that God hears us when we ask big things. (1 John 5:13-14) And that He cares about the outcome. He is right there with us as we peck away at all our fears.

Peck. Peck. Peck.

And slowly as we keep pecking away at our fears with God’s truths written on our hearts through His word, we drive away our fear and replace it with His peace.

Most importantly, when we see the big hawk give up and fly away, we remember to praise God for His love and endurance through the battle and for answering our call for help. And we tell everyone we know about how God showed up for us so that more little birds can be strong.

So be strong, little bird.

#allthemoms

I was sitting on a bench at the park with a mom-friend having my only adult conversation of the day. Our kids were climbing the tornado slide and shooting hoops independently while we sat and took a break from mothering. Another mom sat across the park from us… in the sand, digging, laughing, and playing with her kids. Soon she got up, put her little boy on her shoulders while pushing a stroller up a hill.

We sat there watching her amazing mom efforts from our cozy restful bench, and I felt a little humbled by her obvious mothering prowess.

“You’re my hero!” I said to the woman who seemed to have more energy than me and my friend combined.

“Oh, I just finally have a day off to be with my kids! Gotta soak it up.” she said waiving off my compliment.

We are all struggling either inwardly or externally to be the best mom for our kids. And we are all amazing.

That little moment reminded me that there is no place for comparison in mothering. We are all struggling either inwardly or externally to be the best mom for our kids. And we are all amazing.  For some of us that means taking a break on the bench for sanity, and for some it means being present and playing in the sand.

I’ve been on both sides of the mom coin. I’ve been a full-time working mom who misses her kid so much she doesn’t want to go anywhere on the weekends because she wants to soak in every moment with those little snuggle bugs. And I’ve been a stay at home mom who plays all day long and needs her little snuggle bugs to play independently at the park because she’s needs an adult moment.

No matter what way you do it, mothering is the best, hardest, most rewarding, and most emotionally challenging role in a woman’s life. It is full of tender moments that are only experienced between you and your child. And it is full of worry, self-doubt, and fear that you are doing it all wrong or not doing it as well as the next mom.

Here’s some of what I want to say to all my mom friends out there… 

To my pre-moms who are are trying to get pregnant and struggling or who are pregnant and are hyper worried. You are already a good mom because you already love your someday baby and are already wishing and hoping and praying for it’s future. The pregnancy journey can be lonely and long, but God is there to listen to every worry, fear,  or doubt. You will be amazing!

To my SAHMoms of littles who are just plain exhausted. Keep going. Your love and snuggles and never-ending days will be short-lived, but you will smile when you look back on these days and your kids will remember all that you do. Take care of your heart so you can take care of your littles. Know that for you and your life, you are the only person God wanted to take care of those littles which means less of yourself and more of them right now. But it’s worth it and you are simply amazing.

To my working mom friends who are equally exhausted. You are loving your kids just as much and you are building confidence in their little hearts as they see you rockin’ it at whatever you do. I remember when my mom finished college in my teen years with high marks and got her first job at a bank. I had never been more proud of her in my life and I told everyone about her accomplishments. She has been my biggest cheerleader in school, and a listening ear for all my dreams in life– no matter how crazy they are. Working moms, you are simply amazing.

To my moms of teens who are just plain lost in the world of adolescence and are hanging on to motherhood by prayers and God’s wisdom. We are here with you to listen and pray and encourage you. Please remember the lessons you learn on this journey and pass them down to us moms of littles. We will need your help soon! You are our role models. Stay strong. You are amazing!

To my single mom friends. You are stronger than anyone I know. You do it all. Often times with no recognition or help. You are master jugglers of work, school, kids, and emotions. You are so strong that sometimes it’s hard for you to accept help and support. But we are with you. We are for you. We are amazed by you as you lead your people in love.

To my moms of kids that face big challenges— kids who suffer from physical illnesses,  learning struggles, mental, emotional, or social battles. It’s just plain harder. I wish I could take some of your burden and lighten your worry load. But the only thing I know is that our God is bigger and stronger than anything that our kids will face. When you feel out of control, He is in control. Let God be God of every moment that feels too big or too much, and let yourself just be you, amazing and wonderful you.

And to my grandmas and mother-in-laws out there. Simply where would we be without you??? We are so thankful for all the meals, hugs, help, love, and wisdom you have filled us with. You tell us we can do it and we believe you. You lift us up when we feel like we have nothing else. You bring coffee and smiles and sanity to our lives. You invest your time in your grandkids when you could be off doing your own thing. You make this mothering business so much lighter and remind us to keep focused on what’s important. You are simply amazing.

I have so much love for all you moms out there. In a world that tells you you are not enough, I just wanted to tell you that you are amazing.

Happy Mother’s Day!

-andrea

A Double Hoarder’s Testimony

I was listening to a friend talk about her experience with a hoarder recently–helping to clean out a house filled with more than a lifetime of stuff. Everywhere were boxes of worthless junk alongside never worn clothes tags still on. As my friend spoke of trying to clear out the hoarders house, I imagined the scene… and I realized that I am a hoarder too.

Or at least I was. I think a lot of us don’t like to admit it, but that’s exactly what we are before we meet Jesus and before he starts cleaning up our hearts.

I was a hoarder of my sin. I hoarded it all in the dark rooms of my heart because I wasn’t ready to let God come in and do His work to change me. I hoarded unforgiveness and bitterness. I hoarded self-loathing and never feeling good enough. I hoarded comparison and rivalry. I hoarded anxiety, control of plans for life, my importance and  selfishness.

Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of good things in there too. There was love and happiness and kindness. But I wasn’t letting God be my God. I was my god. I hung on to so many things that I wanted or things I couldn’t let go of that were not meant for me as a child of God. I held onto me instead of seeking Jesus. Thank you Jesus for your mercy and love and grace and help…you didn’t let me stay there.

I heard God knocking on the doors of my hoarding heart for a long time when I was younger and for a long time I thought God was good, but bible reading and praying and spending time with God was for other people– not me. I felt like I couldn’t quite go to God with all my crap sitting in all those dark rooms. But God is light and He broke down the door as I said yes to baptism, to reading His word, and talking to Him daily…sometimes all. day. long. And to seeking Him over everything else in life.

Slowly, He has cleared out the rooms as I seek Him and give Him control of my life, my decisions, and my relationships.  He has opened up the windows and flooded my heart with His love, joy, peace, and goodness. I love the person He is building in me through His Spirit, and at the same time I feel sad sometimes for the insecure girl that used to live there.

There’s still some crap to move out. And there are always new issues trying to find a place to hide in my heart. But as I live relationally with God now, I know He will continue His work on this recovering hoarder’s heart.

Hoarding our sin digs us deeper into our sin, but as we give it to God and are just thankful for His forgiveness, transformation starts to happen. On the flip side, we must be careful not to then become hoarders of God.

 

As I got closer and closer to God I read His word with a thirst that could not be quenched. I wanted to know more about Him, more about His love for me, more about His forgiveness for me, more about all the ways He could live and breathe and affect my life. I read my bible to benefit me and my life. For a while I didn’t realize that once we have God at our core, our real work begins. 

Jesus told us to go and make disciples of all (wo)men and love each other– and those commands are not about me, it’s about showing Jesus to others. So that’s what I have tried to do. Whether it’s starting a bible study, ministering to broken women, talking daily and intentionally to our children about Jesus, being brave and talking about Christ to our co-workers, literally loving our neighbors with meals, meaningful conversations, and prayer…the list of ways to show and tell the good news of Jesus to others are endless if we let God use us.

I can’t be a God hoarder anymore. I can’t walk around knowing the love of Christ anymore without sharing that goodness and amazing blessing with my people and my community. Guys we have to let this big cat out of the Sunday bag and let Jesus shine out to all we meet all week long. You are so important in God’s mission to love the world if you want to be. We can’t keep hoarding to ourselves the love and grace God has shown us, we have to extend that boldly and invite everyone around us into the crazy love of Christ. 

So that’s part of my testimony. God saved me from being a hoarder of sin, saved me from being a self-focused-Christian-God-hoarder, really… He saved me from me. And I am so beyond thankful to go serve and testify about a God who cares enough to lift all the heavy boxes from my heart with me.

Just a branch

Last year for my birthday I went to Lowes and bought two scrawny pear trees for $20 each. I shoved them like a bad tetris game into the back of my honda odyssey van and headed home hoping my husband would approve. (he wasn’t as excited as he should’ve been ha!) My garden that started as two small boxes has multiplied to 6 raised beds, one raspberry patch, planters of Chamomile tea flowers and now perhaps a partridge in my two pear trees.

I used to kill everything green and now I am obsessed with my garden and watching the miracle of plants. It’s just amazing to me how some survive the winter underground, others seem to die and then reseed the next year producing 10 times as many plants, and others start as tiny beautiful flowers and end as enormous fruits.

I see a lot of God in my garden because it really is a miracle. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing I can do to MAKE a seed grow into a plant. He has to breathe the life into each little seed and grow it into a stalk or a vine or a tree. He uses me to plant the seed, to water and care for his plants, but in the end…He is the one doing the hard work of creating life and bearing the fruit.

Lately I have just wanted to serve God and be  His disciple. I want to do lots of awesome things for Him. But sometimes I get frustrated when my efforts don’t work out or my plans for good go south in my family or in my community. Sometimes I try so hard to be the vine holding everything together, I forget that I am just a branch. There is peace knowing that my job is just to be loved and to love–God will take care of the rest.

Even if you’ve read these words a million times. Don’t rush. Stop and meditate over what Jesus is saying in John chapter 15

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

I don’t know about you, but something stings about that last part. That when we try to do even good things without Jesus we will fail. We will fail because our human selfishness, pride, and arrogance will at some point get in the way. I see this sometimes when I wake up in the morning saying “I’m going to make today a good day!” Then by 10:00 I’m about to lose it because my plan is not working out the way I want it to and no one else is conforming to my desires. As Americans, we want to work hard to accomplish the goal of goodness and love just like everything else we work for in our lives, but Jesus says it just won’t work if we take Him out of the equation. He is the vine holding it all together and we are just branches reaching out HIS love to the world.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (vs 7-8)

What hits me about this is that Jesus is encouraging you and I to pray to our Father for help to bear fruit. Maybe that’s how we keep Him as our vine. We humble ourselves and pray to the vine asking for His help in discipleship. We ask Him to help us love one another, to give us opportunities to bear fruit in love, for guidance to love others well and be His disciples, and for humility to know that it’s not for our gain but for HIS.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my command, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (vs. 9-10) “And my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.”(vs 12)

Somewhere I heard a saying like, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” As I sat staring at these verses, I prayed for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes to His wisdom. I heard in my heart that this is the most important part. In order to love each other well, we must allow ourselves to embraced in the love of Christ.

We can’t just wake up willing ourselves to have a good day and be good to others. We have to wake up knowing that we are crazy loved by Christ. That the Father of the universe loves you. The king who died on the cross for you loves you. The Holy Spirit inside you is for you and loves you. We have to wake up knowing that we are loved by the vine so that our branches can bear fruit loving others.

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.” (vs 16-17)

Good quality fruit that lasts generations is what we are after. We are not after numbers of blog followers, perfect church attendance, an A+ on a college paper, a clean record, an awesome Facebook profile, or an impressive job title. No. As God’s disciples we are after love. Passing on a love that is not our own, but comes from the ultimate perfect source– one that never runs out and is better than anything we could imagine. We are branches of the tree all working together as the body of Christ each reaching out in different directions, but all connected to the core.

I’m done trying to be the vine. I want to be His branch stretching out to all I meet and giving them what I have received. God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance. And maybe a pear from my pear tree too.

The day a church lady turned me down

The night started a little hectic. I had it in my head I was going to this church prayer and information night about a ministry I am interested in, but everything seemed to step in the way. My husband couldn’t watch the kids because he had to work, I had to get a babysitter for my very anxious children, drive 35 minutes in rush hour traffic just to sit in a chair and feel confused.

I wanted so badly to feel called to the mission of ministering to a certain broken and vulnerable people in my community, but it all felt wrong. As I sat there listening, I was so in awe and thankful for those already serving, but it didn’t feel like it was where I was supposed to be.

Still, I was determined to make it work because I love Jesus and wouldn’t he want me to say yes??

Checking my phone for the time, I rushed to the back of the room to talk to a lady about the ministry opportunity starting with, “I have to get home to my babies right now and relieve the sitter, but I’d love to learn more about this ministry sometime!”

Thinking she was going to give me a phone number or email, I felt my brow furrow and my words stop when she said, “I usually tell young moms this is just not the ministry for you.”

My first reaction was, I admit… all wrong.

In my head I was thinking, Aren’t you the lady that just stood up there asking for people to get out of their comfort zone and start getting our hands dirty for Jesus?? And a bitter thought came into my mind, I am more than a mother, you know, I have things I can contribute to society other than the ABC’s and preschool snack!

Then she hit me with…

“I tell young moms to go home and spend their time with their babies.”

While my mind was still processing that I was being turned down for a volunteer position, she went on to say that this particular ministry is a really demanding field and little kids need a lot from their mothers and demand much of your time, so I wouldn’t be able to give the ministry all that it needed.

So I left, confused and disappointed. And as crazy as it sounds, feeling like I was incapable of serving God.

On my drive home I thought about her words. Did I really just get turned down by a church lady?? Can I not be anything other than a mom right now?? But I want to do the work of God! I want to tell people about Jesus! Why did it all feel so wrong?? 

I got home to the hustle and bustle of paying the baby sitter, brushing my three kids’ teeth, putting their jammies on, getting their milk, tucking them in multiple times because they won’t stay in their beds…all alone because my husband was working.

And it dawned on me. The church lady was right. Dang it. 

Mothers. It’s so good to be passionate about a variety of things and go where Jesus prompts us to serve. But I want to speak some freeing words to us…

We are also allowed to feel like we are not called to something right now. 

This doesn’t mean to ignore the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life. It means the opposite. Listen to him and listen to wise people. As hard as it is. And give your mothering life some grace and pride.

Looking back, I think God is planting a seed of willingness for my future in that ministry. Or maybe he has a completely different plan for me to serve and bring him glory. Either way, the church lady helped change my perspective about what serving God looks like on a daily basis.

It could mean being light in your neighborhood, drinking tea with someone who needs love, could be giving of your things or time to those you see struggling, making meals for sick friends, calling someone who needs a friend— just being present in the lives of others in order to build them up in the love of God. 

The point is…he can use us as long as we are willing to say yes to anything he puts on our hearts or say no to things that just don’t fit right.

Now, in the trenches of raising little humans, this is our mission field that only we can do for our families. And the only way to do it well is to be here. Be here for the tuck ins and the teeth brushing. Be here for the snack serving and valentine box making. Be here for the story reading and the diaper changing. Be here loving and encouraging our little people in every moment. Be here knowing that this is God’s work, too. Raising little disciples who will also do God’s work.

So although it was a little bit of a hard pill for me to swallow that my mission field is somewhat confined in these young mothering years, I am determined to do my little part well. I want to be a light in my house, in my neighborhood, at my job, in my family, in my community, in my writing, and to all those I meet. And someday, maybe God will call me to something more.

But for now, I thank the church lady for turning me down and helping me feel good about serving God in my home with my people.

The Truth about Easter

People have a lot to say about Easter. So much pain in thinking about the Son of God being tortured on a cross and enduring the wrath of God for our sin. So much relief knowing we are clean and free and have been reconciled through His sacrifice. But as I sat here thinking about Easter, I wanted to hear from God. What does He want us to know about Easter?

So, I opened up my bible and read Jesus final prayer for His people.  The climax was coming, Jesus was facing the whole reason he came down to meet us in this sinful world, and so He laid it all out in a beautiful prayer to His Father. As I was reading His words, my heart was faced with one major truth about Easter.

Let’s read God’s word in John chapter 17 vs 20-25.

Jesus Prays for All Believers…

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 

Let’s stop for a moment. Does it hit you right now that Jesus said these words about you and me?? Jesus, the Son of God, the one who died to save us and rose victorious, prayed for “those who will believe in me.” He’s talking about us right now, my friend, so we should probably pay attention. He’s asking His Father to keep us unified as a body of Christ and also unified with God– letting God come into our hearts and every part of our lives.

So why is that so important to Jesus?…

22-23 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” 

You may have heard those words since you were little, or maybe this is the first time, either way we need to make sure they sink in. Jesus’ biggest desire is for the world to know that He was sent by the Father, that Jesus is in fact the Son of God, and for us to know that our Father LOVES us.

I feel like that is the biggest truth that Satan wants us to not believe. The enemy wants us to feel unloved, unlovable, unworthy of love, unaccepted, uninvited un—everything. But listen not just to me, listen to your SAVIOR when He said that the Father has loved you!!!

Don’t you think the world would be a better place if each of us Christians would wake up each day, throwing our hands up in praise and a smile on our face saying… “GOD LOVES ME!” How much more love would we be able to give if we face each day knowing we are loved so big by our God??

Not only that, but God WANTS you.

vs 24“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have give me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 

Have you ever just walked into a friends house and you just know you are 100% welcome there just the way you are? You can come in sweaty yoga pants with no makeup and baby stains all over your shirt– and they don’t care. They just want to give you a hug and have you with them. JESUS is that friend. He wants all of you to be with all of Him. He wants you in His church, in His family, in His everything. He. Wants. You. And that is some good news to my heart.

And so Jesus ends with this…

vs 25-26 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

At Easter we remember that our Savior suffered and died for us, making us right with our Father again. And that He conquered the grave and therefore those who believe in Him as their savior know they are forgiven and saved and will also rise to be with God one day. But we also need to remember why He did it. And take that truth with us everyday of our lives.

So, to be quite simple, the truth about Easter is this…that God loves you and He wants you. You are important, precious, and His.  No matter what the world tells you. No matter how people of this world have treated you or made you feel. Know this Easter that the one true God of the universe LOVES YOU and WANTS you more than anything.

Two More Minutes

“Two more minutes, mom! I play two more minutes a little bit!” Yelled my two year old, Calvin, for the third time at 9:30 at night while still in his diaper and needing to brush his teeth.

Standing in the living room, my shoulders felt a little heavier every time he said those words. “Two more minutes, mom.”

We survive those minutes. I check child number 2 off the bedtime routine list and move onto the last. The one who needs the most love at night time.

“Mom, tell me a story. But it has to have a bunny, a train, a butterfly, and a person in it,” says my sweet four year old Natalie. (insert my loving deep sigh here as I start a very strange story off the top of my head with a train sitting at a tea party next to a bunny).

“Mom, I need to go potty and then you can snuggle me two more minutes.

My shoulders get heavier. Defeat is coming. Will two minutes ever end?? Because two minutes has just taken an hour. You know that feeling. When you just have nothing else there to give. You’ve been up with the sun to get the first kid off to school, folded the laundry, made the peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, gone to work, come home and played and loved and wiped and tucked and snuggled…but you are done now. Today needs to be done now.

Please tell me I’m not alone in the insanity and burnout of “two more minutes, mom.”

This is a big area of my life as a mother of littles that has proven I need me some Holy Spirit during the bed time hours. I need His fruit of patience and love when I have no more to give.

Just knowing that you are not alone in those moments of struggle is empowering. I think that’s the first step– remembering that the Holy Spirit is in us and using Him as our guide and not trying to do the struggle alone. Instead, I’ve learned tapping into His power during those challenging moments through prayer and by listening and obeying His whisperings on my heart can truly keep me from drowning.

I don’t know why I never asked for God’s help until I was a mother. I used God as a mixture of Santa and wishing well for many years– kinda hoping I was on His good kid list and ignoring Him til december (or finals week) when I needed a miracle on a Chemistry test. Then sending up a wish for whatever I wanted for my life at crucial times.

Now, God is with me through my day. I talk to him in the morning and give thanks for the day. I ask for help, for guidance, for love, for forgiveness, for mercy, for…everything. I’m not afraid to let Him into every part because I trust Him with every part and I trust He is good and He is for me.

There are still days or moments when I am stubborn and I want to do things my way and I let my frustration take control of my actions. But in my heart, I know that life is so much better when we let God permeate our everyday life. Our joys and sorrows– potty training victories and emotional night time defeats. In those low moments, I always start with a version of … “Holy Spirt, please come. Please help me. Fill me up with you. I need your help. Guide me through this. Help me love them…”

And I hear back things like… “she needs you right now. it’s ok. take a breath. smile. start with once upon a time…” Like God is taking me through it two minutes at a time. Helping me work out each problem as it comes.

And I am so thankful. I am thankful for the forgiveness in the moments where my selfishness wins. And I am thankful for the fruit that comes when I let the Holy Spirit lead.

If you have a moment, read Luke chapter 11. It ends with this in verses 11-13…

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” 

Let’s not do this all alone anymore. Let’s ask our good Father to give us what he has promised, the Holy Spirit, who can help us through the roughest of days.

Oh God help us. Fill us up with your Holy Spirit. Help us tired mamas who have given 500 “two more minutes” all day long and haven’t had two minutes to ourselves today. Help us and give us your patience and love and grace to our children when we have nothing else to give. Be our kind and gentle words when we are all talked out and just want to have silence. Give us your endurance for one more story, one more song, one more kiss, one more hug, one more glass of water. God just be the beginning where we end. Give us rest and peace and let us wake up the next day with joy instead of weariness. You have entrusted us with such precious gifts. Please help us take care of them and disciple them and love them with your divine love…for every two more minutes, mom. In Jesus name. Amen.

99cents PepperJax Church

It’s Wednesday! To most people it’s just another day, but our kids have come to know Wednesday as PepperJax night.

You know. The night when kids eat almost free and can run around crazy in a restaurant because there are a billion other kids there making just as much noise as your own??

It’s amazing. Seriously. I love PepperJax night–partially because I don’t have to cook, partially because it gets us out of the house when we are about to go nuts with cabin fever, and partially because we try to meet a fellow Christian family there to have some adult conversations.

One Wednesday after the meal we were joking and said, “Let’s do this a couple times a month! It’s like PepperJax Church!”

There was some truth in that statement. These are people who I can be me with. I can talk freely about struggles or victories, about parenting wins and fails, about death and life, and about Jesus. Nothing forced. Nothing fake. Just a steak rice bowl with all the veggies and some good encouragement and love from faithful friends.

I love the picture Acts 2:42-47 paints of how the the early church thrived.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” (v. 42)

It sounds so simple and ordinary to sit together as families, eat, talk, and pray…why would that be so important to the church? But as soon as we put God in that place he can do lots of things with our time around a table– whether at our house or at a PepperJax.

For me, time with my faithful friends and their families has resulted in conversations that strengthen my faith as I hear what God is doing in their lives, allows for growth as we learn from each other and encourage each other, and just plain makes us feel stronger as God’s workers knowing that we are not in the struggle of life alone.

My PepperJax Church people inspire me to keep running closer to God and after His will. So although normal Sunday church is such an awesome time of worship and time to learn about God through our pastors…our weekly mini times of faith with our closest people are where I find God, too.

I think the people of the early church had that same feeling.

Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47)

They were people who loved God, were passionate about living relationally daily with God’s people, and just plain enjoyed their time together. It was just a good thing.

That last line is so awesome to me. The idea that God can use us just by getting our families together to enjoy each other’s company, inviting others to do the same, and sprinkling Jesus in the middle of our meal through love and encouragement.

Ladies, our tables are powerful places. Do you feel that??

Let me just say that in a lot of ways I feel very humbled by being a part-time stay-at-home-mom. There have been a lot of times I have felt resentment towards my kitchen because I have felt chained to it in the past making, serving, and cleaning up food messes ALL DAY LONG.

But when I look at my table as God’s instrument for making disciples?? I see it a little differently. The people in those chairs, whether my children or guests, start looking a little more important as does the time and effort I put into serving and being with them.

So who is your PepperJax church?? Who are your weekly make-me-feel-better-about-life people? If you don’t have any, maybe it’s time to open up your table…or let your crazy kids run around PepperJax.

 

The Invitation is Still Good

Jesus forgives. Isn’t that what we are taught all our lives? If you have ever taught Sunday school you know when kids shoot their hands up to answer a question, they usually shout one of three things: Jesus!! The cross!! Forgiveness!!

So why is it so hard to believe in our adult hearts that Jesus actually does forgive us? We think there’s no way God could use someone like us now with all we’ve done. So, we give our past sin more life than God’s mercy. We hold on to it. We are ashamed of it. We hide it or pull away from God.

I wonder if that’s how Peter felt after he denied Jesus three times. (see John 18) He knew he had messed up. As much as he loved Jesus, he had let his fear take over and had denied even knowing his Lord multiple times. In his mind it was all over. How could God want to use someone like Peter now? So he backed off of the discipleship course, went back to the family business as a fisherman, and was most likely feeling the same things we feel when we think we have let God down– ashamed, defeated, and broken hearted.

Open those bibles and turn to John 18. Read how Jesus kept his cool when he was arrested. He knew the arrest and crucifixion were coming because it was the whole reason He came. He was ready to do His Father’s will no matter the cost. Jesus was able to be perfectly faithful in every word and every action because He is one with the Father. Peter, on the other hand, was scared out of his little human mind. He cut off someone’s ear. He denied Jesus. Then he gave up and headed home in defeat. Sound familiar?

I have felt that defeat in so many ways. So many times I have felt like I let God down and have chosen to believe the lie that I am not worthy of serving the Lord anymore. I still wrestle with sin everyday, I hate my sin, but I’m not willing to be stuck in it anymore. I want out and I want Jesus– Peter did too.

Last time we heard Jesus’ original words to Peter when Jesus called him, “Come, follow me” (see Mark 1:16-20). Perhaps even more beautiful, is that those words were still true, the invitation was still good, even after Peter messed up.

Take a few minutes and read John chapter 21.

Peter did what he knew how to do. He went fishing. Of course he didn’t catch a thing on his own. But when Jesus shows up, he instructs the disciples to put the net on the right side of the boat. And “when they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6)

It is then that the disciples realize the man standing on the shore is Jesus. Can you imagine Peter’s joy seeing the face of his Lord once again? What happens next is just so beautiful.

“Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as SimonPeter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat…” John 21:7-8

Don’t you want to jump out of the boat and swim to Jesus?? I do. So very much. I want to jump out of all the boats of doubt and fear and sin and guilt and swim to Jesus just like Peter. I want to leave them all behind and see what Jesus has to say about it all. See how He can piece me back together again and use me even though I am flawed like He does Peter.

They eat breakfast with Jesus, we can only imagine their joy as they sit with their Savior, and then….

“When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “feed my lambs.” (John 21:15)

Jesus asks Peter this question three times canceling out the three times Peter denied Christ. Isn’t that amazing? Christ does forgive even what we think is unforgivable, if we love Jesus and desire him to forgive it. And in that forgiveness we find some of the most simple but beautiful words our Savior has spoken.

“…Then he said to him, “Follow me!” (vs 19)

Jump out of the boat today. Trust in the forgiveness and renewal found in Christ. And know He still wants to use you for His glory. Sometimes this seems like a daily routine–asking God to forgive and trusting He can work something good out of our messes. But He can and He will if we desire it and follow Him again through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The invitation is still there. Time to RSVP.

 

Reflection:

  1. How do you see yourself in Peter’s story? What boats do you want to jump out of? In what areas of your life do you need God’s restorative forgiveness?
  2. Write a prayer to God asking for forgiveness in those hard spaces and asking Him to use you again for His glory and good today.
  3. Pray in the Holy Spirit this week when you wake up each day, asking Him to show you how to follow Him this week, to give you opportunities to do His work, and give you the strength to obey and do it well.
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