The most transparent I can be

I write this with a heavy heart. I am stripping down all the walls I so carefully built up around me. The ones that make it seem as if I have the right perspective. The walls that seem so neatly and humbly built. This is the most transparent I can be – that I have ever been. This is extremely hard to write. I am greatly troubled by this struggle! My struggle is one simple word, yet tremendously destructive, called pride. Right now, the sermon series at our church is on the seven deadly sins, pride being the first. I was not made aware of my pride because of the series. But, it called out my name. It stepped on my toes. It’s brought me here, to this point, to write this blog – to face the truth of my struggle. To share it, not boastfully, but that another may be able to relate and be encouraged by it. Besides, there is freedom in admitting the truth. There is a vulnerability in being so open, as if searing into the deepness and secret of the heart, yet it can bring healing and accountability too.

My youngest son, just eight months old, is facing physical challenges. There is something abnormal about his movements. Because there is something amiss, I worry about his future. I worry about what he could encounter as he develops into adulthood. Could this be a developmental hiccup? Absolutely – it’s possible! Could this be the beginning of a life-long challenging road? Yes. I want to be very clear: It is not my desire or joy to see my son face potential life-long challenges and trials! So, the following has nothing to do with that. Continue reading “The most transparent I can be”

Lighten up!

Lighten up. I have heard others tell me this in the past, normally in a condemning way – referring to an attitude check. For the sake of this blog though I am going to use it in the non-condemning way; to lighten up and enjoy life.

I am very particular and choosy with certain activities my boys do. If it might potentially ruin or destroy anything I am very reluctant. In fact, I might not even allow it. You may find this shocking or ridiculous, but I honestly struggle with it. I don’t like messes and I especially don’t like things being broken or destroyed. You just told me to lighten up, didn’t you? *smile*

Well, I ruined some things this past week! And it was me, not even the boys.

I was dying my hair and didn’t realize until later that night that I had dropped some dye on our semi-new bathroom rug. If you have ever dyed your hair then you know hair dye is permanent! There is no soak-it-and-hope-it-comes-out. Now there is a permanent dark purple stain on my pale gray rug!

Later the same day, I was making a gift for a friend. After I glued the item I laid it on the dining room table. A half hour later I picked it up. I thought the glue had dried before I laid it down – well, it didn’t – so when I lifted it up it peeled a layer of wood stain off our new, and perfect table!

And it is almost a daily occurrence now that the boys bring me a bent or broken toy or a ripped book. Some claim it’s a “boy thing.” I agree to a certain point, but I still believe it’s necessary to teach them to respect their toys, or belongings. It is a daily reminder for my boys.

I strive to keep my belongings clean and neat, and new if they started out that way. I was raised this way – to take special care of my belongings. It will last longer is my rationality. It is extremely tough for me not to be disappointed in my failure to maintain this rationality; and when my boys fail to meet my expectations as well.

Here comes the lighten up part. Continue reading “Lighten up!”

“They are so well-behaved.”

We recently purchased a minivan from a family member. Let me start by saying…WOW! I did not know what I was missing. I told this family member, “feels like I’m driving a house around!” This was in no way a critical comment. Once you get three carseats in the back seat of a car and a stroller (and maybe some groceries) in the trunk, there isn’t much room available. In the van, I had fun choosing where to put my purchases and bags. Yes, I know, it’s the small things! *smile*

It is no small task taking three small boys, ages three and under, anywhere by myself, not without some incident or struggle. No big mishaps happened, thank the LORD! Their disobedience was the biggest struggle.

I decided to treat the boys to Wendy’s for lunch. They love Wendy’s. I think they could eat chicken nuggets every day, especially my oldest. Even though I now drive a house around <insert giggle> I decided to take them inside to eat, instead of ordering at the drive thru window. Frustration at their misbehaving was almost causing me to use the phrase: I’ve had it up to here! They were warned a few times that we would leave. In fact the attendant ask me if I wanted a to-go bag. Ha! I ushered them over to a table while they prepared our food. My two-and-a-half year old made a bee line for the drink machine. He hit some button at the bottom (of course I didn’t figure this out until later), because I stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out why it wasn’t working. Already frustrated by the morning of misbehaving, I was griping to the machine. It must’ve been quite amusing to the onlooker.

Successfully filling the drink, I made my way over to the table of little monkeys. Yup, monkeys. They looked as if they were born in the woods. All they needed was a tree limb and some bananas, because they were already climbing all over the chairs. Out of control. That was exactly how I felt they were, and I was.

In the last week my oldest who’s three has been volunteering to pray before all our meals. So brave and so sweet. He asked to pray before eating in this public restaurant. His sweet, gentle voice broke the quiet conversations around us, “Thank you Jesus for the food. Amen.” It’s a simple prayer, but I am so proud of him.

Throwing food at my boys always calms them down. They are too busy shoving food in their mouths to think about misbehaving, not that it’s impossible. A sweet older woman kindly interjects into our world. She comments on their blue eyes and blonde hair. “Heartbreakers” she called them. Then she added those encouraging words that any mother wants to hear and needs to hear – because we think we’ve failed miserably – “they are so well-behaved.” Did she see them?  My kids? Ha! I still do not totally agree, but it gave me a small bit of confidence for my motherhood.

The perfect Christian

Being a Christian does in no way make you become perfect – it’s a huge myth! Christians are still very far from perfection! The only difference to set us apart from any other human being on this earth is our personal relationship with the God of the universe. We do not lose our ability to sin once we come to know Christ. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can live a life closer to that of Christ’s – who was perfect, but alone it is not possible.

This is an excerpt from my recent blog titled The Duggars are not perfect and I thought it deserved a blog all of its own.

Sadly the world has a distorted view of Christians, or who they should be. Even some Christians share this view. We will continue to dishearten and shock many in this world with our sin because we should be free of it, or so they think. We are expected to be perfect; to never sin, falter in our faith, slip up in our Christian walk or diverge down any questionable paths. As I stated above, we do not lose our capability of sinning once we become Christians. We still have a very alive and strong-willed sin nature residing inside us just as everyone does. The difference they will see is when the Holy Spirit transforms our sinful nature into righteousness. Without the Holy Spirit’s help though, we are as wicked as any other human being on this earth.

The battle between actions of right and evil is a great one. It is even a daily battle – one that will never be won this side of heaven. My mind knows what is right but my heart is corrupt.

Romans 7:17-25

So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

God knows the battle that rages in our heart and mind. He does not condemn us when we have succumbed to sin. Romans 8:1 says, There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. God sees me as holy and righteous. I am a child of God. He does not see my dreadful, wicked sin anymore, but instead He sees His Son, Jesus’, righteous blood as the atonement for my sin.

There can be so much guilt and torment over sin. It can, for some, last for years or even a lifetime. The focus of our life is not winning this battle over right and wrong, as it will always be fruitless; instead it should be living a passionate life for Christ. I should be faithfully reading and studying His word, praying and serving Him. I cannot do these things without being changed at least in some way, if not in a drastic way. Because of my efforts my relationship with God will begin to grow. The bigger the effort from me the stronger the relationship will be with Him.

As my relationship with God matures the Holy Spirit becomes more alive and active in my life. This is the evidence of Jesus in my heart. This is our difference from the world that others should see. There is life and peace when the Holy Spirit is active in one’s life.

Romans 8:2-15

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus form the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba Father!”

I will not be a perfect Christian but a genuine and joyful one. I will still fall into sin because I am a still a human with a sinful heart. It’s important how we deal with our sins. When I sin I need to ask for forgiveness from the one I offended and ask God for forgiveness, not because He needs to forgive me – He already has – but to restore my fellowship with Him.

Striving to be perfect – or to look like a model Christian – is to be dishonest and only to make ourselves look good. When we show our weaknesses, faults and sins, we show how great our need for a Savior is and how much God loves us that He sent His Son to die for us. The perfection should be taken off of us and put on our perfect Savior and the perfect love He has for us, despite our imperfection and sin!

Just to be clear

I want to clarify that the impossibility of living a perfect, sin-free life, does not justify our sinning. When tempted to sin, the view should not be: well, God will forgive me, so it doesn’t really matter. Romans 6:14-18,20-22 says, For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become salves of righteousness. For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

When you see another Christian sin do not cast a stone. No one is without sin, even the believer – the Christian. Instead, pray for them; pray for you to not be overcome by pride; deal with your sin and shower them with God’s merciful and non-condemning love.

Minister to others

I had been feeling discouraged. I knew I needed to confront a certain person about my feelings. Avoid it – that’s what I wanted to do. I bickered with my husband all morning. Actually the whole morning was stressful, rushed and disorganized. I fought internally about it. I continued to sort out my thoughts and feelings. Why was I feeling this way? What exactly was my hurt? What was at the core? Why was an emotional wall built up?

With the morning being so stressful and rushed and, of course, me wanting to ignore the whole situation, honestly, I didn’t even want to go to church. And I probably wouldn’t have except my parents were coming to this church service. (God knew I needed to be there!)

I prayed off and on all morning, really all week. I prayed for wisdom. On the way to church I said to my husband, “Pastor has said we shouldn’t go to church to be ministered to or to be served but to serve and minister to others.” I didn’t know how that would apply to this situation because confronting someone isn’t always welcomed with a “hey – bring it on!”

I prayed for an opportunity with this person. God arranged it.

I will spare the details but this person and I had a chance to talk – really talk, which never happens. We discussed our struggles and feelings. Things were not what they seemed – rarely are they. The distance we felt, the wall we built up, had nothing to do with each other – that is to say, we hadn’t done anything to hurt each other directly. This person was protecting me and I was reacting to it by protecting myself.

The really neat thing – and the point of this blog – is this person was encouraged by my confronting them. And I was encouraged by confronting them. The comment in the car to my husband earlier came back to me. We were both ministered to! Honestly, I had no intention of ministering to this person. My only goal was to confront this person about my concerns and make right our relationship. I wasn’t intending to condemn or criticize but I certainly didn’t think it would be an encouragement! Much to my surprise, and joy, we both felt uplifted and free.

I had dreaded the confrontation – I wanted to completely avoid it – but God knew all the details. He knew the whole story. I thought I did – turns out I didn’t – but I obeyed. When we approach a tough situation, pray for wisdom and obey God’s leading He uses it for His purpose and His glory. If you feel God leading you in a certain direction, even if you feel as if you’re walking blindly, just obey. You have no idea the purpose or even God’s blessing that awaits. Obey His leading.

(A few support verses…)

Colossians 3:12-17 (attitude toward others)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Philippians 2:1-4 (attitude toward others)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

James 4:17 (obedience)

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.