Tuesday, August 27, 2013

In House

I never thought an empty house would be this way . . . so fitful.  When my children were small, I craved large segments of time, but now that I have it, I scarcely know where to begin.  I have quilts to finish, Bible lessons to write, weeds to pull, a house to organize, trails to hike, clubs to teach, girls to disciple, and a conscience that continually shouts, "Work!"  Yet, I think God is telling me the opposite. 

God has been closing doors that I had intended to pursue, making some decisions easy for me.  I believe He is calling me instead, to rest.  Not the recreational type of rest, but the Hebrews four kind of rest.  Simple obedience.  Simple trust.  Rest.

Years ago I had no doubt that God had given me a dream, a calling to fulfill.  Since then its been buried in disappointment, giants of discouragement which whacked me up the side of the head, leaving me reeling in confusion.  Now I wonder if God is not giving me this time to seek Him, to discern whether the vision was my own endeavor or truly of God.

If of God, I must press on, for I do not want a hardened heart.  But if not, I need to know that all the effort already expended was not wasted, because there is nothing worse than feeling useless.

In recent days a very old struggle has resurfaced. . . this feeling of missing children.  Years ago, when faced with the gap in my family, I thought I was over it.  But latest developments have caused it to hurt again.  Why do we take credit for our children, as if our own hands formed them in the womb?  Why is one child placed here and another there?  Only by the will of God, for He is the builder of families.  And we are only servants within them.

I've been comforted by Hebrews three where God speaks of Moses, entrusted with God's house, but not the creator of it.  Moses remained a faithful servant so he might be an illustration of truths God would reveal later.

I believe God is calling me to serve Him within my own household.  Whether that's warm banana bread after school, a sit down dinner, an orderly house, or a letter in the mail.  It sounds so simple, but making a house a home is not an easy thing to do.

Faithfulness in the home has its reward.  But maybe there is more to it than that.  We illustrate God's truth to a watching world, for our homes are not the only places that crave stability.  The chaos of the world seeks a haven as well, the testimony of one man to one woman, and the light of a family that is whole. 

Shades of grace, hues blending from palest pink to burning fire, are ever present.   I cling to them for they are evidence of God's Spirit alive in our hearts.  He will complete the good work He started.  God is my refuge.  His love continues to pursue.

Monday, August 26, 2013


In high school I was the layout design editor for our school yearbook.  I excelled in art with thoughts of pursuing it further in college.  However, God led me to a degree in cross-cultural ministries instead.   The reason?  I wanted to work more directly with people rather than a canvas.  But one thing I learned through art and design was how to see.

The trick with images is not how much to include, but what to exclude.  More is not always better, it is just more.  I love the 'zoom-in' feature of my camera because I can focus on my subject as I'm taking the picture rather than cropping it later.  (If only I could do the same with writing!)


You may have heard the saying, 'pictures don't lie'.  Actually they do.  It is incredibly easy to present only the beautiful, purposefully missing the messes. 

In the same way, we like to crop our lives, leaving out the ugly, creating an ideal picture for a gushing world to approve.  The result is an edited person without flaws or fault.  But what they don't see is our failures as a parent, our struggles in a marriage, or our frustrations on a job . . . the clutter that is not so pretty. 

I crave real people, genuine relationships beyond facebook or blogging.  Oh, we do need victory stories.  But when all I see are white picket fences my heart sinks low because I know I fall short of such perfection.  I am encouraged when I learn that another struggles with weakness.  This is one reason why we are to "bear one another's burdens." (Gal. 6:2)

I first entered the blogging world as a step of faith, in obedience to God.  But I find it very consuming and a distraction from real living.  At times I even take pictures with my blog in mind, seeking an image of presentation rather than truly enjoying the moment for what it is:  a memory to cherish.

My life has transitioned into a new season that is, in truth, a little strange for me.  I'm floundering a bit with guilt for not doing more.  But then, as mentioned above, sometimes more is not better, it is just more.   Making this house a home is really my first calling.  Why is it so much easier to expend my energies outside the home?  Maybe it has something to do with that image I'm speaking of.

Social networking is like dating.  We can crop our lives to fit the frame of a watching world.  I want to live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. (Micah 6:8)  I desire a deeper relationship with Him and with my family.  But this cannot be achieved in the public eye.  Rather, it is accomplished in the private world of prayer and communion.   It is here that I hope to place more of my energies.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Relentless Love

Change produces its own challenges.  But pair that with a schedule where every bit seems urgent and life can roll into a mess of tangled hairballs. 

I'm reminded that though we make our plans, God orchestrates our lives, often with difficulties.  These trials can be for the refining gold of our character, but sometimes they are simply to bring us to the end of ourselves.  God continually longs for our undivided attention, and the shaking calls us to reach for Him.     

For the last few days I've been contemplating the mercy of God as seen through the upheaval of our lives.  It is like the judgement of the last days.  The earth will undergo tremendous shaking, God's wrath poured out.  But it will also demonstrate God's mercy, His urgent pleading, a last ditch effort for mankind to seek Him.  

Every breath we breathe is a gift from God, a display of His mercy.  Every day another chance to glorify Him.  As I think about a man, a friend of my in-laws, who suddenly died rejecting Christ, I'm reminded that God's Spirit will not always strive with us.  There comes a point where we've received our chance to follow and have made our decision.  I believe God earnestly sought this man's attention through the death of his children, and the witness of my in-laws, but still he rejected God's great salvation.   

My prayer is that I would be wholly devoted to God in the now, that He would not have to take drastic measures to get my attention.  I long for closer relationship with Him.  Not necessarily blessings, experiences, emotional highs, or revelations . . . only Him.

I was scarcely home this summer.  For that reason, it was hard, at times, to maintain quiet times with the Lord.  I sense a slight drawing apart in my relationship with Him.  But I hear Him in the shaking up of my life.  I can sense the longing in His voice and the grace in His eyes. . . favor, that relentlessness love chasing after me.  My soul cannot resist and I run to Him.  There I find security, a place of rest for my cares.

As the calendar rolls its demands, and school papers are signed, saying I will have my child at this concert, at that game, and for this behavior, I can be confident that ultimately God's plans will prevail.  The schedule may seem to rule my life, but relationship with God is where abundant life kicks in.  And that, my friend, is real living. 

"As the deer pants for streams of water, 
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God..." 
Psalm 42:1-2

Monday, August 12, 2013

Why Public School?

I love my very dear friends in the home school community where I have spent the last nine years of my life.  But today I begin a new season as my youngest enters the realm of public school.

"Storm the castle!" is a phrase we often say as our children leave for school.  But on this day I feel like the warrior left behind to guard the gate.  So why public school?  The following is my summary in answer to that question. 


Public school provides challenges which grow our faith, not only as parents, but also in the lives of our children.  As we release control, we are forced to depend on God for our children's friends, their teachers, and their classes.  It causes us to face the question, "How big is our God?"  Because sometimes we treat Him as small.  While protection and preservation are crucial when a child is young, there comes a point where it hinders rather than helps.  Our child's success and survival in life is not all up to us.  God is capable of keeping our children, even in public school.   Furthermore, if it is by trials and difficulties that we grow, why do we seek so hard to shield our children from them?


Public school challenges beliefs.  The teaching can be subtle and stroll through the back door of language arts or blatantly crash through the front door of science.  Either way, it forces our children to face what they really believe and take ownership of those beliefs . . . cement on the heart.   The questions present us, as parents, opportunity to discuss values, morality, philosophy, and theology at their level and in their time.  I would rather they face these issues now, with our guidance, than later without. 


Public schools have a reputation for poor achievement.  But there are worse fates than low academics such as pride, or living in a spirit of fear.  Statistics lie.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to get a good education at public school if the student is willing to seek it.  However, our goal is not necessarily high academics, but growth and maturity in Christ.


We live in a world of rapid change.  If we want to impact our world, we must keep up with it. Though as believers we are not of the world, we are to be in it.  At some point our children need to learn how to function within the culture in which we live.  This is crucial for knowing how to reach our world. 


Public school gives our family endless opportunities to share our faith.  We are pulled out of our Christianese bubble and continually brushed near unbelievers.  We can become so isolated from the world for fear of being tainted by it, that we lose impact.  We take in, we build, we soak truth, but if there is no outlet for giving we can become like soggy sponges.  After awhile we begin to stink with stagnant complacency.

We have to ask ourselves, "Why are we here?  Why doesn't God just take us to heaven, our true home, as soon as we believe?"  The answer lies in being His ambassadors to a lost world, to be the salt of the earth.  We are lamps, burning with the oil of God's Spirit within.  These lamps are not meant to be hidden under a bush, but set on a hill, like a city at night.  So too, God desires to fit us for heaven in conforming us to the likeness of Christ, giving Him glory. 

This concludes my brief summary.  That said, every parent must decide for themselves what is best for their child.  To know our children is one of the best gifts we can give them.  No parent rushes into a school decision without first giving it much thought.  It is highly personal and there is no 'across the board' rule on which method is best.  In truth, the home life has far more impact on a child than any school. 

Public school is very inconvenient.  I miss being able to control my schedule.  Furthermore it tends to be anti-family and pro-government/socialization.  It takes great effort to be there.  At the same time, it is not the horrible, evil place that is so often dreaded.  Many of the rumors are based on worse case scenarios or fear of the unknown.  But I believe with all my heart that God would have my children there.  I am not assuming the same for anyone else, only for myself.

Our personal method of teaching has been to home school for the elementary years.  The reason we do this is because young children are vulnerable and do not yet know what they believe.  By middle school we trust they have taken ownership of their faith and are ready to stand for it, thus making them stronger.

But the main reason we keep our younger children home is that we simply enjoy being with them.  The public school snatches so many hours from their childhood, that we just cannot bear it.  However, God asks us to release them, as an arrow from a bow, into the world, so that they might fulfill God's calling on their lives.  We hope we have done so responsibly.


Monday, August 5, 2013


I have difficulty admitting need.  My self-sufficiency wants to be okay and together.  Yet, as we traveled to Vegas on our way to L.A. my stomach ached with pain.  Secretly, I hugged a pillow most of the way.  That evening during our group devotional time I confessed my pain and asked for prayer.  I think God was waiting for me to ask for help because the next morning I was fine.

This last post on what I learned in L.A. is the hardest for me to share, but I believe God would have me be real with you.  As the week progressed, my spirit became more and more humbled until I was completely broken before God.

It started almost the moment we arrived.  We were preparing to go on a prayer tour of the city and I was wearing the wrong color shirt.  It would seem a trivial matter, but I'm one who desires to follow the rules and do what I'm supposed to do.  I had tried hard to bring the right colors and had misunderstood.  (we could not wear gang colors)  While our city rep continued to talk, I had to raise my hand and receive permission to go back to the room and change while everyone waited on me.

When pride burns it hurts. 

While traveling I had worked on memorizing 1 Cor. 13, the love chapter.  The thoughts on putting away childishness stood out to me.  It was like God was saying, "Grow up!  Enough already!"  Privately, our missions trip to L.A. was nothing about the people we were reaching out to, but about my heart coming to a place of surrender.

We were only allowed 5 minute showers every other day, so when it came our turn they were highly valued.  One time we came down for our shower and another group staying at the facility had locked us out.  Complaining started.  Later that day, as we were loading students into the van, they began to fight over who got to sit where.

At noon we went to a city park for sack lunches, devotions, and debriefing.  There we found a large play snake imbedded in the ground.  I'm not one to believe there is a demon behind every bush, but the timing fit.  I couldn't help but think of satan's schemes to divide and distract us from why we came.

In the background was a windmill which produced an eerie creak every time the a breeze blew.  It became very annoying and I thought about how bothersome our petty squabbles must seem to God.  I thought of the 'resounding gong' and 'clanging cymbal' and that if we don't have love we are nothing.  

I asked my husband about sharing a devotional the next morning.  The lessons I had prepared for VBS were not needed, yet I felt there was some reason God had given them to me. . . perhaps for this moment.

I received the go ahead and shared the lesson on "You Have What it Takes to Overcome" from Phil.2 and David and Goliath.  We talked about how our focus needs to be on why we came, not on our discomfort or our differences.  Selfishness so easily rears its ugly head popping up in the most unlikely places.  We needed to go after the giant, not each other.

But God was not done with me yet.

I felt more and more inadequate as a leader.  The final straw occurred when a local lady at one of the ministry sites literally yelled at me for being in the way.  I won't give details because it is one of those embarrassing moments that is too embarrassing to tell.  Later she came and apologized, but then I felt badly that she felt bad.

Last, but not least, I ran into some tension with my husband.  Sometimes it's hard to share him with a whole youth group.  

That night I had opportunity to be alone in my room and I took it.  But so did Satan.  I was clobbered with accusations which took me lower and lower into depression.  I did not want to be there and wished I'd never come to L.A. 

After all the girls were tucked in for the night, I grabbed my flashlight, and hidden under the covers, read my book, Absolute Surrender, by Andrew Murray.

God finally got through to my heart and showed me how deep was my pride.

I knew I was far from the holiness He desired.  I also knew that I could not be holy of my own sufficiency.  Each way I turned I had sin in my heart.  Broken, I surrendered the rest of the trip to the Lord.

I can't say we did not continue to have a squabble here and there, but I did notice students making great efforts to be kind and loving towards each other.  You could say we bonded through learning to love.  The hard work, as well as ninja playing, affirmations, and many miles of traveling together also helped.  But once I released my expectations and agenda to the Lord, the trip became much more pleasant for me. 

True humility is not aware of itself.  Yet, we are also commanded to pursue it.  I believe God used L.A. to break and humble my pride.  It was not at all what I expected, but God had His plan for growing me into His likeness and nothing could thwart that plan. 

I wanted to return from L.A. reporting on our impact, or the children who came to know Jesus, or how great my lessons were.  But "my" lessons were never much used.  Instead, God gave us exactly what we needed:  brokenness, love for one another, endurance, humility, compassion, a servant's heart, and a teachable spirit; all the things of love, the glue that binds us together in perfect unity.

I pray that what was started in L.A., this bond of love, will continue to grow us up into maturity in Christ. 

Friday, August 2, 2013


After almost a week in the inner city of L.A. I began to wonder, "Is there really an ocean nearby?"

On the first day, we had opportunity to visit the Griffith Observatory and thoughts of seeing that grand stretch of water crossed my mind . . . but there were hills, smog, and city to get through. 

Later in the week we went to Angel's Point, a park at the top of a hill, where we could see the city skyline.  We watched the sun sink below the hills and knew it had to be setting over the ocean, but still, the 'water teeming with life' eluded our sight.

As we drove day after day through a labyrinth of streets, they began to look the same.  I felt caught with no way out.   In my mind I knew there was a vast, immense body of water out there, but it was beyond my grasp, almost like a dream.  Someone could spend their whole life in that city and never see the ocean, never touch it, or even know it was there.

The ocean reminds me of God's love.  He is ready for us to dip into Him, yet so often we scurry about in worries, unbelief, and fears, thinking it is not really for us, or that surely, we must have to earn it. In truth, there is nothing we can do to obtain our salvation.  It is freely offered as a gift. (Rom. 6:23) But now that I've known Jesus as my Savior, sometimes I believe the lie that I must now do the right things in order for God's love to reach me.  Not true.  God loves me no less when I'm disobedient than when I do what is right.  Like the ocean, His love is constant, always ready to receive me.

However, Jesus commands me to "Remain in [Him]".  (John 15:4)  It is something I must actively pursue and continue to maintain.

We did finally make it to the Pacific Ocean.  As I watched the reaction of each student, I was amazed that some only dipped their toes into it.

Others plunged full force into the sea, allowing themselves to be carried on the waves, becoming drenched head to toe.

I have to admit, I was drawn to the drenching.  I had a deep down longing to cast all inhibitions aside and know the power of the ocean in my experience, not just my head. 

God's love remains, for it is not dependent on me, but on Christ who is completely faithful.  Yet, if I am to know it in my experience I must first of all believe, even when I do not feel it or see it.  Secondly, I must obey.  Surely, obedience goes for the drenching, as it surrenders itself to the waves of God's love.  Furthermore, the heart of God pulls me to plunge deeper still in relationship with Him.

I do not want to observe God's love from afar, nor simply dip my toes on the fringe of it.  I want to fully know this love that surpasses all understanding.  (Col. 2:2-3)

Mercy and grace wash over me in waves, but what treasure awaits in the deeper places of obedience and communion with God. 

We all know the saying, 'never turn your back on the ocean'.  When I turn away from God's love, "mercy comes running, like a prisoner set free", pulling at prodigal toes, calling me to draw near.  (Phillips Craig and Dean)  It catches me off guard . . . like the tide rolling in.

And so this rhythm in relationship is established as God also longs to be pursued, much like the playful beckon of the outgoing tide.

Deeper in love with Christ . . . nothing held back, that's where I want to go.