Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What Makes a Fire?

The other day, I watched and listened as a friend shared her secret for making the perfect fire in her fireplace. She showed how she stacked 3 pieces of wood along the bottom. Then she stacked 2 pieces of wood on top of those, in the opposite direction. Then she stacked 2 more pieces of wood on top of those.

When she lit it, she said it made the best and prettiest fire. 

She shared that, during the day, as the fire burned down, she would continue to add wood to it...across and down.

The caption on her picture was, "how I build my fire," but in my mind, when I read it, I heard it to the tune of "this is how I fight my battles." Have y'all heard the song, "Surrounded," by Michael W. Smith?

Some of the lyrics are: "It may look like I'm surrounded, but I'm surrounded by You. This is how I fight my battles..."

So I started singing, "this is how I build my fy-yah...this is how I build my fy-yah."

I know, I'm weird.

And then I started singing, "It may look like I'm on fire, but I'm on fire for You."

Catchy, right?

I started thinking about how to build a good fire...and then I started wondering, "what things do I need to have or do in my life, in order to build a good and lasting fire for the Lord?"

What is the foundation of the fire in my life? My salvation? Yes. The Holy Spirit? Yes. 

But how do I keep that fire burning?

Reading my Bible? Yes. Getting into God's Word is a major way I fuel my fire for the Lord. When I am not disciplined or diligent about reading and studying God's Word, I feel unfocused. Sluggish. Joyless. Start to finish...I believe the Bible. The Bible tells us that God's Word is alive. "For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edgesword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires." (Hebrews 4:12) When I read it, I feel His words come alive in my heart! God's Word gives me comfort, strength, direction, encouragement, peace. His words also convict and reprove me at times.  

Prayer is another big way I can fuel my fire for the Lord. Prayer is not me listing all the things I want God to do for me...like a list for Santa to fill. No! Prayer is a conversation between me and God. I confess my sins. I also pray for my needs, and the needs of others around me. And I ask God for direction and discernment in my daily life. 

Praise is another way I fuel my fire for the Lord. In my prayer time, I try to spend time praising God for who He is. And I praise Him for the things He has done or is doing in my life. Or in the lives of others. I love music, and I love to sing, so that's another way I can praise the Lord. I don't sing well, but I sing all.the.time. in our home.

Being thankful is another piece of the wood on my fire. Sometimes life is just hard, amiright? We try to do the right things and live the right way...but still there are hard times. Believers are not immune from hardship and suffering. But I've found that if I just start thanking God for everything...for waking up, for a safe place to live, for a car to drive, for the ability to pay bills, and put gas in the car, for a close parking spot on a rainy day, for my church, for friends who call or text encouragement, for thinking I was out of cinnamon rolls on Sunday morning...but finding that lassssssssst can in the back behind the juice. Being thankful might not change my circumstances, but it changes the way I LOOK at my circumstances.

I mean, none of us really have to look too far to find things to be thankful for...we just need to make it a habit in our lives to be grateful. 

There are other things that keep my fire for the Lord burning bright. 

Going to church. I get refueled each week, as I sing and listen and serve at my local church. Friends and family...they can be the best at encouraging me on my walk with Christ. Lunch with a friend. Going to a women's conference. Attending a Bible Study. Even writing, like I'm doing now...keeping a journal of our lives, and chronicling God's faithfulness over the years...helps me to see  all the places where His hand has held us. 

Build your fire from the cornerstones and disciplines of your faith. Don't let it go out! Keep stacking...reading, prayer, Bible Study, praise, thanksgiving...REPEAT.

And don't just tend to your OWN fire...be the person who encourages someone else to, as the group "Point of Grace" used to sing, "keep the fire burning."

Okay, I just looked it up, and their lyrics are "keep the candle burning," BUT BASICALLY THE SAME THING. 

"not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Time I Laid My Bible Down

It was a long time ago.

I was overwhelmed.

I was weary.

I got distracted.

And, even tho I believed that my relationship with Jesus was the most important thing in the world to me...and even tho I told others of His great love and mercy and forgiveness, of the peace He has provided in every situation (when I've asked for it)...and even tho I believed in and trusted His promises, and believed that reading His word was essential in my every day life...I laid my Bible down.

Oh, it wasn't a conscious decision. There wasn't a certain day that I remember doing it...but it happened none-the-less.

And all of a sudden, I wasn't picking up my Bible first thing in the morning...or last thing at night. I wasn't studying it, savoring the words, looking for answers and direction and wisdom and discernment. 

If you had asked me, I would've told you that I believe with all my heart that it is the SOURCE of all of those things, and more.

Was I a fake?

A liar?

I don't know.

What I DO know is that I was a poor representation of Christ...because it's not what you are when you are out in front...up on a stage...teaching a class...singing a song...that matters. 

No, it's what you are behind closed doors that reflects the true intentions and desires of your heart.

It's super easy to do the comparison thing, and make yourself sound and look better than you are. We look at others, and think that because we haven't traveled down that particular road of bad choices...we are okay. Better than that.

Better than THEM.

But that's because we have taken our eyes off the actual plumb line, which is Jesus and His Word...and we start looking to others to judge our worth, or justify our behavior, as a follower of God. And then we kind of mentally "rank" ourselves against them.

Truth be told, I've found that it's more common than not to go through these "seasons."

NOTE: "Common" does not equal "RIGHT."

It is not right.

In fact, I'll go a step further to say that I believe it's sin.

There was that one day...where I was too tired, too spent, to pick up my Bible. And the next day...and the next day...and the next day. 

I felt bad about it at first...but even that dulled as the days and weeks went by.

And then, do you know what ELSE I laid down? My prayer life.

MY PRAYER LIFE.

My very life-line to the Father, and the path to intercession for myself and others that is so precious to me.

Oh, I kept praying at meal-time...I'm not a communist or anything. It wasn't like I completely stopped praying. It was just very sporadic, and not intentional or consistent at all. 

At the time, we were dealing with a very sick child. My prayers were mostly those "arrow" prayers, shot up to God in desperation: "please heal my boy...and give me strength if You don't." By laying down my Bible, and a consistent prayer life, I had cut off the very Source of the power and strength I needed...the power and strength I was begging God to give me. 

But this is how the devil works, ladies (and gentlemen). He gets you when you're down. When you are physically exhausted from taking care of kids and home and work and life. He gets you when you are emotionally exhausted from the sadness we see on the daily...the stories on the news, the reality of how hard life is for some people...or maybe for yourself; the political unrest that is all around us; the feeling of sadness you have when your dreams don't come true...or when your prayers seem to go unanswered; and social media...oh my word, don't even get me started with the people who have it all, who are doing well...their picture-perfect lives on display in little squares for all to see. 

And then there are the people who are suffering. Those stories get me right in the heart. There were days when I couldn't shake the feeling of sadness...for the circumstances of others. So much hurt and suffering and loss in the lives of family, friends, and even strangers. It can be O.VER.WHEL.MING.

If this has happened to you, no judgment here. None at all. 

How do you get back on track?

First, make sure you are doing okay health-wise. Are you depressed? Is your diet affecting your mood? Have you experienced any significant changes in your life, like a move or a new job or a new baby? Or maybe your "baby" just left for college. Are you caring for a child with special needs, or an aging parent (their needs are specific to their individual situations, and can affect a care-giver in many ways). I think it's important to try and see what is going on around you...so that you can maybe make some changes, if necessary. Or go see a doctor, if necessary.

Secondly, look inward. Do you have unconfessed sin? Confess it to God. Any bitterness? Confess that, too. Are you fearful or anxious over something? Don't push these things under the rug...deal with them. Get professional help if you need it. Talk to a friend or a mentor or someone you trust.

Third, PRAY...and seek God's help. Actually, you should probably pray before, during, and after this whole process. Can't pray enough, amiright? In fact, I think it's so important to pray for others. Because maybe they were like me...and they didn't know how or what to pray. Maybe they were in such a hard place, they couldn't get the words out. You never know how God will use your prayers to carry someone through a difficult time.

And fourth, do the next right thing. Pick up your Bible. Make yourself do it, if you have to. Start reading in Psalms, or Proverbs, or the book of John. Force yourself to concentrate. Take notes. Pray and ask God to speak to you. I promise, He will.

He will meet you right where you are. Like the story of the prodigal son who returns to his home, He is waiting.

Jesus is waiting.

"And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words." Romans 8:26

Monday, April 8, 2019

Logan's Big Test & Praying For Our Children

Back in October, on a Monday afternoon, Logan and Morgan came here to spend the night before Logan's big test (Occupational Therapy Boards). His test was going to be in Little Rock, and our house is closer to LR than theirs.

Logan was up at 5 on Tuesday morning...making coffee, and trying to settle his spirit. He was very patient as Morgan and I tried to fuss over him...wanting to make him breakfast, encouraging him to take snacks.

And then he was gone.

He left way too early, in my opinion, but he wanted to avoid the early-morning work traffic.

Two hours later, I was the one heading into Little Rock...taking Joshua to his Therapeutic Recreation.

And then, even though I had been praying for over 2 months for Logan, as he prepared and studied for this test; and even though I prayed for him as he left the house that morning; and even tho I was STILL praying for him, as he was taking this 5 hour test...on my way back home, I put on my blinker, and I took an exit.

I found the testing center, and I rolled my little self up in the parking lot.

It didn't take me long to find Logan's car. It was about the 4th one from the door. That made me giggle. Yep...I think he got there plenty early!

Logan was already inside, starting on his 2nd hour of a 5 hour test. I pulled my car up in front of his car, and stopped.

And I began to pray.

Why did I feel the need to physically go to where my child...my ADULT child was...to be as close as possible to the situation? I mean, surely my prayers from home were just as "heard" and just as effective...right?

And to be clear, the outcome of this day (or any day) was never up to me. 

But prayer is powerful, y'all. It might not change your circumstances, but it for sure changes your perspective. I am a huge believer in the power and importance of prayer. I pray for others besides my own family, but in this post, I'm focusing on my prayers for them. For all that I forget to do, or neglect in my life...I pray for my kids. I think we should be reckless and lavish and BOLD when it comes to praying for our children.

Have you ever prayed over your child when they were sick...or nervous...or hurting? 

Have you ever gone into their rooms at night, and put your hands on them, and prayed over them while they slept?

I have...many times.

I've prayed for their hearts...that they would see their sin, and realize their need for salvation. I've prayed they would allow God to take root and grow...that they would stay attached to HIM for strength and nourishment.

I've prayed over them when their hearts were broken, because my heart was broken right along with theirs.

I've prayed over their clothes, as I took them out of the dryer, and folded them...redeeming this mundane task...thanking God for our washer and dryer, and asking Him to help our kids be thankful for the small things, as well as for the big things; and praying, as they wear those clothes, they will be reminded of how God clothes the grass in the field, that is here one day, and thrown in the furnace the next day...and for them to know that He cares so much more for them.

I've prayed over their shoes..."Lord, may my children bring the message of the Gospel of peace wherever they go...and would You watch over them, even if their feet take them to places they know they aren't supposed to go?"

I've prayed over tests and books and notes for a speech. I've prayed as I packed their lunches for the day...thanking God for the food He provided, and asking Him to use it to sustain them for the day.

I've prayed over their attitudes, their spirits, that they would use their words to help and encourage others.

I've pulled up in parking lots at their schools and colleges...and prayed for them, their teachers, their friends, their safety. I've prayed in locker rooms...over pads and helmets and cleats...and I've prayed over swim goggles and dance shoes.

I've prayed over medicine..."Lord, would You use this to bring healing?"

I've prayed for their cars to make it til graduation...or maybe just to get them home safely "one more time."

I've got one who is rarely sick, but when he is...I cannot tell you the knot that is in my stomach. And so whenever he is sick, or whenever the others are sick...I pray for healing...and for acceptance, if healing doesn't come in the way we want it. And I've prayed for our young Mommies...for healthy babies, and safe deliveries, and for God to be with all of us if His plan is different from the one we are praying for. And I pray for the sweet little ones who are being added to our family. Lord, find us faithful to teach them in Your ways.

My heart is just so tender toward my kids.

I made a lot of mistakes in parenting. I still do. I've said the wrong things. I've over-stepped. I've assumed that I always know what is best. I wasted time on things that didn't matter.

But I believe one of the greatest things we can do for our kids is to pray for them. Truth be told, sometimes it's the ONLY thing we can do.

On this day, I wanted Logan to feel God's presence. I wanted him to know that so many people were praying for him, and believed in him...so I searched my car for a scrap piece of paper, and I wrote down every name of every person who had told me they were praying for Logan that morning. I can't remember for sure, but I think it was around 18-20 people. I put the note under his windshield wiper, and I left.

I didn't really intend to ever share this story, mainly because there's a fine line between being an encouraging mom...and being a stalker mom. And I don't really know which side this lands on. I don't know if it's weird or right or completely wrong...but I did it, and I don't want any grief about it. YOU DO YOU.

I stressed over sharing this because I'm not perfect, and I don't ever want to pretend that I am. Those closest to me will attest to this fact! I struggle, I fail, I fall. And I don't want to suggest that my children are perfect, either. They are not.

I'm sharing this story to say this: as parents, our roles change as our children get older. Or they should. We go from being their comforter, encourager, authority figure, disciplinarian, and teacher...to being more of an adviser (if they ask), a friend (if they want it), a confidant, a cheerleader, a sounding board, and a fierce prayer warrior (we should always be fierce prayer warriors for our children).

As parents, we know to step back as our kids get older...and let them learn and grow and succeed and fail on their own.

We are told to not hold on too long...that it's not good for them, or for us.

But I want to suggest this as well: don't let (all the way) go too soon.

There are still plenty of ways we can support and encourage our children, even our adult children (and their spouses)...if we keep our eyes and ears open, and act on the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

"So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of His will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all His glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to His people, who live in the light." Colossians 1:9-12

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Leanne's Update on Our Dad: "It's All Going to be Okay."

I am so thankful for my family. Good times, bad times, hard times...even tho we live in different states, we are there for each other. My sister, Leanne, posted this update, after spending part of her Spring Break getting my Dad settled in his new digs at the nursing home.

"I have returned home from my spring break trip to the Veteran’s Center in Claremore, Oklahoma with a very full heart and a sense of peace with the facility that my dad will now call home. 

My family dreaded the day he was to be transferred to the VA Center. He had been at the rehab place for 100 days after his fall and his time was up there. Almost every day he asked about going home and our fear was that when they loaded him up in the transport van, he would think he was going home and would be devastated when he realized where he was going. 

My family prayed, and we asked our friends to pray, and we decided to turn all of that over to God in prayer. 

Except we didn’t. 

We prayed, and then took it all back – all of the stress and worry and fear and dread – we took it all back. 

And then when our prayers were answered in a HUGE way with the seamless and EASY transition to the VA Center, we still questioned when the other shoe would drop. 

Maybe it just didn’t sink in with Dad that this was his home now. 

Maybe Day 2 would be bad? Maybe Day 3? 

And because we are human and flawed, it is still so unbelievable to us that after almost a week at his new home, Dad is happy and content and more alert and lucid than he has been in a long time. 

At first glance and first visit to the facility, it doesn’t look like much. It is a somewhat cold and functional military facility. But the more time I spent there, the more familiar it felt. It was every office building, hospital, doctor’s office or commissary we frequented during our life spent living on military bases. 

Maybe Dad feels this sense of familiarity and comfort there too. 

Dad was the first to notice the airplanes hanging from the ceiling only in his wing of the unit. 

If you know my dad, you know he loves God, his family his country and then AIRPLANES, in that order. 

The dining hall is amazing and the food is good. Dad has been eating so well. The dessert bar with unlimited soft-serve ice cream is his favorite spot in the whole place! 

Everyone we have come in contact with has been so kind and they tend to dad in such a loving, caring and respectful way. 

And the most amazing thing is that all of it; the nursing care, the physical therapy and the occupational therapy, the medications, the food and unlimited ice cream are all 100% covered for my dad because of his service to our country. 

This makes me so proud. 

I’m proud of him and I’m proud of us, as a country, for honoring and respecting our Veterans in this way. 

The very first night at the VA Center, Dad took my sister-in-law Shelley’s hand and told her, “It’s all going to be OK. I am going to be just fine here.” 

Today, we are thanking God for answered prayer and thanking our friends for following along and supporting us on this journey."

Thank you, Leanne, for this awesome update on our Dad. 

“Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it." Habakkuk 1:5 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Honoring My Dad

*This post somehow got out-of-order. It should've been posted before the one about him moving to a nursing home. But it's okay. Everything is okay.

Not everyone has a Dad like mine, and that makes me very sad. Because I’ve known nothing but his unconditional love and support. 
He’s never once uttered a word of criticism to me, even when I probably deserved it. 
So when I came to the point in my life where I was ready to make a decision to follow Jesus, it was an easy transition for me. 
I didn’t have the fear or mistrust many have when it comes to relinquishing control of their lives to a loving God. 
A life dependent on Jesus was consistently modeled by my Dad in our home, at his work...and in our church and community. 
For my whole life, my Dad has been an earthly example of our Heavenly Father. 
This week, we are facing changes with his care that have been expected, but changes none of us wanted. 
We are all united in the decisions that are being made, but it’s still so very hard. 
Your prayers on behalf of my Dad and his wife, Clara, and for the rest our family, would be so appreciated. 

"Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise)..." Ephesians 6:2