Those eyes…

When you look into someone’s eyes, what do you see?  Is your vision of them colored by their behavior that day?  Do you only see their messes?

So often, it is easy to simply see my frustration when I see my little ones.  I see the water all over the floor dripped from the pet water dish, or the piles of cat food left as “treats” for the kitties, or the toys strewn everywhere from our imaginary play. I smell the fifth dirty diaper of the day, or feel my hunger as my lunch still sits..now cold…. on the counter.  I hear the baby starting to cry…..again….
But those eyes……

When I look into those eyes…..nothing else matters. I don’t see the messes, the dishes, the piles.  I just see my child. When I see those eyes, I see the one I carried for over 9 months. The one I puked for, cried for, ached for, cared for, bled for, and pray for.  Those eyes shine forth with love and complete trust.
They melt me every time. 
So often we feel that when God looks at us, He just sees our mess. He just sees our jealous attitude, ungrateful heart, and selfish spirit.  And while that’s true…..as God cannot overlook sin in all it’s ugliness and rebelliousness.  He cannot be close to it in all His holiness.
But you know what He also sees?
Our eyes. 
When He looks at you, He sees his child.  The one He made, the one He ached for, the one He pleads with, and the one He bled and died for. His eyes are constantly on us…..but not in condemnation.

Psalm 32:8 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”

Psalm 33:18 “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, On those who hope for His lovingkindness,”

And this is one my of favorites: “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zeph. 3:17 

Did you read that?  He takes delight in you!  He sings about you!

The next time you look into your little one’s eyes or the eyes of someone dear to you, remember how God looks at you.  He has gone over and above any sacrifice we’ve done for another. He’s given everything for us, and extended an undeserved invitation to an eternal relationship with Him!  And when He looks at us……He doesn’t look with condemnation.  He doesn’t focus on our mess. 


He sees our eyes…..                 

He sees His child. 

Seeing Past the Present

Being a mom of two little ones is exhausting and I give much applause to those ahead of me on this journey with more kids than I do. Someone asked me recently how I do it. How do I survive the tantrums, the simultaneous crying, the constant requests for ‘mo num num’ (more food) and fits that follow if requests are denied?

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have super strength.  There’s a 24 pack of Cherry Coke sitting on my dryer reserved for weary kid days.  When my husband sees one out, he knows what kind of day it’s been.  He’ll come home, look me in the eyes and say, “Yep, you’re done.”.  There are days where the only goal for the day is keep the children alive, cause not much else will get done.  When I just want to cry cause I’m tired, but I don’t want to go to bed because  I want to enjoy this quiet moment with the man I married (but hardly see as we are each assigned a kid each night) and have an adult conversation.  Plus, I know that I’ll need to wake up and go through the regular morning ’emergency room’  routine again of everyone being so hungry they just can’t function.

 

How do I do it?

Well, clearly Jesus has to be at the top of the list.  He probably actually invented everything on my list of coping strategies right?  I mean…..he did make cherries…..for Cherry Coke, right?

But,seriously, one of the main things He’s helped me realize is I can’t fixate on the present.   If I stay fixed on the present I’ll just see cracker crumbs, toddler emotions, little hands getting in the way, and lots of messes.

But that’s not forever.   

I remember when she was just learning to walk.  Now she uses her miniature broom to  ‘help’ me sweep.  One day, she will sweep a house of her own.  I remember when she could only say “kitty’.  Now she uses all the words in her vocabulary (plus a lot I don’t understand) to try to communicate her wants and convince us of her plans.  One day, she will influence the world through her written and spoken language. I remember when her little hands were just learning to grab things.  Now she can fetch needed items and clean up her toys. One day, her hands will rescue others, grow food, write books, serve her neighbor, etc.

The present can be overwhelming at times. Especially if you don’t see much fruit from your labor that day.  But the present is temporary and passes quickly.

I’m thankful the Lord sees my finished product and doesn’t give up on my present condition.

Philippians 1:6(NIV)

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Since I know I’m still in process, it gives me more grace to give to my little ones in process.   Just as I ‘tag along’ with Jesus to learn from his example, they follow me around (and never leave me alone for a moment) because they are learning from mine.  

 

Lord, please help me see past the present.  Help me to see your story for their lives and your goals for them. Please help me give them the grace you pour on me as you continue the ‘good work’ you’ve begun in me.

 

Because, today her little hands are trying to press all the buttons on this computer while I type, but one day she will send her own message to the world. 

“Friendship is not for the faint of heart.”

We usually think of ‘courage’ as referring to knights fighting to defend a castle, soldiers fighting for God and country, or the super hero working to protect Earth from yet another mean villain.  Those are all forms of courage at the highest level. But what if I told you there’s a form of common everyday courage that we are invited to participate in each day.

“Friendship is not for the faint of heart” is one of many quotes I have highlighted as I processed through Lisa-Jo Baker’s new book Never Unfriended.  As no two people are ever completely alike, there exists the adventure of figuring out likes/dislikes, introvert/extrovert, personality types, family background, communication style, etc. With so many variations, it is inevitable that at some point there will be misunderstanding, hurt feelings, or unmet expectations given time.

The question is, what will we do when that happens?  Will we resort to living in a cave of isolation due to our friendship PTSD?  Will we never conquer our fear of being the new person, that we never courageously attempt new community?  Will we allow the Enemy, Satan, to keep replaying that bitter moment in our head like an old song stuck on repeat?

Those all sound like simply sad endings to a movie. One where you hold the tissue box and end it feeling bummed as you watch the hero pack away his cape, never to fight again.

Friendship takes courage.  It also takes mercy, forgiveness, communication, and a commitment to the other’s best interest.  But last I checked my supply tank, I don’t think I have enough to go around. What then?

The premise of Lisa’s book is that we don’t have to muster up the courage all on our own like a puffer fish gulping down seawater to make itself look bigger and less like prey.

We can friend others…..because of Jesus.

Jesus is our living example of the best friendship.  He constantly pours mercy and forgiveness into me, and He wrote me a book to communicate his thoughts to me. And that dying on the cross?  Yah, that pretty much is the top example of courage and a commitment to my best interest. There is nothing in friendship that He calls me to, that He didn’t experience Himself.   Betrayal?  Got it. Misunderstanding?  Tons of them.  I said HIS communication was great…but I can’t say so much for some who heard him.

With Jesus, we are Never Unfriended.  He doesn’t do the leaving. We do. ( but that wouldn’t be a good idea)

He gives us the mercy, the forgiveness, the commitment needed to courageously continue in friendships through bumps, misunderstandings, and awkward situations.

It’ll take courage. It’s worth it.

Cause we’ll never be unfriended…..

     By Him.

                                                  

 

All the Pretty Things: a book review

In All the Pretty Things, Edie Wadsworth narrates her life story coupled with moments of self-reflection and insights that can only be gained in retrospect. Growing up in the Appalachian area to a father who loved her (but was governed by the bottle more) and to a mother who tried her best to raise her as a single parent struggling to make ends meet, Edie saw more things in her early years than a child should.

She desperately longed for her father’s love, even as she had to take charge to cover for him as he waged a war with alcohol. Through out her life, father type figures crossed her path and showed her another way of life. Through the example of these men and many others, Edie came to know the only Father who will never leave you.

The rest of the story is an account of Edie’s struggle to stop fighting against her upbringing, and striving for this illusion of ‘normal’, and instead to allow her Heavenly Father to redeem her broken places and make her whole again.

While this book was not one of my favorites due to the genre and generally sad (but true to life) events, Edie masterfully combined facts and personal reflections. I also enjoyed her redemptive ending and appreciated her honesty. I received this book as part of the blogger review program through Tyndale House Publishers Inc., however the views expressed in this review are mine.

A Dare to be happy

Happiness seems to be an elusive concept in our society.   Society chases it, hunts for it, claims it as the reason for their decisions, and hopes for it to come “one day”.  It’s as if happiness was a rare butterfly where people wait hours in one spot hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature, only to have it flit away on silent wings.  People gamble for it, shop for it, dream of it, and hope that by ‘luck’ it will come….if even for a moment.

But what if happiness wasn’t a mystical creature that by chance you capture, but rather a fulfillment of the gifting and calling God has given each of us individually?  What if instead of being a ‘kill-joy’as many people think of Him, God has already given us the ticket and it’s up to us if we want to join Him on the ride.

Such is the premise of Jennifer Dukes Lee’s book The Happiness Dare.  In it, she proposes that each of us has a specific style of happiness God wants us to fulfill. These five styles are Doer, Relater, Thinking, Giver, and Experiencer.  Jennifer writes from her farm house in Iowa, of her own struggles to experience happiness. She wrestled with whether God even wanted her to be happy in the first place. Jennifer finally came to the conclusion that God not only permits it, but desires for us to join Him in this pursuit of happiness through blessing those around us and delighting in His creation.

Even without taking the handy quiz online or in the book, it was clear my style is the relater.   Take me out for coffee, send me a note, or let me communicate with the world in some form, and I am happy.  I also enjoy my moments of doing and sharing new experiences.  One of my dear friends is a Doer who thrives on helping others, while another friend is always looking for ways to give time or materials to support those around her. Each of us is most ‘happy’ when we are acting within our personal style.

To say I loved this book is an understatement!  I sent the quiz to my friends and processed how it would help me better support them in their journeys.  I also am learning to be content in my own gifting/enjoyments, instead of comparing myself to others.  I highly recommend this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes.

Cover: The Happiness Dare

Coloring our praises

I’ve been intrigued by people who draw their way through the Bible, adding artistic flare to what the Lord is teaching them.  I was excited to be able to review the Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal.  I was equally excited to see all the other products they offer in their  Living Expressions collection! How cool to be able to journal and color your Bible as you read through the text!

The Gratitude Journal provides space to record your heart’s prayers in the areas of confession, praise, and petition.   The prayers are coupled with Scripture, surrounding the reader/artist with God’s promises. This artistic journal provides another way of speaking  your heart to Jesus, and listening to his heart. It covers such topics as worship, family, unsaved people, daily time with Jesus, confession, blessing others, and many more.

I received a complementary copy of this journal from Tyndale House Publishers for review purposes. 978-1-4964-1579-0

Having a clean house and a clean heart

How do you find the balance between keeping your life under control and keeping your heart in check? In her book, Having a Martha Home the Mary Way, Sarah Mae gives daily assignments for your heart and your home.  It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed and to not know where to start when you survey your closets and secret stashes of things you can’t bear to part with, but don’t know what to do with.

One of my favorite phrases is, ‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’  In her book, Sarah attacks the elephant mess of your house and breaks it apart into 31 bite size pieces.  Each day, she provides a devotional reading dealing with areas of contentment, priorities, motivation, and developing a vision for your home.   She ends each chapter with an assignment for the day such as cleaning out the kids’ closets, washing all the floors, emptying out the junk drawer, etc.

The things I loved about this book were how she broke it down into small steps, and how she balanced house work with heart work.  From experience, it’s easy to write a to do list, and know what rooms need help, then feel overwhelmed in knowing where to start. I’ve heard of people doing book clubs with this book, to keep each other accountable in finishing each day’s assignment.   It’s also easy to get caught up in doing, and miss Jesus’ invitation to join Him in his vision for our home and life.

To be honest, in this season of life with a 1 year old, a puppy, and expecting our next, I couldn’t keep up with the assignments.  The layout won’t fit everyone’s season of life.  For some, it may be better to do two chapters a week, instead of one a day.  I chose to read it for the main ideas, instead of following the game plan. More important to me were the major concepts of: just do something/start somewhere (don’t sit there), don’t keep it all, determine your main priorities, have a vision for your home, be intentional, and ask Jesus for help.

I received a complementary copy of the book from Tyndale House for review purposes. having-a-martha-home-the-mary-way-by-sarah-mae-cover

The Unveiled Wife ( a book review)

I’ve been a follower of Jennifer Smith’s writings for a while, and was excited to see she had a new book out. Her new book, The Unveiled Wife, is a autobiography/devotional book. In it, she shares her personal struggles dealing with intimacy, trust, expectations, and how her relationship with the Lord affected her relationship with her husband. Jennifer shares her personal story of how she met her husband, and the trials and growth they shared for the next 5 years until the Lord restored them as a couple.

In a society where people are suppose to meet, fall in love, marry, have smooth/passionate intimacy, make pretty babies that always coo, and live happily every after, it’s refreshing to hear an honest voice. Having grown up in the church, I don’t feel like intimacy and the real life working out your marriage are talked about enough. It’s not like the movies where everything flows gracefully and there’s fireworks in the background. A healthy marriage and great intimacy take commitment, work, and they both are a constant learning process. I completely enjoyed this book and totally recommend it to all women, especially those who have been married 5 or less years! I’m passing my copy on to a newly married friend immediately! 978-1-4143-9804-4

Fears and Trust

The last four months have been a series of choices…..choices to choose trust over fear.  It began with taking our pregnancy test. Being friends with some dear ladies who have either lost precious little ones or who long for them but are unable to have them, puts a different perspective on having my own. It is not a blessing to be taken for granted (as if we should take any blessing for granted), but rather an event to be received with gratitude and to be held with a loose grasp.

Knowing that every pregnancy carries its natural risks, and that life is never guaranteed to any of us, I  was fearful to make the news public….afraid in case something went ‘wrong’.   Gently, the Lord whispered….”Trust me”.

With each step of telling people at school or at church, my fear battled my trust.  I kept fearing the what if’s, while the Lord kept whispering the ‘trust me’s’.

What if I tell people at school, then you take the baby to Heaven?          Trust me.

What if I post our ‘announcement’ on social media,  to immediately follow it with a sad one?    Trust me.

What about the risk of SIDS? What about all the other possible things that could go wrong?   Continually, the Lord whispers…..’Trust me.  Trust me that no matter what happens I will walk through it with you. Trust me that through the mountains and valleys, you will not go it alone. Trust me that I have a purpose that I want to accomplish in your life through every situation you go through.  Trust me, that nothing is a surprise to me. Trust me.”

Somehow with all my vast four months of experience (ha!), I have a feeling that this is only the beginning of learning to trust God for this little one.

Expectant Parents: a book review

Expectant Parents
Expectant Parents, written by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, is a how-to manual for the hearts of new parents. In her book, she covers mom and dad’s individual roles, career decisions, emotions, community, family background and other essential topics. It’s not so much a reference manual as a gentle discussion with a friend of all the new challenges and blessings that come with a new little one. Suzanne shares a variety of both positive and negative experiences from people at different stages in the journey. She strongly supports the belief that there are no set ways/methods for each family. Rather each couple needs to seek out the Lord’s leading for their own family, and this may not be the same as their upbringing or of the cultural norm.

Reading this book was like receiving a comforting embrace midway through a white-knuckled drive down a foggy road. I about cried tears of joy as I read her chapters and realized……I was normal. It was all going to be OK! I remember excitedly telling my husband that “the book said it’s going to be OK! It said that I’m normal and it’s going to all be fine!” My husband and I are expecting our first child next summer, and thus the first couple months of pregnancy were filled with fears, weariness, sickness, and talk over the future. Remember in Luke, where Mary went to visit Elizabeth after finding out she was ‘with child’? How comforting Elizabeth’s words and embrace must have felt to a girl who had just obediently accepted a social outcast role in raising her first child, God’s Son! As Mary heard Elizabeth’s words, she must have thought, “It’s OK! I’m not alone! It’s going to be OK.” As I read through that chapter with new eyes this Christmas, I connected with her. I too, needed someone to tell me it was OK, and that the emotions and fears I had were normal. I would recommend this book for anyone expecting their first child. It is a good reminder to seek the Lord in each area of this new adventure, and it also provides good discussion between couples over the expectations each one has for delivery through raising a family.
I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes from Tyndale House Publishers.