When Pillars Fall

Jesus Chief Cornerstone Pillars Fall Trials

Earlier this year, on a rainy Thursday afternoon, one of the pillars of my life fell.

I mean that literally. My Dad fell from a 20-foot ladder on the job, and then we all circled his hospital bed, where he wore the neck brace with fits of anger, in and out of consciousness.

We waited through testing to learn of broken bones and a bleeding brain, while our strong and capable supporter forgot thirty years of living and became fragile before us…

 

Will you join me for the rest of this post, over at Katy’s place (A Football Wife’s Life) today? I am honored to participate in the series she’s hosting, on the Names of God. Also, she’s giving away a set of beautiful ornaments. Don’t miss!

And a very merry Christmas to you!

The Gift of God-With-Us

Lord With You For a couple months, we’ve looked forward to hosting two sisters, who are orphans, in our home this Christmas. We selected clothes for them to wear, rearranged bedrooms, stocked up on groceries, and scheduled outings. We shopped for Christmas gifts, wrapped them all in red and black glittery paper, and hid them in a closet.

It’s been great fun, preparing for Christmas and getting ready to welcome these little ones into our family for a month.

But then, this week happened, the last week before they arrive. You wouldn’t believe how many things went wrong. (As in, not according to plan.) My stomach feels knotted up. I’ve had to remind myself to breathe. I’m having a really hard time slowing down, especially enough to pray.

We’ve known all along that this could be an amazing month–or it could be a very difficult month. But it’s like this news just now caught up to my insides, for the first time. All the concerns, what ifs, and fears floated to the surface.

I want to look forward with faith, to anticipate great things from God. I don’t want to feel so incapable, or worry about details. I don’t want to give fear some big, shouty platform in my life.

But I don’t feel I have much control over my anxiety right now…

 

Join me over at Purposeful Faith for the rest of this post today!

For Those Who Need Breathing Room {Five-Minute Fridays}

Breathing Room for my SoulIt’s been the kind of week where I scurry around, trying to cross off line items, piled up on lengthy to-do lists. Then in the middle of the night, I wake, unable to fall back asleep.

It’s not an issue of trying to keep up with Christmas. Preparing for Christmas traditions was the easy part.

But the schedule’s getting all booked and bossy, and it’s always these times when I start to unravel.

In the middle of the night, the house is nothing but a whisper. Three noisy boys and a spunky girl lie tucked in tight, under cozy comforters. I tip-toe into their bedrooms and observe the way they breathe.

In—Out.

Deep—Rhythmic.

Hushed—Slow.

I think about how I’ve forced myself to breathe deeply a handful of times today. Because my daytime breath keeps coming short and shallow.

I’ve been anticipating a great amount of activity to come–and I guess I’ve been living in fear of it. Because what I really need is breathing room.

Is it even possible to find breathing room, while 8 people live under this roof?

I stumble through prayers, asking God to fix whatever’s off inside me. I’m not sure how to get out of the way. Since I’m missing out on sleep anyway, I look for a psalm to pray, and this is where I land:

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from Him. Truly He is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken. (Psalm 62)

Why, yes please. This I want–to find rest in God, unmoved by life’s concerns. I open another Bible version, and end up back at Psalm 62 in The Message. It’s a paraphrase, and the words on the page are meant for me.

God, the one and only—I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not?

He’s solid rock under my feet, breathing room for my soul.

Did you see that? Instead of my salvation, this time, God is breathing room for my soul.

I read it again and exhale. This is exactly what I’m looking for. This is beauty, found in the middle of the chaos, this room to breathe. In, out. Deep, slow.

{Yawn}

I guess I’m feeling a little sleepy after all…

Dear Friend Who Thinks She Should Try Harder {Five-Minute Fridays}

giftDear Friend Who Thinks She Should Try Harder,

I sat there, while you talked about navigating life with your little people, feeling like I’d already had this conversation with someone. Probably lots of someones.

I kept nodding my head, because I understand the way you feel. Your words reminded me of myself a few years back. Motherhood is hard stuff, and you were looking for answers.

You hinted that your solution was to stay up later. To get more things done. To gather pretty pins and make more lists. To just follow through with the lists you already have.

But I don’t think the answer is waiting for you on Pinterest, at the house next door, or in those glossy stacks of magazines in your living room. I don’t think the answer looks like you doing more.

We are all sold this lie, that if we try a little harder, if we work a little more, we’ll get there. Where? The place where life—motherhood—looks a lot more fun and glamorous and just right. The place where motherhood looks the way we hoped it would look.

We are sold on high expectations and a false definition of being a good mom.

For a long time, I said I was just trying to be a good mom. Just doing the usual things, you know, things everyone was doing. Just keeping up with all I needed to do.

But later I realized the truth. I wanted to do it all. I wanted to be really good at this, at all the pieces and parts of it. Don’t we all want that? For our kids, our family, and before God?

Of course, there are other reasons also–we want to keep up with our friends. Right?

So as a Mom, for many years, I lived under an impossible list of expectations, both my own and other people’s ideals. Instead of collecting figurines or seashells, I collected so many expectations on my shelves.

friend who thinks she should try harderAt the end of those overwhelming days, I’d search for answers.

If I could just try a little harder, get more organized, pray more, and figure things out, maybe then I’d be the Mom I always wanted to be.

I usually attacked it in that order, focusing on organization. I usually tried to fix things on my own and asked God for whatever He could do to help.

But friend, who thinks she should try harder, let me tell you what’s different now.

It started with a simple Read-Through-the-Bible one year when I was in the thick of overwhelming days. I didn’t read it at the same time each day—or in the same place—and I never stayed on schedule. But in the quiet, I realized something all year long: I was ruining motherhood, by trying so hard. And somehow half the Bible spoke directly into motherhood.

That year, Jesus offered me freedom from the slavery of striving. He invited me to come to Him for true rest. He encouraged me to take my load from Him–not from what others around me were doing. He showed me how that list of expectations had become an idol I was clinging to.

It’s not like He zapped my life, and everything changed all at once. Or that I’m completely over expectations. But He began a good work in me as a Mom, when I became desperate enough to hear Him.

Now days of chronic overwhelm have turned into an overwhelming gift. And when I start to feel like I need to strive to keep up, I can take a step back and understand what’s behind that.

What about you? Do you often feel like you should do more, and try harder?

 

From Complaints to Thanks

from complaints to thanks thanksgiving complaining discontent

I stood beside their beds in the dark, praying for each of my 3 little ones while they slept. Every night on my way to bed, I whispered thanks to God for the gift of being their Mommy. But often tears fell, because I knew the truth of that day. And the one before.

I was discontent with that season of my life, and I had become an under-the-breath complainer.

I didn’t always like that this was what God had called me to do. Because it looked like endless wiping. Wiping counters, spills, bottoms, floors, always wiping…

 

Today I’m guest posting at Purposeful Faith ~ Kelly Balarie & Friends. I hope you will join me there!

To continue reading this post, click here.

Why We Should Never Listen to Burnt Bacon

 

motherhood burnt bacon

On an ordinary Tuesday afternoon, I sat at the table working on a writing assignment. When I remembered, it’s Big Salad night.

So I tossed eggs in water to boil, threw chicken on the stove, and arranged bacon on a frying pan. Our piano teacher knocked on the door. We talked, I checked in with food, and went back to writing.

The phone rang, and I talked to my Dad, who’s returning my call from earlier. I tended to food and sat down again. A kid ran in to tell me his online math lesson score. I cheered him on, and sent him off to read.

The doorbell rang, so I checked the food on my way. I chatted with a neighbor, ran back to flip bacon, and sat again to write.

Another kid happened by. Showed me the art she’s been creating. I marvelled at leaves painted different colors and pressed onto her canvas, turned over chicken breasts, cheered her on, and sent her off to read.

It’s supposed to be quiet time, which is why I’m working on a writing assignment and also why I’m cooking dinner to avoid the assignment.

I checked boiled eggs, popped outside for a minute, answered the kids’ most pressing questions, and then our little man woke from his nap. I rubbed his back, fed him a snack, called the next kid for piano lesson, remembered I still needed to clean salad greens, washed and ripped while pondering my writing assignment, and then.

Another kid walked into the kitchen, making a beeline to the stove.

Um, Mom? You know you’re cooking bacon, right?

It took a minute, but I returned to my real place in this real story. I’m cooking bacon. I just forgot. Because the greens, the eggs, the chicken, the kids, the neighbor, the music, the teacher, the back rub, the assignment, and all the thoughts pushed their way forward.

I know everyone does this sometimes. I also know I’ve burned bacon without 16 other things going on. But this story isn’t about the bacon. It’s about being a Mom.

When I became a Mom, I had all these ideas about how to be a good Mom, none of which made space for my weaknesses. Most of them were not really sustainable, at least not for me.

What I’ve learned is, There are a lot of ways to be a good Mom.

Most of those involve the kitchen, but I used to think my kitchen life had to look a certain way. I wanted to be one of those Moms with the picture-perfect meals, all shiny and healthy and planned out for weeks in advance. And while I love serving my family healthy food that will love them back, try though I did, the kitchen never became more than a great place for me to daydream.

So instead of a Mom whose life looks like a Pottery Barn catalog, I’m often the one with the burnt things on pretty plates. And it’s all going to be okay. Because today I heard this little slice of encouragement:

And I quote,  “You know Mom? It looks nasty, but it’s actually not that bad.” 

I’m still laughing. I might need to frame that quote–it’s so Tuesday-typical around here. Years ago, I might have cried because another kitchen-failure. But I’ve grown into a Mom who knows it doesn’t mean anything important about who she is.

So the next time you’re dealing with burnt bacon–or a flopped school snack or forgotten assignment or a botched recipe or any number of things that might tempt you to believe you stink in all things Mommyhood, remember this: ME, TOO.

And it’s probably not that bad. Even if it looks nasty.

The Poetry of Falling

falling dying living dying to self John victory surrender

This week last year, my husband was away at Hunting Camp. I was here holding down the fort and struggling through the idea of dying to myself as the way to live. Funny how going it alone as a Mom brings that topic to mind.

I understood in my head what it meant, to die in order to live. But I can’t say I really wanted to experience more of it in my real life…because painful.

Today, I share a little blast from the past, to encourage you to hear the voices of falling leaves, to see this body of BEAUTY surrounding us these days, as arrows >>>——> pointing our eyes to God and our hearts to surrender.

 

The last of the maple leaves fell today.

Autumn winds pressed hard, making red leaves dance, and every little piece found a place to land. Now they scatter the lawn, at the mercy of children who kick and toss and stomp.

I stand here watching, and it feels a lot like poetry.

There’s a mysterious beauty in all this falling, an embedded reflection in the cycle of seasons.

“Before the leaves can mount again

To fill the trees with another shade,

They must go down past things coming up.

 They must go down into the dark decayed.”

 –Robert Frost, In Hardwood Groves

falling dying living dying to self John victory surrender

Jesus talked about seeds falling to the ground to produce more seeds. About death leading to life.

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. –John 12:24-25, NIV

Jesus was getting ready to produce more seeds–to give us life from His death. Like the kernel of wheat, He fell down to His death before being raised up to glory.

He laid down His life. Concerned with the will of His Father, who was concerned with you and me. This is what it looks like to “hate life” and die to ourselves–in order to live.

Back at New Year’s, I asked God for a word for the year, and immediately knew it was Victory. To which I thought, This will be the year of victory in one of the areas I’ve been praying about. I’m in!

Victory seems like winning, triumph, or success. Not surrender,  falling to the ground, or dying.   

But each time Victory came up this year, the message was clear.

  • Victory is found in yielding, in surrender, in dying.
  • Victory is His strength shining through (not my strength, but) my weakness.
  • Victory is finding joy in smallness.
  • It’s giving up control, and falling into Jesus.

Doesn’t that seem a little upside-down? It didn’t line up with my idea of victory-as-success. But sometimes we have our definitions all mixed up in this world.

So I stood outside this morning, watching trees release leaves at the peak of the season. I thought about how the leaves all fall down and the remaining branches appear dead before they fill up with life again.

I  thought about the way fall displays surrender, and hoped I’d always remember.

{Day 31}: 7 Jesus-Quotes…It’s a Wrap

falldoorWelcome back to the last day of 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

I hope this series has encouraged you and helped you to see more of Jesus. I have enjoyed studying to write these posts, and have learned so much along with you. I’ll continue to write from the words of Jesus from time to time.

The biggest thing I’ve learned from the challenge itself? I can push myself and write more often, but also I’m not in the best place in life to write this often. That wasn’t really a surprise. Clearly, since my norm is to write a post or two a week.

31 Days of Love in Red Letters Fall Jesus

To wrap up this series, I have a list for you. These are passages I wanted to dig into, but didn’t have the chance. May they inspire you to study and find the deeper meaning on your own.

7 Jesus Quotes On Love ~ In Red Letters:

1. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ Matthew 9:13

2. Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Luke 18:16

3. The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.  Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah 61.

4. Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31

5. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:34-36

6. And will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Luke 18: 7

 7. Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:44-45.

And there you have it. It’s a wrap!

I hope you will enjoy falling leaves and crisp fall air, chilly walks followed by warm apple cider, all the anticipation for the holidays, and tonight ~ little ones dressed as superheroes, princesses, bananas, and cowboys knocking at your door.

Happy fall, y’all! ~Angela

gagepumpkin

 

{Day 30}: It’s All In Who You Ask

 

31 days Jesus love in red letters prayer ask seek knockWelcome back to 31 Days!

Yesterday, I could not manage to sit down at my laptop for more than a minute. Because life happened.

We had an emergency with our orphan hosting application. Everything had to stop, because it had to be done that day. But it wasn’t only that it had to be done. As in, me filing out more paperwork.

I had to get a social worker to come out to my house that day, and to complete a report by today. We had someone scheduled for the following week, and had been waiting a couple weeks for that appointment. But suddenly it wasn’t enough, and I had a list of people to call and beg. Or the whole thing would be off…and two little girls would be sitting in their orphanage in Latvia this Christmas instead of enjoying a vacation and family time here.

Do you want to know what I’m the worst at?

Asking people to do things for me. Period.

But the thing I’m getting better at?

Asking my Father in Heaven to do things only He can do. Believing He can make it all work–today–and that He wants to do that for us…and for a couple sweet little girls.

So before I started dialing numbers, I asked God. And then asked my kids to come pray with me, so we could ask God together.

Then I talked with several people who said, I wish I could help you, but there is no way. So I kept asking God, believing He would make this work.

And HE did!!!

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8

31 Days Jesus Door red letter wordsSo many times, I’ve prayed lazy or forgetful. But this verse means keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. Persist in prayer.

Some believe ask, seek, and knock apply to different levels of intensity. For instance, sometimes, we only need to ask God for something. Others, we ask, but we also need to seek by doing whatever part we can do. And sometimes, we need to knock at His door with urgency. He values our passion and persistence.

Matthew 6:8 says, …your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Has this line ever left you wondering why we should ask, seek, and knock? I’ve wondered.

I think that prayer is most simply, obedience. But it’s more than that. When we pray, we depend on God. We rely on Him. We trust Him. We align our hearts with His, and learn to care about what He cares about.

Our Father in heaven gives good gifts to those who ask Him. 

{Day 28}: On Dwelling in Christ & Fast and Swirly Surprises

Welcome back to 31 Days of Love in Red Letters.

Today’s a really special day. It’s my 2nd child’s birthday, so before we dig in, a birthday shout-out…

I loved one little boy, and I do mean little, when this pregnancy surprised us. How in the world would I keep up with two babies? Then Ryder came shooting out. And I do mean shooting. He turned delivery into one of those fast and swirly fair rides, where you get off and say to all the blurry people around you, What just happened?

He’s been cruising through life ever since, all smiles and adventure, turning our days into super-fun, much less painful rides.

He was the first to grow me that extra heart. You know when you love your first baby so much, you have no idea how you could ever have room for the next? And then he arrives, like you’ve always known him, and you can’t believe you questioned it.

So happy birthday, my 2nd child. I couldn’t love you any more, Ry. You make me love surprises.

31 Days Jesus birthday

Now back to our study. We left off last Thursday in John 15, with the question, how do we bear good fruit?

Remain in me, as I also remain in you.

No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

I used to pray often for specific fruit to show up in my life. It felt like nothing changed. So I questioned how to remain in Christ, like there was some magical answer I hadn’t yet found. I sat with Jesus regularly, but didn’t see the results I hoped for.

I’d jump into my Mom Day, and my joy would leave the building by lunchtime. Or even 9 am. And patience? I’ve written about that before, in a post entitled In Which I Tidal-Wave. So you know, it’s a struggle.

I wanted to remain in Jesus. Actually, I wanted Him to remain in me and for that to be visible. But then I ran through days with so many obstacles, attitudes, and mishaps. With so many kids! :)

31 Days red letter words Jesus walking dead

Finally, I gave up.

After hundreds of prayers begging for patience, I threw my hands up and told the Lord He would have to do all these things in me, because I couldn’t get it together.

Then the strangest things happened…

I started to understand and be overwhelmed by grace.

Beauty was everywhere, and it all pointed back to Him.

I worshiped Jesus, instead of focusing on my behavior.

I let go of results, and felt doomed to being double-minded and a bit of a rollercoaster forever. But over time, He formed fruit in me. When I admitted my inability and trusted His work and His timing.

I am convinced we don’t need to try so hard. We don’t need to work on specific attributes. We just need to be with Jesus. We need to continue to look to Jesus, to dwell in Him, and to thank Him for all He’s working together for good in all the ways we cannot see.

Dwell in Me, and I will dwell in you. {Live in Me, and I will live in you.} (AMP)

31 Days Love Red Letter Words Jesus