What I Learned in March

Psalm 25:4-5, Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

March path

What We Read This Month:

Hinds’ Feet on High Places: Delightfully Illustrated and Arranged for Children by  Hannah Hurnard and JoAnn Edington (I cannot recommend this book enough! Even if you have never read the original version, both kids and adults will love this book. It is an allegory of how God transforms our fears and weaknesses when we fully surrender to him. My children and I love it and want to read more and more each day.)

Indescribable by Louie Giglio (We continue to enjoy reading this devotional each morning. My 10 and 12-year-old enjoy how Giglio combines science and Biblical truth.)

My Reading This Month:

I Can Only Imagine: A Memoir by Bart Millard and Robert Noland (This is the book version of the movie which is in theaters right now. The book is a more complete telling of Bart’s life story.)

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

My Learning This Month: 

Passport to Purity: My oldest daughter and I went away for a weekend, just the two of us. We brought along the Passport to Purity curriculum which includes, audio CD’s, parent guide, and a journal for the daughter to follow along in and answer questions. This curriculum includes learning about peer pressure, choosing friends, puberty, dating, love, and sex. We found it to be very well done. There were moments of awkwardness, which we needed to work through. Overall, I was so thankful to have the structure and framework the curriculum provided so that we could get through all the important information. Biblical truths were the base for the entire weekend. I would definitely recommend Passport to Purity for all famililies with kids around the ages 11-13.

1 Timothy 4:12, Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

This is the beautiful necklace Cate Florey designed for my girl so she could always remember our special weekend together! Check out her beautiful work here:  Cate Florey Studio

Thought Journaling: A counselor taught us about this helpful process she calls Thought Journaling. This process is a way of looking at how the thoughts we think and the messages we send ourselves cause us to react in positive or negative ways. Negative self-talk seems to just sneak right in. In becoming more aware of our reactions whether internally or externally, we can begin to see how false messages are sabotaging us. Or, the reverse is also true. When we send ourselves positive messages or quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s loving voice, we react in love, peace, and compassion.

thought journal page

Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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From “Hosanna” to “Crucify Him”

God keeps taking me deeper, into deeper levels of freedom. Just over 6 months ago, I wrote this, Freedom and I was overwhelmed with that deep level of freedom.

But, God…

He’s unwrapping the blockades like an onion, layer by layer; the blockades that have been blinding me from further freedom. He shows me there’s still this wall of anxiety between us. He reveals there’s still this fence of doubt getting in the way. And then He opens my eyes to a layer of fear stumbling me on His path

Despair threatens to set in. “Oh God, I thought I had moved past anxiety, doubt, and fear.” But, His strong loving voice assures me, He has yet more for me still.

On the other side of the chains of despair, He has LIFE awaiting me. And, He has LIFE awaiting you!

Have you ever thought of the people shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”? They shouted the term hosanna, meaning save us. I imagine them feeling sold out to Jesus, placing their hopes in him, thinking they were finding and receiving freedom. Laying down their cloaks, their cut branches. Perhaps feeling as if they were laying down their hearts in submission.

But, we know those same sold out people, the ones willing to lay down their offerings, changed their cry just days later to “crucify him”. When Pilate asked, “Why?”, they only shouted again, “Crucify him!”

It’s hard to imagine this extreme change in behavior from “save us, Oh, God!” to “kill him!” until I allow the Lord to show me what’s in my heart.

Am I much different than the hosanna shouting people? Am I really any different at all than the people I read about in Matthew 21?

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9

One day I claim freedom and power and then the next day, when faced with a trial, I claim my life as my own and kill God’s voice of love. 

I, too, shout, “Save me!” and then I crucify Him by holding up my blockade once again and kill His plan for my life.

But, God…

Crucify him post

As He unwraps these blockades, chipping away at my attempts at crucifixion, His freedom fills my soul.

When I see Jesus for who he is and not what he can do for me, he changes my cry. He puts my life in order.

My cry becomes crucify my flesh, my will, and my desire.

Oh Lord, hosanna, save me!

Women of Peace

I wrote this many years ago after my Great Grandma passed away. I wrote it as a way to remember the love and respect between my Great Grandma and Grandma and to remember the faith they helped instill in me. Today is March 12th, my Grandma Betty’s birthday. She is celebrating in heaven. 

“Momma, why don’t you come over here and rest your legs for a while?” Grandma asks as she scoots past the rounded counter’s edge.

“I just need to get these rolls in the hot oven, dear. I’m fine.” As my Great Grandma leans her head towards mine she add, “She’s always fussing over me,” and then she smiles a slow smile.

“Oh, momma, I’m not fussing. I just think you must be tired and ready to rest by now.”

My thoughts stay focused on these two amazing women I have been blessed to spend time with, but instead of listening to them I begin to marvel over them. As I look at Great Grandma, I see her eyes behind her thick glasses looking closely at the dough she is forming into perfect shapes. “She’s not tired,” I think to myself. After all she had rested her eyes for a few minutes in the comforts of her recliner, which almost envelops her small frame. The time she had spent in the warm sun in the garden, combined with the efforts of her body had caused her to feel fatigued. But, she would not admit that to anyone, especially her daughter. Great Grandma looked forward to the time she had each day, albeit short, to spend in the yard.

“It’s a battle,” she’d say, “trying to keep up with those pesky weeds. Do you know that last month when I spent a week in the hospital, my hydrangea plant was eaten by slugs!” She’d try to say it in a gruff voice, but the kindness inside of her would get the best of her and she would chuckle at the end of the sentence.

“Ma, they’re just plants! We just don’t seem to have the time to keep up with what the good Lord has blessed us with. That yard is a jungle!” Grandma knew the importance the yard held in her mother’s heart, but she also loved her momma so much. Much of their bickering was due to Grandma trying to protect Great Grandma from overdoing it, and Great Grandma stubbornly continuing in her ways. The doctor had suggested Great Grandma begin to take it easy in the yard. She chose to ignore that advice from the doctor, but Grandma had listened closely and taken notes as to what would help her mother continue out her long, full life.

I let my thoughts drift back to the sunny kitchen where an enjoyable feast was being prepared for me, the so-called guest of honor. With feet planted firmly on the ground, arms outstretched, Great Grandma twists the knob to the perfect baking temperature. The sunlight from the nearby window shines awkwardly on the timer so that when she goes to twist the knob she has to gently turn her head to the side to avoid the glare. She sniffs the mild scent of unbaked bread dough and continues her chore.

Finally, Great Grandma is finished in the kitchen. Deliberately placing a hand smoothed by warm dishwater, on the edge of the counter, she steadies herself, and then continues to use the counter as a guide as she makes her way to the living room. She doesn’t say anything, doesn’t admit that it is time to rest, but she settles into the large recliner. Grandma is quiet and offers a relieved smile, as Great Grandma slumps into the chair. Grandma has lived with her mother’s stubbornness for a lifetime and learned the importance of allowing her the freedom of taking care of herself whenever possible.

At least once when I am with my Grandma and Great Grandma, I gaze at them with amazement and wonder. In my mind I formulate a list of all that I love about these women. The very best part of being with them is listening to their stories. Now that they are both comfortable in their cozy living room, I know the stories will begin to be told. Years had gone by when I didn’t appreciate their stories and the wisdom I could glean from them. But God knew the day would come when my heart would open up and I would see that listening to the wise women would change my life. Along with so many life lessons, I am learning about true contentment from my Grandma and Great Grandma. Though many of their stories told contain hardship, they are always told in the context of hope. One of their stories may begin by sounding like a story of loss, but midway through I will begin to see that it is really about strength to persevere and faith that God is in control.

Second to listening to their stories, is listening to them talk to each other. Speaking with genuine kindness just seems the natural way to speak for this mother and daughter. They truly respect each other and it shows in every aspect of their relationship.

Through these women, God taught me about love. Love so full that just being in the room with them I am able to catch what overflows. When I am with them I feel like a parched sponge, hanging on to each spoken and unspoken feeling, hoping to be saturated with love.

As individuals, each woman is amazing. Great Grandma has fully lived 93 years of life on this earth. She has lived through wars, marriage, childbirth, many moves, a serious car accident, grandchildren and great children’s births and countless surgeries. Great Grandma has learned how to hope, love, have faith, patience and true humility. She seems to always have a story brewing of one of her experiences. It wasn’t until I had entered into my 20’s, that I was able to appreciate all that her stories did for my soul. I finally began to notice that if I went to see Great Grandma with something negative consuming my mind, I would leave wondering what had ever troubled me. Her stories always gave me a different perspective and helped me to feel thankful for my life. Now, rather than escaping the conversation and heading to the dirty dishes that waited in the kitchen, I could follow her back to her chair just to listen. Until recently, Great Grandma had been able to tell long tales, with all of the parts connecting to form a lesson I need to learn. She has grown quieter recently. There are more frequent pauses. When I am searching for the next light topic to talk about, Great Grandma will amaze us all by thinking deeper and saying, “We are so lucky!” She keeps our conversation headed in the right direction, focused on the wonder of life. Great Grandma is a woman full of peace.

My Grandma, being equally as wonderful, is someone I have always admired. “Your grandmother is beautiful,” my friends would always say, commenting even further after spending time with her. She is outwardly lovely, and inwardly splendid. On the outside my Grandma has the most soft, delicate hands I’ve ever felt. Feeling her hands is like touching a velvety, summer rose petal. Often when we come together after not seeing each other for a while, she will grasp my hands and I will be taken back to when I was a little girl. I was fascinated with those hands. Those hands could gently french braid my hair. They could pull strong weeds from the yard. They could lightly brush away a tear on my cheek. Her hands could push the lawnmower around a steep, hilly yard. My grandma has hands filled with a balance of love and strength. On the inside she is all that she is on the outside combined with a joyful heart and a keen mind. She has endured both good and bad in her life, and chooses, like her mother, to focus on the good. Grandma must have learned a lesson from her mother about life, because she exuberates peace.

My grandma and great grandma have lived together, just the two of them, for about 9 years now. With each year, a new strength is added to their bond. Their partnership in this world seems to grow more established through each circumstance they face. The faith they have come to trust enables them for each coming day. All of what makes up these women is shown with each minute I spend with them. My grandma and Great Grandma are extraordinary women who have changed my life and fill me with a most precious gift, a peacefulness that I will always cherish.

Even to your old age, I am He, And even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; Even I will carry, and will deliver you.

Isaiah 46:4

A Perfect Heart

When I seek mercy and justice

When I offer mercy and justice

When I receive Your mercy and justice

My heart is renewed

My heart is cleansed

My heart is healed

When I seek Your way

When I offer Your love

When I receive Your Spirit

I behave as a woman following You

I love as a whole person

I give from a complete vessel

When you come to me, oh Lord

When you walk with me, oh Lord

When your Spirit fills me, oh Lord

I am set free

I am made alive

I will walk with a perfect heart

I will sing of mercy and justice; to you, oh Lord, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will you come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. Psalm 101:1-2

It Is Finished

I seem to readily welcome the wrestling with my past sin and shame. I open the door to my thoughts and allow them to take up space in my mind. Those thoughts then dictate my attitude and behavior throughout the coming days.

This time of year when so much is focused on Jesus‘ birth, as it rightly should be, my heart is drawn to the cross and His sacrificial death. I can’t seem to focus on his birth without jumping to the end… And what His life resulted in.

As I allow shameful memories to cloud my freedom, I am living as if something more needs to be done. As if Jesus’ life and death were not enough. As if the Lord wants me to walk around weighed down in guilt and shame as an additional sacrifice to the price He paid on the cross.

Years ago, at Christmas time I asked my daughter to paint me a couple of pictures for my prayer closet. I said I would love one of Jesus’ birth and one of the empty cross. Each morning as I spend time in my prayer closet, my eyes and heart always turn to these paintings. I need this reminder each day. I need to remember multiple times a day that there is nothing, nothing I can add on to Jesus’ life or the sacrifice He paid for me.

It is finished.

Finished is the same as paid in full.

Jesus came to finish God’s work of salvation.

In the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ sacrificial death, you will find the words it is finished. As I read those words each time, I am struck by the finality of them. It is not open ended, segueing into a need for further sacrifice or work. No. I read it again. The words read, “It is finished.

Because of Jesus’ life and ultimate sacrificial death on the cross, the Lord sees me as righteous and I am secure.

Are you walking around with guilt and shame this Christmas season? Are you allowing your past to take up space in your heart and mind? Is yesterday weighing you down? Can you begin to consider that the word is true, it is finished. You can rest in knowing that Jesus’ work is complete. You and I can walk in freedom. We can rest in peace. We can count on the truth of his saving grace.

Psalm 7:9 O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.

Christmas Peace?

Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

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But, not at Christmastime, Lord. You understand that I have presents to buy and wrap, food to buy and prepare, children to corral in the craziness of a changing schedule this time of year, basketball practices to get to, dinner to make, oh, and don’t forget some self-care in there too: exercise, eat well, and stretch. Lord, you didn’t mean, you have given me peace even at Christmastime.

Not as the world gives do I give to you…

The world offers me peace in the Christian yoga YouTube videos I found. The world’s peace is in letting go. It’s found in circumstances going my way. I can experience it in discovering the perfect gift found on the clearance rack at the first store I step into. Ah…an empty parking spot nice and close to the front. Is this the peace I seek?

My peace I give to you…

Jesus doesn’t offer peace based on the circumstance. Jesus offers his peace based on who He is and what He has done for us. His peace doesn’t depend on me. His peace doesn’t depend on those around me. His peace doesn’t depend on my schedule or the season. His peace depends solely on him…His life, sacrifice and resurrection, and His Spirit dwelling inside of those who place their hope in him.

Let not your hearts be troubled…

Don’t run around in a frenzy. Don’t expect others to do what you want. Don’t search for peace in this world. Don’t make yourself God in your life.

Neither let them be afraid…

Keep your heart and mind set on the Lord. Trust in His love. Trust in His goodness. Trust in His power.

Yes, Christmas peace. 

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I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Who is Like You?

The following poem is really a compilation of “who is like you” questions I wrote each morning for the last few weeks during the beginning of my quiet time. I have really been encouraged to be in awe of the Lord God Almighty. My response to this awe is to ask the Lord, who is like you? The answer? None other than the Lord. 

Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders? Exodus 15:11

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Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, waiting on me, listening with patience and kindness?

Who is like you, pouring out endless grace and mercy?

Who is like you, filling my days with purpose and focus?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, steady from beginning to end?

Who is like you, holding my past, present, and future?

Who is like you, full of power, strength, and sovereignty?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, Father to the fatherless?

Who is like you, protector of the weak?

Who is like you, guide to the blind?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you, a King in a manger?

Who is like you, humble and meek?

Who is like you, born to sacrifice?

Who is like you, Oh Lord?

Who is like you? Oh, who is like you?

 

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