New Patterns of Grace

Mother’s Day. An opportunity to remember the effort, love, and sacrifices my own mom made for me. A chance to be thankful for the brave birth mothers who helped make me a mother. A day to look on my children with love and awe and marvel at the reasons I am allowed to partake in this day.

me and the girls

Looking upon the year leading up to this day, reflecting on the changes, the growth, the disappointments, the trials, and the joy; my heart feels both heavy and lighter at the same time.

A day to reflect. How am I doing as a mother? The most important role I will ever fill. Am I still stuck in some of the patterns of the year before? Or, am I moving toward what the Lord has for me? Am I pushing past old destructive ways? Am I looking for patterns which lead to life for my family?

lake padden

These questions fill my mind and to be honest, they’ve been keeping me awake at night.

As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. Second guessing decisions. Replaying scenarios in our minds. Beating ourselves up for our shortcomings. Allowing guilt and sometimes even condemnation to steal our days. Comparing ourselves to others or to some ideal we hold in our mind. Seeing our children’s behavior as a reflection of our own failures.

These are patterns which lead to death for ourselves and our families.

The Lord is revealing a different way to me.

It begins with grace.

Grace: Favor or goodwill. A manifestation of favor. Mercy. Pardon. Unmerited favor and love of God. The influence or Spirit of God operating in humans to regenerate or strengthen them.

Ahh..Just reading the word grace, followed by the definition is like a deep breath. My body loosens. My shoulders drop. My breathing slows.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,  not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2: 4-10

Oh those words, the Lord’s words to us, well up in me like an everlasting flowing river. A river of grace and mercy. His love for me was alive and well when I was dead in my trespasses. 

On your worst day. He loved you.

On my worst day. He loved me.

Am I loving that way? Am I loving my family when they behave well? Am I loving them when they are acting in an undesirable way?

Are my facial expressions conveying love and grace?

Is my tone showing love despite their behavior?

Are my words leading to life for my family regardless of how they are acting?

Through His grace and love pouring into me, He is showing me how to extend grace to my family. He is reminding me to be patient with myself. He is showing me when I just need to breathe. He is showing me how to love my children and care deeply for them, while still separating myself from their choices. He is opening my eyes to what a heartfelt apology can bring to my loved ones. He is lowering my shoulders and filling me with His breath, His grace, His love.

3 grace-filled statements for mom’s this Mother’s day, taken right from the Ephesians 2 verses above:

  1. We are no longer dead to our sin. We are made alive by Christ. I can breathe easier and become unstuck because He has freed me from my sin.
  2. We are saved by faith, not by our works. I am not saved based on anything I have done or anything I will do. I am saved based on who He is and what He has already done on the cross.
  3. We were created by God to the good works He prepared for us to do. No longer do I need to strive in my own power, my own wisdom and knowledge. He has gone before me and prepared the way.

This good, good news of the cross and His love and grace over me, frees me to rest. Rest in Him.

by the lake

Dear momma, find your rest in  Him. Allow Him to reveal His grace to you. Be filled with His unconditional love. Rest in His everlasting river of mercy. He loves you so much. This year, begin your new patterns of grace.

Caught Between

She’s caught between being a teen and being a kid. Truly a tween. And, truly unknown territory in our life as a family. She’s caught between fierce independence and seeking shelter by way of a hug from her mommy. She’s right in the middle of knowing all the answers and seeking prayer about a recent bad dream.

During this trying, growing, in-between stage, I am seeking the Lord and all He has for us  in a new stage in our life as a family.

color family standing

As is God’s way, I received an email just days before my daughter’s 12th birthday. The title read, 10 Verses to Pray for Your Daughter. The mom who wrote the article expressed her desire to be a prayer warrior.

Yes, Lord, make ME a prayer warrior. I long to fervently pray for my family. Diligently wearing and utilizing the armor God has given me: truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation and the Word. Never ceasing to thank God for all He has provided and always remembering my deep need for Him. 

The author of the article categorized her prayers for her daughter in the following way:

Her Salvation

To Find Her Identity in Christ

To Walk in a Manner Worthy of Her Calling

To Have a Love for God and His Word

Use and Cultivate Her Spiritual Gifts for God’s Glory

To Have a Desire for Wisdom

Healthy and Godly Relationships with Family and Friends

Her Future Husband and Marriage

To Value Her Role in the Home and Family

To Train Her Own Children to Love the Lord

Sitting down to my strong coffee and overflowing journal, I begin mediating on the prayer from the above list that is stirring in my heart this morning. Healthy and Godly relationships with family and friends. The verse which follows reads, Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3

I attempt to focus on my in-between daughter, the one seeking independence, discovering her place in our family and the world, still in need of parental guidance, the one whose power sometimes seems to frighten even her. The Lord, then, redirects my thinking right back to me. The Ephesians 4 verse is staring me in the face, transforming itself into questions. During this trying in-between phase which we are embarking on, am I humble? Gentle? Patient? Bearing with my tween in love? Making every effort to keep unity?

In all honesty, the answers to my questions are all no. Of course, I will fail. God knows I am human. But, when time and time again, I am forging ahead, making my own path into this unchartered territory, I am sure to fail.

When I humbly seek the Lord for gentleness, patience, love, and unity, I am moving forward His way.

When I clear my mind and see how He deals with me in my stubborn independence, power house manner, know-it-all way, I see His gentleness, His loving redirection, and His patient whispers. Thank you, Lord.

Another author, I recently read discussed mirror neurons. Cells in the brain that cause us to mimic the behavior of those around us. These neurons aid in learning new skills by imitation. The science behind that intrigued me, God’s incredible planning and creation captivated me, but mostly, this concept caused me once again to return to the Ephesians 4 passage and examine my own heart.

I desire for my tween daughter, who is figuring out her place as a young woman, to be humble, gentle, patient, loving, and peaceful. When I turn those traits back towards myself, I am aware of improvement in those areas, but am also very aware of the need to seek more through the Lord.

While reading about Jesus in the book of Mark, I see His heart. I love to come back to the gospels and read directly about the one I aim to mirror.

Oh, Lord, that I would mirror your actions of love, kindness, and long-suffering. 

Are you in an in-between stage with a loved one? Are you, yourself, in an in-between stage? Caught between where you are currently at and where you know the Lord longs for you to be? Dear one, let’s look to Jesus and mirror His love. Let’s allow Him to examine our hearts and to reveal His heart to us. As Christians, we are “little Christs”. Ask Him. Seek Him. You will find Him.

Straight to the Source

To be satisfied. It seems elusive. Only a dream. But, reading the apostle Paul’ s words in Philippians 4, a chapter my girls and I have been reading, re-reading and then reading some more, each and every morning, we see that it’s not a dream. It was a reality for Paul, a human being just like you and I.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. Philippians 4: 11,12. 

God’s desire for me is to be content, satisfied, and at peace with where He has me right now. Rereading Philippians over and over, I am more convinced than ever of God’s desire for me to accept my life and the call He has for me. Each day, my girls and I gain something new from our reading, but each day it centers around being satisfied.

Joy

Thanksgiving

Rejoicing

Peace

Content

Aside from our Philippians discussions, if you have been to our house you know that our cats, Jack and Andy, are a popular topic. We recently changed cat food. Our cats love to eat. Being indoor cats, eating is their main activity. Feeding time is a frenzy. Both cats meowing loudly, rubbing against my legs, my stress level rises as I attempt to open the food bag quick enough to satisfy their meows. Our cats are large. In fact the vet has expressed concern. So, we measure out their food and only feed them twice a day. Tender hearts hurt for our cats when looking at their empty dishes and hearing their cries for food. But one look at their sagging bellies, reveals the truth.

The second the first morsel hits their dishes, they are wolfing down the food. It’s a race for the finish. Within minutes, both cats are done and their dishes are empty once more. Jack takes his stance back over by the pantry door, where he resumes begging for more. He just inhaled his entire meal and will not be fed again for 12 hours, but he is not satisfied. The cheap, grocery store cat food left him wanting more.

Recently, Andy, our oldest cat, began showing signs of having a food allergy. A trip to the vet left us reconsidering our food of choice for our beloved pets. So we did what any other concerned pet-loving family would do, we watched an entire documentary on pet food! Next came a trip to the pet store. Spending far longer than I care to admit at the pet store: reading labels, comparing prices, and debating with myself, I left with a grain-free, single-protein source, over-priced bag of cat food. Oh, they are just going to love this!

Andy beggingdish with foodempty dishAndy at dishjack eatingsatisfied AndyPlump cats

Bringing the food home, the cats hear the familiar rustle of the bag and come running. I pour their first serving into their dishes and wait. Andy looks up at me as if to say, “What is this?” Giving the food an inquiring sniff, they lean closer. Andy takes a little bite, then a few more. Now Jack joins in. Next thing I know, I am the one to be surprised. Both cats walk away from their dishes and saunter off to another room. My amazed younger daughter looks to me for an explanation, but all I can do is shrug. “Hmm. I guess they don’t like it.”

This scene replayed each day, as the cats ate a little bit and then left food in their dishes throughout the day. No more begging at the pantry door. No more aggressive pressure during feeding time.

One day while rereading Philippians chapter 4 with my girls once again, my mind stuck on the word content and my eyes drifted over to the still unfamiliar site of a pet dish with remaining food. Could it be, that the cats are content? Satisfied? The new, higher protein food is filling them up? This new food has more of the nutrients they need so they are actually satisfied? Suddenly our repetitive Philippians 4 reading was being lived out right in front of me. 

Paul tells us to meditate or chew on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy. He tells us to do the things we have learned to do from God and the God of peace will be with us.

Like the veterinarian telling us a specific type of food to look for which would be better for our cats, or a prescription from a doctor which will bring the healing we desire, the Lord provides for us what we need to produce the satisfaction we desire.

Phil 4

I can try in vain to fill up on devotionals, Christian books, and magazines. None of which are bad. I can glean encouragement, instruction, and knowledge from such materials. But, nothing will bring the satisfaction and true contentment the Word of God brings.

Why not go straight to the source? Why not drink from the fountain that always satisfies?

  • The Bible is like food for the believer, sustaining our very lives.

Matthew 4:4, Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

  • The Bible is the very words of the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:15-17, And how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

  • The Bible is our instruction.

Colossians 3:16, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Romans 15:4 For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Is the emptiness swallowing you up? Are you finding yourself always needing more? Never reaching the point of true contentment? I challenge you to feast on the Word of God. Put the other sources aside for the time being and see how the Lord will sustain you, fill you, satisfy you. 

Around the Corner

cornerAs I rounded the corner on my usual walking route through the neighborhood, my mind went directly to the disciples and the days leading up to Christ’s death. When I read through Luke 22, I read about the disciples shortcomings, their humanity, right there recorded in history.

Jesus’ disciples were incredible men of faith. Being used by the Lord, soaking up His teaching, and continuing to share the Gospel after Christ’s death. I am so incredibly thankful for their examples and the words they left us in the New Testament.

But, I am also thankful for their genuineness. I am thankful to be able to relate to their failures.

Sigh. That’s me, Lord. Whining, complaining, arguing, rejecting…sleeping when you are offering me love and instruction and about to work a miracle in my life. 

The disciples didn’t understand what was about to take place. Jesus had given them forewarnings, “In a little while, you will see me no more…”. But in their humanity, they didn’t fully understand. They saw their circumstances with their natural eyes. The disciples went about their days, arguing about who was the greatest, sleeping when Jesus was in anguish, and disowning and rejecting the Lord. They could have been standing with Him, learning from Him, serving Him, loving Him. They were entangled in their own lives. They were caught up  in what they saw around them.

I can only imagine the pain that followed for the disciples. As the hour came, and the land became dark, and Jesus took His final breath, Luke records about 3 hours of darkness. Continuing on my walk through the neighborhood, I swallow hard. The deep anguish of a sudden trial. The sting of pain. The overwhelming flood of heaviness.

They didn’t know. They didn’t know the pain would soon turn to rejoicing. They didn’t know what He was doing. They didn’t know what was around the corner.

Oh, Lord, it’s just like me. Caught up in my own life. Seeing my life with my natural eyes. Praying and waiting on what you are about to do. Not knowing what’s around the corner. Not living with the expectation that you are at work. 

But, when my eyes are focused on the One that does know what is around the corner, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I can remember my place.  When my situation doesn’t change, or my trial is just beginning, or all seems dark, I can remember He sees around the corner. He knows the miracle coming.

Sunday is coming, complete with it’s life-giving resurrection.

Are you waiting? Are you stuck? Is your humanity getting in the way of what God is doing through you?

I think the disciples may have responded differently in the days leading up to Jesus’ death had they known what He knew. We can learn from them. We can stop our useless disagreements, our rejecting the truth, and our sleeping.

Now is the time! Lift your eyes. Lift your eyes from your circumstances. Lift your eyes from your pain.

Lift your eyes to your Creator. Lift your eyes to the One who loves you, the One who knows, the One who heals, the powerful One.

Lift your eyes to Jesus and know He sees what’s around the corner. 

corner steps

 

 

To Be Counted Among the Immovable

Will I let the moods of others dictate how I feel and act today?

This has been my guiding question over the last couple of weeks.

How does it work, to not be moved? Do I plaster a smile on my face? Go about my day as if nothing is happening around me? Humming peaceful songs under my breath as chaos erupts around me?

To not be moved. Not to be swayed. Not to fall away. Not to change course.

To accomplish that kind of stability, will I need to just have my head in the clouds, oblivious to what is happening around me?

No.

When I think about Jesus, that’s not what I imagine and that is not what I read in the pages of scripture.

He was real. He wasn’t floating around like a hovering angel, above the pain, needs and dysfunction around Him.

He saw the pain, the hurt, the need, and nothing kept Him from doing the will of the Father.

When people lacked belief. When people rejected Him. When people flogged and beat Him down. He didn’t stop doing the Father’s will. He continued in the trial set before Him. And, He continued to love those around Him. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

His purpose didn’t change based on the actions, feelings, or behavior of those around Him.

He was not moved.

Jesus’ command to me and to you in John 13:34, is to love one another. Although I search for a footnote explaining the times when I am not required to love, it is not found. I am to love. I am to love and not to be moved to do otherwise.

No matter how those around me are behaving. Rejecting my words. Arguing. Acting in an unpleasant manner.

The call to love remains.

When Paul was about to face certain danger by traveling to Jerusalem, he told of his immovability. He would not be moved or led away from the calling Jesus placed on his life.

But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. Acts 20:24.

Oh, to be counted among the immovable. The saints in the Bible who remained firm in their call to love. Remained firm in their call to share the gospel. Remained firm in their devotion to Christ at all times.

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer…Psalm 18:2

Today, I will not be moved.

I will not be moved by the behavior of those around me.

I will not be shaken.

I will not waiver from the path the Lord has for me.

I will not turn from love.

Today, I am not moved.

Not because of my strength.

Not because of my righteousness.

Today, I am not moved.

I am not moved because of His abundant love living in me.

I am not moved because of His unchanging ways.

I am not moved because of His Spirit powerfully filling me.tree

Waiting On Spring

In my home state of Washington, we have been waiting. We have endured more snow, rain, clouds, cold, gray, yuck than usual for our Pacific Northwest winter. We have been waiting for the change in season. Waiting for colors to reappear. Waiting to feel the sun warm our bodies. Waiting for more time in the fresh, warm outdoors. Waiting for freedom from our cozy couches covered with blankets.

All through this lengthy winter, the plants, shrubs, and trees have held life. My hydrangea plant held the dried brown leaves throughout most of the winter, until I finally pruned them off. But, even on the cold, damp days, when the old dead leaves barely hung on the branches, new life was surging deep within the plant.

Abundant life, just as Jesus promises to us.  John 10:10 says, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. 

Abundance. Extremely plentiful. Oversufficient quantity or supply. Overflowing fullness.

A blogger I follow, Wilderness Joy, wrote the most beautiful words about abundance,

As we notice the way nature abounds with God’s goodness,
and overflows with the wealth of His provision,
we are reminded that He is working in us to bring about
the abundant fruits of His tender planting.

Recently I came across an old journal of mine from 6 years ago. I began reading it, eager for encouragement. The Lord has brought me so far in 6 years, surely I’d see evidence of growth.  As I began reading, my eagerness quickly faded. My eyes fell on words that could have been written yesterday, “Lord, fill my mouth with Your words. Help me to love my family the way you love.”

Oh, Lord, you have brought me through so much. My dependence on you, my faith in you, and my love for you is so much deeper than it was 6 years ago. How can my prayers be the same? For 6 years, my prayers regarding my words and my heart have been the same. 

Closing my eyes and focusing my heart on the Lord, I begin to think about the budding plants from my walk that morning. They hold abundant life from the Creator all during the biting storms of winter. There is no evidence of the abundance contained inside, but any scientist or gardener knows it is there.

During the 6 years that passed since I wrote in that old journal, many trials and triumphs have come.  Growth, pruning, and dying off have taken place. New ways have taken root, while old patterns have died off. Many stretches have gone by that look like winter. No evidence of any growth, change, or beauty. Downright discouragement and defeat have shown themselves.  But, the Creator was still and is still at work.

When I don’t see evidence of spring coming, it doesn’t mean it’s not coming. The growth is happening, where I cannot see it. Just because I cannot see or feel something doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Just like the changing of the seasons, one day the new life, the new growth, just springs forth. A bright flower or a fresh leaf will open up and the evidence of what was happening all during the winter is now visible to all.

Although many of my prayers are still the same as they were 6 years ago, I imagine and actually hope some of them will always remain the same. I pray I always have the desire to speak and love the way Jesus did.

Thumbing through the old journal a little more, I see it. “Lord, please help me to live like you are near. “

I can remember the desperation. The distance. The discouragement. My desire to be closer to the Lord was there. I was right to be praying for it. But, I wasn’t experiencing it. I continued in the dark of winter. Putting one step in front of the other. Never fully turning my back, but not experiencing the beauty of growth.

That’s what I was longing to see in the journal. I longed to see evidence of how far the Lord has brought me. Yes, I am aware of the distance left to travel, but so incredibly grateful for the growth and beauty the Lord has created through the trials. The fruit is now there. The close relationship I desired is now there. The dependence I longed for. The trust I needed. It’s springing forth and giving beauty to my soul.

Dear one, is it dark where you are? Hopeless? Are you growing impatient as you wait for renewal? 

As you look for signs for change, dear one, do not lose heart. 

Take hold of these promises from God:

  • And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9
  • And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
  • Do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Hebrews 6:12 

The Lord is with you. The abundance you seek is within you. It may not be visible, but spring is coming, dear one. Just hold on to the One who will never fail you. 

Father, thank you for your promises. Thank you for the budding growth you promise in your time. Thank you for never leaving us or forsaking us. Thank you for lovingly carrying us through the winter. Amen.

Finding Unity in the Trials

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4: 30-32

 

In Raising Your Spirited Child, author Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, writes, “Throw out messages that divide you such as, she’s manipulating me, she’s testing me, she’s being defiant, she’s out of control.” 

I am guilty of listening to and focusing on my inner voice say these types of statements whenever my children are acting out.

Kurcinka discusses the importance of not pitting yourselves against each other in your mind. Act as a team. The divisive self-talk, criticizing my children in my mind causes bitterness. The underlying root of this negativity is bitterness.

This behavior, my acting out this negativity,  is grieving the Holy Spirit.

When I look at my child, listen to my child with the intent to listen, understand and sympathize, then I am acting as Christ does toward me with kindness, a tender heart and forgiveness. No longer am I grieving the Spirit, but rather I am teaming with the Spirit. The Spirit as the lead and me following. I am also teaming with my child, not working against her or viewing us as working against each other. We are partnering.

unity

With this renewed mind, I am filled with peace. No longer does my child’s behavior or my behavior feel out of control. And since out of control equates to hopeless, no longer does our situation feel hopeless.

No longer do I view our parent/child interactions as being apart from God.

I see His hand in our interactions.

I see Him allowing trials for our benefit.

The heightened emotions, the lacking skills, the quick outbursts, the rapidly shifting moods, the intensity, the exact temperament of my children…all part of God’s purpose and design to refine me.

Whether your children are adopted, as mine are, or they entered your family naturally, the Lord placed them there. His plan was for you to be their parent and them to be your child. You may experience a great mismatch in temperament, personality, style, and habits, but unity comes when we stop grieving the Spirit.

Oh, Lord, forgive me for my bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking. Forgive me for grieving your Spirit. Thank you for your kindness, tender heart, and forgiveness. Lord, continue to soften our hearts to the refinement that comes from the trials you allow. Please bring refinement so we can better love one another, the way you love us. Amen.

color class pic