“Mommy, this is EARTH…”

I was standing in the bathroom, attempting to apply eye liner, as my little girl sat at my feet on the bathroom floor. Like usual, we were shootin’ the breeze and rackin’ up our word counts for the day. FYI: Did you know that a study was done on the differences between male and female communication, and they found that women (on average) have a 20,000 word count each day as opposed to men who have a 7,000 word count??? Ummm…duh! Did we REALLY need to conduct a research study to learn this?!?!

I digress, but hey…maybe I’m running behind on my word count average today. (Wink)

Anyway, we were talkin’ about why mommy chooses to apply brown dust to her face, and why I like to paint lines on my eye lids, and when she will be old enough to use lotions in pink containers and perfume in glass bottles and before I knew it, the conversation swam to the deep-end.

Truly, I have no clue how we got there, but we did. Within seconds, I found myself lamenting over the sadness and grief I was feeling related to a particular situation in our lives.

My little girl sat and listened, listened and sat.

When I turned to make sure my captivated audience of one was still listening (she was), she looked up at me with wide eyes and said in a matter-of-fact spirit, “Mommy, this is earth. It’s not heaven. It’s going to be sad here.”

Sitting cross-legged on the floor with sparkled leggings and a patterned tunic, she waited for my response.

To be honest, I was a little blown away by her theologically-sound response…by her wise assessment…and by her condensed summary of the words she was hearing pour forth from my heart.

“Evie Rae, you are right. You are SO right. This IS earth.”

Sensing that she had said something wise, she continued.

“Yeah, Mommy. And we can’t expect to be happy here all the time because that only happens when you live with Jesus.”

Folks, tears and eye liner are like toothpaste and Oreos; they don’t mix so well.

Her words created both a sting and a balm.

As I finished getting ready, I kept mulling over her simple and profound words. And today, almost a week later, I am still mulling.

Isn’t that just the hard-fast Truth???

THIS IS EARTH. 

And because it’s Earth and because we don’t live with Jesus…

Pain is present and hurt is real.

Relationships are broken and communication is flawed.

Sadness exists and bitterness grows.

Abuse happens and neglect is here.

Families break and death occurs.

Truth is refused and fears are alive.

Doubt persists and divisions threaten.

Grief is everywhere and loss is commonplace.

Tears fall and anger flows.

Weariness abounds and sickness is near.

Friendships are hard and work exhausts.

Forgiveness is painful and humility is hard.

Marriage is effort and kids are exhausting.

Journeys are scary and waiting is long.

Yes. THIS is NOT heaven. 

And when we lose sight of this, we lose sight of the hopeful Truth found in 2 Corinthians 4:17.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

Or as the Message version translates it…

These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. 

Friends, as we wait for His glorious return and/or for the deliverance of our bodies, may we remember that though this imperfect Earth is not our home, heaven is coming! And my oh my, is it going to be an eternal glory of “big potatoes!”

For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)

 Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. 1 Peter 2:11 (MSG)

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“Daddy, Please Take It Off”

We were getting ready for bed–bath, jammies, and packing lunches–when my little girl walked into the kitchen and asked, “Mommy, God is the most important, right?”

Laying down my PB&J knife I turned to her and said, “Yes. Yes He is. Why do you ask?”

Immediately, she came again with another question. “He’s more important than my tattoo, right?”

Looking at the sparkly rose that rested on her arm (the one that Belle gave her at the Princess Ball this weekend), I responded and said, “Yes, Evie. He is. Why do you ask?”

To be entirely honest, I had ZERO clue where this was headed.

“Mommy, I’ve been focusing on my tattoo all day. I have been making it the most important.”

I was floored. Truly, I had no clue that her heart had been so focused on it…no idea that her gaze had been so fixed.

Kneeling on the floor, I took her in my arms and simply said, “Evie Rae, I love that your heart knows what is most important. I can see Jesus working in you.”

She smiled; I pushed back some tears at the edges of my eyes; and we continued on with bath time.

As I finished making a bed time bottle and scooped some ice cream for a bed time snack, I heard her words in the bathroom.

“Daddy, please take it off.”

Immediately, I knew she was speaking of the tattoo.

“Oh it’s okay, Evie. You can just keep your arm above water. We don’t have to wash it off. Let’s try and keep it,” was her daddy’s response.

I walked to the bathroom because I could hear emotion in her voice.

“No, daddy. Please take it off. I don’t want to focus on it so much.”

Locking eyes with her daddy, I simply said, “Babe, she wants it off. She doesn’t want it to be the focus of her attention. I think we should let her take it off.”

In agreement, he grabbed the washcloth and began to take off the sparkly rose that lined her little arm. As I left the bathroom, I just wept.

Our girl knew her heart. She knew where her gaze had gone, and she was bothered by her preoccupation. In her fear of the tattoo coming off, she had spent the day focusing on it. In her Spirit-filled, soon-to-be-five-year-old heart, she knew that she was being consumed by the sparkle…making it the “most important.”

And what was her response?

She wanted to remove it.

She wanted it gone.

She wanted freedom from the fixation.

And as I thought through the wisdom and maturity in her response, I was humbled.

It wasn’t the tattoo that was bad; it was her preoccupation with it. 

Oh, how her mama relates!

TOO many times, I get focused on the “sparkles” of life. TOO often, I get fixated on the “temporary tattoos” of life. TOO frequently, I give up my freedom and find myself consumed by the things that threaten to shackle me to this earth.

Approval. Appearance. Competency.

My time. My work. My leisure.

This. That. Them.

And on and on it goes.

And do you know what I don’t always do that our daughter did tonight?

I don’t scrub them off. 

Instead, I justify them…rationalize them…cozy up with them…compromise with them…and refuse to believe that sometimes the “pretty and good” can become idols of my heart and statues in my soul.

Not often enough do I turn to my heavenly Father and humble ask, “Daddy, would you please take them off?” 

How quick He would be to help His children to tear down the things we have shackled our hearts to! How committed He would be to help us take off the things we have bent our knees in worship to! How faithful He would be to help us with the things that hinder our WORSHIP, distract our DEVOTION, and preoccupy our PRAISE!

Friends, He is a jealous God who wants ALL of our gaze, and He wants ALL of us because we are ALL of His.

His glory demands it; His holiness deserves it; and His love drives it.

For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. Exodus 34:14

I don’t know what glitters with gold on the “arm of your life,” but here’s what I do know…

God is ready to help us break the chains; He is eager to tear down the walls; and He is able to scrub off the things that defile our worship and threaten our souls.  

Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron. Psalm 107:13-16

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Mama and the Back-Burner, Egg Days

“I think we are going to have to reschedule. She’s just not feeling well.”

The text was followed with some sad emoji’s, a brief lament over the need to cancel, and a promised date to reschedule.

She was sad; I was sad, and I could feel it through the phone.

With the hustle of the holidays, a heart surgery and hospital stay, school schedules, doctor appointments, and a myriad of other things [now including a child with constipation], we haven’t been able to connect for a period of time.

And though it’s hardly the end of the world (like not even a little), it still stinks.

Confined to her home…running on little sleep…with a sick kiddo…a new’ish baby…another kiddo in school for a mere 3 hours…and the promise of a snow storm that could keep her stuck and stir-crazy for a few more days, my mama-heart sunk as I thought about the disappointment she was probably feeling.

Standing in my kitchen, with a baby in my arms, I cooked my breakfast and prayed for her.

And as I looked down at the stove, I saw my egg whites cooking on the back burner, and I just cried.

If that isn’t the perfect picture to describe the messy-reality of being a mama, I don’t know what is!?!?!?!

Because being a mama is a WHOLE LOT like being a back-burner egg. 

You serve; you pour out; and you love.

You sacrifice; you lay down; and you love.

You share; you give up; and you love.

And then…you do it all again.

Day in and day out, you put the needs of others before your own.

Day in and day out, you lay aside your agenda and put down your desires.

Day in and day out, you take the backseat and the back burner to the needs of those you love and serve.

And though there is tremendous blessing in being a mama and incredible joy in loving those littles, sometimes it feels a whole lot like SACRIFICE. 

Because it is, friends. IT IS. 

Loving IS laying down; serving IS sacrificing; and doing it day in and day out, can be really, really hard.

So grabbing my keys, I headed to Trader Joe’s for a quick bouquet. Actually, I also came out with a bag of green beans, a jar of marinara sauce, and a package of red lentil pasta (because let’s be real, no one ever left TJ’s without something that looked and sounded good), but I had the flowers.

With a bunch of daisies, sunflowers, and eucalyptus nestled in my arm, I knocked on her down. And almost immediately, the tears came.

Words were shared; hugs were given; and Truth was spoken.

I don’t remember the exact words I shared, but I know I shared the essence of Matthew 16:24 and 1 Peter 4:13 because mama doesn’t remember the addresses of His word too well, and it ALL seemed appropriate and needed.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…But rejoice that you share in the sufferings of Christ.

Mamas, the truth is…we DO serve; we DO sacrifice; and we DO suffer. And the other Truth is…we get to follow in His footsteps as we lay down our “crowns” and pick up our “crosses.”

The way of motherhood is sacrificial love, and so is the cost of discipleship. 

He didn’t promise it would be easy; He didn’t promise it would be pain-free; BUT, He did promise that He would never, ever leave and that our reward would be secure in heaven for all of eternity to come (Hebrews 13:5 and James 1:12)!

Friends, I don’t know what cross He has asked you to bear (mama or not), but may I encourage you with the following:

No back-burner egg ever escaped His gaze or His grace. 

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Sidewalk CHURCH

Caden and Evie,

The roads are covered; the driveways are coated; and the grass is concealed by the beauty of the recent snowfall. Big mounds of white, fluffy flakes are everywhere, and it’s beautiful. Cold air, chimney smoke, frosted trees, and the sound of plows blanket the landscape of Kettering, Ohio.

And because all this beauty is hiding all the spaces where cars drive and people travel, church was canceled this morning.

So pulling out the griddle and heating up the water, we left our jammies and bed time hair and instead, poured coffee and made blueberry-filled pancakes. And while we took it slow and enjoyed the company of one another, we used the extra time to start learning your AWANA verses for the week.

As I opened your Sparkie’s book, Caden, I read the following:

“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes.” Romans 1:16

In order to complete this section of your book, you are required to not only memorize Romans 1:16, but you are also encouraged to share the gospel (found in the words of John 3:16) with two people outside of your home. And if I’m being honest with you, that feels like an overwhelming task for a little soul.

As we started to memorize your verse and talk through the two people you could share the gospel with, I felt angst in my soul. I felt torn. I felt weird. Truth be told, I felt completely conflicted asking you to do something that I, my 35 year-old self, sometimes feel “ashamed” to do.

I felt like a hypocrite, and I hated it. 

So taking a brief moment, I silently prayed for both of our hearts. I prayed for my hypocritical tendencies; I prayed for boldness for the both of us; and we moved on with our snowy Sunday.

Sometime between breakfast, lunch, and a playoff game, we secured our boots, grabbed our shovels, and headed out to the driveway to dig ourselves out of the thick, white blanket that was enclosing our cars.

As your daddy and I shoveled and as you guys jumped from snow bank to snow bank, I heard the “Hello” of Mr. Kevin, our next-door neighbor. Carrying a shovel in his hand, he came over and began shoveling alongside of us. And per usual, he launched into the “many problems of mankind.” As daddy cleaned off the porch and attended to the cars, I continued to shovel and smile as Mr. Kevin talked and talked.

“Ya know, Jessica. Mankind is the problem with this world. We aren’t nice to each other; we don’t respect one another; and we just demean one another. Christopher Columbus was an awful man; racism is a problem; and our government is a mess. I’m scared for your kids, Jessica. It’s an awful world, and we need good people like you guys in our society to help fix it.”

As I listened, the Spirit quickened my heart.

Jessica, tell him the Truth. Do not be ashamed. Share the gospel.  

Surprisingly, with very little fear, I stopped shoveling and said, “Ya know what, Kevin, I think you’re right in a lot of ways. Our world is a mess, and mankind is a problem, and I think God’s Word talks about all of that. From a biblical perspective, the sin of mankind is the problem and this world is a mess, but God gave us a rescue plan not in us…but in Him.”

He stopped shoveling; I stopped shoveling; and kids, we had CHURCH on the sidewalk. 

In front of our houses and beside the road, we talked about grace, and we talked about sin. We talked about the origin of sin, and we talked about our inability to be good enough to save ourselves. We talked about the reason why Jesus was crucified, and we talked about the ultimate solution for our government, mankind, and our world found. We talked about the Garden of Eden; we talked about the Creator of the world; and we talked about how Christ in us can bring glory to God while we wait for His return to eliminate sin and fix this world.

Kids, the Spirit empowered Mommy to share “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes,” and because of His empowerment, seeds were planted and soil was watered. Mr. Kevin didn’t have a personal response in that moment, but he didn’t walk away. Standing in piles of snow, he listened as I shared. And ya know what? That’s where it all begins.

As we said “goodbye” and as I dusted off my boots and headed into the house to find our “Build a Snowman” kit, I couldn’t help but praise the Lord in humble adoration. He knew my fear this morning; He heard my silent prayer; and He made a way for me to share His power.

And as I thought about the events of the morning, I was reminded of the importance of not just doing church but being the church. 

Kids, there is nothing wrong with meeting together on Sunday mornings. There is nothing wrong with gathering in pews, singing songs of worship, and hearing the Word of God preached in a building where we gather together at our respective times. In fact, there is so much RIGHT about all of that.

And yet, there is so much WRONG in all of that if we never bring our “church” outside of our buildings. There’s so much WRONG if we leave our faith for Sunday mornings and our grace for the confines of our pews. There’s so much WRONG if we leave the gospel in our safe gatherings and in the walls and halls where we worship as a corporate body. There’s so much WRONG if we prioritize “doing church” over “being the church.”

And guess what kids? I’ve been guilty of doing all of that and truth be told, you will too.

So today, on January 13th, 2019, I want you to remember that we carry His Spirit within us. And where we go, He goes. And where He is, “church” can happen. And when we “are the church,” we carry with us all the power that Romans 1:16 promises.

Kids, “being the church” looks like a whole lot of different things, but here’s what I can tell you…it begins with a relationship. And as that relationship grows, opportunities come. And when those opportunities come, by the grace and empowerment of God, we can share the GOOD NEWS that goes with us to ALL THE PLACES…which sometimes leads us right to the end of our driveways.  

We’ve taken leftovers to Mr. Kevin. We’ve shoveled his driveway. We’ve brought him cookies. We’ve picked him tomatoes. We’ve waved. We’ve told our story. We’ve borrowed his tools. We’ve asked him questions. We’ve let him mow our grass and pick our weeds. We’ve cut him flowers. We’ve talked countless hours about politics, books, foster care, investments, finance rates, and everything in between.

Kids, we’ve been building a relationship with Mr. Kevin for 3+ years–a relationship that has led him to the conclusion that we are “good people” who will “help fix society.” And when he openly affirmed this, we had the perfect opportunity to share with him the “WHY’S” of the “WHAT’S” we do.

And if you ask me, THAT is both doing and being the “CHURCH.”

So though there was no “church” this morning, I would submit there was…right on our sidewalk.

As I always tell you when leaving the house, “Be a light; be a blessing!” And today I’ll also ask, “Caden, Evie? Do you want build a snowman be the CHURCH?”

Love,

Mommy

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He KNOWS the NEW to Us

I’ve read it hundreds of times, maybe even thousands of times, but yesterday the 2×4 of Truth hit me afresh in the heart. I don’t know if the Lord has big plans to use Mary, the mother of God, to convict and challenge me each Christmas season (since He did it last year, as well), but suffice to say…He did it again, two years in a row.

“And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son…”

Did you catch that?

While they were THERE, the time came for her…

Now listen, if God could bring about a miraculous virgin birth, then I believe He was more than able to control the timing of those contractions.

He knew the time. He knew the journey. He knew the place.

HE KNEW. 

And not just an “Oh, I saw that coming” kind of way. NO. He pre-planned it. Like from the beginning of time, HE KNEW.

700 years before the birth of Christ, Micah prophesies and says in 5:2, “But you, O Bethlehem, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from days of old, from ancient days.”

God had big plans to use that little, unlikely town to fulfill His promise. BIG PLANS. And so because He chose Bethlehem as the birthing spot, He knew it.

But what about Mary???

I could be wrong (it will not be the first or last time), but I don’t believe the angels disclosed to Mary the location of the Savior’s birth. So unless she was familiar with the OT prophecies or unless the Lord notified her in a way that isn’t documented in Scripture, the location of her birthing place may have been a complete surprise to her.

So how did she feel when she was told that she had to load up, pack up, and head to Bethlehem? How did she feel when she knew that a 90 mile journey was ahead of her?  How did she feel about leaving the comforts of her home and hittin’ the road on a camel, a donkey, or on her swollen feet (Scripture doesn’t say how she traveled). How did she feel about taking that journey with a full uterus and a bulging belly?

Now clearly, I’m not Mary (NOPE. NOT SAYING THAT.) But can we just imagine for a second? Just ponder for a moment?

Isn’t it possible that Mary would have wanted to be in the cozy confines of her home, near family and friends, when she gave birth? Isn’t it possible that she was already “nesting” in preparation for her Savior-son to be born? Isn’t it entirely possible that she never, ever intended to give birth after a terribly long road trip that would require her to not only pay taxes, but then also give birth where an animal manger was present?

Again, I don’t know how she felt, and I have no clue what she was thinking. But whatever the case, she submitted her will to His and did exactly what she already committed to do in Luke 1:38 when she told the Angel of the Lord, “…I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

Even in the midst of her not knowing, she trusted that the WORD did. 

Again, maybe it wasn’t a struggle for Mary to pack up and head to Bethlehem with a baby in womb (I’ll ask her when I get to heaven), but it’s safe to say that none of her journey was expected or went as she had planned.

A virgin birth?

An angel?

A son that was HIS SON?

A Savior?

A son that would die for her and the rest of the world?

I scarcely believe ANY of that was “in her plan” when she fell in love with Joseph, the wood-working man born in Bethlehem.

Some of her first words found in Luke 1:34 are, “How will this be?”

So as I’m sitting at my dining room table yesterday morning, reading this passage with fresh eyes and a tender heart, I could feel the Lord stirring in the confines of my soul.

Jessica, I know it wasn’t in your plans to potentially be in the hospital on Christmas Day with a foster son recovering from open-heart surgery, but can you trust me that I KNOW? Can you rest in believing that I have a good and perfect plan that was known before you even breathed your first breath of air? Can you submit to the journey, trusting that I lead as an all-knowing Father? Can you trust that I KNEW even if you didn’t? 

Friends, I don’t know what “plans” you have and what “plans” you desire, but could I suggest for you what I’m suggesting for my own heart?

Trust that because He always KNEW, He always has a PLAN. 

And if He is a God who KNOWS ALL and has ALL THE PLANS, then we can rest in believing that He can provide ALL WE NEED to deal with ALL THE THINGS that He KNEW but that are new to us.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 

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2018: Presence and Joy, Jessica

As I sit here at the dining room table, with my Bible open before me (along with a journal and a couple of open, website tabs), my husband is plucking away at his guitar. Song after song, he sings and he plays. And as he plays, I read verse after verse.

The Christmas tree is lit; the house is still; a candle burns; and our hearts are tender.

As planned, our day began with a trip to the hospital. With bags packed and the kids secured at my parents, we drove to our second, pre-op testing appointment.

Blood work…check.

Chest X-Ray…check.

EKG…check.

Vitals…check.

Meeting with the surgery team…check.

Meeting with the Anesthesiologist…check.

“You are cleared for surgery! See you tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM!”

Those words were music to our ears.

After having waited another month for this new surgery date (since the first one was canceled due to a contracted cold just days before his surgery date), we were elated. Breathing a sigh of relief, we headed for a celebratory lunch before heading to our hotel for the night.

With a pep in our step and relief in our souls, we rejoiced in hearing this news. When we first met this sweet, 14 day-old, baby boy (March 19th, 2018 to be exact), we knew he would need this open-heart surgery. And oh what a journey we’ve experienced and oh, what a wait it’s been!

And then my phone rang at 1:43 PM.

I could scarcely understand her words.

What is she saying? I don’t understand.

I’m not sure why I kept blinking as she talked. Maybe if I blinked she’d change her words? Maybe it would all be a miscommunication? A silly mistake? An accidental misunderstanding?

Keep blinking, Jessica. Blink. Blink. Blink. 

But she said it again.

“I’m sorry, Jessica. We are going to need to reschedule his surgery again. There is another surgery that needs to happen tomorrow morning.”

Blink. Blink. Blink. 

“We can reschedule it for December 20th.”

Blink. Blink. Blink. What is she even saying? 

I was in absolute shock. And truth be told, I still am.

I won’t share all the details of the rest of the afternoon but suffice to say, it was a flurry and blur of calls, cancellations, and new confirmation dates.

And here we are.

Singing the songs, reading the verses.

Opening my Advent devotional, I began to read. And as I read, I came to the following words found in Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

Immediately, the tears surfaced.

Why?

Because last year, on December 28th, 2017, I wrote the following words after reflecting on the past year and preparing for the one ahead:

———————-

So as I head into this next year, I’m asking the Lord for two more words. And so far, I’m hearing this…

2018: Presence and Joy, Jessica. 

And though I have no clue what awaits me in 2018, especially connected to these two words, I am starting by praying the following:

  • Lord, help me to intentionally draw near to your presence, listening and being still.
  • Help me be actively work to be present in the presence of others without distraction and without hurry.
  • Help me deliberately look for and choose joy, especially in the mundane and hard moments of my days.
  • Help me to consciously be a “joy-spreader” to those around me–in both my words and actions.
  • And may you, Lord, “make known to me the path of life [because] in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

———————-

Did you catch that? Do you see that?

The verse I claimed in the last days of 2017 are the very words the Lord has brought me in the very last days of 2018. Sitting at this table with an ache in my heart and a pit in my gut, HIS PRESENCE DESCENDS.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

No words.

Silently, I started to reflect.

He was there in January when we said “goodbye” to our foster daughter of 8 months.

He was there in February when the grief was heavy and my LPCC exam was before me.

He was there in March when we said “hello” to a baby boy with a congenital heart defect.

He was there in April when we went to endless doctor appointments and countless specialists with our foster son.

He was there in May when we were told our foster son might have a form of Spina Bifida.

He was there in June when we struggled with some job stressors.

He was there in July when we were told our foster son might have a Genetic Syndrome and missing chromosomes.

He was there in August when we experienced significant feeding and weight gain issues with our foster son.

He was there in September when our oldest son accepted Christ and prayed for salvation.

He was there in October when we received the GOOD NEWS that our foster son was cleared of ALL genetic syndromes.

He was there in November when the first surgery was canceled and when our daughter repented and also prayed for salvation.

And He is STILL HERE.

Revealing His presence in December, He continues to show up, show off, and encourage in a way that ONLY He can and He could.

Emmanuel. God with us.

And though those are just the “biggies” that come to mind, He was there in a thousand other ways…some seen and some not.

Through the big and little…the scary and happy…the hard and lonely…the weary and good…the highs and lows…

EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF THIS YEAR, HIS PRESENCE WAS NEAR.

Friends, it’s been approximately 30,067,200 seconds.

I don’t know what the next 17 days of this year will hold, and I can’t guarantee that surgery will happen for our little guy in 2018, but here is what I do know…

He will not leave.

He will be near.

And in His presence, there is an eternal joy that cannot be stolen, squelched, or crushed.

Angels sing, praises ring to the newborn King
Peace on earth, here with us, joy awakening

At your feet we fall

Chris Tomlin, Adore

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Sniffin’ Flowers

I was in the kitchen, washing bottles, as I called over to the kitchen table, “Hey, Evie! Can you tell me your AWANA verse for this week?”

We had reviewed it several times, but I wasn’t sure if she would be able to recall it on her own. But in typical Evie-fashion, she flashed me a smile and said the words to Isaiah 53:6, “I sure do! All we like sheep have gone astray!”

“Good job!”

With hands in soapy water, I thought I’d go a bit further and ask her a follow up question.

“Evie, what does it mean to go astray?”

“Oh, that means that you go off and sniff the flowers even though you hear the Shepherd callin’ your name!”

I almost laughed out loud.

What in the world?!?! Where did she get such a notion?

And then I remembered the story from her Cubbie’s book.

In short, Luvie Lamb got lost because she was busy smelling the flowers in the pasture, so Katie Collie had to come rescue her because Luvie got lost. And then the book rehearsed the story found in Luke 15 where Jesus seeks His lone, lost sheep.

That was it.

However, there was no specific connection drawn between the fictional story of Luvie the lost lamb and the Truth found in Luke’s account of the lost lamb; Evie had drawn the connection.

And I laughed and marveled at the Truth of her words.

Yes, yes, and yes.

Sniffin’ flowers instead of followin’ the Shepherd is a PERFECT description of going “astray.” 

Isn’t that what those idols do to us? Isn’t that the temptation that draws us away? Isn’t that how we engage with the things of this world? Isn’t that exactly how the enemy works?

Just like those pretty flowers…

we are drawn to the fancy and flashy of fame;

we are led away by the lure and liveliness of love;

we are led away by the attractiveness and appeal of approval;

we are led away by the materialism and majesty of money;

we are led away by the thrill and twinkling of titles;

we are led away by the enchantment and ecstasy of ease;

we are led away by the convincing and comforting of control;

we are led away by the satisfaction and security of stuff;

and on and on it goes.

The truth is…those idols are “pretty” and sometimes they “smell” really, really good. 

So when the Shepherd is calling us away from the flashiness of fame and the liveliness of love and is inviting us into obedience, we don’t always want to follow.

When the Shepherd is calling us away from the appeal of approval and the majesty of money and is leading us into holiness, we don’t always want to follow.

When the Shepherd is calling us away from the thrill of titles and the ecstasy of ease and is drawing us into pruning and growth, we don’t always want to follow.

When the Shepherd is calling us away from the comforts of control and the security of stuff and is drawing us into the unknown and new, we don’t always want to follow.

Because yes, Evie, sometimes we would rather “sniff the flowers” than obey the Shepherd. 

Friends, I don’t know what God is calling you away from and leading you into, but could I gently encourage you to walk away from those pretty, smelling flowers and trust the Shepherd?

Remember, this Shepherd is the ONE…

who does battle with the enemy to protect His flock;

who knows the names and needs of His lambs;

who has led His sheep to green pastures and living waters;

who has carried and comforted His flock in His mighty arms;

who restores the hearts and guides the souls of His lambs; and

who willingly laid down His life in order to rescue the souls of His sheep.

Friends, this Shepherd is the SAVIOR. 

And this is the SAME Shepherd-Savior that has sought the scattered, cared for the perishing, healed the broken, sustained the weary, and left the 99 to find the 1.

He came to find YOU.

So though it’s tempting to frolic in the field and sniff the flowers (neglecting His call and dismissing His leading) may we remember that not a single one of those “flower-idols” ever lived, died, and rose again to rescue our Luvie-Lamb selves.

“For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, do not harden your hearts…” Psalm 95:7

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