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Snowmen ShrineSeen above is a picture of my shame…   It’s the third week of March and my snowmen are still up! I meant to take them down by Valentine’s Day!

Working Moms, HOW IN THE WORLD DO YOU DO IT?

It’s my third year of being back out there in the working world, and I still can’t figure it out! I used to work from home with stay-at-home-mom activities and responsibilities, homeschooling, church work, and other things that kept my days pretty full of craziness.

Now that I’m working a paid job, nothing else has really slowed down… There are still dishes & laundry & bathrooms to clean, along with a million other chores… The kids still have sports activities on nights and weekends… There are still church events & activities & services & small groups to teach… You get the picture!

How in the world DO YOU DO IT? How do you keep your house clean? How do you keep your sanity when running in different directions all the time? How do you get a little space in your life for alone time? How do you relax? How do you get up in the morning and start all over again?

For me, I haven’t figured it out yet! My house seems like it is always messy, my snowmen are still up in March, I have like 15 loads of laundry piling up and can never seem to put a dent in it! I dread Mondays (which never happened before) because I have to get into the office and my weekend is gone.

I used to be so organized… I used to have a little time to myself occasionally… I used to be baking & helping my kids create amazing school projects… I used to have extensive chore lists for the kids printed nicely from the computer with stickers and everything… I used to grocery shop every week…

Now I’m, well, let’s just say… None of those things! Except maybe helping with the school projects, we always make time for that, right?!

OH DEAR, I gotta go bring my son to work now… Did I mention I’m teaching him how to drive?  YIKES!

No Stones Here

This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all. – 1 Timothy 1:15

 
I may not be the worst, but I’m no saint! Although, sometimes my guilt and shame gets to me and I feel like the worst of sinners. I make mistakes on a daily basis and have enough issues to fill a house full of magazines, but thank you, God, I’m changing every day.
There are hundreds of examples in the Bible of how Christ treats sinners, but one BEAUTIFUL story stands out this morning, the woman tossed on the ground in front of Jesus, ready to be condemned to death for her sin.

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The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” — John 8:3b-5

 
As they forced her to stand before a large group of holy men what must she have felt? (These are things that always run through my mind when I read the Bible.) Embarrassment over being “caught in the act”? Shame over what she had done to violate the marriage? Fear that she was about to die painfully? Disgrace over having brought dishonor to her loved ones and deep sorrow that she would never see them again? Repentence or Rebelliousness? Feelings of unworthiness for anything but death? Unforgiveness? Unloved – hated by those who shouted her sin for all to hear?

 
How awful it is to have your sin out there for everyone to see! To have people judging you and pointing fingers in anger, ready to condemn you to death. My heart is heavy for anyone who has ever been in a situation like this; it is a lonely place to be! You or I may not have the exact sin as this woman, but if your sin has ever been out in the open, you KNOW what it is like to go through this incredible pain. We may not be in fear for our lives as she was, but sometimes it might feel that way… like we can’t go on… the sense of lonesomeness… like no one understands… the hopelessness.

 
They were using this as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. — John 8:6b-9

 
The worst part of being brought before all of the holier-than-thou Pharisees was surely being used as a human trap on display before Jesus! How humiliating! There was probably not a person for miles of cities around who didn’t know of Jesus and how amazing this “Rabbi” was, who went around teaching the law with more authority than anyone had ever heard, working miracles of which no one had ever seen! Yet here she is, in front of the most famous, holy man of her time, covered in shame and wretchedness. I can imagine the sickening feeling in her gut over what HE must think of her. What would happen? But then HE DEFENDS HER! What???

 
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin. — John:10b-11

 
This is amazing grace! I know sometimes people like to point out that Jesus tells her to go and leave her life of sin, but that’s another story. Anyway, it’s not our job to follow up with people to make sure they leave a particular sin behind. Some people might always struggle with certain things, who are we to judge? Did Jesus follow her around after to make sure she behaved herself? I think she reacted to His unconditional love and forgiveness with a changed heart and a changed life, but who knows?

 
My point is this: I will never be the one to cast the first stone, the last stone, or any stone in between! I am not perfect, and am certainly not without sin!

 
I have a lot of regrets in my life, some of them from years ago, and some of them from yesterday. There are more times than I can count when I wish I could be like Marty McFly in Back to the Future and go back and change the past somehow. Unfortunately I can’t, none of us can. I CAN be grateful for forgiveness, and for Jesus, who “wrote in the sand” for me.

 

I won’t be pointing any fingers at anyone else, because I’m a rotten scoundrel myself! I definitely live under the constant scrutiny of others, subject to a lot of judgment, criticism, and sometimes the condemnation of people, but I know of One who doesn’t condemn me. Thank you, God!

Others

KidsIt’s been A LOOOONG time since posting a public blog. Truth is, ever since starting this outside job about a year and a half ago I’ve felt pretty overwhelmed and short on time. That’s NO EXCUSE.
A scripture today hit me between the eyes and I wanted to share…

 
For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

 
That was what I texted to my kids this morning as they went off to school, with these words for them to think on:

 
“Hey guys, I can’t even begin to imagine how life would be if we thought about others as much as we think about ourselves! We don’t even realize we are doing it, but all day long our world revolves around the self-focused thoughts taking place in our heads. What kind of impact do u think we could have if we spent even half that time thinking about what we could do for OTHERS?”

 
As I slowly punched in those words with my thumbs (not winning any cash prizes with my pathetic texting abilities), I did it knowing that I WAS GUILTY of this as much as, or more than, just about anyone!

 
I get so caught up in frustrations or pity parties or feeling overwhelmed or busyness or… the list goes on, that I become too self-focused to see what’s going on in others around me. How is that loving my neighbor?

 
When I looked at this scripture closely I realized something! A lot of times we are self deprecating, with a negative outlook about ourselves. We are so hard on ourselves, picking apart our flaws with every chance we get! If you ask many of us if we love ourselves, we would say, “No!”

 
In actuality we think about ourselves more often than anyone else and protect ourselves more than anyone else, even to the extent of building walls up or hardening our hearts against pain when we are afraid of being emotionally hurt. Isn’t this a subconscious love that we have for ourselves? One that surpasses any effort that is put forth for anyone else on the planet? Even when you fall in love with someone or have that first crush and spend every waking moment thinking of them, it all comes back to how they make YOU feel, which, of course, all comes back to YOU.

 
I only say all of that to circle back around to the scripture and those words I sent in the text to my kids this morning. Loving someone as much as “yourself” is a crazy concept! Can it be done? What if we really DID make an effort to think of others as much as we thought of ourselves?  What do you think?

CHEX SCHOOL FUEL

¼ C packed brown sugarChex SF

3 Tblsp. Light Corn Syrup

6 Tblsp.  Butter

¼ tsp. baking soda

4 C Corn Chex cereal

4 C Rice Chex cereal

¼ C semisweet choc chips

¼ C white choc chips

 

Microwave:

Microwave brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in large microwavable bowl uncovered on high for 1 minute.  Stir and microwave for 1 more minute, or until butter is completely melted.  Mix in baking soda until dissolved.  Stir in cereals.  Microwave on high 3 minutes, stirring every minute.

 

Oven & Stove (for larger quantities – I use this when I triple the recipe):

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Heat sugar, butter, and corn syrup on the stove in small pot until butter is completely melted.  Mix in baking soda until dissolved.  Put cereals in a large, deep pan (I use the industrial-sized foil pans).  Pour sugar sauce over the cereals evenly and stir.  Place in oven for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

 

Both:

Once sugar sauce is evenly distributed throughout cereals, spread the mix out on wax paper or cookie sheets and let cool for 10 minutes.  Break into bite-sized pieces.  Microwave chocolates separately and drizzle separately over the top (I sometimes add a tsp of oil or butter to make the chocolate mixes smoother).  To make the chocolate lines, dip a knife in the chocolate and wave over the mix.  Allow to chocolate to harden in fridge for 30 minutes or on the table for about 1 ½ hours. 

Merengue Kisses1/4 C + 1/2 C superfine sugar

1 1/2 Tblsp. cornstarch

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

 

   1. Preheat oven to 225. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper, or use reusable nonstick cookie sheet liner. Place a 3/8 inch-wide star tip into 12-inch pastry bag. (If you don’t have pastry bag and star tip, don’t worry! You can drop little mounds of meringue with a measuring tablespoon–they won’t look as pretty as the piped ones, but they’ll taste just as good.)

 

   2. In small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar with cornstarch and reserve. In medium bowl, with electronic mixer on high speed, beat together egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Reduce mixer speed to medium and gradually beat in reserved sugar-cornstarch mixture until incorporated. Add vanilla and almond extracts. Increase mixer speed to high and beat 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl several times, until stiff and glossy peaks form. If using pastry bag fill with mixture.

 

   3. Onto prepared baking sheet, pipe kisses, spacing 1/2 inch apart. Or drop mixture by rounded tablespoonfuls.

 

   4. For crisp meringues, bake in 225 degrees oven until firm to the touch and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours, turning baking sheet once from front to back halfway through baking. For chewier meringues, bake about 1 1/4 hours, rotating sheet once halfway through baking. Cool meringues slightly on baking sheet on wire rack.  Transfer meringues to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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NOTE:  You can make a variety of flavors.  Instead of vanilla almond, add:

            ORANGE KISSES:   1 tsp. orange extract & 12 drops orange food coloring

            STRAWBERRY:        1 ½ tsp. strawberry extract & 12 drops red food coloring

            MINT KISSES:        ½ tsp. mint extract & 12 drops green food coloring

COCOA KISSES:     1 ½ tsp chocolate extract.  After beating egg white mixture, sift 2 Tblsp. Unsweetened cocoa powder over mixture and fold it gently in until thoroughly blended.  Bake as directed.

Forgiveness“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27-28 (NIV)

What?!?! No way!!! Is this even possible???

It is possible. I speak from experience. It is truly the hardest choice you will ever have to make… to forgive someone… even when everything within you screams for vengeance. You would rather see them suffer than forgive them. You would rather see them get what’s coming to them than forgive them. You would rather crawl across a floor of broken glass than forgive them. Am I being dramatic? Maybe. I just know what it’s like to be hurt so badly that the last thing I wanted to do is forgive.

Yet, God says this:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.Matthew 6:14

How can you argue with that? I know I need to be forgiven… often. So, how can I not forgive others?

Here are three things to keep in mind:

1. Notice it doesn’t say anything about them ASKING for forgiveness. It doesn’t say that they are sorry or repentant. We have to forgive, even if the person could not care less about who they have hurt or about what they have done.

2. It also doesn’t say anything about whether or not they DESERVE forgiveness. No matter what kind of low-life slimeball they are, forgive them!

3. The fact that they have sinned against you isn’t in question, your reaction to their sin is what matters. Forgiveness isn’t giving them a free pass for what they have done, that is between them & their maker. It’s not saying that what they did was okay, because it wasn’t! It was SIN and it hurt you! Forgiveness is for YOU’RE healing.

Forgiveness is an easy word to throw around, but a hard action to follow through with. It allows you to move on with your life and grow as a Christian. Unforgiveness imprisons you in your pain. It causes physical, emotional, and spiritual sickness. Why live in misery when forgiveness can set you free?!

As parents we struggle with this as well. The worst kind of pain comes when someone tries to hurt or slander one of our children. We go into Papa Bear, Mama Bear mode and want to tear them to pieces! This is not God’s way though. We know that we also must choose to forgive. I can’t even begin to explain how difficult that is! Yet, it is so liberating.

Wallowing in unforgiveness is like this huge, heavy cloud that looms over you. It weighs you down, affects your thinking, and causes deep despair. Don’t ever allow this to take over your life!

What’s the first step in forgiving someone? Pray for them! What?! That’s crazy! Yes, it is. In our natural being we don’t want to pray for them or bless those who have cursed us, but that’s what God wants. God knows that this will free us from the hatred that could destroy us.

There’s this song by Matthew West that gets me in the gut every time I hear it. It perfectly describes the subject of forgiveness:

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness,
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Do you want to hear something amazing? I wrote this devo to help me conquer the pain of unforgiveness. While I sat here typing, the song by Chris August, 7×70 came on the DirecTv radio station I’m listening to. It also talks about forgiveness. Look up the lyrics to that one too. God is speaking… He is saying that it’s time to forgive.

INTERACTION:

1. Parent: What advice can you give about forgiveness? How does it help?

2. Teen: I know it seems impossible, but you have to forgive. Close your eyes and think of someone who has hurt you. Now say, “I forgive them.” If that is not an issue in your life right now, remember this devo for the future.

PARENTS:

Here are some additional scriptures for you & your teen to look up & discuss throughout the rest of the week: Luke 6:36-37; Matthew 5:7; James 3:13; Mark 11:25; 2 Corinthians 2:10-11; Luke 11:4

That Pesky Rooster!!!

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! – John 13 (NIV)

 

Have you ever heard a rooster crow in the morning? Did it wake you up? Did you want to go out and choke it and serve it for dinner that night?

The fact is, not many of us live on a farm these days or have chickens & a rooster in our back yard. Remember, these were Bible times though, and for those that walked the earth at that time it was a daily occurrence! Chickens, roosters, livestock, and other animals roamed the streets along with them.

 

As you probably know… Jesus’ prediction was accurate. Peter denied the Lord three times…

 

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept. Mark 14:72 (NIV)

 

Now back to what we talked about earlier with the rooster… How do you think Peter felt every time he heard a rooster crow after that day? Did he think only of his failure? Did the pain of regret stab him in the gut every time he heard the sound? I’m sure wherever he went there was always a rooster around to wake him up in the morning and he had to live with that constant reminder.

 

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever done something that you wish you could change, and there are things that you hear or see that remind you of it? I know I have, many times. It hurts, doesn’t it?

 

Yet Jesus knew this about Peter and loved him and chose him anyway. Here’s a section from my journal many years ago… (I’m about to get real personal…)

 

But even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace. Then it pleased him to reveal his Son to me so that I would proclaim the Good News about Jesus to the Gentiles… — Galatians 1:15-16a (NLT)

Paul, in the preceding verses, was talking about his conversion. This included his improper past, in which he channeled all of his religious superiority into persecuting Christians.

After reading this, when I read verse 15 it was like a soothing ointment of healing to an old, forgotten wound. You mean God chose me and called me, “even before I was born.”?!?! That means He knew the twists and turns my life would take, the unfaithfulness of my heart after knowing Him as a child, the dark road of sin I would take, and the enlightened path of my footsteps when I would run back to him. He knew my deepest, darkest secrets even before they happened.

He knew my struggles, doubts, fears, and problems as His child. ALL OF THIS He knew, and I wasn’t even born! Yet He still chose me and called me. I don’t need to live in a place of guilt and shame… I no longer should dwell on all of the old hurts of my life and need to move forward in forgiveness and maturity… I can’t let anger or unhappiness rule my heart because I don’t like my life or who I am or where I come from.

I should REJOICE, like Paul, that He “picked me” even before I was born! It was like God said, “This one is mine and one day she will actually realize it. I know her life will be imperfect, but that’s ok because that’s what will make her and shape her into the person she becomes. Once I capture her heart, she will truly be mine forever.”

God doesn’t look at our past and see us as broken and unusable. With loving hands, He forms us in our mother’s womb and sees OUR FUTURE and what we will become. How awesome is that?!

 

Even though I wrote that many years ago, I still need to remind myself of it when facing new mistakes, new struggles, and things in my life I’m not happy or proud of.

 

Peter had to move on from his past and realize that God had made him into a person who would accomplish many amazing things. We also need to get past our past and see ourselves through God’s eyes instead of through our own eyes which may only see our failures. Remember, God already knew who you were before you were born and loves you anyway.

 

A good friend recently told me to get alone with God and ask Him how he sees me… not how I see myself or how others see me… how HE sees me. It took a few days of prayer every morning and night, but the answer finally came – and it was THE OPPOSITE of anything I would have ever thought or imagined! Now I have to keep reminding myself of those words. Ask God this week to show you how HE sees you.

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