Friday, November 2, 2012

You and I were made to worship...

I am a worship leader at church. Basically, what that means is that I lead the congregation in worship via music. What I have realized more than ever recently is that worship doesn't equal music and music doesn't equal worship. Music can be a form of worship to God, but it can just as likely not. And it's not just a matter of the state of our heart. I have been so aware lately of the words I use when worshipping Him. I think sometimes we think as long as we're singing something that sounds good to us, we're worshipping Him.

I wrote all that just to say--we were made to worship God, but much of the time, we worship him the way we want to worship Him and not necessarily the way He wants to be worshipped.

Worship is so much more than what we sing; it's how we live our lives.

Let me tell you a funny (or not so funny) story. So, we can honor God by giving financially, right? Well, before Michael left his job last month, his hours had been cut way down, so we didn't have much extra money. Well, I decided one month that as part of our giving, I would buy two huge packs of hot dog wieners for the church picnic. (Ok, go ahead and laugh while i cower down and blush) God later gently showed me that yes, that was nice, but it was not exactly His definition of giving. Also, slightly amusing (but not really) was the fact that God's original law forbade eating pork (and I'm sure also all the mixed nasty stuff that is in hot dogs). If you think about it, God gave the Israelites that law for their own good, considering that pigs are not the cleanest animals in the world and He was trying to keep them alive and healthy in the middle of the desert.

We like to take things and say, "Hey, God, I know You don't particularly like this, but I'm going to take it and turn it into worship towards You. You're going to bless it, right? You know I have good intentions." And He says, "Um, I'm not going to bless it when I know that You know better." It's not always just the thought that counts.

Oh, by the way, while I was writing this, God stepped ALL over my toes by showing me something that I do that is exactly like the above paragraph. *sigh* Our bodies are supposed to be temples of the Holy Spirit, but more often than I care to admit, I sit in front of a plateful of food that is terrible for me, whether I were to eat it in moderation or not. I bow my head and say, "God, bless this food to the nourishment of my body" and the whole time, in the back of my mind I'm thinking, 'I know this is bad for my body.'

If we're going to worship Him, we should worship Him the way He tells us to. We have to read His Word to find out how. Otherwise, we might be worshipping Him wrong and never know it. We have to put effort into this relationship.

And while worshipping God isn't just about our good intentions, it's not just about our outward acts, either. If we're doing the things God wants to do, but doing them out of obligation or pride, or anything but a pure heart, it's not really worship. I want to worship Him with my whole being!

Praise God for His mercy and grace, but also for the strength and wisdom to live our lives and to worship Him in the way He desires!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Weird Wednesday

I've been doing weird things around the house today--cleaning the inside of cabinets, scrubbing the inside of my washing machine, touching up paint in the kitchen, putting handles on a refurbished dresser. These are things that aren't seemingly vital to the working of our household, but for some reason I felt like I needed to do them today.

Honestly, I usually only do the obvious things when cleaning-- laundry, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, dusting surfaces, vacuuming, mopping. I make sure everything is clean and presentable, but I don't go seeking out dirt or extra little jobs that need to be done. I mean, if I can't see the dust on top of the ceiling fan, does it really matter?

As I was scrubbing and looking for the right sized screws, I thought about all the hang ups and dark corners we have in our hearts. When we lie or steal or murder or commit adultery, we know (hopefully) we've messed up. Those are obvious sins, obvious messes. We clean them up by asking forgiveness and doing whatever we have to do try to make things right. What about all those "little" sins that we never even think about asking forgiveness for--hatred toward someone, lust (without action) toward someone, putting things/other people in front of our relationship with God, and many other seemingly small things that other people may not even see or know about. Maybe we don't even know they're sins.

Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." God's Word illuminates our path. It shows us the way to go. In its light, we can see even the darkest corners of our heart and life, the cobwebs we didn't even realize were there. The more we read His Word, the brighter that light shines inside of us and the farther it reaches, because we learn Who He is and what pleases Him, what is sin, and how to praise Him. In the light of His Word, our sin is exposed for what it is. And when we are able to see it and know it for what it is, we can rid our life of it. Then, there is only light!

Scrubbing the inside of a washing machine seems kind of silly (to me), but if we want clean clothes, we should have a clean washing machine. Having no handles on our refurbished dresser hasn't messed up our life (it's been that way for 9 months), but without handles, we haven't been able to use the dresser.

God wants us to to have everything we need in order to function in the kingdom of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that Scripture is designed to make us complete and to fully equip us for the work of God. We need to be clean and we need to be functional in order to do God's work.

My prayer is that through reading His Word, I realize not only the "big" things He wants from me, but all the "small" things as well! Thank You, God, for showing me the Truth through everyday life!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Putting it into Practice...

As soon as you speak something out, the devil always tries to test you on it (Jesus never tempts us to sin-James 1:13). I'm tempted and tested everyday, but here's an example that just happened (literally, like, 5 minutes ago)

I was cooking some carrots on the stove and I heard something spill. I turned around and Kade had spilled his whole, entire drink on the table and floor. It was dripping from a puddle on the table to a puddle on the floor. I felt anger bubble up in the very pit of my stomach and then, something said, "Stop!" I stopped and in that moment, I heard a line from a song that was playing on the radio. It said, "The Enemy, he has to leave, at the sound of Your great name". The Enemy was the one who wanted that anger to bubble up and come spewing out--over a cup of tea! A ridiculous cup of tea that could easily be mopped up. I immediately felt all of that anger leave me. I went and got a towel and helped Kade clean it up. And you know what he said when he finished and handed me the towel? He said, "Mom, I love you", he hugged me, and that was that. Thank you, Jesus, for your patience and grace.

I'm glad that when I make messes, He's there to help me clean it up, cover it with His blood, and then forget it, forever. He doesn't look down, throw up His hands and say, "Are you kidding me?!? You made that mess again?!?" There's no mark left, not even a sticky residue (like the spot on my floor right now), nothing. Thank You for being so patient with me, God. Help me to make fewer messes! I love You!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oh, to be 3

Oh, to be 3!

So stylish!

So full of energy,

And spunk,

And sass!

At least we can say, he gets it all from his aunt.

Journey of Faith

When you ask Jesus into your heart at the ripe age of 3 and grow up in the church and in a good family with parents who love and serve God, sometimes you get lazy about developing your own relationship with God. Sometimes, you (or me) count on others to give you the Message and occasionally peek into the Word to read a paragraph or chapter and think, "Oh, how nice. I've heard that before." After awhile, honestly, you (or me) feel like you already know it all. There isn't a story or major concept you haven't heard. And then, something happens and you have to start searching yourself, either to prove or disprove or justify something that's happening in your life. And that's when the Word comes alive and becomes real to you.

I have been on a journey of faith in the last 10 months and I might be ready to share some about it. It has stretched me, scared me, and caused me to grow more than I ever could have imagined. When I read the Bible now, I devour it! I want to know exactly what God is saying to me through His Word. I'm not through and I don't have it all figured out, but I'm farther than I was.

Last fall, something happened to me that caused me to doubt. In a major way. I don't know if anyone understands the full extent to which this particular event caused me to doubt God and to doubt things that I had seen happening in the church all of my life, but it was very traumatizing to me. And if those things weren't real, was God even real? Was everyone lying or disillusioned? Your mind can quickly go down this path when just one, tiny seed of doubt is planted.

For awhile, I just stewed in those feelings. I was doubtful, I was discontent, and I was angry. I didn't want to not believe in God, but I wasn't sure what to believe either.

Then, this thought kept creeping into my head: "Maybe everything you've ever been taught is wrong. Maybe you've been serving Him wrong this whole time." I had listened to some messages and read some things that made me panic, thinking I had not pleased God for 27 years.

At the same time, I was hearing things from another source that were raising red flags in my spirit, because they were messages and ideas I'd never heard or seen in the Word. Satan was attacking me from all sides, causing me to doubt, making me confused. So, I started digging in the Word, going back and forth everywhere, trying to find what I did and did not believe, because frankly, at that point, I had no idea.

Suddenly, for the first time in my life I think, the Word became really alive to me. Things I had skimmed over and thought, 'Oh, how nice,' had profound meaning. I wanted to know more, understand more. I read and read and read and read and prayed. And read and prayed more.

And I learned something: most of what I have always known to be truth is truth. Jesus is still my Savior. He is still the Son of God. He died on the cross and rose again. He has given me salvation from my sins. He is coming again. God made me and loved me enough to send His only Son to die on the cross for me--Me, who was not a part of His original covenant, but who has been grafted in because of His love and mercy and the sacrifice of Jesus. I'm ready to shout right now! Such awesome, amazing things I've learned and read.

He has reminded me of some things and changed my perspective on some things: even though, Jesus obtained mercy for us through His blood and all we have to do is believe in Him to be saved, we should be so changed by His gift that we want to do everything in our power to make Him happy. He is a holy God and we should be a holy people. If we love Him, we should want to do everything in our power to please Him.

Another thing I've been learning from Him lately is that much of the time, we make our worship of Him all about us. We are so self centered that we sometimes turn our worship inward: how good can God make us feel, what new, exciting manifestation of the Holy Spirit can He give us, what blessings can He give us? We just want to sit forever and let Him do things for us, when we should worship Him FIRST and seek His face FIRST. Actively, not passively.

I have learned and am still learning so much more that I will share about later, but for the first time in my life, I'm so excited about reading the Word. Not reading the newest devotional or watching a preacher on TV and finding out secondhand, but just reading His Word and asking Him for wisdom and understanding. He'll give it if we ask.

Something I've been doing that has really helped me and been encouraging for me is that I took a notebook and divided it into a bunch of different topics: Loving God, obeying God, praising God, salvation, Holy Spirit, etc and as I'm reading the Bible, I write down Scriptures that fit under those categories. That way, I can go back and read them when I need them.

I started this blog after Kade was born when God was doing so many new things in my life. I've been through several seasons in life since then. Sometimes, our wells get low and sometimes, they even go dry, but He can always fill them back up again! Praise God, who is able to do much more than we could ever ask or think!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Who I want to be like....

Hello, old friends! I don't take the time to blog like I used to, but I need to do better. I just had something on my heart and wanted to share it.

First, this parenting two gig is hard! It is demanding and challenging and stretching. Thank you, God, that I have so much help from You and from my husband and all the wonderful people in our lives.

Second, I am not a perfect mother, nor do I claim to be, but I am striving to be who He wants me to be--and that's the important part, I think, that we not just twiddle our thumbs and abuse His grace, but that we really try and learn and grow every day.

So, last night, Kade bit someone at a friend's house. I should have known better than to even take him because he had not had a nap and that never bodes well for an evening in public. So, he immediately ran, knowing he was in Big Trouble. I caught him and carried him straight to the car, telling him that we were leaving. He was upset and screaming that he wanted to stay and play. Someone commented that I had more self control than they would have in that situation.

Here's the thing: I was angry. Unbelievably angry. I was angry at Kade for biting, angry that I had to leave somewhere I really wanted to be, angry at myself for putting a tired 3 year old in the situation. I could have screamed, spanked, berated, cried. What I did was to take him out of the situation (which was bad enough for him because he had to quit playing and leave), talk to him on the way home about biting, and move on. I was still seething inside when we got home, but I quickly prayed for love and grace, gave him a bath, and put him to bed.

I was still thinking about the situation this morning, and about parenting and discipline and how hard it all is. I want to raise godly, moral children. Though I could never be the perfect Parent that God is, I want to love and discipline my children the way He loves and disciplines me.

Let's take a look at Psalms 103:8-13:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserveor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;

Compassionate. Gracious. Slow to anger. Abounding in love. These are easy traits to have when our children are on their best behavior, but how many times do they fly out the window on the bad days? The days when the 2 year old colors on the wall and the 10 year is being stubborn and the 5 year old stomps all over the newly planted flowers. How many times do we fly off the handle? I've done it.

So much Christian parenting material I've seen is ALL about the rod of correction (in the physical sense). Frankly, some of it disgusts me. God corrects me when I sin, but he has never beat me with my sin or berated me over and over. He doesn't tempt me to sin. He doesn't keep a record of my sins; he doesn't even remember them. He is compassionate. In return, I want to please Him. I don't want to cross the line.

Sometimes, when we disobey God, there is pain involved--not pain He inflicts, but pain that comes as a result of our choices. Sometimes, when I tell Kade not to stand on the laundry basket or run in his Crocs, he falls and bumps himself. Sometimes, when he bites someone, we have to leave somewhere he would rather not leave. God doesn't point his finger, laugh, or say ,'I told you so' when we experience pain because of our choices. If we look up, He has His hand held out, ready to help us get up.

I pray I would be the same with my children. Correcting them with and because of love and not anger. While they're still very young and in my care, keeping them out of situations where they would be tempted to sin. Not overreacting, not reminding them of their sins again and again. Moving on and loving afterwards.

Sometimes it's hard. Much of the time, my flesh wants to reign. But I want to parent like Him.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I love my babies

As I sit here early(ish) on a Thursday morning, with one sleeping baby beside me on the couch and another one in my bed, I can't help but think, I love my babies.

I know I've said it before, but 5 years ago, I couldn't have even imagined this life. I couldn't have imagined holding a warm baby against my chest and breathing in the sweet scent of his soft, baby head. I couldn't have imagined having a natural birth--or a birth at all--or contemplating vaccination schedules or breastfeeding or potty training or any of the things that come along with having children.

But I'm so thankful. Thankful that I'm not the same person I was 5 years ago. Thankful for my two, sweet healthy boys. Thankful for my husband who works hard at his job so that I can stay home and do mine. Thankful for quiet mornings like this, when I can just sit for a few minutes and soak in the peace and quiet of our home before all the fun starts.

A baby must be one of the most tangible pieces of evidence on this earth of God's love. Every time I look at these two (and their daddy), I'm overwhelmed by His love for me.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another blessing

I'm now mom to two boys! Luke turned a week old yesterday and I'm just now getting the chance to blog about it. I thought I'd share my birth story because I'm really proud of it and maybe it will help someone out someday.

Everything that happened surrounding and on the day of Luke's birth was God ordained. When I was 37 weeks pregnant with Kade, I was put in the hospital with high blood pressure and basically induced, even though I was having some contractions. It wasn't a terrible experience at all (especially when you get a sweet baby out of the deal), but this time I wanted to do things differently. Some people probably thought I was crazy, but I really wanted to experience a natural birth. No epidural, no pitocin, no IV's. To do this, I needed to have my doctors on board, to have a negative GBS test, so that I wouldn't need IV antibiotics during labor, to have a baby in the right position, and to have a nice, normal blood pressure. All of it worked out. Every single bit.

On February 24, at 40 weeks and 3 days pregnant, I woke up at 5 am with contractions that were anywhere from 2-5 minutes apart. They were pretty painful, but I was still kind of in that denial "this can't be it" stage of labor. I told Michael I thought he should stay home from work. After several hours, they went to 8-10 minutes apart and I was kind of disappointed, so we took Kade on a walk to see what would happen. When we got home, the contractions came back down to 5-6 minutes apart. We decided to go and eat Chinese for lunch. I had a contraction timer on my iPad, so during lunch, I kept hitting start, stop, start, stop. Finally, I looked at Michael and said, "I think we should go to the hospital after we eat." We dropped Kade off at his grandparents' and decided to stop at Wal-Mart and look at video cameras. We were getting Michael a toothbrush when I grabbed his hand and said, "I think we need to go. Now." On the way to the hospital, I had to really breathe and focus through contractions. The hospital was an hour away, and I called my parents as we got close to let them know I was going in. We arrived at 3:30 pm. We went to check in and they got me seated in a wheelchair while Michael was filling out some paperwork. This woman came in, very pregnant like me, and she was holding on to her mother and bawling. I started getting scared, because I thought, "Ok, I'm not in that much pain. Maybe I shouldn't be here."

I was wheeled to my room, where I put on my own nightgown--which the hospital was not thrilled about, by the way, because it might get dirty. *cue me rolling my eyes about ruining at $5 nightgown from Wal-Mart* I told them that didn't bother me. Then, the nurse came in and told me I would have to stay in the bed during my labor because it was hospital protocol. I told her that my doctors had promised me differently, so she went to get the head nurse. We compromised that I would stay in bed and be monitored for 15 minutes at a time and then I would be allowed to get up. When, they checked me, I was dilated to 4 cm. I had a few contractions while laying in the hospital bed, but they weren't terrible. I started to doubt I was in labor.

Then, they let me get up. I immediately started having contractions, one after the other. Michael followed me around the room, rubbing my back. I was able to breathe through them initially, but I got a little louder later on. The nurse kept trying to get me to get back in the bed so she could check me, but I kept jumping up. I couldn't lay down. No way, no how. Finally, less than an hour after being there, they checked me and I was dilated to 7. I thought, "This is happening way too fast!" Thirty minutes later, I was pretty much at the end of my rope, painwise, but I was ready to push. I looked over at the nurse and said, "Do you think I can do this?!" She said, "Are you kidding me? You're already there!" My doctor ran in the room right as I was getting in the bed. My water still hadn't broken (which, funny enough, was the sign we had been waiting for to know I was in labor), so she broke it. Pushing was scary. It was kind of painful, but it was just really intense. It didn't take long, though. Before I knew it, Luke was out and up on my chest, brand spanking fresh and new. Born at 6 pm--2.5 hours after we got to the hospital. What a gift. I don't think any mother can describe the emotions that come when you see your baby out in this world for the first time. Plus, there was the elation of knowing that I did what I had hoped to do, even though it was hard. I can honestly say, though, that I would do it again. And again. And again.

Luke William
8 lbs, 2.2 oz
21.5 inches 

Our family--minus big brother!
Me saying, "I did it! I can't believe I did it!" lol
Daddy and his two boys

We are so blessed! 
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.--James 1:17 NIV