Throwback Thursday: Dreams Uprooted

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This post was written in the Spring of 2012, a great reminder of the Master’s Plan.  Be sure to check out my thoughts in hindsight! 

imagesThe sunshine brought me to my flowerbed to do some much needed tending. After the vibrant blooms of spring had bloomed, I dug up the bed to allow the earth to rest for the next spring planting.  The mild winter brought about blooms from the seed that had fallen creating a mess of plants that had rooted and bloomed before their time. I created for myself a bouquet of bright yellow and orange daisies to enjoy inside, and went to work ripping up the remaining plants to allow seed to be sown for new blooms.

As I worked, sweat and tears streamed down my face as I related to the plants. I too felt as if my roots had been ripped up and tossed aside to be withered by the sun. Therapeutic swashes of the gardening hoe were in full force as I worked out my frustration and desperation. With arms and legs shaking, I continued on with the task and listened to the lesson that God was planting in my heart.

My husband came to the excruciatingly hard decision to stay behind from the Nicaragua Spring mission trip, and I chose to stay with him. This decision came with a lot of meditation and prayer after several weeks of battling with the idea. Because of his heart procedure, recovery has been slow and going out of the country at this time is not in the best interest of his health. I am aching for him, because he has deep-outstretched roots for the work in Nicaragua, but I also marvel at the courage it took for him to put the mission before himself. Because I am his wife, created to be his helpmate, I chose to stay by his side.

Working out the emotions of feeling left behind has left me almost broken. The months of planning, preparing, visiting congregations, raising money, writing support letters, shopping, sewing, gathering, packing, prayers, research, meetings, and all the love that has been rooted in this trip was hard to let go of. The mission trip started as a seed in my heart when Jake came back from his last one in September, and it took root as we planned out being those spoken of in Matthew 25: 34-40.406180_2624129838633_298812413_n

I do not know why things sometimes work out the way they do, or why this trip was uprooted from my life, but I do know that God is in control, He is good, and He is alive and working. The plants in my garden had to be uprooted because they were blooming before their time, leaving no room for new growth. After I work the land and prepare it for planting, I will plant and nurture new seeds, and their brilliance will shine through bringing life, fragrance, and beauty. In the same way, this trip may have come too early for Jake and I; too early for his body as he is still recovering, and too early for me, a mother leaving my small children behind. But as this plan has been uprooted, I know God is now cultivating our souls and planting new seed to bloom at just the right time.

The mission trip will still go on. The hungry will eat, the naked will be clothed, the sick will be visited, the stranger will still be welcomed in, and the prisoners will receive provision. God will see to it. Not going has shown me that I am but a means to His glory, and if I cannot be used at this time, His glory will still be revealed through other willing souls. He is so good.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 states: “To everything there is a season, and a time for ever matter under heaven…..A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.” My time to serve in Nicaragua has been plucked up.  There will be times in all of our lives when things do not go the way we had planned. When this happens, we must remember the simple fact that life is not about us and our purpose is to serve in love because He first loved us.

When we find ourselves uprooted, remember the Master Gardener will tend to what needs done, and His Truth will always prevail.

We must allow God to break the roots we have tried so hard to establish in order to allow new growth to prevail; growth God’s way, not of our own.

Then, when it comes time for our seeds to take root, we must willingly and wholeheartedly obey the call and bloom where we are planted.

In Hindsight:

Jered, Jessica, me, and Jake at our going away party at the SBC

Jered, Jessica, me, and Jake at our going away party at the SBC

Jered and Jessica Hyatt took our place in the mission and what an amazing blessing it has been!  The mission went very well, and big things happened for the people in Nicaragua, and for the students at the Bible Center.  Not too long after the trip, Jake and I were approached by the elders in Madill for Jake to become the preaching minister for the congregation.  This meant we had to leave the college students, and the beloved congregation of Durant behind.  We spent much time in prayer over the decision, while worrying about the Student Bible Center and the students there that we loved so dearly.  But God had an amazing plan.  We left in confidence to go to Madill, because the perfect people for the Student Bible Center was none other than the SAME couple that took our place in the mission trip!  God used our absence to grow a relationship between this couple and the students, because something great was coming for all of them.  How awesome is that?!

Experiencing the people of Nicaragua after a 4 year wait!

Experiencing the people of Nicaragua after a 4 year wait!

Jake and I have been in Madill for almost three years, and Jered and Jessica are at the Bible Center.  Both ministries are doing very well, and I got to take my very first Nicaragua mission trip the following September of 2013.  The time was right, Jake was well, and my kids were another year older, so leaving them behind went smoother.  It’s amazing to look back and see God’s hand in all of this!   When we put our “seasons” in the Master’s hands, big things happen, and what a joy it is to get to glorify Him when we get a glimpse of the bigger picture in hindsight.  God is good! 

Raising Mom: A Lesson on Grace

Over the weekend, I was able to take a Mom’s mini-getaway with one of my best friends to watch OU beat up on Tennessee.  It was amazing.

IMG_0852     Before leaving,  I got the house cleaned  then felt the need to go ahead and clean the disaster areas known as the children’s rooms.  Disclaimer:  My oldest daughter is doing fantastic with keeping her room clean.  So the disaster mentioned is more about the younger kids.  The kids’ rooms are IMG_0862their responsibility.   I rarely get involved unless I simply just can’t handle it any longer, due to the non-visibility of their  floor, or the stench.  They get paid a commission for helping out with chores such as dusting, sweeping, windexing (yes, I turned a household product name into an action verb)  etc.  They only get paid for these things if their rooms are clean.  There hasn’t been much payment rendered lately on behalf of the younger two.   I decided to clean their rooms.

As I worked,   I spent the afternoon reflecting on how I wanted my kiddos to understand God’s grace, because in the quiet of the house, I was reflecting on this thought myself.  Then, it hit me.   They made the mess.  They should be the ones picking it up.  It is their responsibility.  I should be sitting the younger two down and giving  them the responsibility speech.  Again. grace-def-1 Not this time, maybe a lesson on grace will change their won’t do attitudes.

After school, I showed the kiddos their rooms, and they were mostly thankful.    My son said, “Oh yeah, that’s good.”  My middle child said, “Wow mom!  I appreciate it!”  My oldest said, “Thank you so much.  I had a bad day at school, and it is nice to not have to worry about my laundry.  I will take good care of what you did.”  I replied with, “You’re all very welcome.  I did this because I wanted you to have a good weekend and not worry about your rooms.  I also did this because I wanted you to see grace this time instead of punishment.  Y’all deserve to get in trouble for the condition of your rooms, but instead I took care of them for you.  That’s grace, and something I want you to learn, feel, and show.”

Walking in the door after my trip, I was hit immediately by a terrible stench.  I gagged a little.  Not a good welcome back.  My over sensitized nose lead me to the kids’ bathroom, where the sink was covered in a dark brown, stinky substance that caked the sink bowl, and the faucet handles.  It looked as if it were a mud and doggie-doo mixture that had possible been scraped off of the bottom of a shoe.   Of course, no one knew what it was, or how it got there.  I gave the culprits the supplies needed to clean it up, because there was no way I was touching the mystery mess.

Isn’t it  ironic  that kids tend to make an even bigger mess cleaning up a mess than they do making it?  It is like a conspiracy!  “Let’s do a bad job at cleaning this up so mom won’t ask us to do it again!”  The mirror was smeared and streaked.  Five hand towels were wadded up in a ball, and soaked with stinky water.  The brown substance was virtually gone from the sink bowl, but still streaked on the sink handles.   Deep breaths.  

My son, who has a vague concept of grace,  pitted out his room again, in the 24 hours I was gone.  My middle child was back into her routine of not putting things away once finished with them.  The oldest’s room was all in order, except for a stray sock in the corner.  Their rooms reflected their concept of grace.  My youngest, who is only six, had zero regard for the grace given, and was right back into living in a pig pen.  My middle child, age eight, appreciated the grace, but went back into her bad habits.  My oldest child, who is twelve, kept her room in order out of thankfulness toward the grace shown.

Isn’t that how we respond to God and His grace?  He comes into the “rooms” called our souls and rids them of all the filth and guilt that a sinful life has caused with the blood of His Son, Jesus.  He didn’t have to.  It wasn’t His mess.  But He chose to because He loves us.  Do you sometimes take this grace as my son did with his room  and misuse it, filling your soul full of the same sins God had just wiped clean?  Or maybe you are like my middle child, who received the gift of grace with gratitude, but later on, let a few choice habits creep back in.  Some of you may experience it like my oldest did with her room, accepting the gift with thankfulness, then making a conscious effort to keep your life on track out of thankfulness for what has been given. These reactions were a reflection of the different ways I have handled grace in my life as I grow in Christ.  How are you growing grace?

I’m so glad that God does not leave us to clean up our messes like I did with the kids and the sink.  They did their best, but couldn’t get the job done.  God tells us that He took care of our mess when He gave His Son on the cross.   In return, we glorify this fact in our lives by striving to keep the sin out, thankful that it is gone.

My grace with messes stops when the smell is strong enough to knock over a buffalo, God’s grace never stops.  Never.  Thanks kids for continually teaching me what it is like to be a child of God.  It is my prayer that you are learning just as much as I am.  God is good.

 

Take the Food Stamp Meme Down; What is it Really Accomplishing?

10620586_452138144927760_7362201447149286922_nThere has been a meme circulating the internet that has captured a lot of people’s attention while causing anger, and debate.  The caption reads, “If Michelle Obama’s food recommendations are suitable for our schools, apply those recommendations to our food stamp program.”   What are your thoughts on this?  If you are a  hard working tax payer, contributing into the food stamp program, are these your thoughts?

I personally, was offended for the people who are on food stamps, because I know how hard it its to make healthy choices for your family, and yet, worry about having the money for your family to eat in this way.  I was offended because my family and I used to be on food stamps.  And were very thankful for them.  Because of them, my husband was able to go to college and get his degree to better support our family.   For those of you who agree with this meme’s thought above, and who know me personally, would you have posted this to your wall, as my friend, knowing I was on food stamps?  Would you be able to tell me to skip on the bag of sugar packed cereal that will feed my family thirty-nine serving for $5.98 and instead, buy the “healthy” cereal that will only feed my family  12 servings for $4.58?  Would you stand there and tell me to go put up the $.50 Reese cup I grabbed at the checkout line to give to my kiddos for being  good in the store because it wasn’t deemed healthy?  If I did abide by the healthy eating rules, and load my shopping cart down with all of the healthy options provided by Mrs. Obama’s program, would you you be willing to pay MORE taxes to account for the additional cost of eating healthy?  Would you then grumble that the people who are depending on your financial help are now eating better and healthier than your own family because of the hike in extra taxes??

I got on the Food Stamp Benefit Calculator and entered in the income we were bringing in while my husband was in college, and I was working.   The amount of benefits received was $460.00.   What is your total food bill each month? Is it even close to this number?  This is what people have to work with.  They get the cheap sugared cereal, the cheap bread, bologna, ramen noodles, frozen pizza, chips, Hamburger Helper, Little Debbie Snack Cakes, and so forth, because the JUNK FOOD COSTS LESS THAN HEALTHY FOOD!  Why spend $5.00 on feeding your family bacon and eggs two times, when you can spend $5.98 on a bag of Fruity Pebbles and feed them seven times?  Let’s say the kids eat free for breakfast and lunch at school, you and your spouse eat at home for these meals, then all of you eat together for supper.  You will be buying food for 260 meals per month.  This does not include snacks.  Divide the food stamp budget by that number and get  $2.19.  That is how much you need to spend on food per person for 260 meals per month.  That is with free breakfast and lunch for the three kids!

Do you see the problem?  This is just food.  It does not include household items, and toiletry items.

Be a part of the solution.

We can ALL make this work, without restrictions.  The solution is compassion, and education.   Instead of forcing those on food stamps to make healthier eating options, how about we show them how to make their money stretch?  If I had been educated on meal planning, budgeting, price matching, and couponing, while we were on food stamps, my family probably would have eaten a bit healthier, and our foods stamp money would have gone farther.  My husband has banned Hamburger Helper from our home indefinitely because of how much we depended on it back then :)

For those of you who consider yourselves to be Christian, but have plastered this meme on your wall, or have “liked’ the meme on someone else wall, consider this:

Did Jesus put a restrictive cap on His grace?  Did Jesus only die for those who were truly grateful for Him?  Did Jesus place guidelines on his assistance?

Aren’t we supposed to be Jesus to the world?  Aren’t we supposed to reach out to even those we think are undeserving?  How often do we pass by the homeless drunk and justify ourselves in saying, “I’m not giving him any money; he will just waste it on booze.”  Or feel it’s OK to post memes such as these to our walls, but claiming, “Oh I’m just talking about those who abuse the system, not those who don’t.”   Did Jesus give to those who would receive wisely, or did He simply give to all?  If grace was only given to those who wouldn’t abuse it, Jesus would not have died for mankind.  We ALL have abused the system.

When you see a mom with three little ones in the grocery store maxed out on her food stamp card at checkout because she was forced to buy the more expensive, healthier things to make you feel better about where your money was going, are you going to give her more money so she doesn’t have to put stuff back?

Our government forces us to pay into programs we do not necessarily agree with, because the system is flawed.   But even through the flaws of the welfare system, it is changing lives.

 How many times have we seen God be able to work miracles in a flawed world?

How many times has His power trumped darkness?  Are you wiling to be His to hands for those who need His sustainment the most?

“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.”  Proverbs 3:27

God calls us into action.  Action without restrictions.   Actions that will cause us to understand the situations of those whom we are helping.   Wanting to place self-righteous restrictions on those  we “have” to help via taxes does not reflect Jesus.  Blasting welfare does not reflect Jesus.  What will reflect Jesus?  Showing people how to best use the funds they have been given reflects Jesus.  How?  You are taking the time to teach them something.  You are connecting.  You are showing compassion instead of just throwing a twenty down and walking away.  This is Jesus in action.  Money is not the gift.  Compassion is the gift.  I know handouts will not solve the poverty problem in this country, and realize they are all too often abused, but I do know that simple respect and decency towards one another can move mountains.

“No one can serve two masters.  Either you will hate the one and love the other, or  will be devoted to one, and despise the other.  Man cannot serve both God and wealth.”  Matthew 6:24

We live in a fallen world in need of love, grace, compassion, and mercy.  Are you going to serve your money and demand that your “gift” is spent in the way that you think is best?  Or are you going to go the extra mile and lead those who are struggling to a better way?   Do you have faith that God will use your time to help those who need it the most.  Are you going to pout over those who misuse the welfare, or are you going to show them a better way?

Please take the meme down, unlike it,  and be thankful that God isn’t showing the same measure of grace to us as we are showing to those on food stamps.

*For those of you who live in the southern Oklahoma area and are in need of assistance, or know someone who is,  there are resources available to educate you in how to properly run your home using your income.   Budgeting, meal planning, price matching, and couponing classes are free to anyone who is just trying to be the best stewards of what they have been given.  

Click on the link below about how the homeless shop using welfare:

http://www.babble.com/best-recipes/what-i-learned-after-taking-a-homeless-mother-grocery-shopping/

“Premature” Salvation & What it Costs

I have had many conversations with people who feel a misplaced responsibility for their salvation.  I all too often hear, “Did I do it right?  Were my motives right?” as if it were something we had the power to give to ourselves.   I was thirteen years old when I decided to be baptized.  I was sitting next to my grandma, passing off a tray of juice and crackers.   I then had a thought.  “I’m a teenager now.  I should get to do this with the adults.  I know who Jesus is, and if I get baptized I will get to do communion!”  So I leaned over and told my grandma I wanted to get baptized.  I was dunked,  called a Christian, given a pamphlet, and was happy to partake in the  juice and crackers.   No one studied with me.  No one questioned my motives.  The next Sunday, I was in the pew, doodling in my notebook, not caring what God had to say to me, a “baptized believer.”   This pattern continued the rest of my teen years.

It was not until I was twenty years old that my heart felt the need to become a child of God.   I whole- heartedly fell head over heels in love with a man called Jesus.   When I went down into the water,  I knew that I was burying a life of sin, being reborn, and accepting the gift of eternal life that Jesus had purchased for me with His blood.   I became the bride of Christ, and out of thankfulness, dedicated all I was to Jesus and His calling for me.baptism23

Why do we feel the need to dunk people in the watery grave of baptism so quickly when they ask about Jesus or baptism?   I know, through God’s word, that my baptism saved me, and saves others (1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38).  But I also know that the act of baptism alone does not save us.   Jesus saves us.  Grace saves us (Ephesians 1:7; 2:8-9).   If Jesus isn’t a part of our baptism, we are just getting wet.  Jesus was not a part of the baptism I experienced at thirteen.  At thirteen, I wanted the communion juice and crackers.  At twenty, I wanted Jesus in my life and ruling over it.

I  studied the Bible with a teenage girl once or twice a week for about six months.   Someone approached me about the study, and questioned why she hadn’t been baptized yet.  They meant well, but the push was there.  I had a broader goal in mind.  One that I told the girl at the beginning of our studies, and that was to help her fall in love with Jesus and want to become His bride.   I didn’t want to teach baptism, I wanted to teach the gospel.  She knew about Jesus, and had gone to church as a child, but didn’t really understand the magnitude of the gift He wanted to give her.   Over time, I saw the girl’s heart  transformed by the love she was experiencing.  I saw joy, I saw fear, and I saw hope.  I saw a relationship being formed.  I saw a love being born.  I saw a thirst for Jesus.

 I  saw this young woman come to understand the power of grace.

She realized that sin separated her from Jesus, the man she had come to love and respect, and she wanted to do something about it.   She fully comprehended that love and grace saved her, and it was hers to accept through baptism.   And she did.  It was a beautiful thing to see her come up from the water.

 Are we taking the time to listen to what people need instead of giving them what we think they need?  People need Jesus.   If you baptize someone who doesn’t grasp how much they need Jesus, what did you accomplish?

When I married Jake, I was marrying the man that I loved.  I didn’t come into the marriage thinking, “Well, I don’t know him too well, but I hope that by being married to him, I will be able to honor our marriage, and fall in love with him in time.”   This is what we are seeing with “premature baptism”.  I don’t know Jesus too well, but hopefully by making this commitment I will learn.  Do we?

 If  love and desire for Jesus is not there in the beginning, how can it possibly grow after we get “wet”?

I deeply loved Jake the day we were married.  I wanted to be his, and wanted him to be mine.   Our love and desire for one another keeps our marriage strong, not the vows in and of themselves.  This same desire is vital to those we lead to Christ.  Take the time to allow these people to fall in love with Jesus.

 Do not push them into a marriage with Jesus for the sake of urgency and duty.

When we put salvation on people’s shoulders as a duty they must perform as soon as possible to “get saved,” we are taking away the grace of the sacrifice and placing a burden on people’s souls.  Salvation isn’t a duty on a checklist.   How are they going to stay committed to a marriage with Jesus if love isn’t present?   Love drove Jesus to save us.   Love for Jesus will draw people to Him.  Love will bind the covenant.  Love will mature and sustain.

No one who is in a committed relationship with Jesus should feel unsure about their salvation.  His grace does not allow this.

If we start worrying a little less about the urgency of baptism, and start focusing on helping others really experience Jesus’ love on a more intimate level, we will have a lot more devoted followers with an understanding of what grace is,  how it works, and how Jesus’ grace saves us.

 

 

Stressed? Can’t Sleep? There’s an App for That.

depressed-13056What keeps you awake at night?  Do you regurgitate issues that you had set in your mind to let go of?  Do you worry about how you could have handled a situation differently?  Do you worry about payday, and if bills will get paid on time?  Do you dread going to work where the anti-Christian bashes you each day about being “intolerant” when you have said, or shown nothing to give the person cause to think such a thing?

I love sleep.  Really.  Love.  Sleep.  As soon as my head hits the pillow, I am out.  I like to think that this ability to sleep is caused by the fact that I am at peace with my day.  Then it hits.  Those nights when so many things attack my “peace” in every direction.  I flip and flop and get mad.  I have to remind myself often that if I allow anything to rob me of my “peace”, then it really isn’t true peace.  True peace is being able to lie down at night with the world crashing down on you, and still being able to drift off in a peaceful slumber, because you are secure in something way bigger than your problems.

“When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.  Because You have been my help, therefore, in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.  My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.”  Psalm 63:6-8

This verse, for the longest time, had me picturing King David draped in the most luxurious linens, in a big, king sized bed, in his fuzzy robe and royal slippers, dozing off without a care in the world.   He stayed at a Holiday Inn Express!   Where else would he be while writing such a peaceful, beautiful depiction of God’s sustaining nature and peace?

This scripture was actually written by David while in the wilderness of Judah, (1 Samuel 22:5) after his tearful goodbye with his best friend Jonathan as he was fleeing from the wrath of King Saul.    While King Saul was hot on David’s trail, he slain a group of priests for helping David flee.  Saul’s madness and ego struck down a bunch of innocent bystanders, just because they gave a handout to David!   David was soon to hear about the grueling fate of his allies, and though troubled greatly for the death of holy men on his account, David still comforts Ahitub, who had escaped the slaughter to tell David the news.  In 1 Samuel 22:23 he states, “Stay with me; do not fear.  For he who seeks my life seeks your life, but with me you shall be saved.”

Not what I had imagined at all.  David was fighting for his life, trapped in a forest awaiting news as to what to do next as he could almost sense the very breath of Saul creeping down his neck with every turn.  He had just given up a deep bond with a very close friend.  He was physically and mentally exhausted and in anguish.  He was processing the fact that holy men were slain on his account.  The son of one of these men was looking to him, the cause of his Unknownfather’s murder, for refuge.  David was surrounded with grief, murder, chaos….and peace.

David was so confident and grounded in God’s provision that he tells Ahitub to stick with him.  I don’t know about you, but after seeing your father and others slain because of their alliance with David, it would be pretty hard for me to believe that with him, I would be safe.  But he did.  He saw in David a “peace with God, which surpasses all understanding”.

He knew peace from God was something that man could not take away.

Terror wanted David’s heart in the black of night while surrounded by the forest of Hereth, but David felt the shadow of the Lord’s wing, and felt His right hand guiding him steady.

David felt the need to rejoice while entombed in the forest, because his hope rested in the Father.  Do we feel this as well?  Are we resting peacefully at night amidst the enemy trying to destroy us?  Do we understand that peace does not come from a “good” day?   Are we so confident in the Lord during our trials that we offer a safe haven to other’s experiencing the same thing?  Do we let “things” keep us awake at night?  David had a lot to loose sleep over, and yet, we see peace.

Let us all learn from this example of peace in David’s life as we hit the pillow at night.  Most nights, it is easy to utter the words of David as we remember the Lord upon our beds and meditate on Him.   Other times, it may not be as easy.  We have bills to pay, children to raise, work to find, a budget to adhere to, and a lost family member or friend.  We are stricken with illnesses, debt, guilt, sin, death, greed, lust, sin, careless words of others, and pain.  Our souls should be thirsting for God, seeking Him, longing for Him (Psalm 63:1).  God pursues our hearts.  We can rejoice in trials, knowing we are tucked away under our Father’s wing, safe and unbound from the burdens of life.  God’s peace will always keep our souls satisfied.  Don’t loose sleep over the false assumption that trials can take away your peace.

 It is during life’s difficulties, we see God’s peace at it’s strongest, because it is His to give, not the world’s to take away.

 

The Secret to Keeping God in Our Schools

I am sitting here in the quiet of my house, doing the typical stay-at-home mom thing, thinking about my children after dropping them off on their first day of school.   It’s amazing when a new milestone hits, how quick my mind is to recall the 12 years I have been a mother.  The feeling of my sweet babies safe in my belly, the first cry when born, the first tooth, first heartache, and first day of school.

creationswap.com
creationswap.com

I also battle within myself the question if sending them to a “public school” really is the right thing to do.  Will they be safe?  Who will influence them?  Will they get shot?  What if the cafeteria food is slowly poisoning them, or making them severely constipated!?  What if they get bullied?  Will they worry?  Will they fall into temptation?  Will they eat the chewing gum under the benches?!  Most of these thoughts are from a seriously overactive imagination, but I worry nonetheless. I thought about this worry this morning as I remembered the struggles my oldest had last year in school.  They were all typical, the cussing in the hallway, kids poking fun at her for being short, teachers that challenged her ability to get along with them, stuff like that.  She asked why school couldn’t be more like going to church;  she liked being surrounded with more “friendly” people.  She said on most days, its hard to see God in school.  I admit, I loved her theory, and wish the same thing for my kids, easy sailing, no adversity,  but  I know we are called for more than that.

It reminded me of my middle child’s experience in Kindergarten.  She had made a sweet little friend that she just adored.  They had the same food, color, and book preferences, which is a big deal to a 5 year old.   One day, after school, I asked her how her day went, and she said, “It was good, but I’m so sad.”  “Really?  Why are you sad?”  I asked.  She began to talk with a small crack in her voice, because she has the sweetest, most tender heart I have ever seen.  “My fweind (she couldn’t say her “R’s”) does not know who Jesus is.  It makes me sad.”   “What do you mean, she does not know Jesus?  Like she doesn’t go to church very much?” I asked.  “No, Momma, she does not know about him at all!  Never even heard of him!”  My heart hurt a little.  As she went on to explain, she had told her friend about the fun she had in Bible class the day before, and her sweet friend just listened to the foreign concept of Jesus, and God.  When she finished I told her that maybe, just maybe, she could tell her friend more about Jesus if she thought she should know more.  My daughter said, “For sure!  I want everyone to know about Jesus!  How could people not know?  I mean, He died for us all!  She needs to know this!”  Amen sister!

Kadence listened even more in Bible class that year.  She made sure she brought with her to school any coloring sheets she got from class, and she and her friend would look at them as Kadence retold the lessons.  In the still, small voice of my sweet 5 year old was the story of the gospel, being told to another sweet 5 year old who had no idea of the Savior that loved her so much.  The girl was a great kid, with great parents, in America!  I know this sounds cliche, but I was just stunned that America is so saturated with Christianity, and here sat a little girl who had no idea there was a God!

This was a wake up call to me that there is still lots of work to do right here, at home, to make sure people know about their Creator and the Savior of us all.

I told this story to my oldest because I wanted her to know that she can bring God to school.  She wanted to be homeschooled just because she didn’t want to deal with adversity.  I told her that  we cannot shut the world out.  If you cannot see God in school, what are you doing to make His presence known?  God is everywhere!   We cannot hide from the “bad” stuff.  It will always be here on this earth.  What we can do, however, is make sure that everyone knows who Jesus is, and why we follow him.   I asked her to be His light, to shine where it is needed the most.  If Kadence hadn’t had been in that school, in that class, sitting next to that girl, who would have introduced her to Jesus?   There are many kids in our school district that come from some pretty scary situations.  Children crying out for attention.  Whenever my kids complain about what they saw the bullies do to other kids, or sometimes, to them, I tell them, the kids who act the most unloving, need love the most.  They do not know how to love, because most of them, are not shown love.  I have seen some amazing spiritual growth happening in all of my kids, my oldest especially, because they see the diversity, and they struggle with it.  They question it.  They come to me and my husband about it.  My older two go to God with it.  They overcome it! When they overcome it, they have a HUGE sense of pride in themselves, and in the God who got them through it.  Amen!   I gave the scripture found in Romans 5:3-5 to Rylee, my oldest, which states, “We rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

No matter what happens to you in this life, no matter what obstacle, no matter what situation we may find ourselves  in, there is always hope because our Savior is alive and well.  There is no need to fear adversity.  No need to fear influences, or danger, or tragedy.  He lives!

creationswap.com
creationswap.com

School is another opportunity for my children to learn and grown in the faith.  To share this faith with others.  I know my children can make a big difference in the lives of others,  because I see it on a daily basis.  Every little head bowed in the cafeteria, every invite to a church related activity, every smile, nice word, and act of love, is Jesus in my children’s hearts.  God is in school.  I will not fear the world, nor try to hide my children from it, because our Savior is alive and well.  Don’t fall for the misconception that God is being taken out of our public schools.  Are you kidding me?  He is roaming the halls, sharing His love and grace to those who need it most through the willingness of those who have agreed to be His children.  Be His grace.  My most favorite verse in the Bible says, “Behold!  I am the LORD, God of all flesh, is there anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27.  It is time we put our faith in this powerful statement.   It’s ok Mommas.  Our God has got this school thing under control.  Your little lights are going to do just fine, just keep leading their hearts to Jesus.

*Please note this post does not in any way discourage homeschooling, I believe homeschooling is an excellent choice for many people and that needs differ based on each family.  This post is written in the perspective of our own personal experiences with school.

Dear Teens, I Do Not Want to Photograph Your Sex Appeal

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I have been in photography for six years now, and have noticed a trend over the last few years of senior girls sexualizing themselves in their senior photo sessions.  Their bodies are baring it all in their photo sessions complete with teeny tiny swimsuits in the middle of a snow kissed field, and strappy, barely there pjs sitting on their beds taking selfies with their phones while the photographer shoots at angles as if peeking through their window at night.   Society is teaching teens  to believe that sexy equals beautiful.  That they are one in the same.   Even the most well meaning teens will get in front of my camera and give that certain look in their eyes, hold their mouths in a certain way, and position their bodies in a way that screams, “I got what you want guys”.   They do what they see, wanting to look beautiful, but the body language hardly ever comes off that way.

Girls, sexy is NOT the only way to show your beauty.  You do not have to pose and dress provocatively in pictures to be beautiful.  And you need to make sure that the photographer you work with knows that you will not pose for them in this way.  YOU get to make the choice of how you want your pictures to look, of how you want to be portrayed, not them.   I as a follower of God,  wife, mother, and professional do not want to participate in the over sexualization of our youth because I love you and know you are worth so much more than what the world tells you.

 

DSC_0333 You do not have to be sexualized by anyone because they think that provocative poses are beautiful, or cute, or fun.   The world wants you to be sexy so they can sell you sexy clothes, feed you sexy trash in books, articles, and movies, then profit off of your low self esteem by succumbing you to the world of plastic surgery, because we all know that every beautiful girl needs to come equipped with a nice D-Cup.  Really?   

 

 

Beauty is Incorruptible.  

You’re beautiful.  Pure and simple.  Everyone is.  In 1 Peter 3:4,  God tells us that beauty is found in the hidden person of the heart.   It is in an imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit which is precious to God.  Does the world tell you beauty can be corrupted?  Sure can!  That freshman 15 can corrupt your beauty in the world’s eye can’t it?  Does the world tell you that beauty never fades?   The world tells us we are in a race against time and we must do everything we can to maintain our beauty through surgeries, creams, and crazy diet plans.  True beauty is unfading in the fact that we make life beautiful for those around us.  True beauty is a compassionDSC_0471b.jpgate soul whose love knows no bounds or limitations.  Beauty is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.   Beauty has many definitions, and we have to be careful about which example of beauty we want to follow.  It can mean something that is pleasing to the eyes, and it can mean something that is pleasing to the heart.   Which one are you putting more emphasis on?  The most beautiful women I know have the light of Christ shining so brightly from their souls that no matter what their size, shape, skin tone, or cup size is, they are radiant, precious, and called to a greater purpose.  That’s beauty.  Knowing who you are, what you are striving for, and who you are trying to please. 

 

 

Opinions are Fickle.  

Several hundred years ago, if you had some extra meat on your bones, and your skin never saw the light of day, you were considered a hottie.   Girls with muscle tone were considered “ugly”.    In the 80’s the workout world began to explode, and anyone who was anyone had to get those muscles toned and skin tanned to get a second glance.  Wait a minute!  I thought no muscles and no tan was popular!  Ok ok, I will fix that, I can get a tan and work out.  Done!  Now I am a size 6 and considered a hottie!  bam!  I’m beautiful in the 80’s whoo!   Skip ahead to today.  Ok, size 6 girls, you are no longer hotties.  Now we want a size two, yeah, a two, that is what we meant!   And you have to have this gap in between your thighs while you are standing with your ankles together, and if you are a size 2, but don’t have that gap, you are considered fat skinny.  You.  Have.  GoDSC_0247t. To. Be. Kidding.  Me.   Do you see what I’m saying?  The world is fickle.  It does not know what it wants.  It will always change.  Styles.  Haircuts.  Color schemes in your bathroom.  What is considered beautiful.  To put an end to this madness, focus on the constant. God is constant.  His promises are constant.  His love for you is constant.  His opinion of you is constant.  Focus on what you know to be unchanging.  A gentle and quiet spirit is unfading.  That spray tan on the other hand…….

 

Did you know that the actual use of the word “beauty” has been declining in its use in the english language?  Guess what word is rising in the english language?  Sexy.  Hmm… The decline of the word “beauty” began when women started allowing themselves to be sexualized.

 

Sexy Belongs to Mr. Husband Guy

Sexy does have its place girls, but its rightful place is safe in the eyes, heart, and mind of your husband.  I’m one sexy lady and will always be that and far more (and it is a battle to keep this in mind some days).  You know why?  Because the heart of my husband trusts in me.  We are invested in us. Time cannot take away my sexiness in his eyes the way the world allows it to do.   When you are sexy for your husband, he does not sell you in the way media does, he honors you.  When you are sexy for your husband, his heart continues to desire you above all others.  When you are sexy for your husband, you are telling him, he is your one and only and you are for his eyes only.  Wouldn’t that make you feel special?  To know that someone chose to contain something so special for so long just to give it to you one day?  Save your sexy for someone who will respect you, and someone who understands that when you give them the gift of yourself, they are not to dominate, control, or take advantage of it, because they are called to give you the exact same thing in return.  You do not own each other to manipulate, you own each other because you were called to take care of what has been given to you.   Remember what sexy is. DSC_0046To make someone desire sex from you.   God pleads with His people to stick with His plan for man and woman and to keep sex where it belongs.  In a marriage.  In a safe marriage.  ( 1 Corinthians 7:1-40, Hebrews 13:4, Genesis 2:24, proverbs 5:15-19)

 

 

 

I see amazing  young girls each year, posting their senior pictures on Facebook and Instagram that scream sexualization.  Friends and family all comment on how “beautiful” “gorgeous” and “grown up” the girls look, when really, they look just like every one of the models gracing the covers of our magazines, billboards, and headlines, giving in to sexualization because the world around them says sexy is the only way to project what is beautiful.  I beg you, do not fall for this!   Do not place your sex appeal in the hands of those who want to exploit you.  Sexy has its own time to shine, so be patient.

 

 

Sexy does not belong to a teen girl.    Sexy does not look good on a teen girl.  Sexy is defined as, “sexually attractive, or arousing, exciting someone in a sexual manner.”   “Hey Grandpa & Grandma, here is a big ole’ 11×14 of me half naked and giving a sexy, seductive smile to hang on your wall so you can remember how sexy I am!”  The cure for this over sexualized epidemic is simple.   Self acceptance is the key to putting sexy where it belongs.   Self acceptance in knowing who we are, Who we serve, and what we were meant for.   Beauty is unfading.  Beauty is constant.  Beauty cannot be changed due to the opinions of others.  How are you defining beauty?    Do you believe that sexualization is beauty, or are you sure in the fact that you are worth far more?