Moving Toward The Mess

In my last book review, I shared about Danielle Tate’s “Restoring the Lost Petal”.  It just so happens that I’m finishing up this other book – and it goes quite nicely with the last one!

There’s been a deep need in my heart to reach out and say some very important things.  And I believe that what God stirred in my heart with the last book and with this one are related.  So even though I was supposed to be done with Move Toward The Mess by mid-January, I think God’s timing was perfect.  It let me soak this book in a little bit deeper.

book

My last book review talked about the importance of the church addressing modesty, purity, and sexuality – since they did such a poor job with me!  I was already not a virgin when I got saved.  I was “too messy” for that church.  But we’re never going to get a grip on this much needed conversation if we’re afraid to get messy.

People will come into our churches just like I did – with soiled hands and a filthy dress – and we have the responsibility to embrace them into our Kingdom family.  We need to be the ones to affirm them in Christ, remind them of their God-given value, and remind them of their purpose.  This is not something we can do from a distance.  We have to get our hands dirty!  That’s not to say that “sinful people” contaminate us.  But we desperately need to learn to be comfortable with hugging, talking to, and spending time with people who are not washed in the blood… Because how else would they get to that point?  What else would attract them to God’s love if it isn’t demonstrated in our very own hands and feet?

muddy-splash

So without stealing the previous book’s thunder, I would say “Move Towards The Mess” by John Hambrick came at just the right time.  Because this book contains chapter after chapter showing us how God shows up in the lives of those who run towards the mess instead of away from it!

We live in a broken world.  Drive two miles away from your church and you’ll see the spiritual and moral chaos that is in every city; the poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, and prostitution.  And if the neighborhood is still nice, just keep watching; they may not be poor financially, but they’re poor in spirit.  Those kids may have a house to sleep in, but be so disconnected from their family it’s not quite a home either.  There’s still addiction to fight.  There’s still young girls using their bodies as currency to meet their needs.

So I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if your Christian walk is rather uneventful or you find your church life quite boring, it’s probably because you’re in a “country club for saints” instead of a “hospital for sinners”.  That’s not to say you need to change churches.  What you really need is a new perspective.

One analogy that Hambrick used which stuck with me so well is that church is really the locker room pre-game ralley with the coach.  The hype of being in that locker room is the precedence of going out into the field and playing the game – going out into the world, “moving towards the mess”, getting our hands dirty carrying out the plays our coach has planned.  Without hitting the field, using our grit, and finding our mettle these “locker room ralleys” are useless.  We waste time going to church if it doesn’t radically affect what we do outside in the world.

football

His antidote to this attitude really boils down to knowing that we are sinners saved by grace.  When we realize just how much God has forgiven in us, we stop waiting until we get our lives together, or until we get the right “title”, or waiting for the broken to come to us.  Our own need for grace becomes fuel to love others and want to bring salvation to them.

Not many churches will experience the randomness of a girl like me walking through their doors one Sunday in February and getting saved.  I was the exception, not the rule! Most people live on the fringes of the church property and won’t step inside because they feel filthy.  Well, my friends, let’s bring church to them.  Let’s move toward the mess.

Pick up your copy of “Move Towards The Mess” here, or you can win a copy on my blog by commenting below and answering the following question:

What mess do you feel God calling you towards?  Where does your heart ache the most towards others?

Disclaimer: I received two copies of “Move Towards The Mess” by the Blythe Daniel Agency in exchange for my honest review.  I was not paid to give a good review, nor will I receive any monetary compensation from your purchase.

Triumphal Procession

Everyone loves parades!  My daughter was in the Fur Rondy parade here in Anchorage last weekend.  She marched for American Heritage Girls.  My boys had a blast cheering their sister on and then getting candy and goodies from everyone else that passed by.


We all want to walk through life feeling like we’re a part of the parade.  We want people to cheer us on! To clap as we go by!  We want to feel victorious as we move forward…


… It doesn’t always feel that way, right?

If I’m honest, I’d say that lately it feels more like I’m walking the Green Mile.  Sometimes we’re in icky situations, surrounded by an icky crowd…

… Sometimes we’re sure that they are not cheering for us, they’re laughing at us as we walk by.  They are rejoicing in our misery.  We’re out to be spectacles, put on display for all our failures and short comings.

It’s times like this we just want to retreat.  Let’s just go home… we shouldn’t have left our beds.

The Apostle Paul can relate, he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:9: “For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.”

Oh I can relate to that.  We have been technically homeless since last July; having moved in to our friend’s spare bedroom until the doors we are praying for get opened.  Every time someone asks, “Have you guys bought a house yet?” “How long can you stand to live with your friends?” it stings like an insult.

I’m pretty sure there are wives who wince the same way when they get asked, “When are you guys finally going to have a baby?” without knowing that they have tried… oh how hard they’ve tried!  Or the husband who hears the wife’s friend say, “How long has he been working for that company? And no promotion yet?”

First, you and me have to realize that these are innocent, well-intended questions.  Our friends aren’t trying to embarrass us, they’re concerned about us.  Even though their questions don’t seem very graceful, we can extend grace to them and forgive how they’ve stepped on our toes.

But more importantly…

We can turn the corner that Paul turned, when he realized that he wasn’t just placed at the end of a victory parade, as the prisoner of war to be laughed at.

Could it be that you and I are being paraded in our weakness, and in our frailty, because God wants to show us off to the world?  That maybe it’s right here, in this suffering, God is showing us to the world to say, “See my servant?  See her struggle?  Just you wait! I’m going to do something in her life that you wouldn’t believe unless you’d seen it with your own eyes!  The victory that’s coming for her is so great, you’ll want to see this now so you can see the revelation of what’s to come – and rejoice with her!”

2 Corinthians 2:14-15 New International Version (NIV)

14 “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” – Paul the Apostle

My friends, I can truly see that the suffering of this present time cannot be compared to the glory that is coming.

Joel 2:24-26 New International Version (NIV)

24 The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
    the vats will overflow with new wine and oil.

25 “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
    the great locust and the young locust,
    the other locusts and the locust swarm[a]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
    and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
    who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.

These are promises we can hold on to as we walk through what feels like parades of shame.  We don’t have to walk in defeat, we can walk with joy and with our faces held high regardless of our circumstances!  It’s God’s heart to lead us in triumphal procession, to spread the aroma of His salvation everywhere, so that the world knows it was God who has worked wonders for us.

Do you have an encouraging promise to hold on to? Or a prayer request to share? List them below!

Restoring The Lost Petal

I shared a few blog posts ago that my daughter had asked Siri, “What is the definition of modesty?” and how I tackled that conversation.

no-shame

Confession: My feelings on the subject have been unraveled after reading “Restoring The Lost Petal” by Danielle Tate.  And although I have provided links so you can get a copy of the book for yourself, I was not paid to provide a good review and will not be compensated in any earthly way by your purchase of it.

I think it would be helpful to understand, first of all, that I was not raised a Christian.  I got saved at 15.  And I was already an angry, rebellious teenager trying to assert some level of independence from my mom by then.  I had already made less-than-ideal choices, and because of my attitude I already had a reputation (although it was far worse than I actually deserved).

Interesting thing about how I rolled back then: If you accused me of being slutty and I didn’t really deserve it, then I would go out of my way to show you how slutty I really could be.  I don’t know how this logically could’ve worked in my favor, but that was how I rebelled against EVERYONE – by one-upping whatever anyone said, being more than what I was accused of. More tough, more angry, more violent, more promiscuous, more cruel…

And yet, if I’m completely honest, these experiences didn’t hurt me as bad when they happened as they did AFTER I got saved and started going to church!

let-god-in

When Jesus showed up in my 15 year old self, I didn’t need to be told that my dating speed was inappropriate, or that self-harming was bad, or that I needed a whole new circle friends.  The Holy Spirit did that well enough; I understood at the moment I gave my heart to Christ and asked Him to be Lord of my life that I couldn’t have Jesus and live like I’m going to hell on wheels.

No exaggeration: I gave my life to Christ one Sunday morning, and while I was praying the sinner’s prayer, I told God, “And Lord, you know that tonight these boys from my neighborhood are going to knock on my window and invite me to sneak out while my family is asleep.  No sense lying to you about this.  I’m not sure I’m strong enough to say that I’m not going to go.  I need You to protect me from this.”

That night, I slept like a rock.  Heard at school that the boys went as far as opening my window and shook me in my bed as quietly as they could and I would not budge, so they left me alone in my room.  And they never came back.  #truestory

Christ’s forgiveness was so real at that moment that I completely forgave myself – being as far removed from that girl as the east is from the west.  The problem is, I went to church…


From then until I got married and got the heck out of dodge, it seemed that no one in my church believed I was changed – no matter all my efforts to prove it.  If I participated in EVERYTHING – from Mission’s Trips, to Bible Quiz, it was to get into my then-friend-now-husband’s pants.  Nothing I wore was modest enough.  The highlight of learning about sex was “Don’t do it! Don’t touch! Don’t even kiss! Until you’re married!”  And then when my husband and I decided to get married, the church refused to get involved under the auspice that we already had sex and our marital union would no longer be sanctified.

Sadly, this is a #truestory as well.  Needless to say, this did little to build me up in modesty and purity, little to break spiritual bondage, and little to bring healing…

the-why

Fast forward to this year, now that I’m 31 and even further removed from that person, I received a copy of this book to review.  Danielle and I are Facebook friends and we had engaged in blog-related activities and personal conversations over the years.  I was so stoked that she wrote this book and excited to offer her my support.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to read her words.  And that’s about as far as I’ll spoil it for you.  Because even though I wasn’t living a promiscuous/adulterous life style, and I wasn’t recovering from a traumatic abusive experience, I had still in some ways lost some petals and just learned to live without…

I strongly recommend this book for any girl of any age – before any sexual experiences or after, before marriage or married more than once… We as Christians need to re-engage in these conversations about sex, dating, modesty, purity and we need to do it right! We need to know much more than “don’t!” but also “Why?” and “When?” and “How?”  And we need to restore the petals in the flowers of our hearts and protect the flowers in the hearts of the younger girls coming up after us.

live-restored-title

You can get your copy of “Restoring The Lost Petal” by Danielle Tate here, but I’m also willing to give my copy away at random if you answer this prompt below:

What is the conversation about purity you WISH you had as a teenager?  If you could go back and give your 15 year old self a message on this subject, what would you say?

Use It Or Lose It!

Confession: I lost my entire previous blog, with 3 years and 200 followers, because I forgot to pay for it one month.  I didn’t pay for it because I wasn’t using it.

Seems very irresponsible of me, I know, but welcome to my long laundry list of failures… potentially related to being ADHD myself.  It’s not the first mistake, and it probably won’t be my last.

child-bible

What reminded me that I had a blog in the first place (pathetic, I know) is that I heard this Bible passage some days ago:

Matthew 25:14-30 The Message (MSG)

The Story About Investment

14-18 “It’s also like a man going off on an extended trip. He called his servants together and delegated responsibilities. To one he gave five thousand dollars, to another two thousand, to a third one thousand, depending on their abilities. Then he left. Right off, the first servant went to work and doubled his master’s investment. The second did the same. But the man with the single thousand dug a hole and carefully buried his master’s money.

19-21 “After a long absence, the master of those three servants came back and settled up with them. The one given five thousand dollars showed him how he had doubled his investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

22-23 “The servant with the two thousand showed how he also had doubled his master’s investment. His master commended him: ‘Good work! You did your job well. From now on be my partner.’

24-25 “The servant given one thousand said, ‘Master, I know you have high standards and hate careless ways, that you demand the best and make no allowances for error. I was afraid I might disappoint you, so I found a good hiding place and secured your money. Here it is, safe and sound down to the last cent.’

26-27 “The master was furious. ‘That’s a terrible way to live! It’s criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

28-30 “‘Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this “play-it-safe” who won’t go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.’

In older translations, the currency was known as a “talent”.  So the last verse in essence says that the talent was taken away from the servant who hid it underground and given to the one who had 10 talents…

My loved ones, there’s a “Use It Or Lose It” supernatural law at work here on Earth!

If you don’t fully articulate and bear weight on a joint, it will start to become brittle and weak, and you lose range of motion.

Coupons that you don’t redeem before their expiration date are worthless.

I’ve been sick this whole week, and I went to my medicine cabinet only to hopelessly discover that all my cold medication expired in 2015!  I had not used it in many years.  It all was useless now.

Our Heavenly Father is a “Give us Today” kind of God.  The manna in the desert was only for the day.  His provisions for us tend to be what we need for right now (how many of us have won the lottery and are financially set for the rest of our lives? I didn’t think so).  And the gifts and abilities He has blessed us with are for us to use them today – not in some future, potentially after retirement! Now!  Because when He suddenly returns, He will ask, “What did you do with the talents I invested in you?”

Let’s be good and faithful servants then.  If we put to use even the smallest things we have been blessed with, He is good and will bless us with more.

Let’s pay heed to the fact that just returning what was given is not enough for the Master.  He owns thousands of hills under which He can bury treasure to dig up later.  It is a disrespect to our Master to not even attempt to put His gifts to work.

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Do you have some talents lying kind of dormant right now?  What can you do to start activating them, even if just a little at a time?

Faith and Fitness Building Music

My dear friend Lo Tanner shared on her email list a play list of worship songs that help carry her through difficult moments.  It inspired me to share a little list of my own…

Confession: Exercising NOW is increasingly more difficult than it was 3 years ago.  Where I used to run 5 miles, now I struggle to walk one.  Where I used to squat 80 lbs, now I have a hard time getting up from the couch.  Where I was a Zumba instructor and I used to teach one hour classes, now I find myself successful if I get through 20 minutes of yoga.

Life happens and Rheumatoid Arthritis sucks. But I know I need to keep moving.  My fitness goals have changed to reflect that, but I’m not going to lie: When I hit the work out zone, I beat myself up a lot.  It’s so difficult to NOT get discouraged.

This is why now, more than ever, I need to build my faith along with my fitness.  I can’t compartmentalize, these two are indistinguishable from each other.  So whether it’s the motivation to stay on the treadmill five more minutes, or not give up on the yoga, I need the words in my headphones to be more powerful than the self-defeating lies that creep up every time…

… and a nice beat helps too…

Here’s a list (in no particular order) that has both!

  • Pentatonix “Can’t Hold Us” – don’t ask, it just works.
  • Beckah Shae “I’ll Be Alright”
  • Beckah Shae “Life”
  • Beckah Shae “No More” – ok so I really recommend her. But this one here is my power song!
  • Mercy Me “Move”
  • Kerrie Roberts “Outcast”
  • Mary Mary “Shackles (Praise You)” – yup, I just dated myself here… I’m a dinasour.
  • Melinda Watts “So Good”
  • Ayiesha Woods “Crazy”
  • Cadia “Inside Out”

I’ll interject here, that I’m not always needing something to pump up my cardio to 140 bpm.  I like listening to stuff that gets me pumped, but also that helps me maintain endurance; if it keeps a steady rhythm, and it verbally encourages me not to give up, then it makes my list.

  • DC Talk “Jesus Freak” – I’m pretty sure my T-Rex arms give me away by now… I’m so old…
  • Group 1 Crew “His Kind of Love”
  • John Reuben “Do Not”
  • Jonathan Thulin “Dead Come to Life” Featuring Charmaine
  • Lecrae “Give In” Featuring Crystal Nicole)
  • Newsboys “God’s Not Dead”
  • Rachel Lampa “Savior Song”
  • Jars of Clay “Dead Man (Carry Me)” – appropriate after Leg Day
  • Jars of Clay “Flood”
  • Third Day “Lift Up Your Face”
  • Jimmy Needham “Come Thou Fount”
  • Grits “Fly Away”

Go ahead and check some of these out on Spotify or iTunes and add them to your work out playlist.


Do you have any faith-based work out songs you’d recommend? Share below!

Pilgrimage

Draggin my feet

Trying to keep moving forward

When it seems like every step I take

Pulls me further behind

Sweat stings my eyes

As I keep looking toward

The horizon for a sign of life

With no hope in sight

I thought I heard You

Calling me deeper

I thought I sensed You

Taking me further

How did I end up

In the middle of nowhere…

sunrise-1226471_1280

This dream I thought I had

This big adventure We would go to

Looks so different now that, finally

Reality has arrived

It’s a lot more work

More disappointments that I work through

Than some happy little ending

Will I even survive?

I need Your presence

Here in the desert

I need a fountain

To wash this dirt

Your living waters

This dryness hurts…

oasis-1997849_1280

Only You can show me

The cheers being shouted by that heavenly crowd

They’ve traveled this way in times before

They tell me not to give up now

You’re a Good Shepherd

And my journey won’t end in regret

We’ll reach a spring here, soon enough

You haven’t lost a soul yet!

You’re all I need

Your ways are higher

Your sight is perfect

Your yoke is lighter

When I am weary

You’ll carry me…

shepherd

Modesty

My daughter is working on her “My Style” badge for American Heritage Girls and she asked my phone, “Siri, what is the definition of modesty?”

modesty

Confession: I’m glad she asked my phone before she asked me.  I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it.  It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot, more to girls than to boys, and definitely in religious circles.  But whenever it was brought up to me, it was always used to bring me shame and condemnation no matter how hard I tried to do what is right.

Last thing I want is to butcher this with her, she’s so sweet and innocent!

So we walked through it step by step.  She’s an auditory learner (a fact I’d be wise to remember when I’m dumb enough give her multiplication flash cards… Duh.), so conversation helps her to learn and process information.  Here’s what we discussed:

  1. It starts with being “unassuming”, or in other words, not drawing attention to ourselves as more special or hyped up than we really are.  So it has a quality of humility to it.  It’s like the ranks on a soldier’s uniform; it’s totally appropriate for the captain to wear captain’s uniform, but it’s a disgrace for someone of low rank (or worse, as has been seen before, someone who is not enlisted) to wear the captain’s rank.  It’s appropriate to dress for the job or rank we have earned – or in her case, wear her American Heritage Girls uniform with all her badges.  That would not be considered immodest.
  2. It means we are showing a limited, moderate, or small amounts of ourselves.  I told her that just because we  may have the money or the good looks to wear certain things doesn’t mean we necessarily should.  We even brought up Victoria’s Secret Models (we were surprised with their New Year’s Fashion show on the television of a Dairy Queen dinner date once) and we talked about how even though these women looked great, it wasn’t exactly modest to show so much of their nakedness on national TV.  We give people limited amounts of ourselves not just physically, but also to some degree emotionally and financially too.
  3. It means we behave and dress as is appropriate for the occassion, using these as a way to honor others above ourselves.  We talked about different outfits she wears during the week for different things.  Although a one piece bathing suit is perfectly modest for swimming, it’s entirely inappropriate for church on Sunday mornings!  So being proper and decent also has to do with discerning the occassion.  It’s why people don’t wear flashy colors at funerals, but flowery and bright colors are appropriate for weddings.  It’s why tight capris and a tank top are perfectly fine for yoga or running in the summer heat, but she really doesn’t need to wear form fitting clothes like that to co-op or Kid’s World at church.

brielle

I think this is all withing the realm of possibility for her – not legalistic, which kills your spirit, but not rebellious either (which kills your soul).  It was imperative with me, in this conversation with my 9 year old girl, that we addressed modesty without at all addressing sex.

It’s nauseating to me how hyper-sexualized everything is to a younger and younger audience.  And while the feminist in me says, “I’m not going to repress my daughter because some perv might be oogling her!” The maternal instinct in me says, “I don’t want to give a perv anything to look at!”  We don’t need to bring sex up to talk about the length of her skirt because modesty is so much more than the avoidance of sexual temptation in the first place.

I always try to approach every subject with my kids through the heart of God’s Word, as best I understand it.  I don’t want to restrict them in frustration; I want them to willingly make God-honoring choices.

How would you describe modesty to a young girl?

 

Blast From The Past

This was a blog post published July 28th, 2015.  Sometimes going back and seeing God’s faithfulness in the past helps to jolt me to the reality that He really is a present help in time of need.

The past three weeks I have not been scheduled to work at my part-time job. This has been a bit of a financial blow that we are trying to overcome.

And as usual, this is the season when things go wrong, need repairs, or somehow we are reminded how much more money don’t have.

As y’all know I’m already a bit of an insomniac. Last week was different: I would stay awake with my heart racing, fighting a supernatural struggle against anxiety. Praying, listening to the Bible as I laid in bed so I wouldn’t hear all the other thoughts that assaulted me.

In my prayer time, I asked God what I was supposed to do with my Zumba certification. Because I can’t really seem to get a job as a Zumba instructor unless I’m also an accredited Group Fitness Certified Instructor… a certification that costs $300-500 I also don’t have. I just felt stuck.

May I add that finances were the LEAST of our trials? Talk about a spiritual assault! I had arrows thrown at me from every side! From family, to our kids, to work, and my husband’s job. I was weary from it! I can’t even begin to share all the details here, though my journal knows, but I was beat down on every side.

When I couldn’t take the stress anymore, I got a little lost with my kids to re-center.

Well the Lord has graciously provided an opportunity for me to substitute three Zumba classes this week. It means I make some extra cash (yay!). But for every one hour of Zumba I would teach, I do four hours at home perfecting the class and making sure my routine works. And then another hour fighting anxiety in prayer because I’m nervous that no one will show up or no one will like me or I’ll screw up. So this is taking a lot of my time.

And I already have to give time to the kids. Anakin’s hand completely healed and he’s ready to ride his bike (two weeks ahead of schedule! Praise God!). And I have to give time first and foremost to the Lord; I’m not that stupid as to be facing so many battles and not spending time working out strategies with my Commander. So the first thing our family has been doing (more consistently now than in the past, I confess) is reading our Bibles and studying it. And praying.

So here is where my fellow introverts ask me: Maria, if you are so anxious, and teaching a Zumba class makes you so nervous, why do you do it? Why don’t you just get a job?

Or my biggest pet peeve ever: Maybe you should just send your kids to public school so you can go work at an office? (Gotta love people who solve your problems without any God-given direction…)

It’s a risk I’m willing to take because I am motivated by the possibility that I could find that John Piper sweet spot where God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. If I can make the extra income we need helping other women have a good time (teaching Zumba) and not sacrificing our family life, I am in that sweet spot.

For the record, I’ve also applied for and interviewed other very basic, entry level jobs at local gyms.

My extra motivation this week came after I took the kids to their annual eye checkup.

My silly, beautiful little girl!

I always thought Brielle was dyslexic because I knew that she struggles with doing her letters backwards or spelling words all scrambled. I knew (and I’ve shared this before) that she works twice as hard as any other kid her age to read or write and that she focuses twice as much. Public school told me in Kindergarten that she’d probably outgrow it naturally. The charter school I homeschool through told me that she seems to be an auditory learner, and she has not fallen behind, but enjoys learning more through conversation, music, and movement than through print.

The doctor examines her eyes and notices that her eyes naturally rest looking outward a little instead of straight ahead. Which means to focus, and to see a line of print (like from her Bible, which she reads about a chapter a day or so) she has to hold a strain for a prolonged period of time… where other kids can just stare straight ahead and be just fine.

And now everything I’ve known in my heart makes sense, although it wasn’t dyslexia. But she does need to see a specialist for eye therapy to correct the issue, especially since she’s still young and there’s a good chance that as she grows she can be “cured”. In the meantime I’m just in awe of how dedicated she is to reading and writing, because she’ll write in her journal regularly and she loves the youversion app on the kindle.

And I’m thankful I homeschool because while she’s getting therapy, I can focus a curriculum JUST FOR HER that uses other styles of learning more than book work, so that she doesn’t fall behind on content and she can keep learning without straining her eyes. It’s one of those moments I know God was moving in Brielle’s favor when He told me I needed to homeschool before I even knew what was necessary.

I want the resiliency my kids have. They laugh through everything!

Then my youngest, Caleb, turns out to be quite the conman. We’ve always done his eye exams briefly at the pediatrician, with a chart. He’s always said he appears to have 20/20 vision in both eyes.

It turns out, he has ok vision in one eye and a WHOLE LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC memory. He memorized the chart and aced it.

Because at the eye doctor, he was discovered to have been soooooo farsighted in one eye he was in danger of losing the optical nerves in that eye. So he needs to wear prescription glasses as soon as possible. Talk about total surprise!

I was humiliated that I couldn’t afford to pay the $29 I needed to at check out for my son’s glasses, and had to ask them to bill me that when I pick them up.

But it motivated me to take on the Zumba classes with a fury because I now know I’ll need more money than I thought. I don’t know how much Brielle’s eye therapy will cost, or how often it will be, or how much our insurance will cover.

In all this, the verse that kept coming to mind over and over was in Philippians 4: Our God shall supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory. I had this verse given to me in every Bible app, every Facebook post or comment sent my way. I listened to it at night and read it during the day.

It has given me peace to know God somehow knew the entirety of my situation before I was aware of all of it. I know I’ve been attacked a lot (and so has my church, so it’s nothing unusual honestly), but I also see the Hand of God moving in my favor and having my 6. I can’t explain otherwise how getting the news that two of your children have pretty gnarly vision problems can result in a praise report.

Update: Present day (2017) Caleb’s eyesight has improved, though he wears glasses faithfully.  Brielle “graduated” from vision therapy and is now reading at grade level, hasn’t had any more issues since.  Praise God! Shortly after this post I got a regular Zumba teaching job which I stayed in until the room I used to teach went down for maintenance and I was, in essence, laid off. God has been faithful through out with different opportunities to make ends meet.

Lessons From Within The Storm

I was in a situation recently where it all just felt icky and awful.  In it I was drowning in self-pity and despair! I couldn’t see my way through this or out of this.  I absolutely hate feeling stuck.

Confession: When I was about 5 years old, I was going down from the 9th floor of my grandma’s apartment via elevator with my uncle, when there was a quake that caused the elevator to malfunction, and then it dropped… and then it got stuck.  I remember my uncle injuring his arm trying to hold the doors open from within as my cousins and uncles were prying it open from the outside to get me out.

Irony would have it that about a year later I would be in Miami, FL during Hurricane Andrew (1992) spending the night in a walk-in closet with my family…

As a result, I have developed a phobia of small and tight spaces.  I’ve never let a phobia control my actions though, because I hate being manipulated by my emotions even more.  But I get uncomfortable if I feel squeezed.

And not just physically!  I hate feeling pressured, cornered, boxed in… I don’t like it when it seems others are putting me in a situation where my freedoms are restricted, I don’t like feeling tied down… and when I am, I tend to lash out.

It was precisely in this type of situation last month where I found myself really frustrated and, turning to God’s Word and prayer, came across this Scripture in Matthew 8:23-27:

“As He got into the[h] boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. 25 So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die!”

26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm.

27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this?—even the winds and the sea obey Him!”

stormIt struck a nerve how… odd Jesus’ response was.  Was it a lack of compassion?  Was the storm just not as bad as the disciples were making it out to be? Did He expect them to know the outcome the way He knew?

I found myself asking, “Jesus, how come You not only slept through the storm, but rebuked the disciples for waking you up?”

This is what I learned:

·        The presence of the storm does not equal the absence of God.  Likewise, God never promised us that His presence would result in the absence of storms either!

·        Jesus got in the boat first because it was the medium necessary to travel from point A to point B.  And if you want to get to point B with Jesus, the best thing for you to do is to get in the boat with Him.

·        Jesus had full confidence in the disciple’s abilities to navigate the boat through the storm.  Some of them were experienced fishermen.  He didn’t take over and start rowing, telling the disciples to move out of His way; He let them do their jobs.  Could it be that Jesus has full confidence in your ability to navigate through this storm too?

·        Jesus had taught the disciples that He was going to die on the cross.  Therefore, the disciples were expected to believe that they were going to make it to the cross!  Their panic that they would die at sea was not only a lack of belief in Jesus’ ability to care for them, but a lack of faith at His words.

I am so thankful that Jesus never told me, “Once you’re saved, you’ll never experience anxiety!”  Rather, He tells me in Philippians 4:6

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.

So the lesson from the storm is to expect it, and get through it!  It is not pleasant, it is work… but you are not alone.  He is there with you.  And you are not going through the storm because of His incompetence, but rather because you are capable.  There’s something on the shore that you are uniquely equipped for!  But the only way to get there is to get in the boat!

The Yeast of the Pharisees

I believe most of us try to understand the unpleasant circumstances we’re in.  We think that if we can make sense of the valley, then it won’t be so dark.  Or we’ll get out that much faster.

My loved ones, I wish there was a “7 Step Program” to get out of the storms but the truth is, there really isn’t!  Unfortunately, we tend to make a few incorrect assumptions when we’re trying to figure this out:

  • If God was here, or if He loved me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
  • If God was powerful enough in my life, He would pull me out or have me avoid this mess in the first place.
  • If I was more worthy of God’s love, things would go better for me.
  • If other people weren’t so mean to me, I would have better options now.

All of the above are not only dangerous mental pitfalls, but lies straight from hell.  Not one of the previous statements is even remotely Biblical.

Follow me to Matthew 16:1-12

The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You[a] know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times.[b] An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of[c] Jonah.” Then He left them and went away.

The disciples reached the other shore,[d] and they had forgotten to take bread.

Then Jesus told them, “Watch out and beware of the yeast[e] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

And they discussed among themselves, “We didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus said, “You of little faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves that you do not have bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many baskets you collected? 10 Or the seven loaves for the 4,000 and how many large baskets you collected? 11 Why is it you don’t understand that when I told you, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,’ it wasn’t about bread?” 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the yeast in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Alright, let’s break this down (and quite personally I’m glad I don’t have to know a lick about baking to understand how yeast works and how this Bible teaching applies to my life!):

The Pharisees were testing Jesus, demanding to see some sort of magic trick in order to believe that He was the Messiah.  Jesus did not entertain them because He had JUST fed 4,000 men (plus women and children) with left-overs out of seven loaves of bread and some small fish.  So it wasn’t a matter of Jesus not having proved Himself, it was a matter of them being stuck in unbelief.

Jesus, in essence, says, “If you guys can tell it’s going to rain by seeing dark clouds in the sky, you should be able to figure this one out guys!”  He chastises them because they cannot interpret the signs of the times.  I think we’d be wise to understand what kind of spiritual weather we are navigating in too!

But then He says that the only sign they are getting is that of Jonah: – As Jonah was in the belly of a whale for three days and nights, so Jesus was to be dead and buried for three days and nights before His resurrection. – Jonah was thrown overboard in a storm because of his rebellion.  He was saved by the fish that swallowed him because Jonah did not know how to swim, and would’ve drowned. – Jonah had to repent and confess God in the belly of the fish.  THEN the fish puked him out on shore. So the sign of Jonah was more than ample in telling the Pharisees that they weren’t gonna get it unless they repented.  Even in His rebuke, Jesus is full of compassion – pleading with their hearts for repentance!

Jesus barely walks away from this conversation and tells the disciples to beware of the yeast of these people, and then it’s made clear that the yeast means the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Was it the teachings of the law of Moses? Nope.  It was what the Pharisees taught through their UNBELIEF:

  • I’m going to wait ’till God shows me a sign before I believe in Him.
  • That person was born blind because both his parents were seeped in sin.
  • You can’t heal on the Sabbath, it’s a day of “rest”.
  • You’re making yourself impure by eating without washing your hands.
  • You shouldn’t let that woman touch you; you don’t know where she’s been.

You see, it was UNBELIEF that guided the Pharisees teachings in all these issues – because for all their religiosity, they didn’t know the heart of the God they followed and refused to believe that He is the compassionate, gracious God He reveals Himself to be in Scripture!

That Pharisaic yeast is a lot like those mental pitfalls I mentioned earlier – we need to avoid them at all cost!  No matter what our struggle, we’ve got to believe that God is love, full of grace and compassion!  The storms are a sign of the times, not a sign of His ability to care for you!  And like yeast, it only takes a small amount to make unbelief fester and grow!