Already, But Not Yet

The next few days, I will be sharing a few blogs.  I wrote out a very short (can’t even call it an Advent reading plan) for the ladies in the church I serve at.  It is not meant to be an extensive study, but rather help us to be in the Bible a little every day to practice keeping our focus on Jesus during the Christmas season.

As we begin our reading plan for the Christmas season, I want us to think about the time period we live in.  We live in the “already, but not yet.” Jesus has already been born, he died, and he rose again after death. This also translates to say, we have been saved by grace through faith by Jesus’s sacrifice.  We are now able to commune with God through the Holy Spirit.

“Not yet” means we are still waiting for God to come back and make a New Heaven and New Earth.  When this day comes, we will experience the earth as God originally intended it. We will be heirs with God on this new earth.  We see the effects of living in the “already, but not yet” daily.

Examples of “already”- peace and hope to deal with difficult circumstances (through the Holy Spirit.)

Examples of “not yet”- school shootings (Satan is currently the prince and power of this world.  Such evil will not be seen once God has put everything back the way he originally intended.)

“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.

Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”

Romans 21:4-5

Firmly Fixed

We live in a different time than a lot of generations before us. Of course, I say that, and yet the more I read of history, the more I find it repeats itself. Not only that, there has been evil or “lost” in this world since the beginning of time. Maybe it’s not new, just new to us.

A lot of us take up a defensive stance on The Bible because of the time period we live in. Now listen to what I’m saying with this, we act as though WE have to protect God’s Word from being tainted by the world. Yes, we should hold God’s Word as the absolute authority and truth in life. We can’t change what the Bible says when it makes us uncomfortable or it makes our lives inconvenient. We must take the entire Bible as truth and not pick and choose what we like. (Either it’s true or it’s not).

God is not surprised by the state of the world today. God’s Word is relevant in any time period. It is here to save people today just as it was 50 or 100 years ago. We often act like it is something we must guard from the “unclean” or those we deem “unworthy” by our standards, or what we believe to be “Christian” standards.

Something that has struck me when reading about Jesus’s walk here on the earth is that he repeatedly says “I came to save, not to judge.” When Jesus came in the form of man, he came to save and redeem the lost. That is what the Word is still left here to do today. God’s Word has continued to go into the world DESPITE of our shortcomings, failures, and betrayals.

I finished reading Katie Davis’s new book Daring to Hope yesterday. She is a woman who left her life in the U.S. after going on a Mission Trip. She moved permanently to Uganda and adopted 13 girls from an orphanage. She still lives there and tries to minister and serve others in her day to day life. She talks about a situation where a mom who attended their weekly Bible Studies, showed up intoxicated after a long time period of being clean. Rather than kicking the woman out in an effort to preserve their Bible Study, she approached the woman. She asked her questions: Where her daughter was, what happened, etc. She was broken for this woman. She didn’t live in defense but met this woman where she was, and tried to figure out how to use the Gospel to help save her.

She lives in a land where poverty and extreme conditions abound. We don’t see much of what she does in our day to day life, but the same Word of God is here that she uses in Uganda. Don’t fret friends. Don’t hold back. “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast.” Psalm 119:89-90

Thanksgiving Hangover

Here I sit, typing at our new laptop that we purchased last night for our big Black Friday (Black Thursday?) gift to ourselves.  We have been without a laptop for about two years, thanks to the gift of kids.  The laptop would come and go so we would hold out and hope for a good day any time we absolutely needed to use the computer.  (See: cheap.)   Alas, we finally surrendered to the inevitable fact that we needed a new one.  The hubs will complain nonstop about how appalled he is that Black Friday actually begins on Thursday nowadays.  He is not one to pass up a good deal though, so Black Friday shopping last night is where we found ourselves.  Of course, we never turn away from a challenge so we went with our hooligans in tow, plus our niece.  We were in.  We were out.  We made it out alive and in time to watch our recorded episode of This Is Us.

On to my real reason for the blog today: since August we have been doing a study of gratitude in our monthly ladies bible study.  I love Thanksgiving.  I feel that it’s a more relaxed holiday.   You aren’t stressing about gift purchasing, making sure you got everything equal for everyone, trying to figure out where all the money is going to come from, trying to figure out where all the money went, etc.  I loved randomly getting online yesterday and seeing every one slow down and just enjoy some time with friends and/or family.  Some people take to playing together outside, some take a nap, some go shopping together.  The important thing isn’t necessarily what you’re doing, just that you’re doing it with those you care about.

Okay, now REALLY to my main point.  Gratitude shouldn’t be something we exhibit just one a day in the year.  (And some of us have trouble doing it just that one day as it is.)  Gratitude should be the state of our heart.  I’m going to go out in a limb and say a lot of our struggles begin with a little bout of ingratitude.  When we become so focused on what others are doing, what they have, how they look, how much money they make, we aren’t taking the time to be grateful for what we have been blessed with.  When caught in the trap of constantly comparing or wanting more, it’s almost impossible to be grateful for what is in front of you.

Friends, this isn’t new.  Genesis 3 tells us of a man and woman who had everything supplied to them.  They were leaving in a seemingly perfect and idyllic place.  They were living in a place of absolutely beauty and contentment.  God had told them they could eat of all trees in the garden but one.  Naturally, they wanted that one tree that they were told not to eat from.  Rather than being grateful for all they had been given, they were discontent because they wanted the one they were told they could not have.  Ingratitude led to the original sin.  This ingratitude led to the fall of mankind.

Ingratitude and ungratefulness are mentioned several times throughout the Bible.  Repetition in the Bible is kind of like God’s exclamation marks.  It shows us that it is important to God.  If it’s important to God, of course, it should be important to us.  I hope you enjoyed the time you had to slow down with those you love.  I also hope the act of being grateful is something you do more than just one day a year.  I also want to suggest if you have trouble thinking of things to be grateful for off the top of your head (we all go through hard seasons), start writing a few things down a day.  It’s amazing the change of attitude or mindset that occurs when we are intentional in our thinking.

Mary Mohler says it best in her book Growing In Gratitude: “We are to be like a fountain that is continually filled to overflowing.  We are not only to exhibit gratitude but we are to overflow with it, such that it spills out into all that we do.”

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When I wake up, well, I know I’m gonna be…

“Living radical isn’t about where you live; it’s about how you love. How you love the beauty of Him, how you love His beautiful people. It’s about realizing: Real life, large love, doesn’t happen when you arrive in a certain place. It happens when your heart arrives in a certain place. Wherever you are, right where you are…” -Ann Voskamp

Yesterday I turned 31 years old. 31 years. 11,315 days. Last night, I reflected on what my 31 years has looked like. I’m not able to remember much of my childhood. The details I do have, I love to recall. I remember “laying out” in the sun with my older sister. We would put out a blanket, rub baby oil on us, and listen to music. I recall my little sister and I playing “store” or “house” almost daily. My mom always did well to encourage me and my sisters friendships. All of my best memories include them.

Then I started thinking about my life as an adult. I feel like I’ve been super busy since I turned 18, but my reach hasn’t been far beyond the walls of my home. I married young, started having kids young, adopted, and now started foster care. Can I tell you, I am (mostly) perfectly content with that?

I think we can sometimes get so caught up in being recognized by a lot of people, or trying to reach the widest span of people possible. Those thoughts aren’t necessarily bad, but if they are our focus, they often leave us feeling depleted and ineffective. I have an “achiever” mentality. I love checking off boxes. I love accomplishing a task.

One of my main tasks is something that will probably never be able to be “checked off.” I don’t think I will ever feel like I’ve “accomplished” my task of mothering. There has been much growing (and failing) to learn to be okay with that. I’ve started to realize, just being there, in the moment is enough.

I am not meant to do it all. God will meet me right where I am. He takes my meager offering of the time and talents I do have, and He uses them in the ways He sees fit. My reflect left me feeling blessed. I hope to get another 31 years of doing just the same. (Minus the baby oil for sun tanning. 😜)

Novemption (November+Adoption) No? That’s all I’ve got.

November is National Adoption Month. I love that we as a society have set aside a time period to give light to adoption. Adoption is amazing, exciting, and hard. To deny it is hard would be lying, but you can’t deny how much it is worth it as well.

We got a call in May 2015 that a little girl was due in a month. Her first mom would like us to raise her daughter if it was something we would be interested in. (Did you know a couple was actually previously matched to baby K’s mom before us?) I can’t imagine that spunky girl being anywhere but here. We went up to the hospital while first mom was in labor and baby girl was wheeled into our room as soon as she was born. She’s been with us since.

April 2016, we got a call that baby K’s mom was expecting a baby due to be born in November. She wanted us to have that baby as well. A lot of things happened in that situation. First mom lost her mom 2 weeks before baby girl #2 was born. Then CPS services got involved, but ultimately first mom decided to try to keep and raise baby girl herself. We had 48 hrs of kissing and loving on that baby.

I don’t bring up our failed adoption to evoke fear of adoption out of anyone. I bring it up to say, it happened, we broke a little, but we’re still here and just as passionate about adoption as ever. I always knew adoption was going to be in my life story. Before I even met the hubs, I knew I wanted to do something like that.

Each and every time my life has been touched by it, it just ignites a greater passion. Us going through the foster system this time will probably be our last outreach like this, but I can’t ever picture myself not advocating for adoption or trying to fill in somewhere.

Here’s my thing: if children’s basic needs aren’t met, they can’t learn very well beyond that. From my experience, and of hearing stories, these birth parents aren’t necessarily always doing this out of a place of disregard or lack of desire for that child. Many have never experienced love and support themselves. You cannot expect someone to give something they’ve never experienced or been acquainted to. We. Have. To. Be. Filling. Gaps.

Loving my adopted child has never been hard. I do not believe her ending up in this family was never not in God’s plan for her life. Whether my children were homegrown or not, my purpose of parenting them is the same. I am nurturing and raising them up to send them out. They are their own person. (Even the ones that may resemble the husband and myself). We have never been raising them for our entertainment. We do not have them for a cute little accessory to show off to people.

Baby K was adopted, and I never want her to feel shame about how she came into my life. She had a first mom who loved her enough to choose someone else to raise her and try to give her more than she could. She has a second mom who will give her every opportunity, encouragement, and love-just like every single kid who comes into my home. Baby K’s whole life story is not that she was adopted. I want her to feel confident in where she came from, but even more sure of where she’s going.

Adoption is a perfect reminder that our lives (or someone else’s) can change at any moment with a choice. That true joy doesn’t come from self-service but self-abandonment. Somewhere in the middle of learning to think of others a little more, you find out what’s really worth living for.

To my son, you drive me crazy and I love you BIG

If you read my post last week, you know I struggled when Tripp was a baby. I didn’t mention much on the fact that the little ball of cuteness we brought home cried until he was 5 months old, almost nonstop. He didn’t take a pacifier. He didn’t like a swing or bouncer. Tyler and I had two shows on TV at the time that we liked to watch. We alternated holding and bouncing him for 30 minute increments for those 2 different shows. Once he could start to move on his own, he became a much happier kid.

Since then, the movement hasn’t stopped. From ages 1-3, I swear that boy constantly had a bruise on his head. Once he learned to walk, he ran. As a baby clear through to today, we cannot get that kid to lay and cuddle with us for 5 minutes. It drives him crazy to sit still like that.

He has been my kid that has mispronounced the most words. (That’s because he doesn’t want to wait to figure out the right way to say what he wants to say). One of my favorites is that he used to call an “elevator” an “alligator”.

The husband and I have always attempted to be intentional not to push our likes or desires off onto our kids but instead try to let them figure out what they like. This is where this kid amazes me more than anything. He can play football in the front yard with his dad, then come in and get lost in a book.

He tries to fight with his sisters, then sits at the table making up his own stories and books with them. He complains about how his sisters drive him crazy, but freaks out a little if one is ever hurt. He gets impressed with his sister’s gymnastics moves, but rolls his eyes when she looks at him.

He tells everyone all the time about his daddy hanging the moon (because he adores him), but randomly yells my name and follows up with a “love ya” while we’re sitting in the house. He is this perfect little (big) kid full of contradiction and I love every part of it.

I was given everything I never knew I needed in that little boy. I have had nights of crying until I’ve fallen asleep after power struggles with him, but then I have had way more moments of being lost in adoration while staring at him. I look forward to doing both of those things throughout the rest of his life.

No Situation Will Last Forever

You have probably, at some point, heard me talk about my lack of love for the “baby stage.” I think all life is precious, I just think they’re a little more precious when they let me sleep through the night. With that being said, I am feeling a need to take a journey down a road I try not to recall too often. It’s actually one that the hubs, my sisters, and a few other family members know about. Not all even know to the same degree.

I’ve always considered myself a pretty strong person. I’ve never really thrived on other’s approval. I actually prefer to NOT be doing what every one else is. One of the quickest ways to turn me off of something is for every one else to be doing or have it. I don’t remember anything contributing to this, it’s just how I’ve always been. With that being said, I KNEW I was going to be a great mom.

Fast-forward to November 2010. I gave birth to this adorable, screaming-until-he-was-5-months-old-baby boy. I went through postpartum with him. It was never officially diagnosed, but it was an extreme change. For one, I didn’t feel strong anymore. I was also at a point in life that I was trying to be something or someone I was not, in an effort to be the kind of mom I thought I was supposed to be. I also had other health issues at the time that contributed. I’m talking, like some nights I remember not wanting to get in the shower. I would step in the shower, feel anxious and get out. I had to talk myself through driving out of town by myself for a time period.

Mine was a situational change. There are some who’s struggles have been more “nature” than “nurture.” This is not a post about medicine. I am no doctor. Medicine was not going to be my first option because I have people in my life who have been on it without any real changes to the bigger problems in their lives. My doctor (who is awesome BTW) even explained it to me, that a lot of times medicine helps to take the edge off so you can focus on the actual problem you are having.

This post is not for elaborating on any of those things. I can’t diagnose or prescribe anything for anyone. I broke down one night crying on the floor with a 6-month old on my lap. I cried out to God. I knew that I couldn’t do it on my own, but I also knew that I couldn’t live my life how I had been. I also changed the things in my life that needed to be changed.

I want to share some verses I memorized to help me focus on something other than myself during that time:

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that with ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“Who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will therefore boast all the more gladly, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sometimes in life God will give you more than you can handle, because He doesn’t want us to just rest on our own strength but in His. God will sometimes give us “thorns” in the flesh as a gift to learn to depend on Him. A gift? Yes, my biggest times of growth were during my deepest struggles.

Know that your struggle(s) do not define you. I hesitated on typing this for a minute because I thought “what if I go through another time of struggle after I typed out what helped me out of mine?” If I do, I will just redo the things I did again and persist. Friends, the one thing we can count on in life is change. Things will change up until we take our last breath. No situation will last forever.

All Things New

Fall is my favorite season. I love seeing the leaves change colors. I love mums. Two of my kid’s birthdays are in the Fall. I love the crisp mornings and cool evenings.

Winter on the other hand is a different story. I love a good snow or two, but after that I’m generally done with it. Something that I read a few years ago changed my perspective. I don’t remember who wrote what I had read, and I can’t remember the exact wording.

The sentiment discussed how during the winter, there is a lot of change happening under ground that we can’t see. Tree roots are growing, bulbs are taking root, etc. All of these things we are unaware of until Spring rolls around and we see the flowers bloom and leaves on the trees again.

Every season brings newness to it. The winter is a season of rest. There is nothing we can physically do help nature grow during winter. We wait until Spring to see all the newness has emerged.

I have friends that tease “you love watching leaves fall to their death every year”. 😜. This may be true, but the Spring brings newness and the “death” of the leaves is necessary.

It makes me think of the conference I was at last weekend. We talked about how God is making all things new. In Revelation 21 God says “…Behold, I am making all things new…” There will come a time that God will make EVERYTHING new. There will be no more crying, no evil, no pain. I believe this is such perfection that we can’t even imagine with our finite minds. The Garden Of Eden was a picture of this perfection, but it still wasn’t perfection itself.

We don’t have to wait until the new world to be made new. When you come into a saving relationship with God, you begin a new life while here in earth. God begins changing your heart and making things new to you now. Will they be perfect? No. They will be new. They will have a blossom and fragrance like you’ve never known. You will learn to un-naturally die to self and begin to live for God and others. I heard a quote once, “belief in Jesus trusts in advance what will makes sense in reverse.”

Much like the growth and change that occurs underground during winter. There is often change occurring in people that we can’t see. God could already be working His way into someone’s life before you are there. God could be speaking to someone before you try to speak to them. God can be causing change under the surface of people that we cannot see. It doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Be gentle and love, because He first loved us. Only God and the Holy Spirit can make all things new.

Money-the root of arguing with my kid for the 2,956th time

I was laying in bed; praying and thinking over how to handle my first-born. Oh, that first-born. He looks like his daddy, but acts SO much like his momma. He and I had been having a battle of wills that night. He had received some money. The second he gets money, he’s thinking about the different toys he can buy. That’s fine, whatever, toys are fun.

HOWever, My kids have so many toys that I’m going to say probably half don’t even get touched. He also has a birthday in November, followed by Christmas in December. Toy. Overload.

So, I attempt to discuss this with him:

Me: “what about you hold onto the money and try to save it for something bigger?”

Him: “whining…but it’s my money…”

Me: (after going back and forth a bit) “Money and toys are so important to you, too important. We don’t need to put our hope in money and things enough to where we get this upset about it.”

Him: “more whining…”

Me: “I’m taking the money. I’m not going to do anything with it, but your mind/heart needs to change before I figure out what to do with it.”

I spent that night crying, praying, and thinking because of that precious first child of mine. See, I gave him “law” or what the Bible tells us about money and things on earth. (Do not lay your treasure upon them, but on things eternal.) I even explained to him in our conversation that there are bigger things (and gave examples) going on in the world and he’s whining about not getting to buy a toy the instant he wants it.

Don’t get me wrong, I want my kids to enjoy toys and the extra things in life. I love that my kids have so much more than I did. I love that people love them enough to give them things, but I also can’t ignore the most important thing. I care more about the state of my kids heart than I care about the “things.”

Another hard part of the situation is that I can’t “force” my kids heart to change. I also can’t expect the “law” to change his heart. The “law” or rules in the Bible are there to show us that we cannot keep all the rules by ourselves. (Which is why God sent the perfect sacrifice for our sins-Jesus). The law can help to provide obedience and moments of discipline and training. Those are all good things… but I’m not just reaching for “good”.

I want my child to realize they’re a sinner in need of a savior. They need redemption. How do they recognize their need of redemption? They need to recognize they’re a sinner, and repent. They can’t repent unless they learn to recognize sin. This is something the Holy Spirit can only do. Yes, I can show them their problem areas, but I can’t change it for them.

Going to church, reading their Bibles, memorizing scripture- all of these things are good, but none of these things will save their souls. Yes, God may use one of those tools for them to see their heart state, but they cannot save them from their sinner-selves.

So, I press on…with tears, prayers, and way too much thinking. Hopeful, that together, my family will work together and realize we are all sinners. In need of redemption, that only God can give.

Greater Joy

We make a big mistake when we read a part of the Bible and think “okay, where am I at in these verses?” The Bible is not here to point us to ourselves but to point us to God.

A huge change in my walk with God occurred when I realized every story in the Bible is there to point me to Him and not to myself. (Seems pretty easy, huh?) How many times do we read thinking the latter though? I once read verses 27-28 of Matthew 5 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Afterwards, I legitimately thought to myself, okay, I need to try not to make eye contact with guys anymore. If I see a good looking guy, I should look at the floor instantly. Yes, we should guard ourselves. We are human and are prone to make mistakes (many times without us even realizing it’s happening). But these verses are pointing us to something greater. God is after your heart, not just the physical obedience. You can look good or be acting good on the outside, but that’s not what God is after. He’s after your heart.

When we search through Scriptures looking for things we can try to apply to our lives, we also tend to take things out of context to try to apply it and miss the purpose of the verses.

Psalm 46:5 “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.” I have seen or heard that verse quoted several times referring to a woman who is about to embark upon some new or challenging task. She is saying she can do it because God is in her, she won’t fail. While it is true that you can’t fail if God is with you, in this verse the “her” is God’s City. In the previous verses of that same Chapter, it talks about the city of God withstanding different disasters because God is there.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” God will allow you to do all things He wants you to do, but God won’t bless all that you try to do. God may let you lose that game, or not finish first in that race. God is not concerned for the temporary things in this world. Yes, he can use small, temporary things to help proclaim His glory. This verse is an emphasis of obedience to God and serving God by serving others.

I also need to stress that God’s “thou” and “thou shall not”s are his ways of leading you to joy and His glory. God wants you to have a joy that transcends circumstances. While I am sorry if I did disappoint you by ruining your favorite, strength inducing verse. Strength that doesn’t come from you, but God is so much better. It takes strength to be content no matter the circumstances, and that is strength that can only come from God. God will never give His Children something that will ultimately hurt them.