Character and Intent

There are times that I care WHY things happen more than the fact that they happened.

There have been several times I’ve told my kids no to something if the only reason they wanted to do it was “because everyone else is doing it”.

Why do I do this? Because intent matters. Because character matters.

-When you use your beauty only to please others, it becomes theirs.
-When you use your brain only to show off to others, it becomes theirs.
-When you put on a persona when others are there, it becomes theirs.

Someone once told me I should support all women any where because I am a woman. Now believe me, I am all about strong women being out there in the world. I hope and pray every day that I’m raising strong girls/women. But I judge people on the content of their character and intentions. Regardless of who they are.

Intentions matter. Character (I’m talking the character that shows when you’re behind closed doors and no one else is around) matters. I think we easily forget this nowadays. In a time where everything is on show for everyone (want to see what I ate for dinner tonight?), we forget that intentions matter.

What’s the funny thing about intentions and character? No one really knows them but myself, and whomever I might share that information with. But when we stop learning to discern and reflect on these we easily give other people power over our lives.

When we begin living for others, our lives become theirs. We look for acceptance where we don’t really need acceptance. We look for support where we don’t really need support. We give people way too much power over us nowadays.

I’ve always said if I can lay my head and rest easily in the fact that I stayed true to what I believe God says and what my convictions are, then I’ve done alright. How others respond is on them. That doesn’t mean I always do it right, but I keep trying. That’s what matters.

Last week, I stumbled upon a printout from a church Ladies Ministry meeting. It was dated in the year 2016. I had only been doing the Ladies Ministry at church for a short period of time then.

I grew to be discouraged because we are now in the year 2021 and I don’t feel like I am any more adept at teaching the Bible that I was in 2016. Agreeing to do the Ladies Ministry in my church wasn’t an easy decision for me. I love to learn. I love to read. I love to grow in knowledge of God. I also feel a great pressure at relaying the word of God inaccurately. I used to have to sit down after the monthly meetings to catch my breath because my heart would be beating so intensely in my chest.

I did agree to do it (after much prayer), not because I felt overly qualified and not because I was suddenly comfortable with the idea. I agreed because I want to use my life to be spent for God. I think we make a mistake to think we are only called to situations by God if we experience “peace” or are comfortable in our calling.

I read back on some of the notes and lessons of the past and think “Man, that person sounds like she knows what she’s talking about”. Which is a huge conflict in my mind because I remember how inadequate I felt at that time. I also know how inadequate I felt last month as we began monthly lessons after a year off due to Covid.

I thought by 2021, I would feel less encumbered with the idea of leading a small group of women with God’s Word. I think discouragement was the wrong response because James 3:1 says “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness”.

Now I don’t think this is a statement aimed at discouraging the idea of wanting to spread the word of God. I do, however; believe this is a command to be careful what proceeds out of your mouth (or fingers) when you are in a position to give Godly wisdom to others. Advice without Godly wisdom can actually do more harm than good.

Upon further reflection, I think I am exactly where I’m supposed to be 5 years in. If I grow too confident in my own abilities, it will become easier for me to attempt to do life and teaching without God. I think my feels of inadequacy are my pathway to dependence on God. That’s exactly where he wants me.

James 4:6 reminds me that God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. May I always remember I need His grace and my weakness is actually my blessing.

Taking the Form of a Servant

My 10 year old has recently asked me to read along with him through the Harry Potter books. He asked because he knows I read regularly and I haven’t ever read this series. To be honest, Harry Potter has never interested me (😮 I know). I am excited however to read them now, because I love Tripp (and at this age I’m holding on to any moment he wants to spend time with me).

I always think that Christians are called to favor everyone except themselves. Philippians 2:3 actually tells us to “count others more significant than yourselves”. We’re told to look to the interests of others. It’s easy for me to want to do this with Tripp because I love him. But I am pretty sure that is not limited to only those I love.

I know in the past, there have been people that have felt wronged by Christians. I know people have met Christians they think are hypocritical, judgmental, etc. They wouldn’t have felt that way if they had been treated the way referred to in Philippians 2.

On the reverse of that, I see a thing coming to light that says “since we were wronged, we’ll do whatever we want and rewrite the rules of Christianity”. If you love God, you should want to spend time with Him (just like your kids). When you spend time with Him by reading His word, you learn how God wants us to live.

Even in this, we don’t focus on ourselves but on God. Why? We imitate the only, true example of self-sacrifice. The only who “didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant”.

Thanks for Ultimate Victory

As I sat watching the glow of fireworks as they erupted in the air, I couldn’t help but give thanks.

There has been more division the last few years than I have ever known in my lifetime. Did everyone really feel free in 1776? Are people still bitter about this past year on nights with celebration of our country? Is democracy going to disappear? People felt the same fear when Social Security Numbers began. Do we know the truth of anything in the news anymore?

These are just thoughts I have related to the 4th of July! Let’s not even get into my thoughts of every day living.

But I am thankful regardless. I am still filled with gratitude because I am a citizen of the greatest country on the planet. I am thankful to be in this moment, today.

Ultimately, I’m thankful that regardless of all the division and unknowns today my eternity is secured. In that place, it’s not going to matter whether you’re American or not. So we can put aside the disagreements, and celebrate what we have been given, knowing it’s not our ultimate hope.

“No matter what happens in our lives, if we’re under the reign of Christ, victory is secured”. -Melissa Kruger

4th of July fireworks in my small town

Love Thy Neighbor

I’ve been cleaning stuff out today and stumbled upon the only picture I kept of our daughter’s sister (whom we affectionately refer to as Magnolia). For months after meeting her, I kept everything as it was and didn’t touch anything. Then once that time had passed (much to my now regret), I got rid of every picture and item except for this picture.

I was up until about 2 in the morning a couple nights ago, listening to sermons and crying over the division in the world, and Christians alike, over the racial problems that still exist in the world today. My eyes (and heart) were opened when we spent those couple weeks in Wisconsin. Much of our time was spent in the black and brown neighborhoods up there. I saw differences like I have never seen in my small town Kansas.

I still sometimes question why we went through what we did with Magnolia. And when I was up late that night, it came to me that maybe it’s because that experience shaped something in me that’s irreversible. It makes me sad because I feel this situation is a great opportunity to love others and have conversations. I also feel that a good discerner of a Christian heart is how much they love. “God is love, and all who live in love live in God”, after all. (I didn’t make that up, it’s from the Bible).

Then this morning I was thinking about the story of The Good Samaritan in Luke. The priest walked by a person who had been beaten and left on the road. (If you didn’t know, if someone helped a person like that in those times they would be considered unclean by cultural standards). The priest lacked compassion for this neighbor of his, even though he had all the theological training to be a priest. Then a Levite walked by, and did the same. But a Samaritan (you could say Half breed), walked by and helped him. He didn’t question what he did to get himself in that position. He didn’t pepper him with questions about his life, he just helped.

It doesn’t help the person on the road (or in the sketchy parts of town) to love them at arms length. Or to yell some Bible verses as you pass by. It’s going to get messy. It’s going to be costly.

But, according to Jesus, this was the answer when asked “who is my neighbor”. So I’m going to do the messy work…gladly. Because there’s a girl I loved the moment I saw her and while she didn’t end up being my physical child, she’s my neighbor.

Can Sickness Be A Blessing?

My youngest daughter, who is now 6, has struggled with asthma her entire life. We’ve been to several specialists. She has been tested for so many things. We don’t have any certain answers for what triggers it, or how to keep it from coming, but we do know how to kick up which medicines when her asthma flares up.

The last couple of days she has been coughing a lot (which is usually the first sign it’s about to start bothering her). So we have began our additional medicines on top of her daily ones and doing breathing treatments until her breathing seems better.

Now that she is older she vocalizes how tired she is of being sick, how annoyed she is that she has to stop whatever she is doing every few hours to sit and do a 30 minute breathing treatment. Thirty minutes is an eternity to a 6 year old. As soon as she woke up this morning, I got her machine ready and told her she could lay in bed while she did it.

Once her treatment was completed, she came out to the living room and stated “WHEN I’M IN HEAVEN I WON’T EVER BE SICK ANYMORE!” This declaration stopped me in my tracks.

The last couple of days have been stressful in our home: lack of time, cars breaking down, a million things needing done, etc. But there will come a day where we don’t have to be stressed any more. There will come a day we won’t experience sickness anymore. (It never was God’s original plan for us to experience it any way). This is all temporary.

Knowing this is all temporary leads to hope. Hope gives us joy. Romans 12:12 “Rejoice in hope, patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer”.

ALL is Made For His Glory-Including Myself

We’re told all the time what makes someone beautiful, or what doesn’t. We buy magazines telling us how we should dress, tricks to get abs fast, the most stylish haircuts, and the list could go on.

On the reverse of that, now with social media, I see a trend that calls for us to show all the things we don’t like about ourselves or point out all our flaws so people feel better about theirs.

For the most part I’m comfortable with who I am. I’ve never felt like I’m perfect, actually never felt the need to achieve that. But as always, at the beginning of swimsuit season I find myself comparing myself to others. I’ve always had a bigger bottom half. Most of the time I love it, some times it gives me good jokes, but occasionally I catch myself yearning for what some one else has.

I don’t believe the answer to this is looking more inwardly at myself, or going to extremes to change myself. I believe God makes us, in our mother’s womb, all different to show His glory. The problem with focusing on myself is the fact that my feelings change. When I’m exercising I love how strong my legs are. When I see other women with space between their jean shorts and legs I’m not as fond of them.

How boring would life be if we all looked the same? Beholding the beauty of something new for the first time is an amazing thing. I will always remember the first time I saw the ocean or a mountain, or even my babies faces. God purposely made everything and one different-and His feelings on the subject never change. He is who He is all the time. So when I’m doubting myself, I remember He didn’t make a mistake when He made each one of us. When faced with feelings of doubt, we need to reorient ourselves to His truth, not our own.

That’s Life and I Can’t Deny It

When we first moved to our house, the hubs wanted to cut down all the trees and bushes surrounding our creek and pond. I convinced him otherwise, because how would my bird friends come to visit me if they had no where to stay? (Yes, I’m 80).

This morning I was feeling overwhelmed so I went out to feel the sun peeking behind the clouds and watch the different birds flying between all the branches. Then I was struck by the dirt mound to my left.

Last week we had to bury our cat, Ashley. She was hit by a car in front of our house. (I’m going to have a rant about driving the speed limit and actually stopping when you hit an animal another time). We buried her before the kids got home from school, but our girls were hysterical nonetheless.

There are a few moments of the kids crying that are burned into my mind: them crying and saying goodbye to K’s little sister (when we attempted to adopt her), my oldest son crying on the first day of school (because it takes a lot to get him emotional), and how sad my girls were when we told them about Ashley.

I want to protect them from every pain possible. But I know that it is impossible. I also believe there is pain with purpose. I told the girls to mourn Ashley. I told T and C the same when we said goodbye to K’s sister. It is good that they learn to love things and people without conditions.

I think it’s realizing this chasm in life that you start to understand it, even just a little bit. There are and will be beautiful moments throughout your life, but there will also be pain. Let them change you and cause you to grow.

Occasionally sit in the remembrance of it. Knowing it’s all a part of your story, and it can all work for good.

We’re All A Little Different

“There’s not very many black people in the world”. I was sitting out in the back yard with my youngest daughter, who is black. I looked over at her, taken aback, and said “there may not be in this town, but there are a lot of black people in the world”. We live in a small town in the Midwest. It’s safe to say it’s not very diverse.

This is something I have always been conscious of. I knew when we adopted her it was going to take a lot of intentionality to make sure she felt well represented and not separate from other people around her. One of her brothers is adopted as well and is a different race from us also, which does help some.

We read every night before bed, and last night we read a book that was based in Africa. At the end of the book, it showed real pictures of African kids and families together. Guess what? One white person was in those pictures. I told my daughter that if we went and visited there I would be the one who stood out.

My husband and I also told her how we all more than likely came from some other country in our family history. That it just depends on which part of the world you’re in, as to what race the people will be.

I hate that she has moments of questioning her value. I can’t tell you the nights I’ve spent awake worrying about this. But I also know, her skin color isn’t her entire story. I will always do everything in my power to gain knowledge to help with the racial differences , I will show her unconditional love, and she will know in this family she always belongs.

But more than where she is now, I care where she’s going to be for eternity. This is the basis on which we live. We all feel like we don’t belong sometimes in this world. While my daughter’s are more visual, which causes more direct conversation about it, every one deals with it some times.

Her struggles won’t look the same as my struggles throughout life, but she belongs in this family. Because the family we will end up in eternally will be filled to the brim with different races, yet we will all be one family. For eternity, we will see and celebrate the differences in each other. I can’t wait for the day.

Keckley’s History Lesson

I have always been intrigued by the Civil War, slavery, and the fight for freedom. In Elementary School even, I was indignant when I learned some persons had to fight for a right that was given by God. It has always been an area of history that has captivated me.

Now in my 30s, we have visited many sights of the Civil War. I have read too many books to count (fiction and nonfiction) whose subject is that of slavery and/or the fight for freedom. I have watched numerous documentaries on it.

One thing that’s become more certain to me, is the more I learn, the more I have to unlearn. I think knowledge of History is essential in order to not repeat the same mistakes made in the past. However; I don’t think we study historical events in depth enough to consider ourselves always well-informed of historical events in their entirety. (That’s not easy for us to do in a time where we believe Google can make us all knowing on most any subject).

I have been reading “Behind The Scenes” by Elizabeth Keckley. She was a former slave who bought her freedom from her and her son. She made a name for herself by becoming the seamstress for Mrs. Jefferson Davis and Mrs. Lincoln. Yes, the former Confederate leader’s wife and President Lincoln’s wife as well. I will note that she did work for Mrs. Davis prior to Jefferson Davis becoming the leader of the Confederate Party.

Mrs. Keckley wrote this book in the latter part of her life, so she knew what came to be of the Davis’s. Yet, she spoke fondly of Mrs. Davis. One thing that strikes me most about this book (and others I have read referring to Mrs. Keckley) is that The North wasn’t necessarily accepting, with wide open arms, of those who became freed from the South.

In an excerpt from her book, she says: “The bright dreams were too rudely dispelled; you were not prepared for the new life that opened before you, and the great masses of the North learned to look upon your helplessness with indifference- learned to speak of you as an idle, dependent race”. Now I’m not sure about you, but I didn’t often give thought to the idea that freedman weren’t compassionately welcomed up North.

Often when we think of Slavery, we limit the problems to the South. Obviously there were issues in the South, but maybe they weren’t only in the South. This reiterates, that now, more than ever, we need to learn to be people of discernment.

Yes! Learn from history! Research it. Gain all knowledge you can. But don’t assume to know it in it’s entirety. Use the knowledge you gain and stories you read to try to do better for the future. In a time of everyone assuming to be knowledgeable on everything, realize we often don’t. It’s okay to sit on the uncomfortableness of it-that’s often where growth occurs.