The Smiley Faces

the-smiley-faces-pic-1“MOMMMMMM-A!!!”cried my wallowing six-year old, accompanied by her trademark stomp of dissatisfaction. “It’s doing MINUSES now …that’s too HARD….”

For days, exasperated sighs and incorrect buzzers had drifted from the kitchen counter at breakfast. But every once in a while, I would hear a jubilant yell:

“A smiley-face! I got a smiley face! I beat the teacher! Ha ha ha ha !”

It’s my hope that, somewhere in her small victory celebrations and the obsequious high-fives, the fact that she’s learning math trumps beating the “teacher” on the other side of our tablet.

The capricious people-pleaser innate to humanity seeks “the smiley-faces” from life’s the-smiey-faces-tweet-1audience. And when their approval alludes us, it can leave us feeling unworthy, unqualified, unloved, and all sorts of other “un” words. We can relieve our hearts of the burden to please others, when we start to see Him first.

1. Start

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly…”1 Cor 9:26

Paul is talking about the discipline he enforced upon his own life to serve Christ. (NIV Notes) When my life get’s hard, I tend to snap. When the side of my brain that signals I’ve earned the right to lose a little control trumps the logical side, I am libel to tell my kids to pick up there “s-word.” Or, ask them what in the “hocky-sticks” they are thinking. I might stomp up the stairs, roll my eyes at my husband, or cause my kids to flinch in fear. Anyone relate?

When the endurance of preparedness kicks in, the logical side of our brains replaces the-smiley-faces-pic-2lunacy with a pause. A moment, to just sit in the pocket of reaction and allow the memory to search out truth. If we read the truth of God’s Word day after day, it will remain alive and active to guide us on the fly.

Paul knew the cost and sacrifice of such discipline, but knew also it wasn’t aimless.

2. Stamina

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Cor. 9:24

“All the runners run” challenges me to lay down my efforts to succeed in exchange for consistency and discernment.

In a long-distance track event, I like to watch the runners who get boxed in after the lanes merge. Despite all of the preparation and experience the sport can offer, some of the best runners in the world still end up there. Against all odds, sometimes a runner jolts out of the pressure pocket like lightning …and sails back into the race. I love to root for those runners.

the-smiley-facesHave you found yourself boxed into places you’ve never wanted to be …places you prepared never to be? Let me encourage you from a place of commraderie. Human weakness will never go away, but neither will Jesus. Sometimes the only way to get the prize is to take a leap of faith. To reach out for His hand through the spikes clipping by, and let Him pull us back into the race when we’re ready to jolt.

3. Seek

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last forever.” 1 Cor. 9:25

Phil 3:14 explains that the winner of the race, in the time period Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, won money and a wreath of leaves. (NIV notes on Phil 3:14) We train awfully hard to earn promotions, win medals, buy houses, and take vacations. The incomparably majestic crowns in Heaven are going to make a free trip to Disney World equatable to a free Oreo cookie. Just one cookie. Without the milk.

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When I get to heaven, I want God to be proud of me… like a whole reward chart overflowing with smiley-faced stickers. He’ll always love me, but I want to have endured obedience in the pursuit of holiness. I want to break free from the pack and run down that straightaway praising His name as the tape breaks across my chest. I want to win. For Him. God doesn’t paint a whole picture of what that looks like for everyone. It’s as individual as each one of us. And His is the only approval we’re intended to rely on.

Happy Seeking,

Megs

 

 

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The Invisible Fire.

My little girl’s tears streamed onto my cheeks as she hugged me tight. Fearful that in the darkness of night our house would catch on fire, unreasonable emotion gripped her blotchy red face. Her pierced blue eyes searched mine for an answer …for comfort …for reassurance …all of which I was unqualified to promise her.invisible-fire-2

The anxieties we answer to in this life grab us much like Lauren’s sweet six-year-old heart, that can’t bear the thought of being separated from her teddy bear. Life is fragile. We want to look around and depend on each other to get through things that may never happen. We want to believe that everything is going to be ok, but it’s simply not always going to be. In fact, we’re promised that it will get much worse.

We can help our children cope with fear and anxiety by teaching them to pray these Words of God:

“Do not worry.” Matthew 6:34

“Do not fear.” Isaiah 41:10

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Step Back.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 (The Message)

Our duty as parents is not to have all the answers, but to point to the One who does. We can aim to protect our children but we cannot promise them safety. Only God is sovereign to make good on the assured direction of their future.

“Lauren, can I pray for you?”

She nodded ‘yes’ through slowing sobs.

“Lord, you tell us not to fear, and not to worry. But that’s hard. We need Your help. Help Lauren not to worry, and not to be afraid. Let her rest in knowing how much you love her. God we pray that You protect and bless our home. Keep it and us safe. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

My godly duty as her mother is to reassure that she is loved …not just by me, but far invisible-fire-3greater. Her little heart needs to hear that He is good, that she can trust Him, and that He he cares about her fears and worries.

“Jesus explains the futility of such worry for one’s life (Mt 6:25), time (6:27, 34), clothes (6:28), and even what one will eat (6:31). Such a focus is not only a wasted effort on something that one cannot change (cf. Lk 12:25), but it leads to unhealthy anxiety.” Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary

If the thing I want to be able to promise will never harm a hair on her head singes her life, He will get her through. He will love her. He will grow her. He will never leave her side.

Through the calamity of this world, God does not promise Christians a free pass from pain. He gifts us the grace, peace and hope to keep walking through it. We grip Him in fear, look to Him in awe, and trust Him with it all …through it all.

Let Go.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Night after night my little Lo cried at bedtime, afraid our house would catch on fire. Night after night we prayed together, and repeated those truths to her tiny heart and my overwhelmed one. Until one night, her brave blue eyes stared right into mine and with a small, still voice, wondered:

“Mom, can I say a special prayer?” I nodded, misty-eyed.

“Dear God, Please bless us and don’t let our house catch on fire. Keep everyone in our family safe, and my teddy and blankie and all of my toys. We love you God and Jesus, Amen.”

Our great God hears the prayers of tender little hearts, and understands their fears.

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Sometimes it takes months, years, decades, lifetimes …before the discipline to turn to God first replaces our knee-jerk reaction to solve humanity’s dysfunctional fears and worries. But I believe that when God’s truth repeated is alive,  powerful, and in motion.

My greatest prayer as a mother is that my daughters will know that God loves them perfectly, even when I do not.

“The scope of these verses is to silence the fears, and encourage the faith, of the servants of God in their distresses.“ Matthew Henry Commentary on Isaiah 41:10-20

Prayer becomes powerful conversation. The grace of accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as allows us to experience a power that is not of this world. Discernment of text that is much more that black and white letters on a page. It’s much more than a good story. He is God.  He was here. And now His Spirit lives in us.

Invisible fire, indeed.

Happy praying,

Megs

 

I link up at the following places. Come join in the fun!

 

 

The Intentional Compliment

“I’m weird,” my girl sighed. “I don’t always feel like I fit in here.”

I launched into the infamous “God made you perfect” speech through a lump in my throat …but I knew very well it wouldn’t single-handedly cure the eight-year-old aches.

It’s OK, Mom…I’m weird,” she continued, “it’s a good weird.”

My daughter has the same potential as all other girls to have highly dramatic and face-twisting over-rations, but I love who she is. A Jedi, a wizard, a thrift-rack surfer. With a book in her hand and a never-ending eight-count to her step, she’s in love with laughing…  and I’m fiercely protective of her adopting any shred of the insecurity and comparison that fight me.

On the cusp of the “awkward” years, I’m keenly aware that the validity of my opinion on just about everything is about to drop off dramatically. Now is the time to intentionally buoy her light bright, to bob unscathed amidst an egocentric society.

Know love to love.

“God is love.” 1John4:16b

ic-1It’s not the happy ending of a rom-com or the heart flutter when Justin Bieber takes the stage … God is love. He loves perfectly, and He loves us whether we choose to acknowledge Him or not …and regardless of what we do or do not do. Built in His image, we’re programmed to love.

” Love comes straight from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and truly knows God. ” 1John 4:7-8

Discipline and consequences are necessary to raise healthy humans, but overly harsh ic-4criticism is not. If I look for ways to build my kids up in love, they will look for a way to do so for others.

Yes, it’s annoying when cereal and milk is spilled all over the floor, but insults don’t have to be built into my reaction. No, she doesn’t match perfectly all of the time, but killing her creative spirit and hurting her feelings over an outfit she’s proud of isn’t going to build confidence. I’m a big proponent of apologizing to my kids …mostly because of the mistakes I make.

Kids have to know that they are God’s children entrusted to us, and that He loves them perfectly even when we do not. In acknowledging God sovereignty, we learn what it means to be loved.

Look to love for how to love.

“Brianne, I want you to find something nice to say to ___ today,” I instructed my eight ic-2year old.

“Why?” she asked with an ever-so-charming look that could fry an an ant five miles away.

“Because…”

 Why? How do I convince her to love on others when she’s mainly concerned about getting through elementary school without becoming a target, herself?

In the grown up world, the same struggle is manifested daily through social media. I deactivated my account when I lost the ability to look into the mirror confidently.  It was freeing, not knowing what everyone was doing all of the time. But then I sat in church, and felt like a wimp hiding in the corner.

“This is the culture we are called to reach,” Pastor preached.

I sighed out loud. Come on, Jesus … really? There?

To walk in love is to walk with Jesus …wherever. God sent Him here to walk out love on earth, and we’re called to at least try.  I don’t want to go out of my comfort zone any more than my daughter does. Jesus, without qualifying people or weighing what He would have to sacrifice, just loved on people. And when we follow His lead, we learn how to love.

“I chase only after glory for the One who sent Me. My intention is authentic and true. You’ll find no wrong motives in Me.” John 7:16

ic-3Yes… I want to be like that.

“Did you tell ____ what I told you to?” I followed up…

“Yep,” she said, beaming.

“Felt good, didn’t it?” I asked.

“It really did, mom …and I’m going to make sure _____ is OK at school from now on.”

I’m back on Facebook …and it bothers me most of the time. It’s a lot easier for me to turn it off and walk away …but that’s not the mission. Just as I teach Brianne to look for peers that need love, I need to look where my peers are to do the same.

Intentionally turn out to face your circle.  Look for ways to love. Hashtag it. Love it. Share it.  #wherever

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All it takes is a scan of the hurt that surrounds to remind me of how precious and fleeting time with my girl is.  I pray I’m able to fill those minutes with the knowledge of God’s love and the example of it that Jesus lived. True love lived out in her life will allow her light to shine amidst the storms that await.

Unlike my experience as a hometown Cleveland girl and sports fan …love winning in the end is a sure thing.

Happy Complimenting!!

Megs

The Boo-Boos

The screech was ear piercing, and my limbs were too slow to react to what I saw. Little limbs flew over handlebars, and skidded to a stop on the concrete. Tears streamed and knees bled. I scooped my baby up to the tune of my quickly abandoned bike crashing to the ground.  My breath paused waiting for her to catch hers.The Boo Boo 1

Against my incessant warnings and her better judgement, little Lo continued to ride her purple banana-seat bike with her feet up in the air. Though she faithfully wears a helmet, it couldn’t protect her from the overflow of boo-boo’s she survived this summer from peddling standing-up to keep up with the big kids.

“It’s OK, “ I reassure her, “You’re Ok… I love you …Mommy’s got you.”

It’s infuriating to watch preventable accidents reoccur, yet we rush to the rescue every time.

When we’re little, a Mommy hug and a bandaid …or a hot pink cast signed my all of our The Boo Boo 2friends, encourages the hope of healing and the chance to ride again.  In the grown up world, scars scale beyond bloody knees and broken bones. The adult audience does not wait in angst to sign our hurts with a Sharpie. Only God’s truth is powerful enough to bind wounds completely and foster new growth from our scars.

Redemption– the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil. The action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt. 

Synonyms: retrieval, recovery, return. –google.com

When falling, focus on the redemptive factor of faith in Christ. The above synonyms are great stones to skip…

Boo Boo 3 Good

1. Retrieval

Retrieval-the process of getting something back from somewhere. -google.com

“For the eyes of the Lord range though the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 

The Creator of time can stretch minutes. In John 19:38, He provided the perfect timing and placement of people to retrieve His Son’s body. Do we know He takes the same care in crafting our purpose?

God pursues us.

Paul encourages, “Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared.”- Romans 8:33

 His gift of grace through Christ’s death on the cross gives us permission to peel past standardized shortcomings and embrace the promise of hope laced in every scar.

Boo Boo 4

2. Recovery

Recovery- a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. The action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost. -google.com

“Before he reached his village, his servants met him on the road celebrating his son’s miraculous recovery.” John 4:51

We often associate recovery with miraculous healing, but we see is a fraction of God’s Boo Boo 6omnipotence. Everyday battles are won on our account by our good Father.

Children, regardless of age, innately want to please their parents. Simon, in Luke 5:8-10, says,

“I can’t take this, Lord. I’m a sinful man. You shouldn’t be around the likes of me.”

It’s hard to look at fresh bruises without feeling a little ashamed.

Do we realize that’s normal?

Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that we are all guilty. Yet, in such a cycle of imperfect and repetitious behavior…through Christ …we are still redeemed.

Boo Boo 5

3. Return

Return-come or go back to a place or person. Give, put, or send something back to a place or person. -google.com

Genesis 3:19 reminds us to keep our perspective in check: “To dust we shall return.” James 5:7 urges us to be patient and wait. The word “return” in regards to Jesus’ whereabouts is mentioned 19 times in the book of Matthew …12 in Mark, 28 in Luke, and 29 in John. Jesus does a lot of returning in the gospels. Despite our cyclical sin, God hasn’t throw the towel in.

“You were bought at a price…” (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23 NIV)

It cost a life for us to live. An innocent life… without sin …sacrificed in the most brutal way … to save us.

 A high price has been paid for your freedom, so don’t devalue God’s investment by becoming a slave to people.” 1 Cor. 7:23

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High price, indeed.

“In His image,”(Genesis 1:27) is so evident when we teach our kids to get back up when they fall. We tell them it’s OK. We assure them that we love them.

Throughout the vast disappointments of my life, Christ has carried me, put bandaids on my bloody knees, healed hurts too secret to share, and surrounded me in His love. Until He returns …until I am returned to Him, I will passionately pursue my redeemed place in His plan …strengthened by knowing He never gives up on me.

Happy Redeeming,

Megs

 

The Weeds.

“DROP IT.”

But she didn’t. Just as my daughters did when they were toddlers picking petunias, Cherry
sprinted out one last burst of freedom, plant in tow. Between my kids, my dog, and my husband’s impatience for unsightly landscaping, my flowers can’t seem to catch a break.
Every year, some of my flowers fall folly to my husband’s impatience to distinguish which shoots are a nuisance. It’s cost me plenty of perennials. Daisies, sunflowers, wildflowers… In his defense, they do look like weeds when they are an inch tall. Everything does. But he doesn’t wait to decipher. He loads up that nifty weed sprayer tool and starts frying every faulty growing follicle in the flower beds. After many, many, debates over what is what… this is the first summer in three years my wildflower garden has turned the corner it was meant to fill.

Ironically, the invasive grass I mistook for ornamental lake grass and tagged free game for weed kill is absolutely indestructible. It’s been sprayed, yanked, dug up from the dirt up, clearly told it’s not been wanted …and yet keeps coming back. And it’s the only plant my puppy isn’t interested in chewing on. Prevalent change is purposed for a holy happiness, happening to us.

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The war of the weeds puts change into poignant perspective.

  • Some change is yanked before it has a chance.
  • Some change is invasive and unavoidable.
  • Some change separates a wildflower from the weeds.
  • Some change takes time to yield blooms.

Weeds 1How do we know what’s a weed and what’s a wildflower? When to pluck it out or let it grow? It’s confusing. Change is confusing. The ebb and flow of every day’s tide washes change over our lives and our world. Though the beauty of God’s goodness and love surrounds us, tragic-induced change seems ever-increasing. Evil’s masterful army of stealthed trickery and false promises prowls without pause. What I can only process as newsworthy injustice I turn over, in trust, to who God is and what He’s promised.

Change- verb) To make or become different.  image                                                                                            noun) The act or instance of making or becoming different. -Google

Change will come. Change will happen. But God never changes. Even when we feel like a weed caught in a sea of windflowers, our unchanging God is shifting our hearts.

“Heaven” is the inheritance that we are chosen for. God is changing us …making us holy …so we may inherit the full scope of happiness set aside for us.

 

Weeds 2In all the squabbling over who’s chosen right and wrong, we’ve neglected to distinguish weed from wildflower. Instead we fix and fumigate; worry and speculate; point and proclaim. In every heart is the spark of change. Christ left it on the cross to be lit. It yields love that spreads further and farther than hate. Love, that needs no news channel to exploit it’s cinematic potential.

Bible Gateway is a great resource to compare different versions of the punch of promise packed into this verse:

  • “We stand to inherit even more. As His heirs, we are predestined to play a key role in His unfolding purpose that is energizing everything to conform to His will.” Ephesians 1:11 (Voice)
  • “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” Ephesians 1:11 (NIV)
  • “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of him who work ethic all things after the counsel of his own will.” Ephesians 1:11 (KJV)

There’s so much that I don’t understand about the balance between predestination and free will. But I do know that God’s sovereignty reigns over both.

Sovereign- possessing supreme or ultimate power. -Google

imageIn national times riddled in recent tragedy, my heart aches for the moms. My biggest fear has become your truth. I try to put myself in your shoes, but cannot. A mad moment can unglue a mind. Jesus was nailed to a cross so we could weep at His feet, and trust that something will change. In a world that bumps us from one minute to the next, God is the same as He was when He spoke the stars into the sky. I cling to Christ to clear the “why.”

“All who are chosen to happiness as the end are chosen to holiness as the means.”                               -MH Commentary.

Beautiful flowers look like weeds when they first break through the soil. And before that, they look like nothing at all. But when watered, watched, and staked in the wind, the potential abounds …height soars.

If God takes such care in His creations, why do we think we have any authority over humanity? We are all being watered, watched, and staked in the wind.

  •  Some change is challenging. 
  • Some changes are results. 
  • Some change, changes us.
  • Some changes, change lives.
  • Some changes save lives.

imageOn my favorite racing roller coaster, the inside passengers from each train reach out on the long banking turns to high five each other as the trains pass back and forth throughout the ride. It’s risky, scary, and against the rules …but irresistibly fun. High-fives and smiles abound amongst strangers …without interviews, pat-downs, and predeterminations. There’s no time for introductions. You either high five or you don’t. I love that. That’s my favorite. Just people being people. Laughing and smiling. In His image, we were created to react in love. Not hate.image

There’s only one way, but all are welcome. (First5 Weekend Wrap Up Video, 7/9/16) LOVE. Let
the Author of life weed His garden. In the end, love wins. #beapartofit #holyinheritance  #findaway #justlove #lovewins

Happy Gardening,

Megs