The Sad Spoon :(

Lately my sweet little 5-year-old James is having a problem telling the truth. We discovered it when he received a red mark in class from his Class Dojo app. (Technology these days!!) When we asked him about it, he straight up lied. I was shocked. Surely my little lamb was not lying! Not James! Not my little munchkin man!

Oh yes… and since then we have noticed that he likes to stretch the truth or “conveniently” forget things. The problem is that most of the time he flies under the radar. He usually doesn’t give us problems, so we haven’t had to discipline him often. So last week, when he lied about eating the twentieth piece of candy corn, my husband had to lay the hammer down… the dreaded sad spoon. I was shocked Andy even knew where it was. Well you can just imagine the scene. Andy took James into his room and you have never heard such wailing and gnashing of teeth. And then James made the mistake of saying, “That didn’t hurt!” So, Andy had to give it a second try. And I think that one did the trick.

sad spoon

While this was going on, I was in my room alternating between laughing and crying. At first, I was laughing, because hello, it’s the sad spoon!! But as soon as James started to cry for real, my heart started to break. I love that little man so much, and it hurt me to hear him cry. But if we did not discipline him and allowed that behavior to continue, what type of parents would we be? And what type of child would we be raising? The sad spoon spanking was for his own good.

I couldn’t help but think how this parallels to our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Look at Hebrews 12:5-6.

My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son (NIV).

Yes, God disciplines us. Sometimes when we go through painful things here on earth, they are part of the Lord’s discipline. Why? Because He sees some things in us that need to be corrected.  Just as Andy and I don’t want our son to continue to lie, God does not want his children to continue in sin. Not all of our hard seasons in life result from discipline from the Lord, but Scripture clearly teaches that some do. And even though discipline is painful, isn’t it encouraging that God corrects those He loves? If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t bother, and would let us continue in disobedience which would ultimately destroy our lives.

I wish I had time and space to go through the rest of Hebrews 12 but that would be a super long blog post, so I’ll leave you with verse 11:

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (NIV).

James couldn’t understand why he had to go through the pain of the spanking, but Andy and I knew that it was necessary. And our prayer is that he will remember the pain the next time he is tempted to stretch the truth. As humans, we can’t see the big picture or understand all the ways of the LORD,  but we know that He works all things out for our good. We can take heart that He has our best interests in mind. And that any discipline will ultimately produce righteousness and peace if we will only submit to Him.

Natalie

 

Dry and Desperate

Do you ever feel tired, worn out, dry spiritually? I do. To be honest, I’m feeling a little dry as I type this. There’s nothing dramatic going on; in fact, life is good and full. And yet, I realized this week, that I am kind of drained, and I have started to drift, ever so slowly. You probably wouldn’t notice a thing, but for me, I can already tell a difference. I can hear Him calling my name, beckoning me to spend time with Him, amidst all the noise and chaos of this busy time of year.

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The longer we walk with the Lord, the more ups and downs we experience. Some will be caused by external circumstances, such as tragedy or disappointments, but other times, we find ourselves just drifting away from our Father. It doesn’t have to be a sin issue, although sin definitely puts up barriers in our relationship. Sometimes it can be as simple as busyness, taking our eyes off Him, or trying to do things in our flesh, instead of depending on Him.

Last week, I shared how our loneliness and heartaches can lead to such an intimacy with Him. Sometimes in seasons of blessings it becomes harder to keep that same level of intimacy. Isn’t it ironic? But, once we have tasted a closeness with the LORD God Almighty, nothing else will compare. And after a short time without that intimacy, we will experience an ache in our hearts that only He can fill.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture comes from Exodus 33:12-23. Right before this in Exodus 32, the Israelites messed up big time. While Moses was up on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law from God, the Israelites were down at the camp worshipping a golden calf. If you’ve read the story, you know there were serious consequences. At the beginning of chapter 33, the LORD tells Moses to leave Mt. Sinai and take the people up to the Promised Land. But there’s a catch. The LORD would not go with them. Basically, God was going to follow through with His promise and give them this great land of milk and honey, but He wouldn’t be there. I just love how Moses responds to the LORD in verse 15 (NIV),

If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here.

Do you see that? Moses didn’t care about the promise if He didn’t have the LORD with Him. He would rather stay with God in the wilderness than go to the promised land without Him. Can the same be said for us? Would we rather stay in an uncomfortable place with the LORD than go to a land of blessing without Him?

And what’s so cool is that we as New Testament believers HAVE the presence of the living God inside of us through His Holy Spirit. He is with us wherever we go, but we still must choose to nurture the relationship with Him.

Oh, that we would be a people who desire the Lord and not just his blessings. May our hearts break when we realize that we have drifted from Him. May we refuse to move forward when He is not leading us. Perhaps the secret to an intimate relationship with God is being desperate for Him above all else, being willing to sit still at His feet when He calls. And when we humble ourselves and seek Him above all else, even above the good things, we better get ready. The rain’s coming.

Natalie

Beauty in the Loneliness

At the end of this post, I asked what we should do if we don’t have encouragers around us. But since then, I realized I left out something so important. What should we do when people AREN’T encouraging? When people are flat out DISCOURAGING? When those who should be supporting us aren’t, when we feel left out in the middle of nowhere to sink or swim? When people we respect tell us we cant or shouldn’t follow through with what the LORD has called us to do?

No matter how many wonderful people are around us doing cartwheels and cheering us on, at some point we will face naysayers and others who fall away when we need them most. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, people will let us down. They are human after all. And so are we for that matter! I know I have let people down plenty of times. If we rely solely on the encouragement and support of others to keep us going, we won’t be going far.

The apostle Paul experienced  a lack of support in the worst way. In 2 Timothy 4:16, he says,

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me… (NIV).

There may come a point where we are stripped down, left alone with no one by our sides. Yet we still have the only encouragement that matters, from the one who made us and called us in the first place. Look what Paul says in verse 17 of that same passage

But the LORD stood at my side and gave me strength… (NIV).

Sometimes God takes away people we depend on to force us to rely on Him, to show us that He alone is the source of our strength.

Maybe you won’t get to the point of Paul where you are writing from a prison cell, deserted by many in your time of need, but I would bet that at some point most of us will be let down by others, possibly abandoned when we need them most. I can’t think of anything more discouraging. It may be heartbreaking to get to that place, but there is such beauty in the intimacy, just you and the LORD, pressing on together, whatever the circumstances.

And then, when you do the thing He has called you to do, when you stick it out, wherever He has placed you, no one else will get glory but Him. And you will look back with sweet tears in your eyes and say WOW, look how my God came through when everyone else had left me. Look how He carried me when I was all alone. Look what He did when others said it couldn’t be done. And your heart will about burst with your love for Him. The loneliest times in your life will become some of the most beautiful.

I’d say that is worth the discouragement, the heartache, the waiting, the anxiety, every last ounce of disappointment.

Hang in there. He won’t let you down.

Natalie

Speak Life

Last year, I read the cutest book to Ellie’s first grade class, Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker. It was about a little girl who had a problem with, you guessed it, talking. As I read to those kiddos, I asked if any of them talked too much. They all started talking about how they liked to talk, and their sweet teacher just died laughing. Then I leaned forward and asked if I could tell them a secret. That got their attention. As I looked at those sweet faces, I confessed, “Ms. Natalie talks too much too. Just ask Ellie’s daddy. But I am working on it.” I think I gained some lifelong friends that day. 😊

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I do love to talk! It’s how God made me. But sometimes it gets me into trouble. And more than I would like to admit, my words cause me to sin. A wise friend shared this verse with me, and it’s so true.

When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.  (Proverbs 10:19, HCSB.)

I have really thought about tattooing this verse on my forehead!! There have been so many times when I have said things out of emotion or kept talking when I should have just zipped it. I cringe when I think back on certain conversations, and I wish I could have a “do-over.” I walked away feeling convicted, knowing that I had said things that were not God-honoring. Thankfully, we can repent when we mess up, ask for forgiveness and move forward in God’s grace. And maybe duct tape our mouths shut. (Kidding!!!)

Our words have so much power. Proverbs 18:21 in the New Living Translation puts it this way.

The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap its consequences.

The phrase “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me” really isn’t true according to Scripture or from my personal experience. What we say affects people. BUT we have the power to speak life and truth. We can ENCOURAGE one another. What if we used our words to cheer each other on in the LORD, to lift each other up when we fall down, to celebrate one another’s gifts and talents? Can you imagine?

The LORD has been unbelievably gracious in bringing people into my life who have used their words to speak life. Some may not even realize how much their friendships mean to me. Their sweet texts, notes, and encouraging words have often come at the exact time when I have needed it most. Most of these precious friendships were birthed out of community from church. It may sound cliché but it is so true. And they are some of my greatest treasures.

If you don’t have anyone in your life who encourages you, what should you do? Remember Matthew 7:9-11? Just Ask. God did not create us to live this life on our own, and He will bring people to come alongside us, especially when we put ourselves out there within a community of believers. In the meantime (really all the time) start encouraging others in your life!

And for those of us who have those sweet friends who hold us up along the way, maybe we should reach out and let them know how thankful we are for them. You never know how much they may need some encouragement right about now.

Praying that we become a generation of encouragers! And that I learn when to zip it. 😊

Natalie

 

 

The Anxious Mind

Anxiety. Almost all of us have struggled with it at some point in our lives. Some of us more so than others. I am one who has experienced anxiety in such a way where it brought me down to my knees. I can joke about it now, but understand that I really GET IT. I have been there. Anxiety is really no laughing matter.

Ironically, I think some of the most quoted but most frustrating verses in Scripture dealing with anxiety are Philippians 4:6-7.

Do not be anxious, about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

OK, I love these verses, but they might not be the best to pull out when someone is having a panic attack. At that point, the anxiety train has left the station. And I always wondered how in the world Paul had the audacity to tell me not to worry, as if I was choosing to be anxious. Doesn’t he know I can’t help it?  He doesn’t know how my hands are sweating, my heart is racing, how I want to cry, and how my brain is on a constant loop of worst case scenarios. Or does he? Look at what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:28 in the ESV, “And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” Even the apostle Paul struggled with anxiety.

I began to wonder what I was “doing” wrong? I was begging the LORD to give me peace, and yet I still freaked out all the time. I was praying, I was petitioning. I got to the point where I said, “LORD I will even thank you for this crazy girl drama if it means I will get peace. LORD, if I am about to die from a rare fictitious infection stemming from a slight throbbing on my ear lobe, I will thank you I had the ear in the first place.” (Y’all don’t act like I am the only hypochondriac around here!!)  LORD, please just give me some peace!

In all seriousness, if I am in Christ why am I still walking around worried and anxious all the time? Does it mean I don’t trust Him? What am I missing?

First… I finally realized that I can’t do it in my own strength. We need his Holy Spirit to give us that peace. The more I tried to manufacture it, the more I failed. Before you roll your eyes saying that’s not practical, wait for it. And remember that if you are in Christ, you HAVE his Spirit in you!

Second… this is where the grit and grind comes in. It takes some effort to fight anxiety, especially in the beginning. Practically, I have tried almost everything, and there is only one thing that truly combats my anxiety instead of just masking it . Can you guess what it is? God’s Word. 😊 For me, it isn’t just reading it but memorizing it and putting it up where I can see it. I know some of us may have heard that a hundred times, but it works. And even if it doesn’t seem to help at first IT WILL, because through His Spirit and His Word, God comforts us and gives us peace.

Paul says something in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 that is so applicable for the battle against anxiety.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Look at the power we have as believers. We CAN take those anxious thoughts captive, and make them obedient, submissive to Christ. We are not slaves to our thoughts! ! If you struggle with anxiety, the enemy knows he’s got you there. He looks for our areas of weakness and goes in for the kill. And unfortunately, he will keep attacking until we wise up. We must fight him back, and our weapon is God’s Word. If you came to my home during the height of my anxiety, you would think I was cuckoo. Some of you probably still do, and I’m OK with that. 😊I had Scripture written on index cards everywhere. Even my sweet toddler started scribbling her “Bible verses” on notepads! It looked like a Bible bomb had exploded on all my mirrors. But I promise that it saved my mind. And God’s Word is still the source of my peace today.

Exercise, therapy, medication, acupuncture, all those things and more can be so helpful, but if they are not coupled with the Word of God, we are dead in the water. I speak from experience on this one. His Word makes all the difference.

Natalie

The Blessing of Strep

I just changed my sheets and my toothbrush. That’s mom code for “I’ve been sick!” Last week I discovered I had strep throat (which I have never had in my entire life- so bizarre!) I was under house arrest Thursday and Friday. Since then James has had some weird virus thing, and I just got back from the pediatrician’s office. Surprise: he has strep too!! I have had ALOT of time at home, and it looks like there is more to come. On the bright side, it has forced me to tend to some areas that needed attention. I finally  tweezed my eyebrows, finished decorating for Halloween, and realized the ferns on my front porch were completely brown. Ha!!

I have also been forced to BE STILL which I think can be one of the biggest blessings, you know what I mean? And the positive of having kids this age is that they are more self-sufficient, so I have had lots of time to just sit with the LORD in His Word, without being rushed out the door. And during that time of stillness, He showed me something, as only He could.

Lately, I have been a little obsessed with the book of Hebrews but it always makes me feel intimidated and overwhelmed, because, hello, have you READ Hebrews??? I can handle the Old Testament language but it’s the heavy doctrine and theology that makes me feel completely inadequate. Reading Hebrews reminds me how much I don’t know. But it makes my heart soar, especially Chapter 11, the Hall of HIS Faithfulness. 😊 I know that for me to really understand Chapter 11, eventually I have to tackle the rest of Hebrews, which has just seemed daunting and exhausting. This week, the LORD stopped me in my tracks through strep throat of all things! I was stuck at home, and I  thought it was now or never. I asked the LORD to show me, to help me understand the deep doctrine and theology in His word, starting with Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV).

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world…

Well you can guess what happened. I was blown away. I wept as I read how the very radiance of the glory of God offered himself up for us and took on the penalty of the sin we deserved.  I almost had a FREAK OUT as I was reminded how everything down here was just a copy, a shadow pointing to the REAL  sacrificial Lamb to come, God’s perfect son. How Jesus entered the REAL Holy of Holies in Heaven (can you even wrap your head around that??) and made payment for our sins. How it is finished, our sins are forgiven, once and for all, and even now Jesus is our High Priest interceding for us! And by the time I reached Hebrews 9:28,so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him (ESV),” Moses and I were singing “when we all get to Heaven!!!” At that point my husband said it might be time to call it a night.

What a blessing the LORD gave me in some tough parts of Scripture that take effort to read and time to just SIT and BE STILL. I am by no means saying I understand the book of Hebrews, but the LORD gave me a glimpse. This is my take-away. There are some parts of the Bible that don’t lend themselves as well to “Bible study” in the way many use that term today. We may feel like certain sections and books of the Bible are not as applicable or relevant to us, but that’s not really the point of Scripture, is it? It’s first and foremost about GOD and who He is. And, if I were writing a Bible study on Hebrews 1 and 2, it would be hard to put together a list of application questions, and yet those verses absolutely rocked my world, demanding a response from me. They have been etched in my mind to the point that I had to write this blog post!

Which is what God’s Word does. We are changed by it. Hebrews shows us who Christ is, and we are changed when we behold the “one who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven… ” (Hebrews 8:1, ESV) What a Savior.

Happy Fall Break everyone!

Natalie

Plans and Promises

Remember the former things, those of long ago: I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV)

In this post, I shared my verses for 2017, Isaiah 43:18-19. The LORD through the prophet Isaiah tells us, “Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a NEW thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it!” (ESV) The Jewish exiles were missing out on what God was about to because they were stuck in the past. Sometimes, it can be easy for us to get so bogged down in what has happened, that we are blinded to the fresh new thing God is doing in our midst!

Now, just a few chapters later in Isaiah 46:9-10, we come to these verses, where God tells Israel that they SHOULD, in fact, remember the former things of old. These former things were all the ways God had proven Himself faithful in Israel’s history. And there were many, many instances of His faithfulness. In fact, not one of God’s promises had ever failed! We too should remember the ways God has been faithful in our own lives and take the time to thank Him. He can be relied upon and trusted. Who says Old Testament prophecy has no application for us? 😊

What really jumped out at me from Isaiah 46:9-10 is the phrase “I [God] make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” This is such an important truth: God has a plan. He has had one from the beginning. What’s even more mind boggling is that He has chosen to make parts of it known. We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed and plummeted face first into sin. Immediately man was cursed, separated from their Heavenly Father…… But GOD. He had a plan for our redemption. He did not walk away, leaving us to die; no, He had a plan. And the rest of the Old Testament is filled with promises looking ahead to the glorious day of our salvation. God would send someone from the seed of Eve who would crush the head of Satan and redeem us from the curse of sin and death forever (Genesis 3:15).

As we study Scripture, we see hints and shadows of the Promised One in the Mosaic law and the sacrifices, in the things that may seem insignificant, even boring to our modern sensibilities, yet they are anything but. They are pointing to the One to come. When we study the Old Testament in light of the Cross, it changes everything. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that “ALL the promises of God find their YES in Him [Jesus].” (ESV) Is that not the coolest verse ever??

2 cor 1 20

We have reason for GREAT JOY that God has a plan for mankind as whole but what is almost harder for me to grasp is that He has plans for each one of us individually. He cares about me and you, like REALLY cares. Psalm 139 tells us that before we were even born, He knew our names and our days. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He has a plan for us, not to harm us, but to prosper us. Let that sink in. There are how many billions of people (?) and God knows each one of our names, and He has plans for each one. Isn’t there something beautiful and comforting in that truth?

So even in the midst of our heartaches and suffering, our loneliness and disappointment, we can rest assured that HE is in control and that He is working ALL things out for our good if we love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28) We serve a God who has had a plan since the beginning, and it comes to fruition in His precious son Jesus Christ. Not one of His promises have ever failed. He is not about to let us down now.

Natalie