The Hunted Becomes the Hunter

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Sometimes living in this world overwhelms me.  One of those times happened recently.  Concerns and fears were pressing in on me, and I was trying to hide.  I realized that I had spent most of my life avoiding any person or situation that I thought would hurt me. In my mind’s eye, I could see myself.  I was a pitiful, little field mouse.  I was running from one hiding spot to another, not wanting to be in the open field.  I knew that if I ventured there, the powerful birds of prey would pick me off.  I felt like a victim, too small to fight back, too lowly to be confident.  I felt ashamed of all that I was not.  The snakes of shame were hissing reminders of what I was – a pesky, dirty, little rodent.

                Then I felt the slightest breeze of the Spirit.  The picture in my mind flipped.  I rose from the ground and began to ride the wind.  I was an eagle.

I WAS THE BIRD OF PREY.

I saw that pesky vermin running on the ground. 

THAT WAS MY ENEMY.

The enemy was so small, yet I could spot him from a mile away.  I could easily hunt him and swoop down to finish him off.  And all the shame?  Those filthy snakes of shame?  Those were my food!

The Hunted had become the Hunter!

                How glorious it felt to fly above the ground!  How freeing and beautiful it was to be who God had made me to be!  How wonderful to not be afraid!  Then I remembered a passage of the book I had been reading by Rick Joyner, “The Valley.” In this prophetic allegory, a group of sojourners were making their way to the Mountain of God.  They had to pass through the Valley of the Shadow of Death in order to get there.  Elijah had come to give them guidance.

“You do not defeat an enemy by just getting past him.  You defeat fear by growing in faith.  You defeat despair by growing in hope.  You defeat death by growing in life.  True life is only lived by those who no longer live for themselves, but for The King, and do all things for His sake and for those He gave His life for.

                “This valley is here to help you find true life…but to find that path, your goal must be greater than getting through the valley.  You must resolve to seek out and destroy the enemies that are in it,” Elijah continued…

                Finally Charles spoke up:

                “This would be a radical change of not just our strategy, but my understanding of our purpose.  So the path of life is found by seeking the enemy?  And then to be on the offensive and attacking?  I am sure most of us were thinking we needed to do all we could to avoid the enemy, to just get through it.  I thought finding the path of life was done by seeking the path of life, not fighting.”

                “To do His will is the path of life for everyone.  This is His will for you here.  This valley has a high purpose, and part of it is to prepare you for the rest of your journey to the mountain, and then to be of use to The King in the great battle to come.  You must become true warriors, and no true warriors seeks to avoid the enemy…

                “In this valley lie your greatest fears.  They are your greatest threats and your greatest challenges.  That gives the potential to be the place of your greatest victories…

                “The Lord created this valley, but men made it the Valley of the Shadow of Death.  So He uses it to seal in His people who they are called to be – warriors that do not kill, but impart life. They do not wound, but heal.  They do not oppress, but set captives free.”

                The enemies that I am to hunt and destroy are fear, doubt, and shame (just to name a few) in myself and others.  But when I flap my great wings, I will bring the wind of healing and refreshing to people.  People are not my enemies.

                A few days later I randomly opened my Bible and started reading Esther 8.  Again I found an example of divine reversal.

The Hunted becomes the Hunter!

                The King had given Haman permission to draft a law that authorized the enemies of the Jews to rise up and kill them.  The King didn’t realize that his lovely queen was a Jew.  Her people were facing utter annihilation.  The queen went to the king and in one moment, with one decision of the king, the entire picture flipped.  He allowed Mordechai to draft a law that permitted the Jews to strike back.  Fear of the Jews fell on all the other people.  Just the day before Esther was praying for the courage to reveal that she was a Jew.  But in that day:

“In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating. And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” (Esther 8:17)

                Esther was bold, and she and her people fasted and prayed.  But it was God who gave them victory over their enemies.  I went back to reading Psalm 18.  I had been reading it for a few weeks and I just wasn’t getting it.  Why did I keep returning to it? What did God want to tell me?  Finally it became clear.  God was taking me from being the prey to being the predator.

The Hunted becomes the Hunter!

34 He trains my hands for battle;
    my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 You make your saving help my shield,
    and your right hand sustains me;
    your help has made me great.
36 You provide a broad path for my feet,
    so that my ankles do not give way.

37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    I did not turn back till they were destroyed.
38 I crushed them so that they could not rise;
    they fell beneath my feet.
39 You armed me with strength for battle;
    you humbled my adversaries before me.
40 You made my enemies turn their backs in flight,
    and I destroyed my foes. (NIV)

                As I was pondering all these things in my heart during the next week, I encountered this scripture on Facebook and then Pandora.

Psalm 2 GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Why do the nations gather together?
Why do their people devise useless plots?
    Kings take their stands.
    Rulers make plans together
        against the Lord and against his Messiah by saying,
            “Let’s break apart their chains
                and shake off their ropes.”

The one enthroned in heaven laughs.
The Lord makes fun of them.

As soon as I picture God up on His throne, laughing at my enemies, I am up there in the sky with Him.  I can see how small and weak the enemy is compared to my God.  I can see the joy on His face, the fire in His eyes.  He isn’t worried.  Not about the mice or the snakes.  Not about me either.  He is laughing because He knows all that there is to know. He sees all that can be seen.

He is laughing because He sees His eagles rise and begin to hunt.

(Recently David Lebo released a prophecy confirming all of this.  “I am setting My Eagles Free.”)

This is a New Season!

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There is a new season that I believe God is leading us all into. He is whispering in our ears, He is wooing us with His love, He is drawing us to follow Him out of the desert.  The desert season was full of disappointment and wounds.  It was full of waiting and hope deferred.  Yet God was saying through one of His prophets (Sue Roby), “The Delay is in your favor.”  I tried to hold on to that thought, to continue to believe that all would work out for the good…but I let some of my faith slip away.

A few months ago another prophet (Tony Brazelton) came proclaiming, “The Delay is over!”  My spirit leapt when I heard it. Could it really be time?  The time I had been praying for?  Yet the fear of disappointment almost choked this new hope to death.

In September God gave me two scriptures to read, Isaiah 65 and Psalm 144.  These same scriptures had been a source of strength during the lowest point in our lives as a family.

Is 65 had been God’s way of announcing to me that I was pregnant, back in 2010.  Verse 9 says, “I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, and from Judah those who will possess my mountains; my chosen people will inherit them, and there will my servants live.”

I was happy to be pregnant and to feel the presence of a fresh new spirit within me.  I didn’t even need to take a pregnancy test.  Yet also I was ashamed.  Ashamed that I was pregnant for the fourth time in 5 years.  Ashamed that we still lived in a two bedroom townhouse and had to go to the health clinic for lower income families in Colorado Springs.  Ashamed that we struggled to pay our bills and had to set up a nursery for our baby in our walk-in closet.

The baby girl was due in January.  Right before Christmas Chris was laid off from his job.  We didn’t know what we would do.  We tried to enjoy Christmas as the debts grew.  I had a difficult time with Ashlyn’s birth which I wrote about in Birth Story Part 3.  Yet when she was born I was filled with peace and bliss.  My perfect baby girl!  God was so good!

The very next day the doctor informed us (devoid of compassion) that something was definitely wrong with our baby, but they didn’t know what.  Then began the many tests and scans.  Problems were found in her lungs, diaphragm, and heart.  We didn’t know what was going on.  We asked our church to pray and the only word they had for us was that this was my fault, that I was being too prideful.  I asked God if they were right.

That is when God gave me Ps. 144.  I felt peace flood my soul as I read:

“Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace.  Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets.”

Amazingly Ashlyn was cleared and was released to go home after just two days, a perfectly healthy baby girl!

ashlynA perfect baby girl…until the results of the Chromosomal analysis came back.  A part of her 6th chromosome was missing but no one knew what that meant.  No one had ever seen this before.  We began this journey of parenting a special child, one who didn’t grow and develop like the other children.  One who had to wear a brace for a dislocated hip and a patch for strabismus in her eyes.  A child who needed physical therapy to learn to sit up and occupational therapy to learn to drink from a cup.

This is when Is. 65 became even more meaningful.  God had brought her forth and had told me that she was destined to take mountains.  She was not a mistake!

By April Chris still hadn’t found a full time job.  Our church kicked us out and shunned us.  Our mortgage and second mortgage were threatening to foreclose.  Our townhome association was threatening to take us to court.  Ps 144 didn’t appear to be true for us.

Yet God worked His miracles, one at a time.  He gave Chris a new job, sold our townhouse, brought us home to Pennsylvania, led us out of debt, and blessed Ashlyn with supernatural health.  More financial struggles, hardships with the children, and failed business ventures followed.  But we were home in the land of our inheritance.  We had friends, family, and a church that loved us!

When I started reading Is. 65 and Ps. 144 again this September, I was reminded of the encouragement I had received from them years ago.  Yet, I didn’t really want to delve into them, to relive the pain we had been through.  I kinda thought, “I know these verses inside and out.  I’ve been there and done that and I DON’T want to do it again.  Can’t I read something else?”

But I felt God saying, “Take another look.”

I discovered that these words, written thousands of years ago, were perfectly tailored for my life.  Not just my life back in 2010, but my life in 2017 and beyond.  I received revelations that I was not able to receive back then.  That our church in Colorado was not pleasing to God, but HE HAD BROUGHT US OUT OF IT to possess His Mountains.  Not because of anything we had done but because His faithfulness, He saved us from that situation and now we are taking mountains for His Kingdom.

Then I saw all the promises that God had for His servants (Is. 65, verse 13).  We will eat, drink, rejoice, and never be put to shame!  This has happened in our lives.

Then I read a verse that I had never noticed before, verse 16b.

“For the past troubles will be forgotten and hidden from my eyes.”

If God can forget the past, why couldn’t I?  I felt Him saying to me, “I am bringing you into something new, something you haven’t seen before.  You don’t have to interpret current events through your past experiences.  You don’t have to look into the future through the lens of the past.  I am going to give you a new perspective.”

I had been gaining a different perspective, an aerial view like that of an eagle.  I didn’t want my thinking to be clouded by people’s opinions, ever changing circumstances, or the dark clouds of depression.  I wanted to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to see things from his Eternal perspective.  God was telling me that I was meant to be an eagle.   I was trying to fly, but I really needed some help.

I asked God to let me see a real eagle, and He answered my prayer just weeks later on our family vacation up north.  See my previous articles, “A Hawk, A Vulture, and an Eagle Part 1 and Part 2.”  I felt elated!  I felt inspired!  I felt ready to fly!

Of course vacation has to end and normal life has to begin again.  Could I see an eagle during the course of my daily routine? Chances were no.

I have made a weekly trek to a farm for years now.  At first I never noticed the birds flying in the sky.  Not because they were not there, but because I was not looking.  After God started speaking to me about being an eagle, I began to search the skies.  I loved watching all the birds – the swallows, the robins, the wrens, the sparrows, and even the crows.  They looked so free.  Even better that those birds were the large birds that flew high above the rest.  I felt inspired by their flight…until I realized that they were vultures.

Months I spent searching the sky for eagles only to see vultures, buzzards, and more vultures!  Ahggggggg!  At the end of October I made this trip for the 20 zillionth time.  I saw a large bird swooping down over the highway.  Another vulture, I said to myself.  Still, when I got close enough I turned my eyes away from the highway and up to the sky just long enough to see…

A bald eagle!  I saw the brilliant white head and the powerful straight wings!  I was not expecting that at all!  An eagle in my own neck of the woods!  In the midst of my normal routine!

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This seemed very significant so I asked God if there was something He wanted to tell me.  Immediately I heard this verse on my Bible CD:

“‘The One who is coming will come.  He will not be late.  The person who is right with me will have life because of his faith.  But if he turns back with fear, I will not be please with him.’

But we are not those who turn back and are lost.  We are people who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35-39 (ICB)

Fear has been my normal reaction to many things, so normal I hardly realize that I am choosing fear over faith.  But I am not one who turns back!  I am one who believes!  I will choose faith!

I heard God say to me, “I want you to be ready to see eagles where in the past only the vultures flew.”

Oh Nards!

You know when something unexpectedly horrible happens and your immediate response is to let out a loud expletive?  Well, mine is, “Holy CRAP!”

I don’t mean to say it.  It just comes out.  My teenage son is quite offended by it and constantly reminds me that, “crap is NOT holy, Mom!”  I heard Bill Johnson say that if we really understood the holiness of God, we would never pair the word “holy” with the word, “crap.”

My young children sometimes exclaim, “Holy Crap!” when they are upset about something, and I admit that it sounds very uncouth and disrespectful…and they learned it from listening to me!

Ok, point taken!  This is not what should be slipping out of my mouth at inopportune times.  I should have better sentiments in my heart to express.

That same teenage son began to say, “Oh nards!” He would say it very loudly with a smile on his face because it is such a humorous phrase.

I adopted “nards!” as my “swear” word of choice.  Whenever something annoying or dreadful happened, I would exclaim, “OH NARDS!”  It was so fun to say and so funny to hear that I would burst out laughing.  I would amuse myself to the point that the disaster no longer seemed so disastrous.  (As Joseph Garlington says, “If it’s going to be funny later, it’s funny now.”) The children would begin laughing as well.  My husband would chuckle at me and shake his head, wondering what had gotten in to me.

I continued this, “Oh nards!” business for months before I thought, “Perhaps there is some significance to this word that God would want to speak to me about.”

I looked up “nards” on Google and found that it is short for spikenard, a plant used for medicinal purposes.  It is antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory.

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It is also the star of that beautiful Bible story in John 12 when Mary pours the pure nard on the feet of Jesus and the entire house was filled the fragrance of the perfume. The story (or perhaps a very similar but separate story) is also told in Matt 26.

Now while Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she poured it on his head as he sat at the table.  But when the disciples saw it, they were angry and said, “Why this waste?  For this ointment could have been sold for a large sum, and the money given to the poor.” But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? She has performed a good service for me.  For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.  By pouring this ointment on my body she has prepared me for burial.  Truly I tell you, wherever this good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

It was clear that Mary loved Jesus deeply and wanted to demonstrate her gratitude and worship.  Perhaps she had planned this act, weighing what it would cost her to do so and judging that the cost was worth it.  Or perhaps she was so overcome with emotion that she impulsively grabbed her most precious possession and poured it out.  Either way, she deeply touched Jesus and ministered to Him just days before His crucifixion.  She had made a choice to lavish her love on Him despite what it cost her.

When the unexpected happens in my life and I shout out, “OH NARDS!” it is not quite the same as Mary.  When the child drops dinner on the floor or the teenager leaves the bathroom a mess or UPS has Chris work his 3rd 14 hour day, this is not my choice.  These circumstances have been forced upon me, and I have the right to be angry!

Don’t I?

What if I would make the choice to accept the circumstances with joy and worship God anyway?  Then perhaps my, “OH NARDS!” could be turned into the alabaster jar of Mary, ministering to Jesus with my love.

I read one article on the internet that spoke about the extravagant amount of nard that was poured out, probably 11 oz.  Anyone who uses essential oils knows how strong they are.  A few drops is all you need.  The fragrance of 11 oz. would have been enough to be noticed for quite a distance around the house.  If Jesus was to wash in a pool right afterwards, a thousand people could wash after him and leave with the expensive aroma.

Imagine all of that nard being absorbed into Jesus’ skin.  He must have smelled like spikenard for days!  Jesus did say that Mary was preparing him for his burial.  I always thought he was just speaking about the symbolic of the use of herbs in burial customs.  Days later when he was betrayed, arrested, abandoned, beaten, put on trial, ridiculed, whipped, and crucified…

I bet Jesus still carried the aroma of spikenard!  In His darkness hours, He smelled like perfume.  All who came in contact with this simple, poor man from Nazareth would catch a whiff of this very expensive oil.  As the people watched Him take the accusations without fear or anger, they could smell Him.  As they watched Him patiently endure suffering, they noticed the unusual aroma.  It was the fragrance of a King, not a common man.  It was a heavenly smell in the midst of tragic circumstances.

This smell of pure nard would forever be imprinted on their brains as the smell of the most unusual trial and execution they had ever seen.  For the rest of their lives, whenever they would catch a whiff of it, they would remember.  Maybe God could even bring them to the place of faith, recognizing the King and Savior Jesus in the form of a beaten and bloodied criminal.

When I encounter trials that make me want to cry out in disgust, “Why all this waste?!!”  perhaps I should worship instead.

When my husband is suffering with an excruciating headache for a week, unable to work or participate in much of normal life, my mind starts to say;

“Why couldn’t this have been a vacation from work to enjoy camping as a family?  We won’t get to take that vacation now.  Our budget only works if Chris is working.  How long will it be before he can start working again…days, weeks, months?  We are not even sure what is causing the pain or how to get rid of it.  I hate to see him suffering! What a waste!”

I have come to know God better than that.  Nothing is wasted in His kingdom.  He can use any circumstance for our good and for our promotion.  I can trust Him and worship Him in this.

For all of us, this pure nard should remind us that in the midst of suffering, we can love and worship.  And when we worship we release the distinctive aroma of our King…and the atmosphere of heaven.

OH NARDS!

I Want My Life to Mean Something

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I just had to go to the bathroom!  However, on my way there I needed to yell out the window at a boy chasing a ball into the street.

“Calvin, I told you that you are not allowed in the street.  You have to play inside now!”

Then I had to stop to referee a fight between two other children.

“If this is Courage’s toy, you have to ask him before you take it!  And Courage, do not scream and cry.  Just say, ‘This is my toy.  Give it back to me please.’  You don’t get anything you want when you scream and cry.”

I feel like I have given this little lesson about five hundred and sixty-four times.  Why don’t they remember! I still need to use the restroom (it is getting quite urgent!) yet I cannot stop myself from picking the kitchen towel off the floor which I had already done twice that morning.

“We dry our dishes with this towel, people!” I think to myself.  I notice peanut butter on the otherwise white cabinet door.  I encounter shoes and the grungiest socks known to man thrown about the living room floor.

“Cooper!  Put these in the laundry room!” I call out in desperation, knowing that I will probably have to hunt him down and ask him again later.

I pass Ashlyn’s walking track.  She is supposed to be doing her walking exercises right now; building her muscles, organizing her brain, and increasing her balance.  She is laying on the sofa, nursing some sores on her feet.  I wonder to myself if all the therapy that I have done with her was in vain.  She can’t wear her braces if the skin on her feet break down.  And she can’t walk if she doesn’t wear her braces.

I get into the bathroom and shut and lock the door.  A moment of peace.  A quiet space.  Ahhhhhh…I can sit down for a moment.  WHAT IS THIS!!!!! PEE ON THE TOILET AGAIN!! I just wiped this toilet one hour ago, and the hour before that!

In the relative quiet of my stinky, dirty bathroom I am close to tears.

“Is this my life?  Working hard to clean a house that never stays that way?  Toiling to teach my children lessons that they never seem to learn.  Worried about not doing enough therapy with Ashlyn while simultaneously worrying about doing TOO MUCH therapy with Ashlyn.  I want my life to mean something,” I pray to God. “How can I know if my life is making a difference when I see so little good fruit?”

I just love it when I have a really productive day; wrote a blog article, organized an entire room, cleaned out the attic, or created a delicious meal with an abundance of bright colors and fresh ingredients.  But what happens when day after day goes by with no real progress of any kind.  Moms deal with this phenomena all the time.  We pour ourselves out, go to bed late, get up early, work hard; and when we stop to look around…it appears as though we have gotten absolutely nothing accomplished whatsoever!

I have been feeling the frustration and discontent that thousands of women have experienced.  We feel unnoticed, unimportant, and meaningless.  This has pushed many women to abandon their high calling as a wife and mother to pour themselves into other pursuits…just to feel worthy and fulfilled.

I KNOW that I have the most important career in the world.  I KNOW that my life is making a difference in this life and in the next.

It just doesn’t FEEL that way most of the time.

“God, help me to see things the way you do.  I need some encouragement here!”  I have prayed.

God is answering as He always does.  It may take a lifetime to understand all that He is saying and to unravel my own thoughts and ideas.  But I think I am making some progress.

I have been listening to the Bible on CD.  Listening to a cast of characters reading the Bible as though it were actually happening has helped me to see the stories in a different light.  It seems more real and more relevant.  Plus it is a different version than what I have read before, and it brings a new dimension to many verses.

As I look at the Bible as a whole; the story of God’s relationship with mankind, there is a common thread that I hadn’t noticed before.  God always had a plan.  He was always confident that this plan would work.  Very few humans actually understood His plan or knowingly helped God work out His plan.  The major events in the Bible were orchestrated and accomplished by God, not man.  Many times God worked through people and with people but most of the time He moved DESPITE people.

All the amazing events in Acts happened because of God.  The disciples didn’t get together after the resurrection and have an intensive strategic planning meeting to figure out how they would acquire the Holy Spirit or how they would add 3,000 people to their number in one day.  They didn’t go to college to learn the cutting edge strategies for converting the Jews and then the Gentiles to the Way.  (They didn’t even know that the Gentiles COULD be saved until God showed them.)

All the disciples did was wait on God and obey whatever He told them to do.  Many times they saw miracles, but more often they encountered opposition and persecution.  Often it appeared as though they were accomplishing nothing at all as the churches they planted fell into deceptions and wrong teachings.  Yet look at how their lives have affected the entire world!

When I look across all of human history, the person who had the most powerful participation in bringing God’s salvation to the earth was Mary.  This is just my opinion but you have to admit, she played a pretty big role.

But what did she actually do?

She BELIEVED what the Angel told her was true.

She SUBMITTED to God’s wonderful plan.

She MOTHERED Jesus.

Could I be as powerful in the course of human history as Mary if I just believe, submit, and mother?

If I could just BELIEVE every word God tells me.

If I could just joyfully SUBMIT, YEILD, and SURRENDER to God’s best for me.

If I could just MOTHER – love, nourish, carry, teach, serve, and protect each child God gives to me.

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Even Mary lost her most influential place of mothering for a while.  Maybe she didn’t agree with what Jesus was doing because it seemed too controversial or too dangerous.  Perhaps she was too weighed down with the concerns of her other children and life in general.  When she and her other sons went to see Jesus while He was teaching a large group, He didn’t go out to them.

He said, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?”  He pointed to His disciples and said, “These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever hears the words of God and does them is my mother and brothers.”

If I had been Mary, I would have been devastated by His words.  Then I would have gotten really mad!  “Listen mister, I said yes to carrying you in my womb even though it sullied my reputation and messed up my life.  I gave birth to you and nursed you and took care of you during all the hard times!  None of these guys here know what the angel said to me.  They don’t know what Anna or Simeon said about you.  They didn’t see you take your first steps or nurse you through sickness.  How could you say that they are your mother!”

Yet she must have realized that Jesus was never wrong.  He was never disrespectful or vengeful or mean for meanness sake.  All His words were true…every time. Mary must have repented before God for not hearing His words and obeying them during this crucial time in Jesus’ ministry, because she was there with disciples in the upper room.

What this story tells me is that anyone, anywhere at anytime can have Mary’s impact if they simply hear God’s voice and obey.  To hear God’s voice we must love Him, wait on Him, spend time with Him, read His words over and over.  To obey Him is always to love because He is love.

In essence – to BELIEVE

TO SUBMIT

TO MOTHER

To live this kind of life takes faith to believe without seeing.

To live this kind of life is so much harder than just checking items off a to-do list.

To live this kind of life is something I am sure that I can’t do on my own.

To live this kind of life is the POWER and GLORY of my motherhood; to watch God take my little, seemingly insignificant acts of love and obedience and turn them into something

EARTH SHAKING

ETERNITY CHANGING

BEYOND MY IMAGINATION IMPORTANT

A Grumpy Mommy Morning

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We have all had them.  Grumpy mornings when we wish we were still under the covers.  Grumpy mornings when everything seems to be going wrong.

I used to have grumpy mornings on a regular basis, when I was rudely awakened way too early with the knowledge that I had a very long day of caring for little people ahead of me.

In recent years, however, I felt more confident, more capable.  With the help of my older children, I was able to face each morning with a level head and even some joy.  I became too confident and let my two most helpful children (Areli and Cadin) volunteer to help with Kidz Kamp at our church.  They were gone early in the morning, my husband was at work, and that left me…alone…with a three month baby, a loud and demanding two year old, a special needs girl who acts like a quirky three year old, three wild and crazy boys, and a teenager asleep in his bed.  This teenager who used to be an early riser and the instigator of most of my grumpy mommy mornings, now seemed to be able to sleep indefinitely.

I tried to take care of the needs of the younger children while enlisting the wild boys to help me prepare breakfast.  The younger children were all uncooperative and whiney, and the wild boys were…wild!  They seemed to ignore all that I said to them.  Instead of helping, they were tearing around the house creating messes and conflicts.

Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Grumpy Mommy morning unlike I had experienced in years!  I ended up yelling and fuming, ranting and raving.  I didn’t understand why my children didn’t understand…I was doing all of this for them.  The diapering and nursing and dressing and cleaning and cooking!  All of this effort was for them!  Why couldn’t they help me just a little bit?

Later in the day I had the peace and quiet to think.  Why did I have such a horrible morning?  Was it really my children?  Were they really so awful?

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Or was it my attitude?  If I was really doing everything I did to serve them, why was I so angry with them?

I realized that the work I was doing and getting stressed out about was not really for them.  They didn’t really care if their faces were clean or that their clothes matched or that they had a super healthy breakfast.  I was doing all of those things to make myself feel better.  I was doing everything I thought a good mother should do, trying to get it all done so that I could feel accomplished and satisfied with my mothering.  Then I could get on to the things that I really wanted to do.

I was angry because their childish behavior was interfering with MY plans.  They were messing up MY schedule.  I hadn’t thought about the emotions or thoughts of each child that morning.  Maybe one child had woken up with a scary dream.  Maybe another child was so excited about Kidz Kamp that he couldn’t calm down.  Maybe the other child was so nervous about Kidz Kamp that he was trying to forget his worries. Perhaps another child was feeling overlooked and was just trying to get my attention.  I hadn’t even considered what was going on in their hearts.

I stopped to contemplate what each one of them might want most in the morning upon waking.  I concluded that their deepest heart’s desire, even if they couldn’t articulate it, would be to have a mommy who would greet them with joy.  A mommy who would listen and not just give orders.   A mommy who speaks kind words instead of yelling.

How could I possibly be that kind of mommy?  How could I even begin to meet each child’s unexpressed needs each morning?

All I could come up with was the fact that I definitely could not.  Only if I was abiding in Christ and had His love and thoughts towards my children could I be that kind of mommy.

How could abide in Christ when I got woken up before I could have a quiet time?  How could my mind be full of His thoughts when I couldn’t crack my Bible to read a single scripture?  How could I have His love for my children when I hadn’t even stopped to notice His love for me?

This has become the question that I MUST HAVE an answer to.

“LORD, just how do I seek you in the midst of this life that you have given me?”

I am not totally sure how to get time by myself on a daily basis.  I am not sure how to meet with other Christians and get to church meetings more often for encouragement.  But here is what I have come up with so far.

Whenever grumpy thoughts start to invade my mind, I make a huge effort to replace them with a thankful thought and find something to praise God for.

I write scriptures on notecards and post them on my bathroom mirror.   Whenever I see them, I read them and memorize them.  As I read them, I feel hope returning to my soul.   I try to meditate on them throughout the day.

I recite memorized scriptures while I am nursing.  I used to be able to read the Bible or other encouraging books while I nursed but now Annalise nurses too fast and is too active for that.  As I speak the truth out loud, I feel my heart taking courage.

I listen for His voice in the midst of the noise.  Sometimes I hear it in the voice of my six year old.  Sometimes I hear it in my baby’s cries.

Instead of begging Him to help me through this crazy day, I THANK Him for the help He most certainly IS giving me and WILL give me.

I listen to worship music while I am preparing meals and sing along.  I am caught up in His goodness as I chop vegetables.  I smile when my children tell me that I should have been a singer, and I try to be loving when they interrupt me for some silly reason.

I listen to the Bible on CD while I am driving.  It transforms the time I spend running errands into an encounter with truth and love.  I have noticed things about Jesus and the Bible I have never noticed before.  I have cried and repented and praised Him for His mercy while running to the grocery store.

When I get the chance, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I write down what He has been speaking to me throughout the week.  Then I read my journal over and over again while I eat breakfast the next week. I am reminded of the earth-shaking revelations that have so easily slipped my mind.

I fall asleep recounting all the good things God did for me throughout the day.  I surrender all that I am, and all that I am not.  I rest in the arms of Jesus until some little person needs me.

Being a good mom is not made up of things that I do or the schedule that I keep, but who I am.  Only an active, growing relationship with Jesus will make me like Him and banish the Grumpy Mommy Mornings.  So let us all seek Him, no matter what.

 

Sunrise

sunrise

“Yes, the day will come, says the Lord, when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good I promised them.”  Jer33:14(Living Bible)

 

I was reading this during my morning quiet time.  I got up from the kitchen table to walk my husband to his car as he was leaving for work.  I lingered outside to watch the beautiful sunrise.  I was struck by the faithfulness of God in causing the sun to rise each morning.  No matter how badly I had lived yesterday, no matter how much sin had occurred in the earth the day before, today the sun was rising on humanity again.  Along with the sun came God’s promise of his new mercies.  What a good God we have!

I sat down and continued to read in my Bible.

” If you can break my covenant with the day and with the night so that day and night don’t come on their usual schedule, only then will my covenant with David, my servant be broken…” V.20,21

Then I heard God say, “Anne, if you are able to keep the sun from rising this morning, then you will be able to mess up badly enough to break my promises to you.”

Sometimes I believe the lie that I will disqualify myself from receiving God’s promises.  But God reminds me that it was He who made the covenant in the first place.  He cannot lie, and He knows all things.  He already took my weaknesses and mistakes into account when He made those promises.  So I can rest in the knowledge that it is God’s job to bring His words to come to pass, and it is my job to simply believe.

 

Lord, help me to rest in your faithfulness.

I am my Daddy’s Favorite

Have you ever felt like you were trying hard to do everything right but at every turn your efforts were being thwarted?  Instead of open doors to the people, jobs, opportunities, resources you were hoping for, all you encounter are brick walls.  Funny thing about brick walls; they do not step aside and they show no compassion!  For years Chris and I felt like that.  We would try and try to break through into the prosperity that we knew God had for us.  Chris would try to get the right job and then work hard. We would attempt to do all the right things and pray the right prayers.  Yet one heart breaking setback after another would hold us back.  We almost felt as though we were cursed rather than blessed.  But we knew that God wanted to bless us…so what was the problem?

For years we were undoing the natural consequences of bad decisions we had made…really bad decisions.  So the consequences provided for us an excellent education that we are so thankful for!

After that, we began to step into new territory; making good decisions based upon what would please God the most.  Surely this would bring His favor.  Yet the years continued to go by, and we were still living paycheck to paycheck.  Discouragement would try to tell us that God didn’t like us very much, that He didn’t pay attention to our prayers or our needs.  But truth keep telling us that just the opposite was true.  He loved us like a Father. In fact, we were our Daddy’s favorites.  His plans for us were to give us a future and a hope.

I am my Daddy's favorite

Whenever you enter new territory, such as when the Israelites entered their promised land, there are always battles.  The current residents will not willingly give up their territory.  Yet eventually, they must, because God said so.  Just because we have to battle for something, just because it is not easy, does not mean it is not God’s will!

I was reading the book of Esther and marveling at the divine reversal that occurred.  In one glorious day, the tables were turned.  The Jews went from teetering on the precipice of annihilation to triumphing over all their enemies.  They went from being hated and despised to being honored and feared.  Esther and her uncle gained great influence over the king and they had won his favor.  Everything started to work for their benefit and promotion, and best of all, they would not be slaughtered!  How I longed to experience what a divine reversal felt like; to go from having everything go wrong to having everything go right.  To feel God’s special affection for me wherever I went.

So I prayed that God would make that principle a reality in my life; that I could walk in the favor that Esther had.  I opened up my devotional that morning and read, “The Lord will bless you and watch over you.  The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you.  The Lord will look on you with favor and give your peace!” Numbers 6:24-25.  It was as though God was saying to me, “I heard you and my answer to your prayer is yes!”

Lance Wallnau defines favor as “the special affection of God toward you that releases an influence on you so others are inclined to like you or to cooperate with you” and “the charisma of Christ that makes you appealing.” What does he say we should do to obtain this favor?  Love God, seek His face, become like him, and ask him for His favor.  Decree His favor over every area of our lives and believe that He hears us.  We also need to be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and love ourselves.  After all, how can we accept God’s amazing affection if we don’t agree with it?  Basically, that would be telling God that he was wrong about us, and we really don’t want His favor after all.

Last Sunday at church, God gave me a perfect illustration of what his favor looks like.  My littlest son is now 16 months old.  He was supposed to have moved out of the nursery awhile ago, but it is just easier to place him in the care of familiar faces in familiar surroundings.  Well, last Sunday, I decided to try him in the older room.  I entered to find only one teacher present; a sweet, young girl with a pregnant belly.  She already had four children in the room, one of whom was crying quite loudly in a rocking chair.  I was hesitant to put my little Courage in that room and add a fifth child.  I wouldn’t want to take care of 5 non-verbal toddlers by myself if I were pregnant.  I stayed with him in the room for a while, wondering what I should do.  I finally decided to leave and enter the adult service.  Just as I was walking out the door, the woman from the younger nursery came in.

“There’s Courage!  We were wondering where he was!  He is our favorite, you know.  I think I need to steal him back!”

“OH!  How many babies do you have in your room?” I asked.

“None have come yet, and there are two of us in there, just waiting to make Courage happy.”

“Oh yes, please do!  I didn’t realize that your class was empty!”

So the sweet woman whisked Courage away.  He was specifically chosen and sought out to receive the exclusive attentions of two adoring teachers simply because he was their FAVORITE! THAT is what FAVOR looks like!

Daddy's favorite

I have been praying for God’s favor on my life.  Favor for the traffic on the highway to be sparse and fast moving whenever I need to travel.  Favor for my line in the grocery store to be the fastest.  Favor for our business, that it would catch the positive attention of every person and business in our town that needs a sign.  Favor for my children that they would get the best care from every teacher, babysitter, nurse, and doctor we ever meet. Favor in the eyes of every person I come in contact with.  This may seem rather selfish.  After all, why should I get special treatment?  Because I am His favorite, that’s why!  God loves every person, no matter how twisted, grumpy, evil, or unlovable they are.  He wills the best and the highest for each one of them, but that doesn’t mean He likes them.  Favor is when God really, really likes you!  The reason God really, really likes you is because you are like His beloved son here in the earth; loving God and loving people, doing everything with the highest best of God in mind.  So when people cooperate with me because I have the favor of God, they are actually cooperating with God.  And when they are cooperating with God, they are actually cooperating with a force that intends to bring about the very best for them.  So they are doing themselves a favor when they extend favor to me!

My faith in His favor is increasing as I see Him work out surprising and incredible circumstances on my behalf…after all, I am my Daddy’s favorite.

God Needs Me?

“He can do all things without us, but He had chosen to do them through us.” – The Call by Rick Joyner

I was pregnant with baby number eight.  It had been three years since my last pregnancy, and I felt the strongest, the healthiest, the most alive I had ever felt!  That was…until the morning sickness settled in.  It was actually “all day but much worse in the evening sickness”.  I had not felt horribly nauseous during my previous pregnancies, more like continuous car sickness.  How I had wished I could stop the invisible car and just get out!  I was optimistic that this pregnancy would be the exception, that I could say with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye, “I love being pregnant!”

Just the opposite had happened.  I had never felt so bad!  My days consisted of sitting on the sofa with my eyes closed, trying to feel better.  My children ran around unattended.  Home school, which we should have started a month ago, remained untouched.  My older children did all the chores around the house and kept it running, though not as orderly or smoothly as I would have.  My precious firstborn girl, Areli, carried an enormous burden.  She heard my pitiful pleas all day long.

“Areli, could you make me some eggs?”

“Areli, could you fill up my water glass?”

“Areli, could you see who is crying upstairs, please?”

I tried to be a good mom; but mostly I whined, moaned, slept, felt sick, got sick, and slept some more.  I felt useless and wretched.  I knew theoretically that despite the weakened state of my body, my spirit could still soar high above my circumstances, like an eagle above the clouds.  Yet, after days, weeks, and months of feeling crummy, my eagle had forgotten how to fly.  My mind kept thinking about scriptures such as

“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” 2 Cor 4:17

I knew that it was true, but it didn’t help me feel any better.

I thought about my joy in a newborn baby and how it was all worth it.

But it didn’t make me feel any better.

I reread every “Above Rubies” magazines I had ever received to encourage myself.

My mind was encouraged but my flesh still felt miserable!

My body felt like it was not capable to getting up off the sofa and doing anything productive or enjoyable, yet my mind continued to churn, swirling in descending circles.

“I just want to die.  I can’t live like this.  Why do I have to suffer?  Why does God allow me to feel so horrible?”

Pregnancy is such a miracle, a blessing, a gift!  So why did I feel so bad?  My suffering was nothing compared to other women I knew, who kept almost nothing down for nine months, yet my suffering felt like too much for me to bear.

The question I kept asking was, “Is this worth it?” and I knew that it was.  A new life is always worth it.  After a mother is holding that precious bundle, her sorrow is turned into joy.

Then the question became, “How much is a human life worth?  How much pain and sorrow is one life worth?  How much would I suffer for one human life?  Would I get pregnant and do this all again for one more human life?  How much is a life worth to God?  How much suffering did Jesus endure?”

The only conclusion I could come to was this; one human life is worth IT ALL!  There is no limit to the value God puts on a life, no price too high to pay, no suffering too severe.  Jesus suffered more than any of us.  He went through betrayal, slander, hatred, lies, scourging, mocking, and the cruelest execution ever conceived.  He felt the wretched, incurable sickness of the evil of the entire world. And he bore the effects of that twisted iniquity; separation with all that is good and beautiful and holy, his Father.

He said that his suffering was worth it because of the joy set before him. (Hebrews 12:2) That joy was human life, redeemed and set free.  He said that I am worth it.  He said that you are worth it.  He said that the child in my womb was worth it.  If Jesus was willing to suffer for my child, shouldn’t I?  After the suffering of His soul, he saw the light of life (my life, your life, my child’s life) and he was satisfied. (Isaiah 53:11)

I knew that my suffering wasn’t in vain, but I still didn’t feel any better.

“God, give me a vision of this child!  Something to keep me going,” I prayed.

In my mind’s eye I saw beams of life coming from this child and shooting out to the far reaches of the earth.  This child would be a blessing to me and my family, yes.  But he would also have an impact on the entire world!  How?  I have no idea!  But if I could have some small part in sending life to the whole of mankind, sign me up!

Then I heard God’s loving voice.

“Thank you for being available.  Without you, I couldn’t bring this child of destiny into the world.”

Then I felt the peace that only God’s voice can bring.  I felt His gratitude sink deep into my soul until I was saturated by the unbelievable goodness of it. God needs me?  The all powerful God NEEDS ME to be available?  What if I had said that seven children were quite enough, and that there were too many children in the world already?  THIS particular child, with unique DNA from his father and from me that could never be duplicated, would have never existed!  His very individual purpose and destiny would have never been manifested.  His precious personality, which was a dream in God’s heart since before the world began (Ephesians 1:4), would have never been realized.  And now he exists…because of me!  I cannot think of anything more powerful.  I cannot think of any higher honor for God to give me, than helping Him to create something of inestimable value and eternal impact.

I never could say during that pregnancy that I enjoyed being pregnant.  But I could say that pregnancy was when I relied on God the most and sensed His presence the closest and felt His glory the heaviest.  And the moment that precious Babe was born…I could say…

courage 5

courage feet

HE WAS TOTALLY WORTH IT!

Ordinary or Miraculous?

oatmeal

We all hope and pray for that divine moment when life passes from ordinary to miraculous.  Yet as I have experienced miraculous breakthroughs in my own life many times, I am struck by how they are always surrounded by the normal, everyday things.  I think most miracles in the Bible occurred on ordinary days in ordinary lives.  The people were still people like us; hot or tired, scared or angry, awkward or confused, obedient or backslidden…with faith and doubt living together in their hearts and minds.  Perhaps they were battling just to keep afloat, yet secretly wishing they could give up and slip into a dark and peaceful oblivion.  And after the heavens opened and the glorious event occurred, there were still battles to fight, details to agonized over, persecution and annoyances to deal with.  There were still journeys as long as a lifetime to be navigated…one step at a time.

I have been reading 2 Chron 14-16 a lot lately.  I am encouraged when I read about how God won an amazing victory for King Asa simply because the king relied on Him.  An army of a million men were defeated before the small nation of Judah!  Extremely perplexing to me, however, was the fact that the prophet Azariah came to Asa and encouraged him AFTER his stunning victory.

“The Lord is with you, while you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you…But you take courage!  Do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded,” the prophet said.

Wouldn’t such a phenomenal victory be enough to show Asa that the Lord was with him?  Wasn’t he already on such an incredible high after seeing the Almighty God answer his prayer, save his life, and deliver his nation from defeat and annihilation?  Why did the prophet come to him AFTER the victory rather than before?

Recently we have had a miraculous breakthrough occur in our own lives, yet we still need many more miracles and feel overwhelmed by it all.  I think I might understand why Asa needed that encouragement.  He probably became king in his early twenties.  He inherited a nation full of idolatry, foreign relation nightmares, and huge needs. He had a kingdom of people with problems, all looking to him for the answers.  Being a man of integrity who sought the Lord, he felt the full weight of the responsibility that he was carrying; to please God and serve the people.  He probably would have rather died in that battle than to turn out to be a lousy king and have the people suffer under his lousy rule.  History tells us that he was a very good king, but he had no assurance that he would be.  He was probably plagued with doubts and concerns…just like all of us!  One miracle was not enough for Asa. One miracle is not enough for us.  In order to take courage, we need the miracle of God dwelling with us everyday, just as Asa did.

Isn’t it glorious that God promised that He would NEVER leave us or forsake us?  Isn’t it mind-blowing that God promised that NOTHING could ever separate us from His love?

The miraculous is ALWAYS at work, in every mundane step of the journey.  We all long for that moment when the power of God becomes undeniably evident.  Yet the miraculous is in the here and now, in the imperfection of ordinary moments.  It was surrounding me this morning as I was lying on the living room floor doing exercises to alleviate neck pain and Coldplay was on in the kitchen and my child was asking if he could have sugar on his oatmeal.  I wanted to just pause and take it all in.  The vastness of the universe, complicated beyond my comprehension, forever expanding, and being held together by His words.  The inconceivably minute details of every one of my cells, burning energy, producing life so I can exercise, listen to music, say, “Just a little bit of sugar on your oatmeal!” , and ponder the unexplainable mysteries of the cosmos all at the same time.  The wondrous is all around us.  The supernatural is on the inside of us…that is…if we have invited Him in.

How much of that miraculous are we missing today…simply because we don’t realize that it is here?  Can I be like a prophet speaking to you, as Azariah spoke to Asa, when I type these words that God led you to read?

Take Courage, the Lord is with you!  And with the Lord, every moment of your life is pregnant with divine possibilities!