Love Defies Being Quantified

“Love defies measurement in words, in flowers or cards, and love defies being quantified by a holiday, or a good day, or a bad day.

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Love is immeasurable and incomparable and incalculable. Because God is love and He is infinite and cannot be compared or measured or boxed — then how could we ever compare, measure or box up love?

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Trying to measure love is like trying to determine inches of the universe and comparing one love to another is like pitting stars against each other instead of letting each simply blaze through the dark.”  ~Ann Voskamp

Perfect Mom, or Perfect Love?

I so badly want to be the perfect mom, but I’m far from it. Yesterday proved it—and it also proved another thing—I don’t have to be perfect in order for the kids to know they are perfectly loved.

They fought during school, and I had to keep giving consequences like “For your disrespect, I want you to go clean two bathrooms.”

Later, after checking his work and noticing he did a swift, unsatisfactory wipe-down, “I want you to scrub these bathrooms well, and for not doing a good job, I want you to clean the third bathroom.”

Another child called a friend in the middle of a chore I asked her to do (which was also a consequence, by the way), and when it was time to go I called (and called and called and called). 

Definitely one of those days where I wondered where the training had disappeared to.

Three of the kids had dental work lined up, and I accidentally double booked one child for sealants and orthodontist work, in two separate offices miles apart. Cancel one, keep the other, drop her off in one office while I head to the next one with the other kids, hopefully on time.

The youngest boy has two cavities (which makes me feel horrible, of course). Why didn’t I floss those back teeth? But who can floss a child’s molars??

He’s happy, grinning from ear to ear as the assistant puts head phones on his ears for a movie and tells him he’s the boss today. Twenty-first century work vibes, for sure.

He doesn’t get all the movies he wants at home, and is never told he’s the boss. I soon discovered why they gave him all the props, as they put laughing gas tubes on his nose and covered his mouth in green plastic while the work began.

He cried out in pain periodically, and I winced, prayed, held his hands, and even plugged my ears. I’m that mom. Not brave at all when the kids are in pain and I can’t stop it.

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By now the oldest child is waiting at her orthodontist’s office, ready to come home. The second child gets called in for sealants, and when he’s through we head for sister, who sighs and lets me know how long she’s been waiting. I head to the desk to book a consultation for the third child whose teeth are also needing attention.

I promise brave youngest child a milk shake, and also get one for oldest child whose mouth is throbbing from tightened braces. Good mom, or bad mom? Sugar, or no sugar? For now, I choose to block cavity concerns and create sweet memories instead.

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The day goes on, and I spend time with the girls after dinner. We’re knee-deep in our favorite show, and Daddy comes home to join us. It’s a cozy time and we’re all laughing, relaxing together after a very full day.

I’m leaning against him on the couch when it hits me. The second child is at youth group, and I FORGOT TO PICK HIM UP.

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Moms, have you ever done that? You know that feeling?

I’m panicking, running for my purse and the door at lightening speed. I bolt out the driveway and resist the urge to honk loudly at the very slow car ahead of me. In my distress, I miss the closest exit and have to move slowly through town, willing that gigantic truck ahead of me to move off the road.

The thought of my boy wondering where his mom is has me in near tears. 

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Sure enough, he’s standing outside waiting while the youth leader waits in his car. I scroll down the window and apologize profusely, giving lame explanations like “I was spending time with my daughters, and my husband came home……..”

He smiles and makes light of it. Good man. I know that he knows just how badly a mama feels in such a moment.

Ack. Just Ack.

My boy is gracious and accepts my apology. “Will you buy me a milk shake to make up for it?”

Of course I will! Do you want a burger, too?”

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He could ask me for about anything right now, and he knows it. I order a large chocolate shake piled high with whipped cream and hand it over. Never mind it’s bed time and kids shouldn’t have sugar before bed.

We nestle down on the couch and I wrap him up. He’s loved, and he knows it.

The dog poops on the carpet in the middle of the night, and again in the morning. I wake to piles of brown all over the living room and my office floor. We got the dog for this child when he was very small because we found him huddled under the trampoline praying for a dog.

Who wouldn’t buy a dog at that moment, even if large dogs were on the top of her dislike list?

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The child who got left behind is still squeezing favors from last night’s mistake. I know I’ll keep hearing this, “Because you didn’t come on time last night, can you—–?”

He’s half joking, of course.

I’m grateful that with all of life, we can make big mistakes but still be covered by an even bigger God. That love wins and we get to accept the fact that we will fail, and those we love will fail, and God wraps all of us up in His Love that never fails.

Sister, you don’t have to be perfect. Allow Perfect Love to cover your weakness and wash your soul in grace. Allow your kids (and your man) to see you fail and get back up again. Allow yourself to breathe when you mess up.

Because God never does, and your kids will see Him cover you, and cover them, and His love to permeate all of your lives, together.

When you mess up big, love even bigger!

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How to Line Up Release with Reality

I’m lying in bed this morning, and my brain is running.

You know, that thing we do when the day behind us hasn’t resolved all its problems, and we still feel an impasse ahead? As in, an impossible one?

I’m telling my heart this morning that God is big, and He can do what I can’t do. Truth be told, I’ve always known that, and now I’m forced to live as if I know it.

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I’m not sure why I think that stewing about something would ever solve anything.

All it does it tense my shoulders, carve lines into my forehead, and bring a down-spirit into the atmosphere.

I’m slowly learning to let go.

The impossible is made possible by a God who delights in the impasse because He gets to show his strength.

Ever hand a jar with a stubborn lid to a guy with muscle? See that twinkle in his eye as he twists it with ease and your jaw drops?

You tried your hardest to open it, and finally, in frustration, you handed it over. See that phrase, handed it over?

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Release doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. How can you release a problem whose existence you are in denial of?

Release means you face your giant head on and realize its ability to destroy your peace. You are fully aware of its ugliness—so aware, in fact, that you know it’s too big for you to handle.

Because you own it, you also get to release it. You hand it over because your shoulders weren’t meant to carry it, and if you do, you’ll end up stooped long before your years.

Release doesn’t mean turning a blind eye. Rather, you can only release when you open your eyes to acknowledge your situation and see the need for supernatural help.

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We get confused on this one. Just as we mistake trust for forgiveness, we mistake release for reality. Christ would have us walk in truth.

In owning reality, we get to experience the rest of release.

Sister-soul, today—own your problem fully. Then, because it’s too big for you to handle, release it fully into the hand of God who delights in the impossible.

Find your peace, your joy, your grace, today. Christ gifts you with all of these while He works on what concerns you. Your work is over, except that which springs of faith, and rest.

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Relax in His hands—you are well-cared for because your deepest care is given from above rather than from around you. Nothing can stop the inflow of heaven into your soul.

When Moms Fear Failure

Oh, mamas. How many of us are afraid that if we don’t do everything well enough, things (or people) will fail and we will be at fault?

Anything that keeps us in a grip of fear over our own performance becomes an idol.

We fear our kids not loving the Lord, and the thought makes our hearts stop. We fear not being the “perfect” wife, and causing our marriages to struggle or fail.

 

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What about knowing that because of Christ, we are safe even if we or our loved ones were to mess up? We strive so hard we make life hard.

We deny needs because owning them shatters our fantasy bubble. We refuse reality because we base our identity on the goodness of ourselves rather than God’s goodness toward us.

Anytime we need something to prove our worth, we do not see our value.

 

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Anytime we need something to prove our competence, we are not truly confident.

Anytime we get our sense of worth from things around us flowing well, we are not truly whole. We can not gain true identity from ourselves or others (even our husbands or kids), but from Christ’s love and grace for all of us.

Living this way will enable us to give love and grace to others as well. We can only give what we first receive.

 

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We will never be at rest if we think our rest is contingent on something or someone else—even if  God does want us to have that good thing.

We need to let go of our fear, our works, our idols—and worship the God Who loves us even if we were to fail drastically. Only then will our life be graced with true peace and the resulting good fruit.

Today, we get to cease striving so hard for the good thing we want, and sink into Goodness Himself. Life will become a flow of peace, a grace given, a rest earned by Christ.

When our families are no longer our greatest life, we are able to extend True Life to our families.

“It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows; for so He gives His beloved sleep.” Psalm 127:2

Allow the Lord to give you, His beloved, sleep!

 

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When Life Spits in Your Face, and You Trust Anyway…..

I’m thinking of the brave father who listened in when God asked him to sacrifice his dearest earthly treasure.

I’m thinking of how he leaned in and absorbed the words of God when his natural flesh cried everything contradictory.

Of how he obeyed when God’s command seemed to contradict God’s promise.

Abraham, the father of faith. He wasn’t always perfect, and he was cowardly enough to put his wife in a place of extreme vulnerability because he was afraid.

Sarai was beautiful enough to grab the attention of every man in town. And Abraham wondered if the king would have him killed so he could have one more beautiful woman in his harem.

The father of faith succumbed to his fear and told his lovely wife to lie. Then, he allowed her to be taken to the king’s palace.

The father of faith succumbed to his fear, because he wanted to save his own skin. But, this is not what he’s known for.

Down through the ages, Abraham’s faith has been held as an example because when rubber met the road, he obeyed at all costs.

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He waited thirty years for God’s promise of a son to be fulfilled. Thirty years. Thirty years feels like a life-time, and at thirty years of age, many feel as if God failed them if desires and promises remain unmet. But Abraham waited thirty years for a single promise, then turned around and was ready to sacrifice it all.

He didn’t ask God why. He didn’t remind God of His promise to give him a heritage so great it was likened to the sand of the sea. All he did was walk, and trust, build the altar, and raise the knife.

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His faith showed through his obedience. This, my friends, is why he was called the father of faith. If he hadn’t obeyed, his faith would have been void. And today, if we don’t obey, our faith is of no effect.

Friend, what treasure is God asking you to sacrifice today? Of what are you afraid?

Abraham raised his hand to slay his only son, and the angel of God cried out to stop him. Abraham gratefully put down his knife and spotted the lamb stuck in the bush. He had told Isaac that God would provide a lamb for their sacrifice as they trudged up the mountain.

I think he knew, deep down. With no visible proof, with everything (including God’s direct order) seeming to contradict the promise, he knew, by faith, that things would come full circle.

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He had nothing to go by, but he knew God, and He knew God’s heart, and he trusted what he knew by faith more than what he saw with his eyes.

He knew that God is good.

Friends, when we take hold of grace, but don’t follow with obedience, our faith is vain. When we truly believe, we obey, and when we obey, God reigns.

Hear this, we don’t truly believe if we don’t have the courage to live our faith. And if something’s worth living for, it’s worth dying for—and we don’t get to choose what we live and die for, because God has us, and He has the world, and He masters all of it.

Including our lives. Our sometimes messed-up lives. 

When you believe this, you’ll see that out of every mess in your life comes a message for your life.

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You may be afraid enough to want to save your skin today. You may have an order from your saving Christ that seems to deny you access to the things dearest to your heart. And you’ll obey, because when you accept God’s grace, you also embrace His Lordship.

You’ll make mistakes, but in the end, you’ll also be known as a woman of faith—because you believed God’s goodness when life seemed to defy it and spit in your face, instead.

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You followed through when life seemed to laugh at you, and the thing you clung to so tightly crumbled right out of your hands.

Still, you’ll be a woman of faith. Rubber will meet the road, and you’ll follow God with a yes. In turn, His promises will be, to your heart, yes, and yes.

He has overcome the world, your world, and He says to you, “Be of good cheer. If I have overcome the entire world, I’ve certainly overcome the trial in your life, today. Overcome it, with ME.” 

Trade Real Living for an Alternate Screen Life?

Everyone’s on their phones,” I mused as I stood in line at the check-out counter. “I wonder how it must have been a few decades ago when people had no phones to fill every spare minute. Did they actually talk to each other?”

The next day one of my kids says, “Mom, you’re on your phone so much of the time.”

Ack. He’s right. My first i-phone was a great luxury compared to the small phones I’d always owned previously. I love people, and it’s a great way to stay in touch with those I love the world over.

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It’s also a great way to loose touch with those I love in my own house. In my small town. In the line at the grocery store and post office.

Just last week I navigated snowy roads with a rented car and four kids, twisting through curvy roads to a place in Ohio I’d never been. I was so grateful for Google maps as I crept along, holding my breath as we threatened to slip. In that moment, my phone was nothing short of goodness.

But hey. If I’m consumed by this good thing, I actually fall short of goodness consuming me.

Because it’s more important to give people your undivided attention than your unlimited time. Where ever you are, be all there.

It’s more important to make time for your friends than to take even more hours for your favorite show.

More important to invite people into your home than to sit in your home with your mind out of it completely.

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People rush home from Sunday services with more thought of the screen than they have of the hurting lives surrounding them all morning.

Everywhere, there are silent people begging for an ear. But they are silent, and it is up to us to find them, love them, live life with them.

And when you’re taken with screen life, you’re likely discouraged with your own very real life. Few things in real life flash as quickly and engagingly as a film.

And few women look as beautiful as the actress. Few men as buff and handsome as the actors—and few of them as “perfect” when it comes to loving a woman.

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Screen life can make forbidden love look sweet, and committed love look sour.

It can feed attitudes more than refine them, and cause us to be restless more than resourceful.

My little boy’s screen time can pick momentum ever so slightly, and before I know it, I have a child on my hands who wants nothing but to sit and stare rather than run and do.

Addictions come in many forms, and we have one on our hands. We are trading many good things in real life for a glorified, unrealistic picture flashing before us so quickly it sucks us right out of pursuing good for our own lives.

Depression and constant screen hovering often seems to go hand in hand. When there’s little to your own life, you want to find it in some one else’s. What would God want to give you if you pursued your own good thing, instead?

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The screen also offers alternative sex in the form of pornography. Ladies, don’t be confused—the grief you feel over this one is justified because what happens with a stranger on a screen is a hidden form of cheating. Your heart says so because it is not more right to cheat in hidden places on a screen,  than to cheat with a person in front of you. 

The screen steals time away from couples and offers an easy emotional or sexual fix where there’s no work involved—just a high dose of “feel good”. And then the repercussions of emotional distance, hypocrisy, and betrayal with your own spouse.

And with social media spouses can reach out to anyone, at anytime, for a fix for their loneliness rather than ask themselves why they’re in a lonely place. What do your relationships need, and why are they suffering?

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We are in an epidemic, but there’s a cure. Use wisdom. Say no before it happens. Refuse to engage on your phone in ways you wouldn’t engage in person (especially right in front of your spouse).

If you have to hide anything, it’s not worth doing. If you have to hide your phone, it’s not worth having.

If you hide your own life in exchange for watching anothers, try to make your own worth living instead!

Look at the one face next to you rather than the thousand faces smiling at you across the globe. That smiling face wasn’t happy all day, either. Judging relationships by on-line perfection is unfair and damaging to your own very real, struggling spouse, kids, and life.

Look into their faces, and look away from the screen. They will love you for it!

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Pick up a book and fill your soul. Invite a friend over and create space for relationships. Say no to constant texting of the opposite sex so your heart is ready to engage fully with your spouse. Find your deepest needs met there, and with God.

The world is on a major hunt for a cure for cancer, but cancer is not the only epidemic. How will we fight this alternate reality so we can create a better reality for our own lives?

How Bethlehem’s Babe Brings Love in When We Can’t Keep Life Out…….

It’s Christmas Day, and my extended family is cozied up in a lodge nestled in the rolling hills of Ohio, spending time together before my youngest brother’s wedding to his long-loved girl.

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I’ve just had a fifth cup of hot tea, coffee, or chai for the day, and am settled at the table writing while my sisters paint—because water colors drive me crazy while weaving words delights me to the core.

Dad and I just had a chat on the couch. He’s sixty years old, and life has traveled at a breathtaking pace while he’s done his best with it all. I look at the faces of each family member as we play ice-breaker.

The game is fun and has us rolling in laughter. I get to choose the questions, and I pose personal ones to that brother in law who is quiet and composed. We shake with laughter when he smirks an uncomfortable grin before he answers.

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I also pose more thoughtful, difficult questions. “What was the hardest day of your life, and why?” I read the question aloud to my father.

Even as I asked, I knew what he’d say.

The day Peter died,” he said.

Ah, yes. Of course. That day was a living nightmare, and it didn’t stop for awhile, not until his body finally appeared on the water’s surface three days later.

It didn’t even stop then. His refrigerator still had his butter dish to be emptied, his phone still rang, and we were just flat out heart broken.

This Christmas, we’re smiling again. Life has been unexpectedly difficult in some aspects, but here we are on Christmas Day, deeply in love with Bethlehem’s Babe in the God-form of Jesus Christ.

Because when we pause enough to rest on the Father’s chest, we get to feel the rise and fall of His heart. His heart.

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Our own hearts may tell us otherwise, that God doesn’t see and doesn’t love and doesn’t care—and we won’t be okay because some aspects of life aren’t okay, and we don’t know how to fix them.

My sister leans in as she tells me how raising teens takes every ounce of her energy and she’s just a little drained. The other sister’s heart is in Greece with her loved refugee women, the ones she’s keeping safe from sex traffickers.

I got to voice chat with the girl who was taken into prostitution at an early age. She’s smiling, and safe. No matter that life robbed her of goodness—she’s fallen in love with the Ultimate Gift, and she’s smiling. 

She’s smiling more than some women I know who have it all, but aren’t grateful and alive with purpose. Because some of us hide behind dishes and laundry while we allow our minds to be dull and void of vision—all in the name of Godly womanhood.

And sometimes, we refuse to rest until we’re stripped bare and forced to reach inward to the Spirit of Christ and the strength He offers.  We know true rest when we cease trying on our own. 

More than circumstantial change, we get to be changed by a loving God.

We get to hear God’s whisper more than the roar of our circumstance. And the gift of Christmas is that we don’t have to do things we can’t do. We get to rest, to end the struggle, to simply do what He prompts us to do and leave the load for Him to carry.

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Even if the load is raising kids and we fear making mistakes. Even that load, we get to cast aside while we choose peace.

We let go of our idea of perfection in order to be perfected in love. When we do so, Perfect Love begins to shape our lives, our mothering, and all we do.

We get to shatter our past and burn our reasons not to live fully in grace, today.

We don’t have to—we get to. When our flesh isn’t coddled temporarily, we still get to be embraced eternally.

I’m tucking my boy into bed, wishing just a tad that all of life, for everyone, could be as warm, safe, and cozy as this lodge on Christmas Day. But we can’t avoid the duties of life. And when we can’t keep life out, we get to bring Love into that life. 

Bethlehem’s Babe is the Ultimate Gift, and He will go with us, everywhere, while we follow Him, anywhere.