Cupcakes and Culture

Cupcakes, laughter, and serious talks filled the evening of our girl’s group, after which my co-teacher and I pondered things of culture and how our group of girls was affected by them. “Culture is like a rushing wall of water all around us, and we need to stand tall while it rushes about us and nearly over the top of our heads,” I had shared with her.

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She nodded in agreement. We are here for more than to have fun and allow daughters of the King to be blithely swallowed up by their surroundings. Because Christians are here to permeate culture rather than allow culture determine what we do and who we are.

I’ve long been intrigued with ambassadors. Leaving one’s own country to live in another for the sake of your own, must be a challenging but fulfilling occupation.

Ambassadors are fulfilled in a sense of greater purpose than walking the streets and enjoying a house in a certain country. They are there to speak out for their country.

You’d be there for a reason greater than seeing sights and enjoying ethnic foods. You’d even be there for more than to love on native folk. You’d be there for your own country’s sake, and everything you did would have a mission to benefit your country.

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I can’t speak up for anything lately without being told I’m judgmental,” I shared with my friend. “It’s as if the truth of God is wiped off the slate because all people want is the mercy of God.”

We fail to see that the truths God asks us to hold on to are a display of His mercy, that His no is not deprivation, but an invitation to greater blessing.

That when He asks us to put down our phones, He’s not asking us to shut out relationships; He’s inviting us to embrace the love right before us, to be engaged where we are because we miss out when we don’t do so.

That when He asks us to hold on to “old-fashioned” views of marriage and sexuality, He’s not unloving—He’s calling our land to a solid foundation of love that will bless this culture rather than imbalance it.

That when He prompts us to reduce our screen time, He’s inviting us to a life of good rather than staring at a screen with the good (or not so good) things of another’s life, leaving our own destitute of fulfillment. Because we won’t be as rich from watching a life as we’ll be from fully living a life.

 

That when He asks women to honor their husbands, He’s inviting them to a place of honor for their own hearts, a place where they can be at rest and receive the care they  end up craving even when they try to prove themselves equally capable.

Do we remember this, His way is perfect, His word is tried, that every good gift is from a good Father Who lives in the light and longs to bring us to life?

The truths of God lead us to be changed by the mercy and grace of God.

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Cheap grace lulls us to sleep; real grace leads us to vibrant life. Cheap grace gives hand-outs; real grace holds a hand.

We are ambassadors of a heavenly kingdom, and less we be distracted from our mission and lose our calling, let’s keep referring back to the heart of God so we can be a true representation of His heart!

When Glaring Teens Need to be Heard

Those eyes, they glare at me. And my heart wilts just a little more.

I’m so done. How can you be a mother, give so much, and get that? Like, don’t they know I gave up my own life for theirs, that I don’t always feel glorious about home schooling one more day, that I make those green smoothies because I love them?

Don’t they know I’m a good mom—as in, a really, really good mom?

The twelve year old son, the one who looks at me contemplatively and asks me how my heart’s doing, well, he turned into a brat for awhile. And I’m done being weak and disrespected and known as the softie who can’t take anything, so I clamp down.

These kids—don’t they know I’m fully human and I have feelings, and they can’t –I mean, they really can’t—talk to me with that edgy tone?

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My husband calls me into the room for a talk, and shares with me how I could be hearing their hearts more than clamping down on the edgy parts of their hearts. “Perhaps”, he says, “that would help them not be so disrespectful. They want to feel heard, and sometimes not everything comes out all pretty and sweet.”

We empaths feel deeply. The slightest tone of voice, especially when we’ve been raised by a father who never, ever raised his voice, can drive us over the edge. We avoid conflict like the plague and all we want is to be honestly, truly loved and communicated with in the same love.

But kids aren’t perfect, and even most adults will have an edge to their tone every once in awhile. I’ve clutched my heart many times in a desperate quest for escape when a family member or friend has looked at me with less than warm vibes bouncing from their eyes.

How not to go over the edge when you hear the edge?

Just the other day, I literally ran out of the house when conflict happened with one of the kids and I had to send him to his room. And my husband says, “Maybe try to listen more before you discipline?”

So yeah, I’m the softie trying to prove herself strong. If they can bark, so can I—and I can send you to your room, too!

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I look at the hats sitting on the shelf of the shop I clean, and I see the slogan, “Don’t tread on me.” I feel it within, this cry of the heart—please don’t tread on me, kids.”

Somewhere, there’s a wound deep within that rises hard core to a fizzing top when I hear the edge. And I’m taking it out on the kids, this inability to handle it and get to the bottom of the heart behind it—because I’m stuffing my own hurt way down deep.

I sit them down for Bible time after daddy goes off to work his night shift, and I say it, loud, to hearts seated round the living room. “I’m sorry for not listening well to your hearts. I’m sorry for not giving you what I want for myself.”

Kids are forgiving beyond belief, and a few of them cuddle up close . The next day when fights simmer, I pause, and I ask this heart, then that one, what’s going on. I do it again, and again, and again. Sometimes, I listen and talk it through, then discipline because the need is obvious—but often, we simply talk.

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When relationship is there, the love is there, and when love is there, the heart wants to do good. There is no need to discipline a heart in the right place, no need to prove yourself to a heart already in a proven place—even though they’ve made a mistake.

The air clears, and I listen more. I take time to talk it through, to get to the bottom of the frustration rather than send the frustrated child upstairs with no answers. I focus on training the littlest bratty child rather than attack the older child for scolding bratty behavior. I try to be fair, just, and approachable—for everyone, not just the littlest one.

The twelve year old is hugging me again, and my heart is at peace. Not all is perfect, and it never will be. But love covers us in a blanket of acceptance. 

Children know when they are accepted for their performance or loved in spite of less than perfect behavior. I’d rather have a child vibrantly loved than have a silent, performing child working for my love. And this is where I was headed until I repented of my very own inability to work through conflict.

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Teens may need the mercy seat right along with this mama, and I feel the need of it keenly. Mercy—we are all in desperate need of it, daily. Repentance mingles with grace, and the soul is at rest. Perhaps the heart, rather than wilt, can be made alive with the glory of grace in an edgy world where all is not always as it should be.

Perhaps, we all need to be heard a little more, and condemned a little less? That spouse, friend, or child who makes you want to shy away—perhaps they need to have the deepest places of the heart heard and cared for? Perhaps, just perhaps, the ugly coming out is a sign that they are affected in an ugly world? 

Perhaps we could be like Jesus, and send the teen off with mercy, to sin no more, rather than condemn him for sinning against us?photo

When Stillness Fights Your War

The two armies approached each other on the screen, and I cringed.

I hate war. Like, hate it with a passion unlike most other things. Killing each other to win anything seems contradictory to love—and what is worth more than love?

But if wars need to be fought, I’m glad some men have stamina enough to face ammunition whizzing through the air and puncturing human hearts. In olden days, the bayonet was only faced by the brave of heart who refused to turn away at any cost.

Some people would rather die than surrender. To them, surrender means weakness.

Soldiers of the kingdom fight under a different set of values. We fight just as hard, or at least we should. The enemy can be as slicing and deadly as the bayonets of old, piercing ourselves and those we love to the death, unless some powerful warfare is waged.

To us, surrender is the most powerful warfare and always means victory.

We don’t give up and we don’t give in, and we fight strong. But because our war is between the flesh and spirit, surrender is one of our most powerful tools. Exodus 14:14 says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

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Sometimes, we fight needlessly because we refuse to give in to what we know the Commander says to us. We want, we desire, and we strive for things God is not giving us.

The war wages on, and while it wages in our hearts, we become occupied with it, consumed by it. Being caught in a fight of our own making because we refuse to surrender our desires brings us to spiritual exhaustion. We become so taken with ourselves that we are no longer taken with grace.

How can we constantly be engaged in our own world and at the same time be releasing love, joy, and peace into the atmosphere around us?

You must surrender the things that take your heart away and cause you to be in a ceaseless inner fight. Release your desires, and surrender. God will overtake your heart with peace and then, you will have space for the work He has for you.

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A clean heart allows God to create His business in your life. A pure heart will see God.

Today, surrender. In God’s kingdom, surrender marks the strongest and toughest soldiers. The brave know how to follow their General’s lead, no matter what. And He always leads them to rest.

After leading them to rest, He leads them to fruitfulness. A soldier is always occupied. When surrendering in warfare of our own making, we become free to return home, where we engage in the growth of all the things God calls us to.

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I don’t believe we realize how much of our time is taken with distractions of our own making. We exhaust ourselves, and for what? Sooner or later, the inner turmoil must cease, and it will cease when we hand over the reigns.

We may be without, but we will be full within. Only the brave know how to say no to the enemy and yes to God. Only the strong soldier knows how to walk faithfully when all else calls you to quit, veer to the left, or take an alternate route.

Let the bayonets slice the air around you while you surrender into peace and blessing.

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Why Honoring Our Man is Beautiful

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.

When we see womanhood as beautiful, we become much more loath to allow disrespect be a part of who we are.

Respecting others, especially our husbands, is a sign of healthy self respect. There are few things as becoming to a woman as visible signs of respect to others, especially toward our husbands.

Disrespect is ugly, pure and simple.

We’ve all seen it– this unhappy woman who doesn’t hesitate to correct and belittle her husband in the presence of others. Sometimes the guy deserves it, but it makes no difference; it is always ugly.

Happy is the woman who respects herself and her husband enough to entreat him in an honorable fashion.

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Women who honor are viewed as weak and dependent. May I propose to you that women who honor and respect their husbands are women with strength and character that cannot be denied; that to respect a man takes more courage and dignity than to control one’s own life?

That it takes more faith? More love?

In reality, many women are weak because they are out to prove themselves. Confidence never needs to prove itself. True strength has no need to prove itself even stronger. And only a weak person cannot acknowledge the strength of another out of fear that her own will be diminished. 

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In a love dominated culture, women are applauded for their need for unconditional love whereas men are called sexist for their need for unconditional respect. Do we forget that to a man, respect speaks love? And that most men (according to one survey) would rather feel alone and unloved than inadequate and disrespected?

It’s okay to have needs that differ from each other. Next time you need unconditional love, remember he needs the same thing, and he hears love by respect. Remember, you can be entirely honest without being disrespectful, and you can disagree with an honorable attitude.

Respect has nothing to do with hiding our true feelings, but everything to do with how we express them. Dare to give your man the respect he needs while you honestly express your own heart needs!

Prayer:

Father, help me to know that in embracing my husband’s honor and leadership, I do not disqualify myself. Help me to see that You empower me when I walk in Your ways.

Dare:

Today, dare to be braver, stronger, and even more daring than women who are out to prove they need nothing from a man. Dare subject yourself to his leadership when one of you needs to make the final decision.

When Women Break Out of Silence

 

The afternoon was exquisite as we rested on our beach towels and the kids paddled away in their kayaks.

Not everyone has an entire shed full of wet suits and water toys, along with the energy to share it all with numerous families all summer long. But my friend Julie was a generous host, and kept the door to her little lake house open much of the summer to eager kids and wet bodies dripping water over her floor as they headed to the bathroom.

I wondered who had the pleasure of scrubbing that toilet when the days were over. Most likely, her.

Her little place could have been quiet, still, orderly. All the better for no wear and tear, but here she was, handing out cold lemonade and letting everyone use her everything.

I loved hearing her talk about the studies she and her husband led on marriage and child training. This lady had a heart for the hearts of others, and it showed in every way.

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But my boy and his little friend fought a lot that day, and on the way home, my other friend and I demanded utter silence because our heads were ringing with unwanted conflict for most of the afternoon. We turned on the music and drove quietly—because sometimes, little boys happen on such a mood that if a single word escapes little lips, it is ugly.

Silence is better than ugly, but silence is not better than joy.

Psalm 93:17 says, “If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence.”

As we drove in silence, I watched other ladies facing my car when we all paused at the red light. The first looked as if she’d been crying; the second, as if she knew the weight of the world would rest on her shoulders as soon as she reached her destination.

And I wondered, where was the joy—for all of us? Because life can silence us, but only God can release us into full joy.

Only the God soul knows the joy life.

If God had not released my own heart, I’d be in silence somewhere behind the bars of condemnation, guilt, and fear. But He said to me as He said to Lazarus that day, “Sara, come forth!” [John 11:43, NKJV]

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He broke my old Sara chains and called me out. Out of silence into giving life; out of guilt into freedom; out of fear into faith; out of despair into joy; out of co-dependence into confident living.

He calls you out, too.

Soul, what is gripping you? Of what are you afraid? What clutches at your neck each day, stopping the joy you want to inhale?

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If you think others are hindering that inhale of joy, you are wrong. Because the power of the cross is greater than another sinful human, and the breath you get to receive from the Spirit of Christ is a greater inhalation of life than the other finite lives you want to depend on.

Those lives have no power to give a single breath, the Other Life created each breath you breathe.

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I soaked it in at the noisy, happy place by the lake, grateful for a friend who shared her everything with us that day. And I knew beyond doubt that there’s an even Greater Friend Who is with me, sharing His everything each minute, each hour, each season.

The Life we get to breathe from is Infinite, not limited to finite humans who sin, just like us.

We only need to chose which air we breath. Breathe in the joy, and break your soul out of silence!

Why I Didn’t Help……Say, What?!

Is there a possibility that you could help with the deer tonight?” my husband asked.

I looked at him with hesitation. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “I’ll go get the girls and see what tonight looks like.”

I knew he understood because just a few weeks ago, I had asked him about taking a writing assignment from my publisher. When I told him I might not even be able to cook as many dinners, he still agreed that I should do it. Things are crowding in tightly this month, but we support each other!

I had been running all day with home school, getting flyers made, setting up a new bank account, and the fun-but-scary, new experience of walking into a radio office asking if they would air my new book before its launch. Getting my heart on paper to be published was vulnerable; sharing it with a complete stranger in a back room office was almost worse.

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My man had been up much of the night before picking up a freshly killed deer [yes, we harvest and eat road-kill] and hanging it. He stayed up later than needed, and slept much of the next day, then watched butchering videos while he drank his coffee before getting an after-dinner start on the processing. This was all great–he’s simply a natural, born-night owl! 

Because I’m a home school mom, my day begins early and  I had been buzzing around all day like a bee that’s just been mortally wounded. I was doing dinner dishes and needed to run out one more time to bring the girls home from dance. Both of them had their share of attitudes that day, and my brain was fried. Reading a story to the little guy felt like a huge chore, much less cutting up a deer late into the night, so guess what I did?

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I was brave enough to do what I needed to do before another day of home school. I stayed in a warm house, showered, and tucked little ones in bed.

Brat, or what? Pampering myself while my man cuts meat in the cold, dark night with our son?

My journey out of codependency led me to realize fully that I didn’t have to meet all the desires of another in order to be loved. Or to be a good wife and mother. Or to be a good woman. I’d spent many years trying all of it, and it exhausted me to the point of daydreaming about getting sick just so I could rest.

I was a worn-out pleaser in more ways than one. I didn’t know how to care for my own heart just as I didn’t know how to care for my own body. Emotionally exhausted, I performed for months while having emotional outbursts every few months due to the build up of pressure.

I crawl into bed with a book—the one I had just ordered off Amazon for a penny—and start reading. I grab my phone and text my husband goodnight, along with thanks for his care of us [even his night-owl deer processing], and my emoji is a smile.

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If I had stayed up with him, I’d have been exhausted both mentally and physically. I probably would have resented him for a late start and lots of sleep that day. I would have wanted to remind him how hard I’d been working all day, how much I was sacrificing to help him, and how early my day would begin the next morning.

In a pitiful attempt to love and be loved, I wouldn’t have loved much at all. Because when we string ourselves out to dry, we become brittle, and we crack easily.

Why is it that Christian women are so exhausted and busy? What are we trying to prove? That we are angels with no human need?

I wake the next morning to a warm house and a counter full of meat dishes. He shoots me a text, apologizing for it, and I’ll send him one, thanking him for his work and telling him I’ll gladly do them.

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Did you know that when we care for ourselves, we care for others better? If I push past my limits on a regular basis, I will resent those dishes and want to remind him [again], that if he started his work earlier in the day, he would have had time to do the dishes. I’d have wanted to remind him that we’d be going to bed together with a deer butchered [perhaps even together], and all the dishes done.

Being set free from co-dependence allows you to free your man to be himself because you no longer believe you have to be everything, for everyone, no matter what. You no longer believe that being a helper suitable to your man means being a needless servant for your man.

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I’m in my office this morning with God, because I need Him. Those dishes sit, because I need God more than I need a spotless kitchen at the wake of dawn. And He whispers to me, “This process is OK, and I’m in you and with you and will work through you.”

I accept His words, and I worship. He encompasses everything, and I don’t need to. I only need to be full of love, and love on those around me in the ways True Love prompts me to do—not the way codependency forces me to do so that I can be loved and approved.

Are you an exhausted pleaser? If so, please take a step back and learn how to be a positive pleaser! You can serve others even better when you begin to care for your heart, body, and soul right along with caring for those around you.

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Selfishness can also come in the form of over-doing it. You give until you break for your own reasons more than because you love others. If you find yourself exhausted, resentful, feeling like you’ll break—take a step back. Quit trying to do everything or you may soon be able to do nothing.

Sometimes, keeping things smooth for everyone is our pitiful attempt at keeping things smooth for ourselves.

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I took a step back for my physical needs. I found a mentor for my heart needs. I spill those places I don’t know how to get through on my own, and together we pray and talk our way through life. In accepting the fact that I need things just like those around me, I’m more fully alive than ever before. But I had to become more afraid of breaking than I was of not having approval of everyone around me.

Your life will become full when you accept the fact that you are fully human!

Face to Face with Raw Grace

I looked around, and I watched for joy.

It seemed more than finding joy, I found faces creased with worry-lines, etched deeper with each passing year until they became such a permanent part of countenances they no longer disappeared.

Even in laughter, sadness remains in the faces of those around us.

I hear their stories, and I weep. Life is cruel and unforgiving at times, early dreams gone to the wind as if they were never held tightly by young, hopeful hearts who had not yet learned that this planet is a wrecked place.

There will always be death.

There will always be infidelity.

There will always be hidden sins affecting the lives of those we love.

Because there will always and only be humans living on this earth, and we get to live right alongside them. Not only that, but we are human, too.

Human enough to mess up just like them. Human enough to be gripped by the failure of another until we make it our own, somehow believing life to be over unless another very fallible human begins to live a different life.

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I see them go under, then step out and up. Somehow, these strong people know that there’s more to life than what another human does—even if it’s done to them.

The person who wronged them never defined their worth. What they saw from the person’s visible actions didn’t match up with what they knew God’s heart saw when they were yet in invisible places in their mothers’ wombs.

In Psalm 110:1, David writes, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’

The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!”

If God asks Jesus to sit at His right hand until He {God} makes His {Jesus’} enemies His footstool, it seems to me we can do the same.

Ephesians 1:3 says, “Blessed me the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”

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And in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ.”

See this—He has seated us with Himself. Who else gets to sit in warfare?

We are blessed in Christ. Blessings are free, and they are a gift.

He’s made us alive, when before we were dead.

He’s raised us up, above this planet where otherwise we would be destroyed.

Grace is unmerited favor. That means you get it when you don’t deserve it, and I dare say you receive it when all odds defy it.

You don’t work for it; it’s handed to you while you rest right in the center of your enemies.

This means before they’ve gone away. You can rest in the middle of warfare because you’re seated with Christ in heavenly places—and we all know that evil can’t get close to God and the heavenlies.

Our warfare is fought in our rest. Grace has only to be received.

But what is this grace? If we must receive it, doesn’t such a gift merit a true understanding of its attributes? For what if we are offered a counterfeit, and we receive it without being aware that it’s a replacement, wrapped in packaging so close to the original but designed to trick us?

We need real gold to purchase real things. In the same way, we need true grace to inherit real salvation. Settling for cheap grace when there is true grace is the worst dilemma that could occur to you on this planet.

Cheap grace doesn’t save you, either from your own sin or that of others. True grace always delivers.

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Cheap grace lures you into a counterfeit “peace” while you continue in sin; true grace sets you free from the bondage of your sin. {“For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” 2 Peter 2:19b}

I wonder how we are more concerned with setting people free from working slavery than we are with setting them free from soul slavery.

My friend looked at me the other day in bewilderment when she said, “I know so many Godly men who are living in sexual sin, and have no qualms about it.”

Godly?” I queried. “How does one profess to walk with Jesus when they purposefully choose to walk in the same sin as a lifestyle choice?”

Falling into sin, then getting back up because you know saving grace is one thing. Deliberate choice for a lifestyle of ongoing sin is quite another—and we can’t profess to walk with Jesus without receiving His grace that saves us from those sins.

My children can’t choose a daily lifestyle of rebellion to their father without losing the peace they enjoy with him. Just as the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of {our} wisdom” {Psalm 9:10, ESV}, so a healthy fear of their father is the beginning of their joyful relationship with him.

Grace sets us free to walk in life; it does not give us a ticket to continue in death.

As Shane Beeson says, “Just because we’re not under law doesn’t mean we have no law.”

The law is our greatest tool of teaching us how impossible it is to live righteously. We are set free from the law because the Spirit of Christ can do what the law could never do.

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Under the law, we know what we should do, and we don’t do it.

We know what we shouldn’t do, and we do it anyway.

God wants us to feel this sting. He gave us the law of righteousness so that we would know our inability to live righteously without His Presence. He wants us to know the need for His own Spirit to indwell us, because He wants to be center of our hearts.

As darkness is dispelled by a strong beam of light, so the power of sin loses its force when the light of true grace is known in our otherwise dark hearts.

If you were to hold a flashlight with no batteries, darkness would remain when you pushed the on button. In the same way, when you know only cheap grace, your life will not change.

Just as a flashlight must be charged by batteries in order to work, so your soul must be full of the Spirit in order to change. Just as it is not enough to go camping with a flashlight full of dead batteries, so it is not enough to claim grace that is not truly saving you from the power of sin.

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You can hold that flashlight all night long, but it will do you no good. Likewise, you can name the name of Christ all day long but it will do you no good unless you allow Him to dwell in you and change your life from the inside out.

A joyless life stems both from a lack of deliverance from our own sin and that of the sins of others. We are meant to be overcome by neither. We are meant to be seated with Christ in heavenly places, to rest in the center of our enemies, to know what it means to be set free from sin rather than be overtaken by it.

We must first understand true grace, then choose to receive it. When we do, the Spirit of God will indwell us with a Presence not our own, and will lead us to a continual and fuller awareness of His saving grace.

The world will know you, not by your words, but by your fruit. They must see the affects of your grace in order to believe in the truth of your grace.

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They must see light turn on when you hold the flashlight,or they will never take the trouble to carry it—and they will want you to toss it as well. Just as they are better off without the burden of carrying the non-working flashlight, so they feel better off without the burden of a religion that doesn’t change a life.

They know more than we think they know, for darkness is felt more than seen, and light shines more than we are even aware.

And no matter what, they must see that the grace you profess to know can keep you in the peace they so desperately desire to know.

The hard in your life need not create hardness in your heart. As you receive this saving Grace for your sin, may you also receive it for the sins committed to you, and allow God to seat you, even still, in heavenly places with Him.

Because nothing beneath God will ever rise above God. He has you, and He holds you—because His grace saves you.