If Life Gives You a Root Canal…Yes, Lord. And Thank You.

3:15am and I’m woken by pounding in mouth.

It’s the abcess tooth I thought was simply leaky filling. “Root Canal,” the dentist told me 3 days ago.

At 3:21, I try to ignore it, attempt to cave to the groggy in my head, but the pain won’t let me.

The darkness seems a welcome retreat and I take up its mantra: “I‘m going to be so tired in the morning.” “I just wish I could get a good night’s rest.”

Immediately I feel the energy sap out of me, like wringing a sponge, and I confess to God, “Forgive me, Lord! I seem to want to live in darkness, but really I don’t. God, help me!”

And I see clearly. The thoughts are a blanket tossed my way, sourced by Darkness itself…and I can refuse the cloak they offer.

There is another way.

So I take up gentleness instead. “Yes, Lord. And thank You.”

The “Yes, Lord” part and I have quite a history. Sometime I’ll scratch it out here… But the “Thank You part?” Well that is fairly new. Because I always wondered what exactly I’m thanking Him for?

When I’m in a fender bender, or a child wakes up sick, or Loving Husband is unavailable to meet my needs, or when I’m in the wrong check out line, {which seems to be a pattern for me, and a 10 minute grocery run turns into a 25 minute one}… I’m supposed to give thanks in all things. But sometimes I’m not sure exactly where to start.

One day I was reading ~repenting my way through would be more accurate~ in Romans 1 and there it was: ” For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, nor give thanks…” Romans 1:21

I realized then that thanksgiving is linked to knowing God, to understanding His heart and intentions.

But understanding God’s heart and glory requires a response: Honor and Thanksgiving. Furthermore, if the response isn’t the correct one, it leads to “futile speculations and a darkened heart.”

My difficulty in giving thanks was, at the core, an issue of understanding God and honoring Him as God, in truth for who He really is.

Honor means to celebrate, to magnify, to esteem and lend lustre to. Honoring God is a deliberate choice to recall to mind what He is and celebrate His attributes.

Giving thanks then, is settling down on the character of God.

This has revolutionized my giving thanks. Instead of trying to muster up gratitude for a blade of grass, I can easily thank Him for His goodness that provides the green beneath my feet, for His faithfulness that sends water for it to grow, for His Spirit that sustains every form of life.

So much easier for me! I get it!

So when the abcess tooth woke me up this morning, my “Yes, Lord. And Thank You” went like this:

“Thank You Lord, for Your faithfulness to me. Thank You that You meet my every single need according to Your riches and grace.

Thank You that Your signature gifts are grace and peace and they are always mine for the taking.

Thank You Lord, for Your unfailing Love and the impossibility of it ever being insufficient.

Thank You that You’ve given me all I need to live godly ~right now~ in Christ Jesus.

Thank You that You’re delighted and thrilled to give me the kingdom…I’ll take that, Lord, I’ll take that….

Thank You for love that stretches to the heavens and a faith that overcomes the world and Spirit-breath that imparts and sustains life; thank You for Humility that washed feet, that rubbed finger in spittle, that spoke, “DO not fear, little flock.”

Thank You for eyes that see ~finally~ and for the chance to be more like all that.”

So Yes Lord. And Thank You.


When You Feel Like Quitting…

“Steve’s wife’s run off again.”

I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, its just that the old men were talking so loudly over their McDonald’s breakfast that I couldn’t help but hear.

And I thought of another conversation I overhead a few months back. “Did you hear they are divorced now? No wonder, with her being stuck at home with those five kids and all…”

I think of the array of pressures that makes us feel we’re going to implode if we don’t get. out. now.

So we quit our husbands, we quit our kids, we quit relationships, we quit God. Oh, we don’t have to leave to quit either, do we? We can be right there in the middle of it and still be quitters.

There’s another conversation I’ve been privy to. It has changed everything for me. It’s the conversation between a quitter and God. And this woman really did have it bad.

She was a slave and when her owners decided that she was useful for getting what they wanted the most… a child…they used her to get it. Then, after she got pregnant, there was a lot of jealousy and strife so as low hen in the pecking order she was mistreated and abused.

She felt so helpless and alone that she up and left. Ran off. Like Steve’s wife.

She found herself in the middle of a desert. Destitute and pregnant. But she wasn’t alone and she wasn’t without hope.

God met her at her lowest moment and revealed Himself to her so powerfully….so powerfullythat she returned to the couple who had abused her and submitted herself to them.

That’s some kind of God, is all I’ve gotta say.

And in preparing for the upcoming journey I’m taking the kids through this summer on the character of God (join us?), I’ve come across this same El Roi, the One who meets quitters and gives them what it takes to keep going.

All weekend I’ve been asking, “El Roi, reveal to me the secrets of Your name. Open my eyes to understand what about You brings such transformation.”

Has He ever answered… and my world forever tilted and the quitter in me drawn up on strengthened legs and the eyes opened to see the glory and purpose in it all.

I’m convinced that understanding El Roi, the God who sees, gives us the capacity to joyfully and willingly endure the hardships in our lives.

And as El Roi granted deep awe in understanding, as He led me to study this concept of submission, this command given specifically by the God who sees what we are going through and how it is going to turn out, He divinely sent something across my path.

“Teaching a horse to give to pressure is day 1 in colt breaking.”  A horse trainer was demonstrating a skill all horses must learn in order to truly become great.

“But not all horses are trained properly in this and they get to be five, ten year old horses and they still will not bend, will not flex. They argue, they won’t give their face; they’re like a belligerent child who hasn’t learned day 1 lessons. It is very hard to build on a horse who hasn’t learned step 1.”

And God is telling me why I can’t quit, why I can’t run. He’s letting me understand why He applies pressure. It is to lay a foundation on which He can build.

“Step 1 is to give, bend, flex, and turn a little bit when directed with the reigns. If he resists, you don’t let up. You must soften him up by keeping the pressure on him.”

And I understand why the pressure’s been kept on me, going on four years now of constant, unrelenting pressure. This mare’s got a rebellious streak. Yet her Trainer is unwilling to give up on her, and His name is also Faithful.

“When a horse has a problem and wants to argue and resist, you don’t go get a bigger bit. You don’t go pull harder. You don’t get mad and fight. You don’t go get the club. You say, “Day 1, bud. Learn to bend. I’m going to pull on your little mouth until you learn to bend and give, and when you do that, I will turn you loose.””

“This looks boring, but you will find trainers who train colts will do this by the hours. Skilled, winning trainers will do this first thing every day…they will test that horse to see if he remembers lesson 1.”

And I understand the humble, patient, nurturing nature of our great God.

“You can do this a long time with a horse. He’s not getting tired, mad, or hurt. We are not terrorizing him in any way. We are working on his mind more than his body.”

And I understand why El Roi told Hagar, a woman who up and quit her circumstances, “Go back and submit.”

Pressure retrains our mind to keep in step with our Almighty, Loving God, who bends and writes in the dust and takes all the time in the world with us because there is not limit to His commitment to us and He knows the power of His unfailing love towards us.

He is committed to making us more than conquerors.

Abuse and abandonment teach us to run and buck and self preserve. But He takes us in hand and commits to building trust. He doesn’t give up or let go. And slowly, He retrains us, guiding us away from those self-destructive patterns.

Pressure teaches submission and submission prepares us for true greatness.

We come to Him wild, an un-cultivated olive, a bucking and kicking mare that wants to run solo. We want to do life unhindered and unattached. But God takes us on and He’s the Master Trainer and He’s a good plan. Oh it’s good! He knows that true greatness is power under control.

Gentleness is the fruit of affliction.

So He applies the pressure and He tells us to trust Him. Submit. Lower your head, bend, flex. Give to the pressure. Again. And again.

And again.

Until it is our new nature, us working in sync with our Gentle Savior, trusting Him without even thinking anymore.

Because we have learned that He lays foundation for a winner, not a quitter, and we’re the winner and this is lesson 1.

“The Lord is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.” Psalm 145:17

When all else fails and you don’t know what else to do…

…there remains one simple thing.

When the child strays and spews lava and fights for control.

When the husband doesn’t have anything left to give.

When you’re isolated and lonely and can’t carry on.

When you don’t know what else to do, there remains one thing: Pull someone close for a hug.

Take that red hot child into your arms and head for the recliner. {It doesn’t matter that they are 15.}

Wrap your arms around that exhausted husband and hold on for awhile.

Find a friend who will use their arms to fill some empty places in your heart…and be that kind of friend.

Hugs break down barriers, melt ice, cool lava, infuse hope, give back life. Hugs communicate that you’re committed, even though you may not have any answers. Hugs are easy (once you get past your pride), free, and powerful.

Who can you hug today?

Just in Case You are going a little crazy…

…don’t come to my place 🙂 I’m playing with the different templates.

The thing is, I don’t have a lot of time to do much at one sitting, so I’m doing a bit here and there. Sorry if it is driving anyone besides me just a bit nutty…

Husbands, Touch, and Turkeys

He reached for me and I recoiled.

It isn’t him, it’s me. The storms have intensified and when that happens I go into lock-down mode. He softly reaches out, tells me he can’t handle it when I draw back.

It shakes me, he leaves, we go our seperate ways.

I’m sitting on the couch folding clothes when he returns. The kids are in bed and he heads for the recliner, exhausted. I have a choice and the old me would like to make excuses and take advantage of his tenderness and willingness to forgive, say I’m sorry and let things continue, just this time, me on my couch and he on his.

But the new me wants more.

I go sit in his lap.  “I’m sorry,” I whisper against his skin. “I’m so overwhelmed and we both know my natural response is to withdraw, clamp down, preserve what I have left. Sometimes I forget that’s not what I really want.”

I’m talking about the old Me, the one who for so long believed the lie that to preserve oneself, you have to self-protect, draw in, give the bare minimum.

But the truth is that to preserve one’s self, you give yourself away. To find your life, you must lose it.

Sometimes I can’t see when I’m falling back into the trap, back into the old habits and ways. Sometimes life happens so fast you start acting instinctively.

That’s when I need someone to tell me I’m being a turkey.

A turkey and an eagle both respond to the threat of a storm, but very differently. A turkey runs under the barn, seeking shelter and hoping the storm won’t touch her. An eagle, on the other hand, leaves the security of her nest when a storm approaches. She spreads her wings to ride on the air currents of the coming storm.

The eagle knows that a storm’s currents can take her higher than she could ever go on her own.

For many years I lived the turkey. It is very instinctive for me to self preserve. But somewhere along the way, through many, many storms, I got pushed out of the nest and realized I wasn’t a turkey after all. I’m an eagle.

The free fall was terrifying. But then Father Eagle was there to scoop me on His wings and my trembling eaglet body relaxed and began to discover the awe of what was happening.

It happened again. And again. And again. Each time, Father Eagle pushed me out of the nest I wanted to stay safe in, each time He swooped down to bear me up on His wings.

He taught me I was made to soar.

Until one day, when the choice was mine to leave the nest or to stay, I took the plunge.

It felt good… to deliberately choose giving up safety in order to soar. It felt good taking the risk. It felt good to live for something other than myself, to know my purpose.

The turkey in me still wants to run sometimes, to hide, to keep safe, to not leave security, at least what she perceives to be security. But the voice of a dear loved one can remind me I’m made for more than cowering.

Sometimes it’s another eagle who can show us what we’re made for. Because we all forget sometimes.

They help us remember that we don’t want security most after all. We want to fulfill our destiny. We want to be what He made us to be, do what He created us to do.

We want to soar.

So go soar my friend. Go soar.

Are You A Mirror Kind Of Mom?

A RECENT CHILD CORRECTION SESSION in our home went something like this:

Mom: “Please don’t talk to your sister like that.”

Child: “Okay.”

A few minutes later:

Child: “That puzzle piece doesn’t go there! DUH!”

Mom: “I asked you not to speak to your sister like that. Please stop.”

Child: “Okay.”

A few minutes later:

Child: “You never get it right! You’re no good at puzzles.”

Mom, growing frustrated, in the middle of something and not wanting to stop: “Step away from the puzzle and go play with something else. I’ve told you and told you to stop speaking to her in that way.”

A mirror kind of mom does what I did: She brings the child’s attention to his waywardness.

{This is like holding a mirror to the child’s face and letting him see that he’s got lettuce between his teeth.}

I haven’t had much success with “mirror mom” parenting. It produces much frustration in me (and problaby in my kids too) and breeds escalated emotions. 

So I prayed for help. I needed some divine help in getting back to some basics of effective parenting.

God brought James 1:23-25 to mind. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.”

I thought, “BINGO! That is how I’m parenting! I am holding the mirror to my children to show them what their “natural man” looks like.”

{Turns out, I am very good at showing my children their moral failures. The child, in turn, acknowledges their error and then goes right back to it.}

But as James points out, it is not “hearing” that causes us to be “blessed in all we do.” (see vs 25)

The word of God acts like a mirror. It tells us what is right and what is wrong, and when we train our children to see themselves according to Scripture, they are able to see themselves as sinners and separated from God.

This is necessary… but incomplete. James teaches that we can train ourselves and our children to move beyond fault finding, navel gazing and introspection to laying hold of the freedom found in the pages of scripture…because looking at ourselves in a mirror can never change us, whether we are 5 or 55!

We must actually do it…we must pick the lettuce out from between our teeth. We must guide our children to look at the Word in such a way that they are motivated to abide by and be transformed by it…and James tells us step by step how:

“But the one who looks intently”

 The word for “looks intently” (parakupto) means “to bend over and carefully examine something from the clearest possible vantage point.” This indicates a deliberate and conscious choice to get down and dirty if necessary in order to learn.

A parent who corrects her children this way stops what she’s doing instead of just throwing out commands. She makes a choice to stoop down, look carefully at the core issues, and deal with them according to…

“…the perfect law, the law of liberty”

The word here translated “liberty” is elsewhere always translated as “freedom.” It is essential that we see the laws and the precepts of God not as a task master but as our very freedom! {See Psalm 19:7-11}

A mirror only kind of mom exposes the error in her children but never moves to the freedom part.

One commentator says, “The law that gives freedom seems like a paradox. Law seems to imply restraint and therefore a lack of freedom. Not so with God’s law. His perfect law provides tree freedom. ‘Hold to My teaching’, Christ said, ‘then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’” John 8:31-32

Are you a mom who portrays God’s law as positive and beneficial or as negative and punitive? Use God’s law to bring liberating life.

“And abides by it…becoming an effectual doer”

The last phrase indicates process. It is a long term commitment to incorporating any given principle into one’s life and character.

We are not talking about perfection here but about perseverance.  The mom who parents this way uses the tool of “re-do,” where the “crime scene” is re-inacted. But this time, with Mom’s coaching using the law of liberty, the child does the right thing; he makes a good choice; he speaks kind and edifying words.

Putting it all together, it looked like this for me: I made a commitment to STOP, LOOK, and ABIDE, in accordance with James 1:23-25.

I committed to STOP what I was doing when I heard my child speaking unkind words.

I then directed my child to LOOK at I Thessalonians 5:11. Together we discussed the Bible taught they had the power to encourage and build up their sister! Wow! And they did such a great job of doing this when they tried. This is the perfect law of liberty at work. It nourishes the soul.

Then I committed to ABIDE, to keep doing this each time it was needed, re-inacting the crime scene, only this time with good coaching and support from Mom for a better outcome.

We can be mothers who train our children to build lifestyles of transformation around the perfecting precepts of God.

James says this mother, and her children, “will be blessed in all she does.”


Will the Levee Hold?

THE CAULDRON OF HOME LIFE BOILED OVER and I spilled too, making a mess and scalding little hearts and I wondered when I will ever get it right.

Evening came and so did the storms again, one right after another. We huddled together on the couch, listening to the sirens screech their warning and sang “Your Name is a strong and mighty tower….”

When the kids could stay up no longer, we put them to bed and risked turning on the computer to check the news.

“There’s been nothing like this,” they said, “one system after the other, with no breaks, no rest, no relief.”

From Mississippi to Ohio, the question’s on everyone’s mind:  “Will the levee’s hold?”

We can sandbag and pitch water with a pail, but we need those levees. We can minimize the loss, we can replace broken windows and clean up debris, but we need those levees to hold.

I finally fall into bed, storm tossed from the inside out, teary eyed and worn. I wonder how much more I can take of these storms that have been stretching one after another. These storms our family has been weathering going on four years now.

“Can You hear me, God?” I ask, and laugh at the absurdity of it. “Really hear me? Because I don’t know up from down anymore. I don’t know right from wrong, I have no idea what to do.”

Lightning flashes bright through the wood blinds and thunder shakes the light bulbs in the vanity. I beg a few hours sleep before my shift starts again.

In the morning I drive oldest to school. He is strangely quiet, except to ask, “Why is it so dark, Mom?”

“The storm clouds are so thick son, it blocks the sun. The beams can hardly get through.”

We pass by ponds swollen to overflowing, trees knocked down, see broken car windows.

Storms do their damage. Boiling cauldrons burn over.

We drive by the lake with the overflow tanks, the tanks that have been pumping water under the road to the back up pond for weeks. Even the overflow is backed up, unable to handle anymore. The water laps the edge of the road, hungry to devour pavement.

“Much more rain and this road is going to flood. They’re gonna have to close this road down.” I mutter it to myself. I feel my own backup tanks overflowing. I feel the flood waters lapping at the edges, the panic of being swept completely away.

I feel the maxed overflows and the stressed levees and the storms that won’t stop coming and the sirens that won’t stop screeching.

I wonder how much more I can take. I wonder if the levees will hold.

I drive home, back over the road that gets closed an hour later. I think of the white picket fence Christianity I had for so long. Oh, it looked good, girl. It looked good.

Then the storms started and pushed that thing clean over. There is nothing cute about me anymore, and maybe I’d mourn the loss except losing that version of Christianity wasn’t a bad thing…just shocking for others who looked at me and expected to see the white picket fence, perhaps.

As I ponder these things, open and bare before God, hidden no longer behind cute facades, I hear His voice, a rumble deep within, quite unexpectedly.

Your levee’s gonna hold, my girl. Your levee’s gonna hold.”

And He opens my eyes and I see so clearly the storms of testing, the tearing away of all worthless, the strengthening of the Foundation.

The Levee’s gonna hold.

The storm may leave some tossed trees. The overflow may max out, the boiling cauldron may spill over every now and then. The living room may flood and the roof get torn sheer off.

But the Levee’s gonna hold.

They call at 10am, saying roads are impassable and schools are closing. It was inevitable.

But the Levee’s gonna hold.

Right there in the middle of the storm, mingled with torrent of rain on a few inches of soaked soil on a planet spinning in perfect orbit, a few salty, grateful tears.

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house, and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the Rock.” Matthew 7:24-25