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I saw this quote on a Facebook comment the other day and it really hit me.

Worry is praying to yourself.

Ouch! Now doesn’t that put worrying into perspective? I think I want to make this quote visible in my home because when I think of worry this way it really challenges me to turn my thoughts into prayer. Help me Lord!

Our church is seeing an increase in visitors which is exciting. We added a second service because we feel like God has plans to grow our (church) family. Part of growing also means that when your split our current congregation into two services, it is more obvious who are visitors (simply because there are not as many people in our sanctuary). I don’t know if this is the reason or if this is just who I am but I find myself thinking more and more about what new people or visitors are thinking of our services.

I am finding myself at times cringing over something said (usually by my husband…love that man) because I am fearful that people will think we are weirdos! Part of the reason I would wonder this is because I once was a visitor to a church very similar to ours now and I told my then new husband I would never attend there. Let me explain.

It (the church) was just too weird! People waving these big flags around and dancing all over the place. People praying in tongues. The weird phrases that sounded all spiritual but mostly translated into gibberish to my then very traditionally raised Christian self. The people kind of seemed like they were living in the clouds or like they just were all “weird” people who attended that church. Surely they must be the more “needy” people. Yet, there was my husband who wasn’t weird to me (wild and crazy but not weird) and he was some how at home there. Even though I said I wouldn’t attend there, I think part of my journey began there too.

Because when you really get down to why a church like ours, one most people would call charismatic or pentecostal, makes a mainline-traditionally-raised Christian uncomfortable is because it is the unknown. And it isn’t as structured as we are used to. It is free. More freedom than we are used to in church. And we don’t know what to do with that freedom. We feel fear because it is the unknown and fear makes us do crazy things. We need something to make us feel comfortable once again so we begin to 1) make a case for why we don’t fit in a place like this or 2) we make judgments against the church. I am not saying everyone needs to be “charismatic” but I do believe we are meant to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ and if we have judgments in our heart, it keeps us from true unity. But in my own journey I have learned that the things that made me think that church was “weird” were really the things that made me feel uncomfortable and fearful. Because I was uncomfortable with freedom. I liked living in my comfortable box and in my nice structured church. And I didn’t want to be a weirdo.

While I don’t think we all need to be “charismatic” in our choice for a place of worship, I do think we are all meant to live in freedom and we are meant to know all of God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we try to keep part of who God is in a safe little box because we don’t understand Him, we miss who He is and we miss who we are. We sacrifice part of the freedom we are meant to live in. Galatians 5:1 says, “It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (NIV) I like how the Amplified version says it, “In [this] freedom Christ has made us free – completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery – which you have once put off.”

For me the yoke of slavery that is talked about in this verse was legalism. Read about the Pharisees in the bible and you will know what I mean. Jesus told them they were like white washed tombs, clean on the outside but empty on the inside. I was void because my understanding of faith had a lot to do with works and less to do with who I was in Christ. I heard a speaker say recently that Christ didn’t just come to restore us, He came to replace us. As in we are meant to become like Christ (Galatians 2:20). There is a lot we can do on the outside to look like Christ, but we can still be empty and bound on the inside. A faith walk based mostly on works will keep us a slave to works because it gives us the illusion we can do it. We have what it takes. Living in grace acknowledges the greatness of our God and causes us to see our utter dependance upon Him. We can’t do it on our own. But with Him we can do great and mighty things. Grace also keeps us humble and mindful of our own sinfulness, our own need for a Savior. People who live in legalism and look really great on the outside can quickly become judgmental of the “sinner” because their works give them the illusion they have what it takes, that they are so great because they live such holy lives. Legalistic Christians are most comfortable with structure because they are good at following rules and guidelines. They, however, are not as comfortable with a “free” environment. That was me only a few years ago.

Thankfully when we first came to our church it wasn’t as weird free as it is now. I could handle it then. There were moments I felt scared but I had people I trusted to talk me through it. Our pastors listened patiently and lovingly to me rant about “how something that is only found in one book of the bible” can be so important and what the bible says about this and that. They never once made me feel stupid for asking these questions. They loved me where I was and shared their wisdom. Plus my husband was there through it all as well, loving me where I was at and never pressuring me to do something or be something other than who I was at that moment. And God began to change me. He softened my heart. Fear began to be replaced with peace and I began to see God could be trusted. And just because something made me feel uncomfortable didn’t make it unbiblical.

I began to experience grace and feel free. Free from needing to have it all figured out and free to quit striving to be this “good” Christian in my own strength. I began to see my emptiness and my need for a Savior and I saw the enormity of what God has done for me. Expressions during worship like raising my hands or dancing began to be a natural response of this Pharisee sinner set free. The freedom I saw around me no longer scared me because the same freedom was in me.

Now, back to the visitors coming to our church. I have been reflecting if my concern for how they feel is rooted in the fear of man and wanting to please people or if this concern has to do with my heart for people. People much like me a few years ago. I guess what I am working through is that I don’t want to feel like I need to apologize for who we are and I don’t want to cringe at things that are said (especially by my hubby who I think very highly of) because visitors will think my husband is weird will feel uncomfortable . But I do hope that my own story could be used to encourage others. I hope my story can encourage you.

God is trustworthy. Christ came to set us free. Freedom is not scary when you know the One who makes you free. Freedom is good. And if freedom makes me and my beloved church family weirdos, I am ok with that. I will take freedom any day over emptiness and legalism. For freedom Christ set us free!

Here is a great song about freedom:

I was inspired by this post I read from Hands Free Mama to share some of the reasons my days are better because of these three gifts from God!

Older Son – God’s Helper
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My days are better with you because of the way you love people. You are always planning for the next time you can be with others.
My days are better with you because you are a planner just like me and even though it drives me nuts sometimes because I don’t always have a plan, I smile because you are like me. I also drove my mother nuts wanting to know the plan.
My days are better with you because of your excitement and zeal for life.
My days are better with you because of your silliness.
My days are better with you because you retell stories you have heard us share. You know you are God’s helper because that is the name we chose for you. I love when you ask me to tell you about your birth.
My days are better with you because you say gessert instead of dessert.

Younger Son – Fiery One
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My days are better with you because of your smile. There is nothing like it in all the world.
My days are better with you because of the way you dance. I love that you even dance in the doctor’s office when you are the one who is sick.
My days are better with you because you are full of fire just like the meaning of your name and I am ok with that. I bless you to become one who is filled with the fierce and fiery love of God and to carry the fire of God all the days of your life.
My days are better with you because you understand being alone. I’ll sit quietly with you any day!
My days are better with you because you love peanut butter and so do I and so does my dad so it makes me think of him.

Little Girl – She Shall Increase in Wisdom
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My days are better with you because you are a girl! And I am no longer the lone girl in this family. And you make me want to be more girly so you and I can do girly things together.
My days are better with you because of your smile and your big eyes. My favorite is that you are always looking for me. Right now Mom is best to you and how could I not love that!
My days are better with you because you will sit in your crib and talk away like you’re having your own conversation. It makes me smile.
My days are better with you because you kick your legs when you are excited and you remind me that life is something worth getting excited over.
My days are better with you because you remind me to slow down and cherish the moments that matter because life really does go so quickly.

I have been wanting to write for a long time. I think about writing almost every day but my computer is in our basement and the only time I can write is in the early morning or after my kids are in bed and I don’t want to wake the boys sleeping downstairs. Plus it is cold down here.

Tonight I decided just to go for it. I am awful at saying I have a new idea for a blog series and then never following through. I have given up trying to be the next cool blog. Honestly, I just want a space to write. Some times I am tempted to just give up on a blog and keep my writing private and I may still do that but if my writing can be encouraging to someone else I am fine keeping it public. The only problem with having an audience is that you think of your audience when you write and sometimes I just want to write and not think too hard about it.

I have been really struggling as a mom lately. Maybe even as a person. Life feels really weird right now. I think a lot of it has to do with change. Oldest son is in kindergarten and younger son is in preschool. Little girl is teething and sitting up and eating more solids. She will be 7 months tomorrow. Our church is adding a Saturday service which means more responsibility on hubby and a change in our already weird schedule for days off. I am changing the days I work in the office at church so now instead of two days I will be working three (for shorter amounts of time in order to pick up older son from school).

I think all the change is bringing fear and highlighting what already feels frail to me. My biggest desire as a wife and mom is to have heart to heart connections with my family. But it feels like I don’t really know how to foster that. I am not saying we don’t have any of it but I feel like I don’t know how to have that and as the seasons change I feel like the time to create these kind of relationships becomes all the harder. I was sharing the other day how I was having a “I’m a bad parent” kind of day. Hubby asked the boys if I was a good mommy. Maybe I read into it but I felt like they looked at their dad with questioning eyes of how to say the right thing. Hubby starting listing some of the ways I take care of them like cooking healthy meals. Older boy said, “Yeah, and you have a first aid kit.” I suppose for a boy this is a great compliment because he knows when he gets hurt this Mama has something to help.

But what I long to be known as I don’t feel like I fit or like I know how to do it. I try to tell myself that God gave me these children for a reason and that He chose me to be their mom but it doesn’t always help. I want to be known as more than the cook and nurse. I want to be the one they can come to about anything. I want to be known as the mom who laughs and has fun and can be silly. I want to be known as a good story teller. I want to be known as a mom who walks with Jesus.

Even more than my desires as a mom, I have desires for us to be connected as a family and I am beginning to wonder how we can protect that as a ministry family. Maybe we aren’t really any different than anyone else. Everyone is busy, right? What makes us any different? I don’t know but some how it feels different when I am alone with my kids for another evening while hubby has something going on. Somehow it feels different when I drive alone to church and then sit alone and try to keep three kids content until they can go to children’s church. Sometimes it feels different when my desire to serve in other areas like my friends are isn’t possible because of hubby’s commitments. But I really do love what we do and wouldn’t want it any other way. I just want to know how to make the best of it and how to make it work for us.

I don’t really have any closing thoughts besides that I know the answer lies in Christ and keeping my focus on Him. I will keep asking for wisdom and praying for His grace that He will do what I feel incapable of doing.

A Good God

God is good.

Think about how our lives would be different if we really believed this? Often when tragic things happen like the tornado in Oklahoma or children who die on a school field trip, we are quick to blame God. Or we at least wonder why He didn’t prevent it. I agree that it is hard to grasp everything with these difficulties but it is still true that God is good. He is in a good mood! We can have hope today knowing that we serve a good God. 

God is bigger than our problems.

When we really take time to dwell on who God is and experience Him, our problems are put in perspective. Our God is the great I AM, He is the Creator of everything. By His breath and His word life was created. And what Jesus paid for on the cross was enough. It was more than enough. Christ’s death on the cross allows us to experience abundant life. But if we fix our eyes on our problems it robs us of the life He wants to give us. I came across this quote from a  conference I attended in March 2012 and I think it is a great reminder.

If you don’t have joy you are either: 1. Carrying a burden that’s not yours. 2. Carrying unforgiveness you need to let go of. 3. You’ve exalted a problem – making it an idol.

I really struggle with number three and that is why I started with today’s quote. I need to constantly be reminded that God is much bigger than any of my problems. Keeping my eyes fixed on the problem robs me of joy and of experiencing the abundant life. And it keeps me from walking in faith of the One who holds the world in His hands. 

Father, help me to trust You and to keep my eyes on you!

I (finally) had a thought about something I would like to write on that is also doable in this season of life (aka these blog posts will generally be short). Matthew 13:45-46 says,

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

God’s kingdom is perfect in every way and worth doing anything and everything in order to live in His kingdom and to see His Kingdom come to earth. But I believe that it is often the lies we are believing about God and His Kingdom that keep us from fully experiencing it. In this new series I am going to share truths about God and His ways through either a verse or a quote to encourage us to stand on His truth and to be able to recognize the lies of the enemy when they try to come against us.

i am trying to think of some way to use ‘pearl’ as part of the title for these truths such as God’s pearls or ‘A Kingdom Pearl’. We’ll see if I come up with something creative by tomorrow’s first post. I hope you’ll follow me as we uncover these pearls of truth. 🙂

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