Conviction and Condemnation

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The Christian walk is not always an easy one. If I had to count how many times I've lost focus, turned away, or have gotten lazy, I could come up with quite a large number. Can anyone relate? Just yesterday my husband and I were talking about this very thing and how strong our sin natures really are!

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I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! Romans 7:15,18-19, 21-25

But as we were talking about our frustrations and disappointments in ourselves, something occurred to me. Satan condemns. God convicts. It's so tempting to think things like, "What is wrong with me?" "Why can't I do what I'm suppose to do" "I'm a terrible christian, wife, mother, friend, etc", but these thoughts are not of God. You see how sneaky our adversary can be?! Without even realizing it, we fall prey to his traps. We are an easy catch. All it takes is a whisper.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

It made me start thinking about what a gift conviction is. When God is convicting me, He's calling me back. His conviction is literally His love being poured out on me. We are not condemned because we're not defined by our faults. We're defined by our God. And His conviction is God putting our hearts back in line with His.

God will always show us a way out. He loves us and is patient, merciful, and kind. Jesus can make all things new…ALL things…even hot messes like myself! I look back on who and where I was even just 10 years ago and I stand amazed at what God has done. His fingerprints are all over my life and He has truly given me a new heart.

I still struggle with sin. We all will until these leaky vessels get their final makeover but until then, when I feel His holy conviction setting in, I choose to smile KNOWING that I am feeling God drawing me near. What a blessing to be loved and drawn by Him.

He who was seated on the throne said, -I am making everything new!- Revelations 21-5a

Suffering: Our Christian Commission?

 

The one thought that I have been continuously reminded of as of late is that life is hard.

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There are so many people around me that are struggling.  And as I pray for those I love and ponder what the Lord may be doing, I have become keenly aware that walking through these challenges without the hope of Christ would break me.  We have only two options: We can allow the hard things in life to rule us and steal away our joy and our testimonies or we can look to the refiner and perfecter of faith and trust that even in this pain, He is faithful and knows what is best for us.

"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" Job 13:5a

When I think about what Jesus chose to do, I look at my own circumstances in a different light.  You see, when we navigate through pain and suffering it's usually not something we volunteer for.  But Jesus knowing full well the pain and anguish He would endure, chose to suffer because of His love for us.

 "Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4-5

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I refuse to believe that God has no purpose for allowing suffering and pain in our lives.  If anything, it's a reminder of what the Gospel preaches. We as believers need to be willing to step into suffering and hard places.  We need to be willing to shine light in the dark.  It's our calling. Our commission.

Being refined through pain is not enjoyable, but it gives us an opportunity to watch God deliver and redeem.  It refines our characters and our hearts. It helps us become more like Christ.   It is my prayer for all of you that are walking through a challenging season, that you keep your eyes wide open watching for your deliverer to come.  We are never alone and we can trust Him!

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What Defines You?

 

Ever get frustrated with yourself? Feel like a failure and a disappointment? I fall into that trap time and time again! Whether it's to do with my amazing time management skills (note sarcasm), my parenting mess ups, my bad attitudes, or my ever pressing habit of procrastination…I have quite a pool of faults Satan can shove in my face at any given time and he does frequently.

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Just this morning, as I dragged myself out of bed and walked down the stairs the attacks started.  It's crazy how sneaky he is.  My sofa is covered in laundry to put away that I didn't get around to last night, because I watched a movie with the girls.  Immediately my attitude takes a turn.  I walk in the kitchen to put the kettle on for coffee…dirty dishes everywhere. I notice the crumbs all over the table from dinner.  *sigh* I walk into the bathroom to wash my hands and look in the mirror.  "Man I think I've gained weight.  I'm going to weigh myself." Up 3 pounds…"Nooooo"  And just like that, I've given the enemy an upper hand.

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More often then not, this is how Satan operates.  If he can keep the pressure of discouragement and failure hanging over my head, the odds seem in his favor.  And the odds are in his favor for someone who doesn't have a relationship with Jesus. But, not this time! Because I know that what can feel discouraging, can be turned around into a blessing! Feelings lie.

I've never been a big fan of laundry, especially since it seems to multiply like rabbits in my house! But how blessed are we to have all of these clothes, and a washer and dryer too! Not so many people have that luxury. I could be carting it all to a laundry mat with rolls of quarters and four children. Many people have no choice.  I'm blessed.

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Dirty dishes means we had a good dinner! And it only takes a couple of minutes to unload and reload the dishwasher.  And let me tell you, a dishwasher IS a luxury! I lived without one for years and spent hours a day washing and drying dishes! How 6 mouths use 100 cups in a day still amazes me! So, thank you Jesus for my dishwasher! I love it!

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And maybe I needed to be reminded to take care of my physical body as well.  It certainly wouldn't hurt me to be more aware of what I put in my body or how I take care of myself.  Note to self: No more late night ice cream!

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6

As Christians, we shouldn't take the "luxury" of not being thankful or of being discouraged over piddly things like our waist lines or the amount of dust in our homes.  We should be thankful for all of it! Do we all have faults that the light of Christ needs to shine on so that we can deal with them? Absolutely! But, we are not defined or measured by our faults.  We are defined and measured by Whose we are! So, perk up beautiful ladies! Dirty dishes and tight jeans doesn't mean we're disappointments, it just means it's time to get to work with smiles on our faces and it's time to show the world that in Christ we're over-comers!  Even if it's just overcoming bad attitudes.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:18

The Ultimate Repurposer

My second oldest just loves to take useless, discarded things and turn them into treasures. She raids my recycling bin quite frequently and makes all sorts of contraptions and art. Just the other day she was exploring the wood line out in the back of our property, and she came back with the greatest treasure of all, an old scratched up Chevrolet hub cap! She scrubbed, washed and buffed it like it was the crown jewels. Then with a grin as large as I’ve ever seen, she showed me her treasure. She was so proud! There is such a joy to redeeming lost, dirty, and broken things. My quirky little “Repurposer” makes her Mama’s heart smile. Although I really hope I do not have to hang that hub cap up in her room some day! ha!1.

Our God is also a “Repurposer”! He’s an expert at scrubbing, washing, repairing and buffing broken dirty things. He not only redeems and re-purposes broken and lost people, He also redeems and re-purposes broken situations.

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many peoples lives. — Genesis 50:20

daisy-181905_1920You see in God hand’s things intended for evil, can someday turn into something good. What a blessing to know that God is sovereign and in control of every detail of our lives. Even the hard and painful things, can turn into the biggest of blessings if we surrender them to the Master Potter. Trusting that He will use it for our good and His glory. We are all like lumps of clay in which He fashions into the vessels for which we were created to be.

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hands.—Isaiah 64:8

clay-pots-1867083_1920Just as my Lacey’s smile can light up the room, when she lovingly embraces her newly created treasures, how much more does God’s joy light up when another one of his sons and daughters embraces their own thoughtfully given purpose in Christ? Satan would have us believe we are useless and disposable, but the truth is we are far more valuable than we can fathom in the eyes of Christ. So valuable that Christ took the form of a man and redeemed not just you and me but all of us, through His loving and selfless sacrifice on the cross. All we have to do is accept his gift of love and watch as he turns our dirty broken lives into beautiful testimonies of His love and grace!

“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 Jesus” Eph 2:4-6

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Perspective

It's all about perspective.

One of my favorite things to do this summer has been to pack my kiddos up and spend the day at the local town beach.  It's so peaceful and serene there! The kids swim and laugh for hours and I can catch up on my reading and study. However, the past couple of weeks, getting to my favorite spot has been much more challenging, especially in regard to my mode of transportation. "Car trouble is such fun" said no one! As a matter of fact, trials in general are never something I'd lump into the category of a good time.

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But listen to what Paul said in Philippians,

"Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." (1:12-14)

Paul has an attitude that is focused on the Lord and to advance the gospel, not on his personal discomforts and troubles. He sees his trial of imprisonment as an opportunity. An opportunity to show and share the gospel. An opportunity to live out his faith to the fullest and encourage other believers to do the same! His trial is an opportunity to bring God glory! It's all about perspective.

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We can go about our days with attitudes of anxiety, self-pity, annoyance, and fear or we can choose a different perspective. A godly perspective. We may not be imprisoned in the dungeons of Rome, but we all have God given opportunities to reflect what we believe.

When we take our eyes off ourselves and fix them on Jesus, trials and troubles take on a new demeanor as does the effect of them. When we look at trials as opportunities to share Christ and what He is doing in our lives, there is no limits to what God can accomplish through us.

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with Thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understand, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:4-7

 

Roots

“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again and its new shoots will not fail.  It’s roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant.” Job 14:7-9

We’ve entered into a new season in our home. My oldest daughter is changing so much. Just tonight, the usual 5 minute bed time routine turned into an hour. My poor girl is still crying herself to sleep actually, as I write this. But what an opportunity it was to just love on her and share Jesus! She cried, we hugged, and she cried some more. I may have cried a little too.

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And what in the world was causing such turmoil in her little ten year old heart? The idea that one day she would have to grow up and leave home. My sweet baby is just crushed by the thought.

It reminded me of my own self at the age of ten. It was at ten that Jesus became real to me. At the young age of ten, my world that Brenna is so terrified will change, evaporated into thin air. It was then that the home and the family that I clung to for my identity and stability, came crashing down over my head and the only thing left was this “Jesus” that I was told loved me more than anyone else… and I grasped onto Him like a lifeline.

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Even at the age of 32, I look back at that season and I can feel His presence over me. He loved me and saw me when everyone else didn’t. He was my stability and my hope. And He still is.

Tonight was such an opportunity to share with my sweet sweet girl who Jesus has been for me. I reassured her that this place will always be her home…but that our real home isn’t mommy or daddy…It’s Jesus. It’s a good reminder for all of us as well. We try to dig our roots deep, but we are just passing through in this life and today always changes into a tomorrow.

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I cherish this season. It is precious and a gift from God. But just as my baby is growing up and realizing that one day she won’t be little anymore…so is this mama. They are in my care for such a short while. I thank God for this season and I pray that I make the best of every opportunity to instill in my girls roots that are everlasting. Roots that are planted not in people, but in the rock that is our Lord.  Everything changes but Him. And it is that simple and profound truth that gave the ten year old me, the hope I needed to grow into who I am today.

God’s Unexpected Plans

And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Deuteronomy 28:2

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There was much uncertainty in the unknowns of moving to a different town far away from the familiars. We knew God was calling us here and the peace from that was very palpable. But it didn’t feel easy. Starting over rarely does.

close-up-1838609_1920It was hard leaving friends and support systems. The thought of having to find another church family was heart breaking as well. Would this new town feel as familiar and homey? Will I make friends? Will my old friends forget about me? How long will it take to find a church? These are a few of the million questions and insecurities that might flood one’s mind in such circumstances, and I was no exception. But we knew God would provide and replace in His perfect timing every thing we had to say goodbye to. We knew sink or swim, we were right where God wanted us. We followed His lead and looking back, I am just amazed at how much God has done in our lives.

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Today 6 months into our new life out in the country the blessings overwhelm me. God has provided an amazing church family that literally feels like family. He has provided new friends that feel as if they’ve always been a part of my life, full of encouragement and quick to make me laugh. Yes, some old friendships have changed for one reason or another, but I’ve come to realize that God is a part of that too and I can trust him in that! Even if it means having my best friend move to Utah!  That “impossible” dream I had years ago to adopt has transformed into foster care. I sat in my first foster training class today and just marveled. My life today is so different than it was last summer. I never could have dreamed that we’d be here and that this would be my life! But it is!

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I am sitting right in the middle of God’s plans for me and it’s true God really can do immeasurably more than what we can ask or imagine! (Ephesians 3:20) His loving kindness and favor truly bring me to my knees in thanksgiving. Trust Him sisters. His plans for you are good even if they don’t feel good at the moment. He’s got a plan for your life and it is a great one!

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Prov. 3:5&6