Nuggets: The Hand That Rocks My Cradle

Today’s little post is for sure a “nugget”. I’ve been hustling my tail to clean, mow, shower and cook while Evie is napping. And I even snuck in 15 minutes of chill time! My window of opportunity is closing.

But my heart wants to share what God spoke to me late last night. Little One has slept through the night (mostly) from a very young age. But since she became super mobile, she’s often very restless at night and wakes herself up. We’ve seen her sitting up rubbing her eyes (still asleep) then slump forward, legs in a criss-cross-applesauce position, but her head down on the pillow.

Several times last night, I hurried to her room to calm her and give her a pacifier before she woke up too much. Finally, she was standing in her bed, crying and mostly asleep. I decided just to make her a bottle and rock her for a while.

Maybe it’s because yesterday was Mother’s Day. Maybe it was just God’s timing anyway, but as I sat there thinking, “Five in the morning is going to be here so fast!” I heard Him whisper:

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel Will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; The LORD is your shade on your right hand.… Psalm 121:3-5

God continued, “You will never rock her with as much tenderness as I rock you. I’m never impatient or confused when you’re upset, awake, or fearful for seemingly no reason. I’m never out of sorts when you need me or even just want me. I’m thrilled to be up all night long with you. And I can’t wait to see you in the morning over coffee when you’re awake and want to talk to me, too.”

“Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassionon the son of her womb? Even these may forget,but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.… Isaiah 49:15-16

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The Mark of An Artist–Perfect Imperfections

I’ve never really considered myself an artist–outside the privilege of using that term to describe creating sentences. But when it comes to colors, shapes, designs, even simple decorating–I’m the first to raise my hand and ask for help.

(True confessions, my husband is the one who arranges our furniture and hangs our pictures. However, he can’t get dressed in anything other than a uniform without asking my advice. At least I’m good for something!)

But recently, I saw the most adorable sign. Then I got a wild idea and thought, “I could make it instead of buying it!”

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Pretty perfect, right? I’m talking about Evie, here 🙂

My sister is a pro at making things–all kinds of things from wood, so I enlisted her help to walk me through it. Each step of the way, she kept reminding me, “You want it to be imperfect. Don’t stress out over any ‘mistakes’. They just add character and make it unique. Consider it kind of like your signature. In fact, you can always bang it up a little more with your hammer or distress the paint with sandpaper.”

Well, given that I’ve spilled wood stain on it in the wrong places (and on my pants and driveway), and had the unsolicited help of 10 tiny fingers and four furry paws–there have been a lot of mistakes.

But it was in my quiet time this morning that it hit me. I was praying through Ephesians 2:10–

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

If I am God’s workmanship, then shouldn’t He be the one to sign off on all my “imperfections”? Why are those not His additions of character, His signature and intentionality in my life?

I mean, come on, God is God. He could easily have picked up the sandpaper and scrubbed out any “mistakes” (which of course He doesn’t make!) But if He chose to leave anything I find unlikeable, then it’s probably up to me to simply learn how to put to good use this unique, fashionable creation that He intentionally put His name on.

After all, I’m His workmanship–created for specific things He planned. It’s all on Him!

Reviving The Story

Well, I was just about to hang up the proverbial hat and choose to make writing a well-remembered season. But that’s just it, I guess it was my choice, and not the plan God has for me … yet.

Not two weeks ago, the mere idea of conjuring up fresh content baffled me. Today, ideas are stirring in my spirit. I don’t know how original they are, but if God has rekindled the desire to put words to page, then He must have something valuable for me to say.

Similarly, I once put eating disorder recovery behind me. After I wrote the last chapter of my book, I literally “closed the book”. I haven’t reread it. I haven’t had any desire to continue ministry in that vein. But twice in one week, God has brought concerned family members and friends to me–seeking empathy, insight and hope for their own loved ones now struggling. Again, maybe I have something left to say.

Eve demands a lot of my time and attention right now. There’s scarcely a moment when I can actually string my thoughts together, let alone put them down in a manner respectable for an editor. However, at the same time, I’ve never had so much material as this little provides! I have a feeling she’s going to teach me, all over again and, what it means that God is my Father. She’s going display to me my desperate need for a savior, comforter, counselor and Abba.

I also feared that in my new role as Mommy, my quiet times with the Lord would be greatly diminished. Maybe so … kind of and sometimes … but at the same time, I find spontaneous worship and grateful tears so close to the surface.

I read Psalm 143 this morning and recalled how just within the last week, sweet Eve has begun stopping and reaching for me. When I move too fast, when she can’t keep up. When she hits a hard surface or simply doesn’t know where to go. When she wants out of her bed and when she simply wants to share the mirror with me, enjoy my company and make silly faces–she reaches for me.

I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands. I stretch out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.

Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me to know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” Psalm 143:6, 8

Nuggets: When Today Doesn’t Meet Your Expectations

It’s been a bit since I shared a nugget, I know. But when God keeps you up at night, bombarding you with His precious thoughts (Psalm 139:17), sometimes you just gotta share!

I wrote a quick devotional last night for my niece, Kylie, talking about preciousness and God took it from there.

As I tuned into His precious thoughts, God brought Psalm 5:3 to my heart.

In the morning You hear my voice, O Lord; in the morning I prepare [a prayer, a sacrifice] for You and watch and wait [for You to speak to my heart].

This verse reeks of expectation: watching and waiting. But that’s not how I tend to order my day. From the moment of waking (or even going to bed at night) I have a budding plan of what must be done, what relationships must be tended, who must be seen … and a growing anxiety that there’s just not enough time to do it all.

But God says all I have to do is prepare a sacrifice and prayer, then wait and watch. Here’s what I wrote in my journal this morning:

I set so many plans and expectations on each day. I want to plan everything, right down to intimacy with my husband and what time I will have a third cup of coffee. But you, O God, have called me only to prepare my prayer and sacrifice (surrender) and then to watch. Your goal, plan and summation of my divine to-do list today is to watch and wait for you. 

In the path of your judgments, O LORD, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. Isaiah 26:8

That takes a lot of pressure of off the day, right? It effectively cuts my to-do list down to a manageable size and I have plenty of time to get it all done. All I must do is prepare myself before the Lord–commit the day to Him and surrender the rest. Then, watch in confidence of His goodness and ability to take care of it all.

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

If you prepare your prayer and sacrifice before God today–what has He left on your to-do list? What will you take care of first?

Nuggets: Be Unashamed of Your Body

I think Heaven should have a special appeal to all those who have struggled with body image. Not that Heaven isn’t just plain awesome, period. But, the way it’s described in Scripture, tugs my formerly eating disordered heart in a unique way.

I’ve recently listened to Pastor Chip Ingram’s series on Heaven and I highly recommend it! One of the things he presses, is that Heaven will not seem incredibly foreign. It’s not something that we can “only imagine”. Heaven is the place that God dwells, it’s where He wants to live and where He wants to live in close, face-to-face relationship with His people for all eternity. It’s actually very like what He created in the first place. And we have a pretty good description of Eden in Genesis.

My favorite line in all of Genesis is verse 2:25, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Can you imagine (perhaps this is where we have to employ imagination) what it would be likely to be completely unashamed of your body?

We are told that we will have new, glorified bodies but we will have bodies. Psalm 139 expresses God’s intention and pleasure in the unique way He sculpted you and me. He wants me to look this way! He is happy with the way you turned out!

So, set your sight again on the eternal. Don’t get hung up on the things that moths and dust will corrupt. One day, you’ll look at yourself and truly see you as God does–with pleasure, joy and peace.

Nuggets: What Christians Must Remember About Donald Trump …

( … and all elected officials)

I didn’t stay awake to watch the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, but I did know that at 3 a.m. I would check the results with my baby in my arms–a baby who will keenly experience the repercussions of America’s decision last night.

And praise the LORD.

It’s no secret who I voted for. Evangelical voters turned out in droves for Trump and I have no shame aligning myself with that crowd.

But as I rejoiced, I felt a warning rise up in my spirit:

In recent days, I’ve heard many Christians espouse their strong assurance that God is in control. When it seemed like Hillary might win, we declared that no matter what happened, God is on the throne.

We remembered that it doesn’t really matter who is in office. God sets up kings, leaders, rulers and God tears down the same. We remembered that He does whatever He pleases in heaven and on earth in the seas and all the deeps. “HE it is who makes the clouds rise at the end of the earth, who makes lightenings for the rain and brings for the wind from His storehouses.” (Psalm 135:6-7)

Now, lest we rejoice in our new found political stature as conservatives, lest we find hope in supreme court justices, a majority in the US Senate, the US House, a prolife president or the resounding commentary on the outgoing administration: let us remember what we said yesterday as we cast our ballots.

‘It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.’ Daniel 2:21-22

Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Psalm 100:3

Broadening the Gospel Platform at the Olympics

When you watch the Olypmics, how do you feel? I have to admit, I love that rush of empowerment when my favorite athlete crosses the finish line first, or stands tear-streaked to the strains the National Anthem. It’s a good feeling.

I completely “get” the fist pumping, water-smacking, “can’t believe I made it this far,” maddening-need-to-do-it-again–amass more medals than Michael Phelps–emotional high. I think I can understand the powerful feeling of fame, matched only by the soul-crushing shame of loss on the worldwide stage.

And, along with the rest of America, I love a feel-good story: everything from baby Boomer to Kathleen Baker’s refusal to be cowed by Chrone’s Disease to the courageous German gymnast who finished for his team despite a torn ACL. In fact, it’s a nice distraction from the incessant pavement-pounding of this political season. In a way, it makes it easier to pretend (for 2 weeks) that all’s right with the world, that all these nations simply enjoy a friendly rivalry contained in the sporting arena.

I will be parked (as often as possible) in front of the television for these all-too-short days of friendly, inspiring competition. But, there’s something the majority of media leaves out, even out of the feel-good stories. And that’s the multiple stories of faith.

It’s easy enough to hide our faith under a basket when our greatest exposure is the guy at the supermarket, the daycare provider or our co-workers, but can you imagine the pressure these athletes face to hide this most important and inflammatory topic from a world filled with people who have no problem killing based on faith?

But some have chosen not to hide it. Some have chosen to use their platform, however brief it may be, to declare the love, grace and power of Jesus Christ in their personal lives and His desire to be Lord of every life–before the day when every knee will bow without exception.

” … so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth … ” Philippians 2:10

You won’t hear these stories on TV, so I feel compelled to do my tiny part to broaden the platform for one of these bold athletes. Meet David Boudia:

Praying Like a Sinner

[This devotional, first published in ‘Tween Girls and God is intended for youth.]

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God … “

Trista glanced across the yard as she climbed into the backseat of her family’s minivan one Sunday morning.

“The Carlsons never go to church,” she said to no one in particular. Daddy fastened Trista’s younger sister in her carseat, opened the door for her mother and then climbed in behind the wheel. Slowly, he backed out of the drive. No one replied, so Trista turned it into a question.

“Daddy, why don’t they go to church? I mean, God says we should, I know it’s in the Bible somewhere. Does that mean they don’t believe in Jesus? If they do believe in Jesus, does that mean we are better Christians? Does that mean they are bad people? Does that mean … ”.

“Slow down, Trista,” her mom interrupted. “If you don’t stop asking so many questions, your dad can’t give you an answer. Besides, I think this is a very important conversation. The things you’re saying sound a little prideful.”

“Trista, have you heard the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector?” Daddy asked. “Jesus tells the story in Luke chapter 18.”

“No. I don’t think so,” Trista said.

“Well, Jesus was talking to some people who were pretty sure they were really good people. They believed that they were doing a good job of keeping all of God’s commandments and that God must be pretty pleased with them.”

Daddy, continued, “So the story is that there were two men who went to pray. One was a very important religious leader and the other was a tax collector. In those days, tax collectors were considered to be bad people. Sometimes they cheated people out of their money.

“The religious leader stood off to the side, far away from the tax collector. Then he started to pray out loud, ‘God, I’m so glad that you didn’t make me like that tax collector over there. I’m a really good person. I do everything you say to do.’

“But the tax collector stood off to the side and looked sadly down at the ground. He cried, ‘God, I’m so sorry for the bad things I’ve done. Please have mercy on me.’

“Jesus finished the story by saying, ‘I promise you, the humble tax collector went home forgiven, not the prideful religious man.’”

Now it was Trista’s turn to hang her head. “I think I understand, Daddy,” she said in a small voice. “God isn’t happy when I am proud of myself and think that the good things I do make Him happy with me.”

“That’s right, sweetheart,” Mom spoke up. “Jesus died for our sins—for everyone in the whole world. You and I are only saved because we believe in Him, not because we go to church or do anything good at all. Also, it is not our place to judge other people. Actually, I know Mrs. Carlson from the bank. Their family goes to a different church and they worship on Saturday nights.”

Trista turned to look out the window and watched the other cars streak past. She wondered where they were going. Quietly, she whispered a prayer:

“Jesus, thank you for forgiving me when I am prideful and when I do bad things or don’t do the things you want me to do. Thank you for parents who teach me to believe in you and to understand the Bible. Help me to be humble and to remember that I am saved because of your grace, not by anything I do.”

The Universal Battle Plan for Anything You’re Facing

What’s your battle?

I’m the first one to admit I’ve fought the same battles over and over–be they marriage struggles, remnants of eating disordered habits and behaviors, jealousy of others, bitterness, boredom in my walk with the Lord … simple frustration. These aren’t characteristics that describe a thriving believer in the one true God–one who has firmly grasped the Gospel and is influenced by nothing more than the Gospel.

So this morning, after a perfect Thanksgiving holiday with family, I sat back down before the Lord for my usual morning quiet time–the sanity of routine returned. But the luster was gone.

I got the best kind of answer. Guess what? I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m simply doing when I should be waiting, listening, leaning …

Walk with me through Jehoshaphat’s problems. He was facing the ancient enemies of Israel. The Moabites and Ammonites were chronic irritations for the Israelites–generational plagues. It might have been tempting to look back and see what he’d done before to hold them at bay. Or, to muster all the armies of Israel in “the name of the Lord” and go out to do battle against this horde of evil. After all, doesn’t God want us to valiantly resist at all times?

That would have been a safe assumption–I think: I’ve got a nation here to protect, a nation called by the name of the Lord! Surely, God would have me take up arms and do diligent battle!

Instead, Jehoshaphat was admittedly afraid. The Bible makes no effort to hide this “weakness”. And, “he set his face to seek the Lord.”

Jehoshaphat’s next words are stunning:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying,  ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

“But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:6-12

Can you imagine? Have you ever just looked at God and said, “Guess what? I don’t know what to do, so I’m just going to sit right here in front of you, shut up and look at you.”

Rather than have you go look up the battle plans God gave to Jehoshaphat, I’ll outline here what happened next:

  1. God told Jehoshaphat to not be afraid. He told him exactly where the enemy would be, what they would do and that he didn’t need to do a thing: “You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf … “
  2. Jehoshaphat bowed
  3. All Israel fell down and worshipped
  4. The priests stood up and praised loudly
  5. Jehoshaphat stood and commanded everyone to hear and believe the Lord
  6. He told them to give thanks — even before the battle was fought or won

So, I ask again: What’s your battle? How are you fighting? Have you drawn up your battle plans yet? Have you told God that you really need to be involved a bit more?

What would happen if you said: “I don’t know what to do, so I’m just going to sit right here in front of you, shut up and look at you.”?