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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Overstimulated and Underwhelmed

In my defense, I only bought one of them!

But, that’s not the purpose of these writings–to defend myself. Rather, to publicly humble myself, seek God’s face (and hopefully point to it for the sake of others) and turn from my wicked ways so that God might bring healing, hope, blessing and favor. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

What did I buy?–a noise maker. A battery operated toy that blinks and blings, tosses hard plastic balls in the air or rolls them across the floor. The rest were generous gifts from family and friends (and don’t get me wrong, I’m very grateful for them and will continue to use up their precious batteries many times over!)

BUT …

Yesterday, as I usually do, I set Eve on the floor of her bedroom to entertain herself for a few minutes and then flipped the switches on one, two, three, four toys. I watched her begin to play with her favorite hungry hippo, gleefully. But the moment the next toy barked, she glanced that way. Then behind her when the next one woke up — She did a full 360 just trying to keep her eyes on all the entertainment and decide what she wanted to do next.

Finally, I stepped over the baby gate and headed to take a shower. Within 30 seconds, she was at the gate crying! All those wonderful, animated toys and she was over it all ready! Overstimulated, she was quickly frustrated and wanted only the secure and simple arms of her post-workout, sweaty mommy. 

Abba tapped me, “Listen to me in silence, O coastlands; let the peoples renew their strength; let them approach, then let them speak; let us together draw near for judgment.” Isaiah 41:1

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” Exodus 14:14

“Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have gone astray.” Job 6:24

And for good measure, He had me look up what an inspired dead guy had to say about being quiet: February 13, 1949 – “It seems to me that what I am made for is not speculation but silence and emptiness, to wait in darkness and receive the Word of God entirely in His Oneness and not broken up into all His shadows.”  Thomas Merton

Do you ever feel that way–over stimulated. But are you also terrified of what might happen in the scary silence? I know that there’s scarcely a moment I’m not, at the very least, audibly entertained: the news, worship music, a sermon, a phone call … nothing bad, but rarely silence.

Last night, when we returned home late from a meeting, I set Eve on the floor while I made dinner and dumped a bag of colored balls in front of her. She was thrilled!

So what of silence? Where do you find it and do you think it’s really all that important? Can we truly know the heart and mind of God amidst the cacophony of our lives? If not, then why do we still avoid the silence?

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

The Bible and The Fleas

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

How special is God’s Word to you?

Have you ever wondered what life might be like if you didn’t have it?

Did you know that in North Korea it is illegal to own a Bible? And in many other countries, it is very difficult to obtain a Bible. In some places, owning a Bible might cost a person his or her life.

Corrie ten Boom was a young woman who faced some of these very difficult circumstances with bravery, hope and most of all, prayer.

Corrie lived in Holland during World War II. Her family were devoted Christians and when Nazi Germany began to arrest, deport and harm the Jewish people, Corrie and her family secretively hid as many Jews as they could in their own home. But in February 1944, the Gestapo raided Corrie’s home; she and her family were arrested and sent to prison camps.

In her biography, The Hiding Place, Corrie tells a story about her time in the prison camp and shares how very precious God’s Word was to her. She had managed to sneak a Bible into the camp with her, even though it was not allowed.

“Yet, in the midst of the suffering, the women prisoners around Corrie and Betsie found comfort in the little Bible studies they held in the barracks. Corrie writes they gathered around the Bible ‘like waifs clustered around a blazing fire…The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the Word of God.’ ” (theprayercoach.com)

After a while, the guards moved the girls to a new barracks. They were filthy and infested with fleas. Corrie felt discouraged and hopeless, but Betsie pointed out that the Bible says we should give thanks in all circumstances. As they prayed together, Betsie thanked God for the fleas!

Corrie thought her sister was crazy, but a short time later, she joined Betsie in thanking God. Because of the fleas, none of the guards would come near the barracks where the two sisters were held with dozens of other women. In those cells, they held Bible studies freely, without fear of the guards catching and punishing them.

God, thank you for allowing us to own and read your Holy Word. Thank you for parents and teachers who have the freedom to teach us about you, and thank you that we are able to freely tell others about you, too. Teach us to be thankful always for this privilege and to pray for those who don’t have access to your Word. Help us to treat your Word with respect and honor.

This article was originally written for a young audience and published in ‘Tween Girls and God. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=tween+girls+and+god

Well-Aged With Season

As with last week’s post, I’m going back through a handful of pieces I’ve written in recent years, but never published. I’m amazed sometimes at the things God once taught me but slipped to faint and distant memory. I hope this touches you today. 

“Be careful, parents! One day the little ones whose diapers you’re changing will be changing yours!”

I heard that humorous warning about aging in a sermon once. I don’t recall the rest of the lesson at all. That line was so catchy, I kind of got stuck there. But recently, the gravity and art of aging has intrigued me.

Maybe it’s because my refrigerator is camouflaged in pictures of my nieces and nephews. Kylie, the oldest, isn’t quite three; baby Acelynn hasn’t even had her first birthday. Right alongside images of first steps, yogurt-smeared chins and sparkly, wide eyes, is a photo of my grandmother. She turned 91 this year.

Granddad died a few years ago. Since then, almost spry as ever, she has lived alone a few hours from my parents’ house. The only signs of her age are fading hearing, a tremor when she tries to hold her head perfectly still and she walks a bit slower than she used to.

Or maybe, I’m contemplating these seasons of life because I volunteer doing pet therapy with hospice patients. I heard of a man who recently decided he’d like a visit. It took them months to convince him he would benefit from a few hours with a dog. Stubborn, he kept telling his son and nurses that he wants his own dog, not simply a visitor. He knows what they say is true, that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. He’s too old and ill to care for it properly. He may not live much longer and then who would take care of his furry best friend? Brave and I will meet Mr. Thurston next week for the first time.

Or maybe it’s because a few weeks ago Brave and I attended a grief camp for children who have lost a loved one in the last two years. However unfair, they were thrust into an unexpected season, one with a stark awareness of death. For many of them, the loss will mean a drastic change in their lifestyle. Who will tuck me in at night?

I might be thinking about birth, aging and dying, youth and the elderly, old and new because a friend just told me that he and his wife are finishing their basement so that his father can move in with them. It’s only been a few short years since they tenderly cared for his mother in her final days.

Whatever the reason, the seasons of life are turning in my head. But it’s much more than a solemn observation of finite lives. It’s more of an interest in how these season change us, not just our appearances and abilities, but change the way we live our lives. Passing years change our lifestyles, our priorities, our waking thoughts and unremembered dreams.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

It’s not surprising that Paul includes that sentence in, “The Love Chapter”. The most important way that time changes us, that age matures us, that the end sobers us, is that we fall more in love with the timeless. Time as we know it nears its finale, and our attention is swept up by the eternal. Our love shifts to things of an infinite nature—the promises of our Creator, the surety of seeing His face, the eternal spirits of our loved ones. Our lives necessarily change to accommodate these newly found truths.

Our bodies slow down as God allows age to limit our lifestyle, to force us to take closer, longer looks at what really matters. It is in the slowness, even the stillness, that we know He is God. And in that knowing, we are so much closer to all we’ve ever hoped for–to be fully real, fully known and fully loved.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Is God Disappointed In Me?

I remember it like yesterday, but I can’t read his expression any better in my memory than I could 15 years ago.

It was somewhere between a mix of frustration, disappointment, reservation, compassion and confusion. We’d covered this ground so many times before, Granddad and I, and he was nearing the point of wondering if things would ever change.

Oh please, don’t give up on me, my mind whispered, even as I held back the tears and held my ground—“I’m not going to eat chocolate ice-cream.”

For all of my fifteen years, a visit to Granddad and Grandma’s house had been synonymous with the frozen treat—preferably chocolate and served in a bowl pulled fresh from the freezer. But since anorexia had dug its deceptive claws into my mind, I refused to participate in this sacred tradition.

Looking up at Granddad that night, his unreadable expression branded my heart. I felt like a failure, a stubborn, unrepentant, rebellious failure.

Unlike many others in their battles against an eating disorder, I was blessed to have male authority figures who did their best to represent the Heavenly Father. They loved me, disciplined with gentleness and according to biblical principles. But they weren’t perfect. For a time, I translated that pained expression from grandfather’s face to my belief about God; it hindered my relationship with my perfect Heavenly Father.

In I Corinthians 1:9-10, Paul opens a letter of stern rebuke and uncompromising correction. As I studied those verses, I began to see the truth about how God corrects His children.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (emphasis added)

The Corinthian church had a lot of problems. They were abusing the Lord’s supper, and engaging in and tolerating sexual sin among other things. However, Paul begins the letter with: “Grace to you.”

That’s how God always addresses us, even in the middle of our failures and repeated mistakes. Even when we’ve sinned and broken His heart, God sees us as the righteousness of God in Christ, simply because we believe in the perfect sacrifice of His Son. Even when we need correction and training in righteousness, God always reminds us that He has given us grace in Jesus Christ, we are enriched in every way because of Jesus, God confirms that Jesus is within us and He will keep us firm to the end because He is faithful.

A Teachable Heart, Humility and BIG News

I have BIG news!

I’ve kept quiet for about as long as I can … we’ve passed 14 weeks now and so (drum roll please … )

We are expecting again! Yes! Praise God, He’s gifted us a baby girl! She’s due on August 21, and we couldn’t be more thrilled! So far, all her little black and white pictures are perfect; labs are just as expected and we’re anticipating her arrival with all the jitters that might be expected. I’m not sure if I want time to fly (or if it is) or if I wish it would take a deep breath and slow down.

I’ve been praying for a long time that God will continue to soften my infantry officer husband’s heart. His job is such that it reinforces discipline, structure, stoicism everyday, but I long for the gentleness he shows at home (sometimes) to take root and flourish within his strong, stable personality.

And as I’ve added a new little one to my daily, desperate prayers, I’ve heard God whisper to me, “You’ve asked me to soften his heart. She is all a part of the plan.” But that’s not all God said:

“And if I’m going to soften his heart, I’m going to humble yours.”

Umm … well I have to be honest, I’ve asked God to do that. But am I ready for this? I’ve tried to adopt a more humble heart, to identify selfishness, self-righteousness and slippery, undercover arrogance, but I was not prepared for God to highlight my pride in the way that He did.

Anyone who’s been pregnant can tell you–advice is instantly flying from every direction, at all times, with all kinds of conflicts, in all form of tones, with all manner of conviction and from individuals with all levels of experience–from none, to aged to those not so much more experienced than myself.

Now, I’m not one to internalize all of this and find my head swimming and panic beneath the onslaught of suggestions. I have specific people that I ask specific questions of, and blessedly, I have a doctor I greatly respect. I’m covered. But …

Does God care how I answer those who offer unsolicited advice?

On several occasions lately, and one specific one even today, someone I dearly love and respect has offered advice that I didn’t not ask for nor require. My immediate response was one of coolness. At the time, my hackles raised invisibly. I tried hard to keep my bristling hidden.

“You know, I really think you should … ”

“Did your doctor tell you that … ”

“I’d advise against that … ”

Their advice, while sincerely intended, addressed things that I have already thought through and come to a conclusion regarding them in my own pregnancy. And I said so.

“In all due respect, here’s what I think … ” (And basically, I think you’re wrong.)

God let me get away with it in the moment. But when I sat down this afternoon, God brought to mind His precious word.

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” Proverbs 19:20

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

Abby, I didn’t say you have to apply their advice, but as you pray for humility, my word instructs you to receive it. Don’t counter with your own opinion; receive well-intended counsel and seek me for wisdom in prayer at home. 

I don’t think my response to these individuals was disrespectful. I do love these people and worked hard to hold my tongue. But, I can’t say that my heart wasn’t railing with frustration and indignation at their assumption that I might not know something. And then God concluded His whispers with this reminder:

“A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart.” Proverbs 21:2

No matter my words, expression or the impression I give to others, God knows my heart and He judges my intentions. It is for my heart that I’m held accountable.

Oh Lord, give me a humble and teachable heart!

Can I Trust God In the Little Things?

Croce in montagnaThe other day, a fried of mine wrote an article honoring the late Elisabeth Elliott. She spoke about living a life of faith, one such as characterized by Elliott. But one quote in particular stuck out at me:

“If you believe in a God who controls the big things, you have to believe in a God who controls the little things.”

You see, this is the very hardest thing for me. I’ve known that for a long time–my willingness to trust God with eternity, and fearfulness to trust Him with tomorrow.

Take a peek at my thoughts:

“Sure, God. I know you can heal cancer, take me to Heaven, deploy angels, perform miracles, turn water into wine, change hearts, walk on water and even move on my spirit bringing joy, peace and hope. And I thank you for that.

But God, I’m not really sure that you can help me with body image. I don’t know that you’re all that interested in my decision about whether or not to get a dog. I’m probably on my own when it comes to deciding if I should go to that event next weekend and what I should say to my co-worker who really hurt my feelings.”

Can you identify?

So you can see why Elisabeth’s quote hit close to home. But then, God turned it on its head.

“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much” (Luke 16:10).

While I have difficulty trusting God with the little things, He is pleading with me to simply start there. When He finds me faithful to listen to Him concerning these little things, then He can invest me in big things.

The beauty of it is that the beginning is the same. The kernel of my faithlessness is the small things; the starting line of His plans for me is the little things.

God is asking me to dig deep, to plant that mustard seed of faith–tiny as it is–in the littlest situation. Then, if that soil is fertile and I truly believe in the God of the Universe, I will find He cares about the little things. And, when I get my footing in the little things, my faith will begin to grow and God will send me out into greater things for His glory.

What little things do you have trouble trusting God with?

First published at http://www.tblfaithnews.com

Do I Have What It Takes to Face Persecution?

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to suffer persecution?

Yesterday, I heard a Christian talk show host field a question from his listening audience. The caller asked, “I’m afraid that if I ever had to suffer persecution like some Christians in other countries, I won’t be able to stand strong. That terrifies me! What if I fall apart? What if I can’t take it?”

You can read the rest of my article here at The Bottom Line …