Archive | April 2015

The Darker Side of the American Dream

Sisters of Victory (7)

Before marriage, before kids, I was a very free spirited person. Artistic and musical by nature, I was spontaneous and lived by the seat of my pants. Other than my job, I pretty much played everything by ear. This changed a few months into my marriage. After a few knock down drag out fights, I realized that my actions were no longer my own and that I now had to consider my spouse when making decisions and planning out my, or rather, our day. This was hard for me and I really had to acknowledge and work through my selfishness. A year later when our first son was born, I had to start the whole process again! Priorities needed shifting and selfishness reared its ugly head. The beast was much bigger this time around! If we’re being honest here, I’d say that my selfishness or “flesh” as it were, was working desperately at that time to dig it’s talons into my soul. The transition into Motherhood was truly a rude albeit beautiful awakening. The whole process reminds me of ground being tilled. There is no part of you that is left alone. Everything is turned upside down and the calm and peaceful life you have grown accustomed to is in upheaval. Any control (or rather illusion of control) that you had over your life is yanked out of your hands. You can either embrace God’s work in your life or you can go along with it kicking and screaming.

Initially, I went along with it kicking and screaming. My selfishness began popping up like a Whac-A-Mole game. I didn’t want to lose any more sleep. Bang! I didn’t want to wake up every two hours to nurse. Bang! I didn’t want to give up my social life. Bang Bang! I didn’t want to go through 50 thousand hoops just to get a shower in peace. Bang!

As much as I was happy to become a Mom, I was also desperately holding on to my old life, old set of expectations, and old set of priories. Yes I lost sleep, yes I woke up every two hours to nurse, and yes I pretty much had no social life (no I didn’t always get a shower! :-P) but even though I was physically doing the right things, the tension in my soul was steadily increasing.

When you get married and then again when you have kids, the world will stress that despite these people you are still your own person and should never relinquish your individuality and freedom. “Never give up on your dreams.” they shout! “Don’t let ANYONE get in your way! Do what you want when you want!”

Selfishly, I listened to the world’s advice and did not want to give up my freedom and orient my life around someone other than me. Even though I was doing a good job of keeping my child alive and nurtured, my selfish heart was fighting me every step of the way. I had severe Postpartum Depression which was part of the struggle to be sure, but honestly, the bigger part of the problem was that I had not repented of my selfishness and made the changes inwardly that God was calling me to make. My priorities and expectations were centered around me and completely unrealistic. There is no way on earth that they would ever line up with reality because when you have a newborn they are wholly dependent on you and 99.9 % of your time must be devoted to them. And thus, the tension continued to grow and increase until one night I found myself googling: “What to do when you resent your child” and “What to do when you don’t want to be a Mom anymore?” I can’t write these words without crying. I can still remember my sweet Adam quietly sleeping in his bouncer next to me and can remember the tears streaming down my face as I read things like:

“I hate my babies. They have ruined my life. I never get to do what I want anymore.”
“Girl, it is totally normal to hate your kids. They weren’t a part of your plan and got in the way of your dreams! Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
“I completely resent my kids. I have thought long and hard about giving them over to the state.”

God used these words to break me of my rebellion and to show me how truly wicked my own selfishness was and where it would eventually take me. Their words were the slap in the face I needed and right then and there I bowed my head and repented of my selfishness and chose to put God, my husband, and children before myself. And then I made a conscious and intentional effort to change my priories and expectations to what God would have them to be…to what was realistic and to what was glorifying to him.

Almost immediately the tension was gone. Why? Well, for one because I wasn’t choosing in my heart to rebel against God and for two because there will always be tension and dissatisfaction when your expectations of life do not match where you actually are in life. Let me repeat that: if you have expectations in your heart that cannot be met in reality, you will have more than a little bit of tension!

I don’t know where you are at in life but if you are a follower of Christ… your dreams, your freedom, and your individuality AKA “The American Dream” should not be your priority or within your framework of expectations. God is always moving and desires to grow you closer to him and use you in his kingdom but if you are trying to do things the way of the world, your life will get darker and tension will grow. God is going to do what God is going to do but instead of going along kicking and screaming, save yourself and those around you a lot of heart ache and take a realistic look at your heart and at the life he has given you. Make sure that your expectations and priorities are first, godly and second, match what reality looks like for you.

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” -2 Chronicles 7:14

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3

“For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” -James 3:16

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.” – Luke 17:33

The American dream seems so glamorous and promising but the reality is, it will only let you down and is contrary to God’s word.

Being a Mom–a Life Changing Job

Being a Mom

As I was driving to McDonald’s this morning for an emergency coffee fix, I passed a strip of businesses. One in particular stood out to me: “Always Accurate Hospice.” My immediate thought (well, after thinking the name was super odd) was, “Wow, I wonder what it would be like if my everyday job were something so life changing?” And then it hit me, I already have a life changing job! I am raising two little souls that were made in the image of God. That fact alone gives them such intrinsic value! Caring for these boys, nurturing their heart, mind, and soul, is about as life changing as it gets! God specifically chose me for the task–I am their Mother and my pursuit of “training them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)” has immense spiritual value.

I was a nanny/childcare worker for 8 years. During that time I had the full stamp of approval from those around me. And yet, when I had children of my own and quit the workforce to stay home, all of the sudden the works of my hands were no longer seen as a worthwhile endeavor. Do you want to know what that tells me? That it was never about what I did (investing in children) but about what I was giving back to society–specifically, what I was contributing monetarily. This anti-biblical attitude that is so rampant–even in the church–shows me that people are not valuing people but rather what they can get out of them. But guess what. My children are eternal. I am eternal. You are eternal. We have souls but our money and that car in our driveway? They do not. “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. (1 Timothy 6:7)” Yes, they serve a purpose but one day they will be GONE and WILL NOT MATTER but our children? OUR CHILDREN have souls and will live for eternity!

God has called me to stay at home with my boys and while I know he does not call everyone to this, I do think he calls many. It’s important that we take a deep look at our hearts and lives and make sure that we are putting value where God puts value and then make changes where needed or where the Holy Spirit leads. Yes the world does not value my job but I will not be ashamed of my vocation. Sure I don’t get paid for my work and often times I don’t get glory for my efforts but we are supposed to do everything as unto the Lord anyways! “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossaians 3:23-24)”  This world is not our home. Ultimately I am not a citizen of this world and do not owe it anything. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20)” I live as unto the Lord and the Lord has called me to be homeward in my orientation and to raise my children after God’s own heart. “and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands,that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:4-5)” Sure it might not be flashy (picking boogers and changing poopie diapers isn’t exactly glamorous people!)  or even what I would have chosen for myself  but this is the work God has for me. If God is calling you to stay at home, know that God and his infinite wisdom can always make a way for anyone he is calling to move. We only need step out on on faith and he will provide the solid ground.

So, while our culture says my job as “mom” has little value, as believers, we should never underestimate or devalue the different roles God has designed for us to play within the family structure–even in our thinking (like I started to do earlier today).  God has a specific role that he wants us to play (that he has revealed in his word) and things tend to get messed up when we want to play a different part i.e. Satan not being satisfied in being an angel or Adam and Eve thinking they knew better than God. Playing the part God created us to play has great power and can also give us great peace. I personally believe you can still play that part and work away from the home but to be brutally honest, how often do we decide to continue in the workforce because that’s what the world does and forget to examine scripture and pray about what God would have us to do? having been a part of the childcare system for 8 years, I have seen first hand the emotional and spiritual affects it can have on children when both of their parents work full time.  I do not see how a 40+ hour work week fits in with so many of God’s commands in regards to raising children (i.e. how can we talk about scripture with our children all day long if we are not with them?). Raising a child takes time–lots and lots of time–and if our children are spending the majority of their time with someone else, then I cannot help but think they are also being raised by someone other than the person God handpicked for them–their mother. I pray that these words do not hurt or shame anyone!!! I know that there are often exceptions so I just want to say, whether you are working part-time, full-time, or stay at home, the job of raising children is truly a life changing work and we are blessed to have this task set before us by our Lord. If you are a mother, God has given you a life changing job!

Easter Every Day

The Lilypad (1)

Once a year we celebrate Easter. We celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. We celebrate the gospel. And then Monday comes along and we return to our daily lives. For the most part, we do not think about these things again until we are either witnessing to someone, hear a sermon about it, or happen to read a passage of scripture describing what Jesus did on that iconic day.

Tomorrow (Easter), we will look to the cross. We will mediate on the Resurrection. And we will set our eyes on Jesus and reflect upon what he has done. But this glorious meditation should not end with the setting of the sun. Friend, the gospel is relevant and necessary for every single day of your life. That power that raised Jesus from the dead and saved your soul is at work within you today! Jesus is our hope for Salvation and he is also our hope for every day life. We cannot save our souls by our own strength and we cannot live out the Christian life of our own accord. When we try to power through the day without relying upon the Holy Spirit and upon Jesus, we make a mess of things. The Bible says that on our best day, apart from God, our good works are as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

-Galatians 3:2-3

Our flesh has no power to finish what God has started so let us press into him and daily draw from that awesome power that conquered sin and death.

” I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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.”

-Phillipians 1:3-6

This Easter, may we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice and his resurrection were not only for our Salvation but also for our day to day Sanctification. No matter how long you have been saved, the gospel is still relevant and absolutely necessary to your day to day life.

Don’t Listen To Your Heart

“She turned to the sunlight    And shook (1)

James 1:14-15
“But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

Sinning doesn’t always feel like a big deal in the moment but without God’s intervention it can only take you in one direction…towards death. If you have never surrendered your life to Christ, it takes you towards physical AND spiritual death. If you have taken this step, while it is true you are headed towards a physical death (one of the consequences of the fall), you will rise again receiving an imperishable body. And mercifully, you will never have to experience a permanent spiritual death. Even still, this is not a hall pass for Christians. Our sin surely has consequences. When we pursue rebellion against our Lord and do not come to a place of repentance, we are bringing temporary death to our relationship with God. We can’t damage our position in Christ but we can most certainly damage our fellowship with him. Yes our eternity is secure but choosing sin still brings about an element of death. And that darkness, if left unchecked, can creep in hurting our walk with God as well as our relationships with those around us. Thankfully, if we repent and humble ourselves before God, he will draw near and shine light into our darkness. And he can bring good out of any mess we have made. His mercies are new every day and he is always ready to restore fellowship with his children.

While I am thankful for his new mercies, sometimes at the end of the day, I find myself wondering how I even ended up in such a dark place. Going back to verse 15, the part of the verse that said: “sin when it is fully grown” made me think of the song “Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns. Here’s an excerpt from the song…

“It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away
It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade”

Because we have a limited perspective, we don’t always see how our sin is affecting our relationship with God until it is “fully grown” i.e. one day we wake up in a place we never thought we’d be, wondering how on earth we got there. But if you read James 1 verse 14, we can clearly see how people end up in this dark pit. It all starts with our desires. It says,”each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” If you are like me, you might be thinking “Well that’s just great. I can’t control my desires and emotions!” And the world would tell you “No you can’t.” But God’s word tells us, “with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)” While it is true that sometimes we cannot immediately change our desires and feelings, we can start the process of change right now. We can confront any desire that is out of line with God’s word, with God’s word! We do not have to be victims to our desires and emotions…they do not have to control us…through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can control them with our thoughts. Standing upon His strength, we can start changing our desires by taking “every thought captive (2 Cor 10:5)” and by intentionally thinking about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phillipians 4:8)” It all begins in the mind and what is the best way to transform the mind? Hands down: God’s word. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)”

We live in a culture that will tell you things like

“Trust your heart”
“Do what feels right”
“Do what makes you happy”

Maybe you’ve heard the popular song “Listen to Your Heart” by Roxette

“Listen to your heart when he’s calling for you.
Listen to your heart take a listen there’s nothing else you can do.
I don’t know where you’re going and I don’t know why,
But listen to your heart before you tell him goodbye.
Listen to your heart
Listen to your heart take a listen to it
Listen to your heart take a listen to it, listen to your heart
Yeah listen to your heart
Listen to your heart”

Friend, this is not the way of the Lord. The Bible tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)”

Instead of blindly trusting our desires and feelings, we must hold them up and examine them by the light of God’s truth. If they are found wanting, we need to confront whatever lie we are believing that has led our heart and emotions astray.

Feelings are fickle. Our desires are almost constantly changing. They are not bad in and of themselves but if they are not anchored to something secure, they and consequently WE will be tossed about every which way. This is one of many reasons why it is so key that we build a firm foundation upon God’s word. People and their opinions have come and gone, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)” And let us remember that while surely this is talking about the written word of God, our anchor must also be firmly secured in Jesus, the living word of God!In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)” Thank you Jesus that your powerful light can completely conquer the darkness! This week, may we seek to build a foundation upon your word, deepen our relationship with you–the living word, confront sinful desires with your truth, and intentionally take every thought captive unto the Lord.