Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Wait for It, Wait for It...

For the past several days now, I have been reading through the story of Lazarus in John 11.  Once again, I feel as though I can relate to the people involved in this famous miracle.  And once more, God has used this account of Jesus' power, displayed at the perfect time, in the perfect way, to remind me that He hasn't changed and still works the same way in my life today.

Jesus has been on a roll, stirring up controversy, making enemies, and saying things that cause the religious leaders to pick up stones to kill Him.  He's also been busy feeding crowds of 5,000+ people, calming storms, forgiving sins, and giving sight to the blind.  To top it all off, He's about to raise a man from the dead!

Just as Jesus let His disciples know the man had been born blind "so that God's power would be seen in Him," He explains that Lazarus' sickness would not end in death.  He goes on to say, "No, it is for the glory of God.  I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this."  Seems to be a recurring theme.  Everywhere Jesus goes, everything He does, He reveals the power of God and brings glory to His name.

The same is true today, in my life, as God works in and through me to make His power known and to bring glory to His name.  He is, after all, the same God!

Back to John 11, though...

We are told that Jesus was extremely close to Lazarus and his family, namely his two "famous" sisters Mary and Martha.  In fact, when their brother was ill, Mary and Martha sent Jesus a message, "Lord, the one you love is very sick."  You would think, then, that as soon as Jesus got word that his dear friend was sick, He would have dropped everything and rushed off to heal Lazarus.  Or at least given the order for him to get better, as He did with the centurion and the dying servant (Matthew 8 and Luke 7).  But, Jesus does neither. Instead, "He stayed where He was for the next two days and did not go to them."  Humanly speaking, this make absolutely no sense!  In fact, it almost seems downright mean, if not cruel.  Jesus purposefully stays away, intentionally letting Lazarus die!  And in so doing, He causes immense grief for Mary and Martha, who are supposedly his close friends!  Not exactly how I would want my BFF to treat me...

Actually, that right there is how I feel.  I can totally relate to what Mary and Martha must have been thinking and feeling as they questioned Jesus' actions, as they wondered why in the world He had stayed away instead of coming to help them in their time of need.  Granted, I didn't lose a loved one.  I am, however, curious about God's timing in regards to selling our house.  I have questioned why the first deal fell through, why we have had to wait for another offer for what seems like a very long time (in reality it's only been about 6 weeks).

But, then, I read the verse again and notice this, "BECAUSE Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, He stayed where He was..."

So, Jesus was acting in love after all.  He did have his friends' best interest at heart.  He was really, truly doing the absolute best thing possible for them, even if it seemed like the exact opposite at the time!

That is what I have had to keep reminding myself of over and over again throughout this whole process of selling our house, then losing the offer and canceling the contract on our new house, and waiting for another buyer for our current house so we can make another offer on a new house.  I have to trust that God does have my best interest at heart, that He is doing the absolute best thing possible for our family, even if it seems like the exact opposite at the time.  I have to keep in mind that God sees everything from beginning to end, that He knows how everything is going to fit together, that He has all the pieces to the puzzle and knows the best order in which to put them together, and that His finished work will be a masterpiece I never could have imagined on my own.  It's like my plan would be a toddler's scribbling compared to a Picasso or Van Gogh that God is creating.  And so, I am slowly but surely learning to be patient, to wait for God's plans and purposes to unfold so that I can marvel at the way He is working, so that I can see His power displayed, and so that I can bring glory to His name.

Thankfully, God uses stories like Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead to build and strengthen my faith, to encourage me just when I think all hope is lost.

Let's get back to John 11, then, and see how Jesus took something awful and made it something wonderful.  Kind of like Gunger's song lyrics, "He makes beautiful things out of the dust."

We start to see a glimpse of what God is up to when Jesus lets the disciples in on a little secret, "Lazarus is dead.  And for your sake, I am glad I wasn't there, because this will give you another opportunity to believe in Me.  Come, lets' go see him."

A little more is revealed as we hear Martha's outlook on the situation, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  BUT even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask."  Martha sure didn't mince words or try to hide her feelings about Jesus staying away and allowing her brother to die.  At the same time, though, she hasn't lost faith in Jesus.  Quite the opposite, actually, as she still believes He can do a miracle and bring her brother back to life -- if not here on earth, at least in the resurrection to come.  The foundation for this steadfast hope, "I have always believed You are the Messiah, the Son of God, the One who has come into the world from God."

In a role reversal, Mary has stayed at home while Martha went out to meet Jesus.  Evidently, in her grief, Mary doesn't feel up to her usual "sitting at Jesus' feet" and opts to continuing mourning.  Not until Martha returns home from talking with Jesus and informs her younger sister that He wants to see her does Mary go out to face Jesus.  When she sees him, Mary does fall at Jesus' feet, but not to pour perfume on them as she had done before (John 11:2) or to take in his every word (Luke 10), but rather to confront Him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

Jesus' emotions get the best of him as He is "moved with indignation and was deeply troubled."  When He is taken to Lazarus' grave, we are told, "Jesus wept."  The shortest verse in the Bible.  A child's favorite verse to memorize :)  And yet, in those two words we see Jesus' humanity come pouring out.  We are able to relate to Him as He deals with His grief and pain.  We understand that He wasn't being heartless in staying away and not healing Lazarus.  We see that God has a bigger plan and purpose in all of this...

The crowds haven't quite caught on to that yet, however, and question just as both Mary and Martha did, "This man healed a blind man.  Why couldn't He keep Lazarus from dying?"

Once again, Jesus was deeply troubled and asked for the stone to be rolled away, ready to let everyone know that God is at work, that He does care, and that He does want what is best for those He loves.  As if to rub in the fact that Jesus didn't come in time, Martha mentions how bad the smell will be since her brother has been in the grave FOUR days already.  Jesus' doesn't plug His nose or cover His nostrils, but instead reminds her, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?" 

I feel like God has been asking me the same question as of late, "Sarah, don't you believe Me when I tell you I will be glorified in the selling of your house and the buying of your new one?  Don't you remember that I am in control, that I am working here -- for your good?  Don't you realize that I am going to show you My power, that I will get massive amounts of praise as result of what I am doing with your house situation?"

Back to John 11...As Jesus called Lazarus out from the grave, everyone was indeed able to see that God's plans and purposes were indeed good, better than they expected even.  After all, how much more powerful is it to raise someone from the dead than to simply make a sick man well?!  I mean, really, Jesus had already gave sight to a blind man.  Healing people was old hat for Him.  If T-shirts had been invented back then, He would have had one with "Been there, done that, have the T-shirt" scrawled across the front.  So, here, Jesus does more than just snap His fingers and relieve a fever, He brings a dead man back to life!  Take that, all you who questioned Jesus' ability to perform a miracle.  Any more doubters?  Anybody else want to ask Jesus why He was heartless and waited for his good friend Lazarus to die?  I think not...

Sadly, though, the Pharisees had let jealousy and bitterness darken their hearts.  Rather than celebrate with Mary and Martha as they welcomed their brother Lazarus out of the grave, we read that the religious leaders "began to plot Jesus' death."  I guess God's power and glory were just too much for them.

Not for me, not for me.  I want all the power of God in my life that I can get.  And praise be to God because that is just what's happening.  Last night, we received a new offer on our house!!!  As we have learned, nothing is final yet, but I can definitely see God's fingerprints all over this.  And as He is putting the pieces together, in the right order, and at the right time, God is whispering in my ear, "Didn't I tell you that you will see God's glory if you believe?"

Now, I just have to keep waiting to see how the rest of the story is going to unfold.  And once the deal is closed, I will fill you in on the rest of the details, and you too will see how this is ALL God!  But like me, you'll have to wait for it, wait for it....and then we can all praise and glorify God together!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Let Me Take Her Place

As a mother, watching your child suffer any type of illness or pain is one of the most difficult and heart-breaking things possible.  You just want to snap your fingers and magically make everything all better.  You want to have the answers to all their questions, "Why I am sick?"  "Why did I get germs?"  "Why doesn't my tummy want any food in it?"  Why, why, why...

Unfortunately, there is no instant cure for the flu, which is what Coralyn has been dealing with for the past 3 days.  No matter how many times I have tried to explain to her why she is sick, why her tummy hurts, why she can't have anything to eat (seeing as how she will puke it up in a matter of an hour or two), she still doesn't understand why she doesn't feel good.  Even as I type, she is crying and asking to have something that won't make her sick.  She looks and sounds so pitiful, holding her bowl and begging me to help her feel better.

Trust me, sweetie, I am doing everything I know to do.  I have tried water and Sierra Mist to drink.  I have tried saltine crackers, oatmeal, graham crackers, and a banana to eat (all at different times, of course!).  All to no avail.

AUGH!!!!  I just want to take her place!  I would much rather be sick than her.  I would rather be the one puking and hurting.  I love her so much and hate that I can't really do anything for her.  Yes, I can hold her and cuddle with her, and try to comfort her.  I can read books to her.  I can let her watch "movies" on Netflix, although that special treat has lost its appeal after 3 days.  Coralyn, who LOVES to watch Huckle and Diego and Super Why just told me, "I don't want to watch anymore TV."  Now I know she's sick!

Oh, I would give anything for her to feel better, even if it meant I would be sick instead.

As I was crying out to Jesus to heal her, yet again, and asking Him to take this illness from her (and give it to me if necessary), I couldn't help but think of how Jesus did just that for me, for all of us.

He didn't have to, but He did.

Jesus willingly left heaven to come to earth where He was hated, despised, questioned, rejected, and eventually murdered.  And He never did anything wrong!  When He was nailed to the cross, MY sins put Him there.  He could have come down, He could have made the soldiers stop, but He let the whole thing happen.  He freely laid down His life, dying...so that I might live!

I am quite sure the pain of the cross (and the beating that came before it, not to mention all the scorn and ridicule He faced throughout His life) was much, much, much worse than even the nastiest case of the flu.  But, just as a mother loves her child such that she is more than willing to take the child's place and be sick instead, so too Jesus loves us and took the punishment of our sins upon Himself.

How thankful I am for Jesus!  I owe Him everything!  Absolutely everything!

And so, as I go to sit with Coralyn and try to soothe her and ease her discomfort, I will praise Jesus for loving me so deeply, so abundantly, so sacrificially.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

I Just Wanna Be a Sheep

God used a familiar concept to quiet my heart once again this morning.  Yesterday, He reminded me of the depth of His love -- having His Son die in my place, for my sins, so that I might live.

Today, He added to that as He showed me Jesus' declaration in John 10, "The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.  MY purpose is to give life IN ALL ITS FULLNESS."

Not only does God offer me life, He gives me the absolute best life imaginable.  Better than that really, as Paul wrote how God is able to "accomplish INFINITELY MORE than we would ever dare to ask or hope" (Ephesians 3:20).

Well, this morning, as I woke up at 6:34 to Kellah's cries and jumped out of bed, frantic that my daycare kiddos would be arriving in just 26 minutes, I didn't exactly have time to sit down and read my Bible while I sipped my hot cup of coffee.  Thankfully, though, both boys came cranky and tired, so I laid them down for an unusual morning nap.  Kellah, too, was rubbing her eyes, and went to sleep without a fuss.  It's as if God gave me back the time I missed out on this morning, knowing that I would need that moment of quiet with Him in His Word if I am going to "survive" the rest of the day (especially since we have a showing at 1 pm, which means a very late afternoon nap, if one at all!).

I opened my Bible to John 10 and read one of Jesus' famous I AM statements.  Here, He announces, "I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep."  Just verses later, He reiterates this amazing declaration of love and commitment to those in His flock, "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know Me, just as My Father knows me and I know the Father.  And I lay down my life for the sheep...No one can take My life from Me.  I lay down My life voluntarily."

Goes along quite well with what God pressed on my heart yesterday in regards to His love for me that was displayed in Jesus' death on the cross.  But, God seemed to want to introduce a new idea: my response to this abundant love.

Jesus goes on with the illustration of the shepherd and his sheep, "the sheep hear his voice and come to him.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they recognize his voice."

My "job" as a sheep is to follow my Shepherd.  Any time I hear His voice, I need to listen, to respond in obedience to whatever He says.

Earlier this week, God focused my attention on my ability to SEE as He had me read the story of the man who was born blind.  And now He's showing me that my EARS might need some fine tuning as well.

I don't want to be like Coralyn who seems to have selective hearing when it comes to listening to me and then doing what I ask or tell her.  Just as she is the child and should obey me, the parent, no matter what and without question or resistance, I am the sheep and should obey Jesus, my GOOD Shepherd, no matter what and without question or resistance.

If He calls me, I need to listen.  And if He leads, I need to follow, wherever He takes me.

All this talk of sheep and their shepherd made me think of Psalm 23.  So, I flipped back in my Bible to this popular poem.  I read the words I have memorized since I was Coralyn's age:
The Lord is my Shepherd;
He lets me REST in green meadows;
He leads me beside PEACEFUL streams.

The ideas aren't new to me at all, but they are exactly what I needed to see, to hear, to remember.  They go along with all the other lessons God has been teaching me this week.

I have everything I need, so be thankful and praise God for all He has already done.  Quit questioning His plans and timing and asking WHY and WHEN and wanting more, and wanting it now.

That leads right into: He lets me REST and how He leads me beside PEACEFUL streams.  Enjoy the journey.  Take it all in.  I am, after all, in the very presence of JESUS for the entire trip!!!  And that is certainly the BEST place to be, no matter where I am physically.

Sometimes the journey is tiring.  I grow weary and weak.  Perfect: He renews my strength!  Isaiah 40:31 comes to mind.  I wouldn't mind soaring on some eagles' wings right about now :)

But when I am down on the ground, plodding along, climbing hill after rocky hill, and I can't see where I am going, I start to question if this is the best path.  I want to look up ahead and know where exactly we are headed and HOW we are going to get there.  I begin to wonder if there's a better way, a shorter way, a faster way.  God knows my doubts and reminds me yet again: He guides me along right paths.  So just keep following Him.  He's the Shepherd.  I'm just the sheep (who, by the way, is one of the dumbest animals on earth!).

Then, as if to cap it all of, just like the man was born blind so "the power of God could be seen in him," God has a plan and purpose for me and is leading me down this perfect path He has prepared just for me so He can bring honor to His name through my life.

As I think about all of this, a song from Ponca ran through my head.  It's a child's song, but so fitting.  And you can bet I will be singing it to Coralyn and Kellah today, ALL day.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Clear As Mud

This morning as I read in the gospel of John about one of Jesus' countless miracles, I felt as though I could relate to the blind man whom He healed.

In the story, Jesus had upset the religious leaders, striking quite a nerve when He called them "children of the devil" who love to do evil and hate the truth.  Going a step further, Jesus then claimed not only to be greater than Abraham but to have existed before him as well.  At this point, the crowds picked up rocks to throw at Jesus, wanting to stone Him to death for His blasphemous remarks.  Before they could harm Him, Jesus magically disappeared and left the temple without anyone seeing or knowing where He had gone.

Apparently, Jesus reunited with His disciples fairly quickly because in the very next verse, we see them walking along the road together.  They come across a man "who had been blind since birth."  His disciples immediately ask Jesus, "WHY was this man born blind?  Was it because of his sin or his parents' sin?"

WHY -- the age old question.  WHY -- a toddler's favorite word.  Coralyn loves to ask "Why?" about anything and everything.  And when I answer one "Why?" she wants to know "Why" about that too.  It's a never-ending process.  Sometimes she just had to settle for, "That's just the way things are," or "That's just how it works," or "That's just how God made it."  I guess we never really grow out of asking WHY, no matter how old we are.

Here, the disciples want to know WHY this man was born blind.  They want to know WHY something bad happened to him.  Automatically, they assume he or his parents had done something wrong to cause this terrible tragedy.  But still, they ask Jesus WHY the man couldn't see.

I am sure the blind man had asked himself the same question many times.

I bet he asked his parents quite a few times growing up too.  Unfortunately, like most parents, they didn't have an answer to his, "Why?"  Maybe after hearing him ask "WHY?" for the 4,983rd time, they sighed and finally shouted in frustration, "I don't know WHY, okay!  Just because....because that's how God made you!  Now don't ask me again!"

And then, in the quiet of the night after they had put their son to bed, they would cry out to God, asking Him, "WHY?  Why did you do this to our boy?"  Begging Him for an answer, but never getting one.  Just like their son, they were left in the dark (pun intended).

Most likely, by this point both the man and his parents had given up hope of ever knowing WHY he was blind, let alone ever being healed and having the ability to see the world around him.

Enter Jesus...

Without batting an eye, Jesus has the answer to all the WHY's that had been asked about this man's blindness since the day he was born.  No, it wasn't because the boy had sinned.  Not his parents' fault either.  Rather, "this happened so the power of God could be seen in him."

Oh, is that WHY?  Makes perfect sense now.  Of course!!!  He was born blind, so that one random day Jesus could come by, notice the man, and perform a miracle.  Wasn't that obvious?!!!  Why hadn't the man or his parents thought of that?

We aren't told how old the man is, just that he was blind from birth.  We don't know how many years this man and his parents -- and everyone in the community -- had been asking WHY.  I am sure they grew tired and weary of asking, never getting an answer.  I get impatient if I have to wait for a few seconds at a red light. I get frustrated if I have to wait in the doctor's office or in line at the grocery store.  I get irritated when I have to wait for God to answer my questions, to respond to my prayers, to give me the answers I so desperately want....NOW.

And so, as I read just the very beginning of this story, I felt like I could relate to the blind man.  Granted, I haven't been asking the same question for my entire life, just the past month or so really.  Ever since our house sold but then didn't, have been asking WHY.  And each day that it doesn't sell, that we don't get an offer, I keep wondering WHY.  Like the blind man, I want to be able to see what in the world God is doing, what He's up to and how He is using all of this for good.

The situation is vastly different, but the answer is still exactly the same, "this happened (and is happening) so that power of God can be seen in us."

What Jesus did next was probably not what the blind man was anticipating.  I am guessing that in all his years of asking WHY he had been born without the ability to see and that in even his wildest dreams that maybe one day he would be healed, he had never imagined that Jesus would do what He did.

Jesus picked up some dirt, spit in his hands, and mushed the dirt and spit together to make mud.  Then, He took that mud and smeared the blind man's eyes with it.  Like I said, I think it's safe to say this isn't the typical procedure for healing a person's sight.  But then again, Jesus isn't your typical doctor either.  He's the One and Only Great Physician, and if He wants to use mud to give a man his sight for the first time in his entire life, then that is what Jesus will do.  All to the praise of God's name.  You can't really give mud any credit for restoring sight.  Definitely all credit goes to the power of God.  That was, after all, the very reason WHY the man had been born blind in the first place!!!

After Jesus covered the man's eyes with mud, He instructed him to wash himself in the pool of Siloam.  Without questioning Jesus' healing methods, the man went and did as Jesus said.  Instantly, he could see!

What a story he had to tell!!!!  Sadly, the Jewish religious leaders were more upset about Jesus performing the miracle on the Sabbath than they were glad that this man had just been given the ability to see for the first time in his life.  They even went so far as to CURSE the newly un-blind man, saying they had no idea where this Jesus came from or how He had the power to heal people.

The man's answer is so honest, so evident that he had just personally witnessed God at work in his life and was unable to contain his excitement, "Why that's strange!  He healed my eyes, and yet you don't know where He comes from?  We know that God doesn't listen to sinners, but He is ready to hear those who worship Him and do His will.  Ever since the world began, no one has been able to open the eyes of someone born blind (and he would know!).  If this man were not from God, He could not have done it."

So true.  So simple.  So offensive.

Furious, the Jewish leaders answer, "You were born a total sinner!  Are you trying to teach us?"  And they threw him out of the synagogue.

They totally missed it.  Jesus had already explained at the onset that this man's blindness was NOT a result of his sin, but that God's power might be seen in him.  The Jewish leaders might have been the ones born with the ability to see, but on this day, they were the only blind ones in the temple.  And sadly, their blindness was a result of sin.  Furthermore, it couldn't be remedied due to their lack of belief in God.  Their unwillingness to let Him work in their lives -- to let Him display His power, to admit their need for His power in the first place -- kept them in the dark.  Just as Jesus had just told them earlier, "Anyone who belongs to God gladly listens to the words of God.  But you don't listen because you don't belong to God."

How I pray that my own inability to see isn't a result of my sin!  I most certainly don't want to be kept in the dark because I refuse to let God do things His way, in His timing!  I would much rather keep asking WHY, and learn to WAIT PATIENTLY until I get my answer.  And then, when Jesus does do His thing -- however strange or weird it may be -- He can receive all the power and glory and praise due His name!

And so, today, I am doing my best to not even ask WHY, but rather to praise God in advance for the way He is going to work in my life to make His power known.

Because even if God did answer all my WHY's, I am sure His explanation would be clear as mud in my tiny, pea-sized human brain with such limited capability to understand His majestic, glorious, all-knowing, perfect divine ways of doing things.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

13 Going on 30

Kellah is 13 months old today.  No matter how many times Lawrence or I tell the girls, "You have to stay this size forever," they don't seem to listen to us because they keep growing up!

Well, maybe Kellah has been listening better than we think.  She is after all still wearing size 6-9 month clothes, quite comfortably.  In fact, I still have to roll up her pant legs or she'll trip over them!  I just put her to bed in a size 3-6 month sleeper, and it's not even tight yet.  I haven't put her on the scale recently, but she can't be over 17 pounds.
Despite her newest workout routine, I highly doubt she's gained a whole pound since last month, but then again, she does like to surprise me at times!

Like yesterday...

We have started "potting training," so to speak, as one of my daycare boys has begun the potty training process.  It's more mommy training on my part, as I need to remember to "take her to the bathroom" every 30 minutes or so (which is much easier said than done when I have 4 kids under the age of 3 from 7 am to 4 pm every day).  It's also just the beginning stages of exposing her to the idea of using the potty to pee and poop.  And so, I am now changing her diaper in the bathroom and explaining to her that now that she's getting to be a big girl she will be learning how to use the potty.  I even have her sit on the little potty, just for fun.  Crazy thing is, she stays there, most of the time.  The other day I forgot to bring a new diaper into the bathroom with me so I ran back to her room to get one; when I returned to the bathroom, Kellah was still sitting on the potty.  She is so darn cute doing it too!

Anyway, she must be a good listener and actually pay attention when I announce countless times throughout the day, "I'm going to go potty like a big girl."  I usually follow that up with an invitation, "Does anyone else need to go potty?"  The kids are all going to follow me to the bathroom anyway, so I figure I might as well give them a reason to come.  Well, yesterday, I noticed that Kellah was starting to get that "I'm going to poop" face.  I quickly pointed out, "Kellah, you're pooping.  Where do we want to go poop?"  Without another word, Kellah made her way to the bathroom and gave me the biggest, proudest smile as she banged on the door.  By the time I got her pants and diaper cover off and snappy undone and diaper off, she had finished doing her business.  Or so I thought.  I went ahead and sat her on the little potty and reminder her, "This is where we want to go potty."  By the time I had taken care of her dirty diaper and exclaimed with overwhelming joy that the poop was now in the potty, Kellah was ready to get off her potty.  I went to close the lid, only to discover that she had actually gone pee!  Talk about doing a happy dance and making a HUGE deal about her accomplishment -- accident or not!

I would be more inclined to think this was a fluke incident, but lately Kellah has been showing us that she is really catching on to the ins and outs of our regular life.  When I ask if she's ready to eat or if I announce to the family that supper's ready, she will walk over to her highchair and pull her bib off the seat.  She then brings it to Lawrence or me to put it on her.  Crazy girl knows she is SUPPOSED to wear a bib and sit in her highchair to eat, but for some reason she is determined to stand up over and over and over again and attempts to crawl out onto the tray of her highchair multiple times throughout the meal.  Did I mention the girl is STUBBORN?!

She also has started bringing me her cape and shoes (or at least a pair of shoes, even if they're not hers) when I mention that we are going to go to the store or play outside.  She also hands me the daycare boys' coats and shoes when I explain that their moms will be here soon and we need to start getting ready for them to go home.

For quite awhile now, the second anyone mentions the words, "bath time," Kellah drops whatever she is doing and runs to the bathroom door.  Sometimes she even tries to take off her clothes by herself!  The girls LOVES playing in the water.  If only she would understand that sitting in the bathtub is much safer than standing and walking in it!

Maybe she was listening to Brian Williams the other night on Rock Center when he did a story how we as Americans sit too much and need to spend more time up on our feet and moving around throughout the day.

Kellah has also started "reading" books as of late.  Instead of eating the corners of them, she will pick one up and flip through the pages.  Her favorite two books right now are Baby's First 100 Animals and her Baby Beginner Bible.  I will find her sitting in her room looking at the pictures, content to be all by herself with her book.  Hmmmmm, I wonder if she's been watching her big sister.  Who by the way, is currently in her room reading books in her bed.  She's been at it for about an hour and will probably keep on reading until Lawrence and I go to bed around 10 pm!  This is an almost nightly occurrence in our house.  I can only imagine what bedtime (and the hours after) will look like once the girls share a room!

She may be small, but Kellah has no fear and jumps right in to join whatever is going on around her -- even if the kids are four times her age/size!

At the library for Toddler Storytime, she is right in the mix reaching for bubbles, clapping her hands, playing the shakers, and even getting in line to hand her shakers back in when the music part is over.

Kellah also has no fear of heights and LOVES to climb.
Last week, I caught her hanging onto the handle of a drawer and attempting to use it to help her walk up the side of the dresser!  Chairs, tables, toys, beds, and anything else you can think of must shout out, "Climb me" to Kellah.
I am not sure if my heart can handle this "bravery."  Though I do pray she has no fear in standing up for Jesus and doing what's right even if she is the only one.  I also pray she will be a go-getter and jump right in when it comes to telling people about Jesus.

I am also seeing more of her joy and humor coming out lately, and am praying she uses these traits for good. I fear both of our girls might be class clowns and having many a parent-teacher conference about their giggling, talking, trying to be silly during instruction or independent work time.  I do love, however, that she will come up to me and give me a big hug and slobbery kiss.  Sometimes she will even lift my shirt up and "zurbert" my belly button.  She can be a little stinker with her humor, though.  She will try to run away from us when it's time to get dressed or to sneak back into the bathtub while we get her pajamas ready or hide behind the curtain in her room.
Her precious little laugh makes up for her "misbehaving."  Most of the time.  I tell her, "Cute can only get you so far."  Cute does not cut it when she tries to play with the electrical outlets (one of her favorite past times), for example!

I am trying to think of other things I need to write about for her milestones and accomplishments this past month.  I am coming up blank, so either I'm tired or I have exhausted my memory.  Or both.  Seeing as how Kellah still doesn't sleep all night on a regular basis yet, I am somewhat sleep deprived.  I am loving all the cuddles and special one-on-one time I will never get with my Kellah Bear again.  I know she won't be small forever, that she won't listen to us when we jokingly tell her and Coralyn they have to stay this size and call us Mommy and Daddy no matter how old they get.

And so I will just cherish every day with her and make the most of this precious time I have with her, and Coralyn.  I am so blessed to be their Mommy and wouldn't want any other job in the world!!!

Of course, I'm pretty fond of their Daddy too! :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Calm Down and Hold Your Boat

As 2012 came to a close, I prayed about where in the Bible God would have been start reading in 2013.  The book of John kept coming to mind, for various reasons.

Quite arguably the most famous verse in all the Bible is found in John, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life."

New believers are often encouraged to read the fourth gospel, as John clearly portrays Jesus as our much-needed Savior.  And so, it's a great place for those searching for answers or new in their faith to begin their journey of learning about Jesus and what a relationship with Him entails.

We are going to be working with elementary and middle school kiddos on a daily basis, and going deeper with those in our Ponca and Beyond Bible study on Sunday evenings.  If am going to be mentoring and discipling these boys and girls, introducing them to a life where they passionately love Jesus and boldly live for Him, then I myself should probably be extremely familiar with the life of Jesus.  Yes, I've read the book of John before.  Yes, I have been following Jesus for nearly 25 years now.  BUT, I want to read it again, this time from a fresh perspective, looking at the stories and teachings of Jesus from the eyes of a kid on the verge of becoming a teenager.  I want to use what I learn to help me better train and equip these boys and girls to grow up strong and firm in their faith so that they can begin this hard-core, radical adventure of pursing Jesus with all their hearts, souls, minds, and strength NOW!

With that being said, this morning I opened my Bible to John 6 and began reading in verse 16.  Jesus has just  turned a young boy's lunch of five loaves and two small fish into a feast for over 5,000 people who had come to hear Him speak and see Him heal the sick and lame.  Amazed at His ability to produce food out of nowhere, the crowd is ready to take Jesus by force and crown Him their king.  Knowing this is most certainly not why He came to earth, Jesus retreats to the hills to spend some time alone, away from all the multitudes of people who do not understand who He is, why He is among them, or what He wants to do in their lives.

The story continues, "That evening His disciples went down to the shore to wait for Jesus. But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn't come back, they got in the boat and headed out across the lake toward Capernaum." 

My first thought is: I can relate to that.  I know what it feels like to wait, and wait, and wait, and wait for someone to come, for something to happen.  As you wait and wait and wait and wait, you grow restless.  You get impatient.  You might even begin to doubt that you are supposed to be waiting; maybe you are supposed to go ahead and make a move, get the show on the road.  Something, anything, just no more waiting!

Well, that is what the disciples decided to do.  They had waited long enough, at least according to their way of thinking.  It was getting dark, and Jesus still wasn't there.  Surely He didn't intend for them to waste any more time sitting around doing nothing.  Surely He must have meant for them go on ahead of Him and He would meet up with them later.  Surely they had waited long enough...

And so, they got in the boat and headed out across the lake, WITHOUT JESUS.

That would be their second mistake.  The first being that they grew tired of waiting, that they didn't trust Jesus and His timetable.  Now, they have come to the erroneous conclusion that they will be just fine without Him, that their schedule is more important, or at least makes more sense, than whatever Jesus had planned.

So easy to hang my head, sigh deeply, and shake my finger at those silly disciples.  But then, I realize how often I do the exact.same.thing.

Then, just like the disciples, I find myself in a world of trouble every.single.time.  John tells us, "Soon a gale swept down upon them as they rowed, and the sea grew very rough."   The majority of these men are experienced fishermen who have spent many a day, and night, out on the water.  I am quite certain they had dealt with strong winds and heavy waves at least once or twice before this particular evening.  And yet, there they are, rocking and swaying in their boat, wondering if they are going to capsize and questioning their decision to leave without Jesus.

Jesus was, of course, right there with them all along, but He doesn't make His presence known right away.  He gives the disciples some time to think about what happens when they rush ahead and leave Him behind.  He lets them fight the waves on their own for a bit.  Maybe then they will remember that they are helpless without Him, that they desperately need Him, that waiting for Him really isn't so bad after all.

We are relieved as John lets us know, "They were three or four miles out when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat."

Reading the story thousands of years after it took place, we know the "ghost" they saw (as Matthew described in his account of the same story -- 14:26), was not a phantom but Jesus Himself coming to the rescue.  The disciples, however, are in the middle of the story, rowing their arms out and praying a wave doesn't come crashing down on their boat sending them flying into the angry water.  Jesus doesn't let His disciples stay scared for very long though.  "They were terrified, but He called out to them, 'I am here!  Don't be afraid.'  Then they were eager to let Him in..."

Of course they were "eager" to let Him in.  Eager might even be a bit of an understatement, given their dire circumstances at the time.  They were more than ready for Him to get in the boat and join them, counting on Him to save their lives.

Not only did Jesus calm the storm, but He also cut their travel time down substantially as John reports, "and immediately the boat arrived at their destination."  How convenient!  No more waiting now.  Not when Jesus is WITH them.  Nope, that's when things finally got moving and it was smooth sailing from there (pun intended).

As I said, I have read the book of John before, and this story seemed familiar to me.  I know His miracle of feeding the 5,000 is a popular one, so I searched through the other gospels to see if I had indeed read the account somewhere else.  Yep, Matthew also provides us with a record of Jesus taking the loaves and fish and turning them into an all-you-can-eat buffet, though his version of what happened after everyone's tummies were full is slightly different from John's rendition.  "Immediately after this, Jesus MADE His disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake while He sent the people home.  Afterward He went up into the hills by Himself to pray.  Night fell while He was there alone.  Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves."  

In Matthew's version, the disciples didn't wait and wait and wait for Jesus to come.  Instead, Jesus had seemingly loaded them up in the boat Himself, pushed them out to sea, and sent them on their merry little way alone.  Meanwhile, He went back to take care of dispersing the crowds and then took advantage of the fact that His disciples weren't right by His side.  He went up into the hills to enjoy some peace and quiet, to pray and spend some much-need time alone with His Father.  As Jesus was praying, the disciples were battling the wind and the waves, wondering where in the world Jesus was now.  So maybe there was some waiting involved in this account as well, in the form of the disciples waiting for Jesus to come to their rescue (just as we saw them do when we read John's side of the story).  Matthew also tells us of Peter doubting the man on the water was really Jesus and wasn't convinced until he got out of the boat and was walking on the water with Jesus.  But that's a whole different lesson right there, so I must restrain myself from getting on that rabbit trail....

Back to the story here in John's gospel.  I really feel as though God answered my prayer to help me read and see things with fresh eyes, to learn something new, or notice something I had previously missed.  As He always does, God knew my heart and exactly what I needed to hear from His Word today.  He understands that I am growing tired of waiting for our house to sell.  Before I do as the disciples, though, and grow weary of waiting, God reinforced that I should NOT become impatient.  I should NOT want to rush on ahead, but rather trust in His timing, believing that His schedule is more important and far better than mine.  Or else I might end up in the same boat (again pun intended) as His disciples and find myself frantic and scared as I brace myself for the waves to come crashing down on me.  He also reminded me that He is right here with me, even during the storms, and that only when I am WITH Him will I experience true and lasting peace.

How fitting, then, that the Daily Verse on my phone this morning reminded me of what Jesus assured His disciples all those years ago, "I am leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart.  And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives.  So don't be troubled or afraid."

Monday, January 7, 2013

20/20 Vision

Just now as I was thinking of some creative and clever title for this blog post, several mental images came to mind as I rolled the word "vision" around in my head.

An optometrist and ophthalmologist will check your eyes and work with you to enhance your vision so that it's as close to 20/20 as possible.

When the term 20/20 crossed my brain waves, the phrase, "Hindsight is 20/20," came sprinting right after it.

Then, I thought of the evening news show 20/20, which of course brought back memories of watching Barbara Walters interview famous, important people.

On a much more "spiritual" note, my pastor's sermon from this weekend came to mind, seeing as how he was sharing the leadership's vision for our church community in 2013 and opened with the verse, "Without vision people perish." (Proverbs 29:18)  Pastor Michael was talking about much more than how well we see (or don't see) with our eyes; he was referring to the emotions and desires of your heart which spur you to live/act in a specific way such that you can accomplish your goals.  

In businesses and corporations, the president or CEO's vision is often posted on the walls, and the corresponding mission statement is drilled into the employee's heads so they can accurately portray the company's vision to customers as they interact with them.  In order for a corporation to be successful, the vision must be passed on from the president to every single individual involved with the business in any way, shape, or form.  Otherwise, customer service will be rotten, people won't want to shop there or use their products, and the business will ultimately fail.  

I have no idea what the exact vision and mission statement are of Hy-Vee (one of the main grocery stores here in the Kansas City area), but I know the employees at our Liberty Hy-Vee certainly live up to the company's slogan, "A helpful smile in every aisle."  One of the reasons we choose to buy groceries at Hy-Vee is because of their outstanding customer service.  I can always find someone to help me, and when I ask where an item is located, the clerk doesn't just tell me what aisle to look in.  Oh no, he stops whatever he was doing and personally takes me to the exact spot in the store where the product is, and then proceeds to ask if there is anything else he can do to help.  More than once I have gotten to the register and the cashier scans my carton of eggs only to discover that one has cracked somewhere between the dairy section and the check-out line.  Without hesitation, the person bagging my groceries runs back to get me a fresh set of eggs.

You don't usually think of fast food restaurants and excellent customer service in the same sentence, unless the word NOT is present.  However, Chick-fil-A certainly surpasses all other restaurants of its kind - at least in my book.  Again, I don't know what the specific vision and mission statement of the company are, but I do know that if I walk into Chick-fil-A, I will hear the phrase, "my pleasure" said with a genuine smile at least 20-30 times in the half hour it takes us to order our food, eat our meal, have some fun in the playplace, make several trips to the bathroom, and finally head out the door.  In the 2-3 years that Chick-fil-A has been in Liberty, we have frequented the eating establishment several times, often using multiple coupons at a time to get our entire order for free.  Once, I went to get a refill on my free large pop and proceeded to dump the entire 32 ounces on the floor (trying to hold a squirmy toddler and the cup at the same time turned out to be a bad idea on my part).  Without batting an eye, glaring, sighing, or shaking his head, the manager promptly cleaned up my mess and refilled my pop - again.  When I apologized profusely and thanked him for being so kind as to use the whole roll of paper towels on my behalf, he answered, "My pleasure."  Of course.  Just as we choose to buy groceries at Hy-Vee, we eat everything chicken from none other than Chick-fil-A largely in part as a result of their superior customer service.

Back to matters of the church, though.  While the church is most definitely not a business, or at least shouldn't be, we can learn from successful companies such as Hy-Vee and Chick-fil-A who have done an excellent job of communicating the vision to the employees who then in turn live out that mission each day at work, earning the respect, loyalty, and money of customers like our family.  And so, our pastor shared the leadership's vision for our DC community/family.  This way, everyone can be on the same page, working together towards a common goal, and hopefully be more effective in accomplishing what we believe God has called us to do throughout 2013.

With that being said, our pastor finally introduced our theme for the year: DISCIPLE.  

The foundational passage for this vision comes from Jesus' extremely familiar statement in Matthew 28.  These were, in fact, Jesus' last words here on earth before ascending into heaven.  Therefore, I am quite certain they were of utmost importance for His disciples then -- many of whom died, giving their lives to fulfill this great commission.  I am also absolutely positive His words are just as crucial for believers today, who are committed to loving Jesus passionately and living boldly for Jesus all these thousands of years later.

Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, 
going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  
When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!
Jesus came and told his disciples, 
"I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.  
Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations
baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  
Teach these new disciples 
to obey all the commands I have given you
And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I love how Pastor Michael and the leadership at DC have the same vision for our church as Lawrence and I have for our lives right now.  He must have read my blog.  :)  

Or, much more likely, God is at work and doing something really cool.  He's pretty good at that.  

In the summer of 2011, after coming home from Ponca, where we witnessed God work in amazing ways in the lives of the boys and girls from Liberty, we were burdened with the need to DISCIPLE these kids now that they were back home.  Many of them had learned about Jesus for the very first time while at camp; others have grown up going to church but made a first-time commitment to truly live for Him at home, in school, everywhere.  Ponca is just one week out of the year.  That "camp high" can only carry them so far.  What happens come September, October when the fire is starting to burn out, when they face opposition, when they get frustrated or discouraged or have questions?  Who is going to come alongside them and teach them, encourage them, answer their questions, and walk with them to help grow in their faith so they can keep standing firm in doing what's right no matter what anyone says about them?  Who is going to mentor them?   Who is going to DISCIPLE them?

God started to whisper in our ears, "Maybe you should think about doing that."

Last summer, when around 100 boys and girls from the Liberty area made the six-hour bus ride to Ponca Bible camp over the course of 6 weeks, we felt the urgency for this need for discipleship increase all the more.  God was done whispering.  Now, He was shouting.  Screaming in our faces, "YOU!  YOU!  YOU!  Yes, YOU!  Go and make DISCIPLES!"  Like Jillian Michaels, Bob Harper, and Dolvett Quince keep on their team members on the show Biggest Loser, at times quite aggressively, God didn't back down from the vision He was instilling in our hearts and minds.  He wouldn't let it go.  He was serious.  He meant business.  He told us again and again, in several different ways, "The harvest is ripe.  And I am sending YOU out into the fields.  Now.  Go.  Make DISCIPLES.  Train up these boys and girls to KNOW Me, to LOVE Me passionately, and to live boldly for Me, making ME known in their families, in their neighborhoods, in their schools, in their churches."

It was as if God had taken the mission statement of Ponca, "To know Jesus personally and make Him known," and grown that vision in our hearts to reach the kids (and their families) here in our community.  Every single day of the year, not just one week at a time when we invite them to spend 6-7 days at Ponca.  Besides, as Lawrence's former students grow up and go to different weeks of camp, we can't possibly be at camp with each and every one of them.  As much as we would love that, having 2 small children doesn't really allow us that privilege or luxury.  And so, we set aside the last two weeks of July to serve at Ponca so that we can be with the newest "recruits," those students who are going to camp for the first time.  Not only does this help the kids feel safe and comfortable as many of them are away from home for a substantial amount of time for the first time, it also alleviates the fears and concerns of the parents who are nervous to put their kids on a bus that will take their "babies" six hours away, with no real opportunity to even talk to their son or daughter on the phone for the next week.

As God's vision for us became clearer and clearer, we couldn't ignore what God was calling us to do.  With much excitement and anticipation, mingled with fear and uncertainty, we put our house on the market so we could move into the area where Lawrence teaches school.  We strongly believe that as we interact with his students, their friends, and other kids in the community, we will be able to introduce these boys and girls to Jesus, mentor and DISCIPLE those who have already trusted Him as their Savior, and thus make an eternal impact in their lives and everyone who comes into contact with them as they in turn "make Jesus known."  Or as Jesus put it, "go and make disciples."

While we have been able to take some of our ideas from paper and make them a reality -- like the Ponca and Beyond Bible study we have started for 4th-6th graders -- we envision so much more that we can do only as we live in and among and beside these kiddos and their families.  We are definitely excited to see God work through the Bible study, as new boys and girls are coming almost every week, but at the same time our hearts are heavy with the needs that we simply cannot meet at this point and time.  And so we keep on praying.  Praying for God to work and bring about a buyer for our house.  Praying for an opportunity to buy a new house in the Kellybrook area, in just the right location, and at just the right price.  

Waiting is hard, to say the least.  We cannot, however, ignore the vision God has given us.  As I said in my previous blog post, we will "fix our eyes on Jesus," believing that He is guiding and directing our each and every step.  We will "run with endurance the race He has set before us."  We will "press on" until we cross the finish line.  And all along the way, we will be doing our very best to "know Jesus and make Him known."  We will be living out the Ponca vision and the mission God has laid quite heavily on our hearts.  As we are going about our daily lives, we will be striving to make disciples.  Disciples who will in turn make more disciples. 

We may not be able to see clearly now all that the journey ahead of us entails, but we are trusting God to reveal His plans to us, one day - one step - at a time.  And when we look back at everything God has done, we will sing His praises and marvel at the way He orchestrated every single tiny little detail to fall into place at the exact right time in the exact right way.  Only then we will understand what He was up to and appreciate these times of waiting, realizing how they were a necessary part of His intricate and beautiful and perfect plan all along.

As they say, "Hindsight is 20/20."

So is God-sight.

Oh Lord, may we fix our eyes on You so that we can see things they way You do.  Restore our vision.  Such that we daily live out the "great commission" Jesus gave us all those thousands of years ago.  May we "go and make disciples" today and every day!  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Trash Over Treasure

Having a mom who frequents garage sales, I am familiar with the phrase, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  This would definitely prove true for my mom, as she has bought the most random, weird, old, seemingly "trashy" things and then turned around to sell them on ebay for a substantial profit!

Sadly, my two young girls haven't quite grasped the full meaning of this trash-can-be-treasure concept.  Yes, they do, like most children, love to play with boxes.  Sometimes even more than the toy that came in the box.  When Coralyn (now 3 years old) was getting ready to celebrate her first birthday, my mother-in-law asked what she should get Coralyn for a present.  I jokingly told her, "the biggest box you have."  Low and behold, one of Coralyn's gifts at her party was an empty box.  Sure enough, she LOVED crawling in and out of it, over and over and over again.  I think it might have been her favorite present of all!

As she has grown up, Coralyn has continued to be fascinated by playing with out of the ordinary "toys."  On a daily basis, she will fill up a purse or bag or basket with random items she finds around the house.  She then attempts to lug her bag of "treasures" all over the house.  And heaven forbid, Kellah or one of the daycare boys even thinks about touching her precious loot.  Or worse yet, if I go to throw something away in the trash can before she can claim that she simply, absolutely NEEDS it.  Our "receipt" from the library telling us what books we checked out and when they are due -- well, that is obviously worth keeping, and stashing into the purse with all the other odds and ends Coralyn rounded up on that particular day.  An advertisement for hearing aides we got in the mail -- you would think it was made of gold the way Coralyn screamed that she wants it and then proceeds to stuff it in a basket full of animals, fridge magnets, wooden blocks, and a squishy ball.  And who could get rid of a deflated birthday balloon, a tag from a new pair of socks, a plastic sack from Wal-Mart, or the tiniest piece of bubble wrap?!

She was just getting started, as she informed me, "I'm ready to go to the store now."
Much to my dismay, her younger sister Kellah has followed in Coralyn's shoes.  Right now, she is sitting on the living room floor contentedly playing with a brochure and chewing its corners to smitherines.  Don't you know how nutritional paper is?

Lately, Kellah has been testing the vision in the eyes in the back of my head that every mom around the world somehow magically gets as soon as their first child is born.  If I turn my head for just a second, Kellah siezes the opportunity and will climb up on the coffee table, her sister's bed, a step ladder, or anything else she can managed to get atop.

The child is seriously going to turn my hair gray before I turn 30 in March!

Before she could climb, though, Kellah kept me busy with her disgusting affection for picking through any trash can left at her level.  I would leave her and Coralyn in one of their rooms, delighted how well they were playing together, only to find her moments later rummaging through the garbage and doing what all small children do -- putting everything she found in her mouth!  Gross!

I remember thinking this affinity for trash was odd back in the day before I had children of my own.  I was living with Jarod and Jennifer Ebenhack, who at the time had five children under the age of 7.  One of their daughters and one of their sons in particular had a habit of searching through the trash cans to see what "treasures" they could find.  Sometimes they would bring an item to Jennifer or me, asking us why in the world we had thrown it away when it was obviously such a marvelous gem of priceless value.  The worst of all discoveries was a tampon applicator that the boy showed his mom and questioned with all the innocence in the world, "What's this?"  I don't remember exactly how Jennifer explained herself out of that one, but I do know her daughter didn't hear that it wasn't a toy, or something to eat for that matter.  For not that long after, we discovered the girl sucking on a tampon applicator like it was the most delicious lollipop she'd ever had!  I just about threw up!  In my disgust, I questioned why Jennifer hadn't stressed to her children how gross and nasty and yucky playing in the trash was!

And now, 6 years later, I have two young children of my own.  One of whom hoards trash like it's treasure, and the other of whom eats the trash like its a fancy delicacy.  Jennifer, I am sorry I judged you.  And your children.  Please don't judge me, or my girls.  Remember, that story could be part of a book that one day makes us rich!  ;)

Why, oh why, do children insist on playing with trash when they have literally a hundred toys in front of them?  What makes scraps of paper more appealing than a brand new Build-a-Bear?  Who else besides a young child would choose to suck on a popped balloon when given the chance to push around toy cars?  And what attracts children to muddy boots or entices them to taste every single pair of shoes your family owns?

Thankfully, Kellah has turned her attention to things besides our trash can (and I have learned to empty the trash cans every day).  As of late, Kellah's favorite toys are the tupperware containers and lids I keep in the bottom kitchen cabinets.  Despite our efforts to child-lock the doors, Kellah has discovered how to open them with ease.  She then proceeds to take out every single one of the containers, and their lids, scattering them across the kitchen floor such that I have to watch my every step so as not to crush anything.  Once the cabinet is empty, Kellah finds great joy in climbing into the cupboard herself and playing with the food processor, blender, and crockpots that are too  heavy for her to remove.  If she can't move them out of her way, why not just chew on the electrical cords?

Speaking of which, the child also seems to be drawn to electrical outlets like a magnet is to metal.  You would think I abused the girl the way she screams and cries and gives you the most pitiful look possible when I tell her NO and try to get her to play with something besides the electrical outlet.  Like the brand new toy phone she got for her birthday.  I think she is beginning to get the message that they are off limits because when she reached to put her fingers in an outlet today, I sternly told her, "NO!"  After the third time, obviously thinking this is such a fun game, Kellah pulled her hands back on her own accord and hugged them to her chest, shaking her head and then looking at me for confirmation.  Yes, my dear, you finally made a good choice in deciding NOT to put your fingers in the outlet.

She promptly made her way to the bottom of the basement stairs, attempting to climb them without any help from me.  That, of course, is so much safer!  NOT...

Kellah's lowest moment by far, at this point in her young life at least, was the other day when Lawrence and I were trying to get the house cleaned up and ready for a last minute showing.  I was working on wiping off the kitchen counters, trying to keep my eye on Kellah as she had been playing  in our master bathroom that is right off the kitchen (and our bedroom on the other side).  She wasn't pulling on the roll of toilet paper.  She wasn't chewing on a tube of toothpaste.  She wasn't sticking her hand in the toilet (like she did a couple weeks ago when my parents treated us to supper out and I took Kellah with me into the bathroom!).  I thought all was good.  She was leaving me alone and letting me get my work done.  She was being quiet.  I should have known right then and there something was wrong, terribly wrong!

My internal mommy warning hazard lights finally started flashing in my head, and I quickly put down the washcloth to go and see what trouble my daughter had gotten into this time.

Kellah was sitting between the sink and toilet, happily chewing on the toilet bowl cleaner brush!  I about lost my breakfast.

I had been wanting to write a blog post about how my girls are more inclined to play with empty boxes, scraps of paper, and tupperware containers instead of the fabulous toys readily available to them in nearly every room of our house.  God had been challenging me, pointing out that I too often choose "trash" over the treasure He so generously offers me.  Sometimes though, I don't necessarily get distracted by trash, per say, but I am still preoccupied with something of far lesser worth than what God would have for me.  Just as Kellah will play with a pair of plastic salad tongs I "accidentally" drop on the floor, knowing she will want to squirm down out of my arms so she can get to this new "toy," giving me a few minutes to prepare supper without a child on my hip.  Or I can distract Coralyn for a few moments if I let her color all over a piece of junk mail that she doesn't realize I am going to throw away when she's done.

How often do I get distracted by one of Satan's clever ploys or schemes?  Way back in the day, I read  C. S. Lewis's book Screwtape Letters, in which Satan is writing to one of his demons, discipling him in the ways of keeping Christians from being effective in God's kingdom.  One piece of advice Satan gives his mentoree is to keep believers so busy that they don't have time for God, or to convince them that they will have plenty of time to focus on God tomorrow, that whatever else is pressing them at the moment is far more important than God.

I guess I fell prey to this trick myself as I just now "found time" to sit down and write this blog post.  It took my daughter chewing on a toilet bowl brush to get me here!

As gross and disgusting and nasty as that was, I have to admit that I am spiritually guilty of doing the same thing.  But I don't want to be that way.  Most certainly not!  So, what can I do?  How can I change?

God keeps bringing me back to the well-known passage in Hebrews,
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, 
let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. 
And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.  
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."

If my eyes are on Jesus, I can't get distracted by empty boxes.  Or tupperware containers.  Or scraps of paper.  Or junk mail.  Or popped balloons.  

If my eyes are on Jesus, I won't be digging through the trash.  And I certainly won't be caught chewing on a toilet bowl brush.

Instead, I will experience life like never before.  I will open myself up to the "glorious riches" God makes available to me (Philippians 4:19).  I will be blown away by all that God does in and through me, so much more than I can ever dare to dream (Ephesians 3:20). 

We just began this new year and are probably hearing all about various resolutions people have made.  Well, I personally have only one overarching goal for 2013: to keep my eyes on Jesus.  I think if I do that, then everything else will fall into place.

As the apostle Paul so aptly wrote thousands of years ago (without ever having children of his own who dug through his trash cans or played with toilet bowl brushes to help him make this connection), 
Yes, everything else is worthless 
when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. 
For his sake I have discarded everything else, 
counting it all as garbage, 
so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. 

I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things 
or that I have already reached perfection. 
But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. 
No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it,
but I focus on this one thing: 
Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 
I press on to reach the end of the race 
and receive the heavenly prize 
for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

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