Reflections on Reading the Bible in a Year


 I wish my Bible reading looked like an open book with a cup of coffee, but that is not the reality of my life right now. I read through a reading plan on YouVersion called “As it Happened” so I could always read it with a baby on my lap or listen to it on the go.

I wish my Bible reading looked like an open book with a cup of coffee, but that is not the reality of my life right now. I read through a reading plan on YouVersion called “As it Happened” so I could always read it with a baby on my lap or listen to it on the go.

I just finished day 365 of reading chronologically through the Bible as a part of a city wide vision this year to dwell richly in God’s Word. I say this with no pride because I have tried to do this almost every year I have been able to read😅 I started writing this as an Instagram post and realized quickly it would not suffice for how many words I actually had to say on the subject. As I’ve been reflecting on this journey, here are some things that come to mind on why this year I’ve come to the end. These don’t necessarily apply just to reading chronologically, but to opening the Word at all.


1) Guilt is a cruel motivator. I had a chronic habit of starting and failing the whole Bible program every year, and feeling terribly about it because it just seemed like the right thing my perfectionist self should do. And every time I failed, shame twisted itself around my heart. There would be thoughts of “I’ve been a Christian for HOW long? I’ve been attending Christian school for HOW LONG? I have a Bible minor and STILL?” So what is different now? Now it is a delight and a joy for me to read my Bible and I’m eager to do it. It is no chore for me anymore but essential to my every day life. I do it just as I drink water or I go to sleep at night. I need the Bible because I need the God who chose it to be a gift to me. When I became a mother, God really started to uproot my self-sufficiency, and give me freedom from shame and guilt along with it. This is but one example of the many testimonies He has given me in the last four years. I praise Him for it! Please, brothers and sisters, do not read the Bible out of guilt or shame. Read the Bible to be freed from it.

DO NOT say “If she did it, why can’t I?” I want you to look at my life and know for sure if a pregnant mother with three kids, three and under did the whole reading plan start to finish, than surely God can do this for anyone. I also want you to look at my chaotic, almost unchained, hanging by a thread life and realize there MUST be something in there worth prioritizing and sacrificing for. I think Satan would much rather we look to ourselves or at each other than look to our the glorious, gracious, and loving Father.

2) God is worthy. He is worthy of my time, my mind, and my focus, what precious little is left of that. The truth is, in this world, not much else is worthy of those three things. But God FOR SURE is.


3) There will never be enough Bible for me because I will never master God, who is the master of me. So today as I get to the end of this journey, I’m just excited to have more time to dig into 123 John, my next Bible study. The more the more, the less the less. The more I see God in the Word, the more I want to see Him there. And the more I realize how much more I have to learn.


4) The big picture matters. I understand the Bible as a whole more, and that has helped me tremendously. Before I tried to read to get a better idea of the big picture. This time I read with that understanding from the get go. As I’ve studied in various groups over the past few years, we’ve focused together much on the metanarrative of the Bible at the beginning of each individual study. So now reading I have a general understanding of how it fits in the grand story, even if I don’t understand all the details. When I tried to read the Old Testament before, I literally had no clue what was happening or how it connected to Jesus, who brought me to this faith in the first place.


5)Community is key. Dayton Women in the Word was my main source for this community with #dwitw365 initiative. We were simply never meant to do this alone and what a joy to learn about Jesus with other believers! In addition, I’m an extremely relational soul. God created me to learn and grow with others. My favorite was talking over the readings over with my husband and cheering each other on along the way. I often had questions for him when I came to passages that were difficult or that I had never hear of before! If you do this, grab a buddy or ten or twenty!


6) If you are struggling to do it, maybe you should lead it. That’s me 100%. I think God knew I needed a higher level of accountability, so He called me to lead a team of writers through this process to read from start to finish. Sometimes to do the thing, you have to be the initiator. Or a least someone willing to say yes to God’s initiation.


7) Don’t expect every day to be an “ah-ha” lightbulb moment. But do expect change. I know that it is more about letting the Word work on me instead of me working on the Word. I did not have grand revelations every day but it was more than enough to spend time with Jesus. I trust that if He put those words in the Bible, they are for me to read. When we read the Bible to learn about God, we are not trying to tailor every verse to apply to our current life. We are trying to become like the author of the Book, to think and love and give the way He does. But let me tell you, when you read the Word, it is dangerous. He WILL call you to be a doer of the Word and I can’t tell you how many convictions from this year have led to what life looks like today and will impact me and my family for the rest of my days.

One baby up. Have to go. May you dwell richly always, my dear friend.

The Best and Worst Graduation Day

Yesterday was a day for the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I didn't sleep last night. It is much too early.

Some stories just have to be told.

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I'll cut to the chase. Yesterday morning, my husband graduated with a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Dayton. In the evening, while we were celebrating at a delightful dinner at one of our favorites, Wheat Penny, our Prius was completely totaled while it was parked in meter parking by a distracted driver.

Here is the real story. Over a year ago now, maybe two, we decided to give our third vehicle, our little ford focus, to my brother in law Silas to help him get through school. I don't tell you that to brag. It was definitely in need of repairs and we simply did not need it at the time. It was an extra in case something happened to ours or someone needed it in our community. God has been teaching us that we have "all things in common" (Acts 2:44) and that we "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). 

A few months ago, we found ourselves in the same such need as Silas was. Our Prius was in need of a 2000 dollar repair. We had started saving for a mini van at the time, but was nowhere close to buying one. In the past year, we have been praying through the question of whether or not to grow our family via adoption. Long story short, this fall, an organization called Safe Families got our attention. It is a Christian organization committed to Biblical hospitality for vulnerable families. Unexpectedly, God led us to this organization and we prayerfully gave it a yes!

We submitted our application to become a host family this past week. We knew that we didn't have a car yet to be able hold more children, but felt like God was calling us to be obedient to just start the process. This past week Tim and I have been brainstorming ways to make our house more usable for safe families. Longer table? More beds? We keep feeling like we should have more or be different somehow to be used by God in this area.

Back to the transportation issue. The van has always been the biggest need. If we bought one with the savings we had at the time of our Prius breaking down, it would have to be very used. We may very well be in a broken down situation in another year. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Pay 2000 dollars for a car we wouldn't be using soon but needed NOW or buy a risky van? Not a good choice to have to make.

As I wrote in October, two different couple friends of ours from our church lent us their vehicles to get us through Tim's dissertation so he would be able to fix our Prius on his own, pay for the part and not the labor, giving us more time with the Prius and more time to save for a better mini van. We feel very confident that if there is another way to get from here to there without going into debt, that this is the way God would have our family to go. So we estimated with our rate of savings, we would be able to buy a slightly used, stable van by Christmas of next year. We have been driving around the Herr's station wagon for the better part of two months now. We submitted our host family application knowing for certain that God's timing is perfect, and that the body of Christ loves to provide what we lack.

I think God intended it this way so we wouldn't get prideful or play the hero. Orphan care is a job for everyone in the church. If I have the house and someone else has the car, who am I to say what God has given me is wrong or not enough or rob another from playing their role as I play mine? I'm not God, and our car situation has proven that to me time and time again. Even as we accept the title of PhD in our family, God humbles us by taking away a vehicle that we came to depend upon, perhaps to remind us that these earthly securities are nothing if we are not secure first and foremost in our Savior. They are nothing but gifts. He is the Giver, and oh how good He is to us! He gives us gifts, each other, purpose, but most importantly, HIMSELF!

 My love in all his PhD jingles and jangles!

My love in all his PhD jingles and jangles!

The Prius was finally fixed on Friday and we drove it to graduation yesterday morning. In the afternoon, Tim drove all around town with his dad trying to find an open car wash place to give the Herr's wagon back to them in pristine condition (they don't care about this, but we do.) We returned it, and took our car out to Tim's celebratory dinner. Tim couldn't find a parking spot in the lot, so he dropped the boys and I off at the door and found a metered spot on Wayne Avenue.

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While we were finishing up, the restaurant hostess, sweet Lainie, came over to ask if we had a Prius. Immediately I thought, "Oh no, we must have got a ticket or got towed!" But she told us just to turn around and look behind us through the window. There was our car, obliterated from behind and catapulted into the parked car in front of us, sandwiched from behind by the offending car. In Titus' words, it was "SMASHED CRASHED!" The driver was not under the influence of any substances that we know of, but was simply distracted. We thank God  that neither him or the woman and their child in the car with him were injured. And we thank God that we were safe inside the entire time.

We were all sort of in a state of shock at the restaurant. Tim was outside the whole time without his coat, working with the police and arranging for tow trucks and insurance while I stayed inside with my in-laws and the boys. There were moments I was very close to breaking down, but then Titus started to ask me what was wrong and I didn't want to scare the boys. The hostess came over to talk with me for a long time, asked me if there was anything I needed, and showed me great compassion. The manager came to tell us our meal was going to be half off, but upon hearing that it was Tim's graduation dinner, gave us the entire meal and ice cream for our kids on the house. Wheat Penny has always been a favorite for us before, but now it is THE favorite. They are so kind.

After a while, Tim's dad came back inside to take the boys and I, Mom Diane, and Lydia home, as Tim would be sorting things out with various parties for awhile. In that span of time, we put the boys to bed, and I began texting with my friends and family to tell them what happened and to process some things. I was very worried about how we would get home for Christmas. That may seem shallow after escaping what could have been a fatal accident for us, but I've been quarantined with my babies in our home for the better part of ten days now due to Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. After finishing a very rigorous PhD program, Tim and I desperately need some R&R, away with our families. I was also very sad for Tim, who had worked so hard both on the PhD and the car. I want so badly for him to have a day to celebrate and not bear the weight of the world.

Yet, I felt a peace, as I always do, when I'm reminded how all we really have in the long run is the Lord. Sometimes He gives us a position of less, so He can be more. David had a few stones with which he slew Goliath. The child in faith gave his fishes and loaves which Jesus used to feed a multitude. Mary was young and unmarried, without means to properly raise the Savior of the Universe. 

And yet.

With the Lord, all things are possible. And not only possible, but immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.

Once Tim and Dad Vincent got home, Dad and Mom Vincent sat down with us and told us they would like to give us their mini van after Christmas. In my shock and just utter bankruptcy of emotional energy, I could not quite convey the swell of gratefulness. Mom was trying to talk the gift down- there are things that are annoying, there are hubcap and tire pressure problems, a head rest doesn't stay up, but we could at least have it for this year while we save for the real deal. But all I could see is gift. All I could hear was God saying, "I am more than enough." 

I am the way, the truth, and the life.
— John 14:6

And He doesn't miss a beat. 

Most likely, we will use a rental provided through our insurance to get to Christmas next week in Michigan. I trust, as He has CLEARLY been in control the entire time, He has a plan for both the large and big details in the days ahead.

I write this to encourage you all. You may not think you have much to give. You may see only the obstacles in your way. You may be asking God a lot of why or how questions. 

I'm reminded of Titus' "I" Bible verse this week. We have been working through verse ABC's, one verse for each letter of the alphabet. This week was "I am the way, the truth, and the life." 

He is everything. When you have Jesus, you truly have it all. It definitely won't be the way you think it would be. No, but it will be better. 

As Karen Holdeman reminded us on the DWITW podcast last week, God works all things for good in order to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Perhaps my greatest hope in this whole ordeal is that God is using it to conform us to the image of His Son, that others may see the undeniable hope of Jesus within us. As so many are in need of our Savior, I pray He will use us like He used the star to lead the wise men and the angels to tell the shepherds.

Use us as your beacons, Lord. We are so willing, and you are so ABLE!

It is too much, O Lord! It is too much for me. If it please You, give these kinds of favors and consolations to sinners and to the people who don’t know You, in order to attract them to Your service. As for me, who has the happiness of knowing You by faith, I think that must be sufficient. Still, because I should not refuse anything from a hand so rich and generous as yours, I accept, O my God, the favors You give me. Yet grant if it please You, that after having received them, I may return them just as You gave them to me; for You well know that it is not Your gifts that I seek and desire, but Yourself, and I can be content with nothing less.
— The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

 

 

Ethel's Umbrella

Over the past month, we have been out one car. Our Prius' fancy feet tripped over themselves. So like many car sagas past, it sits in our garage waiting for it's kinsmen redeemer.

That redeemer would be Tim Vincent. Tim is the handiest of guys, and he's just been a little busy finishing his thesis, or else it would've been fixed ages ago. So for the past month or so, we've been dependent on the kindness of the body of Christ. 

The first week we borrowed Becky and Aaron's vehicle, "Ethel." Becky reached out to me after hearing about our unique situation and asked if we would like to use it, no charge, no time limit. Her only request was that if it rained, we were to take the umbrella purposefully placed in Ethel's front seat and give it to someone who needs it. 

You know I can't for the life of me remember the car's make or model or even what color it is, but I will always remember that umbrella.

Not only were they providing for us when we were in need, they were providing something for us to provide for someone else in need. They were giving us two gifts in one, a gift for us and a gift to give away. So in this way, they had premeditated two gifts to give, without knowing the details of who or when or why. They told us they've been blessed in this way before, with God always providing for them from the body.

They had been given some umbrellas in their lifetime. Now they were our umbrella. And now they were giving us the ability to be the umbrella for someone else. 

Becky and Aaron's family has grown to a family of six as they've adopted twice in the past few years, and recently they've been waiting for God to provide a buyer for their home. In them, I see the trust that God will provide just the resources they need when they need it from whom they need it. And they display the trust to be able to give to others while they are still waiting on God to provide for them. They've seen him do it time and time again, so it there really wasn't a second thought. 

They've been so well loved, they can love others well. And teach those they love to love others well too. Their love reaches beyond themselves, and even beyond the first ripple of those they choose to love. 

God's love is far reaching through Becky and Aaron. 

And what gets me about these two is how joyfully expectant they are that God would show His love through them. 

God's love is not a one and done deal. It is so abundant we could never keep it to ourselves.

It is all too much.

Becky and Aaron are too much. Their kids are too much. Their hearts are too much. The car and the umbrella, it is too much. 

When God has given you "too much," you can't really help it. You've got to be too much and show others how to be too much. 

This is what it means when God said He came to give us life and life to the full

To my great disappointment, I never did get to give Ethel's umbrella away. It was a very dry September week. But since that week, I've been looking for ways that people purposefully set aside what they've been given to be generous to others. The lady with an extra quarter at Aldi. The person who writes in their schedule "time to serve" every Friday afternoon, not knowing how God will have them serve during those hours, but joyfully expectant He would fill the time every week. The sister who makes an extra freezer meal for the person who will need it. The church that sets aside funds because they know well this fallen world will catch someone by surprise this year. The person who buys an extra pack of diapers for the Women's Center. 

But still, I've never seen quite the gift of giving twice that Becky and Aaron have so nonchalantly exemplified. They are truly gifted in giving.

We don't have to know the details of when or who or why, but in joyful expectancy, we can set aside the too much of God's love for us to give away to someone else who can then, in turn, give it away too. 

Like pay it forward? But Jesus already paid it all, and then gave us a cup that overfloweth. He gave us some Ethels and Ethel umbrellas and sweet people like Becky and Aaron to show you the simple no nonsense, no strings attached fact of Christ's love for us.

Since that week, we've been using our best friends and neighbors Nick and Natalie's car. They are the usual suspects of this lesson in my life. And I'm still a little embarrassed to be on the receiving end even though they would roll their eyes to hear it.

But I don't have to wait to be the giver. This kind of giving? It's quite contagious. 

So I am asking God, what can I set aside? What can I decide ahead of time? How can I give your love away, and then some? I want to be a Becky, Aaron, Nick, and Natalie. I want an Ethel and an Ethel's umbrella of my own.

God's love made manifest in us, through us, beyond us. Let us love not just with words, but with actions and in truth, joyfully expectant that your love will show up and reach beyond our wildest dreams.

Phlebotomy and The Secret Places

What do you do when you get a shot or blood work done? Do you look away and sing Beyonce and play candy crush and pretend you are ANYWHERE else but in that Phlebotomist's chair?

In my pregnancies, I got SO MANY labs. It never got easier for me. I would force small talk on the poor blood drawer because I was DESPERATE to avoid in my head what my body needed. And you bet I never looked. Suddenly the screensaver on the computer became the most fascinating thing my eyes ever beheld. And you bet I got a Panera Mango Smoothie after that because lollipops are old school. I know, I'm such a wimp. I can only imagine how my friends with diabetes do it. Ya'll are seriously my heroes. 

I can't stand to look many places where blood is being drawn, even if that pain is causing great Gospel things to happen in my life. These blood draws, these trials, these tests. Tests of my faith. Tests for my good, to give evidence to the truth that my blood is really now covered in Jesus' blood. I am redeemed! I am free! And now? I am changing.

But the point is this, we have to look. What area of your life are you avoiding? What area is off the table for God to change because you are too afraid to go there? There is a point where it is unavoidable, where we have to look. God just has to lead us there, because we would never go on our own accord. He often focuses our attention by taking away all the other places our eyes could wander. 

He gave me a viser and binoculars when I was far away and a microscope when I was close up. God pointed me to my own own heart. He lovingly guided me to take a look at my secret places.

Over the past several weeks, I've lost many things, things that buffer me from the worst parts myself. These are common first world reliances: wallet, phone, car, health. When I have my wallet, I can rely on my money to buy me the comforts of groceries and coffee and babysitting. When I have my car, I can drive to the places that keep my kids entertained for a few hours. When I have my health, I can rely on my abnormally high charisma, my zest for life. When I have my phone, I can escape to all the people doing all the things all the time.

You see at first, when I recognized what was going on, I thought, Oh fantastic! Now God is for sure working on my marriage and motherhood, as that is what is still left when all the other factors are taken away. And certainly He did, in fantastic ways. There is a peace about my home that has been lacking for a little while.

But really it is deeper.

It is the mouse poop and graham cracker infestations in my heart that He wants to work. The crumbs still lingering on our inward storage systems. You see, the Gospel is power. The saving work of Jesus Christ? It is a one and done deal for our redemption, yes. But our sanctification? The gospel of Jesus Christ is for me NOW. It is working to change me NOW. My heart is God's. And He will have it for His glory. So He will change me. And that will be hard. Because I'm going to have to look. 

And look again. And look harder. 

I will have to ask God to show me my sin in the secret places. 

And I will find abundant evidence to the power of Jesus Christ over those same places. 

And I will find the resources I need to change by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

The Bible calls this the circumcision of the heart. God will change us, everywhere, starting on the inside and working His way out. It will be tender and personal. And this cutting away in the secret, this refining, allows us to love the Lord with reckless abandon. Nothing will stand between us and our beloved. 

And the Lord you God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
— Deuteronomy 30:6

I'm so thankful for the past several months of spiritual blood tests. I'm grateful to have seen my heart's sinful condition, and the power of the Jesus Christ to not only declare me righteous past, present, and future, but change my heart as well. He has taken away my heart's barriers and distractions and reclaimed my heart for Himself. He is helping me to love Him with everything in me, and with a love that is beyond me. 

He is causing me to live. 

So I say, Amen Lord! Leave no table unturned. Thank you for helping me to look, and to find your simultaneous covering and changing love. And help me to look at my sin when it is easier to look elsewhere. Because I know now, I am a new creation! The old has passed and the new has come, starting in the most secret place, and what I pray will be also my most holy place.

The Dishwasher: Resilience in the Life of a Believer

When I was in sixth grade, I had a bedtime ritual that included two keys. One unlocked my American Girl Diary and one cranked my palate expander. Have you heard of these torture contraptions they call "orthodonture?" Expanders actually break your jaw and reshape it to correct its improper proportions. They cause your front teeth to separate and then you get braces to bring your wayward teeth back to the promise land.

Nevermind my school picture happened at the exact time the space between my front teeth was the widest. I'll never forget how traumatizing eating a simple cheeseburger became. The slurping, the sucking, and the struggle.

And the lisp. Let's just not talk about that part.

I just want to hug that girl.

When I was nineteen years old, I was sitting at my fiction creative writing workshop in college. Workshops are palate expanders for writers. It is painful, and you have to willingly crank it every day, knowing it will turn your once awkward teenage words into crisp manuscripts. You absolutely hate to need the feedback, but there is no way around the power of sitting at that table. If you can swallow it, listen, and come out the other side, you might just be an author. Or at least a humbler human being. And the latter is definitely the greater gift.

And then someday you might be able to sit across from someone else and be the person giving the feedback. Wiping the cheeseburger drool caused by their unfortunate orthodontic apparatus. 

You see, I had written a work about a dishwasher.

No, I lie.

I wrote a story from the perspective of a dishwasher. And I don't mean a person washing dishes. 

I wrote a story from the perspective of a common household kitchen appliance.

Yeah. Bad. Very, very bad.

I can laugh about it now. And no doubt my writing prof is still laughing about it.

That day in workshop was brutal. 

I wish I could tell you that I got over it right away, but I never did finish my creative writing minor. I can tell you that I just didn't have time to make all the work happen in the two years I rushed through college, but now I wish I would have fought for it, even if it meant admitting I was an average writer at best.

Even if I am one now, I understand the power of being evaluated, being found wanting, and coming back to the table anyway. 

Because the work you do is absolutely bigger than your failures. And it is always, ALWAYS, better because of them. And when you realize, like I am, that your works are never who you are, what can save you, that all is faith, all is grace, then you absolutely have nothing to lose because you have nothing to stand on in the first place. Romans 1-3 has a way of killing your ego and freeing you from it all at the same time.

Next week I will be presenting my ideas for the Dayton Women in the Word podcast and blog to our team at our vision casting meeting for 2018. And it has me thinking about that dishwasher. It has me thinking about that workshop table. I'm never going to willingly crank the expander, or bring my imperfect ideas and unfinished work to the table. 

But this is the best place right? When being faithful to what Christ has done and will do is more important than you.  When you ask God to crucify your ego so that YOU are not a barrier to what He wants to accomplish through your life.

When you fully trust that your ashes, past, present or future, are not your enemy because God is a beauty from ashes kind of God. And it is all beyond you anyway.

When I was 21 year old newlywed, I stabbed myself in the hand pitting an avocado while trying to set two of my friends up. Both endeavors were complete failures. But that is a story for another day, another post.

Embarrassed is not a strong enough word. For the expander. For the dishwasher. For the 11 stitches in my hand and the husband unbuttoning my jeans when I had to pee.

I won't ever forget what my granddaddy told me after the avocado tragedy of 2010. "The only people who never hurt themselves in the kitchen are those who never learn to cook."

So now when I look at my scar, I think of him saying that. And I think of all the guacamole that could have been lost these past 7 years on the altar of my ego.

And I think of how many compliments I receive about my smile, the smile that was crafted ages ago by palate expander cranked. And all my BFFS I had who were struggling in their own angsty sixth grade ways, but playing Polly Pockets with me anyway.

And I also think of how Tim kisses that scar and how he washed the dishes for us when I couldn't use my hand any more when I so badly wanted to impress him with my all my newlywed mad wife skills. And how many times I have said to him over the years, "Oh well, at least you love me." Because he has seen all the worst parts of me by now in the past seven years of marriage, and yet. He has shown me through his steadfast love that the love of Christ surpasses the worst thing I could ever do to the people who love and sacrifice for me the most.

Knowing and receiving the love of Christ makes me resilient.

I think resilience comes when we have "just kill me now" moments and realize we are still valued and valuable. We still belong at the table. We can still smile for the camera. And my goodness gracious, we can still make a heck of a guacamole. 

And in fact, how could we not? Are these not gifts given to us to reflect the Best, capital B, Best Author, the author of our faith, Jesus Christ? 

Bottom line, when we rejected our Savior, He died for us anyway. We all have failed in the most epic way possible. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. We are all in the same boat. We all come to God naked, unrefined, withno hope of a second chance at the table.

But Jesus handled it. He died on the cross. He took the shame of the exposure with him, too. He took that shame, and it died when He did. Because for no reason I can understand, He says we belong with him. 

That is it. We belong with God.

This a much deeper need than the needs to create, or to behold beauty, or to receive affirmation. We were created by Him, for Him. And we need to belong to Him who sees us fully, yet who loves us enough to take our sin upon Himself. And now, because of what Christ has done, He sees complete righteousness. Past. Present. And Future. Not only that, He gives us opportunities to grow closer to the vision of who He intended us to be.

And He uses all the elements of a good story to do it. And to my great humility, He uses storytellers like me to tell it. 

But you bet, however I do it, I won't be telling it from the perspective of a dishwasher. 

To start, I'm just going to sum up that for the Christ-follower, we are declared right and at the same time, He is changing us to be right. 

So. We don't have to worry about getting it all right.

And, we can release others from the pressure to get it all right, too.

Especially as we invite others to the table, let's remind ourselves, we belong to Him. 

 

When Babies Become Toddlers

I'm calling it.

This thing I've been doing? Not cutting it.

When your babies grew to become toddlers, did you feel it? The switch? The change?

What was required of me when Titus was born and what is required of me now is completely different. And the switch was so subtle and gradual that I didn't notice it until I had several days where we kind of lived in time out and when I kind of wanted an out. Have you ever felt more like a monster than a mother? Yeah, me too. Even though I know that is not the truth, that there is grace, I need something to change. And God is showing me that something is me.

Almost everything about mothering babies is physical. They need your womb. They need to nurse. They need rocked and soothed and burped and changed and five onesies a day until you give up and let them go naked because you under no circumstances are going to let your scary basement laundry become your new place of residence!

You learn how to take your fitbit off at night so that you don't have to face the reality of how little sleep you got last night. Your new best friend becomes dry shampoo and the once exorbitant everyday shower habit becomes easily an every 3, maybe even every 4 day situation. You have a love hate relationship with granola bars because you need them but just wish you could sit down and eat a full meal with something in the genus of vegetable from start to finish. You call a chiropractor for the first time in your life because you carry carry carry all the people and all the things and fall down the stairs into the baby gate that is supposed to protect your babies but that you can't stop running into.

Yes, early motherhood is the most physically challenging sport I've ever played! 

And it's crazy, but my baby grew. But then I had another one. 

And suddenly my big baby needs something different from me than my little baby. And maybe I have to admit that my big baby is really now my little boy.

And although he loves to crawl in my lap and sing songs at the end of the night and read all the books he can get away with, I realize he needs less of my physical self these days. 

He needs my soul. 

And not just a little bit of my soul, that he had long ago. In fact, I thought he had it all already, every little part! Until he put his plastic car tires down the toilet and I realized he didn't have as much of it as I thought. Truth is, he needs more than I have been willing to give him. 

And I used to think giving my babies my body was so tough, but now I see it was just a warm up. This is way harder. And I gulp to think about the years to come.

When I think about Jesus, I think about how He gave us everything, his whole life. I think about him pulling children close when others shooed them away. I think of him getting low with the least of these and asking God to forgive us because we don't know what we are doing when we reject him. 

THAT is what Titus needs from me right now. And I don't think I will be able to give it to him unless I fully, daily, see my need for this same thing from Jesus and accept it, accept HIM, myself. 

Titus needs me accepting Jesus, believing Him to do big things in my own heart, and then showing him that myself. I need to see Titus how God sees me, how God sees him! 

And I thought I did! But every time he punches his brother I can't seem to handle him anymore and I shoo him away from us. And praise God, He never forced me away from him but pursued me with his love, grace, and truth. And yes, even in His consequences! But even, no especially, in His consequences it was his kindness that led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).

My toddler needs more of me. My toddler needs my soul. Because my soul is what has been redeemed. My body will continue to fade. #mombod am I right? BUT! Hallelu! My soul is cared for daily by my Heavenly Father, creating beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

So we do not lose heart, though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
— 2 Corinthians 4:16

This morning I felt stuck in the same patterns again. I felt the out of body experience you feel when you see yourself going down a road you've been before, a discouraging dead end. The baby got us up before 5 and Tim and I took turns with him, but neither of us got back to sleep. Starting the day on low sleep with no time in God's Word, I felt like I had nothing to give. So we went to the play room, and I took my Bible study with me. Titus kept crawling on top of it, crinkling it, ripping it. I threatened time out a few times, and then just looked up and cried out loud, audibly to God for help. I told him I needed him to help me with Titus. 

When I looked back at Titus, he asked me what I was doing. I told him I was praying for God to help me not be mad and to help me to help Titus. 

And nothing seemingly changed, but then actually everything did, because I was able to show Titus my need for a Savior, every minute of every day. 

I think I need to give Titus my soul by giving God mine. And as my baby still needs me in the wee hours, it is going to show just how powerful God's grace is, as I give my children my whole self, body and soul, to show them how Jesus gave us everything. 

Moms, how do you do it?

I suppose we take it a day at a time, on our knees, crying out to God in play rooms, admitting our desperate need for Him in front of our kids, and laughing a minute later when our kid makes us "cake" out of puzzle pieces. This is Gospel parenting, and I guess I'm only just beginning to understand it, and as I do, understand the Gospel anew myself. 

Trusty Trust Falls

As soon as the key fob brings the car to life, the dashboard is yelling obscenities at me. The breaks are out again. Guess I can't drive anywhere today. Never mind I just wrestled two kids, three bags (one separate one for each human being), a lunch, and a stroller in my car. It's okay. I promise. Not gonna cry. We drive it to the dealer only to hear it will take a bajillion dollars to fix so we drive it back to our garage to live in its vegetative coma state. Okay, maybe now I'm crying.

I log online to work on some DWITW podcast show notes. Can't hear the guest on the recording. Swallow my pride and call to ask the guest to rerecord the session, rearrange the babysitter, reserve the library studio, etc. Technological difficulties, oh how I loathe you.

Tim's boss announced to him that his PhD thesis, due in November, he actually wants done RIGHT THIS SECOND. There will be no husband around until this PhD is done for good. All the plans are now canceled or we will shovel out some more cash for a sitter. Womp, womp. 

My kiddo cycles down the same behavior train every single day, no matter how I parent. And the green snot is freely falling out of the kids and myself no matter how many extra Zarbee's Natural Vitamins I've been pumping into them. The snot mocks me. 

Somewhere in there I lost my wallet, and my sanity along with it.

This is OUT OF CONTROL. 

I am OUT OF CONTROL. 

I can control nothing in my life right now. 

Thank God. Finally. 

I love this place.

And. I hate this place.

Really, I hate to need this place. But when I'm here, I'm so stinking relieved. 

You see, God knows me. He knows me more than I know myself. And He for sure knows how I struggle with control, and so, sometimes He likes to shakes things from my grip to remind me who it is that is REALLY the one in control. And he softens my death grip on things that I don't really need. He takes my hands and he places them back in His own. Because it is true, all I need is God himself. And all those things? They distance me from God when they become my god. One by one they create a wedge between us when I worship them instead of worshipping Him! He can sense when I'm starting to  grasp on to lesser loves, when I exchange the truth of God for a lie, when I don't acknowledge or honor Him (Romans 1). 

Yay God! I see what you are doing, and because you have been drawing me near, it has not taken long for me to see it. 

I REJOICE that He is taking away the stability I think I have in working cars and microphones, in perfectly arranged google calendars, in healthy bodies, and any affirmation whatsoever that my parenting is heading in a right direction. I thank God for helping me lay down my need to impress podcast guests and listeners, and confessing the idol called "the girl who has it all together." I praise Him for nailing the prideful sentiment, ahem, okay, painfully frustrated lament that may or may not have been uttered twenty times last week, "WE HAVE THIS MUCH EDUCATION BETWEEN THE TWO OF US AND YET WE CAN NOT NAIL DOWN ONE FUNCTIONING VEHICLE?!?"

Oh, my God, thank you for the growth to recognize what you are doing this time, and stop fighting it. I accept you showing me your rock solid self in this wishy washy world and to my wishy washy heart.

Because now I can lean real close again. 

What is the truth, friends? What is He showing me?

I continue to accept my weaknesses as a way to show His strength. (2 Corinthians 12:9-11) And again, His joy is my own strength. (Neh 8:10) My strength is not my own strength. And yet, I can do all through Him who gives me strength! (Philippians 4:13)

He will supply all my needs. (Philippians 4:19)

I will be anxious for NOTHING and ask Him for everything, trusting in a God whose hand and eye is upon me, in a God who fights for me. (Philippians 4:6-7, Ezra 7, Ezra 5).

And there is GREAT gain in godliness WITH contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).

THAT THOSE WHO SEEK THE LORD LACK NO GOOD THING! (Psalm 34:10b)

I will rejoice in the Lord, ALWAYS (Philippians 4:4), again and again, not just when I feel like it, not just when things are going my way, not just when God grants me good things, but now, today, in times when I am begging for a harness to catch me from the free fall of this life when He has already saved me from the miry pit! He has set me on the solid, abundant ground of his love and truth and redemption. In His presence there is FULLNESS of JOY (Psalm 16:11).

I'm finally reminded of the freedom I already have from my idols of control, schedule, routine, social standards, kid behavior determining my behavior, praise from others, Itunes reviews,  myself, and on and on and on. 

I admit my reliance is in working things over a working God! I admit my hope was in clockwork instead of His work. I admit my tinkering instead of trusting. 

Remember camp? Trust falls? That awful thing when you have to trust a stranger is going to catch you and just teeter over into their arms? I'm that girl with a lot of feelings on mean girl who is about to splat on the ground. I am in one big trust fall, and I don't believe He is going to catch me, when I have already been caught. God is not a stranger, He's my Dad. And he has the whole world in His hands.

And you know what he has given me just because He loves me? We have been given cars to use over these past few weeks. He is giving us access to a studio with better equipment for the podcast and tech workers to help record! He is humbling me before my toddler and supplying rich tissues for the great snot exodus of 2017. 

And I'm so grateful, but not because of these things, details, and people. I'm thankful for God himself. 

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!

Feeling His harness of freedom, close to me. He is close to me. As I build what He calls me to build, with my sword in one hand and getting plain busy for Jesus with the other. Learning and practicing these truths, laughing at the days ahead when I know He will pull me away yet again from these idols and closer to Him. And eager for Him to do so.

On belay.

The "ONLY JESUS" Grit

Yesterday, we rolled up our sleeves. It is time to get to work. Oh Lord, give us a mind to work.

Our city is not doing so hot. We've been in the news, mostly for the opiate crisis. We are #1 for overdosing. But my hope is that the tide is turning, thanks to the church standing together to do something about it. We are pleading with God for restoration. We hit our knees and said God, you are good and faithful and you went to the depths for us, so you will do it again. You are already doing it.

In the morning at Apex, Tim and I attended a training, the first in a three part series, to become a "recovery house church." It took me back to my psychology training. We learned all about the brain, and addiction from a neuroscience standpoint. Then we learned about how the church has typically been viewed, and what is needed now. Every person addicted to drugs needs holistic care, and that includes spiritual and social care. That is where we come in. I learned not to underestimate the power of our resources. We have much to offer, a relationship with Christ being the primary thing! And from that relationship we can offer LOVE, BELONGING, CONNECTION! When it got to this part of the training, I thought, wow, YES! We have ALL those things! Now you are speaking my language! 

And although we have spiritual and social needs, we can also help with the other ones. We can be a link to those other resources that cover needs we can't (medical, therapeutic, etc). God has been so generous to us in meeting all of our needs and now it is time to show that generosity to others in need. It reminds me of Nehemiah, when he opened up his table to 150 men every night. My table seats six, 8 if we squeeze. We have a family of four. That means, we most definitely have room at our table. I have been given MUCH love, connection, and belonging through Jesus. And the body of Christ is awesome at that! When we think about helping someone out of addiction, we don't think we have anything to offer. But everything we have is an opportunity to love. Going to the grocery store with love. Sharing a verse with love. Inviting someone to coffee with love. Listening with love. Driving to a doctors appointment with love. We don't realize that love is our biggest resource, and we have it abundantly in Jesus. 

Last night I had the privilege of gathering with many in Courthouse Square in my city, Dayton, Ohio to gather around God's Word. We did some bold things. We read an entire book of the Old Testament together. We lifted high the name of Jesus. All different churches gathered. Many denominations, ages, ethnicities. For all the ways we are different, we are united when we are praising Jesus Christ, lifting His name high, reading His Word. This felt like a slice of heaven itself.

We read through the book of Nehemiah, a narrative that we hope foreshadows what will be the narrative of Dayton. We are hoping that God restores Dayton as He did Jerusalem. We are praying that He would use us workers, equip us and help us to fight the enemy who would attempt to stop us. We want to see Dayton thriving in Jesus' name.

With one caveat. The end of Nehemiah was such a bummer. The people, despite a restored city, turn their backs on God yet again. We pray we will see the other side of the opiate crisis, children reunited with their recovering parents, whole families coming to Jesus because of His undeniable hope, those restored now turning to the work of restoring. But we don't want Him to stop in Dayton or with us, his servants who still struggle with sin. We want Him to return and restore us all in full. We want to see every nation bow down and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, no matter what their crisis, no matter what their city. 

Jesus is already in Dayton. Because He is always the first to volunteer to go to the messiest of places. Now we are just following Him and showcasing Him, shining a light on His grace and mercy and peace that He offers through His salvation. Yesterday, it was all about the body recognizing the hope we've found in Jesus and saying YES to the Lord that we will share it with those most desperate. 

So now, for the joy set before us, harnessing the Lord's joy for our strength, we get our hands dirty. Together, we seek out those who need all that God gave to us. He did not give me these gifts to keep to myself. And I take up my sword, the Word of God, truth, as I know full well how the enemy RAGES against God's work. And we build. And we fight. And we build and we fight together. 

Today, that means calling a few families who are supporting loved ones in the midst of recovery or addiction. Maybe I can love on them today. In the future, my prayer is that it will mean adopting or fostering a child, perhaps replacing a legacy of addiction and beginning a legacy of Jesus. Maybe that will mean coming alongside parents who are already trying to replace that legacy themselves. Who knows? But I do know it will be good. God is doing a new thing. 

What is God calling you to do? How is He calling you to work? Is there grit already in your fingernails? I love this sweaty, hard working, yet grace filled CHURCH that loves to build and renew and restore in such a way that people far away say, "That has got to be Jesus. There is no other way. ONLY JESUS could do something like that." That is who we are church!  We've got that ONLY JESUS grit. Let's get to work.