Monthly Archives: September 2013

When Momma Ain’t Happy

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This one’s for the moms out there, particularly the ones with young’ins currently fluttering around their nest. The ones in the trenches. The ones with spit-up in their hair and snot on their shirt. The ones like me.

Nobody understands our job except us. We feel each others pain. We know what it’s like to actually schedule our next hot shower and wonder why we waste our time mopping the floors. (I really think a clean floor actually attracts spills.  It’s kinda like washing your car; as soon as you do, it rains or a bird poops on it.)  I totally agree with whoever said, “Cleaning your house while your children are young is like shoveling the walk while it’s still snowing.”

Motherhood is by far THE HARDEST JOB I’VE EVER HAD. And I’ve had tough jobs to tackle. I’ve worked long hours. But nothing–I repeat NOTHING–could have prepared me for this. It’s 24-on…24-on. There is no off. Even when you’re sick. No personal days, no vacation time.  I’m watching this realization unfold in real-time, through a friend who just had her first baby.  She reminds me of me, the first few weeks after having my first baby.  I remember crying one day and asking Momma if I’d ever go another day in life without having someone spit-up on me.  To be honest, the sheer enormity of caring for a new little human took me by surprise. I think it takes most of us by surprise.

Sometimes, in the most beautiful ways.

Caring for my family is both the hardest and most wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It is a burden and an honor. It is also the most Christ-like thing I will ever do. It requires me to die to myself. To sacrifice. Everything. Time. Sleep. Money. My will and my wants.

It also requires me to bear the fruits of The Spirit. I MUST be Loving. Joyful. Peaceful. Patient. Kind. Good. Faithful. Gentle. Self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23).  Because when I’m not these things, life stinks for everyone.

Case in point.  Momma had three bunny figurines on a shelf when I was a kid.  One little bunny read, “When baby ain’t happy, nobody sleeps.”  The next read, “When Daddy ain’t happy, nobody cares.”  And the final bunny read, “When Momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” Amen sister-bunny! Preach it!

I’m beginning to own the fact that when I’m not happy, ain’t nobody happy.

See, we have different kinds of “pants” in our house.  We have Smarty Pants, for when you’re being brilliant and thinking  things through.  We have Happy Pants, for when you’re super-sweet and–well, happy!  Then we have Cranky Pants…you get the picture.  If I get up and put my Cranky Pants on, it seems the rest of the fam slips theirs on, too.  When I moan and complain about my endless piles of laundry or bottomless sink full of dishes, the stacks don’t get any smaller, I just feel miserable. Then my misery must need company because Daddy and the Little Bunnies usually follow my lead. Before you know it, ain’t nobody happy!  Cranky Pants for all!

Philipians 2:14 tells me, “Do everything without murmuring or complaining.” Ouch. That lil’ doozy of a verse smacks me in the face almost every day, probably because I have it hanging over the sink where I can see it…as I wash dishes.

Because I’m on the clock 24-7, I need that reminder–and others–so I literally post The Word in strategic spots around the house. 4×6 index cards are my friend. Momma taught me this trick and it’s stuck with me all these years. I honestly have no idea how anyone does this job without the power of the Holy Spirit.  He is my Source of Strength.  He is my Joy.  He is my Only Hope!

More than anything in all this world, I want my children to love God. Even more than I love Him. I want them to know Him intimately. Even better than I know Him. And I realize if that is to happen, it will be because of my consistent example of His love in their life.  Daddy is definitely important too, don’t get me wrong.  But God created mothers and fathers differently, to play different roles.  Mommas were created to nurture.  This is not something society has imposed on us; it is our God-given instinct and function.  We’re usually there for everything–therefore, we are the ones modeling God’s consistent, sacrificial love. We are the ones singing fun little songs with them, teaching them Scripture set to music.  We are the ones who hold them and kiss them after they’ve fallen.  We are the face of A Loving Savior, day in and day out.

Let’s be honest; our Cranky Pants tend to be comfy.  And whether we like it or not, we moms set the tone for our entire household.  It’s usually up to me to pick out what Pants we’re gonna wear for the day.  Yes, each person chooses their own behavior and attitude, but when I choose wrong, it’s catching.  When I choose wisely, that’s catching, too.

So let’s choose a different outfit this weekend.  If you’ve been in those Cranky Pants for a few days, take ’em off!  They probably need a washin’.  Put the whole family’s Cranky Pants in a big pile and leave ’em there.  Pull out the Happy Pants and do something fun.  Enjoy each other.    🙂

Jessie

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”  Colossians 3:12, 14

Just Go With It

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While cleaning the toilet the other day, I had a thought. Remember, this blog is written by REAL women about REAL life, so yes, I was down on both knees scrubbing the base of the toilet. You know, that underneath part nobody thinks about except those of us who have the honor of cleaning it? Well I was in that territory when I realized that as a mom, I literally spend several moments of time on my knees every day.

Cleaning toilets and wiping spills. Picking up puzzle pieces or other small toys. Tying shoe laces. Cleaning up “puppy ‘prises”.  Looking in the far reaches of cabinets for missing items. Pulling weeds. Okay…I don’t do that last one nearly as much as I should but it does require me to get on my knees nonetheless. And then it hit me: My job description as a mother REQUIRES me to get on my knees regularly.

If I’m going to do this job well, if my home is going to run efficiently or even—dare I say—be somewhat tidy, then I must be willing to get on my knees daily and as often as necessary.

It’s the same for my spiritual tidiness. If my marriage, children, home, friends, ministry–whatever I do–is going to be tended to properly, then I must get on my knees before the Throne of God and seek His assistance. I desperately need His counsel and wisdom. On my own, I don’t get very far. I’ve tried. I need supernatural help to make it through the day.

(You should know, I’ve long said that it takes three things to get my day going AND make me tolerable to the world around me: Jesus. Coffee. Makeup. Leave out even one of those three and it ain’t pretty.)

I’m currently reading Kingdom Woman by Dr. Tony Evans and his daughter, Chrystal Evans Hurst. In the first chapter she gives a great idea for starting each day.

“Each morning, lie in bed for one purposeful moment…stretch your arms toward heaven, and offer yourself to The Lord, inviting Him to show you the most important thing on His list for you to get done today. Let Him know you are willing to be INTERRUPTED, willing to be DERAILED, and willing to be SURPRISED if He sees fit. Then, get up and walk in the knowledge that your day belongs to The Lord.” 

This struck my heart because I tend to be a bit of a planner. Alright, fine!  The honest-to-goodness truth is that my husband and my mom will tell you I am The Control Freak and that I make lists about the lists I need to make.  And I’m one of those obnoxious list-checkers because I enjoy when I get to “check!” things off.  (Did ya hear it? If so, you may be one, too.)

If my plans get “derailed” or if I’m “surprised” with a change, I tend to get down right mean. And I hate to be “interrupted.” Seriously. I have a need to finish something once I start it. And if I don’t get to, I usually make whoever it was that did the interrupting pay.

This should help you better understand my current life motto: Just Go With It.  (Hey, at least I’m trying.)

Thankfully, Becoming a mother has caused me to ease up on my planning and lists just a tad. I mean, who can really predict exactly what an infant or toddler will do?

I’ve learned nothing on my agenda is so important that I am willing to sacrifice precious moments with my children or the chance to further The Kingdom, just for the sake of getting It All done.

Becoming a mother has also caused me to reevaluate my prayer life. For a worry-wort like me, praying for my family, their safety and salvation comes as naturally as breathing. I pray for them daily, constantly. That’s like a no-brainer.  And I pray for my day, but I usually ask The Lord to come along with me and my plans.

Shouldn’t that be the other way around? Shouldn’t I find out what He has planned for the day and then join Him?

And what about my attitude? My priorities? My to-do list? My time management ability? My impatience with interruptions and my frustration with sudden changes? I can be a handful, so I must find myself on my knees before The Lord several times a day, as often as needed, or my entire day will be a hot mess.

Like yours, my days are so incredibly busy. So much to do with so little stinkin’ time to do it. And I just need to Get. The Stuff. Done.  So join me this morning as I attempt to allow God to set my agenda for the day and clean up my act in His throne room. Even if the porcelain in my house doesn’t sparkle, may my heart be clean and my spirit ready to Just Go With It, whatever “it” is He sees fit to put on my schedule.

Jessie

“Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

12 Years Ago Today

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I wasn’t going to write today.  I felt my memories of 9/11/01 probably weren’t much different from yours or anyone else.  But then the Holy Spirit reminded me, not of what I was doing twelve years ago today, but of who I was twelve years ago today.

Twelve years ago today my life was very different.  I was a newlywed wife of two years, living in a small one bedroom apartment with my handsome new husband.  Twelve years ago today, I was going to my second day of my first “real” job since completing undergrad the previous spring.  Twelve years ago today, I was still reminiscing about my first foreign mission trip I had just taken that summer, to Minsk, Belarus.  Twelve years ago today, I was living in fear.

This had been a season of lessons on fear and faith for me, and the events of 9/11/01 propelled me into a realm of fear I never saw coming.   Although I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 9, I always struggled with fear and doubt.  When I was 12, at GMA camp in Gary, TX, I heard an older teen girl’s testimony that made me truly reevaluate my salvation and relationship with the Lord.  I clearly remember that night, asking my mom if we had some sort of “certificate” or documentation proving I was saved and going to heaven.  Of course we didn’t, so Momma shared the Gospel with me again and explained to me the assurance I have in Christ.  I sorta got it, but not really.  I knew I was saved, but I feared I could lose it, I guess.

From that point on, I knew my faith in Jesus was what saved me, but I still feared I hadn’t done it right.  It drove me crazy that I didn’t know the exact calendar date that I was saved.  I knew where I was and remembered how it happened, remembered I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1988, but that was it.  All I knew for sure was that when Jesus returned, I did not want to be left behind.  And I have an embarrassing confession:  Sometimes, when I couldn’t find anyone around the house, I would panic, fearing the Rapture had occurred and I had been left behind.  Don’t laugh!  I’ve talked to others who’ve done the very same thing!  Maybe you have, too?  Anyway, even though I attended church every time the doors were open, even though I was considered a “good Christian girl” by everyone at school, even though I was actively serving Christ through the GMA (Girls Missionary Auxiliary), I lived in fear that my salvation wasn’t real.

Fast-forward 10 years from that point and you’re at 9/11/01.  Yep.  Still fearful.  Still trying to find some way to increase my faith and let go of the fear.  Reminding myself multiple times a day that God had not given me a “spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7).  The attack on our nation that fateful day revealed that, though I had made huge strides in handling my fears, I still had a long way to go.  That mission trip I mentioned?  Let’s just say that if it hadn’t been for my husband’s determination to go, I would have stayed home.  But, there was NO WAY the Love of my Life was gonna get on a plane and fly halfway around the world without me, much less be apart from me for 14 consecutive days.  That just wasn’t an option.  So, I reluctantly agreed to go.  It was–without a doubt–The Thing I needed to boost my faith in Christ.  Had I not taken that trip and experienced the provision and protection of my Lord, I can truly say 9/11/01 would have been even more terrifying for me.

Twelve years down the road, I can look back and see how incredibly gracious God has been.  I can see how He’s grown me in ways I had no idea I even needed to.  He used my fearfulness to draw me to Himself.  In the days and months that followed 9/11, I began to seek Him, as did many Americans.  We can all remember the sight of our congress men and women praying, seeing our local churches filled, and the kindness and love we suddenly had toward one another.  But I wanted to get the heck outta Dodge, so to speak.  I wanted to be free from the grip of fear and doubt.  I wanted to truly live the abundant life promised to me in John 10:10.  I prayed about it constantly.  I dug into His Word and began to really read it for myself.  I began to ask questions of Him and actually get answers as I read.

I wish I could tell you that it only took a few weeks or months before I was free.  It didn’t.  It was a few years later that I finally got it.  And it wasn’t like an “aha!” moment, either.  It came with time.  It came with communication through prayer and Bible study.  It came with an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The more I understood the covenant between God the Father and God the Son, the more I realized that my salvation was not about Me.  It wasn’t about what I had done, what prayer I prayed, what works of service I had given.  It was about the promise made by The Father to The Son.  Sweet freedom at last!  God graciously showed me that, in order for me to NOT be saved, He would have to renege on His acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Romans 3:25 (TLB) tells us, “For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God’s anger against us.  He used Christ’s blood and our faith as the means of saving us from His wrath.  In this way He was being entirely fair, even though He did not punish those who sinned in former times.  For He was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins.”  Another passage in Romans 5:1-2 further explains, “So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in His promises, we can have real peace with Him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  For because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.”

God the Father forgives me and accepts me entirely because of what Jesus did on my behalf.  Period. All I have to do is believe that.  There’s no magic prayer, no special duties to be done or commemorative service to attend.  I simply have to keep my faith in what Jesus did as being enough.  Reading God’s Word and understanding His character was the proof I needed to KNOW that He cannot and will not go back on His promise.  God the Father will NEVER look at His Son, Jesus, and tell him, “Well, you did a good job, Son.  But I dunno about this chick…(sigh)… Your sacrifice might not do the trick for her.”  Seriously?  That’s CRAZY!!!

Friend, if you’ve struggled with this or if you’re battling it right now, know that there is hope.  You CAN come out on the other side of this battle victoriously, but it’s not going to just suddenly happen.  You’re gonna have to get to know God, be intimate with Jesus and truly seek out His Truth.  Stop turning to self-help books about how to stop worrying and start living–I tried that.  It didn’t work.  Take my word for it as a friend and sister in Christ.  Let your fear drive you to His side.  Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing.  It can be a very good and real motivator toward a deeper relationship with Christ.  Philippians 2:12-13 encourages us to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  God will use fear to draw you to Himself. 

To use my current motto for life–Just Go With It.  Stop trying to hide your fear by pretending to everyone that you’re strong.  Admit you’re a nervous wreck.  Go to The Word.  Get to know The One who wrote it.  Then, let Him do the rest of the work.  Because technically, it’s already been done for you.

Jessie

“Because of His kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ.  And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it.  It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus.”  Ephesians 2:8-10a

If I Never Had a Problem…

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For those of you who are Facebook friends of mine, the following post may sound familiar.  It was originally shared on my page on April 9, 2013.

“If I never had a problem, how would I know God could handle it?  How would I know what faith in God can do?”

I remember seeing these words written in my momma’s handwriting on the back of a card she had stuck in her Bible when I was a kid.  I recall reading them again and again but never truly getting their meaning.  Fortunately, “adulthood,” as one friend put it, has given me multiple chances to understand their meaning.

If I were never in need or in tough situations, or that oh so familiar spot between the rock and the hard place, how else would I know that God can and will come through for me?  He wouldn’t have to.  It is in these places that He has the opportunity to do so…if I let Him.

See, for the majority of my life I’ve usually sought a way out of that hard spot on my own.  Oh don’t get me wrong, I’d pray about it and ask Him for help, but I’d typically find a way out that made sense to me.  Can you imagine if Moses had tried to swim the Red Sea?  We laugh now but that might have seemed like a logical option in the moment, right?

But that’s the thing; God’s ways usually don’t make sense to me nor do they have to.  He is a holy God whose ways are loving and gracious and merciful.  Always.  I certainly can’t guarantee that about my ways.  Mine are typically self-seeking, self-centered, or self-preserving.  Praise the Lord His ways are higher than mine!

So I’m not saying I always think like this or that now I’ve got life figured out.  Please.  I’m still trying to figure out how to use my iCloud.  I’m just reminded as I sit here (at 2a.m. rocking my 12 month old who should be asleep) that if I’m never in Red Sea situations then I’ll never get to witness the parting of the waters.  God won’t come through for me unless I have no other option and the faith to get out of the way and allow Him to save me.

Big or small, I bet we all have a Red Sea in our lives that God can part, that He wants to part.  Maybe He’s parted waters for you in the past, but now you’re lost in the desert?  Don’t worry.  He’ll do it again.  We trust Him completely for eternal salvation; how ’bout we give Him a chance with something else?

Momma, thanks for giving me that card.  It’s in my Bible now.  😉

Jessie

It Could Happen to You

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I’m so excited to share today’s post!  It was written by my life-long best friend–my momma.  I’ve asked her to be a contributing author, as this is “notmyownblog”.  Oh, and she has an actual name other than Momma, Debra Cole.  Look for more info on her in the coming days on the About page.  For now, she writes…

Sunday night, as I sat watching Secret Millionaire on ABC, God opened my eyes to the plight of the homeless in Mobile, Alabama. People like you and me whose life changed with one incident. Jobs, homes and families vanished due to the BP oil spill. Hard working, integrity filled lives were suddenly destroyed by something beyond their control. An overwhelming sense of what to do if I were in their shoes came over me; if suddenly I had no money to pay my bills, buy food or pay for the roof over my head. Then panic, realizing I’m not alone in this hardship but my children are there with me.

The average age of a homeless person in our country is 9 years old. This fact left me speechless… One man sleeping in a port-a-potty at night for safety… A fisherman on the verge of losing everything due to the sea life being destroyed by the oil spill.

I live in a bubble. Not just me but most of the people I know. Tucked into our warm beds, tummies full with four walls and a roof over our head.  Never realizing we are all one incident away from the same peril.

One of the jobs the secret millionaire had was at a homeless shelter. Tears in his eyes he said, “These people aren’t asking for solutions, they just want someone to listen to them.”

So I ask myself, what can I do? We’ve all asked the same question at one time or another. Listening and helping doesn’t cost anything but time, something anyone can give regardless of our status in life. People in our community have needs. People living in fine homes with perfect yards have needs. It’s not just the ones standing on the corner with signs that need help but just maybe my next door neighbor, the single parent or the widow, when life suddenly, without any warning turns the opposite direction and we find ourselves in a place we never imagined.

Let’s step out of our bubble, trust God and simply listen with a helping heart and hand.

Matt. 25:35-36
“I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes, I was sick and you stopped to visit me…”

Joyfully,

Debra

The cool thing about this post is that I had sort of the same thought on the same day as Momma, during Sunday morning worship service.  It’s like we’re connected or something?! 😉  Our pastor made the point that we’ve all fantasized about what we’d do if we won the lottery–whether we’ll admit it or not.  Hello!  Hand raised!  Steve and I have certainly done this!  You know, imagined what we’d do if we were suddenly overcome with more money than Van Camp’s got beans?  You know you’ve done it, too!  We always say we’d give away a ton of it, and that’s the truth.  We would!  That’s not my point.

The point is, I will likely NEVER win the lottery (mostly because I don’t play it) and have the sudden ability to just give crazy-generously.  So do I just NOT give because I can’t afford to?  Or do I give what little money I have and then use my actions to make up the difference?  I’m not referring to tithing here, but giving an offering, something above and beyond the first-fruits of my income.  Possibly going into my closet or pantry and giving to a family or person in need; meeting up for coffee with a co-worker or neighbor who may be lonely; being available for a 2a.m. phone call from a desperate friend; looking the stranger on the corner in the eye with a warm smile and realizing he is human, too.

Truthfully, very few of us can or will ever be able to give like we fantasize we would, so we have to take action, put forth effort and work to make a difference.  I believe scripture calls this serving one another. (Galatians 5:13)  We, as God’s elect, cannot sit by in our need and want, waiting for “someone else” to do something–because in Christ we have “every grace and blessing, every spiritual gift and POWER for doing His will.” (1 Cor. 1:7) 

So let’s stop saying, “I can’t,” or “I don’t have time,” or whatever.  And. Just. Do. It.

Jessie

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge in the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”  Galatians 5:13

Thankful for the Lack in My Life

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The following post was originally shared on my Facebook page on Jan. 22, 2013, before I created this blog.  However, I feel led to share it here, as well.  🙂

 

Do you find yourself these days wishing life were easy?  Wonder what it’d be like to walk into any store and buy whatever you need without hesitation?  Or what it would be like to give generously to others without a pause?  I’m there.  In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life there.  But here’s what I know: When I have more than enough, I tend to forget my true need for God’s provision.  I start thinking I’m self-sufficient.  Or, I don’t think at all and mindlessly shop for my family’s wants and needs.

As the book I’m reading says, “Christians often lack things…because the lack forces us to turn to God and depend on His provision.  Lack facilitates closeness to God in a way that prosperity rarely does.”  Man, is that true!  Two years ago, when Steve and I felt God leading me to quit my job of 10 years and become the full-time COO of our home (that’s Chief Operating Officer; he’s the CEO), we became very aware of our need for God’s daily provision.  God HAS to come through for us or we don’t make it!  We no longer trust our salaries, the security of our jobs or the holiday bonuses we’d come to rely on.  We always thanked the Lord for providing those things, but in all actuality we felt secure in those things

Standing in line at the bank last week, I was reading the FDIC plaque there on the counter, assuring me my money was safe because of the US government’s backing.  For the first time in my life, that–meant–nothing.  This government is failing and will one day be obsolete for me.  My Lord Jesus Christ will rule and reign and the government will be upon His shoulders.  And His kingdom will have no end! (Isaiah 9:6-9) 

So, I have to put my money where my faith is.  Making our budget stretch is NOT easy.  It’s a lot of work to make my grocery list, check sales ads, price match, clip coupons…But in my heart, I know I don’t want it any other way.  Because my budget is tight, I HAVE to give it to God.  I MUST bathe my grocery shopping in prayer or I won’t make it out of the store with what my family needs.  Only have $100 for this week?  How about getting everything my family of four needs for $98.30?  Only God could do that!  And He does it weekly, when I give it to Him and consciously await His provision.  How else would I get to see Him come through for me like that unless I only had $100?  I would totally miss out on this boost to my faith.  For me, faith increases when money decreases.

Money may not be where your “lack” lies.  But we all lack something we wish we had more of: time, love, talent… So whatever you’re lacking, give it to God.  He WILL come through for you if you’ll let Him.  Anticipate it.  The joy you’ll feel when you see Him do this is like no other.  He loves you. 

I love you, too, friend. 

Jessie 🙂