Friday, February 24, 2012

Devotional Expectations

Expectations give hope to our ability to control.

It can be anytime of day, the outcome is usually the same. It’s me, the Bible and my journal if it’s a good day. I sit there on my comfortable reading chair, with a blanket halfheartedly thrown over my lap. I have a candle lit at times, a small lamp glowing next me, and there’s….what? Hope? Excitement? Fear? Anticipation?


There is always expectation in my devotional life. Expecting God to show up. Expecting myself to show up. Waiting to see what incredible insight God has for me this day. What will I see in scripture that I have never noticed before? Today I know he will give me the answers I have been seeking for so long. This will be the time when I can finally, for once and for all lay down my fear and control. After waiting all these years, I know that this will be the time where God chooses to speak to me. I will be filled with truth, and knowledge and peace. This is why we show up to devotions right? You hear people say, “Today in my quiet time, God revealed to me…..” (Fill in the blank). Where is that for me? Why does Scripture still not make sense? What do I do with the pieces of Scripture that I don’t understand? What do I do about the situations in my life where I can’t seem to get it under control? If I keep showing up, won’t something happen? Won’t I get my answers?

I come to my devotional filled with Hope. I come wanting. I come expecting.

Unfortunately with expectation usually comes disappointment. When we place our own ideas into the present moment, we are trying to control it. When we are trying to control what is happening, we aren’t allowing our Spirit or heart to accept what really is. We steal our opportunity to be open and see what will happen when we try to control with our expectations what we want.

In life there are healthy expectations, unrealistic expectations, and low expectations. I am speaking directly to the unhealthy expectations and baggage we bring to the table in regards to our devotional life. For me, when I come to devotions I am usually burdened, heavy, selfish, distracted, wanting, hopeful, tired, and ready to be filled. Ready to be strengthened, to release all that I am carrying and set my heart on the cross once again. I am a firm believer that whenever you are putting the word of God into your heart and mind, or you pray and speak with God Almighty, you are being strengthened. You do point your heart in the right direction. It just isn’t earth shattering or revolutionary every time.

It’s hard sometimes when I go and speak at youth conferences and adult retreats. They hear me relate stories and experiences of times that God has really revealed himself to me in my devotional or prayer time. They were life changing moments where he revealed sin and asked for repentance. They are the moments that change the way you live and understand grace. But those are only a handful of moments compared to the hundreds of times I’ve shown up. I have nothing to say to the devotions where I read three Psalms, prayed and then go about my day. Sometimes I don’t remember the Psalms by the end of the day, and I need God’s mercy even more by evening than I did that morning. Nothing soul changing happened that day.

But in our conversations with other believers we hear of the times, the moments where we really heard God speak into our life. For me it sets this expectation that those moments happen every time. That I must be doing something wrong if it isn’t. That I can control the depth, the wisdom and intensity of my devotional life. Do it earlier, light a candle, pray harder, read the passage again because I didn’t get anything from it. Please God show up because I have to get going to work!

Sometimes I wonder if this isn’t why more people give up on a devotional life. They show up a few times and nothing magnificent happens and so after a few days or weeks, they just stop. Their expectation hasn’t been met. They don’t have a “God revealed this to me today…” story to share or cling to and so it feels empty and they walk away.

I have a friend who started to practice the discipline of just “showing up”. That was it. Just. Show. Up. When you just show up, there is no expectation. She wanted to create the habit of showing up. To form the routine and understanding that just showing is critical to the souls survival. And even though, if you keep showing up, something will happen at some point, that is not expected. The practice, the devotion is just showing up.

I think of my husband and I. We don’t have an evening filled with romance or deep conversation every time we hang out. I don’t learn something new about him every time we hang out. Some times we are just there, sharing space, breathing the same air, being in each others presence. It’s good, I like him. But there are times when I walk away from our time sharing the same space neither feeling more loved or less loved. I virtually feel the same. I think the same can be said for devotional time.

So here is my encouragement if you want it. There is no right or wrong way to have a devotional life. Just show up. Every time you train yourself to show up, you strengthen the discipline inside you. And when you show up and you pray and read scripture, you are encouraging your faith. You never come away unaffected. You will always come away having spent time with God. Being in the presence of God is good for everyone. Lay your expectations down. Get rid of them. Be present in the moment and just let it be what it is. Let God do what he is going to do. Don’t try to control it. Trust God to teach you and guide you and strengthen you as he knows best. Don’t give up. Just keep showing up.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Love is patient.

Love is kind.

Love does not envy.

Love does not boast.

Love is not proud.

Love is not rude.

Love is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered.

Loves keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil.

Love always protects.

Love always trusts.

Loves always hopes.

Love always perseveres.


God is faithful to me.

God is patience with my weakness.

God is persistent in his pursuit of me.

God is gentle in his teaching me.

God is constant in his loving me.

God only know how to give agape love.

God is strong in leading me with his hand.

God does not compromise.

God pours out his blessings in love.

God uses his people to love me.

God speaks truth to me in his Word.

God sees me. Really sees me and my manipulation, my scheming, my pride, my judgements, my compromises, my weakness, my faults, my shortcomings, my vanity, my insecurity, my sin, my struggle. He loves me anyway. He loves me because. He loves me besides. He poured in his goodness and kindness and love and forgiveness and mercy and compassion and watches how all of his loves starts to overshadow everything else. It changes everything else and gives it a purpose for knowing his love more.

The only good in me is the good he poured in me.

The only love I have to give has come from him.

Today I celebrate and remember that even when my husband, my parents, my children, my friends, my family, my church fail me, (as they all do because they are human), I live in God's love. I live in a love that transforms me. I live in a love that has set me free from so many struggles. I live with a love that wants to be with me. I live with a love that challenges me and helps me.

I want to love others that way.

I want to give love with abandon.

I believe that when people are loved, we live different. We love more. We judge less. We listen with our hearts and speak with wisdom.

I want to love others so much they see that God has loved them always.

I want to love others in way that they don't feel judged, but cherished, and seen, and heard.

I want to love others the way God has loved me.

I want to love people right here in my little world of my neighborhood.

I want to love the people that are hard for me to love.

I want to love the people that scare me a little.

I want to love the people that I have already given up hope for.

I want to teach my child to love the bully at school.

I want my life to celebrate and reflect the love that has changed me.

If today is only about having or not having a partner, then we are missing the better picture.

Happy day to you. You are loved.

Funny side note: I just pulled out my Bible to make sure I had the love chapter right (1 Cor. 13:4-7) and I said, "Little, I need my Bible."
Little - Why? (hers and every other two year olds favorite question)
Me - Because this is our love story.
Little - OK
Me - This is where God teaches and reminds us that he loves us deeply.
Little - Ohhhh...OK
Me - This is God's word and it will help you whenever you need it.
Little - OK. Bible. OK. Story. OK. Wuv. OK.

Heh...I love that girl in her batman PJ's and snotty nose and ratted hair and black eye.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


I got to speak at Treehouse tonight. Its a ministry where kids who are often forgotten have a place to go and be seen. To be encouraged and supported and learn about the God who loves them.

I have spoken there twice now and it continues to be an honor.

Tonight I talked about King David and King Josiah. The two greatest kings to be in the Bible, (except of course for our Lord, I wouldn't forget him). What makes these two men so great? Simply... their heart.

David was claimed, he was anointed and chosen by God. All other kings were measured by David. David was passionately in love with the Lord and was dedicated to honoring him. Christ was even called, "The son of David." In his love and devotion to God, even David committed multiple sins. And not just sins of passion, he was plotting and scheming and planning. He had time to rethink and stop his actions, but he didn't. Even while being claimed by God, David sinned greatly. And when he was called out on his indiscretions, he didn't run from it or try to explain it away, or even blame it on someone else. (That seems to be man's MO if you ask me. Or my children. They love blaming someone else for what they did wrong.) David was convicted of his sin and instead of running away, he ran towards God. He claimed forgiveness. He clung to God's mercy. His heart was longing after God.

It wasn't David's accomplishments that made him great, it was his heart for the Lord. Even in sin, he sought God. He didn't allow Satan to use guilt to keep him away. Guilt is powerful for me. It is often the greatest tool to keep me from forgiveness or even a fulfilling faith journey. Guilt allows us to believe that what we have done, or the promises broken are the last straw. That you have reached God's limit. You aren't worthy of what is freely offered to others. Guilt makes you believe Love is not for you. Guilt paralyzes your heart.

King Josiah didn't have guilt, but he had excuses. Scripture says that Josiah's dad did every kind of evil in the eyes of the Lord. Think about evil. Neglect. Abuse. Adultery. Theft. Scheming. Murder. Lies. Hate. Pornography. Anger. Blame. Jealousy. Manipulation. This was his role model. This was the man who was supposed to teach him all about life and love and trust. Josiah became king at age eight, and he walked in the ways of his father David, doing right in the eyes of the Lord.

Josiah had all sorts of excuses to not trust God. He had excuses for living life in outright sin, and yet he didn't. He chose God. He chose love. He chose life. His heart was striving for God.

Joshua 24:15 says that, "Even when serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, choose this day whom you will serve." Even when we don't feel like it, we have a choice. Yes, guilt and excuses are great crutches, but is that what we want? Doesn't God have more for us?

I think of these kids at Treehouse. What is like to live their life and sit there listening to a gal talk about how God is there for you. That we all make mistakes, but its not about that, its what we do after. Do we run from God or towards him? We all have excuses, but God wants more for us. I can lean on God's strength to trust him and give him my heart.

How do you choose that when your parents never notice you and you feel alone?
How do you choose that when your boyfriend is pressuring you to have sex and you don't want to, but you love him so much and don't want to loose him?
How do you choose that when you want someone to ask you to hang out over the weekend and you've been waiting for a friend. You know God is there, but you want a friend to hang out with.
How do you choose that when your parents expect perfect grades and you can't handle the pressure?
How do you choose that when life seems so much easier with the edge taken off by ____insert drug name here.
How do you choose that when you know you have to stop hanging out with your friends because you aren't strong enough to say no to them, and you aren't proud of who you are when you are with them?
How do you choose that when the pain you inflict of the cut on your arm or leg actually gives you release and prayer doesn't?
How do you choose that when taking the diet pills makes you feel like you have some sort of control in your life and you are afraid all the time of what people think of you?
When you feel alone.
When you feel unloved.
When you feel unseen.
When you feel scared.
When you feel torn.
When you feel weak.
When you feel lost.
When you feel guilty.
When you feel depressed.
When you feel ashamed.
When you feel afraid.

How do you choose God in those moments of weakness?

It can't be easy being a teenager without a faith support system at home. When you feel alone in your relationship with God.

I ask that you please keep these students in your prayers. For all the hard things they face everyday and the people who hurt them or neglect them. For all the kids who don't even have Treehouse as a refuge. Pray for them. Pray hard for strength and conviction and courage. Pray that they know they are loved.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Lover or liar

I still catch myself.

Paul looks at me and says with the utmost sincerity, "You are beautiful. You are the most stunning woman I know."

I immediately think, “You have got to be kidding me.” I am in sweats, (my usual superhero wear), I haven’t showered in days, (which is not abnormal for me), I haven’t worked out in months, (literally, no excateration here), and I am make up free revealing my new wrinkles around the eyes and forehead and dark circles under my eyes from lack of sleep.

My immediate response reveals that I either,

a.) think my husband is a liar and thus I can’t hold what he says as truth.
b.) He is a manipulator and he is only saying these things to get something from me.

Neither of these options paint him a loving, generous way. Neither of these options give him the benefit of the doubt of actually meaning what he says. They are demeaning and strip him of an honorable character which then effects the way I see him the rest of the time as well.

I remembering having this first thought when I was in a Bible Study last year, and all the women in the group were having the same response when this issue was brought up. Their husband would call them beautiful and their response was to shrug it off as untrue. I never saw it in myself, but I recognized it immediately coming from them, which then of course revealed to me what I do to Paul every day.

I would have to think the worst of my husband to call him a liar and manipulator. I know he is neither of those things, and yet, why would he say those things awful, awful things to me? (Irony here.)

So the problem must lie with me. (It usually does if I am being honest. Log out of your own eye first right my friends?)

He looks at me and says you’re beautiful. My first response is to rack up my physical qualities that always fall short. I am disappointed that this is true. For all my talk and belief that beauty truly does come from within, my response reveals that there is a piece missing here for me in my own life. Beauty still somehow qualifies as outward adornment or lack there of. This is why he must be lying to me right? “Look at the outside of me” I scream in my head! “I am a mess! Why do you say such things! You are supposed to be my person of truth. The one I can count on. The one to be honest with me. Why are you lying to me!”

So I asked him one time. “Why do you always say that to me when I look my worst? It is hard to believe you.” His response?

“I see how you love our kids. I see how hard you work to take care of them and me. I see your passion for the Lord and teaching that to youth. When I see you I don’t see a mom, I see the woman I fell in love with. I see your smile. I see your laugh. I see your compassion. I see your dedication. I see the woman I love and I think you are beautiful.”

Then my response is, “Oh crap. Why does he always have to be so nice when I’m so shallow?” It sure is a nice way to be put in your place.

He sees inner beauty. He sees the stuff I’m made of, not the stuff I make up.

And the thing is, that is the way I see him. I mean my husband is a really handsome man and it’s hard sometimes to look past his outer beauty because he is a beauty, but I do see his dedication to our family, his unfailing love, his humor, his passion and love for new things and the way he loves our kids among countless other things. I have to believe that if that is the way I see him, I understand that this is what he sees when he looks at me.

So now I have a choice. Do I believe him when he calls me beautiful or is he still a liar?

I still catch myself sometimes. He says it, and I start the list. Then I stop.

My husband sees me. He sees me. And he thinks I’m beautiful.

I choose to write this tonight because I want to encourage myself as well as you that if you have someone in your life that loves to encourage you in this way, you have a choice. You can believe them or you can believe the worst of them. It is a good challenging reminder of real beauty. Of what beauty is constructed of. Of the good and Godly things in us that pour forth from the inside to transform the outside. The outside doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. That will waste away or be taken away.

Real beauty. May it transform you and your relationships.

Here is a look at real beauty. (just for fun)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Daily strength

This may sound very basic to you, but for me, I was recently convicted about modeling daily devotion time to our kids.

Now I get it, I really do. We are all really busy, there are always things to do, blah, blah, blah. In my book that excuse is only getting me so far these days. I have realized more and more than we are in control of what we say yes to and how we design the lives that we are given. We have a choice to slow down. We have a choice to choose TV or reading or cleaning or painting or shopping or whatever. Outside of work, which we still have some choice in, we choose how to spend our free time. We have to say yes or no to commitments, activities, get together, etc. So in my book, there is time, if you make it, to read a few verses in scripture everyday.

We all agree that food fuels our bodies. We can't survive without the daily, or more specifically hourly input to keep us going, to keep us healthy and functioning.

As believers we understand that same truth to be said for our soul. We understand that without nourishment, we drown. Without refuel, our soul becomes weak. We need the constant reconnection, the constant reminder of God's unfailing love and kindness towards mankind. I would dare say that our own life demands this rekindling if it is to survive.

So why is it that we let this fall to the wayside? Why is it that this is the piece that we can't find time for? God had been challenging my heart in regard to this, but then my deeper conviction was clear as day.

How are my children going to know that daily nourishment is critical to their faith survival? I remember being in High School and all of a sudden I was old enough to be taught that this was important.

Well, if brushing your teeth are so important that we learn that from infancy, then why aren't we taught to teach our children this?

When this question hit me, I had no answer for it. I had no excuses for it. I had been praying to God to show me how to raise our kids to love him with their whole heart. I had been praying for wisdom in how to teach his word in a way they won't want to reject. This is one of the things that came to me and I had no reason with which to argue.

So if it is important to feed our soul as much as our body for not just survival but also to thrive, then how do I do that?

Well for us right now, it means we instituted "Feed your body, feed your soul" in the morning over breakfast. I didn't take a lot of time to create this name, it just kind of came to me when I was describing this to the kids.

We as a family discussed what the word of God is, how God gave it to us to read and be encouraged and find instruction in how to live our life. How it brings hope and healing when we are sad and lonely, and it teaches us how to love others. It is necessary to read the Bible to strengthen our faith, our soul.

Thus started, "Feed your body, feed your soul."

We basically pull our Bible during breakfast to read a few verses that can sit in our heart and on our brain for the day. The fact that we are eating and feeding our body is a convenient reminder to feed our soul.

Now you must know that this is NOT a planned Devotion, we have another scheduled time for that as a family. This is not a very deep and spiritual time. We don't have question and answer time, and we don't figure out a way to solve world peace. I have small children. I'm just trying to get them to hear three words I say most of the time. The important thing I am trying to pass along is

1. yes the word of God. I believe it is alive and active and when my children hear it, they are fed.

2. even more than that, we are trying to pass along a habit, a way of life, a discipline in creating a healthy faith life. I am confident they are not listening everyday, but what I also know is that when they are helping set the table, they also bring the Bible. It's already sticking. My prayer is that this will continue for them into the teenage years and long into adulthood. I want them to ask, "Have I fed my body today? Have I fed my soul today?"

We don't really have a plan right now. We started with the sermon on the mount. That seemed like a great place to start. Big suggested we start at the beginning and just read the whole thing, like we did with their kid Bible. I giggled a little cause I thought, I have always wanted to read through the whole Bible, so I guess this is how that could happen, except it will take four years to do a few verses at a time.

This is was one way that Paul and I wanted to practice our intentional living lifestyle as parents.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Assumptions and Expectations

Sometimes it's like living in the dark and difficult all the time for me. I am amazed at how many assumptions and expectations I live under. They change my perspective. They limit me in my understanding and leave me with a pallet for judgements. They leave me angry, disappointed and lost. They steal joy from me.

My husband and I had a wonderful conversation last night. It was a conversation steeped in real thoughts and matters of the heart. I will confess, we don't have those conversations all the time. We often are just trying to keep life rolling without rolling over us. So this was wonderful.

It was also one of those conversations that bring up all sorts of thoughts you've been having, or questions you want to ask, but you don't. You don't ask them because your in the middle of life, dinner, routine, schedules or a disagreement, or hard conversation, or like us, we just call it a plain fight. I am notorious for starting a disagreement and eventually working in five other issues I'm having with my husband or our life that have nothing to do with what we originally were talking about.

In my experience, this is the worst, most irresponsible and immature way to discuss problems you are having. Generally you stay on task on the issue at hand. If there are other issues, bring them up once the first is resolved. I also like to try to bring up items to discuss when we aren't upset with one another. I have found that we listen to each other better, and then it truly isn't a fight, but a real conversation.

Back on track. Last night we were talking about the new habit that we are forming with the kiddo's. It's called Feed your body, feed your soul. I'll write about that tomorrow. But we started to discuss it. I of course am looking at it as a way of teaching or modeling to our children what it means to bring the word of God into your daily life. Paul supports and agrees with that, but casually made the comment of forcing it, like a religion, that the kids want to rebel against.

This innocent comment of course brings up both of our histories and responses to the faith. Paul and I were both brought up in the faith, going to church on Sunday, confirmation, volunteering, youth group, Captive Free, prayer before supper, Christian music, you name it. However, I tried very hard for a couple years to find my own way. To reject or disengage with religion, while still trying to look the part just in case I needed to fall back on it. It was a confusing and a hard time for me. Christ and God's love for me didn't become really something that I started to understand till after High School. My husband on the other hand embraced it easily and lived up to the name Christian. Being good and honorable seems much easier for him, almost automatic. (Still to this day, right choices are easier for him. I still struggle and have to fight to do the right thing.)

So here we are two different people, coming from what seems like similar backgrounds responding very differently to grace and trying to raise children to love and embrace God. We started talking about how I live out my faith (emotionally, publicly, vocally, almost demanding). Then there is how Paul lives out his faith (quietly, internally, intellectually, automatically). I'm still not sure all these words are totally right, because this is what our conversation was based around.

I have for the last few years looked and watched Paul's faith and found him at fault. Found him lacking. I can say that now because I have confessed that to him and to the Lord and have been forgiven. I have judged his process and his rhythms and it is very unfair. I have projected my assumptions of what active faith looks like (meaning it should look a lot like mine) and because it doesn't, I have found him lacking. I was so convicted of this last night, not even realizing that that's exactly what I had done. I wanted him to say certain things to the kids to encourage their faith, and he didn't say it so I was disappointed. He wouldn't do prayer time the way I would, so I was frustrated. The list could go on, but for the sake of saving a little of my integrity, I'll stop.

We discussed internal faith vs quiet faith. Vocal vs external. And we discussed a lot about assumptions. We discussed how when faith can be just automatic than others don't understand your motivation of why you do what you do. We discussed the importance of still vocalizing our reasons behind the madness.

And then we discussed a lot about modeling behavior. That blog will come in the next week.

I assumed a lot of wrong things about my husbands faith and the way he interacts with the kids, his reasons for his behavior and the way he lived out his faith. He also assumed things about my faith and the reasons behind why I do what I do and the way I interact with the kids.

I knew expectations could be the hammer to destroy a foundation in a relationship, but what I got blindsided by was assumptions. Assuming you know what you don't.

The only way to get through assuming is to ask questions and have conversations.

They may be hard, but completely worth it. And most likely, you tackle the first one, it will reveal many more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


This is the slogan in our house this year. We want to live under this banner and see how it changes our lives.

On New Years Eve Paul and I like to go through our calendar and review the year. We relive memories and share our hearts and thoughts on the things that happened. Then we look at the new calendar and make plans. We set goals that feel slightly achievable and that won't make us feel like crap if we don't meet them. We see what we did that we want to change and what we want to keep.

Paul and I noticed only one thing from this past year.

It was CRAZY!!!

Last winter at this time we were dealing with a baby and a child whose body was being poisoned and he didn't know how to live with it, all the while trying to homeschool and research schools for the next year. We were having multiple daily meltdowns, me specifically, and calling mom and crying at least twice a day, me again. I try to tell people what a mess I am, but so many don't seem to believe me. Just spend more than three days with me, and you'll discover all my hidden faults and weaknesses.

After months of chaotic crazy yelling, fighting, pushing, timeouts, spankings, stress, guilt, apologies, forgiveness and crying, crying, and more crying along with guilt, we got Big tested and discovered our life changer, Leaky gut and food sensitivities. So we changed our diet, then a tornado hit our house and our lives haven't been the same since. We had Big tested a couple more times since the initial blood test and we have then discovered more food sensitivities, chemical in balance and inability to naturally detox.

With the way life was happening, Paul and I keep talking about being intentional. Call it planning, proactive, big picture living, whatever. We call it intentional. We have made plans and ideas and schedules to help us live intentionally.

When we are intentional our lives thrive and relationships deepen. When Paul and I are intentional about our time together, planning for our family, spiritual preparation and execution, we experience real peace. We experience a richness in our lives that comes from setting time aside to prepare for life.

On New Year’s eve, Paul and I made lots of lists. We made schedules and dreams and plans. Our goal is not to fail, nor to feel guilty when things aren’t accomplished, but instead, we want a road map so we know where we are going. We are exhausted of being exhausted and making it up as we go along and always, always being 10 steps behind. We have been living in survival mode for more than a year and its time to start slowing down and digging in to make the most of our lives.

For instance, Paul and I picked one life project to accomplish each month. January was tax and file organization. It’s Feb. 1 and my files are 40% organized and I haven’t touched my tax stuff. But I did organize the kids toys, which is Feb. project. So, I won’t have guilt, I am on a road to success and I promise to have patience with myself.

I will share some of the other fun intentional things that Paul and I have planned in my next few posts, so stay tuned. But in the mean time, I hope you will have time to be patient with yourself as you find ways to be intentional in the way you do life. Find peace, and joy and happiness and faith in the preparation.