Daily Surrender, Daily Renewal

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I find how most people have an interesting view of home educators.  Sure, ideas about living within the 'homeschool' span the horizon but the ladies I speak to share a common response - "Wow, I could never do that!  You must be an amazing Mom..."  (or something along those lines).  I always feel incredibly uncomfortable with comments that glorify my Mom-hood.  Incredibly uncomfortable.

I'm not perfect.  In fact, some days we barely make it.  Like the last few, where I've yelled at my children, pushed my puppy out in the rain, and spent twenty minutes secretly crying out to God in the bathroom.  Home Education is a calling.  I feel I've been called to this task.  I know it is His will for our family.  But God doesn't always ask us to do the easy stuff.  Homeschooling is incredibly, fully, completely self-sacrificing.  The days are long and hard and right now, I'm exhausted, exasperated, and wondering how I will ever fill the shoes my children need me to fill in this world.  Counselor, guide, lover of their soul, spiritual helper, academic teacher and facilitator, an example of the endless and unconditional love of Jesus and on and on the list goes.

My first reaction is to look to the sky and beg, "Why?  How?!"   How God, am I going to raise these children to Your glory?!  I feel like I'm so incredibly unequipped.

When days are lived on the edge of 'coping'... Jesus is the true source of strength. 

And I know not just home educators feel this way.  I'm sure at some point (or all the time?) most parents can experience these feelings of inadequacy. Or fear - as I've identified.  And the task of Motherhood is no easy one.  It's intense and filled with physical, mental, spiritual, and social labor.  It's 24/7.  It never ends.  And it's deeply personal.

So, I've begun a daily surrender of our home and my parenting to Jesus.  In recognition that no, I don't have what it takes to raise our children for Jesus.  But He who is in me does.  In recognition that I am so insanely flawed I could never 'get there' on my own.  But He who is my helper, holds me up on this journey, making my way straight.  That patience and unconditional love and peace are poured down on me from Above - not wrestled up from inside.

Every night, I find a way to get alone with God.  Alone.  Not with my husband or other ladies - completely on my own.  Sometimes, often times, this happens in the car driving to and from different appointments, journey group, and errands.  I usually sing songs and get in the presence of Jesus that way.  I mean, I'm sure I look like a full-out crazy person... tears streaming down my face, furrowed brow, and one hand passionately raised.  Either that or a fist punching at the sky with intensity as I proclaim truth and ask for renewal from the day.  I desperately need these times.  I live off them.  I crave these moments with God.  And He fills me.

One song I find profoundly renewing is "How He Loves".   To, every day, sing out to God and confirm within my own heart the truth of how much He loves me: 

"He is jealous for me.  
His love's like a hurricane, I am a tree - 
bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy. 
When all of a sudden, I am unaware
of these afflictions eclipsed by glory... 
and I realize just how beautiful You are and 

And we are His portion, and He is our prize (Amen.)
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes.
If His grace is an ocean, we're all sinking...

And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
and my heart turns violently inside of my chest -
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way...

He Love Us... Oh, how He loves us..."

(David Crowder)

And nothing renews me like the confession of these truths.   That no matter how many mistakes I make, no matter how ill-equipped I feel, no matter how 'not there' I am - He loves me.  He called me to be this woman.  He called me to be a Mom, and a Home Educator, and gave me the gifts AND the weaknesses.  He is shaping me and molding me and I need only to surrender to His grace.  It is an ocean - and, oh my goodness, yes... I'm sinking in this undeserved grace.

It is not in our own strength that we raise children to His glory.  It is Him in us that gives us what we need.  So, daily surrender to His will and His schedule.  Daily, renew yourself in His truth about who you are and your worth and value to Him.  He gives strength to those who call out to Him.  Don't try to do it on your own - I've been there... it doesn't work.  It took me years to learn to surrender to the One who can make me whole.  I cry out daily.  And it is a daily need.  Even Jesus Himself got alone with God and daily cried to Him.

Perfection?  We'll never get there.  But He's there.  We need only to draw strength and direction from Him.  That means stopping in the midst of a stressful moment and reaching your hands to the sky and saying aloud, "Father!  I don't have the strength!  Fill me with your love and patience!!!".  (Yes, your kids will think you are a bit crazy - but they will learn first-hand that you rely on Jesus in a very real way).  Or in the middle of a melt-down, bowing a knew and whispering, "All to You God... I lay it at your thrown... I don't know what to do when my child is hitting me God... make me like You.  Give me the responses I should have..."  It's practical.  It's daily.  It's so incredibly necessary for those of us who call Jesus Lord.  He wants that kind of intimacy with us and He promises to be there when we ask for Him.

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trust in Him and I am helped.
My heart leaps for joy
and I will give thanks to Him in song.
The Lord is the strength of His people, (of the MOMS!)
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Ps. 28:7-8

The Lord gives strength (to the Moms);
the Lord blesses (the Moms!) with peace.
Ps. 29:11
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Ps. 46:1

Jesus said,  
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness. 
2 Cor. 12:9
Amen...  because about the only thing I'm perfect at is being weak.  Praise God... walk with Him today, ladies.
In Christ's love as I'm working through it all,

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What Sex Isn't

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sex.  There I said it.  That three-letter word that renders gasps through the unpadded pews.  Sex.  Sex.  Sex.  God made it; hand-crafted for our pleasure and His delight.  A gift.  I often wonder why so many Christians just can't talk about it.  Sex is wonderful, beautiful, spiritual.  Normal.

I listen to two beautiful, grounded teenage girls talk about a day in high school:

"It's nothing for a guy in the hall to come up behind a girl and grab her boobs.  Or her butt.  Or slap her butt and make some comment about her body."

"Oh yeah.  That's nothing.  It's everyday.  You just learn to live with it.  There's no respect.  Girls are objects."

I breathe deeply, tears stinging the corners of my wide eyes.

"All my friends go to these parties... these parties where everyone gets wasted and then does whatever with whoever.  It's normal.  It's what people do.  If you don't do it, you're weird. I mean, they've having sex wherever."

"Um-hm.  And - girls I know that are eleven - they talk about feeling pressure to give oral sex to boys at school.  I mean, they're eleven.  It makes me so incredibly sad."

These girls are fifteen and seventeen, and so it goes in culture today.  Young girls who desperately cling to truth yet are bombarded with filth every day.  And I deeply search for something worth saying, but all I can do is stare, eyes glistening.  All I can do is pray with them.  Pray for them.  And hope.  Hope they live through it and get to the other side without having their innocence completely ripped from them.  Without having their purity snatched and torn to shreds.  Trampled.  What was once a glorious and radiant gift from God, stolen and beaten into the ground.

But the truth remains, for most young people sex isn't sacred.  It is something to do. Something to look at on the internet.  A way to abuse people. A way to make money.  A way to spend money.  A status symbol of achievement.  A pathway to the inner circle.  A normalized kind of prostitution without payment.  It's a way to get what you want.  A way to control others.  A way to feel oddly empowered when you truly are so incredibly weak and powerless.  But sacred?  Not even close.

Young people's lives are filled with images of women as sex symbols, men as aggressors, and sex as nothing more than a control game of seducer and the seduced.  Music does it, TV does it, movies do it, reality TV does it, radio talks crudely, no one turns it off - and our children and teens become unknowing sitting ducks for the kind of smut that cuts deep and bleeds red.

And so, why are we shocked that combined with rampant absentee parenting, full-out peer reliance, and for the most part, a complete lack of Jesus - these kids don't seek to find acceptance from above and from within?  They are lost, hurting, and willing to find 'love' in any way they can.  Even if it means having sex with a stranger in the dirty bathroom of an under-age club.  (These are the stories I am told).

They are numb.  They are emotionless.  They crave to feel something, anything.  A rush.  A connection.  Loved.  Yet, they give themselves away and come up feeling abandoned, used, and ruined emotionally, spiritually, and sometimes, physically.

Sex has been twisted.  Tainted.  So, incredibly dirtied.  Worldly culture has stripped it down to more of a recreational activity than any kind of divine connection between man and wife.  It's no wonder we live in a disconnected world full of people who are unable to empathize, commit, stay faithful, and experience deep intimacy.

1 Corinthians 6:16-18 (The Message):
"There's more to sex than mere skin on skin. Sex is as much spiritual mystery as physical fact. As written in Scripture, "The two become one." Since we want to become spiritually one with the Master, we must not pursue the kind of sex that avoids commitment and intimacy, leaving us more lonely than ever—the kind of sex that can never "become one." There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another. Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body." 

Forgive me for sounding old fashioned, but I just believe sex is meant to be experienced by husband and wife, in the confounds of a sacred, blessed committed bond.  I know, it's crazy, right?  Well, the world says it is.

And I've HAD sex outside of marriage.  
 I'm looking in from the other side.

I've experienced the feeling that follows giving your heart, mind, and body to a boy only to have him use you up and leave you. 

I've fought those battles, and still fight them with the scars those wounds left behind.  I'm not better than anyone.  I'm worse.  I'm me.  Maybe that's why the idea of the sacredness of SEX is a burning issue for me.  How can I get the sacred back into myself?  And how can I help keep the sacred for my children and for other people's children, as I counsel and lead them?  Why am I still haunted by and dealing with things that happened nearly ten years ago?  The sins of my sexual past?  The sins of my husband's past?  Everything is intertwined.  One big tangled mess that binds us.

How?  Why?  The mountain is so big, so intimidating, I've wept in defeat way too many nights.

The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy.

And he wants to steal our intimacy.  He wants us disconnected and hurting and unable to fully give ourselves to our spouse.  He wants the sting of past hurts and past mistakes and regrets to linger forever and ever until we're so choked up we can't even breathe, let alone make love.  He wants us to suffer.  His goal is to steal our joy and joy, deep, profound joy, comes in the form of intimacy.  It was God's divine gift to the married couple.  This close, incredible bond we can share - that brings us into each other, makes us one, and molds us to one another.  But Satan wants to grab hold of it, and rip it from us.

And it's working.  The world is a muck.  Sex is everywhere - leaking, no, oozing a stench it was never meant to have.  Marriages don't last.  Teens abuse each other.  12 year olds are giving sexual favors to boys AT SCHOOL.  Women use their bodies and sexuality to control people and feel powerful.  But instead, we are all so powerless.  In bondage to sin and in bondage to our own shame and guilt.
Every time we give ourselves to someone in an intimate way, we 'become one' with them.  I've learned we cannot become one with a person and then detach from them fully without a part of us being taken from us.  Because just like two pieces of paper glued together CAN be torn apart, it's messy, and difficult, and pieces of each paper are left on the other, and the original page is never quite as whole as it once was.  And the more people we 'stick' ourselves to, the more of ourselves we give away.  Until there isn't much of us left.  We are so incredibly broken.

And this is the path of those teens who party until they're plastered and sleep with a new stranger every weekend.  The young girls who do 'favors' for their classmates to fit in.  Who have no concept of sex as a sacred, intimate bond.  And my tears flow fast and heavy for these little ones.  The pain they will endure.  The long, hard road ahead.  The inability to connect.  The inability to feel.  God's holy design, murdered by lies.

We must protect that which is sacred.  Shelter your children from pop-culture images.  Build a powerful bond with them.  Educate at home if you can.  Know who they are with.  Know what they are doing.  Speak life into them.  Share truth with them. Pray for them.  Pray with them.  Say the word SEX and speak of the truth God gives us in His word.  Let them know they can ask anything, and you will answer.  Tell them their body is a holy and sacred place.  Walk them through the process of becoming an adult.  Express deep gratitude for the gift of intimacy in the context of marriage.  If you've messed up, share with them your hurts.  Honesty.  So much honesty.

And for the broken like me - we can walk to restore that which has been so violently shattered. 

Every single day tears fall down my freckled cheeks for the grace poured on me by the Lord Jesus.  Me.  The wreck.  The mistake-maker.  The tantrum thrower.  The always striving, never getting there.  Me.  One specific song  really sits deep down in my own broken soul.  It's called 'He Loves Us' and at one point in the song, the verse just reels, "He loves us, oh how He loves us, oh how He loves us..." on and on and on it goes and I get lost in worship, weeping as the truth burrows in my heart.  It seems we need this kind of passionate, repetitive reminder of God's intense, over-the-top and unconditional love for His children.  For us.  We need to raise our faces to the sky, let peace rain down on us, and accept fully, right down in the gut - the truth of God's jealous love.  For me.  For you.

The bible tells us, as far as East is from West, that's how far God has removed our mistakes and mess-ups from us.  We are completely washed clean, forgiven, presented with a new slate, white as snow.  And this truth stands so that we can have hope and find freedom in it.  That our past does not define us and cannot control us.  That Satan does not have power over our lives and we can choose to rebuke the lies we are whispered about our self-worth and the value of intimacy.

"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance in faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." 
Hebrews 10:22-23

Jesus said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Cor. 12:9

Sex can be redeemed.  If it's still sacred for you, hold on tight and don't let go.  Praise God for the gifts He has given.  If the intimacy and holiness of sex has been tossed by unexpected storms or waves from the past, if it seems like all is lost...  have hope.  God is a God of restoration and healing.  He is the One who makes all things new.  Cling to Him - in the good times and bad, in all seasons.  Write His truths on your soul (and all over your home):

"God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  2 Cor. 9:8

"As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is God's love for those who fear Him."  Ps. 103:11

"You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Neh. 9:17

"For I know the plans I have for you... to prosper you and not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Praise You, God- for your grace ever-flowing... ever needed... may I stay ever thirsty for You and always aware of how much You love me - no matter how undeserving I am.  Restore the intimacy and sacredness Lord - breathe life into the hearts and marriages of those who read this... give us parents strength for the journey and wisdom to raise our children to love You first and value the gift of sex and intimacy within marriage.  Let us be a shining light and testimony of Your power and unimaginable grace. Thank You, Jesus! 

The Stranger in My Living Room

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Stranger in my Living Room came into our house by routine. He wasn’t ever invited, but he just seemed to always be there. It was a way of life – I was used to it. I didn’t really like him or trust him, but I was afraid to kick him out. I was so used to him being there, and everyone else had a Stranger in their Living Room – and their Kitchen, their child’s bedroom, rec room, and so on. Sometimes, he’d keep me company when I was lonely, and I’d giggle at some of the things he’d say. He gave me something to do when I was bored.

But there was a dark side to the Stranger. The Stranger showed my family violence; angry murders, terrible crimes. He screamed profanities often and displayed lust, sexual situations, and glorified and perpetuated greed and materialism. The Stranger desired to tell our children they’re not good enough and manipulate them into buying more ‘stuff’ to measure up. The Stranger mostly supported anti-Christ, anti-moral messages that sank way down deep in the fabric of culture. He sucked my time and energy, shut down my brain, and suggested how I live my life – all while I sit idly by, staring, unable to pull my eyes from him. Yet, there he sat.

FOR MORE... read the rest at The Better Mom.

Powerful Interview with Ann Voskamp

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It doesn't surprise me in the slightest that Ann's home is both Radio and Television free.  This is a moving, insightful, and deeply inspiring video worth watching/listening to...  I just adore this woman's soul.  What a gift her writing is. You can find her at A Holy Experience.

Unexpected (Five Minute Friday)

Friday, November 11, 2011

I've always unknowingly trained myself to hate the unexpected.  Order.  My Dad raised me with order- or he tried.  Bless his heart, he now lives the unexpected life of service to everyone and anyone around him.  But in our house, when I was young, we didn't touch the walls (especially not with sticky hands) because, indeed, 'the walls held up themselves!'.  Everything in it's place and a place for every thing.  But, I've grown. And for the past seven years I've been wondering where the order flew to?  Is there an island somewhere I'm unaware of... the habitat where my former brain is kept captive?

I kid.  But somehow, I got blessed with this crazy, hectic, unbelievable whirlwind of a life.  When people ask me my age, I have to count, because it feels like a decade of my life has passed and I'm desperately clinging to the moments in hopes of not missing it.

Everything was unexpected. 

I never expected to be married.  Have kids.  (Let alone 3 children in 4 years.)  Live in this God-given woodland neighborhood where creek walks are a daily adventure. To be educating our children at home... me?  Who am I?

I never expected a pouring of God's grace so strong I can barely swim with it, or against it.  Though there are times I've tried.

I never expected to be the one in the Grocery Store fuming while chasing running kids, running, not listening kids.  "STOP! AH... Uh... PARKING LOT!  Hello?!  Guys!!!"  And the people stare, like I used to, thinking, "...what a horrible Mother."  I mean really, can't she get control of her kids?

I never expected to have such painful ups and downs in marriage.  So painful, I can barely breath at times.  So unexpected and surreal that I wonder if I'm in a dream when my husband reveals truths I didn't want to know. 

But, Jesus... Jesus... He is the most unexpected of all.  How He shows up when I never thought He would.  He holds me when I'm falling and craddles me when I'm on the floor.  He weaves a deep red fabric between husband and wife and all can be restored.

I never expected to have to be an adult.  I mean, REALLY have to be an adult.  But I think it's too late to protest. It's time to be real about what I've been made for and the unexpected purpose God has for all our lives.  The truth has hit the shore line and there it will sit until I scoop it up and accept it.  I surrender fully and have myself chizzeled from clay and molded sometimes gleefully, sometimes hesistantly, sometimes kicking and screaming.

But I trust and I know that the results of growth will be another grace-filled, crazy 'unexpected' that continues on until the day I leave this earth... never done changing, never done pressing on... never done being surprised by God's plan and mercies... ever flowing... always falling on us... always changing... always perfect.

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