If your household is too small…

If your household is too small…

I stumbled upon a little something this morning. Right there in the middle of the Passover directions in Exodus 12, God told Moses and Aaron to tell His people to take a lamb for their household. But then He said this, “And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.” 

All throughout the Bible we see how God knits together his people, how he created us with a need for community, to be poured into and to pour ourselves into others. This is just my own wondering, but it seems like right here in the Passover directions, we get another hint of that community He craves for His children. If the household was too small–maybe because of loss or infertility, maybe because of sickness or poverty, maybe because of waiting and more waiting–God guided Moses and Aaron to have that household reach out to its nearest neighbor and band together with them for their Passover lamb. It seems He didn’t want waste because later God gives directions that they are to let none of the lamb remain until morning.

There’s this quote I keep seeing around. “When you have more than you need, build a longer table not a higher fence.” There’s something there, don’t you think? And, if we’re being honest, who of us doesn’t have more than we need?

It’s only taken me eleven years to start looking at my neighbors as I think God sees them. Instead of being exasperated when their yard needs its weeds whacked (because, hello, who are we to talk?!?) or hurrying in to close the garage so I don’t have to let them see the fact that I basically wore pajama pants to take my child to gym class, I can see the person. I can smile. I can leave a happy on the door or plant bulbs they’ll get to look over and enjoy. And maybe I can even get up the courage to spread my Mamaw and Papaw’s table out far and wide with all its extra leaves and have them over to eat, to share, to break bread together.

No matter where we are–country or city, suburbs or downtown condominium–we can seek out our nearest neighbor, and perhaps during this Lent season we can share the Lamb.

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When God Remembers

When God Remembers

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. Exodus 2:23-25

I forget a lot–forget my laundry in the washer until it starts to smell, buy jelly but forget to buy peanut butter, forget to write a thank you note or RSVP. So, when I suddenly remember something, it’s a jolt from my forgetting. But when God remembers it’s different.

“When the Bible says that God remembers someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare,” says my ESV commentary. And in the second chapter of the second book of the Bible, we find God’s people groaning, a sound I’m intimately familiar with in this stage of our adoption. Their cry for rescue is heard and God remembers, not because He ever forget them, but because the sovereign moment has come for Him to take action.

This is our introduction to Passover and the blood of lambs across doors, to the exodus, to the parting of the Red Sea, and to the eventual Risen Lamb of God who would stretch out His arms for you and for me.

I find myself in a weary, groaning state as we count down the hours to Lent, but perhaps this is exactly where I need to be, acutely aware of my need for a Lamb, for rescue, for redemption.

In my search for meaning and remembering in this season, I came across Jennifer Naraki’s ebook Rich + Rooted Passover. I’m looking forward to sharing these activities with my family as we remember together how God remembered His covenant people.

If It Didn’t Happen on Instagram, Did It Really Happen?

If It Didn’t Happen on Instagram, Did It Really Happen?

I love Instagram. Truth be told, I hate Facebook. Too much bickering and links to articles that scare me. {These foods kill you! Silent drowning! Sunscreen is evil!} I can’t take it. Twitter cramps my penchant for wordiness. But Instagram with all its beautiful pictures of sunsets and squishy babies and delicious eats–that is right up my alley. I love beauty, and I love finding it everywhere, especially in the unexpected. Little glimpses into the messy beautiful of my village and a few I admire from afar is fun for me.

I have to be careful because, just like my own feed, all those beautiful pics are just a tiny slice of a life. One moment captured by the confines of a lens. And I can’t let myself go to it when I’m bored or in a bad place because then it isn’t about slivers of beauty. It’s about jealousy and discontent. I wish I was doing that, going there, eating that. Suddenly, the every day beauty that surrounds me isn’t enough anymore, and my heart turns from gratitude to greed. During Lent a couple years ago, I gave up social media, and that time without still echoes in my heart. I learned how I use social media as a crutch, a medicine when my heart is hurting. Since that Lent, I’ve taken a sabbath from social media on Sundays, and every week I’m reminded of the beauty in quiet. Be still and know that I am God. 

Recently, I’ve noticed something else during my sabbath. It’s this question rattling around like marbles in an old tin can. “If it didn’t happen on Instagram, did it really happen?” And really the question deep down is this, “Was that special moment special because of the moment or special because of the ‘likes’?” Deep slices through my heart. Do I share something because it’s funny or encouraging or beautiful? I think these are all great reasons to share, and I love the far-reaching community those things create. But if I’m being ugly honest, sometimes I share because I want to be liked. And loved. I want somebody to say, “You’re such a fun mom” or “You look so good.” And that’s a fast way into a dark hole. When I find myself interrupting something special thinking, “I’ve got to get a pic for Instagram,” I know something is off, and I have some soul-searching to do. A moment etched in my heart is just as meaningful as the one captured in a square on Instagram. 

The Holy Spirit and I have a regular conversation where He nudges me to look at my motives, and I get all defensive. But then I realize this is what I want, this refining, this stretching, this bringing my ugly into the light. And so I sit at my table with my prayer journal and splay it all out there because, of course, He already knows. And a few things creep up often like the stubborn weeds that persist in the cracks of my driveway. Discontent. Seeking approval from people. Wanting to be perfect. And the record that loves to live on repeat–control. 
The Holy Spirit nudges (sometimes shoves) me forward, and I have to examine my heart. Am I doing this, posting that, saying these words to get someone to like me? Am I being honest or just trying to look like I’ve got my act together? 

Or is this the pouring out of a heart secure in her relationship with Abba Father, confident telling the messy beautiful story of a sinner saved by grace? 

New

New

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetWhile walking back to the front door with the mail yesterday, I looked down and saw thin green blades poking through. My toes did a little dance, and a smile covered my face. Finally, after a brutal winter–at least by my Southern standards–signs of life and sounds of newness are bursting forth. We spent the weekend in Mississippi where everything is already green, and my parents’ wisteria is starting to bloom and will soon coat their pergola in a lavender canopy. My brother and sister-in-law were in town with my precious five-week-old niece, Abigail Grace. So beautiful, so new.

During our devotional from Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing this morning, the girls and I read these words…

Just before he died, Jesus shouted from the cross, “It is finished!” What was finished? Jesus was saying: everything you need to come back home to God, everything you need to be free and happy in God, everything you need to live forever, I’ve done it all! It wasn’t a cry of defeat. It was a shout of victory. The great work of rescuing us was finished! There is now nothing you can do to make God love you more–and nothing you can do to make him love you less. It is finished!

I immediately thought of a conversation with a friend last week as we talked about things we’re holding on to, pain from past sin that we’ve already been forgiven of but can’t quite let go of. And those words our Savior uttered as He hung on a cross spoke deep into my soul, “It is finished!” We can let go because He said, “It is finished!” Because He gave up His life. Because He humbled Himself. Because of Jesus.

I’ve shared before that I struggle with fear on a daily basis. Occasionally, I will wake up in the middle of the night after a horrible nightmare with my heart racing. Last week I was dealing with a specific fear and my dear friend Kimmie shared with me words that have kept her heart at peace during seasons of great fear, “God is doing something new.” Her words came from Isaiah 43:18-19, and she sent me the Message version, “Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.” And when I looked up the same verses in the ESV, I smiled because verse 19 starts out, “Behold, I am doing a new thing.” Behold is leaving its mark on my heart and soul. Behold is changing me, helping me learn to be still and hold on even in the midst of my greatest struggle–fear.

It’s time to let go, time to surrender that thing we’ve been holding on to. Mine is fear, specifically this week, fear from past pain. What is yours? The sin you’ve struggled to release? The stronghold you’ve wrapped yourself in, convinced you’ll never escape? The shame you’ve carried for way too long? When Jesus declared, “It is finished!” it was a shout of victory. We can cling to His promise that He “will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Behold, I am doing a new thing.

 

Poured

Poured

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAm I the only mom who feels like she should get a medal for letting her kids paint?

During breakfast Lydia asked if she and Charlotte could paint. I was feeling bold and adventurous (read: I had not had caffeine yet and my brain wasn’t fully processing) so I said yes. I laid out an old vinyl tablecloth to cover the floor, stripped the girls down to their diaper/underwear and let them go crazy. Meanwhile, I was a few feet away doing some dishes. I turned around a few minutes later to see Charlotte painting her leg and her foot blue. I pulled out the baby wipes and tried to get most of the paint off her foot. They went back to painting. A few minutes later Charlotte was painting the kitchen chair. Apparently, painting paper is far too predictable for my little artist. By the end of it, they were both covered in paint, so I hauled them to the bathtub to rinse off, glanced at the clock and realized it was only nine o’clock. Despite all that clean-up effort, she’ll ask me to paint again next week, and we’ll do it all over again. Because that’s what moms do. We pour out.

I know you. I see you. You pour out at your job, at the gym, at the parent-teacher conference. You pour out at the grocery story, at the oil-change place, at the classroom. Whether you work outside the home or stay at home or some combination of the two, you pour yourself out every single day. And it happens before they ever even hand you that sweet, screaming baby. I know brave women who pour themselves out every single day praying, waiting, begging God for a child to hold. Women who undergo tests and hormones and all sorts of things before they ever hear a heartbeat. Women who fill out mountains of paperwork, jump through a million hurdles and fight on their hands and knees for a child who needs a home. I know you. You pour out.

The first Sunday of Lent, we celebrated Communion as a family. Lydia and I baked unleavened bread together, rolling the dough into six little balls, one for each Sunday Sabbath during Lent. Lydia pressed the balls down and used a fork to prick tiny holes through the bread creating a cross in the center of each little loaf. After they baked, we gathered around the kitchen table with the warm bread and drinks while Matt read from Matthew. I had forgotten to get grape juice so we worked with what we had–coffee for Matt, tea for me and leftover McAlister’s lemonade for the girls. I imagine Jesus smiled.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

As I ate the piece of bread and drank a sip of my drink, I realized every time I pour myself out for my family and those God has put in my path, I embody the very essence, the flesh and blood of my Savior.

I know what poured out looks like because I saw it lived out every single day of my childhood through my mom. Last week, the girls and I went to Mississippi to spend Spring Break with my parents and sister. While we were there, my mom did what she always does. She poured out. Through meals and gifts and hugs and time, she poured out. One day a little boy at her church was admitted to the hospital for a heart procedure. Mom called me as she was leaving the hospital and I could tell her heart was hurting for this child who had to go through things he couldn’t understand and for his mom who just wanted to know he would be okay. She left a trail of love all over that hospital wing.

I want to continue the legacy my parents gave me. My most-uttered prayer is that my girls will know and love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and I pray they love Him because they see me pour out love and grace every day. Just like the disciples, I won’t do it perfectly. Some days I’ll be confused or stubborn or impatient or selfish, but, gratefully, God can take my flawed yet willing heart and use it to reflect His Son.

Every sleepless night, every report card, every load of laundry, every meal, every paint-smeared mess is an opportunity to pour out. And every gray hair, every stretch mark, every moment spent in tears on our knees is a reflection of a life lived for a greater purpose.  A body broken. Love and grace poured out.

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Quietness

Quietness

I didn’t grow up observing Lent. I remember the first time I saw a friend with ashes across her forehead, and I remember a few people who opted for the cheese rectangular pizza when they went through the cafeteria line instead of the kind with little cubed pepperonis. But I never really knew what Lent was about. The thought of giving up something didn’t sound appealing, so I never thought much about it. But a couple years ago when I was on staff at our church, my pastor encouraged the staff to fast from something during the forty days leading up to Easter. Those weeks were hard for me, but as we celebrated Holy Week that year my heart felt less encumbered, my soul more free. Last week when I realized the start of Lent was only days away, I began to pray that God would show me what I needed to surrender this year during Lent.

I don’t know about you, but those are always scary prayers to pray because I’m afraid of His answer. Yesterday, while studying another passage I wound up coming across this passage.

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. Isaiah 30:15-16

Snow was falling hard outside and ice was glazing the sidewalks and trees. In a literal way God was painting a picture of rest and quietness, and I wanted to flee. I’ve shared with you before that I struggle with wanting to please people. But over the last few weeks it has become paralyzing. The voices of public opinion scream within my head. I find myself caring more about likes and shares and comments than I do obeying the One who gave me a message to write. Last week I wrote a blog, and I almost didn’t publish it because I was afraid of what people would think. And suddenly the reality of how dependent I had become on everyone else’s opinion of me was alarmingly clear.

I don’t like to just be. I want to fill every moment with a picture, every silence with a word, every hunger with a forkful, every goal with a list. I want anything to fill the quietness. For the last month or so, I’ve been taking a Sabbath from social media every Sunday. That quietness has been hard but liberating. There’s nothing wrong with social media. For an extrovert like me, it’s a social playground. People, people everywhere. One never ending conversation that winds and weaves its way throughout my life. But the reality I’m facing is that I’ve let those voices mute the voice of the One I most desire.

The forty days of Lent comes from the forty days Jesus spent in the desert when Satan was tempting Him. With every temptation, Jesus responded with the truth of God’s Word. For me, the voices of everyone I want to please are drowning out the voice of my Savior. Pride and insecurity are running like swift steeds. During these six weeks of Lent, I will put down the status updates, let go of the 140 characters and surrender my instant images to the message my Creator is writing on my heart. A message of rest. An invitation to return to quietness.

I’m also taking up a challenge from Margaret Feinberg to read through the New Testament during Lent. The Lent Challenge has a reading plan where you cover about seven chapters a day in roughly thirty minutes. Giving up FB, Twitter and IG for the next forty days should leave me with some extra time for this challenge. This weekend at the Downline Women’s Summit I noticed a common theme among all the women who taught. They were filled with God’s Word and in love with the Story He wrote for us. It was special and beautiful and inspiring.

I will still be here writing–hopefully with more honesty and courage–the messages God impresses on my heart. WordPress automatically links posts to my Twitter and Facebook accounts so you’ll still see notifications there when I publish a blog. But instead of my heart chasing likes or comments or shares, my heart will be choosing quietness. The Message translates Isaiah 30:15 this way, “Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me–the very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.”

I anticipate it will be painful–confronting my pride and insecurity always is–but I’m willing. Willing to rest instead of rush. Willing to return instead of flee. Willing to enter the quietness and hear from the only Voice who truly matters.

Preparing for Lent & Special Giveaway

Preparing for Lent & Special Giveaway

It seems like yesterday we were pulling out our Advent wreath, lighting the candles and watching a wooden Mary with her swollen womb make her way around the wreath as we counted down to Christmas. And now we are just over a week away from the start of Lent. This weekend, we will once again pull out the oak wreath, this time preparing to trace the Ascension, Christ’s journey to the cross and resurrection. We will exchange the wooden Mary for the wooden silhouette of Christ with the cross upon His back. We will add another loop on the wreath to mark the forty days of Lent.

As I start to think about Lent one passage of Scripture, a favorite passage, keeps ringing in my ears–Philippians 2:5-11.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

During the hardest nights of my life, I have whispered that verse into the darkness. When I could feel the enemy wrap his spiny, death-laced fingers around my heart, I would say this verse out loud knowing there is one name that is above every name, the name of Jesus Christ. For someone who struggles so often not feeling good enough, my favorite name for Christ is Redeemer. He bought me. He humbled himself, allowed himself to be beaten and mocked, gave up His reputation and His very life, stretched out His arms and poured out His blood to save a wretch like me. For the rest of my days, I hope I never get over that. I hope those words mess me up, bring tears to my eyes and leave me in a heap at the feet of my Savior.

And while we celebrate Easter once a year, Easter happens every day–every day that I live in freedom instead of bondage, every day that I live in grace instead of chains, every day that I live in hope instead of despair. I listen to Louie Giglio a lot when I run and he says one thing over and over. The gospel message isn’t that I was bad and now I’m good. The gospel message is that I was dead and now I’m alive. I am alive because my Redeemer lives.

This Friday, February 28th, the movie Son of God releases in theaters. The movie was produced by Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the same couple who produced The Bible series for television. Matt and I are looking forward to seeing the movie as we walk through Lent this year. I have been given two additional movie tickets to give away to one of my readers. You read that my favorite name for Christ is Redeemer. To be in the drawing for the two tickets to the Son of God movie, all you need to do is leave a comment sharing your favorite name for Christ. Leave your comment before midnight Thursday, February 27th. I’ll announce the winner Friday morning, February 28th. The tickets can be redeemed at participating movie theaters all over the country. I hope the images we see will prick our hearts and pierce our souls as we walk through Lent, a visual reminder of the life we’ve been given.