He’s not my king. I’m not his queen. 

He’s not my king. I’m not his queen. 

“The fair only comes once a year, and it isn’t October so stop moaning,” my elementary teacher used to say to us when we were complaining about something not being fair. I have this pesky little problem with wanting fairness. I’ll find myself in a foul, snippy mood and realize I’m counting what I’ve done compared to my husband to see who’s pulling more weight. I, of course, find hundreds of noteworthy things for my side of the list. But then my memory conveniently fails me when it comes to his side. Marriage being this 50/50 relationship makes sense in addition, but it doesn’t work. And it’s not what we are called to.

This morning I was reading in Esther. The short version of the story goes like this. Esther is queen, and her uncle Mordecai overhears about an assassination plot against the king. He alerts Esther who alerts the king. Meanwhile, bad guy Haman, who works for the king, notices Mordecai isn’t bowing down to him like he’s supposed to. Haman’s pride runs rampant, and he plots Mordecai’s gruesome death and the death of all Mordecai’s (and Esther’s) people, the Jews. Esther goes before the king to save her people, and the king asks her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you” (Esther 5:3).

This is how kingdoms and kings and queens worked, a tenuous balance of egos. Because any more than half would have made her more important than him. The balance of power would have been thrown off. And it seems this is how many of our marriages are functioning, each of us making our demands and offerings up to half the kingdom. But a King would come later who wouldn’t look like any king prior. He would look like a man sawing wood. He would look like a man breaking bread. He would look like a man washing feet. He wouldn’t look like a king. He would look like a servant. And he wouldn’t act like the kings they had known either. He would be powerful but self-controlled. He would be just but always loving. He would come not to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). He would come to give his life away–all of it, every last dying breath. Not up to half. No, God would give everything, His one and only Son. And that Son would give everything–every right, every shred of dignity, every last drop of blood for us.

And then after the Son was resurrected, and He returned to the Father sending the Holy Spirit to dwell within believers, Paul would put the pieces together for us in Ephesians 5 and forever raise the bar for marriage.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. 

That’s not a 50/50 arrangement Paul is speaking of, and there’s no half my kingdom going on. That’s two people breaking every selfish desire and pouring every ounce of their service into another person, two servants forming one body.

It takes no effort at all for me to be selfish. (Exhibit A: my grumpy attitude when I get woken up in the middle of the night by one of our children, but he sleeps peacefully right beside me never hearing a thing. My true colors are usually very clear.) It takes daily time in His Word and prayer (and for this very stubborn person, a lot of learning the hard way and saying I’m sorry) to love with a love that is patient, kind, and does not envy. A love that does not boast and is not proud. A love that is is not rude, self-seeking, or easily angered. A love that keeps no record of wrongs and does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. A love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres. A love that never fails (1 Cor 13). This is way more than half the kingdom.

I mess up (a lot) but God is faithful to transform our hearts when we bring our hearts to Him. There isn’t a day that goes by that God doesn’t show me some area of selfishness. I never like it when I see the ugliness in my heart, but I’m glad He brings it into the light so He can mold this messed up person into something beautiful. Every time I pray Scripture for my husband, God binds my heart closer with his. Prayer makes saying I’m sorry easier. It makes forgiveness easier. It makes holding my tongue easier. (Notice I said easier, not easy. The struggle is real when you’re feisty and stubborn like me.) I love looking back at the prayers I’ve prayed for Matt and seeing how faithful God has been. If you aren’t already, could I gently nudge you to claim a verse and pray it over your husband today before you close your eyes for bed? (If you don’t know which one to choose, you could start with 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.) Take a picture of the verse, and make it your lock screen on your phone. Write it on a sticky note, and stick it in your wallet. Use a dry-erase marker, and write it on your bathroom mirror. Pray that verse every single day for him. God promises us that His Word will not return void. I’m convinced our greatest act of service to our husbands is to pray for them. Not halfhearted prayers, but prayers from a heart surrendered completely to the One who first loved us.

From the Back Seat

From the Back Seat

My week has been one covered in germs and Lysol and stuff I won’t even type because I love you too much for that. Four of us had a vicious stomach bug that wiped us out, and while sweet Peach managed to miss the stomach stuff she acquired a double ear infection and a bad case of bronchiolitis. This afternoon I had to take her back to the pediatrician so he could determine if she needed a breathing treatment. On the way, Lyd asked if we could puh-lease get home before Daddy would because she needed to finish decorating the table. I remembered on our way out the door I had seen that she had already set the table for dinner and added a few “decorations” to Matt’s spot at the table. I grinned in the rear-view mirror and told her that while I wasn’t sure we would make it home before Daddy I loved her heart. “That’s a Jesus-thing you’re doing, Lulu,” I told her, “setting a place for someone, inviting people to your table, making them feel loved and wanted.” She piped up from the backseat, “Mom! Do you think that’s my purpose?!” By now my eyes were smarting, and I rather enthusiastically responded, “Yes! Yes, I think this is your purpose, sweet girl! To make a safe place for people to feel loved and honored and welcome.”

There in the middle of a week that has felt like one big blur of germ-infested nothingness and on the way to a second doctor’s appointment in 24 hours, God gave me a gift from the back seat of my minivan. I drifted back to a conversation Matt and I had with Lyd in the middle of teeth brushing and band-aid applying last night where she asked us how a person knows the purpose God has for her. And I thought of one of the verses I added to my prayer journal recently, Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Later in Matthew 22 Jesus would give the same command to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and remind them of the second commandment which is like it, “to love thy neighbor as thyself.”

There in all our sickness and weariness, God gave me a beautiful gift–the opportunity to see the reverberations of a thousand prayers echo forth from the backseat. That my daughter would know her Creator has a purpose for every breath she takes, every word she speaks, every beautiful, messy soul she invites to her table. 

My Girl & Kindergarten

My Girl & Kindergarten

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On Monday my oldest began kindergarten. I won’t ask, “Where does the time go?” because I’ve seen your first day of school pictures and know you’re asking the same question. Today, I read in my Chronological Bible from Jeremiah 29. I smiled/laughed when I got to verse 11, a verse many of us can quote from heart. It’s the verse I used as my senior quote. (At least I think it was. Either that or Isaiah 40:31 because those two verses and John 3:16 were all I had memorized, and they all seemed pretty inspirational for someone donning a cap and gown ready to embark on her own with an ego that thought she knew it all. I laugh at that girl now.)

Of course, thirteen years later, I am more drawn to the verse before it. Verse 10 reads, “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” My almost-31-year-old self feels the truth of that verse resonate down to my toes. He has a plan for me, a plan to prosper and not to harm, a plan to give hope and a future (v. 11). But this grace-covered mess of a soul wanders and grumbles and complains just like the Israelites exiled in Babylon.

Thank goodness it isn’t about me. Thank goodness it all rests on His faithful promise. Keep reading to verse 13, and I wish I would have bothered to crack open my Bible when I was choosing my senior quote, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” There are two types of seeking. There is the type of seeking when I come to him with my plan and beg and plead (and occasionally stomp my feet) asking him to make it happen. The Israelites and I have tried this one. A lot. Unless you’re a big fan of regret and frustration,  I don’t recommend it.

And then there’s the second kind of seeking. It’s a desperate one too, but it’s a desperation that clings to the very Person God is. This seeking humbly opens God’s Word and prays Scripture having no idea how God will work but trusting that our Faithful God will always prevail and that our Elroi sees us, every part of us, even the deep, dark crevices we try to hide. He sees us, and He loves us. And He longs for us to see Him.

I’m reading a book on prayer that was recommended to me, and only a few pages in the author talks about an international women’s prayer group called “Lydia Fellowship.” They got their name from the same place I got our kindergartner’s–Acts 16:13-14. The Lord opened Lydia’s heart so she could understand Paul’s words, the same words which make up much of our New Testament.

That’s what I’m praying for my girl this year. That in the welter of math worksheets and geography pins and phonograms and science projects she will seek Him with all her heart, and that God will continue to open her heart to receive His Word. That her worth will come from the great I Am. That she will know the Author and Finisher of faith. That she will be His Dwelling Place. That she will know Him as Elroi, God who sees and trust Him as her Abba Father. That this year seeds will be planted and prayers prayed of which the fruit I cannot fathom. Are those some high expectations for kindergarten? Yes, they are. But I’m not preparing my girls to receive a diploma. I’m preparing them to love a broken world and bravely tell His Story.

His arrows, His glory.

When You Get Distracted While Praying

When You Get Distracted While Praying

It goes something like this…

Start praying for my girls.

Remember that said girls need new shoes for the fall.

Start wondering when Toms will have a sale.

Start thinking about fall.

Start wondering when Starbucks will come out with their Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Mentally start counting how many cans of pumpkin I want to buy so I can stock up before the crazies buy it all out.

Realize I am one of the crazies buying it all out.

Start reminiscing about how we called Charlotte “Pumpkin” when I was pregnant with her.

Remember that I’m supposed to be praying for my girls.

 

I get distracted way too easily when I’m praying. But I realize there is much at stake, and my prayer life matters. During the Downline Summit this past February, Donna Gaines described her prayer notebook. I knew immediately this was something I needed to create, something that would keep me focused during my prayer time. I’ve been working on this project for months now. (Did I mention I get distracted easily?) I finally gave myself a deadline for the end of summer. Since we start school next week, that means deadline time is here. My notebook is nothing fancy. I got a white three-ring binder from Target and a pack of sheet protectors. Throughout the summer I’ve been typing up the pages with one page for each person or topic. I’ve got a page with Scriptures for Matt, our marriage, each of my girls, our adoption, waiting moms I know, specific prayer requests for friends and family, physical/financial needs I’m surrendering, and the different ministries and their corresponding countries we support. Donna Gaines shared that she puts pictures in between her pages so she can stare at the faces of those she is praying for. I love that idea, and I plan to add pictures to mine as well.

I’m the type of person who loves examples, so I’ll share a few of the Scriptures I turned into prayers…

That Matt will live to please the Spirit, that he will not be misled for he cannot mock the justice of God. He will always harvest what he plants. That he will not live only to satisfy his own sinful nature for that will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But that he will live to please the Spirit and will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. That he will not get tired of doing what is good. And that at just the right time he will reap a harvest of blessing if he doesn’t give up. Galatians 6:7-10

That Lydia will be a worshiper of God just like her namesake. Acts 16:14

That Lydia would know whether she turns to the left or to the right, her ears will hear a voice behind her saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” And that she will listen to that voice and follow His directions. Isaiah 30:21

That Charlotte will be a modern-day Esther, willing to risk everything for the sake of saving God’s people. That she will embrace such a time as this. Esther 4:14

That Charlotte will fear not, stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will work her today…that she will know the Lord will fight for her and she has only to be silent. Exodus 14:13-14

That our girls’ adorning will not be external, but that their adorning will be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. And that they would see this modeled in their mom. 1 Peter 3:3-4

That our adoption journey would grant to our children a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit. That they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor. Isaiah 61:3

For my waiting moms that they would know they can rejoice even in their suffering, knowing that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

One of my favorite people Miss Nan taught me years ago that you can’t pray wrong when you’re praying God’s Word. I learned the true power of praying God’s Word during our miscarriages. I had no words to say to God, but I knew I could pray Scripture to Him. I was in Luke at the time, and I landed on Luke 1:45. When I couldn’t come up with any words because the tears were pouring down like sheets of rain, I just kept repeating to God, “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” That verse became my anthem, and today I continue to pray it over Lydia’s life, that no matter what trials she encounters she will believe that the Lord is faithful.

Some of the pages are very practical like the page for physical/financial needs I’m surrendering. Learning to trust God as my Provider is something I struggle with, but having a place to record the specific needs we have allows me to not only surrender them today, but it also gives me a reminder of how God has been faithful in the past. The page for prayer requests for my friends and family gives me a location to write down specific needs they share with me so I won’t forget them. If God gives me a specific Scripture related to something I’m praying for someone, I can write that next to the request and share it with the person later.

This is definitely a work in progress as I will always be adding to it. But I think having this notebook and having everything in one place will help me stay focused during my prayer time. It was an idea I stole from Donna Gaines, so I thought I would pass it along in case anyone else gets distracted easily and wanted to steal it too. Now, about those pumpkin spice lattes…

My Thanksgiving Prayer

My Thanksgiving Prayer

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetEvery November, we string a piece of twine along our mantle. Each day we add things for which we are grateful. Things like new sheets, dancing to Stevie Wonder Christmas songs, chips and queso with girlfriends and Lydia’s nightly request for, “one more hug and one more kiss.” I love this simple act because it reminds me of how much I take for granted. For a minute, I have the opportunity to pause and be still. To remember and be grateful. 

Last Friday, we moved the trunk-turned-coffee-table into our bedroom, set up two long tables in the middle of our living room, took out the fine china and gathered a few dear friends and their families for a Practice Thanksgiving. We all tried out new recipes, my culinary contributions being an adaptation of Nigella Lawson’s Coca-Cola ham and a decadent version of sweet potato casserole that tastes just like the famed side dish at Ruth’s Chris.

When we reached that point where you just can’t eat another bite and you’re secretly wishing you had on elastic-waist pajama pants, Liz pulled out her guitar and led a few old hymns for us. I closed my eyes and breathed in the stillness of that moment.

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Come, thou fount of every blessing. Immanuel. God with us. He came to us. In all the vulnerability of a tiny baby, He came. He didn’t leave us. Even in my disobedience and forgetfulness,  my pride and arrogance, my sin and ugliness, He came to me.

I remember my pastor teaching a message soon after our first miscarriage where he asked us, “Are you seeking God’s hand or His face?” I was flattened. I was aching with the sting of death, craving life and newness, desperately seeking the creation only His hand could provide. I wrote that little question on a bright pink sticky note and pinned it to the cork board behind my desk at work. I wrestled with that question. I still wrestle with that question. 

God, I will never be thankful for your Hand until I am thankful for your Face. I will never appreciate your gifts until I am overwhelmed by your Presence. I will never understand Jehovah-Jireh until I am overcome by Immanuel. Thank you, God, for stopping at nothing to be with us.