Love Wins!

New Year’s Eve 2015 greeted me with anxiety and dread.  The fear of repeating the events of the past year was overwhelming. Would I let the anxiety catapult me into a year similar to the one I was bidding farewell, or would I open my heart to my Father to transform the upcoming one?  That in itself was a scary proposition.

The temptation to give in to fear came from years of practice, but this time I made a different choice.  In the face of fear I surrendered and asked my Father for a plan (James 1:5). Afterall, doing things over and over again expecting different results is insanity and I had had enough of that (2 Timothy 1:7).  He illuminated the fact that we had no goals in place individually or as a family, so I set two:

  1. A craft project for the family
  2. The Love Dare for Parents, a goal for me personally

During our New Year’s Eve dinner I asked everyone to think of a word that expressed something they wanted to work on in the upcoming year.  Their responses left me awestruck. It was as if they had just been waiting for someone to ask.  I realized I do not need to keep telling them what they need to work on, they already know.  They just need to be encouraged, so they will feel free to overcome.

The physical result :

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The emotional and spiritual results are still developing.  It is freeing to be able to ask my children in the midst of a struggle are you being (fill in the blank with their word)?  We have checked in a couple of times as a family to hear how everyone is doing.  I also encourage them when I see their words displayed in their behavior or actions, which is helping me practice “nurturing” them.

My personal goal although a seemingly clear and simple one has proved to be much more challenging.   It exposed things in my own heart that need to be healed and pruned.  Day 1 of The Love Dare is “Love Blooms” and instantly I was challenged, which is how my word became so clear to me, “NURTURE.”  For some it may be the simplest of dares, but as I read it, my own woundedness and imperfections were obvious.  I was grieved with how difficult it was, but was determined to complete it.    I think my children were startled by the spontaneity of affection, but began to soften under the words, “I love you.”

What if God never expressed His great love for us?  What if we did not have His Word to remind us daily of that great love?  How would we know He loved us if we were not in constant communication with Him and Him with us?  It is the same with my children, it is not enough to just “know” mom loves me, they need to hear it – verbally and often.

Can you easily let “I love you” escape your lips or do you struggle with it?  What has helped you overcome?  Do you have another area of nurturing your children that is more difficult for you?  I would love to hear your heart and pray for you.  We are not in this journey alone.

Father, may we be so rooted and established in LOVE that it will overflow into everything we do.  Replace the fear in our hearts with Your perfect LOVE.  Thank you that Your LOVE won on the cross and wins eternally.  Amen.

When It’s Easter Week And You’re Short On Hope

I sat across from her. An 8:30 breakfast on Wednesday of Easter week. But we didn’t talk about weekend plans. Instead she tells me her story. A story no one should have. A son taken from her too soon. Despite all the prayers lifted up, despite all the attempts to save him, her baby gone from this earth and all she’s left with is an ache.girl-865304_1920

So everyone celebrates life this week while she breaks.

My stomach tightens, not from the chain-restaurant omelette, but from the knot of longing. I wanted to say I understand. But how can I? Who can understand such pain? I wanted to have some great words of comfort, but none came.

What do you say to a mother who lowered her son in a grave long before his time? What do you say when it seems the whole world is erupting with spring life and hers is cloaked in winter’s chill?

Nothing.

So I listen. And I pray. And I realize that her story is sadly not rare enough. I realize that all around me lie the ruins of brokenness. I realize that the journey through this world is one split by selfishness and greed and hatred and heartache. And too often, hopelessness.

And then I remember the story.

The one where Hope stepped onto the landscape of the world, took on its brokenness and stretched it out on a cross. The one where the sky split open and grace descended.cross-828894_1920

I don’t believe most stories. I think incredible stories are mostly just that—in-credible. And this one is most incredible of all. I mean who can absorb the notion that God would come to earth and pour Himself into flesh?

Not just flesh, but infant flesh. And that He grew into a divine man with the power to heal and to forgive? And then in that power He looked behind and ahead to all mankind—to me and to you—and saw each moment?

Each broken moment. Each unholy moment. Each gunshot fired. Each drug injected. Each harsh word or cold slap. Each tear shed. That He had the power to see my pain and my disease and my injustice and…my sin, and declare it wiped away?

Who could believe such a story?

But I believe this one.

Not because someone told it to me, although I’m glad they did. Not because of a Sunday school flannel board, although it was fun. And not even because I read it in an ancient document, although I now treasure that holy book.lamp-872946_1920I believe it because His story collided with my story and it became our story.

I believe it because there was a time when I couldn’t find my way through the senselessness of my broken road and all I had were whys. There was no making sense. There was only doubt and fear and a sense that I would never be okay again.

And then that story. A man who died on a cross, yet lived. A man who stretched out His arms and declared it finished, yet just beginning. He looked though the corridors of 2000 years and saw my tears and desperation and I saw Him. And it wasn’t just a story anymore. It was Hope and Resurrected Life.

It was God with me.

Emmanuel. God with us. Then and now. Reminding us that we are not alone.

And that this is not the forever world. But there is one waiting for us that needs no words to explain it or make it make sense. A world where a mother who walked this earth years past her prime stretches renewed arms out to her young son who never reached his in an embrace that knows no sorrow.mother-and-son-887058_1920

A world where there is no more death or grief or tears or pain. A world that makes sense of all that is and was.

A world that once only existed in my make-believe mind. But I’ve glimpsed it. I got a peak into that world during my deepest suffering. The curtain was pulled back and I knew. I knew the story was true. I knew that it was possible to live when everything else was dying.

My friend knows it too.

Our breakfast dishes had been cleared away and we sipped the last of our coffee through tears and through laughter. She knows the story. Heaven came down when her son was taken up.

She suffers. She longs. She questions. Yet she knows. She believes. This broken road ends in wholeness.church-750251_1920I hope you can believe that.

I hope you can take it all in despite how in-credible it sounds. The suffering, the heartache, the senselessness. It won’t always be so. It’s only part of this journey and it isn’t forever.

If something in you has died, if all hope is lost, I hope you will believe the story. I promise you, when you look through faith’s eyes, you see what can not be seen with your own. And you can find joy despite suffering, hope despite hopelessness, and life despite death.

I’ve created Hope For the Hard Places just for you, and I’d love for you to download it or share it in anyway you find helpful.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know if you believe the story. Or if you’re not sure. I’d love to have coffee with you sometime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fun Ideas for a Christ-Centered Easter

Samara helping Lyza with her Play-Doh creations.

Samara helping Lyza with her Play-Doh creations.

Easter is less than two weeks away. Now, I’m not one to shoot the Easter Bunny or declare that all things fun or yummy like egg hunts and jelly beans need to be banned (certainly not chocolate bunnies!). Still, I do want to be intentional to remind my children that Easter is about an empty tomb that once held Jesus, and to keep our activities focused on Him.

With so little time and even less creativity, I love it when those ultra-creative moms do some of the work for me. So, since I’m not one of those, I thought I’d round up some of their awesomeness and put it in one place. I hope you find some new ways to celebrate Easter this year and perhaps start some lifelong traditions.

TRADITIONS

Resurrection Eggs–There are all sorts of these, but these are my favorite for ages 5 and up.

Grace Garden–I absolutely love this one from Ann Voskamp at aholyexperience.com. Ann says, “So the kids and I, we put our hands into dirt, and we remember our garden fall and His garden grace.” Love it!

Fun Easter Story Cards For a Neighbor–I love these printables from the Happy Home Fairy. Fun for the whole family.

Family Service Jar–Another from the Happy Home Fairy and a great way to encourage kindness. Definitely going to be a new tradition for us.

ACTIVITIES, GAMES, AND CRAFTS

Easter Bingo–Telling the Easter story with symbols and a game for ages 4-7.

The Jesus Tree–There are all kinds of variations on this, but this is simple (Yay for me!) and has a Bible study to go along with it.

Resurrection Scavenger Hunt–My kiddos have always loved scavenger hunts, and this one is one for all ages.

Salt Dough Empty Tomb–A keeper and one we will do this week.

Printable Easter Coloring Pages–I’m a fan of everything from What’s In The Bible and these are no different. When you’re finished, you may just want to get a copy of Jesus is the Good News! to watch together.

Pop-Up Easter Scenes–For those of you who are beyond the coloring pages, these are awesome. I’m okay with just staying between the lines though.

Clothespin Donkey–Just in time for Palm Sunday, little crafters will love this.

Where Is Jesus Watercolor Magic–Always exciting to see the surprise in these.

RECIPES

Resurrection Cookies–Definitely not my favorite cookies, but the kids love them and I love the lessons they learn. Leigh Anne at Your Home Based Mom shows how simple they are.

Resurrection Buns–What kids don’t love these! Easy and fun!

No Bake Empty Tomb Treat–Made with donuts and Oreos. Enough said.

Crown of Thorn Cookies–Another awesome treat that’s simple and delish.

Lamb of God Cupcakes–Seriously, too cute.

Surprise Cross Cake–This is for the serious baker. I will not be making this one, but would be thrilled if any of you volunteered to make it for me. Amazing!

Cross Cake For the Rest of Us–An easier version that I’ve made for Easter dinner many times or at least until Samara threw up red velvet all over my nearly-white bedroom carpet. She hasn’t been able to look at red velvet cake since ;-).

BOOKS

Here’s a short list of some of my favorites. There are so many more, but these are the ones that you’ll never get tired of reading.

Benjamin’s Box: The Story of the Resurrection Eggs–We read this as we do the resurrection eggs.

The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale–One of my favorite children’s books ever, we read it anytime of the year.

The Thornbush–primarily for ages 4-8, but tells the story of shame and redemption through the eyes of a thorn bush.

Amon’s Adventure: A Family Story for Easter–This book for the whole family is a traditional read for us. Packed with excitement and great lessons, we get more from it each time we read it.

Well, there you have it–some great ideas from some great moms on the web. I hope you try a few this year, and bookmark this page to keep new ideas right at your fingertips next year. Until then, have an Easter full of the freedom and love of Jesus.

And please share some of your own ideas or pictures with me here or at our Mothers With a Mission Facebook group.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting Sex In Its Place

I could feel his eyes on me. And not with appreciation. Then, only half-joking, he said, “If I ever catch those sweatpants off your body, I’m going to throw them away.”

Umm, since when does he care about fashion? Good luck with that anyway. I like my sweats.

Out loud, though, I laughed and quipped, “They’re comfy. I like ’em,” and went on my way.

Later, as I was tossing them into the hamper, I realized that my husband doesn’t mind my comfy sweats. What he minds is my forgetting to trade them for something sexy and remember him. Lately, I’ve been mopey, he’s been sick, and the calendar has been too full. So needless to say, it has not culminated into a heavenly, lose-your-mind moment.

ID-10076442Instead of falling into his arms at night, I’ve been falling onto my side of the bed thinking, I have to be up in 7 hours. Yeah, I should sleep. I have forgotten that Jon needs me—all of me—just as much as I need sleep. I’ve fallen into the dangerous trap of letting my chaos dictate my choices and letting sex fall from its place at the top of my priorities.

Why does it matter? Because, except in extreme cases, married sex is the tie that binds. As we intertwine our bodies, we also intertwine our hearts. I want that. I want him.

So I’ve decided to tell him more often and put sex back in its place. Maybe you need to, too. Maybe life has gotten a bit chaotic and you’d rather take a long bath or eat leftover Valentine’s chocolate.

Maybe you’ve forgotten that you were a lover before you were a mother. 

What do we do?

1—Talk about it and address the real issue. Tell your husband where you are and what you’re struggling with. Talk about what you need and ask what he needs from you. You might be surprised.

2—Put it on the to-do list. I know, I know, that sounds terribly unromantic! But really, it’s important. Now, not in writing mind you—that would be weird even for this die-hard planner—but if we don’t make a mental note and plan to set aside time and energy for our husbands, then we’ll be drained of both by the end of the day. My husband knows I attack everything on my to-do list, so he periodically pencils his name on it to make sure he also gets attacked ;-).

3—Wear pretty underthings and lingerie that make you feel beautiful. This one thing speaks volumes! Since our husbands are the only ones who ever see our intimate apparel, shouldn’t we give more attention to it than to what the world sees? I understand we all have a different degree of comfort here based on beliefs and body image, but just as putting on a smile makes you feel happier, putting on sexy things makes you feel sexier.

4—Pray about it. Really. God is not nearly as uncomfortable as we are talking about sex. He won’t be shocked or offended by your questions and doubts. He wants us to enjoy married sex. He tells husbands, “…may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated by her love.” (Prov. 5:19 NIV) Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Over the years, I’ve recognized that sex has its seasons just like everything else in marriage. Babies, illnesses, crises—life—all make it easy to neglect this area. But let’s determine to put sex in its rightful place. It’s a beautiful way to enjoy each other, draw closer to each other, and burn a few calories to boot. Not too bad a way to spend our time.

 

 

 

 

Before I Was a Mom

thumb_12711248_10208670476670126_7701215921334925346_o_1024I still remember it. Those baby days when life was all about the urgent like  blowout diapers and lost blankies–those days that rarely included a daily shower and shaved legs were a luxury.

I came across this post today at “The Other Johnsons” and thought I’d share it because although I’m past that baby stage, I still have a tendency to let the urgent rather than the significant govern my time. This Valentine’s Day though, I think I’ll toss the sweats and don some lace for the man who still thinks I’m hot and wants to catch my eye. The kids will have to survive for a bit without me ;-).

I hope you’ll also be encouraged to remember that you were a woman before you were a mother, and that your husband likes to see her every now and then also. Happy Valentine’s Day.

The Other Johnsons

With Valentine’s Day just a few days away, I’m thinking about what my husband and I will do to celebrate. We actually have a babysitter for the afternoon, so Aaronand I get to take a much needed break andenjoy one another’s company.

I think that this Valentine’s Day will be my favorite because I actually need Valentine’s Day.This is my first Valentine’s Day since becoming a mom. Before I was a mom, Valentine’s Day was just anextra celebration thrown in each year that made us turna nice date into an extravagant date and a simple “I love you” into a long romantic dissertation.

This year, Valentine’s Day has arrived to remind me that before I was a mom, I was a wife. Before we had Desirae, we only had each other. With a baby and no regular babysitter, it’s easy to forget that sometimes. Smelling likebaby spit up and spending…

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