Friday, May 13, 2011

Loving the same man

Since Don is a 'Letter Carrier' he has gotten to know a lot of widows in the community. As long as we have lived in Oregon which is about 16yrs...we have been dedicated to loving, visiting and serving widows. As inspiring and noble as that may sound, the truth is we have received way more than we have ever given. It has not been easy dragging lots of little kids around cluttered, smelly homes and nursing homes. Older people can be bossy and demanding, we all can, but they feel like they are more entitled to. We have been a part of miracles as well as sad times. And as a result of most of our friends being between 70 and 100, when we see someone declining rapidly we usually put a priority on making an effort to visit them more often.

  Joy Bergstrom is almost 93 and we have had the privilege of being her friend for about 6 years. Joy is a Christian, she is a beautiful woman of God, an encourager and filled with lots of life. She still lives alone and does most of her home maintenance on her own. As my kids have gotten older it has become more challenging  to find the time to visit widows. Some of my kids ride their bikes on their own for a weekly visit. Even though I love Joy dearly I have been feeling pressure to find the time to get over to her house. I could tell I was squeezing it in when I rather anxiously rounded the kids up to go visit her Saturday afternoon, feeling a bit like I was marking off my to-do list. Joy is beginning to slow down and is showing her age and often talking about this life ending very soon for her. I walk up into her well-kept cold home and am greeted with hugs and kisses. She escorts me past doorways of plastic 'curtains' to the one section of her home that she keeps heated. My children know the routine, they get into the game cupboard and begin playing with Dominoes & PickUp sticks, probably in the original packaging. I sat down thinking I will be here for an hour and (in my mind) started "TRYING TO MINISTER" to Joy when she tells me she wants to share what "revelation" the Lord showed her yesterday. I knew I was gonna be here awhile. So I sat back and listened.

  Joy told me that the day before a bunch of Seniors had gathered in her church to spend time praying and singing hymns together because the worship pastor does not play hymns or even know them. I find it amazing that these "Senior Saints" do not criticize the pastor or send complaint cards. He plays what he wants on Sundays and they defer to the rest of the congregation. Then these "Senior Saints" come together for mutual edification on another day. 

  Anyway her "revelation" was, how can so many people in one room be loving the same man and not be jealous? I feel conviction hit me that night as I realize I had come here to offer Joy a mere 1 hour of my day and she was offering me spiritual wisdom, depth, and insight. Joy, an old woman with nothing physical to offer me was giving me so very much. I can so clearly see the Gospel here because so often we think we are not free to come to Christ until we clean ourselves up and have something to offer Him. And yet he wants us to come as we are and let Him do all the work of cleaning us up and serving us as His bride. I spent several hours listening to Joy's stories of her precious life, her marriage, hardships, the diner they owned and lost as they filed for bankruptcy. Her husband had a heart attack and never fully recovered then passed away. The fire that took everything materially, no money, God's provision for her every need and at the end of the day a woman who has such a shaking voice due to vocal cord issues telling me how much she loves Jesus, how she continues to grow, like a child. She does not understand how but HE always provides and she is learning to trust in this Man more then ever as she will very soon spend eternity with Him. I can see her real faith, a real love, and real relationship with Him.

  Have you ever thought about Joy's revelation? All of us loving the same Person without jealousy? I am sure I would not do well with a bunch of ladies loving my husband. My revelation in this was maybe I do not feel jealous about others loving my Lord but I do treat them as if I were. I have found myself being self-righteous, competitive, judging, not caring, loving or extending grace to other Jesus lovers. I have, at times, treated the Bride as the other Woman.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"I can't drive 55!"

I can hear the great 80's song "I can't drive 55!" by Sammy Hagar playing in my head as I round the 20mph turn at 55. This is not the first time I have done something like this as I tend to have a bit of a "lead foot" but it was the first time that I realized if I don't slow down I am going to roll the 15 passenger van that I apparently forgot  I have been driving for 10 years. Big vehicles do not stop or turn very quickly. My heart speeds up a bit realizing the danger I put us in as I hear Jameson yell from the back, "That was FUN!" Well I will admit that for a moment it was fun but I will also admit that I saw a reflection of myself in how quickly I was making the turn and how quickly I get ahead of God. My giftings and personality like to tell God that "I can't drive a 55!" I don't mind God setting the rules but I certainly like to set the pace. Whenever I am driving with my boys we like to point out cars and dream about driving different ones on different days. I have been telling the boys that I want them to get me a Hot Rod for my birthday like the one from "Dukes of Hazard" where I can take jumps and crawl in and out the window. Now this may pose a problem on Grocery Shopping day but I guess I will drive the van for that chore. As I longingly admire Hot Rods I have been noticing that I also admire the stability of the Lexus or Cadillac. I compare this to God's tempering in my giftings in my life. A few days after my "too fast of a turn' incident I had a Dr. appointment. This Doctor has delivered all but one of my children, laughed and cried with us and I feel it a privilege to call him 'friend.' He also loves cars, and for some reason the subject comes up when he, without hesitating, tells me without a doubt I remind him of a Ferrari. I knew that it was true but I spent a few minutes trying to convince him that I am older, wiser, and slower and maybe I resemble more of a Toyota now? He laughed and said, "No! Ferrari!" I know I move and drive at a fast pace. I can see I usually hit the finish line, being done with the race while Don is still admiring the view. I see God's hand in this lesson in that it's not the pace that's the problem, it's not abiding in the Vine. Not listening and yielding to the Lord. I was turning the corner at 55 without any thoughts of Him and He revealed that there are many areas where I continue to do this. God has gifted all of His children but he gives them different giftings to be used for His purposes. So weather you're a slow Volks bus, a steady Toyota Camry, or a Ferrari, we need to be in submission to Christ and to one another and using our gifts not to be racing ahead or slowing others down but to work together in love. We have had some rough times with church the last couple of years. It has left us wanting to forget about it and race ahead at our own speed doing our own thing. I am reminded that our gifts are not our own. Our life and the Church (people, not the institution) is His bride. Christians, we need to put differences, preferences and pride all aside and work together in the Gospel, remembering God doesn't need us but delights in using us. Churches are popping up everywhere with the focus on all different missional aspects. Everyone thinking they have something more authentic to offer. I openly admit that I am a bit of a show-off but I am also seeing the need to have the other size of engines in my life. I need the body and it's different giftings and they need me. My lesson? Slow down, see, and hear God...not despise the slow pokers but embrace His love and care for me and not turn away or 'speed off' from the Church (bride) but submit myself to trust that as we rub against each other there is more than an irritation going on but a sharpening. The hurt done by men in authority, "pastors," have been very real and damaging. But God is redeeming this for His glory and I see the Gospel much more clearly in the last two years. He is making all things new and preparing us to once again engage and love the body of Christ (church).

Friday, March 4, 2011


I come from a long line of well meaning criticizers, or to put it politely, critics. Like most people I do not see that I am negative, but I can certainly see it in others! As someone who tends to be an over-achiever I find that I kind of enjoy the immediate effects of criticism because it causes me to set high goals and standards. But I  also see how quickly I tend to focus on the negative cycle of "Do more, go higher, and try harder".

As an over-achiever coupled with a prophetic gifting, I can leave people around me feeling like they don't measure up and are not as good as I am. Those closest to me can feel like they can never make me happy. I remember feeling that way growing up by my dear mother and grandmother. They always had a negative comment on what I should be doing or how I should be doing it or that I should do it better, when all I really wanted was their love and acceptance.

I didn't learn about love and acceptance till many years later. I did to others what had been done to me. If someone didn't like it I would think, "Well, that's their problem! People should focus more on the Lord and not on me." It has taken me along time to see the importance of encouraging and nurturing others. I do have the gift of exhortation and can exhort almost anyone to get just about anything done. I am a mover and a shaker. But not necessarily in an encouraging way. More like, "You're scared for you life to fail, do it or die!"

Let me give you a bit more of my background...I come from a family where men wore big belt buckles and plaid flannel shirts, get fed by their woman three square meals a day at the same time everyday and perform all the 'so-called' manly duties of life like hunting, chopping wood, and so on. My grandfather was so busy with life that he did not speak to me until I was 18 years old. My idea of a man had nothing to do with godly character, it was based on my interpretation of what I saw men doing.

    When Don and I were married, he was a Marine from NYC who didn't wear belt buckles from the Pendleton Rodeo, didn't own any tools or perform any of what I would call 'Manly Tasks.' He grew up as an only child in an apartment where the landlord fixed everything for them. He certainly never hunted or fished or chopped wood. Our first newly-wed conflict came when he would not perform one of the duties of the house that I thought he was responsible for(ie. fix something!). Not only will he not...he really can't. I became quickly dissatisfied in my heart thinking, "What kind of a guy doesn't wear plaid and know how to fix things?" Apparently this attitude began to flow out of me as a young wife until one day Don said to me, "Why do you only love me if I perform for you, and do what you think I should do?"  Dead serious I say, "What kind of a wimp doesn't do the things he's supposed to do?" And shrugged off his point. The foreign concept to him is that I conditionally love him. The foreign concept to me is that he wants me to unconditionally love him.

       Don goes on to tell me that he will let me down and that I should not trust in him but in the Lord. I went on to think that I had married a chicken that wanted to hide behind God to avoid his responsibilities because real men don't let you down, they do their job.  

           We had been married for 7 years when the Lord took us through one of our biggest trials and it was then that I began to understand Don's words more clearly, "I will let you down." The Lord has taken us through many ups and downs as well as given us the opportunity to walk closely with others in their trials.         As I have grown in my love and understanding for the Gospel, I now see that Don was not the loser wimp I thought he was who was just trying to get out of his responsibility. Actually, Don is the most godly person that I know. Yes he has his faults, but he loves Jesus. And he was loving me enough to point me to God. He was warning me that everything and everyone will fail except Jesus. That I can not put my hope in people. The best gift that Don ever gave me was to let me know that he will fail as a husband and truth be told, he has failed many times. But Jesus never will and never has. In our 19+yrs of marriage I have certainly nagged, bossed, and beat my husband down, being the over-achieving criticizer.

        I see the effects of the gospel in our marriage because of the damage I have done by not being more of an accepting encourager is being redeemed and restored by God's mercy and grace to us. As I understand more of His Grace and Love for me I am more free to extend it to my husband in a way I never could.

   Since I am understanding more about my freedom in Christ I am free to love without the pressure of failure or being rejected which is something I did not understand before Christ. I am accepted by God no matter how I perform or what I do as a wife! I can not earn favor by completing a list of womanly tasks.

  The last few years I have tried to be more intentional with encouraging and nurturing people in my life, especially my husband. Proverbs says, "A wise woman builds her house and a foolish one tears it down." Well I am sure I've torn mine down several times in life but God, being merciful, keeps rebuilding it. 1st Thes. 5:11 says, "Encourage one another and build each other up." To encourage one another is to impart courage or confidence; to give support. To nurture means to promote growth and development.

 So in my attempt to put myself aside and love and build up my husband, I decided to text him one morning. You see, Don has been feeling a little 'out of shape' lately, so he started an exercising program, something I had been encouraging him to do for awhile. The thing is, Don has a hard time being consistent so I was expecting him to possibly quit a few days into it. To my surprise he didn't! So I decided to send him an encouraging text saying, "U R A STUD! SO PROUD OF U! KEEP STICKING WITH IT!" I felt so good about my effort as a new and improved encourager. Although to be honest, it was a little bit uncomfortable for me. I think one of the roots of this was pride, fear of my effort being rejected and not remembering my identity and security is in Christ alone.Well about an hour later I get a text back from Don saying, "IS THIS SOME SORT OF JOKE?? R U OK?"  I totally laughed and with a smile went upon my day thinking upon how much fun I have with this man. About an hour later I realized, "Hey this wasn't the response that I was going for!" I was looking for some playful banter back and forth not Don to spike the ball back with, "R U OK??" Like someone kidnapped me or aliens took over my body.

 What lesson did I learn? That I need the strength & help of the Lord even to open my mouth or text and I need the hope and encouragement of the gospel to keep pushing forward in being an encourager. I was not offended by Don's words, it was funny but I was saddened that I had not used the gift of encouragement more in my marriage. As I embrace my identity in Christ I am free to take chances to love and encourage even if I don't receive it in return because I am already loved and accepted by God. And nothing I do can change that.

I am growing in my understanding of being accepted as well as learning to accept where others are. Marriage is a process and thankfully it's not up to us alone. My natural instinct after feeling a bit rejected was to never text him again. He is a grown man, he did not need to be encouraged to exercise. But the heart of Jesus is to love  and yes, He was rejected in a much bigger way so yes I will continue to love and serve my husband with the gift of building him up with encouraging words regardless of whether he responds positively or not. Whether he performs his "manly duties" or not. Jesus loves me and accepts me not because of my performance but His. So I will try to put off my negative comments and freely give encouragement because this is what Jesus does for me! -Michelle

Sunday, February 13, 2011

We love because he first loved us..

At the risk of being labeled the most un-romantic couple in America I want to share what’s been on my heart lately.

I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers on Tues. night, 6 days before Valentine ’s Day. On Feb.14th we will not go out for dinner. We will not exchange any gifts .I have to admit this was hard for me in the beginning of our marriage.
At times I felt uncared for. I was expecting my husband to perform on holidays and birthdays and was let down year after year. Finally, after 20 years of marriage
I am learning to accept that Don does not love me based on what holiday it is or what he gives me for the occasion.
As I have grown in my love for Jesus and seek my fulfillment in Him, I have put less expectation upon my husband. Yet as he has grown in His love for Jesus, he brings me unexpected gifts, like flowers whenever he feels led to do so. Don may not be a present guy, but because I’m a present girl he makes an effort to love me in a way that is special to me.
Don may not pay attention to dates on the calendar (ie. Feb. 14th) but he seeks to pay attention to me because God has paid attention to him. We will use this day to remember who we are, WHOSE we are and why we’re here. We remember that we are two great sinners saved by and for a great God. We are in need of His amazing grace every day.
Feb 14th is just about here. There is so much hype surrounding this day. We are led to believe that if we follow the rules of romance we will be happy and in love, or we will find love. Romance is a great thing but it saddens me that we tend to focus on the romantic things to do for our spouse without being given the why of doing these good things.
We constantly need to be reminded of the gospel. We are moralists by nature so we tend to gravitate towards a list of dos and don’ts.
Let’s take a step back and first see our identity in Christ, that our actions flow out of God’s love for you and your love for Him. Christians should promote marriage to be sure, but out of loving Christ first. If a couple comes to us with marriage struggles we do not want to give them a list of things to perform in hope of making their marriage better. They do not need to behave better, they need to believe better. Repentance is a change of mind which results in a change of behavior. The changed behavior is simply the fruit of believing the gospel more fully.
If we emphasize what we do above what Jesus has done we are in danger of being moralists that believe in cause and effect, rather than amazing grace.
As a Christian couple we want our love for God to be more real so that our mutual love for Him will strengthen our marriage. We love and serve each other because marriage is a reflection of Jesus and His unconditional love for His Bride, the Church.
His love does not increase in time nor does it lessen for any reason.
In light of such unconditional, unwarranted love for us, let each of us display to our spouses whatever gifts and affection we are so led to display. Not out of obligation but out of the love that God has put in our hearts.

We don’t need to perform in order to be loved and accepted, we should perform because we are already loved and accepted by God based not upon our performance but upon the performance of Another. And do it whether it’s Feb. 14th or not! -Michelle

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

"Hello Miss Muffin!"

It's official! I have entered middle age when your Metabolism slows down and you get introduced to your new best friend, "Belly fat" or "Miss Muffin" as I would call it.
This is the first year I was not able to eat whatever I wanted and work it off. I started the beginning of the Holidays doing very well with small bites here and there but no real indulgences.
With the busyness of life, my exercise routine has slowed down but I still thought I had it all under-control. I was managing my eating and temptations just fine....or so I thought....

My world came crashing down one night. I was getting ready to take Mallory out to dinner for her birthday. As I attempted to put my jeans on.....SURPRISE!... they were a little too tight. Oh I got them on with a few tugs and pulls and without assistance, thankyou very much. But also to my surprise I had gained a new best friend.
Yes, I had a 'Muffin Top' and "Miss Muffin" was over-done and bulging over. I was so discouraged because I had worked so hard this past year to gain better health and now it seemed like I was right back to where I started, needing to wear anything with an elastic waist on it.

I was completely unaware that my small but constant LITTLE indulgences had become a much bigger (and wider) problem then I realized. I still considered that maybe one of my daughters had shrunk my jeans and it wasn't my fault at all!
My LITTLE 'sugar sin' was exposed when Mallory came in to say good-night and saw Ghirardelli candy wrappers on my bedroom floor and next to my bed and me licking the chocolate off my fingers.
She said "Mom, what are you eating?" and walks over to my bed only to find my nightstand drawer open and a LITTLE, secret stash of goodies in it. Her mouth drops open, eyes get big and hands go up in the air and says, "Mom what are you doing?!" I had no idea what she was talking about and frankly felt annoyed that she was bothering my special moment.
She then calls for reinforcements and her 3 sisters come in my room at 10:30 at night, appalled at my behavior and apparently looking for some sort of intervention to happen. I send everyone to bed assuring them that I am a responsible adult and have the situation under control.
But I didn't & I didn't care. I was watching T.V & indulging in my favorite food group. I had no problem with being exposed by a few candies in my drawer although... I might not want them to find the stash in my purse!
One benefit of shopping at Trader Joe's with children is that they find the monkey "Pirate Joe" and they then get to get into the treasure chest full of candy and pick a treat.
Usually this does not affect me UNTIL they stocked it with chocolate. So, for the sake of my kids, I take their candy and put them in my purse for a later time...preferably after dinner. With two trips to Trader Joe's per week, I had quite the 'treasure chest' of my own going on in my purse!
The next morning the Lord was so faithful to show me how foolish I have been. He showed me how easy sin had crept into this area of of my life. I am not saying that sugar is sin, it is not.
I am simply pointing out how quickly it became sin for me. (I was stock-piling it and it was not in moderation, I had lost control.) Now anyone who knows me knows I am a bit of a fighter, and an over-achiever.
I have rarely struggled with addictions. I usually set my mind to something and get it done.
God was so gracious to show me how often I run to things that are smaller than Jesus. He also showed me that I was acting like a person with an addiction. My first thought was for all the people we have known and especially to those we have counseled, who have struggled with addictions.
Just recently I remember thinking, "How can this person be a Christian and continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
Why are they so willing to risk everything for something so small, so temporary?" The Lord gently reminded me that we are all like sheep who have gone astray and it is the Holy Spirit that causes the blind to see. There have been times in my life when I have treated people much like a job to do,wanting and expecting them to clean themselves up, do more and try harder.
Please forgive me if you have ever felt that way because of me. I clearly see this response is not the gospel. The gospel is not us ascending to God with our resolutions to try harder, its God descending to us and doing for us what we can never do.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation, the power to deliver us from the penalty of sin(justification), the power to deliver us from the power of sin(sanctification), the power to ultimately deliver us from the presence of sin(glorification).
Since the exposing of my sin I have, by the Grace of God, cleaned out all the cupboards, drawers, and even the purse.
I have learned that it was not by my strength or my ability but it was the Lord's faithfulness to me.
It was His great love and care for me that motivated me to see the sin and clean the idols out to let Him take over the area.
Honestly I did feel like an addict, I was doing things that were harmful to me and that I did not really want to be exposed. This is called 'Idols' or 'Functional Saviors'
In the midst of this I am thankful for feeling like this because I hope this will make me much more kind, compassionate, and understanding of those struggling with addictions.
I now realize I can relate to people with addictions much more and can understand how they get out of control.
I guess I had a special little category that I kept those people in so I never had to take the time to truly love them. I just wanted to fix them.
lets be careful here to not just read this as my story. See yourself in it. We can all relate. We all have functional saviors.
Yours may not be drugs or chocolate in your drawers. But no one is free of them. In your life which 'drawer' do you not want anyone to open and see what's in it.
This experience had helped me to see the Self Righteous can-do attitude of pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality in all moralism. It is not the way we help people who are struggling.If you have felt this way and grown inpatient with others, Please consider laying this attitude at the foot of the cross then confessing your own sin and inability, humbly recognizing where your help comes from and allowing the Lord to minister to you and others around you.
When we aren't willing to love people as they are we are not portraying an accurate picture of the gospel. We are telling them to "Clean yourself up before you come to God." rather then "Come to God so HE can clean you up." Jesus certainly did not look down on people. Nor should we, we should identify with them.
So often Christians are willing to give their time, money, and talents but not so quick to give of themselves. We are not willing to be patient and long-suffering. I am so thankful that my family saw a problem with what I was doing.
But they saw my real identity in Christ. I am His beloved. They did not point out my sin in their self-righteousness and then leave me alone to deal with it. They saw hope and restoration. They loved me and encouraged me and walked with me.
Please do not grow weary with God's people, the truth is, you don't get that right. Please do not put your expectations on people, they will never live up to them.
God is a God of hope! The gospel is about being reconciled to God by God. We should offer redemption and restoration to people by offering them love.
The big lesson here is not to see the problems or addictions other people have, we all know that is easy. The big lesson is learning to see and identify your own idols (and yes you have them)- your own personal functional saviors and then being willing to expose them in order to make more room for the Lord and also to relate to others so that you may walk with people more effectively and lovingly.
If you really can't identify your idols, I will help you. Think of the one thing in your life that would ruin you if it were taken away. The one, or many things, that you are holding onto so tightly your knuckles are white! Eureka! You have found your idol!
I am delighted to say that with the help and love of my family and friends I am walking in the light and reserving chocolate for special occasions and not for everyday occurrences.
One of my 2011 goals is to eat healthier and of course cut the top of "Miss Muffin" aka "Belly Fat" so I don't have to huff and puff to get my jeans on or start shopping in the polyester elastic waist department of the store. Another goal for 2011 is to not 'label' God's people.
To ask for eyes, ears, and a heart to love broken, hurting people and humility and courage to identify myself as one of them. -Michelle

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"More presents, please!"

 I hope I am growing in humility because it is not easy learning from a four-year old. I promise that Jameson will not be the only subject I write about...but it's funny how the Lord is using him to teach me so many things.  Because of His love for me He uses whatever means necessary to show Himself real to me.

  The whole thing started during morning devotions just a few days before Christmas when I asked Jameson what Christmas means to him. His answer: "Presents!!" He smiles as big as he can as he can as he yells and uses his hands to show as how large the presents should be. Everyone else gasps in horror because they know this is not the "right" answer. Tension is building in the room until they can't hold it in any longer and the other kids burst out out in laughter at the blunt innocence of the 4yr old interpreting his world. Although there is laughter there is still a bit of tension as our girls wonder how I will respond. They believe we are much softer on the boys than we were on them. I suppose they are right but I am also confident that as parents we are growing in grace, love, and wisdom. And I am sure we had some "Nazi Style" parenting in our older kids because at times I was much more concerned with their outward obedience, even priding myself in it rather then being concerned with their hearts and God is concerned with both! So when Don came home from work I said, "Honey...Jameson wants to tell you about Christmas!" I'm sure Don is expecting to hear the youngest of his 8 children blurt out the doctrinally wisest statement  he has even heard from a child. When he hears Jameson yell "Presents!" I can see Don's eyes casually pop out of his head while trying to act as if he's not surprised. And I am sure he was thinking "Oops kid wrong answer  looks like we have some work to do!" What was exposed is that Jameson is only saying what is his reality. And apparently he is learning that from somewhere.

      I have to be honest, as I get older I don't have the same energy level. In addition this year I just felt alot of stress trying to do school and do Dr. appointments and shop, cook, bake and be hospitable. I felt a whole lot more like 'Martha' (busy) than 'Mary' (worshipful). Then, hearing Jameson's answer, it occurred to me that all these things, as wonderful as they are, had become my to-do list 'idols'. Jameson was wanting more presents. And not more of the one who gives him the presents and that is what was being exposed in  my heart. I was doing the same thing. Wanting more stuff and not seeking the Savior.
     Well, Christmas morning, we opened presents and each child opened one at a time as we watched and celebrated  with them. It was obvious that Jameson was not enjoying this tradition and had no problem thinking of himself. After each person opened their present he would say "Where's mine??" or "Can I have another one?" The grand finale of this lesson came later that day when Grandpa came over with some presents.  I came out to see what they had opened from Grandpa and everyone was yelling & shoving presents in my face while telling me about what they got. All except for Jameson. There in a corner with tears in his eyes, he was pouting and asking me why he can't have more presents. He was dissatisfied with the gifts because he was not thankful for the person giving him the present. I was doing the same thing. It is so easy to see in Jameson his ungrateful, demanding, selfish self. But not as easy to see in me. I had been modeling for my children the very thing I see in him. I was ungrateful and unthankful, As I began to see people as a bother to me, treating them as part of my  to-do list and not really loving them. I lacked faith and trust that God would  provide for us. As I began to worry that my children would not get "enough presents." That everyone around me had more to offer their children. I wanted "more". Just like Jameson I was anxious and worried that we would not have enough food for our family or to share with the people that Don had invited over. I was selfish by only looking at all the work I was doing and how no one did anything for me.

Why would I expect Jameson to say anything else in response to what Christmas is about when I am showing him the answer by my actions and lack of love. Most certainly we teach our children about Jesus and we spend alot of time going over advent. I am trying to point out the heart issue here. We can do everything on our Christmas to-do list and have our children say the "right answers" but are we really drilling at the heart? Parents, as God drills into your heart, disciple your kids! Don't be afraid to share your expressions of what he is doing in you through them.
  I often joke about life feeling like I am Ebenezer Scrooge in the 'Christmas Carol'. Scrooge had been visited by three ghosts and was shown his life in the past, present and future. He couldn't stand it anymore so he hid his face from the ghosts and begged them to show him no more. He can't stand all the selfish mistakes he had made. Well it's Christmas morning and as I watch my greedy 4yr old I felt like Scrooge, covering my face and crying out to God to show me no more, it hurts. As I feel His grace cover and wash over me I am able to slowly look at my sinful self and see what he is showing me in myself through the life of my child. Yes, Jameson wanted more presents and so did I.

       Here is where I need to put the gospel goggles on and see it in this situation. God gave me the best present and the only one I will ever need in Jesus Christ.When I put anything before Him, He is faithful to remove my idols and cause me to know that He is jealous for me. As a parent I get to show Jameson the Gospel. Jameson, God gave you the best present of all but you were wanting lots of other things. And Jesus wants you to be filled with the best gift ever, Himself. Jameson, presents are nice and God gives you lots of wonderful gifts but none will ever satisfy you like Jesus. They will all leave you empty. Jesus is the only One who will never leave or forsake you. Lord, thankyou for your patient love with idolaters like me. Thankyou for the wonderful gift of the Gospel. Help us as parents, to help our own children see the gospel in their lives. -Michelle

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

You can't see me!

It's a Tuesday morning and I am upstairs getting ready for the day when I hear “Mom!” It does not sound like an urgent call so I continue on when behind me is one of my children telling me Jameson, our precious 4 year old and youngest child is under the kitchen table eating all the Christmas cookies a friend had just delivered. I have to be honest here, when I was a younger mother this would have made me angry and I probably would have reacted to it. Thankfully, many children and middle age have mellowed me a bit and all I could do is laugh. As my children stand in front of me dumbfounded as to why I am laughing instead of disciplining Jameson they go on to repeat the offense as if I did not hear them correctly. ”MOM!  JAMESON IS EATING THE COOKIES!”  I smile as I call for my husband delighting in the fact that I get to express (rub in) how much his children are just like him. Anyone who knows my husband knows that cake, cookies, and ice cream are his main food groups. My children stand in front of us thinking we have lost our minds, gone soft, forgetting we are parents. Telling us stories of how they could have never done this and the horror of what would have happened if they did. I smile because I see GOD’S grace so evidently in my life at this moment and because in reality I totally relate to them. So often, I am the one looking at GOD wondering why others are getting away with things he seems to not catch. I ask myself why he is not dealing with their sin and why it is always me that is caught. My view of God is not aligning with His character. I forget that it is “His kindness that leads us to repentance.”  He is patient toward us. As I am growing in my understanding of the Gospel, I realize that I need to be constantly reminding myself of it. God loves me! Is concerned with my character! Sent his son as a ransom to pay for my sins! THIS IS PERSONAL! Not a far off distant God. I do not need to manage the world and others sins. I am responsible for loving and worshiping the God of the universe who wonderfully created me. Not looking at others and ignoring my own issues. I am thankful for my older children watching out for the sins of the little ones and I am thankful for the opportunity to teach my children about Gods grace as I extend it to Jameson. Why would we extend grace to a 4 year old under the kitchen table eating a plate full of cookies? Well first of all the natural consequences will be much more severe than anything we can do and much more effective, secondly because I am just like him! I am constantly doing things right in front of GOD either not caring or not believing that he sees me. I think if we are honest, we can all relate to Jameson wanting something so badly that we will lie, sneak, cheat, or steal. We lie to ourselves when we think God does not see or care for our every need or desire. We sneak around him in darkness because of our lack of faith and trust in his goodness for us. We cheat him by not giving our time in worship to him and him alone (having other gods, idols) we steal by not surrendering our lives to him and manipulate to get what we want. God’s great mercy is not getting what I deserve. God’s grace is receiving the blessings of being in relationship with the Lover of my soul, based not upon my performance, but the performance of another. I want my children to see this. I deserve hell but because of Jesus, I get eternal life. We want our children to know Jesus Christ personally and not the moral or religious right and wrongs of life. Right =No sneaking cookies. Wrong=sneaking cookies. We want the gospel to come alive for our children and to us. We want to see it in every aspect of our lives. So what did we do with the naughty boy under the table? We laughed, identified, and extended mercy! “Jameson you thought you were getting away with sin. You thought no one could see you. However, Jameson Jesus sees you and he loves you so much he caught you.  Daddy and Mommy love you very much.  we want to give you wonderful things in your life because we  love you so much. Jameson please trust us to give you what is best for you and please do not take matters into your own hands(or mouth)Jameson you may not have cookies for breakfast. please trust us to give you what you need when you need it and if we take it away please remember it is for your good. Jameson Jesus wants these things for you even more than we do. He created you and you do not need to hide from Him. Yes, I totally relate to Jameson. God is saying the same things to me! Now as parents we could have immediately disciplined him and been done with the matter. Instead, we chose to extend grace in a way that our children could tangibly see Christ. We wanted the children to see that when we trust and wait upon God to give them the good things he has for them how much sweeter it is. How he loves them, so much he sent his only son to die for them. Please know that in no way am I saying allow your children to disobey and then laugh about it. What I am saying is let the Gospel come alive in your parenting. Look for ways to show your children Jesus up close and personal. -Michelle