Having FuN?!

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It was a simple text Huni received just over a week ago:

 “[Since becoming serious about your relationship with Christ] Answer me honestly.  Are you having fun?”

And it got me thinking. . .Christians have a reputation of being so serious about Christ that they smolder all of the fun out of their lives.  Is that a true representation of Christ?  Do I have enough fun in my life?

And what about you? Would you consider yourself someone who takes their relationship with Christ seriously?  Does the idea of fun seem trivial or unimportant in the Christian life?

As I’ve grown and matured into a woman, wife and mom, I understand why I should seek joy and not merely happiness.  I understand why peace is far more enduring than presents.  I have come to value my friendships more (even though I often do a terrible job at keeping in touch) and I drink in the wonder found in the life stories of others.  I can see the danger and detriment of comparison.  I get it.  I do.  I get all the stuff that comes with growing up and I get that I haven’t gotten it all figured out yet.  I don’t have half the answers.  But.  Unlike people, I don’t think that fun ever gets old.   So, as people who love God and seek to serve Him and do His will, why aren’t we having more of it?

I’m not trying to make some big statement except to say that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously that we forget to honor God with our whole lives–the serious bits, and doubled over laughing til we snort bits.  I think the idea of “The Zero Fun Christian Life” is what makes it so difficult for some people to come to and/or remain in Christ.  Particularly younger people or those who have sipped the sweet nectar of the world longer than others.  I’m convinced that fun is not the issue.  It’s the emphasis we put on it and where we think it comes from.

God desires to be Lord over every area of our lives.

He provides for every need.

Even the need for fun.

Pleasures Are Meaningless

2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a] as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless

17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless.20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? ~Ecclesiastes 2:1-25 (NIV)

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Home for the Holidays

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It has been as quiet as a mom with a sleeping baby around here lately.  And I’ve been as busy as . . .well . . . as a person can be.  :0)  And in the process of all this busy, I’ve contracted some sort of something.  I’m not quite sure what it is, but it’s a whole bunch of up and down, sneeze and blow, rest and unrest, uugghh and uuuuurrrrrggggghhhh.  So I am saying a prayer for myself, my baby girls (who are actually getting much better by the day) and everyone else who may be getting over the uuurrggghhhs (you define what that is).  I certainly want to feel better, for good.  Next week I am making my way to my hometown to spend some time with my family.  I’m looking forward to wrapping my arms around my nieces and nephews.  There’s a juicy little dimple faced boy who looks just like my little sister when she was a baby.  Then there’s my other nephew with the golden ears which have been switched to the off position, for whom I’ve been brushing up on my sign language so that he and I can have a conversation and perhaps he’ll better know that I see him and I love him. The crew of what feels like scores of nieces each with their own tv variety personalities and a new, precious wonder of a girl who I cannot wait to hold in my arms for the first time.  Oh yes, I must get better!  So many joys ahead.

For some people, though, going home for the holidays is often a very sad and often painful time.  Since my parents are divorced, this used to be true for me.   I hated the idea of dividing up my time between the two houses and the stress that accompanied that type of planning.  Considerations flowed in and out of my mind in capital, oxblood red letters like breaking news scrolling across a ticker: I have to make sure I get to daddy’s house.  How will my mom feel while I am gone?  Will she feel alone or abandoned?  Will daddy feel like I spent enough time with him?  The whole thing could easily give me a case of the uuurrrggghhhsss!  For real.  It was very heart-wrenching and difficult for this people pleaser to feel as though there was no hope for me to make the people I care about the most, happy.  It was as though I was approaching Mt. Kilomanjaro in stilettos and a clutch bag without so much as a 4 oz. Deer Park for the journey.  I found myself praying off anxiety before each visit or just avoiding going home altogether.  And because I know that there are some of you who may be experiencing the same for similar reasons or reasons completely different from mine, I want to offer you hope.

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How about instead of thinking about all the dysfunction in your family, you take out a pen, right now, and jot down a list of thanks, to God, for anything and everything right about your family.  Before you roll your eyes and call me an idealistic Pollyanna wanna be just try it.  I really believe that in every family, there is some redeeming quality, some glimmer of hope, some semblance of goodness if we look hard enough.  And the alternative to seeing and appreciating the good is your misery and the risk of making an idol out of every grievance you legitimately have with each person in your family.  And we all know who so badly desires your misery . . .  So take a few moments and call forth the good.  Conjure it up.  And be careful not to allow your enemy to overshadow each sweet thought with a memory that negates it.  After you have a hefty list of only the sweet, thank God for each item and enter into a time of prayer asking Him for whatever it is you need to experience His joy and be a light for Him while with your family.

I am sincerely looking forward to going home to be with my family.  And I sincerely believe that it is going to be a beautiful time as we make new memories together.  And I am going to accept nothing less than that . . . and I challenge you to do the same.

Disclaimer:  Above are not pictures of a dysfunctional family . . . they are actually a very sweet family with dysfunctional tendencies.  :0)

The Network

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Verizon boasts to have one of the largest 3G cell phone networks available.  The cellular provider claims that no matter where you go in the United States, you will have coverage and, therefore, be able to both receive and make phone calls from your cellular device.  It’s a pretty grand offering.  Since my primary place of residence is somewhere between John’s barnyard and Mary’s farmhouse, I play “chase the signal” a few times a day as I move skittish throughout my house shouting, “Can you hear me?  Hello?  You there?  Can you hear now?  Hello?  Hello?  Wait, I can hear you!  Wait, don’t hang up!  Helloooooo!!”  :0/  Yea.  Oh what fun.  Clearly I don’t have the Verizon network.  But, it got me thinking about another network.

This weekend Huni had the great fortune of visiting his alma mater, North Carolina State University, to participate in a leadership panel.  On a whim and at the very last minute he convinced the girls and me to join him.  Whilst there, I had the great, good fortune of talking to and spending some time with family and friends.  During one conversation, I had a friend describe the latest happenings in her marvelous life (she wouldn’t describe it that way, but hey, that’s what friends are for!).   She told me that she and her roommates, three single ladies, are doing a study on purity together.  The other night one of the roommates led the time and it was phenomenal.  She told me about how she prays with a different friend in the mornings either before or after going to the gym.  The day that we were chatting she was tired after having a sleepover with a friend/colleague in support of two women who are currently raising financial support and preparing to go into full time ministry.  And there it was that she and I were talking, laughing, crying and reflecting together.  She does have a marvelous life, right!?!?

Since I live quite a distance away from all of my Frans, I was feeling quite sad after our conversation. I was like, man, how lucky you are to have all of these great connections and great women in your life.  And most of them are at your fingertips!  Comparison and self-pity are two venomous arrows in satan’s quiver.  He aims them right into your eyes, blinding you from the glory that surrounds you and somehow simultaneously highlighting someone else’s.

Sunday we went to our church.  I missed my favorite part of the service, praise and worship, I was tired from a restless night of tossing and turning and although I was happy to be there, I just wasn’t feeling it.  Honestly, I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed.  After service was over, I talked to a Fran from undergrad.  She’s so fabulous and always greets me with such a warm reception.  This time we were able to talk a little while longer than usual and she was just as sweet, gracious, funny and cool as ever.  As I finished my conversation with her, I looked up and saw a dear sister who I’ve intimately studied the word with over the past few years.  I was only able to give her a quick squeeze before a big sister in the faith came and squeezed the tears out of me.  Literally.  Just the sight of her brought a flood of tears.  Her prophetic wisdom knew that my tears were more than just the sight of her, so immediately she inquired for the real story, wiped away my tears and prayed for me.  Once we were done, I looked to the row directly below and there was yet another sister in the faith, looking at me compassionately, embracing me with her eyes, saying more than words could say as she offered me her home as a homebase for me and my girls whenever we came to town and wanted a change of scenery.  Later that night I hopped on OoVoo with Huni and we goofed, teased and chatted with some couples, the wives of which are more of my sisters  in the faith.  Together we shared some of the latest news in our lives and talked intently about how we saw the Lord calling us and directing our lives.  And this doesn’t include all of my Frans.  Only a handful.  Only a handful.

These women keep me grounded.  They know my heart, they know my hurts, they get my humor.  They love me, they enjoy me and they want me . . . just as I am yet they actively participate in my growth; they pour into me and root for me.  Even when I cannot wrap my arms around them, lay my eyes on them, or hear their sweet voices, I know that they are for me, thinking of me, praying for me.  I too have a marvelous life.  Not because of the things I have but, in part, because of my network.   All of these women are a way that God shows His love, concern and compassion for me.  They remind me that He sees me and He knows me.  No matter how lonely I feel, the truth is I have a network.  And it is sweet-potato-pie-with-whipped-cream-on-top-amazing.

What about you?  Who’s in your network?  How about showing them some love this week either via text, phone call, lunch date, good ole snail mail, or something free and simple like a stroll through your local Target?  The moment you start reaching out to each of them, you’ll receive an instant reminder of just how big and bountiful is your life.  And you’ll smile.  And your heart will feel all warm and fuzzy.  And it’ll be better than a cup of hot chocolate on a cold day.

Five Minute Friday!

I have so missed this!  So glad to be joining the Five Minute Friday crew today!  Today’s word is “together.”  Five minutes.  One Word.  Here goes!

Together

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Mommy, may I have some water?

Mommy, I need to use the potty.

Mommy, what does frog mean?

Mommy, what are you doing?

Mommy?  Mommy?  Mommeeeeeee!  Mommy, I called you!

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I do dearly love those two little girls.  I get to spend my all day everyday with them.  It is a blessing and I know it full well.

When I go about my day doing laundry, or cleaning bathrooms, the cadence of their happy little feet mark time behind me, following diligently from room to room.  They volunteer to help even when there’s not much to do.  They RSVP to be by my side even when there has been no invitation extended.  If I sit, snuggled with a blanket, they take it as an open seat, and snuggle next to me.  They want to hold me.  They want to kiss me.  They want hugs.  They want me.

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And as much as I often want nothing more than a quiet moment to myself, I think to myself that one day, they will need the wisdom, love a listening ear and comfort of a mother.  They will need me, but if satan has his way, they may not want me.  I do not want to spend their little years having them practice being sent away to play or be otherwise engaged while mommy has a moment.  There will be moments I get to myself but for now I will love them. And I will enjoy us being . . . together.

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Happy Monday!

Yes! Happy Monday, You Beautiful People!!!

Happy Monday

Thinking of you and praying for you today.  I’m actually praying that we’d be tickled pink to start this day today!  Wouldn’t that give satan a kick in the teeth?!?!!!  I’m convinced that with as many people who dread Monday mornings (or Monday altogether), he thinks he has our joy on lock today more than any other day.  But we can have victory in Jesus.  Remember to take your medicine.

May you have a blessed, encouraged and positive start to the work week–whether you work in your home, outside of your home, or not at all.  I’m praying blessings, effectiveness, provision and fellowship with the Lord for you today.

I’m finishing up Beth Moore’s 10 week bible study called Believing God and it has been phenomenal.  This is the prayer that I’m praying for myself as I start my day today:

My Lord and my God, I thank you for another day to know You and believe You.  Whatever means you may choose to increase my faith today, I commit myself to that end.

~ Beth Moore in Believing God

Believing God takes courage but it also takes us on a fantastic ride.  You may think your life has enough excitement, for good or for bad, but dare to actively believe God in every area of your life and allow the Lord to thrill you with His revelations and His goodness and your life will never be the same.

Pray this prayer with me today?

His

All my fears and inhibitions fade away when I recognize . . .

. . .that I am His . . .

. . .my identity is in Christ . . .

. . .who I really am is in Christ . . .

. . .everything I need is in Christ . . .

. . .Christ is my source. . .

. . .Christ is my self-esteem . . .

. . .He is BIG in me!!!!

Hallelujah!  You are BIG in me!!!!

…… lying with the quiet calm that comes with the end of a day.  It’s rather late, so perhaps you won’t read this until morning but my mind is swirling and looping with all of the events, conversations, people and responsibilities that filled my Monday.  However the thought that keeps circling back to the front of my mind is my identity in Christ.

I can sense my savior’s urgent message for me to identify myself by no other standard than by the word of God.  And I believe He wants that for you as well.

I was sharing with the ladies in bible study tonight that for so much of my life I have been running from being labeled a statistic, running from my past, past mistakes made and poor choices executed, doing my best to define and position myself so that I can control how people see me and therefore what they think of me.  I have been able to accomplish and have some good things in my time but they became the standard by which I identified myself.  If I were to list even a couple of these things it would only be perpetuating the very thing that the Lord is trying to get me to pull away from: identifying myself by the standards of this world.  I am nothing more and nothing less than what the word of God says that I am.  I draw my strength, my value and my identity directly from the heart and mind of the almighty God.  

Now, how does that sit with you?  Does finding your identity in Christ and not in the pieces of the American Dream you currently do or don’t possess scare you?  If you lost absolutely everything you have today, perhaps your own version of a Job experience, would you have any clue about who you are?  Take heart.  He wants us to know the truth about ourselves.  As I explore His word to find myself, I am taking refuge in the fact that I am completely His and I’m putting this on repeat:

Pondering the Gospel

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I had a friend describe a situation that she was in a short time ago where she chose to divulge to a large group of women some of the things that she was struggling with at the time.  It had much to do with singleness and likely most of the women in the audience could relate, whether they wanted to admit it or not.  The list was less than pretty.  The details, though vague, were of a very personal nature because, in order to tell the truth, she had to expose parts of her person that those not close to her might not otherwise know.  But she poured herself out thin, viscous, and abundant in front of the women anyway.  After the session was done, quite a few women came up to her and asked her, “How did you do that?  How were you able to just tell your business like that?  I can’t believe you just shared all of that with everyone.”  My friend responded with a couple Christ pointed sentences to explain where her “courage” came from but then she ended with the most intriguing response of all.  She said, “I really believe that the gospel is enough.”

I’ve been thinking of my friend’s final response and I’m just really taken by it.

Well, what is the gospel?  According to John Piper, “the gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the righteous one, died for our sins, rose again eternally triumphant over all His enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe but only everlasting joy.

So, essentially, my friend was saying that because Christ, the righteous one, who is eternally triumphant and gives no condemnation but everlasting joy to all who believe, died for her sins, she can struggle in the light. . . with NO shame nor embarrassment . . . and receive strength to overcome the evil one and live victoriously today and everyday. . . and by so doing, invite others to do the same.

yeaaaaaaaaa . . . . my head is spinning too . . . .

Take Your Medicine

It’s Sunday night, a night of bittersweets. . .

Most of us have enjoyed a beautiful day alone or with family and friends . . .the house is quieting down, lovers may be cuddling up for a movie, friends may be finishing up conversations . . .preparations for the next day have been made . . .or not.  No matter how we feel about it or how we’ve decided to address it, we have all realized by now that tomorrow is Monday.

Seems like most of us dread Mondays.  Lord knows I’ve had some times where I was downright depressed about Mondays.  I’m not even joking.

But, Frans, I’m trying something new that I wanted to get you in on.  I just discovered that I have a drug that I can take that’ll help me deal with Mondays, Tuesdays, Bluesdays and all the other days too.  Check this out:

20 My son, give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them
And health to all their body. (Proverbs 4:20-22, NASB)

So, are you trying to tell me that reading the word brings me health and life?  Oh yes, chile.  Yes, I am.

No matter what Monday holds for you, or any day for that matter, you can face it with joy, confidence, security, and love by taking your medicine.  Read the word of God, listen to scripture, write it down, memorize His words, soak them in!  Soak them up!  The thing is, unlike any other medication, there is no danger involved in overdosing.  Try and see.  Put the word of God on everything you are facing.  He is so worth it.  You can take Him at His word.  His word is His bond.  He is trustworthy and His word works for our lives, NOW!

19 “God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19 NASB)

Not sure what Monday holds for you but you don’t have to bow to it.  You serve a very big God who has put His spirit in you and left His word for you to wield as a mighty sword to combat Satan, call him out as the liar that he is, take over your day and be victorious in all of the things that He will put your hands to!

So, which verse or set of verses will you look up tonight?  All the power you need lies within you through the holy spirit and can be activated by encouraging your faith through the word of God.

Take some time to get into the word then stand up and shout with a voice of triumph, “bring it on Monday!!!”

Tonight I Tripped Over a Barbie Doll

It was pitch black dark in the den.  After a long day, tired and frustrated I was making my way down to the breakfast room for some sense to be talked into me.  For some words of prayer to be spoken over me.  And there she was.  Just a smiling.  All sprawled out on the hardwood floor like that’s where she belonged.  Like I was in her way.  Of course because it was dark, I got a little nervous about what exactly was lying on the floor that sent my feet into an impromptu jig that could have rendered my body bruised and scratched tonight.

Then I realized it was her.  And a funny thing happened.

I didn’t get mad.  I didn’t think about how she got left there or who it was that should have picked her up.  I fought the temptation to use that as a time to run that movie in my mind where I play the thankless mom who cleans up after the girls and cares for the huni and am often overlooked.  Because it’s a reality show that plays on repeat in my head most days.

But not tonight.

My immediate thought was gratitude and thankfulness.  I smiled at that ole barbie.  Because I thought about my little girls and the great joy that they bring me everyday.  I thought about how much fun I have playing with them and how much happiness I receive when they are happy.  And let me tell you, after a day like today when we run out of time for afternoon naps and have to endure each other in our sleepiest, crankiest of states, these were gooooood thoughts to dwell on.  And a sure blessing from God and a sign of His growing me that these were among the first thoughts to spring into my psyche.

This job of being mom and wife is hard.  And everyday carries with it a new challenge, a new opportunity for me to get over myself and enjoy this life I have been given, to see my children and husband as gifts, not burdens and to realize that I am so blessed to have this family of mine.  On the sunny days and the rainy ones.  While the babies are napping and when they’re running off of remnants of last night’s sleep.  Oh, Pamela.  That you would count it all joy.

Tonight I tripped over a barbie doll and instead of wanting to throw her out of the nearest window, I smiled, placed her in her “bed,” and thanked God for the little girls who clamor to play with her each day.

Rock on all you wives and mamas out there.  You are never overlooked.  He longs to be gracious to you and He always sees you.

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29-31 (NIV)

Huni on a Thursday Night

Huni leads a group of men in study of the word on Thursday nights.  It’s been like a mystery to me.  He goes off to the study once I have already left to meet with a certain teen girl.  He comes back much later than I, usually.  But when he comes back, he beams.  He glows.  He’s so humbled that the Lord would choose Him as a lens through which others can see His light reflected more clearly.  He’s so excited about the revelations that ride into the room and rest there on their hearts and minds.  He’s so determined to study harder next week so that God can do more, show more, give more through him.

Tonight was different.  Our timing was all off and rushed and compromised so I needed to drop him off instead of our usual divide and conquer routine.  We pulled up with five minutes to spare and one brother was already there.  Ready.  Patiently waiting.  Huni discovered that he had no keys to get in so we had to jam to the house and get the keys.  We came back and there they were, waiting around the door, dappin’ each other up, laughing.  Joy, expectation and excitement were all present there with them on the sidewalk as they waited to get into the building to meet with God.  I could tell that Huni was so excited.  He was distracted by it all and he too just couldn’t wait to get in there and get it going.  I watched him as he made his way across the street carrying pizza, wings and the word.  I watched them as he approached.  I got so excited at the sight.  I can’t imagine how our Father must have felt.

I don’t know what all happens in that room.  I just know that lives are being changed.  Huni is being changed.  Iron is being sharpened.  God is being glorified.  Our brothers are getting stronger.  And because of that, our world is getting better.  God is just too good.