Monday, August 3, 2015

Asher and His Bath

“Wanna take a bath?”  “Baaaaath!!!”  he screams as he runs into my bathroom where his pint sized porcelain pool awaits.  He does his best to pull down his shorts and rip off his diaper.  He asks, “Pee Pee on potty?”  Asher hops up on the seat, sits for five whole seconds, only to grin at me, and say, “No, thank you.”  Every single time.  Can’t get him to pee to save my life.

I kneel and crank up the hot and the cold, both cascading into a lukewarm perfection, using more cold these days, due to the 110 heat indexes.  He squeezes into the space in between my arms and grins up at me, his anticipation leaking through his pores.  His eyes are swirled with wonder and hues of blue and I swear those few seconds of him glancing my way are some of the happiest moments of each day.

I lather his baby soft dark blonde hair up with Johnson’s and we rinse and rinse and rinse.  I squirt lavender wash onto a white fluffy cloth and scrub each little toe, each little finger.  He is officially clean but the fun has only just begun.

The toys await.  Tug boats and fish squirties and yellow duckies and measuring cups float, begging to be picked up by the happy fella.  He plays and plays, me watching from the safe distance of my bed, occasionally saying, “Sit down, Asher!”  “Okaaaay, Momma,” he croons back to me as he plops himself back into delight.

Two year olds aren’t always little hellions.  Sometimes they offer so much joy your heart can’t even hold it all.

I let the water out and wrap him up, him grinning all over himself.  We step over to the sink where hair and teeth are equally brushed.  I leave his hair wet, knowing it’s simply too hot for a hairdryer.

“Jammie time!” I scream and he takes off running through the house, naked and unashamed, the way we were once all meant to be. His dimpled bootie shakes and his brothers laugh at his innocence.

Still naked, he peers at his bookcase, grabbing one to look at while I put on his diaper.  Always reading, this fourth boy.

I put him down and he runs to find each family member, giving them big fat kisses on the mouth, telling them goodnight.  Asher loves big.

I place him onto the bottom bunk, lay his beloved baby blankets beside him and offer prayers to Jesus.  Thank you for creating Asher, Lord.  Use him for your glory, Lord.  Thank you for the joy he brings to each one of us, Lord.
 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Beautiful Inheritance

There are certain times of the year that I miss her more than others.  August 19th is one of them.  She was due this day, the same day my sister Kiley made her appearance.   I thought for sure our girl would be a repayment of the sorrow in losing my sister.  I was wrong.  I stood on the church stage singing on August 19th and the tears fell so hard that I couldn’t even get the words out.  My soul surrendered another anguishing exhale as my heart worshiped the God who gives and takes away.

This is the story of my daughter.

We always wanted a whole slew of kids.  Four or five was our number and when we reached three, we needed to pause and take a breath.  Things were difficult in many areas.  Grief.  Finances.  Relationships.  All areas took their toll and we put having more children on the back burner.  In the fall of 2010, we felt released to start praying for the possibility of another child.  During that time period, God made me aware of just how afraid I was to ask for a girl.  I had wanted a daughter since I was a wee little thing and yet all I could see were the blessing of boys.  I had surrendered my desire for a girl long ago, so much so that I was afraid to even ask anymore.  So, I took a big breath and asked the Creator.

Through that time period, Sam (only 5 at the time,) starting praying for a baby sister.  He wanted to name her Nabie and when asked why he wanted a sister, he said, “So I can love her.” 

Days turned into weeks that turned into months. In the busyness of life, I squelched my desire and convinced myself I hadn’t even asked.  While at a charity event, I told God I would take it as a sign that I was supposed to have a daughter if He let me win matching mother and daughter aprons. 

I did.

The aprons are joyful and bright with large pink flowers and I wanted to cry because our God is so personally involved in our lives.

In late April of 2011, I had a vision of her.  I am not prone to having visions, but this one was so clear.  She was around the age of two or three, twirling around in a dance of light.  I couldn’t see her face, but I know she was smiling.  Joy was exploding from her.  She had light brown baby soft hair that was in pigtails.  They had a slight curl to them, as if a curling iron had given each pigtail a big ringlet.

She stole my heart that day.

On June 20th, while in the Florida Keys, I penned out a prayer.  It is the prayer of my daughter.

“I ask you Father, in the name of your Son Jesus, for a daughter.  I ask you for a girl who might reflect your beauty and grace.  I beg for a girl who might bring joy and shalom (wholeness, positive blessing) to our family unit. 

The desire for a daughter has not wanted through the years.  Yes, I have lied and said I am content, but an inner ache remains.

Give me a daughter and a huge taste of how you feel about me as your daughter. 

I pray that she would desire you above all else.  I pray redemption over her at a young age.  I proclaim my seed as blessed.  I pray health and vitality over her.  I pray life over her physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual parts.  I pray a hedge of protection over her and that Satan would never be allowed to touch her.

I pray you give her a spirit that longs to serve and not seek the limelight or attention of others.  At the same time, I pray she is able to use her God given gifts for your glory without fear or reservation.

I pray she is humble, submissive, compliant, and obedient.  I pray she would love much and give much.  I pray a knowledge and wisdom over her mind and spirit that could only be from you.

I pray purity over her whole frame and strength to withstand pressure. I pray a special bond of respect and love between she and her Daddy that won’t be marred with time.

I pray against any tension, anxiety, or jealousy over our mother-daughter relationship.  I pray the wounds of expectation and never achieving the mark and rejection and fear of making decisions would not be passed down in the name of Jesus.

I pray Godly and pure girlfriends over her.  I pray you would gift her with friends who aren’t worried about what the world thinks. I pray her whole life would be gifted with Godly friendships…from start to finish.

I pray a quiet and gentle spirit over her…the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:4)

I pray she would cherish the fact that she can be still and know that God is God, especially among a generation that finds it impossible to be still at all.

I pray she would have a healthy respect for authority and understand her God given female role in God’s story for her life.

I pray she would do others good and not harm.  I pray the spirits of malice, bitterness, manipulation, and judgment would not be found in her.

I pray that she would always be able to laugh at the days to come and that worry would be far from her.  I pray faith, rest, and shalom over her countenance.

I pray, Jesus, that you would fill her with awe and holy reverence for your name, the name above all names.

I pray a spiritual inheritance of knowing and loving the One True God over her.

I pray your delight might be in her.  (Hephzibah:  My delight is in her…Isaiah 62:4) I pray her life might offer a pleasing aroma to those around her.  I pray her presence might bring life and a soothing balm of comfort to everyone she comes into contact with.  I pray rest and tranquility over her countenance that is equally mixed with bubbly joy and a life lived to the fullest.

In vanity, I pray a head full of dark-thick-black hair over her and that she might resemble my beautiful Mother.  I pray she is marked with outer beauty but remembered for her inner beauty.

I pray a special bond between her and her brothers.  I pray that the differences in age would not be a deterrent to strong relationships and ties.  I pray the boys would always have her back and treat her with the utmost love and tender care.

I pray that as she goes through life, her soul might always be able to say, “all is well.”  I pray my favorite hymn might spill over into her life as well…that she too can say, “It is well with my soul.”  I pray a song of praise in her heart that would spill forth from her mouth.”

A solid year passed after I gathered enough courage to ask for a daughter and still, nothing.  When Sam got some pretend money, he saved it to buy his baby sister a dollhouse.  During this waiting period, God started telling me to be courageous.  I had no idea just how much I would need it.

Over these months, God started revealing Himself as El Simchah Giyl, God, my exceeding joy.  His name literally was a double portion of joy and he started to promise me a double portion, as well. On December, 9, 2011, I took a pregnancy test.  The line hinted at the faintest of pinks while the Creator and I celebrated in a triune of intimacy, even though I wasn’t quite sure yet if the results were accurate.

On December 13, Sam, six, made me a paper heart.  He taped it right on my belly.  He patted my belly and told me it was going to have to get really full for his baby sister.  After getting the kids to school, I took another test.  This time, the line quickly turned pink.  I fell to the white bathroom rug, bowed low, and repeated over and over again, “Wonderful are Thy works, I know that full well.”  Psalm 139:14

After getting Sam from half day kindergarten, I pulled into the driveway and noticed the pot of Gerbera daisies that Eric and the boys had gotten for me the previous June.  The daisies were yellow, but only lasted a week or so.  I was so sad to see them die, but I left the pot alone, hoping they might return.  Imagine my astonishment when I peered into the pot only to see the tiniest beginning of a yellow Gerbera daisy poking its way out of the soil.  Perfect little petals in a sunshine hue adorned the green stem.  Typically, Gerbera daisies don’t even bloom in the winter!  God had been extravagant in telling me that He was bringing about new life!

 
I was overwhelmed at God’s attention to detail and His involvement in my life.

Eric and I rejoiced over our baby for a solid seven days.  And then, on December 19th, God swept her up into His presence.  One of the hardest things I have ever had to do is flush the remains of my beautiful girl. My soul shattered and I swear fragments of it were flushed away with her.  My lips achingly uttered the same Psalm, “Wonderful are Thy works, I know that full well.”

I miscarried, but I didn’t want to miss the spiritual enlargement that might come instead of a protruding belly.

God faithfully revealed Himself as the Master Gardener, the one who skillfully knows what to plant and what to uproot.  It took time, but His grace refused to leave me in my empty and hopeless state.  I learned that the gateway to abundant blessing is always through death.  Seeds must be buried deep in the dark soil before they can ever rise to the surface in new life.

Months passed and Sam continued to speak life over me.  He told me over and over again that I would be a Mommy again.   I would cry and choke down my food and wait to see what God would do with the words of a six year old.

August 19th came, me sobbing on the stage.  We were supposed to be in the hospital, peering into her beauty for the first time, and we had absolutely nothing to show for it.  I had a double portion of ache that day, as I also mourned the ability to celebrate my sister’s birthday.

I was oblivious, but God had already implanted Asher Tate.  I was pregnant this day, and didn’t even know it. I thought all was lost and yet God had already planted the seeds of restoration.  He had brought about my double portion of joy, Asher (happy) Tate (happy.)  God used him to bring a sense of completeness to our family as well as quench my desires for another girl.

Our daughter has a name. It isn’t any name that we would have chosen on our own, but it totally fits her.  Her name is Daisy.  When God allowed us to see the Gerbera daisy the same day we found out about our girl, we knew He was being extra gentle in giving us something tangible to hold onto until we could see her again.

I still have our matching aprons.  My small garden is scattered with gerberas. She would have been three in a few weeks.  I miss her madly. I look over the prayers I prayed over her and realize that God has answered so many of them.  Satan never touched her.  She does others good and not harm.  She has such awe for the name of Jesus. The delight of the Lord is all over her. Every single day, her soul proclaims that all is well.

Straight into the Father’s arms she went.  We share the beautiful inheritance of knowing and loving the One True God.  One day, we will sing His praises together, hand in hand.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Exposure {Nothing is Hidden}

This is what I feel like is happening right now…

Light shines in the darkness.  We think of that in such glorious terms, and it truly is!  But, I think since late June, God has taken a huge spotlight, cranked it up to the highest power, and pointed it towards our nation.  The light is uncovering just how dark we are.  It’s almost as if He is saying, “You are an evil nation.  Let me show you just how bad you are.  There is no more hiding or sweeping things under the rug.  I am shining a light so that you can SEE for yourselves just how far things have gone.”

This is the theme I can’t get out of my head.  Since late June (only one month ago!), we have had unthinkable things rise to the surface.  The state of Oregon now allows 15 year olds to have a gender change without their parent’s consent.  Planned Parenthood sells aborted baby parts.  Marines have been killed by hate. Our President made a deal with Iran, a nation who isn’t afraid to call our country the “Big Satan.” People are either losing their jobs, resigning, or being ridiculously fined for expressing their freedoms of belief. Caitlyn (aka Bruce) Jenner was awarded the ESPY award for courage?!! Ashley Madison’s infidelity website has been hacked, exposing the sin of individual hearts.  The military is training in various southern states of America for eight solid weeks and their motto is “Master the Human Domain.”  This has all taken place in the last month.

This is not a time for fear.  But, this is the time to open our eyes and beg God to allow us to see!  We know that God is the one shining the light on all the things that break His heart.  We know He holds the standard of light and holiness as well as the cleansing only He can graciously provide.  Lord, have mercy on us and bring us back to your heart.

Today, instead of telling God what is on your heart, pause and ask God what is on His heart regarding our crumbling nation.  What He says might surprise you.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is being uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13

Monday, July 13, 2015

True Light

Darkness Darkness all around.  It permeates through the screen and jumps onto my skin, daring to seep deeply. It percolates and drips slowly at first and then alarmingly fast until the whole pot is discolored black.  It mocks me at the checkout line and sneers at me when I turn on the television. 

From the looks of things, it appears as though the darkness has won. So many are enslaved in this affair with the pitch black.  Vile and filth breed in the murky waters of indifference and corruption. The pride and the hate and the abuse and the murder scream into my ears, threatening my sanity.

The black flag of evil is flying high.

But, it isn’t my banner.

Rescued, I was, from this lightless pit.

During the ancient plagues of Exodus, the darkness was so thick that no one could see anyone or move about for three whole days.  Yet all the Israelites had light in the places where they dwelled.

God’s light shined on His people then as it shines on His own now.  His Spirit blazes through my pores and His Word marks my footsteps. Even in the alien world of blackness, God’s light dawns every single morning for those bathed in bloody grace.

The light of Christ living within is needed in this hour.
 
 

While our fellow friends-family-foes grope in the foul depravity, they are searching for something, anything, which will fulfill.

We can extend the light that was extended to us.

We often feel our wicks are about to go out; we are so listless, tired, even depressed.  We must ask Jesus to blow onto our flickering lights, and burn our insides afresh with His presence. Even at our weakest, the light of the Holy can pour forth, changing lives and rescuing the God-image called mankind. We are not useless, powerless, forgotten, or extinguished.  We are more than conquerors in this world.  We are, dare I say, victorious.

One day, our lights within won’t be needed.  The heavenly bodies, lamps, candles, and flames will be discarded.  All eyes will be on the True Light.  All knees will bow to the Light of the World.

Rays emanate from your Holy stature.  You plucked the moon like a giant grape and trampled it like wine.  The stars—even the sun-king—came to You in reverent obedience as You called each one by name.  You told them they had served their purpose and they gratefully bowed low and extinguished before the True Light.  All did not seem dark, but brighter.  Purer.  All eyes were on the Source.

 

Psalm 27:1 The LORD is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear?

 The LORD is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Psalm 112:4 Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous.

 

Psalm 43:3  Send out your light and your truth;

 let them lead me;  let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

 

Revelation 22:5

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp of the light of the sun,

 for the Lord God will give them light.  And they will reign for ever and ever.

 

{Glory.  Hallelujah.}

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Making Ourselves at Home in God's Love {John 15}


Just think of it.  All of this life giving sap comes from one source alone:  Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.  All who feast on this sap will be taken care of forever by the Father-Farmer.  The true church of God will never be destroyed.  The gates of hell will not prevail against His Bride.
 

We, the church, have one primary role, knowing that there is only one thing that we can offer such a life-giving King:  our allegiance that has been birthed out of love.  With love comes devotion and with devotion comes obedience.  The secret to it all is found in the word abide.
 

The Greek would say, “meno,” which means to stay in a given place, to continue, to dwell, or to remain.  Father-Farmer offers His life giving sap through his only Son and all He asks is that we continue to swim in it.  Don’t deprive ourselves from it.  Enjoy it. Make ourselves at home in it.
 

We abide and Father-Farmer produces rich fruit that points back to His glory. There is no fruit in and of ourselves.  The whole point is that once separated from the vine, we can do nothing.
 

Father-Farmer likes it this way.  Giving is His way. We simply can’t steal His glory by thinking we can give out to others from our own barrenness. 
 

As we abide in this grace-love, we allow Christ’s words to abide in us.  We permit these teachings to stay, continue, dwell, and remain in the rich soil of our souls. These spoken words of the Son will take root, allowing seeds to sprout, and green stalks to rise.  Fruit will take shape and ripen. We pluck a piece right off and share it with others.  As the sweet juice runs down our chins, we throw our heads back in laughter, realizing how it tastes just like the Father-Farmer and His joyful banner of love.
 

We taste.  We see.  He is good.
 

We decide to make ourselves at home right here in God’s love. 
 

“Keep thou close to thy soul’s Husband, lean thy head upon His bosom, ask to be refreshed with the spiced wine of His pomegranate, and thou shalt be found of Him at the last, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

 Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, July 2, 2015

True Freedom {God's Banner}

Praising God today for the freedom of my grace washed soul.  My facebook feed is either the colors of the rainbow or the colors of the Confederate flag.  I don't know what colors they are, but I wave the colors of the one who bled for me.  God's banner over me is love. I rest in that.  I celebrate that. My citizenship is with God.  He is King. In the meantime, I submit to a national authority that was put in place by God.  But, if I have to choose between obeying God or obeying nation, I will choose God.  Today, I am thankful that some measure of freedom exists for Believers in the United States of America. It may come crumbling down very quickly, but today I celebrate.

His banner over me is love.

I can't wait to see what those colors look like.



Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Day that Sin was Embraced

I want to tell you a story.  A story of the day that sin was embraced all in the name of grace. 

Eric and Eli were in soccer camp in Jackson, MS.  Barbara had joyfully agreed to watch Asher and Sam so I could take Cade to his state baseball tournament in Benton.  It was going to be a hot one and I didn’t want to worry about the littles dehydrating.  Plus, I thought it would be much more fun to actually watch baseball instead of the toddler.

After mapquesting and taking a wrong turn, we made it to our baseball destination.  Travel ball isn’t so fun when it’s the directionally challenged Momma that’s navigating.  But, all looked brighter once my tent was set up and the slight breeze tempted me to believe that the projected heat index of 103 degrees wouldn’t soon be suffocating us all.
 
While the team was warming up, I thought I would quickly check Facebook.  It had just been announced:  The Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage would be legal in all 50 states.  I expected it.  What I hadn’t expected was the way my heart would plummet to the dirty concrete below my feet and pulse to a painfully slow cadence.

I texted those closest to me and called my Mom. We mourned with real tears and lamented the loss of our nation that had been founded on Godly principles.  In one day, five men declared themselves God as they rewrote God’s definition of marriage found in Genesis.

I have yet to get my heart back into my chest.

All day long while at the ball field, I would check my Facebook feed to see what the Godly watchmen of our nation were saying.  Franklin Graham, John Piper, Kay Arthur, Joel Rosenberg, Ken Ham, Mike Huckabee, and many others boldly declared truth and refused to back down on what this ruling was:  a slap in the face against God Himself.

All the sudden my Facebook feed became alive with the colors of the rainbow. What once was a sign of God’s promise that He would never again destroy the earth by flood was stolen by Satan and twisted into something that goes against God’s perfect plan. Since Satan can’t create, he is always stealing God’s things and turning them into something evil as he tries to snatch away God’s glory.  True allegiances came out into the open on June 26, 2015.  When the White House of the United States of America was lit up by rainbow lights, I curled into myself, trying the grasp the reality of what had just taken place on this day. The best thing I could wrap my thoughts around was that our Democracy was no longer held together by moral principles.  Sure, we had been plummeting, but this was the day that our identity had been stripped away. When I saw the picture of our United States Embassy in Israel flying the Pride Rainbow flag just below the American flag, I came undone.
Image result for us embassy israel pride flag

So, this is who we are now.

I have never been so ashamed to be a part of the United States of America.  My heart is grieving, as if I tangibly lost someone I love dearly. If I had sackcloth and ashes, I would don them and wail out to my God that we have betrayed.  Herb Stuart’s favorite verse was that “God will not be mocked.”  We think we can make up our own rules and not worry about the consequences of a Holy God.  I am sick to my stomach thinking about what kind of judgment will fall.

When Cade climbed into the van, I was torn on what to tell him.  He needed to hear it from a parent, but he still had a game to play and I didn’t want him to be distracted.  I went forward.  I couldn’t get the words out without choking up.  I told him this was a monumental day in history and that I didn’t know what the future would hold for him, now that our leaders have legally turned their backs against God’s perfect ways regarding marriage and family.  I tried to convey how there would quickly be a separation of God’s true church and those that just worship with some form of religiosity.  The dividing line would be between those that believed the Bible was the inerrant Word of God and those that didn’t.   I told him that courage and boldness and truth would be needed in the future days and that persecution might be ahead. 

In that moment, looking at my fifteen year old, I knew that he would quickly have to become a man.  Gone were the days of trying to shield him from the world. The world had come to him.  He would have to be a warrior, standing for truth and having the wisdom to see when Satan is telling lies. 

Troubling questions swirled around in my head all day.  Will my photography business be shut down if I refuse to shoot a same sex marriage?  Will our pastor lose his job if he refuses to marry a same sex couple?  Will this be the final blow that moves our nation towards the wrath of the Almighty? Will persecution come slowly or rapidly for the true Bride of Christ? Persecution is inevitable when the right to sexual orientation now trumps the right to the first amendment.  I can already see my freedom of speech and freedom of religion lying bloody and dying a slow death on Satan’s cruel battlefield of so-called equality.

In my mind, I saw a quick spiral that legally allowed all sexual perversions.  If homosexuality (a God ordained abomination) is celebrated and flaunted on the columns of the White House, then we will quickly see all forms of perversion such as exhibitionism, pedophilia, incest, and bestiality rise to that level as well.  Once sin is celebrated, there is no line anymore. If we are free to completely express ourselves, and hold ourselves to no standard, then we are an undone people.  Implosion is upon us.

In the book of Amos, God shows the prophet a plumb line which measured a building to see if it had tilted so far that it was beyond repair. The plumb line showed Amos that Israel was so far gone that collapse was inevitable.  I can’t help but wonder if the United States is too far gone for a great awakening and repentance.  If and when our President and country turn our backs on Israel just might be the moment of collapse.  Implosion.
Image result for ancient plumb line

The one thing that was absent from my thoughts and emotions on June 26, 2015 was anger.  I am not angry at the homosexual community.  I have homosexual friends that I have prayed for by name for many years.  To claim that I hold different beliefs, therefore I hate, would be a false assumption.  I have different beliefs, therefore I love.  I show that love through begging God for an extension of mercy towards my friends…the same mercy that was offered to me.  If I proclaim, “Live and let live or love and let love,” then it isn’t love at all because it only excuses my complacency and takes away the need for a Savior. True love never condones or celebrates sin, but points to the One who can forgive, restore, and rescue. True love says, I was just like you, dead in my transgressions, but there is a better way!”

Over the weekend, I have been washed over with the reality of God’s grace on my life. 

 

Amazing grace.

How sweet the sound.

That saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost, but now am found.

Was blind, but now I see.

 

I have such a beautiful picture of this grace that I was dipped into. Somehow, I was soaked in Christ’s blood and came out sparkling white.  The God of the Universe didn’t have to give me eyes to see, but He did.  Such love.  Who am I to be included in the plan of redemption? Who am I to be rescued from the wrath of God?

This grace is extended to all who call out on the name of Jesus to rescue them from the deep pit of sin. There is still hope.  There is still the gospel.  There is still true love.  His name is Jesus.  What will the church do with Him in these last days?