Wake Up Call

I feel personally attacked by the brightness of the laptop this morning. If you could call it morning. I’ve been awake for about an hour, and it’s still only 4:30. An hour before I’d choose to be awake. I’ve made lists, mentally written a speech for my sister’s wedding, prayed for various people on my heart, and begged God for sleep. All I could hear was “write”. I kindly explained that I didn’t want to right now, that sleep was more important for the day ahead. But here I am.

God tells us what we need to do. Sometimes it’s in the quiet urgings at 4am. Sometimes it’s through Scripture; other times through a sermon or Sunday School lesson. Sometimes He connects life’s frustrations or struggles to a bigger picture. A lot of times He teaches us through children.

I’m learning that in kindergarten, you have to explain everything. EVERYTHING. How to get in line, how to sit on the carpet, how to hold a pencil, when it’s okay to ask to get water, how to exit the building for a fire drill, what to do in the cafeteria line, how to wash your hands. Everything. I get so frustrated when I lose control of my class, but 9 times out of 10, it’s because they don’t know what I expected of them. Even when I’ve told them, they may not understand, or they don’t yet have the self-control to practice what I’ve taught.

It hit me hard the other day that God is the absolute best teacher. He has told us what to do. Micah 6:8 says “Mankind, He has told each of you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (CSB) We have the rubric; we know how to live a life worthy of glorifying God, yet we choose to act like clueless kindergarteners. Most definitely without justice, faith, or humility. I let out a sigh of frustration when He beckons me to spend time with Him in the morning, knowing that He will sustain my body and my energy through the day. He has shown me what is good, and I still want something else.

As a human, I am irritated when things don’t go my way, in my little circle of influence. God is in charge of the whole world, and literally no one is doing exactly what He wants them to do at every moment of the day. Yet He chooses to love us, to pursue us, and to wake us up the next morning to do it all over again. He doesn’t say “I told you how to do this yesterday, why can’t you get it today?” or “We’ve been through this 34 times already, you can do it the correct way!” We run, He pulls us back. We cling to the meaningless and He continues to show us the meaningful. In a devastatingly beautiful analogy in Hosea, God shows us just how far He will go to bring us close to Him. “I will take you to be my wife forever. I will take you to be my wife in righteousness, justice, love, and compassion. I will take you to be my wife in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord.” (Hosea 2:19-20) 

God loves us. I tell my students every day that I love them- but I can’t come close to the love He has for us. They get so exasperated when I correct them and when I don’t let them do anything and everything they want to do. I laugh or, more often,  get a little exasperated myself, but then I think of my arguing this morning and see I’m no different.  I reject the best for the good, without asking “What does God want to show me in this?”

He knows how precious my time is to me. I value each minute. If a class is supposed to be over at a certain time, I expect it to be over at that time. If I’m meeting someone, I expect her to be there on time. If my alarm goes off at 5:30, I don’t want to wake up before it. He knows that because He made me, and He understands my quirks, preferences, and shortcomings. He also knows when I need more time with Him than with my pillow.

So there’s my early morning thoughts. God called me out of bed because someone needed to read it. That, or He knows I have a whopper of a day ahead. Prayers are much appreciated! I hope you read this much later than I wrote it. Happy Tuesday.

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The Limp is the Blessing

If you have a teacher in your life, go give him or her a big fat hug. The beginning of the school year has been the most stressful part of the job, so far. There are so many things to do, plan, prepare, and learn. You have 23 new faces to get to know and love and figure out. You have open house, meet the teacher, rules and routines, procedures, fire drills, and classroom decor to set up. You have five year olds who have never been in a classroom and twelve year olds who act like they haven’t. October come quickly.

In the last few weeks I’ve had clusters of migraines. I have managed my headaches well for the past few years with diet, but these have blindsided me–literally. Spotty vision, slurred speech, confusion, numb arms and face. All typical migraine auras, but scary nonetheless. I’m ready to send them on their way.

Today, I took an early-out from work to go to the doctor. As I made my way there, I stopped by Sonic for a happy hour strawberry limeade. I was able to listen to my favorite podcast without interruption. I read a book in the waiting room in peace and quiet. No one yelling “Mrs. Dumas” or “Mom”. Our ladies’ Bible study group just finished a book study on Annie F. Downs’ Remember God. In it she referred to Jacob in the Bible, when he wrestled with God, asking for a blessing, and had a permanent limp as a result (Genesis 32:22-32). Annie quotes John Ortberg, saying that “maybe the limp was his blessing”. Jacob’s limp was the result of an encounter with God, which changed his name, and his life, forever. Anyone who has been in a season of grief and struggle knows that it changes you forever. When you cling to God in those moments, it will prove to be a sweet time of healing and closeness. It doesn’t heal you without a scar, without a limp, but it heals you and helps you put one foot in front of the other, once again.

I thought about my migraines, my limp, today. My headache yesterday caused me to pause and rest during recess yesterday. It was the first day all year that we split for duty, actually taking a few minutes to take a break. I turned off the lights in my classroom, laid my head on my reading pillows, and closed my eyes. My headache caused me to make a doctors’ appointment today and leave a little early, taking some quiet time in the car, time to refresh with a treat, and sit alone for a few minutes. My headache yesterday gave me time and words to blog after over a month of silence. I thought as I drove, “This limp was a blessing”.

I feel with every migraine my words are affected. It takes me longer to recall a word. My vision feels a little off for a few days or weeks after an attack. My nerves are on edge with every flashing light or arm that has fallen asleep. My limp. But I have a God who once took migraines away for an entire year. I have a God who has answered my prayer to remove the pain. I have a God, who in His kindness, forced me to stop and slow down today, to realize that stress was getting the best of me. In my absence of words, He gave them to me.

I sit here in my quiet living room, not taking it for granted. Not letting it slip past that God has begged me to rest. Commanded me to rest. In the midst of so much to do, I can’t afford to keep going. I will rest, and the rest will fall into place. I’m hopeful that this cluster is behind me. I see the problem, and I’m prayerfully seeking the solution. In the meantime, if you hear my refer to the “thingy” or call Target “Walmart”, just point me in the right direction.

“Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you healed me.” Psalm 30:2 CSB

“Heal me, Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for you are my praise.” Jeremiah 17:14 CSB

 

Busted

One week ago today, I found myself stepping into my child life shoes, once again. Remaining calm under pressure, translating doctor words into 6-year-old words, explaining what would happen in the coming minutes, and keeping my child comfortable through 9 stitches. The doctor was skeptical, but I was sure of my ability to keep HJ calm and still. He rocked it and loaded up on treats and prizes in the days to come. He enjoyed the extra attention, and by the next day, he was back to business as usual.

Here we are, seven days later, and his stitches were taken out this morning, leaving just a little scratch to continue healing. Underneath, there is still a lot of healing to be done, but that’s not what we see. Underneath my calm countenance, there’s a mom who has replayed the events in her head a hundred times. A mom who has seen the pre-stitched wound, the shattered flower pot, the bloody towel, and the stained patio. I know he’s fine. I know the risk of infection is all but over. I know that God protected and healed him. So why can’t I let go?

We talk about trust in the future tense, but what about living in that trust? What about living in the assurance that God has provided? Why do I hold onto what could have been instead of what is? We pray for healing and wisdom and safety. We pray for understanding and discernment and hope. When God gives us those things, what do we do? We stop asking and we praise Him for the answered prayer. We let go. I need to let go.

It’s almost like I need God to bust my knuckles so I can loosen my grip. Metaphorically speaking, please. I’ve seen enough blood this week! Faith says to look forward with hope. Faith says I can move on from what was to what God is. I can learn from my past, but I don’t live there anymore. When Paul told us not to be anxious about anything, he meant our past too. When God inspired those words, He knew we would need that clarification.

When Proverbs 3:5 says to trust in the Lord with all your heart, it means your heart’s past, present, and future. When the same verse says to lean not on your own understanding, it means I shouldn’t lean on my understanding of the past, present, or future, but God’s.

I need these reminders daily. I need these reminders when I’m laying in bed, awake at 1am, watching my day’s events like it’s a movie. I need these reminders when I’m still dwelling on mistakes I made ten years ago, or worrying about what will happen in two weeks, three months, or seven years.

My child’s busted head busted my heart in all kinds of ways and left room for anxious thoughts. Just like he’s been stitched up, I need these verses to bind my heart and seal it with God’s promises. The only way to do that is to choose it. I have to continue to make room for Truth and not worries. I have to fill my mind with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

I write because I need the reminder, but I think you might, too. I pray that my heart will seek Him and let go of my worries. I pray that I will remember Matthew 6:27, which asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (the answer is NO!)

HJ asked if he would have his scar forever. I explained that it would probably be there for a long time, but that it would fade and look different, eventually. The experience left us both a little scarred, but it can serve as a reminder of something we went through and fought against. Something that God brought us to and through. It can serve as a reminder of His faithfulness and our dependence on Him. I refuse to let it hold me back or keep me stuck in fear. One day, we will remember it with a smile. Maybe not today, but one day.

Watch out for those flower pots, friends.

A Decade With Dan

Here’s the secret to ten years of wedded bliss: feed me steak and tell me I’m pretty. The end. Happy trails.

Okay, okay, so there’s (a lot) more to the story, but it’s a good start. When we got married, we asked relatives to write down advice to two naive, fresh-out-of-college, hopeful marital entrepreneurs. Here are a few gems:

  1. Don’t screw up.
  2. Wash dishes.
  3. She’s always right. (HA!)
  4. Keep Christ first.
  5. Never go to bed angry.
  6. Show “I love you” as much as you say “I love you”.
  7. Always pray for each other.
  8. Marriage is 100%/100%
  9. Feed Maddie often.
  10. Geaux Tigers!

While some are not quite shining examples of how to make a marriage work, there is some great advice within those statements. Overall, the “secret” to keeping our marriage alive is keeping God first. The hardest times were when we let our own wants and desires take precedence over what God would have us do. Marriage is a covenant, a choice. We choose to show love to each other daily. We choose to say “yes” again and again. We choose to say “I was wrong”, “I’m sorry”, and “I forgive you”, even when it almost physically hurts to utter the words.

In a decade, we have become parents, we have faced grief, we have fought over money and where to eat for dinner, we have argued over the goodness (or lack thereof) of Brussels sprouts. We’ve fallen in love with Nashville, dreamed about the future, shared countless cups of coffee, written songs, driven many miles, and supported each other through wins, losses, and draws.

My sister-in-law read Colossians 3:12-17 at our wedding, which says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” 

It’s as true now as it was then. I can’t think of a better passage to sum up marriage. Choose God, and choose each other. Being in love is a choice more than a feeling, and one we’ve fought hard to be able to make every day, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, on dry shampoo days, in the Louisiana heat, with dirty floors, during bathroom renovations, and through Pinterest fails, I choose to love.

Daniel, you’re my favorite. Cheers to ten years, and a hundred more.

The Fountain of Youth (Camp)

I need a few more Maddies this week. I need one to take care of my house, one to be a parent, one a wife, one a youth minister, and one to catch up on sleep. My hats are piling high, and I’m looking for a hat rack.

Let me explain. I’m at youth camp. The end.

Just kidding.

I went back and forth with my excitement/anxieties/resistance toward youth camp. Up until this year, I have never felt the urge to set foot at a youth camp again. From my own experience, I remember junior high camp being a little dramatic, filled with matching outfits with my BFF, inside jokes, silly camp games, and I felt oh so cool about staying in dorms at Baylor University. Oh, and I decided I was in love with the lead singer of the band. Their picture, which I took on a disposable camera, promptly made its way to my binder cover, and I loved that no one else had heard of them.

High school was a little different. At this point, our church youth group was very small, with only about five students, so we paired up with another church. I didn’t know any of the other high school girls, and I was not very outgoing or motivated to get to know them either. I felt isolated, alone, frustrated, and left out. The games required a lot of athleticism, which I didn’t have, and there was a mandatory food fight on the last day. No. Thank. You. And there were a million mosquitoes.

Notice the fact that I didn’t mention Jesus in either of these descriptions. I do not remember that part of it because my focus was more about the social aspects. I was a Christian who loved learning about God, but I was also a teenage girl who focused on herself and worried too much about what others thought.

And still, this week, I’m a thirty-two-year-old who is focused on herself and worried too much about what others think. I’m still trying to fill the shoes of the youth leader before me, and my confidence has been down. I felt unprepared leading a group at a camp I’d never been to. Our teenagers are dealing with A LOT, and I began to feel ill equipped to walk them through an emotionally charged week. I cried, I got frustrated, and I walked around in my pouty pants for a while.

Fast forward to today: Our last day of an incredibly emotional week. I needed to be here, and I needed to rely on God to keep me afloat. Our group has faced the sudden loss of a family member, battled sins head-on, struggled through anxiety, depression, lies of Satan, fears, insecurities and physical ailments. I’ve gotten to walk with these courageous teenagers as they have fought bravely. I’ve gotten to hear the sweet faith of students who have every reason to doubt. I have seen young adults befriend the hard to love and the misunderstood. I’ve seen some kids eat more than I thought humanly possible. It’s been a long time since I’ve consistently seen midnight, but this is the day that the Lord has made, I will experience as much of it as humanly possible. Said no one ever.

In all seriousness, it’s hard as a mom to ask someone else to take care of my children. I know God called me to be a youth minister, but He also called me to be a mom. It’s hard to accept that He may have called others, okay, HAS called others, to stand in the gap so I can serve elsewhere. It’s hard to spend a week at camp with my husband, but away from my husband so we can lead our separate groups. It’s hard to rely on neighbors to feed my dog without feeling needy and irresponsible. It’s hard to know friends that are suffering and all I can do is pray from afar.

I talked a lot to our students about God’s big picture versus our tiny snapshot. I don’t know why our week went the way it did. I don’t know why these kids are dealing with the things they are. I don’t know how He lined up everything the way He did to make our week impact our students and leaders in such a big way, but God, in His goodness and sovereignty amazed us all. We may never know what happened behind the scenes of this week, but He was working overtime.

I guess this is a long way of saying that we shouldn’t let our past failures, frustrations, bad tastes, or whatever it is holding us back, keep us from answering the calls God places on our lives. He will line everything up the way it needs to go. As Romans 8:28 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (CSB). Where there’s a will, there’s a way (God’s will in this case).

To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite people, I’ll be here next year, if the Lord says the same. It wasn’t an easy week; it has truly been one of the hardest weeks as a leader. I know I’ve said the wrong things, I’ve gotten frustrated, I’ve worried unnecessarily, and I’ve forgotten to trust God, but He’s still used me, and He’s teaching me along the way. I’m not saying you need to go to youth camp, but I am saying that you need to be open to what God calls you to do. It may be scary, uncertain, intimidating, or uncomfortable, but I promise it will change you for the better, and you’ll get to be a part of some pretty amazing things.

If you need me next week, I’ll be catching up on sleep and listening to my music at a sensible level. Also, go hug a teenager in your life!

Expectant

If you want to see the definition of expectant, head to a baseball game. It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting, take a look around, and you will see the tiniest of fans with gloves on, ready to capture a foul ball. That glove says “I am going to catch a baseball today”. I’ve seen some foul balls end up in some surprising sections, but most of those gloves leave without a catch. Does it stop them from bringing their gloves back next time? Absolutely not. Attending a game without a glove is like forgetting to wear your team colors! It goes with the game.

When Jesus talks about child-like faith, I think this is the kind of behavior He’s looking for. In Matthew 18:3-4, He says, “Truly I tell you…unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Child-like faith isn’t just about belief. It’s about the actions that follow. Just like the child at a baseball game, believing against all odds that he will catch a ball from his favorite player, we should expect the unexpected from our all powerful God.

Our prayers should mimic that hope, that faith, that God can do anything. Our hands should be open, ready to be filled with the Word He has for us. I want my heart to be a baseball glove every time I open my Bible.

Ephesians 3:20 tells us, that God is “able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think”. He’s not the sip of Gatorade in between innings, He’s the overturned cooler at the end of the World Series.

This last weekend, our Astros were down, and the prospect of runs was getting slimmer by the inning. But there was this one little boy who rallied with all his might. “Let’s go Astros, let’s go!” and the crowd followed through with a good, robust “CLAP CLAP”. It went on and on…and on. And we kept up the claps. His voice wasn’t going out, his smile wasn’t fading- in fact it stretched wider and wider as he commanded the crowd. His cheer didn’t pull our boys through, but I think his heart was filled by the camaraderie. He cheered with expectancy, with the belief that if he kept cheering, we would keep clapping. It stopped being about the score, and it became about the fellowship of fans.

Isn’t that like our prayers? We go all in asking for something, knowing God gives us the desires of our hearts, asking in faith and belief that God can do anything we ask, sometimes forgetting that His ways are not our own (see Isaiah 55:8-9). As we continue to ask, our focus shifts a bit, not because we’ve given up, but because we see more clearly. Because we open our eyes to what God has laid before us. It might not look like the original path we were on, but it is something sweet, nonetheless.

It’s no secret that I love baseball, but the game took on a different tone this weekend. It’s challenged me to put my glove on, metaphorically speaking, of course- just a fan, not a player! It’s made me think about the joy of leaning on Him to bring us to understanding and contentment. Praying in faith, believing and hoping in Him, can be a rocky ride, but gosh, it’s fun to stand on the other side of impossible.

Gloves up, dear readers.

Grace Upon Grace

Yesterday, Daniel and I had some errands to run. A few were quick, a couple took a while, and one involved food. Overall, not too bad—for an adult. Our boys were wearing thin. Thankfully, one stop involved Lifeway. Here, everyone is shopping for one of two reasons: Either they want to grow in their faith, or they have someone in mind who they want to do the same. The music overhead is familiar songs from Christian radio, and everyone is casually humming along as they peruse the devotionals. All this to say, I feel comfortable letting my boys check out the kids section while I shop across the store. Until yesterday. Daniel and I had picked up everything we needed for our youth group, and we headed to meet the boys and check out. We were met by a sea of empty packages on the floor. “Did you do this?”, we almost asked in unison. Our boys’ wide eyes and slack jaws said it all. We maintained our composure–public place and all—and calmly asked the boys to find all the toys they had opened. Package after package after package. Some were opened before we got there, but Harrison kept admitting to opening each toy we picked up. In all, there were about eight. We explained to the boys why that wasn’t okay. These were not our toys. They did not belong to us. Someone else could have bought these.

We decided to bring them to the register and the boys would pay for them out of their piggy banks. They also had to explain what they did. The sweet lady at the register told us it happens all the time, and not to worry about it. We reiterated. They will pay for them. She thanked us and handed us our $16 worth of trinkets. We told the boys we would donate the toys to church, rather than keep them. We didn’t yell, we didn’t continue on. Debt paid. Grace extended. We did explain that now that they understand why opening toys in the store is not a good idea, they would have a harsher consequence next time.

Here’s my question though: When do we extend grace and when do we use a consequence to deter a repeat offense? Our actions have consequences. Some natural (you don’t do your study, you make a bad grade; you tell a lie, you end up in a tangled mess; you do drugs, you hurt your body, etc.) Some are based on the person you offended or a person of authority (you speed, the police officer can decide to give a warning or a ticket; you are late for work, your boss can decide if you receive a write up or a reprimand; you bump a car in the parking lot, and the other driver can decide if or not to press charges, etc.)

Grace defined: the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

I tend to go back to the woman at the well. Jesus extended grace. There was no punishment, there was no scolding, there was no big scene. They engaged in the first Full House style sit-down on record, she understood her sin, and I believe her life was changed. That model is so beautiful, yet as a parent, I don’t believe my children would do well in life if there were never any consequences. Where do I draw the line?

Old Testament consequences were no joke. You looked the wrong way? Boom! Pilar of salt. You touch the Ark of the Covenant? RIP. Jesus’ death on the cross changed that. Jesus didn’t contribute to the stoning of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus didn’t excommunicate Peter when He returned. And I don’t think He would have rejected Judas either.

So again, I’m faced with the question, when are there consequences, and when is grace enough?

The Bible is very clear about discipline versus punishment. A lot of the verses about correcting your children include the word discipline. Discipline is leading, guiding, forming. Sometimes that includes a little conditioning to steer them in the right way. What I tend to get away from is making sure that the consequence has a direct line to the offense. Say a child gets caught in a lie. One direct effect of a lie is a loss of trust. An appropriate consequence would be to remove a privilege that requires trust, say a cell phone or an opportunity to go to a friend’s house. Grace says time served, let’s try again, and don’t bring up past mistakes. You are forgiven.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives. Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had human fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but he does it for our benefit, so that we can share his holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Proverbs 3:11-12 Do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent His rebuke because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Romans 6:14-15  For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace. What then? Should we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?Absolutely not!

Bob Goff says “Grace means we can put the chalk away and stop keeping score.” Also, “Our failures can leave behind pavement or potholes. Our ability to receive grace determines which it will be.”

As parents, friends, coworkers, teammates, we can fill those potholes with grace. We can acknowledge the problem, show kindness, love, and forgiveness, and pave the way for a smoother ride tomorrow. That’s our goal in all of this, right?

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns, Great is Thy Faithfulness. I love the beauty of strength and hope that come with God’s peace and forgiveness. May my children see the hope and blessings that come from a life of grace.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

I still may not have all the answers, but I have a map, and I’m ready to pave the way there.

3:37

Ever wake up with ALL THE THINGS on your mind? That was me this morning. I intentionally sleep without a clock in my bedroom so I can avoid stressing about how much longer I have to sleep, but after what felt like half an hour of tossing and turning, I checked my phone. 3:37. My mind was racing, jumping back and forth between news stories and tweets from this week. School shootings, unkindness, worry, heaviness.

I laid there and prayed for families in Colorado. I prayed for students who have entered into lifelong trauma. Families who spent the night in the hospital on a journey of injuries. A family whose heroic son lost his life for others. I prayed for my boys- that they would never know that heartache and fear.

I prayed for my dear Beth Moore who (wrongly) came under attack for preaching the Word as a woman. For those who can’t look past her gender and see the truth that she speaks and the lives that have been changed because of it.

I prayed for the mamas without babies. The sons and daughters without moms. The waiting, the hopeless, the hurting, the scared. All magnified on this Mother’s Day.

For nearly three hours, the cycle of prayer came. I wrote blog entries in my head. I scrolled through Facebook. I wrestled with my usually comfortable bed. I couldn’t make myself get up, so I stewed. When my alarm finally went off, it was almost a relief. I thanked God it was Sunday-a nap was in my afternoon schedule. I was grateful for my Mother’s Day breakfast- chocolate chip waffles, extra crispy bacon, and orange juice with a hint of pulp, topped off with hugs, flowers and a subscription to Magnolia Journal. And I didn’t have to lift a finger- just my glass!

The thoughts of dawn slowly slipped away and were replaced by shower schedules, little boys’ suspenders, Veggie Tales, and coffee. It’s funny how something can occupy so much of your mind yet so quickly make room.

Still, none of the problems went away. I gave them away to God. He brought light to my darkness, in both a tangible and metaphorical sense. Do they still exist? Yes. Nothing magically or miraculously disappeared. There was no time travel, no Groundhog Day repetition of a brand new day, no deleted tweets. But they were no longer my burdens. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us to cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us. He carries the weight. In my weakness– and let’s face it, 3AM Maddie is weak–He is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).

He can deal with the heart of a heretic, the speech of a slanderer, and the mind of a murderer. He can bring clarity and justice and forgiveness and peace. He can heal the brokenhearted, the lost, the lonely, and the confused. I can let go of it and remember it’s not my battle to fight. He will do it, and I am to be still (Exodus 14:14).

I will proclaim boldly His goodness and His mercy. I will encourage my sisters in the faith. I will ask for protection and bravery. I will ask for the peace that only He knows how to give.

I’m praying for a more restful night. I’m praising God for an easy day. I’m still saddened over our broken world, but my heart no longer feels so heavy.

The Spirit of the Lord God is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives
and freedom to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of our God’s vengeance;
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for those who mourn in Zion;
to give them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
festive oil instead of mourning,
and splendid clothes instead of despair.
And they will be called righteous trees,
planted by the Lord
to glorify him. -Isaiah 61:1-3

Whatever is on your heart and mind tonight, know you don’t have to struggle alone. Try giving it to God and let Him bear the weight of your burden. Rejoice in His good promises.

My Favorite Sunday

I have a lot of “favorite Sundays” at church. I have been known to say our Thanksgiving service is my favorite Sunday. I’ve also said that our chili cook-off is my favorite Sunday. And then again, I’ve also said that Easter and Mother’s Day are my favorite Sundays. I guess it would be safer to say I enjoy the special things our church does as a community of believers. But today, today takes the cake.

It was Youth Sunday. Our students took over the service from greeting to preaching to baptizing. I honestly don’t know what anyone looked like today because my eyes were filled to the brim with happy tears. Our precious pastor’s wife just sat in a heap of tissues. We were all elated and wrecked in the best kind of way.

This is something we have prepared for a while now. Daniel laid out what needed to be done, what roles needed to be filled, and we sat back and watched God fill in the gaps. Our worship leaders came pretty quickly and easily. Several youth already play with us each week, and a few girls sing in choir or theater at school. They were eager to use their talents in church. A few students started asking questions like “What would I need to do for prayer requests?” or “What all needs to be done for children’s church?” It was fun to see the Holy Spirit stirring in their hearts. Slowly but surely, the pieces fell into place. They truly surprised me; I didn’t expect them to take on the roles they did, but God used them in magnificent ways.

One of the boys I’ve had since children’s ministry volunteered to do children’s church. This is a boy who had to be bribed with icees to sing in children’s choir, LEADING a group of kids in front of the church, with a lesson he prepared. Another young girl, one of our youngest members, volunteered to accept prayer requests and pray in front of everyone. Another student had the opportunity to baptize his mom- how cool is that?? And she just happens to be one of my dearest friends, so that was just icing on the cake!

But here is where I saw the Lord do his most amazing work: one of our girls preached. And I mean PREACHED! This high school student has shown incredible faith over the last year. She is so in tune with God’s calling on her life, and she steps out in faith on a daily basis. Whether it’s sharing Scripture with a friend or praying for someone in class, if she feels God tugging on her heart, she’s moving.

She spoke on Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (CSB) She boldly proclaimed that God asked her to speak, and while she didn’t know why He would have chosen her, she agreed anyway. She talked about fear and how it can be so easy to let it stop you, but when you say “yes” immediately instead of questioning or letting doubt creep in, you are more likely to go through with being obedient. 

She explained that she felt confident because God’s strength was now her strength. She acknowledged the fact that it wasn’t her ability, but God’s. Without God she wasn’t enough, but through Him she was, and that made her feel like she could do anything. So she preached an entire sermon in front of her church! Y’all, I know she’s not my own, but I was one proud mama bear today, and I know her own mother was too. (After her daughter finished and she could finally breathe again, am I right?)

1 Timothy 4:12 tells us, “Don’t let anyone despise your youth, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity.” And they set one heck of an example today. Our “guest preacher” today reminded us that it doesn’t matter how young, old, inexperienced, or weak you feel, God can and will use you. If you pray and ask for guidance, He will guide you. And if you follow His call, He will bless you. He blessed me, that’s for sure!

So, this Sunday may not have included food, but it still makes the list of my favorite Sundays. Our youth asked me on Wednesday if they could do a youth Sunday again. Mind you, this is before they even did it the first time! They trusted God enough to know that it was going to go well and be something they wanted to try again. I just love their faith, and I’m so encouraged by them. May we be more like the youth. Unafraid, unashamed, and unhindered. Amen.

If you would like to see their hard work and faith in action, check out the recording of the service at:

Feel the Burn

I’m just gonna throw this out there. I’m pale. Like, I could be an extra in Twilight kind of pale. I’m a dermatologist’s dream, kind of pale. So my decision to not wear sunscreen for “just a little bit” yesterday at the ball park was probably not my smartest move, as evidenced by the fantastic shade of red on my arms. And the sad thing is, it won’t even fade to tan. I’ll hurt for a few days, my skin will peel, and I’ll be right back to where I started. Fun right? And still, I chose to ditch the sunscreen, despite Baz Luhrman’s pleas.

I’m not trying to be hyper-spiritual or anything, but I feel like I shouldn’t waste this opportunity for a lesson. 1. Wear the dang sunscreen. 2. Don’t let even just a little bit of sin in when you have the means to avoid it altogether. I wasn’t unprepared. Dumases travel with a minimum of two cans of SPF 50 at all times. My husband offered me the can and I turned it down. He shook his head, predicting my fate. He offered me the lifeboat and I let it sail away.

When we follow Jesus, we are called to leave our sinful ways behind. To let sin in, knowing its consequences, is never a smart choice. In the end, we end up getting burned. James 4:17 says, “So it is sin to know the good and yet not do it”. I knew the good- put on sunscreen- and I did not do it, and now I’m suffering the consequences.

If you struggle with drinking, going to a bar is not the outing for you. If you struggle with overeating, a buffet may not be your restaurant of choice. If you look like Snow White, lather up.

The often misquoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “ No temptation has come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful; He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation He will also provide a way out so that you may be able to bear it.” God will provide a way out of sin. We have the opportunity to say no or to avoid sin altogether. Choosing to sin is not due to a lack of other options. I tell our youth group all the time not to get in a situation that will lead to bad decisions. If your parents aren’t home, that isn’t an ideal time for your girlfriend to come over. If your friends are drinking, go home.  You can always say no, but it’s harder in certain scenarios than others. It’s also harder if you’ve sinned and gotten away with it before.

Just last weekend, I did the same thing, and it worked in my favor. I didn’t get burned–no harm, no foul. So I tempted fate again and lost. Just because you don’t get caught the first time doesn’t mean God approves of your behavior. It just means you didn’t get caught–this time. It all catches up with you in the end, and God knows it all anyway.

So I’m hoping my somewhat lighthearted lesson sinks in a little bit. If nothing else, maybe I saved your skin from a few coats of aloe. Following Jesus doesn’t mean you have less fun or live a boring life. It means you find fulfillment in Him, rather than in earthly items or pastimes. I will not find joy in my skin tone, no matter how golden I do or do not get. I will find joy in taking care of the body He’s given me and the continued good reports from my dermatologist. I won’t find joy in being jealous of my friends’ paychecks, but I will find joy in the work that I do and the abundance He’s provided to me. And the awesome thing is, He’s provided everything I need to find contentment and to ditch sinful behaviors.

Side note: It’s a miserably rainy 48 degrees today with no sun in sight. Because, Louisiana.