The True Path to Change

“Yahweh your God is among you,

a Warrior who saves.

He will rejoice over you with gladness.

He will bring you quietness with His love.

He will delight in you with shouts of joy.”

Zephaniah 3:17

Sometimes God puts a verse in front of you and you just can’t shake it.  This verse has been burning on my heart and mind lately.  It appeared first in a Bible study, with the instructions to write it down and meditate on it.  Then it began showing up everywhere. My son’s Bible memory verse CD, a book, a song I used to like.  I began to ask God “why?”.  What did it mean for me?

Lately, other things have been burning on my heart as well.  Thoughts, convictions, prayers.  Presidential candidates to decide between.  Helpless babies being deemed not-yet-human and sold.  “Christian Conservatives” being revealed to be deceptive hypocrites and liars.  Syrian refugees desperately needing help.  Students shooting each other at my Alma Mater.

Then, in the midst of all this, Zephaniah 3:17.  But why?  What did it mean?  And more specifically, what did it mean God wanted from me?

Saturday morning there was quiet at my house for once.  My husband was gone hunting and my children’s chests were rising and falling in much-needed sleep.  I opened my Bible and read all of the words Zephaniah penned…and suddenly it all made sense.

This book?  It is us.  America.  “Land of the Free”…and land of the prideful, self-sufficient, and godless.

“I will completely sweep away everything

from the face of the earth–this is the Lord’s declaration…

those who turn back from following the Lord,

who do not seek the Lord or inquire of Him.”

Zephaniah 1:2,6

We Americans often think we’re special.  We think our nation is perfect.  We boast in ourselves and seek the wisdom of the world, yet if something doesn’t change, our judgement and fall is at hand.

“This is what they get for their pride,

because they have taunted and acted arrogantly

against the people of the Lord of Hosts.”

Zephaniah 3:10

Has anybody watched daytime television lately and see how Christians are treated?

“Woe to the city that is rebellious and defiled,

the oppressive city!

She has not obeyed;

she has not accepted discipline.

She has not trusted in Yahweh;

she has not drawn near to God.

The princes within her are roaring lions;

her judges are wolves of the night,

which leave nothing for morning.

Her prophets are reckless–treacherous men.

Her priests profane the sanctuary;

they do violence to instruction.”

Zephaniah 3:1-4

Our land fits this to a tee.  Yet we Christians aren’t really turning to the Lord either.  We think that by voting for the best man that meets all of our criteria, sharing videos of Planned Parenthood leaders on Facebook, and taking a heavy stance on the gun control issue that we can somehow fix our country.  We seek to legislate and bully change, when the true problem lies in people’s hearts.

To quote my ever-wise mother, “We do not have a gun problem, political problem, Democrat vs. Republican problem, or Obama problem. We have a spiritual problem that can only be addressed by filling the heart with the Holy Spirit of God.”

That’s where the good news comes in: God also offers hope.

“On that day you will not be put to shame

because of everything you have done

in rebelling against Me.

For then I will remove

your proud, arrogant people from among you,

and you will never again be haughty on My holy mountain.

I will leave a meek and humble people among you,

and they will take refuge in the name of Yahweh.”

Zephaniah 3:11-12

Remember how man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart?  Perhaps we’re looking for answers in all the wrong things.  Perhaps instead of pridefully voting for whom we deem to be the best speaker, who would make the best “leader” in the world’s eyes, and who meets all of our “criteria”, we should be voting for someone who is humble and meek, with the Holy Spirit indwelling in them.  Perhaps we’re seeking to change people’s minds through prideful, vindictive Facebook posts instead covering them with prayer and Christ’s love.  Perhaps instead of trying to fix everybody else or win them over with emotion-driven spiritual movements, we should be humbling ourselves, seeking God, and letting Him change our own hearts.

Don’t hear me wrong…we most certainly need revival and change in America.  It’s just that revival and change begin in our own hearts first.  Don’t stop praying.  Don’t stop seeking the Lord.  Don’t stop sharing the gospel.  In fact, pursue these things more than ever.  Let’s just stop trying to fix things through our own knowledge and strength, and instead start humbling ourselves and asking God to change things His way, through people’s hearts.

True hope and change can only come through humbling ourselves and admitting that we can’t…but He can.

zeph

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Dear Single Girl: There’s Always Another One Coming

My grandma always told us girls that “men are like buses…there’s always another one coming”.  During whatever current heartbreak we were going through, her words weren’t terribly comforting.  Looking back, though, I realize how much truth lay in them.

My freshman year of college I was on the hunt for a man.  I was lonely, my heart ached for love, and, frankly, I thought that meeting and marrying the man of my dreams was the highest goal of my life.  It should come as no surprise to you that my search for a man fogged my vision and caused me to make more than a few mistakes in the boy department.

The first was a guy that didn’t even like me as more than a “friend”.  In my head, however, I’d decided that he was the guy for me.  I made up this fantasy world in my head where he was exactly what I was “needing”, that we would soon admit our love for each other, and that that would be the end of the story.

All I can say is I am so glad he didn’t show an interest in me.  In reality, he was all wrong for me.  If we’d ended up together we’d have made each other miserably unhappy.  The fantasy in my head did not line up with reality, and dealing with reality would have been an unbearably hard pill to swallow.

The second was a guy who really did like me.  He was a really great guy with a heart for the Lord and I liked him too.  Only, I never had peace about the whole thing.  Something just wasn’t right.  I decided to tell him, but then reconsidered when my hunger and aching for a man tried to sway me otherwise.

In that situation, the only thing that stopped me was God.  Out of the blue, I heard Him tell me two things: a very firm and resounding “NO”, and a very clear directive (and desire, strangely enough considering my former negativity) to join homeschoolalumni.org.

At the time, I wanted to fight Him.  There were no other guys in my life that I was even remotely interested in.  I didn’t even know how I’d meet other guys.  Furthermore, there was absolutely nothing wrong with this guy.  When I say he was a great guy, I really mean it!  What I realize now that I didn’t know then was that he was a great guy, but he wasn’t God’s best for me (nor was I God’s best for him).

And so, with His leading ringing in my head I broke things off with this great guy, joined HSA, and clung to the words of my Grandmother.  Little did I know that a month later I’d meet this other great guy named Andy Baker, or that I’d be engaged to him 9 months later.

My friend, don’t lose heart, and don’t let your hunger for a man cloud your vision like it did mine.  My grandmother was right…you never know what great guy is just around the bend.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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Worth It

I love everything about my Nora.   I love how’s she so laid back, and yet so dramatic when she wants to be.  I love the way she “dances” anytime music comes on, or the way she giggles uncontrollably at her brother’s antics.  I love her fierce, determined spirit.  I love the way little bubble skirts look on her.  I love how she’s already got her daddy wrapped around her finger.  I love the way her hair curls up when it’s humid out, and how sweet her smile is.  Basically, I am desperately in love with this little girl God gave me.

Last year about this time I looked like some mixture between a beached whale/torpedo/prize winning watermelon.  I was having painful contractions all the stinking time, my back was killing me, and I couldn’t sleep.  Then I ended up in the hospital with pre-term labor and was put on full-stop bed rest, and my misery only got worse.  At 37 weeks, when I came off bed rest, I was in so much pain I could hardly walk.  What muscle tone I had left in my legs was met with shooting pains from contractions.  The entire left side of my rib cage felt like it was going to explode.  The next two and half weeks until I was finally induced were some of the longest days I have ever experienced, and I felt wholly helpless and incapable.

This morning as I watched my sweet little Nora Jane play, my heart so hopelessly in love with her, I realized that all that pain and discomfort and waiting was more than worth it.  I would do it a thousand times over for the sweet doll that is my little girl.

If you’re going through hard times, press into God and keep persevering.  Someday soon you may look back and realize that these hard times were worth it.  You see, sometimes the hardest things we go through turn into the greatest blessings.

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

My Children Are Blessings…And I’m Not Quiverfull

IMG_9149-EditI was trying to quickly put on makeup when I heard the giggles.  I glanced over to my bed where my two children were laughing back and forth at each other.

“What are you two doing?” I teased.

Their beautiful, sparkling blue eyes both turned to me, their precious mouths turned up in wide, uninhibited smiles.  My heart began to ache as it usually does in such a moment…when my momma heart loves them so much that it feels about ready to burst.  I am so blessed, I thought.

My mind raced back to the day before, when the 10-month-old was fussy from teething and the 3-year-old had begun peppering me with his unending questions.  I had snapped at him, and then felt bad about it.  I remembered something I had read recently from another mom, whom I know to be “quiverfull“.  She had had a similar day, had yelled at one of her kids, and then had apologized to him later telling him that “he was a blessing and a gift”.

I found myself apologizing and telling my own son something similar.  The words seemed to sink down into his little soul and he threw his arms around my neck and whispered that he loved me.  In that moment, I couldn’t have loved my little son or his sister more if I’d tried.

My husband and I don’t feel convicted about preventing pregnancy being wrong, nor do we really want a 15-passenger van full of kids.  We take each baby as he or she comes, pray, and follow the Lord’s leading.  Right now in this moment, we have a lot of peace about our two.  I don’t honestly know what the years will bring.  I don’t know if more children will join our family through pregnancy or adoption, or if our two will be it.  What I do know is that, if we never feel led to have more children, it won’t because we don’t see our children as blessings.  In fact, it may just be because we already feel so blessed and our hearts are already so full and content with our two.  Our two children are our arrows in our “quiver”, and I pray every day that they will be straight, true arrows.  I pray that, if we only ever have the two children, that quality will make up for quantity.

There are days when the strain of motherhood clouds my vision and makes me forget that my children are blessings. There are days when they irritate me, strain me, and tire me.  It is on those days that I have to remember that my children are blessings.  It is on those days that I have to remind myself that I don’t have to have baby after baby to see children as gifts from the Lord.  Sometimes you just have to remember to love the ones you have, and to choose to see them for the blessings they are.       

God Sees the Little Tears

A few weeks after my son was born, my sweet little cat died.  I cried, but I mostly hid those tears.  In light of all the suffering going on in the world, it didn’t feel right to be sad about a cat.  I grieved, but silently.

A few weeks ago, one of our beloved dogs passed away quite suddenly and unexpectedly.  Again, I found myself stifling my emotions.  With people fighting cancer and babies in the NICU, it didn’t seem right to blubber about a pet.  Blubber I did, however.

Now I find myself on day 8 of bed rest.  On day 3 I found myself back at the hospital with contractions, silently begging God to make them the real thing…for Baby Girl to really, truly be coming.  As much as I wanted to keep her in longer for her sake, I was done on my part.  The unknowns, the contractions, the feeling terrible, and the being stuck in bed, unable to care for myself, let alone my family–all these were killing me inside.

Baby Girl did not come that day, and she’s still healthy and cooking inside of me.  As we drove home from that second hospital visit, I found myself blinking back tears.  Once again, they seemed so silly, so futile.  I should be happy that my baby girl was still safe and healthy.  I should be thanking the Lord for each day more with her inside of me, knowing that that was one day more for her to grow and for her lungs to develop.

I took my frustrations and fears to the Lord and, to my surprise, was not met with condemnation and ridicule.  Instead, I felt the most overwhelming peace flood over me.  In my lack of control I found the most amazing strength.

Sometimes it takes the smallest things to make us feel forgotten by God.  The glorious truth, however, is that He will never leave us or forsake us.  It’s okay to grieve, to be sad, even in the little things.  No tear is too insignificant for God to miss.  He sees and He cares.  So often, it is in these little tears that we need Him the most.  For, in our grief and hurt, no matter how small, we find the One True Balm…the Source of radical, inexplicable Love and Peace.

Take heart, dear one.  He sees even the little tears.  

9 Reasons Why I’m Glad I Married Young

When you marry young, a certain stigma hangs over your head.  People seem to be just waiting for you to have troubles and split, or at least regret your “rash” decision.  Getting married young can be incredibly hard and frustrating, but it can also be wonderfully sweet.   

I have a lot of friends who are older and single who no longer have any hope of marrying young.  This post is not for them.  It’s for those whom God did call to marry young, and for those who are contemplating it.  It’s for those who question the wiseness of marrying young.  It’s for my husband, my best friend, the man I want to grow old with.  It’s also, in many ways, for myself.

So, without further ado, here are the 9 reasons why I’m glad I married young:

1. We get to grow up together.  Notice I say “get to” instead of “got to”.  We’re still growing up and maturing.  God is still molding us into the man and woman He has created us to be.  The best part is that we get to go through this process together, while making sure that we grow together instead of apart.

2. We weren’t set in our ways.  We didn’t have a lot of time to get set in our ways.  I didn’t have an opinion on what brand of toothpaste was best, and he didn’t have an unchangeable Saturday morning routine.  Granted, we each came into marriage with our own set of opinions and methods, but we’ve also had more of an opportunity to develop habits together.

3. I didn’t have to discover who God created me to be alone.  I’m not the same young woman I was when I got married, nor am I the woman that I thought I would be back then.  The past four years I’ve gone through a lot of self-discovery and growth.  If anything, my husband has furthered this growth as he’s encouraged me to stretch myself, challenged my thinking, and supported me in my pursuits.  He gives me the freedom to become the woman God created me to be, but I haven’t had to do it alone.  He’s been by my side every step of the way.

4. We rely on each other.  When I got married, I had never lived outside of my parents home.  One week after our wedding day, I found my naive newlywed self one thousand miles away in a completely new place.  We didn’t have many friends, and we had to rely on each other for everything.  We also had to learn to depend on each other financially.  We didn’t start out with firm career paths and tons of savings in the bank.  We were both still in school and had next to nothing.  Any worldly success we’ve had since then has been completely dependent on our marriage and on each other.

5. We fit in better with the culture we live in. God chose to plant us in a place where marrying young is the norm instead of the exception.  In our circles, we are far from being the youngest to get married, or even the youngest to have a baby.  I believe God knew that when he put us together.  My husband and I feel more able to reach those in the community because we can relate to the many who married young as well. 

6. We had the opportunity to start a family young.  We waited a year and a half before feeling God leading us to try for a baby, and we’d been married over two years before Miles was born.  Not a long stretch of time by any means, but we still had a good chunk of time to ourselves.  The great thing about having married young, however, was that we were still very young when we became parents.  We appreciate the extra energy that comes with youth…and we also look forward to being young empty-nesters and still having the energy to travel and explore.

7. The sexual freedom. I won’t go into a lot of detail here.  Suffice it to say, sex within the bonds of marriage is a very beautiful and freeing thing.  We didn’t have to wait a long time to experience that.  Not that marriage is a cure-all for sexual struggles, nor is married sex the hot-and-steamy passion it is depicted in movies and books.  Yet, sex within marriage can be unbelievably fulfilling, especially when you’ve gone from the tension of “waiting” and not crossing a line, even though you really want to.  Having the freedom to enjoy all that God created sex to be is incredibly liberating.  

8. Marriage is fun.  Marriage is a lot of work, and it’s far from easy.  It can also be really fun.  Enjoying life with the person who knows you better than anyone else is an unfathomable blessing.  Laughing together, doing spontaneous things, fixing up your house, not being afraid to be yourself…need I say more?  

9. More time with my soul mate. Life is short and goes by all too quickly.  You never know what day will be your last.  I don’t have any clue what the future may bring, but I’m so thankful for these extra years I’ve had with my man.  I’m so glad that I didn’t wait to marry him.

Getting married young has had its challenges, but I don’t regret it for one single minute.  I know without a doubt that I married the man God created for me, and I’m so glad that I didn’t put off the wonderful blessing that marriage is and has been because of my age, or because I hadn’t yet “experienced” the world.  Yes, I was young and unsure of myself, but marriage has not stifled my growth.  Far from it.  Marriage has been the best and sweetest adventure I’ve ever knownI’m so glad I was young when I embarked upon it.

Dear Single Girl: Would You Follow Him?

Dear Single Girl Who’s Wondering if He’s “The One”:
When I was twenty years old I did something crazy: I got married and moved a thousand miles away to the hills of rural Arkansas.  My husband and I didn’t have much to our name and I was still in school.  To top it off, I had never lived away from home before. 
Four years later, I look back and am shocked by that bold step.  Yet, I’ve never once regretted that decision.  Our marriage has had its ups and downs, just as any marriage does, but we are very, very happy.  I do miss my family and the endless sunny days in Arizona, but I have never once cried from homesickness.  In all honesty, that move from Arizona to Arkansas was not terribly hard for me. 
I get asked almost daily why it wasn’t that hard.  I’ve come up with all sorts of answers.  My personality.  I was ready to have my own home.  I was raised to be independent.  Modern technology makes staying-in-touch easy.  All true reasons, but not enough in and of themselves.  The real truth is that it wasn’t all that hard because of Andy.
When I was a young teenager, I got it in my head that I wanted to marry a man that I could follow.  For a stubborn, bossy first-born such as myself, that was not an easy requirement.  Yet, in my heart I knew that that criteria would be the make-or-break factor for my marriage.  “Would You Go With Me?” by Josh Turner became my anthem.  I longed for a man who would ask me if I’d go with him “to the ends of the sea”, and with whom I knew that I would.
I thought I knew what such a man would look like.  He’d have to be loud and outgoing to balance out my quiet side.  He’d have to be a good speaker, but a poor writer, so that I could be his helpmeet and write for him.  Oh how wrong I was!
Thankfully, I would indeed follow my husband to the end of the sea.  Yet, this man of mine is not what I thought he would be.  He is quiet and reserved and gentle.  When describing him, his grandmother once told me that still water runs deep.  He has a tender heart, yet he can be sarcastic.  He’s a good speaker, but he doesn’t like to be the center of attention.  And he’s a wonderful writer.
When I married Andy, I knew I was marrying a man I could follow.  I have come to realize that it is for this reason primarily that moving away from everyone and everything I ever knew wasn’t so very difficult.  You see, when you marry a man that you can follow, actually following him isn’t all that bad.
You may never follow your man to the ends of the sea.  You may end up getting married and never living farther away than the house next door to your parents.  But I can promise that the time will come when you will have to follow him, and you will be asked to give up or move away from something or someone that you love.  The question is, will you be able to do it? 
And so, as you look for a man to marry, I encourage you to not settle for anything less than a man you can follow.  Don’t look for a man who is good looking, or well off, or charismatic, or seems to have to have it all together.  Don’t look for a man that you will always agree with or that will go along with anything you want.  Instead, look for a man you can follow
I know all too well how important that is.