A Little Bit of Light

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It’s easy enough on Tuesday morning to sit with sunshine streaming onto hands and say Make Jesus your One Thing.

But on Wednesday night, when you’re lying in bed with the ridiculousness of a busy day behind you, with so little accomplished, with so much left to do, with no time to do it– well, it’s just not so simple anymore.

If I ever give the impression that I’ve got things all figured out, that is a mistake, an unintentional falsehood. The truth is that every time I post something in my blog about walking with Jesus I fail at pretty much the next opportunity to practice what I preach. I write about my eating issues and then I go on vacation and pretty much blow it at every turn. I write about peace and struggle with wild-hearted panic for the next week. I write about provision and then worry and fret that there’s not enough money for this new big need.

I stared toward the ceiling in our dark bedroom last night and all these crazy thoughts raced through my head. And I asked, What does it mean for me to follow Jesus right now? In the mundane bedroom-cleaning and toilet-scrubbing and too-long to-do lists and frustrations and unmet expectations and failures?

I fell asleep with questions unanswered, woke up so early this morning with all this storm still raging. Because there’s just so much of my life that seems so out of control, so chaotic. Because everywhere I look in my house there’s a mess that needs cleaning, a problem that needs solving, a person that needs loving. And in my head I know that relationships need to come first, but it is really really hard to look at my to-do list and at this child who won’t stop asking questions and to choose what is better.

This morning my time of confession was more of a pour-out-your-heart-before-the-Lord kind of time than anything else. Just a dump of all the things swirling around in my head and making me feel crazy. And, as usual, God did not shine a huge spotlight brighter than a thousand suns down over my life and show me how everything can fall into place– where all the puzzle pieces go. It was just a little light– do this and talk to this person. Two little steps to take in all this huge jumble of chaos and mixed-up mess. Predictably, the two little steps involve people.

Relationships are always going to be more important to God than to-do lists. Don’t get me wrong; I believe I am called to be a homemaker and to glorify God by being a steward of the home God has given me. I believe that much of the stuff on my list right now will, in the end, allow me to cultivate relationships more. These things are important, but they aren’t as important as the people in my life.

Time after time, God shows me that my priorities need to be Him first, relationships next, everything else third. So often that order gets all upside-down and backward and twisted up and crazy in my mind, and then, even at the end of a busy and productive day, I feel like I have accomplished nothing.

What’s going to matter tomorrow? Next Friday? In ten years? That we got the boys’ bedroom organized? That I crossed off everything on the to-do list today? That I made my bed? Maybe. This work we do in our homes is a task given by God and it can and should be done for His glory. But there is no doubt that the time spent on that hurting relationship, the time spent ministering to that broken spirit, the time spent in Scripture and in the presence of God– these things will matter more. These things are treasures in heaven.

little lightI sang it to myself last night as I struggled to fall asleep– Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

So I look to Jesus, following my own advice. And everything does dim compared to Him. And then He points His little spotlight on what’s next for me. Just a little bit of light this morning– enough for the next little step. Do this. Talk to this person.

Oh, and of course the main thing– Trust me. I’ve got all this figured out already.

Isn’t He a good God?

Fun in Louisiana

Today’s vacation pictures are brought to you by Writer’s Block.😉

We spent three days in the Shreveport area with my sister’s family. We had such a nice time– Laura has kids my children’s ages and they all got along well, although there was much “girl drama” among the little girls. This was the first time I had ever been in my sister’s home since she moved out of my parents’ home!

On our first full day in Louisiana, we visited the science museum along with 7,000 schoolchildren. Thankfully I was able to get this super awesome picture of a giant mouth eating Angry Ranger and two of his cousins.

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And here are all the kids lined up outside Sci-Port. And me and my sister and my weird ear growth.

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That evening the kids went to AWANA and youth group, and Ray and Laura and Art and I went out for dinner. I ate a huge salad that was really yummy. I took a picture of it but, while I have fully embraced the joy of the selfie, I haven’t really mastered the “foodie.” So just imagine a bowl as big as my seven-year-old, filled with delicious things, and you’ll have an idea of how amazing that salad was.

We began our Thursday in a lovely way–

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Art had a fun time launching the children into outer space via the trampoline.

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In the evening Laura went to her crazy hard workout class while I sat on a park bench and the girls ran around at the splash park. It really wasn’t warm enough for the splash park, but they still had fun.

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Also here is a gratuitous niece and nephew selfie.

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On Friday we went to a nature center and there were animal skins and heads and skulls and also turtle shells.

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Also lots of room to run.

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Then Laura and I ditched our husbands with all nine children and went out to lunch and also dress shopping. For her, not me. Because dress shopping for her is way more fun, since she just lost like 1000 pounds. Just kidding. She was never that big to begin with, but when you sit on the park bench while your sister goes to exercise class, you know who’s going to look better in a dress the next day.😉

That evening was Uncle Artie’s Arty Party.

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Laura took pictures of all their finished paintings, but I didn’t. Still, you can see that her son here is a pretty talented artist!:)

And finally, we wrap up this post with a blurry picture that I like to call Motherhood.

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Have a beautiful Wednesday!:)

 

The One Thing

tug-of-war.jpgSometimes my life feels like a crazy tug-of-war in which I am the rope. I’m sure I’m not the only one. My family, my ministry, my relationships, my home, my writing, my hobbies, my interests– all of these things so often seem to be at odds with one another, pulling me in a hundred different directions until I feel like I never accomplish anything.

And I want to say that while sometimes I find myself pursuing things that simply aren’t God’s calling for me– things that distract me from His plan– the things I listed up there are for the most part what I believe God has called me to do. Marriage and family– and homeschooling and homemaking and discipleship and quality time and budgeting and submission and meal planning and laundry– clearly in this season of my life all these things are hugely important and a definite part of God’s plan for me. My ministry within my local church, with all that entails, is a part of my life and calling that I am wholly assured of. Although that changes from year to year and sometimes month to month, I have no doubts that I am called to minister within my church, not because I’m the pastor’s wife, but because I am a member of the body.

I get frustrated when people tell me I’m doing too much, because honestly I feel like most days I’m not doing enough. I have a sense of urgency that I believe comes from God– our days are not unlimited or guaranteed. All this could be gone tomorrow. What have I done to serve and to obey today?

In my Monday night Bible study, we have been going through Warren Wiersbe’s book on Philippians, Be Joyful. In last week’s chapter we were studying Philippians 3:12-16, and Wiersbe pointed out how important the concept of “one thing” is to the believer– in this passage it’s “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on . . . .” Wiersbe used an illustration that suggested that this means that we need to choose one thing– God’s real calling in our life– and press toward it singlemindedly. His example was D.L. Moody, who wildly used by God when he began focusing entirely on evangelism.

I have to say that this raised my hackles, because God keeps on pressing me to do more, not less. He convicts me about generosity, about hospitality, about discipleship, about evangelism, about my relationship with my husband and children. He asks me to write and really doesn’t take no for an answer. Very seldom does He close doors on ministry opportunities, or remove me from them. I feel so overwhelmed by my life at times, that I pray for release from some of my responsibilities, but that is not a prayer He answers with a “yes” very often.

I’m so thankful for the way God speaks through His Word to the very deepest needs of my soul. Lately I have felt more than once that my calling and my ministry has come under attack, and that is an ugly feeling that can lead to doubt and frustration, especially when the fruit of my ministry is long in coming. I asked God what is the one thing I am supposed to pursue? And He answered.

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

One thing: I press on toward the goal. What is the goal? I think the answer is found in Hebrews 12.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .

The goal is Jesus. We look at Him; we press on toward Him. He is the source of our endurance and our inspiration to keep on running.

And as I looked up the verses that Wiersbe quoted in his chapter, I found that really, this was the counsel of Scripture– that Jesus Himself is the One Thing I am supposed to pursue.

Jesus told the rich young man in Mark 10 that he lacked one thing:

And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

What did he lack? He lacked a wholehearted, sacrificial commitment to follow Jesus. He failed to recognize that his possessions were holding him back from a real relationship and from real joy in the presence of Christ.

And let us not forget Mary and Martha.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Poor Martha. I think we all can relate to being “distracted with much serving.” The testimony of Scripture is that we are to be serving, so what went wrong? Jesus recognized Martha’s problem– she had let her service become her one thing, instead of letting it flow from her love and worship of her One Lord.

 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Mary recognized that the presence of Christ was the most amazing thing that was going to happen that day. Even if the roast was overdone, the carrots were burned, and the kitchen was a mess. Even if nobody ever put the good tablecloth on or swept the cobwebs out of the corners. The service was important, but it wasn’t the one thing. The one thing was that Jesus was THERE. In her home. And all she wanted to was to be near Him.

Perhaps Mary was familiar with Psalm 27. Her heart’s cry echoed that of David–

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord
    and to inquire in his temple.

David’s heart desired one thing, and it wasn’t victory in battle or the success in the kingship or any of those things, though God had called him to victory and to royalty. For David, the one thing was to dwell in the presence of God Himself, to look on His beauty, to seek His face constantly.

the one thing.jpgOh, friends. If we are to live the lives God calls us to, we must never let ourselves be distracted from the one thing God has called us to– to dwell in the presence of Christ and to walk in His Spirit. All the to-do lists and all the callings in our lives and all the serving are nothing without this one thing— that we may dwell before God daily and gaze on His beauty.

And as we focus our hearts again and again on Jesus, all the other things fall into place, or fall off our plates. Because our priorities are never right until Jesus is our priority.

Though the outworking of our walk with God will be different for each of us, different in each season of life, the one thing is the same for all of us. Daily in the presence of God. Moment by moment seeking His face.

Let this be our One Thing.

 

Monday Meanderings, Week 11

It’s almost 10:00 at night and I’ve had a tummyache all day and it seems completely ridiculous to even attempt a real blog post right now.

Since my last Monday Meanderings post, my daughter turned seven, we finished our sixth year of homeschooling, and we took a huge road trip to Louisiana, Indiana, and then back home. There were at least 6000000000 pictures on my phone, not to mention the ones Art took on his phone, the shots on the real camera, and the pictures that the boys took on their own cameras. How do you even narrow that down?

All I’m saying is I’m a skosh overwhelmed just thinking about it, and when I get overwhelmed I tend to just not do anything. It’s a bad habit.

Here’s a couple shots from Pooka’s seventh birthday party–

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And a few from our last day of school–

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Our road trip took us south through Missouri. We hit Kansas City at rush hour which was not my new favorite thing. Then we drove into Arkansas, where none of us had ever been before, so that was exciting. We spent the night at a hotel in Arkansas, where Pooka worked off all her stored-up energy by jumping on the bed.

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Our second day took us through Arkansas, where we stopped at a place the tour guidebook named as the “Most Photogenic Park in America.” We aren’t sure who named it that, but we were not impressed.

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This is pretty much all there was. Brown water. But at least we were cute. On the second day, we also spent ten minutes driving in Texas. So I guess I’ve been in Texas now. Technically.

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That evening we arrived at my sister’s house in Shreveport (first time in Louisiana, too!) just in time for tacos and so many hugs. Unfortunately the only pictures I took that evening involved grapes, because I have no idea.

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And oranges, apparently.

So. I’m up to day 2 of our 11-day adventure, and I really haven’t gotten to any of the good stuff yet. I will try to post more as I have time, but Art is snoring in his recliner and that’s a good sign it’s time for bed.:)

Have a wonderful day!:)

 

Saturday Morning Poetry, edition 5

Sonnet of My Provider

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The deep need of my soul my God has met;
So why then do I fear for little needs?
This faithful God has never failed me yet–
I see His love in all His gracious deeds.
Upon the cross, He gave His precious Son;
The Lamb of God there in my place was slain.
My God did not withhold His Holy One,
So why should He withhold the sun or rain?
Every good thing He will pour out on me;
My every need of life He will provide.
I must look up to Him, and I will see
He brings me forth as gold when I am tried.
Jehovah-Jireh— let His name be praised!
He meets my every need for all my days.

2016 by Erin Jo Kilmer
togetherforgood.wordpress.com
sermon notes from May 1, 2016

Saturday Morning Poetry, edition 4

Exceedingly Abundantly More

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As if forgiveness weren’t enough
–the crown of thorns, the cross of shame–
You give me joy in life today,
And gladness in the midst of pain.

As if salvation weren’t enough
–the death for life, the opened way–
You give me fruit that will abide,
Abundant growing every day.

As if redemption weren’t enough
–the blood that flowed from feet and hands–
With love you take away my shame
And give me confidence to stand.

As if Golgotha weren’t enough
–the crushing for iniquity–
You crown my life with all Your good,
Pouring your glory out on me.

2016 by Erin Jo Kilmer
togetherforgood.wordpress.com
based on a sermon by my favorite preacher
April 24, 2016

Seven

cutie 1She and I are loud in the car, singing at the top of our lungs. Her voice is young but true, shameless and without embarrassment as she mangles the song lyrics and belts out the chorus.

She and I are locked in a constant struggle about math and whether she can count by sixes or add a column of four numbers or write 5 facing the right direction. I send her to her room and she stomps fiercely up the stairs, knows better than to slam the door. I hear her screechy complaints from the kitchen, where I resignedly wait for her to get over it and try again. Five minutes later she is back at the table, pencil in hand, writing 6-12-18-24-30-36 on her math worksheet as though she’s been counting by sixes since she learned to count.

She is in the bathroom, talking to the wrong end of me as I bend over the toilet with my rubber gloves and scrub brush. She keeps up a constant stream of chatter about her friends across the street, how hard it is to do a backbend at gymnastics, how funny Olaf is in Frozen, how she fell asleep last night curled up in a ball with her fingers in her ears and her face squinched tight because there was thunder and she just really doesn’t like thunder very much.

She is flopped down in a chair, reading Junie B. Jones Is a Beauty Shop Guy, giggling and reading her favorite parts out loud. “But Mommy,” she declares very seriously, “I used to try to cut my hair, but now I know better and Junie B. was very naughty when she did that and I would not ever do that.” I nod, and put the scissors up a little higher.

“Mommy,” she asks, “Why is that lady on the radio singing about “Your presents, Lord?”

cutie 5She is dressed in a fluffy black tutu and a unicorn t-shirt, helping her daddy in the garden, fearlessly carrying around the worms she dug up.

She comes in from riding her bike through mud-puddles, streaked in grime and splashed with mud, and asks if I can put a princess braid in her hair because she wants to play dress-up.

She is screaming bloody murder because her brother sang, “Happy birthday to you, you live in a zoo, you look like a naked mole rat and you smell like one, too.” Two minutes later she is singing her own version– “you look like a skunk, and you smell like P.U.”

cutie 4She has covered the table in glitter and Legos and crayons and glue and paper. She is making cards for her friends, notes for her cousins, a grocery store or maybe an ice cream shop or a hotel or a picture that says “I love you! Mommy Gracie loves Mommy fourever.”

She is putting away dishes, so busy talking to me about the dream she had or how she was playing with Bear this morning or how she just really really wants that million-dollar Lego set and she doesn’t know how she’s ever going to get money for it because she is too little to mow lawns like the brothers. She stands with the same dish in her hand for five minutes as I scurry around her, scrambling eggs, stirring oatmeal.

She is mad at me and I am frustrated with her, and she is crying and I am sending her to her room again.

Her arms are flung around me in a fierce and wild hug; she is begging to be snuggled and tickled and picked up and carried.

cutie 2She insists on painting her own toenails– two shades of blue on one foot, two shades of pink on the other– gets mad when I say I will do her fingernails. “I want to do it myself, Mom!” she says, with an eyeroll that would do a girl twice her age proud. Half an hour later she is crying because she doesn’t want to be by herself in her room at bedtime. I win both arguments. Ten minutes later she is asleep, fancy two-toned pink nails clutched around her teddy bear.

She stands in the shower with a washcloth over her eyes while I rinse her hair, and she sings “Praise Him, praise Him, all you little children! God is love! God is love!” Five minutes later she is shivering on the rug, wrapped in a towel, complaining that she is cold and she doesn’t want me to comb her hair and she doesn’t want to go into her cold room and put on her cold pajamas.

She is wild swings of mood and wild affection and wild anger, and she is not what I expected when God gave me a girl but she is a gift of His sweet favor and His sense of fun. She is laughter and tears and screaming and whispering, writing in journals and on the walls with sharpies, reading long words but pretending she can’t read the short ones. She is hugs and kisses and dirt and worms, a strange mixture of sugar and spice and dirt and fearless bravery and terror of thunder. She carries worms but shrieks about flies; tries to do gymnastics on the pews at church (gets in trouble); stomps in puddles in her rainboots.

cutie 6She loves bread and butter, pasta and butter, toast and butter, plain butter. She loves her Daddy, her brothers (usually), her friends. She loves fluffy dresses and also grungy sweatpants, bike rides and books, fancy sparkling dress shoes and the grimiest pair of tennis shoes ever. She loves singing (but not in public), teddy bears, writing, reading (but not math!), dancing around, pounding on the piano, coloring, and baking. She doesn’t like mashed potatoes, fried eggs, bacon, or being alone.

She is seven years old, and she is a whirling, shrieking, wild reminder of His wild unceasing grace.

Happy Birthday, Pooka. Mama loves you forever.cutie 3

Doubt and Faith and an Unsearchable God

surrenderI wake up with a wild, questioning heart. Half awake, half asleep, I dream? think? and it’s all about a little girl and cancer scans and scary words like lesions and low counts. It’s about her mama, her brothers and sisters, a road already walked and so many questions. It’s about doubt and grace.

I believe that God allows suffering into our lives that we might grow, that He might be magnified. That’s all great when it’s me suffering. But a child?

My heart recoils in horror at the thought of a God who allows children to have cancer so that He might have glory. I can’t help it– it is a gut reaction, a fleshly cry against a God I love. A God I can’t understand.

In the last several months, I have learned to love my Savior more deeply than I ever expected, and I know He is good and loving and merciful and faithful and I know these things in the depths of my soul and so when I see something that doesn’t fit into my understanding of Him my heart reels and kicks against it.

I am reminded of Job, who blessed God but questioned Him, who came face to face with the Lord of the universe and was given no answers– just a glimpse of Who exactly it was he was talking to. And Job repented in dust and ashes. I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. . . . I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

Who am I to put the God of the universe in a box? To expect the Creator of all, infinite and holy and so far beyond me that I can’t even begin to comprehend Him, to fit into the neat and tidy package, tied up with a pretty little bow?

I am reminded of Peter and the Twelve, after many disciples had left Jesus because of His hard-to-understand, controversial teaching. He asked if they also wanted to leave, but Peter knew the truth– Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Job walked through unspeakable suffering and did not sin, and he was given the privilege of seeing God. The Apostles, when faced with teaching they surely did not understand, recognized that though they were conflicted, they must stay near to Jesus because He alone had the words of life.

And this is what I understand, though I understand so little about my God. I understand that nowhere else will I find what I need. He is breath and life itself. I can do nothing– I am nothing— without Him.

I understand that I see dimly, through a darkened glass, with eyes that are far too small to really see and a mind that is far too simple to truly understand the great God of the universe.

I understand that my God has never failed me and that He has proven Himself faithful and true though trials and storms and all the doubts of my feeble mind, my old nature, my wild heart.

I understand that the Creator of the universe, who upholds it all with just a word, who juggles galaxies and nurtures the tiniest of living organisms, is worthy of all praise and glory forever.

I understand that my Savior loves me, though I am entirely unworthy– though I never would have turned to Him on my own. I understand the language of the cross– the unspeakable horror and pain and rejection my Savior endured, all for me. I understand that there is nowhere else I can go to find life.

And because I understand these things, I can believe that God is good, even when friends die, even when children are laid in the ground, even when I see so much fear and brokenness around me. I can believe that there is a plan, and it is a good plan, and that my Father will not start failing now after an eternity of never failing.

I can say Yes, Lord, You are good and Your way is best. I can live a life of joy and gratitude even in a world of anger and fear and sorrow.

I can surrender my doubts and my questions and submit to His perfect way and I can know that in the darkest places of loss and suffering– that is where we see God, because He is always present there, and the light of His glory shines out brighter in the darkness of our pain, our fear, our grief.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

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pray for taylorFriends, will you pray for my friends’ daughter Taylor? She beat neuroblastoma a few years ago, but her scans yesterday showed lesions on her spleen and low counts that have the doctor concerned. Let’s lift her before the throne of grace, along with her parents, Randy and Julie, and her siblings and extended family.

Light

pot of light.jpgToday I’m supposed to be blogging about spiritual battle, but I feel like I need to go in a different direction this morning. My post yesterday came as a surprise to me. If you had told me a year ago– six months ago– that I would willingly be writing about my food struggles in my blog I would have either laughed in your face or turned away and cried. I had absolutely no idea that I even could write with honesty about that deep battle of my heart until I did it yesterday morning. Make no mistake; this is all grace.

Every morning I sit here with the cursor blinking at me and I pray that God will guide my words. I don’t want to write from my own agenda or to ever come across as a know-it-all who has it all together. My prayer is that God will be glorified in these words, and that these words will be only what He desires them to be. Yesterday morning when I sat down here, God had something to teach me as I wrote. He taught me that I have experienced much more healing in the area of food than I had realized.

For two years, this struggle has been like an open wound in my heart. It was the area I shielded the most from the eyes of others. Because some people can’t understand the idea of food as a spiritual battle. Because it was so deep, so personal, so shameful and difficult, that I couldn’t bear the idea of anyone knowing it was happening. Because I was afraid that if people saw or knew what was really happening in my heart, they would lose respect for me, for my God. I was afraid I would hurt my husband’s ministry in our church, damage my own reputation. I felt so desperate and out of control in my cravings and in my continual falling into the same sin again and again.

God never stopped working in me. While I don’t believe that He ever wanted me to sin, I believe He allowed me to stumble again and again until I realized I needed Him only. My reliance on myself and on my pride had to go. It took a lot of falling down for that to start happening. And much of the process was horribly messy, painful, and humiliating. So I didn’t share it. What would they think of me? I couldn’t handle the idea of anyone knowing the deep painful place in my life– this sensitive spot where I was constantly falling prey to the arrows of an enemy who never shows mercy.

But yesterday– yesterday I wrote about it and I did so without fear. And I did so without feeling like I was exposing an open wound. And that is all grace. All the work of God. I hadn’t even realized how much real healing had taken place until I hit “publish” and didn’t feel all shaky and scared inside. He has brought healing to my wounded heart.

Why am I sharing this? Truthfully there are a few reasons. First of all, if you are struggling with a similar sin, I want you to know that there is hope for you. Keep getting up and fighting the battle again. Even if you fall every day for six months in a row, there is still hope. God promises forgiveness as we confess our sins. Keep turning back to Him. Bind your heart to Him. Step out in faith-filled obedience and plead with Him to change your heart. He will. He can. He wants to.

Second, I want to share that one of the things that has really made a huge difference for me in this journey– is still making a huge difference– is accountability. Back in October, when God really stripped away a lot of what was blinding me and holding me captive, one of the things He impressed on my heart was that I needed someone to hold me accountable. I had tried accountability partners before, with little success. Because when I fell off the wagon I would quit responding to their inquiries. Mature, yes? I am blessed with a sister who has been exactly what I need. She won’t leave me alone. She asks nearly every day how things are going, and she encourages me when I’m struggling. She doesn’t make excuses for me when I fall, but at the same time she doesn’t berate me. She has been a blessing beyond description, and her prayers and her texts have been a lifesaver to me, truly.

Accountability can be hard because it exposes that open wound to another person. Choose wisely. Find someone who loves you and loves Jesus and who won’t take excuses but who also won’t cause more trauma to that broken place in you. Pray about it and ask for wisdom. Listen to the leading of the Spirit.

Third, I want to talk for a bit about transparency. Because I don’t think that we as believers can have any kind of real testimony before the world without honesty. And I don’t think we can be encouraging one another, spurring one another on to love and good works, without honesty. We have allowed our churches to become places where people don’t feel safe to be transparent. We have put on this pretty outward veneer without ever showing a lost and dying world that we have desperate need as well. We allow hurting people into our churches and they come in and feel alone in their hurt, their doubt, their struggle, because no one has ever dared to be honest with them that we are all struggling, doubting, hurting.

What this world needs– what our fellow believers need– is to see God at work in our lives, and how are they ever going to see that if we aren’t willing to be honest about the places where God needs to work? Why should “refreshing honesty” be so unusual among God’s people? We say we have the answers to what this world needs, but we refuse to let anyone actually see God in our questions, our problems.

You know what, friends? We are fooling nobody. They know we have problems. All we are doing is stealing from them the opportunity to see the answers– God at work within us.

I’m not saying we all need to be airing our dirty laundry all over the place. As God has worked in my life in the area of food, He has restrained me from blogging about it until I was ready. First I had just a few people I felt like I could talk with honestly– my sister, my mom, my husband. Then He gave me opportunities to share with some trusted friends in my church. And now– now He gives me freedom to write about it. In fact, He asks me to write about it, to share this story, and promises to give me strength for the new temptations that will undoubtedly arise as I speak publicly about my struggles.

There is somebody who needs to know your story. God works in our weaknesses. If we hide our weaknesses, we are blocking His ability to be greatly magnified in our lives.

This year of opening is teaching me to trust God as my Protector. He is the shield about me; and I don’t need to shield myself by eating, by refusing to share my struggles, by putting on a show of Good-Little-Christian-Girl-Pastor’s-Wife-Ness. He is a far better shield than I could ever be anyway.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Let’s step into the light, my friends. Let’s let the Light of the world shine through all our broken places.

Because this world needs the Light so very, very badly.

Of Desperate Need and Hearts Bound to Him

Bible2It’s there every morning in my time with the Lord– brought back to me every day as I teach another math lesson to a child reduced to tears– hammered deeply into my head when someone hurts me. It takes me by surprise when my children fight and I respond with less than grace– brings me to my knees when I face temptation– flattens me desperately to the ground when I can see no way out.

I never knew how much I need Jesus.

I spent such a huge part of my Christian life thinking I needed Him for salvation (obviously) and definitely on Sundays and probably every morning, although really I did okay if I didn’t return to Him then. I believed I needed Him when my budget was tight or someone I loved was sick or my car broke down, but regardless of what I might have professed to believe, my life said that I didn’t believe I needed Him on a random Tuesday morning in April.

My God has worked slowly in my heart, over a space of years, to bring me to a knowledge of my deep need for Him. It started with a commitment to read the Bible every morning for thirty days. Ten minutes and a quick prayer and I was done. That was all He needed to start His work. Mornings in His Word became a part of my life, and after more than two years of morning Bible study, He began to convict me that my life needed to include real prayer as well.

I was afraid to pray, afraid to surrender in this area. I was so reluctant– felt like I had no idea what to say to God, other than what I said every mealtime, thank You for this food, or at prayer time at church, please watch over the missionaries and heal so-and-so. God had decided it was time, though, and truly there is no fighting His will when He starts to really work in a heart. I had been a pastor’s wife for a year and a half when I finally committed to pray. It was the beginning of something completely new.

Around the time I began praying in earnest– writing my prayers in my journal, praying more deeply and seeking God’s heart with more regularity– I also began to struggle with food in a way I never had before. Don’t get me wrong. I have always loved food. I was the kid sneaking the Little Debbie snacks up to my bedroom, the kid spending her babysitting money on candy at the drug store, the kid whose lunch in high school often consisted of nothing but chips and a candy bar– washed down with a Mountain Dew. As an adult I would lose weight and put it on again.

junk foodIn 2013 I went on a diet and over the course of a year lost 50 pounds. I was working out regularly and eating healthy and it was awesome. And then there was 2014. I started on a new medication that gave me cravings and made the weight stick to me like it was glued there. And I started this struggle with food that hit me out of nowhere. I started bingeing until I felt sick to my stomach– and then I would eat some more. I prayed about it, would do okay for a week, then would fall again. I gained 30 of the pounds I had lost. I would say I was getting back on the wagon and I would fail, not just a little, but spectacularly– alternating days of healthy eating with days when I couldn’t stop putting food in my mouth. There was this desperation I couldn’t explain, and I felt so ashamed by it.

I read amazing books about eating and I did Bible studies and I would do well, sometimes for months at a time, but I was not losing weight even when I worked out and restricted my calories. The discouragement would drive me back to eating.

My spiritual life was growing in ways I had never expected as a result of my commitment to pray, but this one thing– this food thing that I couldn’t beat– was destroying my joy and causing me to feel defeated, shamed, and hopeless. No matter how well my day went, if I binged I felt like a failure. I confessed over and over again. I turned to God over and over again. I truly desired to do what was right, but when the cravings hit– it was such a deep thing. I felt completely out of control.

Friends, this lasted for more than a year and a half. I think it’s the first real experience I had with spiritual battle– and I wasn’t prepared for it. And I think God let me fall, several times, to teach me of my deep need for Him. Just Him. He is enough.

Last year, as I fought this daily battle with varying successes from day to day, God began to show me how the cravings of my flesh were an outward manifestation of the need of my heart for Him. I don’t think that it’s any coincidence that there are so many references to spiritual food in the Bible. Jesus is the Bread of Life. He gives us Living Water. His Word is compared to pure milk, to rich meat, to sweet honey. And as I began to ask God to teach me what that meant for me, He began to teach me that He is truly enough– truly sufficient for each temptation. He began to teach me that even if I never had another bite to eat, I could find real satisfaction in Him. He asked me to step out in faith and to believe that.

In October of last year the Holy Spirit showed me that I had been using food and eating to dull my senses to fear and to pain. It had become a kind of protective armor, a source of comfort even though I hated it. When everything was out of control, at least there was food. When someone said something hurtful, at least there was food. I was using food to comfort me, to protect me. It had become this idol that I thought I needed in order to be safe. And God wanted me to lay it down. He wanted me to trust Him to protect me and comfort me.

My year of sacrifice came to its head in October, when God brought me before an altar and asked me to lay down my idol of self-protection and trust instead to His armor, His Spirit, His presence. At that point it had been a year and a half since I started fighting this horrific battle of ups and downs, stops and starts.

Here is what I know. For me, food is a daily issue. It is not something I can ignore, not even once. It is a serious chink in my armor and Satan will attack me there every time I feel like I’m doing okay. I need Jesus here, in this area, every single day. And as I have yielded to Him, as I have fallen and gotten up again, He has taught me that placing boundaries around my eating is a way of binding myself to His heart. Daily I am reminded of my need for Him– this deep, desperate longing that will never be satisfied by food– as I deliberately and intentionally commit to limit my calories and to limit my sugar and to hold myself accountable before others.

Sometimes my flesh screams and rebels. That is what our flesh does, my friends. But it’s just flesh, and we are called to crucify it. God is greater. His Spirit in us is far more powerful than the strongest craving of my flesh. He teaches me to hunger and thirst for righteousness, to pant like a deer for the Most High God, not for ice cream or potato chips or fresh-baked bread.

This is my daily weakness, and I expect I will fight it for the rest of my life. But what a precious weakness it is, for it is the thing that most draws me back to my Savior. Daily I need Him. He is my daily bread. I need Him when I choose what to eat for lunch, when I go out for dinner with my family, when there is a whole groaning table of desserts at the church potluck. I need Him. And so I go to Him, and He gives strength and the sweetness of His presence. And when I fail, I need Him then too. And so I go to Him, and He pours out forgiveness and so much beautiful mercy.

threadThis post isn’t really about food. It’s about need. And I fully recognize that some people will think it’s about food and won’t think it’s for them. I get it. But while you might not have a problem with food, I have no doubt that there is a thing in your life that pulls you away from daily trusting God. You might read this and wonder how could food be that big of a deal? but I will guarantee that there is something in your life that daily threatens to derail your faith and your walk with the Lord.

That is the thing that God wants to use to daily tie your heart closer to His. Each day I set up my boundaries– so many calories, so many treats– and I look at it as one more stitch in the binding of my heart to His.

And there is no better place to be than close to the heart of the One who loves me so very much.

 

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