Down In My Heart

“Jesus Loves Me” has always been one of the background songs of my life. From as early as I can remember, I always believed what the lyrics of the song were saying, Jesus loved me. I didn’t really know why He did, but I knew He did.

When I was four, I was given my first bible in Sunday School. The bible was almost as big as me.  I can remember walking from the class to the front of the church and really struggling to carry it down the hall.

I can also remember it being important to me. Even at four years old, I knew Jesus loved me and I knew my bible was important.  That was about all I knew.

At ten, I can remember hearing the song  “I’ve Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Joy (Down In My Heart)” and wanting to really feel that joy. I couldn’t feel it.    I knew Jesus loved me. I knew my bible was important.  I just didn’t know what that joy was.

Not yet.

I experienced many moments of happiness in my life. Graduating from college. Getting married. Of course becoming a mother. Having a wonderful job.  All joyous occasions.  I was happy. I had everything I could ever want.

Still I didn’t feel it. Not the kind they talked about in the song.  Not the pure joy in  the depths of my heart.

It was time to let someone else into my life. Time to stop trying to make my own rules.  Time to let Him take over.

The Holy Spirit came and took up residence.

He brought something with Him too.

Joy.

And with joy comes peace. Just like in the song.

“I’ve got the peace that passes understanding.”

Now I do understand.

With joy comes peace. With peace comes joy.

Pure joy and utterly comforting peace.

And they are down in my heart to stay.

Get Out of Jail Free Cards

I had the pleasure of attending night two of our Keep It Shut Bible Study last night.  If you have not read this book, please, please purchase a copy of it immediately! It is one every woman needs to read. Using our words wisely and graciously, at all times, is much easier said than done.

Or is it?

Karen Ehman, the author of Keep It Shut, points out sometimes it is easier to keep it shut for others, just not the ones we are closest too.

It’s kind of like how our kids behave when they aren’t around us. Typically, they go to school and ,amazingly, they  behave like normal functioning individuals. They listen, they work, they clean up, they do all of the things they are supposed to do. At conferences, their teachers tell you how well behaved they are or how hard they work and you, as their parent, look at them and say “For real?”

Kidding. Kidding. Sort of.

Because, as we parents know, it can be a totally different story when they get off the bus. They know they can show their worst selves around us because we are going to love them anyways. I’m not going to give you away because you refuse to pick up your race cars or throw a tantrum because you wanted chicken nuggets and not fish sticks.

Well not today anyways.

I hate to say it but it’s the same thing on the flipside.  I can snap at my kids or husband for little things because I’m tired or hungry or just annoyed. They aren’t going to give me away either.

Well they haven’t yet at least.

Why can it sometimes be harder to show the most grace to the people we love the most? Is it because we know we are already covered by their love? We have an unlimited amount of Get Out of Jail Free cards with them? The three people I treasure above anyone else in this world should receive my utmost grace. My words to them should always be thoughtful and Christ-like. Even when I am mad. Or frustrated. Or annoyed.

I tell my boys all of the time to think before they speak. Count to ten if you need to.  Take a deep breath. Ask yourself “What would Jesus say?”

It’s time to start listening to my own motherly advice.

My Get Out of Jail Free cards might not always be unlimited.

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. 

A Million Less Problems

Whenever I let my boys hijack my car radio, they  love listening to this one song called”Problem” by Arianna Grande. In the song, she is  deciding whether or not to take back her former boyfriend. Apparently he’s not really the most stand up of guys.  Finally, she decides she’s got “one less problem” without him and she would be a fool to give it another go.

As Brady and Eli were singing the song yesterday in the back of the car,  I started thinking about how many fewer problems I now have because Jesus is my Savior. It’s not one less problem without Him. It’s a million less problems with Him in my life.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still problems. Walking with Jesus doesn’t eliminate them.  Sometimes accepting Him into your life can cause you pain, or heartache or isolation.

But it’s different.

Many of the burdens of living a life not filled with His glory have been lifted away.

I  have Him by my side. Talking me through them. Walking  me through them.  Getting me through them.  Even though there is worry, and there is pain, and there is heartache, the joy I have now because I know He loves me helps to ease my suffering.

I know the lyrics of the song are not about Jesus but I like to think, in my own  mind, they could be.   She’s got one less problem without her troubled boyfriend. Now she can start to fix her eyes upward.   There is room to accept someone else into her life. One who will never let her down.

John 16:33  I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

Just Being

One of Brady’s favorite parts of the day is our nightly story time. He is almost ten,  every day growing more and more into a young man,  but he still loves snuggling up with his mommy (I mean mom) and reading books together.

As much as he loves listening to the stories we read, it’s the time  after we read he likes even more. The time between story time and bed time, when we are just hanging out, talking about the story, or our days, or our tomorrows. Sometimes we don’t talk at all. We are just still. It’s this quiet time, when we are not rushing around, not checking our electronics, not worrying about what to do next, or where to go next, my sweet boy treasures the most. He has mom all to himself,even if it’s for just a few minutes.

It’s the kind of time I need more of with Jesus.   I spend time with Him in the morning, reading His word and praying with Him, but I don’t spend a lot of time just being. I’m so used to always moving, always being on the go, even my morning bible time can be hurried. It’s hard to just be still.

Jesus wants me all to himself too. Without the rushing. Without the constant moving around. Without the never ending To Do List.

Next time, after my prayers have been said and my verses have been read, I will take a few minutes, a few minutes to just be still. Sitting with the Lord and having Him all to myself.

2 Thessalonians 3:16  Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

Revision

As a writer, I am constantly revising and editing my work. When I sit down at night to write my blog, I will write a few sentences, read them,then change some things around.  Keep writing, read it, change some things around. Over and over again. Finally, when I am finished, I go to bed and let it “marinate.” In the morning, I read it and fix it  until I  feel as if it looks and sounds acceptable enough to submit.

It’s a slightly different process when it comes to writing magazine articles. I do lots of revisions on those pieces. However, I am also blessed with an editor who reads it and then sends it back to me with what she likes or doesn’t like and with editing corrections etc.

Editors are great at reading your work and giving their expert opinion on what will work and not work for their particular magazine. They have years of experience and can pick up on things you might not have even realized. The good editors also make sure your voice is still heard throughout the article, while making sure you have an active part of the revision process by asking questions you might not have thought about before.

This last year, I have come to realize we have an editor living inside of us as well. When I need revision, I can rely on the The Holy Spirit to help revise and edit my soul.

The Editor In Chief of my soul picks up on lots of things: My selfish ways, my pride, my stubbornness. The Holy Spirit also puts lots and lots of questions into my head, making sure I am not veering astray, while helping me realize and look at things I might not  have noticed before I started my walk with Christ.  Helping me to figure out when I need to start over, correct or just erase.

Revision is the heart of the writing process. It can turn a piece of writing from mediocre to magnificent.  When we revise our souls with the Holy Spirit, we are also no longer mediocre.  We are, in fact, magnificent.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;

Coming Home

I lost Eli on Saturday night for thirty seconds.  It was the longest thirty seconds of my life. I was distracted, digging in my purse for tickets and I lost sight of him. We weren’t in Target either. We were in the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. You can imagine my panic.  The relief I felt when I found him was overwhelming and I didn’t want to let him go for the rest of the night. If you are a parent who has ever lost a child in a public place, you know exactly the kind of agony I am describing.

Do you think Jesus feels this way when He loses us? When we are walking hand in hand with Him and we get distracted? We become preoccupied by things of this Earth and start to loosen our grip on His hand.

What about when we completely let go? We lose sight of him for greed or pride or lust? We decide our way is better and start to think we can give it a go without Him?

Our God  lets us make our own decisions.  He will let us loosen our grip. He will even let us let go.

Thankfully He also lets us come back.

As I pulled into our driveway last night, Eli was almost asleep. He sat up, groggy and out of sorts from the long drive.  His daddy gently pulled him out of the car to embrace him and bring him inside. I can imagine how happy Eli was to see him. I know how happy his father was to hold him.

Our Father loves when we finally pull back into the driveway. He is ready to open the door and grab us up. We might  loosen our grip or even get lost again but He is always waiting, ready to take our hand, hoping to hold onto us forever.

Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace

First Class

Have you ever met someone who simply intrigues you? There’s just something about him or her, you can’t ever really put your finger on it, but it makes them stand out from the crowd?

One of my  mother’s closest friends fascinated me when I was growing up.  She was like a second mother to me and while we had a number of things in common (she was a librarian and I was a complete book nerd), I still could never quite put my finger on why I wanted to be around her so much.

I get it now though.

My mother’s friend is a devout Christian.  She was an example to me growing up and I didn’t even realize it. Her church was her second home, she spoke the Word, she was kindhearted, always put others before herself and never spoke badly of anyone. She went through heartache and grief but her faith was never shaken. She was a steady anchor in my life which, at times, was full of many storms.

Last Sunday, as I was getting ready for church, I received a text from this anchor. I haven’t seen her in years but just seeing her name brightened my soul.  The text was a bible verse (Luke 4:18) and  she wanted me to know she was thinking about me that morning.

Earlier this year, I read a book called “The Set Apart Woman” by Leslie Ludy. In this  book she explains what it means to be a woman who doesn’t stand with the crowd. “Set Apart” women choose to be different. They choose to turn their backs on this world and fix their eyes UP.

My mom’s friend stood out from the crowd. Her back was turned and her eyes were always focused above.  She may have been set apart but, trust me, she wasn’t ever alone. In fact, she was sitting in first class, with the VIP Himself.

Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[a] striving together as one for the faith of the gospel